Thank you for being imperfect. Does that sound strange? Let me explain…
One morning at breakfast I announced to my husband that I’d be doing something hard that day. “What is it?” he asked, thinking he’d perhaps forgotten a doctor’s appointment or book interview. “Hanging out with people,” I replied.
After being in a pandemic so long, my social skills feel like weak muscles and I have to give myself reminders like, “Remember to smile. Ask people questions about themselves. Tell someone you like her shirt.” It makes me think of years ago, in my early twenties, when I went to the library and checked out every book on making people like you.
True confession: Last March when most of us had to stay home because of COVID-19, at first I relished the silence of my home office and lack of social obligations on my calendar. I didn’t have to worry that everyone was hanging out without me because no one was hanging out with anyone. But over time I started missing people with a depth I hadn’t anticipated as an introvert.
So when restrictions finally started lifting, I joined a small group study through a local church. We followed the guidelines carefully, meeting on an outdoor patio and staying a few feet apart. We spent most of our time discussing a book, which was comfortable territory for me. But this week the leader invited us to just “hang out” and I felt nervous.
I arrived at the same time as a neighbor who walks to the study each week. We felt surprised to find the door locked (we’d been told to let ourselves in). It turned out our lovely, much-loved leader told herself that surely no one would want to just come hang out with her, so she was a few minutes away at the grocery store. Her daughter let us in to a house with laundry scattered across surfaces, dishes in the sink, normal life happening.
When our leader came home she was still in her pajamas, no make-up, and she kept apologizing. At one point her enthusiastic dog leaped across all of our laps like a rabbit and stole a coffee cup. It was chaotic and messy . . . and just what I needed.
I realized I’d been craving the imperfection of in-person relationships. That’s what you can’t find online in the perfect pictures and touched-up selfies. I wasn’t lonely for a space where everything was in place or for people who had it all together. I was lonely for imperfection and reality, for the quirks and crazy dog, for the dishes in the sink.
I sometimes think I want a carefully curated life. Isn’t that what the world tells us we need? Hide the messes, put on your make-up, clean your counters. As we start coming out of this season of pulling back because of the pandemic, let’s also give ourselves permission to leave behind unrealistic expectations that make us feel alone and confined.
I’m so glad Jesus said, “Love each other” (John 15:17), not “Impress each other.” He came not to a throne but to a messy manger, not to a palace but to walk dusty streets with ordinary people, not to a spotless corner office but a cross. And because He did, we can have real relationships with each other. We can show up as we are and choose empathy over image, authenticity over accomplishments, grace over trying so hard to look good all the time. Whew.
The first step? Simply pausing and asking God, “How do you want me to let someone into my life today?”
So many times I think what I want is “perfection” but these last few months have made me realize, even as an introvert, that what I really long for is people. Humans who say the wrong thing, act awkward, run late, track mud into the house, and sometimes stretch my social skills. I don’t want the empty, perfect house. I want to hang out.