A great Rabbi died. He had been revered and loved by his congregation. After his death, it was decided that the Rabbi’s son, himself a Rabbi, would take his father’s place.
This pleased the congregation, for the son would be “just like his father.”
But after some time, there was surprise and grumbling. The son gave himself fully, heart and soul, to the synagogue, and began to make changes that displeased some of the people.
“You are not at all like your father,” they told him, obviously disappointed.
“Oh, but I am,” he replied. “For my father was one of a kind. He imitated no one. Neither do I.”
One of a kind.
You are able to give your self—heart and soul—when you lovingly accept the humanity entrusted to you.
What an invitation; the gift to be at home in my own skin. Whole and undivided.
This is not so easily accomplished in a world that dotes on vicarious lives, where the mission of the article (including the ads) in the magazine I perused recently, was to make me feel in some way inadequate or insufficient. (Whoever is responsible for this magazine must be very good at what they do, because they accomplished their goal.)
Some years ago, on a visit to a friend’s house in Paso Robles, hanging on a wall with very remarkable art, I see a hand drawn crayon picture of a dragon (drawn “in the hand” of a young child). The dragon is pink and purple and lavender. I liked the dragon and mentioned it to my host.
“My daughter did that drawing when she was very young,” the friend told me. “And her teacher was not pleased, and told her that she did it all wrong. Everyone knows that dragons are not That Color!”
“It hangs there today,” the mother tells me, “as a reminder to my daughter to be one of a kind.”
It starts early doesn’t it?
Don’t be different.
What will people think?
What makes you think you have an opinion?
Do you really feel that way?
That person is strange, isn’t he?
Did you see the movie Benny and Joon? Johnny Deep plays Sam, a quirky and eccentric young man who spends time at the home of Benny and Joon (Benny the older brother who cares for his mentally challenged and artistically brilliant younger sister). Sam is at home in his skin, with his “uniqueness.”
In one scene, in a local park, Sam begins to entertain Benny and Joon with a Buster Keatensque routine using his hat and cane. Soon, a crowd gathers, fully entertained and appreciative. Benny (skeptical of Sam up to this point) see’s Sam’s genius and the unique treasure within.
“That was great,” he enthused. “Did you learn that in school?”
“No,” said Sam. “I was kicked out of school for that.”
I confess that this conversation, “Where do I tether my identity? How do I make a difference?” has been quite prescient and real for me of late. So, I talk about it with the geese this morning, admiring the way they always seem at home in their skin (and feathers). I tell them I’ve always been triggered by the societal estimation that our identity is defined solely by what we do. Meaning, how we make money.
In a recent conversation with someone I’d just met, who asked, “So, what do you do?”
“I travel and give talks about self-care,” I tell him. “Well, I used to.” I amend it, “when I could travel. In other words, I’m 66 and I’m not sure who I am now,” I told him with a smile. Not sure if I was trying to be funny or truthful.
This I do know: Just like purple dragons, labels never help. They limit us and tempt us to compare ourselves to others with similar labels. Which exacerbates the temptation to play to public opinion. But here’s the deal: Playing to public opinion I too easily sacrifice; my emotions, my feelings, my passion, my gifts, my heart and my humanity. Because there will always be some voice telling me that whoever I am today, is not enough.
On the days when public opinion pesters, I keep this Parker Palmer quote close by. “It is a strange gift, this birthright gift of self. Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be, fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.”
And in my heart I know that vocation is not just my job or calling, but the mark I leave and the place I take in this world.
True, living into this authentic self is neither easy nor managed by a checklist. But this much is certain: living into our authentic self begins with a whole heart.
I read this once, “she was reclaiming herself, alive in her own skin.” Yes, that’s it. At home in our own skin… Unabashed in a skin (a self) that feels, values, honors, esteems, loves, fears, desires, hopes for, believes in and commits to. With nothing to earn or prove, because life isn’t a race or contest or beauty pageant.
At home, I have a self to give; to be an anchor, a listening ear, a hand to hold, a hug to keep the heart alive.
Speaking of keeping the hear alive, I am addicted to golf. Unabashedly. And loved watching the Masters Tournament today. Mercy, they are good at what they do.
I look out the window and see two deer munching on my neighbor’s garden. I smile remembering the days I use to chase them away.
Tuesday is my Father’s Birthday. He would have been 87.
And Tuesday is the anniversary of my ordination. Forty-two years.
Quote for your week:
This is the categorical imperative of the Christian Faith: You shall lovingly accept the humanity entrusted to you. You shall accept yourself. Johannes Metz
Note: One year ago, I began writing Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. In part because my life was changing, with no travel and events cancelled. In part because I was looking for ways to navigate a new world. And in part because I knew that most of us are eager to find places where our souls and spirits can be nourished and refueled. I’m grateful for those who have joined us– Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. Tuesday through Friday. A quote, a paragraph and a prayer to refuel us. Daily nourishment. This is in addition to Monday’s Sabbath Moment.
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In the mailbag…
–Terry, Your story about freckles brought back a memory from when my older daughter was in grade school. She wanted freckles because she saw them as beautiful. She never got them but I could remind her of that story and inform her that when she’s my age she will probably have them at last and will be informed by ads of ways to rid herself of them. I also came up with an idea about the color purple. I’ve always thought of it as a color for royalty. I now wish we could have a middle ground of our two political parties making “purple” from the “red” and the “blue”.
POEMS AND PRAYERS
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
Now I Become Myself
Now I become myself.
It’s takenTime, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if
Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before–“
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and
Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!
God of Grace,
you nurture us with a love deeper than any we know,
your will for us is always healing and salvation.
We Praise and thank you, O God.
God of love,
you enter into our lives, our pain, and our brokenness,
and embrace us with your healing hands wherever we are.
We praise and thank you, O God.
God of strength,
you fill us with your presence and send us forth
with love and healing for all whom we meet.
We praise and thank you, O God.