Our Lord has a way of coming on pretty strong sometimes. Don't know how else to put it. It's been one of those times of late. It is actually very much like having a rushing wind come blow through, because things that don't normally move or that I don't normally have to think about start fluttering and flying all over. Uncontrollable movement. And sometimes, all I can do is say, "Wow, look at that thing flying around!" It's one thing when it's a Styrofoam cup (like the one my daughter and I saw blow down the street today), and it's another thing altogether when it is something you thought your internal security was directly connected to.
But regardless, the net result is that stuff gets moved around and I'm left looking at it all.
And in this blowing, one of the more discussable things I have found tipped over is a blechy residue of conformity.
I think at heart I have always been a non-conformist in the sense that I have little natural inclination to look at others to figure out what I should do. I've never been one to try to blend in or match others, especially when the issue is the basic question "Who am I?".
Conformity, to me, seems to have roots in insecurity. I see insecurity working in two different dimensions: personal and social insecurity. My personal security is pretty strong by my temperament. I don't naturally have a lot of social security, but I have been through a lot of things the hard way and have developed my social security muscles that way.
It is, though, in social or relational settings that I am most vulnerable. And what this wind has made me realize is that I have areas where I have been controlled by my fear of others' judgments. I have felt there are certain things I must do because I want to be sure to be included on the right bandwagons: liturgical, fashion, intellectual, etc.
And in that blowing wind, I realize this is wrong and it is silly.
First of all, who wants to be on a bandwagon with a bunch of judgmental boors, anyway?
Second of all, I know myself well enough to realize that it isn't other people's standards that actually concern me; it is my own made-up standards of what I currently figure is the ideal that hamstring me. So many times I have gone through "if I do xyz, so-and-so will be hurt/upset/angry" and then I learn from the mouth of so-and-so that no such thing is actually true and that it was me keeping myself locked in a cage all along.
Some people have a natural tendency toward rebellion. I have a natural tendency toward submission. It sounds weird, but I have always longed to find someone to tell me how to live. Even though, with the non-conformist thing happening simultaneously, I often have the urge to do exactly the opposite of what a group is doing or what someone specifically instructs me to do. I realize what these seemingly opposite desires of mine mean: I have had all my life is a driving call from God for my innermost being to belong to Him alone. Only God is really able to show me how to live while actually bringing life. Any other person or system that is not in sync with God or His will for me will crush, abuse, or limit.
That is not to say that God will not bring the cross. Oh yes He certainly will! That's a clear sign of God's authentic presence. We may even use the word "crush" in connection with the cross, but the cross always brings life. Life is found in repentance from sin, in an amended life, in greater detachment from created goods and greater attachment to eternal goods.
And it's not that I want to thumb my nose at even my imaginary judgmental community and do "brash" things to prove a point. What God has always pointed me to is the glorious freedom to be myself. To choose for myself. Maybe that person who makes a bugaboo about how we all need to do X is really saying it vacantly, out of a need to say something, or some other need. Goodness knows that not every word that falls into public hearing is well discerned, chosen, or intended or actually worth listening to.
Freedom doesn't mean doing whatever the hell I feel like. Freedom means having the power to live in increasingly deeper union with God.
And that, my friends, is exactly what I desire.