I was given one of the greatest gifts possible. I was born a twin. Since we’re identical, something we didn’t find out until we were 33, we spent our first few days inside our mom as one. Then we split carrying the same DNA, yet becoming two people. Crazy and a bit freaky, I know.
And we have lived this life with many shared experiences but two distinct stories. One of the treasures of being a twin is how we were there for each other simply by…being there. Growing up, there were some hard, long years filled with pain and despair.
Many times I remember how we didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t talk about any of it. We just knew we were both going through all this hard. As a true gift, being twins kept on giving.
And yet in this world even the best gifts can be corrupted. For us, it was living in a small town, being in a lot of the same classes, showing in the same 4-H shows, playing the same sports. Well, you get the idea.
As everyone around us tried to find our differences, it bred this natural, near constant comparison. Abby’s face is more oval, Sara’s face is more round. Abby is a tomboy while Sara is more prissy. Abby is the emotional one, while Sara holds her emotions inside. These things were true, at least on the outside, but they also became the roles we filled.
As we moved through adolescence in both junior high and high school, our home life grew worse. We both found our worth outside of home, in how others perceived us, particularly in school. We shared achievements in grades and sports.
We both knew how we wanted to be defined, yet we desperately wished we didn’t have to choose opposite things to distinguish ourselves.
Our senior year, it became as clear as neon lights lighting up downtown. I was our class’s valedictorian and she was the Homecoming Queen. They were these two unique and coveted things for high school girls. It was like we were two halves of a glorious whole, or so it would seem.
I got the awards and recognition I had wanted. Honors for which I had worked hard into the wee hours of the morning. She got a sense of beauty and popularity which was seemingly effortless, and to me, just who she was.
But there was more. It was the dark underside of success, and particularly twin success.
There was the lie we each carried. Both spawns of a gift distorted, twisted and abused. The whole world saying, 'if one twin was one thing, the other was the opposite'. It wasn’t the fault of any person or community. It was simply what comes from the vulnerability of being human. It was the precious innocence, beauty and love given to us by the One who made us, snatched away.
At its most sinister, it was the lie whispered in the dark of night by a cruel voice determined to steal, kill and destroy.
It’s almost 24 years since we turned 18 and graduated high school. Yet the lies, oh those powerful lies! I believed, and can still believe ‘my lie’--I am the ugly, outcast one. And ‘her’ lie is that of dumb, lazy; an under-achiever. (If you know her, you can ask her about this lie.)
To be human is to be vulnerable.
It is only recently when I have found the courage to face the devastating effects of this lie of ugly and unwanted. Insidious and ruthless, its path runs into some of the deepest places of my heart. It has made me ashamed and desperate. It has led me to do foolish things, to give parts of myself away. It has pushed me around as it takes and takes until there is so little self-worth left.
I have tried so hard to not feel ugly any more. I have tried so hard to be liked and known by everyone. I have tried until my head has spun crazy and my heart has hollowed.
Why do I share all of this? Am I looking for some kind of affirmation? For someone in this world to give me a worth I still doubt I have?
That would be a chasing after the wind. It would only take more while giving nothing in return.
I share this story because vulnerability has given me two paths. For the lies that wound and make us weak have found us all. To know this means we all have a choice.
We can choose to spend our lives, our energy, focused on the lie. We become consumed by it. Either we give up and let it name us. Or we fight it until there is little tenderness of spirit in us.
But if we look unto Jesus we see the fullness of vulnerability and a different choice.
His life, his love, took away the power of every lie. Yet, as he walked this earth he did not tirelessly seek to prove to the world the truth about himself. He knew who He was. He knew the truth and it set him free. It made him strong enough to face all of the lies. Yet, it made this God-man vulnerable enough to have those lies touch the inner places of his humanity. It’s how he could be tempted and tried, in every way as us, yet without believing the lies.
I am human. I am vulnerable. I choose to reflect that vulnerability by sharing the dark places of my story. I can choose this because there is something deeper at work in that same story.
It is the glory of redemption. It is the hand of God. The One who creates, forms, redeems and calls by name, saying I am His. His love is stronger. His truth runs deeper.
How we walk the path of vulnerability is our choice.
To choose well is to be invited into the heart of God and each other. It’s to come home in the shared calling of the prodigals, sinners and saints. It’s the grace to be free and wrapped in wild and sure love forever.
It’s the fulfillment of our desperate longing to truly live.