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.

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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.

My Battle With Shame & Jesus

There’s unspeakable shame in being disabled. No one would ever say that, but every disabled person struggles with not believing the lie. (My dear friends, it is in fact, a lie.) Every time their body leads them to a hospital, sleepless nights, scary conversations, backing out of responsibilities, or even merely asking a friend to help in an otherwise simple task, their tears can be summed up in one word:

Shame.

It’s hard to understand the shame; as it should be. When loved ones whisper to their disabled family member, “You did nothing wrong,” all that’s said in return is, “I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry.” Sorry for inconveniencing, sorry for causing worry, sorry for being a burden…

The shame leads to fear. I wish it didn’t, but it does. Questions like, “Why do you love me?” become mental thermometers to that person’s value because, well, obviously no one would want to be be coupled with the “perceived shame” of a disabled person. The best effort is made in making sure the discrepancy is never seen, or if it ever is, only through the veil of humor and lighthearted playfulness. 

Battling that shame as a Christian is a minute-by-minute battle. I cling to passages like John 9 when Jesus declares that the man in question was born blind in order to show God’s glory to those watching. We live in an imperfect, sinful world. Somehow, God uses those imperfections to make His name famous. He doesn’t make mistakes.

… I’m not a mistake…? When my body forces me to need my closest companion, I sure as heck feel like a mistake. 

1 Corinthians 12:22-25b says, “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”

No one wants to be the “weaker link.” We often laugh at that concept because we want to tell ourselves we aren’t the “weaker one.” But when we are… this passage becomes simultaneously comforting and terrifying. 

It’s comforting because we’re constantly reminded that God sees us. Its terrifying because we have to come to terms with the fact that our  “discrepancies” are more for the benefit of someone else rather than ourselves. If God gave us these limitations in order to sow the body of Christ together in a more genuine way…

How dare we feel shame?
 

Pain Helps Me

“Wait, my friend told me you have a pacemaker? I have a pacemaker!”

I’ll be honest, that was the last pick-up line I ever thought I’d hear anywhere. Subconsciously, I put my hand over the scar above my collar bone and made eye contact with the inquirer. I call my Vegal Nerve Stimulator a “pacemaker-like thing” to nonmedical people because most people couldn’t care less what epilepsy-related operations I’ve had.

What the heck was I supposed to do with someone who has an actual pacemaker?

Living in a small town affords for random people hearing my medical story from other super random people. Too often, self-made storytellers get my story wrong, though. I come to my quiet coffee shop in the mornings to get some alone time, but there has been more than one occasion where God whispers to my heart, “You and I have all morning. This person needs you.”

Sometimes, I act like I don’t hear Him. That’s when I discover God has a sense of humor as He throws me into super awkward pick-up conversations.

Twice I’ve been set up to chat with people who are still getting their minds around the fact that they need hardware in order to survive. Once, the man had only had his pacemaker for a month. This morning, my random new friend was processing having a pacemaker for a year and still facing complications. 

My story doesn’t feel similar. I’ve been post-operation for eight years now.

If it was up to me, I wouldn’t talk about my pain with these people. First off, I don’t know them. Second off, my pain is regulated and in the background. Their pain is most assuredly in the foreground. It doesn’t seem fair to them to be lumped in the same category. My pain means chest-pain and thirty seconds where I can’t control my head movement. Totally different from people who can’t trust their heart to keep beating.

But, it’s interesting how God shows up despite the fact that these strangers’ facts about my life are inaccurate. I’ve learned to chuckle when I’m asked about my “pacemaker scar” from someone I don’t know. Then, without much effort, I ask the only question I wish people asked rather than asking me if I was, “doing okay, today.” 

“What’s your new normal and how has that new normal made you look for Jesus?”

I sat with a total stranger today and discussed how pain is a conduit for God’s grace, rather than a cause for depression. As I walked away from my newest comrade, she smiled and asked a question I never thought I’d hear.

“Isn’t it weird how our pain makes Jesus’ love show up in a deeper way?” 

I’m Not What I Seem

There’s something scary about social media. There’s something down right terrifying about being a Christian on social media. Those two things combined mean you’re signing yourself up to always being watched and weighed. 

It may seem like it’s all I talk about. The “Christ stuff” takes over a lot of my too-many-a-day posts. I’m here to tell you, though, I know how to have a conversation without quoting scripture. If you’re not a Christian, I may seem shallow because that’s all I talk about. The Christ stuff. 

But if you know me in real life, you simultaneous give a sigh of relief and mockingly scoff in disgust at how much my life isn’t as great as it may look on social media. 

I don’t always rush to prayer. I’m not always happy. I don’t always accept people as they are right off the bat. Sometimes, I cuss like a sailor and forget to feel bad about it. Often, loving someone I disagree with is a secondary choice… Not a primary one. I still complain. I still struggle with speaking when I don’t know all the facts. 

I’m messed up, but you don’t see that on your respective computer screens because… Who wants to talk about that?

I was once blown out of the water when an older Christian man told me he was, “…still being saved” when I asked him when he first asked God to save him from his sins. The guy’s point was this: 

On this side of Heaven, your sanctification (being made clean/holy) is never complete. It’s a process. Sometimes, that process hurts. It’s often ugly. It’s hard to see. 

What you see on social media isn’t all of me. I will never claim to be perfect. I will never claim to always have my life together. I claim Christ… But even that is a work in progress and the waters of my life and my faith often look muddied.

But what I will do is strive to make the 5% of my life that you do see on social media be worth your eternal time. It may just be worth your “eternal time” because it makes you laugh and lifts your spirits enough to get you through the day. Or, it could actually be a “Look-At-Jesus Post” where the lessons of my faith have to pour over onto the white backdrop of my screen.

But like I said, I strive for that. Forgive me when I fail. Forgive me when all you see is a selfish, affirmation-needy, prideful bigot. 

I’m a Christian. Sanctification is a process. Sanctification may not be what it seems. 

Afraid of Jesus

Every one of them could tell I had money. Every one of them vied for my attention to get the quarter, 50-cent piece or dollar I might hand out haphazardly as I walked the streets of Toronto alone. On occasion, the men and women I made eye contact with were obviously psychologically impaired and I started praying even harder for wisdom and the ability to see past potential danger. 

I had $200 in my purse. I could’ve fed all the people I ran into that day — including the ones that had the pride to hide under leaky stairwells from tourists like myself. I’m a mainstream redneck from Alaska, though. I’m well aware you don’t hand money to homeless people. You don’t tell your life story to homeless men just to get them to laugh for two minutes.

But then.. There was Alex. 

As all of his cohorts spoke loudly and jostled me through their three feet of sidewalk, Alex just sat there. Watching. When I got close enough to his corner, he quietly muttered, “Please? I need food? It’s been three days. Three… Long… Days.” He couldn’t have been more than 18.

Before I knew it, I had gotten down on his level, pulled him to his feet and pushed him gently towards the McDonald’s a stone’s throw from his spot. As we reached the counter, I told him to order anything he wanted up to $40.
He ordered a Bic Mac meal. At his small request, I found myself choking back the offer to take him home… As I paid for his meal, I did something I promised myself a long time ago I’d never do. I handed him the change. I heard myself scoldingly tell him, “… You use this on alcohol or tabacco, Dude, and I promise you… Just, don’t, okay? Be different. Please. Be different.”

“You’re the nicest (he probably meant dumbest and most naive…) person I’ve ever met. Thank you, Lady. Thank you so much.”

I was too overwhelmed with the hopelessness in his eyes to be a verbal evangelist at that point. All I muttered firmly was, “It’s not me. It’s Jesus. It’s just Jesus.” I should’ve stayed and talked to him but I couldn’t… 

I couldn’t sit and talk because the look of fear on his face when I said Jesus’ name was incredibly unexpected. The name of Jesus gives my life purpose. To Alex, though, when I said Jesus, he shrank away with white-sheeted fear. He stopped saying thank you. He stopped making eye contact. He just… Stood there. Shaking.

In order to save his dignity and because I couldn’t fathom his fear, I walked away after I squeezed his arm affectionately. But the only questions going through my mind were questions I now pose to those of you that call yourselves Christians:

What have we done to make those we don’t understand believe that Jesus is Someone to be afraid of? What haven’t we done in order to quell their fears and magnify truth? What do we need to do differently?