Finding My Icon

I posted a story a while back that mentioned my struggle in middle and high school as a displaced missionary kid. I was what some have termed a “hidden immigrant.” I looked American and spoke American, but I didn’t feel American, and I didn’t want to be American.

To fix at least one of those things, I wore jewelry and clothing from Papua New Guinea. I had a black, turtle shell ring and gumis (rubber bracelets made out of engine seals), and a wrap around skirt. I went out of my way to look foreign. The new problem I ran into was that in middle school, different was shunned.

High school was a mixed bag. I tapered off my different-ness a tad, but shot myself in the foot when I decided I didn’t want to be accepted or involved in anything, anyway. I just wanted out of there. I wanted to go back home.

Sometimes I’d work myself into an emotional mess by silently insisting that I was not American. But my passport, birth certificate, parents, and classmates said I was. I had nothing to show for being born abroad except a lack of local friends and an identity crisis.

By the time I made it to college, I was thoroughly confused. My moments of emotional disarray left me panicked for something I could hold as proof of who I was. In year 2, I settled on the thought of getting a tattoo to help me cope. This was not unusual. Several other missionary kids I grew up with had done exactly that to ease the anxiety of their own identity crisis. We had even exchanged ideas of what design would work best as our badge. Some got “PNG” tattooed on them in elegant writing. Some got the flag. but most opted for the Papua New Guinean bird of paradise.

The bird of paradise is the national symbol. It’s on the flag, in the seal, on their jets, and on any packaged food that was made within their boarders. The bird of paradise is to Papua New Guinea what a star-spangled bald eagle is to America.

Bird of Paradise

I wanted that. Just the idea of having it branded on me was soothing. Finally, I’d have proof of who I was–something I could show anybody who thinks I’m just like them; something to stare at in those dark moments when I didn’t know who I was.

I didn’t get the tattoo. I was talked out of it on the basis that it was a tattoo. And my desire to be branded was outweighed by my desire to please others. So instead, I stood by in quiet longing as my PNG-raised friends got embellished, one by one.

I tried to comfort myself with Ephesians 1:13: “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…” I kept telling myself “I’m tattooed with God. That’s my identity.” It was a pretty picture in my head. I envisioned a wax seal on my forehead with a little Scarlett Pimpernel emblem pressed into it because I didn’t know what symbol the Holy Spirit would use.

But as pretty as it was in my head, I still felt sad that I had nothing physical to look at and hold on to. I couldn’t point to it and show everyone. It wasn’t something that came up in conversations. No one asked me where I got the Holy Spirit. So as much as I told myself about the identity that I was “tattooed with,” I couldn’t help but want something more.

And as selfish and worldly as it was, God heard my cry, and He answered me. Towards the end of year 2 in college, I received a gift from my mom–a ring flaunting the elegant bird of paradise. It was an answer to a prayer I had never prayed and a request I hadn’t vocalized. This ring was everything that I had wanted in the tattoo. It carried my heritage in it. It was a brand worn on my finger. I never wanted to take it off. And so, it became my icon–the symbol of my childhood and even more so, my life as a whole. It even became my icon–my image of Christ, his provision, and his calling for me.

The ring that saved my sanity.

The ring that saved my sanity.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/weekly-writing-challenge-iconic/

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. flatlinerbooks
    Apr 07, 2013 @ 04:52:00

    We’re on a road trip looking at awesome blogs. Flatliners stopped by! Thanks for having us 🙂

    Reply

  2. Trackback: Iconic | Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me
  3. Trackback: Iconic | Kick-Ass Ireland!

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