I Am Debra
Let’s see . . . something original . . . something original.
It all started with a phone conversation. The subject was plagiarism. My publisher friend and I had scarcely touched on the subject, when my aspiring writer’s mind began to reel with the implications of the word. Webster’s Dictionary defines plagiarism as stealing and passing off the ideas or words of another as one’s own—using another’s production without crediting the source. Of course, it’s referring to calling someone’s written work your own, but what if it carried over into other areas of life? Simply put, if plagiarism is claiming ownership of something not originating from me, what exactly can I call mine? What can I take credit for that I haven’t in some sense plagiarized? Hmm. I swallowed the lump in my throat and did inventory.
To begin with, my name is Debra. Named so by my parents—not as a namesake of a family loved one or after the remarkable prophetess Deborah of the Scriptures. I was named after the 50’s and early 60’s film star Debra Paget, who starred in such prominent films as The Ten Commandments and Love Me Tender with Elvis Presley. Okay, so that’s impressive if you’re a movie buff. But the duplicating of her name is hardly a defense in my plagiarism case. Nor does it help that Debra also ranked among the top common girl names in my generation.
Letting my thoughts drift even further that direction, the name Debra (Deborah in Hebrew), means ‘bee’. Everyone knows that the most important function of a bee is to pollinate. Bees gather pollen from various flowering plants and pass it on to others so they can reproduce seeds to grow new plants. It’s plagiarism in one of its purest, most natural forms.
As a Debra bee, I too have gathered from countless places and made numerous deposits. I gather. I dispense. Simple as that.
For one, I favor my mother’s looks. Years ago, a woman said in passing, ‘No one could ever claim you two weren’t related!’ We had to agree. We’d heard it before. Mom’s passion for writing also passed down to me, as well as some of her fears, which I wish had not.
It seems I’ve taken on my father’s conservative temperament and his peculiar sensitivity to certain medications. I lean toward my grandfather’s propensity for treasuring what others consider junk, and on occasion suffer from my grandmother’s restless-leg syndrome. I can’t help that they passed down the goods that make me—me. It may be in my DNA, but as far as I’m concerned it smacks of plagiarism.
Leaving all that scientific stuff behind, what about the mishmash of other qualities I picked up along the way—some admirable and some not so? My parents instilled in me certain standards to live by, examples to follow and a select few they hoped I wouldn’t follow. They passed on good virtues, like a strong sense of right and wrong. Mom taught me to love Jesus and to devour good books. My father taught me, through example, to work hard and to persevere through life’s disheartening obstacles.
Teachers and mentors infused wisdom into me. Their influence helped shape my life and direct my decisions. My grade-school teacher, Mrs. Wilson, imparted a sense of value in me. My childhood dentist planted fear. Peers left deposits of acceptance and great joy, rejection and deep-seated hurt. The world system taught me . . . Oh heavens, let’s not go there.
I’m an upshot of many veins, drowning in a sea of plagiarism.
Because I’m more than mere flesh and bones with brains, I mustn’t dismiss the spiritual side of me. My very existence originates in God. I was created in His image, after His likeness (Genesis 1:27), which instilled in me the wherewithal to connect with Him.
That connection (when I finally accepted it) didn’t originate with me. Jesus said, No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws them . . . (John 6:44). He instigated it and I became born again, not of the will of the flesh, or the will of man, but of the will of God (John 1:13).
The sin separating me from God before my conversion isn’t unique to me either, since Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden spread to all men (Romans 5:12). Humor me as I process this particular strain further.
Now that I’m a believer, Jesus is the well I draw from, the vine through which this little branch is sustained (John 15:5). He gives me life, and breath, and everything else (Acts 17:25). Even my love for Him didn’t begin with me. We love Him because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). So, any boasts of originality in that aspect carry as much weight as dandelion seeds in the wind.
I am being conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), changed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18). As His dear child, I’m to be an imitator of God (Ephesians 5:5). Do you hear that? An imitator! It screams, “Copy! Copy!”. Definitely not a good defense when it comes to my plagiarism case.
What exactly then can I take original credit for? I’m even praying these very reflections are a result of Divine inspiration, an impartation of God’s thoughts for today.
When stripped down to the nuts and bolts of it all, it seems I’m a plagiarist in pert near every area of my life if I claim anything is mine alone. Where’s the originality? Where’s the uniqueness? If there is no new thing under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), what can I offer the world that hasn’t already been offered? What original flavor can I add to an all-too savory world? It’s humbling.
To begin with, I am an offspring of God (it bears repeating). So are you. We are created in His image, after His likeness. Facets of His rich, boundless, unfathomable personality are waiting to be tapped into and lived out through each of us. Can you imagine the mind-blowing attributes that admirable Seed germinates? O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God (Romans 11:33)!
Though we enter this natural world through procreation, the interesting combination of our mother’s blue eyes, our father’s big feet, and our great-grandfather’s red hair make us quite unique. DNA may determine the color and structure of an eye’s iris, but its textural patterns are one of a kind. As are the prints in our fingers, toes, and lips. The exact shape of our ears and texture of our tongue are also unlike anyone else’s. Need I say more about our teeth? Our gait? Like they say, “When God made you, He threw away the mold.”
To flavor our pot more, we each received input from a myriad of diverse people and unique experiences (as I also mentioned before). Each stroke of fate—good and bad—has shaped our particular, unique personality. No one has walked in our exact same shoes or viewed the world through our same subjective lens. None have undergone the pain and sufferings specific to us. Nor has anyone experienced our same profound joys or possessed our same remarkable and endearing quirks.
Whether our life is glad wrapped or sad wrapped, light weight or heavy duty, God blends it all together in His sovereign orchestration and the beautifying hues of His sustaining Presence. He disperses us far and wide to pollinate others as living testimonies, each with a story to tell that is distinctly ours. My witness of Christ. Your witness of Christ. Individually unique. Without plagiarism. For His glory.
Therefore, I proudly proclaim that, “I am Debra—plagiarist, extraordinaire!”