I can remember my first day of public school like it happened this morning. It was the 7th grade because my loving parents decided homeschooling would be the most beneficial education solution prior to that point, however I digress. Walking into Bryant High School was like walking into a freezer from a sauna. My day-to-day dynamic would be altered for the next 6 years. Words I had never dreamed of became common objects to my ears. People I had never met became my best friends. My entire person changed within those walls, and I came to understand the concept of wearing a mask. It came first to me as I observed people behaving differently in different settings. There were people who would be attentive, studious individuals in class, but act like fools at lunch or after school. Having been raised in a Christian home, I had integrity modeled for me my entire life, so I did not understand this lack of cohesion in my friends' lives at first. Oh but I would come to know it all too well.
I hope that a bit of my own story will not bother anyone, because here it comes. As I grew and learned, I began to adapt to different groups of people. At the root of my intentions, I sought, as we all do, acceptance. And this acceptance did not always come readily due to the fact that I did not initially find a place of comfort within those groups. It was like entering a foreign nation. I desired so badly to become someone that other people desired to be around. So I started to pick up little traits from these groups. Words, phrases, actions. Some of them were harmless. Others made a much deeper impact. Prejudices, bad habits, things I would come to deeply regret. To avoid the risk of boring anyone with my entire life story, I want to just unwrap my point here. The things I comprised slowly, one bit at a time, became my foundation. When you mix oil and water, the heavier substance, water, will sink to the bottom of the solution. The result is two separate substances; oil and water. In this same way, as I accumulated more and more detrimental elements in my own life, they became too heavy and sank to the bottom of who I was. I separated my life into factions created for different settings and people. I had created a new foundation.
Let me pull out of the story for a moment and say this. I fully understand that childhood and adolescence is a time of incredible growth. We all go through personality and life changes as we are discovering our likes, interests, and passions, and it is a very healthy thing. My failure came in assimilating to to other people's standards instead of those which I knew were benevolent to me.
That being said, as I entered high school, I did not have a cohesive idea as to who I truly was. I had masks and facades for every situation. Every person I encountered got a different version of me. Looking back on those days, I realize that the postion I found myself in is one that a lot of people live in far beyond their youth. It is so incredibly disheartening to me that society preaches the message that walls create intimacy and closeness. It's such a counter-intuitive way of thinking. The idea that in order to connect with someone or fit it, you need to put a wall around who you truly are. What do two walls standing against each other look like? A wall that is twice as thick. Not a true bond.
Taking my masks off wasn't an easy thing for me to do. I don't want to downplay the process in the least, I instead want to encourage anyone who might be in the same place that I was. Know this: God created you with a purpose so unique that you cannot grasp it yet. He created me with a purpose as well. Neither of those purposes include building a shelter around ourselves and pretending to be someone we are not. People hurt us. Life hurts us. But hiding only isolates us further. You and I have the potential to be great. I wish you all nothing but the best in your separate journeys, and keep one thing in mind; no matter where life takes you, there will always be at least two people that love you. God promised never to stop loving you, "...the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6) And though we may never meet, I will always love you. These words have been orchestrated for you, and I pray for the people whose eyes find them. Never forget it.
(Note: Thank you all for taking a moment to read these words. Each one of you is a special blessing. Check me out on Twitter at @matthewormand if you wish.)
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