I watched a video yesterday of a bearded lady. She’d spent her whole life since adolescence trying to make herself look more like what society says she should look like, trying to get hide her hairy body and face. She shaved every day, and she even tried laser hair removal; the doctors told her that there was nothing they could do for her to get her hair to stop growing the way it was, so she spent a good chunk of her life frustrated over the way she looked. Recently, she decided to let it go and grow out her beard because it was something that was a part of who she was born as: a lady with a lot of hair. It’s inspiring and lovely. If you can find the time to watch it, please do. She seems so sweet.
It wasn’t until I saw the video of this woman that another blog post I’ve been trying to write began to gel in my mind. She talked about being yourself, about how sometimes you think other people will judge you if you show who you really are, but often you’ll find that others value your transparency. People are drawn to others who are honest and who don’t pretend to be something they’re not.
This resonated with me because I value truth over almost everything else. If you ever visit my Facebook page, the banner picture says, “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. – Henry David Thoreau” I don’t have time for people who are one thing in public and another thing when you get them alone. Call this a result of my upbringing, or a part of what I was born with, but it’s a deep conviction of mine.
In truth, being a blogger is very difficult for me. I struggle to find the balance between truth and kindness. I don’t ever want to offer up a fact at the expense of someone close to me, and while I don’t mind spilling my life out onto the screen, not everyone appreciates this sort of thing. One of the biggest challenges for me in this area is the Christian church: these posts sum up a big chunk of my frustration: Do Kids Belong in Church? and Dear Church, I Love You, But…. Every time I blog about my experiences in church, I feel like I’m being a traitor, like I’m exposing the flaws of someone I love. I feel like I’m making following Jesus seem less appealing, and that’s not something I’m trying to do.
However, my truth is this: I did not grow up Christian. In fact, at various points in my life, I’ve lived with people who were practicing witches. I did not grow up in Christian culture, and when I see the difference between what Jesus calls us to in the Bible and what actually goes down in a community of believers, it turns my stomach. I love Jesus. I frequently dislike his followers. I feel like it shouldn’t be that way, but I’ve struggled more in finding a place within a church than I’ve ever struggled finding a place in a secular environment or any other group of people.
I want to be clear: people who go to church are not necessarily saved, and we’re all at various points in our walk with God, so I get that there will be a mix of people there. I like that. My struggles have been with leaders in the churches we’ve gone to, people who are supposed to be in those positions because their faith is strong, and they’re knowledgeable… also, hopefully loving. Those are the people that I get disappointed in the most when they treat me poorly.
Now that I’m ready to publish my first book, I’ve hit a new reality: I am a Christian author, but I cannot be a “Christian author” (read: recognized within the industry as such) because I do not fit the image and false front that a Christian agent or publisher requires. It feels like trying to fit in at a church where I don’t belong all over again. It’s frustrating. The image that you put forward is more important than the actual person you are. This brings me back to the bearded lady. Watching her, I realized that I am what I am. Just like she was born with a condition that makes her hairy, I am a person who was not raised to ignore all the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of the church. If she can walk around sporting a beard, why can’t I proudly proclaim myself a Christian and still be who I am without pretense and with all my faults (I’m a work in progress, alright)? Why can’t I write about people who have faults too, real, ugly faults, not contrived “minor flaws” that are basically insignificant?
I live in the real world, not in a world airbrushed over by the church. I’m not a perfect mother (see me reminding myself how to cope with frustration over parenting here ), I’m not a perfect homeschooler, and I’m not a perfect writer, friend, or person in general. I hope you’ve never expected that of me, and I hope I never expect it of myself, either. I am no longer going to sit here and be sad that I cannot fit into a church where everyone pretends like they all have it together (I’ve attended too many), and I am not going to be depressed that I’ll never score a Christian agent or publishing house. The truth is, I’d rather be myself than try to fit into someone’s idea of me. Rather than the perfect Christian book deal, give me stories that are real; let me show my truth, even if it doesn’t fit into someone else’s idea of perfect.
At the end of the day, I hope that whoever is reading my stories or my blog posts appreciates that I put myself forward as I am, that I refuse to pretend like I’m amazing. Maybe that person (me in the raw!) will resonate with them in ways that a “perfect Christian” cannot.