I am absolutely fascinated by people, and I wish I had more gumption to ask “What’s your story?” in order to start a conversation. It might be the creative in me, where I’ve realized that it’s part of my job to take notice of things and capture details. It might be the fact that I’m constantly curious about how the world works. Or it might be it might be the extreme sensitivity in me, cultivated by my own experiences and awareness of the kind of culture that we live in. A culture that seems to be losing the ability to be human, to walk on beaten paths that are filled with more questions than answers. Instead we scream, we threaten, and we profess to hate when we’re really just scared.
A couple of months ago I saw a movie called The Age of Adeline, a romantic drama about a woman who is both blessed and cursed with the gift of youth. Not too long afterward I sat down to watch the heavily-discussed Diane Sawyer interview with the person whom we now know as Caitlyn Jenner, simultaneously cheering and tearing up as she bared her soul and revealed her true self. I couldn’t help but pick out a common thread between these two narratives, though one is fictional and the other is not. By running from what one knows to be true, they think that their lives will (eventually) be easier, that their struggle will somehow fade with the passage of time. Their greatest fear is being found out, the possibilities and fallout almost unthinkable. But it is only when we’re found out that we truly find ourselves, and only by being brutally honest that we set ourselves free.
Yet, sometimes the only truth that seems to glare at me straight in the face is the one where being yourself is pretty damn hard now a days. And not always because you’re still figuring it out, but because those that you’re surrounded by are constantly telling you that you’re wrong, in some capacity. I do remember a part of my life where it was constantly insinuated that I needed to be “fixed.” In the eyes of my peers it was my legs, and in the eyes of the adults it was my personality. There were a lot of mixed messages, leaving me isolated and trying to avoid natural reactions and emotions that were being equated to a bad attitude or not trying hard enough.
I was never taught how to love myself, and it took four years to college to actually grasp what it meant. My group of friends were wonderful, all different from one another, and yet we still made an effort to celebrate each other’s quirks and messiness. On a fluke I came across this post by one of them on Instagram, and to this day it still gets me (in a good way):
That was when I knew that it wasn’t about trying to change myself; it was about embracing the person that I actually was, and have been for all of my life. She was still there, but had been buried underneath a plethora of what others told her to be, a mold that never really fit.
Which is why though our journeys pale in comparison, seeing Caitlyn stand in her freedom motivates me to boldly stand in mine. Amidst all the media hoopla and debate, there's a bigger picture to been seen. Between knowing what I’ve been through and witnessing the disgusting backlash on the internet and otherwise, I could never bring myself to go against anyone that looks or feels different, regardless of the reasons why. I get that this kind of stuff makes people uncomfortable and not everyone will agree with it, but is it not enough to just leave it at that? While there is freedom of speech, a freedom is only free until it starts being abused for the sake of being “right.” If you don’t have something meaningful or constructive to add to the conversation, then take step back.
I’m aware of what the Bible says about many of these topics, but there’s so much more than just the verses about judgement, sin, and how to address others. In the last ten years, I’ve realized just how important it is to put my complete trust in Him, rather than try to constantly figure it out myself (Proverbs 3:5-6). There are some aspects of the Trinity, Scripture, and life as a whole that I probably won’t ever understand or comprehend, and that’s OK. If we understood everything or had all the answers, there wouldn’t be a desperate need to have faith.
It comes down to loving God and loving each other as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). It’s knowing that God created each of us in His image, and if we don’t always understand what God is like, than we won’t always understand what people are like. The best thing that I can do for anybody is to remember that whatever they’re dealing with is between them and God, and to affirm that they are loved and heard. That’s not to say that it’s always easy; I’m learning that love means accepting the things you don’t necessarily like about a person, as well as what they’re able to give you and what they can’t. There are battles worth fighting for, and then there are those that aren’t; especially if it leads to such self-hatred where one believes that it’s better to be dead than alive.
I’ve begun to wonder if the best way to show God’s love is to fully embrace the person that He created; both in terms of who we see in the mirror, and who we see standing on the other side. There will always be critics of choices and personality traits, those that look at you through a certain political, religious, or generational lens. If you choose to share your story, you risk being analyzed and being accused of taking advantage of your situation. To rise above all of that is a challenge, but staying true to oneself is one of many things that get taken for granted.
For those that argue about how we should care about more important things going on in the world, remember that we all have different gifts and callings. Instead of berating each other for feeling strongly about one thing and not something else, let’s encourage one another to use our strengths and gifts to the best of our ability.