He leaned sideways against our crummy lockers, tilted his head and flashed his crooked, pearly whites.
“So when are you gonna sleep with me, girl?”
His casual offer made me blush, but inside I hid my shock. And then a speck of pride crossed my heart. He wanted me. He wanted me? The tall black jock pursuing the tall white jock in the middle of a normal school day made for such great gossip and bragging rights.
Good grief, Carrie, snap out of it. You don’t want to be wanted like that.
He had no idea who I truly was or where I came from. Never mind the fact that my sweet little Baptist church emphasized Jesus and the lambs and acted like Hell was a cuss word–I lived at a camp. A Christian camp, complete with Christian adults, Christian kids and Christian trees.
When the general public heard the word “camp” I was convinced they heard “hippie cult.” Sometimes they actually used the words, sometimes they hinted around them, but I always knew they thought I was weird.
Not weird like Al Yankovic—weird like I lived in a bubble and probably didn’t know anything about current trends. Give me a break; I watched Three’s Company and knew exactly how to sneak out of a creaky, wood house with a gravel driveway.
He waited for my answer while I fumbled with my books, closed the metal door and spun my padlock.
“Let me think about it. Umm… never?”
I acted cool, almost flattered, but he had no clue how far I sat from wanting to jump into his car. We both played basketball and liked hip-hop music, so in his mind it made sense we would hook up.
Entering public school every morning and returning to camp every evening ushered in bits of culture shock to the system. At camp my identity revolved around being “Dave’s Daughter.” At school I was that athletic tomboy who wasn’t cool enough to hang with certain groups.
Two short miles separated my Beaver Cleaver life of dinners around the table, pressed pillowcases and a classy teddy bear collection from pot-smoking friends and a few au naturel teachers with B.O. My dad walked to his Christian office, my mom cooked healthy food and cleaned our Christian house, and music rotated between Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith with a side of Bach and Bobby Darin.
Thanks to a stable home and strong community, confusion about who I was did not exist. Though looking back I see how it all could have gone terribly sideways at any moment. Pretty sure writing How to Grow Up at a Christian Camp and Not Turn Out Weird saved me thousands in therapy.
Do you know who you are? Not your outside job or title at home—your true identity. Those who carry heavy titles of rejection or failure might slip into feeling less-than. Those with unfair advantages might slide into prideful patterns.
Last week at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference I met a woman named Wendi. I knew from the first sight of her avocado socks we would be friends, but it’s her personality that won me over. Conversation came easy, our senses of humor matched, and her contagious smile had me at hola.
Later in the day she revealed part of her identity. For three years of her childhood she played a semi-famous role on TV. Such knowledge didn’t make me like her anymore than I already did though.
Everywhere she goes people want to take pictures with her so they can show their friends and family. One dude even asked her to sign his business card. But because we sat in the same class twice a day for four days, I got to know the personal side of the humble woman who will forever carry a label whether she’s thrilled about it or not.
When I asked if she ever got tired of being in the spotlight, she didn’t get all funky or cheeky. She simply smiled. “You just have to embrace it.”
And she left me wondering if my highs and lows ever change my attitude for better or worse.
- When I walk through Mount Hermon I’m “Dave’s Daughter.” This did not prove beneficial between 13 and 18, but I’ve embraced it.
- When I walked through our ministry or my husband’s school where he taught, I was “Doug’s Wife.” Or “Corky’s Chica,” depending on the crowd.
- When I walk on my son’s high school campus I’m “Micah’s Mom.” Or the tall, white girl from the States who spends too much time on a laptop in the library.
Honestly, each of these labels possesses the potential to puff me up or bring me down. But at the end of the day, when our home sits quiet and my brain slows to a gentle hush, labels fade. Who am I then? When nobody needs me, nobody cares which country I’m from or who I’ve shared a meal with, and today’s shortcomings are dissolved by grace into old news?
What’s my title at three a.m. when I’m the only one awake?
Take your pick. Some of the Christianese labels don’t do it for me, yet they all speak truth:
- Daughter of the King
- Child of God
Who do people say you are? A generous giver of gifts? Master of social media? An amazing organizer? Sensational cook?
Maybe your labels haven’t sounded so affirming. A has-been? Techno-nerd? A wanna-be? An epic failure?
Have you been elevated or praised? Unfairly rejected or put in a box? I answer yes to both, and then move on. On to the truths I know that I know.
My name is Carrie. Six little letters with the capability to build me up or slam me down, depending on the mouth they exit. I used to be Carrie the tomboy. Then Carrie the athlete, the wife, the coach, the mom.
Now I’m the missionary and the writer with a side of apprehension and pressure, scoring on the border of being a closet introvert, twitching. Every title for four decades has been sprinkled with equal amounts of privilege, responsibility, nervousness and denial.
But Christ-follower… that’s the title I want to strive for above all.
I don’t want to be rejected or elevated based on who I’m related to or what I’ve done. What I’ve done is not who I am. My close friends couldn’t care less about my participation trophies, how clean or messy my house is, or how many times I’ve fallen off course.
What you’ve done is not who you are.
So who are you?
And whom do you listen to when you’re not sure?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)