Persona Non Grata


Merriam-Webster (eleventh edition) defines the word disposable as “Designed to be used once and then thrown away.”

As I took a month off of blogging, I read a book called Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, which is about the gospel and its application in situations of sexual abuse.

The thoughts that gripped me most while I read were of the idea of a disposable person and persona non grata (person without grace)… because I’ve always thought of the word disposable as a cliche`.

It doesn’t resonate because it’s obvious that no person is disposable, right?

Right.

When I was in elementary school, the school’s counselor used to go into every class and give short presentations about healthy friendships, telling an adult if someone made us feel uncomfortable, and all sorts of other topics, and she nearly always included something about how precious each of us was. She told us that we were all unique snowflakes… then, we’d all get a sheet of paper to create a snowflake that represented us.

I remember that she had this huge hair that was fried with too much bleach, and her fingernails were Freddie Krueger long and fake. She talked with a voice that belonged on a PBS children’s show, and I’ve never, in all my life, thought anyone is crazy as completely as I thought she was crazy.

I remember one time in particular when she talked to us about crying. She told us that crying is important, and we should do it, but we should also drink water. I’m not sure why I remember that, but every time I think of psychology and self-concept, I remember her… with that smeared lipstick and annoying soothing voice (like those robots that say, “ooom-pah. ooom-pah.” as Padme is giving birth to Luke and Leia in Episode 3), and I think, “This is so dumb. Is it time for recess yet?”

That’s probably one of the reasons why the word disposable doesn’t break my heart. Also, no one wants to admit that another person saw her as disposable… because it hits a bit too close to the thought that maybe she is disposable.

The Holcombs start their book off with the story of Tamar and her rape. In summary, they write that “Amnon reduces Tamar to the state of a ‘disposable object.’… Amnon barely speaks of her as a person. She is a thing Amnon wants thrown out. To him, Tamar is trash… Amnon failed to consider Tamar as a complete person, created with dignity in the image of God…” (19).

How often do we do that to each other?

Prior to reading Rid of My Disgace, I thought of abuse and its effects as negligible unless the abuse was rape or a beating involving a crow-bar. the story of Tamar made me realize that the primary damage a person undergoes during abuse is truly damage of person.

It’s being treated as disposable.

Sometimes I wonder if we’re born knowing that we’re precious… do you think we’re born with a certain dignity as image-bearers?

Sometimes I think we are, but the world treats us like we’re less than that and we believe them.

Then, there’s the special dignity we get when we are adopted by the Father. In LOTR: The Two Towers (the film version), there’s this moment when Eowyn and Aragorn are talking, and Eowyn says that she’s afraid she’ll live a life that doesn’t matter much and then she’ll die. Aragorn tells her that she’s the daughter of a king and he doesn’t believe that will be her fate.

Sometimes I feel afraid like Eowyn. What if I come to the end of my life and realize that nothing I’ve done has mattered? As the daughter of a King, I can’t not matter, right? The daughter of a King can’t be disposable. No matter how often the world fails to consider me as complete and created in the image of God, there’s a sense of royalty bestowed on me because of my Father.

The problem is that when I write that, I simultaneously hope and despair… because a princess may be royalty, and simultaneously a persona non grata. She might even be the daughter of a man after God’s own heart, but ask the question, “Where can I be rid of my disgrace?”

Rid of My Disgrace is an excellent book. You should read it.

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