Minivans and Limousines: Something about knowing who you are

I want to begin with a quick disclaimer: I have a weird ability to quickly “grow over” stuff. “Emotional fortitude” is how this has been described to me. A relationship ends and I see a renewed focus on God’s work in my life. My mom in the hospital leads me to learn about who I am as a care minister. When I feel inclined to control something, I let gentleness win. Though I grieve and hurt, I find the typical inclination to pity one’s self or to worry simply gives power away.

…And I don’t like giving power away to the dead and the hopeless. Five hundred million thumbs down to that.

I am certainly not perfect but I am resurrected. I have seen death. I have felt evil. I have met addiction. And I know anxiety very, very (very) well. I used to panic to the point I couldn’t breathe. I would reach out for somebody, anybody, to tell me who I was and what I should do. My relationships defined who I was and I was literally to the world, of the world, and for the world. It was killing me.

Killing me so much that I had a normal life and nobody would have guessed the extent to which I was a slave. (Or maybe ya’ll knew and didn’t tell me. Either way…)

But now? Now, there is not anxiety in my life. I don’t believe in traffic or time. I say this because it represents the freedom I have found in knowing who I am. So I want to talk a little bit about what this discovery looked like for me.

There was one particular turning point that caught my attention. It happened when gardening. Before the divorce I had this really amazing garden. And when I would garden, I would dig my hands into the dirt and my fingers would come up through the soil. I would pull weeds and trim bushes – and I, in the labor and in the way it looked after the labor, felt peace.

The turning point came when one day I realized I am not a gardener; I am a peaceful person gardening.

At this point in my life, I was doing so much and playing so many roles, but I did not know why. To all the sudden realize that I was “peaceful” and not simply “gardening” was a major clock-stopper.

I took the time out and I was all about these questions: Was this who I was? Did I really believe what I believed? Did I really love who I loved? Where was the color and joy and fervour? Why do I love spelling things like a British person?

Ok – that last one wasn’t really one of my questions – but you get it.

I wanted to know who I was.

Now. Here’s the deal:

It is entirely possible that you see knowing who you are and acquainting with your true identity as a long process that will take a lot of work and turmoil and sacrifice. If that is the case, I pray very happy loving prayers that you commit to the process and enjoy the ride.

But.

I also pray – that perhaps you consider what it means to be reconciled to Christ. What it means to not necessarily see this concept of “known” or “conclusion of identity” as a process, but – rather – as an assumption. Allow me to explain:

In this week’s sermon, Matt referenced a really great analogy of art restoration. That art accumulates grime and dust and layers of years that hide the original piece. And that we, as God’s artwork, have these layers over us that are hiding who we are. And I think this makes a lot of sense. We have this core design and it is so beautiful and we need to take a minute and get that original piece restored and known.

My concern though is that I have heard a lot of people start to refer to this unveiling of the true self as work. As something they are going to start rolling up their sleeves and doing. And FOLKS FOLKS FOLKS this is why being Christian is like the BIGGEST gift ever. BECAUSE THERE IS NO WORK. Well. Ok, there is probably some work in changing your brain to believe it actually isn’t work. Grace, in my humble opinion, requires a re-wiring of the brain in order to allow the “ok-ness” you have and the acceptance you get because you are a loved and desired child of God.

That’s the reason I started this post as I did with a disclaimer. I am sensitive to the fact that “just changing” is not something that comes easy. That my radical change of mind and the conditioning and time it took to settle in is something hard to do because there is a reality we face: life sucks and is sad and is hard. I know this because when I first forged ahead for this freedom from the views of the world, I met both internal and external resistance. I sincerely understand that “unveiling the self” and gaining confidence in said unveiled self can be a lot of work! Especially when just meeting the woods, just starting to scratch the surface.

It’s just that I also know, for me, I would probably still be stuck in my head circa 2010 if I would have taken the intellectual approach to identifying and healing and removing layers from the outside, moving inward. I couldn’t start at the edge of the forest and hack in to where I found a center. I was desperate and this outside in process was not a practical approach for me. I wanted life and love and relationships to bloom. I knew my mind was my prison and I started seeing that as insanity. I was suffering from ideas! I wanted to trust myself. I wanted others to trust me. I wanted to feel alive and whole and worthy.

So, instead, I decided to make a radical leap of faith and base my confidence in some assumptions of that inner place…

<Now I’m going to really fly my freak flag.>

I described earlier about a point in my life that I was doing all sorts of things (some cool, some boring) but – all in all – I wasn’t sure why I was doing them or if they fit me.

So I made this:

This is my crazy town approach to knowing who I was and why I was.
This is my crazy town approach to knowing who I was and why I was.

What that is is literally a list of things “I did” (my roles, goals and hobbies) bucketed into the quality it brought to my life or the spiritual aspect with which I felt it was associated. Making this allowed me to see my gardening, my soccer-moming, my analyzing, my daughtering, my cooking, my praying, heck – my RECYCLING – (really.. freak flag is high and mighty) as intentional. Though I didn’t realize it then, what I was doing was figuring out how I was a Christian.

This exercise did a couple important things for me:

1 – It established confidence in who I was and allowed me to do things either without guilt or with new meaning.

When I went to climb, it was not selfish time away from my family; it was a time of strength and self-control. Recycling was not a burden, but a way I exercised peace. My singing wasn’t a hopeless song in a shoebox; it was an expression of joy.

2 – It allowed me to understand who I was as a spirit led person.

This helps in times I am invited to do something or asked to volunteer or serve in some capacity; I can now consider whether agreeing fits my identity in God. Unfortunately for my down-for-whatever, quick-lipped ego, this meant that a lot of fun things like getting hammered and having super good one-liners that would make somebody feel like an idiot while we all laughed had to go.

Honestly? Not only did this little grid make me intentional, it also made me really quiet. So much so that for the first part of this change over, people thought something was wrong with me. Even now, people who are used to modern day sarcasm as humor don’t know what to do when I don’t react or engage. It’s not that I’m never sarcastic, it’s that I don’t do the cheap stuff. And really – It’s just that my focus in life is to not give rise to the easy default of being of the world. I don’t want my ego to win. I don’t want to be the punch line queen who seeks your attention. I want to be joyful and happy and colorful, but in ways less boisterous and more present. I want to produce fruit that is more than creative fruit or funny fruit or loud fruit or entertaining fruit – I want to produce fruit that is kind and good and faithful.

Does that make sense?

I want to be more like Jesus and Princess Diana than pop stars and sitcom writers. (Ok ok honestly I do want to be a little like Mary J Blige) And where at first this sacrificed a lot of attention getting and good jokes (which felt weird) I found myself transforming into who I am now which (hang with me) is who I have always been but buried under layers of who I thought I should be. I stopped seeking validation. If relationships end, it doesn’t mean I change or am less valuable. I firmly believe: If I am operating from my core, if I can identify what I am doing or saying with who I am as a spiritually intentional person, then I’m good with my choice. Like the post or not. Like the pic or not. Hire me or not. Call me tomorrow or not. It’s OK.

The reason I bring this up is because it took me, say, an hour to sit and do this grid. I threw out stuff that didn’t work for me (bye sun-tanning) and found conviction in the things that bring out my deepest appreciation of my time on this earth.

I ended up finding the ways God works through all things that may otherwise seem “meaningless”. This helped me to “delight in the Lord” in these everyday things. (Psalm 37:4) Really! Really. Really.

*sigh*

I know I’m being such a goober right now. And I swear to you I am not claiming to be perfect. But I do claim to be free in the grace I have found through Jesus Christ. Listen: I really don’t think life is about finding some magical key to who you are and unlocking your purpose. True living, to me, is really about allowing God to take over – allowing yourself to “become mature, attaining to the fullness of Christ” so that you aren’t tossed about by the waves. (Ephesians 4)

Life is about living intentionally and spirit-led so that you can say yes when it means yes and say no when it means no. (Matthew 5:37) Life is really seeing and being seen as the person God made you to be in everything:

…in your trips to Starbucks and at your cocktail parties…

…in your minivans and limousines…

I pray so much we perhaps consider “knowing yourself” is less about work and more about quieting the mind. Take the voices out. Take your heart out of relationships and jobs and dreams and put that beautiful damn thing back in your chest. Let it beat and find a rhythm that is unique to you, based on what you really love and want to do and what aspect of God or Christ or the Spirit (however you want to slice it) shows up in those actions.

Go onward on that path, people, and love every second of it because every part of you is loved.

Grace in Snakes and Cookies

Erin:

I am currently working on writing out my thoughts on what it means to know yourself through the process of knowing your creator. I am curious about how many different ways people “find” their identity. From my women’s group discussion, however, it seems that a huge part of this process (regardless of how you go about it) is on grace and acceptance. So I am re-blogging this.. one of my first true experiences of understanding grace. This is also to buy me some time, building on my conversations from this recent sermon series: http://www.gatheringnow.org/portfolio_page/known/

Talk to you soon :) erin

Originally posted on Frozen Spaghetti:

I can’t remember at this point in time what exactly led me to this thought but I was picturing Jesus praying, knowing he was going to physically hurt and face death – I imagined him on the cross, knowing that he was going to wrestle with sin itself…having conviction that when humans fall, God prevails – life prevails – from the darkest days of winters comes the lightest days of spring. It was going to be brutal, but all good in the end.

I think the hardest thing for my generation is adhering to a “God-given” concept. Believing whole-heartedly that “this is the one way” is not accomodating to a flexible, alternate world. I think it is so easy for people to say “I am not religious. I am spiritual.” But you aren’t really spiritual if you aren’t attaching any main component of your life to a belief. Your silent…

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Good Friday to You: A thought about the smell of the crucifixion and the “beautiful thing done”

There is a scarf I have in my closet that when I wrap it just right, the place where I sprayed perfume lands right below the right side of my face and I have this hint of deep rich perfume throughout the time in which I wear it. The original time I sprayed the perfume on the scarf and the time I wear the scarf may be very different in experience – a night to an auction vs a run to the store; but somehow the mood of the perfume meets me still.

Similarly, I have a work shirt of my Grandmother’s (Ruth – who passed away last year) and when I wear it while it’s humid, the musk of her rose and her summer garden, her nighttime kitchen and old hands raises up and I feel her through the vivid imagery invoked by this smell.

Before the Last Supper, Jesus was anointed by a woman who poured over him a jar of expensive perfume. There is no account of Jesus’ last bath and even if there were, I find it hard to imagine such a strong perfume would be entirely washed away. I am thinking the sweat, the blood, the tears – the betrayal, the rooster, the cross – all were experienced with this anointing scent.

I believe God gives us ways to remember promises and ever faithfulness. When Jesus was anointed by the woman, he said to his disciples that she had “done a beautiful thing to him”. This Good Friday, I reflect on Jesus carrying the cross, beaten and torn.

I imagine that through the deep inhales required in such excruciating pain and humiliation he inhaled the beautiful thing done to him.

I imagine the scent invoking the memory of her (Mathew 26:10-13) in Jesus’ mind as he suffered and died. And that this memory, prompted by the smell of the perfume, was perhaps even a reminder of the Gospel to Jesus in this time.Somehow I find this as a way God the Father was with him.

I wish you a blessed and holy Good Friday. May God hold your heart tight in whatever you are going through. May you live ever mindful and forever strong in his will and word. May there pieces that fall in place that remind you of all of this great love God has for you. Namaste.

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