When What's Underneath Doesn't Match...

Horse show underwear is an important topic.

So my fellow competition riders decided, anyway. After all, it takes a good foundation garment to stay in place when you have back to back classes on a very excited show horse. We riders may look quiet in the saddle to some onlookers, but believe me, there's a great deal of movement.

So something that stays reasonably in place is preferred. And, as life would have it, the kind of undies that stay reasonably in place while riding a fired up show horse are often not elegant and delicate.

Also, you want them to be the same colors as your jods (riding pants to the uninitiated). Why you ask? Because of what my fellow competition riders and I witnessed after completing our classes and watching from the side rail. A rider went around and we heard the all too familiar r-i-i-i-i-p sound as she turned the corner. She was wearing dark jods; her foundation garment was a lovely bright pink.

"That," one of the more experienced riders said, "is why what's underneath better match what's on the surface, for when they get exposed."

Because what's underneath will get exposed at some point in life. Whether jods rip or seams give way or life gets crazy or stress and anxiety strip away our polite veneers, we will always show what's underneath at some point.

We think we won't, though. The great lie we tell ourselves is that the polite, sweet, nice person on the surface will always be what people see...because it's what we see. Or what we want to see. We cultivate certain personas and hold them out to the world.

"Look!" we say, "isn't this great!"

But what's underneath is always there, waiting to be exposed. And it always gets exposed. Our shadow side, as Jung called it, waits for those moments where the seams of our perfect lives or the lives we think we should be living give way and suddenly our not so nice undergarments are exposed to the world. They seem counter to what's on the surface. They don't match the person we want so desperately to hold out to the world. Our underwear does not match our outerwear.

And we are terrified of who's seen, because these undergarments are awful in our eyes. When life rips away our tidy, neat surface images, our wobbly selves get exposed. And we respond. We either make excuses (Oh, I've been stressed, that isn't the real me); blame others (If you hadn't acted this way, neither would I); ignore the exposure (No, I don't understand what I did wrong; it's all your fault); or take our toys, ripped pants, and mismatched undies and go to somewhere new where they don't know our foundation selves and outer selves don't always match.

Those responses, however, don't offer a real solution. They simply allow us to continue to ignore the self and soul that yearns to be seen, acknowledged, and offered to God for healing. Using any or all of these responses to our torn outer selves that reveal what's really underneath are very human and very flawed coping mechanisms that offer no real long-term hope.

Instead, what if we paid attention to what is showing through the tear? What if we recognized that there are parts of our selves and souls we have orphaned in our desire to fit a certain mold or ideal or hide from our deep wounds? What if we offered our ripped outer garments for transformation, and we will quit denying the inner self that exists?

Too often we've defined our shadow side as the bad stuff when in reality, it's where our most amazing gifts to the world reside. These gifts reside in our pain, in our wounds, in the parts of ourselves that are frightened or unsure. In their raw state, the don't match our outer selves at all and often do a great deal of damage to others and to us. Jesus spends much of his ministry pointing out that one of the great sins of humanity is being unaware and unwilling to see what's underneath our polite surface selves. He asks us, implores us even, to offer these raw, mismatched parts of our selves and souls to God for transformation.

Through God's transformation, our foundation selves - our deepest selves - begin slowly to match our outer selves. And our outer selves begin slowly to match our deepest selves. This shifting takes a lifetime; it's the process of Resurrection that is instant and yet evolving. And it's deep, hard work. But it is valuable work.

Because when we offer our wounds to God for transformation, the next time the seams come apart in our lives (and they always will, again and again), the mismatch isn't so great. Eventually sometimes it's only noticeable to us and God. And eventually the outer and inner become whole.

So yes, our personas that we offer to the world will always have rips here and there. And with God's help, may we be willing and courageous to do the work so that what's underneath will better match what's on the surface of our souls.


Richard said…
I have read thousands, millions, of words about the meaning of "dying to self", sacrificing the self, transformation through the resurrection (felt most acutely at the end of Holy Week), etc. This article is the clearest exposition I've come across on the subject.
I am grateful.
Gene Black said…
I am forever trying to reconcile the inner and outer me. I wonder if there will always be those parts I don't want anyone else to see. But as I improve the inner me, the outer me "gets better" too. Thus, there is always that disparity.

I thank God that grace covers me and that I don't have to "be worthy" for God to love me. That fact makes me want to be better. Isn't Grace wonderful.
Blake said…
It seems by "inner self" and "outer self" you suggest it's possible for one to be effected w/o the other being so (ie the outer self is offered, but the inner self is doing something else). If this is so, then the human Person is put asunder, into two not only distinct, but separable parts.

If we do this then I'm not sure how Jesus' "inner self" saved my "outer self," or vice versa, since the two don't touch, at best they "match" or run parallel. This just seems another variation of modern Substance Dualism, which post-Descartes modernists accept, being why they can't logically make since of Christianity, but is also the same position The Church rejected in ALL the Councils as contradictory to saying Christ saved us on the Cross.

IE The Family Systems Theory lexicon and grammar is antithetically opposed and contradictory to the Cross, The Holy Eucharist, and to the language necessary to maintain belief in a Trinitarian God.

It might be "self" and "soul" are not both substances co-existing in one Person, but that "self" is a modern but nebulous attempt to replace "soul" talk.
I absolutely love this and resonate deeply with the struggle. After reading it for several days, I also can't seem to get out of my mind thinking about those we discount because of what we "see" on the outside-their outer garment don't fit our sense of "style" and what we may miss out on by not looking through the tears that are there.
Alyssa said…
Wonderful article. Awesome reflections of "Riding Undie Theology" for those of us who go between the saddle and the pulpit. Thank you!

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