In a world that demands labels, identifications, and sides, it’s a nightmare to be stuck in between. To not be “normal”, “average”, “white”, “straight”, “American” or “majority” is a constant struggle between two worlds. I witness this uneasiness everyday working in a high school. Students are constantly attempting to conform, change, shove, and push their way into the popular, smart, hip, skater, or emo group. The labels high schoolers place on themselves and peers add pressure to ‘be’ and ‘act’ a certain way. I especially see the struggle of my students with special needs as they try to make friends, and try to reach out to students who don’t understand why they look or act a certain way. It seems as though they are seen as different from the start, and their struggle to “fit in” is so much harder than other students. My heart breaks for them to know how much greater they are than they can even imagine.
I often reflect on my own life and what these labels mean and do to me now. Life and it’s labels are given by society instead of the peers and colleagues around me. The expansion of these labels have taught me a lot- mainly that I don’t belong. Do we ever really belong?
I am a Christian, half Japanese, half American bisexual woman whose labels don’t describe who I am. The complexity of a human being is fluid and much deeper than any label could describe. I have felt caught in between many of these labels- it’s a pretty lonely place.
In particular I struggled with my “Christian” label and “bisexual” label. When you think of what a “Christian” is, you think of a moral, conservative, creation believing, Bible thumper who has all the answers, right? They are confident about where they’re going, what they believe and sometimes they seem to tell people they’re wrong if they don’t believe what they believe, right?
When it came to my sexuality, I had a picture that Christians were straight. If they weren’t, they were celibate, that was expected and taught. So, when I realized I was bi, I felt my “Christianity” was like oil and my sexuality was water. They couldn’t and weren’t supposed to mix. I couldn’t be both bi, and Christian.
Because I was told my number one identity was always supposed to be “Christian” (because I believe in Christ), I shoved my struggles with sexuality away. I wrote it off thinking “I can’t think like that, that’s wrong”, and most of all sinful.
When I think about sin, I think about actions that pull you farther from who God is in a destructive manner, whether that’s destructive toward oneself, ones relationship with God, or ones relationship with others. When I look back on my denial, ignoring, and bottling of my feelings towards the same sex, I realize how destructive it was towards not only myself and who I am, but also my relationship with Christ and how I relate to Him. I felt shame, loneliness, uncomfortable, and stuck between two worlds. When I began to come to terms with my sexuality, that’s when I felt a weight off my shoulders. I felt God telling me it’s ok, the struggle is ok, and (most importantly) I am ok, the way I am, the way God created me.
The most dynamic, life-changing, view altering thing I’ve learned since coming out to myself and others is how great, deep, and expansive God’s love for us is. No matter who we are, what we do, or how we hurt ourselves, His love is far deeper than we could ever imagine. He has taught me how to love Him more deeply, and how to love others more deeply. Even others who disagree with me. I’ve realized Christians aren’t tied down to certain stereotypes, certain labels like I described before. There are Christians who are liberal, independent, straight, gay, transgender, scientists who believe in evolution, smokers; Christians who drink, who aren’t sure, who don’t know everything, who don’t understand all of the universe, and most importantly who don’t know how God works all the time. When Christ is involved, labels aren’t needed. Christ is bigger than Christians in this world. He’s greater than how we label ourselves, and if we go to church every week, or if we go to the biggest church in the country or the smallest. He is bigger, his work is bigger, and his love for you is bigger. He is not contained in a label- he’s not contained in a church, or a culture, or a specific bible passage. He is so much bigger than all of those things. I’ve found when I step beyond the labels, when I’m stuck in between the labels, although it’s deeply lonely sometimes, I’m able to grasp more fully an understanding of who I am in Christ- and nothing more.