“If you are spiritually deconstructing, you never knew Jesus in the first place.”
I hear this refrain over and over again. It’s the most invalidating thing you can say to someone who is rebuilding a faith life, because it requires no questions asked. A quick, pat explanation to justify one’s traditional beliefs that people who deconstruct are fallen. Deceived.
No fuss, no muss. Easy-peasy. If you are questioning the inerrancy of the Bible, you were never a “believer” in the first place. Which is both harshly judgmental – and frankly – nobody’s call to make about someone else’s person’s personal faith.
But that would be a wildly assumptive dismissal, because it’s for my love of Jesus I began questioning.
It’s because Jesus is SO real to me that I started this journey.
Either Jesus was who he said he was, or he wasn’t.
Either God is a god of warring, or of peace.
Either God is a god of unconditional love, or none at all.
Either God is a just god, or a corrupt one.
Either “it is finished,” or it is not.
And that’s far more important to me than believing a grown-ass man was swallowed by a whale and lived three days in its body “vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.”
We learn the Old Testament stories in Vacation Bible School, right out of the gate. Horror stories.
Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son, only to have God say just kidding! Just had to make sure you would snuff out the life of the child you prayed so long for, and I rewarded you with. Is God manipulative, or loving?
The nature of God is not – in my travails – sending a catastrophic flood to drown all of his creation – excepting one family he deemed righteous. For that righteous man who would later get drunk and have sex with his daughters to propagate the species (with even more beings that God knew good and damn well would also become corrupt in their humanity.)
I no longer believe it, because of the teachings of Jesus himself. The Bible contradicts itself in the most dangerous way, because it teaches that you’d better get your belief system right OR. ELSE. It’s the ultimate test of “getting it right.” And we humans are not so good at getting things right, as a general rule.
Does that sound like Jesus to you? Examine the humanity of Jesus; not just the divinity.
I am not at all anti-Bible. I am Bible-in-context of history and allegory. And the grace and justice and righteous table-turning of Jesus? I am definitely “pro” that.
“I guess you’ll find out when you die and spend eternity broiling in Hell,” they say, when you deconstruct.
To which I say, the Jesus I study and know is not about eternal conscious torment. “Turn or Burn” is loaded with law, as opposed to grace.
“You can question God about “x” but never “y.” and CERTAINLY not “z.” they tout.
Except that you can, because it’s the nature of humanity. And every good relationship requires excellent communication, why would this be any different?
I have no desire to throw “the baby out with the bathwater” – Jesus out with the organized religion. Lo, I say unto thee, in my quest of soul-searching, he came out on top.
“Love one another,” says he. And everything else he ever says orbits around that one concept.
So question, child of God. Let the Holy Spirit roam around free-range in your soul, unconstrained by thousands of years of human dogma, politics, and legalism. Ask the Spirit to show you what is true and what matters most in the ancient book. Sit with the Spirit as Jesus sat with his disciples, just chillin’ with the homies. Just BEING; not striving.
Oh, I did know Jesus “in the first place,” but not as I know him now.
Not as part of a Jekyll and Hyde spiritual pairing. Not as one whom I will have to hide behind when I get to Heaven, so as not to upset the father with my humanity. Not as one whose grace hinges on us “getting it right.”
But as One with us, whole in love; full of grace. One who sits with me in my darkest hour. One who set the example of turning the other cheek and made repeated declarations that “the greatest of these is LOVE.”
I have always hated speaking in front of people. Since I was a child, it gave me the worst anxiety.
The top photo was taken several years ago at a ladies conference being launched by two of my church friends. I was to give my testimony as a recovering alcoholic and follower of Jesus to nearly 100 women. I was honored, but not at peace about it.
Everybody kept telling me that it was my duty as a Christian to share my story, and I was hearing the same thing from my 12 Step group: God wants you to do this as your “ministry.” If you don’t share, how can you reach people?
But there is NO flow to my speaking. If I am in front of more than five people, I stutter. I stammer. I break out in blotches and feel like I’m having a heart attack.
But God wants it, I’m told. He is trying to “grow” me. So I did, over and over again, but it was excruciating. And I never once had peace about it. The ladies still do the conference every year and it is a very popular event. They are wonderful humans doing stuff for God, so more power to them.
But that’s not me.
I didn’t fit in with that group, and was never invited back to speak. In hindsight, I now consider it a merciful act. I admire the women who can get up and speak to a large crowd without wondering what they are supposed to do with their hands (or the expressions on their faces) and deliver a riveting message. I’m just not one of them.
But I am no less than them.
And the question rattled around in my head for years – AM I doing the will of God? Well, that depends on who you ask.
“If you are scared to talk to groups of people and find it soul-crushing, and alarms are going off in your brain, that just means you’re on the RIGHT spiritual track because you’re making the devil mad.”
OR the other point of view,
“If it’s simple and there is a natural “flow” to what you’re doing, it’s because God is setting forth a clear path for you? There is an ease to being in God’s will.”
A jewel I’ve gleaned on this journey is that if someone else is telling someone what God “wants you to know,” take it with a grain of salt.
My advice? Dont use the suggestions of others who purport to speak on God’s behalf in lieu of your gut. The feelings in your gut have ancient knowledge. It is not a hedonistic to trust your instincts. They were placed there for a reason.
I don’t do public speaking anymore. The truth is, God knew it wasn’t my jam, but I had to learn it the hard way. I had to learn that one size does NOT fit all.
The thing is: I DO speak up, in the written word, where I can communicate love as God placed the ability in me.
Why are we doing the things we don’t enjoy for God?
As it turns out, there is a flow to carrying out the will of God; an ease. We don’t need to panic or fret. The his world has enough panic and fretting.
Stop doing the things that make your soul panic. Our faith doesn’t have to be powered by the expectations of others.
It only has to be powered by love. Express yourself as you’ve been created to do, and never-mind the rest.
A friend I admire very much recently posted a prayer request, shortly followed by this sentiment: “Don’t bother to pray for me if you’re sending good vibes, good intentions, positive energy, etc. only God can heal me.”
It made me sad for her.
Although I am actually inclined to agree with her ALL healing comes from Source. Powers of darkness ain’t gonna heal you because you asked “the wrong way,” because darkness doesn’t heal. Ever. It can’t.
You’re either getting your healing from God or not at all, no matter how woo-woo your friends pray for you.
But advising your friends who may believe differently than you who are wanting to transfer light, love, and healing to you to “please don’t, unless you’ll do it the right way,”
It’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Especially when you consider that prayer IS “focused attention” – another human being imploring goodness and healing and mercy over you from the one Power who can handle it.
I’m religious circles, we call that “speaking life” over someone. And it seems a pity to reject how ever one can best send love and light for a letter-of-the-law incantation approved by the church proper.
Eastern religions have a much better grasp on this concept. We, on the other hand, almost take a Christmas Nationalist stand about it. “By GOD there is ONE way to pray for me and the Bible CLEARLY says how to do it, so don’t come in here with your weirdo ideas, which are surely demonic, since I don’t understand it.”
When we eschew good intentions that loving people bestow on us because their way of loving us is considered sub-par to your own religion, it’s a loss.
If “good vibes” won’t heal you according to your theology, where do you assume such vibes originate? Where would good, loving intentions for you come from exactly?
When we throw away their manifestations of love for us because they use the word “energy” rather “than prayer.” … we are losing something very important. The humanity of ourselves, and by proxy, the humanity of Jesus.
You are petitioning the Highest Power that exists in the entire universe for MY healing and wellbeing. And if you do so while on your knees, or with a pretty rocks in hand (even the rocks cry out, remember?) I would be honored.
In conclusion, and with a nod to Dr. Dre (wait, I mean Dr. SEUSS:)
We spend so much of our time trying to gain, when we should also deeply consider what is worth letting go of. Each thing you surrender makes more room in your being for love and light.
Maybe now is the time we let go of:
The weight of your own unrealistic expectations.
Okay, I’m really good at this one. Set the bar so high, I can’t even get a leg over, and then be disappointed in myself that I’m not “good enough” when I fall off the bar altogether and land on my face. Taaa-DAAA!
Believing the negative things others say about you.
This is especially hard to let go of, because I have convinced myself over a lifetime of anxiety that “they” must be “right.” But nobody gets to say what’s right about me, but me. Isn’t that liberating? You can completely ignore the BS people spread about you.
Penchant for people pleasing.
If I know you, I want to make you happy, at the expense of my own happiness, if need be. And frankly, that’s whack. I am not Chick-fil-A. It is not always “my pleasure” to put everyone else’s needs before my own.
That shitty little voice in your head is that keeps telling you you’re not enough.
It has played in a loop in my head for neigh on 54 years now. Whatever I can accomplish with my chronic illness each day is my best. Because giving my best is enough, always. It has to be.
Going beyond belief in angry God.
This shift was a game-changer for me. It reframes the entire gospel, and it is a balm to my soul. Not to mention the God of the Old Testament was very little like Jesus. Very little like Love. And my God is quite literally LOVE itself.
Wondering if it’s okay to have doubts.
Yes, it’s okay, of COURSE it’s okay. It’s faith-building, even.
Attempting to fix other people’s problems.
This is a toughie. But I’m learning. I am also learning to say, “what will be, will be,” and actually believe that things will work out just as they should, although I do this in fits and starts.
The soul-sucking monkey on your back. Or monkeys.
Our addictions hijack our focused intention, dull our shine, deplete our energy, and become a barrier to hearing from God within you.
…And the elephant in the living room.
That thing you need to address but keep stepping over, walking around, or ignoring altogether? Ask it’s name. Get to know it. And then politely show it the door.
A “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.
The Joneses have their own monkeys and elephants. Stay in your ring; they have their own crazy circus.
The belief that there is a separateness between you and God.
This one is a humdinger and will make all the other items easier to let go of. You are not disconnected to God, and frankly, you can’t do anything to become separate from him.
The belief that you’re all alone and we are separate from each other.
We are all connected. Every single one of us. And connected to our Source, too..
If you are struggling, it’s because you are doing the will of God and the devil is coming after you because you are doing the Lord’s work. If your circumstance is difficult, God ordained it. He is “stretching” and growing you. You are obviously on the right track, carrying out his will.
If you are doing what God wills, things will be easier. There will be a “flow” to it. That’s his way of letting you know you are abiding in his will. You won’t have to fight it. There will be a naturalness and ease, if you are operating in the will of God.
Well, which is it?
And please don’t tell me “the Bible is clear..” because it’s not. It’s actually contradictory on a lot of levels.
It’s a subject I’ve asked pastors about, only to be told to just keep reading the “word,” and God would make it clear. The implication of course being “you’re not spending enough time in the Bible.”
To which I say, how did the early church follow the example of Christ for the first four centuries? They did not have the benefit or encumbrance of a book to tell them how to live. Yet they set the world on fire with radical love. It’s all about the spirit, in my estimation.
Here’s the thing; This is life. Messy, wonderful, excruciating LIFE. Live it.
It is full of natural flow, impossible challenges, unexpected events, bursts of assurance, and waves of doubt. There is no one marker that determines if you are going against the will of the Almighty. In the process of deconstruction, I have learned that sometimes, I will avoid doing the “thing” at all, because all those years I NEEDED constant reassurance from Heaven and Earth alike that I was in his will. The paralysis of analysis, if you will.
If things were going great, the underlying sentiment is that God loves me and is pleased with me. But wait – when traumatic events happen, remember that he “chastens whom he loves,” (or if he just really has a cruel streak.)
And I have decided that my whole theology boils down to this: “Shit happens, but God is Love.”
Perhaps we can stop micromanaging the will of God. Perhaps we can marvel at it, wonder at the mystery of a grace so scandalous, we don’t even need to understand the whole plan to know it’s good. We people-please Abba because that’s how we win the approval of people.
Maybe God’s not testing us.
Maybe he isn’t “allowing” difficult, tragic things to happen in order to build up our strength as Christians.
Maybe the fact that everything is going smoothly just means that everything is just going smoothly.
He walks alongside us on the road to Damascus, and down Main Street at Disney World.
Over the fire and ice, both.
He stays near us when we feel robbed in this life, and when we have been given abundance.
Sometimes we get it wrong. But we will either succeed at what we endeavor, or we will learn from it.
As an adolescent, I was terrified of “making purple.”
Those of you in the evangelical world know that kids in youth group are warned on mission trips (lock-ins, religious rallies, the woods behind the church, etc. and so on) to not fool around with boys if you’re a girl, and girls if you were a boy. Blue + pink = purple (get it?) Many a time, a youth leader has been driving a bus full of kids and said, “SHOW OF HANDS!” and all the teens would have to lift their hands to show their hands were not in places they shouldn’t be. Purple places, I guess.
And of course, they weren’t in the wrong for monitoring the kids. They are liable and it is not the occasion for those kind of shenanigans. It’s the subversive idea that your sexual purity determines your worth as a young woman that bothers me.
The youth group I attended (religiously) as a teenager was quite the circus. I was a hand-wringing thinker of deep thoughts, and I wanted answers. At one point, I made an appointment with the senior pastor, (who was later revealed to be having affairs with three women in the congregation, Oh, the irony!) to talk about predestination. What I would later learn is severe anxiety propelled me to find answers, and I couldn’t let it go. I’ve always been a seeker. Plus also, I was scared to death of Hell, so I needed to know these things.
I also carried a Bible to high school with me every day, like an amulet. It served the dual purposes of making me feel holy, and keeping the “bad kids” away, lest I be tempted. I also wore a ring to signify my purity to remind me that I didn’t want to lose value as a woman by fooling around. How awful that is to me now.
All I knew was that the human heart is deceitful above all things – never trust it. And to love yourself? Sacrilege! That’s vanity and placing yourself over God, you dirty heretic. Jesus said to love everyone, but throughout 2,000 years of human dogma, a long litany of stipulations had been applied to loving self.
“That’s an awfully big question,” the pastor said at our appointment. And then he launched into a diatribe about how God chooses who will make the cut BEFORE you are even born. This was very disturbing information. Was I behaving for nothing? “But everyone gets a choice,” he continued. It made zero sense whatsoever but who was I to question? Questioning was especially egregious and rebellious.
I can tell you now, loving yourself is NOT a sin. In fact, it’s essential. You need to have the ability to be tender with yourself, which requires love. And these days, Love is quite literally my religion – I am learning to love myself and actively loving and accepting others.
I will say that I don’t believe “hooking up” habitually is good for the mind and spirit. But you do you, Boo. To each their own. It’s enough to take my own spiritual inventory; I surely cannot take yours.
But purity culture? I instilled that in my own daughters from an early age, as it was instilled in me. In retrospect, it’s janky. Not because teens having sex is a good thing, but because I basically taught my daughters without realizing it that a substantial part of their value hinged on being “pure” for your future husband. Not that I myself made it that far, I did not. (I discovered alcohol, which was a game changer, and is an entirely other story for another time.)
It’s the self-worth factor that ires me. You must stay pure, and none of my kids – all adults now – ended up that way, by the church’s standards.) The message that you are a commodity that has value, but your value can be reassessed if you do naughty things. Again, it seems so obviously wrong now.
The boys are told not to engage but are not held to the same standards at all. Where’s their purity rings? Where’s their chastisement? No bueno. Can you say “Patriarchy Jr?” (And yes, I have apologized to my daughters.)
I know this firsthand because in tenth grade, the youth leader for the church I attended – who had adamantly told us never to watch “The Breakfast Club,” because it was of the devil – had the idea to host a lock-in at the church that was also a TOGA PARTY. Yes, a toga party. We wore SHEETS to the lock-in, because what could possibly go wrong? Hoo boy. These kids definitely needed monitoring!
Animal House had nothing on our group.
I was so terrified of sinning, I sat in the sanctuary for most of the event. But many kids in the gathering space were a’sinnin’. The youth leader fell asleep around 11 pm, and (surprise!) the kids did not.
It ended up being a big scandal, because when parents found out what happened that night, they raised holy Hell. Lots of my friends got in trouble for doing things in the sheets IN THEIR SHEETS. We had a whole youth meeting to address the Purple and prayed the lust away for an hour. Or that was the idea.
And it was then that the seedlings of faith in the church started to grow in wonky. Because the way the church proper took on things was contradictory. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’. Or worse, ‘do as I say because I have the inside skinny on God.’
Still, I would cling to the church for another 30 + years because FEAR. Oh my God I was so afraid to trip up. That people-pleasing follows me around still to this day, if I don’t do my shadow work.
Churches are just made of people – many well-intentioned. They are trying to save other souls from eternal conscious torment (that a “loving” God doles out if your ticket isn’t stamped “Pre-destined” because they TRULY believe we are all bound for Hell at birth. And this is confusing because they very often DO care and harbor no ill will. They, like I was, are mired in the letter of the law.
But to paraphrase with the vernacular of youths today (and I’ll write about what I believe the issue of Hell later,) that shit cray. Also, I CAN’T EVEN anymore with the religiousness. I seem to be acquiring a repulsion of all things church that are not of Jesus. Like, on a primal level. “That’s NOT what he said!” I want to shout. “That’s not what he was about!”
I’m not saying sin isn’t a big deal. I’m just saying love is a bigger deal.
And I want to be what Jesus WAS about. I don’t want to follow rules of an ancient text. I want to accept all and love all. Period.
Truly, I refuse to throw the baby out with the bathwater though. I’m keeping my Jesus, because what you cannot learn from an entity like the modern church, you can feel in your bones. Yes, I know it sounds woo-woo, but we are equipped with spirits conjoined with Christ, he is already there, you don’t have to carry a Bible everywhere you go or bruise your knees hollerin’ on the floor of a prayer room. You are already destined for glory, even here as we travel Earth-side. This revelation is EVERYTHING.
Plus, Jesus came pre-installed in my hard drive before I was born. That was a really nice service he provides for us ALL, as redeemer of all.
And that, my friends, is part of the long and winding road that is this journey. Placing purity over people. Putting the kibbutz on shame and guilt of past mistakes, while showing yourself grace in the future. It’s doing the ultimate reassessment of you value through the eyes of a loving God. It’s revelation of identity.
Since opening my mind and learning to trust that conjoined Spirit, I realize that the church is just wrong about some things, but that doesn’t make them – or the Me of six years ago – bad people. They are just doing what I did as a young mother and for most of my life, a self-proclaimed Christian.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still angry about all the lies filtered down for ages, but I’m starting to see that it would be really easy for me to fall into giving the anger a permanent home in my heart, as I feel so deceived. That’s the very heart Jesus inhabits. If I am unkind to people in the church, I am no better than when I was a raging fundamentalist with nationalist leanings and an evangelical bent. (Oof. That smarts!)
I pray that the pain of your upbringing and living in religiosity is quelled. I pray that you break off the shackles of believing you are inherently “bad.” I hope you find safe friends to walk this out with you, and that you too try to remain kind to all. And I pray that you learn to love yourself, as you deserve.
Purity culture is really about finding out you are already pure in the sight of God.
My first exposure to religion was as a child was church, like most folks. My grandparents, who had custody of me for a while, were very religious people.
Religion is confusing because it really looks so dissimilar to what I now practice, but it was even more confusing as a kid. In the Baptist church we attended, red was the predominant color. The pews were red. The carpet was red. The embellishments on the pastor’s robe were crimson, as was the cloth over the altar. Still when I let my mind wander back, red is all I see.
Red is what I associate with church, and also sitting still in “big church,” and watching the grown-ups line up to eat the body and blood of Jesus, which was not alarming at ALL to a five year old. I was not allowed to partake. I must be too bad to participate in this ritual.
“It’s because of the blood of Christ,” I learned at Sunday School. The red signifies blood, and to a child who was afraid of her own shadow and full of anxiety, that really tripped me up.
Then I learned it is because I was so bad that I needed to bleed Jesus dry. And that he did it for me, because my heart was deceitful about all things. The Little children who worshipped may have been “red and yellow, black and white,” but it was because of the blood that we are precious in his sight. Every single person was born bad…. a sinner.
Was I a sinner? I did sneak a Mr. Goodbar from my grandmother’s secret candy stash drawer. Also, I really loved music. Did I love music more than God? You must love God more than ANYTHING. And if I did love music and climbing trees and eating candy more, did that mean I didn’t love God enough? Did that blood not cover me? What about the time I told my grandfather “no” when he asked me to do something?
And again, every week, I’d traipse down the hall of the church to Sunday School, excited for the crafts and terrified of the blood.
I learned a lot of things in church through the years. Multiple denominations. I’ve attended many a covered-dish dinner, and youth group activities. But it was what I observed, not was taught, that did the damage. It has taken me years to say the words “religious trauma” in the same sentence. It sounds awfully dramatic, unless you’ve had it instilled in you from birth and it’s all you know. And unless you were born with the anxiety level of a gerbil on crack naturally, and ergo: Your faith naturally becomes FEAR BASED.
Love everyone, but don’t be “yoked” with unbelievers. Yes, even though Jesus chose to yolk-out with the undesirables of his day. Don’t bother asking about this hypocrisy, because questioning God is tantamount to signing your own passport to Hell.
And Hell is what kept us all reined in, because it gets really hot in Houston in the summertime, but HELL IS HOTTER. And it’s forever. It’s suffering forever, so get your sh*t together, chir’ren!
And you must learn the “word of God,” i.e., the Bible. Never mind that the Word is actually a person, and not a historical text translated and translated again, and written by sinners just like you. But again, don’t question it.
Learn all the Old Testament Bible stories at Vacation Bible School! Here’s a synopsis of the acts of a “loving God” that I learned in church:
God-sanctioned gruesome deaths and horrific murders in his name. Including the death of infants. I learned that sometimes God tells you to murder a person you love more than anything because he is testing your faith. Yikes.
He caused a flood to “reset” the world with good people, all the while drowning hundreds of thousands of souls who didn’t make the cut. All the animals too, except for the ones on the ark.
“Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not steal,” were the rules, except buying and selling human beings as “servants” was sanctioned, and how they should be treated by their “masters” was also covered. So being either a slave or a master was completely justified.
Oh sure. They START with Jonah and the whale, because who doesn’t love marine animals? And camping out in a fish til you learn your lesson is much preferable to many of the other stories I learned. Those stories were:
Misogyny. Human sacrifice. Sexual violence. Infanticide. Genocide.
God caused a bear to maul 42 children, although admittedly, I didn’t learn this until middle school when I was already afraid to exist, so bears were whatever by then.
I kept finding out how harsh the Creator of the Universe is, yet how incredibly loving and inclusionary Jesus is. But they are the same person. So figure it out, kid.
In short, everything that Jesus was NOT, God was.
Jesus is who I called on when there was violence in my home. And there was, a lot. He was who I wanted on my team when I disappointed God. I could imagine getting to Heaven and spending the entire hereafter hiding from God behind Jesus’ robe, on account of surely he will smite me.
Even as a youngster, I fell in love with this Jesus, who caused the crimson tide in church, but also gathered the little children around him.
He had stern words for the religious of the day, which is REALLY confusing, because the religious are who I was taught to look up to. Jesus was hugs and kindness, while God was retribution and violence.
Jesus is who I conjured even when I was three, as one of my first memories illustrates. My parents were screaming at one another, and I hid in my toybox, shoving aside the toys and making myself small.
But I knew I wasn’t alone. I knew that kind and compassionate Jesus was hiding with me. I just knew that I knew, and I didn’t feel alone. I still never feel alone because I feel his spirit.
And I knew the God figure who was stuffed into a toybox with me giving me my first taste of spiritual peace, was not into mauling babies via bears or drowning his own creation.
Our religion, however, was about practicing 10 rules, being at the church every time the doors were open, excluding people who didn’t believe like we did to keep ourselves spiritually “safe,” and joining committees as adults.
So the genesis of my faith has been reconciling a belief system that never worked for me, because the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same God, just in vastly different moods because of something called a covenant. God is in a much better mood in the latter, even as it is draped and ensconced in red, focused on blood and sin; and making sure you presented a Christian front to everyone “worldly,” (even as not really following the creed of Jesus at all.)
It’s easy to lose the Jesus in the rituals and rules.
That’s not my faith anymore.
Hi. My name is Jana and I am a follower of Christ. I am still in love with him and try (and often fail) to emulate his actions instead of striving endlessly to please a God who – let’s be honest – cannot be pleased.
I’ve been threatening to write about my deconstruction / reconstruction experience (including the banishment of a literal “Hell,” inclusionary salvation, and all sort of other things I thought would doom my soul when I was younger.)
I once had a friend many years ago who embodied what I thought at the time was spiritual perfection.
She was, you see, a “Proverbs 31 woman” to the bone.
In my zeal to be like her (and thus, presumably like Jesus?) I kind of lost myself. Which is what many churchy folk will tell you is the whole point of being one. You’re supposed to lose your identity, or at the very least tweak it.
If you’re not familiar with the reference, it comes from the verse by the same name in the Bible and has become the litmus test of judging a woman’s “true” worth:
“….good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. She is never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long. She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing….”
You get the gist of it.
I tried to emulate my angelic friend, which was problematic because it kept me feeling in a state of less than.
She was soft-spoken, where my nature is boisterous.
She was serene where I am neurotic.
She never cussed and I hold fast to my peppery language.
She was crafty and talented, but super meek and humble about it. She never raised her voice. She always had devotional time with the Lord every morning before all else. It would not surprise me in the least if Jesus sent actual sunbeams to fall in the pages as she read and kept her coffee miraculously piping hot until she is done. (That’s how valuable the studies and prayers are of a Proverbs 31 woman, according to lore.)
But here’s the thing: She hasn’t had my experiences in life either. To be fair, humans are complicated and wonky (I believe that’s the scientific term.) We are all unique and as such, God doesn’t expect us to be all the same.
My friend had never battled addiction, and was certainly never a slave to the bottle.
Or been rejected by her own family.
She hadn’t experienced abuse as a child.
Her kids never got into any trouble growing up, and are pillars of the community.
She represented everything the church expected of me that I was unable to be, and everything they expected me to give that I couldn’t muster.
I’m more than the sum of what’s happened to me, and so are you. But what’s happened to us inspires our outlook on life – even our outlook on God.
You see, I am not “less than” a Proverbs 31 woman.
I am much more than more than who I used to be. And that’s the only comparing we should be doing as women – contrast ourselves with our past behaviors so that we can better ourselves.
I am simply a person who has collected trauma after trauma and made the conscious effort to overcome on a daily basis. True, I am not my saintly friend, but growth trumps the illusion of perfection any day.
My Creator is not dissatisfied with me for not being her, or the legions of “hers” all through Christendom.
Authenticity over antiquated expectations.
Relationship with God over rules and regulations.
Raw-dogging life with an open mind and heart.
Because I’m not sure a good woman is hard to find, but I am sure she probably has some sass. And I’m sure that setting unrealistic expectations behooves neither male or female; husband or wife.
Spicy girls, don’t despair. God loves you exactly the way he made you – giving you the same leeway to be imperfect that he apparently has afforded men all along.
“Broken lines, broken strings, Broken threads, broken springs, Broken idols, broken heads, People sleeping in broken beds Ain’t no use jiving Ain’t no use joking Everything is broken” –
-The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Our microwave finally pooped out. After 18+ years, it’s dead. Our stove isn’t heating up like it should. I have to be SO careful about what I eat and this makes food preparation that much more difficult.
We have had to replace our fridge / washer / dryer in just the past couple of years because they all died at once. We have three cars, only one with working A/C, and she had 200,000+ miles on it. We love that car. She’s a real trooper.
And I get the feeling like that’s ALL of us right now: Look at us all – an army of badasses. Damn if we aren’t all freaking troopers for making it through whatever shitshow the word is currently.
And all of that wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t broken too. Because today I am feeling very, very broken. Like literally all of my joints feel especially loose and painful. If my Earth Suit did it’s JOB to keep things stable and in place, that would be amazing.
I dislocated my thumb again today opening a Topo Chico, for example. What a stupid injury. My injuries are never, “She jumped out of a plane and survived!,” or “she went water skiing and now she is a human pretzel.” No. More like… the time I stepped out of the bed to go pee in the middle of the night and just torqued my right ankle, which snapped the bone. Then I walked around on that broken ankle for 11 days, too stubborn to get it checked out. By the time I got an X-ray, it was broken in TWO places, and surgical pins, plates, and rods were out in. But I digress.
The POINT is I can injure myself in the most asinine ways. Most things in life are made up of broken parts, and I’m eternally trying to learn how to process that reality.
We are all just walking eachother home,” is my new favorite observation.
Now whether we get “home” in a rust bucket (aka my actual body), or a well-appointed, nice and reliable sedan – a nice, tidy life that turned out great because you did “all the right things,” well, that’s for serendipity to hash out.
And that’s the cosmic irony, isn’t it? If our lives were neat and tidy, we’d have no real need for each other. We are only really here to learn how to love and accept love in return.
We need doctors who will help us manage our pain. We need microwave manufacturers. And we need friends, because there are 7 billion people on this planet and not one of us knows what we are doing. Not ONE. But maybe a few can show you the route home, and you can – in kind – do the same.
So, lean on to eachother like your life depends on it, because it does. Let’s spiritually exit the machinery that cranks out unrealistic expectations, and walk arm-in-arm, until we’re “home.”
I used to tell people, “God can fix you.” But now I say, You’re not broken. You are not bad. You don’t need fixing. You need loving. Love put you back together,
On the day You breathed your first. You already have it on-board. God already inhabits you. In every loving gesture you express To humankind (or animal-kind.) In every breath, holiness. In every feeling of fresh hope, In every laugh, sacred joy. You are whole. You are not broken, No matter the evidence Stacked against you. Keep your head up! God is FOR you. You are loved.
Happy Easter. I don’t want to be that person who bums everybody out with their posts of grief, but I have to tell you this Easter feels more like death than resurrection.
Death is present and lurking, but the joke’s on Death, because it’s defeated. It is finished. But Death – and about 8 billion other voices, if you give them credence – will tell you otherwise.
It is finished, even if we have to live in a broken world.
It’s is finished, meaning our suffering here is not part and parcel of who we are. We don’t take it with us. Only love travels that well.
It is finished, even when our hearts lurch with missing someone so badly it physically hurts.
It is finished, even though the sticky residue of suffering gums up the works, and the whole damn planet seems to have lost its collective mind.
I won’t ask, “Death, where is your sting?” because I call BS on that. It stings like Hell. It hurts like a mother-*. I’m not going to deny the pain of being human just to sell you on Pollyanna positivity. I’m certainly not going to sell you religion, which professes to have all the answers but I assure you, does not.
But Death, after the sting, is never the victor. Our spirits outlive Death. Nothing can keep us from the love of God. Not even ourselves.
He is risen, friends.
And I’m telling you that with a puffy frog-face from crying, unbrushed hair, balled fists, a heart full of questioning incredulousness, and deep pain. I’m writing this because maybe you’re hurting too.
Maybe you’re pissed off, and for good reason. Maybe you’re sick and feel hopeless. I just want to remind you that you are also risen.
Risen is by far more your identity than broken, or even dead.
Sometimes resurrection doesn’t look like glorious renderings of an ancient, empty tomb – beams of light streaming from within, all CBN Network-style.
Sometimes it looks just like you- in all your holy, grieving glory. Slogging through the messy inconveniences and crippling agonies of life, interspersed with great bursts of love and laughter. All of us redeemed ragamuffin kids of God, all of us made of stardust, mud, and love.
Love is the singular thing, and absolutely everything, all at once. All are in it and of it, imbued with this remedy. It is the answer to whatever ails your heart. Love is all that lives on after our Earth Suits fail. It is fed and starved by a thousand moods, yet always nourishes. Love lands in its feet. It’s the only thing we were legit created to experience. Love is like sacred oil – fragrant and dousing and scandalously generous. It leaves a film on you all of your days, and everyone in your world gets a little “oily” when you touch their lives. (Touch them lots!) Love pisses people off when it is believed undeserved, when really people are under-served by it. It breaks the economy of deficit, as its endless. But even though it’s free, people seem to like hoarding it. Many enjoy rationing it, as if there was a finite supply. As if it originated for us, by us. As if we weren’t given it in order to pass it on. Love is a Being. And a Doing. It’s an action and a sacrifice. The feet of Love can walk through fire to get to another hurting soul, and strike up a dance to celebrate itself. Love has wings to fly us to a place of acceptance, and roller skates with which to flee from hate in all its forms. It’s the only thing that will ever make a dent in suffering, and the ultimate remedy for pain. Love is all we take with us. Spread that stuff around copiously. God loves you and so do I. ❤️
How do you define “anxiety,” and how does your anxiety define you?
Anxiety would have me believe that life is just a series of events to kill time while I wait for certain tragedy to strike. As morose as that sounds, if I’m honest, it’s how it FEELS. It robs today of its joy and tomorrow it’s potential.
I would do well to remember that feelings are not facts. Waiting for the “other shoe to drop” is not a strategy for a happy life.
It feels like it will protect your heart to believe the worst, because anything less than horrible will be a nice surprise.
The truth is closer to this: “Life is full of nice surprises, but we will never notice them by expecting the worst.”
Feeding the doom is an old skill I honed in childhood trauma that no longer serves me. It hasn’t served me in years.
It’s a work in progress. I hand my anxiety off to God every day, and say, “Here, take this please. It’s heavy and awkward to carry and outdated.”
I do not wish to take it to recycling anymore, which is what it’s like to expect anxiety to be repurposed.
No. Every day, I give it up and hope God takes it to the dump. He always does, but I always seem to have a fresh supply the next day.
He is unbothered by it. It’s not heavy for him, awkward in size and shape.
Today, I hand in my anxiety yet again, so that my hands are free for joy and potential. And my heart is free to reject a diagnosis of doom.
This morning, I woke up early in the great state of Georgia.
Two of my dearest friends in the world accompanied me to a conference that addressed a faith reconstructed. It was incredible. The teachings were what so many evangelicals (and I was one for most of my life,) would consider utterly scandalous.
Y’all, LOVE that rich, pure, and bounteous SHOULD be scandalous. The most passionate love stories always are.
I didn’t move for a while when I woke, because I simply couldn’t. (If you don’t already think I’m nutty, you might now. And I’m okay with that)
I was pinned in place but this momentous, ridiculously extravagant sensation of love.
It was so thick in the air, it felt womb-ish, like a swim in calm ocean, flowing and bobbing. Or being swaddled like a baby, feeling nurtured and safe.
I didn’t fight it, like so tend to do. I didn’t negate it with my usual self-loathing talk. I always feel “powerless” against my own thoughts. My insecurities are members of a terrorist organization of sorts. During my (literal) “come to Jesus,” I discovered that I don’t have to negotiate with terrorists. I get to choose.
No, instead of fighting and fretting against the swell of love, I just rested in it. It was overwhelming, glorious, and unlike any experience I’ve had in a half-century of Christian fundamentalism. There was not even a trace of shame involved. I was fresh out of bothers for a spell.
At some point, I “feel” God say something to the effect of: “Please don’t talk and think mean thoughts about my little girl. I love her so much.” Wait WHAT!?
“You heard,” says gentle but firm Holy Spirit, her voice strong and convincing.
That little girl is me.
This weekend was like a speed-dating session with my true identity. Lots of uncomfortable moments. Lots of connecting. Lots of nerves. The result is this radical, rich, ridiculous grace for others.
I MUST share what I experienced in the wee hours of the morning with you. I have to. Because it’s LIFE.
Love is life.
Sometimes the supernatural doesn’t come like a lightning strike, dramatic and jarring. It’s not always signs and wonders that the church proper chases for a dopamine hit and considers evidence of a Being of pure Love.
No, sometimes it’s a soul hug first thing in the morning. Supernatural revelation can be realizing you aren’t a cosmic mistake; that you have belonged to Source since before the formation of the Universe. That He belongs to US. I know it sounds strange. But I’m okay with that too.
I welcome the chance to tell you how incredibly loved you are this day.
I don’t want to convert you.
I have no ulterior motives.
I don’t want to change you.
I have no agenda.
I don’t want to push religiousity. Matter of fact, religion is the whole problem. It has almost nothing to do with the actual Trinity, which invites us to a beautiful dance that includes us all.
And as a result of this Great Forgetting , the church can be stingy with the very thing it’s attempting to sell: Love. Purpose. Being.
This weekend, I feel like I had a heart transplant, and I couldn’t be happier.
My prayer today is that you wrap your arms around yourself and hug. Don’t rush it. Really hug yourself tight. Consider it a hug from me.
And so much better – it will be a hug from Papa God. He is wild about you.
May you come to the overwhelming realization of who you really are, and that the opposite of Love is fear. I learned that I don’t have to rent Fear a room in my head. Evict that sucker.
May your awareness of the supernatural be increased so that you can recognize when God “winks” at you.
May you come to know and (this is the hard part) ACCEPT the TRUTH about your inherent value, which is priceless.
Take one lifetime of Old Time Religion. Stir in two cups of Fear-Based Theology. Sprinkle in 2 tbsp of unintentional judginess, three tbsp of Obviously I’m Right, work through dough. Add additional The Bible CLEARLY Says! to taste.
While religious “dough” is trying to rise, but just kind of petering out, prepare in a shofar – I mean BOWL:
Two cups each of Chronic Pain and Debilitating Illness powder that has been sifted through a “name it and claim it” sieve for 40 years, but it’s still lumpy.
Add 4 tbsp frustration, and a dash of Must Not Be Worthy of Healing. Stir in a packet of What Will My Fundamentalist Friends Think. Cry about this step for approximately three more years.
Check ingredients in first bowl to make sure dough is indeed rising. But nope. It’s just sitting there in a big glop.
In yet another bowl, add one adult child who has come out as bisexual, which was NOT in the original recipe, so sayeth the Expectations Set Forth by the Church. Add a smidge of What Will My Fundamentalist Friends Think (if you have any left, which is doubtful. We go through it like gangbusters around here!)
Decide to add many dollups of Mother Love anyway (heck, dump in however much you have,) and set the kitchen timer to two more years on the “acceptance” setting. This is a wet ingredient, so thinning it out will just make it easier to spread. Use liberally.
Open up the pantry and see what else you have that might somehow make it more palatable.
Aww, shucks. All you have is a Costco-sized box a bag of Everything Else Life Can Throw At You. That stuff is SPICY. Always check the label…let’s see…it contains Mental Health Challenges, Losing Mobility, Family Estrangements, Crippling Anxiety, Bouts of Financial Struggle, Alcoholism, Codependency, Childhood Trauma, and 1000 grams of pure Shame Concentrate.
Going back to the bowl, taste the batter. See that it is bad. Mix all ingredients. See that it is WORSE.
While waiting for the timer, it’s important to assume that the Master Chef is angry and frustrated with you. Kind of like an astral Gordon Ramsey or something.
Assure yourself the whole Universe is against you, as is everyone you know and love who is following directions from a 2,000 year old book of recipes that several hundred fallible human people contributed to. Kind of like Gramma’s recipe box that had a hundred food-stained index recipe cards from her friends shoved into between the pages. Make sure to take everything out of context for best results.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and when timer sounds, decide on how much savory Self-Doubt to use. Seasonings come in “I’m a Worthless Sinner,” and “Searing Disappointment” flavors.
Ask yourself WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Am I just a shitty cook, or so I just have so few ingredients to work with, I’m having a hard time accepting the result?
And what if I’ve been forgetting the Main Ingredient all along?
Next (scary) step:
Decide you’re tired of fear-based faith, dust off your hands, open your heart, ask the Universe to help you see what is Truth, battle-weary, heavy-hearted, and feeling raw inside like dough that won’t rise.
Decide to put all judgement and Christian-ese down the garbage disposal. The Expectations of Other People went bad a long time ago and is really stinking up the place.
Decide to fold Unconditional Love into every single recipe. Never run out! Keep it on the top of every list so you always have enough.
Follow the example set by Jesus always…He is always cooking up something GOOD.
Next, march all three containers used previously out your back door. Gently set down all three, and leave them outside to think about what they’ve done.
Now – this is important – turn off the oven. Nobody is burning on my new watch!
You are not alone, Chef Self.
So join a “cooking” club – one that is comprised of other Seekers with open hearts who want to get at the meat of the Truth, and offer you endless sugar.
Flip the script. Read the instructions anew.
Take one bowl – the most chipped and beat up one you got, and butter it with kindness.
Then invite all your friends over to help you create a masterpiece.
All you will need is:
8 cups HOPE – brimming. Five tbsp of self-forgiveness. A heaping scoop of Studying what the Cookbook Really Calls For – reading between the lines. A tbsp of of Learning to Love Yourself Too will hold it all together when you want to throw in the towel.
And last, but MOST importantly, add All the Jesus You Have, all day every day. All of it. Tip it over and smack the bottom of the box for every molecule of Jesus it’s got. Really pile it in on. Study his ways in the context given, and leave room for Holy Spirit in every dish.
Oh, and tell your friends that All the Jesus is just another measurement of LOVE. Get to know HIS way around the kitchen together.
These few ingredients are all you need, Junior Chef, to mix up a reconstruction of faith for the ages. And keep in mind:
If you feel like you have to keep Fear on hand “just in case,” know that God is not the store where you purchased Fear. That stuff is very in-organic.
If you’re grieving the losses of this hard life, pull up a chair and come sit by me. There is always plenty of room at Christ’s table. And mine. *Pulls out chair and pats the seat in a welcoming invitation.*
If you’re ambling around aimlesssly, your chef hat askew, join me. I’ll be celebrating that I finally understand, “It is for freedom you were set free.”
And if you’re deconstructing your faith, and If you’re being called “deceived,” “fallen” – or (and I’m okay with this one) – “ex-evangelical,” remind yourself that the Word of God is an actual person. As Master Chef, he wants to see you succeed.
Yesterday, I celebrated my 20th Sober-versary and huns let me tell you … it feels so GOOD. I will write about it soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to share some pictures from the day with my blogosphere buddies.
Thank you for being such an important part of my journey. If God can help me stay alcohol-free, the reality is that he can help YOU atop. There’s a beautiful life waiting for you.
My husband and I were discussing how crazy the world is the other day. We talk about it a lot, actually. Just like everyone else.
The conversation ended in frustration and befuddlement, because we couldn’t understand what the world has “come to,” and frankly, why young people have such contrarian views on so many things.
We sounded like crotchety curmudgeons, because if we aren’t careful, that’s what we will become. And I’m at an impasse now – become bitter, or (God I hate to use this cliche but it’s so appropriate here….) better?
It’s going to be one or the other. I have to choose.
So I took it to God and stewed on it for several days. In the interest of enlightenment, I had a, um….robust conversation with my 28 year old daughter about the political climate. We agree on many things. We also disagree on many things. She helps me see things from another vantage point.
I have not abandoned some of my views. Because I feel they are right.
But we cannot react to militancy with militancy – meaning all sides are yelling at each other and nobody is listening. Young people don’t always have the life experience to listen. But we do….or should.
As Bob Dylan sung so many decades ago, the times, they are ‘a changin’. They are changing fast.
Even though I was a tot back then, I’m having early 70’s flashbacks. The renewed feminist movement, the remnants of an only partially successful civil rights movement, and heck, even yoga and house plants are back “in.”
Some of the best things ever came out of the 70’s (okay, mostly just the music.) And good things will come of all of these movements we are currently experiencing. This all needs to happen, and I’m optimistic about the outcome. You can say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.
The Eastern philosophies I was so spooked by my whole life that our Baptist forefathers warned us of? I’m dipping a toe in some of their teachings because they are NOT contrary to Christ. At ALL. Christ was not a Westerner. He is opening my eyes to all kinds of awesomeness, because of one thing: I prayed for – and received – an open mind.
My prayer is that no black citizen is ever treated poorly. My eyes have been opened to what day to day life is like is for our African American brethren and it is with shame I admit that I had no idea how bad it was. After all, I treat everyone the same, doesn’t everyone?
NO. No, they don’t and it’s unacceptable. As a Southerner born and bred, I’m convicted of how my ancestors (all who purport to be upstanding Christians, I’m sure) belived and behaved.
Forgive me Father, I knew not the scope of the problem. I just didn’t know.
But our kids do.
My fellow Karens and Boomers? We have to listen. We have to have open minds. Or we are choosing to spend the rest of our lives upset and disgruntled, and we’ll leave the world no better than we found it.
It is NOT our fault – the whole state of the world. If youths blame us for it all, they are mistaken. The world we inherited wasn’t a whole lot better. But it is our fault if we don’t find common ground. We have turned a blind eye to so many things. And we cannot afford to do it anymore.
We can’t keep acting like it’s our world and the young people are upsetting it. The world belongs to us all, and American belongs to us all. Things that smack of anti-patriotism are often the reverberations of cultural and racial pain. And that’s a shame.
I don’t worship America. I don’t bow down to a flag, which is, if you really want to get biblical, is technically idolatry. I worship God, who is the spirit and definition of Love.
First Corinthians 13 says “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” And if I say I’m a Christian, but hate any one people group, I’m but a “clanging symbol.” I’m making a lot of noise, but really just crushing the fruits of the spirit between two cymbals.
Of all the deafening noise going on in the world right now, I don’t want to be just a clanging cymbal.
We can’t keep insisting that old-timey ways are better. Because they weren’t always. And they certainly weren’t for everybody.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot possibly live my best life if I’m angry and resentful all the time. I don’t have to understand everything. I do have to be willing to change, to grow. And to respect others. Even when we disagree.
The world we all share – young and old – depends on us doing our best to love one another.
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” used to be just a song to me. Beautiful lyrics, yes. Haunting melody, certainly. But until the past few years, the words were not a sucker punch to the gut, nor a comfort to the soul. Today they are both. (I’ve attached to this article the video by Jeff Buckley of the song, my favorite version.)
Right now, we are all thinking back to a time when things were simpler, even though we all bitched constantly about the way things were, as human nature dictates. It’s what we do.
In the Hebrew Bible hallelujah is actually a two-word phrase, not one word. … However, “hallelujah” means more than simply “praise Jah” or “praise Yah”, as the word hallel in Hebrew means a joyous praise in song, to boast in God. The second part, Yah, is a shortened form of YHWH, the name for the Creator.
I don’t identify as an “evangelical” Christian anymore. It was easy to be an evangelical when privilege was running the show. Before I got so sick. Before the world was literally shut down. Before I started questioning things.
I don’t for one second accept that the current state of affairs is God’s doing. Love – and only love – is his modus operandi.
You’d be surprised how much ire you draw professing that God is simply Love, Jesus is that manifestation, and practicing radical love can draw, proving that what many of us learned from “love” is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you because. But, love is not warring with a devil who is already defeated. It’s not giving him credit for things ego produces. It isn’t striving. It’s resting.
In a twisted way, my illness and pain brought me closer to Jesus. But not because he sent it to “test” my faith. And not because I accepted it as status quo, or any of the other ways Christendom tried to convince me I was a dirty rotten sinner and somehow brought it upon myself.
Yes, it broke me down. It is still breaking me down. but it isn’t breaking me. And it didn’t break my faith. “Broken” is okay.
I didn’t fall back in love with God until stopped expecting “proof” to come as a flash, a deliverance. Many Christians will elude to the fact that in order to be healed and whole, we must pray harder, fast harder, beg harder. But when you aren’t “changed in an instant,” it must be something you’re doing wrong, o ye of little faith!
But I think it takes BIG faith to “keep the faith.”
“Proof” of Jesus is sometimes just standing still, and still standing. Still loving. Still having joy underneath. I’m finding that it’s making life a constant prayer, having thousands of little conversations with God in my head and reminding myself that the same God listening intently to my ramblings and problems (first world and otherwise) is the same God who engineered the cosmos and created microcosm and macrocosm that we so marvel at. It’s telling him whats really going on below. Even when I’m struggling, my life is hallelujah.
Cold and broken, but full of hallelujah anyway.
It’s figuring out for yourself that belief in the unbelievable is the only thing that makes sense after all.
It’s walking away from pain with faith intact.
It’s a white flag on a battlefield that God is holding up for you because you’re too weak.
It’s a Creator who hunkers down with you under the crappiest circumstance because he isn’t afraid to get his robe dirty or get a little dirt under his fingernails on your behalf.
I don’t need a God who is waiting at the finish line for me, to take that victory march when everything is peachy keen again. I need him to struggle in the enmeshed, awkward, three-legged race with me. To fall with me, if necessary. Sometimes falls help me right myself again.
It’s a love that’s ever-present even if we’ve suffered loss so severe that our hearts beat against a constant heaviness. It’s there when we can’t compose ourselves; when we are threadbare with frustration. When nothing makes any sense and we are living in the upside-down.
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light.
It’s a cold and broken Hallelujah; a praise for spiritual commoners and baffled kings, received and welcomed by a God, who – in his infinite mercy – really digs it when we are authentic, even if we’re scared.
Spent some time with God today, but it was restless, addled time. I can’t seem to still my mind right now, what with the current state of Covid-19 ravaging the planet. I like a certain amount of chaos with my order, but this is ridiculous.
BLESSED is not a word I would use to describe the state of my mind right now. Edgy, tense, scared….these are the adjectives that describe my state more accurately. Still, I started thinking about the Beatitudes, and how the “blessings” Jesus outlined in them run contrary to what many of us would consider positive things, or even bearable things at times.
This is one such occasion – the unprecedented happenstance we find ourselves in, in the midst of a global pandemic. So I thought I’d write a little piece today so that I can have a little peace today. I invite you with much love to join me.
“When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:”
Blessed are the exasperated, the cooped up, the frustrated, and the lonely. For they shall be reminded that God is not bound by illness or protocol, or the foibles of human nature.
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”
Blessed are those grieving the loss of certainty and structure. For their hope lies in bigger things. Hold on tight, you are still in the Father’s embrace, even though the world seems upside-down.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”
Blessed are the odd ducks and weird people, who are just trying to navigate their way through the “new normal.” We are all free to be who we were created to be, no need for shame. Yours is the Kingdom, weirdo.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
Blessed are the seekers, the doubters, the spiritually starving. Does your soul feel empty? Are you hungry for peace, comfort, and hope? Your system is just making room for the One who gives those things, and in abundance.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”
Blessed are the helpers, the lovers, the carers. For they are showing the rest of us how to be the hands and feet of God on Earth, modeled after the Perfect One.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”
Blessed are those who “check themselves before the wreck themselves.” For they are ever striving forward, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”
Blessed are the calmer heads, the team players, and the encouragers. For where would we be without the Light Bearers? They see the Spirit in all, and welcome all to the table with Christ.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
Blessed are the ostracized, yet steadfast. For they keep moving forward, in the face of opposition and a bleak forecast for a broken world.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”
Blessed are those who get knocked down, but keep getting back up. For they are US! In us lies incomprehensible power, as we are the Kingdom of God on Earth.
So let’s remind one another that LOVE is the strongest force – far more contagious than a virus. Hardier than any microbe, or quantum physics, for that matter. Love swallows up hopelessness and gives us a boost to keep soldiering on. No sickness can touch it, no disease can end it.
In sickness and in health. In warm gatherings and in lonely quarantine. In times of plenty, and times of rationing. Always, there is love.
… “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Stay safe, every one. And God bless you.
Scripture taken from Matthew 5:1-12, The Message translation.