I’m Cranky And I Know It

If I were to describe my relationship with faith and the church in this season of my life, I think there is an overarching theme that would emerge: I’m cranky.

There are parts of what I’ve grown up with that feel like a sweater I’ve grown out of—the hem doesn’t meet my jeans any longer and the sleeves are tight around my upper arms and it just feels uncomfortable. I read a book on spiritual formation for women and I wonder why so much of it is based on feelings and why it had to be directed at women instead of all of us. I leave a church service feeling grippy about the amount of first-person-personal-pronouns used in so many Christian songs today. I cross my arms feeling like I will never be respected or taken seriously in an evangelical community unless I am married with children.

Mostly, I notice my brokenness in all of this complaining and discontent.

A cycle of frustration and guilt, frustration and guilt, frustration and guilt has marked my days and I have had trouble reconciling the tension. So many prayers asking for contentment, or better attitudes, or anything to resolve the itchy, too-tight feeling I feel in my faith communities. Because, let’s be honest, I am the common denominator in these spheres.

It wasn’t until listening to two friends talk through one’s frustrating family situation that I began to find some hope.

“I’m just becoming so aware of my brokenness in all of this,” my one friend said, a little teary.

“But just think,” our friend responded, “He loves you too much to not make you aware of this. He wants you to know this is in you, and he’s singing over you with grace in this struggle. He won’t leave you here.”

I almost started sobbing right there. Because I felt this—I hadn’t known it before that moment, but this was what I had been aching for.

God loves us so much that he has covered us in his own righteousness that we can come before the Father without fear. And how much more does he loves us that he takes us just as we are, but also steps in to heal our broken places.

He is not looking for me to heal my broken, cranky places. Of that, I am incapable. He is making me more aware of them so that I bring them to him. To sit with him, seeking more of him. To behold over behave.

My purpose is not to fix the church. That is for God to do. I am part of the church—a very broken part at that. My purpose is to sit and let him work on me, surrendering how I think things should be—how I think I should be. To let him sing over me in grace so that I may walk out into the world with that same grace to give.

He confronts us with our brokenness not to shame us into submission. He wades into our broken places to demonstrate his grace and sing over us with love. It’s through grace and love that our broken places are made whole.

A Prayer for Now

I work in social media, so I’ve seen how this goes, but I can’t not say something. My heart is too broken not to.

See, I don’t like getting political on the internet because I have watched time and time again as people forget that there is a very real human being at the other end of their rage-ladened comments. But this weekend, the rage went beyond the internet and out into the streets in a manner I cannot abide. As this reached far beyond political, I can also no longer abide being silent.

To see scripture references scrawled on signs in the name of hate toward fellow image-bearers in such an ugly, appalling, and shameless way makes me sick. And angry. And so homesick it hurts.

Because what happened this weekend was evil.

There was nothing justified in the action of those white supremacists—because we call ugly hateful things what they are.

I’ve watched a lot of broking things go down because the church remained silent and right now I can’t be silent.

But I have no words, just a heavy feeling of lament. My sphere of influence is small, but I’m committed not to just shed a tear, shrug a shoulder, and move on. So I sit with the tension here.

In doing some work over the weekend, I ran across some beautiful words from Martin Luther King, Jr. I think we all need:

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.
If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause men everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will.
But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of men, imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace.
—Martin Luther King Jr., “A Knock at Midnight”

I am praying today that our imaginations are realigned with God’s. I’m praying that we remember that courage comes after obedience. I’m praying we remember that no matter a person’s race, religion, or political bent, we are image-bearers—and that is so beautiful.

Perfect love casts out fear. May this stir us closer toward perfect love.

If you want to take a next step with me, pick up a copy of Ken Wytsma’s latest release The Myth of Equality. His thoughts are so relevant and needed in these dark times.

We are never without hope. We are the salt of the earth and a light on a hill. Truth can never be drowned out and love never fails—even in the face of such blatant despicable hate. I stand for my fellow image-bearers.

 

 

The Stories that Help Us Grieve

As I writer, I rarely find myself without words. After my mentor passed, words were hard.

I didn’t write for months and socializing just seemed a little too daunting. It was an odd season in which I

definitely felt displaced.

And eventually I began to process what had happened and how I felt and I began to heal. The words returned and I was able to embrace a new normal. Still, there were parts of what I was experiencing  that I still didn’t quite have the words for.

Narrative is a powerful thing. I’ve heard it described as a tarnished mirror. You see what is happening on the surface–the characters, the conflict– like the marks on the glass’ surface. But if the narrative is truly doing its job, you begin to see beyond the marks on the glass and actually glimpse your reflection. You see a little bit of your own heart and nature as you observe the joys and griefs of the characters. The injustice makes you angry, but it also forces you to observe the injustice in your own mind.

There is something in the power of narrative that is humbling, eye opening, and, at times, earth shattering.

About a year and a half after my mentor passed, I encountered a book that achieved this for me.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the buzz surrounding The Fault in Our Stars this summer. John Green wrote a fabulous novel about two cancer-riddled teens falling in love. A lot of kiddos believe it to be a great love story that pulls at the heart-strings, makes one run out of kleenex, blah, blah, blah.

But there was something in the way Green wrote Hazel’s narration. He got it. It was all there. The tension of living with someone who is dying. The pain, the awkwardness, and even the humor–because there is a humor that comes out of it. John Green had happened upon something I hadn’t in a long long time.

The words.

And it was so clarifying and freeing. After I finished the book, I continued to sit and I just cried. Tears of grief because I missed her, tears of joy because I know where she is, and tears because I had been given a little bit of myself back.

I’m forever thankful for that novel.

In his review of the movie made from his brother’s book, Hank Green said this:

I cried. I cried a bunch of times, but not because it subtracted from me, but because it added to me. It opened up the mysteries of life and love and hurt for examination and for understanding and I think that’s something that world needs more of.

I agree deeply with this statement. Sad things for the sake of sadness take from us. They take joy and hope and balanced outlook. But then there are sad things that better us. That give us hope, renew our trust in God, and bring us closer to truth. That’s what The Fault in Our Stars was able to do for me.

A dear writing friend of mine, Susie Finkbeiner understood our need for understanding of hard things as well as the need for that to add to us rather than subtract from us.

Her book, My Mother’s Chamomile, explores the journey of a family of funeral directors in a season of loss. Susie used her own grief as well as those graciously shared with her to make a beautiful story that rings true and brings hope in the midst of sadness. I cried many times through the course of reading, but in the end, I was added to. God was able to expand my capacity for hope in the midst of pain as well as my understanding of the human heart.

I so appreciate Susie’s willingness to go to the hard places of her own pain as well as her passion to tell a story dripping with truth. She has done a fabulous job and I would love it if you would take the time to read it.

So why am I writing about this? Well, for starters, starting on Thursday, My Mother’s Chamomile is $0.99 for Kindle readers and I think you should buy it. But also, I think it’s important to know what narrative can do for us. That God uses all things for his glory including fiction. And sometimes that fiction can be healing.

Stories that reach into the depth of our nature when we feel the most human do something to us. We are being invited to be added to. To understand the pain of someone else, but also to understand our own hurt and hope. This is why I love what I am called to do. I hope one day to be able to write something that will provide what these stories have provided me.

What stories have been powerful in a dark season for you? Do you have a story that helped you in the grieving process?