By Eun Joo Angela Ryo
Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. –Dr. Seuss
Authenticity. What comes to your mind when you hear the word? It takes me back to when I was in eighth grade. The first week of my eighth grade year, my counselor called me to her office and told me that I was missing one class. After looking at my schedule and checking available classes, she sentenced me to death. Well, not literally, but she might have well had. She told me that the only class available for the open slot in my schedule was theater. “Theater? As in going up on the stage and acting?” “Yes,” she responded. I started to cry and through my tears I protested (as much as a shy 13-year old could): “Please, I can’t…I’ll fail…I can’t…act.” She simply smiled and said “You will be fine.” Right.
The next day, I was drafted to the dreaded acting class. Completely frozen in fear, I stepped out onto the stage with the rest of my classmates who seemed to be excited as chipmunks. As I stood on the stage and looked out at the empty auditorium, something squirmed in me. I was expecting fear, but it was the feeling of freedom that surprised me out of my skin. Or rather, I should say, into my skin. Remember the transformation of Elsa in the Disney movie Frozen when she finally decides to “let it go”? Had I known the song and if my life was a musical, I would have bellowed out that song right then and there: “It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through, no right, no wrong, no rules for me… I’m free!” Something opened wide inside of me, and I quickly realized that I was born to act.
Since that glorious moment of self-discovery in eighth grade, I tried my best to live a life that truly reflected who I was on the inside. Finding myself and living it out hasn’t always been as easy nor glorious as I had once thought. Rather, many times over the years, I was paralyzed by fear and pinned down by judgments both others and I would place upon myself. I was afraid that in living out my life freely as the person which I thought God had fearfully and wonderfully created me to be, I would disappoint others and fall into sin. It was easier to pursue after perfection rather than my true self; it was easier to believe that a good child of God only needed to pray and read the Bible in order to attain to God’s holiness.
However, the more I struggled to be my authentic self, it dawned on me that it was really the other way around: A true child of God lived out her prayers and let the Bible read her. With that came the realization that my holiness is not measured by how “perfect” I am but how much I am aware of the “image of God” that has been imprinted in me and recognizing that image in others. God has made me unique and without mistake; I’ve come to realize that discovering that image is a courageous and holy pursuit. I think Elsa said it best when she sang, “Let it go, let it go; And I’ll rise like the break of dawn; Let it go, let it go; That perfect girl is gone!” Indeed, instead of a perfect girl, I would take a flawed woman whose inside matches her outside any day.
Eun Joo Angela Ryo immigrated to America from Korea when she was nine. Having graduated with an MDiv from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, she currently works as a full-time certified ESL teacher for undocumented unaccompanied minors at a non-profit organization under the auspices of the Office of Refuge and Resettlement. Angela has completed the pastoral ordination process in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is currently seeking her first call for ordination.