So Maybe I'll Be Misunderstood
David and I selected a table outside of the quaint cafe. Under the shade of a patio umbrella, we spread a favorite board game in front of us, and sipped on a cool drink. Two older women strolled past. They stopped to ask about the game. We filled them in on the rules, and kept playing as they walked along.
After a while, they returned, finally commenting on my exceptionally-pregnant belly. “Honey, enjoy this time while it lasts. Pretty soon the only thing you’ll be able to do is just hold that sweet baby!” David and I smiled, thanking them before they went on their way.
Then we laughed together, breathing in the lazy West Michigan humidity.
Several months later, I visited a friend at her office in downtown Grand Rapids. While signing in at the front desk, the security guard remarked, “I haven’t seen you in a while!” Glancing at the bundle of joy beside me in the baby carrier, he exclaimed, “Now I know why!”
I’m convinced that people mean well. They just have no idea. What they see on the outside shows only a fraction of what’s happening beneath the surface.
Those women at the cafe might have been surprised to know David and I were expecting our third baby, or how we do everything in our power to carve time for our weekly date night, no matter how tricky it is to coordinate.
The security guard couldn’t have guessed that in the 8 months since Mercedes was born, I had also moved to the West Coast, started a new music residency, and toured across the nation with my baby. How could he?
It’s impossible to tell from the outside how much I’ve changed since Mercedes was born. How much I’m learning about myself, my marriage, my business, my music, my new cultural climate. How I’ve carried the weight of grief, the joy of hope, the uncertainty of questioning, the anxiety of instability, and the growing-pains of holding it all in my heart at once.
Over the past several months, I’ve been on stage in front of thousands of people across the U.S., and connected with thousands more over the Internet. But those fleeting moments reveal only part of the story, and images on social media can only say so much. A picture may tell a thousand words, but who decides the interpretation of those words?
I used to feel quite afraid being misunderstood. Lately, I’m gaining peacefulness with taking that risk. I’m learning that audiences will not grasp all the details of my life. And yet, I believe that the chance encounter, fleeting moments together, or even the hours that someone spends listening to my music, can transcend their perceptions of me.
The Church just celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, when people from many different nations heard the apostles speaking in their own languages. Somehow, they were able to understand the apostles' words, in a way that spoke to them personally. They didn’t know the angst that these men went through for the days leading up to the feast. (I’m picturing the Blessed Virgin Mary giving pep talks while the apostles crouched in fear and worry for their lives.) And yet, when the crowd witnessed them step out to proclaim the truth boldly, the Holy Spirit allowed them to hear what they needed to hear.
I know that the spotlight naturally invites judgement from people who see only the surface. Surely, as I step in front of larger audiences and as my ability to reach people increases, people will only hear a small part of my story. But I’m convinced that, because of the Holy Spirit residing in my heart, they will hear what they need to hear, in a language that speaks to them.
It’s time to go out there. People are waiting to for something beautiful, true, and good. How they respond is their choice, but I’m committing to expressing what needs to be said. I’m not afraid anymore; that has to be a gift. And gifts are meant to be shared.