Suspension of Disbelief

Suspension of disbelief is an idea essential to reading or watching a movie, a contract between writer and audience, where the writer makes a story somewhat plausible and gives the audience a reason to want to believe it, and the audience buys into the story to experience something moving. It is why we can read Harry Potter and envision a Quidditch match, because JK Rowling made it fascinating and painted a beautiful picture, and our brains forget for a while that flying on a broom is a ridiculous idea in order to allow us to experience the magic of the impossible.

We live in a cynical society, yet we are able to escape into fantasy because we are able to suspend disbelief.

girls_ChristmasThe fact that my girls still believe in Santa requires an extraordinary amount of suspension of disbelief, given the unfortunate fact that Justin and I are terrible at making the story somewhat plausible. Four years ago, when Grace was four and Rebekah two, their Santa gift was a new swing-set. It was a freezing cold Christmas Eve, and Justin and my dad put together the least expensive, but most difficult to assemble, metal swing-set we could find in the garage after the girls had gone to bed. It took hours and I remember them laughing and yelling at the thing good-naturedly as my mom and I wrapped gifts inside where it was warm. After they finished, they carefully carried it around to the backyard, and I went out and tied a big red bow on it. We were so proud to have assembled this behemoth, and imagined the girls’ surprise and shock when they saw it. Christmas morning, when we went to wake them, Grace jumped out of bed, ran to the window, and said “Oh! You put a bow on it!” Apparently she had watched the entire operation unfold from her upstairs window.

The next year, we were living in Dallas still but working in Houston, and were too tired to make it home after our Christmas Eve services, so we spent Christmas Eve in a Holiday Inn off the highway somewhere around Waco. When we got home, I made the girls run upstairs and put on their pajamas so Justin and I could hurriedly throw the Santa gifts under the undecorated tree in our sad, already packed-up living room. I wanted a little magic in a chaotic season of transition. I thought we had pulled it off, except I had decided to not buy anything for Lucy or Justin, because Lucy was too little to notice and Justin wanted nothing else to pack and haul to Houston. I wasn’t thinking about the big girls, though, until Grace, in great distress, asked me what Lucy (at the time 6-months old) could possibly have done to get on the naughty list? I don’t even remember the lie I told, but as soon as she said it I realized my very big mistake.

Last year, their big gift was a trampoline, and a couple of weeks after Christmas, when they were underfoot, Justin sent them in the backyard to jump. They started to protest, and he said sarcastically, “I’m glad I bought you guys a trampoline so you would never use it.” They both stared at him in shock, and Grace said “You didn’t buy the trampoline – Santa brought it and the elves put it together!” Justin mumbled something incoherent as I laughed at him in the background.

This year, on Christmas day as Justin is programming the X-box Santa delivered, he in frustration says “For the money I shelled out for this thing you’d think it would work.” Grace’s head immediately popped up as I tried to catch his eye. Justin, not catching on, says: “I want my 400 bucks back.” Grace asked him what he means, since this gift came from Santa, and he says back “I have to pay Santa for it… Times are hard.” She looks back down at her game, satisfied with his answer, and  he looks at my mom and me, both laughing, and says “That’s all I could come up with.” 

We are bad at this! We try to weave a plausible tale, but we fail miserably. At some point, when she was younger, I have even told Grace that Santa is based on a real man who lived a long time ago who was generous and loving, but that he is not really a real person who delivers gifts to our house in the dead of night, and she has either forgotten or just chooses to believe despite it.

She is able to dispel doubt without a backward glance.

I love it, and I wish my mind worked that way. Their desire for magic overrides their rational brains that have to know that mom and dad are really really terrible liars and that we are, in fact, both Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Children are great at this, and I love that part of their minds. It is, quite honestly, why we continue to do the whole Santa thing and the whole tooth fairy thing. There is only a certain amount of time in life where true suspension of disbelief is possible, and because children are whole-hearted creatures, they are really good at it.

It seems weird to compare my children’s belief in Santa to my faith in Christ, but I’m going to attempt it because it’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. I want to be more like Grace when it comes to my faith. She dismisses doubt with such ease, and I envy her whole-hearted and stubborn belief. I want to be more like her. She has strength and lately, in my faith, I feel weak. I am a wrestler – I am up now in the middle of the night because I am wrestling with fear and doubt. And my rational mind knows the things I am fearing aren’t real  and the doubts I am battling are lies. My heart knows the truth that I am loved and valuable and was created for a purpose. Yet I wrestle and I can’t seem to dismiss the nagging doubt. A former boss repeatedly encouraged me to dismiss doubt and fear and not give it any time or energy, but honestly sometimes I don’t know how to do that.

I don’t know how to suspend my disbelief.

So again, as I have done so often since her birth, I look to my oldest daughter. She really does teach me more than she will ever realize. I ask the Lord for childlike faith. I ask my Maker, my Father, my Creator, my King to help me in this war I am waging against fear and doubt. I ask Him to be mighty to save. I choose to believe, and to shake off the nagging sense of doubt. I wait for the voices of fear and doubt to be silenced by the God who has written this story, this true story, of victory over sin and death and doubt and fear.

I have every reason to believe. This story is not only plausible, it is true, and I know the ending. So I ask my God to help me suspend my disbelief and cynicism. I have no reason to be afraid.

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. Psalm 56:3

Accepted

Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.  God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” Acts 15:7-11

About a week ago I suddenly realized the diversity of my friends. I have crunchy granola anti-vax home birth hippy momma friends, and I have others who, like me, have the pediatrician on speed dial and would have had an epidural for the entire pregnancy if the doctor had let us. I have friends who are right of Ted Cruz and friends who are left of Bill Maher. People who passionately believe like I do and people who just aren’t interested. To illustrate the diversity – one of my friends literally breastfed until her children could ask for it, and I laughed every single time. Who knew I’d ever be friends with a woman like that – me who snuck bottles to my kids when the lactation consultant walked out of the room in the hospital? And yet we are friends and she lights up my days. My friends are all passionate women – I am drawn to strength and my people have it in spades. We can soap-box for hours about the things that make us tick, but those are often fundamentally different opposing viewpoints. And yet we live in peace. We love each other. We don’t see eye to eye on some big hot-button issues, but I could still text them when I’m having a rough day and I know they’ll drop whatever they are doing and talk to me and pray for me, if prayer is their thing.

Taking stock of my friendships struck me for many reasons. First of all – it struck me because I realized what a rarity that kind of unity is, despite our differences. It really is an extraordinary gift. But it struck me also because it sounds strange, but I’m proud of myself that my friendships are so diverse. You see, in my past, I was rejected by people who did not agree with me on some divisive issues, and I lost them because of it. People who should stick by you. Big relationships, lost seemingly forever. To them, the issue was more important than the relationship, and more painful than that, the issue was more important than me.

But not so with my friends – and when I realized it, I had to admit that I let these friendships sneak up on me. For many years I would have guarded my relationships and only gotten close with people like me, simply because I feared the rejection that I thought was inevitably coming because of my past. But I had let them in and we live in peace and joy, and something in me is healing and shifting because they still love me despite my differences from them. I bear the scars of rejection, and scarred skin is always more tough than healthy skin, yet I had somehow let them past my defenses, and they changed my life.

Acceptance.

Rejection.

For me, the theme of my life outside of Christ, the defining characteristic of my darkest memories, the knot in my stomach and the feeling of tears pressing behind my eyes can be summed up in one word: rejection.

You aren’t good enough.

You failed at that.

You behaved badly.

You are too much.

You are not enough.

You are not worth fighting for.

Have you ever thought about how much of the world we live in – our present reality – is marred by the sting of rejection? How many of our losses, the scars that mark our consciousness, the defensive walls we construct, are a direct result of the rejection of someone who was supposed to love us? Someone who should have been safe, but when we let them in, hurt us.

I think it could be the defining characteristic of this fallen world. Rejection. Because even if we are accepted in this world, it is usually only for a season. The other shoe almost always drops. Marriages break up. We stop performing at the right level at work and start being phased out. Our bodies decay. We just can’t seem to measure up to the expectations of that person who means the world to us. Someone decides they are done with us, and they (literally) turn their back.

This week it seemed like the rocks were crying out trying to get me to understand this lesson. Every experience somehow had meaning behind the immediate context.

Because, for me, Christ was revolutionary for this one reason. It sounds cheesy, I know, to my friends who don’t get the whole Jesus thing, but in Him I knew acceptance and unconditional love for the first time, in my life.** It changed me. It healed in me something that felt profoundly and irreversibly broken. I let him in, and now years later I am letting more and more people in. My friendships give testimony to the healing I have experienced,

My hilarious breastfeeding-wonder friend is a direct result of God’s work on my heart and in my life. She, and many others totally opposite of her, are walking talking evidences that I am being made new and that I am not walking in fear like I once walked.

Acceptance. I’ve experienced it and found it worth fighting for, worth risking.

**By the way – acceptance is at the core of the character of Christ. There was none righteous, so He became righteousness for us all. There is almost nothing in this world that makes me more angry than people who reject others and say it is in the name of Christ. Those who claim some people are beyond his love and redemption. That is not Jesus. Jesus accepts us. Jesus loves us. Jesus heals us. Anyone speaking “in his name” saying the opposite does not speak for the Jesus I know. The verse at the top of the post was written in response to people who were trying, 2000 years ago, to limit the scope of Jesus’ acceptance to a select few – and it still happens today. But Jesus accepted then and accepts now and confounds expectations every time, which is why I love him and follow him  (I told you me and my friends could jump on soapboxes).**

Last night I went to an event where the speaker talked about scars that are on our souls- and I saw clearly that my scars are almost all from rejection. But she also talked about when you offer up those scars, when you are vulnerable and honest and let light in to those places of hurt, those scars become your story. You go from being marred to being marked for a purpose beyond yourself. And that starts when you take those scars, those hurts, those rejections, to Jesus. When you relax in the light of acceptance. I still have work to do in this area – still have things I need to release – but I think a shift in me is taking place where I feel and understand the acceptance of Christ more than the rejection of this world, and it is freeing.

Acceptance. Such a hard concept to grasp in this performance-based, rejection-riddled world we live in. But so necessary for freedom.

Tonight one of my girls lost it in a big way in a public place. And honestly, this behavior is not rare or unexpected – it just happens with her occasionally. I kept thinking about this lesson even as she raged, even as I had to isolate her, even as I sat down with her in her room after it was over and she was calm. These are the deep parenting waters that I have waded and sometimes felt I was drowning in, since she was a tiny girl. She has taught me so much about the Lord. She has taught me so much about myself. I know this is hard for her. I have been her. Tonight I kept thinking, as I handled the situation, “How do I show her love and acceptance, how do I impact her heart and her character even as I deal with behavior that cannot be tolerated for her own good?” Because I can’t revel in acceptance and show rejection. If it is the defining characteristic of my new life, it has to be on His terms, not mine. It has to be absolute. So I pull her close, we pray together, we talk about how sweet and beautiful and kind she is, and how I want her choices to reflect that. We talk about how much I love her even in those crazy moments (such a work of Christ in my heart because, let me tell you, I have not always felt that way). We talk about how there is nothing she can do that will ever cause me to not accept her, and how at any time, in any situation, she can pray and Jesus will listen to her because He accepts her too.

Because here is the truth, she lives in this world. She will face rejection over and over and over and over. She will be scarred by it. It will leave a mark and mar her in many ways I’ll never be able to prevent or anticipate. I myself will probably inflict rejection on her in ways I don’t recognize. Rejection will probably be the defining characteristic of her life outside of Christ, just as it was mine.

But the earlier and sooner and stronger I can help her grasp His acceptance – that will make all the difference.

Acceptance. That will be the thing that draws her to Christ. That will be the thing that cements her when the sand of this world shifts. I have prayed since birth over my girls “let them love you with all their hearts” and it is true I want them to, not because I want them to share my religion, but because I want them to love the God who accepts them. Who loves them with a perfect, everlasting love.  I want that healing to begin in their hearts. I want them to know that acceptance. I want them to bask in the light of that love.

Acceptance is at the core of what I believe. It is at the core of what has changed me. And it is at the core of what I want to pass on in this rejection-happy world. May God help me live it and share it with those around me.

The Life Free of Disappointment

Sometimes in our world there is news or a circumstance that breaks through the cloud of Christian clichés that give us an illusory sense of control over our life. Do you know what clichés I mean? We’ve all heard them. Someone puts their house up for sale, and it sells immediately, and someone posts “That’s God’s favor, right there!” Or the guy speaks up at community group about how every time they give to the Lord, money just appears out of nowhere.

And I always think, “That’s great, but that’s just not how it goes for us.” In fact, lately, as I look around, many of our friends are in this place with us of trusting God despite great disappointment and amidst the carnage of broken dreams.

  • What do we do when the miracle we hoped for, prayed for, and desperately needed, missed the deadline?
  • When the adoption we knew we were called to falls through, leaving us devastated with an empty nursery?
  • When we feel called to be a wife or a husband, but the years of waiting for a partner has made our hope weak?
  • When we find out that the parent who is the glue that holds our family together has a body racked with inoperable cancer?
  • When the money we needed to make the payment doesn’t show up?
  • When the path we know God told us to take leads us into a valley deeper than anything we’ve ever known?
  • When month after month after month our body betrays us and the baby that we hoped for isn’t there, and we feel broken and forgotten?

Where do we go when life is real and tough and the clichés and “what you give, you get” faith doesn’t pan out? This week I, along with the rest of the world, have watched Rick and Kay Warren face every parent’s nightmare scenario. We all know the fear that we will lose our child, and it is hard to even imagine that these righteous wonderful people are now facing the aftermath of the suicide of their youngest son after his lifelong struggle with depression. I am broken for them.

These earthly realities, and the Warrens’ pain, confronts us with the simple terrible truth that sometimes, in this world, the miracle we need doesn’t happen.

 

What do we do with that?

I think we have no choice, in these places of brokenness and desperation, but to force ourselves to look up to the Lord and look ahead to the next world. To say, with abandon, this place is not our home and the circumstances I see now are not the whole picture. To allow ourselves time and space sometimes to grieve. To cry out in justifiable anger and fear and disappointment, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Because, just as the Lord not only allowed but ordained his Son to die on a cross in this world, to achieve a greater good in the world to come, unimaginable sorrow and pain is sometimes allowed in our lives in this world to achieve a greater good in the world to come. And we don’t always get the luxury of understanding why.

The healing we hoped for comes in the next world, leaving only devastation in this one. The investments we are making are in the next world, leaving debt and insecurity in this world. The children we want to carry in our wombs and fill our homes in this world are sent instead to heaven, where we will someday hold them (and hopefully understand). The path we are on will sometimes take us into pain and loss in this world, to reap a harvest of joy and righteousness in the next world.

We do have hope for a future, because of Christ (and for that I am so grateful), but sometimes we need to release our desire to see that hope realized in this world. Because the simple fact is, sometimes it isn’t.

I think that is the hard lesson of the Warrens. They will see their son again. He will be whole, at peace. They will be reunited. But everyday until then, as they walk this earth, they walk it with the weight of grief. And may God help them, and us, to bear that weight well until they can say, with their Savior, “It is finished.”

And then the life free of disappointment will begin.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)

Until then, we “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15) and we “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). And we stop with the ridiculous unhelpful Christian clichés that do nothing but add weight onto our brothers and sisters who are bearing burdens.

 

The Lonely Hard Road of Motherhood

Can we all just be honest that this motherhood thing is tough? I’m pregnant, and I’m pretty unfiltered, so buckle up because I have many feelings about it.

Yesterday I read this post on my friend Kristen’s blog, “For When the Mother In You is Desperate,” and the post was great, but the responses stopped me in my tracks. Mom after mom after mom poured out her heart in the comments about how desperate and overwhelmed she felt, and how alone she felt in that place of desperation, like she was failing on a desert island. Woman after woman shared how much she needed grace.

And boy do I relate.

Yesterday my oldest child snuck into Valentine’s candy and ate it all in her closet before 7 am, and in a sugar craze then made huge messes in room after room after room in our house throughout the day every time I turned my back. I spoke harshly to her many times yesterday, which made me feel small and horrible. This morning I spent almost an hour cleaning up glass from the Christmas lights that she unstrung and broke in our backyard (because she wanted colored lights, not white ones) during the 20 minutes I sent her outside to give each of us a small break.

Exhausting.

And although I know, rationally, that the sugar played a huge role, and that these things are her expressing natural creativity and curiosity and I am proud of her and I truly think someday God has great plans for her as a creative artist, I do look at her sometimes and think “how utterly I am failing at this.”

A good friend one time asked me why, when our children rebel or disobey, us moms tend to feel like it is our failing and not just our children’s. And I didn’t know the answer to his question. But I do know that is how it feels. And even as moms, when we see other children rebel, we do tend to blame the parents, don’t we, if we’re truly honest? We forget the sin nature and the curiosity and the immature self-regulation and the power of impulse and instead we just feel like the worst mom in the world. We are so quick to judge, and so slow to give ourselves, and other moms, grace.

What a terrible tactic of our enemy. He lays the blame trap, and so often we fall into it. May God help us to see as He sees and avoid this trap. We need to know that we aren’t failing and that our children are just growing and learning, and that just because this is hard doesn’t mean we are bad at it. We need God to help us see the grace that is ours.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 4

Courtesy graceformoms.com

And to compound this problem, it’s hard to know where to go with these feelings, because it is lonely being a mom. Which is another tactic of our enemy. Isolate and destroy. Isolate and destroy. It’s been his battle plan since the beginning. And he is good at isolating moms of young children.

My friends with children who understand where I live are themselves too overwhelmed to do much more than check in occasionally, and my friends without children have their own busy lives and although they try so hard, the world we live in with young children is hard to comprehend. True friendship is hard to maintain when you are the mom of young children – and it is a season of life where I think we may need friends the most. True friends give perspective when we have lost our ability to see the bigger picture. Thank God most of us have those friends who you can see or hear from once every three weeks and still pick up where you left off, but the hours and days and weeks between significant adult interaction can sometimes spread out before you in an overwhelming chasm.

And social media, although it seems it would help with this problem, just isn’t sufficient to fill that void and I think may even exasperate the problem. I think sometimes we post the fun stuff, because we don’t want to appear crazy and put out there all of the bad feelings, so we fake each other out so we don’t reach out and we don’t know what is on the heart of our friends. We are connected virtually but alone relationally. It’s a bastardization of the true community that we need as humans to grow and thrive, so false and yet what we have settled for. Maybe even what we’ve been deceived to settle for.

And lately, the whole thing has had me on my knees. Justin and I are talking through what to do about the difficulty of parenting and the isolation in the midst of it, and thankfully he understands and relates and takes my feelings and needs seriously. Because I am more needy than usual. I feel lonely and overwhelmed. I want to battle it all – but when we are tired it is hard to battle. So together we are working through what to do with all of it.

  • First of all, I deactivated Facebook for lent to force me to have real interactions with people I love and not settle for the social media fake-out. And in those relationships – I’m trying hard to be real and transparent.
  • Second, Justin and I are trying to talk to each other more about deep things we feel and about our struggles with faith everyday, making sure we connect over more than TV shows and work updates.
  • Third, we’re trying to have more people over into our house and visit the homes of people we love. In-person interactions are truly the best community.
  • And fourth, I’m trying to call or text friends to see how life really is beyond the mask of social media and momentary interactions at church on Sundays, especially when the Lord lays them on my heart.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:9-10

For all of you friends who feel unsettled and alone, I guess I just want to say “me too” and I’m sorry you feel that way. For my offline friends, I am sorry for my part in any relationship that is all surface and no substance. I am working on being refined in this area and truly praying for a revival in the relationships in our life. Because we need each other, especially in this season of life. Because we aren’t failing. This is just hard. It is a season, and it will end someday, and for now we just need to keep working, keep trying, stay humble and loving to our kids when we can, and take a break when we can’t. We need naps and date nights and occasional ugly cries and texting each other the terrible things we think when we are just too tired to fake it anymore. We need the grace and perspective that true community brings. We need new mercy each day. We need more grace than we even know how to ask for.

So what do you think? What has the Lord shown you as a trick to maintain relationships when times get tough and schedules are insane? How do you keep a wise perspective on parenting and avoid the “blame” trap the enemy sets for us? Any wisdom for us overwhelmed moms?

Happy Thanksgiving!

I can’t let this week pass by without mentioning briefly a few things I’m grateful for.

Justin – He has worked for months on his first Christmas worship project (geared toward small, medium and large churches with orchestra and rhythm band) and today it is finished! I am so proud of him. He has worked for years for different music publishers but this is the first project in his name done mostly in our home studio, so we are excited. We are praying that the Lord would use it to encourage worship leaders and point people to Emmanuel during our favorite time of the year.

Grace – The child is losing teeth at an astonishing rate, growing tall and thin, and amazing us with her creativity, kindness, and brilliance. My baby is growing up! She has really matured lately, is learning self-control and to consider others, and truly is my biggest helper with her sweet smile and loving spirit. She loves school and people and could probably rule the world.

Rebekah – She is three, and she is incredibly good at it. She is hilarious, disheveled, loud, sweet, creative, and absolutely lovable. She keeps us hopping, laughing, and is the reason our entire house needs to be repainted and recarpeted. She also loves school and loves people and is fearless to a point that we are sure we will never be able to rest because she sees the world as one giant adventure made for her enjoyment.

Family and Friends Old and New: Oh how I have been blessed with family and friends. I am so grateful for all of you – you challenge me, bless my life, give me hope, and make me love the Lord more.

Happy Thanksgiving, people I love. May God bless you and give you hope.

What it Feels Like for Me to be a Christian Woman in 2012

Disclaimer – this one is going to get deep, and not necessarily be pretty. And I am not on FB or Twitter right now to explain or clarify my positions, so I just pray that my heart would accurately come across as I write and process. I just want to be light in darkness, and I pray that nothing I say would cause shame or hurt. This is my perspective – and I am warning you it is messy.

I know I can be more sensitive than most, but to be a woman in this culture of rhetoric and soundbites is really difficult. Politicians and the media are hurtling words across the aisle without thought – words like “rape,” “pregnancy,” “abortion,” and “contraception” – like these are arrows slung from a bow and not real personal issues that carry with them memories, hurts, fears, and a visceral reaction.

I feel assaulted by it.

I am tired of signing onto Twitter and seeing snarky comments about rape and abortion. I am tired of rhetoric about pregnancy and abortion without a meaningful plan to help women and reduce these shocking statistics that mask a terrible reality. I am tired of pregnancy, infertility, and contraception being issues hurled about in the public sphere without a heart for what these things mean to the women and men making these decisions. I am tired of women’s rights and women’s equality being words without complex meaning in a world where women are battered, raped, maimed, enslaved, and reduced to being less than we are worldwide on an astonishing scale.

Don’t people understand these are REAL women and REAL babies they are talking about? That these decisions and topics are gut wrenching?

Our world is so broken, and we need Jesus so much.

I hate abortion. I’ve written about it before. I hated it even before Roe, when it was done in the dark of night, when women were maimed in back offices, sometimes not even given a choice because they were too young and they weren’t the ones paying so they were ignored. They endured it without anesthetic or a voice. What a cruel world that would steal from a woman even the choice to bear life, but it happens worldwide every single day. Abortion isn’t an American issue – it is a world issue. I hate the fear and stigma that backs women into a corner, the broken systems that entrap women. I hate that even decades later in some homes, a past secret abortion is not dealt with so peace can be found, the growing crack in the wall that reveals the facade behind the “happy healthy family.”

I hate it now that it is legal in the US and “more simple.”  I hate when it is convenient and it can be done without thought, except that it is not without thought and millions of women will tell you it haunts them decades later because there isn’t support for after. I hate it when it is done in deception, when a “simple” pill is given that makes the woman horribly ill for days, in pain bleeding alone in her home, unable to tell anyone. I hate when it is done after viability, when the baby could actually live outside of the womb and should, without question, have the rights of every other human. I don’t understand how we justify that. I hate when is agonized over – a terrible choice in the middle of a difficult life made in quiet and shame and fear of discovery. I hate that anyone has had to face that terrible choice and live with the results. I hate that it has stolen from so many of us, including me, family members. I see tiny newborn children and I hate that so many of them have vanished in violent ends, taking with them a part of our world’s future. I hate that it has left some women as shells, pieced back together and afraid of discovery, unable to forgive themselves. I hate that it places the burden on these women and takes the lives of these babies, and either gives men no choice or voice at all, or it enables boys to stay in suspended adolescence and not grow into men. It leaves nobody unscarred.

I hate it. It has stolen so much. It is not a simple right, it is an anchor. And it is taking us all down with it.

And I hate that it has become a political tagline. I think that grieves the heart of God as much as it hardens those of us who hear it over and over. I think since the beginning of time we have tried to find human solutions to the problem of sin we created in the garden (God didn’t want to give us kings, but we wanted kings, and when we got them they ruled over us without kindness. God didn’t want to give us divorce, but we insisted on divorce, and we left untold damage in our wake. We keep demanding the things that only damage us and distance us from Him, and then we blame Him when the mess we insisted on creating is messy). Even still, I wish there was a human solution, like legislation, that could erase the terrible reality of abortion, but the reality is that abortion is part of our broken world and has been since Adam and Eve made their choice. The numbers have increased since Roe vs. Wade, certainly, and the price has been immeasurably high on our culture and our values, but abortion has been a reality since humans have had the ability to fear and the desire to control each other and our future.

I think abortion is a consequence of fear. Fear of the future, fear of consequence, fear of discovery, fear of inadequacy. And you can’t insulate someone enough, provide them enough healthcare and options and support, to erase fear. Only perfect love drives out fear. A genuine love for women, a genuine love for children, a genuine love for God and trusting Him with our days – those things are the only answer to the abortion crisis and they will never grow from a political affiliation. We have to ALL quit numbing ourselves and start looking around, not judging each other but jumping in and getting our hands dirty – loving women and men in the messy realities of life. Loves drives out fear. So it means we support our children and nieces and friends when they are faced with terrifying decisions. It means we love and trust others enough to cry out for help when we find ourselves entangled in a nightmare scenario. It means we love selflessly, opening our hearts, homes and wallets to help each other and to meet needs. And it means we stop ignoring the orphan crisis – how can we ask women to choose life when more than 170 million children worldwide need homes? We need to love the orphan and the birth mother – no matter how messy that gets. If our prayers are answered and there are less abortions, that will mean there are more adoptions, and we need to be ready for that.

And let’s all agree to stop using abortion as a hurtling arrow.

And let’s add rape to that list. Rape is not rhetoric, and it can never be boiled down to a soundbite. Rape is complicated. Sometimes it is violent. Sometimes it is quiet and quick, devastating in its ambiguity. The moments leading up to it are confusing, the years after it are devastating. I know women who only, after feeling safe enough to do an honest assessment of the past, have realized that what they experienced was, in fact, rape. That their rights and their bodies were actually violated and that it is okay to call it that. I would bet that the statistics on rape are far lower than the reality of rape. No politician has a right to judge it on the degree of force or desire. It is intensely personal and can devastating.

Rape and abortion are the epitome of brokenness and to treat them casually destroys the thing about us that makes us human.

This world is broken. And more and more, I believe that the political rhetoric is contributing to the brokenness, not solving it. It makes us hard. It makes us mean. Anything can be taken out of context and spun and the heart of the person and the complexity of the matter completely annihilated.

Don’t believe me? Try this. Go outside and spend some time in prayer and check your blood pressure after that. Take a look at yourself in the mirror, talk to yourself and listen to your voice. Then watch your favorite political commentator for an hour – the guy you agree with. Then try the experiment again. Look in the mirror and talk, listen to your voice, check your blood pressure. Even when you agree with the person, I have found you will sound and look more defensive and angry, your adrenaline will probably be flowing, and your blood pressure will be higher. People who watch and listen to the rhetoric all day are growing more numb, more angry, and more hard by the hour. We need to step away from it. I’m convinced this stuff is toxic to our systems. It is the same human solutions to a divine sin problem we’ve been trying since Adam and Eve sewed together leaves to hide their nakedness.

We need Jesus. We need healing. We need restoration. We need forgiveness. We need miraculous protection from the darkness in this world – the sin that so easily entangles. We need to pray. Prayer can help with the abortion statistics and the rape statistics. It will open our eyes and soften our hearts. We will draw close to God and He will lead us in the way we should go in helping and assisting moms and adopting these kids who need homes. Only God can grow a boy into a man – giving him the strength to be honorable in this deceptive world that tells him he doesn’t have to live with honor. When that happens, rape and abortion numbers will go down. When heart-change and heart-softening happens, as we turn to Christ and light, this darkness must flee. We have to pray for that – that God will do it. He’s the only one who can.

Jesus this world is broken. It makes me shake. I look at my children and I ache for them – the statistics are scary and I pray they never experience these things, but I know they will at least be touched by them in this world. I see the women I know who have experienced infertility, unplanned or lost pregnancy, rape, and abortion and I ache for them. They all carry the scars – they all have lost so much. I know if this rhetoric stuns me it may devastate them. Or maybe it doesn’t – maybe that part of them is so walled off. Either way, Jesus, please draw near to the hurting and offer your healing mercy. Help us please. Government is not our answer – YOU are our answer. Human solutions stink – they only make things worse. We need you. We have done it our way and we have screwed it up. Please call your church to be salt and light in a broken world. Thank you for the people who get this – for the men and women who stand on your Word as a light to the world – being light as they embrace the complexity of loving a broken world. This is not simple, and we need people brave enough to admit that. Thank you for pregnancy centers filled with volunteers and staff who actually love women and desire to help them. Thank you for people who are unafraid to jump in and do the heavy lifting. I know even as much as Planned Parenthood is reviled on one side of this debate, there are many people there who deeply desire to help women. Please lead all of those people to yourself  – you are our only hope. Help our country. Help our leaders. Convict them. Convict us to pray for them and not be cynical and hateful toward them. I need help with that – I can feel so hopeless about the weakness of our country’s leadership. Help us to turn off the rhetoric, turn on our ears to hear Your Spirit, turn from our evil ways, and turn from our dependence on human solutions. And Jesus, please, please, heal our land.

Community in a Political Season

Right now is a challenging time to relate to other people, in my opinion. I’ll be talking to someone at church or work or school, and the conversation will turn in the slightest direction where it may head toward politics, and I’ll feel it. Not every time or every person, but you know it when it is coming. There is a shift in the air. A tension and what feels like an underlying anger. Suddenly where our conversation was light and full of life, it becomes something different. And it will happen. The person will lean in, speak quietly, and state some joke, position or assumption about politics, confident that I share their fears and frustrations.

And the truth is, I don’t. I’ll say something noncommittal, change the subject. Try to return the conversation to the million things we agree upon. But the tension remains. The person I am talking to may have expected me to join in or pile on, but I didn’t, and it has thrown them. My attempt to change the conversation has surprised them. And they’ll soon walk away.

And there it is – disunity.

Courtesy Businessnewsdaily.com

I feel outside. Other. Less than. Because I don’t share a political leaning – I am no longer in community like I would be if I did.

And that’s been a hard feeling to live with this political season. I’m not sure why my friends walk away, maybe they feel exposed or embarrassed? Maybe they are questioning me? I’m not sure. But it happens on both sides of the aisle.

So I don’t speak up about politics even though I have a point of view. Because over and over this election, I have heard friends throw down the gauntlet and say something like “In this election, you can’t be a Christian and vote ________________” or, “In this election, you can’t be a woman and vote _______________.”

And I disagree.

I am a Christian, and a woman, and I do approach the world with a Biblical worldview, and I am very engaged with politics, but I still contend that this election isn’t as simple as some people make it. This election is hard and complicated and I don’t see a savior anywhere in our political arena worthy of saying, “If you don’t vote for this person – you aren’t a true follower of Christ or a real woman.”

I don’t feel that either party represents me as a Christian or as a woman perfectly, so I can understand the rationalization for compromising to vote for either one of our less-than-ideal choices this election. Because of this, you are my brother and my sister if you are the bluest of blues or the reddest of reds. No candidate and no party platform fully encapsulates my views just as no political division overcomes our commands to love one another and live in unity.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Eph 4:2-6

I don’t think a political stance is worthy of disunity. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the disunity is an indicator that our political views trump our Kingdom view. Because our commands to love each other and respect the authority under which we are governed were given by men living in an actual police state. We think we have it bad – our environment is a carnival compared to the Roman occupation under which Jesus was crucified. And yet Jesus said to be known by our love and to render unto Caesar and Paul said to live in unity. A presidential race in the US in 2012 is not a worthy reason for Christians to walk away from one another or grow cold toward each other. After the election of President Obama in 2008, someone wrote on Facebook “To give him the power to destroy us is just as dangerous as to give him the power to save us” and I wholeheartedly agreed with that and add Romney’s name to it as well. There is no perfect candidate in this election, and there is no perfectly evil candidate – neither can save or condemn.

Jesus saves. Jesus brings peace. Jesus heals. Jesus provides. Because of Jesus, we live and breathe and have our being (Acts 17:28).

So can we please quit walking away from each other and growing cold toward each other for something so temporal? Who cares if others don’t share our view? Walking away and growing cold makes us small – and we are not small. We are children of Jesus, brothers and sisters who will live together forever in the land of our King, and the things which unify us are a million times stronger than the things which divide us. The enemy divides – Jesus unifies. Let’s join him in that.

Jesus, help us. We deeply desire to live righteous lives, and your command to live in the world but not of it is such a hard command to follow. This world seems all-encompassing and confusing. Please help us. We want to be light – please show us how to do that. It is hard when our self-interest and opinions and “rights” crowd into our perspective. Please help us, convict us and lead us. Please unleash your Holy Spirit to speak truth to us and use us for Your great glory to share truth with others. Please forgive us where we get it wrong. Please help us remove the barriers and cross the divide in relationships grown cold. Please unify your church. Please help us to love. We know you are in control – that you place kings in places of authority and remove them when their time is up. We trust you. Please protect, guide and lead those who lead us. We are in great need of you individually, in our churches and communities, and nationally. You are the source of all that is good in our world, and we need more of you everyday.

*By the way – I’m not equating passion with disunity. I have a friend who is DEEPLY passionate about one political leaning – but I have seen her do this well as she maintains friendships despite deep fundamental disagreements on policy. So the “I’m just passionate” argument doesn’t really hold water with me, because I promise you there are passionate people who are fighting to remain unified despite their passions. It may not be easy, but it is right and worth struggling for.