Fluid Identities and Daddy Problems

Personality tests can be as silly as "What your preferred coffee location says about you!"
Personality tests can be as silly as “What your preferred coffee location says about you!”

Guys, it’s finals week. You know what that means. Late nights, study sessions, fast food, and procrastination by writing blogs. It’s been awhile since I wrote my last blog and there’s a reason for that.

This semester, I came very close to dropping my creative writing nonfiction class. Truth is, I’m graduating in May and I don’t need the course. Since I couldn’t see its tangible benefit, I had a drop sheet all filled out. I’m failing my bible class. I need to drop this to focus on it. But I knew it wasn’t right. God was telling me to stay in this course.

My essays for it were really personal. My professor pushed me to write about my father. I don’t do that. I talk a lot about a lot of things, but my father is not on that list. I mention him for the sake of dismissing him. So one of my friends read an essay and told me it was unlike anything she had ever read on my blogs. There was true vulnerability in my work. I ran this by someone who has read nearly everything that I have written over the years and he agreed.

Not vulnerable? I thought. I am literally the most vulnerable person ever! People complain that I’m too vulnerable! Things people have said to me over the years support this. “You need to be open and transparent, sure, but don’t put it at the window for everyone to see.”

When it comes down to it, I truly believe that most of our struggles and trying to figure ourselves out come from questions in our identity. We talked in one of my classes about how identity is much more fluid than we see it as. We label ourselves “Christian” or “heterosexual” or “sinner” or “white” or “writer” or a variety of other things without ever stopping to wonder. We are our parents’ child – for the good and the bad. We are us, stripped of our labels and identities. We are children of God, covered with His grace.

None of that is good enough for me. I need details. I have always believed that the details are where we as humans connect. In relation to my parents, here’s something I wrote for my paper in my nonfiction class.

Often times what starts off as an exploration of our family or our parents turns into an exploration of the self. As I align my own life experiences with my parents, I see the ways that I am like my father or my mother. I used to lie next to my mom as she slept and analyze her facial features, her toes, her skin color and her hands. I wondered if my mom’s short fingers meant that I had my father’s fingers – if they were long, thin, and delicate like mine. Were all the ways that I was unlike my mom ways that I was like my father? Was the same true for personality traits?

Though I was attempting to understand my mom, the truth is that I was trying to understand myself. But none of that was divided into just two people. Things that make me who I am are often things that were created because of my relationship with my parents or other people, not because God genetically copied their traits into me.

I talk about identity a lot on here. Perhaps too much. I have always had an obsession with personality tests. Maybe if I could just figure out exactly who I am or why I am the way I am, I could change it. That’s one thing that drew me to Christianity – we die to ourselves and live for Christ. We are dunked into a bathtub of water to show that we died with Christ, and then we are brought out to show some kind of internal resurrection.

But then you wake up the next day, and you’re still you. You still hate your dad or love your mom. You still have a big and stupid crush on a guy who has told you he isn’t into you. You still like to ride your bike or play sports or whatever it is that you did before. We still hate ourselves or love ourselves.

Christ is radical. I believe that a hundred percent. I throughly believe that God is doing a new thing in this world. We have one foot in the brokenness of the earth – the dying trees and the mass chaos. Our other foot is with Christ, in order and perfection. If anything, becoming a Christian in this age gives us even more of an identity crisis. We know that we are born again, but we keep screwing up. Can I be born again multiple times a day or is it a one-time thing? Because if it’s a one-time thing, I screwed it up. I really messed up.

There’s no clean way to end this struggle. I’m not sure yet. I know that my faith is what makes my deepest identity. And yet, I know that is not the end of the story. I’ll end it with another piece from my earlier essay. It’s something that I think a lot of people struggle with… maybe… whatever. Or I’m alone in this. You tell me?

In a perfect world, I would meet the love of my life on a sunny day in July. We would hit it off perfectly and his family would become my family. We would get married and have five children – some adopted and some from us. And all of it would make up for everything that’s ever happened. It would fill the gaping hole inside of me.

But I also know that it won’t. That my soul-searching won’t be found in brown eyes and hair that falls into his face. So that’s where my faith steps in. A Father to the fatherless, I have said to other people and to myself in the mirror. My identity begins and ends with God as my father, not with Jim as my dad. If it were simple, I wouldn’t waste time trying to get boys who hurt me to stay with me. I wouldn’t waste time trying to get anyone to stay with me. And though I haven’t dated since high school, it’s purely been God protecting me as He shows me what His love looks like. But most days, it still hurts.

Though I don’t live in a perfect world, I do have a perfect God. My needs will never be satisfied in a marriage. Something in me knows that if I continue in this way, I will destroy a man who set out to love me.

A Father to the fatherless, I remind myself as I hope that it will be enough.

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