between.

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.

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reflections.

(I know I already wrote ‘r’ But I forgot I already had this ‘r’ post written… so here ya go!)

We live in a broken, messed up, selfish, consumeristic, ignorant world that cares nothing for others except what it can give them.  As humans we are always looking for another way to better ourselves or make ourselves more desirable over another.  We’re all puzzle pieces in this huge puzzle trying to find our place.  Some of us float around trying to find a place for us to belong, while some of us insist that we belong in a certain area and we attempt to force ourselves where we want.  But one thing that makes life beautiful is when people step out of this nature and act in opposition to what most people expect.  Like those stories you hear on the internet of people paying for other people’s tabs or leaving a $100 tip; or those who sacrifice their time and give it to those who are homeless, or people who make meals for those who are going through rough times.  But I am convinced one of the greatest gifts one human can give another is the gift of grace.

It’s one thing to give grace to those people who aren’t close to you.  To people who you’ve never met, but you know are in need.  But it’s a completely different thing to give grace to people who are actively in your life who have deeply hurt you. I can only speak for myself when I say this, but I think one of the greatest gifts I have ever received is grace.

I have learned that even when everything seems to be going wrong, God is still there.  He will NEVER leave me and he ALWAYS provides when he takes away.  God has given me a grace that I will never be able to repay or deserve.  Grace is not easy for me to receive, but it is also not easy for me to give.  Like I mentioned before, grace when not related or connected to me in an intimate way is easy for me to give, but when grace means I have to give up my pride for the sake of someone else, it’s terribly hard.

When someone close to me wrongs me, and I have a right to be angry or upset, that’s when grace is hard.  But we have a God who has no right to give us grace, he has every reason to deny us grace, to ban us to hell, to never talk to us again, yet he has taken every opportunity to pursue us.  Even when we run from him, he has given us grace.  Were we not created in his image?  Were we not made to reflect who he is?

I have been wronged in many ways here on this finite earth.  I’ve been wronged in ways where I have a right to be angry, to ostracize people, to never talk to them again, and to ultimately deny them any sort of grace from me.  But then I remember, the grace I have I don’t deserve, I never will deserve it, and there is nothing I can do to deserve it.  So why can’t I reflect that grace I have to even that person I can’t stand?