Broken-down Poetry: disillusioned


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Sunday, December 14, 2008


A few months ago I thought it'd be really cool to be disillusioned with the world. I wanted to be like a post-WWI expatriate or like Franny Glass from Salinger's novel. I pictured myself in a bar drinking a Shirley Temple slurring my life story to the bartender, telling him over and over again how much I liked eating the cherries at the bottom. (I'd be faking the banter, of course, because I'm drinking a non-alcoholic beverage. The bartender is too distracted to notice.)

I decided a few months ago that I no longer cared about being prude or blameless, I wanted to dress like a whore and cuss the crudest words. I typed out a few cuss words that night. I felt a little better, but not a lot.

Then I decided I was going to marry someone at least ten years older than me ... someone who was just as disillusioned as me so we could complain together about this godforsaken world we live in! and about how no one understands us! Or something like that. I don't really know what disillusioned people complain about, to be honest.

And then I realized that I am not disillusioned. I am actually quite optimistic and forward-looking and hopeful. I just wasn't happy with where I was and who I was among at the time.

A few months ago I was just starting college. I chose an extremely conservative Christian university to attend, not thinking much about all the rules that entailed. But I have always been a rule follower. I have always been the "good girl," the teacher's pet, the leader at youth group, the favorite daughter. (Don't tell my sister.) I figured I could handle whatever this university threw at me.

Except ... I couldn't. That's where all this disillusion came from. I thought this school would be my "comfort zone": Christians around other Christians talking about Christian-y things. But I really don't like that. I especially don't like the pressure.

It turns out there's no such thing as a cookie-cutter Christian. One week of college told me that. There are cliques here at Christian schools, you know, but all of them have the word "Christian" before them. The "Christian" preps, the Christian jocks, the Christian hipsters, the Christian nerds, etc.

I found it much like high school, except there's that pressure of being "on fire for God." Not only do you need that place to fit in ... you need to prove your worth as a Christian: "Hi, my name is Lauren and I read my Bible every night."

So into the first month of school I had pressure from all sides: to find friend and to be "on fire for God." Neither were really working. I had friends, sure, but none like the ones at home. I loved God, sure, but I wasn't healing people in Jaheezus name!

I began to realize that I did not like this. I did not like feeling of being judged by these Christians, whether they really were judging me or not, and I hated that it was hard to find friends at a Christian school. So I decided to become a Christian expatriate. I wrote down those cusswords. I started writing a novel about that bartender.

I figured that the reason I felt so disconnected with those people was because I just didn't fit into their club. There are Christians and then there are Christians. I must have been part of the latter, those who look, smell and act Christian but aren't really. I don't follow their code of ethics or something.

I really wanted to break my school's rules because I thought that would prove that I was not like the other Christians in my school, not just "kinda not" like them. Once I decided that, I found myself really bitter toward my roommates' opinions. I made sure that I found a flaw in whatever the speaker said at chapel. I really had become disillusioned with the world.

And it was ugly.

I know the first few months of college are supposed to be hard. I know there's a lot of homesickness and stress and fear ... but I didn't have any of that. The only thing I was really afraid of was myself. (As cliche as that sounds.) I didn't like how I "measured up" against the Christians around me.

I would have killed to be the Christian hipster or the Christian prep. But I knew I wasn't. I was the "Christian outcast." I cared too much about where I didn't fit in instead of seeing where I did. I got too caught up in, what the apostle Paul calls, "civilian affairs." I was losing sight of my true identity and instead looked for it in others.

And so here I am. The semester just ended, and I can only hope that I am closer to the person I am supposed to be. A friend told me once that we can never really know our true identity, but I don't know if I believe him. I mean, maybe not to the extent God views us, but I know that I can be closer than I am.

I know most people don't follow their New Years Resolutions but I am going to make one anyway. This year I want to see myself the way God sees me: as a woman of God, passionate in what she does, a creator, thinker.

"This is my voice, all shadows stayed. This is my heart upon the altar laid. Please take all else away. Hear my cry, I beg I plead, I pray. I'll walk into the flames, a calculated risk to further bless your name. So strike me deep and true, and in your strength I will live and die both unto you." ("Identity Crisis," Thrice)

with love,


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