I’ve been called a robot on several occasions. One such occurrence was after watching the movie version of Rent with my BFF when I was fifteen. She was boohooing, because the movie is quite sad, and I sat there thinking, “Wow, this is quite sad.” As the mature fifteen-year-old I was, I teased her after the movie. She retorted with something along the lines of “We can’t all be robots.” This is partially why we were and are like peas and carrots. She never has been afraid to call me on my BS.
I have cried at exactly two movies and one episode of Doctor Who. I shed a single tear during Heidi, and I sobbed like a baby TWICE during Meet Joe Black. The episode of Doctor Who in question involved the Doctor and his companion (I think it was Amy Pond at this point?) going to save Van Gogh from a monster. At the end of the episode, Amy wants him to know how successful he will one day be. They take him to a special exhibit of his work at some museum in present day and ask the curator why Van Gogh is so cool. As Van Gogh stands there, the camera pans around him to the people enjoying his work, children and adults, men and women, experiencing and enjoying the exuberance of his work. It gets me every time.
I am not what you might call effusive when expressing emotion. I don’t think anyone would describe me as bubbly. This made the year I spent as a missionary fairly interesting. The vast majority of the people with whom I was serving were 1000% emotionally driven. It was exhausting. There were 60-ish of us traveling to these different countries, and we were divided into teams of six or seven and dispersed in said country. True, we would get together for a few days in between countries to debrief. But unless we were paired with another team to serve a particular church or ministry, we didn’t see all that much of each other. And for me, an introvert, I didn’t make that much of an effort to expand my circle when given the opportunity. The entire year was basically one constant over stimulation.
I remember our final debrief before returning to the states. We were all crammed into this one hostel in Cape Town, South Africa for four or five days. I was teammates with the person who made the rooming arrangements, so she mercifully gave my BFF and me a room to ourselves. It was a haven from the constant emoting. It’s not like I didn’t have feelings about leaving. I was going to miss my friends, but I was also relieved to be going home. It had been a great and formative year, but it was time for something different. People who I had barely had two conversations with would attempt a tearful exchange and I was flummoxed. My go to line was, “See you in heaven!”
Sometimes I feel like an alien amongst my more effervescent female friends. It used to make me insecure, but now I mostly think it’s ok. This is partially due to my BFF Sage and other emotional friends who have taught me that it’s good to have people in your life who are different, that the things that make us different help us grow. We don’t try to change these innate dispositional differences in each other, but we do challenge each other to think and feel more empathetically.
Jesus’ circle was filled with different personalities, even people who should have hated each other. Just read the four gospels, which are all written for different audiences and in different styles. Then hop into Acts for a truly wild time. Sure, these dudes had their fair share of squabbles, and they didn’t all stay together as a pack of 12 after Jesus died, etc. Some were emotionally based, and some were rationally based. But Jesus called them all.
He even called Matthew the Tax Collector (aka collected taxes for Rome from his fellow Jews) and Simon the Zealot (aka aggressively pro-Israel liberation, aka NOT a fan of the Jews who collected taxes for Rome) to both be disciples, living and serving together every day (Matthew 10:2-4, Luke 5:12-16). Classic Jesus move. I think he knew that they each brought something different to the table, that their combination of traits could receive and share the message of the Gospel in a way that enhanced the spread of the faith. It gave their ministries different focuses and strengthened the overall movement.
It’s difficult to balance this whole thing where we honor our differences, but we are also learning from each other. I tend to get very focused on “fixing” myself. Most of the time I end up imitating what I think I should be doing or how I think I should be. Then I realize that I shouldn’t be focused on fixing myself in the way I understand it, so then I try to fix the tendency to fix, and around and around we go. I wonder if I’m missing the point here. I want to be like Play Doh, which can be quickly and easily shaped into whatever I feel like. But what if we are more like rocks, which are slowly eroded over time by water and other rocks?
What does it mean to let my less than healthy tendencies be worn away over time, to be liberated by the small everyday interactions with Christ, his church, and his creation? What if it’s less about appearing to be “whole” than learning in the depths of my being to hope in spite of what appears hopeless, to trust wisely in spite of all that has taught me not to trust?
Perhaps there are some of you reading this who are less stubborn than I am, with your Play Doh souls and beef jerky-level spiritual maturity (1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:12). Perhaps the biggest problem for me is that I am way more concerned with appearing to be spiritually mature and good in the eyes of those around me than I am with being filled by grace and trusting in the love of Christ. And so I get all obsessed with making myself emote at the right moments, or not being a sore loser, or whether or not I choose to wear make up or watch “girly” movies.
It’s easier to fake it and “fix” the surface things than to dig deep and ask God to reveal what is actually holding me back from being more grace-filled and loving.
But I think that’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where we get traction, where we learn the context for our actions and we can start asking the right questions. Then I am no longer judging my insides by someone else’s outside. Then I am bringing my full self to God and asking him to shift my focus. Then I am more honest with God, with myself, and with others. That’s where abundance happens.