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A Quest for Identity

A Quest for Identity

Susan walks into the supermarket looking for some tomatoes. A few paces past the doorway gives her a good view of the grocery. In there, the vegetables and fruits are grouped in different boxes, each labeled so she can pick the one we want. She hurriedly picks one from the box of tomatoes.

“I’d like to buy this tomato,” she says.

The attendant stares blankly at her for a moment. “That … is an onion.”

She blinks, apparently realizing her error. Sure enough, she was holding an onion! The whole box was full of onions. “Oh, dear me! For a moment there I thought the box said ‘tomatoes’.”

The attendant notices that she was right. There had been a labeling error. But he tried to shrug it off. “Well … one man’s tomato is another man’s to-mah-to–”

“An onion’s not a to-mah-to–”

The attendant folded his arms. “Look who’s talking. You thought it was a tomato.”

“You can’t accuse me. The customer is always right.”

“But–” he sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“See? That would’ve saved you a lotta time, wouldn’t it?”

———-

Labels are a good thing. They keep you from accidentally putting salt in your tea, instead of sugar. We like to sort our fellow humans that way. We stack people into certain culturally accepted groups and relate to them based on the generalized stereotype of the label we’ve given them. Of course I’ve since learnt that people are a lot more than their apparent labels seem to imply. But that did not keep me from yearning for a label.

While we give labels to other humans, we subconsciously find security in appending labels unto ourselves. Once we find that we fit into a particular stereotype we feel secure knowing that we belong somewhere. We conform to the prevailing conceptions and norms of those labels until we somehow forget that we actively tried to become that way in the first place. When we can’t find where we fit in, what our appropriate label is, we feel queasy and set about finding out what our true label is. We all do it.

Stories and movies these days tend to depict that fact, with humans grouped into classes, expected to conform to the prevailing expectations of those classes. That’s what endeared me to stories like The Divergent Series and The Giver.

I know better than to define people by labels and as such I knew that there was no sufficient label for me. But that did not keep me from thinking that lacking one meant I was missing something.

I had made it an ambition not to conform to any predefined notions since I was young. I wanted to zig when everyone else was zagging. For example, while my entire family was in the medical line I chose to study a course that was so not medical because … reasons. In church it was years before I raised my hands in worship or did or said anything everyone else was saying, because I wanted to understand why we had to do those things and what they really meant. But I could not openly defy the status quo due to fear and bashfulness, so I rebelled in private. I listen to rock music in secret, screaming my heart out with the tunes in my head. I embraced my eccentricities because they helped me feel special, different from the clones I saw around. Call me a skeptic. I wanted to be a radical. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t become the ‘Rebel’ I wanted to be. For one thing, I did not have the right clothing; the dark gothic piercings and tattoos. Really, I didn’t even want all that stuff. I might as well have gone about holding a giant sign that read: PLEASE, OH PLEASE, NOTICE ME OH CRAZY WORLD! Also, I love God above all else and any life outside of Him just seemed pointless. So I found my Rebellion in this: while my mates gave their time to youthful pleasures and stuff, I gave myself to God, studying His Word and getting to know Him better. I still love Rock music, though, because the screams, loudness and fast-paced tempo give expression to some of the rage and emotion I love to express. But all the Rock music I listen to is Gospel rock, so while I express raw emotion when jamming out in my room, it’s all to God and in God because it’s the cry of my heart that’s in those songs.

I tried to be a geek.

I thought I saw the qualities of a geek in me and I really wanted to be related to that way. So I beefed up my interest in movies and comic books. I got into the world of Marvel and DC Comics, their movies and TV series, their characters and their backstories. Right now I can say I’m an authority on them all, but that’s a discussion for another day (P.S.: I sooooo can’t wait for Legends of Tomorrow, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, Daredevil Season 2, X-Men: Apocalypse …ALL IN ONE YEAR!!! AAAAHHH!!!) I still haven’t watched all the Star Wars movies, but I’ve caught up on the lore and everything. It was fun. Still is. I think what attracted me to their stories was the consistent theme of uniqueness, of flawed people with supernatural or abnormal qualities that set them apart from the rest of humanity and their desire to fit in or use their uniqueness to help others. I saw myself in that, somehow. It resonated deeply within me. But I could not live a life that was all out for these things alone.

But, you know what? Geekiness never did it for me. Sure, I’m also into computers, but I never got to learn programming. I love and am good at computers and such, and sure I probably spend more time with my laptop than with other humans (and I know that is SO wrong) but I guess what turned me off from going through with it all was the dissatisfaction with the expectations of geekdom. Once everyone sees you’re a geek there are certain expectations and limitations they place on you. I liked geekdom, but I knew I was not a geek.

I tried to be a writer. I’d been writing stories since I was a child and I’ve never stopped wanting to. Creating new worlds and new characters gave me an opportunity to retreat into my imagination, to create a world where everything turned out right, where everything turned out the way I wanted it to. If I had no control over the world outside, I could have control over the little ones I created. I loved it, and everyone called me a writer. But then when you put yourself into the jar of ‘writers’ it places certain expectations on you. When you read the works of others and behold the darkness, loneliness, gloom and bleakness their words are coming from, you wonder if you could ever live up to that, or if you’re in the right room. I understand where they are coming from, and I’m there a lot of times. If that’s what being a writer means, I’m outta here!

I tried to be a comic. To make people laugh every chance I got. It was depressing.

I tried to be an academic.

I tried to be a revolutionary.

I tried this…

I tried that…

I even tried being a romantic, whatever that means. Didn’t last.

I kept trying to fit into a mold, and trying not to fit into others. In the end I never fit into any. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t measure up to some standards and expectations I had placed on myself based on the stereotypes I tried to conform to.

But they never did it for me.

The Labels Just Don't Fit

And it made me feel, somehow, less than others. Not belonging anywhere. I would be walking down the road, trying to convince myself that I’m not the idiot I was certain I was. I felt I deserved crap and so I did not expect the best things to come to me. I’d get into friendships, places and associations and expect things not to work out. Expecting the worst kept me from getting into many things. And when they did work out, if they did work out, I kept expecting things to turn out badly. With no sense of belonging or acceptance, I felt like a vagabond, though I was in no way related to James Bond.

But looking back, you know what I see? I see God walking with me through it all, showing me Himself and in so doing, teaching me more about myself. What I thought was my ‘Rebellion’ in leaving youthful raves and embracing Him was His way of setting me apart for Himself and for His use. My love for cartoons, comics and movies embodied an even deeper love for stories that depict the human situation and our quest for something bigger and something better. He teaches me and shows me how He is turning our stories around so that we can see our need for Him and how He changes us and makes us live as His people in a fallen world, in this world but not of this world. My love for comics and stories also birthed a passion for producing godly and wholesome entertainment.

He used my love for computers to help me get better at computers and to help people with their tech issues. Oh, I get great joy when help someone solve in 5 minutes something that they’ve been trying to solve for hours or days on end. No, I don’t love the misery they’ve gone through, but I love the joy and relief they get when they find it’s solved.

And through my quest for a good jar to jump into in this grocery store, for a good label to tack unto myself so I can belong somewhere and so that people can relate to me in a particular way … He’s been there.

He’s been here.

I see that the labels really just don’t do it. They’re just words on cards that can be taken off. It’s the substance, me, and you, that really matters. You are much more than the labels anyone can give to you.

Nerd, Geek, Slut, Jock, Neanderthal, Liberal, Republican, Conservative, Hippie, Bohemian, PDP, APC, Ajepaki, Ajepako, Ajebota, Ajebo’a, Yuppie, One-Percenter, Klutz, Butterfingers, Four-eyes, Ne’er-do-well, Idiot, Casanova, Area.

Labels.

Labels based on observations, and nothing more.

If you think you are nothing but what the labels say you are, you limit yourself to only a small percentage of all that God made you to be.

Even worse, the labels may just be a lie. A big, fat, blatant, lie from the armpits of the pits of hell.

I see myself as one loved by God. And because I have received His love, I can love Him and love others too. I see things in a bigger, better and brighter perspective. I have a bigger heart and can take anything from anyone. I can take crap, but I can also take a compliment. I can expect much more and I can expect better because God has made me His son. He has given me a life that transcends all mistakes and limitations that once held me down and held me bound. Every day I learn more about who he has made me to be.

So while I’m done with labels and am content with who I am in Christ, I still struggle with insecurities once in a while. Sometimes, simply saying hi, making phone calls and taking phone calls feels like a chore when I’d rather just be left alone. I used to think it was fear of rejection, but it’s just downright rude. I still prefer to stay in the background when I don’t know what to say to people. I still make eccentric wisecracks and artsy quips to conceal all of that, making everyone smile and laugh to avoid exposing myself or feeling vulnerable.

I still zig when prevailing sense says to zag.

I still love Rock Music.

I still read comics, and make some too.

I still write (as in, DUH!)

But beyond all that, I live a life that’s bigger than all that. The life God made me to live, that I may be a blessing to all. And that is how I get better, how I grow into the person He already sees me as.

 

I am ME.

And God loves ME.

I can’t think of a better label than that.

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It’s Not About Me

I was walking up the street one day with my eyes on my phone, scrolling through my email. I just happened to look back up at the road in front of me when I saw that there was suddenly less road and more …well, pole. Yup, I’d almost walked into an electric pole. It was then that I realised I had to pay more attention to the world around.
The whole ‘scrolling-through-my-phone-while-walking-on-the-road’ bit is a habit I’m trying to stop. I think I picked it up as a reflex response to avoid the awkwardness of staring at people walking toward me. I’d either be checking my mail or checking out the latest ‘share’, ‘comment’ or ‘like’ on my last post (narcissistic much?)
But I realise that I’m cheating myself of other things. Like the world around me. The people around; yes even the ones I’m trying not to stare at.
While I’m dipping my head into cyberspace I’m missing out on the opportunity to be a blessing out here in the real world. They’re the ones I’m supposed to reach out to, right? I shouldn’t be all wrapped up in myself or I’d miss out on all that.
It’s not about me.
It’s not about you.
Our lives are too big and too full for it to only be lived for ourselves. But you know what? We are also too tiny and infinitessimal for us to be the centre of our own lives.
We were made to live for God, and God’s all about reaching out to others. Showing them Love. Giving them Life. That’s what we’re made for.
You’ve got a LOT to offer, some of which you’re yet to discover. You’ll see them when you actually reach out.
So don’t be all “me, me, me!” You’ll miss out on the other notes in the beautiful harmony of God’s Creation.
So flash a smile to someone today. You never know how far it could go.
🙂

GANGSTUH WEDDING

NOTE: Hi there! I’ve always wondered how a wedding with a different theme (Rock or Rap, for example) would turn out. So with the idea, I got to work on this, and this amazing story resulted. Hope you like it!

Gangstuh Wedding_final

PASTOR:

Ladies ‘n gentlemen, brothers and sisters

We’re gathered here today to celebrate a new vista

In the life of our homey and his soon-to-be wife

In holy matrimony, they gon’ be together for life

The GROOM stands up front, his face spread out in a smile

As He watches his BRIDE walking up the aisle.

It’s all he can do to keep his joy on the down low

He can’t help it no more; so away he goes:

 

GROOM:

From the day I first saw you, girl, my heart went pom-pom.

I just gotta tell you, baby, that you’re the bomb!

They got the models ‘n divas

They got the stars on TV,

But none of them come close

To your amazing beauty.

You are a precious jewel,

You’re the one I love.

You’re a gorgeous gift sent down from up above

It just blows my mind that you said “Yes” to me

Now I can hold you close to me for all eternity.

BRIDE:            

I used to think that love was something I knew

But that all changed from the very day that you came through

You show me what it means to live

You make me feel so free

That’s why I give myself to you for all…

For all eternity.

“Aw,” the congregation coos

In amazement at the PDA between these two.

The Pastor smiles, taking the time to don his specs

As he studies the programme for what comes up next.

 

PASTOR:

Now we get to the part, according to custom

Where anyone against this marriage gets the chance to bust ‘em

So if you got a good reason, it’s time to holler

Speak now on this matter, or just forget it forever.

 

Heads turn, and all over, there are nervous chuckles

Of course no one’s that silly to take on the debacle

Of ruining this wedding. So, with a sigh of relief

The Pastor shrugs, since there clearly is no beef.

PASTOR:

 Well then—

 

Suddenly the door slams open with a BANG!

In the doorway stands a big man with his gang.

Everyone knows this guy; he’s the kingpin

Of the ghetto’s underworld; he’s got the run on things.

Drug market, pimp hustles, they run on his list.

Gang boss, like a Mafioso … you get the gist.

So with a sinister grin, and a confident strut

He walks up the aisle slowly, and begins to taunt.

 

MAN:

Anymore lovey-dovey, you guys’ll make me puke!

Getting married to this junkie? Man, this wedding’s a fluke!

Get a reality check, Mister! Have you got no clue

‘Bout the whore –yeah, I said it— gettin’ married to you?

 

GROOM:

 What gives you the audacity to call my woman a whore?

In my presence? What’s your deal, man? Who do you think you are?

 

MAN(tips hat):

Donnie de V to the I to the L-L-E

That’s my name. Don’t wear it out. I’m that kind of G.

I’ve had a lot of time to get to know this piece o’ garbage

GROOM:

If you knew what’s good for you, you’d be watchin’ your language.

DE VILLE:

She’s a hack, a sick junkie. Was a part of my ring

Till she lost it, got busted, ended up in cling-cling.

And when she got out, I took her up. Made her clean.

Made her beautiful, I tell you. Made her up like a queen.

All the guys in the hood thought she was a looker.

So we cashed in on it. She became a hooker.

But she pulled a fast one

Held me up with a gun

Took my money, slipped town. She’s been on the run.

I reported to the cops, put out an APB

She’s been wanted by the po-po in every major city.

Got no idea where you found her, but you don’t know her like me.

Ask her if I’ve said the truth, and she just has to agree.

So you see, Mr. Goody, this girl ain’t your type.

She’s a fraud. She doesn’t deserve all this mushy hype.

Go get a proper college chic; from Harvard or Andover

‘Cause with this ghetto-trash, you’re history. Your reputation’s over!

Everyone stares at the BRIDE, and they see it’s true.

From her veiled head to the tips of her Gucci shoes

She’s trembling all over, eyes streaming with tears

Donnie de Ville has pulled the cork on all of her fears.

Did she really think that she would get away with this?

But the GROOM takes the floor. He’s not done with his.

GROOM:

 I know ‘bout all this stuff. It’s not news to me.

But there’s something more I want y’all to come and see.

And before the congregation, he removes his wristbands

To show –(GASP!) We can see ‘em! He’s got holes in his hands!

GROOM:

This was the price that I had to pay.

To get my girl a clean slate. To take her crimes away.

Your thugs did a number on me. Left me for dead.

But that wasn’t the end. Through God, I resurrected.

Every price that she ever owed has been paid for

You’ve got no argument now, Mister. Not anymore.

If you wanna get to her, you’d have to go through me.

‘Cause you got nothin’ on her. Now she’s truly free.

For a moment, it appears De Ville is shocked.

But he shakes his head, clearly refusing to be knocked.

DE VILLE:

She may be out of my hands, but you’ve still got more.

‘Cause your girl knows that she’s still runnin’ from the law.

There’s nothing you can do to end this case.

So the deal with the nails was just a total waste.

GROOM:

 But I’ve already done it all.

For every fine she’s gotta pay, I went and took the fall.

DE VILLE:

But … but, that’s not fair!

 

GROOM:

It’s not your call.

DE VILLE:

She deserves to rot in jail!

GROOM:

Her crime slate is null.

DE VILLE (flustered):

Well, I … I … you can’t do that

She’s mine! She’s a goner! She’s just a…

…a … a… You just can’t do that!

(Audience boos in the background)

GROOM:

You know that didn’t even flow.

You’ve overstayed your welcome here.

Looks like it’s time to go.

Now if you know what’s good for you

You’d be hittin’ the door.

Or I’d just call Security

To sweep you off the floor.

De Ville stares long and hard in hatred at the BRIDE

Who keeps her head down in shame; she won’t dare meet his eyes.

And with a final glance at the GROOM

He snaps his fingers at his gang, and bounces out the room

The congregation cheers in joy, now that De Ville is gone

Looks like the worst part of this wedding is finally done.

But the BRIDE is still shaking, whimpering, and crying

‘Cause they all know about her past now. She wishes she was dying.

 

GROOM:

Don’t cry, my dear. Don’t let ‘im get to you.

BRIDE:

I can’t do this—

GROOM:

Why?

BRIDE:

All that he said was true.

I can’t get married to you.

I’m just not good for you.

My past is filled with crime and scandal and more bad stuff, too.

If you got married to me, my past would ruin you.

And I don’t even know what De Ville’s gonna do to you.

 

GROOM:

I love you, my queen.

I died to make you free.

I live to give you a new life

I’ve paid your every fee.

Your past is over now

As if it never happened.

Don’t let it hold you back from me

My love can never be dampened.

Don’t worry ‘bout the Accuser

De Ville knows he’s a loser.

His day of judgment’s on the way

He’s got Hell’s primo visa.

He wants to keep you from believin’

That my love is real.

But all he’s good at is decievin’

Till he’s had his fill.

But Babe, I truly choose to love you,

No matter what I see.

Your past can’t keep me away from you

It’s just history.

You’re the one for me.

You’re the one I see.

Come, marry me and be with me for all eternity.

The BRIDE’s eyes are filled with tears, but now she can smile

And she just stares into his eyes for … well, a great big while.

There’s not a single dry eye in the building this day.

The Pastor clears his throat. It’s time to get this out of the way.

 

PASTOR:

Do you mind if we continue?

 

GROOM (to BRIDE):

I love you.

BRIDE (to GROOM):

Me too.

PASTOR:

Uh … ‘scuse me. Can we … um … move on.

GROOM:

Please do.

BRIDE (same time):

Please do.

They blush.

PASTOR:

Do you, my brother, choose to marry this woman?

And do you, my sister, choose to marry this man?

To have and to hold, to love and to cherish

Forever and ever … you know the rest of the gist.

GROOM:                                 I do.

BRIDE:                                     I do.

PASTOR:                                 Wotcha say?

GROOM AND BRIDE:              I DO!

PASTOR:                                 You do?

GROOM AND BRIDE:              We do?

PASTOR:                                 What they say?

CONGREGATION:                   THEY DO!

PASTOR:                                 They do?

GROOM:

Sir, please … this has been a long day.

PASTOR:

Oh, I’m sorry. I got a little carried away … excuse me.

(Clears his throat)

By the power that is vested in me

I declare you Man and Wife in holy matrimony.

So you may now, kiss your bride, yada yada yada.

You know the rest. That’s the end. See you at the after-dinner.

 

‘But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners. Christ died for us.

ROMANS 5:8 (NKJV)