...we might experience illness and the symptoms that come with it, but we are not our illnesses. We are not depression, anxiety, cancer, tumors, amputated limbs, developmental delays, or any other clinical diagnosis. Yet for many who cope with the reality of illness, mental illness in particular (I'm biased here and I will fully own that), the line between diagnosis and identity is blurred verging on nonexistent. I think there's something wrong with that picture.
Contrary to popular belief, shame isn't as invisible to the people around us as we might like it to be. When it comes to shame, I don't think anyone has the perfect poker face. Try as we might to keep our wounds covered, sometimes the blood seeps through the shirts we wear, illuminating our emotional mortality to the outside world. We think it's invisible, yet we also like to think that we can tell what's going on with someone else. If I can see you, then isn't it safe to assume you can see me?
...Then there's a different kind of anger — the kind that surfaces in response to feeling hurt, the kind that wants to hurt back, and badly. I don't mean with superficial cuts. I mean with utter obliteration. The kind that wants to destroy another person's worth and value simply because you can. What has been troubling for me is just how often this kind of anger shows up in my thoughts and in my imagination, and how I've felt God challenging me to "get curious."
just because I'm silent, just because I give my voice a rest, does not mean that I become invisible. In fact, perhaps in my silence, I might actually let myself be seen, not merely from a distance but up close, where one can see my intricacies and beauty, my simplicity and complexity interwoven. Perhaps in my silence, I can let myself be called not great, not excellent, but simply "good" and hear it as a blessing, as an affirmation. Maybe in my silence, I can give someone else the space to share what they're feeling and receive it as a gift, something special. And just maybe, my silence will make room for God to speak and be heard. Maybe, just maybe...
...I wish I were good at being alone, at feeling comfortable only in my own presence. But that is when the void of my loneliness, inadequacy, and insecurity is most present, tangible, palpable. I feel more and more like the authentic me, and it's hard to celebrate the goodness there when my mind sees the cracks, the flaws, the shame and the pain.
There are days where I just want to force myself to let go of the label of Christian, and there are days where I can't help but hold onto it white-knuckled. It is a label, an identifier, that means the world to me, yet it comes with so much baggage some days. I love Jesus. I love talking about him. I love asking questions about the meaning of his teachings, about the significance of his life both for those in his immediate presence and for us today. I love the idea of a community gathering together around the table, learning to love each other amidst the messiness of life, learning to show grace, to forgive. A community whose mission and identity is wrapped up in the idea that God loves all of creation and invites creation to reciprocate that love. A community that recognizes the brokenness that exists in the world, and who wants to be a part of the ways in which God is working to redeem that brokenness, heal the wounds of the world.
As for me, I owe a debt of gratitude to each and every one of my friends who let me be a part of their children's lives. I owe them thanks for being a part of my healing, for letting, for encouraging their children to love me. I owe them as much love as I can for being a part of making me feel like a whole person again.