Monday, December 3, 2012

An Advent inspired reflection on identity

First, welcome to Advent. We started ours by having Allen's folks over for lunch and setting up our tree in the window. There aren't any lights or ornaments on it, but there is a tree in the window :) I should add that despite growing up with this monumental artificial tree (seriously, it was awesome) we're natural tree fans around here :) Can't beat 'em.

Our Sunday wound up with us at Andrew Peterson's "Behold the Lamb" concert, and we enjoyed hearing him and all the wonderful people touring with him. It was an odd sensation though - I attended one of his (possibly the first) concert he did in our area. I'd heard him on the radio and bought his music, and then I sat on the second row of a modest sized church and sang along with every song. I was probably a freshman or sophomore in high school. It was a rough time in my life. All family matters aside being 14 or 15 is just hard. You're starting to deal with freedom and attraction and all that painfully true rubbish about "finding out who you are" and beginning to map out your destiny beyond next month's dance or a summer trip to the mountains. In my case, it was compounded by family issues and by my having absolutely no clue how to dress. Dorky girls with glasses are cute in movies, but for all the heartwarming endings and comeuppances to cheerleaders and the like I don't think any of us actually envy her or want to be her. And yet, while sitting there listening to Andrew Peterson and Eric Peters and I'm not sure who else I was terribly happy. His music, like that of Rich Mullins, has come with me as I grew up and went to college and got married and bought a house where Allen and I try to remember that we're adults with Responsibilities and not just the kids we were ten years ago. It's a small thing and yet significant.

Sometimes my life seems divided into halves. There's the part where we lived in Georgia and the part where we bought a house in Alabama and the part where I met Allen. There's the massive rupture where marrying Allen seemed to break something sharp and fragile and yet beautiful and permanently divide who I am from who I was.  I tease people that estrangement makes the holidays so much easier, but they also make them more fragmented. Without those shared rituals that define us it's hard to maintain a consistent identity. It's particularly hard when you wish to scrap the essence of a flawed identity and still hold onto a recipe, a vacation spot, or a turn of phrase. We sort the shards of who we are from the broken mirror of our past and struggle to put them back together.

Sitting in that much larger church with Allen beside me, some of those shards came together. Reflected back in the music I was hearing, I could see a girl with loves and longings who had grown up into a woman carrying with her those same impulses and desires. That girl who used to stare dreaming up at the night sky while our rv rumbled across another state is the same woman who stopped the car one cold spring to count waterfalls by moonlight. With all the changes of the past ten years my love of beauty and poetry in song has remained constant. Rich Mullins and Andrew Peterson taught me that the Gospel is wherever you see it. A penny, a fallen tree, a falcon circling - in all of these things God's glory is revealed, and I'm driven along by it's beauty. Where this drive will take me I honestly haven't a clue. I'm not a poet to teach these revelations to others or a mother to impress them on my children. I'm simply Natalie. And, since God hasn't made me any of those other things, I suppose it's enough for now.

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