Michael Yaconelli once said (before he went to go hang out with Jesus), “Sameness is the cemetery where our distinctiveness is buried.” (Messy Spirituality; pg. 79).
Recently, I got to hang out with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a couple months (which felt like an awfully long time). I was grateful she could spend the day with me because something in me knew I needed her sparkle. I needed a friend who felt buoyant after a week of carrying the heavy burdens of others. So I picked Tina.
As we were driving to Rockbridge so I could deliver soap and she could enjoy the store full of artful treasures, we began talking about sameness and what a tragedy it is that so many never find their own rhythm. It’s one of the things Tina and I have in common. We both color outside the lines. Since moving into town awhile back, her house has become one of the most colorful houses in Athens, bedazzled with all the wildest decorations you can fathom. “If I ever have to move to town, I want to make the most of it like you have,” I leaned in and told her. I am certain her neighbors adore her for making the neighborhood sparkle. But even before she moved to town, her house was the most colorful house you couldn’t see. It was tucked over a hillside, and you would only find it if you drove down her gravelly Appalachian driveway, crested the hill, rounded the corner and “Surprise!” A blast of color tucked into the forest green. The inside of her house was even more outstanding than the outside, like the pallet of an oil painter, splashed with bold colors layer upon layer. Her hallway even had hand-painted polka dots! Tina wears tiaras to the grocery store, and on airplanes. In fact, she’s the reason others wear tiaras when going about the mundane. She has not, as Michael Yaconelli would say, buried her distinctiveness in cemetery of sameness. Her insides are even more colorful than her outsides. But she wears her colorful personality for the entire watching world to see. For this, I am so grateful!
When I was in High School, I thought I had to comply with what others told me I could be. Then I met a girl named Flur, who didn’t shave her legs, was traveling the country, and seemed as carefree as a girl not too much older than me could be. I decided I was going to stop shaving my legs, and start traveling the country (as soon as I graduated). This journey led me to glorious overlooks. One of which showed me who Christ is. And one of which showed me that I am His’ creation, not the creation of everyone else’s demands and expectations.
Tina and I both find a lot of joy in color, and nature, and decorating our homes in ways others wouldn’t think to, or would feel embarrassed to try. But the deeper issue isn’t our style. It’s the fact that we both are unencumbered by the expectations of society. We don’t need someone else to tell us what kind of a job we’re supposed to have, or who we’re supposed to be. We aren’t too worried about the looks we might get if we go out in public looking like a Picasso. I still don’t shave my legs, and if Tina does it’s because she wants to and not because someone else told her she must.
As we were driving up the 33 towards Rockbridge, I told her that everyone needs a friend who is even more eccentric than they are. I was grateful she is mine. I am pretty eccentric myself, and it’s hard to come by others who excel me in the art of weirdness (although, as I think of it like begets like, and I have a few friends who are just as wild, like Stephanie Rife, for example!). But the things is, none of us are out-of-the-box because we have to be, or because that’s our identity. I’d hate for you to read this and think that in order to be yourself you have to paint your bathroom bright orange like Smiles and I did, or dangle sparkly objects outside like Tina has, or have a lipstick red wall in your living room like Steph. Or dress as free-spirited and colorful as any of us do. It’s not about our bold color pallets. It’s because we are who we are, and we’ve learned to live jubilantly in our own skin without the inhibitions caused by fear of other’s judgements. And I just wonder if the whole world would be more colorful if we all stopped thinking of what others expected of us, and learned to be the unique piece of art God made us to be.