comfortable in our own skin

spin wheelone of the things i’ve always tried to do here is write from my heart. to be as honest as i could.  to not worry about who would think what.  it’s pretty hard to do!  there are so many different tribes out here in online-land with different passions & people & ways-of-living-out-their-faith.  for the past five years, i have always struggled with not fully connecting with any of them. for some folks, i’m not sufficiently theological or liturgical or serious or christian or universalist or denominational or missional enough..to feel like i’m tracking all the way.  i love & value them all and appreciate the various expressions more than i can say. but sometimes it can just feel..weird.  off, somehow.   like i don’t fully have a place in any of them.

and at any moment something i say here can bug pretty much any of them for one reason or another.

this is a really familiar feeling for me.  all through  middle & high school & college & pretty much all of my adult life i have always been friends with a bunch of different people that rarely all come together in the same place.  i love it because i know such beautiful, diverse, amazing people.  but it can also feel unsettling & uncomfortable.  i miss some of what you get when you are deeply embedded in a particular tribe.    i think one of the things that i appreciated about being on a mega-church staff for those couple of years is that it’s so big that you don’t really need anyone else.  it’s its own island and a really clear tribe with no room, or apparent need, really, for much else.  now, out here floating around on a lifeboat for the past five years clinging for dear life i have had to learn something that i knew i needed to learn–how to be comfortable in my own skin.

my skin.

not someone else’s.

not what this group is doing or that group is doing.  not what this church is doing or that church is doing.  not what this ministry is doing or that ministry is doing.  not what this person is doing or that person is doing.

i’m learning to become more comfortable with what i believe.

not what this group believes or that group believes.  not what this friend believes or that friend believes.  not what this blogger believes or that blogger believes.

yikes, it’s hard to do!  the systems of the world are built upon people conforming to each other somehow. my friend & awesome refuge teammate karl always says that we mistake uniformity for unity.  true unity is diversity, bound together with a common thread.  to me, when it comes to issues around “church”,  that thread is God.  but we’ve built systems that call for uniformity, that we need to be like “them”, whatever the them is, in order to belong.

i do not think that any of the things i believe are really very heretical!  they’re just one expression of faith that i feel dearly and passionately about, and stem from how i view the gospels & the Bible & what God has stirred up in me through the years. my point in my last post, yep, i guess i’m a heretic, is that by believing & practicing these, somehow i’m “out” of certain circles because of their interpretation of theological truth.  that’s so bizarre to me.  and sad.

but alas, my responsibility is not to change that system or anyone’s minds.

my responsibility is to learn to be comfortable in my own skin. 

my skin, not someone else’s.

but the skin God made that’s me.

this is maturity.  this is healing.  this is transformation.

and this doesn’t have to have to be perceived as something that only has to do with faith or church or anything “spiritual”.  it has to do with becoming better human beings, stronger, more secure, more free men & women, who discover who we each are in deep places of our hearts & practices.

one of the things i love about the christmas story and this time of year is the reminder of Jesus’ humanness.  he had to learn to be in his skin just like us.  and obviously, many, many people didn’t really like his skin.  he had to have his feet on the ground & his head in the clouds in order to walk out the journey he was on here on earth. he had a huge advantage, being God and all, but i take great solace in knowing that Jesus understands humanness.

in all its mess & all its glory.  in all its struggle & all its joy.  in all its reality & all its beauty.

the wise & prophetic father richard rohr says that other “a” words for advent are:  alert, awake, alive, attentive, aware.  i’m not big on alliteration but i love these words!   this season i am trying to be awake, aware, attentive to my story, God’s story-in-me.

and i think it’s a story of growing up somehow, of learning to be comfortable in my own skin. learning to be be less codependent & independent and more interdependent. to be more free.  to be less afraid. to be more clear, even if its only about a few important things.  to be more brave.  to be more weak in some areas & stronger in others.  to care less about what people think & more about what God might think.

God knows our struggle to be comfortable in our own skin.  God is E/Immanuel, with us.  here, now.  down here in the muck and mire of our real lives, our real struggles with life & faith & relationships & all that it means to be human, created in the image of God, living in this broken weird wild world.

enthusiastically wanting to teach us to be comfortable in our own skin.

i’m trying to listen.

* * * * *

ps:  i stumbled upon this original advent song this weekend by matt staniz. i loved it & thought i’d pass it on to you today as we reflect on our skin, God’s skin.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

30 Comments

  • “true unity is diversity, bound together with a common thread”
    I like this. I think it’s more true than a common wall separating the in from the out. With the wall, I find myself constantly lonely on some level and ALWAYS separated from some part my tribe, no matter on which side I fall.

    Reply
    • daisha, yeah, i agree, that somehow that wall just creates loneliness & separation. the healing part is to find ways to keep the walls down and stay true to who we each uniquely are.

      Reply
  • ” we mistake uniformity for unity.” This…so, so true. It’s hard to be in a diverse group, in a way though I guess it forces us to discover what “our skin” is because we can’t depend on just thinking and believe what we are told or what everyone around us does.

    Reply
    • yeah, i think that’s it. it’s why i don’t like “inspiration addiction” where we are just looking for some kind of a high and not really thinking for ourselves but blindly following along. the more we discover who we are, the more we can hang out with differing opinions/perspectives/etc. and be just fine.

      Reply
  • Kathy, you bless so many people just by being your beautiful, brave self 🙂 This post really helped me today. Thank you.

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    • thanks so much, kate, i am glad we have stayed connected out here all these years, time flies since that first wacky emerging women’s gathering way back when. love and hope from across the miles.

      Reply
  • What I love is to hear another Christian who believes in the divinity of Christ and a non-believers ability to be on a parallel journey with a believer. I think the big thing is our relationship with Christ bringing us to fulfilment and joy through knowing the Father. God doesn’t want to bully us or trick us into faith, we can live perfectly good lives outside of his friendship, but we miss out on Him. The way, the Truth and the Life as a person, embodied in Jesus Christ. It’s all about Him. Cos He’s great 🙂

    Reply
    • thanks for reading, sarah. i do like that we can be in all different places and trust that God is at work and that we don’t have to be the God police. living in the tension of diversity of where-we’re-all-at-on-the-journey is so beautiful!

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  • Good post. I have been on this same journey, for a season. Sometimes I feel stupid. Sometimes I wonder is I slipped down “the slippery slop”. Funny thing is, I.feel closer to.God than ever before. When it comes to “theology”, I have adopted two thoughts. “If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will b content with doubts he shall end in certainties”.-sir Francis Bacon & “the bible may be inerrant, but we are fools to think that mine or your interpretation of it is inerrant”.-unknown As for my interactions w people, in life in general, I like what Rick.nelson said in his song “garden party”: “you can’t please everybody,so.youv’e got to.please yourself”. Not easy to live in my own skin, but I.think God knew what He was doing when He gave it to me and it feels so freeing shedding the skin that was never really me.

    Reply
    • those are some good quotes, my friend. really really good. i always think it’s interesting that those who have slipped off the slope somehow feel more comfortable and free and connected to God than ever before. weird. and telling 🙂

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  • We ARE part of a tribe, a scattered one. Must be meant to be that way, so we “heretics” can add some salt for flavor not only to the general culture where we are, but also to the church culture (some of those lovable* idiots need to get a clue).

    Living in our own skin is honoring the person God created, which in turn is praising God and what God has done. Pretending to be something we’re not does not honor God. I absolutely LOVE liver and onions (cooked right). That’s part of who I am. I also love my LGBT friends, my homeless friends, my Catholic friends, my JW friends, my Mormon friends, my black friends. That is also part of who I am, and I love them for who they are.

    If someone says they have a problem with any of those things, well, they said it – They’re the one with the problem. It’s really easy to let them try to make it our problem. But it’s their problem and we need to remember to let it be their problem, not ours.

    *See Sunday’s “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip for the original word, which is translated by rat as “lovable”.

    Reply
    • Sam,

      That was spot on, simple and wonderful. I shared with a friend of mine some news about changes that I am going through. He filtered this through the filter of Evangelicalism, and down came the gauntlet starting with a defriending. I won’t go into the details following, save for much of the behavior I find to be sophmoric. I can’t help but wonder if those around me are surprised to find that I am taking this as well as I am. I’m just faithful that things will all work out in the end, they always do.

      The best way I can celebrate God is to be who God created. In my own circumstance, not many understand the depth of my understanding. The conversation between God and I doesn’t need go-betweens. And if I think someone has a misunderstanding with God, I can only gently suggest. Ultimately their conversation with God is as personal as mine.

      Caio!
      Sarah

      Reply
      • You ARE a beautiful person, Sarah!

        Instead of seeing people through the filter of evangelicalism, or any other filter, let’s look at people and see them as Jesus sees them. For people deeply embedded in those systems, they need to unlearn that behavior and follow Jesus.

        Yes, let us celebrate who we are.

        Reply
      • i am sorry that you experienced that loss over something so dumb as a difference in belief. years ago i lost a friend over theology (she just couldn’t live in the tension that we saw some things differently and i was like “um, i am friend with all kinds of people who are all over the place in terms of faith” but to her, it felt somehow “unequally yoked” or something weird like that even though we weren’t married, ha ha). it was so sad to me on all kinds of levels but helped me hold to how important it is to just be me and to let others be them. thanks for sharing! i like what sam said to you, “yes, let us celebrate who we are.” peace.

        Reply
    • liver & onions!?!? ha ha. glad we all like different things and glad that God made us all unique. the cookie cutter we-need-to-believe-this-or-that to fit in thing is so not the idea. i really like the reminder, too, of our wild and beautiful scattered tribe. that is so true.

      Reply
  • Kathy,
    I can’t remember where/how I came across you, but I love your blog. I’m in the process of putting up my own, but haven’t yet (launched), meaning I haven’t yet got told everyone I know they better visit and comment. 🙂 I was loathe to get into blogging but have been sort of forced into by my agent, so she can have a slim chance of selling my next book, which is for a tribe that I’m pretty sure aint out there looking for it. This business of “platform” sucks and sounds a lot like “pedestal,” which sounds a lot like something to fall of, except I already did that (it was a tiny one, but the fall hurt). All that to say, your post here rings SO true to how I feel. I have found a bit of a “tribe” in recovery, and I think I fit in sorta well with some heretical people like you. But I also agree about the danger of tribalism, and the disappointments, too. As soon we find a tribe, we want to immediately try to define it, which makes us then come up with perimeters, which leads to lines that say in or out. Anyway, this post SO encouraged me today that I just need to do my thing and live in today and ignore my silly ego which wants to see a blog as just another arena in which to romp wild and win. So sick of that. Just wanted to say hi and let you know that your posts matter and I like you and I think the tribe which is only you and God is a great one. Best wished, Heather

    Reply
    • hey heather, thanks so much for sharing and taking time to comment. blogging is so interesting, so freeing, and so scary, too, because of all the wacky lines out there and how dangerous it can be to try to please. if there’s one thing that blogging has helped me with it’s forced me to address head-on my people-pleasing-addiction. oh it is so vulnerable, though, and i have learned so much through it and soooo grateful for the friends i have made out here, some i know now in real life and some i am so glad that somehow we all found each other on the field of “trying to live out our faith as best we can.” is your blog already up? peace, kathy

      Reply
  • Kathy,

    Thank you so much for writing this post and for embodying your life in the particular skin and heart God gave you.

    I just discovered your blog this week, after a friend gave you a shout-out on Twitter, and I’m so glad I found you here. I look forward to learning more of your heart as I continue reading here.

    xoxo,
    Christianne

    Reply
  • Oh preach it sista! I hear you in the whole humanness, (arg!!) piece, and how hard it is to settle. Feeling more comfortable in my skin is a slooow (-er than *I* would like) process, but I am seeing how much better it can be for some other relationships that matter… Like being able to help kiddos learn, at their capacity, some of the things that I am growing in… I say that this whole year(!) of the healing journey is worth it, too, so that my future little girls (and boys) don’t have to struggle in the same ways in their skin. 🙂

    Reply
    • yep, i remember saying 18 years ago in my san diego group “i’m only here for my kids. i don’t want them to be me.” at that point i only had 2 but i am 100% sure that the work done there helped decrease their messed-upness, although like all of us, they are still humans and will have to continue find their own way to be comfortable in their own skin. moral: do it for the babies 🙂

      Reply
  • I like your honesty and down to earth writing style and specific examples of real life- this is muddy Christianity, exactly where I live

    Reply
    • muddy christianity, oh i like that terminology. thanks for reading, welcome.

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  • Kathy- this post exemplifies what drew me to your blog when i first discovered you. Your open willingness to share ALl of you, whether its good bad or something in between. My seeking to be comfortable in my own skin right now is rooted in letting go of the past. There are various things that have left scars and some that even still are sources of pain and struggle today. I find it so hard in my own head to accept it was dealt with and is dealt with day by day. Certain theological assessments become like a needle poking me as I seek to be a human being, Pokes saying- *be more holy* *trust and obey claim the victory and be free from fear* A tape that says I need to become a certain lkevel of spiritual maturity and discipline to even think I can be confirtable in my own skin. Thanks so much for always giving a safe haven to participate and share my exuberant friend!!!

    Reply
    • thanks my friend, yeah, it reminds me of the serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change (like the past :), courage to change the things i can, and the wisdom to know the difference. that dumb spiritual maturity=this or that measure has gotten so many of us in so much trouble in terms of peace and freedom and feeling comfortable in our skin. lots of love and hope from colorado.

      Reply
  • Man, it seems like there is no more difficult work than this. Sigh.

    I really love this…“we mistake uniformity for unity”….this is so true and such a freeing realization. 😉

    Reply
    • i would agree with you, my friend, “there is no more difficult work than this.” the one beautiful grace we have is that we are not alone on this important and worthwhile quest. love.

      Reply

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