begin with the assumption
that you are Enough.
I currently have these words hanging on my wall, above my desk, right next to my computer screen. I hung them there because a) I am one of those people that hangs “inspirational quotes” on my walls; I have hung them on post-its and post-cards and the backs of playbills and the corners of napkins and, when I am feeling particularly strongly, I have occasionally scrawled them on my own skin, in permanent ink so that they stay there long enough that my eyes have memorized their shape by the time they’re gone
It feels enormously good for me, this idea; I can feel myself expanding, daring to grow out, Being in new colors and levels of fierceness and nerve. I can write whatever I want, if I breathe this idea in and out long enough; I can say and do the things I’m terrified of, I could be taller. Possibly I could even grow big enough to be AFP, or Beyonce, or my mother. I mean, you don’t know, do you? The possibilities are endless.
What gives me pause, though – at least, I pause long enough to write it down – is that this is such a departure from how I feel I grew up to think of myself. It’s possible that I’ve gotten it wrong – I mean, my most formative years were awhile ago, and it’s been years since anyone explicitly told me what to do with my life, but. So far as I can understand it, there’s some serious contradiction happening here.
I was raised in the belief that I am not, in fact, enough; that I need Jesus to come and complete me and glorify (possibly the better word is ‘reclaim’) my brokenness and make me whole. Somewhere, I think, I or my teachers (or both!) confused something? Because ‘accepting Jesus in to complete me’ turned into ‘make sure your life is in line with and agreed upon by people who probably know Jesus better than you do – other members of church, Christian friends, your family. Always depend on God, which means not moving on any significant decision without an indubitable sign (the approval of a holier-than-you acquaintance is always good) and you may not act with personal, bold agency, because that way lies danger and the Devil. Also, it’s unladylike.’
Somehow, ‘I need Jesus in order to be Enough’ turned into ‘I have an imperfect relationship with God and I struggle in/with/about my faith, there fore I do not and cannot measure up in my friendships, on my job, in any attempt at self-expression or –reflection.’ I will always be wanting, always come up short, because I am not quite holy or wise or ready enough. And for this reason, I will not try.
I do not believe, or mean to suggest even for a single second, that that is the habit of thought anyone ever meant to engender in me. If I think about it for a minute, I remember at least two separate instances (taking place over the phone – me, in college, lying on a lonely loft bed, surrounded by tissues and tearstained textbooks; my father, at home, still up at this ungodly hour, working much too hard as usual but setting everything aside to make himself heard through my sniffles) where I was explicitly urged to remember that I was the only one who could make my decisions, that plenty of other people were in my life to encourage me as needed, but the actual choices were mine!
As has been the case with too many pivotal conversations in my life, I didn’t listen nearly as well as I should have. At that point, I was already too terrified to be wrong (wronger? Continue being wrong). It was much easier to wait and let someone else tell me when I was ready, when I had grown up to the point where I was allowed to move, to grow, to go out and do things and make mistakes that may or may not be of catastrophic proportions. (Of course, all the ones most eager to tell me what I was were exactly who I shouldn’t have listened to. Isn’t it always the way?)
Now, I should point out that I am 98% certain that that is completely counter to what Christianity is trying to tell me (2% being the sneaky fear that my religion is trying to kill me; not to worry, I hear it’s more or less normal for those of us with a strong Type A, legalistic bent).
Unfortunately (SPOILERS), at this moment in time, I do not have any grand, neatly packaged scheme to resolve this problem in myself, or prevent it in others. I don’t know how to take the whole idea behind a Christ-follower’s need for salvation and cut it off at the pass before it can morph into this self-stunted and cringing creature I just pulled out of my own cellar. I don’t know if I’m still missing a piece here (knowing myself, many pieces). All I know is that, here on this lovely summer night, I’ve put up a card on my wall that simultaneously makes me feel like I can finally permit myself to take great, soul-deep breaths, and also at the same time suspect that I am doing something wrong.
I’m still working on the problem. Breathing deep. Having some tea. And then going out, moving in full possession of my own agency, and making some gorgeous, messy, catastrophic mistakes. I’m told life is full of them. May as well get started.