I am made up of contradictions, and it confuses me. For some reason, I have harbored a deep-rooted belief that people should not be a mix of things – actually, that people and belief systems and governments and literally maybe everything should consist of elements that are all in alignment. That everything should “go together.” That everything should be congruous.
I think this misunderstanding, in combination with a decision to sometimes hide some of the faith parts of me, has created a level of conflict within me for much of my adulthood. I am only just embracing that there’s no one way to be a “good” girl or Christian or Mom or caring person or wife or single person or leader or neighbor. I am only just now embracing that while there are core and consistent principles for the people on each of these paths, the paths are filled with variation and with unique people of individual experiences.
I’m a girl who loves God but who sometimes drops f-bombs. I am a Mom who loves spending time with my girls but who also loves working. I don’t just work for a paycheck and shut off that part of my brain at 5pm; I actually love my job and all the responsibility that accompanies it. I have spent my entire life talking to God, and yet I married someone who didn’t believe in that God. I am a person of faith and of superstition. I believe in God and in science – I believe He can heal and that doctors and medicine can heal.
My book choices are all over the place, everything from daily devotionals to 50 Shades of Grey to Touching History. The top played songs on my ipod right now are The Git Up, Knockin’ Boots, O Come To The Altar, and You Need To Calm Down. I’d like to say I spend most of my down time on putting “good” content into my brain, but the truth is that right now I’m more likely to read something where the vicar’s loins are afire or watch something about a yoga Mom’s murder in suburban America.
In politics, I am a Christian who thinks that the decisions other people make when confronted with pregnancy are, above all, none of my business. I know that the justice system in the United States is flawed and punishment is unfairly meted out, and yet I believe in the death penalty and I think that some people simply deserve to die. I am a left leaning voter who just can’t work up enough feelings to really care about the environment.
Contradictions everywhere. And those contradictions – those imperfections, those variations on what I thought a “good” Mom or Christian or whatever should be – have impacted how I thought about a lot of things. Everything from wondering if my daughter got cancer because of my badness (I know the answer is no) to can I really have a worthy opinion about something biblical if I don’t fulfill all the Christian good girl checkboxes (I know the answer is yes) to can a person marked by paradox really successfully shepherd children to adulthood (answer is TBD).
I think the bottom line is that I have always had a lingering suspicion that my contradictions impact my worthiness or my goodness, but my newly discovered truth is that not only do my contradictions not negatively impact my level of goodness, they make me human and real – and my admission of them makes me stronger, and my admission of them makes my relationships with others stronger.
One of my a-ha moments about this happened over lunch recently as I shared some of the most personal faith moments of my life. I spoke out loud about events and truths and actions and beliefs and realizations that have until now lived only inside me, or were shared in confidence with just a couple of people in my life. And nothing crazy happened – he didn’t laugh at me or think I’d lost my mind. In fact the opposite happened, and we discussed everyone’s desire to hide sometimes and the contradictions in all of our lives and stories.
I have hidden parts of me, in part to make others more comfortable and in part to make me more comfortable and in part because I felt my contradictions made me less worthy or good. I let the pressure to be what others expect of me and the pressure of falling into a “good” bucket keep me from sharing all of me. And not only has that held me back, it’s kept some people around me from being their whole self.
Brene Brown’s Call to Courage special is one of my more recent favorite things. I can’t watch it enough and it’s a sermon that needs to be digested in pieces over time – much like her book Braving the Wilderness. In some ways, I’m still a teenager who wants to cut pictures out of Teen Beat and hang them all over my walls – it’s just that “grown-up” me prints out or highlights thoughts that I need to mull over more.
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
I am made up of contradictions, and basically so is everyone else. Perhaps the key to a life really lived is whether we embrace our contradictions. Perhaps the key to a life fully lived is simply not hiding, and speaking openly about all the contradictory or confusing parts of ourselves. And perhaps it’s the illusion of perfection – the decorations we use to hide imperfections or the people who put a lot of energy into looking or seeming put together – that is our red flag for situations and people that are not authentic.
My home is filled with random stuff, what you might characterize as contradictions. Our family rooms are filled with pieces that mean something or that I just like, regardless of whether or not they go together – so vacation mementoes sit next to antique marbles, old hymnals are next to Nancy Drew books, handmade kid crafts are on the same shelf as crystal, and stainless steel is in the same view as red barn doors and old quilts. I am done with trying to make me and make my home look congruous.
I am made up of contradictions, and the contradictions are what make me me.