Monday, January 26, 2009

Why I have a pierced ear

The other day I poked through my lobe and started wearing an earring again. I have only worn it a handful of times over the past several years. It seemed the right thing to do now.

I got this particular piercing many moons ago, not as a fashion accessory, but as a reminder to myself. At the time it was a very important and intimate statement about who I was, and whose I was. I needed something to hold on to, something to let me know that I belonged to God and God alone, and no man was going to dictate who or what I was other than the One who created and was continuing to form me.

I heard Tom Beaudoin speak, and read his book Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X while in seminary in the late 90’s. He talked about the difference between Generation X-ers and Baby Boomers (I fall in the middle, but have always been more connected with X-er’s). He says it has to do with the life-question. Boomers wanted to know “what is the meaning of life, of my life?”, whereas the most fundamental question for X-ers – whose parents were getting divorced, and friends were dying of AIDS, etc - was “Will you be there for me?” Life for the X-er was very ambiguous, and he says in his book, “We ask this [question] of our selves, our bodies, parents, friends, partners, society, religions, leaders, nation, and even God.” On p. 141 he says, “When we ask ‘Will you be there for me?’ of our bodies, we often answer by piercing and tattooing. These bodily incisions stay with us for the rest of our lives. They will be one certain source of continued identity…” It is one thing we will KNOW we can depend on.

That, my friends, is why it is dangerous to make fun of or to question someone’s piercings or tattoos. For many people it has nothing to do with decoration or fashion, it is a fundamental security issue; perhaps representing the very core of who they are.

Now, as a Christian, there is certainly a temptation to take these things too far. Belonging to God means that we must submit to the idea of belonging to others as well. We must be aware of the distinctions between dependence, independence, and interdependence. I have always thought the “Network” material from Willowcreek did a good job of explaining these relationships.

When we are young we DEPEND on our parents (or some other adult). They provide nurture, care, and protection. We don’t know we are unique, we are simply dependent. As we get older, though, we begin to understand that we’re not like everyone else and we begin moving toward INDEPENDENCE. Culturally, we have equated this to maturity, or ‘growing up’. We think this should be the goal – reaching independence and being able to take care of ourselves. However, God designed us not to be independent from others, but INTERDEPENDENT with others. This is where we ‘choose’ to serve one another, to be there for one another, not because we are dependent on them, but for the betterment of the whole. This is illustrated in Romans 12:5 “…so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” And again in 1 Cor. 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” Or in the words of George Castanza, “We’re living in a society here!”

A problem many people have is – as I said earlier – they feel independence is the goal, and what we end up with is a world full of people only looking out for themselves, full of themselves, and not concerned about anything or anyone else. This is bad for society, and therefore bad for each of us individually as well.

But another problem that often arises is when we move from dependence to independence, and for various reasons we may try to move back to dependence again.... and we get stuck in a state of CODEPENDENCE. This is an unhealthy need for others – or a ‘need to be needed’ by others. Like a child afraid to leave home when they reach adulthood, or the parent who doesn’t want to ‘let them go.’

This is where my earring comes in. I sometimes struggle with that fine line between interdependency and codependency. When I let my insecurity and lack of self-esteem get the best of me, I become irrational and immature and develop an unhealthy dose of “I need to know someone is there for me.” This puts undue pressure on the relationships I have, and almost always leaves me feeling unloved, even with the best of friends, family, and spouse. There is really very little anyone can do as long as I feel this way.

So… sometimes I wear my earring to tilt me back from codependency on others, to an interdependency hinged on my relationship with God. It is a reminder that He is the One I need. He is the One all my other relationships are based on. He is my Rock, and my Salvation, and my Guide. If need be, I can stand on that and it will be enough.

Sometimes I allow myself to fall into the trap of thinking I need accepted by others, or that the things other people say are more important than what God says. You know, like when people say a pastor should be IN the office this many hours, but then someone else says you should be OUT OF the office this many hours. Or one person says a pastor should be informing people about societal – even political – issues, and another says a pastor should have nothing to say about those things. One says a pastor should be paid to study and pray and whatnot, and another says pastors should get a ‘real’ job and not ‘steal’ from congregations. The list goes on and on.

The thing is… it’s not that we shouldn’t listen to what others say… but ultimately, it’s got to come down to “what does God say?” No one knows specifically what anyone else was created for, and it is our own responsibility to seek out God and develop a relationship with him – not independent OF others; and not codependent ON others – but interdependently WITH others. That’s what I want to be reminded of every time I notice my earring.

Certainly I don't recommend that everyone get their ear pierced. I think it’s great that most people don’t need visible/tangible reminders like this. I wish I weren’t so easily offended, or didn’t struggle so much with wanting people to like me. But I do. As I’ve always said about myself, I’m not complicated… just difficult. Maybe I don’t need an earring either, but that's why I have one.

Peace out; and in.