you bite your nails.
First of all: No.
Not OK to say in public. Not politically correct. Asking me, NAY, telling me that it must have been made in my homeland, Beijing? Um, squeeze me???
Not that it’s any of your business, but I was born in the good ol’ Midwestern state of Illinois. Not even the Eastern end of it, you jack . . . o’lantern.
I’m kind of upset. I didn’t grow up being racially profiled, or racially harassed–I wasn’t even picked on (maybe I was and I didn’t know it. It’s quite possible that I didn’t know it. Sweet, simple Lisa). So to hear comments like this in my mid-twenties, it’s a little baffling.
When that man made the comment, my initial thought was you’re an idiot, do you mean Belgium? Beijing isn’t in France, dumb-dumb.
My coworker, though, asked me if the group of jocular, middle-aged white men had insulted me, which had me all puzzled and confused. Yes, I heard Beijing mentioned, but there were just so many other people waiting in line that the comment didn’t register. Not until we discussed what occurred.
There was this red hot embarrassment that broiled in my face and my ears. But why was I embarrassed? That made no sense.
Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) in You’ve Got Mail unknowingly emails Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) about how she’s never able to say what she wants when she wants to say it. Even after the incident, she’ll replay it in her mind and think of things she could have said.
That is what I’m doing right now.
And all I’ve come up with is nothing. The red hot embarrassment is more of a fury and indignation now. (Though I don’t necessarily care–I just wish those men would feel ashamed of themselves for being so incredibly ignorant). Seriously, is this real life? How can you think it’s OK to make that sort of comment? May I assume that you were a slave owner then? Should I assess, based on the color of your skin, that you have raped and slaughtered people who don’t look like you? Might I be correct in stating that you are some backwater hill billy living in a trailer park, getting drunk and beating your wife and kids at night?
No. Because that’s such a backwards way of thought that doesn’t belong in the 2000′s.
Really? Beijing? Did I stutter? Could you not understand me through my thick Chicago accent?
[A/N: I began writing this post a while ago . . . seven months ago . . . that's a little over half a year. I've been afraid of making this public because it started from a place of hurt--like a half rant, half vent thing--and I hate writing controversial posts that may be offensive. Just as a warning: I'm not a scholar in religious studies or anything. This is just me, releasing some insight and some personal thoughts/opinions. In these 700-1000 words, I probably haven't captured the entire gospel, but I do hope somewhere inserted into this post is not just a Debbie Downer, but Hope.]
I’ve grown up in “The Church.” “The Church.” What does that even mean?
Some people will read the title of this blog post, then read that first sentence, and then smash their computers against a brick wall because they hate me so much now. I probably just turned 6.9 billion readers away, which would be totally impressive because I hardly think 6.0 people even read this blog. Just kidding . . . I hope.
But seriously, when someone says they grew up in “The Church,” apparently all of us Christians know that’s code for my parents are Christians and took me to church while I was in the womb. I basically grew out of Bible verses, worship music, communion wafers, and grape juice. (The second half is my own loose translation). And to non-Christians it’s code for goody-two-shoe freak.
For me, it meant that my parents took me to church on Sunday ever since I was a baby. There was a nursery that I’m sure I played in while my parents sat in service. There was Sunday School, which is exactly what it sounds like–school with one subject (hint: it’s the Bible/Jesus/God) that you only go to on (you guessed it!) Sunday. There was Children’s Church, which is the toddler’s version of Church but watered down to “Jesus loves you.” And so on, and so forth until I moved my way up to claim my space on a pew.
Every Sunday was full of singing songs and learning about how God loves me and wants me to love him and everybody.
Those are the two greatest commandments: Love God. Love his people.
It was easy when I was a kid. Love God. Love everybody else. There were no hard rules to follow or any instructions on how to love, just as long as you were being nice and trying to be loving. You know, like not throwing beans in Sarah’s hair, letting even your little brother David use some of the sequins for arts and crafts and sharing crayons with your arch nemesis Scotty Hamburger Head, remember him? Simple things like that.
Are you still following, or have you already thrown up in your mouth because religious talk upsets your stomach so much?
Anyway, even though I grew up “churched,” it doesn’t mean I’m perfect. It also doesn’t mean I know everything there is to know about God or the Bible (though I’m sure there are some Christians who would stone me and shame me by telling me good Christian should know it all, just to imply that I’m not a good Christian–whatever that even means to them. And I’m sure there are non-Christians who would pass the exact same judgment on me. See, not so different after all).
But even though I’ve spent my entire life in a church, I’m beginning to see why people aren’t smashing through chapels to grab a seat.
Church isn’t this super holy place full of super holy people that are all nice and happy and perfect together. No. Church is like any other school, company, establishment, what have you. There are politics. There are clicks. There are flawed people who interact with other flawed people. Christians aren’t this sub-species of human that are above reproach or sin or hurt or malice or spite . . .
Sometimes that’s the image people think of though. And sometimes churches buy into that image too, I think. Maybe I’m wrong. It’s very likely that I may be wrong–I’m not a doctor or a scientist or anything.
I think it’s so easy to sit in our little spaces on the pew and act like everything is fine because everybody else around looks as if they’ve got it all together. But the reality of the situation may just be that you’re not fine and neither is the brainy looking girl with glasses who’s meticulously taking notes–hanging on the pastor’s every breath.
The reality may be that there is a lot of hurt and worry and weariness shuttered inside that shell of a person. She may be diligent in her notes because she’s desperate for some answer, some insight to whatever hell she’s living through right now.
We [Christians] go to church to embed ourselves in a community where we can find support, encouragement. But so few of us are readily vulnerable–willing to take off the shields that we’ve built for ourselves over the years and expose the tattered flesh and gaping wounds we’re desperately trying to hide for fear of being too ugly. We fear rejection. We fear how these people, who are supposedly dependable, will hurt us with their judgments and their misunderstanding and their apathy toward us.
And we forget–oh, we always forget–we are, all of us, flawed. We have all been tempted; we have all been lonely; we have all been trapped in shadows; we have all hidden bits and pieces of ourselves because we only want to let the best be seen; we have lain in the devil’s bed, caught in his sheets.
We forget that we’ve been given such grace that makes our pasts null and void. We forget those things don’t control us any more. We forget that it’s ok to fall, and that the amount of times we fall will never surpass the grace we’ve been given.
Maybe if we remembered that this word “Christian” doesn’t equate “perfect”–that these people who call themselves Christians are really just awful people who’ve been changed by some saving grace and are now striving to be like Christ even though they’ll never reach that level, but they strive because life isn’t about them and their own–and we view them through a filter of empathy . . . maybe then we would be able let down our guards, our fake Sunday voices, our prejudices.
Maybe then we can remember that, yeah, I may not agree with them–I may not even like their personality–but God already forgave them, God already loves this person, so I should too.
And for non-Christians, you may not understand that. You may think this is all baloney–it’s dumb, it’s a farce, Christians are crazies. But here’s a secret: Christians are just normal people. That’s it. We are not God. We are not aliens. We will make mistakes and we will end up apologizing for these mistakes. You will probably look at us and want to hold us to a higher standard, so will we. But I hope–I really hope–that both of us are able to realize the power in humility and sincerity and grace and forgiveness.
My grandma has lived with my family for nearly as long as I can remember. Before the fire ate a chunk of our house, we all shared a room. My mom shared a room with my dad, my brothers shared a room together, and my grandma and I shared a room. I was so little that we slept in the same bed. A twin-sized bed.
She would complain how I would kick in my sleep.
I was a heavy sleeper.
We always had family dinner. The boys and I would help set the table and my mom would cook. My dad would take his place at the head, my mom on his left, my oldest brother on his right. My place was next to my mother, my other brother across from me, and I can’t quite picture my grandmother at the other end of the table, but I suppose she must have sat there.
The dinner table was “no place for conversation” according to an elderly Chinese woman. But the boys and I would laugh with our mouths full despite her efforts for a silent meal.
And when I was too full or didn’t want to finish my food, she would tell me to finish my rice. I’d look up from my plate, into her thick glasses to find the eyes behind them and wait for my lecture.
For every grain of rice you leave, that’s how many pock marks your husband will have on his face.
Immediately, my mind flashed this terrifying image of my ugly and deformed future husband. To think of all the grains of rice I threw out last night. Last week. The past few months. My poor future husband!
Every night I ate with gusto. I scraped that rice from its hiding corner and stuffed it into my tiny mouth. My husband was going to have the smoothest skin, a flawless face with chiseled features. He was going to be so handsome! All because I was eating my rice.
One dinner it dawned on me, what if my future husband wasn’t kind and didn’t care about me? What if he was self absorbed and only cared about himself? Was he eating all his rice? I definitely did not want MY face all marked with pimples and holes.
I didn’t want a husband who was prettier than me. And I think that might have been the moment when vanity entered my heart.
The image of a handsome husband doesn’t worry me any more. The quality of his character is more of a concern. And whether my face has a youthful glow or an even skin tone isn’t nearly as important as being kind and faithful.
But to my future husband:
I’ve eaten a lot of rice to make you look as good as you do today. And I’ve prayed a lot of prayers that God is shaping you and molding you in just the right way–in His perfect image. (I’ve come to terms that God may not be modeling your body after Joseph Gordon Levitt or Chris Evans–yes, I’m fully aware they have entirely different body types. I’m pretty lenient in terms of physique. Clearly, I’m kind of cool like that.) I have complete faith that your character will enhance your already attractive features.
And while I do hope you’re eating your rice too (please be eating your rice, otherwise you have no right to complain about the face you wake up to every morning), I hope you’re praying for me as well.
And please don’t pray that I’ll have a rockin’ bod or an awesome rack (because I don’t–though that’d be kind of cool to miraculously wake up with flat abs and a tight butt), but pray that He’s whipping me into shape in a different way–that He’s shaping me to be a partner that you need. Pray that I’ll be forgiving. Pray that I’ll be kind. Pray that I’ll be generous with my time and my money. And my love. And my laughter. And my tears. Pray that the mistakes I’ve made teach me wisdom and grace–pray that He’s turning those mistakes into something beautiful. Pray that I am a woman who walks in faith.
Because even though I pray for these things for you and for me, I figure prayer on all fronts couldn’t hurt.
But with all this focus on image and beauty–all that rubbish that I’ve grown up with–I’m praying we don’t forget about all the things that are more important than ourselves.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget.
All my love (and years of clean plates),
Sorry I’ve been MIA for such a long time. It’s been a month. For my five loyal readers out there, I haven’t abandoned you. I hope you didn’t feel neglected.
There are tons of Youtube videos and Pinterest pictures of DIY tutorials for hair and makeup and arts & crafts. There’s an abundance of these things.
It’s like everybody knows how to do it themselves.
While I appreciate their generosity of step-by-step instructions, I feel like they may be leaving minute details out because I never get the desired result! I can’t possibly be the only person lurking the internet for easy steps who is incapable of following simple instructions. Am I?