I slowly tiptoed to my room, opened my drawer and pulled out my great-grand mother’s handkerchief. The show would start in just a minute.
On my way back to the living room I made sure that all the adults were busy. Yup, everyone was visiting in the kitchen, now I just hoped that they stayed that way. My plan was unfolding perfectly, I was about to do something amazing.
On the T.V. in the living room was the candle, flickering in the evening light. I cleared my throat. It was time to begin.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” I said to the empty living room as I imagined standing on stage before hundreds of people. “Tonight the Amazing Christa Wimer will attempt to hold this handkerchief over this burning flame for one second.” I paused for dramatic effect. “Folks, can she do it? We shall see.” Then I waved my tiny five-year-old fingers over the handkerchief and said, “Now, I will say the magic words, ‘a-la-peanut butter sandwiches’.”
I walked dramatically over to the candle, my heart pounding. This one act will prove whether or not I was a true magician, whether or not I would embark on my career as the “Amazing Christa” or simply have to carry on as a regular kindergartner. I took the handkerchief and held it over the flame.
“One!” I shouted as I pulled it swiftly away.
Astonishingly, it worked!
“Ladies and Gentlemen, she did it!” I said triumphantly taking a bow.
I was a true magician. Burning flames were no match for my astounding magical powers. I was elated and in my delight I decided that the trick I had just completed was too easy, I must accomplish something more daring, something that would skyrocket my career as the “Amazing Christa.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” I announced. “The Amazing Christa Wimer will attempt something even more amazing than the last magic trick that she just performed. She will attempt to hold this handkerchief over this burning flame for ten seconds.”
I said the magic words as I waved my hand over the handkerchief. This was truly going to be amazing.
I took the handkerchief and held it directly over the flame.
“One…two…three.” I said each number loudly and dramatically.
“Four…fi—ve AHHHH!!!” In one split second the handkerchief had ignited. I threw it over my head into the air. It floated to the floor, landed on the carpet and became a giant flaming torch in the middle of the living room. Alas, as my brown shag carpet burned to a crisp, my grandiose dreams of becoming the world’s youngest magician came to a crashing halt. The next few moments are a blur. Someone hoisted me up and carried me safely out of the living room. Others threw water on the carpet and stomped out the flames with their hands and boots. That night the “Amazing Christa” gave her first and final magical performance.
Let’s fast-forward a few years. Sixth grade. What a crazy year in the life of the “Amazing Christa”. On the first day of school I came confident, sure of myself, happy, and excited. By the end of that year, I emerged as a different person. I guess nine months of being made fun of can wear on a person. I can still hear the girls at the lunch table…
“Christa, do you want to know who the nerd of the class is?”
“You.” they told me.
That’s a hard thing to hear as a kid and not believe. Honestly, I truly loved who I was and I would look in the mirror and think, “What is it about me that is not to like?” Maybe if I weren’t so quirky, so opinionated…so different. Maybe if I could change my hair, buy more expensive clothes; get these stupid braces off, then things would change. But they didn’t. The harder I tried to be accepted, the more alienated I became.
I changed my methods, instead of trying to stand out; I simply tried to blend in. Quirkiness was substituted with conformity, opinions exchanged with shyness, braces replaced by a face that never smiled. I certainly wasn’t the most popular, but at least I was no longer a target.
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
I guess as the die hard missionary that I am, I have always looked at this scripture as an example of how we need to witness to others…you know, shine the light of Jesus and be nice to people. Lately though, I’ve been looking at this scripture in a new light, in the way that it directly pertains to how we view ourselves.
When we started out on this journey of life, we all thought that we were amazing. (Sure, most of you probably weren’t trying to prove it by lighting the living room carpet on fire.) But we all knew that something about us was special. I guess sometimes along the journey we can become disillusioned. It’s easy to think that “being you” just isn’t good enough.
The other day we took the Go Interns to meet with a really amazing guy, Tom Newman, and he said something that really rocked my world, “The greatest place in life that you can ever hope to arrive at is to be yourself. Never stray from that place. If you do, the only hope you have of ever being better is to eventually come back to being yourself.”
I love that.
The greatest place you can ever hope to arrive at is being who you were created to be. There is so much freedom in that. It’s easy to be you. You just wake up and embrace the day and shine, as only you can.
It was in my early twenties that I decided to stop apologizing for the way that I am. I am different. Unique. Silly. That’s me. Call me weird if you want to, I’ll just smile and say, “thank you”. I’m not embarrassed by what makes me distinctive, in fact, I am most proud of it. What you will discover, when you embrace who you are, is centeredness unlike anything you have ever experienced before. Confidence. Others see it too. There is nothing that speaks louder than a person unafraid to be themself.
The world is waiting for you to shine.