Finally! Proof that I know one of my guest writers in person! Kristin and I have been friends since 1990, when we shared a house at the beach with a bunch of other earnest Bible packing college students. Oh, happy I am that we still are friends and that I get to hear words from her everyday via twitter. Please say hi to Kristin and join the discussion on identity.
My identity is best summed up by the title and tagline of my blog: “Halfway to Normal: Finding myself neither here nor there.”
I felt a lot of angst over the writing of my Twitter bio, back when I first signed up three years ago (the new bio ultimately replaced whatever I used to have on my blog). More than anything, I wanted to boldly claim the complexity of who I am, while shielding myself against the inevitable corners labels back you into.
Here’s where I landed:
“Daily defying what it means to be a divorced-Christian-liberal-remarried-Midwestern-mommy-writer.”
Divorced and married. Liberal and Christian. Mother and professional. Midwestern and (at least I think?) sharp and edgy.
The bio is made up of a whole list of labels—those dangerous things—but the picture they paint when mixed together is full of messy contradictions, demanding the double-take from people who have strong ideas of what “normal” looks like. (And the “daily defying” part? I hope that conveys my sense of humor and willingness to poke fun at myself and this game of definitions we’re forced to play in social media.)
While it’s one thing to sum up a life of contradictions you’ve decided to embrace, it’s another thing to live out that dichotomy, day after day. Of course, I don’t get up every day and say “Here I go—another day to live out this dichotomy.” I just get up determined to be me as much as I possibly can. But every day I’m faced with the complexities of me, and the work of trying to communicate them to others.
On Tuesday, for instance, I wrote a blog post about the verse “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8). The first comment came from a regular reader who is an atheist, which, I imagine, threw many not-so-regular Christian readers for a loop.
I was also quoted this week in a Psychology Today article by Ariel Gore, an author who is famously progressive when it comes to marriage and family life. In many ways, I’m a part of her “tribe”—I’m the liberal divorced woman who writes about blended families for the Huffington Post. But I’m also the one who writes extensively about God’s ability to redeem broken, messy lives like mine. My post-divorce life isn’t about how progressive I am, it’s about how merciful God is, and that claim makes plenty of people squirm (or, perhaps, discount me).
And then this morning, a fellow-Christian on Twitter called me out for sharing a link about a public comment Pastor Rick Warren made about the poor not paying any taxes (which is, of course, not even true, but that’s not the point). In a debate that went on for dozens of tweets (if you’re not on Twitter, you may be surprised to learn this sort of in-depth debate even happens), @brandongradelle and I hashed out the differences between “deadbeats” and “hard luck cases” (his words), grace and advocacy, and the roles Jesus played in the lives of the prominent and the lowly. Anyone who might read the exchange would gather this much: Brandon and I follow the same Jesus but have different views about what that looks like. (I’ve written about that plenty before, like here. What do you call that other kind of believer?
I guess that’s what this all comes down to—letting go of our ideas about what we “should” believe and what constitutes a “normal” Christian or Liberal or Midwestern Mom. And if I’m going to claim this mixed up identity for myself, I have to be ready to accept whatever comes packaged up in the identity of others—the atheist who likes my ideas, the prominent pastor who has an opinion about taxes, the guy on Twitter who disagrees with me and is willing to hash it out at length, and all the people who can relate to my divorce but can’t see God’s redemption in my messy life. It’s only in being OK with all of them that I can be OK with myself.