I was liked more when I was all pride. And sometimes, like now, I even find myself missing those carefree, sans sacrifice days. There was always someone there to be drunk on life with, living for the moment and our senses only, shooting the shit, disregarding the state of the rest of the world for a few belligerent laughs and the sense that we were loved, and not alone.
It’s especially difficult to be around my family now, the family I grew up with: parents and three younger siblings. Not that this is unique to the Christian or to anyone really, for as far as Christ is concerned, he said that he will be a divider among families; and just read any good novel to learn the intricacies and complexities within the nuclear family, regardless spiritual affiliation. Still, I want to try and summon hope that maybe our relations don’t have to be forever strained due to lifestyle choices. Let me just say that I was raised with a lot of self-confidence. I was good at sports, music, pretty much all of my school subjects, and had an active social life, throughout high school especially. I always worked part-time jobs while in school (high school and college) and felt I could get along with everyone from unsatisfied patrons to the Mexican cooks in the kitchen; from my softball teammates to the opponents we were playing; from my large circle of friends to their much more interesting parents. Because of these accomplishments, I felt that I was a good role model for my siblings; and because I felt I had a lot going for me, I never doubted that life would continue this way, culminating in a, vague-yes, but satisfying career that would help “create a better world.”
I won’t get into the details now, but this all crumbled (faulty foundations) when Christ made himself known to me when I was twenty-four. I immediately saw the shallowness of those shards of ego upon which I had relied my whole life. And suddenly I was left bereft of my whole personality that was instantly burnt like a tissue paper aflame when God touched it. When I opened my mouth to try and convey something, I literally stuttered or fell silent. My memories were drowned and I could no longer remember what my friends and I had talked about or laughed about all of those countless drunken days. This was the tempest that I so badly wanted to avoid and so badly needed at the same time.
Some of my poetry describes this anguished dark night of the soul, where I was dead to my old self but still not committed to giving Jesus a kiss on the cheek. (During those years– yes, four long years– Jesus would come to me every once in awhile in my dreams and ask for a kiss on the cheek, but I would turn away, having scorned Christianity in my elevated self-esteem and hedonism of those younger days.) But what I really want to say now is how, now four years after accepting the Holy Spirit into my heart in my spiritual baptism, my relationships (besides with my husband and daughter) still seem hollow and forlorn.
First of all, I know I’m not a success as seen through the cataracts of the world’s eyes. To relinquish all control, accumulated intelligence, jocular interactions, and adventures for adventure’s sake, and say, “Here I am, Lord,” is not something the world sees as ‘fit behavior’, speaking in its preferred evolutionary dialect. And I don’t expect anyone, besides those with similar experiences, to understand or even want to understand. I was just like those children of the world once, thinking, “How can anyone believe in God, when there’s so much evidence and reasoning against it?” So as a failure, I continue my journey of the cross, quietly staying at home with the babies, doing God’s work for me. I know with deep conviction that what I’m doing is fulfilling that old vision of “creating a better world,” but I’m not going to try and convince the world of that. That would be like trying to convince them of the existence of God, a fruitless conversation.
So yes, the microcosm of the world exists in my family. I don’t think any of them: mother, step-father, father, step-mother, sister, brother, but possibly the exception of my youngest brother, can say they’re proud of my choices. My sister is a driven, business-oriented woman who rock-climbs or mountain-bikes on weekends and still regularly gets together with her group of friends. My middle brother is always off on some “epic” world excursion and has the kind of magnetic personality that makes him popular anywhere he goes. My mother was a stay-at-home mom who regrets it. My father was educated at Harvard and he and his wife are prominent fund-raisers in Denver’s philanthropy community. My youngest brother is the only one I feel may see me for who I really am, but he currently lives in New Zealand with his wife and I barely ever get to spend time with him. Family time makes me very nervous as I just feel so small, having so little to offer, and this goes for most of my husband’s family too. To tell you the truth, I am very nervous about making friends because I feel too precarious based on the fluctuations of my past. Friendships can be so volatile and can burn up in a second if they are not based on God’s unconditional love.
Despite all of this relatively new humility that graces my life on a daily basis, I do hope that as I mature in Christ and in my faith, the nervousness will dwindle and people (quality, not quantity) will like me for who I am, as a child of God, and will maybe even grow an inkling of curiosity as to why I chose to make certain sacrifices for the promise of eternal life.
Does anyone else also have these insecurities around the people who supposedly love you through thick and thin? How do you start a friendship based on authenticity?