“So, Velynn tell me about yourself. What words would you choose to describe yourself?”
How many times have you been asked to describe the breadth and depth of your whole person “in just one sentence, please”?
While I am tempted to respond by singing Whitney Houston and Chaka Khan’s female anthem, “I’m Every Woman,” I just say I’ve been a lot of things at a lot of different times.
My person or “personality” has depended upon what was most required in different moments and stages of my life, and my, has it been a journey piecing me together! Strong, weak, brave and shy, I be. Extroverted on the weekdays, introverted on the weekends. It just depends, and I’m ok with it.
For a long time I wore the many skins of who other people wanted me to be.
Like the insecure teen trying to pick the perfect outfit, I became other people to make an impression or to impress a boy. At times I showed too much skin and squeezed my foot into somebody else’s heels, finding the fit too short for my dreams and too high of a cost for the strutting.
There was also that time during college where the expansion of my intellectual development required me to become more “earthy” or “grounded” in my person. I found as I began to absorb the great thinkers and philosophers of our time, my preppy Polo shirts changed to checkered flannels. My taste for Momma’s pot of collard greens with salt pork changed to spring mix, arugula and romaine drizzled in Balsamic vinaigrette. Maybe it was the constant smell of pine from Lewis & Clark’s forested campus that wooed me to become vegan and purchase a pair of Birkenstocks.
The vegan thing happened for about a month, but them Birkenstocks? Well, I just couldn’t.
“Uh excuse me? How much did you say that would cost me?”
“200.00? For a pair of outdoor house shoes that are supported by brackets. For real? Ah… that’s ok. I’ll stick to my Jordans, thank you very much.”
And then, there is always the “What type of Black?” inquiry.
White folks generally tend to size you up based on that one-look glance over. That 10-second full body scan of your hairstyle, outfit and size of ring on your finger inspection. Within seconds I can be casted as a “baby momma”, “militant” or “matriarch” depending upon how I choose to walk out my door.
And for the record, hell yea, I am that Black-fist-pumping, warrior-in-solidarity, Angela-Davis chic. I have marched all in with the Afro-full, sun-rising, Dashiki-wearing, proud kinda Black.
I am also that quiet Church Girl— flat-ironed, straight-haired, fall-down-on-my-knees, candle-lit, Gospel-hymn-singing, look-to-the-hills kinda Black.
My “person” has depending upon the season or reason needed to self-select qualities, traits and behaviors needed to exist, survive and thrive in this broken world.
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
-Psalm 139:13-16 MSG
What type of person is God making you to be?
Can we ask this question instead??
I believe He is making us all to be this Psalm 139 personality! I sense His invitation to souls devoted to a lifelong pursuit and surrendered formation of what He already “knit in our mother’s womb,” a journey of peeling off the dead skin of our own limited designing of ourselves. What if we lived lives no longer pressured to clothe ourselves in man-made-signature garments? Or, Lord, have mercy, for me it was leaving those Birkenstocks at the store!
What if we matched ourselves not to the qualifications of a test but to hands of the One who intricately embroidered and hand-spun every detail of our soul, body and lives. Every. Single. Detail.
Personality tests are fun and sometimes needed to align and contain consistent patterns and attributes that provide a mirror for self-reflection and self-discovery, but I am a little more interested in something or shall I say Someone else’s categorization of me.
I don’t want to be defined by a personality quiz or stereotype. I don’t want to be compared to a color, animal, or Myers-Briggs analysis.
I will look to the Maker of my soul to tell me who He has designed me to be- as I eat my Momma’s greens with pork alongside my mixed spring leaves, as I raise my fist high in the streets and fall down low in my home on bended knees.
I’ll be every shade of green as I’m becoming every part of the woman He is creating me to be.