Last week I found my first full grey hair and I feel like I’ve developed serious under eye wrinkles recently. So I guess you could say things are going well.
I feel like the last couple of months have simultaneously gone so quick and have lasted F O R E V E R.
I think I speak for both myself and my co-blogger in this too. Lucky for you guys, we’ll be going on a co-blogger retreat in less than two weeks (because even though we run this thing together, we rarely get to see each other) in which we have intentions to come up with some new content for you guys and get some writing in, but in reality we will probably just talk about our lives, eat, and drink whiskey. So stay tuned for what may or may not come of that weekend. It could be exciting, it could be terrible, or it could be nothing.
But to be real with you guys for a short while, it’s been a tough few months as I’ve been working on healing my body, dealing with some anxiety, not sleeping well and having some weird dreams, and most recently having to make some tough decisions. But I can see God working in all these areas, even if I don’t understand what it all means right now. I’ve seen a lot of improvement with my health in the last month, which has been a long time coming.
And on the literal bright side, we’ve been having some excellent weather in Oregon the last few weeks, and I have been soaking up every ounce of mood-boosting sunshine I can get. That means driving to a park that’s five minutes away from work during my lunch break just to soak up some vitamin D for 15 minutes before having to go back, going for runs in this sweet spot of being sunny but not hot enough that running outside makes me feel like I’m literally melting, and sitting in my backyard on the weekends to let the sun work its magic and make me dark again.
As I’m getting ready to hit publish on this post, the rain has returned, but I’m still enjoying the after-effects of the sun and looking forward to more.
I’m sorry if you made it this far expecting that I’d have something more exciting for you this week, but I’m afraid this is all I have in me. I’m trying to make it a habit of writing even when I’m feeling uninspired, so occasionally that may look like a lot of rambling nonsense. I’m honored if you still took the time to read.
As I’ve been preparing for this post, I have consistently run into
There is a lot to unpack here. A. Lot.
I found myself taking notes and writing things and reading things that are all relevant, and at the same time more than could ever be done justice in a single blog post. I was asked to share my understanding of how racism has shaped modern Christianity, and how it influences our daily conversations, actions, and theology. I wish I could answer this question fully, with every example and statistic and quote illuminating how racism in America is so irrefutable and permeating, not only in theology, but in white Americans’ own identity.
The reality is, I don’t need every piece of evidence. The work I’ve
been doing to unpack racism within myself and to recognize it in the world
around me has forced me to revisit my beliefs time and time again, wondering if
they came from the light-skinned man I’d seen framed in my grandma’s home or the
brown man that hung on a tree in Golgotha. I have seen and read more than
enough to justify it. Perhaps even the desire to have all the information I can
reveals my inherent bias against the stories of people other than me. Always,
To answer this question, I will be sharing what I have learned and
now know, with the acknowledgment that I have so much more to learn. It
requires humility, a willingness to be wrong and take correction, a conviction
to speak up, and a desire to be more like Jesus. With that, I have a similar
expectation of those reading. There are terms and concepts I will reference
that I will not be unpacking specifically in this post because they are monumental
in themselves. What I will do is link references to them, as well as directly
reference any material as necessary. White brothers and sisters, I ask you to
do the work, too. And if what I have learned is not enough for you, I ask you
to listen. Listen to the stories of people of color. Read their work, acknowledge
their feelings, recognize that their anger is righteous. Pay them. It should
not be the burden of the oppressed to educate the oppressor, and those who do
anti-racism work don’t choose to because it’s a good time. They choose to
because it must be done, because their existence depends on it.
If you have questions and want to discuss anything further, reach
“Slavery ended over a hundred years ago.”
I have heard this statement more times than I can count. It is factually, correct. Slavery was abolished. White people could no longer own black people. So, they peacefully made amends, embraced their black brethren, and we all live in the “colorblind ” world where everyone is equal now, right?
More than 5,000 black men and women were lynched between 1880 and
1940 by white Christians (The Cross and the Lynching Tree, James H.
Cone, 31). The 13th Amendment was passed in 1865. When black people
were property, they held monetary value to their oppressors. When they could no
longer be owned, they were considered threats to the Anglo-Saxon public. Much
like crucifixion in Rome during Jesus’ time, lynching was reserved for the
lowest of low. It was a public spectacle, with people gathering from nearby
cities, and schools delaying class so children could attend. Some people were
burned slowly and featured in postcards sent to family members that read, “The
barbecue we had last night.” Some were tortured and mutilated, with women and
children being given the first chance to do so. Genitals, toes, fingers, and
ears were removed, sometimes being taken home as a keepsake (Cone, 9).
Lynching was seen as a civil duty outside of the law, to allow
communities to protect themselves from “bad” people when they were beyond the
law. Cole Blease, Governor of South Carolina from 1910-1912, stated lynching is
a “divine right of the Caucasian race to dispose of the offending blackmoor
without the benefit of a jury.” (Cone, 7). White ministers were often mob
leaders, blessing the lynchings, and members of the Ku Klux Klan became
vigilantes in the night (Cone, 76). The KKK began conducting violence in secret
at night, wearing hoods to protect their identities. When brought to trial, they
could count on their white friends and neighbors to declare them not guilty—especially
since the jury was composed of white men (Cone, 5).
Lynchings were widely advertised, to the extent that today, most of the 5,000 lynching victims have been identified by name. In artist James Allen’s work Without Sanctuary, released in 2003, he highlights lynching postcards from the Jim Crow era, including information about each postcard. It wasn’t until after Without Sanctuary that the U.S. Senate issued an apology to the families of the 5,000 Americans lynched, acknowledging they failed to pass anti-lynching legislation in 1898 (Cone, 99). White legislators were aware of lynchings in 1898. The information was so clear in the advertisements historians today study that it is impossible for them to have claimed ignorance. Yet they chose ignorance. As Gloria Albrecht states, “Ignorance sustains innocence.” (Gloria Albrecht, “The Heresy of White Christianity”, 346).
“Given this undeniable history, surely we White Christians have to ask ourselves, is it true? Has white Christianity in America become so inured by unquestioned norms, habits, unconscious assumptions, stereotypes, and the taken-for-granted behaviors of social institutions—that is, by our culture called whiteness—that we are unable to see that vast injustices it inflicts on other groups?”
Gloria Albrecht, 347.
White supremacy is not the work of the individual. It is the work of a dominant group establishing themselves as benefactors over and at the expense of every other group, and even those who do not actively seek that power benefit from it. Being a beneficiary of white supremacy is called white privilege. White privilege establishes white Americans above every other racial group systemically. Being a part of a different minority does not disqualify someone from benefiting from white privilege, which is made clear in the tears of white women.
White fragility is a tool use by us to excuse ourselves from actively engaging in anti-racist work. If you’re white and feeling personally attacked right now, pause for a moment and unpack your feelings. If you’re feeling defensive, what are you defending? Are you more concerned with being considered a racist or fighting racism?
Being “non-racist” is not enough. Being “non-racist” is being
aware of the racism around you and opting to not participate. It’s seeing
suffering and turning a blind eye. To not participate in the alleviation of the
oppressed is anti-Gospel, plain and simple. The Lord is a refuge for the
oppressed (Ps. 9:9), who sees the suffering of those mistreated (Gen. 16:13).
The Son of God and the Last Adam was killed like a criminal and hung from a
tree to save even those who yelled, “Crucify Him!” Nearly 2,000 years later, we
were still crucifying innocent people. America isn’t done yet.
Today, more African American men are in jail, prison, on probation
or parole than were enslaved in 1850 (The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration
in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander, 180). Out-right racism
became cloaked in subtle nuances, and lynching was replaced with today’s
criminal justice system. In 1988, the CIA admitted that the guerilla armies it
supported in Nicaragua were smuggling drugs in the U.S., which made their way
into inner-city black neighborhoods. Furthermore, they admitted during the War
on Drugs that they prevented law enforcement from investigating illegal drug
networks because they were funding its efforts in Nicaragua. It is especially
incriminating how the War on Drugs was declared at a time when illegal drug use
was on decline, and it was after the fact that black communities were facing a “drug
crisis”. Because the race issue has been transformed into a criminal justice
issue, it is even easier for whites to deny (Alexander, 6). As of 2012, 75
percent of White Protestants said that racial inequalities are not due to
racial discrimination (Albrecht, 349).
Alexander claims, “Racial violence has been rationalized,
legitimized, and channeled through our criminal justice system; it is expressed
as police brutality, solitary confinement, and the discriminatory and arbitrary
imposition of the death penalty” (Alexander, 202). Rather than white Christians
rallying for the sake of the marginalized and oppressed, half of us believe
that race relations in our nation would improve if we were to stop talking
about it (Albrecht, 350).
“I have reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice… Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection… We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Letter from Birmingham Jail
There are times when white Christians fail to minister, and there are times when we fail in ministry. One of the most intense concepts I have had to unpack within myself is the white savior complex. In my opinion, this is one of the most damaging forms of white supremacy within the Church. I witnessed it first-hand on my first-ever missions trip to Guatemala, both within myself and others, though it took me years to find the right words for it. It is rampant within many participants within both YWAM and The World Race. One of my dearest friends is a World Racer, and as I’ve supported him we’ve had serious conversations about the white savior complex within American missionaries.
A well-known example of this is the story of Renee Bach. Recently, human rights charges were filed against Renee Bach and her organization, Serving His Children, in the High Courts of Jinja, Uganda for the deaths of over 100 children. Bach moved to Uganda and performed medical procedures on Ugandan children without a medical license or medical training. If we would not allow anyone to perform medical procedures without a license on our children in the States, but support sending that same person to do so on Ugandans, we are choosing which lives matter more to us—and they’re white lives. I feel insane having to say this, but if God calls you to be a doctor… go to school to be a doctor first. Could God reveal to you all the secrets of healing the human body via prayer? He absolutely could. But this case reminds me that death is not a fruit of the Spirit.
There are those of the younger generations who have left
traditional religious backgrounds and pursued progressive churches and
theologies. However, neither “progressive” nor “liberal” mean “safe for people
of color.” In fact, the sheer privilege and elitism of many white liberals is
just as dangerous as the blatant racism found in many white conservatives.
Currently living in the Pacific Northwest, I have heard countless snide
comments about the southern states and the racism that abides there.
These comments are coming from people who live in one of the whitest cities in America, love the city’s “culture” (a very white culture indeed), and are often unaware of its racist roots. This includes how the local university was an all-white school historically, how minority groups were forced out of the city, and how generations later they are being forced out of their homes by redlining and gentrification. Or if they are aware, they still buy a house on the North side because it’s a good deal.
To borrow a Southern accent for a moment, all y’all’re racist.
If you’re white and claim to be not racist, I’m going to challenge
you. When you have been raised in a culture that historically was built on the
backs of minorities, perpetuates violence against people of color, and has subliminally
taught you from day one that your white perspective is the dominant one,
Can you really believe you aren’t racist?
[Insert defensiveness, tokenizing of a black friend, examples of how you’re a good person and you try to do good things, etc.]
Racism is ingrained into white American culture. We massacred
native peoples, turned black people into property, and have a GoFundMe to build
a wall to keep the Mexicans out. Racism in the States is not a past problem; it
is one of the foundations of the U.S. Those same founders were Christians, too.
Can we truly believe this has not been a factor in American theology? To quote
Gloria Albrecht again, “Ignorance sustains innocence.” White Americans, whether
they want to be or not, are inherently racist.
To be anti-racism is to actively work to dismantle and rebuild the systems that oppress others. Inactivism is part of the white moderate, which includes doing work that focuses on other things and ignores racial issues all together. In this world of intersecting identities, the Church must be intersectional. All can be grafted in, and God can cut branches from His tree (Rom. 11:17-24). The injustices against people of color in this country are not new. They are systemic, cyclical, and upheld by the white majority.
If your theology does not address race, then your theology upholds white supremacy. If your theology does not spur action towards dismantling racism, then it upholds white supremacy. If your theology says “least of these” and automatically makes you think of brown people in other countries, then it upholds white supremacy. This theology makes us responsible for those who use it for both subtle and blatant forms of violence.
This is how racism influences modern day Christianity. It is modern and present in America. It is present elsewhere, yes, but I can only speak to what I have learned so far. I also recognize what I have learned so far is predominantly from black scholars and theologians, but systemic racism is present in the U.S. for all POC.
Feeling as though racial issues do not affect your life is white privilege. But if we love the Bride of Christ, we know it belongs to everyone. The wildness of the Gospel is that throughout all of history, we can all know the same God, not because of how we fail to know Him but because of how deeply He knows us. If we truly want to diversify white churches, we must deconstruct the racism within them. As Rachel Cargle said, “Unless the racism is addressed and eradicated in the places you are looking to make ‘diverse’ you are simply bringing people of color into violent and unsafe spaces.” (@rachel.cargle on Instagram).
Missions should support local organizations already developed.
Missionaries should be educated before being sent. Churches and church-goers
must recognize, address, and deconstruct racism within each other. We must
listen. Most of all, listen. Pass the mic and recognize that not everything is
for white consumption. It will probably make you uncomfortable. Good. You, not
POC, are responsible for educating yourself. Read writers of color, listen to
speakers of color, support businesses owned by people of color.
Even with this long blog post, I have only skimmed the surface.
There is so much more that I have missed and could be said, but I know this is
plenty. This is enough for anyone to choose to dive deeper or reject this
information altogether. If you want to dive deeper and need some help on where
to start, please reach out.
On an ending note, I would like to say that it is #BecauseofRHE
that I continue to write. To the woman who wrestled with her faith openly,
challenged tradition for the sake of Gospel, and continually encouraged me into
spaces I thought were not meant for me.
I always thought I would meet you someday. I guess I am going to have to wait a little longer than I had hoped. Thank you for your influence in my faith and my life. Rest in peace, eshet chayil.
I used to think I was pretty fearless. I love roller coasters. I’ve gone cliff jumping (even if one time it resulted in too much forward motion and a gnarly belly flop from nearly 40ft). I don’t get scared in haunted houses/corn mazes/horror movies. I’ll try all the adventurous foods. I love high ropes courses. I have yet to but want to go skydiving.
But I’ve come to the realization lately that I’m really scared of failure. Like, terrified. So much so that I will stay in the “comfort” of a situation that’s really not that comfortable out of fear of jumping into something else and failing.
I’ve also noticed that this only applies to things I’m doing directly for myself. If someone asks me to do something for them, I’ll almost always do it (within reason) without thinking about all the ways I could fail at it. Now, sometimes I’m only doing the thing because I feel obligated or I want to avoid any conflict by saying no, but I’ll still do it. But when it comes to making a change to something in my life, or starting a new project that I have expectations for, or making a change in a relationship, then I have an extremely hard time getting started.
If I’m being honest, I really don’t have many practical things to combat that (often irrational) fear other than the truth that perfect love casts out fear. Depending on the day, that truth does one of two things. It’s either a reassurance that God is in control and can 100% remove my fear, and I feel myself become calm and able to rest in the fullness of that. Or, I honestly struggle to let that truth sink in and I just get more frustrated because I can’t seem to let go of the fear despite knowingin my head that He is greater.
So, I hope just being real with you about where I’m at can be an encouragement to anyone else struggling with fear. While the things we’re afraid of may be completely different, we’re not alone.
It’s frustrating, and I often feel so stuck because of it, but I know God’s perfect love can cast out my fear. I know that, even if I don’t fully understand it at the heart level all the time. It’s a process, and sometimes I take three steps forward and two steps back, but the truth is always there. I hope you can see that, too
For a visual representation of my thoughts when it comes to all of this, here’s a screenshot of something by Rukmini Poddar, an artist I follow. This pretty much perfectly sums up my brain the last few weeks.
In 6th grade, my language arts teacher taught my class about poetry. She wanted us to use vivid descriptive language to enthrall our classmates; she wanted similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, alliteration. She wanted us to use every literary tool we had learned thus far. And so, I wrote my first classic titled, “The Moon is a Pool of Milk.”
Deep. I know.
I don’t remember exactly how it went, but I remembered how dumb I thought the poem was. My teacher, on the other hand, was thoroughly impressed with my work. She probably still uses it as a student example without my permission to this day (considering she did during my 7th and 8th grade years). It took me until 8th grade to actually begin connecting with poetry, and when I did the poems poured out of my sad little teenage heart. It didn’t hurt that I was going through a melodramatic break up with my first ever boyfriend.
Since then, I’ve written when I can’t find a way to make the words come out of my mouth. It’s one of the few emotional releases I can’t keep myself from, and I’ve held what I’ve written close to my heart for a long time. The first time I remember sharing anything was about two years ago.
I’m trying not to hide so much.
Here are a handful of the ones I look back on and enjoy. Some of them are conversations with God, unspoken letters to other people, daydreamed scenarios, or memories. Hopefully some resonate with you.
It’s like my eyes won’t shut They’re too enthralled by the Orderly stars rimming The tops of my walls
My mind skips from place To place unaccompanied By my heart, which still beats But I think it’s long gone
Oh how my soul begs for rest It’s burning up and out The vessel it is kept in won’t last Can’t it go to sleep early?
The days will keep going Until I can’t keep pace with The spinning orb that refuses to Stop or even slow down
I’m so tired.
Honesty was the Best Policy
I remember exactly where I was When I got your voicemail About a very important question, “Will you be my maid of honor?”
My heart jumped for you The choice to start a family So you could play house Like we did when we were nine
For months I had wanted to say What had been on my mind For months I tried to talk to you But could never get you alone
It’s hard to ask hard questions When the person in question Is in the same room as you While you chat into your screen
Ideally I would have asked you in person But you never seemed to show up I offered to cover your gas, feed you dinner I guess you still couldn’t afford it
It’s taken a long time for me to see I was the expense you didn’t want to take Before I realized the truth I called to tell you my own
You said you appreciated my honesty You said you were glad I said something You said you would think about it I bet you thought about it a lot
As you lied to me for months Afraid of what I might say Maybe even what I’d do When you pulled up the blinds
Did you expect me to laugh the way I did? I laugh when I feel horrible I’m not sure you ever noticed that After all those years, I still hid
Did you expect that I was happy? I hid because of you We were only kids when you said You would leave if I stayed sad
I put on a smile after that I kept it on as you walked down the aisle For a ceremony six months late That seemed to bother only me
My misery consumed me long before You were a small, small factor But I hope that day is still warm In your memory and heart
I hated myself for struggling to smile On that day and the months after You never once asked Why I was hurting the way I did
I desperately needed a friend Even more so a family But I lost both, apparently Much sooner than I realized
Now I wonder, at 23 If when you play house With your own family If you ever miss playing with me
Tell me why you’re still awake Share your ghost stories, and I’ll share mine
Stay up all night with me Describing what your bones are made of Until sunrise
Let’s find solace in the dark together And marvel that we’re seeing the light Of another day
I don’t think there is a “one” for me The perfect match Where we align just so Everything in it’s exact order
I am too much I cannot imagine a worthy Counterpart I need someone who sees me
All that I am and says, “That’s much more Than I could have ever hoped.”
Because being too much Is offering beyond Their expectations
While others may try To contain what they cannot You will see us, Two pieces from different puzzles
And say, “Don’t we do well together?”
Tell me everything Spill your soul Let yourself escape From the words of your own mouth
I want to explore To climb the mountains Falling off your tongue To gaze at landscapes from their peaks
Let me fall in love With all you are Through your own eyes To imagine your own perspective
I’ll embrace it all Every syllable Every quiet mumble As long as you don’t stop speaking
I don’t need your help. You are a luxury, not a Need. Pulling my own weight Because it is not and Never has been Your job. Tonight is hard, But I don’t need your Help.
I Feel Good
I keep thinking, “I feel good.” And I know what good looks like I’ve seen myself thrive In my perfect circumstance When I feel “good” but cannot bring myself To do the things I need to To do the things I should do To do the things I want to do It makes me wonder if even my “good” Isn’t good enough.
The subtext title of this post is “Women in Women’s Ministry”, so I hope y’all are ready to get a little shady with me. This week started off discouraging (especially considering we lost internet for a week– hence the late post) as I laid in bed spinning through what I am ever going to do with my life. My spiritual giftings aren’t uncommon, but they are typically uplifted and fostered in my male counterparts. I love to teach and shepherd, which falls into the “pastoral” category. Throughout my life I have found myself pigeon-holed into children’s ministry (I don’t really like kids unless they’re related to me), youth ministry (“We could really use a female leader to bring more girls into the youth group!”), or women’s ministry (because that audience is the only plausible one). In each of these, I found myself disappointed, burnt out, and unsatisfied.
These ministries are all incredible, and with the right person with the right passions, they will excel.
I am not that person.
For a long time, I assumed my passions and giftings were misguided. “I just need to embrace more of the home-maker hobbies to fit in” or “I have too many guy friends, but I’m not fit to disciple them.” The wild thing is that I witnessed God move as I served in places I “wasn’t supposed to”. He gave me a prophecy of one of my guy friend’s conversion, and He had me invest in that relationship and bring him to Christ. My deepest discipling relationships are with men in my life. I led a summer ministry team of 12 by myself, with 7 male members, and met weekly with and discipled each of them. I have ministered more through video games and beer than I have rom-coms and husband-hunting, and it reminds me how hurtful those stereotypes are.
Yet they exist in the church, as we gender ministries and bind certain participants in ways that the Gospel doesn’t. We’re beginning to witness the change that has been fought over for years, as more and more women are being welcomed to the pulpit, in front of the whole congregation. However, there is still a long ways to go.
In Romans 16, Paul sends his greetings to a lengthy list of his beloved friends that have supported his ministry and continued their own. The first to be recognized is Phoebe, who was a deacon in the church. He also recognizes Junia, a female disciple (the argument over the translation of Junia as a female name is fascinating, and worth a Google search). He praises not only the husbands leading household churches, but their wives as equals. The chapter reminded me that even when it seemed like there wasn’t a place for these women to minister, they made one.
A mentor of mine told me how at her Seminary, she had men ignore her existence, scream at her, and tell her she had a “spirit of Jezebel”. Her response to the disdain was, “Whom do I fear? Men, or my God?”
Men, I know there are many of you who consider yourselves one of the “good ones”. Maybe you’re a great husband, or you care a lot about your lady friends, or you would never intentionally hurt a woman. I’m not going to applaud you for decency. The questions I have are, Do you actively empower your female friends in their ministry? Do you encourage them to minister, even when it’s outside of what is the norm? Do you pass your mic to the women in your life? Do you ever submit to a woman’s giftings in your life? And if my use of “submit” just now made you uncomfortable, do you fully know why?
Progress should be celebrated, but we don’t stop working until we reach the goal. Historically, women had to prove themselves as nearly divine to be considered valuable in a theological setting. St. Catherine of Siena is a perfect example of this. If you want to understand in depth what was required of her, I’ve attached my work on her below.
I’m ending this week inspired by the trail-blazing women who have gotten this far, and whose footsteps we can follow in. With each generation, it gets a little easier. As for me, I’m going to keep going. I’m going to keep teaching, speaking, and writing, which is what ultimately led to Problems 31 in the first place (along with my faithful and patient co-blogger). So let’s keep doing ministry, shall we?
Since I shared a couple of weeks ago about the uncertainty and anxiety I’ve been feeling regarding health (among other things), I wanted to come in this week to follow up with another quick comment on hope.
One of my favorite quotes about hope comes from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, and I come back to his definition often in my thoughts.
“Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.
It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither.”
I could easily just quote this whole chapter on hope and call it good, but I’ll stop there (though I really encourage you to go look up the short chapter).
I love his phrase “a continual looking forward to the eternal world.” When I see the word “hope” for this true meaning, then I see how excessively and wrongly used the word really is.
I can so easily confuse hope with wishful thinking, like C.S. Lewis says. I can “hope” for a nice vacation or good health or a husband or more money. But what part do those things really play in furthering the kingdom, and ultimately spending eternity with God?
If I’m looking forward to eternity with Christ, I should be putting all my effort into serving him. After all, God made us for his glory, so it only makes sense that we should live for his glory.
Our duty comes from his design, so our first obligation as believers is to show God’s value by being satisfied with all that He is for us and all He has for us. This is the essence of loving God and trusting Him and being thankful to Him. It is the root of all true obedience, especially loving others.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have dreams and desires as much as the next person (maybe more – we have a professional daydreamer over here). And I don’t at all think God wants to squash those.
But I do think that by living for His glory, hoping and continually looking forward to eternity with Him, and being satisfied in Him, eventually God’s desires become our desires. And this is obviously the best thing for us, even if we can’t see where he’s going with things sometimes.
Hope and perseverance go together. Hope knows there is a goal and that the goal is worth pursuing, even through hardship and difficulty. Without hope, we have no perseverance.
So I guess this rambling is all to remind you (really, myself) to hope in Christ. As believers in Christ, looking forward to eternity will never let us down.
A few years ago, I told my counselor about how I was a sad person and I wanted to fix that.
“What’s wrong with being a sad person?” she asked.
I looked back at her, annoyed. “I don’t want to be sad. I want to be happy. People want to be friends with and be around happy people, not sad ones. I want to be that type of person.”
It took about a year for me to come to terms with being a sad person. I’ve had depression for a long time, and I used to hide it as best as I could. I believed that if people knew, they wouldn’t want to be around me. So I practiced smiling and laughing more, I took my vitamin D, and worked really hard at being a good friend to my people, in hopes that they would remember it when they realized who I actually was.
When I grieve, I hide it the most. Almost a week ago now, I lost my Grandpa (see my Davenport post from a while back for some background info). Even though he’d been ready to go for a long time, it was a hard goodbye. I haven’t cried that hard in months, but I mourned the best way I could– capturing and reliving memories and moments that celebrated our time together.
And you know what? I’m doing okay. I would even dare to say I’m doing well, all things considered. My mental health the past few weeks has been consistently good, which has made the grieving process much healthier. My long-time support system has been crumbling, and I’ve known for a while. When it failed me, it was one of my major fears coming to fruition. I felt alone.
But you know what? I’m okay now. Even though it’s okay to not be okay, I am okay. I was able to say a final goodbye before Grandpa passed, and I could not find my words. The second I thought about what to say, my throat clenched and tears began rolling. My whole body began shaking when I thought about reaching out to hold his hand. When I finally did, I had a hard time letting go.
It took me a while to talk about it with anyone. After that goodbye, I didn’t have the capacity for words. I wanted to pray, to look to God and tell Him everything I wished I could have said and done before then. I couldn’t. For days. I felt guilty, as if I was keeping God out of my hurt. Then I remembered how present He is.
God refers to Himself as the I AM (Ex. 3:14). He is many things, but ultimately He IS. He is the whole and perfect Creator, who exists always and is perfect in all ways. The I AM is omnipresent and omnipotent. His Spirit will not leave me since I’ve chosen Him. He isn’t waiting for my prayer phone call. He lives this life with me because life itself comes from Him.
He walked with me around the park where we used to feed the ducks. He was there when I broke down sobbing in my car. He heard my words before I could form them, and He never judged me for struggling with them. I wasn’t mourning alone.
To find solidarity with God was the most human I have ever felt. Even with the loss, things were as they should be.
That solidarity reminded me of the times when I have been a support for others. When I’ve cried with people, let them lean on me physically and emotionally, and made them laugh, which is usually my go-to. It’s a privilege to be let into someone’s hurt. A sad person’s privilege. It’s what I have to offer.
Just like in the movie, Joy often follows Sadness. As this past month has led to the closures of so many things going on in my life, I’m beginning to see and feel joy. Colors are a little brighter, and my steps less heavy. I’m celebrating.
What a gift it is to have known sadness and still know joy. God has never needed me to be a happy person to know joy and celebrate with others. I am more blessed to witness joy after sorrow than to see and experience joy alone.
As for joyful me, I’m borderline unstoppable. I can be as fiercely happy as I have ever been sad, if not significantly moreso. I’m ready to thrive for a while.
My Grandma passed about 14 years ago, but one of the many things she was known for was making you laugh, even if it you didn’t want to. She had this amazing habit of making you feel incredibly important without letting it get to your head. And if you were out of line, she’d call you on it in a heartbeat. There needs to be more of her in the world.
I sought solace in some very old encouragement notes recently. I was suddenly struck by the things people said they saw in me, especially with how sad I was when I received them. There was one that really hit home for me, from my closest camp friend when I was 16.
“Thank you for making me laugh, even when I don’t want to.”
What a joy it is, friends. God knows I love the little things, and He’s blessed me in abundance lately. When I finally could get the words out to Him, they were, “Take care of Grandpa.” That was all I could manage.
Have I cried every day this week? You bet. But joy and sadness can exist in the same place. Feeling and being joyful doesn’t keep me from being with someone when they’re sad. If anything, I can give them more support. In the same way, being sad doesn’t always keep me from smiling and laughing.
There will always be something worth crying over, and something worth smiling over. It’s the mystery of the human existence– to feel wholly what the world has to offer us. So if you need this sad girl, she’ll be smiling and having beer and cake for dinner soon, with God in attendance. It is Grandpa’s favorite.