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“Ok, fine, let’s go.”

 

After stubbornly and repeatedly asking if we could leave, Tim finally consented.  A few minutes earlier we had been laughing, dancing, and finding our seats.  We never make it to church on time, so today was a pretty big day.  But somewhere in between walking through the doors and getting our butts in the chair Tim had accidentally found a new button, and pushed it hard.

 

We all have buttons, some we know of, and some we are learning about.  And today Tim and I both learned that if we push this button I get extremely uncomfortable, and if you keep pushing the button I get pretty mad.

 

Tim had kept pushing the button.  So we got up and we left church before it began.  Awkward…

 

“Do you want to explain what just happened”

 

I stared out the window.  I had no idea what just happened, how could I explain it to him?  What I did know was that he had said something that made me mad, therefore this person was the enemy and I wanted to run away from him.

 

Unfortunately I’m also in love with this person, so though one half of me wanted to run away, the other wanted to stay put.  Part of me wanted to hurl insults at him and the other wanted to brush the entire stupid incident under the rug so that I didn’t hurt his feelings.

 

We made it home and I went to my safe place: the bed.  Whenever I’m upset I ALWAYS want to curl up in bed, shut my eyes hard, and wait out the hurt.

 

With eyes closed I felt Tim lay down next to me.

 

“Hailey, what is happening?”

 

Here we finally began to talk.  Maybe yell a little, but not scream.  I explained the best I could why I didn’t like what he said.  I told him that saying it was one thing, but then not dropping it was totally different.

“No, you don’t understand, I wanted you to see that you have good ideas Hailey.”

 

Yes.  This is correct.  My husband had been giving me a compliment and it had made me extremely uncomfortable.  When I told him I didn’t like this, he wanted to explain his reasoning, and re-explain, which meant he was still talking about what made me uncomfortable.  This made me mad.

What a horrible wife! You literally have the nicest husband in the world and you are mad at him, what is wrong with you?!

From here our conversation falls into a pattern of “no you don’t understand”‘s and “but I told you that”‘s.

 

Finally God took the reigns and showed me what was happening.

 

“Tim.  what you said upset me.  But that’s ok.  We apparently stumbled onto a new button today and we’re trying to process through that.  It’s ok that what you said upset me, it has nothing to do with you, there’s something I need to figure out.  This situation does not speak to who you are as a husband at all.”

 

I almost couldn’t believe how much my words were making sense as I said them. It hadn’t dawned on me until the moment I spoke this that the only reason Tim was “pushing this button” was because he desperately wanted to be a good husband to me after the weekend I had.

 

It was a stressful weekend with unforeseen bumps.  bumps that Tim could do nothing about, even though he tried, because he’s amazing.  He had been patient, and supportive, never leaving my side, helping me process, filling my glass of water while I graded, vacuuming while I prepped for Vibrant, walking the dogs when I had a migraine.

But not being able to actually “fix” the heaviness in my heart tore him up.  He was desperate to put a smile on my face.  And in his attempt he had done the opposite, and it crushed his genuine heart.

 

How do I know this is true? Because, in true Tim fashion, one tear slid down his cheek.  And he then he told me all the things God had opened my heart to understand.

 

We both cried, and snuggled, and agreed that we were so happy we had fought.  It had been too long since we had fought.

“I like the way we fight.  We aren’t trying to tear the other person down.

Tim was right, but I confessed that I always want to tear him down, that it is a challenge not to hurl insults at him, a challenge I will sometimes lose, and a challenge I win because of the leader I have in our marriage.

 

***

 

I talk to women about their significant others all the time, and Christian women are often voicing a common concern: I don’t know if he can lead me spiritually.

To this I have to ask, what is a spiritual leader?

 

The church puts a lot of pressure on men to be the spiritual leader in the household, and I think men feel that pressure.  But what does it mean to be that leader?

Tim doesn’t tell me to go to church, or to read the bible.  He doesn’t make us do bible studies together.  He isn’t making sure I pray every day.  He himself isn’t always going to church.  He isn’t always reading his bible.  He isn’t always praying.  He plays video games and watches sports.  He plays sports and loves to listen to podcasts about almost anything.  He doesn’t listen to sermons, he listens to Freakanomics, and This American Life, and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.  (Tim says I need to add that he listens to Radiolab… I don’t know why).

Tim is a quiet man.  He isn’t the first to respond to a question at bible study (usually I am…) and often he won’t respond at all, unless he really thinks it’s necessary.  He doesn’t hold any leadership positions at work or church.

Tim makes huge blunders sometimes that I have to confront him on.

 

I am the more assertive partner.  I talk a lot.  I’m an extrovert.  I walk in front of him a lot (gasp).

 

I am often aware that by all appearances, it could look like I am leading my husband. 

But Tim is my leader.

 

Tim leads in the best possible way: through his daily actions.

 

Tim is patient with me, he serves me, he makes me feel safe, and he makes me feel loved.  Tim celebrates my successes.  He asks me hard questions when I doubt or walk in depression.  He challenges me to think through my forming opinions.  He isn’t afraid to tell me his opinion on my actions.  He doesn’t say hurtful words to me when he is angry.  He doesn’t leave me when he is angry.  He tells me I’m beautiful, ALL the time.  On my good days and bad days he is equally good to me.  He shows me how to know God is good, always.  He helps me to be open to His plan, to be patient, when he knows I’m trying to hurry things along, to bend them to my desires.  He cleans the apartment for me when I’m busy grading.  He lets me sleep in the car on the way home from work after an exhausting day.  He lets me binge watch my favorite TV shows when we could be watching sports.  He also turns the TV off and tells me its time to do other things.

 

Tim is my leader. through all of these actions and more, he makes me feel safe, which helps me to grow strong.  Since being married to him I am more confident than I have ever been.  I am more willing to take risks than ever before.  I am closer to God now than I was when I was without him.

He makes me want to be patient with him, to serve him, to make him feel safe, and to make him feel loved.

Tim leads by example. I am grateful that God gave me an amazing husband, and I challenge everyone to begin asking, what does it mean to be a leader?

 

Today my leader walked out of church before the service began.  Sometimes, what we see on the outside, is not telling of the lion that lives within.

 

 

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Standing at the window I bit my lip, secretly swallowing shame and fear.  My mom came up to me and gently asked “Hailey, what’s wrong?”

“What if no one comes?”

It was my birthday, which one doesn’t matter, pick any one of them and some version of this scene was at play.  Fear of no one wanting to be around me, shame that I wasn’t as liked as my other friends, embarrassment before rejection was even possible.

Sometimes God works in really big and flashy ways, like parting the seas, or healing the blind.  With a big bang God will display His power, His love, Himself.

And sometimes, God works in the details, in the tiny crevices of our hearts.  He works in ways that are entirely invisible.

In the last five months since my last update, He has done just that.

With no flash, no bang, no bedazzle, but through hard questions, persistence, and patience God has changed me.  Again.

He took the little girl who has been afraid of rejection for 25 years and opened her eyes.  He showed her that friendship isn’t about the birthday party, its not about how many people are willing to come and share their time and gifts with you.

He showed me that it was time to stop waiting for people to come to my party, it was time to take my party to the streets.

Meet needs, comfort the hurting, celebrate the winning, mourn the losing, encourage the downtrodden.

Where I was weak He spilled over His strength.

Where I was scared He overflowed with His courage.

Rejection.  What is rejection? A speed bump maybe.

With fire in my heart He revealed that it was time to stop holding back.  It was time to go all out, for Him, for His people, for community.

 

And I have.  With a lot, a LOT of speed bumps, and with an unexplained tenacity.

 

Where I fit in Houston is still a question that prompts many more questions, but now I fully believe there is a place, even if it is temporary, and I am determined to find it.

 

I am very excited.

 

That’s all for now!

 

 

“But by the grace of God, I am what I am.”

1 Corinthians 15:10

This is not what I thought I would write about.  I thought I would write about my changing views of romance and love over the years as I have grown together with my wonderful husband.  Instead, after years of tip toeing around a question that fuels hate, sorrow, and hope, it is time to talk, it is time to be open, it is time to be vulnerable.

Can a man marry another man?

Can a woman marry another woman?

Writing this question out, so that I can see it, sucks the air right out of me.  I feel fear creep up in me.  Why? Because this question means so much, to so many people.  To some it is the question that determines their rights, to others it questions the Bible’s authority.  This question hurts people.  It divides friends and families.  For some it divides the faithful from the sinful.

What about for me?

I began to realize during my engagement to Tim just how deeply devoted I was to this man, how we were attached at a level that surpassed the physical or emotional, but seeped to a soul level.  I began to wonder, what would it be like if someone told me I could not be married to this wonderful man.  Or worse, what if someone told me not only could I not not be with him, but my love from him represented an habitual sin, representing my unwillingness to surrender to Jesus, and would ultimately result in my separation from my savior, the one Tim brought me closer to each day.

I began to see this question less about sex and more about people.  Less about an act, and more about a relationship.

Therefore I began to explore this question, could a man marry a man?  It took relatively short time to realize that as far as government goes, gay marriage should be legal.  This opinion developed alongside my desire for separation of church and state.

Looking at the destruction carried out by the church throughout history I decided we were better off doing what Jesus said, things like taking care of the poor, feeding the hungry, loving your neighbor, etc.  rather than legislating morality.

I do not want to discredit government or political involvement.  I think there is a lot of good to be done there, I think God calls some people to serve there.  I think we should love our leaders, pray for them, serve them, encourage them.  I think we should advocate for the least of these, but I don’t think that our human leaders are the answer to our problems, I think Jesus is, and I think his ways are.  Therefore, we should focus our attention on our own actions as a church.

I do not think that the church should decide rights and legislation.  Instead of telling people what not to do, we should be focusing on what we can do.

The question for me now lies outside of government, and inside the church.  Can the church marry a man and a man, a woman and a woman?  Can we ordain a gay man or woman?

This has been harder for me because I’m so scared! I’m scared to ask this question because I’m scared of the horror that will cross the faces of some of my devout and more traditional friends whom I love and respect and don’t want to disappoint.  I’m scared to find the answer is no and be in opposition to my passionate, devoted, and gay friends whom I love and admire and respect.  But like I said, it it is time to be open:  I’m honestly asking this question, searching for God’s perfect and merciful truth.  I’m asking  you to do the same.

Why do you believe what you believe? Do you know? Or is it because it’s what you’ve been told?

I’ve realized over several months that my opinions have stemmed only from what I’ve heard.

I’ve heard what the Bible says about homosexuality… it is an abomination, I’ve heard eating shrimp is as well… I’ve heard about Sodom and Gomorrah, and Paul, and all that.  But what do I know for certain about these stories? Anything more than what I’ve heard? Because if not, that is not healthy.  Do I understand the context behind these stories, these short verses? Because if I do not, my opinion is is not well founded.

What do we have to lose by asking?

I want God’s truth, not man’s interpretation.  If we refuse to ask, and only accept what opinions have existed before us, are we no different than the men and women who accepted that slavery was God’s intended and unchangeable structure?  Are we no different than the men who dictated that women were their inferiors, not fit to receive the rights of voting or their level of education? Are we not different than the women who just accepted this as truth?

Is our God not bigger than this question?

He is our shepherd, we know His voice, do we not trust that He will lead us to truth in grace?  He laid down his life in the most humiliating way possible, He has literally conquered death for us, would He not be willing to help us answer a question He knows is deeply rooted in the hearts of many of His children?

I am not writing today to tell you what is right, I am writing today because I want you to just ask.

 The more I look into this question, the more I see that what I have been told is not necessarily true.  I’m not going to tell you what the answer to this question is, what I am going to do is ask that you seek the answer to this question without bias.

What we must not do in this search is forget the people we are asking about.  We can not let fear express itself in hate as we question our standing beliefs.  We must not treat this question as a list of facts and cold theology, but as one that involves human hearts, hearts that are just like ours.  Hearts that experience fear, shame, hope, love, and joy.

But like I said it’s time to be vulnerable: I don’t know all of the answers, but I am now leaning in a new direction, a direction years ago I never would have considered.  I am open now, trusting that God’s grace and truth will be enough to lead me to resolution.

I don’t think we should be afraid to ask our questions, I don’t think we should let pride keep us from finding truth, no matter what our question may be.

“It is helpful and humbling to realize that I can change my mind on something about which I was once so sure”

Jack Rogers

Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality

Questioning God


Sounds prideful? Outlandish? Rude? At times it really is.

When I am most angry at my circumstances is when it becomes a question of pride.  When I put my own feelings on a pedestal and my questions become more of a demand.  When I am so frustrated I’m throwing a fit, this is when questioning God becomes a problem.

It also becomes a problem when my insecurity speaks guilt into my soul.  Pride is a problem, but insecurity is like a different form of pride, or is it the same? Pride says I am more important than God, insecurity says I am too un-important for God.  Pride says I am more than God, insecurity says God is not enough for me.

When I am in a state of pride I say that my questions are more important than God Himself.  When I am in an insecure state I say God’s grace is not sufficient for my questioning.

But sometimes I get to be right in the sweet center of these two extremes. 

I am neither demanding answers nor denying the existence of my questions, but instead seeing a need for resolution.  Right now I am in this sweet center, so I want to take advantage by writing down my end goal before I swing away.

For months now questions have been creeping into my mind.  Questions that have been scare and intimidate me. They all focus around one entity: God.  Who is He, how can I know? How does this determine how I make choices? These questions started out just as empty words with a question mark at the end, but slowly became like a common belief.  As an example: how can I really know Jesus is God?  Yes the bible says so, but why should I trust the bible? Wait, does the bible really say so, or is this just information I’ve heard that I’m just accepting as truth?

I would try to shake them off, blinking really hard as if I could open my eyes and the scary monster would magically disappear.  But they stayed, throughout the day, the evening, the week, and the months leading me to today.

So now I embrace the questions (or I try to, maybe Jesus won’t send me to hell for asking them after all…)  But this brings me to another problem: I am not an expert in anything to do with religion or faith.  I have no educational background in these matters, I am a teacher with relatively few connections to the church, and no connections to experts in the church.  I am a tired, young wife and educator.  I’m still trying to survive this school year with relatively few hours in a day.  I’m still trying to figure out who I am, and what I want to focus my time on (the classroom, family, community, questioning?)

I say all of this in my attempt to count the cost.

Not that I can count perfectly prior to this journey.  But first and foremost, it will take time.  I have prayed for revelations (don’t hate, I’m tired and a revelation would take a lot less time), but God does not seem to be leaning towards that route.  I have read the bible and been confused in the process feeling alone in my confusion.  Once I tried YouTube only to be disappointed.

Now I am going with a new approach.  I have started to reach out to people who may have resources or the connections that I lack.

This brings me to the next cost, humility.  Like I said, I swing between insecurity and pride, so being in a state where I can ask my question simply for an answer is difficult.  By asking questions I open myself up to criticism (put on that helmet! Protect  yourself from the flaming arrows of the satan!).  Not only for asking the questions but also for how I ask them.  Already I have been corrected in my approach, and though at first frustrated, I realized that it was a great correction and has reshaped my approach.  But how many more times will my question itself be criticized, and am I up for this challenge?  Can my ego handle it?

I can’t count the costs  of the journey fully when I am only at the start, but I can at least attempt to, and I pray that this will be exactly what I call it, a journey.  As I step away from the bubble that I have been in my whole life, the bubble of a Christian God with republican policies, of a manGod who I hold at arm’s length, I trust that God is and will be bigger than this bubble, that His grace will be sufficient, and that He will lead me to answers.

I will be asking the following questions one at a time, in the following order:

  1. Is there a God?
  2. Which God is the God? Is there only one?
  3. Why is the bible viewed as accurate? As a Holy and True source?
    1. In specific Paul’s writing.
    2. How should one approach reading the bible?
  4. Why is Jesus special? What makes Him God? Why is He the only way?
  5. How does this affect how people make choices?  How can one be considered a follower or Christ or a Christian?
  6. Where are there freedoms/liberties in Christ, where are there absolutes?
    1. In specific, what does the bible really say about homosexuality and marriage?

If at any point I arrive to a negative answer, for example, I tackle question number one and arrive at the conclusion that there is no God, then I will stop my search for answers, as the remaining questions stem from the previous questions.

I need to also state that I am obviously biased in my search.  Not necessarily for Christianity, but of the Jewish God.   There is just something about his fierce devotion to his people that makes me love Him.  In this process I hope to grow to know Him better, and if Jesus really is, his Son as well.  May God be gracious, my husband supportive, and my heart mind and soul persistent.


 

I wrote this several weeks ago and have already begun the process of seeking answers. I am posting this now because after many many frustrating months I have finally reached a point of peace in my questions, no longer feeling angry or guilty for having them.

My husband supported this effort best while reading about the next steps I have taken:

“I don’t want to rob you of this journey, but know that I have asked these same questions before, and that I have found answers, I know you will too.  I’m here to talk when you want to.”

I hope in some way to encourage you as I am encouraged while Questioning God.

Read the rest of this entry »

Second grade.  I don’t remember the why.  But I remember the who: me, the what: stress, the where: Pleasant Ridge Elementary,  but I don’t remember the why.  However, I do remember the moment.  Something had caused me to suddenly feel a surge of anxiety.  My little girl self was panicking and scared about something…. something.  When out of nowhere a strong sense of warm calm flooded my pounding heart and I simply heard “you do not need to worry… remember this.”

All the panic left me instantly.  The why I forgot, but I remembered.

I still remember.  “You do not need to worry… remember this.”

We all have moments, moments that define us, shape us, change us.  I’ve had moments like the one in second grade, moments that seem seconds long but will continue to affect me decades later, and I’ve had moments like my depression sophomore year of college that seemed to last decades at the time, but seem like seconds when I found myself collapsing after the storm finally passed.

Moments like when I finally stopped running and fell to my knees before Him my freshman year.

Moments like when I said goodbye to Tim swearing that I had made up my mind and walking away only to know my heart was left with him.

Moments like when I finally said yes, abandoning fear, and married the love of my life, my partner, and my best friend.

Moments when God finally gives me clarity after a season of confusion.

I’m having a moment, and I have no idea what the why is again. I just know the who: me, the what: God, the where: Houston, and the when: now, for months and most likely months to come, if not years.

Things haven’t been right for a while. My heart has been discontent with out reason.  As I have chosen in the past, I stepped away from my Father, avoiding him, getting angry with Him.  I assumed He was angry with me, comparing me to the many better people there are in the world.

I could feel Tim and I being uprooted, both of our hearts simultaneously disconnecting from where we are, and the sense that change was on the horizon.

The realization that I didn’t know where I would be in a year, sent me on a mission to create my own future.

I started to watch as friends invested in homes and welcomed precious babies into the world.  I decided this was where Tim and I needed to be heading.  We made sure we set our funds on track for this, and we created dozens of scenarios that led to payment of student loans, homes, babies, friends, careers, etc. We set dates.  We planned, and I pretended to pray, saying empty words to God while keeping him at arms length.

Rewind back to August for a second: I’m in Starbucks reading Kisses from Katie, a beautiful book about a woman who does exactly what I want to always do, Love the Lord, and love others.  She is a mom to 13 beautiful children in Uganda, she is my age and single.  While I read her detailed descriptions of each precious child I began to cry.  Please note, I’m in Starbucks, a public place, crying.

And that’s when it started, my heart breaking for children.

This is a significant change in my life because up until August, I had one view on who kids were: tiny unpredictable little monsters.

Children have always scared the living crap out of me.  If you made me talk to one on my own I would stand and stare awkwardly trying to talk to the tiny human like a grown adult.  If I found a rare child that actually liked me despite my awkwardness I would get so scared I would avoid the child out of fear that I would run out of things to say.

I am not EVEN kidding right now.

But something started happening in me, in my heart.  God started moving and my heart started breaking.  I began desiring to just love kids, to hug them, and tell them how beautiful and smart they are.   I wanted to tell children how loved and precious they are.  I just needed to be around children.

I had an opportunity to be at a clinic the drill team hosted and I loved it.  My heart melted at the sight of the little ponytails and smiles.  I spent the whole day chasing little girls around the gym, picking them up when they fell, giving countless hugs, and telling every girl I could how beautiful they were. What was once awkwardness and fear turned into unexplained joy with children.

This just hasn’t stopped. It’s not always at the surface, but it is always there.

But Tim and I have talked, and we know that children are not for us right now.  And everything else we have tried to create, just isn’t for us, and it is frustrating and scary, and frustrating, did I mention that?

This moment isn’t one of definition, but almost the opposite, it is a moment of unraveling, a time of questioning and no understanding.

God seems to be swirling in and around Tim and I, pulling us… somewhere.

I think God is pulling us somewhere.

But first, before we get to the where, we are being pulled from the here.

I’m so frustrated!

God is disconnecting us from something, He is breaking me down every day.  Making me question my dedication and analyze just how much I am willing to give. But why?

I have so many questions and I have no answers.

I just feel different and it scares me. Why aren’t Tim and I in a place where we are investing in homes, and babies, or vacations, or just something.  Why? Why? Why?

I am being broken down, and God keeps pointing me to Him, and I get angry and frustrated.  I am so scared to trust in God, for a very foolish reason.  I am always worried that God does not have a plan for me.  That I could sell everything and move somewhere, or sell everything and just stay here to Love God and others, but that God would forget about me in the process.

I go back and forth between surrender to denial.

No… God could not have a specific plan for me.  Maybe people like Katie in that book, or for people in full time missions, but there is no way He has a plan for me, I am just too insignificant.

These thoughts and fears overwhelm me.

But I have moments where I just know, this is not true, that there is a plan and that I need to be chasing it.

I am so scared, I feel so panicked, so worried.

“You do not need to worry… remember this.”

“You do not need to worry… remember this.”

Please pray for Tim and I.   My whole being wants answers.  I want to know.

I don’t want to worry, but I am full of sorrow and longing, wanting to just know something.

I don’t need the full picture, I just want something.

But God is perfect in His timing, my year of teaching is only half way over, and I know I have many more students to love, many more nights of focus on my work, and much more breaking down before God reveals our next step.

I do not need to worry, I remember.

I am currently sitting in the middle of our messy living room, savoring the last few moments of my lazy Sunday. It was a long week with progress reports coming out and a new unit starting, so I had lots of planning and grading to get done.

Last week was rough.

The world ran me over… several times.

In my young career I have had instances where my inner teaching nerd bubbles over and I exclaim with delight something along the lines of “I just love all things teaching so much!”

I receive a few reactions to this, blank stares, a few head nods, but then one response always stands out and it goes something like this “don’t ever lose that.”

Before this year my honest thought process was “does not compute.”

How could I ever lose something that is so innate, so God given, so fulfilling?  Being passionate about people, students, caring for God’s children in a place where my natural talents thrived?  How could I lose that?

After three weeks of this school year I now know.

I can see just how challenging it will be to maintain my enthusiasm and desire, my passion, my goals.

I want to be a Daniel, a David.

These men are my human inspiration.  Leaders for the Lord, understanding of His ways and thoughts.  Imperfect, yes, just like me, yet still great.  Living and leading within this world, yet not of it.  Standouts in so many ways, I want this.  I want to be the go-to person for God, I want Him to delegate some of HIs work to me, and I want to bring honor to Him as I love my way through this life and make my small mark of Jesus on this world.

This world will try to beat this desire right out of me. 

I have had an incredibly eye opening experience into how cruel and rude people can be.   My heart has reacted in  three ways to this.

  1. Confusion: I do not fully understand the anger and irritation I have received from people.  I literally do not understand why there is anger because I do not understand what the problem actually is, regardless of how many times I ask for an explanation.  I also do not understand the depth of this anger, because it seems seeped into hearts at a level that goes beyond paper work and planning.
  2. Anger: I am angry at moments because I’m being yelled at. And I’m being yelled at by people who do not know my situation at all.  They don’t see the hours I’m putting in, or my devotion to my students and to a job well done, yet I sense an enjoyment in their fury. I sense an enjoyment in their ability to criticize and in their harsh cutting words.
  3. Pity: And yet in this anger I sense brokenness, a brokenness that has existed for far longer than my short time in their presence, maybe days, maybe weeks, months, years, decades… and my heart breaks because to be so angry for so long would be unimaginably damaging to one’s heart.

These three things mixed together is burdensome and hard to sort through.  At moments when I’m most weighed down I get flashes of my Father.  Almost as if my life were a black and white movie, so dreary, and for a slight moment there is a shift on the screen and you see behind this grainy film the true colored picture that is in action.

A perfect and just Father, angry on His beloved daughter’s behalf stands over her, perfectly protective, ready to defend her against whatever this cruel world dares to throw at her.  In these moments my soul leaps for joy as I see my Dad and know that not only is He here but He is actively involved in my situations, deeply devoted to me.  I feel precious, I feel protected, I feel I can remain purposeful.

But these are flashes, brief reminders before returning to my visible reality.  My grey world where words hurt and in pain I feel isolation.  Where I curl up and cry to my God that I just don’t have what it takes to work hard while also fighting never ending negativity and criticism.

My mom keeps assuring me that this is a time of growth, that I’m here for a reason, and I think she is right.  I think God is breaking me, and remaking me, again, like so many times before.  Building endurance as I live for my unseen reality, my truest life, my perfect protector, my home.

Growing Pains.

They are pretty painful.  I’m floundering and falling and stumbling as a wife, an educator, and daughter of the King.  I am fragile, like a jar made of clay.  I feel “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

II Corinthians 4: 8 & 9

In other words, though I am enjoying aspects of this year, so far it sucks.

I say these things all for one purpose:  I’m floundering and falling and stumbling, I’m as fragile as a jar of clay, and in all of this, this pain and confusion and frustration and these tears, inside this fragile jar beautiful things are happening:

  • I’m loving my students and they for the most part are returning this love
  • I’m getting good remarks from parents and administrators
  • I’m developing my leadership skills within education
  • people are being so gracious in their encouraging comments about my blog

Inside this jar of clay beautiful things are happening.  I can say this in true humility, wearing my humanity on my sleeves, being honest in my fragility, and bearing the cross on my heart.  I am frail, and I am floundering, but inside, my heart is being continually made new and a strength beyond myself keeps me smiling and pushing.   I am so weak, and I hope people see this, so that if any good work comes from me, the true source is seen.

My Lord, My God, My Perfect Protector and Father.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
II Corinthians 4:7

 

We live in very confusing times.  As a Christian this really isn’t surprising.  God never said the world would get fixed after he left, he said it would continue to spiral until he came back.  The problem though, isn’t the confusion in the world; it’s how the church and non-church respond to our circumstances.  From my perspective, the two most controversial non-essential spiritual issues I have faced have been drinking and views on gay marriage.

 My experience with alcohol has presented itself to be the epitome of how poorly we handle confusion and of the tension Christians feel in and outside of the church.  As a kid, I knew that beer and wine were for the adults, and I never had a problem with that.  My dad usually had a few of what he called, cold “brewskies” in the fridge and it was never a shock to find a box of mom’s weird grape juice in the lower cabinets.  I knew the rule that the wine was for my momma, and the brewsky for dad, leaving all other liquids in the fridge up for grabs for my sister and I.  This never concerned me, and alcohol never stood out to me, it was just there.  This isn’t to say I didn’t see the problems alcohol could cause.  My parents and adults around me weren’t perfect, but they were great at teaching me from a young age that when I would drink when I was older, moderation would be the key word (though to say I didn’t learn this lesson fully the hard way would be a lie).

It wasn’t until college that I first began to see that alcohol was the great divide between the prudes and the popular.  As a freshman before becoming a Christian I drank underage a few times thinking that it was just “what you did.” However, after becoming a Christian and getting involved in a youth ministry I chose to stop drinking until I was of age.  No big deal right? It’s not like I actually enjoyed the Natty Light frats served or that disgusting mix o’ crap they called punch. 

WRONG!                          

Oh my gosh, you would have thought I was a leper from the way some people reacted to me and my friends for not drinking.  Not all people, I met some really awesome people who drank underage and were really cool with me not joining in.  But oh my gosh, this was like THE thing that distinguished a “Christian” from a true Christian in college, or it was the thing to defend if you were a Christian.  I felt so on edge and left out all because I wouldn’t drink! In the defense of the insiders, I probably acted as awkward as I felt, which was probably more of the cause for being (or should I say feeling) on the “outside” than drinking.

No big deal, push through and it will all be over after college.  We’ll all move on from the drinking issue and no awkwardness will exist when the drinking age has come and gone along with the rebelliousness or newness that had come with it in school.

WRONG!

Now I’m not worrying about people on the outside of the steepled buildings thinking I’m a prude, I’m more worried about the people inside thinking I’m living in sin (gasp!).   This feels ridiculous to write about, but I know I’m not alone.  Once when I offered wine to a couple friends, a girl came up to me and whispered “I really needed some Christian friends who drank, thanks.” I totally knew where she was coming from, and I totally understood her need to whisper.  For whatever reason, alcohol has become this very uncomfortable topic.

What? Why?

Why is this such an unspoken hot button issue for the church?

I’m going to go ahead and get it out there right now: I drink! I love a good margarita, white wine, Dos Equis, or hard cider! Yum!

To some people that may not seem like a big deal, and back in the day I wouldn’t have thought so either.  However, having experienced people whose view is that drinking means I can no longer be a part of the church, and having felt the pressure of not letting others see me participate in what is really such a simple thing compared to, oh, I don’t know, war, hunger, poverty… just to name a few, I love being able to just put in writing that I drink.  Moderation, like my parents so wisely taught me, is key.

This isn’t to downplay that drinking can be a problem. I have seen what alcoholism can do to a person and their family, and I always want to respect that person and their sobriety over having a freaking drink.  In other situations a person may not be able to drink because of medication they are taking (I have been this person at times).  In instances such as these, a beer just wouldn’t cross my mind. It just isn’t a big deal to not consider alcohol in that case.

I write all this to show how something so unimportant in the big picture (again, war, poverty…), can be blown out of proportion.  And amid all of what I wrote about, amid my whole experience, how often did Jesus come up?

It should have been simple when I was in college: I met a man named Jesus, and his love has changed me, so now choices I make look different than before, but that doesn’t mean I love you any less or look at you as any less.  If anything it is the exact opposite. I love and value you more than ever. 

The same awkwardness and tension arises in our nation over things such as the marriage debate.  In our hearts there are so many devoted followers of Jesus that know that our job is well defined: love others.

Not love others unless they drink or unless they are homosexual or unless they use bad words.

And yet we’re scared because you see all of these controversies where the church is trying to protect the “sanctity” of marriage (let’s just ignore the 50% divorce rate in and out of the church), and we’re scared into silence.  Are we not being truthful enough? Defending what God defined as marriage? Are we not honoring God if we vote the “wrong” way? God, am I going to have to be the prude once again?

And amid all of this, how often am I, are we, mentioning Jesus?  How often do we ask about him, talk about him, consider him? After all, he is the cornerstone of our beliefs and our church, and yet we aren’t talking about him at all.  No one is discussing the man who lived over 2,000 years ago, let that soak in.  People will argue till they are blue in the face about the morality in marriage without considering who they are following, a man who died, over 2,000 years ago.

Everything about this situation is strange. 

First, that we aren’t talking about the foundation of what we believe; the one who started our movement, the reason we (Christians) exist, while we exhaust ourselves trying to figure out how to defend which politics we side with.

Second, that who we are forgetting is strange in and of itself considering he died over 2,000 years ago.

We are distracted, as individuals, as groups, as a nation.  We are so caught up in defending what we believe is morally “right”, that we have forgotten to discuss the one we believe in.  This is really our loss, because it is quite fascinating that 2,000 years later, a lower-class individual from an afterthought of a country still has people so devoted to his story and to him.

My sincerest desire is to step outside of our cloud of confusion, step outside of alcohol, outside of the marriage debate, outside of the politics and the mundane distractions, and focus on the question that matters, the question that started over 2,000 years ago, the question that changes everything.

I want the masses to stop bickering, so the individual can ask: Who was Jesus?

 

Who this entry is not for:

  1. If you have your life completely together/you have life figured out
  2. If you have never experienced shame
  3. If you have never held a grudge
  4. If you never experience failure
  5. If you have never made a mistake
  6. If you have never been hurt by someone
  7. If you have never hurt someone badly
  8. If you have never felt sick to your stomach with worry
  9. If you have never been floored by confusion
  10. If you have never been broken

Who this entry is for:

  1. The messy
  2. The shamed
  3. The grudge holder
  4. The failure
  5. The imperfect
  6. The heartbroken
  7. The heart breaker
  8. The worried
  9. The confused
  10. The broken

My message: you are not alone.  My mission: to help set you free.

I’ve had a lot of reactions to my blog posts.  People have told me they are funny.  People have told me they are inspiring.  People have told me they are uncomfortable.

My most recent post, which was several weeks ago, and referred to problems experienced several weeks prior to that, stirred up probably the most extreme emotions yet.  For those of you who have not read the post, I wrote about the raw emotions Tim and I experienced as we encountered the first truly hurtful problem in our marriage.  I wrote about how we overcame the problem.  I wrote about our commitment to each other.  I would like to point out here, now, that I never wrote about the problem itself.   Not now, maybe not ever, not until the Spirit leads us in wisdom to do so in a way that would be beneficial to others.

Why then, do I write these things? The “bad” emotions?

Because somewhere out there, in this image obsessed society, there is someone like me, who is broken and messy.  And to that person I say, you are not alone.  Look, look at my mess.  My beautiful, broken, bleak, and wonderful mess.  It is just as real as your mess, the details may be different, but I am a mess all the same, you are not alone.  Read through my entries, they are a reflection of this mess we share.  I am not perfect, my stories will not all be about good times, that’s just not real, but you know this, and that’s why I write to you, because you share in my mess.

How then, do I write these things? They clearly make others feel uncomfortable at times, how do I feel so comfortable saying I am broken, but beautiful?

I have been set free

Here’s the honest truth, you may not like it: you are going to die.  So am I.  Soon.

“Our days on earth are like grass, like wildflowers, we bloom and die.”

Psalm 103:15

Death, to me, is so real, I hate it.  I don’t fear it, I hate it.  I hate everything it conjures up: fear, anguish, grief.   I am disgusted by death.  I am enthralled by life.  By Him. By my maker. By the one who has conquered death.  By the one who has made heaven more real than death.  By the one who will bring me home.  By the one who is perfectly good, perfectly loving, perfectly perfect.  By the one who is not a mess, who is never confused, and can never be broken.  To the one who has come for people like me, people who are imperfect and messy.

I no longer have to be perfect, because I have been set free by the one who already is.  I am free to live life with out shame, without regret, and without the chains of the law (biblical law, not an anarchist) holding me down.  I have been redeemed.

Why?  Why then, in my freedom would I hide my mistakes, my mess, when I know they do not define me? They are simply a part of my story, my journey, but me, I am incredible. I was made this way, and I am not alone. If you are a human, you are a mess, in some way shape or form, you have been broken, you have broken, you have tried and failed, you have felt shame or guilt, confusion, sadness and the list goes on, but you too, are incredible.

Why? Why would I hide my mistakes, my mess, when I have been set free?  I don’t have time.  I don’t have time to try and set up a perfect facade to try and convince people that I’m awesome before I die.  Besides I already know I’m awesome, my God made me that way, like I said, I’m broken, and beautiful.  I am not going to be a slave to this world by going along with its norms which say we must have it all together.  I am here now yes, but I am going home, so I’m not worried about trying to please this world, or fit into it.

I feel my home in my heart.  It is so close.

I am broken, and I am beautiful.  I am free.

My message: You are not alone.  

My mission: To  help set you free.

See that you are broken, own that you are broken, confess that you are broken, and then see that you are beautiful.

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17

To the sexually assaulted, addicted, and obsessed.  To the narcotics user and the alcohol abuser. To the person who just can’t catch a break in life.  To the money poor and anxious.  To the approval seeking, power hungry, gluttonous sinner.  You are not alone. From the fall, to the return, there have been, are, and always will be messy people like you.  What you do, your actions, they are ugly, they are awful, they are everything you know them to be.  But you, you are beautiful, you were made to be incredible.

In English 101 (because I’m a math major, and a pretty poor one at that) they tell you to end these things with a call to action.  So my call to you is His calling on your heart: Lose your life, confess your mess, and find true life in a love that frees.

It is with a love beyond myself that I write tonight. Good night, and God bless.

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