July 30, 2012

My husband and I pull up to the small-town Eagles Club on a Saturday night.

“Ready?” I ask him, taking a deep breath as we open our car doors. I step out, tottering briefly on my high heels, smoothing the back of my shirt as I straighten my shoulders. I walk slowly toward the building, continuing on when I realize I don’t recognize the smokers outside, stepping into the gloom of an entryway lit with neon signs. A little nervous, I surreptitiously check that I remembered the essentials: deodorant, gum and no lipstick on my teeth.

It’s my 10-year high school reunion.

On the way to the event, my husband joked that it wasn’t too late to go to a movie. I was tempted, but dismissed the idea. I’ve said I would go, and I will.

We pause at the door, and are almost immediately greeted by Kristina, the organizer. She’s an old friend and a friendly face, and I’m at ease as we talk about the sweltering weather and her car troubles on the drive into town.

We move further into the room, visiting with other faces that are as familiar to me as my own, though I’ve not seen most of them since graduation. A few more wrinkles, a bit less hair, a bit of a paunch – minor changes, mostly, that fade quickly in the light of more interesting topics like where people live or have traveled, what their families are like. As we move slowly around the room, I feel my innate shyness emerge, and it frustrates me. I feel unsure about who to approach, what my reception will be like. Why am I nervous around people I’ve known since elementary school? Who am I trying to impress?

We start visiting with two women I know but was never close friends with growing up. One girl lives close to Tim and I, less than ten minutes from our home. We talk about how great the surrounding communities are, how welcoming they’ve been. Tim asks where she goes to church, then starts talking about our own church in glowing terms and invites her to visit. There are so many young families, he says. It’s so laid-back and relaxed. We love it. Smile frozen, I agree, but inside I’m wondering – what will they think? Do they think we’re weird? Are we pushing too hard?

I’m smitten with guilt. A message a pastor friend of ours gave a few years ago comes to mind. He called it “Famous to One.” Instead of worrying about what the world thought about us, he challenged, what would happen if we worried more about what Jesus thought about us? When we arrive in the auditorium of heaven, what would it take for us to be well-known? What would our life on earth need to look like in order for us to be famous to the only One whose opinion truly matters?

After a few minutes we move on. We visit for a few hours, say our goodbyes and head home. In the darkness of the night, with only the hum of the engine for company, my husband dozes in the passenger seat while I’m engulfed in emotions. A hefty dose of nostalgia. A bit of regret. And I wonder – if I asked a classmate afterwards what they thought of me and who I’ve become, what would they say? That I’ve gained a few pounds, grown my hair out? That I graduated from college and worked for a few years, but now the bulk of my time is spent caring for my husband and children? 

My pride wonders if they think my life is unexceptional. 

I wonder what would have happened if I had mentioned the things that truly mattered to me in the last decade instead of a brief, sanitized list of biographical facts. Things like my overwhelming grief after the loss of my sister Katrina, who battled breast cancer for five years. My love story with my husband, who I met on a charity mountain climb in honor of my sister. Our whirlwind courtship and engagement after only six weeks of dating. The miracle of our daughter Elise, who we almost lost as a miscarriage early in my pregnancy. Her premature arrival, and the agony of leaving my brand-new baby in the NICU for three weeks. Two years later, the addition of our youngest daughter Noelle, another tough pregnancy complicated by gestational diabetes. Our move to Monticello, where we have been blessed beyond belief with great neighbors, friends and a church family. And most of all, the passion that I have for my family, my friends, my interests and most of all, my faith.

Sorrow and joy, so hard to convey in a two-minute recitation of the facts that make up the sum of my life. Amid the superficial listing of who I’ve become, is it clear that it’s because of who I am in Christ? Do the facts of my life give glory to God, or to myself? And am I famous to One, or have I spent too much worrying about the opinions of many?

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