As we get older, we change. We grow. We become solidified in some ways and more flexible in others. For many people, I’d assert to say that the world grows a little less “black and white” and a little more “gray” as we grow more into our own skin. And differences in personality, preferences, and experiences are not merely just “tolerated” by convenience, but accepted and welcomed and sought after as opportunities to grow. At some point in life we start to notice that surrounding ourselves with people just like us is damaging. What once was protective, now hinders.
It’s odd to look back. Not bad, just odd, to see who I was, even a few months ago, and how many struggles necessitated the need to look inside and discover a fresh who I am, what I needed and wanted, and the compromises and sacrifices I was willing to make. Not easy ones, but necessary.
Some things stayed true and are being purified as true parts of my personality… I am a gifted organizer and mercy-giver. I connect meaningfully with almost anyone. I see people as…well, people, and not instruments of use. I cry easily. I feel very strongly. I am more practical and less of a dreamer. I enjoy quality, unconstrained time. I can rally people unlike anyone I know.
Recently, a friend was discussing his church experiences with me. He spoke of churches often having “in groups” and “out groups” and if you’re in the “out” it’s likely you aren’t noticed much for the gifts you actually have, but for the “muscle” needs leadership perceives the church has, whereas the “in group” is looked at for church leadership and spiritual leadership roles. That seems like a “common” issue when some deep insecurities lay at the heart of a leadership team. I felt empathetic towards his experience. Truthfully, I didn’t know what it was like to be in an “in group”, but I knew very clearly when I was in the “out group”. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Syndal, you made the in-group, only everyone was in. You’ve never differentiated between people.You’re the ultimate includer.”
Yea, I have known exclusion well. Excluded from belonging. Excluded from protection, vacations, traditions, togetherness. Excluded from a home. Me and exclusion have had to wage an unfair relationship my whole life. It’s an uphill battle we have in a world of “ins” and “outs”.
That little conversation was the first peak of light my fragile and hurt heart had heard in a while. It was one of the first moments where I thought maybe I had some “good” in me: good gifts and skills, things that I have done well. When you only hear things that tear you down from a small group of people that you love, you stop hearing all the good things that those on the outside are saying. It’s as if those few small criticisms cut so deep a wound that you can’t ever recover. But you can. And I did.
And in the process I learned some things. Let go of other things. Forgave some people. Accepted other people. I lost in places I thought I would never be able to recover from. I’m still in this messy place of figuring it out and as I figure it out, as I figure out more of who I am, I have to find ways to relate into my ongoing relationships, because I don’t fit in the same ways with the same people.
I learned I love avacado and brussel sprouts. In fact, they are my favorite foods when prepared certain ways. And radish and cabbage salad. I don’t really like meat. I’m allergic to garlic. I have an astronomically sensitive nervous system and though I feel pain at a much acuter rate than most people, I also have incredible physical stamina. When I think I am right (which I usually am), I need to argue my way through it to realize I may not be “so right”. I am very strong willed. I need to talk about all that is inside of me or I might burst. I am an introvert, but I process verbally, which means in order for me to work something out, I have to talk about it. And I am learning not all people are appropriate or safe to do so with. I didn’t know. I respond the best to gentleness but I’m trying to tolerate other “approaches”… I cook well. I hate baking.
I am prone to arguing. I don’t initially think the best in people. I can be passive and aggressive and direct in the wrong moments. Graciousness isn’t easy for me. I think I have the best answers/solutions/thoughts. When my mind is made up, it takes a lot of gentle reminders to convince me otherwise, but I need those reminders. I need it like water.
I have come to terms with the fact that creatures that fly make me nauseous. I might throw up around them (moths, butterflies, small birds). I get instantly sick to my stomach at the sight of moldy food. I love to learn, ALOT, but I don’t like to read. That’s been shocking for friends who have known me as the biggest book worm. I learn the best by reading little bits and engaging with others, which I love, but I don’t enjoy just reading. I adapt easily, but I thrive on gradual change. I am good at teaching, at presenting. I’m gifted and flawed and incomplete. I’m a combination of nature, of nurture, and of grace. Like everyone else.
I’ve started to learn that different personalities bring different aspects into a relationship and no one person is simultaneously good or gifted at them all. And neither are some more “virtuous” than others. When I’ve been sick, some people send a card, some drop off food or flowers, some sit and visit. Some watch a movie others clean my house or do my laundry or offer to pay someone to clean my house. Some people are good with words, others actions. Some are great and skilled bakers and others are just good at showing up, not feeing like they can offer much but just to show up. They’re all needed.
And maybe that’s what’s most important: just showing up. Planned and unplanned. Convenient, inconvenient. Peacefully and in challenging times. Just showing up allows us to keep moving forward, becoming that next thing, very next thing God has for us, laying aside the stuff that is no longer a part of us, and pressing on and in. We change. We grow. We become more solidified in ways that make us not care whether we are the “in” or “out” group, but in ways that just plainly make us more able to love and care for each other in whatever God asks of us in that moment, because we show up. We become freed out of what we were and cast into newness of life. Sometimes just showing up regardless of our circumstance is all we have to offer in seasons of life, but maybe it’s all we are asked.