I’m trying to put into words this thing I’ve been feeling lately. The lock down is forcing many of us (me included) to be more introspective than we might typically allow ourselves to be. The isolation can get us stuck in our heads with thoughts we might have otherwise just brushed away.
We’re stuck in these seemingly endless loops of time; days that mock us with their sheer length and breadth. Before this COVID, ‘stay at home’ order went into effect, I never could have fathomed that 24 hours were capable of lasting so long. And while some of us are living life in nearly full isolation, I’m less than alone, for which I’m thankful. I’m sharing my extra long days with my husband, our four kids and our dog.
Many businesses have been forced to close, parks are closed, walking paths are closed, my favorite beaches are closed, which means all the things that I’d love to use to distract myself, alleviate my stress and frustration or just get out to clear my head, it’s all been stripped away. So I, like you, am left home with my thoughts.
Questioning and assessing isn’t an odd thing for me. I tend to think of myself as a “digger”. I’m the sort who doesn’t shy away from investigating difficult or messy things; stuff that some might prefer to keep locked away and hidden (even from themselves). I’m usually willing to look at that stuff. I’m ok with asking God forbidden questions. Some might even consider me irreverent for the sorts of things I choose to ask God about. But what I’ve come to believe is this: if there are portions of my life that I refuse to look at because the answers I’m searching for seem unknowable, then by default the answers to those questions will remain unknowable. Or, if I choose to steer myself away from certain subjects, refraining from asking hard questions because maybe I’m afraid of God; what his answer might be or how he might respond to me, I limit my own ability to truly know and experience God (good or bad). I’m the one holding him at a distance; choosing to keep him small and unknowable in my own mind; far away and unapproachable and I ultimately stunt my own growth in the area(s) I’m refusing to look at. I can’t grow the muscles I choose not to exercise.
So, even though the act of intentionally listening to the questions I hear floating around inside me may dredge up some excruciating memories and emotions that I’d really rather put in a choke hold and drown than spend any amount of time gazing at, I choose not to look away. Sometimes it takes me a day or so to acknowledge the angst I’m feeling and actively address it but I want to be a person who chooses to lean in.
For better or worse, I’m not often accused of being an under-thinker and I’m finding in this season of isolation, my analytical-assessor side seems to be operating on overdrive. And although this constant gear-turning can be exhausting, I believe there’s value to be found in this season.
I don’t think we’re meant to, either figuratively or literally, sleep the, ‘stay at home order’ away just to wake up on the other side, exactly as we started, minus a few months. I’ll admit that I’m a little (lot) bored, the days are too long and I might be stuck in my head a bit but I think God’s intentionally stirring things in us (in me) that we might typically, under non-lock down conditions, easily ignore or maybe we wouldn’t ordinarily notice there was even anything there to ignore. The noise of the world around us is typically so loud, muffling and muting the gentle nudges to question, ask, forgive, learn, pray.
This thing I’ve been feeling lately...I KNOW isn’t unique to me. I’ve had conversations with others who are feeling a very similar swirling. I think we’re all there a little, caught in this place of wondering, asking, begging and fighting for answers; answers that just a few LONG months ago we maybe hadn’t considered we’d ever want to ask. Some of our current thoughts might never have popped up on our radar apart from this ‘trapped at home’ season.
I like to imagine that each human being on this earth is walking around with an invisible internal well (a water well of sorts). I’ve always pictured mine looking a lot like an old wishing well; stones stacked up in a short circular pattern around the opening with a viney plant climbing over the wooden supports for the bucket that hangs over the deep, cool and refreshing water below. I don’t know what your well looks like. Maybe you imagine yours exactly like I imagine mine or maybe yours is much fancier; jewel encrusted with rainbows encircling it, I don’t know, but here’s where I’m going with this: however your well looks on the outside is completely up to you and your creative imagination but the inside is different. Each of us are tasked in this life with an important job. Among all the titles that have been bestowed upon you: sister, brother, friend, teacher, lover, gardener, etc, you also bear the title of ‘well maintainer’. The cleanliness of your well’s water and the depth of your well is your responsibility.
I think we all start our lives in similar positions. Of course, there are the odd ball outliers who just seem to be naturally extra deep, more tuned in, more present and accessible but generally speaking we all start out in approximately the same place: with a basic well, moderately sized and fairly clean. As we age, all our experiences get tossed into that well. Some sink to the bottom and settle, some float and are easy to fish out and others pollute. The more we allow ourselves to process our life experiences, our hurts and losses, our success and failures the cleaner our well water stays and the lessons we learn and the knowledge gained deepens the well.
So suddenly, my well feels murky. I find myself in this odd place with an uncomfortable stirring feeling, like the things that once felt rather settled and immovable inside me are being mixed around AND need some attention. And then there’s this other thing...I’m feeling a soul hunger, a wildness has been calling to me...it’s God. The feeling reminds me of what C.S. Lewis writes in his book, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe:
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
I recognize God’s voice calling me and he’s calling me into something more wild than ever before. The questions he’s nudging me to ask him and the encounters he’s encouraging me to ask him for are things that, in years past I might have considered to be off limits to me. Accessible only to a chosen few; the hyper spiritual, his favorites, but I no longer believe that!
And as I find myself fully unsatisfied and unwilling to walk away without more than what I’ve had, I can’t help but think of the story of Jacob in Genesis 32:22-32. Jacob literally wrestles with God, he refuses to let go of God until God agrees to bless him. I’m finding myself in a similar place; BEGGING God for radical encounters with him, like all that I’ve had up till now just won’t do. And it’s not like my faith has been one dimensional all these years. For much of my adulthood, it’s been vibrant and growing in size and shape but suddenly all that I’ve had up till now feels like the first floor of the skyscraper it’s meant to be. I’m HUNGRY for more, for more, for deeper, MORE and it’s like I can hear him calling me out right now; asking me to wrestle with him. It’s like he’s saying, “Show me you want this. Fight for it!”
I know I’m not the only one feeling this restless hunger for something that’s always seemed unreachable, impossible to know and far away from any experience many of us have ever had with God. And Even as I say this, I’m aware of a familiar feeling…a temptation to casualize (if that’s even a word), the ache I feel. I think there’s a voice that most of us hear, that tries to hold us back from authentic growth and our vast true potential. I believe that this is a session for MORE. God is calling, beckoning, whispering and what he’s saying to you might not even have shape or form. Maybe you just feel this thing moving around, rolling and picking up speed. Maybe it’s a familiar feeling and you know it well. Maybe it’s all new. Which ever it is doesn’t matter. What matters is this: what you’re feeling is an invitation for MORE.
I’ve always been a baby addict...I just am. They’ve always drawn my eyes away from my path. I’m stopped in mid errand or even sentence, by the rolls of chub and those abnormal skin folds, the generously dimpled knuckles, their tiny, sad kitten sounds and those wide gummy captivating grins. Babies are just amazing! They are!!
As a kid I didn’t always enjoy church. My Sunday school class was pretty painful. I’d actually forgotten about this little detail until I sat down to write. I forgot that I used to beg my parents to let me come with them instead of attend my Sunday school class. Sometimes I got lucky and other times, well...not so much.
My class was mostly full of kids I didn’t connect well with. I had an occasional buddy but not regularly and then there were the ADHD twins. Those poor guys, they really tried soooo hard to be good. I’m convinced that at the very least they wanted to be good, regardless of what presented itself. Honestly, it was as if their bodies were magnetized and these invisible, bewitching, hypnotic forces were drawing them together against all reason, logic or threat from both frazzled teacher or angry parent.
Two seconds after each and every reprimand from our volunteer teacher and they were back at it, rolling on the floor together, wrestling as if they were getting paid for it. It was painful to watch and impossible to get through a lesson. I like to imagine that they grew up to be incredibly successful adults. They likely invented something crucial to the continued existence of the human race, that only their minds were built to dream up and NOW they’re drowning in money and ridiculously philanthropic. That's what I like to imagine anyway...
All that to say, I preferred NOT to be in my Sunday school class. My first choice actually, if and when, I was given it was always to volunteer my services in the nursery. Babies!!! It was typically a race of sorts between all the tweens. The nursery workers typically welcomed the first couple of eager young volunteers but after two or so the rest were turned away. I LOVED my nursery Sundays!
I’m currently 13 years married and I have 4 kids. Each of them, at one point in time were babies; cuddly, beautiful, incredible, could do no wrong, babies. With each one I adored their tininess. Well, actually I take that back...my first wasn’t so tiny. He’s always been big, seemed big and grew out of his babyness quicker than he was supposed to which is why we had Mia, 19 months later.
Mia, on the other hand, has always been my peanut. She resents that descriptor, but it's true (I won't tell her I used it if you don't). She’s been in the 25th percentile her entire life and so I didn’t need another baby until later than I needed Mia. Sofia joined us when Mia was two and half and Nyla came when Sofia was a few months past her third birthday. That's all four of my babies and that’s IT for us. I'm content with the size of our family and honestly although I still love babies I have NO more aches for more, which feels nice.
For me, each of my baby experiences was better than the one before. Between each one I grew a little and relaxed a bit and so waking up to a scrunched, hungry little face was painful physically, but emotionally, all I could think was, “Oooo, it’s YOU again! I’m soooo happy to see YOU!” The sweetness of those moments almost make me tear up a little to think back on. They were truly precious times!
Well, here’s the gut punch: they don’t stay little and precious and cute. Correction, they stay precious. They get big and they argue and they talk back and they think they’re smarter than you starting at age five (and sometimes a little earlier) and they argue and argue and negotiate and did I mention argue!?
They also disobey when they’re old enough to know better. And you know that idea you had (Well I certainly had it!)...the one about how you're going to do things a little differently than the way things went down in your family of origin. The one where you say to yourself, “I’d reeeeally like it if I could create an environment where my kids and I could have an open dialogue and discuss our feelings and thoughts and respect one another without having to be the parent who’s intent on controlling and micromanaging each and every itch, step and urge. I don’t want to be the parent who’s presenting a hard ‘NO, because I said so!!!’, all the time. I want to teach them to think critically and be deep souls with important, wise and altruistic thoughts.” LOL!! Seriously, I'm rolling on the floor peeing my pants thinking about how I really thought all those naive thoughts!! I even spoke those thoughts out loud!
So reality is this: kids are very cunning and skillful manipulators. They don’t want to be wise or wonderful. They don’t want to have lovely conversations. They just want to find the straightest line to their end goal. So now, many years deep into parenting we’re reeling it all back in because all those conversations we thought we were cultivating were actually (in the minds of most of our children) invitations to push Mom and Dad from ‘no’ to ‘maybe’ and then into ‘yes’.
I had such pie in the sky sorts of ideas regarding parenting and so many icky, harsh judgments towards the parents who seemed to be missing it. Honestly, my struggle now is restraining myself from jealousy towards the families who (on the surface) seem to have enjoyable relationships with their kids; relationships that don’t appear to be filled with constant correction and discipline.
I long for the day when my family can all sit around a table together laughing and loving each other; sharing the day without having to one up or tear down one another. I have faith that that day will come! As I’ve shared in past posts, we occasionally get those sweet, lovely moments. They do happen, they just don't happen as often as I'd love. I’m hungry for more!
So, from one disgruntled parent to another, if you’re feeling the burn of parenting (like I am) and you’re seeing all your friends and acquaintances on social media with their beautiful, pristine-looking moments (and I know I'm super guilty), be encouraged that looks can be deceiving. No one and no family is perfect! Taking pretty pictures is the easy part, trust me, sista (or brother)!! Parenting is HARD and it’s a long haul NOT a sprint. When discouragement comes knocking (and it will) remember that you’re not alone. I’m so thankful to not be alone! ...sob...sob.
I LOVE running!...in theory. I have romantic images of myself running. I imagine myself gliding up and down little hills, through wooded trails as neon colored mossy trunks line my path. I look free and strong and healthy but that beautiful 2 second long image I conjure up EVERY TIME I think of myself running turns into just that, a 2 second long run...for I have commitment issues.
I seriously get about 2 seconds deep into a jog and feel boredom eating me alive. I feel mind numbing boredom in place of glorious freedom. I feel boredom instead of strength and boredom not healthiness.
So, maybe running just isn't my thing. Maybe I'm cut out to be more of an elliptical girl, or a long saunter through the woods, sorta girl. And I guess that's OK but I’m struggling with coming to terms with this fact. I'm having a hard time releasing my dreamy vision and embracing reality, because my debilitating boredom aside, I still feel romantically attached to the idea of running. Embracing truth means saying goodbye to the possibility of 7 miles in the morning and goodbye the possibility of being able to answer, “Why, yes! Yes, I am!!” when a stranger assumes that I'm a runner.
So, this morning I set out for a run. It was a beautiful day and I was inspired! I was summoned by the sun and the desperate hope of warmth. I wanted to be one with the glistening green world outside my window. Being that this is the Pacific Northwest and NOT California, the amount of warmth expelled by that shimmery, glowing sun was 100% deceiving. I would have preferred it to be (at least) a hearty 10 degrees warmer.
I forced myself through 2 miles. Honestly, it wasn’t hard. I wasn’t very winded when I stopped. I didn’t have a cramp and I had no joint pain. I stopped because I’d gone farther than I’d ever gone (outdoors) and my ears were aching from the cold. Plus, I just didn’t have a gripping reason to continue. I had nothing to prove and I was bored but on that last leg of the running portion of my “outdoor time” a certain song played on my Pandora feed. I’d heard it before, not many times but it was familiar(ish) but I hadn’t ever listened very closely to the words. On this particular morning one word stood out to me, “run”.
Ironic, I thought, that I’d be running (sorta) and hear a song that happens to have the word “run” repeating though it. I listened closer, more intently to the lyrics and their meaning.
“And oh as you run
What hindered love
Will only become
Part of the story
Baby, you’re almost home now
You’re almost home to Me”
As on line repeated, I was drawn in more and more to its deeper meaning,
“What hindered love, will only become part of the story.”
In this one string of words I felt freedom and lightness. The thought of “someday”; my someday...that I may someday look back at the things that currently hinder me, at the things that bind me up inside and feel free from them. That I may, years from now, look back on portions of my life, maybe even at today and right now and feel completely separate from it.
Maybe I’ll giggle at the thought of the things that once wore so heavily on me. Maybe I’ll sit and pat the hand of some stressed 30 something and say things like, “oh, honey, I promise it won’t always be this way. One day, you will consider this thing to be a piece of your strength.” So comforting and beautiful was (and is) the thought that my (today) hurdles and sorrows might be transformed into the glittery jewels of wisdom that will adorn the inside of my grey head (someday).
The burdens of today won’t be my forever burdens, they "will only become part of my story".
What does it mean to thrive?? This is the question I began asking myself this morning as I stood in my kitchen looking out the window into my woodsy yard. The sunshine was streaming through our thick canopy of cedars in streams, onto the dirt, ivy and ferns below and the question just popped into my head, very randomly.
This morning I woke up feeling energetic and cheerful, a bit wild and frenzied with the morning chaos of kids and school but functioning, and functioning well and to a quality I haven't felt in a while. So, this question...it came to me as if I was asking myself, but perhaps it wasn’t really me doing the asking…
“Are you thriving??”
Well...if I’m honest, thriving isn’t exactly the word I’d choose to describe myself these days, my inward thoughts, my self talk or my emotions. They’re all feeling wonky and deflated. I don't have the lovely, curvaceous insides that I associate with a thriving life. I have NOT been thriving, I’ve been surviving! Worse, I’ve been bumping along on this mediocre level for so long that I don’t know the I last time I was truly thriving and not just living like a beaten down remnant of each day.
I’m a sunshine girl, who’s understood nothing but the glisten of sunshine my whole life. Northwest living is new(ish) for me and it’s gloom has been a HUGE adjustment. The loss of sun plays tricks on my mind and my heart. It’s possible that I lost my vitality around the time the sun went away for large, icy chunks of time, hiding itself behind the heavy, wet, grey curtain of fall and winter. For this sun lover, its absence has felt to me like God’s turned his face away. No more love or joy, no more warmth, no more light, no more glow. Just cold, dark isolation.
So how do I thrive? Is it possible for me to thrive in the middle of a nasty NW winter? Can I choose to thrive? Can thriving be a state of mind or is it only a state of being? Maybe it’s both?? I don’t know, but I’m exploring the possibility that I can choose thriving and fight the strong, cold, wet currents of the Northwest that churn and foam around me, coaxing me to shrivel up and withering away in their depths.
The possibility of thriving beyond circumstance; beyond what seems like my internal reality, is one that I’m willing and actually desperate to explore because I would LOVE a greater quality of life and by all outward appearances I have a tremendous life, it’s just that my insides and outsides aren’t in agreement right now.
So if it’s within me and within my control, to grab at “thriving”, I’m going to reach out as far as my arms will stretch and embrace a lovelier life; a lovelier ME. Could this fullness be accessible with the simple shift of my mindset?? I'm skeptical...the prospect of achieving higher living through mere positivity sounds preposterously irritating. Call me a dinosaur but I haven’t exactly boarded the “mindfulness” train. I’ve never been a 'mind over matter', positive-thinking sort of girl. I like to think of myself as a lover of truth, authenticity and an embracer of the good, the bad and the ugly.
I want to appreciate positivity and I try to appreciate it, but truthfully I’d be teetering on the edge of fibbing if I didn’t confess that I REALLY struggle in this area. I find myself resisting the positivity movement because on the surface it appears sterile and illegitimate to me; a personal deception and an effort at public trickery over honesty.
OK, so clearly I have some strong feelings. And maybe the reason I struggle is because I know how to use cheery words to my social advantage. I've done that. I did that for years, but that knowledge that that posture only left me feeling empty inside, void of truth, void of real connection and lacking anyone in my circle of friends who honestly knew me and the substance of me.
So maybe positivity can be my ally as long as I understand who and what my motivators are. Do I choose positivity because I have an eternal hope despite my current circumstances, mood, attitude or eternal Northwest gloom? Am I driven to be positive because I’m determined not to live conquered by what I encounter (internally or externally) but as a conqueror? Or...am I acting, speaking or thinking positively because deep down maybe I’m looking to be someone I imagine others would like or prefer me to be?? I’d venture to say that ridding oneself/myself of that last reason is crucial for achieving true joy and fulfillment in life.
OK, clearly I’m not writing about thriving because I’ve stumbled upon the golden goblet, no, quite the contrary. I wish that the cedar branches of my dark, ever so dark, yard had parted and the mossy, fern laden ground had rumbled up an offering of revelatory insight. Sadly it didn’t, but today, on this day FULL of glorious sun (albeit ever so frigid sun), I felt the dark clouds inside me clear and I’m believing that there's a way to hold on to the glow I feel inside.
Behind God and my family and slightly above impromptu home redecorating comes my love for writing. Seriously, I only made a special effort to mention God and family as my MOST primary loves in case some of you (and you know who you are) don’t automatically assume that God and family are naturally implicit priorities for me even when I make a statement like, “writing is my first love!”. But here, as I boast of my love for writing I must also announce that I’m going to be pulling back a bit from blog world. I’ve decided to commit myself to a different type of project. Although it does still include writing it will be a non-blogging project.
I feel so excited about this new venture but it also feels SUPER weighty and rather intimidating. So, I’m going to need to devote the chunk of time I used to use for blogging towards this new project. Confession: my “blog writing time” was pretty irregular, sporadic and sometimes nonexistent, but I’ll be borrowing from it anyhow and essentially pressing the snail-speed button on blogging for this season.
But I promise to not be too far away because although I've announced this impending distance, I anticipate that there will periodically still be things I’ll feel compelled to discuss here....as I do today...
And the topic I’m feeling compelled to examine today (in classic blog form) is patience. This little doozie...it nearly begged me to comment. I was baited and yes, I have been known to be fairly easy to bait, but this one truly deserves mentioning...I swear!
So...patience....it’s that thing we all WANT more of, because it’s that thing we all NEED more of. Us parents especially know how desperately we need it and how pitifully we lack it, with just the one task of getting our little ones off to school in the AM.
I also feel my intense need for patience when I’m sitting in my idling car, behind that driver who’s completely unconcerned with making it through the intersection before our light turns yellow and then red again, or (here's another good one!) when the checker at the grocery store would rather chat about nothing and everything while S-L-O-W-L-Y, ever - so - slowly, bagging my groceries.
Patience, like they say, it’s a virtue...that not many of us have conquered.
So what do we do when we find ourselves staring down the barrel of this unfriendly character weakness??? Well, from a Christian perspective the action item here is prayer. But nearly all Christians know that this specific request, the request for patience, is a sticky one.
Why sticky?? Well many of us believe this request is like a two sided coin; one side blessing and the other side a curse. We tend to believe that developing this one character trait only comes at a great cost and God is our mighty debt collector on his throne, requiring that we pay up in the form of enduring EXTRA trials; namely trudging through heaps of scenarios that require extra patience...so we can learn patience.
I am VERY guilty of this sort of thinking. Through the years, I can’t even begin to count the number of times I intentionally avoided asking God to “bless” me with patience. I thought...who needs that sort of blessing. I’d rather not be “blessed” in such a way.
I was hanging with some girlfriends yesterday and this very topic came up. One friend asked for prayer for a number of things, one of which was our notorious “P-word” (patience) and quickly another friend chimed in saying, “uh-oh, are you sure you want to ask for that??” The whole thing got me wondering...is this really who we think God is?? Because if this is really who God is, why would any of us feel safe bringing him our requests, our burdens, our cares or hurts?? Why would we pray at all?? Are we only committing our lives to him out of fear of the alternative? And do we pray merely because he requires that we do so?? And if this is really him, is it possible that he treats all of our requests (mine and yours) in the same manner that he does patience?
If I were to transfer God’s response to the request for patience over to all character improvement requests than shouldn’t I expect the desire for humility to result in a giant and unhinged, escaped elephant to mistake my face for the most comfortable seat in town??? Of course, this is a completely ridiculous example, but it hilariously makes the point that using the "patience logic", I should expect for God to align the universe and all it's components in a grand and masterful humiliation of me. Because feeling humiliated leads to humility...and wasn't that the request? Seems improbable that patience would be the only character trait that God might want to teach to us the hard way.
So, if this is who God really is, I think I'm ready to opt out! That guys sounds super mean. He sounds unkind, abusive and stingy; slow to bless, quick to use our pleas for a greater measure of him to remind us of our smallness.
Maybe I'm obsessing; blowing this whole thing out of proportion. Maybe that little suggestion that we use caution when praying, that we watch our backs isn't that big of a deal, right!? Maybe it's too small for me to be saddling my high horse over and whipping around my dissecting, investigative thoughts.
But honestly, I’m starting to feel frustrated...OK, maybe irate over some of our unhealthy thinking. These were my beliefs for YEARS. I didn’t break free from them yesterday in a moment of celestial inspiration. It was a few years ago that my mindset started shifting away from God being a denying, hardhearted, withholding, punishing sort of God. But for years I believed this was EXACTLY the sort of God I served.
Why would I have carried on that way for so long?? The truth...I was like a whipped puppy, cowering at the feet of my master, afraid to question, afraid of the beatings I might amass with each misstep. But after doing a bit of research and encountering some healthy biblical teaching, I came to realize that my master, my God, didn’t really look ANYTHING like the God of the Bible. Finding verses that revealed God’s true character with incredible and extravagant displays of kindness, love, generosity, forgiveness, endless chances, goodness, non-judgment, humility, gentleness and on and on and on, left me feeling astounded by how I’d been able to embrace the deception for so long.
Why hadn’t I seen (not just read but really SEEN) verses like, 1 John 3:1, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” or Matthew 7:9-11 where Jesus talks about how good a father God is to his children, giving only good gifts and not bad, or Zephaniah 3:17 (I LOVE this one!!), which says “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” So good right!? Then of course there’s always John 3:16, which many of us know from memory, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that WHOEVER believes in him will not die but have everlasting life.” These verses represent only the tiniest slice of what's packed into the Bible, boldly parading how desperately God loves us (All of us, each of us).
Oh how I wish we could all just identify the lies we believe and ditch them!! But I know it’s not as simple or as easy as that. Judgments, misjudgments and aligning with lies that seem and feel like truth are a part of life (sadly). My eyes are open to this one, but I’m sure there are a number of others I’m blind to right now.
Mental adjustments take time and sometimes they also require a great deal of sorting, healing and forgiveness, because lies can damage us. But maybe if we could just come together on this one item (I know it’s kind of HUGE item, but it’s SO important!!)...that God is good and loving, not spiteful or manipulative, not vindictive or belittling, he doesn’t interact with us in a way that resembles Karma and he wants us; every piece of us, the pretty pieces and the not so pretty ones. He wants us ALL the time. Not solely when we’re behaving well. When we're angelic and when we're despicable, his love for us is relentless, constant, unending and unimaginably big.
With passion and fervor, let’s no longer accept the notion that our God is one who would take a sincere prayer for patience and reward that act of humility with a season of agony until patience is birthed. That's so icky and that’s not our God!
Without fail, this ONE issue gets me worked up EVERY TIME! Nearly ALL of my soap boxes can be linked directly to this ONE thing. And the ONE thing is... (drum roll please)... terrible Christian Biblical theology!!
Honestly, I feel heated just typing out that string of words: terrible - Christian - Biblical - theology. On their own, separated from the pack, each word is fairly innocent, right?? For me, those rather unassuming words, all heaped together into meaning, reek. They carry the stench of death (spiritual death)!
This weekend I was stirred to dust off my soap box and jump back on top of it. The instigator of my feistiness?? A religious movie (which will remain nameless). The film was loosely based on multiple, compiled, true, present day events (nothing wrong with that). The movie was actually quite interesting, informative and thought provoking. Since I’ve disclosed that this was a religious movie, you might be dying to know one thing...and so to quell your anxious thoughts, the answer to your question is, YES!! In true “religious movie” form, this movie WAS on the corny side. But the corniness didn’t overwhelm me, choke me or swallow me whole, making the film unbearable. I navigated and sidestepped the cheese and was able to carry right on with it.
But I was, however, rather hung up on a couple little (but rather important) lines in this movie. They were so small, in fact, that a normal person would likely have overlooked them or missed them entirely. But I assuredly am NOT a normal person. I’m what you might call a “critical observer”. I’m the type who dissects the romantic scenes (or any scene for that matter) and can smell the B.S. before the writers ever agreed to stick it in the script (not really, but it feels true). I’m notorious for my ability to tell when a character is about to say the following (or some variation of the following), “We don’t know what tomorrow holds…”, translation: “We’ve only known each other for about a minute, but you should DEFINITELY have sex with me RIGHT NOW!”
It’s so sneaky, right?! I mean, honestly, don’t ALL us girls fantasize ALL DAY LONG about being swept off our feet by a handsome(ish) man pressuring us to jump in the sack before the world abruptly ends in a fiery, shark-laden tsunami??? Honestly it’s completely insulting to ALL my senses and to the intelligence of females, young and old alike! So, I’m the audience member who loudly says, “You’ve got to be kidding me!! How stupid does he think she is??” And then she sleeps with him, OF COURSE , and I yell, “Lame!!”
Now mind you, the audience is SMALL. It’s only two people big. My sweet husband is one and I make two. So, don’t go jumping for the lynch as if I’ve just answered a text and illuminated a dark theater. I’m not in an ACTUAL theater...it’s just my house. Either way, this is what we mean when we say “critical observer”, I ruin the scene!
So...I’m going to ruin ONE little scene for you too. My intention isn’t to transfer my burden and frustrations to you and then walk away leaving you to shoulder my load, No, I share for freedom sake! It’s my deepest, purest hope that ALL may have the ability to understand what healthy, authentic Christianity is and why ALL should reject anything that presents itself as less.
Ready?? Here we go!
Here’s the scene: one character is struggling with SERIOUS life issues and seeks out advice from someone she both respects and views as an authority figure. At the end of a heartfelt conversation the struggling character asks the question, “How come nothing ever seems to faze you??” The answer from the authority figure/second character is this: “Because I have Jesus”.
OK, the scene has been set and maybe some of you are thinking, “I don’t see the issue here”. Honestly, I hope NONE of you are thinking that, but in case you are, here’s why I nearly lost my mind and why you should too! The idea that Christians do, can and should, hold it ALL together is a MASSIVE pile of B.S (a completely lie)!! It's flat out, bad theology.
NOWHERE does the Bible say that life will be better, easier, more fun, or more manageable if you have Jesus! It actually promises the opposite including the possibility of an untimely death.
So maybe now, you're reading and quietly (or loudly) thinking, "Kristin, you're not making a very strong case for Christianity". Well, honesty is very important, so I want to be clear in saying what knowing God means to me. It means hope. It's the assurance that the struggles of life aren’t all that there is. There's more! There’s better, there's greater than what I'm experiencing in my low. Knowing God gives me strength and courage to push on even in very painful situations, including facing and walking through things I always feared and dreaded the possibility of, because I'm not alone. God is my joy and comfort when I have neither. And in this world where people (friends, family and acquaintances) cast their votes for or against me daily, hourly (sometimes) based on my performance, the truth that God loves me (completely) just as I am, unconditionally...it changes EVERYTHING!
Some days, I feel very certain that without God I might not bother with another day of the pile of… “soup”, that is life, because life equals pain...a lot of pain sometimes. There are amazing and beautiful things about life too, but that’s not the piece we’re discussing right now.
The Bible gives example after example after example (countless examples, really) of God fearing people bearing a full spectrum of emotions, thoughts, fears and doubts, and even boldly expressing all to God himself without fear of punishment or reprimand. David spent 150 chapters in the book of Psalm on his joy, doubt, fear, questioning, trust, anger, praise roller coaster, but for some reason, even with that entire book, FULL of intensity and passion, we (Christians) live under the nasty and burdensome LIE that requires us to be poised, pinched and pious, contained and unwavering in faith, question free (both in speech and mind) and virtually emotionless with exception to a couple specific sentiments. The first is tears. Tears are OK because tears are Christian. The second: Godly displays of anger, more commonly known as, “righteous indignation”. All else beyond these boundaries is a total and complete hand-slapping, stern disapproving look inducing, NO-NO and threatens to tip a Christian into the unfortunate realm of “losing witness” (Christian talk for appearing to have lost faith or severely sinned leaving one incapable of directing anyone to God or in any direction at all, which is a very shameful position to find one’s self in).
So, since we’ve decided amongst ourselves that we mustn't struggle in a way that either A.) makes us appear to have lost faith or B.) makes God look like he’s not in control, we (Christians) have come up with a strategic way of communicating about our struggles. We have...rules. These “rules” require us to adhere to protocol and stick to certain talking points when discussing personal struggles. Without further ado, here are the well known, but rarely acknowledge, rules for “Christian Crisis communication”. For those who aren’t versed, welcome to CCC-101.
Rule #1: When talking about personal struggles, move on to a new subject as quickly as possible.
Rule #2: When discussing a crisis, balance ANY and ALL negative talk or upsetting details regarding "the struggle" with reassuring and God praising phrases like "It’s all good because God is…" or "I'm OK because God is…" (insert positive descriptor).
Rule #3: Never admit any doubt or uncertainty about...anything.
Rule #4: During a struggle, appear to not truly be struggling.
And that’s it really!
Honestly, the one that gets me the worst is when I hear, "...but it’s really OK, because God is..." My heart breaks for us (Christians) and our inability to just BE; good, bad or completely miserable...the lies we’ve believed, forced upon others and fed to our children. The thought that we must defend God in our moment of sorrow rather than allow God to defend us (as God promises he will do), it's heartbreaking. We squander our opportunities for encouragement, spending the time assuring and convincing others that we waiver not, in the nasty face of adversity, instead of bearing our souls and admitting to pain.
I’m always left scratching my head when in response to the question, "How are you?", I’m given a quick peek at a raw wound, oozing with fresh sorrow, but then it’s quickly covered over and hidden beneath praising, reassuring statements about God, before any comfort or sympathy or encouragement can be offered. It's such an injustice for us all and a social slight of hand, as if to say, "Don’t look at that unsightly, uncomfortable, embarrassing thing, but instead focus over here on this glittery, positive thing!"
Not only is it a distraction from the real issue but it feels like an attempt to connect two completely separate truths. To me, it’s the equivalent of someone saying "I stubbed my toe, but it’s OK because cheese tastes amazing!" WHAT?? It just makes NO sense, right?? Yes, cheese is AMAZING and what a bummer about the toe, but why string those two thoughts; those two separate truths together? The fact that God is good, faithful, loving, constant (and whatever other positive adjective we might think of to fill in the blank), doesn’t make the trauma of life nonexistent. It doesn't make it disappear. It doesn't keep us "unfazed".
The world wasn’t meant to be this way; fallen, hungry, broken, needy and ravaged. Deep inside we all feel the wrongness, the upside downness of it all. The brutal news stories from Syria, Sudan and hundreds of other violated lands and people grips everything inside us with agony over the discrepancy between what our hearts feel (God’s presence) and what our eyes see EVERYWHERE (starving, impoverished, abused and hurting people). Reality is that life is hard. Yes, there is good news (amazing news actually), God has overcome the world! This gives us courage and strength BUT we still have to trudge through the broken bits. Our healing is waiting for us, but we’ve got to ditch our “save face” version of Christianity. The Bible says to confess to one another that we might be healed!! Healing and authenticity (full disclosure) go hand in hand.
Sometimes the answer, “I’m actually OK, because God…”, is 100% honest and appropriate. There are seasons, days and sometimes just moments where beautifully, unexplainably, supernaturally, we are sustained beyond what seems possible for the experience. Emotionally and mentally we almost magically hover above the torrent of destruction, the sensation of trauma, the din of mourners. Those times are precious but they are the exception. So we mustn’t be presenting ourselves as if we live in a perpetual state of hover, as though our shoes are never dirtied by the muck and pain of life. I once had a pastor who described our reality as Christians perfectly; she used to say, “We’re in the now and the not yet”. It’s really the perfect description of Christian life! We’re stuck in the great in between; praying and boldly declaring, “On earth as it is in heaven…”, while trudging through earth’s fallenness and destitution. It's the ultimate paradox!
God sees our struggles and he sees our pain. He knows ALL of our hidden doubts. He sees our fears even when we loudly counter them in that confident, baritone, victorious voice . But we’ve devolved. We’re charading as if we’re one with God in the garden, while hiding behind trees and ducking between bushes, disturbed and threatened by our nakedness. We’re straining ourselves, vigorously sucking it in, attempting to conceal our unsightly bulges, wishing desperately that someone could invent a pair of ‘spiritual Spanx’.
In our efforts to be “faithful”, we sometimes unwittingly furthering the LIE that says, if we allow ourselves to be raw and painfully honest about our true struggles then we are weak and we make God out to be weak, thus failing God and each other. But it's a LIE!!
Let’s reject the old way! Let’s reject the lie. We don’t have to live bound and hidden!! Let’s be free and whole! Let’s get our healing! It’s ours for the taking. Let’s confess to each other. Let’s get honest and vulnerable. Real! Will it be messy?? YES, sooooo messy! Will it be uncomfortable and awkward?? Ummm...ABSOLUTELY! But this is TRUE life. Vulnerability is scary, but if we want healthiness we must be willing to lose our masks and ditch the facade.
Someday, who knows, maybe we (Christians) will be free enough, safe enough and unashamed enough to say to one another (when it’s fitting), “My life is going up in flames and I feel like sh**!”, and the response won’t be a horrified, gasp of judgement but a genuine, empathetic, ecstatic desire to help.
I’ve written about my grandma once before, but it was nearly a year ago. She’s been gone for a while now. She died when I was 18. But I still think about her ALL the time.
Grandma was a tall, slender German woman with a stern disposition. Each year she softened a bit. By the end of her life, nearly all of her harsh edges had entirely worn away. She wasn’t much of talker, more of a pleasant but passive observer. She usually smiled except during those periodic, manipulative occasions when she’d say things like, “Why do you want to go out and play with your friends...don’t you want to stay here with me??” In those instances the smile stretched out across the lower portion of her face into a thin, tight, straight line; not really much of a smile anymore, but still not quite a frown. We never wanted her to feel unwanted but in truth, as kids, we didn’t find grandma to be very much fun.
Grandma had fair skin, harsh features and a large nose. Some days...when I look in the mirror at just the right angle, under just the right light, the reflection I see staring back at me is hers. As a kid I didn’t think I looked at all like grandma! These days, well into adulthood, I’m pretty sure I’ve inherited the “Wood nose”, straight from grandma; a piece of her legacy. I’m ashamed to admit that I never thought grandma was very pretty. But the older I get and the more acutely I assess her, the more beautiful I find her to be.
My Grandma was much older than any of my friends grandmas. And being that she was quite a bit older also meant that she was different. Her life experiences were different and she was funny about certain things. She lived a hard life and endured The Great Depression. Through those years she learned how to live sparingly and she never stopped living sparingly. As a kid, baths at her house consisted of one (maybe two) inches of warm water in the bottom of the bathtub. There was no pleasure in bathing, only freezing. She used and permitted only what was necessary and practical, nothing more. She’d even wash and reuse paper towels and she dried all her clothes on the line in her backyard. I actually loved the clothes line thing. Being that the use of a clothes line was quaintly old-fashioned made it a very endearing practice.
She was a wonderful baker. Her apple pies were amazing. She was an ‘Expert Apple Peeler’ (should such a title exist). The way she’d hold her paring knife...I would have quickly sliced my thumb off, but she could nimbly peel a dozen apples without a single nick.
There were a couple of German dishes that she used to bake regularly for us when she'd invite us to come for dinner. We LOVED them! They were uniquely hers, in a sense; there was no one else in the world, that I knew of, who made them. Those German recipes were our one, thin connection to our seemingly imaginary German heritage. Even though grandma was 100% German, she neither remembered living in Germany nor spoke the language. So those recipes...those 2 dishes were IT! They were all of what we knew about being German. Grandma knew the recipes by memory from her childhood. When she died, we thought her recipes and our heritage did too.
Until a few months back…
One of my cousins posted a recipe on Facebook that she’d found in the abyss that is the internet. She’d happened to find one of the much loved and feared lost forever, recipes. After months of seeing this recipe sitting in my inbox, beckoning me to resurrect grandma, I finally, yesterday, did it! I embarked on the journey of making "bierok" (pronounced bay-ruk). I use the word ‘journey’ not merely for dramatic appeal but because yesterday, making bierok required me to traverse the peaks and valleys of my emotions and memories of my grandma. It was a tender but weepy journey through time.
I didn’t expect that sautéing ground beef, chopped onions and minced garlic would make my throat feel quite so tight. As I simmered and baked my kitchen transformed into a time capsule. The aroma...I was suddenly a little girl again, perched on an aluminum and vinyl kitchen chair, excited to bite into one of my favorite meals at my grandma’s circa 1960’s blue linoleum kitchen table.
Making bierok took a good amount of my time. I had to make dough, from scratch, wait for it to rise a couple of times, roll it out, cut square pieces, fill the dough with the ground meat mixture and then bake. I suddenly realized how much effort my grandma had put into preparing for our visits; how much intention and love she must have had in order to cheerfully create this meal. Plus, the expense of it all. A large amount of flour was needed (8 cups) plus the cost of all the other ingredients and side dishes. And my grandma lived sparingly with intention. she always had just enough but no extra. And let’s not forget, this is the same grandma who allowed no more than two inches of bath water, but when we’d come for dinner, she ALWAYS cheerfully purchased ALL the extra ingredients and spent her time preparing, on us. And she always had a homemade pie with vanilla ice cream ready for dessert too.
As I baked I wondered if grandma ever felt strapped financially preparing for us to come for dinner...if she did, we never knew it.
Making bierok and drowning in the smells of my childhood showed me how much my grandma loved us. She spoiled us the only way she knew. Love stirs up generosity. With love, money is an afterthought and time is an investment not a sacrifice. Love is worth each minute and every penny. I wish I’d understood these things years ago. I wish I’d appreciated more and presumed less about my grandma.
Making this meal allowed me to share some really precious memories with my kids. I love that ALL 4 of my kiddos seem to also share my love for bierok. Bierok is a part of them now...and I am German once again!
I happened upon a intriguing quote. The wisdom was dispensed by none other than the one and only, Mother Theresa (in ONLY God knows what year...well, I guess the internet might also know)...and I don’t know why, but I keep wanting to call that saintly nun, Martha Stewart...who is (obviously) a totally different sorta gal.
I should probably clear the air now and confess that I’m not super sane today as I’m fighting a cold, a super sore throat and a VERY froggy, man(ish) sounding voice. As a kid, the thought of a horse, deep, scratchy, lady voice always seemed so sultry. Today, not so! Disappointingly, today, I’m just frog-man.
Being that I’m in a fairly compromised state; not my best mom-self and struggling to be lovely to not just my kids but the world at large, all this ‘not-so-sultry sick business’ made the quote (that I promise I’ll share) all the more gripping. The quote was this: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family”.
Am I the only one who feels a sting in those saintly words?? Maybe the wounding is entirely unintended...who knows. But jeez, please tell me I’m not the only one who felt the piercing urge to search my soul!
In my heart of hearts, I believe every morsel of MT’s words. Strung together, it’s pure, unadulterated wisdom!!
But the noise of the world can be SO distracting. The messages that tell me to “do something great” and “be someone great”, “create” and “conquer”, they’re inundating, blaring and relentless. The thing is this: the pressure to “do” and “be” it isn’t a movement of rest and peace and contentment, confidence in self or wholeness. It’s a pronouncement of lacking and inadequacy.
The preoccupation with accomplishing great "stuff" isn’t an equal opportunity employer. It’s true and primary interest is with only certain types of contributions to society, like the kind that get recognition and applause. The voices that shout within us, “Carve a name out for yourself!!”, aren’t interested in the unseen, immeasurable, nameless, faceless sorts of investments in our world.
So, quite frankly, as an invisible, nameless, faceless contributor to society, I’m constantly feeling a tug to make myself (notably) more than what I currently am...MOM.
Reality is that along with our world undervaluing "hidden" contributions and "hidden" contributors, I add to the pile. Although I always wanted to be a ‘stay at home mom’, I never wanted motherhood to be ALL of me. I’ve always had additional dreams and interests; aspirations separate from motherhood. I’ve always seen myself as mother and...(fill in the blank). I certainly see nothing wrong with being a multifaceted or ambitious individual, but could it be possible that I’m less intentional with the most 'world changing' responsibilities of my day (motherhood) because I'm distracted by a longing to be "great"??
Am I a 'stay at home mom' who’s just biding my time till I can make a real difference in this world by founding a nonprofit to save other people's children or solve world hunger on some other continent?? Am I so focused on rescuing and aiding others that I’m not living motherhood out, acutely aware of my impact on the future generations that originate from within my own home?? Some days, yes...100% guilty!
For me, looking at the world through a glory hungry lens, hoping for recognition; a star on humankind’s “walk of fame” or longing for some sort of an audible applause is a constant temptation. But it’s also a complete distraction from what matters most. Ego is a rather ravenous beast, constantly growling for a feeding, never full and never satisfied.
I don’t want to reduce my role or my impact on my kids to glorified babysitter by forfeiting intention for position. Changing the world starts at home; It starts with me...one kid at a time...or 4 (in my case). Thank you Mother Theresa for the brilliant reminder!
There are thousands upon thousands of pivotal moments that fill a lifetime. Moments that are capable of shaping identity and defining who we are and who we will become. The contents of these moments have the potential to forever shift and adjust the trajectory of our lives.
We think of milestone moments like graduations, cross country moves, marriage or having children as the ultimate transformation makers. And those sorts of major events can certainly change and define us, but I’d like to argue that it’s the seemingly random, ordinary, nameless and usually overlooked encounters that have the true capacity to be the momentous life changers.
When a quick, casual exchange includes a phrase, or maybe even just a single word, that seems to glisten and glow, standing apart from the rest of the entire conversation and apart from ALL the other ingredients of the day, as anything but ordinary. The value and meaning of the moment, unmistakable (to YOU and YOU alone); as if the full day and all it’s contents, plus maybe all nine (or eight) planets in the solar system aligned just to make that chance encounter, at the precise moment, possible...just so YOU could hear those precious words, that no one could have possibly known that YOU needed to hear.
Those secret moments, those course adjusting, mind altering moments, I contend, are the TRUE pivot points in life!
I’ve had a number of huge, life changing moments. I've experienced all the traditional stuff, and all of those events have changed me in one way or another, but some of the biggest changes and moments of personal revelation have sprung from seemingly inconsequential encounters.
One of my very top, most pivotal moments happened nearly a decade ago and it changed me forever!
At that time in my life, I had a patchwork composite style sort of religion. It mainly consisted of obedience, performance and a form of ‘Christian karma’...this was my faith. My spiritual concoction made perfect sense to me. Believing that God would want to reward my good behavior and punish my bad, how could it be any other way?? Interacting with God upon the premise of a reward and punishment system felt very equitable and it seemed to fit perfectly with my daily reality. When I “sinned”, I could swear I felt God’s scorn and shame, his disapproval and rejection of me. The only problem was that when I performed, I didn’t feel the glorious opposite. I felt maybe a lighter version of the negative, something attune to him tolerating me or “toughing out” my existance.
I’d read verses about obedience and “being worthy” and the verses filled me with questions and fear and darkened my personal little shame cloud; my constant companion that drenched me daily in overwhelming amounts of unworthiness.
I’d constantly (secretly) wonder if I was entirely missing it. Could it be possible for me to want the whole thing SO bad and live SO carefully, so intentionally, and still entirely miss it?? It was such a horrific and haunting thought for me.
I was miserable and exhausted. I had no idea how to embrace anything more or better than what I’d been believing and experiencing, until one life changing encounter...
All my bad theology was turned completely on it’s head the day I met a girl. I didn’t know this girl. I’d never met her before and actually I’ve never seen her since. She simply wanted to pray for me and I said “yes”. She didn’t know my struggles or my secret fears. She didn’t know how emotionally and spiritually exhausted I’d been, for sooo long. There’s no possible way she could have ever known.
We sat silently for a bit, with her hand on my shoulder while I cried (as quietly as I possibly could, because I hate feeling like a loud weepy spectacle). I had NO idea what to expect, but after a long pause she softly said, “I feel like I’m supposed to say something to you. What I feel I’m suppose to say, is something someone once said to me, many years ago, but I’ve NEVER felt compelled to say those same words to anyone else until, right now.” She then, gently but confidently said, “I feel like God wants me to say something to you, from him...I think he wants to say, ‘Why won’t you let me love you?’”
My tears flowed like a gushing river! I wept and wept and wept giant, ugly, red splotchy faced, puffy eyed, spit string tears till I had no more tears left to cry. And when I finally felt composed, I also felt new. I felt light. My struggles hadn’t vanished but the shape and color of them had been altered a bit. Heaps and heaps of perceived rejection, disappointment and unworthiness...GONE!
I’ve spent the last decade or so, since that night, replacing and unlearning false and damagingly flawed Christian theology with truth. It’s taken me years to shift my thinking and expectations away from anticipating pain, punishment and spiritual spankings from God, to embracing a Biblically accurate depiction of God. No more making God in to the something that I imagine him, want him, wish him or even fear him to be. Biblical truth says that I have a good God who loves ME and ALL my fellow humans desperately and unconditionally. It’s taken me years to grow to the place of believing, wholeheartedly that God is the giver of good gift and not bad, that he desires a relationship with each of us and that no sin is too great, no mistake or misstep is too much. He wants to take it all, regardless of how broken or flawed we think we are. His love is greater!
My fear, spiritual insecurity, feelings of shame and unworthiness and my ‘Christian karma’ theology unraveled (slowly) as I began to see that I’d been believing mountains of mistruths. I'd had TERRIBLE and completely, unbiblical beliefs! My Christianity didn’t involve grace or genuine love from God. I imagined God feeling more obligatory love towards me, like “She’s family...so I kinda have to love her. I wouldn’t have chosen her...but since she’s here, I guess I love her”.
I couldn’t fathom a reality where God desired ME or my company, my companionship, my thoughts, my time, my humor or that he might possibly think I'm amazing...or maybe exactly like him in some tiny, obscure and unique way...like maybe he could see some piece of himself when he stares into my eyes, like how we’re both passionate and a little intense about certain things, like justice for the hurting. I was incapable of seeing that he could be proud of me, just for being ME...for merely being who he made me to be. And I certainly couldn’t see that he’d been chasing me for years, or that I’d been pushing him away; pushing away his acceptance; not mere tolerance, but 100% acceptance, because I couldn’t accept me...and if I couldn’t even accept myself, how could a perfect God do so?? (Or so I thought)
But in one beautiful moment, my paradigm completely shifted. I tell this story hoping to encourage and maybe inspire, maybe just one person, to step in an unnatural...supernatural direction. Maybe a full step is a bit too much for right now. Maybe just a lean is all you can muster. Even if it’s only an itty-bitty lean, a longing for more, even just that’ll do! Because God will bridge whatever divide and cross any distance he needs to, just to be with YOU! He did it for me and he’ll do it for you too. I'm not his favorite, each one of us are (uniquely)! You're touch might not look exactly the same as my encounter did. That’s OK. Expect great, but also expect unique, because God isn’t tame. He won’t be placed in a box or in a formula or a building or a room. But expect him to be great!
For a while now I’ve been noticing a major uptick in the reporting of stories about child sex trafficking or child sex abuse and exploitation. At first, as I’d happen upon the, sometimes terribly graphic, stories of these victims, I'd get only a few sentences in...maybe as much as a couple paragraphs, and need to turn away.
The horror and trauma that these little kids suffered, and continue to suffer, overwhelmed me and drown me in sadness. The heinousness of it all...I felt sooo helpless. Lacking the access or an avenue for physically stepping in to alter the circumstances of these little souls; it made reading their stories unbearable for me and left me feeling heavily hopeless.
But something's changed! Sometime, over the last few weeks, I’ve gone from feeling that awful overwhelmed, hopeless, helpless feeling to extremely ANGRY!! And I'm not just a little mad either...I’m wildly enraged!
It feels like a fire's been ignited inside me and I can’t just read bits and pieces of heartbreaking, stomach churning stories anymore. I can't wade into the grizzly truth and then wade back out and try to shake off the clinging dark sludge so I can jump back into my role, as mother, to my 4 kids and back into my comfortable middle class, American life, where these sorts of atrocities don't exist. I just CAN'T anymore!
I have no doubt that my "awakening" is connected to the season of life that I'm in; raising my sweet kids and trying with all my might to keep them healthy (spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally) and safe; away from the sorts of evils that crave twisted things and would love to exploit my children...and your children. I imagine my children with each of the terribly tragic accounts I read and I feel even more sick and compelled to action.
There have been many, many moments through the years where I've wished I could reach through time and space to rescue hurting people. I imagine we all have those impulses towards the hurting and towards causes that tug at our hearts. But this one...this reaches notable heights. I've felt a similar level of craving for justice only a couple of times before. One specific time also paralleled a season of my life: pregnancy. I felt a sorrow and heavy burden for children while pregnant each time, but mostly heavily through my second pregnancy.
While I was pregnant with my daughter, Mia, we lived down the street from an abortion clinic and nearly every errand I needed to run required me to pass that building. Often picketers were there, standing on the sidewalk, in front of the clinic with graphic, gory signs depicting the dismemberment of tiny babies. I’d wait at the street light in tears, willing that red light to turn green while feeling my little life, my tiny baby, moving inside me. The light never turned fast enough!
Anger towards the people who'd bring and display those horrific signs, assaulting the general public; innocent bystanders (children included) with awful, heartbreaking photos, might feel like an appropriate response. And yes, the pictures ABSOLUTELY felt assaulting and they felt like too much to handle...too much to know and FAR TOO MUCH to see, but the absence of signs and pictures doesn't change reality. Shielding my eyes doesn’t alter the truth. It doesn't make it pleasant, it doesn’t make it pretty. It doesn't turn death into life or wrong to right, EVER!
Do I wish I could forget those grotesque images, YES!! Desperately, yes! But more than that...I feel an ache and a drive to fight for life; for the lives of the ones who can't fight for themselves: the babies. Do I sympathize with the mothers who have, and are, making complicated (VERY complicated) and difficult choices for what they imagine will better their own lives?? YES, God, yes!! I can’t even count the number of times I’ve thought to myself, "Thank God I didn't get pregnant before I got married!!" Truthfully, I would have rather dabbled with the idea of ending the life of my unborn baby than confess a pregnancy to my parents. I know this is only one, out of maybe a million, reasons a person might consider abortion, but how disturbingly easy would it have been for me to just make it all disappear and pretend none of it had ever happened??
As a mother, pregnant many times over, I’ve felt thousands upon thousands of tiny movements within me. EACH bulge was literally part of a tiny body: an arm, an elbow, a knee, a heel, a bum. Having felt all of this; having experienced the brilliance of life growing inside of me, the thought of bringing it to an intentional end now fills me with unimaginable sadness.
With each sensation of in utero baby hiccups, with each ultrasound and heartbeat check and eventual, PAINFUL but miraculous, delivery, beautiful LIFE was boldly on display. I know that not every pregnancy springs from a love story and regardless of the presence or absence of love, not every pregnancy is joyous...I’ve been there. But ending...killing a tiny human life, this can’t be our first or even last option. Acceptance of this option, or even mere pacifism, is eroding our humanity, mine included.
I know that through this post I’m wadding into some very turbulent and murky waters. These are HEAVY issues that carry deep emotions for people on both sides. There are many, many worthy causes world wide; causes that deserve crusaders with passion and vision and a battle cry; champions who can unify hearts for a common good and work to awaken and sharpen the collective conscience of a nation...of our world.
For me, these two issues, the issue of child sex slavery and abuse and abortion, call to me the loudest. They hold positions of prominence in my mind and in my heart. They're what I see as being two of the top social injustices of our day. A war rages against our littlest and most vulnerable members. One of these causes, we're pretty well in agreement over (as a society)...but as for the other, we're sadly, very divided. These are causes that as a culture, nation and world, we must fight for.
I’m so thankful that our nation is waking up to the evils of child sex trafficking. Yes, I wish desperately that we/I didn’t need this awakening, that these evils didn’t exist and that our world was a safe place for children, both born and unborn.
But the weight of these abuses aren’t burdening me anymore, they’re propelling me to action. I don’t know yet what this ‘need to act’ is going to end up looking like for me or my family. But I know that there’s something I need to do...there’s something I’m meant to be doing!!
I know I'm coming a little late to the fight. But I'm here now!
I need to confess that I was TERRIFIED about saying all this so boldly and about putting myself, my thoughts and my convictions on display. I feel VERY exposed. I imagine there will be some (maybe many) who won't be happy with my words.
I bought myself a ring the other day. The message inscribed on it says, "I am fearless". Quite truthfully, I struggle with fear and anxiety and a longing to be accepted and approved of...but this ring, it challenges me to be fearless and even though I feel fear often, I'm close to someone who never, EVER does. I'm reminded that "Greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world" 1 John 4:4. I can be fearless because I AM is fearless!!
Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.