Last week, Jeff asked a perennially popular question: “Why Did God Make Me This Way?” He provided an alternative way to look at things that takes into account natural processes, but his answer didn’t address the underlying question: what way are we? (We tried very hard to derail his post to discuss that instead.)
We learn that there are certain things about us that are core to who we are, and other things that are only incidental. Perhaps, certain aspects of our being are temporary blemishes, inherited through our being born in a fallen world.
But how do we distinguish? And even if we can distinguish, how does this impact who we are?
Commenters to Jeff’s post raised up examples:
I have a friend who is paralyzed from the neck down. She doesn’t complain, rather she believes that she wouldn’t be “who she is” without being paralyzed. Take away her paralysis and you take away part of what makes up her identity.
Or how about an example raised elsewhere?
Deafness because it is intrinsically tied with language and thus communication, encourages it’s [sic] own culture-it really demands it-It changes the way you see the world…Many Deaf Mormons I know don’t want to be Hearing. They don’t want to be healed or fixed. They understand they may not be deaf but are worried they might not be Deaf. It’s just so much a part of them they wonder if they would recognize themselves were they “healed”. I warble between wondering why someone wouldn’t want to hear!! and wondering if very dear characteristics I value in them would be healed away.
My issue is this…people tell me that I’m a Child of God, and that this has profound implications for who I am (and what kinds of things make me fundamentally who I am). People tell me that I had an existence before this thread of mortality, and that I will persist in an eternal woven tapestry after I’ve died.
And as a result, who I am is an eternal being deserves to strive for eternal values.
…But it just doesn’t feel that way…
What does being a child of God even feel like? It doesn’t feel like anything! Whatever rights or responsibilities or burdens or glories come with it seem undetectable.
Yet, I’m supposed to adopt this shadowy, undetectable birthright over my mortal inheritance…Yet, things that people tell me are defects feel integrated into my fiber as strengths. These things change the way I view the world and interact with others for the better.
I’m supposed to abandon these things, yet these things feel like the things that make me who I am.
The deaf person should shun deafness, regret deafness, lament deafness, pity deafness, and hope to be cured of deafness. The gay person should shun homosexuality, regret homosexuality, lament homosexuality, pity homosexuality, and hope to be cured of homosexuality.
But at what cost?
How can a person be “cured” of such things while still being the same person? Or is deafness like hair color?
Answer this for yourself: what aspects of your life do you feel have the most impact on who you are and how you interact with the world? Would the absence of these things significantly change that? Would you be able to recognize yourself as yourself with those changes, or would the person staring you in the mirror seem too foreign? And how do you reconcile that with a religion that prizes such changes?