The Greatest Showman
By JENN WALDEN – My daughters could not stop talking about the hit movie, The Greatest Showman, so because they kept insisting, I bought my online ticket, some popcorn and a soda, then snuggled into my reclining seat in the theater. After spending that much money, I was hoping their enthusiasm was worth my investment. It was. The film doesn’t disappoint.
Centering around P.T. Barnum and the curious individuals he collected, The Greatest Showman inspired me to think about faith within the diversity of human hearts and experience. And, though hard to admit, I was challenged to think about my own journey and identity.
This Is Me
One of the most salient characters in the movie is The Bearded Lady (played by Keala Settle) who, though a minor character, gave me a brief reflection of my own life. But not just because I’ve dealt with a few stray facial hairs (just keeping it real here).
No, I am the bearded lady because even though I don’t look like a circus “freak” on the outside, if you could open my heart you might identify me as one on the inside.
Watching Settle sing This is Me in the original actor screening and then in the theater, I found myself longing to be as strong and beautiful; to be that free.
And yet, just like The Bearded Lady, this is me and I am scared.
Ashamed of My Scars
At times, my past mistakes have felt overwhelming. Covering me in a virtual beard of shame, they demand that I cover my face and slink away into hiding. Like a masterful bully, they whisper; “You are unworthy; unworthy to be used by God. Be quiet. Go away.”
Many of my past scars were self-inflicted, and no matter how many years have passed I haven’t loosed the chains of shame formed by disregarding myself and others. The scars feel so big, making me ask, “Why has my life been so messy?”
Fear tells me it is easier to stay in the dark. Why be transparent with others and expose myself to the light? It would be much easier to stay in the dark, because in the light you might see the real me–and no one wants to see that, do they?
So this is me . . . I am ashamed.
The Sharpest Words
“No one will love you as you are” are words I have spoken to myself. Isn’t it interesting how the words which break us down most are those we speak to ourselves?
Words of shame often submerge and plant themselves in the recesses of our hearts. For some of us, these words come from ourselves; words of comparison to others or of unfounded and raw self-criticism. And yes, these words can often come from others; abusive taunts and crushing verbal blows. These words create a tape which plays over and over in our minds; becoming almost impossible to forget.
Once again the words of the song hit me: This is me . . . because I can be so mean to myself.
Out of the Shadows
I am painfully aware that if I am loud about the wrong things, then all I do is draw attention to “my beard” and my shame; nothing is truly gained. There is nothing attractive about elevating our problems without real change and hope. I recall reading something about “it is a shame to speak about things we do in the dark”.
If I only look at myself without seeing the grace, then I am ashamed, I want to hide.
Yet I am left with an incredible realization. If Jesus can help me, he can help anyone. What does it say if I stay in the shadows and refuse to come into the light? How does hiding help any other person who is broken and ashamed? How does hiding reveal the truth and beauty of my own story?
I don’t see Jesus shaming people, or requiring anyone to stay in the dark. In fact, the opposite is true. He says, in a sort of P.T. Barnum style, “Give me the broken, the flawed. Give me those whose curiosities keep everyone staring at them. Then, watch me make them beautiful. I will take the shame and create a story of celebration and redemption.”
Jesus grabs us by the hand and pulls us out of the shadows; He doesn’t pick and choose based on the severity of our internal or external freakishness.
This is Me, and this can be any of us. I am out of the shadows.
“I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I am meant to be. I am not scared to be seen; I make no apologies; this is me.”
Jesus does not ask me or anyone for flawless perfection. But, he does ask me to be transparent. He hasn’t removed my scars; but I’m reminded his scars remained too.
Jesus asks me to love the grace my Father so generously poured on me. Without my scars, I might forget my grace. At the same time, he has begged me to look past the scars and curiosities of others and love them as loudly as he does.
In living out a joyful and vibrant life of faith, I can own my mistakes and scars, but they no longer own me. I can apologize for pain I have caused, but there is no apology for the life in Christ that has set me free.
This is me . . . I’m no longer sorry.
There is nothing glorious about being broken, but the truth of our scars and struggles helps us come out of the shadows and say, with grace poured on our lives, “This is me.” I am scarred but no longer wounded. I am healed but no longer broken. Thank God!
This is me . . . I am the bearded lady. And I have my personal P.T. Barnum; who brings me out of the shadows. His name is Jesus.