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.

Beautiful Fear, Bearable Pain

I was 16 the last time I witnessed to a nurse in the operation room.

It was 4:30 in the morning and right before he put me to sleep for my third and final brain surgery, he asked me if I was scared. Apparently, when I answered that I “couldn’t be,” that was enough to delay the surgery for a few minutes while I explained the power of Jesus. I don’t remember what I said. I don’t remember how he responded to the Gospel truth.

I just remember realizing my pain was a beautiful gateway to Hope. I had to come to grips with the fact that the sleepless nights, tears and unknowns were being woven together not so I could benefit, but so that I could be available for someone who I’d never see again. 

Three days ago, I went in for what was basically a low-end emergency surgery. The implanted technology that manages my epilepsy treatment was as dead as a doornail. The medical team could either replace it now, or I would go without treatment for up to three months due to scheduling complications.

I’m not usually a skittish person when it comes to surgeries. I’m skittish about other things like love, careers and the idea of motherhood, but emergency surgery? Meh. It happens all the time. I’ll be fine. Only this time, my fiancé and I had 12 hours to process the news of the surgery, let everyone know, fill out the paperwork and get to the hospital on time. We didn’t have time to breathe, think, or process.

This was also the first time I was leaning on my abundently-capable future husband for something completely out of my control. I trust him, but can I have a girly honest moment here? No one wants to have a memory of looking at their fiancé and saying, “You’re my primary emergency contact. No big deal. Nothing’s going to happen, it’s just paperwork… but, um, since you’re basically my spouse, you, um… I love you?” (It’s especially awkward when you’re making these statements at 5:30 in the morning.)

Three days ago, fear was incredibly present. 

When the lead technician came to investigate my implant, she acknowledged my tattoos, trying to get me to relax. Somehow, we went from talking about ink to talking about how she wants a tattoo that will remind her not to waste her life. “I’m just sick of wasting everything, ya know?” 

She was a genius medical technician, and she felt as if her life was worthless. Immediately, my fear left me as I reached for my fiancé’s hand. My life wasn’t wasted. My life wasn’t pointless. I was facing unknowns, but my pain had led both he and I into that room that very early morning for a reason.

We were given a very real moment to silently pray for a woman who felt invisible. That gave me hope. My pain has never been more beautiful.  

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.

Feet Showed Me Jesus

I’ve washed a lot of people’s feet. I don’t like feet. 

Usually, out of the two main “foot-washing passages” in the Bible, it’s easiest for me to grasp the Biblical account of Jesus washing John’s feet in John 13. It’s humbling, sure. The Creator and perfect Savior washed an imperfect man’s feet. That’s hard to swallow… But because we’re used to talking about the unimaginable grace of Jesus, it’s still understandable. 

But then, we get the story of Mary Magdalene washing Christ’s feet in Luke 7. Mary Magdalene the Prostitute. Mary Magdalene the sinner. Mary Magdalene the outcast… She washed Christ’s feet. 

She wasn’t a servant whose only job was to clean guests’ feet. She wasn’t even supposed to touch men for fear of contaminating them. But Jesus… Jesus let her wash his feet. Not only did he let her wash his feet… She used her hair. Who knows where that filthy wretch had been? 

Two accounts of service. I’d much rather put myself in the shoes of the humbled disciple than the humiliated, repentant whore. 

Usually, foot-washing is a sweet, simple reminder of Christ’s willingness to serve us. The Greater serves the lesser. He never turned down a chance to serve someone as a way to encourage unity. Usually, I wash a fellow congregant’s already-clean feet just as a symbol of that. It’s easy, it’s short and easily forgotten. I’ve been a part of a church that does feet-washing since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. 

In all honesty, though, I don’t remember any of those people I’ve “served.” 

I do, however, remember the time(s) God whispered to my heart at the stupidest of times, “Change of plans. Get on your knees. Take their shoes off and wash their feet. I asked you to serve them once and instead you served yourself. Show them what it means to serve when you let Me take over.”

It was in that moment I knew I had stopped praying for that particular person because my shame was larger than my desire to serve. Any time I started a prayer, it felt impossible to finish. Pray for him? I had hurt him! I can’t bless him by praying for him and act like my sin had never impacted him.

So, I got down on my knees and showed my own heart what it meant to serve as a gateway to reconciliation. It wasn’t humiliating, but it was indeed humbling. It wasn’t life-changing, but it was heart-changing. I have no idea if he understood why washing his feet was my only option… But I had to wash his feet. 

Often, we’re called to do crazy things in order to instigate reconciliation within the Body of Christ. I struggle to do many of those things (like washing an unsuspecting man’s feet!) if I can’t see the end result. If I can’t guarantee my act of service, humility, or courage will heal a wound, why put myself out there in the first place? What if it doesn’t work? What if I’m made an even bigger fool? 

What if God got it wrong?

Or, is it possible that’s not the issue? Could it be an act of obedience to encourage reconciliation is counted as a success because of how it changes our hearts, not the person we’re serving? 

Still Not a Feminist

I grew up in a culture that only proved one thing: Women are objects. Blessedly, I got a reprieve from that image and belief system any time I walked into my church… But those mixed messages got confusing. While working in retail, I would get suggestive “proposals” all the time. I learned quickly I existed for “harmless” conversations and a man’s desire to live dangerously without getting caught. Anytime I tried defending my value, my job got threatened.

Go equality.

When I bemoaned the harshness of my world to a fellow Christian, he cried harder than I did. We had both been subjected to perspectives of our value no young adult ever should. My friend quite simply squeezed my hand and muttered, “I’m so, so sorry, Cass. Men are… Well, you know.”

Trying desperately to get control of my heart, I asked cryptically, “Why don’t men step up for women anymore? Why is it so easy for value to fall between the cracks? What have I done wrong?”

In a moment of bravery, he replied, “Any time people like me try to stand up for you, you claim independence, act offended and throw my God-given right to protect you to the wind. I may have fallen short, Cass, but your unwillingness to challenge me to do better confuses me as a man of God. I’ll always love you, but I think you’ve completely misunderstood what mutual love between a brother and sister in Christ is supposed to look like.”

I’ve never forgotten that conversation. Currently, this friend and I see each other once a year and maybe talk every couple months. But he struck a cord in my heart that scared me into action. I may be a woman who can stand on her own, but somehow my, “daggum, I can do it myself” attitude spiritually confused and hurt the men in my life more than I ever thought possible. 

Men are divinely created to protect, serve and provide. When we as women push that piece of the puzzle to the side in order to prove our independence, life gets sticky for the men we interact with. God tells them to do very specific things. We often times make it impossible for them to do it. 

In the last three years especially, I’ve had to learn that allowing myself to be served (when appropriate) is not a sign of weakness. Rather it is a sign of strength that I am confident in my role as a woman and able to put aside my need to prove myself in order to bless my brothers in Christ. 

It’s funny, though. Initially, I felt like I was being the “bigger person” by letting guys do the little things like open doors, help me with my coat, or even protect me in weird social situations. Kind of like a, “Here Kiddo, you need something to do” way. But after awhile, I saw my relationships with the men in my life take on a deeper mutual level of friendship and respect. 

Like it or not, Christian or not, women were made for men; men were not made for women. The moment we as women come to terms with that Divine plan, and learn how to be secure in our identity as the helpmeet of men (not necessarily the main attraction), the more valuable our roles in society can be. 

It’s not about equality. It’s about seeing God’s hand in both gender roles and loving unconditionally because we need each other. 

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?
 

Heavenly Minded, Patriotically Shifted

I’ve never told anyone who I’m voting for. Inasmuch as my Spiritual gifts call me to confrontation (attempting to do that always in love), I hate rocking the boat. Declaring I support one person over another hurts at least one side of my circle of friends. I wept in anxiety with people afraid of Hillary and I mourned just as bitterly the idea of Trump taking office. 

That’s not the point. I wish it was. As deeply troubling as both sides of the spectrum are, neither of those approaches are what takes up my mind’s time. 

I’ve known almost all my life that American Christianity is weak. I do not, whatsoever, believe that our chances at a relationship with Jesus Christ are any smaller or less important than any other nation’s. Once saved, always saved… no matter what your nationality. But we… we just don’t get it most days. 

In America, Christianity is a label that makes us feel good. It is not, on the other hand, always a sobering call to sacrifice and love for the betterment of others as it was meant to be. (John 15:13) Often times, we as protected American Christians decide christianity is best for us when we ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” and we like the answer for one reason or another. 

Wrong. 

So, just a thought: What if, now that we know Trump is taking office, these next four years are God’s way of purifying the American Church (nationally as a whole, not small affiliations)? Because some of his proposed policies will make us reevaluate what it means to love (protect?) our neighbor, Christianity may possibly be taken to the firing squad. 

Within our American Christian circles, we often use the phrase, “Go all in for Christ.” What if God’s sovereignty allowed Trump as president because God wants us to start putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak? We’ve become too comfortable in our concept of Christianity. What if we’re being called to so much more?