On Being a Christian and Being Tired

There are a lot of great things about having kids, but it definitely changes your processing style. Gone are the days of dropping everything to think, research, be angry, stare out windows, figure stuff out.

So, yes.

While the rest of the world moves on to newer news, I’m still mulling over the World Vision decision/retraction news from last week… reading articles and absently passing crackers to Ollie in his highchair while Iris takes large bites straight off a block of cheddar. (Not kidding about any of that, btw).

And I don’t know if this is right, wrong, or ignorant, but given that I only have a limited amount of energy to spend engaging on social media, I generally try to restrict myself to topics where I have some chance of being informed. I know a lot about being female in a Christian fundamentalist world. I know something about abuse and childhood trauma. I have a distant shot at adding to conversations about marriage and kids—if only because that’s my parking space these days. And I don’t know anyone who likes to get contentious about the murder mystery genre, but if that ever comes up in my feed you can bet I’ll be on it like white on rice.

But here’s what I think:

I believe no single group has the right to define what it means to be legally married in a secular country. Honestly, I find it kind of bizarre that this is seen as a debatable issue in our culture, but there you go. Apparently it is.

For people attempting to live out the Christian faith as understood in the Bible, of course, the issue is slightly more complicated. I understand that, because I also tend to take the Bible seriously in my personal life. Which, let’s be honest, is a bit more complicated for women than for men. So I’m used to questioning things and having to find my own way a bit. But I absolutely believe in God. I am blown away by the humanity and deity of Jesus. I have no problem affirming anything in the Apostles’ Creed.

And yet.

This week has worn me out.

I’m tired of being told that love and righteousness are in tension. They’re not.

I’m tired of being told that you can love someone and reject them at the same time. I literally do not understand how that’s supposed to work. (And if I hear the “woman caught in adultery” story one more time on this I will punch you in the face. The next time you save a gay person from being murdered, you just might have the credibility to comment on his life choices.)

I’m tired of seeing the word TRUTH in all caps. Please stop.

I’m tired of the idea that correct beliefs are mandatory while correct actions are optional.

I’m tired of people pretending there aren’t genuine Christians on every point of this spectrum and debate.

I’m tired of having my spirituality questioned because I can’t be suitably condemning on this. Trust me, it’s not that I don’t believe in questioning my spiritual commitments.  I question them all the time—when I speak in anger to my kids, when I fail to check in with a friend who’s suffering, when I get myopically and exclusively focused on the little doings inside my own house… But I have never questioned my spirituality for being too compassionate. I’m not sure that level exists, but if it does it’s probably like a bonus round they give you if your heavenly welcoming party gets held up. In other words, that’s not the test I’m worried about failing.

Mostly… I’m tired of waiting to hear back from my church.

Faith is a hard thing.

Hope is a hard thing.

Love, I think, is the hardest of all.

Love Wins, Controversy Sells

This is why I gave up Facebook for Lent. I am suddenly, vividly remembering: It’s ruined enough of my days already. To wit, I woke up sunny and cheerful, had a productive time working on projects… and then made the mistake of checking Facebook.

If you read Love Wins, you HAVE to read this article, a friend posted.

Well, as it happens, I HAVE read Love Wins.

I read it and am in the surreal position of having no passionate feelings about it whatsoever. This would probably lead most evangelicals to check my pulse, but it’s true. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t feel like Bell was “blaspheming God” and setting up a false god (as claimed in the review my friend linked). Nor did I feel that Bell’s theology and source work were squeaky clean, his argument unanswerable, or his conclusion inevitable.

As far as I could tell, both book and review indulged in a few shortcuts, a few trimmings, a few carefully shelved verses, and a fair bit of posturing.

And both made some good points.

But I didn’t write this to discuss Rob Bell. In the first place, I don’t have any of the answers, and in the second place—well, honestly, is there even any need for a second place after admitting that?

I sat down to write this because just reading that lambasting review made my chest hurt and my hands shake. For real. No hyperbole. My adrenal system was pretty much convinced I’d been in a car accident. Just from reading a book review.

I think I’m allergic to pastors, I told Carl last weekend, and even if I was being snarky, I think what I said it basically true. But it’s not just pastors. It’s a lot of people who are absolutely positive that they are right and other people are wrong and the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket because everyone else is failing to see their favorite position as the one and only truth for all time.

Which means I am in the unenviable position of being allergic to myself, because I think at heart most of us fall into that category. We are mostly all obsessed with being right, and our hands are mostly all closed tight.

Not that I enjoy living that way. I don’t.

I admire people with open hands. I aspire to live with open hands.

The problem is that I tend to assume the best way to accomplish this is to remove myself from the stimuli. If I could just stay away from Facebook, I tell myself. Away from Facebook, and blogs, and certain people, and situations, and more people, and… pretty much 90% of everyone I know…

Yeah. I guess that doesn’t work.

At least my problem isn’t a new one. While reading a book last week I ran across this quote from Psalm 39:

I said, “I will guard my ways, that I might not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle… I was dumb and silent… and my sorrow grew worse.”

Intrigued, I looked up the rest of the Psalm to see what insights David gleaned from his experience. Not helpful. He ended up begging God to “look away from me, that I may enjoy life again before I depart and am no more.”

Not exactly the spiritual pick-me-up I was hoping for.

It would be tidy and writerly to bust out a resolution about now, but the truth is I don’t have an answer. The one thing I’m not particularly interested in doing is developing thicker skin, or whatever it is you’re supposed to develop in order to see throwing rocks as “enlightening” ways of “engaging” another person’s “ideas.”

It’s that tricky balance between believing in Absolute Truth while honoring the lower-case truth of each person’s experience. Or, as Thomas Merton would have it:

[God] is the I Am before whom with our own most personal and inalienable voice we echo “I am.”

In which case, I suspect the journey might begin with seeing the imago Dei in each person. But how does THAT work? Especially when my heart is having a minor attack every time someone starts yelling at me online about Rob Bell’s blasphemy. Or how God designed men to be in charge. Or how the world is more sinful now than at any time since the Flood.

If you are at all, even remotely, maybe a tiny bit tending towards liberal thinking you will be familiar with the jibe about how liberals will tolerate anything except intolerance.

There’s some truth to that.

It’s good to examine the hypocrisy of one’s favorite hangout from time to time. On the other hand, it’s also good to remember that “tolerance” is sometimes just another word for love.

Love always protects the unprotected, forgives the unforgivable, and hopes in the hopeless. Love sees the wound beneath the anger, the shame behind the arrogance, and the future beyond the present.

That’s what I want to be like. Someday when I’m old and crinkly.

I’m not sure what that means for today exactly. I do feel less upset than I did an hour ago when I read that book review. So that’s good. And I have a nagging suspicion that the only way to truly love your enemies is to have no enemies.

I’m not sure how that works.

I do know that the best story I’ve ever heard about heaven or hell comes from an obscure book by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (he’s repeating a story by Jeremy Taylor, if you want to find the original) that I read shortly after I graduated from college.

[A man] met a grave and stately matron on the way with censer of fire in one hand, and a vessel of water in the other; and observing her to have a melancholy, religious, and phantastic deportment and look, he asked her what those symbols meant, and what she meant to do with her fire and water; she answered, my purpose is with the fire to burn paradise, and with my water to quench the flames of hell, that men may serve God purely for the love of God.

That story has always come back to me whenever anyone brings up heaven or hell and wants to be dogmatic about theology and original Greek. There’s something beautiful, surprising, and powerful about it. It has always filled a certain lack, a certain insecurity in my own heart.

Which is, as I said, neither here nor there since I’m not writing this to take sides in the controversy. The only side I could work up any enthusiasm for is the side against controversy in general.

I would like to be for peace. I would like to be for interactions that do not cause physical reactions of distress. Those seem like good goals.

I always think it’s good to know where you’re trying to go when you start a long trip.

And it will be a long one.

Snow Day!

Carl and I went grocery shopping on Monday and were legitimately appalled by the crowds. I say legitimately because we’re basically always appalled. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t a grocery trip without Carl saying all crotchety, “Don’t people work?”

Occasionally I say something cheeky like, “No, not in this state.” But, it’s gotten to be such a routine grumble that I mostly just say “Mmm.”

Speaking of nonverbal mumbles, anytime Carl says something I don’t quite catch, I’ve apparently started just saying “I love you, too.” It seems like such a safe answer because that IS the right response to a good chunk of our non sequitur exchanges, and who doesn’t like to hear that they’re loved?—but sadly no. It means I’m not listening. Which was annoying to Carl until he discovered the game of trying to catch me slipping up.

Which is, as we all know, the abiding joy of all human civilizations.

Anyway, grocery shopping on Monday. INSANE because everyone was stocking up for the blizzard. What is it about bad weather that makes the media so orgasmically happy? Not that they act happy, of course. They act all concerned and tense and earnest with their closed schools and blizzard watches and 9-14 inches… but you can tell they’re getting their jollies. It’s kind of creepy.

On the other hand, church closed at 7pm on Tuesday and declared a snow day for Wednesday, so I’m not complaining. We had a great one. Slept in, had a leisurely coffee and pancakes breakfast, did a lot of nothing. Carl worked on a new website for his freelance business, and I guess I could have written, but that wouldn’t have been very festive.

So I scrapbooked.

I’m working on a baby book for my nephew Ru, a book I meant to have done by Christmas. Ha. On the upside, can I just say how easy it is to scrapbook for someone who keeps a blog as funny and cosy and readable as Carlie’s? Super fun.

I haven’t finished the text and detail work for this page, but I think the colors are just so cheerful and fun. And it’s nice to remember a time when the world wasn’t a howling barrenness of ice.

Other than that, we mostly just relaxed. Well, I did make a semi-ill-advised dash to the mall around 2 to meet my friend Jenn, and we might have walked for about two hours—in speeds varying between medium (ideal for the giving and receiving sympathy) and much faster for any conversation beginning with either “I KNOW” or “You know what makes me insane?”

It was necessary.

Throw a winning Red Wings game into the mix, and you have a perfect day. OH. And we found this AMAZING game called

Seriously.

I spent most of today debating whether or not it would be acceptable to forage ahead with it while Carl was at work. Well, that and pretending to write. I’d like to say I resisted temptation, kept the fire in the fire place, respected my boundaries, etc.

Really I just ran out of time…