Something that has been really apparent to me over the last several months is how often we want to back away from people who see the world differently than we do. Especially in the political climate we all find ourselves part of, I really see the value in leaning in. That isn't to say that we have to agree or form deep friendships or even really like the person with whom we're interacting. There is value, though, in listening to what people have to say about themselves. There is a lot of value in approaching interactions with other humans understanding that they, like us, have stories, reasons for being who and how they are, and life experiences that exist above and beyond the moments we know them. Having conversations about the real life shit around us is how we can learn from one another, it is the method through which real shifts happen. I say all of this because my conversation with my beautiful friend Amy sometimes made me uncomfortable! Not because of who she is (she's ridiculously lovely) but because we don't see the world the same way. Allowing ourselves to go there (safely, please), gives us the opportunity to learn something and tune in to our empathy skills. Empathy and love, my friends, this is how we make it. Speaking of empathy and love!! This is Amy and here is her story.
I am Amy. I am Christian. And I am… playful, creative, compassionate, a wife, a daughter, childlike, a Disney fanatic, a volunteer, a coach, patient, and a beautiful warrior princess.
Being a Christian is one of the most constant parts of my identity throughout my life. It’s been instilled in me as the most important part of who I am since before I can remember. Sometimes, people put the label on things that aren’t necessarily about the relationship with Jesus. For me, it’s about that relationship above all else. Going through life, I struggled with this identity because I thought my value was in what other people thought of me. When I didn’t have a ton of friends around me, I felt really lonely and that I didn’t mean anything to anyone. When I reevaluated, I realized that there was someone who would always be there for me. It changed how I saw my value. It helped me see myself as actually really valuable. I can now see myself as valued and loved really intentionally.
The culture we’re in right now can actually make being Christian feel really stigmatized. I think the idea is that Christians are judgmental and that if you don’t do life the way we do, we see you as doing it wrong. Certainly, there are certain ways in which the language can definitely come across that way. Because I have a really large capacity for empathy, I can understand where people get to that conclusion and how it’s a problem. Sometimes, it makes me scared to claim my beliefs because it lumps me into a group that can really be intolerant, that doesn’t accept other people. I don’t feel that way at all about other people. My aim is to always get to know other people before I just judge who I think they are or what their lives look like. I always want to love people for exactly who they are. If we follow the example that Jesus laid out for us and reached out and loved people for who they are, the narrative of Christianity would be so different. And that’s the narrative that should lead.
The world is so much bigger than the narrow boxes we often find ourselves in. Even who we interact with everyday impacts how we see the world and how we interact with it. Keeping ourselves in our little bubbles isn’t at all helpful. That isn’t how the world really works. There are a lot of people out there who aren’t going to agree with what we say. Just because we think something is the truth, doesn’t mean everyone shares the same truth.
Being part of the Christian world definitely impacts who I’ve grown up thinking I should be. It’s certainly given me certain morals and standards. It was ingrained in me at such a young age so I don’t know much different. I never really went through a stage where I questioned my beliefs. As an adult and having studied religion, I’ve seen different perspectives and thoughts academically and they’ve changed some of my beliefs. Questioning certain things has shaped me into being who I am and embracing the world as it is. We’re all supposed to treat each other with the same love and respect regardless of our beliefs. There’s a big difference between accepting people for who they are and agreeing with everything they say. I might not agree with someone, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love and respect them.
I am really grateful for the upbringing I had in the Christian faith. Throughout my life, I’ve interacted with people who don’t have the same values I do and seen how it can impact their lives. I really learned how to forgive others in the same ways I’ve been forgiven. I’m not saying that the only way to learn these things is through a Christian lens, but for me, it’s really how I learned the value of forgiving others and unconditional love. For me it’s like this: I know I’ve been forgiven for all the things I’ve done, so why would I hold anything against anyone who betrays me?
I am a very strongly emotional person. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Everyone always knows how I’m feeling. I look at the world as if it’s all an adventure. I try to look at the good in every situation, which isn’t always easy, but definitely something I strive to do. Because of this, I can really feel a lot of positivity in my atmosphere.
What do love and connection mean to you?
I’m a very extroverted people person, so having connection with others is very important. It’s how I recharge. It’s how I can best function in the world. It’s very important to have a support system of people I consider friends and family, even if they aren’t blood related. It means the world to me.
What would you tell your younger self?
I would tell her that other people’s opinions of you don’t matter. Jesus loves you and has done amazing things for you. You are so loved and valued and chosen. You are not alone in the world. Just because it looks like everyone has it together, doesn’t mean they actually do. It is okay to be who you are, exactly how you are.
Make sure to check out more photos of this session with Liz and all of the other lovely people who have participated in the And I Am... Project over on the project gallery!
If you'd like to be part of the And I Am... Project, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org