Blind to Brutality

Four little boys screeched, “Help us! They’re using batons and won’t stop! Lady, please help us! They’re beating us up! They might kill us. They’ll take me to jail! I didn’t do nothin'”  I quietly observed the boys’ laughter-filled playtime, slowly becoming more and more appalled at what they considered play.

Police brutality. They think it’s funny. The boys couldn’t have been more than seven. They already think brutality is funny. 

By the age of 12, I was a hopeless tomboy. I enjoyed horsing around with the guys much more than painting my nails or trying on my sister’s prom dress. I know what it’s like to have a childhood of accidentally going “too far” with wrestling and playing cops and robbers. It’s all in good fun. Welcome to a healthy childhood. 

But adding police brutality? Imagining the role of a “bad cop” misusing his authority? No, that wasn’t my childhood.

I know I’m not a parent. I realize it’s quite possible I’ll come back to to this post and disagree with my younger self after having actual parental experience. But at this point, all I have is frustration over the fact that our culture’s children have very little understanding of the sacredness of life. Many of them have even less respect for authority. 

I had a childhood packed to the hilt of learning respect and the difference between right and wrong. The current generation of children are learning their version of those things by watching media. They are also watching us — their parents and role models. 

Are we modeling wholesome characteristics which are worth them mirroring? Or, are we reacting in anger, sarcasm and cynicism and simply shrugging our shoulders and telling ourselves they’ll understand better when they grow up? 

A seven-year-old knew that a baton can kill. We need to stop shrugging our shoulders.

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Seeing the Unseen

I’ve never wanted to stay in America. It was bad enough when God pulled me out of the ministry in Alaskan villages. I came to the Midwest with a silent understanding that I would stay just long enough and then… I could leave. Basically, I forgot that when I tell God, “We have a deal” it’s beneficial to get the Divine Head Nod before I start telling people God and I have a deal.

I am currently surrounded by a subculture of Christianity which puts a million-to-one emphasis (*slight exaggeration, but you get the point) on reaching the Nations. That means leaving the Bible Belt of Indiana, in case you were wondering. When I came to the Midwest four years ago, I chanted (metaphorically) with the best of them. I’m in one of the most churched towns in Indiana. Do ministry? Here?!  In this town? But why? How?

Reach the Nations? Yeah, no. Not here. Its not… Um, I don’t know. Its just not… It just lacks… something. I’m a missionary transplant. You don’t take a missionary out of the trenches and put them in this town. That’s uncalled for, isn’t it? I could do so much more in the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Africa… Anywhere! What the heck can I do here?!

After I came back to the Lord in 2010, I started saying that, “God has called me to the unseen.” Before you freak out and think I meant I saw demons, no, that’s not what I meant. In reality, my just-off-the-press experiences as a closet-Christian had made me well aware of how easily struggling Christians and/or ostracized non-Christians fall between the cracks. I found myself drawn to the people ignored within the churches, rather than the high profile challenge on the street corner.

But still, regardless of that perspective, I wanted (and only saw) those people if their skin wasn’t white. Ironic, no? Talk about wrong-side-out racial conflict. I’m not proud of that.

God hasn’t been subtle in calling my sin into the spotlight. When I strive to “see the unseen,” how dare I put weight in one person’s spiritual healing over the other? If God has called me to Indiana, how dare I tell Him its not good enough because the Culture Shock isn’t as easily identified as it would be if I was in a place like Guatemala? 

Recently I saw pain so deep, it shook me to the core. As I bit back tears and the all-too-familiar feeling of Spiritual Warfare, I caught a glimpse of the street sign my companions and I were passing. I was entering into Warfare, and I was in Indiana. I could feel God whisper, “Loving people is what I made you for” and I was in Indiana. 

Americans, we are no longer steady on our feet when it comes to ministry. If we send everyone to the enthralling and exciting zip codes, we have no one for the people still wounded within our churches here. Be passionate for your neighbor directly across the street just as much as you’re passionate for the concept of feeding orphans and living in grass huts. 

Don’t take as long as I did to figure it out. The souls being ignored here in America are still important.

Prodigal Mind, Redeemed Soul

My life has been filled with asking God’s forgiveness and <trying to> force His permission.  Two years ago, that approach to Christianity was ripped to shreds when the kingdom I had built for myself was demolished. Christianity became about Christ being alive in me; not me being alive with Christ showing up on occasion. Learning to surrender on a daily, hourly and minutely basis has been an unfathomable adventure. 
Recently in a reference letter, I was described as a prodigal. I chuckled and wiped away tears as the remainder of the letter explained why my story blessed fellow Christians rather than scarred them. 

For some reason, I never expected God’s redemption to go as deeply as it does. It’s a beautiful thing when I look at my best friend and I know he only sees scars, not seeping wounds. 

It can be a terrifying mental trip trying to protect that redemption. I often forget that though my life in Christ is my responsibility, I myself am (hallelujah) Christ’s charge. What I can’t handle, He can. What I don’t understand, He does. 

A couple days ago, as I sat haggling over whether I was pleasing God “enough,” I broke down crying. The what ifs are intimidating. As a redeemed and treasured prodigal concerned I’m not hearing God correctly for my future, it’s ulcer-forming. That particular day, I wasn’t getting the “go-ahead” I thought God and I had set up to guarantee I was doing things correctly. 

Fine, Jesus. I really don’t know what to do anymore. I’m done. You get the pieces of this mess. Do your thing. Get me out of the way. I…I surrender. Help me. Help me surrender. 

Believe me when I tell you I expected silence after that prayer. I expected the arbitrary reminder that God’s peace and grace were enough… As if that would silence the questions in my mind. 

Instead of holy silence, as I muttered “I surrender” God gave me the answer I needed along with total peace. 

It was as if I heard God whisper, “I just wanted you to give up control. I just wanted you to trust that I know your heart’s desire. I wanted you to surrender control, but even more than that, I needed you to surrender the idea that you have Me figured out. I love you, sweet Child. You are no longer a Prodigal, you’re a Child I treasure. You didn’t hear from Me for so long because you weren’t looking for Me, you were looking for your comfortzone.”

We talk so often of surrendering plans and “control” to God. What about surrendering the expectations of what God will do after we surrender?

Living Beyond Assumptions

All he did was asked questions over an article. 

His eyes got as big as saucers as I explained the medical journey behind the 1,800 word synopsis being offered to a publication company. One explanation led to another… And another… And another. The questions were painfully typical and mundane. I felt as if I was answering the curious questioner in my sleep. My writing had led me towards this type of impromptu interview before. 

But then, he said it:

“Wow. I guess you’re really not that frightening at all. Listening to your story, hearing you explain it, everything that made you super uncomfortable (to be around) makes so much more sense. I never would have guessed… Like, geez, you’re great.”

He smiled the smile of a man who wanted to be applauded for a gracious compliment. I smiled a smile that threatened to whisper, “Because I love Jesus, I won’t break your nose when I punch you.” I’m 26-years-old and people’s fears over my disabilities still make me crumble to the ground in tears. Being afraid of my disabilities is understandable.

But if you suffer silently through those fears, all you’re saying is that you’re afraid of me

I can’t say I’m much better than this poor man who has become a victim of my sarcasm. I giggle at the differences within the disabled community because, even though I may feel uncomfortable at times, I feel accepted. But don’t you dare ask me to be open in other areas.

My biggest fear and struggle is learning how to talk to an addict like an equal. They’re my equal? Wait… You mean they can hold a conversation?

This isn’t a discussion about right or wrong, normal or abnormal. Our society has become such a culture of hiding behind assumptions we have become our fears. 

My young friend saw my differences the moment he met me a year ago. He was too afraid to ask.

I have reasons to be afraid anytime I’m around a person who abuses drugs. I’ve been at the mercy of certain addicts’ evils before. But believe it or not, when you can get them talking, they simply want to be seen and reminded of their value. I often forget that because I can be too afraid to write an exception to my self-righteous rule.

I learned a long time ago that God never told me my comfort was His first concern. His command is to love those around me no matter the cost. 

If I live in fear of the unknowns, I’ll never experience the joy of living fully by loving those I don’t understand.

I Wish I’d Known

In most people’s eyes, I had everything a 22-year-old wanted. I had my independence, a great job, friends and accquaintances on both sides of the religious spectrum. I’d sown my oats and lived to tell about it. I needed nothing. 

I was voted “Most likely to get hitched and have 3 kids by 19” in school. At 22, I was about the only one who had never filed for a dependant on my taxes, left the country to explore or declared a pursuit of some high-falutin’ doctorate. As far as the dating thing went, let’s face facts, shall we? When your fellow 20-somethings harken back to school days and the once-popular football guys still chuckle that, “You don’t mess with Harris. She’s a piece o’ dynamite” you get friends, not dates.

With the ever increasing use of social media, I saw all my friends pass me up. Dating relationships, amazing careers, marriages, kids… Fame. They had it all it seemed, and I was stuck in the town where every time you sneezed the mayor requested a new weather report. 

I wanted to be noticed. I felt hidden. I wanted someone to want me… I felt overlooked. People said my high-end(ish) job made me successful. I felt stuck and taken for granted. This was adulthood? Would I ever see beyond the 7,500 people who could still recall in great detail what buck-teethed, awkward 9-year-old me was like?

I missed out on so much because I was constantly comparing my journey to someone else’s or knocking on Heaven’s door asking for a preview of my exciting life 15 years down the road. I wanted everything that wasn’t mine to have. Very rarely did I giggle at the silence and dance when the music stopped.

No one ever told me my desire for more would make my life have meaning if I could be content. The last words out of my mouth at night wanted to be, “Thanks, I guess, for my loneliness, my boredom, my routine, my annoying ho-hum, do nothing life. Yay air. Amen.” To be content in those things? What was the point in moment-by-moment, not fantasy-by-fantasy or expectation-by-expectation?

Doing that would require being content in the constant Person of Jesus Christ. That would require being accepting of the fact that experience builds character, and sometimes that character has nothing to do about me. Contentedness means appreciating loneliness and routine because, if I’m willing to listen, I’ll have more time to pray for people and be a part of an unseen battle.

At 22, no one saw the need to tell me my “stupid routine life” mattered. As a 26-year-old, I wish I had known then the joy of sacrificing my expectations at the feet of the Master who knew the beauty of my future.

I wish I had known the beauty of taking the time to ponder the vastness of never being bigger than the God I serve.

Speaking Unknown Languages

This morning, I found myself reliving the past and cherishing the present. 

I laughed at the blessing of what I have surrounding me this Christmas Eve. I’ve been given memories I’ll never forget, loved ones I’ll always cherish… I can’t thank God enough for all these things. My worlds have officially collided. Every time I see strangers becoming family around my parents’ dinner table, I can hear God whisper, “This is both a reminder of eternal redemption you can’t run from & a gift of absolute love.” 

But still, in this quiet morning where memories can flow without interruption, I found myself missing Ohio. Last year, I was a guest in a friend’s home; a cherished stranger-made-family. I could have easily felt like a fish out of water, but I rarely did. 

Hearing German, Korean and Japanese happened often during that Christmas. Every once in a while, I’d throw in some Sign Language just to make my friends giggle… At times, my surrogate German-Mama would forget to speak English when addressing me and the kitchen would erupt in laughter at the confusion. 

Last Christmas Eve, in four different languages, we sat down and told the Christmas Story. As Jesus’ birth was celebrated simultaneously in each language, I laughed for fear of crying. 

It was a minuscule taste of what I can only imagine Heaven to be like. Voices raised with confidence, speaking the Truth of our Redeemer in our respective heart language. We shared knowing smiles as we let each other express our Jesus differently, knowing our bond would always hold some mystery. 

I’m surrounded by English speakers this year. Each time I hear snippets of the Christmas Story – Holy God coming to Earth as a baby to save His people – I smile. Jesus is so much more than a story.

He breaks down language barriers, cultural differences & economic struggles and creates family out of strangers. 

Don’t Touch My Butt

Though humorous, the question is never easy for me to answer.

“Why’dya touch/hit/grab my butt?!” I’ve heard that question a million times. If I didn’t like being alive so much, I’d answer sarcastically just to hide my blush and/or deep desire to laugh and cry simultaneously.

I tell people not to scare me. It used to be because my epilepsy was a ticking bomb and scaring me made the bomb go off sooner. But I can’t blame this one on my epilepsy. I wish I could. “Sorry, Dude, before I have a seizure, I have to touch someone’s butt.” I’m not a creeper.

Unfortunately, it’s due to the joys of having hyper-tension spastic cerebral palsy. Basically, all that means is the verse that says, “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing” is quite Biblical in my li’l body. Yep. 

The tension/spasticity  gets worse when I get scared and don’t have time to literally talk my limbs out of moving. I sound like an idiot, but there are days when a siren scares me to death and I can be heard mumbling, “No, no, no. Stay where I put you…” If you ever hear that, just ignore me.

Some days, I think I’ve conquered the whole “be humble and filled with the Holy Spirit” thing. Then I’m reminded by my disobedient limbs that I still have a ways to go. 

It’s moments where the “butt question” is raised where my pride is hurt but my heart is shouting, “Jesus! I don’t want this to be about me… Please. (Make me disappear for 30 seconds).” Being humble is a constant pursuit. For whatever reason, my Creator decided I needed my very own, permanently attached reminder.

But I’ve also learned that when all else fails, breathing deep and laughing anyway works better than attempting to explain it away. 

Heck, what else am I gonna do?