Monday, March 4, 2013

Peeling Onions

Over 30 years ago, my husband was to be away from home on a ministry weekend. Normally I would have been able to go, but my job as a waitress for the summer months prevented me from going. It was the first time we were separated since we'd been married a year or so previous. 

I was pretty much an emotional wreck inside, trying to hold it together. 

My supervisor - also the cook - noticed that I (usually quiet anyway) was more quiet than usual. She asked me what was wrong. I put on a light, airy tone, "Oh, my husband had to go on a trip this weekend - I'm just missing him."

She was silent for a minute, and then she seemed to snap out of her reverie. "Could you go out to the big fridge and get me that bag of onions in the bottom of it?" I went obediently... and found the biggest mesh bag of onions I'd seen in my life. There must have been ten or fifteen pounds of the things in there. I carried it to her.  "Yes, that's the one. Look, I need those onions peeled for the special tonight. Use the paring knife in the top drawer." 

"You want me to peel ... ALL ... of them?"

"Whole and Halved Onion" courtesy of bplanet at
She was nonplussed. "Yep. Set yourself up over there and put the peelings in that can." She pointed to a large tin garbage can in the corner. "And use the bread-bowl to put the peeled onions in. I'll take it from there." 

It wasn't until I was onto my third or fourth onion, my eyes stinging and burning, unable to hold my tears back, that I realized what she did for me. 

She gave me a way to cry - to shed tears in abundance in front of the kitchen staff - and still save face. 

Nobody knew how many of those tears were from the onions - and how many were from missing my husband. 

Not even my boss. I was so grateful to her for that.

I found myself thinking about that experience today after having to deal with a highly stressful situation for me, one that involved telling someone how I felt, someone who hurt me - quite probably inadvertently - the details of which are not important. Even after all the unwrapping that has already gone on in my life, all of which has been as painful and as tear-provoking as peeling onions is - it is still hard for me to stand up for me and say how I feel; the fear of rejection and the dread of confrontation is that strong. 

Yet, just as there are many layers in an onion, there are deeper and deeper levels of recovery - and this is one. I am constantly reaching new levels of vulnerability and honesty with myself and with other people. It's difficult, and I wouldn't be able to do it at all if not empowered by my relationship with God. However, the more I honest and vulnerable I am, the more real I can be, the more convinced I am that it's the only way to stay in that place where my life intersects in a meaningful way with the lives of the people with whom God orchestrates relationship.

Most people can spot a phoney a mile away. 

Yes, peeling onions - getting and staying real - stings and causes tears to flow; it might even make people avoid being around that process because they only like the finished product. Be that as it may, getting beneath the surface, where it counts, is what matters to me. It's the only way that I've found to live with myself.

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