The Right Way
We grew up believing there was a right way to be. We grew up understanding that there was a way to win at belonging, that a proven set of actions, generosities, leadership, submission, death to self, repentance, and enough sinners’ prayers would rewrite the unholy core within us into a redemption story where we starred as worthy, forgiven, lovable, marriable, accepted, celebrated, manicured matter that would thrive and reign as suitors and supporters lined up to play their role in our hashtag-blessed trajectory – our right life of picket fences and holy matrimony and bible study and retirement and all those dollars we’d collect and all those arrows for our quivers that we’d send tearfully off to college.
Of course, we also grew up believing we were loved despite our depravity. That our sinful souls had damned us before we could speak, that grace meant somehow we’d be plucked from the dark mire and destruction toward which we were compulsively driven and allowed to sit at the table, as long as we washed our dirty hands in holy water, as long as our own image was obscured by the Jesus standing between us and the Father, the mess of our being hidden from his only holy eyes.
So we were damned, but saved, but the saved and the damned must still do their damndest. So we carved away the pieces of ourselves we were told our Father wouldn’t want to see. We were told he had no stomach for cursing, so we shackled our sharp tongues. We were told he was jealous, so we whittled away at our edges to make ourselves appropriately small. We were told He valued blind faith over arrogant pondering, so we dulled our wits and etched the threat out of our observations. We were told if we REALLY knew Him we’d want all the right things, so we took an axe to our longings, to our wanderings and our wild, and we recited the right desires in the mirror hoping they would becomes ours, hoping we would become them. We bartered and begged and stole for this unholy hope. We traded our passionate rants or our threatening questions, our inclinations toward leadership, our voices, or the unconventional way we wanted to wear our hair. We shucked off our true skins and tried to wear the right ones, because right is what they wanted from us, because right is what they said HE wanted from us, because holy was only holy one way, one narrow true and unwavering way to be.
Be good enough to know that you’ll never really be good enough. There is only grace, grace given freely, and to receive it, here is what you must become.
Inevitably, like a tide from the oceans of careful behavior behind us, the pieces of ourselves we sacrificed to become right hunger and swell to return. We hear their call like a wild thing – the anger we silenced swarms in our stomach, the image that suited us flickers behind our curated reflections, the desire we quelled burns under our fingernails, the passion and whole and unique winding howl of us quivers under our skins until they itch with our own memory, until we itch with our own becoming, until we realize that to become ourselves, we must unbecome. The “right way” image, and likely along with it many of the good thoughts and regard and acclaim it has collected, must be abandoned to allow our souls to tell their story. And this is deconstruction – the hard death of learning we were never the “right way” projection.
Hear me: There was never a right way to begin with.
There was never death nor deed needed to make you lovable, to make you worthy, to make you palatable, to make you belong. You, your core created or dreamt up or evolving or born, your desire and edges and hopes and perspectives, you belong here. You deserve a place at the table.
And you are allowed to come home to collect and to claim yourself. You are allowed to give yourself a name. You are allowed to say I am no longer sorry.
And you are why I still believe in a version of god with a grace so unlike the definitions we were given. I see it every time I look at you.
—Karyn Thurston (as heard on episode 042)