Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I did not see this coming

I slouch.

I learned to slouch a long time ago in a land far away, where I was always one of the tallest girls in my grade. Where teachers were required to measure the weight of every student — in front of the entire class. Where I my mom's friends regularly exclaimed, "She is so big. She is so stout. What do you feed her?!"

Little girls do not want to be called burly.

In my daydreams, I was a tiny little thing with long hair down to my waist (I had bowl-cut hair). If I could just hide my height a little, if I could just look a little smaller, a little less stout, perhaps I could be beautiful.

I slouched through my childhood. I slouched through my tween and teens. Even after coming to America, where I was no longer considered tall or burly, I continued to slouch.

I am ready to straighten up.

But my back has been proven to be more stubborn than I expected. After nearly thirty years, my default position is to hunch. The habit has taken root. And roots go deep.

Three young men in the fiery furnace, praying. Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome, 3rd century.

Charles Spurgeon is right: “The first learned is generally the last forgotten.” And I learned to hunch my back very early on. I was five, maybe six?

Hans has kindly and patiently offered his assistance, reminding me to straighten up whenever I slouch — which is all the time. Sometimes, his voice takes me back to some point of my childhood and my teenage years. I can almost feel the blood rushing into my face, the insecurity of that little girl being measured and compared. I can almost sense her fear when her thinner, smaller friends asked how much she weighed. I can almost hear Ma's Indonesian dialect, "Ling, jangan bungkuk!"(Stop slouching!)

I did not see this coming. Un-hunching my back is recalling some old forgotten fears. As it turns out, my posture is not the only thing that needs correcting.

Out of the abundance of the heart the body speaks. Slouching is not merely a bad physical habit, it came from the posture of my soul. I slouched out of fear. Fear of being a burly freak with bowl-cut hair. Fear of people's judgment. So I carried the dead weight of self-consciousness and insecurity on my shoulders.

My hunched back revealed my hunched heart. No amount of confidence can straighten it, because I am not enough, and I will never be.

The earliest representation of the crucifixion. Christ, praying. Santa Sabina, Rome, 430 A.D.

I did not see this coming. Un-hunching my back brings me back once again to the foot of the cross. As it turns out, I can do nothing — not even straightening my back — apart from the Gospel.

I slouch because I forget.

I slouch when I forget his blood that was shed for me, his body bended upon that tree.

He is enough. God in human likeness, he took my guilt and shame. He took the burdens off my shoulders and replaced them with the robe of righteousness. He caused me to stand, and to pray.

Soul, stand rightly.
before the Lord
with hands lifted to the sky,
because Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

Praise be to God.


Serenely said...

Can I just say that hunching is definitely not the thing that I remember from my first impressions of you. What I remember was your fair skin, sweet gentle voice and your super polite manner. I never saw the hunching. But of course hunching and slouching is not good posture for our backs anyway. I think I sometimes have a tendency to slouch my shoulders sometimes... more due to laziness. But I remember how good we were at practicing graceful posture whenever we had to do our tambourine dancing as the Miriam Dancers. Right now as I read this I'm consciously sitting forward, shoulders pulled back.

Doria Tai said...

I slouch and hunch too, the kids in school called me giraffe. Its a beautiful article to remind us of our mortal flaws, so much of it for so long.

I still remember you danced at my wedding, that was 20 years ago. Then, you were beautiful and graceful, tall and slender, that I remember. Now, I know you have become more beautiful and have experienced more grace in life, that I am sure.

Teyen Chou said...

This was what I've gone through ahd still going through! I've always been the tallest girl in my class up until high school. Even now, people point out to me how tall I am. I'm trying to appreciate it though, not for beauty reasons, but because He made me this way. So I started to be more bold by wearing heels hehe. I still sometimes unintentionally slouch and it's hard to remember not to. But thanks for sharing again (:

Irene Sun said...

Serene - I laughed as I read your memory of me, because I definitely did not feel that way under my skin! =) Tambourine dancing was such a happy time. As you well know, I am so grateful that we got to spend our teenage years together.

Doria - I remember your wedding so well. I had never been a flower girl. So when you asked me to participate in your wedding ceremony, I was thrilled. I remember many afternoons of practices and conversations. Leslie and I asked you many questions about your groom, and there were many giggles. In fact, the tambourine dancers designed our dress after the dress I wore at your wedding! Thank you for such wonderful memories.

Irene Sun said...

Teyen - Were you born here or in Taiwan? I really enjoy hearing from you. Thanks for the love. =)

p/s I <3 heels.

estherliu said...

Dropped by and prayed for a straight path and a straight spine, and the courage to stand up and un-learn.

Irene Sun said...

Dearest Esther, you are always welcomed, here and in our home. =) I am asking the Lord for the courage to stand up and un-learn this morning. Love you.

Thomas.Laura Tsen said...

Amen! Praise be to God!Lingling! God is good! God is gracious! Hallelujah! PapaMama Love you Ling!!