Monthly Archives: June 2014

On being 23 and NOT being engaged

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We are at dinner, and no one is talking. He breaks in abruptly and tells me…”you know when I was 23 I had just gotten married.”

 It goes around the circle. My biological family, sitting there making me feel like I’m failing because I’m sitting alone in my side of the booth.

I’m getting increasingly used to that look. When my best friend got engaged. When I ran off on a weekend trip for yet another wedding of yet another beautiful friend. And now, in the midst of what really should have been a happier day. It’s the appraising eyes, trying to find the flaws in me. It’s the sympathetic head tilt that reminds me of a Chicago Cubs fan “wait ‘til next year” …that kind of thing. It’s the quick dart of the eyes down to my left hand.

“why are you not married yet?”

I want to be clear: I am 23 years old. Barely. I am in graduate school. I have a job that I adore. I have friends. I will have a doctoral degree before I am 25. And yet every time someone announces an engagement, there’s the sidelong glance at me, wondering how I’m ‘dealing with it”. I wonder, sometimes, why this question so often comes from Christian circles, but I’m used to it. I get it all the time.

There are separate Bible studies for young marrieds and singles. Because apparently I have more in common with an eighteen year old college freshman and a 40 year old divorcee than I do with my best friend, who will be married in November. Because I’m single, and I need to hear another sermon about waiting for my Boaz and making a list of qualities for a future mate. I can only assume the young marrieds class is talking again about training a child in the way he should go and Ephesians 5. Maybe I’m wrong. But I wish we were both standing here talking about pursuing Christ. About loving our neighbors. About the ways we can learn from our differences. We have so much to offer one another.

I’d like to tell you that I’m fine. That I read your article about why you got engaged before you were 23. That I see your point. That I’m not judging you. That I am, in fact, capable of being happy for you. They joke about how no single girl is ever truly happy when a friend gets engaged. But I am. I’m not fronting.

I guess I’m just wondering if you can be happy for me. If you can look at my incredibly distant from engaged life and see value. If you can understand me the way you’re hoping I can understand you.

I do want a family. I want to be a mom, I want to be a wife, I want to adopt and foster and do all sorts of family things. But I’m waiting.

Not in the way you’re picturing. Not like some pitiable image of Ms. Haversham, standing in a white dress alone in the dark. I’m waiting in a car full of friends, laughing and singing Justin Bieber. I’m waiting in a crowded, noisy room where my laughter doesn’t quite rise above the sea of voices. I’m waiting in the clinic, holding the hand of a child walking for the first time.

I’m waiting on God’s timing to begin building the kind of family where I’m the mommy. To begin building the kind of ‘household’ that you buy in pieces from Bed Bath and Beyond. But I’m not waiting to start a family.

My family is here, all around me. Is flung across Oklahoma and Texas and further out, around the world. My family loves me so well. Encourages me so much. Cries with me. Prays for me. Celebrates with me. Needs me. Is there for me. Lives, and I live, and we keep each other together. And someday, probably, I will invite some boy to come and join it. To join in the laughter and tears and bored conversation. Maybe I’ll wear a white dress, and maybe we’ll have cake after. Maybe we’ll bring some kids into the picture, and maybe we’ll even get a beagle and a fence.

But those won’t be the pictures of me starting a family.

Those will simply be the new branch of this crazy, random, bear hugging family of people that I already have. That I already love.

I’m 23, and I am not married. I am not engaged. And I’m not planning on either any time soon. But I love a bunch of people already, and have been loved in return. Before you give me that look, before you feel sorry for me…

…don’t. Don’t try to set me up or convince me to rush into a relationship. Don’t feel bad when I’m a bridesmaid for the fourth time. Don’t give me books called Captivating or Redeeming Love and pray that someday a boy will come along and marry me, and save me from this woeful singlehood.

I’ve been redeemed. I’m not Ruth, gleaning in the fields until Boaz comes because He’s here. He has been here. He is the center, the heartbeat of this little family of friends. I’m not Cinderella standing here, waiting for the Prince to bust me out of the basement.

I’m a 23 year old girl who has been given a great deal of grace. Who has had opportunities that I could never have deserved. Who is trying to figure out how to give back out of the incredible number of things I’ve been given. And whether you’re married, engaged, single or whatever, there’s room for you in this family of people trying to figure it out together.

is God less faithful when life is less awesome?

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I’ve been thinking and writing a lot lately about the faithfulness of God. Huge topic in my brain. Whether He is more or less faithful in any situation. Thinking He is not the one who changes. Thinking He is always faithful. 

I need to confess to you that it feels like He is less faithful if the test goes badly. Maybe you feel me.

Is God less faithful today in Iraq than He is today in Oklahoma City? Is He less faithful in the life of the twelve year old fighting for life than He is in the life of the guy in the church service who is healed of low back pain? If we prayed over both of them? If we loved both of them? Why is it that He seems faithful in the healing and absent in the pain?

I need you to know that I resent the fact that we pray for a test score, sometimes. And we call it faithfulness when we do better than we expected.

I need to confess to you that He feels less faithful today. That He feels less faithful when the language shifts to the sterile coldness of medical Latin.

Maybe it’s the words we use. Is it a blessing to have a new car or a new job? Is it? Or is it just another camel to get through the needle? I’m not saying it’s wrong, but I’m asking if, just maybe, I need to remember that much is required of those of us who have been given so much. Life gets longer, and it’s more to give. Abraham finally had a son, and it was one more thing to place on the altar.

She reminds me that we were never promised an easy road. We were never promised that the PET scan wouldn’t glow or that the letter would say yes or that the war would stay across the ocean. She reminds me that being promised resurrection means walking through the shadow of death.

I am looking at the stars, wondering if all these ‘blessings’ are getting in the way. Wondering if the blessing is these empty moments that remind me why I’m here. That remind me what is promised. That reminds me that even here, God is with them. God is with us. I can just barely believe in that. I can just barely believe that this is faithfulness. That He is here. That this child is not forgotten. Is not alone.

God is faithful. Faithful to remove the distractions. Faithful to focus my eyes in the darkness. Faithful to keep me from being consumed by the wants and the shallow things that I can’t keep out of my brain. Even this tragedy, this pain that isn’t mine, has left me raging at the unfairness of it all. Instead of helping. Instead of loving. Instead of reaching, I am turned inward again. It would be funny if it wasn’t so completely frustrating. 

My world has gotten so small since I left college. I have gotten so consumed in the minor inconveniences. It irritates me that a test grade can leave me questioning God’s faithfulness, while half a world away a war rages on and it doesn’t enter my radar. While a kid I know well and really love gets impossible news. 

And I’m not going to say that these things happen to sort out my priorities. You and I understand; that is ridiculous. Bad things happen. Not because God is more or less faithful. Maybe mostly because people are less faithful. The faithfulness of God is the moment I remember what really matters. The moment I loosen my grip on my GPA and my stuff. The moment I remember what matters. Because I’m not that person. I’m selfish. I’m lazy. It takes a great God to lift me out of all of that. To open my stubborn eyes. 

He is doing it in the middle of pain and of plenty. He is faithful. (I’m less of that)

(that being said, I ask for your prayers for a dear little boy and his amazing family)

 

the problem with the church

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Urban legend has it that GK Chesterton was once asked what was wrong with the world, only to reply “I am.”

Whether this actually happened is beyond my desire to research, but you follow the sentiment.

I am.

What’s wrong with the church? With America? With my family?

I am.

Quite frankly, I’m exhausted with excuses. I’m so incredibly tired of the cynical remark on the tip of my tongue, of the way I laugh like I enjoy the tension, the arguing. It’s me. I’m the problem.

I’m the one who believes deeply in peace, and who is getting a doctoral degree in healing and rehabilitation. I’m the one picking fights in the church lobby and making faces at people praying over sick and hurting friends. I’m the one who rages that I am not being taken seriously, and I’m the one scoffing at anyone with whom I disagree.

And the Israelites were in exile in Babylon. Daniel spent eight chapters raging against the fallen culture of his captors. He longed for his home, believing that if he could just leave the empire all would be well. Then, in chapter nine, he changes his tune. He begins to lament the ways his people have failed, and continue to fail. He starts to see that the problem is deep in his own heart. Whether in Jerusalem or Babylon, he is broken. And he cries “17 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.””

I call myself a Christian. I call myself a part of the body. I say proudly that I am made in His image. And I am so deeply broken. So undeserving.

I’ve been told too many times that I’m beautiful and strong and lovely. That I am fierce and precious and perfect. I am not. I am not those things; I am the problem. I am the nail in Jesus’ wrist. And I am anything but worth dying for…

…except maybe to one person…

…and I bear His name. Before all else. Before I call myself a woman or a therapist or a student or a citizen or a friend or a scholar or anything else, I bear the name of Christ. And yes, I have been redeemed by someone great. He has done an incredible amount to win my heart, but it is not because I am, of myself, worth much at all. It is because He has been incredibly gracious, and has given me all the things I could never deserve.

I am so easily prideful. I hold my head high and fight for my right to feel good, or to get what I want. I resist every imposition on my ‘rights’. When, actually, I’ve been the problem all along.

When it would rain and I was younger, I would run outside and grab every piece of trash I could find. I would bring them in the house, so they wouldn’t be washed away by the storm. Cigarette butts and empty bottles and Wal-Mart sacks. My mother would find them and try to throw them away, but I would cry because they were mine.

Maybe it’s like that. But the plastic sack isn’t precious because it’s beautiful or special or kind or smart…it’s just that it was rescued.

Am I rambling? Only to ask that you let me be broken over the ways I’ve failed. That you let me confess to you that I have done a great deal of harm in my crusade to be right, and to get what I want. That you let me stand up and say…

I have been the problem in the church. And aside from a divine rescue, I will not be much more. It is in this cracked moment that I begin to be repaired. Until I stand here and say it to you, I couldn’t believe it. And no one could help me.

And when He stares down at me, empty and tired, I feel His gaze and it breaks me. But I hear His voice…reminding me that I am in His image. That I bear His name. That I bear His gifts. He is so close to the broken. To the ones who have finally understood who He is and who they are. There will be times for disagreement. For honest discussion, and for realizing that we don’t all see things the same way. There will be times for correction and rebuke and forgiveness. But not like this. Not in this way I’ve been speaking, with this false impression of my own importance.

It is the most humbling thing, to call myself a Christian after all this. To call myself a lover of peace after so much fighting. To call myself a healer when I’ve hurt the people closest to me. But I don’t really have a better hope. I don’t have a better chance. His love, His rescue, are my only worth.

Jesus, remind me how great a grace it is…