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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

The Puzzle of YOU

Sometimes, as I tuck the kids into bed at night, I'll ask, "What can I be praying about for you?" and by asking the question, I am hoping they can sift the day's events and surface something unexpected. I want to probe the heart and unmask feelings. Months ago, Audrey asked that I pray with her to find a "voice," and I knew what she meant because she had written about it in her blog. "I wish that I had a sister just my age or a really great friend that did everything with me. We read the same books, played the same games, lived next to each other…wore the same clothes, but we were different in our own way too.

I have had a difficult way of making friends but I have had some good friends. As I said I do not have a strong voice so I don’t get a say in what game we play. Maybe if I had a friend we could be louder together.

It is always very difficult being the oldest and it still is. I always get the blame because I’m supposed to be the older and more mature one. The youngest always get what they want it seems. Having a twin seems much better.

Maybe that’s not God’s plan for me.


When I read an entry like that, I want to swoop down on mother wings and rescue Audrey from those awkward, clumsy, alone, and voiceless feelings. I want to rewind the tape and insist on a re-recording. (You are so beautiful and strong, and God has unbelievable purposes for you!) Eleven is the not the easiest age. At eleven, you begin wake up to the world of YOU, the YOU that has been here all along and the YOU to which you are yet a stranger. You wake up to feelings, to thoughts, to questions. If at one, you take your first steps on wobbly legs, at eleven, you are learning to bear weight, not on buckling knees, but with something pounding inside your chest . Your heart is making its first timid venture into a bold and frightening world of uncertainty, and you hardly recognize YOU. In every way, this YOU, the stranger YOU, feels small. Afraid.

If only all the timidity and fear resolved when adolescence had finally had its way with us. But alas, the YOU is changing, YOU always remaining, in some part, unfamiliar, unreadable, an unsolved puzzle. And that mystery of the YOU is a big reason why I'm writing as I am these days and stepping out from behind what have long been my walls of self-protection.

"The ability to put something down - to tell how you feel about an old husband, an old shoe, or the memory of a cheese sandwich on a gray morning in Miami - that moment you can finally align how you feel inside with the words you write; at that moment you are free because you are not fighting those things inside. You have accepted them, become one with them. . . The power is always in the act of writing. Come back to that again and again. . . [But] don't identify too strongly with your work. Stay fuild behind those back-and-white words. They are not you. They were a great moment going through you. A moment you were wake enough to write down and capture." Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg

I should sound more spiritual, say that I'm writing to explore GOD and the mysteries of the Divine. I believe that's true as well. Perhaps these aren't as different as I once thought - this search for God, this exploration of YOU. John Calvin makes a case for both at the beginning of The Institutes: "Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves."

Write something today.

Puzzle out YOU on a page.

And find there, in the poem and song, the GOD who gave YOU breath.