7 Quick Takes (Vol. 14) Oh the things I can’t say…

~1~

Pastors is interesting folks.

So is Doctors.

Image courtesy of Joseph Mankin via stock.xchng

Seems to me that they are trained (by their experience?) to question the motive and perceptions of anyone who comes to them.

I happen to have a very good track record and set of references that affirm my reliability as a narrator and communicator, but talking with a new doctor or a new pastor always leaves me shaken, because I have only met two (maaaybe three) in the last few years who treat me as though I know what I’m talking about.

Oh they’ll listen, they’ve all been decent at their core job (knowing what they’ve studied), but if I treated my interview sources the way these culturally respected individuals treat me… I don’t think anybody with decent self-esteem would give me a second interview.

~2~

We’re all special, unique snowflakes — just like everybody else.

Sure you think you’re the exception, but everyone does, so how do you know you really are if *everybody* thinks they’re the special one?

Well, study and statistics help a bit. That way when peeple sez you don’t know whatcher talkin about, you know you do. It doesn’t mean they’ll let you educate them, but it means they can’t un-educate you.

Which I’ve found is worth a surprising-lot.

It also helps to know what you expect (or want, or need) as the result of this specialness.

  • To be noticed?
    • Weeeelll, I think you’re still going to go out and do something cool.
  • To find extra help or understanding?
    • This is where it can get tricky, and all I can suggest to you is ask for it, and if that person acts like you’re too big for your britches, or you’re not worth their time (even if they’re a doctor or pastor), ask someone else.

And keep asking.

Footnotes:

A: If you’re a jerk and don’t know it, things are always going to be hard for you (but harder for those around you).

B: If you’re not a jerk, you might still get treated like one for having different needs than the people around you want to meet, but you have every right to seek legitimate ways to meet your needs.

~3~

From Shiftless (not the best werewolf book I’ve ever read, but this got a reaction from me):

I’d spent the morning helping my stepmother prepare the day’s bread…. Later we hung sheets out on the line to dry… each task provided immediate gratification that had been lacking in my previous life. Now a traitorous part of my mind told me that perhaps my father had my best interests at heart all along – maybe this simple women’s work was what I’d been born for…

Which reminded me of the very worst part of my voluntary incarceration. I was beginning to understand how to be content here…

My hands went cold when I read that bit. It felt scary and familiar, and not because I don’t think bread-making a worthy art.

It was disturbing because I heard a similar message for a long time, that this small sphere of action and love should be enough to satisfy me. If it didn’t feel like enough, that proved some defect of character in me. A flaw in my spirituality. A misunderstanding of my identity.

Image courtesy of Cris Watk via stock.xchng

I would get tired, often, of the unending nature of treading water, trying to rise above or “escape” its confinement.

Occasionally I would surrender, hold my breath, and just let the water, this limited world, cradle me – I could feel the relief of rest, believe for a time that there was nothing else I was made for.

It was peaceful.

So peaceful.

But I am a creature of air and of light. Though I can paddle when I must, I was not made to live underwater.

A huge part of my growth and peace has come from finding different times and places and ways to meet my needs along with my family’s. And to trust that sick feeling that warns me I’ve swallowed too much seawater.

~4~

Years ago I attended a seminar that was aimed largely at “middle class” folks who wanted to help people “stuck in poverty.” Part of the presentation included examples of how different classes responded to common experiences.

For example, food. Each class has a question about food that is either irrelevant or secondary to the others:

  • The poor: “Is there enough?”
  • Middle class: “Does it taste good?”
  • The rich: “Is it pretty?”

The presenter gave six or eight sets of examples before someone asked, “Why are you bringing in ‘rich people’? None of us here is rich.”

She smiled like she’d been waiting for the question and said, “The way you feel about that ‘rich’ category, that their assumptions are unnecessary – and maybe even a little ridiculous – that is the extravagance of the middle class to the truly poor. You have to understand this gap in mindset and definitions of a good life if you are really going to reach them.”

I don’t know about anybody else, but (while I have a heart that burns when I look at the effects of poverty and racism) I seem to have such a hard time finding and figuring out my culture, I’m terrified at trying to “reach out” to those unlike me.

This is not about “comfort zone.” I am uncomfortable all. the. time.

This is me recognizing I’m clueless, and have no point of reference to turn around (as with an understanding of grammar when learning a new language) and have a framework to start from.

Maybe that is an unwarranted fear. Maybe “I don’t need anything but love,” but since even love takes different forms, I’m thinking, no.  I don’t know what it is, but I need some kind of starting place.

~5~

Most people are not logical.

This is why logic is something that actually needs to be taught.

But most people think they are logical.

It’s rather like “specialness” that way.

In the 1970s (according to the book Thinking Fast and Slow) researcher-types based their hypotheses on the assumption that human beings are fundamentally logical in their thinking and behavior.

After a few decades of studies, researchers don’t think that way anymore.

To say someone is not logical comes across as an insult, but really, it’s a bit like belittling a horse by saying it has no opposable thumbs.

It is a pejorative statement, but it references an inherent limitation that can (in theory) be worked with, or got around.

For example, don’t create a situation where you need a horse to peel an orange.

(Okay, that implies people can’t even learn to be logical, which isn’t my ultimate point– but it still makes me laugh after a dozen passes, so I’m keeping the image.)

I wish someone had told me this sooner. I might not have lost so much time trying to understand how complementarians and bible literalists can display more conviction than their reasoning supports.

I really used to think I was missing something.

~6~

Maybe because I am personally safe from the dangers connected with poverty and racism, this is what threatens me the most:

Religious people of influence who claim both to offer women freedom in the church (involvement opportunities, leadership responsibilities, and “we’ll listen to you” responses, so your run away as fast as you can radar doesn’t go off) but restrict women from the highest roles that would include teaching men because, OBVZ: the Bible says no right here!

This actually scares me, because it tends to come from people who highly value the Word of God, and yet contains inconsistencies.  “Plain reading” of scripture also has women wearing headcoverings as a sign of their godliness, women being fully silent in church, and women not communicating with any male she’s not related to. Stuff these generous people don’t emphasize.

I have asked multiple conservative Christian leaders:

What safeguards are in place to prevent bible-lovers from becoming more restrictive in their application of plain scripture?!

This is a question that has literally kept me awake at night when trying to navigate new church environments, and it is the major element that turned me away from the complementarian view I embraced most of my life, practically pushing me into being egalitarian instead.

~7~

1 Timothy 2:12 is the main verse used in opposition to the idea of women in all levels of leadership, and I love what this guy points out:

“This one verse is the lynchpin in the entire complementarian argument, [but] it is an important principle of interpretation that we NOT build entire systems of theology upon a single verse.”

(He addresses another biggie from 1 Corinthians, too.)

Image courtesy of Piotr Bizior via stock.xchng

And for the people who say (as has been said to my face) that “plain-scripture” is what we should live by, and if you need to “interpret” a passage to get to your meaning, that invalidates the argument (makes the explainer not worth listening to) — please read 1 Peter 3:21.

I’ll remove the suspense: it plainly says that baptism saves us, which protestants don’t believe because we give more emphasis to other passages of scripture.

This is the way of all Christians — including those who will or won’t affirm women at all levels of church leadership: we have a gut sense of right and wrong, we take it to the bible, and let that sense be informed and deepened (and I hope corrected) by what we read and study.

There are still a whole lotta Catholics, many who are really neat people and I’m thankful to know them. In the same way I expect there will always be people who (in good conscience) never accept women as affirmed by God to lead.

I continue to pray my daughters won’t marry one of them, and my son never becomes one. This because the attitude that allows you to look at gender before spiritual gifting is an invitation to quench the Spirit of God at work in an individual.

I don’t question that we are all believers (till someone crosses the line that excuses abuse).

I do think that Catholics are Christian, too, but I can’t make the full leap, “convert,” and be one of them. They believe/emphasize certain things that I cannot affirm, and that would actually undermine my faith and practice if I were to embrace them.

This same awareness is why I am (and teach my children to be) egalitarian, and, in a nutshell, that’s why I left my old church.

Where is Your Faith?

Stone tower

I grew up with the unspoken assumption that having faith in anything but God is silly. At best.

Getting worse, I sometimes heard words like foolish, idolatry, and maybe once even heresy.

And that made for trouble later on, because one of my biggest growth-steps well into my adult stage of life was learning to trust myself. I have faith in myself, a phrase I never would have had the guts to say in high school or college, maybe not even for orthodoxy reasons.

It just sounds cheesy and I’ve never liked cheesy.

But I went through this book with a neat batch of women in the fall, and one of the things that came up toward the end was the purpose and place of faith.

In the context of the study, the book was reminding us that we are to live this Christian life the same way we came into it: by faith, not by our efforts to prove ourselves worthy.

This I love. This I can get behind, and cheer, and find relief in.

And I have no idea how to define it.

Image courtesy of Michaela Kobyakov via stock.xchng

But it got me thinking of what we put our faith in, and I realized that for me, real flesh-and-blood people make that list.

For example, I trust that my parents love me.

I know that my husband is going to be loyal only to me as long as we both shall live.

I am confident that various friends [Becky, Kit, Jennifer, Sarah, Tori, Paul, David, Josh, Aaron, and more] are examining themselves thoroughly and submitting themselves to the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit, so that I don’t have to interrogate and squish them through a garlic press before I believe they’re right with God.

I have faith in my parents, my husband, and my friends.

And there is nothing wrong with this.

Like the word love, our language has the single word faith that has evolved various meanings.

I have to have faith in myself if I’m going to trust my own capacity to make meaningful decisions (that’s why this was a personal growth-step for me).

I have to have faith in my husband’s and parents’ love if I am going to talk with them about difficult things and trust that their love for me will endure. Without this I will always be afraid to reveal what’s inside me or seek help with what confuses or hurts me.

I have to have faith in my friends’ ability to grow and individually hear from God, or else I will be forever limited to myself.  I will also be responsible for, or at least carry an undue weight and concern for their spiritual well-being, when their relationship with God is one-on-one and only last because they consistently surrender to his God-ness.

This isn’t about conflict-avoidance or not asking questions or challenging people ever, but it is about basic assumptions and simply being able to trust people.

In all these cases the faith is not based on nothing.

“God demonstrated his great love…”

So have all of these people.

Over the years as I’ve come to know them, I see different levels of maturity, different needs and gifts, and (wonder of wonders) places where our strengths and weaknesses braid together in a beautiful cord that is stronger than the sum of its parts.

And they love me. They value me.

When I have a depression relapse, or find myself in an environment where most people are blind to my value, rehearsing my place in these lives, and the respect they’ve given me, reenforces me to me.

~ ~ ~

I have found one of the most loving, nurturing, gifting thing we can do for each other is to have faith in one another.

Now, none of us want to look like fools. None of us want to discover someone we trusted was able to pull the wool over our eyes. It can shake our faith in all our other relationships, because our ability to recognize a fraud or cruelty is part of what allows us to trust those we trust as much as we do.

Image courtesy of amsphotos via stock.xchng

I don’t give my trust to just anyone. But for the reasons listed above, I need to trust someone, and I am incredibly thankful to have more than one.

In most of my experience this faith doesn’t happen because of a resume, or a creed, or the right number and combination of boxes checked off on some form.

It happens over time.

So this faith thing can highlight a hole in our Christian community: have we cultivated or intentionally created the space for the nearness and openness– the vulnerability and authenticity– of communication and relationship that allows us to build relational faith.

I’m told time is a precious commodity in today’s world.

I can’t imagine this is new to our place in history or unique to me, but I know there’s no other reliable methodology to building this faith.

And you might say that discussing my faith in people gives me a better idea of what faith in God looks like, or could be made of.

Time is a good starting place.

The Gifted Lifetime

Stone tower

Pamela Price at Red, White & Grew asked a hugely welcome question about Giftedness beyond the child-stage:

How do we begin to talk about the gifted lifetime in fruitful ways that benefit a maximum number of people?

She invited comments, but I expected mine would be too long (in full) so I started here.

I have a few bullet points that shape the rest of my thoughts.

  • Have a common definition (so we can unblushingly agree that humanity contains both gifted and non-gifted individuals).
  • Create a safe place where understanding is the primary goal. Competition or one-upmanship needs to find an outlet somewhere else.
  • If the non-gifted want to observe, they must assume good-will (the gifted people in these discussions are working out their own issues, not denigrating people different from themselves).
    • We will get so much farther, faster, if we don’t have to saturate our observations and discoveries with disclaimers.
  • Trust each other: our experiences will be different, and if we expect to police each others’ diagnoses, that leads to insecurity and back to competition.

Stone towerSome adults (without using the word gifted, or acknowledging their own giftedness) say that feeling alone is just part of adolescence, or part of the human condition. Religious/Christian people will have very specific ideas about what’s missing in one’s life.

These two bits (smart– in my experience, gifted— people who acknowledge the ‘off’ while invalidating the accompanying confusion, and religious people who expect their tested formulas to fix things) are the two halves of my own experience.

Between excellent honors-track teachers in high school and talented professors at college, I was surrounded by a very comfortable level of challenge and growth. I was kept busy enough through that era of my life that the discontent buzzing in the back of my mind was kept decently managed.

I’m one of those who can’t not-believe in God (and I think that’s a good thing). All my life I’ve been involved in Church, and done what I can to make it (find it?) challenging. So when I started learning about giftedness (well into adulthood) I was giddy to realize that the small church I currently attended was easily 70% gifted. More if you included the mass of kids.

That explained to me why we were so many on the same “wavelength” in intensity, intellectual demands, high conviction, with a level of educational rigor (sense of personal responsibility) for our children, many of us homeschooling, many of us eschewing the Standard American Diet.

[To this day I’m convinced that the cohesiveness of the group is tied at least in part to the shared giftedness, and the feeling of having found one’s “tribe.” This was especially notable because we varied, sometimes significantly, in our theology– usually a reason to “break fellowship.”]

According to the one book on adult giftedness I’ve read, the level of giftedness in the general population is 10%, so I imagine finding a group where nearly everyone was your kind, well, I will personally attest it is hard to walk away from (and I’m still trying to find my land legs).

The odd thing to me is that when I tried to have this [Yay! Look at us, we’ve found each other!] conversation with various gifted members of the congregation (much more calmly and maturely, I assure you), I was immediately shut down.

I can see, now, some sociological/psychological reasons for their dismissal and denial, but at the time I was deeply confused.

It is in this background that my summary of “conversation-starters” is rooted (with a tiny bit of repetition).

  • Provide a vocabulary. Tie it to everyday living.
    • I think the best way to start this conversation is to include people and give them a context for this “otherness” they’ve felt much of their lives.
  • Let people identify themselves– and believe them.
    • Yes, some will be wannabes, but as long as we manage the competition/one-upping side of things they will either benefit by association, or drop out on their own.
  • Validate– agree that there are good things and commiserate with the disappointing stuff.
    • My first two years investigating this topic I had this imaginary conversation in my head: “So you just figured out you’re gifted, huh?” “Yup.” “Just now? Are you sure you don’t need a second opinion?”
  • Provide models (alternatives to the TV-reinforced stereotypes) of successful gifted-lifetimes.
  • Brainstorm how to become those models
    • My primary motivation for trying to convince my fellow church members about giftedness was that nearly all our children were gifted. I felt we had a unique opportunity as a close-knit, gifted population to raise our children in a way that might inoculate them against the shame or embarrassment we received for our eagerness or “over-achieving.”
      • All of which that continued into adulthood, by the way…
  • Create a culture of mutual creation rather than comparison.
    • I keep harping on this angle, but I think it’s crazy-important: we are all so different from one another (along with having things in common) that if we are going to make progress in any meaningful way it will not be through propping ourselves up via the battered bodies of lesser mortals.

So there you are: Where I think the conversation should start. Where it goes from here I’ll be fascinated to watch.

I am a Christian Feminist

broken bridge small

cherry blosomsIf there was another word, I’d be happy to use it, but since there’s not, well, I feel like I need to redeem it.

I am a feminist.

I have been for years and years, I just didn’t know it, because I never actually looked up what the word meant, I just listened to scared people talk about what they didn’t understand, and became one of them.

Contrary to how I imagined feminism to act, this movement isn’t about how we women treat other people (though the decent ones among us work within the Golden Rule: treating others the way we want to be treated). It isn’t about bringing men down or punishing them for the sins of their fathers.

Feminism (the ideal and the activism) is about changing the way people are treated.

Women in particular, yes, but ultimately all marginalized people.

TeacupFeminists are speaking the obvious, because it keeps being ignored. They’re saying that women have historically been treated as less than men (anyone who’s paid attention already knew this. Google is your friend if you weren’t one of them. I won’t judge). We’re pointing out that “humanity” has meant men by default (Medical studies are a terrific example of this bias). And we (some of us) are pointing out how males are getting a bit irrationally testy at being limited to 50% of the good stuff.

I use the “Merry Christmas” kerfuffle as an analogy.

At some point, retailers noticed that some people spend money for reasons other than Christmas. Not being the types to discourage consumption for any reason, these proactive capitalists modified their advertizing materials to be as inclusive as possible. The use of the words “Merry Christmas” plummeted.

The pro-Christmasers fought back with their dollars, which is totally their right, but others (inappropriately) called the change in language religious persecution.

I argue that the majority simply got a taste of what the (holiday) minority lived with for generations. For me, it was an education, not an assault.

Pro-MCers can totally ask for respect and acknowledgement. Feedback is a great way to teach people who want our money. The point is that MCers were used to being the default, and I wonder sometimes if the outrage expressed isn’t about change and demotion along with all the other loaded elements of the shift.

As for my brand of feminism and faith, I have often rejected the role of activist, but I have walked for a while now as an advocate.

It makes sense if you think about my role as a writer, as someone who offers words as bridge between people and ideas.

I was gratified this weekend to read a list of [faulty] reasons attempting to explain why women’s gifts are largely ignored by the Church.

Calling them what they are (largely fear, and lack of experience or imagination) really put things in perspective for me.

Then a dear Christian lady, who would never approve of women in leadership, asked me what kind of female leadership I was advocating within the church.

It made me frightened and angry and sad, all at the same time, because I knew there was nothing I could say that would make her approve of my position, and I didn’t want this issue to be a relationship-breaker between us.

I went with the truth anyway, wording my answer as carefully as possible.

Anywhere a woman is gifted, that is where she should work. God gives gifts to be used, and scripture has examples of women at every level of leadership.

This is a painful subject for me, because management (specifically of food and children) is all women are typically allowed in the church, and is something I am distinctly *not* gifted in.

Not where I am now, but both for teaching (even beside/with Jay) and for music (songs a man picked) I was told “No-because-you-are-a-woman.”

It left me useless, which is nothing I wish on anyone.

Feminism matters, in life and in the Church, because change does not happen spontaneously, and our culture, both of faith and general practice, is anemic. We are sick and undernourished because fully half of all the population is excluded by default, or challenged to “do better” with fewer resources.

broken bridge smallWe have people, valuable contributors, who never reach their potential because enough other people have made decisions before considering the individual.

It is a logistical nightmare, but that is part of why it takes so much energy to sustain this movement, why some people complain feminists are fixated on one problem, how this one way the world works is all they see.

There is nothing easy about telling the world over and and over again that the sky is blue, that water is wet. There may be “bigger” things going on every minute, but what is closer to home than our value and identity?

This is what we are fighting for as feminists: to do what we were created to do, and not be patted on the head (or carefully not-touched if “they” are male and are scared of being seduced by even a condescending touch) as we’re told by someone not-our-creator that the way He made us doesn’t fit their plan.

What Women Want from the Church: to Celebrate Emotions

This piece should be read from the front of every church.

Not because every church is dismissive of emotion, but because every gathering of believers should proactively affirm the rightful place of emotion alongside learning, growth, and our aging human bodies: they are part of how we’ve been created, an important way we interact with the world and circumstances we’ve been given.

Without emotion we are less than God created us to be. To deny its role is to reject part of God’s plan.

By Becky Castle Miller via Elora Nicole.

What women want: for you to know we aren’t drunk.

Becky Castle Miller is the Managing Editor of Wyn Magazine (wynmag.com), providing resources and hope for mental and emotional healing. She and her husband, with their four kids, are American expats in the Netherlands, helping with an international church. She is part young executive and part five-year-old playing with kittens.

“Misanthropy Was so Much Easier.”

Flanderization is the process by which a legitimate, often fully developed, character becomes a parody of him- or herself.

I believe this is what has happened to the cultural perception of Sherlock Holmes.

John and SherlockHe is portrayed as a brilliant but socially and/or relationally irresponsible individual who redeems himself (reaches “likable character” status) through selective niceness. It seems to me that those who don’t identify directly with Holmes frequently do with Watson, and so any harshness or undiluted rudeness to others is glossed over. Sherlock (BBC iteration is freshest in my mind) has proven his worth by being willing to die for the few he loves.

That action is enough to redeem all his other faults, apparently.

Sherlock’s familiar attitude is well summed up in a painfully honest assessment of another admirer, Jane Eyre, speaking of her employer, Edward Fairfax Rochester.

RochesterHe was proud, sardonic, harsh to inferiority of every description: in my secret soul I knew that his great kindness to me was balanced by unjust severity to many others. He was moody, too; unaccountably so.

…I believed his moodiness, his harshness… had their source in some cruel cross of fate. I believed he was naturally a man of better tendencies, higher principles… I thought there were excellent materials in him; though for the present they hung together somewhat spoiled and tangled.

janeAs the more Sherlockian of the Watson/Holmes pair, and the more Jane of the Eyre/Rochester pairing, I see a great deal of personal indulgence on both sides.

First, you have an adoring subordinate who revels in the superiority of the other. This is an egotistical indulgence on the part of the writer who is (perhaps) an unacknowledged genius, creating a socially-acceptable display of their deepest hungers and wish-fulfillment.

Then, for Jane’s, or John’s (or Sherlock’s fans) part, they latch so much on to the selective kindness of a man “harsh to inferiority of every description” that they seem to let themselves be flattered at his mere acceptance. It is high praise to escape his harshness, and that awareness only magnifies the felt-kindnesses of a man who actively proves his ability to be kind when he wishes to.

An interesting thing about Sherlock’s kindness is that it is not so much overt choice (“I should be kind to this fellow creature”) as it is his form of need (he needs a mirror, a prism, a case, applause), creating a vacuum for another individual to fill. The reason he has so few connections in his world, so few deep friendships, is because he acknowledges so few needs.

The magic of John and Sherlock’s relationship is that they are both content with what the other is naturally willing to give. It is a nearly effortless exchange.

Most relationships require giving a bit more than we’re ready or comfortable to give, and that is why most relationships grow and shape us. But there’s no denying the rest of an unchallenging, natural friendship. Continue reading »

Fears Connect Us

Image courtesy of Jesse Therrien via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Jesse Therrien via stock.xchng

I’ve thought sometimes about teaching writing, mainly because it comes easier to me than to most people I know (in contrast to the famous quote).

I am not above or apart from wanting to to be affirmed by my culture, and being a part of a culture that affirms through salary, I’m keen to see my abilities contribute to my income, whether or not I need that money to live.

One of the common writing prompts (believe it or not) is Write what scares you.

This may come as a surprise to non-writers, or not-yet-writers but it is very reasonable advice.

The ultimate goal of writing is shared-consciousness.

Image courtesy of nh313066 via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of nh313066 via stock.xchng

Yes, really: The goal the goal of most print is to make the thoughts of the writer the thoughts of the reader.

Fear is deeply rooted in us, and is a commonality among all healthy (and even most unhealthy) minds.

By writing about what we fear, we invite others to see us, and to be known, even if the reader is someone we will never meet, because there will be that person whose fear matches mine, and maybe they’ve never found the words for it, so it’s remained a shadow.

Or maybe they had the words, but they felt so alone in this place that the words were only a reminder of their isolation and shame.

In this latter case, the writer, whom they’ve never met, shows the reader s/he’s not the only person who is broken in this way, and that crack in the world’s armor might let in a chink of light and offer freedom.

Because, especially as a believer, our goal is to not remain afraid.

Image courtsy of Belovodchenko Anton via stock.xchng

Image courtsy of Belovodchenko Anton via stock.xchng

What am I Afraid of?
The question popped into my head, and an answer jumped to meet it:

I am afraid of loving imperfection.

Among my many contradictions are

a) I am good at loving, and
b) I am good at seeing.

On my good and healthy days, I am glad for this combination, because b without a would probably make me a jerk.

On my weak or confused days I worry that observers will assume a means the absence of b, and since both parts are important to the way I see myself, I wrestle with how I do both, even while I wonder how to care less what any observers may interpret.

In one of my conflicted moments I told my mom, “I know I’m doing the right thing by loving on [name], I don’t know what to say to [those other Christians] who seem to be focusing on that person’s sin.”

Unspoken, perhaps unconscious, in this confession was the fear that my insight, if not my godliness, would be called into question. And my mom’s matter-of-fact rebuttal deflated all my related anxiety:

“If you are rejected for being a friend of sinners, you are in good company.”

Imperfect Company
What a moment’s contemplation showed me was that my fear of loving the imperfect is a fear of being imperfect.

Both my mom and the latest doctor I saw (just this spring, and no, she couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. {groan}) scoff at that word, perfect.

Both of them said (verbatim!) “Wouldn’t that be BORING?!”

And both times I was speechless, because I wonder how they can really think that.

NO it wouldn’t be boring! I could finally relax.

Yeah, fine. Analyze the snot out of that last sentence.

I don’t genuinely expect perfection from anyone, even myself (anymore), but I’ve never seen that acceptance of imperfection as a reason to stop striving. Who pushes for less-then perfect?

And that’s where I started to make sense of this fear. (If you didn’t make the jump with me, no worries, just start here:)

My fear of others’ imperfection is my fear of having even more of a gap to fill.

50% x 50% = 25%

Even further from 100%!

Now I see more clearly: I am imagining the work I have left.

By aligning with someone else I take on their weakness, become responsible for it. More is added to the to-do list that I must make happen on my limited strength.

storm

Image courtesy of Mateusz Stachowski via stock.xchng

This is why the imperfect is so frightening: not because I expect more of them (because I know that wouldn’t be fair) but somehow I still expect more of me. 

I know well enough the amount of effort I expend in not-sinking. Add to that somebody else’s something I have to keep afloat, and I cry out It is more than I can bear! How can you ask me to do the impossible?

And sometimes in the storm I hear, You already are.

And sometimes I hear that I’m carrying more than I need to.

God does not depend on human exhaustion

to accomplish his will.

God often gives us strength beyond our natural resources to accomplish his will. If we are out of strength, that could be a sign we’re working on something that isn’t our assignment.

How do I stop being afraid? Maybe by letting go of a burden too big for me to carry.

I must choose a place where my limits are a gift, the means that allow me to rest.

And how do I find that place? Two questions help:

  1. What can I do?
  2. What can I keep on doing?

What I can do is boggling and mind-blowing and amazing.

And what you can do, too.

But that awesomeness is not necessarily sustainable.  What I can do is no longer the primary question, unless it is a special situation with a defined beginning and end.

What is more applicable is Question-2.

It is treating each day as if it’s my forever.

Image courtesy of Janusz Gawron via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Janusz Gawron via stock.xchng

Am I living in such a way, that if nothing ever changed, I would be able to continue? Would I be able to be happy, and have something to share with the people closest to me? The people I love?

We are all imperfect.

We all fear.

And somehow it is through that fear and that imperfection that we are drawn together.

I don’t know if I will ever actually teach writing, but I know I’m learning. And the cool thing to me, is that the more I learn about writing, the better I get at living imperfectly, and being less-afraid.

T vs. F: Logic and Emotion in Decision Making (Wyn Magazine)

One of the main dichotomies I run across is the war between Feeling and Thinking (shorted in many discussions to F & T).

The difficulty with these labels is that they can encourage a binary way of looking at the world, and people who are highly aware of their preferred way of deciding can become proud or ashamed of their preference, based on the message they get from the world around them.

With T and F we see two very different ways of doing things, and they are frequently set in a hierarchy rather than seen as two tools in a toolbox, neither of greater value, both necessary in different contexts.

A woman I know came from an entire family (both parents and sibling) who lived in the F-preference. The people they knew and met from the T-preference were perceived as harsh, unyielding, and definitely unloving.

In contrast, all my life I have been surrounded by T-preference people who are very driven, immutable, and organized, in both their behavior and their thoughts. This became my standard or assumption for maturity. Thinking was the way “real grown-ups” made decisions.

Showing emotions (especially “violent” emotions, like anger or loud tears) was evidence of a lack of control, which inevitably held echoes of those childish, impotent outbursts we used to call tantrums.

I understood the value of Thinking and did everything I could to ignore or repress Feeling, seeing it as only a distraction that strong people can get over.

Read more at wynmag.com

Response to “A Letter to Teenagers”

I understand why this letter has gone viral and been so popular, but when I saw it on Facebook this morning (before I read the above article) These were my thoughts.

~ ~ ~

This letter is a good start (in the sense that we all need to be reminded to do what we can, and quit expecting others to do it for us) but these words don’t provide what I needed as a teen, and that was personalized direction.

I was a KID. I was even one who didn’t claim to know everything. And I didn’t know on my own which way to go other than to “be good.” And that is WAY to vague for most kids.

I was a good kid by most standards, and this letter being given to me would have made me feel simultaneously furious and helpless.

He’s just told me to get out of his way and quit being vocal about the fact that I have needs I don’t know how to meet.

All my life I had a drive to “make a difference” and “be involved,” but I did not have the skill/know-how/authority to make much of anything happen on my own.

Weekly visits to the nursing home (at 13) were with an adult, who eased me into being unafraid. Joining worship team (at 17 or 18) and before that forming a youth version (when I was 15) required an adult sponsor to give us access to the stage and sound equipment.

Even now, in my 30s, I know the fastest, most efficient way to know how best to apply my talents comes from outside help.

Why do you think “life coaching” even exists as a profession? We want solid, reliable input. Wise people don’t want to be limited to their own experience.

It always feels good to tell off people who are making your life more complicated, and the writer was described as “a judge who regularly deals with youth.”

I guess most of the readers/repeaters are parents, and AMEN! because they feel similarly pressed.

These parents have been dealing with and giving, like the judge says, and yes it’s perfect for the youth to “accept some of the responsibility your parents have carried for years.”

But I for one was never the kid who could look at a mess, see what needs to be done, and “just do it.”

I am BARELY that kind of adult.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from becoming a grown-up, it’s that the growing. never. ends.

And parenting (best as I can tell) is a lot of inconvenience.

We’re allowed to gripe, and call it hard, like it is, but eventually we have to swallow the frog; reenter the inconvenience of life-as-parent ’cause, really, nothing gets done until we do.

We have to change that diaper, find a bandaid, teach a concept and (Lord-Willing) cultivate a sense of self that will allow that child to develop a personal vision and motivation that will equip him or her to finally accept everything in his letter as a reasonable expectation.

Self-discovery as a path to holiness

Sanctification starts not with rules but with the forsaking of pride.

Purity begins with our determined refusal to hide from the condition of our hearts. Out of self-discovery, honestly done, humility may grow, and in humility, meekness; a quiet, unswerving, gentle strength.

Because once you honestly know yourself, and recognize the coexistence of self-acceptance and grief over your own sin, you have a model for graciously treating the sinners that continually surround us.

I’ve run across people who object to “self-discovery” as a waste of time.

They are the type that may dismissively refer to inner work as “navel gazing,” and self-absorption. Something “good Christians” (in particular) know better than to waste time on.

In contrast, I think of pursuing self-discovery as understanding all the inner whys. Perhaps because I’m a novelist and I’m always looking at motivation, I feel as though understanding the root will give me more tools.

Who we are now is a summation of everything that has come before.

A lot of good Christian folks I know (including me) stumble and stutter with the concept of Testimony. Testimony being that thing that describes the difference Christ has made in one’s life; testimony being the glowing After that one now lives in, in contrast to the dark Before.

Our recent attendance at Fairbanks Recovery Church has provided lots of examples of these, but the blessed openness of these testifiers also provides insight to those without the dramatic before.

We need a better set of words. There is a dangerously binary slant the the pair, Before & After.

The best I have to offer is Before & Now.

What these brave testifiers testify to is that they are not After. The struggle is ongoing; that they must continue to “die daily,” to surrender to light and truth for strength in their lives.

They know how bad “the dark side” is, having lived it, but they still feel it’s pull.

“The cravings never go away,” one man said Sunday. “What’s up with that?!”

And I start to get a corner of other types of testimony.

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