Perfecting Weakness

It feels good to be small.

This is my main take-away from six months of sabbatical.

Recently I described the year like being lost in the woods .

It felt like I ceased to be myself for a whole year. I ceased to know the things I thought I knew well and stopped connecting with many things that had previously given me joy and life.

It freaked me out to be unsure of everything I used to know. To add another metaphor to the pile, I was drowning.

And kept drowning…  Continue reading “Perfecting Weakness”

The Odd Couple

Having lunch with a close friend after church yesterday I said,

“I don’t know how to be a Christian anymore.”

It sounds both more shocking and less extreme than I mean, but they are the only words I can find to explain myself.

I love Jesus. Even when I’m twisted into some weird, navel gazing obsession over the point of my existence… even when  I’m catastrophically overwhelmed by the clash of world news and daily personal hostilities I have this unshakable hope that God exists and that He is good.

At the same time I have totally forgotten the why and the how of so many rituals. When I try to pray anything fancy about healing or spiritual warfare, I can’t get out anything beyond, “Help, God.” or  “Please, God.” I say a lot more stuff to Him than that, actually I say all of the things to him, but I no longer understand why we concoct prayers that sound like magical incantations.

Last winter when I got this strong feeling that I needed a sabbatical I also sensed God giving me a heads up that this season (that I’ve just walked through) wouldn’t be any easier than the last season when I was piled under an unmanageable amount of stress. When I say I “walked through” this sabbatical what I really mean is I’ve crawled through, often just laying on my face in the mud pouring out of my heart.

I’m super broken, guys… Continue reading “The Odd Couple”

A Lantern of Hope

Several days ago I asked God to show me how he is working in my life. As you could probably ascertain from my last blog post, I’ve been having a hard time seeing this. Being able to admit what I did in the last post is one of his answers and then something that happened yesterday, which I now share:

All day I was feeling the pointlessness of my existence. This wasn’t situational, necessarily.  It wasn’t a “big day,”  other than the rambling, normal celebration of a friend’s birthday. I had spent all day with these friends chatting, eating, staring off into space, being entertained by their children, taking photos with my cell phone… Continue reading “A Lantern of Hope”

The Ugly Truth

Sometimes I go down roads in my head I don’t want to go. This usually has to do with big questions about life and God. Several years ago I suddenly couldn’t shake the fact that the Bible doesn’t say explicitly what happens to babies that die. I couldn’t just believe something happy to soothe my fears, I had to know. And until I worked it out, I had a hard time thinking about anything else.

When thoughts like this come along, I don’t usually want to share the journey with anyone because I fear several unpleasant things. Mostly I fear that they will label me or decide something about me based upon my current feelings and thoughts without recognizing the journey of it. I fear this from others because I tend to do it to myself.

“THIS IS A BAD PLACE AND I WILL ALWAYS LIVE HERE.”

That’s the thing I tend to think when I’m wandering down the miry path called Crisis Of Faith… Continue reading “The Ugly Truth”

Getting it Right

Most of us want to be Good People. We tend to think that, just as a child grows from infancy to adulthood, everyone is at some stage of “growing up” toward maturity and greater independence.

A few months ago I posted something a friend of mine wrote where she mentioned a pastor who had committed suicide. Weeks later, another friend asked me about this- disturbed to consider a pastor doing such a horrible, desperate thing. Because of this idea we have that spiritual growth is a steep climb up a mountain made increasingly on your own, it is horrifying when someone “ahead” of us on the path gives up or slides dramatically backward.

We ask ourselves, “What is the point of my climbing if  someone like that can fall?” 

The bad news is that being a pastor or a missionary or a nun will not safeguard us from being Bad People, from getting depressed, from having broken relationships, from sin or from tragedy (a fact that is noticed easily by people who keep their distance from Christianity). Although we gain maturity and we learn lessons, we’re always light years away from being grown up… Continue reading “Getting it Right”

A Killing Silence

A Killing Silence: and  why you shouldn’t keep it to yourself
Guest Post by Ruth

I found out last week that a college friend of mine, now a pastor and father of two, killed himself.  The reasons he left in his suicide note were vague. When I first heard the news my immediate thought was, “What could have been so bad that you would leave behind a wife and two children?”  I could come up with nothing.

And then I got mad because I realized that my friend had been lied to, by who I didn’t know, but he believed that there WAS something bad enough.

This realization made me want to run to the top of the nearest hill and ask my friends to gather so I could tell them and God all my sins, all my dark thoughts, and hidden pain. I wanted to purge myself. But how often do we really do this?  How often do we say, out loud, the things that could kill us if they are not brought to light?

Two days later, my friend Peggy, sent me an invitation to say “hard stuff” on her blog and I knew immediately it was in invitation to say the things that I keep in dark corners. While I am angry about the lies we believe and keep us trapped, I still find it hard to say the things that will expose my weaknesses, my sins.  I find it’s best to take a deep breath and then make a list.  This will be the opposite of a list I would post on Facebook… Continue reading “A Killing Silence”

A Plan to Lose it All

Lately I have been a real mess. Not a quirky, things-will-come-out-right-in-the-end kind of mess, either. A gross and ugly mess that you’re sure will yield rotting surprises. I have seriously questioned my mental health and the wisdom of even interacting with other humans. My heart and mind have been dark and confusing. Even just last night, all of the worst lies came out to taunt me as I tried to go to sleep.

When I woke up (after very little sleep) I felt that same raw and twisty anxiety, but as I sat down to spend some time with God, he came quickly in just the way I needed. He didn’t soothe me with “No, everyone really loves you, it’s okay,” but instead pointed me to how incredibly faithful he is, has been and will continue to be. I think it’s only after I recognize how big and good he is that I am able to feel comforted by what he then says about who I am.

Then, at the end of class today I had a good dose of “hindsight” as I finished up my last teaching in the School of Biblical Studies.

What I got to see at the end of my teaching is how all the things that God spoke about this season before it happened  (this season being my involvement with SBS since the beginning of 2012)  have taken place… Continue reading “A Plan to Lose it All”

The Hem of His Robe

For the past few years I’ve had this problem.

You don’t really want to hear all about it, but for the sake of what I want to share, I will tell you. I have too much estrogen. You’d think this would lead to more awesome womanness, but actually it causes several problems. It’s not just constant PMS symptoms, but also constant bleeding. The good news is that I went to the doctor years ago, and although it has gotten worse, I have stuff I can take that helps minimize these things (and totally eliminates the constant bleeding).

I continue to look for ways to be more hormonally balanced by eating differently, minimizing stress, etc. The symptom that is the most bothersome to me is extreme irritability. The difference between normal grumpiness and hormone induced irritation is marked. My rational mind tells me when a situation or interaction should or should not lead to anger and when this problem is at it’s worst, I walk around in a fog of anxious irascibility. I find this side effect the most disturbing because it impacts my relationships with other people and those are what I value most. Also, I don’t enjoy being angry!

Every once in a while I run out of the medicine that helps me and I usually keep a pretty relaxed attitude about it until, three or four days later, my skin hurts and I’m trying desperately to not bite people**.

I ran out of medicine a week and a half ago and while I’m not having horrible symptoms, I did have a revelation last night about a story in the Bible. I suddenly realized that I am the woman with the issue of blood from Mark 5 (also Luke 8 and Matthew 9)… Continue reading “The Hem of His Robe”

Growing Young

I know Rich Mullins was not your typical kind of hero. From what I understand, he was a  very flawed and broken man. Nevertheless, the music and the words that God gave him have impacted me in a bigger way than I had realized until seeing  a movie about his life. He taught me two very important things about following Jesus.

His message resonated so quickly and deeply that I didn’t even know it was him that God was using to teach me. While this is about the influence of a musician, it’s mostly about the faithfulness of God to walk so near to me.

Lesson 1: Honesty

“These days I need more than just a line about Jesus.
I need to see his love, these days.”

I grew up going to a Southern Baptist church. What I learned as a kid was that the best Christians looked good and shiny on the outside. They had two parents, and plenty of money, they dressed up for church and they never said bad words. I saw nowhere to express my confusion and pain over life (not to mention I was poor with divorced parents and started swearing in elementary school)… Continue reading “Growing Young”

Divorce: Crash Course

That title is a bit of a misnomer. Let’s be honest- I can’t tell you what divorce is like for everyone who experiences that sad undertaking. I do, however, think it could be helpful to hear some of my experience. I only have a little advice which I’ll tell you now in case you get bored with my story:

1. Learn as much as you can about the reality of marriage and the faults of the person you want to marry before you get married. Make a conscious choice and not an emotional leap.
2. If it’s too late and the divorce has happened (is happening) make forgiveness your priority. Forgive yourself and your spouse completely. Unless you don’t really want to enjoy your life. If that’s the case, skip forgiving.

In the midst of it, divorce is like having a limb chopped off. It’s likely that for many, that feeling of disastrous separation from a part of yourself does not go away. Even if the limb were riddled with disease and barely operating in its intended function, it is still horrible to have it removed. It was, after all, yours. The empty space serves as a constant reminder of what could have been.

I get too metaphorical, I’ll now go narrative.

It was July 7th (some years ago) the day that my former husband told me all of his news- the most central was his choosing to walk away from God, whom he could no longer believe existed. The divorce part was almost an afterthought of his realizations and decisions. I don’t blame him for not seeing things the way I saw them. To him, I believe (and he may read this and correct me) we had become like roommates and our separation seemed a matter of course. It was not so for me. For me, he was my husband and unmarrying was a matter of purposeful destruction… Continue reading “Divorce: Crash Course”

Existential Absence

Raise your hand if you want to talk about loneliness!

No?

Me neither. In fact, until this morning I would have responded to the topic with a smile and shrug. “I’m not dealing with that issue right now.” For a few weeks now I’ve had that thought several times, to my own surprise. Who doesn’t feel lonely sometimes?

Apparently not me. Cool.

Then this morning, as I was beginning to question this unexpected sturdiness, I opened up the book I’m reading, The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. In the chapter, Ministry by a Lonely Minister he talks about loneliness as a gift, he looks back at loneliness and says, “The truth is so disconcerting and painful that we are more prone to play games with your fantasies than to face the truth of our existence.” He also throws out a few things we do to avoid loneliness and, reading this, I realized I haven’t been craving people because I’ve been keeping myself so busy. Work, books, movies… even cooking and cleaning keep me distracted… Continue reading “Existential Absence”

Land Mines

I hear the phrase “fear of man” pretty often among the people with whom I spend most of my time.

Sometimes, unfortunately, phrases like this begin to lose their meaning for me when they’ve been used too often. I understand them less and less in any practical fashion and they slide past me unnoticed in the daily barrage of words.

Then one day someone will talk about one of these realities without using the common phrase and suddenly I am struck with the truth and given a much needed heart check… Continue reading “Land Mines”

If God

I’m not doing well with words lately. Every time I’ve tried to speak it’s felt like pulling frozen taffy.

Yesterday morning I talked to a good friend of mine who is in Ireland. Somehow she said all of the things I’ve been trying (and failing) to say for the last few weeks. 

I’ve been asking God some big questions recently and while waiting to hear back from him, I’ve gotten trapped under a huge pile of words and emotions. It hasn’t been pretty. What I know about God speaking is that he usually does it quickly. Nevertheless, I have this sense of waiting on him.

There’s something of Romans 7-8 in all of my personal struggles. Usually, the first half of any hard time consists of me wrestling with myself and losing. At some point I remember the character of God and I’m encouraged to stop looking at myself and start looking at him. This is when I move into chapter 8 of Romans and I begin (again) to believe that he is good and that in my total weakness, he is strong and loving.

And Paul’s questions are the real thing, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

I also read yesterday, “The moment you realize that God wants good for you more than you want good for yourself, is the moment that you let go.” – Adam Smith

It’s not to say that everything will be easy, but there is real and solid peace involved in struggling with instead of against God. He is so good, so loving and so much bigger than everything we face… even when what we face is our own selves.

Reading in the Dark

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a rough week.

Sometimes I get really stuck in the dark and I cannot see the way ahead. There are a lot of lies that whisper to me when the lights go out. It makes my head much like a haunted house and a heavy rock of grief, stress and fear sits on my chest and it actually feels harder to breath.

This morning during corporate worship I was desperate to get away from myself and see God. I picked up my Bible and opened to Isaiah because I remembered some good stuff in there where God says who he is in a very direct way.

Isaiah 43 has been an important chapter to me for the past ten years. Before doing the School of Biblical Studies, I had a hard time reading the Bible at all. Except for Isaiah 43. My struggle was that I couldn’t see how any of the words were really for me… people talked about “claiming the promises of God,” but I couldn’t see how any of those promises were for me… Continue reading “Reading in the Dark”

Call It The Past

When people hear the story of my marriage and divorce, they often remark on how healthy I seem. I’m not bitter toward my former husband- in fact, when I do think about him, I often consider the gifts he continues to offer the world. I make self deprecating jokes, I expound on the joys of being reintroduced to singleness.

But I will also correct my surprised audience because I’m really still just as messed up as everyone else. Maybe the willingness to forgive and be transparent about my faults is a sign of maturity I will own to, but it doesn’t mean I’ve leveled up.

What I mean to say is that when my former spouse was still my future ex husband, I was struggling under the weight of all kinds of neurosis. I got them the same way everyone does, in childhood. A difficult marriage may strengthen old triggers, but those triggers formed on the playground of youth, in the hallways of old houses with my feet sunk into orange shag carpeting…. Continue reading “Call It The Past”