I want to share what is above my prayer altar, as that is almost of as much importance as what is on it on any given night. I have a large framed literary print of a Kate Chopin quote that comes from her novella The Awakening. Chopin caused quite the stir with this story as it was considered, at the time, too shocking to print. This story ruined Chopin’s career, and as can be typical, nobody recognized it as a good literary work until she was dead.
This story is one that has stayed with me after I studied it in one of my classes in graduate school, because as someone who is mentally ill, the first thing I noticed about the story was the main characters dissociation. This woman was mentally ill, but it was something not talked about when Chopin wrote her story, although she was evidently aware because the dissociation is quite obvious. However, it appeared that this hasn’t been widely studied and so I found a “gap in knowledge” which is what we like to call it in academia, that I could have pursued had I stayed in academia.
The reason that I purchased this particular picture was for the quote, with which I deeply resonated and which was really putting into words what I was feeling. This entire story fascinated me, and I studied the dissociation not only in The Awakening, but also in The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison. The quote I’m talking about in Chopin’s novella says: she was becoming herself, casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment. That is indeed part of what I’m working on now as I work my way towards healing, wholeness, and sobriety.
I’m working on becoming myself, and to do that I have to cast aside the fictitious self that either I have created or has been created for me. I must become whole, and become one. I’m created by the divine with the divine inside of me, and I have to take off the old clothes that no longer fit. I get to become myself, and the thing with wholeness and sobriety is, as much as I don’t want to be married again, the two concepts are married, and cannot be divorced. I cannot be whole without being sober, and I cannot be sober without being whole.
Soren Kierkegaard says something that I’ve held with me all this time: with God’s help, I shall become myself. I get to figure out who I was created to be and then do that. The thing about the Incarnation of Christ, which I really began to realize the significance of during Lent because that’s apparently how I roll, is that it’s very relational. Jesus relates to me in my grief, my fear, my suffering, my sorrow, my disappointments, my depression, my tears, and the abuse that was heaped upon me. Jesus also relates to me in my happiness, my worthiness, my belovedness, my prayers, and my accomplishments. God and I, and those who love me, along with those even in my church community, get to create who I am, and get to form me, and it’s a beautiful thing.
In fact, it’s the same thing I tell my thirteen-year-old transgender daughter. I tell her that God absolutely delights in her, and that God created her transgender on purpose because it meant that those who love her could take part in God’s creative process with her, and that she is beautiful now and will be even more beautiful as she becomes who she is. As I work incredibly hard to break the cycle of abuse that has been in my family for generations, my children never having to experience the horrors that I did, we can all grow in the love and knowledge of Christ. We can form our identity in Christ.
And that is a beautiful, beautiful thing.