Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bathing Suits and Living Up to Expectations

This really is going to be about the title, but it won't be what you think because I'm getting better at not living up to expectations. But I'm already getting ahead of myself.

We joined the pool on July 4th with the discounted rate because summer was half over. We haven't joined in years, but this summer we wanted the kids out of the house and active, so we did. And it worked. They now walk through the woods to the pool every day while we're at work.

They only have one swimsuit each. They wear it day after day, the same one, in public, and in front of all-important middle school friends. It's a slow social suicide for American girls at the neighborhood pool who are doing their teenage-best to fit in and feel normal. Owning a single bathing suit in America isn't normal and doesn't fit in.

I know this because I've tried to reconcile the social pressure with my own one swimsuit at the pool. I'm forty-something and don't go every day like they do, and maybe that makes me more vain and less spiritual than my girls. Who knows. Maybe that's not even the point. But I self-consciously kept my thoughts to myself, not realizing my daughters are struggling with the same social stigma. I'd be a much better mom if I were less concerned with myself, what I let show, and what I hide, and paid more attention to my children's faith struggles.

Anyway, back at the pool, there was a slow dying every day not being attended to by a preoccupied mom. One girl gets creative and begins to trade suits with friends to prolong her one swimsuit social demise. The trades are a complex web now: Autumn's bottoms, Syndey's top, her own swimsuit at Grace's house from a former trade, which means I have no idea where Grace's is. I need to make a flowchart.

Yesterday, when I saw yet another swimsuit on my girl when we headed to the pool, I asked. With a shame in her eyes that hushed her voice, she almost pleaded, "Mom, we wear the same swimsuit to the pool every single day." I recognize the shame and the sentiment, unspoken until I probed.

She feels American pressure to compete, but she also knows that we are trying to live modestly in order to use what might have been second and third swimsuits to support a ministry raising kids who think getting an apple is a treat.

In the moment of her words bravely spoken, my daughter and I are one.

We are the girl who wants to fit in and also the girl who has fed refried bean paste sandwiches to children who live at the dump. We are the American girl with a heart for the world, and we're learning that death is eminent when you follow Jesus' command to the ends of the earth. It's going to hurt. When you swim in the neighborhood pool in America and when you're in the back of a pick up truck in Guatemala. Both are the pain and the glory of the crucified life.

We girls are learning, ungracefully perhaps, that when we say no to our own extras in order to say yes to someone else's essentials, what we find is life abundant, a half-priced half-summer at the pool, and freedom from unspoken American expectations. It's a daily cross the size and weight of a single swimsuit, and one my daughters and I decide we'll gladly carry.

 "Come to Me... For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28 and 30).

~ unwrapping His promises today with Duane and company ~
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