We Are Less Fragile
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Carlos Andrés Reyes.
Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Eleanor Skelton’s blog. It was originally published as a guest post in a series on March 2, 2016. Mary, the writer of this post, blogs at Threads of Stars.
I grew up believing that I could break other people, break myself, break the world, with the smallest of missteps.
There was a list of movies I couldn’t watch and music I couldn’t hear because they would break my mind.
There was a list of things I couldn’t wear because they would break the minds of others.
There was a list of words and opinions I couldn’t say because they would break someone else’s perception of the Christian faith.
There was a corresponding list of words and opinions I had to say because I would be sending someone to hell if I were to omit them.
The lists of the way I could break things seemed endless, and I lived by the letter of their law with an awful holy terror. But there are terrible consequences to believing you live in a world so breakable, with a soul so fragile. I began to feel like I was, at best, a weak excuse of a human for being so unable to meet the list of requirements, and at worst, a weapon designed only to damage the world. Better if I be removed for the sake of safety, my mind whispered on the dark nights. Better if I erase myself before I break anything or anyone else.
When grace opened the door to a wider world and I learned to walk in it (certainly with my fair share of bruises and skinned knees along the way), I would quickly be startled by a few truths. First was that the world was more elastic than I had imagined, that sometimes when I fell, rather than shattering beneath me like brittle glass, this wild life embraced me and bent around me and became a new kind of beautiful. Second was that sometimes even when something did break– my heart, a friendship, some corner of my innocence – my spirit had the ability to mend, like grace had planted this resilient life in me that outlasted even the death of dreams, the death of my strength, the death of all the porcelain pictures I once thought defined “good enough.” And really, perhaps these truths are no surprise in the end, for I believe in the truth of a Christ whose Spirit overcame death – who gifts that same Spirit to me.
On the other side of laws and fear-based protective prisons, I have certainly loved the freedom to enjoy things. I have the freedom to immerse myself in rock and roll, the freedom to dye my hair blue, the freedom to wear shorts and tank tops in the summer, the freedom to watch (and even laugh with) movies that currently matter in pop culture. But perhaps the freedom I have loved even more is the freedom to make mistakes along the way, knowing each small choice will not save or condemn me.
I have certainly found consequences and heartache out here. But I have outlasted them. And the steady hands of friends who have stayed with me, even when I say the wrong thing or say nothing at all, even when I’m feeling too small and dim inside to spark any kind of response to their lavish light, has taught me that maybe I can’t break others as easily as I once believed either. Maybe there is a staying power in our souls beyond anything we could possibly imagine. There is more grace out here than I ever knew.
I believed I was an ember, struggling to stay alive from my place embedded in the ash and dirt. Imagine my surprise to find a spirit like a star burning in me, relentless, impossibly bright, alive though it wander through the coldest walks of the night.