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.

Advertisements

When the Future Changes

There were two men in my life. They both wanted to officiate my wedding. They both decided – separately – that if they never met the man I married, I wasn’t allowed to get married. Or, as one of them clarified, if I did get married without them, they’d act like the marriage was a figment of my imagination until they could reinact the ceremony with their involvement. (I didn’t dare act like they weren’t serious.) 

Both Terry and Ray jokingly-but-not-so-jokingly fought each other as they planned for my future wedding together as far as who would get most of the limelight as the officiator of my wedding, who got to kiss my cheek first and who got to harass my groom the best. 

I could never decide if their surrogate- fatherly arguments warmed my heart or added to my anxiety. Usually, I just laughed instead of focusing on the confusion. I was loved, that’s what I needed to remember. I was 16 and both these men had higher dreams for my future than I did. When I nearly ruined my life with childish decisions at 19 years old, they both spent hours (and I mean hours) almost daily on the phone talking me through my decisions and asking me the hard questions no one else wanted to ask. 

Both of these men passed away within a year of each other.  It didn’t hit me until last night for some reason that neither of these men get to see my wedding. Neither of these men get to ask me the hardest questions of all: “Can you support this man when he seems unsupportable? Can you make him laugh when all you want to do is make him cry? Can you show him Christ when all you want to do is show him yourself?” 

Even at 16, they warned me about those questions. They told me what they wanted the answers to be and what they would do if my answers didn’t represent Christ. They were futuristically minded when I couldn’t be. They cared more for my future than almost any other nonrelated acquaintance ever had.

They didn’t plan on not being around to help me grow up, but they prepared me for the future just in case they weren’t.

What if we discipled like that more often? What if we strove to be involved with our mentees but prepared them to be just as godly, wise and prepared without us as they are when they are with us? What if we didn’t shield them from hard things but rather taught them that they can prepare for a storm before it comes? 

What if we discipled in such a way that those we disciple don’t pine after us after we’re gone but rather strive to immulate the Christ-like characters we focused on the most?

A Lesson From An Atheist

Our differences are stark:
He’s a “man’s man who don’t need no woman.” I’m every type of tomboy imaginable but I still look for sentimentality in stupid places and love leaning on the man of my heart.

My friend is an atheist. I’m a Christian. 
He thinks I need more rights as a woman. I couldn’t disagree more.

He’s black. I’m so white I’m translucent.

He can’t stand “the system.” Though it rubs against my every day activities, I’ve learned to roll with the punches unless it’s biblically and morally uncalled for.

Our similarities crack me up:

We both love to argue.

We both like to argue.

In case you missed it, we both love to argue.

We both know how to source our facts.

We both hate politics, but our shared desire for justice makes most of our conversations about things we need to see change in this country.

There is nothing more comical than putting a determined atheist in a friendship with a stubborn follower of Jesus Christ. Many o’ times, one of us (usually me) calls a time out on our heated arguments about Jesus, religion, women’s rights, marriage, children and every other hot topic because our friendship matters more than our opinions. Too many times, I’ve wandered into the Throne Room screaming, “Why, Jesus?!” when the arguments can’t end on agreeable terms. I’ve been told a time or two this guy would love it if he could just program me to “get it.”

No matter how much our differences heat us up, though, we stop when our respect for each other is threatened. I have my boundaries, he has his. Crossing those boundaries is not allowed, especially if we feel like the other person’s value is undermined because of our disagreement. It’s acceptable to be passionate about something the other person is not. It’s also acceptable to shut up for a while. It’s even acceptable to decide talking till you agree isn’t worth sacrificing the friendship itself.

It is not acceptable, however, to devalue another person or attempt to strip them of their opinion because it makes you uncomfortable. 

Being acclaimed as right is nice, I’ll give you that. But sometimes, the people that are able to stand strongly by simply living out their views in how they treat others will leave the most impact.

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?
 

Terrified Truth-Speaker

I have a shepherd’s heart that comes to life when I write. There are a million things I could write about to challenge thought and prayerfully provoke change in our failing world. But I don’t. There are just as many things I could cut up into a four-part series and feed to you bit-by-bit to increase my readership. But I don’t. 

Why? 

Because we now live in a world where when truth is spoken, we feel attacked, undervalued and demoralized. When truth is spoken, we don’t often change our respective lives to rise to such truth. Instead, we shut our ears, close our eyes and scream, “That’s not nice! That’s not nice! I thought you liked me!” 

And before you turn me over to the firing squad, please know I’m the worst of the worst. I may have a shepherding heart, but I absolutely detest getting corrected, challenged or criticized.

I used to rub shoulders with homeless druggies, drunks and all around God-haters (yay, job!). In those circles, I had no fear blatantly sharing truth. They were so desperate for help, they welcomed the times I willingly adopted their rhetoric but spoke truth. They weren’t “nice” in their responses, but it was obvious truth went soul-deep.

I’m more hesitant to share truth with a fellow Christian because of how they’ll respond than I ever was calling a meth addict to attention. So, because my skin has been bruised by a follower of Christ a time or two, I’ve stopped sharing truth that needs to be heard. 

It’s funny, really. Up until this week, I blamed everyone but myself for how weak American Christianity has become. But the fact is, I’ve stopped heralding life-changing truth because, well, because I want to be liked? Crap, maybe I’m a part of the problem.

So, for that, forgive me. I seem to have slipped up and forgotten what being a Truth-speaker is all about. Truth — actual truth — is a conduit to soul-deep change, which honestly isn’t fun at the onset.

But oh, hallelujah, it’s a glorious thing when a sinner like me sees God’s Son despite my wretchedness. Writing simply to tickle your ears isn’t worth you missing out on seeing the same miracle in your own life.

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.

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?”