Let Your Freak Flag Fly.

Yesterday, I received a rejection letter from a company to which I have applied for five different jobs.

It was a Christian company.

The first time they didn’t hire me, I wondered if they found me online and didn’t like my “brand” of Christianity, because they never even called me back. In the weeks that followed, I found myself pulling punches, editing myself into something they might like better, just in case they looked again. Reading those drafts, which thank God I didn’t post, is painful. My voice is fractured, boring and meanders all over the place.

I made myself into someone I’m not, so someone I don’t know would like me. Guess what? They still don’t.

Maybe it’s just the economy, but the point remains: I am useless to the world if I am lying about myself. I have learned from reading The Bible that I shouldn’t be domineering or offensive or aggressive, but do have to actually like who I am and not apologize for it – a topic I mulled over in yesterday’s post.

So I’m a Democrat and a yoga-teacher, and a thinker and a skeptic, who’s in love with organic farming, food politics and Jesus; and I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive. Watering any of that down to be palatable to everybody, just makes me bland, and that, I think, is an insult to God.

Photo: TPSDave

Photo: TPSDave

That’s the problem I had with Christianity forever. I believed I had to be a pious, churchy version of myself, and hose down the fiery parts that actually fuel the things I care about, like girls from poor families
sold by the busload into sexual slavery. Lots of religious folk trade in such phoniness, but Jesus does not.

In the gospels, Jesus prizes poor, marginalized women and will happily put my energy into their service, if I allow him to direct it; and surely the mind behind the aurora borealis can be trusted to handle that.

I believe there’s a juicy sweet spot in America populated by tons of people who would delight in the gospel if they actually could hear it, but if what they hear first is hell, the Law and a six-day creation, they’ll keep rejecting all of it and never know what good news the gospel really is.

So today, I’m changing the tagline on this blog to: Going to the Sea: A Sassy Democrat’s Guide to Faith.

This is who I am. Who are you?

Not Finding Yourself In Texas

A few of you have asked, so here’s an excerpt from the Introduction to Going to the Sea.

…So when Sam and I bought that fine, fertile piece of land in rural Texas that would support organic vegetables, Angus cattle and Quarter Horses, I thought “eureka!” I will shutter my insurance business and start organic farming. I will wear floppy hats and cotton skirts and aprons with vegetables falling out the pockets. I will not care that my feet are dirty, my arms are overtanned or that my t-shirt is wet of sweat. I will SIMPLIFY! and live the beautiful farm life our grandparents did. Then, of course, I’ll be too busy, as Gandhi famously said, “being the change” I’d like to see in the world, to climb aboard my soapbox and act like a jerk.

How romantic and naive we can be when surveying farm life from a distance. It didn’t take long to realize I was just another in a long line of Texas settlers destined to have her ass kicked by the ferocious Lone Star State.

Our second spring there, Sam and I evacuated the ranch twice in one week, for different reasons – once for fire and once for tornado. We’d have hit the trifecta had the predicted baseball-sized hail hit but it didn’t, it was only quarter-sized. That summer, grasshoppers descended on my garden like brown fog and ate every leaf on every plant, except the okra. Green worms the size of mini hot dogs camouflaged themselves so successfully on my tomato plants that, mystified, I finally asked my neighbor Durwood why my tomatoes had no leaves. I screamed when he pointed out dozens of them methodically chewing their way down my plants.

Then 2011 happened. The single driest year in the history of Texas turned our hayfields and everyone else’s, into grasshopper-infested, rice paper, leaving our cattle nothing to do but nose through the dirt and stare at us balefully.

But truly, all that I could handle. What I couldn’t handle was the surprise appearance of my chronically fearful, critical, angry self, stomping right though the real estate I purchased solely for the use of my best-self. I thought becoming the organic farm girl of my dreams, quietly humming in my vegetable beds, as birds and woodland creatures attended nearby, would make me sweeter and less critical, more loving. I hoped my new Texas ranch would clarify why my life felt like an amusing waste of time, and get busy setting it aright.

But it didn’t. And do you know why? Because Texas has no history of coddling people who need help finding themselves. She humiliates those people and sends them scurrying to kinder, gentler states. Look at her natives, especially those of the farming and ranching variety. She pounds them with chronic disaster, marinates them in her brutal economic vagaries and then throws them on the fire, until they are charred, leathery and proud of it. Certainly, that big, saucy broad, wasn’t going to fix anything for me, she just wanted to point out my flabby gut, punch it, crack open a Shinerbock and walk away laughing.

As I sniffled about that, the other problem with realizing my life dream came into sharp focus: When the dust settles, the dreamer is still present, bringing to the new geography whatever troubles existed in the old.

So as the wind whipped up the bone-colored sand into dust devils, in my town of 500 souls, I got to stare without distraction at my life with all its selfishness and sanctimony. Sure, I could quit my corporate job and dig vegetable gardens. I could become a yoga master, learn to bake bread and shoot feral hogs from my porch, but would that ever make me someone of depth and consequence like Mother Teresa? As in every other place I lived, in Texas I built myself a new Neverland. It was elaborate and distracting with all those safari animals and rides, but it was all about me and it still wasn’t enough.

Standing in the middle of everything I said I wanted, I was ashamed to admit that I am a selfish but well-meaning, indulged but starving, modern American woman, who just can’t figure out how to be something else….