Not the Way I'm Supposed to Be
The truth is, I can identify with both Bruce Jenner and Rachel Dolezal. Not because I would prefer to be a woman or a different ethnicity, but because I, like just about everyone I know, feel strongly that I am not the way that I'm supposed to be.
And, like the two of them, I have aspired to a dramatic change, one that might prompt someone to ask me "Who do you think you are?"
Jenner has volunteered for surgical and medical procedures to try to remedy the perceived problem of his masculinity. But he can not stop taking his medicine. He must go on working at the preferred identity all day, every day. And while the changes are significant and (in some cases) irreversible, they do not go all the way down, down to the level of the chromosomes and of the soul.
And Dolezal's conversion, similarly, has been mostly superficial and cosmetic, a matter of affectation. And however persuasive her presentation, it could never have reached the level of her DNA. And it took constant effort. It required keeping at arm's length all of the evidence from the past that would call into question the new narrative.
And here is where my story is so different. Where their "conversions" required an effort applied to the outside that could never quite penetrate to the "inmost places," mine began with an act of submission that gave God access to those inmost places so that a profound change could take place on a deeper level than that of even my DNA. And the change that is being effected is from the inside out and the success of that change is not dependent on the effort I put into it.
There are days when I feel like a fraud and an impostor (and I suspect that that too is something I might have in common with both Jenner and Dolezal.) But here is where I take comfort in another difference. My conversion is not a matter of self-identification.
In Revelation 2:17 I'm told that a reward for the victory of my faith will be a "white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it." It is God who has given me my ultimate identity, God who has secured it in heavenly places, and God who will make that identity my eventual reality. It is through no effort or initiative of my own. It is not something that requires medicine to accomplish or people to validate.
And what it means is that who I really am and will be is different from who I seem to be and have been. And that's good news. I may not be the way I'm supposed to be, but I am not stuck being who I have been and who I will be will not be the result of my own efforts. That being true for me, how could I not be full of concern and compassion for Jenner and Dolezal and want for them what I enjoy.
Jenner's blood still tells the truth about Jenner, as does Dolezal's. But to know the truth about me it's Jesus' blood you have to consider.
The Grace We Show By Not Cooperating
It's sad whenever someone's conception of reality veers from physical reality.
It's alarming when people hurt themselves in an effort to bridge that gap.
And it's dismaying when healthy people celebrate and abet the destructive brokenness of their fellows in the mistaken belief that doing so is proof of their own sophistication and compassion.
I've worked with anorexic young women before. At some point in their lives their perception of their bodies became disconnected with the reality of their bodies. Now if I had shown how clever I am by saying "well her physical weight is 85 pounds, but her mental/psychological/spiritual weight is 150," if I had shown how cooperative I can be by constantly flattering her for the effects of her starvation, how compassionate by offering her dieting tips, all of that would have made me a monster.
Just consider that those of us who are not getting swept up in our nation's transgender moment might have convictions born not by bigotry, but by compassion and a deeper wisdom about human nature.
We live in a peculiar time, a time when new diagnoses and disorders are popping up all over the place with new pharmaceuticals hard on their heels. Any number of things that used to qualify as personality traits or character flaws are now psychological conditions ripe for treatment. But at the same time that we are mounting the effort to cure conditions that previous generations might have considered virtues (what we call "shyness" the Victorians might have called "self-possession"), there is a push to validate what is clearly disordered behavior. If a boy acts too much like a boy the "professionals" will swoop in to give him a chemical straight jacket. But if a boy decides that he's really a girl the same "professionals" will swoop in to affirm him and encourage him in the violence he does to his person.
Those who struggle with their gender identity are not just attention seekers or willful deviants. It would be unkind and unjust to assume so. Their disorders run deep and are, like all our disorders, fastened by a hundred little padlocks in the hidden places of our inscrutable hearts. And it is such hard and tiresome work to walk with someone through that long and halting journey to wellness that it is a great temptation to say, in effect, "well let's just see if we can make this work." Some of us who've made a loud peace with the idea of transgenderism are simply disguising our moral laziness in the costume of a new found "virtue."
So be it. If you would rather not take criticism for wanting people to be whole and rightly ordered, preferring instead to validate the disordered, that is up to you.
But keep in mind what consistency will require of you. When you meet someone who, though in his fifties, feels very strongly that he is a teenager stuck in a middle aged body, on what basis will you object to his dating a fourteen year old girl? On what basis would you object to the practice of elective amputation because of Body Integrity Identity Disorder? If being "a woman stuck in a man's body" should be resolved through surgical violence, why shouldn't being an amputee stuck in a well-limbed body?
And if you still want to take that approach to disordered thinking and behavior, can you at least refrain from making villains of those of us who have as our goal for people a rightly ordered wholeness that gracefully considers the challenges posed by our fallen condition?
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Isaiah 5:20
Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church Blog