Clashing Cultures

For me, being “one of the guys” used to be a treasured status symbol as a female teenager. There was something affirming about football players bringing me into the crowd, and wrestlers bringing me into practice just because it “made sense” to have me there. Somehow, my 4-foot-11-inch frame and spitfire personality afforded me rarely understandable respect and leadership among the “in-crowd.”

(The one time I laid aside my jeans and t-shirt to put on an evening gown, curl my hair and go to Prom, one of the guys memorably told me it was, “…weird to see [me] as a girl.”)

Fast forward a decade, and I find myself married to my best friend, learning what it means to be a wife, preparing for possible motherhood, and not being a “to-heck-with-estrogen” female. I’m still a strong-willed leader, but I’m learning to let myself be led.

It’s not a rare switch, but spiritually, it’s an awkward one.

This last year of marriage has shed light on so many soul-deep realities of why Christianity clashes with my American Culture. As a woman, I’ve dedicated my life to creating a persona of independence, leadership, responsibility… all of it. I’m good at what I do, and I know what I want. Though it goes against everything within me, somehow my audacious spirit makes people listen to what I say.

But as a Christian, I’m asked (commanded, actually, but that doesn’t sound as easy on the ears to we Americans) to lay all of that at the feet of Jesus and let Him designate where I lead and when I follow. To the culture around me, it seems debilitating because I seem to give up without a fight when I hear God whisper, “Let go of this one. You’re not in control; I am.”

I know how to be a strong, independent woman. Yet following Christ calls me to depend completely on Him and thrive within my weaknesses–not in spite of them.

I’ve given up power and status to sit at the feet of a Man who led by being a sacrifice for people who didn’t deserve it.

No wonder the world calls me a fool.

Advertisements

Trek to the Cross

The big Native man next to me smirked and mumbled in accented English, “You wanna see sumtin’ cool? Adventure? You? Me? Come!” I was 13, and I’d found myself in a small, remote village down the Yukon in Alaska. I was quite out of my element, and the friendly giant probably perceived my hesitation as boredom.

With permission from my mother, the next thing I knew I was on the back of a rusty 4-wheeler driving up a mountain, attempting desperately not to fall off. With every bump we hit, my friend *RJ would grab my ankle to keep me on the Honda and yell over the wind, “You be okay. Worth the risk. Promise.”

The beauty that met us at the top of the mountain was breathtaking. The small village we’d ridden away from seemed even smaller, and somehow God felt bigger to my young mind. RJ pointed to the destination of our adventure: A cross, slightly out-of-place and relatively unimpressive.

“It’s just a cross, but people like you like this stuff,” he said cryptically. Shrugging, he mumbled, “Sorry if you don’t like. We can go back now if you want.” Instead of leaving immediately, we sat under the cross and talked about Jesus, second chances, and why the cross was such a big deal.

RJ could barely grasp the true beauty behind the cross, but he knew he needed to show it to me–a total stranger.

Thinking about RJ now reminds me that, at times, God simply wants me to bring people to Him, and do nothing more. And then, even more often, when I obey Him by doing so, I’m equally as impacted by the truth of Christ as the one I’ve brought to meet Christ.

Unsung Faithfulness

“You can reach people with a story like that; I can’t.” It’s a line I’ve heard so often it takes supernatural strength to not scream. I understand what someone means when they say such a thing. On one hand, with medical trauma, trials, travesties, and long awaited triumphs, my story seems miraculously riveting.

After all, it’s not common to be told you can live with 3/4 of a brain, a neurological “shocker collar,” and a body which literally enjoys living in the realm of pseudo heart attacks. But to survive all that–praise be to God– and pursue a career in writing, get married, and live a life that seems subliminally normal? Yeah, that’s awesome.

Then you have the spiritual aspect. In not-so-Christian terms, at 17 years old, I told the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to take a hike because no logical person needed Him. Though Christ never left my side, He did let me experience life without Him. My sinful desires almost burned away every recognizably redeemed part of my soul. I shouldn’t be alive. I shouldn’t be safe. I shouldn’t be claimed as a Child if God. But somehow, like the Hound of Heaven that Jehovah is, He let me play the harlot, He let me experience my “prodigal power,” and when I’d had enough, He let me come Home.

So, yes. That story is riveting as well. Unfortunately, the story seems to shut up the individual who believed in the Lord Jesus as his or her savior at four years old and never looked back. Oh, with all my heart, I wish it didn’t.

If you are one of those Believers, take it from one of the people who gets handed a microphone way too often. You, my friend, are the Story that makes people like myself cling to Jesus even more. You are proof that returning to Jesus really is more than enough. As much as I am confident of my salvation in Jesus Christ, as head over heels in love as I am with my Savior, there are days I doubt whether leaving my life of sin was worth it. Redemption takes the place of the lies within your heart, but the lies can run deep.

I sold my Jesus for a season to get my way. You didn’t. Your story may feel boring. To people like me,though, it’s a breath of fresh air and the whisper of Jesus telling me to shut out the lies and keep my eyes on Him.

We were all given our faith journeys for a reason. Just because you don’t see your impact doesn’t mean it’s absent. Thank you for your faithfulness to our Jesus. Your faithfulness brings me to tears and reminds me to keep going.

Add to the Box

Dear Child,

I dreamed about you long before you existed. I have no idea whether you’ll have my independent streak, or your daddy’s merciful heart. I don’t know if you’ll have my ever-changing eye color, or your daddy’s cool blue eyes and cheeky grin.

I don’t even know if you’ll ever exist.

I don’t know if I’ll carry you, adopt you, lose you, or do all three. I don’t know if you’ll have your dad’s rock solid medical record, or my terrifying one. I don’t know if your personality will clash with us, or if you’ll enjoy being in our family. There are so many things I don’t know.

I just know I want you.

We started a project for you, and to be honest, I’m terrified. I’m not terrified that you won’t like it, but I’m terrified that you won’t understand it. It’s a treasure box filled with notecards. Some of them filled with prayers for you. Many of them, though, are filled with verses which have either brought us closer to our Maker King Jesus, or encouraged us to stay where we already are.

I’ll be honest, Kiddo, as much as I want to help you succeed, I want to give you the heart to love the Jesus those notecards talk about. My prayer is that you won’t walk by that treasure box without discovering the Christ who is our Treasure. I pray your relationship won’t hinge on whether Daddy and I are growing in Christ, doing well in our marriage, or even still alive.

We can promise to strive after Christ with you, but I pray we never hold you back simply because your desire to know Him may look different than we had ever imagined for you. I may want you more than I ever thought possible, but my heart’s cry is that you’ll never want me, your dad, success, or cultural security, more than you want the Jesus who loves you more than we ever could.

This world–our culture–is no longer accepting of people who are sold out for Jesus. Be a radical, Darlin’, regardless of what our world may say. Don’t close your eyes while you run towards Jesus, because if you do that, you’ll be blind to the people you should stop for in order to bring them with you. But run, Sweetheart. Run after Jesus. It’s all we’ve ever wanted for you.

Help me add to the treasure box, Little One.

When My Talent Died

So, I’ve stopped writing. Much to the chagrin of former journalism professors, old fans, and many family members, I’ve just…stopped. I still work in communications, so, when deadlines arise, I sit down with my trusty li’l iPad and I spit out something. Usually, I turn it in with the thought, “Really? That’s all you’ve got? You’re a published author and a Journalism graduate. You’re barely scratching the surface here. You can do better than this!” 

And somehow, despite my angst, God still makes my writing impactful. I just really don’t understand how He does such a thing. I still know how to write. I’ve just forgotten how to write for myself. (Hence the reason this blog hasn’t been touched in two months.)

Let me explain. My parents handed me an old laptop when I was fourteen and told me to write. My life had been so packed with medical trials, traumas, and troubles, they just wanted me to have an outlet. Without actually knowing what I was doing, I set out to make my pain make sense, and I took advantage of that outlet.

I needed to find God when my body gave me reasons to believe God was dead. So, I let my pain infiltrate page, after page, after page of defining Jesus within my very lonely and hurting heart.

I found my talent within writing. Writing somehow made my pain beautiful. Writing gave me a way to understand that a traumatic and painful life didn’t erase God. Writing helped me see that pain simply chips away at religious pretenses and makes you feel every inch of your desire to follow an invisible God.

But now, almost a decade and a half later, my life is not run by pain or medical trauma. By now, I’ve told all my stories, I’ve cried all my tears, and truly, my heart is filled with joy. I love it! … I just don’t know how to write about it, or write within it. I’m at a total peace for the first time since I can remember, and all the sudden, my need to write has disappeared.

The funny part is, God has made it clear I’m not done writing. It’s just I no longer have to write for myself. In other words, a blank page doesn’t give me anxiety. It’s just a reality. When God wants me to start writing, the fire in my bones comes back and nothing can hold me back. I’m okay with that.

Now my journey is learning how to let my talent include joy.

Don’t Trip Over Me

I clearly remember the day I decided to leave my childhood church. I had walked away from that particular body of believers (who were and are amazing people) when I decided Christ was the last thing I wanted to pursue. When I returned after my two year hiatus, I was broken beyond recognition spiritually and wanted anyone to tell me the pain dulls someday.

Actually, I wanted more than that. I wanted someone to hear about my wounds and tell me how to heal; because I had no idea how to do it myself. Growing up, I was the picture-perfect Christian kid. I knew the right answers. When Christ renewed my faith, I knew the right answers but my life made those answers feel foreign, unfamiliar and unobtainable. 

I needed help but was given the impression I seemed “fine.” I was experiencing redemption, but I felt anything but fine. The day I told old friends why I needed a fresh start, a few people gave me very vague answers. I heard lines like, “I’ve been there.” “I know why you’re hurting.” 

… But in my childishly adult 20-year-old mind, those particular responses had come too late. I’d sat wounded and feeling alone for months. I had needed someone more spiritually experienced to get me back on track and it felt like that counsel never came. I’ll always remember the confusion I felt when I was told someone understood my struggles right before I walked out the door. I had no clue I had people to go to to get help… until it was too late. They seemed too perfect to include me.

So, I left and “started over.”

That was close to ten years ago now. Christ saw my spiritual hunger and gave me a Body of believers who loved me deeply but didn’t let me get away with anything. Change isn’t always a bad thing, and to this day, 3,500 miles away, I’m genuine friends with people from both churches. 

I was told recently that I seemed like a very “open book.” As a pastor’s wife, that sentiment is both terrifying and terrific. Too little transparency and people feel as if you’re fake. Too much transparency and your ability to co-lead with your minister husband gets hazy. I want to be relateable; I’m afraid of being a stumbling block.

As I struggle with finding that balance as a new wife to a pastor in training, I’m constantly kicked back to how I felt drowned in loneliness when I first came back to the Lord. I let people see my healed and now-beautiful wounds because I’m learning leadership first starts with being touchable. 

You don’t have to be perfect to be in my group of believers. You don’t have to have all of your sin “Christianized” before being a godly impact on others. You simply have to be willing to realize Christ is the source of your joy and your love. When you realize that, your story loses its shame and Christ changes the game by being the Victor.

If you stumble over anything when you notice I’m an “open book,” may you stumble over the Cornerstone of Christ just as I did.

Forgetting to Enjoy Him 

When I was a kid, I loved figuring out new words. At four years old, I’d approach my unsuspecting mother with some variation of the question, “What does n-k-v-i-o-t spell?” I couldn’t wait to hear what word I had magically spelled. I loved the idea of making my thoughts known.

So, of course, I became a journalist. The challenge was always the same: Use the most descriptive words to say as much as possible with as little blank page used as possible. 

I was also the 8-year-old who secretly disliked playing with my peers but got a quirky amount of joy sitting with the elders of my church and listening to them talk about doctrine. At 13, I asked for my first concordance. I learned that I loved teaching others life-application within Biblical truths.

So, of course, I acquired a degree in Biblical studies. Within that realm, the challenge was always the same: Make one point as deeply understood as possible, all amounting to a minimum of 5,500 words. Create a masterpiece which looks like a mini-doctoral thesis. Good luck. 

Too often, I waste my time trying to fulfill both challenges when I share or teach Biblical truths. I wax as eloquently and precisely as possible. I use big words to sound authoritative and knowledgeable to appease my journalistic mind. For my theological background, I could write for pages upon pages to share truth I either found intriguing or applicable. My mind is constantly working through topics and how to share them.

What’s terrifying about that is I can be known for forgetting to simply share Jesus. It’s easier to fill a mind with knowledge than it is with love. It’s easier to foster a debate than it is to outline a soul’s need. It’s easy to teach about Jesus but difficult to simply share the essence of the beauty of Christ. 

I’m an analytical person, to put it mildly. I’ll study a topic till I’m blue in the face simply because I thrive on being intrigued. But when Jesus is the “topic,” I’m constantly being reminded it’s okay to sit still and simply enjoy Him. When we learn how to do that as believers, only then will the truths which we share about Him come to life for those watching.