…Girls will be Garbage

087She sits on my sofa, the tears running down her face.  “I don’t know if there’s a place for me.” and my heart breaks. As I look into the eyes of my sweet, crying sister, my heart breaks.   In the family of God, my sister doesn’t see a place for herself– because she is a woman.  An ache all too familiar rises up within me, crashes and spills over my heart as well.

My sister isn’t alone. The idea that her relationship with God is somehow less-than because she is a woman, the idea that she should sit down and shut up and just quietly observe– she didn’t come up with these ideas.  Someone taught them to her. Someone taught them to all of us.

Someone read the Bible and didn’t understand how to interpret what Paul meant and what Jesus was saying. Someone decided it was too much work to figure out how women can submit and not be subservient, to teach us how to honor and respect a woman’s thoughts as well as her body.  Someone took the easy way out, and when they did, they made womanhood a burden, not a joy. A pesky trait that means you can’t do this and you can’t do that and that you’d better watch how you dress so that you don’t make people stumble.

I have no words of wisdom, no comfort for my sister. I only have tears, and a hoarse, barely audible whisper, “I feel it, too.”

And then, one morning last week, along with my cup of coffee, I read these words:

 “When the prevailing thinking is boys will be boys — girls will be garbage.

And that is never the heart of God.

That’s what you have to get…the heart of God for the daughters of His heart.”

Because, for my sister and me, it’s not really about who gets to stand in pulpits, it’s about what the Church has taught us about the heart of God.  Ann Voskamp shares some much needed thoughts on this.  Please, please, please read the rest of her post here.

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I Remember.

As we prepare to go somewhere new, looking for the Lord’s will and dreaming of what is to come, as the future looks uncertain and our way is unclear, I find fear in my heart. Fear of a place I know well, fear of a place I don’t miss. I have learned another way. I write this to help me remember.

I remember that place in the darkness, that home I built for myself. With tightly clenched fists and scattered heart-pieces strewn, I sat, frozen in silence.  My hungry heart held out had been bloodied, kicked, beaten one too many times. Not good enough. smart enough. experienced enough. enough. My heart is not enough.

They stood outside the perimeter looking in, nudging each other and whispering, “Is her heart is not strong enough? brave enough? trusting enough?” I drowned out the sound of their whispers with the sound of my own sorrow and built the walls of my home higher, higher, higher to block out their questioning eyes and bewildered faces. I built these walls to make us more comfortable. Because my fists and scattered heart-pieces are too messy for you, and because seeing you this way is too shameful for me.

I remember this place. Huddled against the cold walls I had built, I waited. waited. waited. waited. clenching and broken. alone in my pride-house. Terrified of expiring this way and longing for it. Wondering if the now very thin playing-running-light-filled-laughter in my memory ever existed at all or ever could exist again.  I remember the way my fists clenched harder and more of the memory slipped through the cracks and away like sand. I remember what it was like to watch hope slip, slip, slip away until there was darkness and only darkness. Till my feeble attempts to glimpse the future saw only dark sadness and no light-filled-laughter, bleak-clenching-getting-by and no grace-drenched-open-hearted-living. I remember.

I remember when the light came. Slowly, gently, but boldly. The sun made no apologies for its brightness, was not ashamed to disrupt the quiet, was not timid in its coming. First glimpses burned my eyes, made the raw edges of my scattered heart-pieces ache for wholeness, frightened me there in the darkness.

I remember it was slow. Every day growing by only a sliver, gently warming me and helping my fingers to uncurl. I remember the fear that it would go away. That I would awake to find the light had been put out, extinguished. That the walls had been built too thick and too high. I remember that every day the sliver grew bigger, every day, the heart-pieces came closer to healing, every day, my fists unclenched just a little bit more.

I remember the day the light drew me out of my pride-house. I remember open hands and a heart mended and glazed by the sheen of light and grace. I remember tearing the walls down and letting the light in. I remember begging for it. I remember staring at it. I remember when it became food, life, breath to me.

I remember that the light is still growing.

Every day its presence grows more apparent, the quiet pinks and purples slowly illuminated by a vibrant yellow-orange brilliance, leaving nothing in the dark. Daily, this light shines on everything generously and, so doing, makes it beautiful. The yellow-orange glow accompanied by faint traces of purple and pink glints off the edges of my life, illuminates a mended heart, invites all who see it to begin again. To live in a way which reflects that brilliance.

I remember the way of Grace.

New Mercy and Crisp Mornings.

I secretly love crisp mornings.  As much as I complain when I have to scrape off my windshield at 6am, if I stop and inhale, I love it.  Days never feel so new as they do in the winter and fall. When I think of God’s mercies being new every morning, I always think of crisp, cool mornings– I don’t know why, but they feel like an invitation to me.  This morning, I have a cup of tea and slippers, and I’m wrapped in a blanket.  I’ve cracked the sliding door in the living room, the morning’s invitation whispers to me, and I can feel my daughter tumbling around in her warm cocoon.  I love new beginnings.

The last year has afforded me many opportunities to enjoy moments like this.  This morning, as I made breakfast, I realized that the last time I had this much free time, I was spending a week recovering from a car accident.  I thought a little more about that car accident.  I remember making sure that my parents told all their friends that it wasn’t my fault.  I was so concerned that I not appear irresponsible.

I’ve worked so hard to be responsible my whole life, and it’s a lot easier for me to feel responsible when I’m busy. When I have a million “significant” things occupying my time. When I’m hardly home.  When I eat all my meals in the car between one commitment and another. By the way I’ve lived my life, I’ve equated responsibility with business and trusting with laziness.

I desperately don’t want people to think that I’m irresponsible. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE working part-time and being home part-time, and there is plenty to keep me busy around here.  I love being able to keep the house tidy, cook good meals, bake, and give my time to people.  But I feel guilty about it.  If I just had another job, I think, then I wouldn’t have to worry about money.  And the Lord gently reminds me each time that I don’t need to.

I love the passage in John 6 where the Disciples ask Jesus what they are supposed to be doing to be “doing the works of God.”  Jesus gives them a beautifully simple answer, and they don’t want to take it.  It seems too easy.

“Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.'”

They keep asking about things they can do. Trusting seems lazy to them, too. But there’s a reason Jesus calls it work.  The trusting I’ve associated with laziness isn’t really trusting.  It’s hoping that things will work out if I sit around, or (maybe worse) saying that I’m trusting God while doing everything in my power to ensure things come out the way I want them to.

I think it’s safe to say that I  desperately wish, probably with the disciples, that Jesus answered their question with a checklist.  But he doesn’t.  Because what God calls us to isn’t a specific job, it’s not to filling time with “significant” tasks, it’s not to a specific amount of work every week, a specific level of church involvement, or to bringing home a paycheck. It’s to believing in Jesus, to loving the Gospel, and to trusting that He will provide and continue to be faithful.   Hearts that believe in Jesus remember that his mercies are new with every crisp morning and are sufficient for whatever the coming day, week, or month holds.

I TRIED MY BEST!

This morning in reading group, one of my students was reading a book out loud to the rest of the group.  As she finished reading the last sentence, she made a minor error.  When she finished reading, another little girl across the table quietly corrected her.  As a general rule, I’m not the biggest fan of kids correcting each other’s reading, but she wasn’t being mean, she was genuinely trying to help.  The little girl snapped her head up from her book and shot a glare across the table at the girl who had corrected her. “I TRIED MY BEST!” she yelled.

I quickly conjured up my high-pitched gentle voice and reminded the student that we never, ever yell at our friends in the classroom.  She apologized, but as her bottom lip started to quiver, my heart ached for her.   She was ashamed.  She had tried her best, and she still failed. I told a few jokes and all was well.  All 3 students were laughing and getting along in no time.
For the last 9 months, I’ve been kicking and screaming.  Just like my student, I’ve been yelling “I TRIED MY BEST.”  But that doesn’t always matter.  Sometimes, you try your best, and you’re still reading the wrong words.  Sometimes you read the words that you think are supposed to be on the page, even when they’re not there.  It still sounds fine to you, and no one would be the wiser if someone else didn’t speak up.  We’ve been taught that “I TRIED MY BEST” is the best we can get.  I’m glad that it’s not.  I’m grateful for a good God who will correct my sentences when I read them the wrong way, no matter how painful it is.

The God who Sees.

“I didn’t get the job.”  I was saying those words for what felt like the 50th time.  Little did I know that I would utter that phrase repeatedly in the months that followed.  “I know God is good, it  just feels like He doesn’t even care.”

I always dread this conversation.  You know, the one where you tell the people who have been praying for you, hoping for you to get the job…for your healing…for that situation–that it didn’t happen.  It feels like failure.  What I dread most about those conversations, though, is the awkward silence that follows.  We fumble for words…no one knows what to say, and I feel guilty.  Perhaps this is unique to me, but I don’t think it is.  It feels like the rug’s been pulled out from under both of us.  Again.  And it’s my fault.  We feel questions rising inside of us that we don’t like, so we push them down.  Eventually, you’ll say, “It wasn’t meant to be.”  or “Just keep trusting the Lord.”  And I’ll say, “I know that this will all work out in the future.  I know it will.  I’m fine.”  Well-meaning friends (of which I have been one), uncertain of what to say, see an opportunity to offer encouragement. “You are finding hope, aren’t you?  Don’t you know that the Lord will provide?”  I do.  And He does.  And we both look away from one another and try to find something new to talk about– so that I don’t ask the questions and you don’t have to think about them.

But she doesn’t say any of those things.  There is no awkward silence.  She looks at me.  And she says four little words that will echo in my head over doubts for months to come.

“The Lord sees you.”

She doesn’t promise me that I’ll get to be a teacher someday.  She doesn’t tell me that everything will get better.  She doesn’t even exhort me to a lofty display of faith.  She just speaks truth.  And it is enough.  It might take months, but she believes that the truth she has spoken is stronger than my doubt, and her belief strengthens me.  Encourages me.

Over the last few months she’s repeated that phrase to me occasionally.  “The Lord sees you.”  Always it has been comforting.  Always it has brought me to tears.  But today, as it echoed in my mind after yet another rejection, it brought insight.  It is her faith that has comforted.  The truth that has wrenched my heart.  Her words are not an anemic attempt to save me.  They are the very marrow of her beliefs.  In those words, I hear her faith, see her assurance.  I know my situation has not shaken her; I don’t have to apologize for my doubt or my honesty.  Her words offer me a place to hurt.  To doubt.  To heal.  A place that is safe, not because it is comfortable, not because it is a temporary situation, not even because there are thousands of other people experiencing it, but because it is within the gaze of The God Who Sees.

As we comfort one another, may it be our faith that bears witness to the Lord rather than our words.  May those we comfort hear our steadfast confidence that God is present, good, and watchful; not our frenzied desire to prop up their faith.  The Lord calls us to bear one another’s burdens.  When we offer advice, encouragement, and exhortation, we offer tools for our brother to bear his own burden.  When we humbly speak truth that testifies to our complete reliance on God, we stand shoulder to shoulder with our brother, offering relief and companionship as we bear his burden together.

My prayer is that the Lord makes me a burden carrier.