Monday, June 29, 2015

Please Stop Saying "We Lost"

This weekend, as we waited to park our car outside of wedding reception hall in Pittsburgh, a man in his twenties paraded past us with the Confederate Flag draped over his shoulders. He smiled, aware of the stares he was receiving, and continued on his way. His statement was loud and clear. I felt my heart drop into my stomach.

This is not a problem that seems to be going away.

But for the last three days, much of what I've seen on Facebook are statements like, "We Lost the Country," and "Don't Worry, We Know What Real Marriage Is." (And yes, there have always been gracious, love-filled posts and articles, and for those I am so proud.)

But just like that, a week and a half after a racially-charged hate crime killed nine people, we're back to politics and wins and losses and finger pointing.

What I've been wondering, mostly, is when our country become a theocracy.

Where, in the Bible, does it instruct Christians to impose our morals on non-Christians? When did Jesus roll into town 2000 years ago, saying he was going to take over everything, starting at the highest levels of government and working his way down to eventually loving the individuals?

Is my Bible missing those pages?

The Bible I read tells us to act justly and love mercy. We're told to walk humbly. We're told to care for the orphans and the widows. To love our brothers more than ourselves. To go and share the good news of the Gospel with the world. And yes, the Bible states that marriage is defined as one man and one woman.

What it doesn't say, is to stand on street corners and declare what are current score is in the great "God vs. World" game.

We're not told to create cultural or physical wars when we could, instead, be praying, and resting in the God who is in control of everything. We're not told to use Jesus as a political bargaining tool. And we're not told to make a whipping boy out of those who are trying to understand feelings of same sex-attraction.

But somewhere down the line, this has become our favorite sin. The best issue for stone throwers.

And I think I've finally figured out why.

Most issues, we know we might all fall into. We all lie, we all struggle with idolatry, we all have to work to protect our marriages from affairs--but because of the nature of homosexuality, unless you are dealing with it, you probably never will. To those who don't understand it, it's a very un-relatable struggle. People don't worry about falling into homosexuality the way they fear falling into alcoholism. For this reason, it just seems like the worst. 

Lord have mercy on us. We are hypocrites.

I sincerely believe it's possible to hold conservatively Biblical view of marriage without taking on the role of the thought-police. I hope I'm able to do this well.

I also sincerely believe it's possible to be hold a more liberal view of marriage and be deeply-loving follower of Jesus. I have too many incredibly Jesus-loving friends who've proved this to me to think otherwise. The conversations I have with these people challenge me to get out of my comfort zone. Their focus is on people, not prescriptions.

And then there are people who are in between, right now, struggling to figure out exactly where they stand. I hear that. 

We are all working out our salvation with fear and trembling--and that means also working out the big issues we face each day. May each of us go to God's Word for ourselves, converse with those we trust, and take our time as we learn to love and understand the world we live in. 

The important thing in all of this, is that the Supreme Court ruling is a federal issue. Unless something has recently changed in our country, I believe the separation between Church and State is still a thing. I think it's a good thing, at that. It means churches are protected by their own bylaws and beliefs.

You know what feels more like a Church issue? The shooting in Charleston, and the hatred that brought it on.

The teenage girl, trying to figure out what to do about her pregnancy.

The kids who are dying of starvation every day, right under our noses.

The women who are caught in a cycle of abuse with no one to talk to about it.

The people who need a voice, who need the Church to stand up in justice in love against the hate that so often colors this world.

The gay man who no longer has a family who's speaking to him.

These are people who need the love of the Church.

Guys, we don't have a high success rate in trying to lord over this world. We have a lot of work to do.

I can't pretend to know everything about this issue--I know there are facets I will never comprehend, and hurts and fears that I cannot address. For now, I just want to remind us all that this world is a broken place, and that through grace and faith in Christ Jesus, this world is not the end of the story. God is sovereign. May we never forget that.

 So please.

Let's stop keeping score.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gap Year

The morning of my first day of kindergarten, I woke up at 5 a.m. I distinctly remember feeling nervous to the point of feeling nauseous, but more than anything, I was ready to move forward. At five years old, I felt I was finally joining the ranks of those who "go somewhere during the day."

But even on that exciting day, I was discontent, because I knew it wasn't as amazing as it would be if it were my first day of high school. Growing up with older sisters, the goal was almost always to be doing what they were doing, and my first day of kindergarten was my oldest sister's first day of high school, so the comparison was very real. I remember standing on the side of my sister's vanity, peering with wide eyes as she pulled mascara and blush out of her Caboodle and sprayed her freshly curled bangs with White Rain. Kindergarten would be good, I was sure, but high school looked glorious.

Kindergarten, junior high, high school, college, summer jobs, teaching, and five years at an online magazine: they all started the same way. Up at dawn, jittery with the possibility of the day, wondering what it may bring, wishing it were something else, but unsure what that "something else" would be.  
Whether I was working on a paper late at night or staying late at the office to finish something up, my schedule centered around what was due, and what was next. Someday I'd be a freelance writer, I'd tell myself, but right now it needed to be nose-to-the-grindstone. I mostly said no to people and yes to projects, because that delicious rush of meeting a deadline felt necessary for my happiness.

But last January, something broke. I felt like I'd been running on a treadmill, and the belt finally snapped. I'd gotten engaged and married in six months' time, and aside from the honeymoon, I'd barely been able to give relaxed time to my husband. Everything from 2014 felt like a blur. My house was a mess, I was always stressed out and sad, and I found myself crying. Like all the time crying.

After 23 years of being a person who "goes somewhere during the day," I decided it was time to become somewhere that simply...didn't. Stepping into the role of a freelance writer and editor was something I'd always wanted to try, and this felt like the right time. The dream of freedom, of setting my own schedule and living that romantic writer life appealed to me deeply, like I'd be Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun, cooking big bowls of Italian food and talking to crazy ladies about ladybugs. Plus, I loved the idea of finding out what I was made of--whether or not I could hack it.

Now, I spend my mornings drinking coffee and eating breakfast in my pajamas at 8:30 a.m., determining when, exactly, I should begin the work I have for the day.

It really does sound heavenly, even when I type it. But honestly, it's been pretty weird.

I go days without showering and sometimes I can't remember whether or not I've brushed my teeth. I get dressed up to go to Target because at least I'm going somewhere. When I pitch an article and it doesn't get accepted, I see my entire career collapse before me. When it does get accepted, I find myself wondering if I actually want to write that article, anyhow. I talk to my dogs a lot because I don't have coworkers, and when my husband walks through the door I practically tackle him because he's ANOTHER HUMAN.

In the loneliest moments, I start looking at job postings, wondering if I should go to law school or go into PR or communications at a big, corporate company. In my most distracted moments, I forget what I'm doing altogether. In the busiest moments, I work late and hard, writing and editing. And in my most inspired, I make something, simply because I want to. Sometimes I desperately missing the routine of waking up, being tired, walking to my office, and being in one place all day. I miss not having to always think about what I'm doing.

I was about to call it quits, feeling like a failure and longing for the regularly-scheduled workforce life, when I realized something:

This is exciting.

Not "wake up early and feel nauseous" exciting, but like, completely different and totally challenging and life-changing exciting. I am in the thick of a new life, and I didn't even realize it. This is a slow season. This time is rich with discovery and dripping with the unknown. This is my gap year, and I was about to go and end it because I got freaked out.

For months, in moments of fear and self-doubt, I've tried to figure out what my next step should be, and what my longterm goals are. But what I'm finally understanding is that this time is simply supposed to be a lesson in enjoying the right now moments--FOR ONCE. A time to be still and let God fight for me. To figure out not what I should do, but who I am. From how I eat, to how I spend my time, to who I want to see, to how I pray, how I want to serve the church, and how I want to love the world around me, I've had to do some real, uninterrupted, uninfluenced thinking. I have options, and I have space. It's terrifying. And it's awesome.

Even the little things things, like how I choose to dress myself in the morning, have become more meaningful.

In this quiet, slow season, I'm learning to be grateful for the beautiful life I have. Instead of coming home from work and crumbling on the couch, I go for walks with my husband. Instead of saying no to spending time with friends, I prioritize it. I read books. Whole ones. Not online articles or excerpts, whole books.

And for the first time I can remember, I breathe prayers of thanks to Jesus throughout my day instead of begging him to bring me peace while I fall asleep.

But in my anxiety and concern over my status and my future, I almost backed out of this beautiful time. 


Yes, I work every day, but I have more time and more emotional energy to see people. For months, that's made me feel weird and uncomfortable, like I'm missing something. It turns out I'm just missing the stress.

I can probably do without that for a year.

So, y'all, it's gap year. I'm declaring it. This is the year before I begin whatever the next big chapter is. It's a time to stop asking for what's next or wondering where I should be or comparing myself to other people. It's a time where when people ask me how I am, my automatic response isn't, "Tired." It's a time to pick mulberries and drink wine and allow silence and just GAP IT OUT.

This year, I will be spend more time looking into the faces of the people I love and feel thankful for them, not stressed because I never see them. I will wonder less about what I don't have, and find more wonder in what I do have. Right now, for once, it's not about what's next. It's about this great big gift of a year, where it doesn't matter if I have a platform or a plan or a next step. I'm thankful.

Have any of you ever taken a year, or just, time, to figure things out?