Persona

I hear conversations about the idea of persona happening around me all the time. From women’s magazines touting “5 Ways to Discover Your True Self” to sermons about the need for transparency in community, there seems to be an understanding that we are not always who we say we are. Social media lets us play around with the face we want others to see, and technology makes it too easy to avoid real communication of any sort. The digital persona tempts people of all ages to pour themselves into maintaining the image they want people to believe is their true face, ignoring all the ways in which they know their true personhood falls short. The truth is that people have struggled with the need to present a false face to the world since the Garden. Shame entered the picture of humanity, nakedness became something to be covered, and a new need was formed: the need to be hidden. This is one of the saddest moments in our history, when freedom and acceptance and vulnerability were covered by the shadow of fig leaves.

I’ve struggled with shame since I was a very little girl; I’ve never really known a reality apart from shame. As a Christian, however, I believe that I have a certain obligation to overcome the temptation to hide and create a false self to present to people. If I really bear the image of God then I need to trust that He will be revealed through my as I am, cracks in the vessel and all. I fail at this most of the time; I have gone to great lengths to hide behind my fig leaves.

At first I didn’t notice the fading of my masks at Cornerstone. It took a few years before I realized that each time I landed in that dusty field packed with people I was leaving my fig leaves at home. Eventually I did recognize what was happening. I inhabited my body in a way I never did at home. Sweat and dust and the necessary evil of Port-A-Potties created a level playing field when it came to physicality. My body became something I fueled and rested so that I could engage the world around me: walking and sitting on a hard ground, sleeping in a tent and staying awake until the early morning. I gave myself to the people around my without fearing their judgments or criticisms; I was accepted as a person, not objectified or compared to slick billboards and airbrushed actresses.

I didn’t have to bite my tongue or water down my opinions in conversation. Some people were much more controversial than I was, with much deeper thoughts and much edgier spirituality. Others were as conservative as you could get, fanny packs and matching t-shirts shirts and all. People were talking about issues ten steps ahead of my latest questions, and everyone was invited to the conversation. No one criticized or mocked each others’ thoughts or struggles or questions or doubts. Nothing was taboo, and no one was unwelcome.

Deep conversations with strangers were common, expected even. Sometimes names were never exchanged, but hearts and souls seemed to be. We shared our deepest fears, hardest experiences, most ragged hurts, and most joyful moments. We worshiped and cried and laughed and slept and wrestled and did yoga and danced and sang together, and all of those moments were beautiful.

In my real life, I am awkward. I over-think every conversation I have. I worry about everything I say, the way I look, the way I laugh. I fear rejection and struggle to accept love. I sometimes focus so much on speaking diplomatically that I lose the meaning in my thoughts. I am pretty sure you won’t like me when you really get to know me, but I’ll still like you and then I will cry. So I struggle between the need to be transparent and the drive to be accepted.

I hope to discover Cornerstone Mandy in Peoria, IL. The girl who was almost unaware of her body because it was doing what it was supposed to do. The girl who would ask you anything, tell you anything, and never fears or extends rejection. The girl who asks really hard questions, thinks about taboo subjects, wrestles with doubts, and does so in community. The girl who takes care of people (aka Mamma Mandy) and lets other people take care of her (C-Stone Chef Lauren). My last day at Cornerstone was spent sweaty, hot, tired and sad. It was also spent exchanging hearts with a stranger, dancing, singing, strutting to a serenade, and sharing my sorrows and joys with a friend. I want to know how to overcome my fears so that I can be that girl, be myself, in real life. If I can do so, I believe I can carry some of the Cornerstone legacy into my immediate world, and that would be really beautiful.

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1 Comment

  1. May 2, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    […] Illinois that happened during the most hellishly hot week of the year. For me, it became home. I found myself there, in the seminars and late night conversations, and in the music of Madison […]


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