facets of femininity

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i am coming to a lot of realizations this year. they sit heavily in the pit of my stomach, dissolving like painkillers - sharp and paralyzing, eventually subsiding into a strange, artificial relief.

“will i fall or will i misstep? / will i fall or will i misstep? / will i call you with my last breath? / will you be there for me after?”

i am in the process of redefining and reconciling various facets of my identity: my femininity, my ethnicity, my politics, my career field of choice. i have wrangled with external forces and conventions and untangled internal confusion. these are absolutely vital and important to sort through and understand. they characterize me and give me grounds to grow on. developing solidification in these areas has strengthened me, emboldened me, and opened up space for me to dialogue with people deeply and enrich my worldview, self-awareness, and even my knowledge of God.

“will i waste inside the silence / where my fear is f*cking violent?”

and yet i lay stone-like in an apathy that can’t be budged, an emotionally-void state of immobility, when i’m asked to come to terms with Him. every part of me pushes back when silence falls and there’s no one in the metaphorical room but the two of us. it’s been a familiar struggle throughout my entire life, but one i’ve become much more attuned to while living at bible college, a place so spiritually ablaze, surrounded by people who are just as zealous. they are exponentially kinder than the world outside these campus walls. they’ve got the theological explanations to your questions. they know the words to the nuanced metaphor-filled songs, and they’re aware of the cues triggering raised arms in worship. they’re fluent in the poetic, rhythmically flowing prayers to blanket you in if you ask (and even if you don’t, let’s be honest). they are gentle lovers and articulate mentors.

“i’m a child thrown to lions / wicked sinner thrown to lions / with no hope on the horizon / is there hope on the horizon?”

and these are beautiful things reflective of His spirit. i do not doubt that they are authentic and true. but i have been wrestling with this idea of the ideal, “american”, if i may, culture of Christianity. i spent the entirety of my first year here in a culture shock, frantically trying to learn the protocols of how my faith needed to look like. and i did pretty well. i learned the lingo, i adapted the vocal inflections. i raised my hands whenever the buildup to the bridge hit in chapel. i became bitter about my background, grew cynical and harsh towards anything that didn’t fit the mold of this new, fresh style of faith i was discovering. and i quickly began to dissociate from what i felt was holding me back.

but, after a hectic semester (and session upon session of therapy), i am in a vastly different place. my initial aforementioned preconceptions have been broken down. as i cement the implications of the upbringing that is unique to who i am today, the one that looks a little different than the majority of people i am around daily, i am learning that i don’t quite belong. i am obtrusive and crass. i am rough around the edges, unable to offer comfort with affection and softness because i never was. i stumble on my words and embody the opposite of elegance: poetry has never flowed from my tongue in prayer - instead, they’re almost always cries of desperation, accompanied by shaking clenched fists. they are vulgar and messy and projectile vomited, littered with error.

“jesus, where are you?
am i still beside you?
jesus, where are you?
am i still beside you?”

there are no flowery sentiments spelled out in watercolored calligraphy. there are no pristine flatlays with open bibles and coffee and a graceful, eloquent caption. there are wars that wage incessantly and nights spent staring at walls playing at God. there are blotches of ink bleeding through tear-stained journal pages created by pressing down too hard. there are stretches of days i avoid confronting my Creator because i am ashamed of my inconsistency. i am humiliated by my inadequacy and disgusted at my pride. and my fear is f*cking violent; the lies seep in deeply and convince me that He will have turned a cold shoulder when i return.

“jesus, where are you?
am i still beside you?
am i still beside you?
jesus, where are you?
jesus, where are you?”

tonight i heard the song “a prayer” by king’s kaleidoscope for the first time. KK is a band that a) has kind of defined my time at biola because they’ve led worship (and will play) at conferences both years i’ve been here and b) is a pretty established and explicitly Christian band. so it shocked me at first when i saw the little “explicit” warning box next to the title on spotify, and caught me off guard when i heard it in the song, but i was instantly oddly overtaken by a wave of peace, a deep resonation. in an interview, songwriter/lead singer chad gardner says it’s a song that comes from the deepest part of his being, with lyrics directly from his journal.

“i don’t know how everyone else has conversations with God, but i have very vulnerable conversations, and God already knows how afraid i am…and i know fear and Satan and death - the voice of all that is not poetic, it’s not thoughtful, it’s not patient. it’s aggressive and demanding and terrifying.”

in this way, garner is also sharing things that are authentic and true and beautiful. they may not be pleasant or pretty, but they are honest. he is baring his broken heart and bringing it to the altar in its rawest form. and that is what God asks of us, that though the fear may be immobilizing, we mustn’t allow it to make us forget His unchanging promise:

“i’m right beside you! i feel what you feel /
and i’m here to hold you when death is too real /
you know, i died, too / i was terrified /
i gave myself for you / i was crucified /
because i love you / i love you, child.”