Update (to give the illusion that untold masses of people keep up with my blog): My husband and I are living in Seattle this summer, where he is working at a church and I am taking some time off. (Time off from being a student, which some, including me, would consider an already-luxurious existence…so in addition to taking time off, I’m trying not to feel ridiculous about it.)
Last week, I went on an overnight trip with some other women whose husbands are working at various churches in the Pacific Northwest. A few of us dropped our things at the homey bed & breakfast and walked around the small downtown nearby. We ended up at a free art museum, which featured an exhibit called American Fiction – the work was by Robert McCauley. His pieces focus on wildlife and nature and the imposition/impact humanity has had on them. It was all very intentionally profound and meaningful. But that’s not actually what I mean to focus on.
Upstairs, in an exhibit I don’t remember any information about, the pieces (by different artists) explored the concept of invisibility. The exhibit paired artwork with short statements from middle school students about what it feels like to be invisible. It was heart-wrenching and took me back to high school and college and oh-wait-I-still feel it sometimes. It made me want to ask myself the question. What does it really feel like when you feel invisible?
It is lonely, dark, a place where you don’t even want to be seen after awhile because you’re too angry. If people start to notice, you resent how long it took them. You want to be seen, but you become comfortable in the unseen – start to think of yourself as empty space. Lose your substance and make yourself fit the invisibility, see if you can actually become part of the environment, the wind, the space. Lose touch with yourself because your self is in too much pain. Make the pain invisible, and it might go away. There must be something wrong with you, deficient about you, something they’re looking for that you don’t have, or they don’t see in you which is essentially them saying you don’t have it without even investigating. And so they don’t see you. It’s easy to feel invisible even when people think they see you.
On this trip, we cooked together and drank together and talked about life and ministry. This John Green quote is the first thing I wrote in my journal that weekend: “The world may be broken, but hope is not crazy.” It’s one I have to go back to. I tend to see optimistic, always-positive people as essentially ignorant – not necessarily naive, but definitely not realistic. I tend to get fixated on understanding what’s going on and what’s wrong and the truth that we are never as good or right as we hope to be. I’m so concerned with naming and understanding reality in all its darkness that I forget to actively hope.
We were talking about how to encourage people toward faith. One woman described the process as basically living out hope, contentment, and rest. If we live in light of the hope and peace we have in Christ, it will impact our lives in a way that should make us unique as friends and neighbors. It’s simple, and we know this. But there’s always an obstacle. Sometimes, almost everyone we come in contact with has faith. Sometimes, we act so much like we don’t have hope that our lives won’t look different. Whatever it is, we need reminders.
There is so much in other faiths and philosophies that actually agrees with Christianity. The assorted things people pick up and cling to often resemble the truth closely, but ultimately don’t answer all the questions or satisfy all the needs. And there’s no way to ultimately maintain a my-truth/your-truth system.
My hope isn’t in something abstractly “out there” somewhere. It’s not, “I hope this will get better…” or, “I hope there’s something better…” The hope is grounded in a real God who has given us a real story with a real savior outside ourselves. It’s way too much pressure to say we can do anything to save ourselves from despair or hopelessness. I have been there. It’s not possible to save yourself from that place. At the very least, another person has to enter in. Ultimately, God is the only one who can bring us to a place of real hope and joy. We’ll always be disappointed by self-saving strategies. This passage was mentioned specifically:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:1-5 ESV
When our hope is in something sure, there’s no chance we’ll be ashamed of our hopefulness later – no chance that it won’t come through. That’s huge. I avoid hope…it’s like I have to watch my back or surely be caught off guard. Hope is such a vulnerable choice. Something exhausting about knowing this about myself (for so long) is that I can see how little or how slowly I change. I know I shirk away from hope, and that hope is what I need, and it’s real and true and won’t disappoint me. But that doesn’t mean that in every situation my hope will be realized. That’s just wishful thinking.
The guest who came to speak with us over the weekend shared a phrase that she borrowed from a Buddhist friend, tweaked to make it true. The original phrase was, “I am the mountain; this is the weather.” Her version says, “God is the mountain; this is the weather.”
(This = life, circumstances, ourselves, emotions, relationships, conflict, etc.)
Because we change as much as the weather, we can’t count on ourselves to be that massive, immovable mountain. We can count on God to be that in the midst of whatever “this” weather might be.
I struggled with the tendency in our conversations (and in most conversations about being married to a pastor) toward discussing the pastor/husband’s work and ministry as the primary work being done in the marriage. I wrote a whole paragraph about this that I decided not to put on the blog…because I’m still processing and haven’t talked much about it with people actually in that scenario. It’s just difficult to feel like my ideas might be on the fringe.
Ultimately this summer…I’m going with: grateful, not guilty.
I’m grateful to be in a new place with some existing friends. I’m grateful for the community that has already started to embrace us. I’m grateful to learn about this city and its people. I’m grateful to see new and beautiful places. I’m grateful to have time to write out thoughts and sit with them awhile. I’m grateful to be reading the books I looked at longingly throughout the semester. I’m grateful to have a kind God who gives me these things and wants me to hope in him. I need him, and I need hope. Me, repeat after me: it’s not crazy.
I always finish a blog post feeling like I haven’t scratched the surface of what I’m thinking about, but there it is. I’ve been sitting on it for too long and just need to get back in the groove. Thanks for readin the randoms.