Confessions of a Fluff Ball
I was ten when we had just returned from shoe shopping and I helped search the neighborhood for my little brother who had a penchant for escape. Mom, Dad, and friends called out his name, scouring front and back yards. We had to be careful because the sidewalk was roped off where new concrete had just been laid. It was me who first saw our escapist trudging behind a garage, and me who went running after him as fast as I could.
“There he is! I FOUND him!” Oh, how proud of me they all would be! But the more I ran, the faster my brother went and the heavier my brand new red shoes felt.
“STOP!” was what my parents were yelling, not “Hooray!” In my dramatic show of heroism, I had immersed my shoes in a winding lane of wet concrete.
“You are a Fluff Ball,” was my mother’s comment as she tossed the red shoes, heavy as bowling balls, into the trash.
I am a Fluff Ball. My mother told me so, over and over again as I flitted and twirled through my youth with my heart on my sleeve and my head in the sand. I am idealistic, whimsical, guileless, and prone to speaking in metaphors, dancing in the kitchen, and having crushes on men who look like Jesus. I can drive Rule Makers crazy – ice cream for breakfast, dinner invites to strangers, donuts for workmen.
Once I figured out Jesus was more interested in my heart than my practicality, it was easy, a relief actually, to hand Him the mess of me.
Then I discovered He had rules of His own. He wanted me to be holy.
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…” (1Peter 1:14-15)
Peter, the disciple who could have been my distant cousin in the Fluff family, was the deliverer of this non-negotiable mandate. “In all your conduct”, he wrote. How is it possible to rise from the muck of failure to divine virtue? Peter’s story gives me new perspective. Impetuous, passionate, and unreliable, Peter wrote about the process of becoming holy because he, too, had to drop his junk in Jesus’ lap.
Peter, Simon at the time, was desperate for approval. He probably had been the older brother living up to expectations of responsibility to set the example for his siblings. He adored Jesus and tried desperately to prove his worth by chasing Him on water, grabbing soap from His hand to wash His feet, and agreeing with Him through gritted teeth to forgive sinners seventy times seven.
Approval is a deadly and illusive ambition for a Fluff Ball. Driven like Peter, I aspired to gain my parent’s approval. I was the oldest of four, but my brother, a brilliant man (who resembles Jesus, by the way) was my mother’s favorite and is probably to this day, though she is no longer living. Our family was no more dysfunctional than most in the 50’s and 60’s. Without therapy, a gym, or Oprah, my mother fought her demons with alcohol, drugs, and temper tantrums. After long night parties my parents had with neighbors, I washed glasses, scrubbed chip and dip bowls, and threw out limp soggy left-overs. I kept everything in order while dreams danced in my head. Academically mediocre, I strived to excel in good behavior. It would have been easier to be smart!
I could think of Fluff Ball as an endearment, but the title remains a stigma I’ve tried to slough off for too many years. I need a new nametag.
Peter got one, eventually. The ink was drying on the paper when Jesus saw the fisherman throw down his life’s work, a fish net, to hang with the Man who said, “Follow Me”.
I did not check my kids into daycare permanently when I followed Jesus, but I quickly enrolled them in Sunday school, signed up for a beginner’s Bible Study, joined a church, and much to my husband’s chagrin, put our five-pound Bible smack in the middle of the coffee table – open. I might as well have hung a banner on the front of the house, “Jesus lives here!”
“Fluff Ball” was just one of the names my mother and husband mumbled about me then, barely under their breath.
Years later after my father died, my mother finally fought off her terrors. But she still called me a Fluff Ball even though I took care of her when she was sick, had grown children of my own, and could place my husband’s Bible next to mine on the table.
Peter’s compulsiveness turned to shame when he ran to hide from his enemies. In fear of losing his own life, he denied knowing his beloved Friend. What he had not known was that his old life was already gone. Jesus had given him a new role and a new name. Peter was still trying to live up to Simon’s expectations when he realized the travesty of trying to be what he could not be. He finally surrendered to all that he was meant to be.
In his true identity, the one Jesus had given to him, Peter became bold, courageous, and filled with the Holy Spirit.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
What could Jesus do with a Fluff Ball?
Release her from the shackles of approval and crown her with Love.
Bless her with a husband who tells her she is beautiful and guide her with three daughters who call her wise. Shower her with eight rollicking grandchildren who call her fun, hilarious, cool, and a “Present Lady”. Allow a crippling disease to enter her life just enough to keep her humble and aware of the preciousness of mobility. Give her worship music to dance to in the kitchen and turn her extravagant faith into a craft that exclaims to the world with all the imagery and metaphors of a Fluff Ball, He has come to set us free from the past to the joy of His holiness in the present.
Thank You, Jesus!
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)