(audio reading of this post:)
When Murielle Lowe knocked at the back door there, I about died to let her in.
There was no time to toss Mount Rushed LaundryMore onto my unmade bed and fling shut the door.
Not enough time to run a comb, straightener or miracle through my mess of rooster-tailed, cockamamie hair.
Not enough time to breathe heated distress over my smudged glasses and rub the lens like a maniac with the hem of my rumpled t-shirt, like there are ways to circle around things to make people see you differently….kindly.
Murielle Lowe had to step over the dump of shoes in the garage.
She saw the egg splattered stove.
She walked past the bedroom with its stack of laundry on a dresser leaning like a tower of Pants, the books splayed all over like dreaming dogs, a pile of clothes hurled out of the belly of a closet over the limbs of one indecisive girl.
I wanted to wave my hands in a flailing hello that doubled as a wand that somehow made everything — poof — Pinterest pretty.
I wanted to pull a paper bag over my mop of neglected hair and somehow become invisible.
Sure, I smiled thinly and Murielle Lowe tried to hide her averting eyes crawling slow over everything, but yeah, I sorta wanted to — disappear…
I confess how it came unbidden: Shame is a bleach that can seep up the hem of you, peroxide away your brave face, the place in you that holds the courage to change.
My dad was a perfectionist and I was never good enough and my grandad once hauled a ladder to my bedroom window to see if the bed behind my locked door was made tight enough to bounce a well-aimed quarter off. It’s taken me more life than I care to admit and even more self-castigating to agree with the pain of the diagnosis:
Perfectionism is slow death by self. Perfectionism will kill your skill, your spark, your art, your soul.
And I have no idea why all us Murielles and neighbours and women down the street and across the table keep holding each other to a standard of perfection instead of letting us all be held by the arms of grace.
No idea why don’t we call a cease-fire to the constant women wars, stop the missile volley of judgement, subtle and not so subtle, that we hurl across the playgrounds and church foyers and back fences and front porches and screens at each other?
No idea why it’s taken me so long and why I keep forgetting:
Judging others is a blindfold. Judging others is a blindfold that blinds us to our own grime and blinds us to the grace which others are as eligible and entitled to as we are.
If I have loved breathing in grace for me, how can I deny you the same oxygen?
Who of us isn’t a hypocrite in metamorphosis? Who of us is who he wants to be — yet?
Earth is our chrysalis. We all can get to fly away to glory, a loosening of slippery bindings. (It is in the space of aloneness that the caterpillar has space to grow wings. Never fear the aloneness — it’s a way you’re given a way to fly.) There are unlikely wings unfolding unseen everywhere.
We can’t notice in days what is happening in years — there can be this becoming someone different, someone remade.
I’m standing in a mess of a kitchen with Murielle, this nervous wreck in a wreck of a house pulling fidgety at my necklace –— this chain with a key around my neck.
A key that feels like it might swing open a cage at the core of the world.
And all I can think is: We need Key Women in our lives who emancipate us from crushing expectations.
Key Women who unlock the courtrooms where we’re judged and assessed and weighed on these scales that feel like millstones around our necks, Key Women who believe that we can change, things can change, kids can change, minds can change, the world can change.
There could be this rising of Key Women who are soul abolitionists, who end the enslavement of women to the self-appointed judges, Key Women who unlock and unleash women to transform into their own unique calling and giftedness. Because — if you aren’t encouraging women to live out their particular calling, you may just be idolizing a particular idealized form of yourself.
There could be Key Women who turn to their sisters and unlock everything with their own anthem coming like a freedom song:
I won’t judge you for dishes in your sink and shoes over your floor and laundry on your couch.
I won’t judge you for choosing not to spend your one life weeding the garden or washing the windows or working on organizing the pantry.
I won’t judge you for the size of your waist, the flatness, bigness, cut or color of your hair, the hipness or the matronliness of your clothes, and I won’t judge whether you work at a stove, a screen, a store, a steering wheel, a sink or a stage.
I won’t judge you for where you are on your road, won’t belittle your offering, your creativity, your battle, your work.
The key to the future of our communities, our culture, the church is whether there are Key People — people who will not imprison with labels and boxes but will unlock with key words, with key acts of freeing.
There could be Key Women who link arms with their sisters and say we will be the few Key Women: Key Women release you by not judging your mothering, your cooking, your cleaning, your clothing, your kids.
Key Women liberate you from cages and boxes and echo chambers in your head.
Key Women free you to be your best you, your unbound you, your beautiful you.
Twisting the key necklace around my finger, there is this quiet unbinding:
We are not here to be perfect. We are here to be real – to let Christ be real in us.
Before Murielle Lowe leaves, steps back over the dump of shoes on the back step, I slip off my necklace and press it like a brave hope into her hand —
“We all need a few Key Women — ”
She smiles and touches my shoulder.
Like there’s this movement of women who have a key to open up our doors and come in —- and let us go free.