Being true to yourself
Cup Match 2013 has come and gone. As some do, Linda and I got off the Island during that time, and as it turns out we missed the torrential down pour of rain. However, along with the endless shopping, we took in a Broadway Show — Kinky Boots — and we witnessed an emotional downpour of profound proportions.
That musical won the Tony this year for the best musical, and I could see why; there was not a flaw in the production anywhere. The music and choreography, the set design and costumes, all of it was perfect and exciting. There was one scene in particular where the pace slowed and the two leads sang a duet. I cannot get that duet — between Billy Porter and Stark Sands, “Not My Father's Son” — out of my head. You can listen to it on YouTube. Cyndi Lauper did a wonderful job with the music and lyrics:
“I'm not my father's son
I'm not the image of what he dreamed of
With the strength of Sparta and the patience of Job
Still couldn't be the one to echo what he'd done
And mirror what was not in me
The endless torrent of expectations
Swirling inside my mind wore me down
I came to a realisation
And I finally turned around
That I could just be me”
A little black boy could not become a boxer, and he wore high heels instead. But he could be a cross-dressing entertainer. And look out!
“So I jumped in my dreams
And found an escape
Maybe I went to extremes
Of leather and lace
But the world seemed brighter
Six inches off the ground
And the air seemed lighter
I was profound
And I felt so proud
Just to live out loud”
The story in those lyrics, the moral in that story, is full of the poignancy of wanting to break free of the expectations of other people and to be one's own true self. That is the basic story of childhood growing up and past the adulthood of one's parents into the adulthood of one's self. Finding one's own way.
If you were to think that Kinky Boots is a marketing tool for the gay lifestyle, you would be wrong. I was wrong. I thought it was a story about gay men, but our gay friends in New York quickly disabused me of that notion. Not every cross-dresser is gay; not every gay person cross-dresses. Our friends did not want to be associated with cross-dressing. I experienced what psychologists call cognitive dissonance, which is a professional way of saying I was confused — stumped and bemused.
Kinky Boots is not a story about gay people. It's a story about people, and it's a story about how difficult life can be living under the tyranny of other people's expectations. What does it take to break free from the weight of other people's exigencies and obligations — from their requirements? These are not usually requirements they have of themselves; they are the burdens they expect others to carry and the rules in life they demand others to follow.
When I was a young father putting two young boys to bed at night, I was also a pastor. I had learned Hebrew and Greek, and I was determined that my sons would learn as well. One was to learn Greek, and the other was to learn Hebrew. When I put them to bed, along with reading and telling stories, I rehearsed with them and taught one the Greek alphabet and the other the Hebrew alphabet.
But you know? Those boys quickly taught me that THEY had other things in mind, and thankfully for all of us, I let go of my expectations. Life became much more enjoyable when I started appreciating how unique they each were. They were different from each other and they were different from me. They have a little of me in them, but they are unique men today, and all I can do is to admire what they have become.
I also believe there is a lesson in that for how people do best with one another as adults. My gestalt friends define relationship as contact over time, and they define contact as meetings of various kinds in which there is the awareness of difference. I will add to that. Contact is the awareness and APPRECIATION of difference. There are not two people exactly alike; so, if you are going to have a relationship with someone, it's going to include ways in which you each are different.
I am not my father's son. When I was a child, I don't think he could have imagined what I became. He worked on cars; I read books, watched movies, and listened to music. He was emotionally closed; I am easily touched and opened up by a duet between two men on a Broadway stage. When he came to faith in Christ, it seemed to be a straightforward thing once done; I have not stopped turning over and looking at different facets of this thing called “The Christian Life,” and I am in awe of an infinite Being who transcends time and my ways of knowing yet is present with me and available to me if I will only pause to listen and commune.
I am not my earthly father's son, but I am my heavenly Father's son. And one day I will match the image of what He dreamed of for me in Christ. Yes, there is the endless torment of expectations and disappointments in this life, but there is also the freedom of living six inches off the ground, of feeling proud in Christ to live out loud.
I am FREE. God does not count sins against me. I don't have to measure up. I can live however I want, and although He might have a “talk” with me about what I do, I do not have to worry that He will disown me in a fit of rage because I didn't do something “right.” Not even with the strength of Sparta and the patience of Job could I measure up and ever do everything right, but then, I don't have to. I have grace, which is profound, and I feel so proud when its clarity brings me to live out loud as a child of God.