Junior high school and high school dances were some of the most frightening ideas to me. These gatherings came just after that dreaded time everyday right after I paid for my lunch and had to face choosing where to sit. I didn’t think I was worthy to be around many people much less an attractive girl. So I balked. I never went to a single dance and did not have a single girlfriend until college – my sophomore year to be exact. Through the majority of my life I went through the motions trying not to feel too much. Feelings are scary when you don’t know what to do with them.
I was raised mainly by four women – my mother and sisters – before my step-father stepped in. My mother tried the big-brother program with me for a bit to have some sort of male role model. But I was so trapped in my own head it was hard to find any connection with anyone. It was as if my own emotional material to communicate and link to the world was missing. The truth is that I was probably feeling the world too much and in self-defense I pushed those emotions deep down and locked them in, losing the key on purpose.
In an effort to assert my manhood right around the time Promise Keepers was hitting it big, I became a hard-core evangelical. Man was assuredly head of the household. Paul was “the bomb.” After all he (or someone like him) did say, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord…Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Eph. 5:22-24). The material following that passage was blah, blah, blah… It was here that my cycle began to kick into high gear. All that Thug Jesus, steroid raging, massive testicular assertiveness junk I hear certain mega-church pastors saying now would have been totally hip to me back then.
During seminary and after, I think I just got bored with the whole evangelical position. Same stuff and same emotions over and over again. Plus the music got cheesier and cheesier. I needed a change. The books that evangelicals were reading no longer interested me after reading St. Augustine and Calvin (there’s an irony). That’s when postmodern and feminist thought went from total “go-to-hell” heresy to interesting.
I found people who seemed to need me just so I could fill myself with emotional material I could not produce on my own. What’s ironic is that they found me at the same time proving once again the old saying “like matter attracts.” The more I could do to reinforce this cycle the better. This is what we call codependency. I liken it to emotional cannibalism where two people consume each other to the point there is nothing left. This was my cycle as an evangelical, this was my cycle as a liberal, progressive. I had problems and consequences with both. What both communities had in common was me.
When I couldn’t get enough emotional comfort anywhere I drank. This blew the roof of my quiet insanity off. There was never anything called “mutuality” in my life. I would give in order to make myself comfortable and then take because I felt entitled to it. I had to lose my faith in all of this because I felt entitled to have a church and a faith that looked just like me. I craved insanity and chaos in the disguise of order and structure. The truth is that there is no such thing as a community that looks just like me or anyone. That’s not the way that this whole Christian community or ecclesia works. As Vladimir Lossky puts it, “The Holy Spirit diversifies what Christ unifies” (The Image and Likeness of God, p. 178). We are all different together.
In a mutual relationship with anyone or any faith I have to ask myself one question: What do I bring to the table? How am I helping others grow just for the sake of helping them out a little? What is it that I find fulfilling that is already given to me for which I can be grateful? It used to be that I didn’t know what I was looking for and I was insane trying to find it. Now living a sober life I have a better idea of what I need to be a better person and the question is how do I practice being that every day.
I understand now that I am just a spiritually sick human being like everyone else and I have the opportunity each day to do what I need to do to heal. I need healing from God to make sense of the world and see the truth for what it is. Gender stereotypes, pointless arguing, and using people to fill my emotional and spiritual needs has failed more than once. At all stops it left me and others around me sicker than before.
So I found a different way to live. And if it’s true that, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” then count me in as someone who no longer needs to struggle with terminal uniqueness.