We focus a great deal on the differences between us; from our religion, to the color of our skin…even our choices in life partners. For better or worse, classifying those around us to make it all make sense is a skill we’ve been taught since the beginning (maybe not the beginning…but you get the picture).
In grad school, I learned a lot about the diversity of a person. If we shift our classification skills inward, I’m willing to bet that what we will find are the many differences we hold within ourselves. This idea of inner intersectionality, or a person’s life being defined by the many categories they are placed in, speaks to a larger concept of us all being a sum of more than the parts.
I know that sounded very therapisty (yes, I said that) of me, so let me explain. I’ll use myself as an example. I am a woman. I’m also a black woman, a southerner and a millennial. I’m a preacher’s daughter and second generation college educated. I’m a marriage and family therapist and I’m a single dog mom. All of these identities live together in a 5’2 frame that likes cookies and apple pies (judge yourself, not me).
Most days, all of the identities behave themselves and get along pretty well. Some days, a fight breaks out and we end up having a “come to Jesus” moment. On a few occasions, a full out riot ensues and I have to hose everyone down! In today’s world, it can be hard to wear as many hats as we all do on a daily basis. What’s more, it can be extremely difficult to operate as expected in all things. That’s why grace is important.
You may be asking, “but sis… grace where?!” That’s a valid question! Finding grace at a crossroads as busy as this would be like finding the back of your earring on a tan colored carpet (y’all know what I’m talking about). Just like you have to tap into your inner Jedi to become one with the carpet and find the back to your earring, you’ve got to immerse yourself into that crossroad. Here’s a quick three step guide on just how you do that:
1. Identify your intersections. Spend some time with yourself and highlight all of the different parts of you that make your story unique. Maybe it’s your passions, or maybe the things you geek out on sets you apart. Maybe it’s your heritage. Or your position as compared to the Mason Dixon line (lets just face it…southerners can be weird). Maybe it’s your religion or your job. Whatever the case, find those narratives that make up who you are. Let’s pause a moment here while you get that list together. Got it? Good! Let’s go to number 2.
2. Now that you’ve made your big fancy list (and what a nice list it is!) here’s the hard part: we have to accept it. I know that’s easier said than done. There are times I wish that one or two of my identities were different. But I always have to remind myself that if that were the case, I wouldn’t be me. And if I connect some dots and I’m completely honest with myself, some of the identities are co-dependent. For instance, my passion for access to mental health in black communities might not be as strongly fueled if I hadn’t grown up in an environment that showed me the lasting effects of prayer with no action (to clarify, I’m an advocate of prayer…I speak to Jesus daily). Seeing those “flaws” and “failures” within and still being at peace with ourselves is an ultimate sign of self grace.
3. Okay, so we’ve identified the differences, and we’ve accepted them (or we’re working on it at least). Now for step 3: finding the sweet spot. Think of the last time you found yourself in a rainstorm. It’s pouring so hard there’s a chance the whole sky will just fall. The wind is tearing things up and you start to wonder if you should borrow Noah’s ark. Then for a split second, maybe ten minutes or so, it just stops. Y’all see it right? That’s the sweet spot. That moment when there’s no conflict between the many parts of your whole; where they all seem to mesh perfectly. That’s the sweet spot…that’s where self grace resides. It’s in those moments where we find clarity. You are able to give yourself the benefit of the doubt and find the ways you’ve succeeded much more easily.
My dog Pongo does this thing where he comes over and puts his chin on my knee. He then gives me the biggest puppy dog eyes ever! Really, it’s heart stopping how cute this dog can be. If I ask him what he wants he eagerly replaces his chin with his paw on my knee. This is his way of saying he wants up (as in he wants to come up on the couch for snuggles). If I say yes, he immediately jumps full speed into the empty spot beside me, circles, and finds his spot to snooze while I watch Chopped. If I say no, he reluctantly slides his paw off of my knee and stalks away…but only for a minute or two before he tries the whole thing again! At times it seems as though grace is this massive concept that’s hellbent on evading us. But grace is more like Pongo when he wants up. It’s ready and willing to be there with us and for us. We just have to say yes.