“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
I’ve considered renaming this blog several times. Nothing particularly poetic, just something straightforward and to the point like Uncomfortably Christian or Reluctantly Christian or Don’t Know What I’m Doing, Thanks For Reading. When I reflect on why it has been so hard to write in the last year, this about sums it up. In the last twelve months, I went from living as an adult who accessorized her life with an inconsequential Christian dogma she found impolite to talk about to a woman in love with the Lord. As I type those words, they make me squirm because I remember how weird that statement has sounded to me at different points of my life. The fact that “In love with the Lord” sounds like a bad t-shirt you’d see in the South is not lost on me. But last September, I found myself hungering for a life with more significance than the one I’d built and longing for character that was deeper still. The only place I’ve ever found that measure of purpose has been within an unbridled relationship with God, in which I make Him the main thing. I have never known the Lord in a very formal way. I didn’t grow up in church, I have never experienced the trauma or dysfunction that many are subject to within the church body firsthand. I was lucky enough to become acquainted with Scripture and the personhood of Jesus at a camp that was full of leaders who may have been overenthusiastic at times but were overall sincere in their zeal for young people to know a God who loves them and welcomes them as they are. I realize I have the privilege of knowing an intimacy with my faith, and ultimately with God, that is unencumbered by the failures of religion. This has always made returning to the Lord a sweet homecoming of sorts.
I find myself returning to this blog now, even though I make fun of myself for having a blog to begin with (note: one that has been neglected for a year), because I admire pioneers in the online space that live their lives faithfully in devotion to God but make no illusions about their own imperfections. I find it really difficult to return to this space with no sense of branding or niche for myself as an individual. There’s no real niche for messy Christians. There’s a niche for Messy Christians™ who write about untidy living rooms or cursing every once in a while, but as Jen Hatmaker soberly pointed out, once you gain admission into the mainstream Christian machine of Authors and Leaders and Pastors, you’re supposed to follow a script. I am really bad at that. Downright awful. If there’s anything consistent about of my life, it’s that fact alone. At 18, I lead a team of people to the Dominican Republic to volunteer in bateys where people are largely disconnected from access to education, healthcare, financial opportunity and live without government representation. 19, I moved to New York City with a suitcase and no apartment or job to be an unpaid youth leader. By 25, I had reached personal milestones working at a classically textbook start-up among the smartest people I’d ever known. None of it was scripted or fit the expectations of what others imagined for me. I have a bad habit of sharing what I think and I just kind of have always done what I think I should do, whether to my own detriment or not. I try to steward these freedoms more wisely now.
The measure of wisdom I’ve earned through a lot of loss and pain, both within Christ and my years wandering beyond, lead me to detach the value of my life with what I can succeed at and how many people are applauding at any given time. My last two years in New York are characterized by little else than performance (at least, beyond the kindred friendships that were forged). Society only offers rewards for such, but performing will cost you being human. At some point, you forget how to sit with the people who know you best because you’ve forgotten yourself in the truest sense. In September of last year, I began a journey to invest in relationships again, as well as in the growth of myself as a fully realized person. So, I moved away from New York City, moved in with one of my best friends, and grew close to family in Orlando. I reacquainted myself with my own idealist heart, resigned myself to its stubborn naïveté towards the world, and celebrated my twenty-sixth birthday a[art from the entitlement, and subsequent emptiness, that characterized my last few years as a New Yorker. As I welcomed the next quarter century of my life, I determined that if I remained real and showed the world an image of God that has margin for people that have been to the ends of the earth and back again (Christian Machine™ be damned), then I would be proud to inhabit this story and share it with others faithfully. I would just need the courage to do so.