I have a confession: I am Northern Irish.
There it is.
That thing I have run so hard from. Tried to hide. Been a little bit disappointed about.
I spent the first 18 years of my life growing up in a land full of blessing and heartache.
And I’ve spent the last 5 years running away from it.
Growing up in Northern Ireland can leave you with a bit of an identity crisis if you’re not careful. Every decision aligns you one way or another, politically and religiously. It’s easy to get a little bit lost in the maze of politics, religions, ethics, scandals, and everything else.
But it’s also a place full of beauty; full of God breaking out and doing new things.
Like my friend Jude, and her dream: Tell It In Colour. Stories of redemption and hope in a land saturated with bad stories, dull stories, colourless stories.
I have so much affection for the little country, but I like to keep it at a distance.
More and more, I am coming to a realisation that I must accept the past, accept the places I have been, the experiences I have lived.
There’s an old story of a man asking for directions, for the best route to a specific location, only to be told, “Well, I wouldn’t start from here!”
That’s so often been how I feel about being Northern Irish. It’s felt like a handicap. Like something to be overcome. Like I shouldn’t start from here.
But I have started from here.
Northern Ireland is the context God placed me in, got me started in.
Now, I am starting to look for ways to see it as a blessing.
It’s my heritage.
It’s where I’m from.
It’s shaped me in more ways that I can even begin to imagine.
And not all of those are bad.
* Please don’t mishear me. I love NI. I just didn’t love growing up there. And I’m trying to find the good stuff in it now, and not run away from it. I’ve done that for too long.