Tag Archives: Hope

Busted By God

imagesI woke up this morning with a Bible passage in my head.  This sounds like a much holier experience than it was, so I should also say that it was mixed in with assorted lyrics from a Cassidee Pope song.  I did a keyword search on Biblegateway to try to sort the mess out and found this scolding from God via the prophet Isaiah:

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. 

(NOTE: isn’t funny how all the motivational posters of this passage skip this last part of the sentence, the part where God’s people say, “Well that’s one option, God, but we’ve decided to go with a different plan”?)

You said, “No, we will flee on horses.” Therefore you will flee!” 

You said, “We will ride off on swift horses.” Therefore your pursuers will be swift!

A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. 

For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

I am so busted.

I’ve been keeping BUSY.  I’ve had a lot of work to do, so I’ve been WORKING. I’ve been FINE.  I haven’t made all that much time to listen to God because it’s felt good to have other tangible things to think about beyond all the things that make me sad and scared and furious. And because frankly, I’m not all that pleased with His decisions lately. (And by lately, I mean for about the past five years.)

It’s working out pretty well for me so far. I’ve been liking it. And yet I look at the words above and know God has a point: that eventually all my work projects will be completed and I’ll be back at square one trying to make myself believe that doing seventeen micro-loads of laundry which have been obsessively sorted by hue and fabric content is an important use of my day.

I owe God an apology.

I would love to be one of those ever-believing pillars of the faith who never doubt or waiver, who stand firm in their conviction that the Lord will come through. I am sometimes, and on occasion have even kept it up for an entire afternoon. (Usually those are the days I’m pretending to be Michelle Duggar, but whatever gets the job done, right?)  This morning, I feel like Jesus is giving me a firm talking to, asking, “Are you going to rise to the occasion here? Are you going to slow down, chill out, and trust that I’ll bring justice, or are you going to run away?”

***

Confession:  I wrote everything above, and then I stopped. I was stuck. I don’t like to post things that don’t have some sort of encouragement or hope in them, and I didn’t have any. I didn’t even have an answer for Jesus’ question, because  I didn’t much like his options.

I could have made up some sort of encouraging blog conclusion, of course. I had the perfect pithy wrap-up sentence running through my head about how delighted I’ll be today, calmly waiting on the Lord.  But it was a total lie because that’ s not my plan at all.  When I finish here, I’m running out the door to the DMV to register our car and I have no expectation that it will be a blessed time of waiting patiently.  But I’d rather stall than lie, so I opened a new browser window and cast about for a picture of Michelle Duggar to illustrate this post.

That’s when I found this interview where she talks about dealing with her anger. As she described the gulf between the mean mommy she becomes sometimes and the loving mommy she wants to be, I saw the gulf I’m facing: between the chilly, distant woman who is exhausted and can’t deal with anything else, and the warm, relatable woman who has been through some stuff but is kept afloat by God’s ridiculous peace that surpasses understanding. There was a season where keeping my guard up was a smart idea (I’ve learned that when people accuse you of being “too guarded” it’s usually because they want something from you that you’re not giving them.) But that season is over. It’s time to chill out, rest, and let God handle the aftermath and next steps of everything that has happened.

This gives me a hope: that the “justice” promised in the passage above isn’t just a thwarting of bad guys and restoration of what’s been lost out in the world, but also an internal restoration of what’s been lost in me.

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Calling Bullsh*t on the Trauma of Being Alive

I just read an article in today’s New York Times called The Trauma of Being Alive. It pissed me off. It feeds the dysfunctional obsession with defining ourselves in terms of the worst thing that has happened so far.  Child of bad parents? Been through an ugly divorce? Lose a friend or sibling or parent or child? Receive a terrible medical diagnosis? Welcome to the new you! this line of thinking goes, inviting you to accept your new reality wherein life is forever seen through the lens of your misfortune.

I’ve been through a number of rough situations. There was the bad marriage where I fled and lived under an assumed name for three years imagesbecause my then-husband had a gun and some anger management issues. There have been miscarriages, and wow, do those suck. A few years ago, Steve and I moved to a different state for a new job, and then moved back four months later – unemployed and homeless – because things went horribly awry. Then we watched as our senior pastor reinterpreted the Bible, blew out most of his long term members and friends, then abandoned the church to move to the West Coast. And most recently, we lost the little girl we’d been asked to become guardians of as she was sucked back into a sick system that has failed to protect or help her.

We’ve been through some stuff. And yes, the trauma is real. But it’s not forever, and these things don’t define us. (And just because we sometimes seem okay in conversations or in Facebook posts doesn’t mean we’re stuffing our pain or ignoring it.)  This dichotomy – outwardly process your pain forever, or ignore it while it festers and eats you up inside – is a false one, and I’m calling bullish*t.  (In a polite way. With an asterisk :) )

I’m a private person when it comes to grief. An “internal processor,” if you will. I hibernate after bad things happen. I need time to figure them out before I talk about them. I need time with God – a lot of it – before I can talk about tough things with anyone else.

The few times I’ve tried to “work-through” my stuff with other people after a catastrophe have done more damage than good. It was like I kept ripping off the band-aid each time someone asked about my wound.  For example: the time we moved to a new state for four months & then came back? I tried processing this pain with a group from my church. I told the stories and gave updates and cried and cried. They asked questions and I tried to answer, but often I was just guessing because I hadn’t considered whatever it was they asked. There were things I said that later I realized, “Oh, I don’t think that at all.” And with all of this, I was still “working through” the experience in that group two years later.  Which was absurd, because other than being inconvenient and expensive, this was minor as far as traumatic situations go.  But it became what people asked about, and therefore what I told them about, and thus what our friendships came to be defined by. A vicious cycle.

When you’ve been through something awful, sometimes it feels good to be listened to, heard, affirmed. But for me, the satisfaction is short-lived. Unless someone can do something to fix whatever the situation is, I’ve realized, I’m not helped by telling them about it, no matter how many times they nod and say, “Wow, that must have been hard.” And I wonder if the short-term comfort of receiving affirmation and feeling heard isn’t a bit addictive – if it might be part of the reason so many of us fall into the trap of being defined by our trauma, ripping the band-aid off over and over again so people can give us these short hits of attention, rather than leaving our wounds covered so they can heal?

Or maybe this is just me, how I’m wired. But I think we need to allow that our wiring can differ.

One of the miraculous aspects about how we’re made is that we have the capacity to get over things. Life goes on, as the saying goes. And strangely enough, it’s true. It’s surreal, of course: the uneasy feeling that hits the first time you laugh really hard or enjoy a fruity cocktail while watching the sunset after you’ve been through something awful, the moment you realize, “Wow, I wasn’t thinking about X right then.” Because until that moment, you couldn’t imagine a time when you wouldn’t be thinking about X. But those moments come, and if we let them, they add up.

Toward the end of the article, the author mentions that he’s a Buddhist, and maybe this is why we disagree. When I was living in hiding after my first marriage, I bought a book by a famous Buddhist monk that promised to guide me in what to do after my world fell apart.  I don’t remember the details of what it said – something about how I should accept that I’d never get over it – but I remember vividly throwing the book away and then taking the garbage all the way out to the end of the driveway because I wanted that grim diagnosis (it felt like a curse) as far away from me as possible. Wherever that path led, it was not the path for me.

A few years later I became a Christian largely because Jesus promised me that if I gave him my past–the hurts, mistakes, betrayals, disappointments; all the crap–he would transform it.  He did, and he has – again and again. It’s not that I never think about the things that have happened. It’s that they no longer hurt. I’m not angry or frustrated or bitter; I don’t spend time imagining how things might have turned out differently, or what I wish I’d said.  Jesus offers freedom, rather than never-ending process. That’s the possibility I reach for when life spins out of control.

So now, even as we’re in the midst of the worst grief we’ve ever experienced over losing this little girl we love so much, Steve and I know this: the trauma does not define us – or her – and it will not last forever.  We have hope that God will bring good out of this situation that seems so heartbreaking and bad. It’s how we trust that He will make our lives joyful, interesting, worthwhile. Not defined by trauma. Defined by God.  This is the hope that we have, the Hope of Being Alive, if you will.

I find it a better lens to look through.