The Fallacy of the Fog Machine Gospel

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I have been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. I’m not sure I have ever needed a book more at the moment that it found me. It’s the story of a guilty, angry, oh-so-certain, baptist preacher who drags his wife and four daughters into Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the 1960’s.

I carry it to Starbucks during my lunch breaks and allow it to swallow me, emerging 40 minutes later into a world that makes little sense.

It’s pulling, again, at the threads of wealth and poverty, war and power, the gospel of Jesus and the gospel of the Moral Majority.

———–

“Bingo Bango Bongo. That is the story of Congo they are telling now in America: a tale of cannibals. I know about this kind of story-the lonely look down upon the hungry; the hungry look down upon the starving. The guilty blame the damaged. Those of doubtful righteousness speak of cannibals, the unquestionably vile, the sinners and the damned.

It makes everyone feel so much better.”

———-

I close my book reluctantly. My hour is nearly up; the blinking clock and an office-full of expectation calls me back to work.

As I leave, I sip my coffee – or cinnamon, soy latte if we’re being honest – from a re-usable plastic cup, 10 cents off and BPA free. This, one of my little choices that is supposed to help save the world.

I wonder, again, about the men and women who have drug my coffee up from the earth; have sorted through the uncooperative berries to find those ripe for the picking; have shelled, roasted,  and packaged them. I wonder about the hours of human labor that I have bought with $4.29. I don’t know if I have supported workers in a country that desperately needs jobs, or offered another contribution to the gods of power and human enslavement.

I am complicit, an active player in the injustices of the world, and I don’t even know the breadth or depth of it.

———-

“Maybe I’ll never get over my grappling for balance, never stop believing life is going to be fair, the minute we can clear up all these mistakes of the temporarily misguided…Just when I start to feel jaded to life as it is, I’ll suddenly wake up in a fever, look out at the world, and gasp at how much has gone wrong that I need to fix.”

———-

HEB sells exactly one variety of fair trade chocolate chips. They are milk chocolate. So every time I decide to make cookies, I choose between buying fair trade and buying the dark chocolate that I prefer.

I buy the dark chocolate about half the time.

That choice is so utterly inadequate.

I feel swallowed by a problem that I can’t even comprehend.

Like my freshman year of college, when I tried to give up Nestle and Cocoa-Cola products after finding them both on a list of top human rights violators. After a couple months of trying to remember which energy drinks Cocoa-Cola owned and attempting to unwind the web of corporate entanglements, I gave up.

It didn’t seem possible to exonerate myself.

———-

“We have in this story the ignorant, but no real innocents.”

———-

Sometimes, I feel so tainted by my wealth and my citizenship, by the atrocities committed before I was born. I realize that those were not my decisions, that no one asked me, just as no one asked the children of the Congo.

Yet I have benefited from them, innumerable odds stacked in my favor before I ever learned to walk. And still today, I buy Oreos, knowing full well that I just paid for the children harvesting cocoa in the Ivory Coast.

I am not innocent.

The reality sneaks up on me again, and I don’t know what to do with it.

Because I have no honorable way to justify it.

———-

“Father, forgive me wherever you are, but this world has brought one vile abomination after another down on the heads of the gentle, and I’ll not live to see the meek inherit anything.”

———-

Then, I read an article yesterday that claims young people are leaving the Churches of Christ because the churches aren’t experiential enough, because there aren’t enough videos or stadium seating.

As though all young people are so distracted by sparkling objects and fog machines that we are destined to follow the shiny veneer wherever it may go.

But in reality, I see a church that will get up in arms and coordinate support when Chick-Fil-A declares its support of “traditional marriage”, but couldn’t care less about that company’s contract with Cocoa-Cola* or the implications of that bed-fellow.

At least a quarter of the children in this city go hungry, and yesterday we received the third straight week of elder selection sermons, this one entitled: Men with Experience.

Young Americans are not leaving the church because you lack a “three projection screen set-up”. They are, in my experience, leaving because your gospel is hollow and self-serving.

———-

“It came as a strange letdown, to see how the game always went to those who knew the rules without understanding the lesson.”

———-

In the book, this preacher comes to Africa bound and determined to baptize every last child in the Kwali River, never mind that several children had been eaten by crocodiles in that river the year before.

He is determined to stand by his principles, to never give-in, to never-not for one moment-admit that he might be wrong.

In the end he baptizes not a single person. And in the process he loses every one of his children, who see only his arrogance and his portrayal of a distant, careless God.

———–

I love the bible. I really do, for all its mess. And in spite of her failures, I love the church. It was, and is, the church who taught me to care for the world.

But I wonder if the American Church isn’t portraying its own distant, careless God. Only this one isn’t screaming in the jungle; it’s singing “post-worship” music on a well-lit stage, broadcasting the same empty from message from every wall of the auditorium.

It’s so frustrating, that they would watch a mass exodus and think “I know what we need: more YouTube videos. That’s what young people care about, right?”

Because the gospel that my church taught (with just the one projector) allows me to hope that I might live in a world where everyone has enough to eat, on earth as it is in heaven. It gives me grace for all the ways I fail, and conviction to keep trying.

I hope that won’t be lost in the production. Because showmanship and crowds and experiences are not the gospel. They are a distraction. The gospel is better than that.

———–

“So what do you do now? You get to find your own way to dig out a heart and shake it off and hold it up to the light again….

I rock back and forth on my chair like a child, craving so many impossible things: justice, forgiveness, redemption. I crave to stop bearing all the wounds of this place on my own narrow body. But I also want to be a person who stays, who goes on feeling anguish where anguish is due. I want to belong somewhere, damnit.”

———-

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* I will not even pretend that I understand contracts between restaurants and beverage companies, nor do I necessarily understand the implications of those arrangements. I’m just saying that this company has purportedly done a lot of evil in the world, and no one seems to care.

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Lord, have mercy.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife

The world has suffered long;

Beneath the angel-strain have rolled

Two thousand years of wrong;

-It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

———–

I first heard of Advent a couple years ago.

Technically we had an Advent calendar growing up, but it was really a Countdown to Christmas calendar.

And it’s days like that this that I wish we hadn’t allowed the season to be drowned out by Santa and his merry elves.

Because Advent is not the season of joyful exultation.

Advent is the season of anticipation.

It is everything that leads up to the manger. It is the broken world crying out: for answers, for healing, for salvation, for the presence of God.

It is the desperate waiting for a light to break through the darkness.

I don’t know why this part of the Christian calendar has been brushed aside.

Because we need Advent.

On days like this, we can’t escape humanity’s brokenness. We find ourselves face to face with embodied evil, and he’s human just like the rest of us.

And in the deep black of that night, we don’t need a cheerful snowman.

We need hope.

We need the promise of a savior who is making the world right, not just decked halls and a pile of presents and another twinkle lit marketing campaign.

———-

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

-O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

———-

This is the reality of the world we have created.

Where companies are more concerned with increasing the black numbers in their ledgers than with doing right by their employees.

And we’re all scrambling, panicked and desperate, because there’s so much to do. We’re trying to manufacture joy and buy our way into the Christmas spirit. And we’re failing. So we just keep trying harder.

And every morning I wake up to 25 new emails full of sales and deals and buy here! and buy now!

And if we bought those plates, the beautiful ones with the matching serving bowl, maybe there would be people to fill in the seats around the table.

And it’s such a lie, but it’s packaged by the very best salesmen. And we’re buying.

And people that you share a church with, that you worship next to, take your money and promise to do a job, promise to come through for you. And they just don’t. And the money’s gone.

And in Washington, men and women argue behind closed doors, taking pride in the fact that they have no common ground.

And another government is threatening chemical warfare against their own people, clinging to their waning authority. Everyone just clawing and grasping for any bit of power.

And then, my God, a man carries a gun into an elementary school. And opens fire on children. And there was no other goal, just the murder of the helpless.

And instead of unwrapping the gifts sitting under their trees, instead of snuggling them by the fire, instead of cookies for Santa, those parents will be burying their babies this ChristmasAnd there is no sense in that.

———-

And I want to run.

I posted that I don’t want to live on this planet anymore. And people suggested “to the moon” and “there might be a colony on Mars”.

But that’s not far enough. I don’t want another geographical location.

I’m longing for another place. I’m longing for a different existence.

I get in the car and I turn on the songs that ring deep in my soul, singing praise to a God that is in this with us, Emmanuel.

“You’re telling me that there’s no hope; I’m telling you, you’re wrong.”

You’re wrong. You’re wrong. I’m fighting for hope inside my own head. Clinging to a good God. Clinging to the story of the young woman and the shepherds and the angels and the baby in the manger-the one who promised peace.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.”

I’m singing it like a desperate plea.

Lord have mercy.

———-

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,

Whose forms are bending low,

Who toil along the climbing way

With painful steps and slow,

Look now! for glad and golden hours

come swiftly on the wing.

O rest beside the weary road,

And hear the angels sing!

-It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

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*Christmas is supposed to begin on the 25th of December, and then last for 12 days. (Hence, the song that never made one bit of sense to me).

Don’t tell them that God loves them.

The other night, long after I should have gone to bed, I found myself scrolling down the never ending, eternally generating images of my pinterest feed.

Truthfully, I had decided to paint my nails, and I was waiting for them to dry. And I had somehow selected a nail polish with magical, never-dry properties, so what was I to do besides sit down on the bathroom floor and scroll through pinterest for a couple of hours?

And I saw this graphic – you pinteresty people will know what I mean – a quote in swirling typography laid over, in this case, some painted flowers. Your standard, emotive Words With Meaning* pin.

It said: “Sweet one, you are loved”.

And underneath a very sweet friend had captioned it something like, “I want to tell this to every girl and tell them how God feels”.

Pinteresty, right?

What caught me wasn’t the quote-ishness, and it certainly wasn’t the colorfully-rendered lilies. Nor was it the kind and genuine desire of the caption, or the gendered-ness of it (boys need to be told that they are loved, too, amiright?)

I was caught by my own defensive, knee jerk reaction – I have no desire to go telling people that God loves them.

At least not strangers. Not everyone.

Which is weird, right?

Because I believe in God. I believe in this conscious being that is somehow creator and orchestrator and judge and wisdom and mercy. And I do believe that God loves people, in all their mess, in all the failing, even when they’re trampling each other to buy bras at Victoria Secret because BLACK FRIDAY I MUST HAVE IT NOW!!!

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And I remember sitting beside my friends on the wide, carpeted steps of our “youth cove” knees pulled up to my chest, singing into the dark, and feeling so loved. And then the lights came up and the charge was given: go into your schools. Be salty light. Tell those heathen classmates how loved they are.

No one ever really called them heathens.

With the unspoken understanding that those who kept quiet were a) ashamed of God and b) more concerned with “looking cool” than the fate of their peers’ eternal souls.

But I mostly just felt like c) I know a whole lot of people who want to be told they’re loved by God even less than they want to be told they’re loved by Santa Clause, and I would prefer not to offend and alienate those people. Because they’re nice and I like them.

Mostly, I’ve never been very comfortable as an evangelist.

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So I sit on the bathroom floor and wonder again at the Going and the Telling.

Because sometimes I think we’re too concerned with the words, with the convincing, with the Right Answers.

And I wonder what if we maybe tried a different strategy?

What if we just show them what God’s love might look like?

You know, instead of talking them to death, what if we just love people like God?

Love them when they’re inconvenient.

Love them when they’re greedy.

Love them when they’re annoying.

Love them when they’re late.

Love them when they’re lazy.

Love them when they cut you off and they’re so rude and why are these stupid ignorant people so inconsiderate and he could have just waited five seconds.

Love them when they’re 11 and no one’s introduced them to deodorant, and they have no idea that they need it.

Love them when they’re selfish.

Love them when their reality doesn’t meet your expectations.

Love them when they should have done better.

Love them when they could have done better.

Love them when you disagree about everything, and they are so indisputably wrong.

Love them when they’re crying, when they’re pathetic, when they should be over it already.

Love them when they take 36 items into the 15 or less check-out line.

Love them not because you like them and not because they were particularly nice to you.

Love them because they don’t deserve it.

Love them without expectation or agenda.

Love them because they exist. Because they were created. 

Love because they are there, in front of you, in your way.

Love them because you share humanity’s broken anguish. Love them because you partake of the same graceful hope.

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And maybe someday they’ll ask. Maybe someday they’ll want to hear what you have to say.

Maybe if our love didn’t come with so many pre-requisites, people might have reason to believe in unconditional love.

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*It may sound like I’m making fun of them, but I’m not**.

**Well, actually I am***.

***But I love emotive Words With Meaning pins. I have a whole board of them. It’s the kind of pin I would be if I were a pin. Or a delicious cookie recipe. I might also be a delicious cookie recipe…But you get the point.

Nerdy rings, Santa hats, and the question of a hormonal God

This week has been long.

And not for any particular reason just…one of those weeks.

I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head, but they can’t seem to coalesce into a point.

It’s days like this that I wish I was Hermione Granger. A pensive would be nice right about now. As would a time-turner. And a magic wand that would do the dishes. Man…attending Hogwarts would be swell.

Plus, I would get this awesome Hogwarts class ring.

Or maybe I could just get it anyway, and pretend.

Then I could get David his Triforce ring,

And we could officially be the nerdiest couple ever.

So I hope your week has been good. We have another shower this weekend.

I don’t know why it makes me so happy to see our shower in my church’s program, but it totally does.

And I’m ridiculously excited, because my hostesses are some of the most lovely and hospitable women I know.

For now I will leave you with two things to brighten your Friday:

The first is this picture that my cousin sent me on Tuesday. This precious boy is going to be my ring bearer and he couldn’t be more adorable.

They went to get him fitted for his little tux, and this was her caption: “Jude is so incredibly excited! He wore his Santa hat ‘to get ready for Becca’s wedding!'” He so belongs in our family.

The second is a post by Richard Beck that nearly had me in tears. It was like he looked at me straight through my computer screen and said, “You aren’t broken. You, too, reflect the image of God. You are needed.”

The church has always struggled with the bodies of women. The fact that hormonal is a pejorative term reflects this. To call a woman hormonal is to say that her body has taken over her mind–her reason, her judgment, her good sense.

 

…Women love and think with their bodies. And that may make their love wild, unpredictable and unreasonable. But that’s a truth about love. Perhaps the deepest truth the church needs to learn.

 

One of the reasons I don’t think the church loves in the crazy, wild, and irrational way Jesus did is because the church has silenced women, particularly the love incarnated in the bodies of woman. You can’t learn to love fully if you aren’t paying attention to the way women love.

 

I tried to explain the post to David, and he didn’t really agree with the point Dr. Beck was making, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Do we need a more emotional, irrational love in the church? Do we need less?

What are your thoughts about “a hormonal church that will step into the risky and passionate love of our hormonal God”?

 

We can be Christians and ____ : a defense of ACU’s Optimist

This afternoon, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to the website of ACU’s student newspaper. The article featured was an editorial response to comments the newspaper had received after endorsing President Obama for a second term. If you would like some additional context for this piece, I encourage you to read that article, the endorsement, and the comments.

—————

Before I’d finished the response, I had to close the window. I spun out of my chair and walked back along the hallway toward the copy room, to make some coffee, clean the table…something.

The fist behind my ribcage quickened, and I could feel the blood pounding red, agitating my limbs, wanting action. But why? What’s another internet fight between Christians? It’s the daily routine: offense, anger, pride and biting speech filling up the comment boxes.

But these are my Christians. This is my school. Just a few months ago, I would have waited with my friends after chapel as the lines thinned, slid my card, stepped, haltingly, down the stairs under section K and grabbed my own copy of the Optimist.

So I went back to the computer, read the editorial, read the comments, readied my own response, rallying myself in support of the college students being virtually berated by 40 year old alumni.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…

And then this comment:

Tell me “How can one be a Christian and a Democrat [?]”

that saved a wretch like me…

It’s a phrase thrown out so easily, repeated too often: how can you be a Christian and…

And call yourself a republican?
And align yourself with the democrats?
And spend billions on the weapons?
And support the rights of gays to marry?
And encourage women in roles that contradict scripture?
And cling to a broken hierarchy?

I once was lost, but now I’m found…

Can’t you just hear the condemnation, the indignation dripping off those words? You can’t live out two contradictory identities simultaneously. So surrender your faith or admit defeat. Because you cannot possibly be a true disciple of Christ and ….

Because I am a Christian. I know what God wants. So how can we both claim the same God?

was blind, but now I see…

Because when we teach an inerrant, get-it-right-or-you’re-going-to-hell theology, we end up with Christians devoid of humility, unable to admit uncertainty lest they condemn themselves.

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear…

And when we preach a God born in 1776, tied irrevocably to the Manifest Destiny stretched between Washington and Washington, we end up with Christians who worship political parties, terrified that the wrong vote will oust God himself, banish him forever from these shores, like a deposed king.

and grace my fears relieved…

It is not enough to rail against the vitriol and the hatred. It is not enough to plead niceness. We need a better theology, a theology that can handle our disagreement.

How precious did that grace appear…

So we can be Christians and…

Because I believe in a God who is not threatened or empowered by political parties or policy makers. I believe in a God who does not need the President of the United States of America to be on his side. I believe in a God who existed long before Jefferson made his declaration and will continue to exist long after North America has devolved into the Hunger Games.

the hour I first believed.

Because I believe in a love that will not be weakened by my inadequacies. I believe in a deep, incomprehensible love for this mess of a planet that will not be thwarted by my endorsement or my vote or my ideology.

And because I believe that if I give everything I have to walk beside my God, to love with mercy, and to seek justice, that God’s grace is sufficient for the rest. Even if I get it wrong every single time.

I am not threatened by our disagreements. I am not frightened by Fox News or The Optimist’s endorsement. I am not afraid of admitting that I might be wrong. Because I believe in a grace that will cover the insufficiencies of our reasoning and a God that will not be stopped by them.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.

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But I do know him

We are officially less than two months away from our wedding. Oh boy.

I’ve joked to David that this marriage better work out, because I don’t ever want to plan another wedding.

I’m only half joking.

If, God forbid, David dies in a tragic accident and I re-marry after the appropriate 30 year grieving period, I’m eloping. In jeans.

But kidding aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage, and about God. And about “the bride of Christ” – that mysterious metaphor, God as the bridegroom, marrying his people, binding himself to them, again and again.

———

I remember “asking Jesus into my heart” at four years old. It’s my first memory of prayer. My mom sat down beside me on my Minnie Mouse comforter, and there, surrounded by pink and white polka dots, I plunged into faith with a four-year-old’s naivete, a four-year-old’s trust, a four-year-old’s image of a white-robed Santa Clause rising out of the clouds.

I had no concept of suffering, of redemption, of sacrifice. I had never heard of the crusades or the Reformation or the Moral Majority. I didn’t know that before the year was over, my dad’s partner (a fellow member of our church) would cheat him out of his practice and send us scrambling back to Texas. I couldn’t imagine how that move would tear into the foundation of our little family.

But I knew that after church on Sunday, Megan would come find me, give me a piece of bubble-iscious gum, pick me up and spin me in laughing circles around the atrium. I knew that when my daddy got down on his knees, looked me in the eye, and asked me to forgive him, it had something to do with Jesus, with flannel graphs and Easter and grace. I knew that I was loved.

———

Seven years later I decided that I wanted to be baptized. I don’t know why that choice took root when it did. There was no impassioned speaker making the altar call at a youth rally, no hyper emotional, “can he still feel the nails” worship experience at church camp. Maybe I was just tired of not getting to enjoy the crackers and juice.

One day, it was some thing that would happen someday, and the next day, I didn’t see any reason to put it off. I believed in God, without question or qualification. I believed in church, in the bible, in the Nazarene who walked around the Middle East 2,002 years ago.

I was twelve. I had very few friends. I played the violin (badly) and I loved school. I was pro-reading, pro-life, pro-french, pro-George Bush. I was anti-gay, anti-terrorism, anti-swearing, anti-drinking, anti-Texas History class. My position on evolution was evolving.

I thought I knew who God was and what he wanted.

This may not quite be twelve. There aren’t many pictures from middle school because I tore them all into tiny pieces and threw them away.  I even went looking for pictures on my myspace page, which, let me tell you, is embarrassing. But apparently I didn’t start the social networking until high school. How far I’ve come.

I couldn’t foresee how a Wednesday night series studying other religions would eviscerate my certainty, force me to wrestle, hard, with the idea of an omnipotent God who would deliver babies into the middle east, into Muslim families, into belief systems as strong and confused and loving as my own, then condemn them to an eternity of suffering.

I wouldn’t have guessed that my first foray into doubt would bring me face to face with a God more wildly loving and forgiving than I had ever imagined, years before Love Wins would spark controversy into the heart of every LifeWay Christian Store.

I didn’t anticipate an almost forgettable conversation with my cousin, four years younger, that challenged all the lines I’d memorized about gay marriage and “the homosexual agenda”. I didn’t realize that would be my first significant break from my parents’ theology*.

At the time that my dad immersed me in that unexpectedly warm water, I would have sworn to the moon and back that I would never attend Abilene Christian University. I had no idea how much my soul needed that place.

My parents bought me a new dress from Limited, Too. It was black, and it sparkled. My grandparents came to celebrate, and I was granted the all important Sunday lunch decision. I chose Joe’s Crab Shack.

I barely knew God. But oh, I knew him. Something deep in my bones, stitched into the fabric of my skin – he wasn’t going anywhere and neither was I. I grew. I changed. My entire belief system got turned inside out and left me naked, without answers.

But always, somehow, I found myself growing into him, even on the days when I wasn’t sure there was such a thing as God. 

————-

David and I are twenty-two. I have many friends already married, but still, we are young. At least five years below the average. Some people say it’s too young: you can’t know the other, you barely know yourself, you don’t know what you’ll want in five years, you will change so much.

They’re right. Of course, they’re right. And maybe I should be more afraid of marriage, of this choosing at a fork in the road, a decision that cannot be undone, a life stretching out into the wilds of an unknowable future.

Maybe I should be more cynical, less naive, less certain of the hands I hold. There is so much future waiting ahead of us – most of our assumptions are probably wrong and four years is nothing like fifty – we barely know each other.

I’m sure we will look back, years from now, and wonder at ourselves, at how we could leap so blindly into a covenant we only barely understood.

I have no idea what awaits us. I don’t know where we’ll live. I don’t know that we’ll always be able to find work. I don’t know how parenthood will change us or how long our parents will be around to offer their love and advice. I don’t know what it will look like when death takes someone loved, when we are finally forced to encounter that reality.

But I know that even though David hates spicy food, he still ate the pasta when I accidentally went a little crazy with the Cayenne. I know that I stayed up till one helping him study after he talked with me for two hours about gender and the bible and the church. I know that we keep choosing each other, over and over.

————-

So my parents bought me another new dress, white this time.

And on another December day, I’ll make another life-long commitment. And maybe it doesn’t matter that I can’t know what’s waiting beyond the next ridge, that I can’t foresee how it will change us. I know the one I’m choosing.

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*I don’t meant to speak for my parents; they’re beliefs are more nuanced than I understood them to be when I was twelve. But that was how it felt at the time.

Part One: Why am I such an American?

At 5:00 last Friday, I pulled up outside David’s apartment and nearly ran up to the front door, leaving all my stuff in the car, itching to get going, get on the road. We’d be driving late into the night, just me and my favorite person.

I opened the door to find him asleep on the couch, “Rise and shine, babe. Time to get on the road.”

He opened he eye wearily and muttered, “How mad will you be if I can’t go?”

“Ha.ha. Very funny. Seriously, get up. You can sleep in the car. Where are your bags?”

At which point he was like, no really, I have [insert long list of actually very important PhD things that need to be done] and I can’t get that done if I go away for the weekend.

“You could do it in the car” (lie)

“You can always work on it tomorrow. There will be so much time” (bigger lie)

To say that I was disappointed would blow straight past understatement into big, fat I’m-sugar-coating-because-I-don’t-want-to-look-bad lie territory.

I literally couldn’t stop crying. I just sat on the floor in his room and ugly cried. It was a little bit missing him and a little bit exhaustion. But mostly I just kept thinking about 7 hours. in the car. alone. again.

And then I remembered those heart searing stories from Haiti, posted just a few hours earlier, and I felt like such a selfish American. I want so badly for the knowledge of their suffering  – of rape camps and of parents begging strangers to take their children – I want it to matter.

I want awareness to sing louder than the constant, clanging, cacophony of my expectations, to reach deep inside the tangled, mess of my desires and clear some space, leave an empty place on the floor where I might notice, might remember how blessed I am.

Because I realized I was crying over the fact that I had to get in my car and listen to music, to see people that I love who love me, so that I could receive gifts and food in celebration of the fact that I get to marry this really awesome person who is currently sitting beside me and rubbing my back and letting me cry about it.

And that realization just about undid me.

I finally stopped crying. And my parents met me in Dallas, so I wouldn’t have to drive the whole way by myself. And the whole weekend was lovely and fun and kind*. And I just couldn’t escape the knowledge of how beautifully blessed I am.

——

In the Old Testament, God makes three promises to Abraham, promises that echo through generations that follow: he promises descendants and he promises a home. And he promises that because of those blessings, all the nations of the world will be blessed in turn.

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Maybe that is the key: to have hands open, willing to receive, with humility and with thanks. To recognize, to remember all that you are given beyond what you deserve. And to have fists unclenched, generous, ready to surrender, to hand over your blessings so that they might bless exponentially.

If we can learn to do that here, everyday, maybe that generosity could reach even into the heart of suffering.

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Tomorrow there will be part 2 of my weekend: What I learned about Jesus at a wedding shower. And there will be pictures!

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*An aside: At dinner Saturday night, David’s dad made a joke exactly the way David would have, down to the facial expression. And I missed him in a laughing sad-happy sort of way.