I am the type of person who is often unwilling to admit when I am slow about things, but if you know me, I don’t even have to tell you that I am very slow at understanding myself. You see, self exploration in recent years has been a little bit dangerous for me because too much of it would lead to depression and self-loathing and put me further into the deep dark cyclical pit that I was trapped in. So I avoid trying to learn too much about myself as much as I can, in all honesty, at least when it comes to serious things.
This being said, one of my roommates this evening asked me why I felt these things about myself and it definitely led to a lot of tears because I don’t have answers that can explain why I can’t love myself. But as I’m laying here in bed, musing over these things and texting my mom and best friend back home, the two people who know me better than anyone else in the world and who I love more than anyone else in the world, I have realized that perhaps I have been asking the wrong questions. Perhaps I’ve been looking at this wrong. I’m not blaming this on anyone at home, but I truly feel I needed this. I needed to leave home and be surrounded by an unfamiliar city, language, and people because without that, how can your perspective ever change and grow?
I remember when we were having our senior brunch at my home church of Clear Lake Presbyterian to sort of send off all of the young people who had just graduated from high school (including myself) and I’ve never forgotten what our pastor said. Pastor Steve was there both as our lead pastor and as Luke’s dad and somehow he spoke as both when he told all of these goofy 18-year-olds that when we went to church in college to specifically not go to a Presbyterian church. I remember this shocking everyone in the room and Pastor Steve explaining that there was no way to know what we believed if we didn’t ask questions and explore and that even if we went to a Presbyterian church, we wouldn’t find CLPC there. The profoundness of that has always stayed with me and is in fact one of the major reasons why I started going to the Wesley Foundation at SFA (so Tom Teekell, if you’re reading this, you owe Steve Oglesbee a coffee or something).
I only bring up my journey to Wesley because in these past 4 years, I’ve forgotten how terrifying that first year there was. I’ve forgotten how scared I was going to this weird red brick building to decorate cupcakes and searching for approval from all these upper class men designing Sesame Street and Tarzan designed cupcakes. I’ve forgotten what being a part of that rather chaotic and unhealthy freshmen class was like and how that made me ask questions over and over again. I’d forgotten what it even means to be truly vulnerable. I had become dependent.
My dad, mom, brother, and best friend (aka sister, let’s be real) are the people I love most in this world (no offense to anyone else, these are just my people). I wouldn’t trade any of them or any of their positives or negatives for anything because they make each of them the beautiful beings that I love so much. But because I know them so well and they know me so well, there often aren’t surprises or challenges that arise between us that we either have to battle out or encourage in each other. This isn’t to say that being as close with them as I am is a bad thing, but rather that I know for the most part what to expect from them. I expect their love and their compassion and their ability to accept me because it’s who I am as a person they love and don’t really want to change me. I was so comfortable. It was the shiniest bubble that surrounded us in that little distance between Houston and Nacogdoches along the 59 that connected me to everyone I held dear. But I left that bubble. The bubble has either popped or expanded to encompass the entire Pacific Ocean since that is now what separates us. Some days, it is far too much to bear and I nearly march downstairs into the basement of our house to grab my suitcases and head on home. Some days the words exchanged in messages or FaceTimes are enough. But now I am unsure.
Because I have realized this evening that home wasn’t challenging. It was far too comfortable. I could say what I wanted and be what I wanted, even if it wasn’t a good thing. I was seeing the same people and living the same stories and it all was dripping in this sap of familiarity that I have only just this evening realized was there. I love my home and my hometown and I want to live there for the rest of my life if I can, but I know now that I can’t let that happen (at least not in the way I used to dream of).
Because as uncomfortable as it is, God doesn’t live in the places where we are comfortable (this is not to deny His presence in every asset of our lives, He is very much there, you’ll see what I mean). God is not sitting up in Heaven watching us saying, “yes, just keep doing that thing, that’ll be great, you can grow from that.” The definition of craziness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, right? I think I have been crazy for most of my life then because I’ve been doing the same stuff over and over again. I’ve been living into my comfort zone and allowing poisonous people to enter my life and refusing to be brace and bold because I believed that the only way change could happen was if God did it Himself. What a fool I’ve been!
Change is caused by catalysts. If you don’t introduce a catalyst into your life, how can you ever expect to grow and change (into the person God has made you to be or not)? How can you heal and become a better person if you allow the same awful, venomous voices to have a stand in your life? How can you see change in the world if you don’t work as the tool and weapon that God equipped and created you to be?
So I ask you (and myself) again, how can your perspective ever change and grow if you don’t leave that damned comfort zone? How can I expect to heal and love myself if I don’t find new ways to ask the questions of why I don’t love myself and try new things to bring that love like a shower on me? How can I expect to come home changed and hopefully more the beautiful creature I know in my heart I was designed to be if I don’t listen to these voices around me that want to nurture me and learn me and eventually love me?
It took me until these evening why I was called to be here in Korea. Unfortunately, home and all its comforts couldn’t grow me anymore. I was a little flower in an even tinier pot and there just wasn’t room left. As we know, flowers must be moved to bigger pots to keep growing. Korea and these new people who I care for so deeply are my new flower pot. As this evening showed me, I have a lot I can learn here, whether from the Koreans, my site directors, or my fellow YAVs. This isn’t my last flower pot either. I’m going to need another when I get home, and I am more than certain that this time it will be a bit of my comfort zone mixed in with the discomfort of seeing the world and my hometown more truly. But I am not afraid. This year is terrifying, the rest of my life is terrifying, but there’s another thing that I learned (really and truly) this evening. God is always present and when you’re willing to listen, He has quite a lot to say.
Listen closely my friends to the words of the One who is far wiser than our comprehension. Embrace your comfort zones and then let them go. Be the weapon and instrument and tool of Christ that you were meant to be. I’m not there yet, but I can promise you, it’ll be worth it.
(Side note: my family is a great blessing to me and I do not want to diminish the love that we all share for each other, nor am I trying to say that they are bad at giving advice. I just truly know that this is a season of life where I am very much meant to learn from others and not just my loved ones. Okay cool.)
“Hold me close and hold me fast, this magic spell you cast, this is La Vie En Rose…when you press me to your heart, I’m in a world apart, a world where roses bloom…” -“La Vie En Rose”
“Joey, Joey, Joey; Joey, Joey, Joey, Joe, You’ve been too long, in one place, and it’s time to go, time to go” -“Joey, Joey, Joey”, The Most Happy Fella
“Listen, what I said before John, I meant it. I don’t have friends; I’ve just got one.” -Sherlock, BBC’s Sherlock
“I need you to text me every 30 seconds saying that everything is gonna be okay.” “Hey Leslie, it’s Leslie. Hang in there. I love you. Bye.” “I love you and I like you.” -Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
“Maybe I just wanted to look in the mirror and see someone worthwhile. But I was wrong. I see nothing.” “I cannot hide who I am, though I’ve tried. When will my reflection show who I am inside?” “You don’t meet a girl like that every dynasty.” “How ’bout a girl whose got a brain? Who always speaks her mind?” “Maybe all I really wanted to do was to prove I could do things right.” “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” –Mulan