Thursday, August 13, 2015

dear friend

Dear friend,

I don't really give up very easy. Especially for something that I see as worth it. I think you are worth it. I guess that's why I haven't given up.

I also haven't given up because you matter to me. Our years of friendship matter. And I will be honest, I almost never use this word because it just doesn't happen to me that often, but I am angry. I am angry at you, because you are throwing away those years of friendship and I don't understand that.

I didn't ask for too much, friend. This I know. I offered grace where grace was needed, but you didn't want it. I believe you expected yelling and unforgiveness, legalism and harsh, unforgiving words. But I wasn't willing to do that. It's not who I want to be and it's not who I am becoming. You decided that feeling guilty and bad about what you'd done was a better option. I don't know how that is going for you, but I know how it's going for me. It means I lost someone I care about. I'm not sure I can say love anymore, because your actions lately have built up a lot of bricks in front of my heart. Jesus is doing everything he can to tear them down, but I pretty convinced I work faster than him.

Loving a person is not a small thing. Remember? It's about the slow process of mending what was broken by others before. It's about learning to give - and receive - grace. You aren't willing to receive grace, and so the hand of grace I've extended is being slapped away. I keep extending my hand, but it's growing weary and now I'm using it to stack bricks.

Dear friend - What kind of a person throws away those years of friendship because you are avoiding someone who you screwed up with? A person without a soul? It feels like it. You once told me that you didn't want me to feel like I had to work for our friendship. But you are making me work really hard right now and it's coming very close to ending me.

I would normally never write something like this with the hopes you are reading it. I don't even know if you still come here. But all my attempts to contact you have fallen on deaf ears. I guess, like most things that matter to me, I needed to write this out here and figure out what I am going to do next. (So this is really more for me than you.) At this point, I know this to be true: I don't believe in throwing things away. I will not throw you away. But I feel as though you have done that to me. So I am stacking more bricks. Pretty sure Jesus is growing weary of trying to keep up with me.

I've heard it said that the people who hurt you are the ones you need the most. The hurt is plenty there, friend, and I am angry that this means need. I never meant as much to you. You once said to me, "If two people can't have the hard conversations, then the friendship/relationship was never that strong to begin with." I guess that's what this is to you, because your actions tell me nothing to the contrary. We were never strong. We never bonded, and we no longer matter to each other. Maybe we never did. 

[I realize just how I am am writing these words in jest, and that I want them to cut like a knife. Though I don't believe them to be true.]

How can you throw this away? I don't understand this. Why won't you give me closure? Why won't you try?

Dear friend, say something. I've giving up on you.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

a love letter to st. louis

For the past five years, I’ve viewed you as my home away from home. Which I realize doesn’t make a lot of sense, because I only lived with you for two years. I was a full-time student, working three jobs, living in a house with five other women. I was in complete transition in my life. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now, what a huge thing this is - to be in transition in life. It affects how you act, how you feel, how you process things. I remember being more worried about how I would adapt to this transition than I actually had trouble with said adaption. It felt like an easy transition, perhaps because I was so excited.

You are an amazingly fun city to live in, and probably even more fun when you actually have money to spend to do fun things. But there is so much to do that is free, so much to enjoy, that I had the blessing to experience you for the two years I did. Visits to the museum and the zoo and the Botanical gardens… authentic English Tea rooms and Scott Joplin’s house… Apple Butter Festivals and spiritual hermitages...Bread Co and the Archway… 
Birds and Bees Kaldi’s Coffee and many many hours
studying at Starbucks while my fellow seminary student 
barista made me the perfect mint tea… I just have so much love for you.

That’s not to say it was all easy. There were certainly parts that were challenging. I didn’t fit it with most people on campus, and I won’t get into the details of why or how I was treated. But it was bad enough that I almost quit after my first semester. It was either “adapt or die.”  I’m not much of a quitter. So I adapted.  

But I wasn’t willing to change who I was, so aside from the few people on campus, I looked for community at my church. And this is precisely why I consider you my home away from home. Because I found it. I found my tribe. found an pastor who shared my love for music and theology, a mentor who was willing to ask me tough questions, a group of part-time children’s ministry staff that made me laugh like no one else did, a small group that shared my loved for buying local and sustainable living. And none of it was an accident, because God ordained it all. I didn’t go looking for these people. God placed them in my path because I was too afraid to go looking. This was such a reminder of how much he loves me.

When I stopped by to visit you about three years ago, for Sherdonna’s CD release party, it was too quick a trip. 
I didn’t get the chance to really enjoy you again. So when I had the chance to visit this summer, I wanted to make sure to make it count. I had lunch and coffee and dinner and all kinds of other fun things for five days. I didn’t just go to see people, I went to process and rest and get some wise counsel from some dear people at the seminary. And some dear people from my old church… people I love and trust and people I lived near for two years, but somehow God gave me these people as friends for life. 

Between Thai Pizza on the Loop and Comet Coffee in Clayton and 5 Star Burgers in Kirkwood, God reminded me why you are my home away from home. Why I love these people and I love you. While worshiping in a new yet oh so familiar way, I found myself homesick for the old and excited by all that is new at the same time. It was confusing and wonderful.You had the best of me and the worst of me and I will always love having you in my life. The people you gave me helped change me, and I want to thank you for providing a safe place for me to grow and stretch and be transformed by God.

You have my heart, St. Louis. I can’t explain it and I can’t deny it. You placed me in a situation that broke me down and then you gave me beautiful people that put me back together again. I can never repay you for all that you did. But thank you. Thank you for the time, the people, the joy, and the love.

 This is me and Sherdonna.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

friendship and INFJs

INFJs don’t form a lot of close friendships in their lifetime… we are very selective. This isn’t about conceit, but really about knowing ourselves. We only have no much emotional energy we can give to another without great harm to our soul, so we make sure we give it to those we truly connect with, those we deem “worth it.” What I mean by “worth it” is those who come close to understanding us. Those who push us beyond our preconceived notions. Those who challenge us and make us think. Those who aren’t afraid of not understanding us, but are willing to go along with us for the ride. Those who try, need to know they will never fully plumb the depth of our complications (we don’t understand our own complications, so we certainly don’t expect others to understand them either.) Those to whom we give our emotional energy have penetrated our surface, which we keep pretty impenetrable. Because we want those who’ve worked for it, because honestly?  We would do the same for them. The thing about us INFJs is that we have some expectations. Because we know humanity can be better. We look for that in ourselves, and we honestly want everyone else to do the same. 

Once you’ve passed this “test” we are loyal to a fault, even when truly wronged. Not just in a theoretical sense, but in a reconciliatory way. If we’ve invested in you, we don’t want to give you up. We won’t simply forgive and then cut you out of our lives (unless we can no longer emotionally handle it) but we will forgive and continue with the relationship because we have already decided you are worth it. 

Take note: this is a high honor, and it should be treated as such. You will be hard-pressed to find a more devoted friend or partner than an INFJ, because we are happy to put so much energy into those we love. We find it satisfying because we take great joy in making those we love happy and safe. 

We don’t fake relationships. If we want you in our lives, we make time for you no matter what else gets put to the side. See this article. ("It doesn’t matter what gets done if you’ve undone a heart.”) We don’t expect quite the same level of devotion from others, but we do need to feel as though you are making some kind of effort. It doesn’t have to be huge, it doesn’t have to be at the same level as ours, but some effort needs to be there. We really just want to know that you care and that we matter to you. And we love seeing your personality manifest itself in showing this care. We fully understand that everyone’s idea of being there for you looks different. And we embrace this. Because to us, it’s the people that matter. And the ones we’ve carefully selected to love mean everything to us.

There is a down-side to this level of commitment we have, because while no one likes to be let down or rejected, INFJs take it harder than anyone else. To reject our love and loyalty is to cut us to our core. (I honestly have not found anything that hurts me more.) We value authenticity and integrity and take offense if it’s suggested that our love is meaningless or trivial -  whether you mean it that way or not. Because your actions mean more to us than your words. If you treat us like we do not matter, any words that say otherwise mean nothing to us.

Because we are so incredibly protective of our inner selves, those to which we open our inner selves are priceless to us. Our love and our loyalty take so much from our emotional center, so we view that love and those we are loyal to as a precious commodity. If you don’t like-wise consider it the treasure that it is, it’s best to remove yourself from our lives. Because taking us for granted is something you will regret. We are the rarest of rare personalities, and thus we are the rarest of friends. We are intense. We are complicated. But we are always worth it. Because we’ll push you, we’ll cheer you on, we will ask you great questions to help move you forward and we’ll love you more than we love ourselves.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

open wounds

Some wounds can only be healed when everything is all out in the open without a bandage keeping the scratch sterile and protected.

Because sometimes the wound needs to be exposed. Bumped a few times. It hurts like a mother, but it will be worth it because eventually the wound will dry out and close up. But that time of exposure, that time of bumping, causes a fair amount of screaming and pain. But it’s all so we can stop working around the pain and start using that appendage again. So we can move on.

This happened to me recently with a wound on the tip of my index finger, right by my cuticle. It made the last week of packing and moving miserable. It doesn’t really seem like it would be that big of a deal, but that cuticle area hurt more than having my wisdom teeth out, which I didn’t even take my pain meds for. Apparently my tolerance for physical pain is off the charts. (I guess I make up for that in how I handle emotional pain.) But a little bump on that cuticle had me screaming for mercy. Every time.

I’ve had a lot of distractions in the last few of weeks. Maybe even in the last couple of months. So right now, when it’s time to rest – which happens in random pockets of my day lately – my heart slows down and the stuff I’ve been burying inside in all the little dusty corners come to the surface.

And it hurts. Because the wound reopens of all things left undone and unsaid.

Grieving comes slow for me. It comes in waves, and ebbs and flows. I think I’m over it, and then I’m driving around a neighborhood looking at houses and suddenly realize someone I’m grieving and missing so much it hurts lives just around the corner. And my breath gets quick and it’s necessary for me to close my eyes and take a moment to slow the rush of emotions that I have so clearly not been able to close off like I previously was so sure I had.

I am at the mercy of the majority of the open wounds I have. Because I cannot and will not force myself into the life of people who no longer have me or want me in their life. But I also struggle to reconcile these disappearances with the reality of true emotions and foxhole kind of moments we had. Tears and counsel and really authentic moments that are born from challenging circumstances and painful life seasons. This isn’t just about them being there for me or me being there for them, but about the bond that happens when you are with someone in their lowest moment. That dark night of the soul.

When someone loses someone they love or when someone is faced with true evil in this world or when someone had more questions than answers, but they want answers and they don’t like the ones you give them…

This is wrestling. This is Jacob. With God. Fear, loneliness, powerlessness, exhaustion, pain. This is the real stuff of life that I’ve had the privilege of experiencing with people. And when they walk away from that without a backwards glance…

Open wounds.

I have recited to myself, hoping for it to be a healing balm, over and over, “I cannot control what others do. I can only control what I do.”

But this isn’t the kind of balm I want. I don’t want to remind myself that some friendships are only for a season, because I DON’T WANT THAT SEASON TO BE OVER.

I want to be reassured that I did nothing wrong. I want to know that there may still be some love there, and that it’s not my fault things fell apart or that I'm not the reason they no longer come around. I want to know that I am worth it to them, worth more than the time they spend on facebook, worth more the time they spend with people that are easier to love than me, that don’t challenge them the way I do. I want to know that I am worth a few minutes of their week enough to return my phone call or text message.

But I guess I challenge too much. Not enough to be worth that phone call, anyway.

But honestly? More than all that selfish and needy stuff to make me feel better about who I am, I just want them back in my life. I miss them. They don’t deserve me. But I still miss them so bad that my heart aches. My wound opens. And all I want to do is scream on impact.

Monday, May 04, 2015

blogging thru Scary Close - chapters 15 and 16

“You complete me” is the line that lost me in the movie Jerry McGuire. It’s just such a ridiculous concept. Having this expectation of another person is CRAZY. I mean it. Downright crazy.

But it sounds so romantic. This whole idea that getting married will take away so much of your hurt and your brokenness and make you satisfied and whole… But we live in a broken world! With broken people! That’s just not going to happen... Why don’t we get this?!?

Don writes in chapter 15 about the significance of knowing who you are and letting the other person be themselves. “…and the sleepless nights I’ve spent wondering what they were thinking or how much they liked me or whether I was a good enough man for them. A complete waste of time.” (pg. 207) 

Thinking back to chapter 14, it’s no wonder relationships don’t work out for people who are so worried what the other was thinking about them or whether they were good enough. That’s not about building something together. It’s about the false assumption that we are only good if we are in a pair, and that on our own we are less than. What a destructive belief this is.

As Don looked over the people he knew who were in thriving marriages of 30 or 40 years, it was because they “loved each other as an act of their conscious will” (pg. 211)

I’ve believed for many, many years that love is a decision. And love requires trying. All Don is doing here is reminding me that I’m not crazy. I know the world doesn’t think it’s a decision… that love is just something that happens. Poof! There’s love.


Love takes work. It takes trying. It takes effort on both sides. And it’s not the kind of trying that has you hustling for approval, trying to make the other person happy with you. It’s about trying together, moving forward in relationship together. For love to flourish, it’s a conscious act of the will. “Love is worth fighting for, but something you can’t be the only one fighting. At times, people need to fight for you.” (unknown) There is much we long for in this world, longing that causes us to fight with each other and grow weary with dissatisfaction.  It's easy to grow angry and frustrated at others because they aren’t taking that longing away for us.

Longing is part of life. But it cannot be fulfilled by another person.  “Betsy and I are going to try as hard as we can not to put the burden of that longing on each other. Instead, we will comfort each other in the longing and even love it for what it is, a promise that God will someday fulfill us.” (pgs. 215-216) When we expect the other person to complete us, to make the longing go away, we are making a huge mistake. No one can do that, be that, for another. Yet we far too often go into relationships with the idea that we were missing something (true) and the other person will make that go away (not true). We look to the other person or to the marriage to complete the missing piece. But no. We don't work like that, and the gospel doesn't work like that.

The last chapter of Don’s book is glorious. “Love is a decision,” he reiterates. (See! I told you!!!) “It is as much something you made happen as it is something that happens to you.” (pg. 224) This chapter is so glorious that I’m going to say the least about it of any other chapter he wrote.

Scary Close is a book that I will read and reread many times. Don’s writing does that to me, but this one in particular has helped me grow through my fear, my vulnerability. It’s helped me push through my comfort into risk and toward grace in loving people who need that grace. The book has felt like peeling back layers of an onion (and not just because of the tears) but because he started with our outer selves, helping us understand the fallacy in our armor. And that peeling back these layers more and more are scary and the tears will come. But we must do the peeling. 

Because love is about trying together. Not for their approval or for them to complete you, but about building together to make something beautiful out of this mess of a world. This trying involves vulnerability, risk, and most of all, knowing yourself and being known by another. This is scary. Scary close.

Friday, May 01, 2015

blogging thru Scary Close - chapter 14

Chapter 14 is called Do Men Do Intimacy Differently?

This is the longest chapter in the book, and the one all the women will run to in attempt to understand the men in their lives. Will it accomplish that? I’m not sure.

The first sentence is one that struck fear in my heart: “Men move towards what makes them feel competent.” (pg. 187) Don thinks this is likely why men run from intimacy – because they don’t feel competent in intimate relationships. This struck fear in my heart because my immediate thought was, “I already have a lot of expectations on me, now I have to make sure men feel competent around me, too? Sheesh. Am I their mother?”

But men aren’t bad at intimacy, he claims. He’ll talk about his feelings because that’s how his wife connects with him. But it is not something that comes naturally to Don, and most men. So men are led to believe they are bad at intimacy. This is closely tied to feelings of masculinity, because as men are drawn towards what makes them feel competent, they are also drawn toward careers that make them feel masculine, he says. He lost me a little at this point, and never really fleshes out the masculine concept (which is probably a good thing, because I think there are many ways for men to be masculine. But that’s another post for another time.)

Don moves on at this point in the chapter and doesn’t really connect the dots for me just yet. He begins to tell the story of Dan, a guy he hired to help grow his company.  Their conversations didn’t start about a business plan for the future; they started with a life plan. Particularly a plan for Don and his marriage with Betsy. Slowly, Dan begins to show Don how asking what you want your marriage to look like is about two people working toward a fixed point. As all relationships are living and moving and becoming something, two people, in romantic relationships or otherwise, should walk together with the same goal in mind. This is about building… and nurturing and growing.

This nurturing and growing concept in relationships is interesting to me. Because if we allow things to “take a natural course” then as Christians, we know that will lead to a more sinful place. We are broken people in a broken world, so for us to just “let things happen” in our relationships likely means what will happen also be something broken. So it makes sense to me that we must make an effort together to direct the relationship away from our natural tendencies of brokenness, ultimately to a healthy and God-honoring place instead. “I let friendships, business relationships, and even my relationship with Betsy take a natural course rather than guiding them to a healthy place.” (pg. 194)

So “building” is how men do intimacy, I guess. Though Don never comes out and says that in plain language (again, that’s not really his style.) But this makes sense to me, because as all women have probably experienced in their lifetime, men like to fix us when we feel broken. 

Fixing is not that different from building, if you think about it. Metaphorical fixing is far more likely to happen in a world that already has a lot of assumptions built. Cultural assumptions, historical ones, gender-based ones. These expectations and assumptions are built into us and the world, and are part of what makes us feel broken. They are definitely part of what makes us experience brokenness. When a man sees a woman they care for sad and broken then I imagine all they want to do is build something to make it better for us. Or simply fix the thing already built that is causing us the pain to begin with.

It’s sweet, really. I get that. Not always necessary. But it’s sweet.

If men are wired for building, what can we do as women to foster and nurture this, rather than make them feel like they are bad at intimacy, because it looks different than our way of connecting? How can we help men build without dismissing our own way of connecting, not making them feel incompetent?
“Men like to build and create and feel their power, and if they don’t do it in healthy ways they usually do it in unhealthy ways.” (pg. 203)                                                                                                                            
I’ve seen men with the desire to create and feel power build it in unhealthy ways. Through a relationship with a woman who is needy and weak, a job that builds them up so they want to spend every moment there, a hobby they are exceptional at so every extra cent of their paycheck is poured into it. It’s pretty normal, actually, once you start looking around for it. Now I just have an understanding of why.               

Men are from Mars and woman are from Venus. Both we’re both still planets, you know? And that means we can both try. Try to understand each other and figure out some way to meet in the middle, so that intimacy isn’t just a series of let-downs and disappointments, but about two people moving together and toward each other at the same time. For the sake of love, for the sake of friendship, for the sake of healing.

Because this world needs oh so much healing.                                                                   

loving a person... it's no small thing

This pretty much sums up the last couple of weeks for me. It's the "reaching out and trying" part that hits me pretty hard right now.

Loving a person just the way they are, it's no small thing
It takes some time to see things through
Sometimes things change, sometimes we're waiting
We need grace either way

Hold on to me
I'll hold on to you
Let's find out the beauty of seeing things through

There's a lot of pain in reaching out and trying
It's a vulnerable place to be
Love and pride can't occupy the same spaces baby
Only one makes you free

Hold on to me
I'll hold on to you
Let's find out the beauty of seeing things through

If we go looking for offense
We're going to find it
If we go looking for real love
We're going to find it

Thursday, April 23, 2015

i'm no good at this

I was spending some time talking with God last night, trying to make a decision. Not really an earth shattering one, but it kind of was. Because I knew that no matter what choice I made, it meant something was coming to an end.

I’ve never been very good at saying goodbye. The first time I realized just how bad I was at it was when I was graduating from college and my friend Ryan came over to my dorm room the night before graduation. He handed me a small gift, wrapped in newspaper. It was a book of devotionals from the Psalms, and he’d written this on this inside cover,

Ahh, how short these four years have been, and how close we have become. My heart is sad, and I have realized how selfish it is to grieve and pity the hours I spent doing other things rather than getting to know more about you. Shall we ever learn? Perhaps for a few minutes.

Thank you so much, Steph, for laughing with me, and thanks for your silence when I was crying. God has given you the gift of compassion and I pray that you will always wear it proudly upon your sleeve.

May your memory be strong and healthy and always remember to crawl under a barbwire fence.  So let your belly get dirty, for God made the mud and when it oozes between your toes you have been promised to be cleaned some other time. Bless you.

With His love and mine,
Ryan-Jacob Wilson

So you can understand that I cried, right? I read that inscription, filled with inside jokes and sweet words from a man who had become such a dear friend and I bawled like a baby. Ryan was a friend who made me laugh like no other.. . A man I could be myself with, because he was himself with me. We went on a beautiful journey together in college and our friendship was one of my sweetest memories of being there.

But I had no words of eloquence for Ryan that night. He and I were in the back room of my dorm suite. A bunch of friends and my two roommates were in the front room, laughing and enjoying their last night on campus. And I just cried with Ryan. He held me and I cried and cried. Because I had to leave. But I didn’t want to.

When I drove away from the seminary five years ago with a car full of my stuff and my belly full of coffee and a crepe from the City Creperie, I thought about my last conversation with my mentor just one hour earlier and how that brought up so many of the same emotions. I just didn’t feel done with St. Louis yet. I wasn’t ready for ministry… I wasn’t ready to leave the people who’d helped heal me and get me to the next stage of my life.  I had to go. But I didn’t want to.

The decision I had to make last night was a sign that things are coming to an end here. I don’t know exactly when and what will happen next, but I know I don’t feel ready.  (Sensing a pattern here?) It feels different this time, of course, because there isn’t fear attached to my uncertainty this time. My uncertainty now is simply based in wanting to have the closure I need to move on.

But I am bad at saying goodbye. I am not good at being done. I think this is because my mind and my heart are consistently living in the “what if?” place of my imagination, seeing into both the past and the future, wondering about all the possibilities if I stayed a little bit longer.

I will flounder and blunder my way through saying goodbye. Crying most of the time. Not saying what I want to say. Probably forgetting to say goodbye to someone, and then hurting their feelings. And probably saying the wrong things when people say goodbye to me, because I’m…  just bad at this. And the last thing I want to do is not leave well. Not leave feeling some closure. 

There has been a lot of beauty in this journey, and the last several months have felt more like a mess. I guess I just want to remember the beauty.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

blogging thru Scary Close - chapters 12 and 13

Vulnerability and openness act as the soil that fosters security. (pg. 157)

In chapter 12, Don writes about a friend who cheated on his wife when their children were very young.  He chose to tell them what he did, once they grew old enough to understand. He believed openness and honesty would bring intimacy, and that secrets wouldn’t. He gave his children the power to reject him, not forgive him. “There are no shadows in our family,“ his friend says. “We don’t hide anything. But that’s a tough place to get to. It takes work and it’s painful.” (pg. 160)

I’ve seen firsthand what secrets can do to people. To friends. To family. It fosters gossip and rumors. Mistrust. Misunderstanding. And just so many hurt feelings. Because the truth comes out eventually. It may not be the full version of truth, if we insist on continuing to hide. But some or all measure of the truth comes out whether we want it to or not. This kind of half-truth secrecy is a major barrier to intimacy. Secrets create walls. Failure to communicate fosters separation.

“When you are with God, there is no darkness, no hiding, no pretending,” Paul said to Don, when telling him the story of their choice to tell their children what happened in their marriage.  And we must do our part to restore what has become broken in our relationships, he says.

We must do this even when it hurts, because all ourselves are out there, exposed to the light. Like when air hits a cut on our hand. It’s the only thing that can heal it, but man. Does it ever hurt.

"God is watching!” We’d hear the adults around us say when we were children. “So don’t screw up!” But instead, the truth should be that in God, there is no darkness, and you have the courage and freedom to be yourself. The light will heal the wound, not make it worse. Don‘s friend Paul understood this, and it’s why he chose to tell his children of the sin in his past. We will screw up. We are bad people. And yet we are offered forgiveness because our God loves us. He has set us free from the law of sin and death. This kind of forgiveness, this kind of openness, is scary.

I guess that’s why the book is called Scary Close.

“Honesty is the soil intimacy grows in.” (pg 168) and in this intimacy we are to be safe people for each other, offering the grace to screw up. And the love to push each other to be better. We are giving each other such power over our hearts when we allow this. Part of me is still struggling if this kind of openness hurts more or less than the hurt that accompanies a closed heart.

We can find an echo here in living inwardly or outwardly, which is ultimately where this statement:

“Grace over guilt”

takes us next.

“Grace over guilt.” These are the words from chapter 13 that stood out to me, the words of the gospel, the words Don has built his company on.

The words all the perfectionists of the world need to hear.

Grace over guilt.

Say them to yourselves over and over. Every day.

The premise chapter 13 seems to be that if we tend to live outwardly rather than inwardly, we will be more fulfilled. This is perfectly echoed in his company’s manifesto, where it’s stated that they believe in grace over guilt.

Guilt is inwardly focused. You make someone feel guilty because of how they've failed you. But if you offer them grace, it suddenly becomes about them and what they need and not you and what you want. The trick is getting them to accept and understand this outward focus, which is so counter-intuitive to our selfish and evil hearts.

God is dictating all of this for me right now, because every chapter I read is an eerie reflection of something I’m already in the process of learning, or is a forecast of what will likely happening in the next few weeks. I mean, did I not just post about navel-gazing and grace ?!?!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

the beauty and the mess of grace

I’ve been thinking about this word a lot lately.

Do you remember that scene in Evan Almighty when Morgan Freeman is talking to Noah’s wife and he says to her, “If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous?”


Sometimes the law is too easy for me. Because instead of comparing myself to Jesus and seeing my inability to keep the law, I compare myself to others and think how better I am at keeping the law than they are.

There will always be a tension between justice and mercy. I side with justice most of the time, probably because I grew up with the law being preached to me and not grace. I want others to feel accountable for what they've done. I want every moment to be a teachable moment, rather than just being present and offering grace. Yes. This is my greatest vice, and such a sin.

I am a failure. So are you. But in Christ, our failure does not condemn us. (Romans 8:1) This is not a verse for when we are doing a great job. This is a verse that speaks gospel truth to us when we are failing - when we are at our worst and in need of some grace.


What does it look like when grace grips us?

I can tell you what it does to me. When it grips me, my heart stops. My posture changes. My eyes close. My head shakes back and forth. All in an acknowledgement that I just don’t deserve what’s been given to me.

The tears come and my heart breaks with repentance. I see how I’ve broken God’s heart, how I’ve hurt others and


Grace grips my heart and my mind and my soul. I’m overcome because I'm just such a mess.

 “The love of God freely given to us in Jesus alone carries the power to awaken a response of love in our hearts toward one another.” Tullian Tchividjian

Though it has not been easy, and my heart is broken from those who’ve hurt me, God is using this mess to show me the beauty of grace. He is giving me opportunities to show grace to others. Because the law can’t change them. It can show them what is wrong… but it cannot woo their hearts into a place of brokenness and repentance. This is not my job; only grace can do this.

This is the single most difficult thing about being a Christ follower for me. Ignoring justice and giving grace because I have been given grace. This should be freeing. But instead I feel like a doormat and a sense of unfairness in a world that is all about being fair. But I am not called to live in the world’s economy. I am called to live in God’s.

God’s economy only has one currency: the grace of Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

blogging thru Scary Close [the risk of being careful - chapter 11]

I remember being part of a ministry in college where we were trained to be mediators for our fellow students. We had a wonderful pastor and counselor train us during a weekend retreat each year. Showing us how to listen, how to manage conflict, how to do the hard things of life with our fellow students. Every year he gave us a poem. I have a copy in one of my scrapbooks. It’s about risk.

I haven’t thought about it for a while, but I remember it having a profound effect on me, which is why I’ve kept it all these years. There is so much emotional risk in what we are doing in this life with each other. And because there is risk there is fear.

I spent a lot of time in my thesis exploring fear for the learner and how it creates obstacles to learning. And sometimes even greater obstacles occur in fear-based learning in how the learner uses what they’ve learned. There are many contributing factors for transformational learning to take into account as a teacher – and one of the biggest, in my opinion, was climate. If the tone of the room, the attitude of the professor, the mood of fellow students isn’t safe, fear becomes an obstacle.

When Don was in a weird place with his writing, taking longer and longer to finish each book, a friend told him he was being too careful with his writing. (pg. 142)


I find myself repeating this word, letting it roll off my tongue slowly. Letting the sound of those two syllables make its way up to my ears and sink in. Deep.

I’m wondering about being careful.

Finding connection with another human is hard. That’s why we are so careful about it. We are careful who we invite in. This makes sense. Our hearts are precious commodities; they should be handled with care. This hard stuff goes beyond connection, though, and then makes its way to the most painful of all emotions for the perfectionist and overachiever: failure.

This fear… this disequilibrating fear that messes with our head and our heart and hands.

This fear that paralyzes us in the face of expectations and those we love.

This fear that stop us from trying.

This fear of failure makes us be careful.

And being careful hurts.

It might not seem like it as we do all our maneuvering, trying so hard to avoid and side-step the hard stuff that we just can’t deal with because we don’t want others to see our junk and we don’t want to fail others when they are so brave to show us theirs. Being this kind of careful hurts those who want you to stop avoiding and stop being careful and just want you...

to be there. [This is a weird kind of whisper, isn’t it?]

Everyone’s version of being there is different. I have one friend whose idea of being there for me means calling me every morning at 7:50 while I’m putting on my eye makeup and just checks in. (This might be a little much, but I love her for it.) Another friend’s version of being there is to send me stuff in a text that makes me laugh. Another's version of being there is sending me flowers. Another's is to take me to lunch or coffee. None of these are right and none of these are wrong. These are reflections of who they are and how they want to show me how much I mean to them. They are just being the friend they know how to be for someone who needs them.

There is fear that what you have to offer (your version of being there) and this is the fear that it just might not be enough.

The fear of being found lacking is profound. I think this is particularly true for men. The book, The Silence of Adam, has led me to this conclusion. A book that instead of depicting Eve as being deceived and then subsequently deceiving Adam, the book describes that Adam was there the whole time, yet said and did nothing. The author traces the problem with men to the silence with which Adam became complicit in the first fall from God's grace. Adam failed to trust in God's word and example, and modern men do the same when, instead of following God's example in dealing with uncertainties, they retreat into self-righteousness and toughness that mask anger and fear.

We fail each other. We’re human. We love, we hate. We get angry, we retreat.  We say things we regret, we do things we regret.

But if we become too careful about this, we risk something bigger than we can imagine.

[I] wonder if the time we spend trying to become somebody people will love isn't wasted because the most powerful, more attractive person we can be is who we already are, an ever-changing being that is becoming and will never arrive.” (pgs. 148-149)

We’re all still learning to love.