I’ve always been something of a paradox. Case in point: I was an extremely well-behaved child, but if I was forced in a direction that made me unhappy, everybody knew about it. This dualistic disposition was carried into my teen years and on into adulthood. I have a deep-seated need to please authority and have always tended towards asking for permission beforehand rather than forgiveness after the fact. At the same time, though, I am fierce and defiant, and if anyone tries to push me down a road I know is wrong, I will dig in my heels and shout—loud enough for everyone within miles to hear—“No.”
People don’t like that. Authority figures find it annoying and inconvenient because (and I understand their point-of-view) fighters like me make their lives much more challenging. But peers have a hard time with my defiance, too. Because I’m loud and willing to verbalize what’s grating against me, I get out of things they don’t know how to extricate themselves from, and without realizing it or not, they resent the fact that I won’t just flop into the river like a dead fish and let myself get pushed along with the current. I look at all of these people with a strange sort of sympathy, and all I want to ask is, “Didn’t anyone ever teach you that you’re allowed to say ‘no’?”
I will admit that the way I go about this civil disobedience could use some moderation. I often lash out much more loudly and much sooner than most situations warrant, and I’m working on tempering this immediate assumption that everyone is out to get me. But I only react this way because I’ve spent my life being shoved into a box where I do not belong. I learned early that I was different, and because I’ve always had a strong sense of intuition, I also learned that the world did not give a flying fig about that. And so, I came to understand that if I was going to be true to who I was and get what I both wanted and needed in this life, I was going to have to fight for it and also be willing to accept the fact that most people would make me feel guilty for that.
The majority of humans spend their lives on a tightrope. They believe that if they follow the rules and do what everyone else is doing—get the job, marry the person, have the kids, buy the house—then everything will be okay. So if they see someone start to tip off the tightrope, or even jump off altogether, they become extremely nervous. “Hey,” they say, “you can’t do that!” Oh, but I can, and you know what? They can, too. Because the thing is, none of us is safe. None of us is getting out of here alive, and some of us wake every morning with the Lord’s voice in our ears, speaking through the poet Antonio Machado, “What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?” And listening to that voice, and doing whatever is necessary to remain obedient to it, is more important than pleasing people, even pleasing ourselves.
And in the end, this may be the hardest thing to get others to understand. I’m not just fighting because I’m a brat or because I get some sort of sick pleasure out of being at odds with those around me. I don’t think I’m better than everyone (or anyone) or deserving of special treatment. I am and have always been willing to admit that what I’m asking for is difficult, and that to ask people to accept me for it is more difficult still. But more difficult than all of this would be to live in a way that does not align with who God created me to be or what He consistently and insistently calls me to do. And at the end of the day, I’m answering to Him and no one else, and I would rather hear Jesus tell me, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” than receive even the greatest praise this dazzling, deceptive world has to offer.