Yesterday was one of those epic travel days; the kind we all try to avoid. In the airport terminal, I stepped away because, honestly, does anything good come from a crowd of angry people? And sure enough, the man wearing the fraternity ball cap, and the woman wearing her workout hoodie tied around her waist, got into it — each one accusing the other of “talking wild” to them. The frazzled gate agent kept a calm exterior, but told them, in no uncertain terms, to knock it off.
Earlier that morning, when I stepped from the hotel shuttle bus, onto the sidewalk in front of the entrance to the airport, pulling my red roller bag behind me, a bird pooped on my hat. I felt the “plop” and thought at first it must be raining. But there was just one drop, and rain never falls in just one drop. It had been a late night, and then an early morning, and the wearing of the hat was a strategic move, designed to hide my not-quite-ready-for-prime-time hair from the general public. I thought about keeping the hat on my head as I made my way to the check-in counter. I thought about pretending I had no idea a bird had just pooped on my head, but came to my senses, and took the hat off my head, confirming my suspicions about the plop: poop. And about my hair: not ready for public viewing.
I checked my bag, holding my pooped upon hat in my hand, and wearing my wild head of hair for all to see. Then, I made my way to the restroom where I held the hat under running water and washed bits of bird poop down the drain. When I was little girl, and I fell down in the grass, or spilled spaghetti sauce on my shirt, my mom wanted to make sure the stain didn’t “set” so she held the fabric under running water in the sink, and she gathered the cloth in her two hands, and rubbed the cloth against itself, rinsing the stain away. I have rubbed stains out of fabric this way for years, but standing there, in the airport bathroom, rubbing the fabric of my hat against itself, I realized the simplicity of this stain-fighting strategy — the fabric rubbing up against itself beneath the running water, and everything coming clean.
Once, I had to tell my husband something I knew would rock his world…and not in the good kind of world-rocking that often occurs between two married people. I needed to come clean and admit I’d messed up. It was as if I had been walking around with bird poop on my hat, acting as if bird poop was the latest, greatest fashion accessory, and now I was about to admit that no, bird poop is not lovely. I thought I’d tell him this bit of embarrassing, shameful, awful news and he would say something like, “See? I knew you were a heathen! I knew you were a waste of my time! I knew you weren’t good enough! I’m not going to be your friend anymore!”
But, in a breathtaking act of kindness and love, my husband extended grace to me, and my unattractive confession slid away, like bird poop down the drain.
Someone once said confession is good for the soul. In church the other day, H quoted Joan Chittister who said, “struggles we hide are struggles that consume us.” H went on to point out that, “as long as we hide it from each other, we think we are hiding it before God.” I think we believe coming clean will end up looking like that man and woman in the airport yesterday, who needed the gate agent to intervene and shut them down. We think it’ll be messy and loud and unattractive and embarrassing, and that the people eating salad in the airport restaurant will go quiet with their forks hovering over their plates while they watch us unravel. But the crazy thing is that God tells us to confess our stuff to each other. Not so that we’ll go off on each other and stomp out of the room…out of the relationship. We share our stuff with trusted friends who love us well so we can stop walking around with bird poop on our hats; and so that trusted friend can help us hold that soiled fabric under running water; and so the stain won’t “set” but will loosen its grip and slip silently away, without calling attention to itself anymore. We share our stuff to be free of it. We share it to be free.
You’re not walking around with bird poop on your hat, are you?