Coming Alive Inside Your Own Skin

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Can you imagine something with me?

Imagine that you were created to be the person you are today. Imagine that your skin is fit to you just as it should be, that you’ve got traits and characteristics that are yours because they are what make you, unashamedly, you.

The problem is, we see ourselves reflected a little too often in some else’s mirror; we find our uniqueness shadowed under someone else’s “normal.”

This last weekend, we attended the Stone Mountain Indian Festival and Pow-wow.

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We watched dancers and listened to drums and booming baritone voices mix with shrilling high notes.

We looked at jewelry from South and Central America.

We walked inside a tipi, gawked at a giant stuffed bear standing tall near a blazing fire.

But the dancing.

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The Dance of Butterfly Wings
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Potawatomie/Northern America Dance
I’ve never seen such colors, never come so alive to something so deep in myself.

They were moving in the way that I thought I ought to have been for years, but haven’t known how.

I’ve been a Native American my whole life, Citizen Potawatomi Band and Cherokee out of the southern Oklahoma plains.

I’ve always belonged to this skin with these high cheek bones and this dark hair.

But now, it seems I’m running full speed out of the shadows of who I thought I was, running to see and know and experience more of my present identity–more of who God reminds me to be.

And I pray that life won’t run out before I get there, because there is so much to learn for us, so much to venture into and embrace about who God asks us to be in those quiet and open places.

I watched my oldest son dance in the middle of a circle of Aztec dancers, shuffling his feet to the beat of the drum.

These are the things that make him come alive.

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Somewhere along the way, we leave bits of ourselves behind. They get shuffled underneath something else, layered in with the babel of voices that tell us who we should  be.

Erika Morrison, in her book Bandersnatch, puts it like this:

“…the Christian traditions are often afflicted with a pandemic of uniformity. Many of us in it are afraid to venture outside the norm even when our whole beings ache to break prototype. We were fashioned for the blazing glory of a divergent God to be displayed within the collection of us.”

I am in my 27th year of life, and God tells me again who I am. He speaks to me in the things He’s always spoken to me, but I see it all afresh.

He tells me who I am when I see a turquoise stone or a firing flame, when I hear a drum or see an eagle feather.

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When I sway in worship, lift my voice, put on my fringed boots, or braid my hair– He’s calling me into myself, back to the people who have always belonged to me, back to my very own DNA.

Those things that  I lost for a few years, He’s gently pulling me back to with grace on His fingertips.

And Eliot dances. He dances at church, and now he does the dance of the Aztecs, the dance that thanks the deer for their gifts, the dance that thanks God for His acts of mercy towards us.

Eliot dances, and I cannot and will not say no, because it is in his skin to find God in the movement, and to find God in the hum of violin strings and in the white of the nighttime moon’s gaze.

Do you remember that scene in Disney’s version of the classic tale Beauty and the Beast, when Beast’s entire body fills with rays of light right before he transforms?

That’s how I feel now– like God has cracked open every part of me to let light in and back out again, and I just rest and breathe and let the transformation swallow me whole.

How magical is this King, that He takes our tiny stuff and makes us Kingdom-sized, ablaze with glory and radiant with light?

How gracious is His love, that He doesn’t desire uniformity in us, but for each of us to dance our own dance, to embrace our very own identity, to call out the pieces of ourselves that make us exactly who we are in all our individual, radiant, and curious glory.

Kingdom come, I say.

And as it comes, may it beckon us to come alive inside our own skin.

Hallelujah and Amen.

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