For years and years I asked God to show me himself. For years and years I prayed for the Spirit of God to fall on me and empower me in undeniable ways. For years and years I dreamed of being resurrected into this perfect version of a Christian that I had imagined – one who never doubts God’s goodness or existence. For years and years I was the “other son” in the story of the Prodigal Son – fuming that I wasn’t receiving blessing and the fullness of joy that God promised and seemed to give the others who weren’t trying as hard. Finally, I decided I needed to just leave the house – to take that step of Prodigal Faith.
I told my Spiritual Director one day that I think I needed to leave the spirituality I have been living in for the last 22 years. When I said that, I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know where that would leave me. If I’m honest, I still don’t know what that means, really. But a beautiful thing happened. On my way home, I felt free. I wasn’t walking, but rather I was floating. I had all this energy bottled up inside of me from trying to be the good Christian girl I thought I was supposed to be. It all burst out.
I knew there was something more that I had been missing. I knew that the religiousness I had ascribed to was not all that was out there. In college, I tried to “make my faith my own.” I heard so many of my friends talk about that as an important process for them, so I attempted it for myself. The problem with that is that I never allowed myself the freedom to come to a different conclusion than the one I had been raised under. I asked myself “do I really believe this?” but I never dared to answer “no.”
One of my housemates recently mentioned at dinner how she thought it was ironic to grow up a “born-again Christian.” How could you be “born again” from birth? There is no opportunity for conversion and transformation if you are born into your second life. My problem is that I was trying to live a resurrected life but I was too scared to die.
I wrapped my identity around the faith I grew up learning. I molded myself into who I thought I should be. I developed habits and practices that I knew I should partake in. But these weren’t me. These weren’t genuine. I chose the activities I did and the things I liked based on what I perceived was socially acceptable in the society which I wanted to be accepted – that being Evangelical Christian culture. But I wasn’t experiencing the fullness of joy in this identity I created for myself. Instead I was afraid of being authentic or else my whole facade would be exposed and who knows who the girl hiding underneath was? I sure didn’t.
I came to Mission Year to be in a community that would tell me what to think and feel and, in that, hold me together. That is not what happened, though. I did not come to a place where everyone thinks the same and feels the same and I can just adopt those ideas. Instead, I came into a space where people disagree and live in harmony anyway. With this freedom, I tried to cling onto order and found only chaos brewing inside myself.
Lent is the season that prepares for the Easter celebration. I love this time of year – everything seems to be finding new life. Flowers are starting to bloom again and nature is resurrecting. Just this week we had nearly 80 degree weather and the neighborhood was transformed. The park was buzzing with people: kids on swings, dogs playing fetch, bikes zooming through the grass, and new parents pushing strollers. It is a sudden vitality that overcomes the death of winter. As the earth is awakening to the warmth, so do we celebrate Jesus’ re-awakening into life and light. In this, I can celebrate awakening into authenticity – knowing that I am loved and that there is grace for me as I am.
It is customary to celebrate Lent by giving something up as a form of fasting. This year, I am fasting from hiding. I am giving up trying to be the person I think I am supposed to be. I am letting go of my need to be molded by the people around me so much that I lose my individuality. I am relenting of my need to run away from myself into a community where I can blend into the background. This year, I am giving up my dead self, and stepping into life resurrected.