Monday, October 24, 2016

The blog post I didn't really want to write, but I did it anyway

I very rarely get the urge to write anymore. My fine motor skills are crap. My attention is crap. It's just not easy to whip out a Mollie manifesto at 11pm just for fun anymore. But today I sit here, laptop in lap, and there is a post dying to work its way from my head to my fingers. I don't yet know what I'm going to say, or how I'm going to say it, but I just feel like it has to be said. Even if I really don't want to do it.

I feel like I should start off with an "I'm sorry." I'm not sure why. Maybe apologizing ahead of time will soften any anger towards me if I step on your toes. I don't really want to step on any toes. I'm a big fan of toe-free stepping, as it were, but I'm also a firm believer that God gives us gifts and he wants us to use them. Not that I always, or usually, or consistently listen to Him. I'm a bit of a control freak, and I tend to attempt to exhaust everything I can humanly do before I'm like, "Fine, God. Have it Your way." (Wouldn't that make a great modern, realistic interpretation of "Have Thine on Way, Lord"?)

And before I go any further, I am not a very good Christian. Oh, don't get me wrong, I love me some Jesus, but I've strayed pretty far from my conservative Christian upbringing. Actually, I take that back. I have not strayed from my conservative Christian upbringing. I now try to live my life based on those scriptures we repeated so often in Sunday school each week, rather than using them as weapons and a stepping stone over unpleasant things.

Ouch. That was a hard growth spurt for me.

It all started in college, with a professor who was also an Episcopal minister. I was completely comfortable with my pretty white little God box until she exposed us to some things I did not want to hear about. Other religions, other cultures, different ways scriptures can be interpreted, different ways scriptures have been used to hurt other humans, or demonstrate the superiority of one group over another. This professor was a fierce lover of God; however, she made us see that to truly have faith you have to allow yourself to be uncomfortable, and you have to grow, and the relationship and faith you have is between you and God because everyone else falls short. That was the semester I began to critically think about the Bible, how it should be read, and how it should be used. That was hard.

Not long after that my brother did his tour in Iraq. It was a frightening time for all of us, but my brother was always good at making you laugh in tough times. He shared stories of some of the nice Iraqi families he'd met, and of a little girl he'd come to care about who had been injured in the war. For the first time in my life, I saw Iraqis as people. Maybe they weren't all just enemies waiting to catch us infidels at the right time so they could kill us for Allah. Maybe the majority of them were people just like us who had grown up in a good home with loving parents who took them to Mosque and made them eat their vegetables and do their homework? Were all those kids going to hell simply because they had the very bad luck of being born in Baghdad and not Mississippi? That was hard, too.

The third major moment of growing pains came with the birth of the twins. I had faith, total, complete faith, that those beautiful babies of mine would be fine. Even when they delivered sweet Aubrie at 1lb1oz at 22 weeks gestation. Even when they said she had massive brain hemorrhages. Even when they said her time was probably near. Until they placed her lifeless, tubeless body in my aching arms, and I gently dressed her in a white silk dress and told her how much she was loved and wanted. A part of me was broken that day. The part of me that believed God gives you what you want if you just have enough faith. The part that blindly felt like as Christians we were somehow immune to tragedy and loss. When Dax was born almost two weeks later, that illusion of human control I thought I had was no more. And then, after months and months and months of watching him grow and get sick and grow and nearly die and grow and get sick and grow and nearly die, my conversations with God became so raw and emotional and real. I questioned. I argued. I swore. I battled. "If you're going to let him suffer, why don't you just go ahead and take him, asshole. Why are you allowing this baby to live in so much pain? Just take him, you big bully. Please stop his pain!"

That is not a prayer I learned in Sunday school, but I came to believe and feel that God was crying right there with me. He's seen His children suffer, too.

All in all, when I look back over the lessons of the past decade, my weaknesses have been made abundantly clear. I do not wait well. I am the worst be stiller. I want to fix all the things. I have handed over the keys and learned to backseat drive, but I still want to know where we're going and why. I mean, I'm the girl who reads the last chapter of the book first, so I know who lives and who gets married and can take my time reading the rest of the book without anxiety because I know how it ends. I still want to know how it ends.

But one of the biggest blessings that has come from the storms has been the admission on my part that I will never understand the whys. I will never understand the hows. God doesn't fit in my pretty white box anymore. He is huge and He is tiny and He is beyond my comprehension. I can't read Revelations and then go back to Genesis and read it all and know where it's headed. God is in the Bible and outside the Bible and in millions of stars and in the hairs in my head and in the dust on my TV. To cautiously throw out scripture, which I am intentionally trying to avoid, His ways are not my ways. I do not believe in my lifetime, or yours, that we will get to truly understand His ways.

And that's what leads me to the heart of this post.

I finally took to heart that over thousands and thousands of years of actively searching for God, no one has ever quite found Him. I mean, we think we do. We hold tight to scriptures that mean the most to us, and we find solace and hope in His promises, but, still, not one among us knows what tomorrow holds. Not one among us gets to be the expert on what God wants from us, because you can read and study and learn and live and your awareness of God's presence and love is ever-evolving and growing, or at least I think it should be, and who God was to you yesterday may be incredibly different from the God of today. God isn't changing, but we are. Or we should be, I think.

I don't believe God has called us to go out and be The Great Christian Enforcers, or, at least, I don't think that's what He's got in store for me. I believe He has called me to love. I believe He has called me to champion the broken and be a voice for the voiceless and spread light where there is none. That may change at any given time, but just like you, I find myself constantly trying to fulfill God's calling for me while systematically screwing up everything that I touch because I am human and I am so, so, fallible. I get it wrong on the daily. As I lie in bed at night pretending to meditate but actually just obsessing over what I've done wrong that day and how much I screwed the pooch on something that I could have used to glorify God but I chose to take another route, I often end up falling asleep before I stop myself long enough to spew a simple prayer of thankfulness. I get it wrong. I get it so wrong.

I live in a weird world divided between ultra-liberal and ultra-conservative friends and family, and I find I'm too liberal for my conservative friends and too conservative for my liberal friends. I'm okay with that. I don't enter into any political or social issue lightly. In a world that prefers black and white, I prefer the gray areas. In a world of emotion and fear and anger, I choose thought and empathy. That is not an easy place to live. Society doesn't like gray areas. Society wants you to grab onto an idea with all fours and cling to it until you die of exhaustion along with everyone who grabbed on with you. It's a carnival ride you can't get off of, nor do many of us want to. Until you have to. So often life has a way of stealing you from the rollercoaster against your will and dragging you through the darkness until you finally see that the carnival was a self-imposed prison of thought. What you thought was God's will was actually a prison you built for yourself. But those prisons win elections and influence policies and harden hearts.

What has prompted this particular post today is my sadness about Christianity. Christ, who died for us, all of us, and wants to bring us joy in the darkness, has been used this election season in ways I'm pretty sure He would start flipping tables over. Not that this is new. This is a tale as old as Christ Himself, but today's technology and in-your-face media and all the keyboard warriors have shown me the ugliest use of our Savior that I have seen in my lifetime. I don't really care who you are voting for. I really don't. I'm relatively sure God already has a pretty good idea of who will win and what will happen in January and in 2037 and in 5187 and in 12999. I don't think God is a Republican or a Democrat, and he sure as hell isn't a politician. Satan, maybe, but I think God's got His hands full with much bigger things. Like a starving child in an orphanage in Bulgaria. Like a felon on death row. Like a policeman strapping on his vest before he leaves his family. Like a teenager who steals to feed his family. Like a college kid who drinks to numb the pain. Like the gay man who is contemplating suicide because his church and community have shunned him. Like the unplanned pregnancy that turns into an unwanted baby that turns into an abused child that turns into a child molester. Like the bank manager who is skimming off the top to accumulate more and more and more. Like the father trying to protect his family in Syria. Like the teen who found love and acceptance for the first time in a gang, or a jihad. Like the much wanted fetus who happens to have a genetic anomaly that causes society to look at him and whisper. Like the adult who mentally or physically cannot care for himself. Like the man who feels the only way he will be noticed is to hurt large groups of people. Like the Christian who seeks out and admonishes those who don't engage in what she's deemed "acceptable" sins. Like the Christian who secretly believes she is a better person because of her church affiliation. Like the man who is freely shouting "MURDERER" at a broken woman entering Planned Parenthood, without ever trying to use that plank in his own eye to help pull her from the river of fear she is drowning in. And, most definitely, he is with that broken woman as she drowns and we stand idly by, throwing more buckets of water her direction. And He's with you, and He's with me, and He's with them. All of the thems.

This is not meant to be a post about abortion, but as that seems to be the hot topic of the week, it just fell out. Please hear me when I say I gave birth to two beautiful children born at a gestation when late-term abortions can still occur. Please hear me when I say I want to live in a world where every baby is loved and wanted and protected, and that every graphic picture being posted hits me in a deep, dark place in my heart that longs to go find each of those babies and hold them and tell them they were loved. But, also know, as a mother who fought to have her child placed on life support, allowed her to suffer here on Earth, and then made the choice to remove life support, that I have had to make that tough decision to let a child die. I made the decision to let her live and suffer, and then I allowed her suffering to stop. There were a good deal of doctors and God and nurses and family in that mix, but ultimately, there is not much separating me from a mother who chooses to terminate a pregnancy so her child will not have to suffer. We just chose to let ours suffer first. Please don't think I take that lightly.

That got a little off-topic, but it brings me to what I really wanted to say. I don't know what God has called you to do. What I do is between me and God, and what you do is between you and God. But please, for the sake of all things holy, please take a deep look within yourself to see if you're actually representing Christ or if you're hiding your gifts and flaws behind a life-sized Christ cutout that is pointing away from the love and grace we are supposed to represent. Can anyone see Christ through your anger? Through your use of scripture and adages used to condemn or minimize rather than uplift? Do you see a lost sheep and run back to your flock, thankful he's gone? Do you spend as much time working on your own hypocrisy as you do pointing out the hypocrisy of others?

I'm not going to lie. I keep hearing comments about the attack on Christianity, and I am afraid for us. The attack is real, but it's not from outside forces. We are killing ourselves from the inside out, and the non-Christians are just watching us burn. How the hell can we be disciples for Christ when we push away everyone we see as different, and fear everyone we don't understand, and offer grace only to ourselves when withholding it from everyone else. Jesus died for you. And the lady who just got an abortion, as well as the tiny life inside her. Jesus died for the good policeman and the bad policeman and the unarmed black man and the armed black man and the refugee and the king and the homosexual and the rich and the poor and the terrorists. Yep, even the terrorists.

He even died for Donald and Hillary. Both of them. Equally. Crazy, I know.

So, please, as you are thinking and reading and deciding and taking action today, tomorrow, fifty years from now, please spend a little bit of that time learning your own heart and trying to figure out what God wants for you versus what you want for you. We get so busy being Christians we forget about Christ, and once we forget about Christ we've lost everything we ever even started fighting for.

Don't let your principles become your golden calf. Remove those planks from your eyes to build a ladder for someone else. Trust that God is in control, but don't forget to use your hands and feet to reach out instead of punch. And, for the sake of Pete, love your neighbors as you love yourself, even if they don't look or act or vote like you do. If you love God, love His children. And don't ever forget that we are all, everydamnlastredandyellowblackandwhitebrownandbeautiful one of us, His children.