Trying to fit in to the perfect space…

Deja Vu All Over Again

It’s the same old story. You’re a little late, the buzz of hundreds of conversations reaching you as you walk down the hall, before you even get in there.  You walk in to the cafeteria…of course you forgot your glasses again so you can’t see where everyone is.  You lean casually against the wall, hoping that no one will notice you before you get your bearings.  Scanning the crowd for a familiar face, you finally see your friend at a table across the room and breathe a sigh of relief.  You feel so much less conspicuous as you slide in next to her at the table.

Sound familiar?  If you think I’m talking about high school you’re wrong.  I’m actually talking about going to some parent event at the elementary school.  One thing I’ve learned this far in life–high school never really goes away.

I don’t know about you, but I walk into every school function with a major chip on my shoulder.  I peg people for who they probably were in high school…it’s actually pretty easy to figure out.  Who the cool people were, the nerds, the quiet ones, the stoners, the smart kids, the nice ones who everyone liked…I don’t think our roles change that much as parents.  I think we slide right into the same roles we filled when we were kids.  The cliques we fell into are still alive and wel.  It’s hard to reinvent yourself.  My college roommate was hell bent on being a totally different person in college and failed miserably.  I have grown and changed for sure of course-thank God.  But in so many ways I’m still that same person…perched on the edge of not-quite-popular and still looking for my big break.  I don’t care as much about how I look…I have no problem showing up to things in my big fleecy pants and Wyoming Soccer sweatshirt.  Still, it disgusts me though how much I still care about being one of the “cool kids.”  I hate how I sort everyone out into their assigned roles, myself included.

I’m not sure how to just quit doing it though.  I try to just go about my business and I enjoy my life and my family and kids tremendously.  Put me in a room full of other moms though…I’m nice on the outside but you do not want to hear my inner dialogue.  Critical, judgmental, sarcastic, snarky, you name it.  It ain’t pretty.

I don’t know what you imagine adulthood is going to be like when you’re a kid.  You just see the grownups going about their business, orbiting around the universe that is You.  You don’t really care who their friends are or what they think about the other grown ups, I don’t think that even occurs to you, that your parents might have the same peer power struggles that you do.

People might think I’m crazy or that I’m insecure or making it up, but I don’t think it’s all in my head.  There’s plenty of one-uppmanship to go around, comparing your kid to others, backhanded compliments about someone else’s kid, gossip, rumor spreading…I mean, if you haven’t experienced this to some degree I don’t know where you’ve been hiding (or you’re one of those super nice people, that rare person that’s friends with everyone and always mangages to rise above the fray.).  Really this is all just a slightly elevated level of high school drama.  We just all have better jobs and drive bigger cars.  We’re still trying to impress, trying to be important.  Trying to find some way, one way, ANY way to be just a little bit better than someone else.  It’s how we fill that blank, bleak hole sitting in the very pit of ourselves, how we shut up that voice that tells us we’ll never be good enough.  And I think really, we all feel like we’ll never be good enough, even the most cool and popular among us.  Some people are just better at pretending otherwise.

The thing is…I don’t think that voice is as loud as it used to be, that hole seems not so hollow.  So maybe I am growing up some.  Maybe it’s just I’m in the middle on some continuum of “Importance of What Other People Think” which means there has to be an end somewhere, right?  Perhaps at some point I’ll be able to just let go completely and just be.

I really, really love the song “Secrets” by Mary Lambert.  It’s so freeing and such a powerful message…”I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are…”  And I don’t care so much, really.  But I do still want people to like me.  I wonder if that feeling ever totally goes away.

(not so) Baby Boy

It is time for small boys to go to bed.  And none too soon for this one, who loves bedtime.  We’re at a movie, out doing something fun and “I just want to go to BED” gets moaned with slumping shoulders.  I imagine him as a teen, sleeping til noon on a Sunday morning, the specter of who he will someday be lurking just behind him.

We head for his room, where he grabs all 5 of his special stuffed friends, his arms just barely encircling them.  Climb into the cozy flannel sheets I put on a bit too early-“Was your bed nice and warm last night?  I put on your flannel sheets.”  “Yes, but maybe a little TOO warm…” says the sweaty sleeper.  Always sweaty, hair damp and tousled, arms flung wide and head at an impossibly cockeyed angle.  Fall is arriving in fits and starts as usual.

I lie down next to him, snuggling being one of his top activities, dad and I having tied in the “World’s Best Snuggler” category (although I daresay he is the best).  I put my arm around his fuzzy back-he loves his feeties, sweaty or not-he is lying at a funny angle because his flu shot arm hurts and he doesn’t want to lie on it.  The flu shot brought tears and an Oreo Coolatta from Dunkins, since I am a sucker for this one.  He hugs Boonga, the favorite stuffed friend, extra tight and says “I wish Boonga was real”, reminding me of the Velveteen Rabbit.  Boonga is still the most important friend, the one who sits on the stairs waiting for him to come home.  He’s as real as a stuffed animal can get.  I let him hug Boonga for his portrait this year, which got a raised eyebrow from Dad, but I know that it won’t be long before he is getting dusty on the dresser, Toy Story playing out for real in just a few short years.

I lie there with him and smell his “boy” smell…one of my favorite quotes is from “Incendiary” by Chris Cleave, where the protagonist describes the smell of her boy  as a “cross between angel and tiger.”  I have never smelled either but can’t imagine a more perfect description of how my boy smells.  The last of his Old Spice shower gel (used for the benefit of “the girls”) still lingering on his head.  He flings his arm across my back and his tiny fingers feel like when they were a baby, grabbing on to the lifeline of Mom.  We talk about his day, and when I ask him what the best part of his day was he says “Seeing you when I came out of school” and it does not feel like the world’s most obvious pick-up line.  He smiles sleepily at me and leans over for a kiss.

I watch him as sleep takes over, as his eyes stop popping open to see if I’m still watching him, as his breathing slows and his arm gets heavy and slides off me.  I see this boy, who knows the whole Bastille album, and always has his nose in a book.  Who is afraid to ride his bike but not to sing “Hard Knock Life” for Annie auditions.  With his skinny, knobby legs and tiny teeth that refuse to loosen even a little bit.  His skipping around on the soccer field and sometimes powerful shot on goal (when he feels so inclined).  The way he loves his sisters and how they look out for him.  Someday there won’t be any room for me on this little bed, when he fills the hollow made by his teenage dad, sprawling out across a too-small twin bed. So I get in all the snuggles that I can, with this boy and his eyelashes like spiders’ legs, my own little angel/tiger.

Stronger, Faster, Smarter

One of my goals this summer is to have Xavier learn how to ride his bike without training wheels.  It’s not going so well.  He doesn’t love riding his bike period, I have to cajole him to get out there and ride around the neighborhood.  Then he typically makes a big deal about it and rides around like a little old man, tooling around at 2 mph and braking every second.  God help us if he falls over at all, even if he doesn’t actually hurt himself it’s like I just threw him off the Empire State Building.  (One of his favorite phrases when he gets hurt is “You made me get hurt!” Mmmhmm.  Ok kid.  Keep working on the blame-shifting.)  I’m finding it extremely frustrating and part of me just wants to give up.  

Sometimes I find myself judging my own kids…they’re not as smart as I’d like or as kind as I want, they’re not athletic or outgoing or daring or…whatever.  I look at them and wish they’d just be different in that one (or two, or ten) area.  I find myself comparing them to other kids, to myself when I was a kid, to Bill as a kid.  Then I feel awful–Why can’t I just let them be who they are?  Why do I want them to change?  Julia is kind of shy and loves clothes and fashion and hates reading and doesn’t really like school and hates anything where you have to work hard.  But she is sweet and loving and wants to please people and is silly and loves to laugh.  Kendall can be sneaky and mean and pouty and has a terrible martyr complex and hates math and wants to read all the time and play Minecraft and doesn’t have much athleticism.  But she is compassionate and thoughtful and always makes you feel special and loves to sing and act and is incredibly creative.  Xavier is into math and science and Pokemon and Minecraft and plays sports whether he wants to or not and is semi-athletic and quiet and kind of nerdy…but he is a snuggler and a lover and super smart and very creative.  None of those things are bad things!!  Why do I want them to be something, someone different?  

At the same time though, I don’t want them to just settle and get in some sort of rut, some sort of assigned “This Is Who I Am and I Won’t Change” mode.  I want to encourage them to try new things, to push themselves, to see a different perspective.  To be brave and adventurous, to not miss out on all the amazing things the world has to offer by settling into some small, comfy box that I never try to push them out of occasionally.  I want them to have all the things I never had, to try all the things I never tried, to really LIVE life and experience everything the world has to offer and to not be settled into themselves at the ages of 12, 9 and 7.  

So how do you balance these things?  How do I keep from getting frustrated when they aren’t who I want them to be, but still push them to be more than they are?  Where is that line and how do you straddle it without going over into one extreme or the other?  

Just one more parenting dilemma to try and figure out I suppose.  In the meantime, watch out for me hanging onto a small boy on an orange bike, huffing and puffing as he peddles around trying to balance on his bike.

 

Imaginary Friends

I have this group of imaginary friends.  They’re pretty amazing too.  And I know a lot about them…I know their names, where they live, their families.  There’s Jamie, and her husband The Beard and her uber-cool cat Knives.  And Rachel and Dan and her escapades in Biblical Womanhood.  Kristen and her stunning family, and gosh, she is SO smart.  And Glennon, with Husband and Sister and her nutty, funny kids.  There’s lots of others too…and they keep pointing me to other imaginary friends which is kind of cool of them, right?  I could tell you lots about them, things they think and believe, even some things about their past and their fears and insecurities…which is pretty incredible for imaginary friends.  For people I’ve never met.  People I sometimes wonder if they’re really real because I read their words and I want so badly for them to be real, I want so badly for them to be sitting here in my living room, one of them…all of them, like those god-awful paintings of all the presidents hangin’ out shooting pool…just sitting here drinking wine, telling me yes, it’s fine, it’s ok, you’re ok, it’s all going to be ok the world is not ending.

Because I read their stories, their posts, and sometimes-ok, most times-it’s like reading something from my own thoughts.  It makes me feel less crazy.  It resonates with me on the deepest level.  As I struggle with my faith, my world view, the church I have claimed as my own for the past 25 years, they have made me feel ok.  They have made me feel like no, I’m not alone.  Like there’s hope.

The People in my life, THE people, the real people, my people…the not imaginary people…they don’t really get it.  They tell me to stop thinking so much, to stop worrying, stop questioning.  To stop reading about things that make me upset.  Because, you know, it’s just that easy.  The Church-y people in my life are like “Just pray about it!  Just read the Bible!  It’s all right there in the Bible!  The Bible just says everything you need to know and questions aren’t worth asking and besides it sounds like you’re coming to all the wrong conclusions.”  And the Non-Church-y people in my life are like “Well, we’ve always thought the Church sucked anyway.  What took you so long?” And somehow neither of those seems fully right or true in my gut but the only people that say things that do seem true seem like imaginary people because I have never actually seen them in person I’ve just read their words.  

The past few days with this whole World Vision bullshit has got me feeling like the world is imploding around me.  I just want to give up on Christianity.  Toss my label, my allegiance.  Not to God, not to Jesus, but to the Church.  Can you believe in God and Jesus and refuse to call yourself a Christian?  Then I read the words of oh, Jen Hatmaker, who sounds so wise and thoughtful, and I think, ok, if I can just get around some of these people then maybe I can still claim this faith.  Maybe I can still hang here.  And then I make the mistake of reading some of the comments which I should. not. do, and for every 10 positive, “Yes! This!” comments there are the nasty, the self-righteous, the snarly, biting, vicious, “You’re wrong and isn’t that sad for you because you’re not really listening to/following Jesus and he has no room for you, no grace for you” ragged teeth that just tear at the delicate line that had been anchoring me to what little faith I have left that Christianity is a faith worth following.  

I feel like everything’s collapsing around me.  But I keep reading.  Because my imaginary friends are pretty amazing, and I’m pretty confident I’m not just making them up, and they keep writing things that give me hope, that make me want to be better, that speak to my heart, that tell me I’m not alone even though I feel. so. alone.  And in spite of wanting to just say fuck it! I’m done! I think God just might be speaking to me through them.  My imaginary friends.  Maybe someday I’ll get to hug one of them or listen to one of them speak or something.  That would be…well, that just might be heaven.

Hug It Out

There’s been a lot of chatter on the web this week regarding the impending death of Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist Church. Lots of vitriol aimed at someone who perhaps deserves it, as well as a lot of talk of grace and forgiveness, particularly from the gay community.  Additionally, upworthy.com posted this video, where some homophobic straight people were put in a small space with a gay person and asked to hug.  (The staged, made for Hollywood gimmickyness of this I’m sure can be debated.)  I’m sure it will spark a lot of conversations as well.  (I saw it on George Takei’s FB page.)

A guy like Fred Phelps is easy to identify as a homophobe.  I mean, “God Hates You!” is about as anti-person as you can get.  Although Phelps and WBC didn’t limit their hatred to just gays, clearly gay people were at the top of their list of despised persons.  Someone like Phelps is an easy guy to dismiss though, to write off as just another religious kook.  The video really disturbed me though, for a couple of reasons.  One, all of those people looked like regular Joes, like someone you’d meet walking down the street and maybe smile “Hello” to.  They didn’t scream “I’m a straight homophobic person!!” at you just by their appearance.  And yet their discomfort at being in close proximity to a gay person, at the possibility of having to touch the gay person was obvious.  They initially acted like they were in a cage with a rabid animal.  Something dirty.  Someone diseased.  Someone who could poison them with their nastiness.  (Now of course in heartwarming fashion, by the end of the video their demeanors had changed to an extent.  How permanent of a change that is, well, only they know.)  It made me so uncomfortable.

I realized though, that that is what life must be like for a gay person on a daily basis.  That nice guy at the counter at the store? That grandmotherly lady walking her dog? Your mom?  Your brother?  That kid in the locker next to you?  If they find out you are gay, either accidentally or because you come out to them…will they act like that?  Will they be grossed out by you?  Treat you like a pariah?  Hate you?  Fear you?  Every. Single. Day.  Never knowing how the truth about who you are will change someone’s opinion of you, how they treat you.

Of course I knew this was true, I mean, I’m not ignorant of the reality of life as a gay person in America.  Not every homophobe looks like Fred Phelps.  They are disguised as people you know and love.  People I know and love are like this.  I’ve heard them make snide comments or disgusted noises at the tv.  People I know and love who refuse to watch “Ellen”, as if watching a talk show is in some way supporting “the gay lifestyle” (whatever that means!).  Or, by the same token people who claim “I don’t hate gay people! I watch “Ellen”!” 

My aunt was gay. (I say was because she passed away a few years ago.)  She lived with her partner for, well, all of my life anyway.  I know she had been married before I was born, but as long as I remember she lived with Jaye.  I was 21 before I figured out that she was gay…my mom and sister were like “DUH!” but it had never been talked about.  I had always thought “Shoot, if I’m an adult and I don’t get married, well, I’d live with my best friend too!”  And that’s how I saw it, growing up.  They were best friends.  There was nothing gross or creepy or weird.  I wasn’t “turned gay” because I had a gay aunt.  I didn’t even know she was “my gay aunt” until I was an adult.  Now, this was mostly because back in the day (and even still some today) no one talked about that.  It was kind of like some sort of secret. (although apparently everyone knew the secret but me! Ha!)  But she wasn’t treated like some sort of monster (at least as far as I ever saw).  I wish she were still alive today.  I would love to know more about her, her life and experiences.  

I don’t claim to have “figured out” gay people or that I somehow know what it must be like to be gay.  I don’t.  I am learning, every day, more about gay people from stories people are sharing online, from great blogs, from amazing books I have read.*  I am changing my opinions, particularly about gay people of faith.  I was never a Fred Phelps type, and I’d like to think I wouldn’t have been as visibly uncomfortable as the people in that video upon finding out someone was gay.  But I know I have a long way to go in being someone who loves and supports gay people in my life in a real and meaningful way, not just some token, pat myself on the back, “oh look I have a gay friend!” kind of way.  Watching this video made it clear to me that, even if we may disagree on some things, can’t we all just agree that people DESERVE to be treated with love, respect, and fairness NO MATTER WHAT??.  

We have a long way to go and a lot to learn from one another.  Everyone is just trying to get through life each and every day, the good and the bad that come along.  We shouldn’t be looking at anyone with derision or hatred or disgust.  We need to be human to one another.  Particularly people we don’t know because we don’t know their stories.  

*If you want a book recommendation, try “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” by Jeff Chu, “Torn” by Justin Lee (both regarding Christianity and homosexuality). Rachel Held Evans and Glennon Doyle Melton (Momastery) both have some great blog posts about homosexuality, and I also really like Registered Runaway, a blog by Benjamin Moberg.  There are many, many more but these are just some that I particularly like.

 

If You Had Fun, You WON!

This afternoon I read a great blog from Glennon Melton at Momastery about pointers for cheering on your kids at their sporting events.  It was particularly timely because I had been extremely frustrated with myself the day before after watching my 7 year old son playing soccer.  I was so aggravated with how competitive I was, as a parent on the sideline, watching these little kids playing soccer.  I constantly try, at all my kids events, to keep my shouting of advice/instructions to a minimum or even non-existent but I have a terrible time biting my tongue and sometimes keep an annoying running commentary with whomever I happen to be sitting next to (that I know.)  You can read the Momastery post here.  A discussion on my over-developed competitive spirit is a topic for another post.

And yet…there was one thing about the blog that nagged at me, and continued to bother me for the rest of the day, and it’s something I’ve mused over before.  Here’s a quote from her post:

“Let’s teach them that the victory is in SHOWING UP AND TAKING A RISK, not in the outcome.”

And while I certainly believe that to be true, especially when you’re talking kids 5, 6 years old and younger, I worry about the possible ramifications of taking the “If you had fun you won!” attitude to the extreme, the idea that you should get a gold star just for showing up, regardless of the outcome.

Now, Glennon is all about love.  And it is beautiful, and I love her.  I read her blog regularly and am so encouraged by her words.  By her outlook on life, by her radical way of looking at the world.  I often read stuff she writes to my kids in order to be yet another example to them of the kind of people I want them to grow up to be.  

And then…there’s Amy Chua.  The “Tiger Mom.”  A kind of  antithesis to Glennon’s love revolution.  The one who admitted to giving her daughter a birthday card back that she had made her because she’d done a lousy job on it.  It’s been a few years since her book came out, raising a real ruckus, but suffice it to say that the Melton and Chua households likely do not resemble one another in the slightest. (Beyond the obvious reasons of course.)

I read “Tiger Mom”.  I actually liked it a lot.  And while I thought some of her parenting strategies were over the top, as a whole I thought she made some excellent points.  And I agreed with her that there is a culture in America where we are so worried about our kids’ self-esteem that we lavish them with praise for the smallest things, making that praise and any sort of hard work necessary to accomplish great things almost meaningless.

I taught in Baltimore City for 3 years.  It was hard as hell.  One of the hardest things I had to overcome was the mentality of some of my students that they deserved some sort of prize simply for showing up at school.  Never mind actually doing any work or being respectful.  When report cards came out and kids were unhappy with their grades the outcry was ridiculous.  They could not see the correlation between the fact that they hadn’t done one damn iota of classwork or homework with the failing grade on their report cards.  Or I’d assign a project, have a handful of kids complete it…the quality of the finished product may have varied, but you could tell that they’d at least made an effort, yet there was always one kid, who would scribble something on a piece of paper just before the bell rang, tear it out of their notebook and hand it to me and still expect a good grade for it simply because they had turned it in.  When it came time for the state tests, we had to provide all kinds of incentives to simply get kids to show up to take the tests, because many saw testing time as a free vacation.  We’d have pizza parties and the class with the highest attendance would get a dance party or you name it.  Just to get the kids to come. to. school.  Something they should’ve been doing anyway.  Never mind actually trying hard or doing a good job on the test.  Just show up and put your butt in the chair and get a prize!  (And yet we were told “have high expectations of your students!” Can you say “mixed messages”???)

Earlier in this soccer season I was watching my son’s team get creamed like 15-1.  They could not have cared less.  They were laughing and skipping and having a right good time out there.  Meanwhile, mom here was fuming.  I got up and went and called my sister because it was so frustrating to watch for me.  (No, I am not proud of my attitude.  I’m just being honest here.)  Afterward I was thinking out loud to my husband, wondering when kids start to care about losing (clearly its not the 4, 5, and 6 year old range!), when they actually notice the score and that they’re not doing so hot.  I wondered why we say “You did a great job!” when they really did not do anything right at all.  Are we lying to them?  Trying to not be mean?  Do we baby them too much? (Amy Chua would certainly say yes to that one, I believe.)

Because here’s the thing…I kind of want my kids to not like to lose.  I want them to want to win.  NOT at the expense of their wonderful little selves…I don’t want them thinking “We lost because I suck.  I suck I suck I suck.  I am worthless and I suck.”  I don’t want them to desire success at the expense of others either.  But I want them to think “Shoot.  Losing sucks.  What can I do better?  HOW can I improve?  How can WE work together better next time?”  I feel the same way about grades.  I want them to know that a D or F, or shoot, even a C, is NOT acceptable.  (I realize, for some kids, their hardest work gets a C and that’s great for them but for my kids, that’s just not the case.)  I want them to learn from their mistakes and do better the next time.

Because honestly…I don’t want my OB/GYN to have been passed along through school just because he showed up.  I don’t want my kids’ teachers to have just gotten accolades and attaboys without the effort and excellent results it took along the way.  I don’t want the accountant handling my money (ha, this is totally hypothetical!) to just feel so darn GOOD about himself but not be a professional, competent, hard-working person.  I don’t want the guy in charge of the nukes to be someone who won just because he had fun.  My kids (and myself, and I’d guess a lot of us) don’t naturally want to work hard.  They want to take Easy Street.  And if they’re getting all kinds of rewards for mediocrity or even total garbage, what is there to motivate them to do better??

So here’s my two cents and my conclusion:  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  It doesn’t have to be a harsh “Tiger Mom”-ish push for excellence that (may) sucks all the joy out of something.  It doesn’t have to be all rainbow stickers and happy faces and “everything is awesome!” either.  I think we need (HELLO…like everything in life) a balance.  A little Tiger and a little…um, what?  Panda?  Something cute and cuddly and lovey-dovey??  We need to push our kids to do their best,  to strive for excellence (in ANYthing, not just sports or school.  In their friendships, in their relationships, in how they treat others, in how they care for themselves and their bodies, to be the best people they can possibly be. 

BUT…we also need them to have grace for when they (and others) screw it all up.  To not let how they perform become their identity.  To see the things they are good at and celebrate them but to also not get caught up in the things they are not good at and beat themselves up for those things.  

To see opportunity for growth in failure.  But maybe not a trophy.

Identity Crisis

Last Sunday, my husband and I went to see the musical “Rock of Ages.”  It was a lot of fun, and afterward we both agreed that we should go to see more shows.  We’ve definitely seen some musicals and plays in our time, but that kind of outing took a hiatus with 3 young kids.  But now that they’re older (we should bring them with us now too) it’s easier to go do “grown up” activities, so we decided we definitely need to make that effort.

“The Book of Mormon” recently came through Baltimore, and I mentioned to Bill that I would like to see that one sometime.  He said he wasn’t sure he’d be comfortable with something that was so clearly attacking/making fun of a particular religion.  I’d read a review in the Baltimore Sun, and I countered that it seemed kind of like Saturday Night Live, in that they kind of poke fun at everything.  And that at the heart of it was just an examination of what faith really is, and the questions that many of us naturally have about religion.  That it was deeper than just an attack on one particular faith.

*A side note here: the last couple of years have found me in a place where I am questioning almost everything about my Christian faith.  Much of what I believed 5, 10 years ago has gone by the wayside and I am in the process of trying to figure out just what I do believe.  So a show about questioning your faith would be right up my alley.  20 years ago I would probably have been outraged at a show like this.  I wrote a very naive, overly-righteous, black and white critique of “The Last Temptation of Christ” my senior year of high school.  The best part was that I hadn’t even seen the movie–ah, the surety of youth.  Now I would likely appreciate that very movie on a whole other level.

Anyway.  So then I mentioned that something I found interesting about the show was that Mormons have not shown the outrage at this show that you might expect.  In fact, they actually have put ads for their churches, to find out more about the LDS faith, in the Playbills.

I said to Bill that, from what little I know about the LDS this isn’t really surprising.  We spent 7 years in Laramie, Wyoming, where I was surrounded by more Mormons than I’d ever encountered in my life.  (For obvious, geographical reasons.) And, to a man (or woman), they were all some of the nicest, friendliest, happiest people I have ever met.  The very first weekend we were there, with the moving truck in front of the house, 2 elders came by and asked if we wanted help moving in.  I was totally taken aback.  It got to the point where I’d meet someone, think what an incredibly nice person they were, then find out they were LDS and think “Oh right.  Of course.” 

*Another aside…I’m well aware that not all Mormons can possibly be nice, friendly and happy.  I’m basing this observation solely on my own personal interactions.  I’m also aware that Mormonism is a controversial faith.  I have read Under The Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer and was quite disturbed by it, and not just the fundamentalist/polygamous factions.  I realize people have a lot of issues with the Mormon faith that are likely justified.  However, this blog is not meant to address/judge the Mormon faith in any way, other than as a comparison on this one area.  I don’t know enough to be qualified to do that. 

Bill’s next comment though, was what really sparked my thinking.  He said “Well, that’s because Mormons are pretty secure in who they are.”

I thought, wow.  That is so true.  Then I thought about my own faith, Christianity.  If there were a “Book of Mormon” type musical about Evangelical Christianity, can you imagine the outrage?? Shoot, Christians cry “persecution!” if they get wished ‘Happy Holidays” for crying out loud.  And maybe that’s because we’re not secure in who we are.  There are hundreds of denominations, none of which agree on a whole host of topics.  Are Christians pro-life or pro-choice?  Are we Democrat or Republican?  Do we believe in evolution or solely in a young earth theory?  Can gay people be Christians? Do we tithe?  Practice Lent?  Sprinkle or immerse for baptism?  You could compose a very long list of the things that Christians disagree on, from the banal to the more serious, with people falling everywhere on the spectrum from ultra-conservative to super liberal with many in between.  And we love to claim that “our” particular brand of Christianity is the “true faith” and that “those people” can’t possibly really be a Christian.  Perhaps that lack of true identity is what makes us feel so insecure, what makes some Christians feel like they are under attack and have to fight imaginary persecution at every turn, because we don’t have any idea who we are and what it really means to be a Christian.  

Which gives us shaky ground where the rest of the world is concerned.  When you ask the average person “What is a Christian?” you will get a whole host of answers, and I’d be willing to bet that a lot of them would be negative.  

The Bible tells us to find our identity in Christ.  And Jesus, over all things big and small, emphasizes “love your neighbor as yourself”. Love God, love your neighbor.  Love is what our identity should be rooted in, what our faith should be rooted in.  Not rules.  Not politics.  Not judgment.  Not one-upmanship.  Love is the bottom line.

The old song goes “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”  I don’t think that’s true at all.

I wonder if we can get that identity back.


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