Hey, friends! I hope this wintry season of second chances and self-improvement is full of hope and sunshine. I have somewhat recently adopted the phrase “Who’s man is this?” from one of my best friends, as in, “Who’s man is that because whatever he is doing is absolutely ridiculous and someone needs to come and get their boy so that it can stop.” Since my family first heard me say it, it has become an all-encompassing running joke, especially between my dad and me.
As my father so graciously pointed out, over the years of growing up with brothers and working with football players, I’ve sort of adopted lots of boys as my own, so more often than not, the answer to the rhetorical question is “Mine. He’s my man,” and the ‘someone’ who needs to go get their boy is, unfortunately, me. I spend a lot of time laughing at myself because, as long as it’s not early in the morning, I have an extremely high energy level, and it takes all of two seconds for me to get worked up about something, which creates these really comical moments of my “Whose man is this?” rant being followed by a laugh and “YOUR man” from my dad.
Sometimes I love to claim them- when my little brothers are being sweet or one of the players makes a great play on the field. Sometimes they are really, really easy to love, and I’m so proud of them. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to claim them- when my love/hate relationship with my older brother kicks in and the little sister in me hates how much I love him. I actually want to claim him, but part of me hates it and will never, ever admit it to anyone. Sometimes I hate to claim them- when they do something idiotic or childish or wear clothes that don’t match. But, at the end of the day, they’re mine, and no matter how loudly I want to scream, “Whose man is this?!” the answer will always be a wholehearted, though sometimes begrudging, “my man.”
The slightly more embarrassing and less fun side of the story for me is acknowledging that, in the midst of all of my perfectionistic façade, there are frequent moments of the world looking at me and saying, “Whose girl is that?” Usually it’s lighthearted and funny, like when I try to drive the gator (fun fact: I am nineteen years old and don’t have a driver’s license, and yes, it’s as funny and sad as you think it is) or when I trip over air or spill food on myself or put way too much effort into something trivial. Thankfully, I have people in my life who are nothing short of angels who claim the imperfect, messy, can’t-drive-at-nineteen me just as readily as they claim the organized, dressed-up, has-my-whole-life-together me.
The other day, the broader implications of my favorite joke hit me for the first time. I was giving paper to two of the football players in one of my classes, thinking “Who doesn’t bring paper to their college classes. Whose idiots are these? Oh wait, they’re mine,” when it occurred to me that another one of my boys might be sitting in class down the hall or even across the country without paper. It seems like one of the most inconsequential things in the world, but making sure people have paper and pencils has always been big with me. I started to think about all these people I loved so much from elementary, middle, high school, and college, and I just kept hoping that if they needed paper, there was someone around to give it to them. Then, I realized why it actually matters so much that we have people who are willing to claim us when we’re only a tad of a struggling disorganized mess.
If no one is going to claim us when we need something as simple as paper, who’s going to claim us when we encounter the parts of ourselves that are messy and broken and unlovable and complicated and not just funny and quirky and forgetful? It’s a lot easier to love the can’t-drive-at-nineteen Shannon than it is to love the condescending or crying or lost Shannon. A lot easier. And it’s a lot easier to go get your boy when he needs something tangible, like a piece of paper, than it is when he needs unconditional love and compassion and someone who sees all the messy and complicated and sits down with it anyway.
I always say that I found some of my most treasured friendships in the most unexpected people, and the other half of that story is that those people are the ones who showed me how to love a lot bigger because they loved me a lot bigger than I ever knew how. They still claimed me (and they still do) when I was irrational and emotional and frustrated and stressed and sassy and irritated. They knew exactly what they were getting themselves into, and they chose to walk into it with me anyway. They face the complex and the broken head-on, with tough and tender love every time. I’m still blown away at how they can know me so well and still love me… and I’m even more blown away when I think about how much more God must love me than they do and how unfathomable that amount of love is.
My favorite part of this whole realization is that each and every one of us belongs to each other. I think that everyone deserves to know what it feels like to be loved amid all their broken. We’re all part of the human race, and we can all do that for one another. The people I don’t know, the people I don’t like, the people I disagree with, the people who do things that are incomprehensible to me- they’re all mine, and they’re all yours. Please, don’t be scared. Take a big, deep breath, and run head first into a bigger mess than a lack of paper. Sit down, get to know the worst parts of people, and love them anyway. Decide to care more about the good parts, and stay anyway. I hope with all of my heart that you always have someone who is willing to do that for you, too. You deserve that kind of love.
When it comes right down to it, how well we take care of each other is the single most important thing in the world. So, love each other well. Go get your boy.
All the love in the world,