Straight Outta Summer #1

Straight OuttaAll summer I have been wrapped up in the pursuit of an answer. What will God teach me? What is God teaching me? What has God taught me? I’m mulling over that third one a lot now, as the end of summer draws near (*sob*). All these experiences & emotions & people & places—where do they fit in my story, in God’s story?

A few nights ago, my mom and I were in the kitchen, after a long political conversation around the supper table. A lot of processing at that meal. Then more processing in the kitchen. Always processing. I was talking about politics and me and where I fit in. And in the middle of some well-thought-out point, it hit me. The summer came together in a giant firework display over my head.

IDENTITY.

If there’s one thing God has been teaching me this summer it is the lesson of identity. My identity lies in Him. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I thought I learned this in high school. I went over to West Africa to teach this lesson to children. But I guess I needed to be reminded of it again.

Because as I’ve been analyzing my summer from the perspective of non-intern me, the common thread running through my summer is plucked out. And it is illuminated in 3 areas. Ready for honest talk with Phebe again? Here we go.

My political views do not define me.

For as long as I can remember, I have been bold in my political opinions. I remember being a 3rd grader and discussing Bush’s re-election campaign with my Sunday school teacher, who wasn’t convinced of his ability. I certainly was. For whatever reason… I can’t even remember now. I wore my “Viva Bush” shirt with pride and counted campaign signs on the way to school. Yep, I was that kid. In high school, I volunteered for political campaigns, handed out ballets on election day, and watched the presidential debates. Most of my friends could care less. But I if they were willing, I was always up for a political discussion.

Then I reach college. I immediately run for secretary of the College Republicans. I go to CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in the spring. Without getting into too much detail, that weekend changed my perspective. Here I was, surrounded by the top conservative minds in the country, and I didn’t feel the thrill and pull that I thought I would. Everything felt so shallow and superficial. I came away from that weekend realizing one thing: I love America but I love Jesus a whole lot more.

I had defined myself. I wasn’t just conservative in my politics. I was a right-wing conservative.

Through conversations at college and over this summer, my views have started shifting. I’m realizing that I’m not always “right” (in both senses of that word) and that is okay. At first I was terrified. Without my right-wing views, who was I? If I didn’t want to have a career in politics, then where did my future lie? Most importantly, was I letting people down?

I still love politics: the debates, the discussions, the documentaries. The difference is that I’m still figuring out what I believe and I’m not placing my identity in my political beliefs. I don’t think Jesus would have been a “capitalist” or a “socialist;” He wouldn’t have been a “republican” or a “democrat.” He wasn’t apolitical. But He wasn’t defined by the world’s political stigmas or labels.

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: I don’t want people to remember my political beliefs; I want people to remember my Jesus.

My body does not define me.

This has been a weird summer for me and my body. I have felt beautiful. (*Gasp* Can I admit that in a public space?) But the flaws that I see in myself have also been accentuated. I’ve been insecure about my height, my spider veins, and my nose. My siblings have been laying on the height jokes hard this summer. Oh, and my brother is now 4 inches taller than me, and one of my sisters is almost as tall as me. So that’s great too. But I’m done with the body slamming, because it’s miserable to feel miserable (I have a way with words, I know). So I’m taking back my body and owning it.

I love my spider veins. The way they add color to white, white legs. The way they make me just a bit closer to being Spider Man. The way they are hereditary—inherited from two strong, beautiful women, whose genetics I am honored to carry with me. The way a friend commented that one set looks like a smiley face—and I’ll rejoice that I carry positivity marked on my body.

I love my height: my 5-foot, 3-(and a half) inch frame that enables me to climb through playground obstacles after my sisters with relative ease. That means I have to climb on the counter to reach my tea, which is a lot of fun when the parents aren’t looking. That allows me to fit my whole body in a reading chair and under a blanket. That keeps me humble and reminds me to laugh at myself.

I love my nose, the nose that is a perfect blend of my mother’s and my father’s noses, and matches the sister who reminds me of myself. The nose that stands straight out on my face, that defines my profile, that is my one sharp facial feature, that represents elegance and strong will in one.

No, my body does not define me. I think of how we label people by the way they look. I’ve heard friends do it this summer. I’ve been labeled. How thankful I am that the way people perceive me does not dictate my identity. But I throw this out there: when will we choose to stop looking at the body and start looking at the person?

My summer internship does not define me.

I went from attending a gala with state dignitaries and attending cocktail receptions to standing in front of the scanner for hours. I’ve been frustrated by the lack of eternal impact this summer has seemed to have. It’s been fun, relaxing, adventurous, exciting, restful, also busy. But then I have friends who are serving in Cambodia, or Uganda, or China. And I’m here, in Washington DC, hanging out with fascinating minds, eating good food, and spending my days in air conditioning looking at 20th century musical scripts. Sometimes I feel like the lesser Christian.

Yet a mentor reminded me that God’s perspective is much larger and wilder than mine. The things that He is doing I may not see now, or ever, but He is always working. He does not stop. The things that I can’t see are the things that are eternal.

And observing people on the Metro and interacting with academics have reminded me—Jesus is needed everywhere. Wherever He opens up opportunities and places me for a time, that’s where He wants me. All I have to do is follow.

Stay tuned for #2, where I discuss where my identity lies and who I actually am! Coming to you straight outta summer and (hopefully) in a few days.