When I was a kid I always thought I would be better at life when I got older. Particularly, I remember a time when I was 10 or 11 years old and I was getting vaccinated. I hated shots when I was a kid, so much so that there were times when I had to be held down to get the deed done. I remember thinking that I’d be over this fear by the time I was 16 years old. 16, in my head, was the age that a mature version of myself would be up and about. Well, 16 came and went, and I’m still afraid of shots.
Thankfully, I don’t scream and cry anymore, but the fear is still there. There’s a lot of little things in my brain that I imagined I’d be “over” by now. Things that I thought I would have outgrown, or habits I would have down by now. All in all, the child me envisioned a very different future me.
In the same way I imagined I would be a better Christian than I am right now. When I first decided to commit to Christianity, I quickly became obsessed with doing it “right”. I read my Bible almost frantically, I prayed whenever I could, and I never missed a chance to be at church, volunteering, serving, leading worship, or whatever else I could find my way into. My hunger for spiritual success came out of a place of legitimate devotion, as well as a fear of failure (and a healthy need to get out of the house).
I expected a lot of myself, and in turn expected a lot out of my friends and the people around me. I drove myself to the kind of unhealthy fundamentalism that tends to repel some people away from the faith. My faith contributed to the choices of a few to leave Christianity for other, less draining worldviews. I failed my own litmus test most of the time, but I imagined that if I worked hard enough, memorized enough scripture, had the most robust theology, that one day I would be a much more solidified Christian. I envisioned a man who was not afraid of needles.
We like to be able to argue a belief. We like to be grounded, to be able to give an answer when our opponents question us. I’ve noticed, however, that adhering to the facts of a particular worldview doesn’t necessarily mean that one is changed by it. Memorizing tons of scripture, constructing a robust theology, or being able to argue all the tenants of Christianity doesn’t necessarily lead to a Christian life.
Being aware that needles (vaccinations) don’t pose any real harm, does not necessarily make the fear dissipate. Soren Kierkegaard comments on this in regard to rationalists, acknowledging that those who practiced philosophy didn’t seem changed by the very viewpoints they thought correct. Life, for Kierkegaard, could not be compartmentalized. The human experience was to include everything. Even the things that didn’t make sense.
I tend to forget that I’m human. I forget about the time it takes to form new habits or cultivate a change of heart. I forget that my life is not just school or work. I forget that the whole of my life is important, even the things that seem small, or useless. The me that envisioned what I would be like as an adult was too young and inexperienced to understand what it would take to get there. The teenager who fought tooth and nail to impress God did not know that it was possible to be a failure
The teenager who fought tooth and nail to impress God did not know that it was possible to be a failure and be loved. The young adult who sits here, typing away at his keyboard, glancing at his dogs who sleep at his feet, struggles to know that he can be who he is and become who he was meant to be. The kid at the table in the doctor’s office, envisioning a brave teenager, did not know that it was possible to be afraid and be strong.
I do not believe we were meant to live in partitions. To practice Christianity is to change the whole of your being, slowly, and in ways you have yet to imagine, mind, heart, body, and soul (not that I’m particularly keen on making those things distinct). I am moved this Easter season to reflect on what it means that a resurrection can happen. I am moved to remember that Jesus redeems the whole, not the part. May we remember what it means to be human, and find peace in knowing that in our imperfections, we are made whole.