This afternoon we visited a local Unitarian Universalist church. The people were very friendly, the message was compelling and soulfully good, and I loved the surrounding stained glass windows.
But I felt a strange anxiety creeping onto me throughout the service, increasing during the shared dinner following, and overwhelming me on the drive home. What is this??
After some self-analysis, I realized that my psyche compared today’s experience with my Christian past in which I was thrust into new situations, often among social misfits, and the “love of Christ” compelled me to love the unlovely with open arms. (The UU Church here felt like misfits because, let’s be real, we live in a fundamentally religious community where the dominant church here sticks its fingers in every part of life. Those that aren’t apart of that community are naturally misfits in this society.)
I don’t think I realized how much this scarred me until this moment.
Growing up, I looked at people that my friends, social circles, and the world in general would pretend not to see and would force myself to swallow my pride, sit next to them, and build relationship. This required quite a bit of sacrifice as a child, pre-teen, teenager, and college student. But I pressed on, giving the broken (whether it be the incredibly uncool smelly girl in middle school, the dysfunctional youth group needing a great peer leader, the struggling new mis-fit church needing a full-time pianist, etc.) my full attention and timeful dedication in order that they may thrive, or at least, feel loved..
Love the unlovely, sounds like a great cause right? But no, not if my motivation was to please God. Over and over again I’ve found examples of “prostituting myself” to save another for the sake of “loving as Jesus did.” How awfully distorted. My vivid language may seem a bit much for some of you, but it’s truly how I feel. Manipulated, played, sacrificing myself in entirely unhealthy ways. Every time I swallowed my identity to be nice to the weird kids, weird church, weird ministry, I dissociated. Bit by bit, my core self eroded away until there was little left. And I wonder why I’m unable to choose what I really want for myself.
(Hence the blog What would Teal do?)
Wow, so much is making sense in my life now.
Who am I?? Am I the nice person I always thought I was, or was that part of me the manipulative invention of an all-knowing God??
I don’t even care about the answer to that question right now. I just want my anxiety to be released from these scary memories.