Five Minute Friday: Complete

Worn Out

Gentle Reader,

I distract myself when it hurts. Never one to enjoy “the feels,” I do what I can to regulate my emotions via outside sources, instead of, well, feeling them. Nature, nurture, whatever. Doesn’t matter. It’s part of my programming, one that antidepressants and therapy assist in changing. Maybe someday I’ll get there.

Kate says: complete.

Go.

I deleted all of the posts on my personal Facebook page. Am contemplating doing the same over on Twitter. I keep telling myself that it’s because I want a fresh start. I want to wipe everything clean and begin again. And that is true. But not all true. And not a good truth.

Fear has surrounded me, you see. A nice, complete circle. No beginning, no end.

Don’t post that.

Don’t write that.

Don’t say that.

Don’t share that. 

So if I delete everything, then nobody will know. So-called conservatives can’t get mad at me because I think monuments to the Confederacy belong in museums, that journalists are not your enemies, and that Donald Trump is not a good president. So-called liberals can’t get mad at me because I believe in the literal resurrection of Christ, that marriage as ordained by God is restricted to one man and one woman, and that Scripture is reliable and accurate. And nobody, on any side of anything, can get mad at me for my “Yes, I preach the Gospel but I also live and let live and work hard to love people whoever and whatever they are because I’m really not into ‘Christianizing’ anything” approach. (By the way, the labels “conservative” and “liberal” have just about lost all meaning. Let’s retire them).

Because I’m tired.

Tired of people being mad at me.

And THAT makes me mad.

So I place my figurative foot on this figurative soapbox and stand, knees knocking, toes trembling, hands sweaty. I look at the circle, the one that grows tighter with each passing day. I let my head fall back and I roar:

PEOPLE. DO. NOT. HAVE. TO. AGREE. WITH. YOU. IN. ORDER. FOR. YOU. TO. BE. KIND.

ECHO. CHAMBERS. ARE. BAD.

LEARN. TO. LISTEN. TO. OPPOSING. VIEWS.

GOSSIP. IS. EVIL. STOP. IT. GROW. UP.

IF. YOU. DON’T. LIKE. WHAT. I. WRITE. THEN. DON’T. READ.

OR. IF. YOU. WANT. TO. FOLLOW, BUT. DON’T. LIKE. WHAT. I. WRITE, THEN. MAKE. A. COMPELLING. FACTUAL. SCRIPTURAL. COUNTERARGUMENT. (NO. EMOTIONAL. APPEALS. AND. RAGING. DO. NOT. COUNT).

JESUS. IS. NOT. A. REPUBLICAN.

JESUS. IS. NOT. A. DEMOCRAT.

I want to wipe the slate clean because I want to hide. Just the other day I told my husband, “I want to go unnoticed.” And that, dear reader, is just as wrong as wanting all the attention all the time. Pushing people aside to take center stage, whatever the cost, is the lie of pride. Running away, never taking a stand, is the lie of fear.

The circle morphs into a lasso and yanks me off of the box, beating me into the ground, punch after punch, until I hardly know which way is up. I’m laying there, sweat and blood pooling in the dust, and the heat rises in my chest. Damn it. Who is anyone to tell me that I cannot speak freely when they themselves exercise that freedom? Who is anyone to tell me to stop telling the truth, to stop drawing us back to Scripture, to what God says? Who died and made anyone the social media, blogging, internet, even thought king?

My eyes look past the complete circle, to the place where freedom reigns.

I’m not there yet.

But I will be.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Crowd

Against

Gentle Reader,

It’s been a week of glorious Autumn weather. I’ve been wearing socks. I put on a beanie for my walk this morning. The air is crisp. Leaves on the trees begin to change color, subtly for now, waiting a few more weeks to put on their full, glorious display.

I’m so glad the seasons turn. Goodbye, Summer. I don’t miss you.

Kate says: crowd.

Go.

I’m an adult. On an intellectual level, I understand that I should not care what others think. I cannot look to the crowd for a sense of identity, place, purpose or value. Further, I am a Christian, one who went to school to get a degree that enables me to use the fancy words like “justification” and “sanctification.” I understand that the One to whom I am ultimately accountable is the One who matters. I understand that I must listen to His views (commands, really) and live accordingly.

I’m also human. So of course I care. Not to the degree I did as a teenager, when I was desperate to fit in. But even at 34, it stinks to be ostracized. To find yourself in the minority. To know that there’s rumors and whispers fluttering behind your back. To have your confidence greatly shaken.

Tonight during the #FMFParty chat, Kate said to me:

I’m sorry, friend. Remember: We don’t need to have confidence in OUR ability, only in HIS ability . . .

Something I remind myself of often these days, but was grateful to hear from a sister. It’s a hard hole to climb out of, this one I find myself in. Doubts push down on me. Fear presses from the side.

Anita chimed in:

I have confidence in your ability! You wield words like a conductor wields a baton.

Brought me to my (figurative) knees. I want to use words that way. I want to create prose (and occasionally poetry) that is both beautiful and useful. I want to, somehow, some way, glorify God.

Then I said, to a couple of new(er) writers:

You belong here. Your words matter. Pull up a chair and stay at the table.

I read those words aloud. And I’ll be real: I wonder if they apply to me, too.

There’s been a crowd that tells me that I don’t belong, that I don’t matter and that I need to leave the table if I choose not to conform. Satan, the Accuser of God’s Children, echoes their sentiments. Give up. Give in. Shut up. How tempting it is, because there’s pain in rejection. Tempting, too, to allow seeds of bitterness to take root.

God speaks:

I am not really writing to tell you of any new command, brothers of mine. It is the old, original command which you had at the beginning; it is the old message which you have heard before. And yet as I give it to you again I know that it is true – in your life as it was in His. For the darkness is beginning to lift and the true light is now shining in the world. Anyone who claims to be “in the light” and hates his brother is, in fact, still in complete darkness. The man who loves his brother lives and moves in the light, and has no reason to stumble. But the man who hates his brother is shut off from the light and gropes his way in the dark without seeing where he is going. To move in the dark is to move blindfold.

– 1 John 2:7-11 (Phillips)

If I give up, give in and shut up, I am moving in the dark. If I indulge in bitterness and wallow in hatred, I am moving in the dark. If I want to be in the light – and I do – I can’t hit back at the crowd. Nor can I allow them to imprison me in fear. I have to keep climbing out of the hole, fixing my eyes upon Christ, the One Who promises to complete the work He began in me.

The One Who made me a writer.

With Him, I am never alone, though the crowd may not go with me.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Rain

Rain

Gentle Reader,

First FMF in a month. First of the Autumn season. (Autumn beings September first. Don’t @ me).

Kate says: rain.

Go.

Lord God, You see my heart
And every other hidden part
All the things I want to keep
From unkind prying eye’s sweep
You count the tears upon the sham
See the way my mind does scan
For safety, danger, or middle world
While my hands in fists are curled
Jesus, rain upon Your weary sheep
Torrents of grace, so streams grow deep
That I may walk with head held high
Even if I don’t know the why

Stop.

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I Lied (Kind Of)

Tired

Gentle Reader,

When I wrote that I needed to take a sort-of break from writing, I was telling the truth. I don’t want to stick to a posting schedule right now. What wasn’t true is that I lack inspiration. I mean, I do. In a way. I am working out where God wants to take this little blog of mine. I want to be faithful to His leading.

But.

What I did not say is that I am tired. Very, very tired.

Over the last coupleish years, I have written about controversial topics and taken positions on those topics that are often unpopular among some. The rise of Trumpism, as distinct from traditional conservatism, has been deeply bothersome to me, but what has truly been alarming is the ongoing attempts to justify his lifestyle and actions (as well as those of the current administration and Congress) using Scripture. The combining of biblical worldview and ethics with a particular party and set of political positions, leading to the assumption that the two are the same, is incredibly annoying. The outrage over peaceful protests makes no sense to me; you may not agree with the position of the protester, but you can’t deny they have that right. On and on it goes.

In recent days, the Twitterverse has labeled me both a fundamentalist for affirming the literal, bodily resurrection of Christ (you know, the central article of the faith) and a liberal for finding a recent statement regarding social justice to be equal parts unnecessary, needlessly divisive and far too vague. As to the resurrection, I’ve heard that it’s not needed; one can be a Christian without believing, which makes zero sense because then what the heck are you here for? As to the statement, I’ve been told to take it at face value, to not consider the positions, teachings and other statements of the framers and initial signers, which makes zero sense because context matters.

Like I said, I’m so tired. Not only is the political world a dumpster fire, but Gnosticism rears it’s ugly head once more, a Gnosticism that denies the resurrection and a Gnosticism that elevates the spiritual over the material. I don’t really have a dog in either conflict, so to speak, because the one is taking place within Anglicanism and the other within the Reformed movement. After all, I’m just a breath away from being a heretic, by virtue of holding to Arminian and egalitarian positions.

Grin.

Actually, I have been called a heretic this week for not signing the statement. But here’s the thing: I have spent the last year purposefully looking for and following biblically sound men and women of color. I live in a fairly ethnically homogeneous area, so I don’t have much opportunity to interact with people who don’t look like me. I thought that it was important for me to seek out those whose theology is sound but whose lived experiences are different from my own. I wanted to hear their perspectives and stories.

I haven’t always agreed with everything these people have said (when is that ever true?), but I have learned. A lot. There is real, ongoing pain and struggle. Heartache that I and many others are largely unaware of, because it’s not part of our daily lives. So while I can and do agree with significant chunks of the theology contained in that statement – the affirmations – I can’t get in line with the denials. I can’t divorce social justice from the Gospel. Submitting to Christ necessitates that I work to help and care for the marginalized and oppressed. Committed, solid believers can disagree on what that looks like on a practical level, but we can’t disagree that Scripture consistently testifies to God’s commanding His people to do justly.

(Side note: I don’t know all of the ins and outs of this particular social justice fight. As I said, I’m not Reformed. A lot of what the Calvinists argue about leaves me looking at them with a strong side-eye. I do know that certain people have gotten into Twitter snits, which isn’t helpful in any way. I can and do extend charity to the authors of the statement; it’s possible that they did not mean to come across the way they did. Basically, I wish that the leading personalities on all sides had gotten together and had discussions).

So tired.

That’s why I haven’t wanted to write. That’s the real reason. I’m exhausted in trying to explain, over and over again, things that seem so obvious to me. I make my conservative friends mad. I make my liberal friends mad. And I weep as I watch the Body tear itself apart not over doctrine, for the most part (save for the strange resurrection debate), not over orthodoxy, but over orthopraxy, the way the faith is lived out. I watch brothers and sisters who genuinely, strongly hold to Scriptural teaching beat each other up over whether Republicans or Democrats should be in power. I observe and sometimes participate in complete distractions to the Great Commission.

I’m a Bible teacher. Down at the bottom line, at the base, I want people to know Scripture because I want them to know who God is. I want people to love Jesus because He loves them. I am the farthest thing from perfect or smartest, but I strive to look at every issue through a biblical lens. I want to live out the ethics of Christ. Frankly, we (the hugely general, extremely broad, American church as a whole “we”) aren’t doing a good job of that. Our lack of knowledge, lack of wisdom, lack of love, lack of patience, lack of grace and lack of understanding the “now” aspect of the “not yet” Kingdom clearly, glaringly shows.

That “we” gets me into trouble, too. I don’t have a problem acknowledging the corporate, communal nature of our problems and sins. This doesn’t mean that I own things that I don’t need to own or feel that I have to atone for a group. It just means that I see the Body as my family, my peeps, and we have problems, which means I have problems. We rise together and we go down together.

I have done what Paul says not to do. I’ve grown weary of doing good. I am so, so ready to throw in the towel on this blog, on teaching. I’m ready to delete all of my social media accounts and disappear. The worst part of it all is that the weariness washes over me following interactions with fellow believers. This should not be. Satan stands and laughs as the children of God rip each other to shreds.

We must do better.

But this is not all. The last drops of energy are drained from me by something personal, something that shakes me to my core and causes me to question whether I can write or teach or do anything of value at all. The sensitive places, the areas in which I struggle, are simultaneously hit, repeatedly. Violation, denial and then attack. I am, simply, vulnerable and discomfited and I hate that.

So, there you go. There’s the full truth, albeit with some vagueness that I believe to be necessary at this time. I have a lot to say, but right now, I need to say a lot of it privately, to God alone. My thoughts and words, coming from a place of exhaustion and anguish as they do, probably really only make sense to Him. They don’t always make sense to me.

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