“Over 14 months, 2,750,000 tons of bombs were dropped, destroying 20% of the property in Eastern Cambodia, forcing 2 million Cambodians to become refugees.” “From 1961-1971, the US sprayed 80,000,000 liters of Agent Orange to deforest land to prevent hiding … Continue reading
I rub my eyes, grainy specs of rheum collected around my eyelids from the five hours of sleep I’ve gotten thus far. I’m not sure what it was that woke me up, other than the fact that I’ve been restless these past few days with jobs interviews that might potentially require a move. I lay in bed, then flip over on my side. But after 10 minutes of this, restless builds so strongly that I decide to feel my way down the dark stairs to get a glass of water. I head back upstairs and lay on the floor in my dark room, reminded of a couple songs that always brought me comfort in moments of uncertainty like this.
Even when I more or less walked away from Christian music a couple years ago, there were always a few songs I couldn’t shake. Audrey Assad’s “Lament” and “Restless,” being two of those. In the latter piece, she sings, “I am restless, until I rest in You, until I rest in You.” And tonight, I’ve woken up at 4 AM completely restless, having made a couple difficult decisions already this year, and soon to face a couple more, perhaps even a move from a city I have grown to love with a nothing-can-stop-me-from-loving-you,-Do-You-Hear-Me? kind of love, as I picture the faces of kind, fully alive people I’ve met over these past few years here. A smile and small laugh appear on my face, thinking about the places these folks have taken me. Dance parties. Biking down the city streets at night cheering at the top of our lungs so free. We climbed trees together. Played ukuleles in each other’s backyards. We square danced, rolled down hills, and laid under stars together. I love them all and every moment spent together.
But as I sit here in the 4 AM darkness of my room, I realize that I don’t know how people facing even bigger life changes than me do it. People who are a few months out from marriage or children. People who are moving to cities much further than my potential move. In all of this, I realize how averse and resistant I am to change. How I am not a willing dance partner to change’s dance. So I try to dance without change, only I keep scuffing my toes in the dark. My steps are heavy and clumsy. Yet from across the room, I see change dancing freely and untrammeled in the open space, creating beauty, something more compelling than my solo dance in the dark corner. “Come dance,” Change offers. I reach my hand out into the dark and wonder if I will ever be fully ready to accept this dance offer.
So hand reaching out, but not fully clasping Change’s hand, I think back to those songs I was talking about earlier, feeling exactly like the singer’s lyrics. I love when artists speak those experiences into melodies that flood your soul with a visceral hurt so good until you are singing right along too.
I continue to sit here on the floor in my dark bedroom. All is quiet outside, while inside, my soul “Rustles like a thousand tall trees. Why is it easy to work but hard to rest sometimes?” Audrey Assad’s words come easy to my soul tonight. “Still my heart, hold me close. I am restless until I rest in you,” her voice continues.
It’s been a while since I felt like I have truly rested in god while all of life crashes around me, thrashing waves thundering in the dark seas of change or hardship. It’s been a while since I’ve known life without anxiety, since 2006, in fact. And that’s ok; I’m not expecting nor demanding for anxiety to go away from my life completely. But I do wish to develop my wellspring reserves of confidence and unshakeability to believe that I can handle each of life’s changes as they come. Because bigger life changes are sure to come, especially when you’re someone who thinks you’d like to be married one day and adopt two kiddos. But when I sit here on my floor barely able to make peace with the changes in my life already, I think to myself, “thank God I’m not there yet.”
But maybe God can show me how. How to rest in the one who made us. Show me what that looks like, because I have long forgotten, and I am weary. Show me what peace in the midst of uncertainty looks like, because I know there is a better way than my own self devices. There is a simple beauty to be found here, if I choose to try and walk its unnatural lines. And doing all of this, though not comfortable for me, would make my life easier too, I imagine. I mean, what’s easier, to trust in my own fears and dwell in uncertainty? Or take a chance on “all things working together for good,” like they told me in pews and sanctuaries so many years ago.
I take a deep breath, ready to hop back in bed and try again. I don’t have any new answers to my questions about the direction I’m going. But I do have a presence I’ve asked to teach me along the way, to show me what this rest looks like.
I can only ask myself to courageously try and follow this presence, this voice, the same voice that promises to lead us by still waters and open pastures.
I can only ask myself to embrace the question mark, the semi-colon, the dot-dot-dot ellipses…
I can only ask myself to be brave enough to accept change’s invitation to dance in each life stage.
Because there will be many, many more changes to come. Maybe I’ll marry one day. Maybe I’ll co-parent one day. I will say goodbye to strangers that came into my life for an ephemeral, teachable moment, recollecting their faces in daydreams or while idling in traffic one rainy afternoon. People I love immensely will die, and it will be a change that I will never, ever, feel fully prepared for. Because some changes you simply cannot ease your body into like a cold swimming pool.
But tonight, I can choose to reach my hand out to God and to change and choose to take a little solace in the journey that I’m so resistant towards. Maybe tonight, I will go to back to opening my eyes on the roller coaster, instead of keeping them shut. I will trade clasped hands on the lap bar, for hands held high above my head in the free, open air.
But for now I’m going back to bed.
I hope to see you in the morning, feeling less philosophical and more fun, ready to dance like mad in the spring sunshine.
10. Because we need men on the home front to dictate what women should and shouldn’t do, especially regarding life (reproductive rights) and death (combat participation).
9. Because men are far too unemotional: they kill people and don’t come back with PTSD.
8. Because men are too strong: they will kill the entire country, including innocent civilians. We need women who are weak because, “The average female soldier does not even have the arm strength to throw a grenade far enough to keep herself from getting blown up.” (-Bryan Fischer, “Women Are Emotionally Unfit for Combat”)
7. Because men are too much of a distraction during combat.
6. Because if men die, then that’s one less kid without a father. And we all know men’s primary role is to be a father.
5. Because a man could get raped. And women are never raped in military situations, so clearly this would only be a problem for men.
4. Because men pee standing up. And everyone knows you can’t stand up and pee in the middle of a combat zone; you have to squat.
3. Because men can’t handle blood and dirt. That’s why there are no male nurses, especially not on newborn wards, and men don’t handle dirty diapers: they’re just too dirty!
2. Because we had foremothers, not forefathers!!
1. Because we would be too inclusive. Like Canada, New Zealand, Norway, France, Australia. What next? We allow gays to serve? And equitable healthcare? Forget this. I’m moving to Canada. Oh wait…
Photo Credit: http://news.discovery.com/human/ban-on-women-in-combat-lifted-130123.htm
“In addition to questions of strength and performance, there also have been suggestions that the American public would not tolerate large numbers of women being killed in war.”
If it’s so “intolerable” for women to die in war, why does that make it “tolerable” for men to die in war? We have standards for how women should live, and now we have standards as to what are acceptable and unacceptable ways for women to die?
Up until today, I didn’t know the Women in Combat law existed. Maybe I live in a rabbit hole, but I actually thought that women and men could equally serve in the military. Apparently that just wasn’t true. One more way in which the sexes are valued differently in American culture, and one more battle won, I suppose.
But what if the issue at stake is not whether females are suitable for actively annihilating other human beings, but what if the real issue is war? How can we minimize it? How can we become blessed peacemakers? Perhaps we can view this as nothing more than a rally cry to “beat our [Ak 47s] into ploughshares?” (Isaiah 2:3-4) Maybe this is our time to “learn war no more.” If we can’t accept women dying in combat, perhaps we shouldn’t accept combat either.
Too simplistic, eh?
Just ask Ghandi. And Rosa Parks. And Martin Luther King.
And they will tell you that equality, nonviolence, and peace can not only coexist, but are entirely indispensable.
1.19.13: One of my favorite views of Baltimore City right now is entering into the downtown area from the 395 off-ramp. Our city is painted with Ravens spirit-purple lights dancing on skyscrapers, “Go Ravens” posters taped to city windows, and, my favorite: the billboard that simply said “WOW” after the Raven’s win last Saturday. In fact, as I sit down to write this at the Towson Public Library, a woman just pointed out that the bookshelf next to me contains an entire collection of books with purple covers, complete with a border of purple stars cut out of construction paper.
Purple has become a unifying topic bringing complete strangers together in conversation. All week at work, I’ve asked patients, “You see the game last Saturday?” or I’d see someone wearing a purple scarf and fist bump in the air an amiable, “Go Ravens!” (and often hear, “I know, that’s right.”) I think this is one of the beautiful things about sports: its ability to bring people together, irrespective of socioeconomic status, race, or political beliefs.
But I can’t help but notice something else too.
When did “football” become so analogous with “God” like “God” and “America?” (i.e.
“God Bless America” bumper stickers, etc.) Faith and football, faith and flag. Is this what God is all about? In comments sections of Ray Lewis’ exhortation of “No Weapon Shall remain” are statements such as, “God was with our team.” Is God not with the team who loses? “God blessed our team.” Is God not blessing the teams who lose? Is God up in Heaven writing out the play by play of who will pass to who, and who will miss the ball, to make that person score, to make this team win?
Don’t get me wrong.
I’ve prayed throughout competitions. Not so much to win, but to focus my mind on something bigger than myself to draw upon for strength. I’m not saying people should or shouldn’t pray or talk about their faith in the arena of sports.
But what I am questioning is the amount we partner “God” with “football.” In a nation with “In God We Trust” written on our currency, and in a nation in which “God Bless America” is uttered in many speeches, auditoriums, and pre-game concerts, I wonder at what point we’ve made a show out of God being on “our side.”
What would it look like to live in a world in which we had murals about praying for peace, rather than praying for football? What would it look like to talk about God in correlation with social justice as frequently as God is talked about with America and football? What if we had prayer rallies not for our team to win, but for no children to be trafficked at the Super Bowl? As Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott stated prior to the 2011 Superbowl in Arlington, Texas,
“The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly. It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”
Something tells me we are off kilter when we pray for teams to win the Superbowl, while forgetting about 14 year old girls sold off as “Superbowl Specials.” Because when you look at Jesus’ priorities, it was always for those on the fringe to be brought into inclusion, while nationalism and religiosity were shunned.
So bring on the purple. Pray about anything and everything. But let’s realize that God is much bigger than football. God is much bigger than America. God cares about more than blessing solely either one of those. Let’s remember that God loves and blesses all people, and for those who do not experience such blessings due to poverty and war, let’s be conduits of peace and justice. And win or lose, let’s know how deeply God loves our opponents, our enemies, and ourselves, showing no favoritism while at the same time cheering each of us on to become more and more into the likeness of our Creator.
So, what do you think?
What does America most often couple God with? Love? Justice? Homophobia? Sports?
Do you believe that God shows no favoritism while at the same time cheers us on as we seek God’s heart?
There’s things I keep being told about God that break my heart. I can hear them reverberate through my brain right now, voices that, almost hauntingly, make my stomach sink. “God is a God of wrath.” “How long, Lord, will you be angry forever?” Laments the Psalmist. “Where will you spend eternity- in Heaven or Hell? The day of judgment draws near!” shouts the billboard of 1-95 southbound. Here’s 60 more of those.
I get that we disappoint God and ourselves when we hurt one another. When we are selfish. When we forget about the poor and the vulnerable. When we miss the point completely, in all of our arguing and fighting instead of our loving and reconciling. I get that God is out there, somewhere, longing for us to get to know the one who knitted us in the womb.
But why is he portrayed as being so full of anger? Why does he hate our sin so much that he believes we should die for the time when we flipped off the …idiot… driver behind us? Why did he want baby birds or baby cows to die in order to assuage him into forgiving the sins of the Old Testament?
The American Psychological Association classifies anger into two dichotomies: constructive and destructive. Destroying an entire planet except for a dude, his family, some animals, and a boat would fall on the latter end of the anger spectrum. Inciting war? Also destructive. Completely rejecting an entire country? (Psalm 78:59) Destructive. Getting angry over injustice, over what Bono calls “stupid poverty” (preventable poverty, made possible through 30 cent mosquito nets that can literally save millions from malaria), over children being sold into sex slavery, over racism, over sexism, over homophobia, over unfair labor wages, over privilege, over entitlement, over hoarding riches instead of giving freely? Now that’s something worth getting fired up about.
I don’t know why, if our God is love, I’ve heard so much about God’s anger during the course of my Christian development. If you were to be describing a person using the vitriolic language I’ve heard used to describe God’s wrath, anger, and violence, I would be so afraid of this God that I wouldn’t want to show my face- I’d be hiding for shelter all day long, too scared to come out. But, oh, it’s not a person; it’s God. Why is it ok for God to do these things? Because God is who God is and God gets what God wants?
Isn’t there something better that our faith offers?
Isn’t there something more beautiful than wrath and anger and destruction? Getting angry and screaming? That’s easy. But I don’t imagine that a God who created the entire world, including everything, and everyone in it, takes the easy way out. I believe this God patiently wipes our tears after we apologize. I believe this God gives a look similar to the look my dad would give us kids when we did something wrong: We didn’t need to be spanked, or grounded, or punished (though sometimes we were). All Dad had to do was give us “the look” and my brother and I knew at once that we instantly disappointed the very person we love and respect so much. That’s enough for me to feel remorse and regret for my actions. And it was enough for my dad to express his disappointment without destroying me, killing me, or hurting me. And together, we’d have some heart to heart connection after the apologies have been said and the embraces, embraced. And none of that would have ever occurred if we justified our yelling, our destruction, our violence, our rage.
Perhaps the love I experience in those exchanges with my dad is the joy Jesus alludes to when he says, “blessed are the peacemakers.” There is a gravity inside my heart that longs for God’s heavenly embrace when I’m scared, confused, and alone. It feels like an innate instinct. I think it’s because my heart and mind and soul know that I can trust this refuge, know that I am always welcome back in this Everlasting God’s arms. It must be. Because if my heart and mind and soul didn’t taste of this, and tasted the later- the burning anger, the fiery brimstone, it would protect me from it. For surely, I would die.
I don’t know.
All of this just hurts my heart.
The things I hear youth being told at conferences and conventions and camps about God and how we are detestable in his sight, but luckily, he’ll accept us because instead of making us die, He made some other man die because God loves blood as a means of forgiveness.
It causes me to wonder how we really view God.
If we really see him as so wrathful, how does that impact our relationship with him? Our trust of this God? Our fear of this God? Is this why people are so afraid to propose anything about salvation different from “believe or burn?” Because the God they know is angry and will send people there; no more second, or third, or ninety-nineth chance? What if the “unbeliever” walks gingerly into his or her first few moments of death and experiences a blinding light, struck by the beauty of the God he or she has spent their whole life ignoring, only to realize this wasn’t the God they were intending to ignore. They wanted to ignore the little gods of hatred, bigotry, and shame. But instead they realized that those gods didn’t exist; at least not in celestial form. The only God that exists is the one who loved them from the start, before the start and now it’s nothing but two long lost lovers in an airport, embracing, making up for lost time, lost connection, and renewed relationship.
All of this makes me wonder, What are we telling our kids about this God? How does this impact their development into adulthood?
I can’t explain away the parts of the Old Testament (and New) that describe God in such violent ways. I think there’s allegory and metaphor, and maybe, just maybe, God didn’t actually write in this book about how much he hates people who don’t worship him, people who perhaps don’t worship him because they’re scared of the God they’ve been presented with.
If Jesus told us to love our enemies, is it not plausible that God and Jesus actually practice what they preach and love people who are too afraid to love him? Even the people who don’t believe in Him/Her because they think S/He stands for ignorance and hatred?
I’m seriously not trying to be divisive here. My heart just hurts from conversation after conversation of trite remarks about God’s wrath without ever considering that perhaps certain voices in Evangelicism have blown God’s anger out of proportion. When I read this book, when I live each day, when I experience grace and mercy and forgiveness, when I experience the divine connection to God in prayer, when I see the beautiful sky at night, I’m convinced so deeply that we do indeed worship a God that I can confidently call “love.” It feels so good to exhale and shed one more layer off of an asphyxia-causing noose, a layer of dogma I’ve heard about God but never experienced- a God who is more concerned about our sin that the imago dei he placed inside of us.
When your God is love, you are freed to love. When your God is love, you don’t have to walk in fear of when this God’s next outburst will be. When your God is love, you are freed from the ridiculous notion that you have to get the words right, the verse memorized tit-for-tat, have an answer ready for every and any question that comes along. When your God is love, your God isn’t afraid of your questions. S/He simply sees them as an opportunity to connect with a soul s/he loves, and mutually, we gratefully delight in each other’s companionship. And S/He loves us so much that s/he longs to have such moments with us. It’s beautiful, really. And sure not lonely. And definitely not laden in anger.
They say love is patient, love is kind, love is gentle, that love is not self-seeking.
They say my God is love.
And love conquers all.
A prayer to God after watching the evening news.
Take me away from name calling politicians, Lord. Take me away from death threats of different viewpoints, God, Lord take us away from ourselves and the kingdom of me to the kingdom of YOU and YOUR CHILDREN.
Arguing and anger are easy. Love, patience, and listening are hard. Love is so much more respectful, so much more courageous.
I WANT TO SEE WHAT LOVE CAN DO.
I want to see what love can do to democratic and republican parties. I want to see what love can do between Jews and Christians, between America and Iraq, between blacks and whites, between the poor and the rich, between the city and the suburbs.
I WANT TO SEE WHAT LOVE CAN DO
between atheists and believers.
I WANT TO SEE WHAT LOVE CAN DO
amongst heterosexuals and homosexuals.
I WANT TO SEE A MIGHTY RIVER OF LOVE FLOW THROUGH ALL NATIONS.
I want MORE LOVE.
And all each of us can do is try. Try to love when it’s hard- especially when it’s hard.
Imagine God hugging the person who disagrees with you. Imagine God listening uninterruptedly to someone’s story so that we too may seek first to understand rather than to be understood. May we remember that God loves the person you dislike with as much love as God loves you.
May we lighten dark places with love because love is the brightest flame out there. LOVE.