“I’ll never pierce my cartilage. That is just gross.”
I said the words to my mother and sister with the absolute, undeniable certainty every 15-year-old possesses.
Do you remember 15? Didn’t it feel so good? Being right all the time and knowing you were right all the time?
That day Allison and Mom had both chosen to have their cartilage pierced…by my friend Cindy with her personal piercing gun, in the bathroom of my very small private school.
Anyway, they were reveling in their nonconformist bucking of Southern standards, and I was simply not having it. This punk alternative style choice didn’t really fit the script I had for life. Don’t get me wrong: their choice was fine…for them. But not for me, or other generally rational people. And it felt important that day for my mom and my sister to know that.
It was 6 years later when I had an earthy, tatted up man in a dingy piercing parlor in Kalamazoo, Michigan stick a giant needle through my nose. And bless my mom’s heart; she didn’t say a single negative thing when I walked out of the shop with my nose piercing. I think her exact words were, “Wow, it’s cool!”
I’ve been thinking about life scripts a lot recently—the rules and explanations I’ve held to make life work. Most of them are not as mild as cartilage piercings.
In fact, there are quite a few biggies—
Evangelism and what good news really is.
Salvation and who gets to have it.
Church and what it should be.
Homosexuality and God’s feelings about it.
Sex and what it means for me.
Women and their calling in the world.
Patriotism and the role of civil dissent.
15-year-old Katy had a script for every one of these issues.
And 20-year-old Katy.
And 25-year-old Katy.
And me too.
And the scripts keep changing. Things that were just wrong in the past don’t seem quite so clear-cut anymore. Not because I’ve left my faith. Not because I love Jesus less. In fact, maybe because I love Jesus and the world around me much, much more deeply.
Because love makes room for the scripts to change. Even the scripts that you think make you who you are or determine what you’re worth.
I’m not saying my scripts are the right way to live. I’m not completely sure they are. But, they are where I am meeting Jesus right now.
I have reached a point in my life where all of my dearest friends live out different life scripts than me. Some of us are republican, some democrat. Some affirming of various orientations, others not so. Some complementarian and some egalitarian. Some love Jesus; some think religion is a crutch. Some attend church; others are currently protesting it.
I love these people, and they love me.
Staying in relationship means choosing to live beyond my own life scripts.
I have to be faithful to the deeper love that I sense God calling me to in this world. I have to listen for the deeper love present in each of my friends.
Because at the end of the day, we bear witness to God’s goodness and faithfulness in one another. And we hold one another up when the faith of any one falters.
Maybe that all sounds a little too snuggly or a little too postmodern for your taste. I get that. And to you, I extend this invitation to remember that we serve the God who delights in loyalty over sacrifices, in knowledge of God’s character over burnt offerings, in a broken spirit and a contrite heart above and beyond any performative ritual.
To that end, I wonder if you would join me in wondering: who might I be if I let the sacrificial scripts of “should”s and “must”s and “can’t”s go? What shame might I find freedom from? What people in my world might I suddenly be allowed to love? And what parts of God might I finally get to meet?
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 28 year old seminary student, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called Will I Break?, and someday, that manuscript may see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.