Torn Between Two Sides

Torn Between Two Sides

I LOVE to be inspired.

Good recipes, great decorating, creative parenting or insights to the Scriptures all move me closer to how I crave my life to feel.

I flip through magazines, read books and scour the internet looking for scraps of connection. I want to connect to the hope of better through seeing great things in others.

Then I get distracted, wondering why my jeans are so tight (again), forlornly wrapped in the mundane.

Eventually, I go back and pursue more ideas. My life is a cycle of being pulled between my ideal and my real.

Sometimes I love what I see. One one side there are people doing UH-mazing things. They are feeding the hungry and articulating the plight of the oppressed. They post pictures of fabulous and funny times with their families. There is no talk of perfection. They make me realize people with bad tempers and mental illnesses lead fulfilling lives that dig in to hard places.

It thrills me.

And then they start talking about the Bible and what their opinions of what it means to be a Christian are, and the air from my emotional balloon escapes.

On the other “side” are women whose Biblical exegesis calls me to deeper understanding and love for God’s word. They help me realize what a difference the principles in 2 Kings can make in my life, and want to share it.

But it sometimes feels like their primary ministry is to criticize others. Even though I often agree, I am uninspired. Their lives look sterile and unapproachable.

Once on a video study the teacher talked about sin that sneaks in our lives. I was totally on board with that. Sin sneaks in our lives all the time.

Her transparent moment of sharing? Unintentionally collecting pens from businesses in the bottom of her purse. What a thief. I wanted to get up and walk out.

Let’s be clear. The sins that sneak into my life are far more dramatic than that. I convince myself that winning the lottery will solve all my problems (because God’s provision is not enough). Laziness is a plague that consumes me. My temper is so, so much better than it used to be, but I still have some weak moments.

In the small group after the video I complained about the pen-sin and was immediately chastised. Someone pretended to be repenting for her own previous grumble, but then quoted me directly as the example of what we should not be doing. It was silly and cowardly.

Apparently, in her world, Bible study is only for people who love every word of every study ever done. We can just check our brains at the door and nod our heads in pious bobble-head agreement.

Have you met me? Like that’s gonna happen.

I once read a blog by someone whose theology and lifestyle are SO far away from what I believe. But as I read the blog I could totally understand why women loved her. Several times I brought a paper copy of the blog to circles of women who I am on the same side with and asked, “What is great about what she is saying?”

You might have thought I was asking people off the street to explain the theory of Quantum Physics. It was nuts. Woman after woman was unable or unwilling to see what was being offered by this person as praise-worthy. They were all willing to dissect the theological points they know are wrong and assume the very worst about intentions. In spite of my pleas not to focus on the Biblical disagreements and discover what we could learn from her, the conversation always turned to what the Bible really says or that she was looking for money and attention. I was apparently asking too much.

I regularly find myself torn. This group of women over here, who I could not disagree with more politically and Biblically, have lives I admire and walks with Jesus that compel me to think about others more. They seem like they are parenting with passion and facing hard things boldly.

But the Jesus they refer to is not necessarily who I see when I read the Bible.

On the other side my brain can engage in conversations about hermeneutics. After time together I love my Bible more and am invigorated to study; but the lack of transparency in their lives leaves me hollowed and wanting. I am not certain I have any desire to be as polished as they look. They assure me they are doing the work of the Lord outside of sharing their discernment but I have no idea what that means. Their sticky sweet language can leave me shaking my head and asking, “What does that look like in real life?”

And I find myself wondering, if knowing and loving the God they are teaching me about does not compel me love others more, what is the point? Furthermore, if they talk in a language that has no practical understanding, how can I share with others?

Years and years into this faith journey, I am yet to hear someone explain what it actually mean to die to yourself.

This summer I hopped on a plane to meet a gaggle of friends in Austin, Texas. Brought together by the mission of launching books, this rag-tag group of widely varying ideas, priorities and beliefs, has enriched my life immensely–even though I disagree with many (if not most) on some pretty big things. My life is bigger and more vibrant because of them. Couldn’t that be the work of the Lord?

Does God move in spite of, or because of, differing views?

In some things I am achingly black and white. In others, not so much.

Once, in a Women’s Ministry leadership meeting, a woman on the team took a book I recommended and threw it on the ground. Then she stomped on it. Then she looked at me with hate in her eyes and said, “Nothing we do will matter until we get the anti-Christ out of this ministry.”

It was a book on time management.

I clearly told everyone it was not a Christian book. I simply thought that it could help us get organized so we could serve with greater efficiency and excellence. Guess what?

I still love that book.

Recently, I decided to leave a book launch team because the divide between beliefs was too much for me to navigate with clarity and integrity. I posted in the Facebook page what I was doing and why. While it would have been easier to slip away, I believe in the power of conversation. 

The author was gracious and engaging. The women in the group covered the spectrum of agreeing and understanding, trying to talk me into believing a different way, and disagreeing but understanding. It was the kind of conversation we should be having more of. Restoring civil conversation has to become a priority.

Ultimately, I do believe that Biblical truth matters more than anything.

The women with the lives are leading people in their Biblical direction, which I disagree with. They have Christian audiences, speak at churches, regularly talk about God and have book contracts to build followers and share ideas. I don’t dispute that. I have tremendous concerns about it. This highlights real questions that should be wrestled with.

  • God created the Bible. Do we believe that or not?
  • There is a consequence for sin. Do we believe that or not?
  • The Bible clearly calls many things sin. Do we believe that or not?

I concede the arguments from other viewpoints are boring to me. They claim the Bible was written in a different time. It was for a different culture. We have progressed beyond that. Seriously, if one more person talks about putting God in a box, I may vomit.

As if we can. If God is not omniscient then He is not the God of my understanding. God knew about 2017, when the Bible was written before the birth of Christ. Do we believe that, or not?

However, I see the women with the theology repelling people. Not all people, but some people. The people who love the discerning voices (those people who are warning against the loose beliefs of others) often already agree with the pointer-outers. Confirmation bias makes the words comforting to those already in line, but not effectively convicting to those who are not.

Is that the point?

 

From where I sit it looks like in order to reach the people who don’t already love God’s word and crave its truth we must live lives that matter.

  • Can we talk about your faults? Can you tell me which Bible verses helped you with that? Will you share when you believed God was moving you to change and to grow so that thing maybe wasn’t so dark in your day to day life?
  • Does loving God and His word draw you in to serving and helping? How and where and why?
  • Will you help me to understand how the words on that page apply to my life?
  • Will you share with me enough of you that walking with God can feel real AND vibrant AND hard AND beautiful?

It is easy to pick apart other people. It is easy to say how other people are failing and doing things all wrong. It is my second nature. I believe it is Andy Stanley who says flaws are much easier to see looking out a window at other people than they are looking in a mirror at one’s self. I live that truth daily.

Balancing that with a passion for Biblical truth is gentle ground. I want to gather a group of women who are willing to sit in the discomfort of differing opinions and examine them closely in the light of Scripture. It thrills me to unpack how Korah’s rebellion or 1 Kings Chapter 22 speak directly to some of the biggest issues that divide the church today. I want people to stop rolling their eyes when I say, “I know I disagree. I don’t believe that is true, but I absolutely believe they love and serve Jesus.”

This is going to be tough. The divide is wide and getting wider. There are moments when it feels like all hope is lost, but GOD IS STILL GOD. His word is still good and true. His people are still here. I am one. Please, Lord, let me live this life for You with excellence and passion with and alongside people I agree and disagree with equal love and respect.

 

 

 

No, I Won’t Unite. And Know, That’s Not My Right

No, I Won’t Unite. And Know, That’s Not My Right

The rain pummeled the East Texas ground on a humid, August evening. The lightening was the most spectacular display of electric sky I have ever seen in my life. I was awe-struck by its power and beauty.

These last days have been full. We got the keys to move in to a rental house.

At the same time my husband’s brother and sister brought my mother in law out from California. We moved her from one memory care unit to another. In California she was an hour away, in Texas ten minutes. We were busy with details and caregivers and the grief that comes with decades old dementia.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of the world doesn’t matter.

Earlier this summer my hubby took our teenager and grown son on a tour of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. Their precious feet walked on the ground that hosted hatred and violence this weekend.

I don’t know everything that took place during the riots, but I know enough.

************

When I get a friend request on social media from someone I have not seen for years, I generally send a message that says something along the lines of, “I am a right-wing, religious nut. Ignore any political posts you don’t like but know that I do post other funny things and pictures of my kids, who are adorable.”

I am pretty darn comfy my own political skin.

Most people who know me know that I am a right leaning conservative. It is a secret to no one.

But if anyone saw the horror that was called “UNITE THE RIGHT” and thought that might be what I believed, I would be sick to my stomach. That is not the platform of anyone seeking political solutions to real problems. They promote and espouse ideas that are not even rational.

What happened last weekend was terrorism. It was vile, putrid poison in souls spilling out to infect anyone it came in contact with. My son told me there were swastikas and Nazi salutes. While I was unpacking Depends and walkers, he was watching the news and keeping me informed.

We were disgusted.

************

I saw a picture online of men carrying “torches”. My first thought was, “Did they order those from Oriental Trading Company?” Seriously, I have used those tiki torches for luau-parties in my back yard. Who does that? 

Then, I looked again. I gazed past the angry expressions and saw people who look just like those I have known my whole life. They could have been my brother or my son. They appear the same as friends and neighbors. People who look like that have sat at my table, in places I work, in the stadium of the football field at the local high school.

I want hatred to be obvious, so that it can be singled out, dealt with and shunned. I don’t want it to look like the average guy sitting at the movie theatre next to me. It is so hard to change what we can’t even recognize. 

*************

I know I live in a bubble. While people I know may look like the terrorists in Charlottesville, I don’t know anyone who thinks like they do. At least, I don’t know anyone who would admit it to me.

While I can be a delight, I am not known in far and wide circles for my ability to hold my tongue. If any one I knew held the vile opinions spewed a few days ago, that person would likely hide it from me. Seriously. (All who know me are nodding in agreement.)

I was in my 40’s before I’d ever heard someone use the “N word” in real life. I was working at a restaurant and a regular customer said it to someone else in conversation.

I turned and told him to stop. He apologized and said he would never say it in front of me again. I said, “That’s actually not good enough. It is a word designed to incite hate, and you should never say it again.” He got up without eating and left the restaurant.

But here’s the thing I am keenly aware of: He was not going to burn a cross in my yard or poison my pets. My life was not in danger. My boss would NEVER be angry at me for losing the customer. My bubble insured that would be a two minute interaction with no lasting consequences to my life, except on my own personal values.

Had I said nothing, a tiny part of me would have atrophied.

I am all for a debate of conflicting ideas, but not all ideas are debate-worthy. Loving this nation and being of European descent does not make one a White Nationalist. I am numb that white supremacy is still a thing. How on earth?

**********

In my bubble there is little, if any, thought to race in my daily life.

In California my mom, who began slurring her speech five years ago and has gotten progressively worse, had a general practitioner and neurologist. In Texas she also has a general practitioner and a neurologist.

In California we had five years with no help. In Texas we had one appointment and a diagnosis.

All four doctors have different ethnic backgrounds.

On the list of what matters to me regarding medical care for my mom, race is nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t care less. All I care about is who is going to help.

That, I have been told, makes me a racist.

***********

I have been told the only way to view these current events is through the lens of America’s 400 year history of oppression by the white man.

I have been told pockets of racial ease are part of the construct to actually oppress, and that it is more complicated than I know.

I have been told that the only way I can be a part of solutions is to spend extended time with people of different races and cultures.

Meanwhile, I am just trying to find where I packed my family’s socks and figure out if I left the ^%@#** new silverware in the basket at IKEA. How many meals can we share washing our one fork in between servings?

***********

Where is the place for me in this conversation?

I love this country. I believe it is flawed in history and execution and yet is a beacon of hope for generations far and wide. On our very worst day, the freedom experienced here is unfathomable elsewhere.

Somewhere, today, a woman will be imprisoned for being in public alone. Someone will be executed for being gay. A Christian will spend another day in prison, perhaps with no decent food or restrooms, because of an unwavering belief that Jesus died on the cross for all mankind.

Does that minimize genuine struggles of minorities here? Of course not. But it goes through my head anyway. If the only way to bridge the divide is to think the worst about this nation, I am not a part of the bridge.

What do you do when the people shouting the loudest about solving the problems make you want to hide under the table and excuse yourself by saying, “I am just trying to homeschool my special needs kiddo and visit my mother in law in the memory care wing of the assisted living facility where she lives.” 

The conversation is painted in terms of two sides, each side achingly monolithic in the eyes of the other. According to some on the left, hating Obamacare makes me a racist. Voting for Trump makes me a racist. Failing to live my days with constant apologies for my white privilege makes me a racist.

With that the conversation ends.

I am stuck here feeling lost and out of sorts, spent and weary by what is already on my plate to deal with, but also devastated and disgusted by what is happening; and exhausted and unsettled by the solutions people offer. One thing, however, is incredibly clear–no, I won’t unite with your hatred and I want the world to know, that is not the Right that I vote for and believe in.

 

 

In The Meantime

I was excited to begin what I thought was going to be our tiny house season. 

We packed our family up and moved across the country in the hopes of a better life. Sometimes muddled dreams twist my hopes and convince me that better must be bigger.

In the process of getting ready to someday drive across the country to a new life we began to peel back and get rid of layers of stuff.

  • Books we’ve already read, goodbye.
  • Book we’ll never read, go–be enjoyed by someone else.
  • Old clothes, now gone.
  • New clothes can be worn by someone else.
  • Papers in the trash.
  • Old magazines recycled.
  • Decor from another era, adios.

So. Many. Things.

Things rob our energy, time and attention and drain the life out of things that matter…creativity, relationships, memories with people we love.

I let go of cosmetics I purchased when I lived in our first and only apartment.

I prayed for forgiveness for the layers of distractions that weighted down my days…each tiny level seemingly harmless. But day after day, thing piled upon thing, waste after waste morphed into a soggy, grey cloud of depression.

It wasn’t a pit, but a weight keeping me from color and vitality and passion.

Through dozens of loads to the thrift store, truck beds full taken to the dump, we freed space in our thoughts and home to search for the best version of us.

This family is my greatest treasure from the Lord.

******

Here we were. One month living in another state, waiting for paperwork so we could move into a one thousand square foot house. Our tiny house. I envisioned leaning in to family time, forced by proximity, with our new little puppy scampering on the rental worthy tile.

It was going to be perfect for this small season.

But it fell through…for reasons that are lame and didn’t need to happen. We tell ourselves this is still a part of His plan for us. This family.

We are shifting into a possible medium season–Lord and potential land lord willing–of a slightly larger house. There is a room to home school, a large yard for a puppy to roam and a patch for a vegetable garden. We can walk to the library. There is a Rib Master restaurant around the corner, just a family bike ride away. Greasy fingers and easy meals together over tables in the Texas heat sound like progress.

I believed I was moving to find a house to buy, but am now praying for a house to rent. Life is wild and funny.

These days are numbered. College is coming for one child; the achieving of milestones calling for another. The third, who is actually the first, is always on our minds and the financial ability to visit more is a vital hope for this new life. In His time our house in California will sell. Someday we will buy a new home here. In the meantime, we are praying to do life more simply.