catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 23 :: 2008.12.19 — 2009.01.02



It was to her faults that she turned to save herself now.
Madeline L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

When I was in kindergarten, my mom clothed me in pants with a dress overtop so that I wouldn’t be cold at the bus stop. I didn’t know that I was supposed to take my pants off once I got to school. On the days when I didn’t wear a dress, I insisted on wearing my pants backwards. Consequently, the rest of the kids ostracized me for my fashion sense (or lack thereof). When, near the end of the year, my classmate Mary Little realized that my pants were on incorrectly, she publicly accused me of this crime. I of course denied it, then ran to the bathroom to turn my elastic-waisted corduroys around. Another classmate, Joshua Smail, made it his mission in life to punish me for my wardrobe malfunctions; he tortured me daily by throwing the popcorn his mom had packed in his lunch at my head, mocking my physical appearance the entire time. All in all, kindergarten was a pretty rough year. It probably didn’t help that I refused to brush my hair.

In first grade, I begged my mom to buy me a skirt that I had fallen in love with from Kmart. It was made of black velvet, separated every few inches by a length of crinoline. When she finally acquiesced to purchasing it, she warned me that I would hardly ever have the opportunity to wear such a fancy skirt. Don’t worry, I assured her, I will make opportunities. From there on out I wore that skirt every chance I could, pairing it with blue tights, red tights, no tights; t-shirts and sweaters, patent leather mary janes and sneakers. That skirt made me happier than Saturday morning cartoons, so when my classmate Rosemary informed me that I “didn’t know how to match” I told her that I didn’t want to match. To this, Rosemary retorted You’re weird, to which I responded: thank you. Yeah, the rest of my life pretty much began right there.

Don’t get me wrong, like most everyone else, my self-confidence took a nosedive by the time I hit sixth grade, making it harder to face up to public torment. As much as I desired to be a fashonista in my own right, I usually lost the nerve to act on my colorful whims. Those days that I did go out on a limb and pinned 50 different pins to my oversized t-shirt or used paperclips for earrings, I generally lost my confidence around third period, faked sick at lunch and went home. After doing this several times, I finally confessed my true motivations to Aliya, a kindred spirit, who was new to our school from Pakistan. I told her the truth:

Aliya, you know how I go home at lunch sometimes because I’m sick?

Yeah? she responded.

Well, I’m really not sick, I just…I just don’t like what I’m wearing anymore so I go home to change clothes. I was shocked to see tears welling in her eyes.

Katie? she said. I do the same thing!

I had never felt so understood in my whole life. I don’t know where you are now, Aliya (probably getting your PhD in Biochemistry somewhere, you always were smart!) but thank you.

As much as I long to recapture the confidence of my childhood years, I haven’t really changed that much since sixth grade. There are days when I wake up wrapped in iconoclasm, the taste of subversive cultural resistance salty on my lips. Those are the days when I am ripe and ready to say a big “eff you!” to the perversely self-obsessed voices in my head that tell me that I must fit some societal norm to be acceptable. Other days, I worry that others will judge my worth as a human being on the way that I manipulate my bangs or what color socks I have on. I know what you’re probably thinking, something like, You have too much time on your hands, you little bugger! Or perhaps the less assumptive: Get a life! I hear you, but the truth is, I don’t have too much time on my hands and I do have a life-a really good one, in fact.

My insecurities do not necessarily wax and wane depending on the implicit value of the work that I do or the degree to which my motivations and actions are altruistic. Nope, I could be delivering a baby in a snowstorm one moment and wishing I had worn different shoes the next. This isn’t always the case, for sure, but the truth remains that as much as I like to believe that I don’t care what others think, my actions invariably prove otherwise.

All this stuff remains relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things when the question lies in whether I choose skinny or flared jeans (flared!); it does matter, however, when these insecurities bleed out of my closet and into my theology. It took me a dang long time to realize that there is, in fact, more than one way to be a Christian. Years of fermented guilt and self-abnegation flew from my chest cavity when I finally allowed myself to believe that yes, Virginia, there really is more than one way to manifest the Glory of God. And damn it, how much more glorious did that glory feel when I realized that allowing myself to embrace the liberty to embody Christ’s love in my own way was actually maybe what God wanted from me in the first place!

Hallelujah for all of those people out there who have shown me that God reveals God’s self in wild and wooly and prismatic ways. This God is more than what I had bargained for, more than I bid on, more than I bet on. With each new Christian I meet, a landmine goes off in my heart. Again it is blown open, as I see God manifested in unpredictable ways through His-Her people. And of course, such bliss is not limited to the Christian experience either. It seems like, wanted or not, God takes up residence in the hearts of all people whose blood pumps Love. What a spectacle to witness this big God squeeze into our small hearts like St. Nick through the fireplace!

So, yeah, it’s true, I’m insecure. But whatever trivial insecurities I might face on a daily basis as I interrogate my acne or contemplate my receding gumline dissipate in the face of the wide grand mystery that is the wormhole of faith. Because how can I be insecure before a God that is beyond my comprehension? It’s like when you try to plug an American blow-dryer into a European socket. No comprende. Sparks fly. It just doesn’t work that way.

About ten years back I was on a walk with my friend Jared. We were talking about our philosophy class when he told me that his favorite quote came from Blaise Pascal: “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me.” Jared liked this quote because, unlike Pascal, the silence of the “infinite spaces” comforted him. For Jared, the fact that God was everything he could not understand or imagine made him feel less insecure as a human being. That conversation stuck with me, because what Jared said is true for me as well.

No matter how insecure I may be, there is something comforting about knowing that I am unable to physically or metaphysically contain the Mystery that is God. Like an old wineskin I am gleefully torn open by the Mystery. In this infinite space it does not matter whether I brush my hair, combine mismatched clothes, or even put on deodorant for that matter. In this eternal silence my voice reverberates in the cochlea of God’s ear. In this infinite space I am infinitely known, infinitely secure.

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