Sometimes my bed is not homely. I have attempted dressing it up with Mainstays trademarked hand-picked reversible spreads, Dillard’s brand Cremieux plaids, and even an old thrift store Mickey Mouse that I got when I liked shopping in stores that played classic bands like Chicago, Bobby Darin, and Junior Walker. But my bed is never as comfortable as it looks. It ceases to feel like home even after a friend bought me the greatest mattress pad ever invented. For this reason, there are many unplanned nights curled up on the couch with a Kindle Paperwhite in my left hand while CNN’s Don Lemon intonates news on a TV to my right.
I know what you’re thinking. But most evenings, that auditory concoction beats going to my own bedroom. Why? Perhaps I had more in common with my introverted Sagittarian uncle (who roomed here with me years ago) than I could accept. My uncle had a best friend that he seemed at home with and before he died they were planning a reconnection I believed he would have appreciated had he lived to see it.
Home or homeliness is not a linear experience when you live as introverted and curious as I do. How is this for a paradox?
Fact number one: I loathe the majority of Taylor Swift’s songs.
Fact number two: I admire the versatility of a song like “Style”.
“Style” takes a bluesy guitar riff and a driving bass line, and paints in me a longing I can actually feel. In that space, I immediately overlook her thin voice and her faux “reputation” and actually imagine something pure.
I feel a sense of home, even though Tay-Tay is someone that I do not ooze gratitude for. When Swift waxes poetic about James Dean daydreams, I drift in retrospect to when I finally used my library card to borrow Rebel without a Cause. I remember thinking: I totally buy that the character James Dean played was some opaque reflection of his real life. What a tragic end for such a convincing actor! And then I picture simultaneously road-tripping in the Oregonian Mountains with a friend or lover with the windows down. In the vision, I am laughing ridiculously as the wind blows my black, curly, semi-matted hair over my face.
The thing about being an introvert is: For many of us there is no guidebook on what “feels like home” I have observed myself and other introverts like me only to conclude that we all sort of inhabit many homes like the anxious connoisseurs of well-stocked Starbucks. We, introverts are often are inspired by the paradoxes of life. We have patterns but those patterns ebb and flow like the rush of the Hoover Dam or the drip of the tap in a bathroom sink. That’s a fact that I, a Creole, black, and disabled adult accept without reservation. Paradox is any opinion or circumstance that goes against determined facts, and yet is itself true.
Sunday, I told myself that I did not need to go to church. But ironically, I could not decline attendance even though I firmly believed that the quantity of church services attended does not truly represent the quality of one’s relationship with God. And I planned to sleep on the couch while the TV lulled me into dreamland because work was a mere four hours away.
Home, as a word lingered there on my mind again. I felt more at home sleeping than fellowshipping with any pastor. I had been wrestling with a paradox as introverts do often. And the church service somehow inspired the courage to address some grievances openly with the person that had requested my presence there. When I entered the church that has a ceiling very much like a tree trunk, I was rewarded with a sermon about forgiveness. I found myself singing when I felt compelled. I felt myself praying when the clergy extended the invitation. And although the sermon was a bit more emotional and verbose than I expected, it was a fact that I desired what it taught me.
When the pastor reminded us how Jesus responded to persecution, I mentally revisited the countless times I continually forgive threatening, manipulative people. As a disabled person, I have grown especially sensitive to the anger of people that are pre-disposed to selfishness. And that selfishness has led to many levels of acceptance that I have had to reluctantly call “paradoxes”. The Apostle Paul vehemently was anti-Christian before his conversation to Christianity, and yet he wrote the letters that would bolster the power and longevity of the seven founding Christian churches. His letter to the Romans was high point during that forgiveness sermon.
Apostle Paul wrote: “Do not repay evil with evil. Be devoted to each other in love.” (Romans 12:10, 17 New International Version) That is a paradox of Christian faith when noticing the chorus of insults hurled at people who struggle to deliver the truth to liars. As I listened I thanked God for bring me to hear these words. And then I began a silent prayer for God to move over some spiritual situation that was threatening to take away what little strength I possessed.
And then with supreme clarity I understood that forgiveness as an act is a perpetual choice, a verb of a decision in which results are almost never immediate. “Forgive” is not a rule-based requirement. We can choose to forgive a person and reap the Christian benefit of being happy-hearted. Or we can behave as though there is a straight line to deliverance and hide behind a cloud of smoke and mirrors.
For someone as dense as I am, I needed that forced confirmation that I was still okay. I needed the pastor to remind me that examples matter, intentions matter and efforts matter.
The biggest paradox of my life is that while I have never been perfect and have wronged many. I do believe in my heart and soul, that spiritual perfection is possible even if you’re as contrary to common sense as I am.
I have great respect for rules now. Rules can protect us. And while I forgive the in-congruence of the counsel I do weather I must trust that my continued introverted, pickiness, has a purpose that I am still discovering. And I am able to forgive myself now. I am no long ashamed of being different. I believe for all my ambiguity, there must be a spiritual purpose. The Christ I serve did not want to think on things that were not honorable, kind, well-intentioned, and from a deeply pure place. So if I can forgive myself for feeling shame about how unique I always was. Surely, I can forgive any set of people when it becomes painfully obvious that they (like Jesus said) “know not what they are doing”.