Identity

Fire Drills Don’t Save Lives or Things…

“I feel like I wouldn’t like me if I met me. Oh, I feel like, you wouldn’t like me if you met me.”


 -from Tegan and Sara’s “You Wouldn’t Like Me”

.::.

I grew up in a nondenominational Bible church. As I’ve moved through various nondenom venues of Christianity (Bible Studies, Church camps, Sunday School, retreats), I’ve noticed that there seem to be a few themes that are popular for Christians to talk about. The topics are important, but sometimes they can be dealt with on a shallow level. In thinking about this, I came up with a quick reference chart for some of these.

 

Topic Brief Explanation Easy Application
Identity

(Physical)

If you’re a woman, you find your identity in what you look like. You should stop using mirrors. Focus on your inner beauty [you can even quote Proverbs here, and you’re golden].
Sex You shouldn’t think about it unless you’re married. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Unless you’re protesting sex trafficking.
Grace You get something that you don’t deserve. Don’t worry about not measuring up. No one does! That’s why surfer-dude-Jesus came, so we could all be “cool.”
Missions God wants everyone to be saved, but He’s going to send everyone to hell if we don’t get to them first. Evangelize in the malls! Proselytize at school! Make sure everyone knows where you stand on key political issues!

 

Here’s where I get stuck: I can recognize that these perspectives are bankrupt. But in recognizing that, I want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Whenever a speaker or writer starts to talk about identity, a voice in my head says, “Here we go again. Ya, ya, whatever. It’s just something Christians like to talk about, because it makes them feel warm and fuzzy inside.”

And so I tune out.

.::.

This week in Evangelical Theology, Dr. Raith was talking about Purgatory. The most impactful thing he said about it, though, was this, “You might not be comfortable with the idea of Purgatory, but it is one way a group of Christians have answered a problematic question. You can’t just say, ‘Well, I don’t like that answer.’ If you’re going to disagree, you have to come up with a better answer.”

.::.

My dorm just had a fire drill: sirens, everyone meeting in the parking lot, all that jazz. And so, like everyone else, I picked up myself, grabbed some homework and my coat, and left.

Fire drills force you to pay attention to your world, and they force you to take action.

.::.

Monday’s class period on identity was kind of like a fire drill for me. It said, “Jewel, the way you’ve thought about identity, perfectionism, and what God thinks about you is wrong. Something needs to change.”

.::.

Fire drills themselves don’t solve any problems. They don’t, by themselves, save lives or things. But they alert and prepare people for the unfortunate possibilities.

Reading Noland doesn’t solve my issues. But it forces me to face the problem.

 

~ Jewel

Asking the Right Questions, Worship 1

Dot Syndrome

“Have you ever heard of the dot syndrome? Look at a newspaper photograph and notice that it’s made up of many dots of ink. Now focus on only one of those little dots. See how you miss the ‘big picture’? The dot syndrome is just like that. You make a little mistake and keep replaying it in your mind, crucifying yourself over and over for it. It’s a loss of perspective. Instead of looking at the big picture, you’re obsessed with one tiny dot. For the perfectionist, one thing gone wrong means everything’s going wrong” (Noland, 1999, p. 124)

When I create, my chord progressions must perfectly match with my ideas, my lyrics must be crisp and clever, and my riffs must be somewhat original. When I record, each piece must sound as I want it to sound, each instrument must be in tune, and each track must sound good with every other track. When I paint, my work must reflect the beauty that I imagine, each stroke must be considered, each shade chosen to blend with the next. This is how I see the dot syndrome in my life as an artist.

However, I’m afraid that it has outgrown artistry and has also taken over many other things in my life. It shows up when I am working on my homework assignments, gets cooked into my food, is overheard in the prayers that I pray out loud, and creeps into my relationships with people.

For example, when I was interning in New Orleans, I worked on a team. Most of the team was incredibly nice and accepting of me. They complimented my guitar playing. They affirmed the ministry that I was doing among the people who had lost their homes. They enjoyed spending time with me, and I enjoyed spending time with them. However, there were two girls who sometimes acted like I didn’t exist. This began a downward spiral of me not thinking that I was good enough to be on the team, that I was not a good enough Christian to even be there, that I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile, that I wasn’t worthwhile…all because these I thought these two girls were ignoring me. I began to think that everything was wrong. I couldn’t find anything positive about the situation that I was in – it was all negative.

Towards the end of my internship, I sat down with these two girls and told them what they were doing and how it made me feel. They didn’t realize that how they were treating me was hurting me. Things started to get better after that talk, but I learned something valuable from going through such pain. I needed to count my blessings.

So today, as I sit here and type, I am blessed to be drinking hot cocoa in a warm apartment while it is cold outside. I am blessed to be receiving a wonderful education and to have relationships with the people here. I am blessed to have roommates that put up with my quirkiness. And if I really think about it, I am blessed that God gave me a tongue to taste the hot chocolate, nerve endings that feel cold when it is cold and hot when it is hot, a mind full of analysis and creativity, and a heart that gives and receives love.

How has the Lord blessed you today?