Leave Me Alone

I smiled at the bright-eyed little boy and mouthed, “hi!” He slowly turned toward his mom, still studying me. His mom smiled reassuringly when he finally glanced at her. He then glanced at me, smiled a nearly toothless grin and waved.

Little kids are born with an innate need to look to their guardian for assurance. It’s this skill that teaches them everything. It’s a bit awe-inspiring, really. Admit it, watching an 8-month-old try to mimic your mouth as you talk is fascinating. Watching a kid show off talent like a summersault and then immediately look for approval does something to a person’s heart.

Somewhere along the line, kids stop looking at us as much. They gain confidence in how to walk, talk, and learn new things. It’s bittersweet that first time we hear, “No. Me do.” Whether they really can do it doesn’t matter in their minds. Our helpful hands get pushed away with as much strength as their little bodies can muster.

What if we didn’t treat our relationship with God in the same way? What if, no matter how good we got at life, we never pushed God’s hand away? Even though our relationship with with God is often described and portrayed like a child, father relationship, distancing ourselves from Him as we grow up is the one thing that shouldn’t be similar.

But it is.

What if we didn’t act as if our one dying need was independence and self-reliance? What if we never acted as if we were too old to look to our Savior as our example and our approval?

No Longer Expert

I never wanted to be an expert.

A friend called me yesterday to recount a chance he had to help a man having a seizure. My friend told me everything he did for the student seizing. Some things he said confidently… Some not so confidently. The questions he peppered me with were typical of someone who has never had their brain betray them. It made me smile, but then he said it again:

“I guess you’d know. You’re somewhat an expert in that area aren’t you?”

Michael sarcastically entitled the event exciting. Knowing the surrounding facts, that the kid seizing fell into the street and had never seized before, I interpreted it with the reality. It was bloomin’ terrifying. In all our years of friendship, my childhood friend had only heard horror stories and seen smaller seizures. We’d had so many conversations of “what to do if” though, during the years we lived closer, I trusted him more than I trusted anyone. 

“You did everything right, Dude. The kid should be okay. You did everything right.”

As the conversation came to a close, I muttered under my breath, “Lord, what if one of the only reasons you allowed me to have epilepsy was so Michael could correctly support this stranger? Even though You’ve given so many other blessings despite the curse, what if teaching Michael what to do was the only reason? Would that have been enough for my heart? Is my faith strong enough to say my epilepsy was worth it because of that one unseen show-casing of Your glory?”

American Christians have this habit of always asking God, “What’s in it for me?” Even in light of a disease, we justify having issues if we can see the benefit. Like getting called an expert and being given respect. Or feeling God lead us to sell everything and leave our home, only agreeing because there’s a rumor we’ll get a pay raise.

We face turmoil because we’re banking on the fact that it’ll pay off for us someday. The fact is, as followers of Christ, the pay-off shouldn’t matter. When we mutter, “Use me however You want” that should be enough. We have no idea what part our story plays in the grander plan of the Creator of the universe.

He is, after all, the Ultimate Expert.

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.

Value More Than Love

If I’m not leading with a joke about my half-brain, quirky limp or down right weird spastic right arm, something is seriously wrong with me. 

Not kidding… If my circumstantial frustration isn’t followed up with a quip, I must be dead.

This week was different, though. This week, I fought with a vengeance to hide my shortcomings. This week, when my loved ones joked about my half-brain, instead of joining in on the fun, I silently begged God to remind me what it meant to be loving. I knew my fun-loving attitude would come back eventually, but for some (unknown and short-lived) reason this week, with every joke, my heart whispered only one thing:

What is my value, then?

My heart’s poorly timed dilemma this week took me on a totally different view of God’s love and His creation.

In Genesis, when God created both man and woman, He pronounced them “Good.” He didn’t pronounce “I love you.”

He saw in them value — whether Adam and Eve exuded perfection or not was not the issue, He spoke value over them, anyway. He looked them in the eye and said one word, “Good.”

I wonder, did Adam and Eve learn to love their Maker because He did not spare a moment in speaking of their value? Did they fall in love with Him, learn how to trust Him, because they knew their value in His eyes? 

Is it possible His love for them wasn’t questioned simply because they saw love in the value He placed on them?

I wonder how many times we say “I love you” simply because it’s culturally relevant and expected. Though it’s an excellent aspect to share (I really love love, I promise), how many of us ask to hear “I love you” and really what we’re asking is affirmation of our value?

How many of us assume that everyone knows their value when in reality, God is asking us to be His voice for them because the world has deluded their ability to hear their value and believe it’s actually theirs?

Sometimes, proclamations of value speak louder than reminders of love. 

What Is It?

Every time I feel the chains of bondage wrap around my struggling heart, I fight equally as hard against the urge to sadistically chuckle and mutter in Heaven’s direction, “This sin isn’t my fault. Fix it yourself, Jehovah. If you can… I dare you.”

We live in a fallen world. Because of that, there are multiple sins that are results of something done to us. One phrase heartbreakingly comes to mind: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have encountered multiple loved ones with PTSD who hopelessly reminisce about actions which go against the Word of God, but they feel like they “have to” do them. They can’t remember what survival without the action in question looks like.

Men and women alike who have been sexually assaulted or abused cringe when well-intentioned people speak boldly against sexual acts as sins when the victim has a brain programmed to think those acts are needed for physical survival. 

So, the question gets posed: Is it sin? When a person’s outburst of anger is because of a flashback they could not control… Is it sin? 

There are 2 types of people reading this: 

1) Someone who has no idea what I’m talking about… sin has almost always been circumstancial rather than positional. Praise God for that. I can only imagine the rest of this post won’t make sense.  

2) Someone who knows all too well what I mean and you’ve made a game out of hiding your struggle because good sane Christians don’t have problems or dilemmas like this. 

If you come from that second group hear me say first and foremost I’m so sorry for the pain you’ve suffered. I’m so sorry you’ve been told openly fighting against yourself for the glory of God should be easy… or atleast get easier over time. I’m so sorry if you’ve been told you’re just weak and should give up trying to reach sanctification. All of those things are well-veiled half truths.

Hear this warning come from someone who has lost almost everything by coming from the position of thinking my actions aren’t my fault. “Not my circus, not my monkey” has entered my “forgive me, Lord” prayers on more than one occasion. I can look back on my past and see the exact moment when my brain changed from human being to threatened victim… so blame shifting is d**** easy.

You may be able to blame-shift. You may be able to call yourself a survivor only when you do certain things that make other Christians cringe. When that happens, you are in danger of secretly breeding a level of pride that shuts the door of your heart off from anyone else getting in to possibly help you heal. That pride can get so thick you stop hearing God simply because you’re wallowing in your own self-pity and self-righteousness. 

The “prayer” I mentioned earlier? When I’m honest with myself, my heart is actually saying this: “You may be the Creator of the Universe, but I’m the one person you can’t touch and who can’t be affected by your love, redemption and mercy. I only need you for the attributes I can comprehend. You’re too weak to love me into changing.”

Be careful of hiding your pride behind the pain of your past. You may not see the root of your sin simply because it’s easiest to focus on your pain. My friend, that is the Enemy’s greatest ploy. 

Let God fight your battles, even if it’s not the battle you expected.

Every Season’s Worth

I depend on laughter most days. Even when I’m knowingly distraught, I’m usually the one quick with a one-liner to make sure no one else feels as if they’re being held captive by the need to cry. (Sidenote: If you do that too, just know it is the most frustrating thing for those who love you.) Humor is fantastic. It’s incredibly powerful, necessary and–believe me–a lifesaver during the weirdest of transitions.

I like humor. It’s easy to define: You laugh= It was funny. No high IQ required to understand that one.

I may be more comfortable with humor, but I honestly struggle with how the majority of white America handles sorrow.

One of the hardest things to get used to while living around a different culture when I was a kid was the fact that most were of the opinion pacifying someone’s hurt too early was the worst thing you could do. What that translated into? Someone crying like their heart was being torn in two and everyone encircling them but rarely coddling the one who was hurt. Why? Because tears needed to happen. 

Holding them would make the tears stop and honestly, only God should be the one to determine that.

When King David lost the son conceived with Bathsheba, he secluded himself for days in order to mourn and to pray. He understood the need for tears. He understood the need to let emotions run their course. He understood God was still present when the tears flowed and, in some ways, sorrow so deep made His presence easier to comprehend.

We seem to shortern the things that can make us heal the most: tears and circumstancial loneliness are two of the hardest ones. Your heart hurts? Find someone who can make you laugh. You’re lonely? Quick! Get in a crowd so you can appear to fit in but still struggle with convincing yourself you belong.

What if we’re stealing some of the deepest transformations within ourselves simply because we’re uncomfortable (and ready to be fun to be around again)?

What would happen if we acted as if we believed God wasn’t lying to us when He says there’s a season for everything? What would happen if we believed God was/is sovereign enough to know what our hearts need to go through in order to become more like Him? 

What would happen if we embraced what we needed rather than only praising God’s goodness for the the things we wanted?

Powerful Questions

We are no longer in a generation where being confronted by “Churchy people” on Sundays is attractive, convicting or a game-changer for someone outside the Body of Christ. 

Once upon a time, you still came to church if you had tattoos, but you covered them up.

If you were simply 3 days clean off a drug, you kept your mouth shut, your eyes down and you collected the atta-boys of people who were perceived as holier and cleaner than you.

Technically, it was equally the shame of the action (the desire to cover things up) and the desire to change (if you ignore your past long enough, it’ll disappear and you can have a fresh start, right?).
Recently, I struck up a conversation with a single father in town. We talked all things parenting (Praise ya, Jesus, for the gift of insightful yet ignorant empathy…) and all things trial. He laughed about no longer going out with the guys at night and I chided him that sleeping in was probably no longer in his vocabulary, either. He made it clear he could be a better dad. I reminded him his daughter was beautiful.

Then the enchantment ended as soon as I brought up God.

“You? Really? But…”

His eyes spoke the volumes his lips refused to mutter. You’re too nice to me to be a Christian.

The conversation quickly died down from there, but I was reminded of a Truth that broke my heart.

The days of opening the Church doors and ringing the steeple bell to strike curiousity in a person’s heart no longer exists. We’re no longer seen as a loving place to try out. We are us and they are them. End of discussion. Though that’s not necessarily accurate across the board… it’s a reality that’s getting harder to deny. 

We’re playing our own game of ignore it and it will disappear. 

So, I simply challenge those of you that claim Christ as your savior and Lord to own up to your redemption in every way. Whether your sin struggles are in the “acceptable” sins (gluttony, lying, gossiping) or the life-style temptations, be willing to let God use your experiences to reach out to someone who thinks they can’t come through those church doors without cleaning up first. Because that is quite simply a lie from the pit of hell.

They need to know it’s possible to be seen right where they’re at. Though that’s been a concept ever since Billy Graham was first given a podium, it’s becoming more urgent… and more an issue for the Church to address than it ever was for an independant evangelist. Outside of the comfortably-Christian communities, we are losing our impact on those who believe differently because we’re not willing to get down in the mud of life next to them and ask one simple thing:

I’ve been where you’re at. Wanna talk about it?

Killing the Holy

“Hot (darn), you sexy beast!”

“Ohhhh, be still my heart, those eyes!”

It’s comical really, this stupid thing called Social Media. I’ll be the first to admit, I spend way too much time on Facebook. I was dumb (once upon a time…?) and “liked” things before I knew what that would mean. So, on occasion, I get subjected to actors’ mugshots and personal lives I really don’t need to acknowlege. (Like the ones above.)

Older women verbally throw themselves at younger men because (newsflash) the photoshop worked. Men very quickly type durogatory things about women no one should ever have to hear… simply because, well hey, the picture’s on Facebook.

It’s harmless, right?

As life keeps marching forward, I’m being faced with one very drastic, terrifying truth. As we sit behind our well-veiled computer screens, somehow personal dignity and boundaries go down the drain. My culture is completely satisfied with making everything that was once sacred public. We’ve gotten used to the humdrum of fantasizing behind a computer screen and we’ve forgotten how to live in the moment for the glory of God. 

It’s just one look, right? It’s just one dreamy idea that my husband will look like Tom Seleck in Heaven, right? (Yuck. No.) … It’s just one objectified exclamation that I could drown in a stranger’s eyes, right? I’ll be godly and satisfied in my husband or wife/significant other as soon as s/he shows up. Really, it’s fine. No one will notice, anyway.

The Bible talks about how we are given the moment–nothing more. Which can go both ways; I understand that. As a believer in Jesus Christ, though, shouldn’t that mean living in such a way to impact the people who are right in front of me right this moment? Who gets ignored while we spend time purusing pictures of people we don’t even know and/or don’t really care about?

Who doesn’t hear about Christ because we’re too busy keeping up with the Joneses and comparing our dirty laundry to someone else’s drama?

The hardest question of all: Who gets their fear confirmed.. Their fear that their worth really is in a bra-size or the definition of their six-pack rather than in the reality that they are a beautiful creation designed to pursue the God of the Universe?

I am 2nd

In some ways, I press forward in my faith to honor the people who expect me to fail. In one aspect, I do it for the precious ones who knew me when christianity was a status symbol, rather than a Covenant between myself and my Savior. 

They need to know one thing: 

If they’re waiting for me to fail… I will. 

It’s the astonished tone to their voices, “Wait. You… You still believe this Jesus thing works? Don’t you know life without boundaries is so much freer?” The dearest of friends guffaw good-naturedly and mutter the same idea over and over again. 

“Come find me when you give up. Come find me when you’re finally done playing an invisible game.” 

I was reminded the price of my belief in Christ tonight as my commitment, and the shared commitment of another like me, was met with disgusted, confused and annoyed silence. 

My faith has nothing to do with my ability to be good enough, on the straight and narrow enough, or even loud enough about my faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God as my savior. Though all those things are a portion of a lifestyle, relational Christianity, that makes it all about me… When it’s not. 

God used a highly frustrated friend to remind me that my faith in Christ is about giving Christ the chance to shine more brightly through my brokenness than I ever could simply out of sheer will. 

When I told the truth about my convictions, my heart broke because I knew he wouldn’t agree. My heart broke as I was silently taunted by the reminder that I was the most unqualified to speak truth. But instead of fighting, I was met with complete silence and God simply whispering: 

This is my story, not yours. You spoke Truth tonight. You might not next time, but it’s not about your ability to convince anyone about My existence. It’s about your transparency in showing how quickly and fully My grace, love and redemption pursue you when you run from Me. 

Talking at Him

“You’re pretty. I haven’t talked to Amy in a long time.” I made eye contact with the announcer, assuming he was just another loud-mouthed, phone-using customer. One look at him and I knew he was a peer who had high functioning mental disorders. 

He didn’t have a cellphone. He was talking to me, apparently.  Oh Jesus… help me. Use me if you want. What does this dude actual need? I silently prayed. Upon acknowledging the fact that I saw him, the man repeated the same precious words.

“You’re pretty. I haven’t talked to Amy in a long time.”

I did the only thing I could. I smiled and replied, “Okay. Hi, Bud.” 

Usually, that opens major doors to long conversations. Usually, when I intentionally open myself up to those moments, I get asked questions everyone else would consider brash. Ya married? You have kids? You want kids? Do you like me? Do you think I’d be good for you?… I was steeling my pathetically impatient heart for all of it. The reality was, I had time to kill… being peppered with innocent questions wasn’t going to destroy me.

Instead, my not-so-quiet observer gaped at me, finally nodded his head, blinked twice and walked off. The end. I supressed a chuckle as I wondered what anxieties I had added to by opening the way for a conversation. My potential special friend never found out what talking to me was like, though.

I wonder how many times we do that to Jesus. We observe his presence, get curious and, instead of saying hi, we bring up the one thing we think will tell our story for us:

“I’m addicted to food.”

“I’m a drug addict.”

“I don’t love my spouse.”

“I’m not being honest with my money.”

Whatever the line is, we shout it at Jesus, rather than letting Him discuss it with us. Somehow, we assume that since the rest of the world identifies us by our weaknesses and reject us… So will Jesus. So, just to get it out of the way, Lord, I know you appear to be loving, but I’m disabled, I have a frustratingly quirky personality and I’m terrified of rejection……

Instead, He smiles, dips His head a bit and says, “Hi… Wanna talk?”

He does the one thing that has become incredibly rare. He sees the story that made up the person and works with it, rather than runs from it. 

The question is, do we give Him the chance to even begin?