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“Oh let it go…this water belongs in Mombasa anyway.”

~ Karen Blixen, Out of Africa

Karen Blixen is the author of her autobiography, Out of Africa. In it, she describes many unbelievable hardships which she endured while trying to start a coffee plantation in Kenya. At one point she lost almost everything in a fire. Quickly on the heels of that fire, torrential flood rains hit her farm hard. The severe flooding threatened to break a dam that kept her farm safe.

Karen and a faithful servant fought all day to save the dam. Exhausted, Karen finally resigns herself saying, “Oh let it go…this water belongs in Mombasa anyway.”

I think one of the reasons that both the book and movie have survived the test of time is how very real, authentic, that Karen is with her story ~ she dares to expose her humanity. I first saw the movie more than two decades ago; yet, that line has stayed with me reminding me that this is all our journey—to become fully human and dare to let others truly see us before we die.

It’s hard work and just like my favorite little furry thing, the Velveteen Rabbit, learned the process can be quite painful. It takes a lot of risk to become fully human, versus the one we learned to pretend to be—half-human, walking around with plastic smiles on our faces and acting like we can control where the “water” goes.

Aahhh…there’s the word that costs us most of our humanity. We try to control our children, careers, friends, and our parents as they age. We try to control our own behavior by numbing ourselves with food, sex, drugs, alcohol, or even church attendance. We even yell at strangers in traffic who can’t hear us but we’re trying to control people we’ve never even met.

Side note: when we anesthetize ourselves with any substance, we need to remember that these substances are like a general anesthetic; not a local one. So when we numb one feeling that we don’t want to feel, we numb them all as well as our brains. The momentary reprieve we feel soon turns into a muddling of all thoughts and emotions. Certain emotions are certainly uncomfortable, but we grow exponentially to the extent that we learn to lean into—rather than numb out—our feelings.

There is no room for the full stature of humanity when we try to control rather than accept—with grace. Open ourselves to what Rilke calls “the beauty and the terror”. I wonder if that’s why Joseph and Mary were sent to the barn. It’s just one more way for us to participate in all that Jesus came to do, accepting that there is often no room in the inn for us either. To live a beautiful life, we need lots of wide open spaces and all the smells and sounds of nature you find in a barn. It could have been a whole lot worse for Mary, much less Jesus.

What if Mary had pitched a fit over traveling on a donkey, last minute before birth, all the way to Bethlehem…150+ miles on a donkey, heavy with child, exposed to the elements both night and day and rationed food and water.  I don’t know anyone who comes close to Mary, much less Jesus.

So, currently, I am working on embracing all that is and opening myself to the “feels” that come with it. I don’t mean just “accepting” but truly opening myself to all new seasons and stages in life without a fight or a numbing agent. Great book to help navigate loss, seasons of sorrow, and all of life by Christian author James Smith: How to Inhabit Time, Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, and Living Faithfully now.

I would love to hear about your battles with control and your labor pains of “birthing” your full humanity.

Love, your sister along the journey, +k

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Love, your sister along the journey,

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