Stereotypes

Stereotypes are terrible.  I have lived my life knowing that I am NOT a stereotype, which has been liberating at times, but more often than not, it is an incredibly lonely place to be.  Not fitting into a stereotype inherently means that you are different.  A stereotype is a generalization based on what is thought to be true for most of people within a group.  If one does not fit that generalization, that means they are on the outside of the expected norm and it has been a very tumultuous experience to live on the outside of the stereotypes.

In junior high and high school, it became VERY clear to me that I was not a typical female (of course, I internalized this as not being “normal” and that there was something wrong with me).  Unfortunately, growing up in the church only intensified this feeling.  In youth group, all I ever heard was that girls had different struggles than girls in terms of sexuality and sex.  Girls, I was taught, wanted love.  Boys, wanted sex.  All sitcoms and movies also portrayed these stereotypes.  The men all griped about not getting enough sex and the women all griped about not getting enough love.  Don’t get me wrong, I do long to be love.  I have a deep, sometimes unhealthy, desire to know that I am “worth something” and to feel cherished.  My heart dances when someone finds me captivating because it makes me feel that they see depth in me and depth that can never be fully discovered.  Love is high on my list of needs.  However, I am NOT the girl who dreads sex, who isn’t visually stimulated or who has a lower sex drive than a typical man.  I have been this way for as far as I can remember and it has always haunted me.

This concept of being a female has been the most troublesome concept in my life.  I grew up feeling like God had made a mistake; he made me with girl parts, but everything else about me was boy.  I thought like a boy, I played like a boy, I was built like a boy and I even had the sex drive of a boy.  As I entered junior high and on into high school, I became VERY aware of just how different I was.  My girlfriends talked about how cute a boy was and how they hoped that one day they would get to hold hands or cuddle and I thought about how cute a boy was and how amazing it would be to enter into some kind of sexual relationship with him.

In the height of my questioning whether or not God had made a mistake, I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my dad.  I was sitting on the couch and said, “Dad, I hate my legs; they are so big!”  My dad said, “Don’t hate your legs; you have your dad’s legs sweetie!  You are muscular.”  This pretty much solidified it all for me; I was supposed to be a boy.

However, none of this ever prevented me from dating or getting into sexual relationships.  Before I met my husband at age 19, I had had eleven boyfriends and seven or eight sexual partners.  You would think that because I felt so much like a boy, I would have a hard time entering into these kinds of relationships, but I think that these kinds of relationships made me feel alive.  These relationships were the only reassurance I had that I was, in fact, a girl and that I was a ” normal” girl, because guys wanted me.  I lied to myself and made myself feel better by pointing out that what made me different also proved that I was in fact a female.

Growing up in the church made this all the more difficult for me.  Not only did I have this exaggerated awareness that I was not “normal” and that God had most likely made a mistake in creating me, but I also lived in the bondage of my sin because I didn’t understand the freedom that comes through Christ.  Church was not an ideal environment for me.  While I accepted Christ at a young age, I also accepted guilt and judgment at a young age.  The church taught me all about sin (murder, sex outside of marriage, cursing, etc) and taught me all about guilt.  Every time I learned of a new sin, I took on a new layer of guilt, as I was guilty of it all.  The church told me that God loved me, but I lived my life wondering if He would take that love back because I was REALLY bad!

As I mentioned, my core sin was sex.  As a VERY young child, I began dealing with this sin.  I specifically remember being as young as seven years old and masturbating (although I am sure I masturbated long before that, seven is just my earliest memory of it).  The sight of someone giving or receiving a kiss on television would send me into a frenzy and I would do whatever I could to get to a place by myself and relive that moment in my mind while releasing the tension that had risen within me like an all consuming fire.  My life revolved around when I could be alone in my room, the bathroom, or anywhere else in my house or a friend’s house so that I could masturbate.  I specifically remember thinking one time, “if watching someone kiss practically brings me to orgasm, what will I do when I am actually kissing someone?”

Assuredly, I do not have to explain in depth the amount of guilt with which this provided me as a child in the Christian church.  I prayed every night for forgiveness and prayed with fervor that God would make me stop “having sex with myself” (it wasn’t until seventh grade when I learned the term “masturbate” and that it was a fairly normal pubescent occurrence for boys).  Yet, the next day, it would be the same thing.

As I got older, masturbating stopped being enough for me.  My fantasies grew and grew and eventually started to become reality.  I entered into several sexual relationships, some of them at the same time, and became addicted to the high I got from such sexual pleasure (as well as the feeling of being wanted or desired by another human being).  I would participate in some sordid sexual act, which did not usually involve any reciprocation from the male counterpart and then go home and masturbate while reliving the experience in my head.  Kissing on television no longer got me excited, but the second someone discussed or alluded to sex, I was back to the little girl who could not contain her desire to be alone and release the tension.

In high school, I had a phenomenal Youth Pastor and mentor who both allowed me to be very honest about my struggle and constantly challenged my beliefs about what it meant to be a female.  Honesty helped a little bit, but after a while, it only added to my guilt.  I knew that admitting to another person that I had failed yet again would only make me feel worse, so I began lying about it, which as you can imagine added to the guilt.  There was no guilt free selection in my life.  Grace was discussed but for some reason, it never applied to me and I could never figure out why.

I knew that if people knew who I really was, they would be disgusted by me.  I knew this by the way sexual sin was discussed among my conservative friends and family.  I knew that I was a hypocrite.  I knew that every Sunday I got on stage and helped lead my fellow high school students in worship and that I would most likely go home and before falling asleep that night, fantasize about someone in that group while masturbating.

While all of this is something that I still struggle with, it is on a much smaller scale and often in very different forms.  Late in high school and early in college, I had incredible people (personal and professional) who allowed me to work through my thoughts and feelings on the issues and it was a very necessary step for me.  However, regardless of how much I worked through my issues, sometimes it feels like nothing will ever fully shake the loneliness that comes from not fitting into the stereotype of a female.

Another stereotype that I just do not fit is the stereotype of being a pastor’s wife.  I am not quiet and sweet and I do not want to get to know every person who walks through the door.  I have no desire to run the women’s ministry, or even be a part of it currently.  I am not soft spoken and standing at the door to greet people sounds like the most painful thing in the world to me.  And, to top it off, I am not a stereotypical female, which is one of the main components to being a wife.  Now, I know a few other pastor’s wives who do not fit into those stereotypes, but they are few and far between.

I have had countless people make some sort of comment to me about not being a “good” pastor’s wife, which is very hard on me.  I understand that I have been provided with a wonderful opportunity to grow and I am not backing down from that opportunity, but I also think that I have to learn to be okay with who I am, as hard as that it.  If I listened to every person who has an opinion on how I should be doing my job as a pastor’s wife, I would hate myself.  I would never get a break from stereotypes.  I know that I don’t fit the mold, which is hard, but I have to learn to be okay with it, because, yet again, this is a really lonely place in which to live.

I have a personality disorder, called Avoidant Personality Disorder.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoidant_personality_disorder (I know wikipedia isn’t always the most reliable, but this is accurate and in layman’s terms)  Living with this has been very difficult, but as a pastor’s wife, it seems impossible.  I think the loneliness that comes from not fitting into the stereotype is intensified by the fact that even when I want to change, it seems impossible to do so.  It isn’t simply a matter of getting over it and changing, which I think most people assume it is, which is hard.

Luckily, in this current place, God has been so faithful and has blessed my husband and I with a staff that doesn’t expect anything of me.  We can’t control what the congregation expects, but we can work together to help them to have realistic expectations.  I am who I am; I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  God has made me who I am and has put me in the positions and places that he has for a reason.  I am stronger because of all of the stereotypes that I do not fit.  There is freedom in Christ.  Having a relationship with Christ is what frees me to be me, regardless of stereotype.  I don’t have to worry (although, sometimes I do) about not fitting the mold.  I can take refuge in my God who loves me and made me perfectly.  He did not make a mistake and he is growing me through my flaws.  God’s grace applies to me every day.  The loneliness is not from God, it is a trick of the great deceiver who longs to keep me away from my loving Father.

So, this blog is to those of you who don’t fit the mold.  Be strong.  Be brave.  Be you.  Please know that there is a God who loves you, who created you and who longs to allow you to be the best you as possible.  Know that in Him, there is peace.  Know that in Him, there are no stereotypes; You ARE the mold.

True Things- JJ Heller
I’m not the clothes I’m wearing
I’m not a photograph
I’m not the car I driveI’m not the money I make
I’m not the things I lack
I’m not the songs that I writeI am I am who I am
I am who I am

There are true things inside of me
I have been afraid to see
I believe, help my unbelief
Would you say again what you said to me
I am loved and I am free
I believe, help my unbelief

I’m not the house I live in
I’m not the man I love
I’m not the mistakes that I carry

I’m not the food that I don’t eat
I’m not what I’m above
I’m not my scars and my history

There are true things inside of me
I have been afraid to see
I believe, help my unbelief
Would you say again what you said to me
I am loved and I am free
I believe, help my unbelief

To your love I’m waking up
In your love I’m waking up

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One thought on “Stereotypes

  1. Hi There,
    Just popped by to say I LOVED your post. Especially the way you are honest and tell it how it is and show your heart. I’m not a typical pw or typical anything. Just amazing how different and wonderful we all are. True Things has been one of my favourite songs for a car zillion years 🙂
    Blessings all the way from Australia!

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