humble roots

At the beginning of the year, I started reading Humble Roots, by Hannah Anderson. A good friend recommended it at the very end of last year. A lady at my church in St. Louis started a group to read it together at the beginning of this year. I went for a few weeks until school got overwhelming. I kept reading it in tiny chunks, journaling along, and finally finished it in July. I recently went through my journal entries and typed up the highlights. Going through those now to process a bit more and see what comes. Also, keep in mind that almost everything I’m writing comes directly from Hannah Anderson’s mind…not mine. And it’s not a short post, but it’s easy.

This book ended up having a larger impact than I expected. (As if I can really predict the way I’ll learn and grow.) I’m prone to reading books that are supposed to speak to the soul as if they can be processed at the rate of consumption. I’ve been learning a lot lately…processing…but not necessarily reflecting and incorporating. I live a tense-hearted life. God meets me in his own time, at my right time, usually slowly because I am stubborn and he is kind. My walk with Jesus involves a lot of breaks…or times where I stop and sit down on a bench for a little bit. But that doesn’t mean that God is taking a break.

This book spoke to (so much, but starting with) the interpersonal comparison that everyone does and the insecurity it brings.
(1) I don’t really care whether people like my personality or lifestyle choices or way I operate or that I like what I like.
(2) I want to be loved in friendship so badly. I haven’t grown up with one best friend. I’ve been so fortunate to have different friends in different places, and I love all of them. But it’s hard not to have that one person that will always know you and has always known you – the good and bad. I have a friend who knows me well and who asks after my heart…and she has lost that one person who was that person in her life. I wonder if she feels this a little, though we are close.

I am married, and in one sense it’s true that he is my best friend. But there is something so sweet and so missed about deep and sweet female friendship. I went to see a movie (the documentary “Whose Streets” – definitely recommend getting this perspective on the events in Ferguson) with a friend from St. Louis, and went back to her house briefly afterward, where her roommates were talking about life and we joined in for a moment. I miss those moments passing in the dining room where you can hear all those voices speaking into your life and love on each other.

I compare myself to other women constantly, which is why I feel insecure in every friendship I’ve ever had. I need the humility to recognize that it doesn’t matter – that the criteria I’m using to define myself and them means nothing. It has become the basis of how I relate, and it usually comes out with them on top, me admiring and mostly feeling inferior. [I feel like the queen of third-wheeling friendships. I’m the third friend tagging along with the two best friends. I expect that it’s going to be a tricycle, but when I get there it’s actually just a bicycle and an extra wheel. Nice to have that extra wheel, but ultimatly unnecessary. This has been a theme pretty much all my life, and I see hints of it as I’m starting to make friends here. It’s hard not to go ahead and fortify the walls. For me, it’s not about trying not to put up walls – it’s about trying to tear down the ones that go up automatically in new places…when I want to strengthen them. I think I try to hang on hard to friends that maybe want to let me go? How does one become content with being the odd friend out? Then I realize this is all completely selfish and I don’t deserve to have friends in the first place, so gratitude should be the only thing I’m feeling.]

When it comes to improvement and growth, I tend to impose regulations or sweeping statements intended to make myself better. But am I actually changing on the inside? I need the humility to seek holiness, not just better qualities or habits. I need Jesus, not self-help. How would humility change me?

“Humility is not feeling a certain way about yourself, not feeling small or low or embarrassed or even humiliated. Theologically speaking, humility is a proper understanding of who God is and who we are as a result.” (103)

The morality of our culture is that if something feels good, it must be good: “But today, being true to yourself doesn’t mean making an honest evaluation of yourself; it means embracing your emotional experience of the world as truth.” (103) I can get obsessed with how other people feel about me and how I feel about myself. How I feel about myself/the world/others isn’t reality…it’s corrupted. This statement really spoke to my heart: “Instead of responding to the pain of being misunderstood, I can rest in the fact that God understands me even better than I understand myself.” (106) I need to hear that every day for life.

Humility should free us from self-condemnation. I’m not God – I can’t condemn, not even myself. My assuming unnecessary guilt (or shame) keeps me at the center of my mind and life. Honest anxiety leads to usurping God’s position of authority. We should adore God -> be humble -> have confidence. Anderson includes this Hildebrand (philosopher) quote: “The question whether I feel worthy to be called is beside the point; that God has called is the one thing that matters.”

I feel like it has become increasingly popular or socially acceptable to be openly judgmental. I’m sitting in a coffee shop where the wi-fi is being slightly fickle but mostly working fine (for me at least), and the girl at the table next to me has been trying to figure out the network/password. Loudly, she said, “I’m never coming here again.” I’m listening to music through my headphones, and I heard her. I’m sure the baristas just across the way could hear her. Her friend said, “I’m fine with that. The coffee is…*makes a face*” I mean, wow. I guess taking a couple minutes to figure out the Internet is a deal breaker, and it’s all right to complain about the coffee in front of the people who made it. That’s a minor example…

People talking about others who are difficult to love or be around – who have awkward or problematic tendencies — really just want to get away from them. They talk in a belittling and irritated manner. When Christians operate this way, I want to shove a copy of Life Together into their hands. I know not every difficult person is also a part of God’s family, but I think that acknowledging the image of God in everyone means that we can’t openly shame others. (But the Internet, for instance, says we MUST shame anyone who says anything remotely wrong.) I think doing so reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the sin and inconsistencies inherent in our own hearts. When we are gratified by pointing out others’ deficiencies, we probably don’t see our own clearly enough. I usually don’t want to hear you gossip about someone else if you don’t have a hopeful bent – if you’re not interested in engaging with the person and doing life with them.

Nick is so good at engaging with people that others would disregard. I’m constantly challenged by this. He gives rides to strangers – has done this multiple times since we’ve been married. He talks to the Jehovah’s Witnesses sitting on the park bench (which generally means he listens to their speeches for ten minutes without interrupting or looking for his out). He listens to the man playing music on the street and tries to learn what he’s about. And he does not complain about this. He loves it. He loves people. His heart is open. What if we all operated this way?

Humility can redeem the inner life. We can bring our emotions to God and feel them deeply. God is not emotionally manipulative. “So…when humility frees us from the oppression of our emotions, when we finally learn that ‘God is greater than our heart,’ it also frees us to enjoy the depth and variety of our inner life. We are free to enter into our emotions, letting them do what God intends for them to do: draw us back to Himself.” (114)

Remember, we always have something to learn. I can very easily assume the posture of knowing what everyone is talking about all the time. Usually I am just trying to assume a listening posture, but sometimes it can also lead people to think that I’m already in the know. I don’t speak up when I don’t get a reference, but it happens all the time. The book I’m reading now describes this well in reference to a particular character. Indulge me and read this paragraph…

“It was therefore with a very well-concealed ignorance that Moody played interlocutor to Gascoigne, and Clinch, and Mannering, and Pritchard, and all the others, when they spoke of Anna Wetherell, and the esteem in which they held her, as a whore. Moody’s well-timed murmurs of ‘naturally’ and ‘of course’ and ‘exactly so,’ combined with a general rigidity of posture whenever Anna’s name was mentioned, implied to these men merely that Moody was made uncomfortable by the more candid truths of human nature, and that he preferred, like most men of exalted social rank, to keep his earthly business to himself. We observe that one of the great attributes of discretion is that it can mask ignorance of all the most common and lowly varieties, and Walter Moody was nothing if not excessively discreet. The truth was that he had never spoken two words together to a woman of Anna Wetherell’s profession or experience, and would hardly know how to address her – or upon what subject – should the chance arise.” (The Luminaries, page 397)

Ignorance can be masked by reserve, and I don’t have the humility to admit the ignorance most of the time. That’s my point.

Humility also applies to the limits of human reason. God’s ways are so far beyond our own. We should not be concerned with being right for the sake of being right. We shouldn’t be self-righteous about our knowledge or wisdom. Anderson describes this using someone else’s term: epistemological humility. I think people in my theological/faith/denominational circles need to hear this. We must have faith in the truth of revelation, not faith in our own knowledge or understanding. We need to be able to acknowledge when we are wrong (and see that we will always be fallible…and sinful). We will never ever know everything, so get used to it, and start acknowledging limits more. It will put others at ease. When I’m around people who seem to have tons to say or seem super secure in their own understanding, I’m either intimidated, or I don’t have much desire to talk to them, because it’s already clear what they think and that they might not be great at listening to the opinions or perspectives of others. Yet, I do this. Nick will feel shut down in conversations when I feel strongly or have a lot of thoughts about a subject. I have to shut myself up. (I interrupt with occasional smothered noises now, rather than with fully-formed sentences. 🙂

“Not only does humility teach us that knowledge comes from outside us, it also reminds us that we cannot perfectly categorize and process the knowledge that we do have.” (123)

We all have resources at our disposal. I learned this well when I first went to Sunshine Gospel Ministries in Chicago. They teach college groups (which tend to be made up of kids from at least semi-privileged backgrounds, and in our case very clearly privileged) about communities of poverty – how they are constructed, what their struggles are, and how injustice contributes to the cycle of poverty. I learned that it’s very unlikely that I’ll end up homeless. I have a savings account. I have a family that could support me financially or house me for a time. They would have compassion. I actually have multiple arms of family that could do this. I am white and have a college degree, so I can easily get different kinds of jobs. I have the technology to engage with current trends and to fit into society. There are people against whom systems are biased. There are people who get subpar education based on where they live and how much money their community has. People who live in unsafe environments because they have no choice and are more prone to danger, drugs, or sickness and who grow up with incredible trauma. People who have to struggle to gain stable employment, let alone higher education, and whose families are in the same situation. People who are targeted and charged with minor crimes and fines, who can’t afford to get out from under that burden. The cycle can start in so many places, and I am not vulnerable to its sinkhole. I didn’t do anything to DESERVE this invulnerability. Anderson gets to this briefly in a footnote: “In failing to recognize how much previous generations have shaped our own success, we can also fail to see how much generations of poverty and oppression will shape other people as well. While we may inherit blessing, other people inherit hardship.” (142)

So, Anderson writes about having resources of all kinds. We can honor them, and we can engage them with humility. Everything we have, we’ve been given (material and relational and everything). We don’t deserve to have things a certain way, and we haven’t earned a particular lifestyle. I complain from a position in which God has given me more than I need. Humble thankfulness is not based on comparison (I have more than others, so I should be grateful). It is “a gratitude rooted in having anything at all.” (143)

I need to make sure I’m not putting myself at the center of dealing with privilege. This is very difficult, because the first and easiest way we try to understand the world is through our own eyes. I’m thinking about the parable of the talents. Do I steward (plant) my resources, or do I bury them? (Bury them. or get paralyzed. or don’t realize I have them.) Am I using my freedom well? (Hm) Do I accept gifts without guilt, without trying to earn them? (Either so guilty or so entitled. depends.) Do I let God lead me in using them? (Mostly I do not.) We have responsibilities because of the gifts we have been given. Asking whether we deserve them is not productive. Asking what we are responsible to do can lead to action and growth. God is at the center. Everything has a purpose.

“We know that we don’t deserve more than another person, but we also know that we have more than another person. And so in an attempt to deal with this guilt, we can pursue a form of asceticism, all while keeping ourselves at the center of the conversation.” (HR, 146)

I am one of those people who often feel that planning and wishing seem presumptuous because we don’t know God’s step-by-step plan. I needed to hear that it is right to have desires and hopes (and even…plans !) and that we should speak them, so that God can redeem and shape and reform them. This was a huge learning moment for me.

It’s actually not virtuous to refuse to make a plan before we know what’s to come. It’s arrogant. It’s reaching for knowledge that is beyond us, that only God knows. We will never have a perfect map, but we do have the most gracious guide. A verse that kept coming to mind was Proverbs 16:3, which says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” I think I’ve always been incredulous at the thought that the Bible says the Lord will establish *your* plans. My plans, really? I thought it was all about God’s plan though… Something I realized as I meditated on this idea and continued to read Humble Roots is that because of this incredulity and focus on God’s unknowable plan, I don’t actually commit my hopes, my work, or my plans to the Lord. So the focus shouldn’t be on God establishing my plans, but on committing everything I do to Him.

Three distilled conclusions from Hannah:
“I will not overlook my privilege.”
“I will not feel guilty about what God has put in my hands or attempt to earn it.”
“I will allow God to lead me in cultivating these gifts for His glory and the good of those around me.”

“Just as God is the source of your life and gifting, God is also the source of your desires… In this sense, the greater presumption is not found in speaking your desires but failing to acknowledge their existence in the first place.” (159)

“Surprisingly enough, humility teaches us to embrace desire as a means of learning to submit to God. It is precisely through the process of wanting certain things that we also learn to trust God to fulfill those desires or to trust Him when he changes them. It is precisely through the process of learning to plan that we learn to depend on a God who makes our plans happen.” (159)

We are kept dependent on God when we don’t know everything. This has altered the way I think: “As much as you cannot make yourself or orchestrate the events of your life or shape your unique personality, you can no more create the desires of your heart.” (161) Desires feel completely selfish. I want this or that – I want to do this or that – it’s all about me. But, DUH, we have nothing we haven’t been given, including our lives and bodies and minds and desires. To acknowledge them is to own them, and that is a risk. To tell God about them is a risk. But it also means, “agreeing with God about who He has made you to be.” (162) We have to learn to ultimately desire the one thing we will never be denied, which is God himself. But we also need to trust Him with our plans, and submit to the idea that they will be fulfilled in ways that we can’t imagine. The possibility of failure is no excuse. We still work.

“When we limit ourselves to working when the time is right, we reveal that we are still clinging to the notion that success is dependent on our choices and our ability to control outcomes.” (168) I have a real strong control issue. That probably gives you the picture of what this feels like for me. 🙂

The world is broken. We can respond to this brokenness with humility. In Luke 8/Matthew 13, Jesus talked about the different kinds of ground upon which the seed of the truth is sown. The seeds that fall on thorny ground are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. We try to replace the giver with the gifts. Sloth…that’s not often how I think about this defeated way of living. God can make our efforts fruitful in the midst of the broken world. “Rooted in pride, sloth factors God out of the equation entirely. If God is not present or powerful here, there is no guarantee that your work or time will be rewarded. So why even try?” (181) We get defeated and more defeated as we stop trying.

Jesus trusts God and accepts the crown of thorns and defeats evil. “What better way to diminish the King of the universe than to crown Him with the very curse that hangs over His creation? What better way to triumph over Him than for evil to adorn his head? What could be more humiliating than to have our brokenness rest on Him?” (184) He trusted God – “Humility trusts God.” (185)

Do I believe the truth about God even when the situation suggests he’s someone doing something I can’t trust? I can’t be ruled by anything other than His word. I can confess my brokenness and rest by telling God and others that I need help. Surrender and stop thinking I can be enough – there is hope.

The most humbling experience of all is death. “All our life, humility is working to this end: Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” (195) We experience the deaths of others until one day we are dying. We have no control. Jesus commits his spirit to the father – the destroyer of death, which destroys us now. Those who humble themselves will be the ones exalted. “…when the creature is finally and fully humbled, the world rights itself. When Jesus humbled Himself and submitted to death, He unleashed a power greater than death.” (196) It’s an upside down kingdom.

The struggle to sleep is another picture of the struggle to give up control and trust God. Put down the day. It’s a small way to practice letting go every day because we literally can’t live without it. “In many ways, the act of sleep itself is a spiritual act, an act of humility.” (204) I have to trick myself into sleeping most nights (if I’m not just exhausted) by leaving a light on or reading a book. God offers rest at the end of every day and at the end of every week. He welcomes us to rest, and he will restore us and sustain us.

The whole exercise of writing has had no place to fit in my life lately. I’m interested in politics/keeping up with current events. I’m interested in being a part of my community (though school and work mean that so much of my time is occupied). I’m interested in writing and reading fiction – I love it so much. I’m interested in too many things? I’m not sure what realm I’ll end up working toward when it comes to career time. I’m in seminary slash grad school. My program is focused on the connection of social justice to theology. I’ve been able to learn the outworking of that in terms of bringing justice+gospel to bear in different aspects of work in the city, whether that means working with refugees, working in community development, working in medicine, housing, etc. I’m interested in building relationships, but also in connecting people to the resources they need. How does someone get from the exit door of the prison to the front door of an employment agency (willing to talk to them) that has connections to employers (willing to give them a chance)? I’m interested in the broad and the sweeping…one of my strengths (according to Gallup) is “Connectedness”. Another is “Restorative”. I’m interested in restorative justice and the connection of the gospel to all of life – and its call on our lives to be righteous, which has huge implications for how we engage the poor and marginalized. I’ve written a little about that here before.

This was also very long, and if you made it this far then consider yourself part of my blog’s VIP club.

Recommendations:
“Autumn” – a BRAND NEW album by Nick Dahlquist!!! I know him!
“Whose Country ‘Tis of Thee?” – Latino USA podcast episode
“All Things Work Together” – new Lecrae Album! SO GOOD.

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respect

On Thursday night, Nick (my husband) played (his original music) at a legit venue for the first time since we’ve lived in St. Louis. He has played at a coffee shop a couple of times, but never as a performer recognized as such. There was a simple stage, a sound check, and an opener. We got to the venue about an hour early to set up and get a vibe. We chatted with the bartender before people started to arrive. A friend (from the seminary we attend) played a set of his own music to open up. Friends (mostly from the seminary as well) trickled in over the course of the next hour. When it was time for Nick to start playing, someone who worked at the venue came onstage and gave a short, seemingly out-of-the-blue speech about the fact that during the show with an obviously largely Christian-seminary-crowd, the bar was making the least money in tips than it ever had before on similar nights. He addressed the idea of generosity and basically spoke against us for a little while. And then Nick had to start playing (for his own CD release show) in the midst of the subsequent atmosphere.

At first, it made me feel super unwelcome, like we were almost being asked to wrap things up and leave (before the main act had started). At the same time, I started to feel terrible. So terrible. Such a sinking feeling in my stomach. Nick and I were each given two tickets for free drinks since he was an artist and I was taking cover charges at the door. I hadn’t had the opportunity to tip or buy my own drink. But I have known for a long time that in the restaurant industry, Christians have the worst reputation as customers and specifically as being terrible tippers. That has always informed the way that Nick and I try to extend generosity when we tip (besides the fact that it’s a decent and normal way to behave, no matter who you are). Nick has also worked at three or four restaurants in his life, and he understands what it’s like to rely on tips on your shift.

The speech we should want people to give when a group of Christians comes into a neutral space is quite the opposite from the one this man had to give last night. It should be, “You Christians have been the best-tipping crowd we’ve ever had, and that wasn’t what we were expecting! Thank you for living up to the standard of generosity that you’re supposed to have!” We should be living in a way that shows people who don’t share our beliefs that we actually let our faith inform our way of being in the world, everywhere we go. As I sat and listened to Nick play his set (very graciously and positively and addressing the bar in a congenial way, seemingly unfazed by the speech) I started to get pissed. We invited this crowd to a bar we had never been to before, and they were representing us, our school, our faith, and ultimately our God. I wish they had thought about that when they decided not to leave a tip (those of them who didn’t leave a tip…probably better just not to buy a drink in the first place). I had used my drink tickets, so I went ahead and bought a beer.

After Nick was finished, he wanted to buy a drink as well, and a couple of our friends stayed back with us as we sat at the bar and chatted with the two people who had been working that night. We addressed the issue right away – we apologized for the way they had been stiffed, and made it clear that we weren’t on board with that. The lady that we had talked to early in the evening told us a couple of comments she’d overheard from the guests. One person commented to another that they hadn’t tipped and that their friend shouldn’t feel bad about not tipping either. One person questioned the bartender’s sexuality based on her short hair. I was horrified!! We personally knew all but three of the people who’d walked through the door – albeit we don’t know all of them as close friends. I couldn’t believe that some of my friends/acquaintances had behaved so poorly, especially in light of the speech from a person who directly said that he had grown up in the church. What a terrible impression we confirmed for him.

Our conversation – the six of us – after everyone else had left was really helpful and hopefully healing to the employees. They had gotten a terrible view of Christianity from our group that night. They expressed their gratitude for all the music, and for the four of us who stayed and tried to make amends and just talk as people. We listened to their thoughts about faith – some direct challenges and even really offensive accusations…but we didn’t argue or belittle. We tried to listen and be honest when we were asked questions. The guys exchanged phone numbers. We gave them most of the money we’d made at the door as our tip (something we weren’t necessarily guaranteed from Nick doing a show, and something that Nick does anyway when the tip jar is low). It was my favorite part of the night. And I was so proud of Nick for playing his really evidently Christian music without shame after being ripped, and for treating the staff so well, and for acknowledging with honesty the need to make up for the animosity they felt that night. I was grateful to have friends who stayed behind with us – I think it was really important for the staff to see that we weren’t the only people who could be kind to them and act normal. There are more than just two Christians who know how to love.

As I read that, it seems like I’m ranting and tooting my own horn here…but I am not trying to make us look good…I’m really trying to process being appalled and heartbroken…

When someone says to you that they were starting to heal and think about the Christian faith again, but your audience made them question whether they wanted to do that anymore, it is a big deal. Our behavior has consequences, and I want people to know that they leave an impact. Whatever your intentions, and whatever you think about your own money…Christians have to be the perfect example of human beings – we have to be extra generous and extra loving, because there is a stigma attached to us when we walk into the room. I think people are still used to the privilege of being accepted everywhere and having the freedom to behave how they like.

I’m not accusing anyone in particular of wrongdoing…but I was so embarrassed and so upset…and I wasn’t even on the receiving end of any comments or carelessness. The guys and the bartenders did one round of shots together to finish off the night, and we all hugged it out. I’m so glad that they were generous-spirited people, open to talking to us even though they didn’t have to trust us. I’m so glad we were able to have an open conversation about how they felt and what they saw and heard. I’m so sorry that Christians are so culturally clueless and blind to the way they affect others. I’m so glad that Nick’s music was still beautiful to them. It really was the kind of night that Nick wants his music to facilitate…just not in the way we expected.

It’s time to pray that we’ll have further interactions, conversations, positive experiences, friendships, with this place and the people who work there. It’s time to pray that they remember the way they were treated and respected at the beginning and end of the night. To pray that they know they are loved by God, and that their hearts might be opened. This should be our prayer for everyone we encounter, and I thought that Christians understood that…at least the ones who go to our seminary…perhaps I am just naïve. I’m usually cynical, and this whole incident isn’t helping with that. It is our actions that show who we truly our, not merely our words. Dumbledore says it. The Bible says it. We’ll be known by what we do.

Like I said, there were plenty of our friends there who were being perfectly kind and normal. And like I said, the speech was pretty brutal…it hit people the wrong way in general. The bartender made a caveat that the women were doing great (once the women started to arrive, she said, the tips started rolling in generously). We were a group of graduate students who generally look like we have it together but actually can’t really afford to spend money on drinks. Perhaps we shouldn’t have invited people to an event where they had to pay a cover as well as purchase drinks. It’s complicated, right? But in another way, it’s not complicated at all. Not to the two people we should have been most conscious about in that space.

I wanted a space to process this, so thanks for reading. Here are some quotes from a book we read at this seminary about living as Christians in a world where Christianity turns people off.

“Respect and graciousness are to flow from a heart that is being changed by the way God has come to meet me in Christ; they must arise from genuine love and a proper regard for my neighbor’s true dignity.” – The Heart of Evangelism, page 195

“Christians, above all people, should be aware that we need to earn respect from unbelievers by our life of service to the community.” – The Heart of Evangelism, page 144

every breath that comes before (with lots of parentheses)

It’s a crazy week. It has been a crazy week. It’s the end and the beginning of another one (so not really crazy just normal) and I don’t know if I’ll be able to pay attention. Life is a lot about paying attention. PAY ATTENTION is what I yell at other drivers. It’s what I mutter to myself as I hear news about the country. It’s what I think when I hear a question that has already been answered. I’m usually paying scrupulous attention to everything. Hyper-observant. Can’t stand it when I have to slow down a conversation for tedious explanations of what I think you should know. This is my presumption and arrogance, I know.

But sometimes I zone out. It’s when I get overwhelmed and I can’t engage anymore. My brain shuts off. It’s all or nothing. If I can’t pay full attention, I can’t even. And I’m at that point right now when I’m in danger of zoning out of life for a day or two, unless I write it out.

So many different waves crossing through my mind, which current to jump into? Are they the same river? Goodness gracious.
At least it isn’t dry anymore.

There’s a song by The Oh Hellos that begins, “No, I am not afraid to die / It’s every breath that comes before,” and that is pretty much my life. That’s my struggle. Fear is maybe my fatal flaw? It clouds everything I do, every interaction with other humans, every thought about the future, every idea about how I should live and what I should do with the living I’m given. I’m not afraid to die (generally), but I am afraid to live.

On Thursday night, my Intercultural City Ministry class visited the president of Latinos en Axion at one of the churches where the group meets. His story was incredible, from living on the U.S./Mexico border to escaping an endangered life there to helping immigrants from Latin American countries make a life here in the U.S. He has so many stories to tell, and many of them just made me feel a sense of hopelessness. But his attitude was one I’m coming to recognize. It shows up in people who have seen some of the darkest parts of life in this world, and it’s the sense of inexplicable hope and enduring joy that sustains their continued work for justice.

After visiting with him for awhile, we walked over to a coffee shop to talk more with our professor. He asked for our thoughts on the idea of being a “chaplain to the powerful,” a concept from one of the books we are reading. I’ve been around enough conversations with people doing work or ministry in different areas of social justice to know that someone will inevitably ask them the question, “What can I do? How can I get involved? What does that mean for me?” These are good questions that reflect a positive response and a desire to contribute. But sometimes they just reveal that we want to be told exactly what to do, rather than letting the ambiguity motivate us toward creative action. Anyway, when someone asked the director of Latinos en Axion a question along these lines, his response began with talk to other people in places of power, and talk to your representatives. This is a common response as well – go back to where you came from, and change people’s minds. Go talk to your family and see what they think, and tell them what you’ve discovered. Once you get woke, stay woke. Spread it around.

I talked later about how this idea of speaking truth to power is usually the last thing I want to hear in these scenarios. I see the people with their boots-on-the-ground and their passion and their relationships, and I think that seems amazing. I want to know how to get from where I am (A) to where they are (B). But what I keep hearing is that I have a responsibility to those people with less power, privilege, and opportunity, who suffer injustice and oppression. Those people I care so much about. If I really care, won’t I advocate for them with people I know hold harmful beliefs? Won’t I try to change some minds? What do I have privilege for?

The phrase the director repeated over and over that night was, “Every head is a different world.” Our minds are tricky and sly. They like to think for themselves and about themselves, and they’re stubborn. Our hearts can be softened, and we can learn to be sensitive toward one another as we come to understand each other. We might know the truth, but “every head is a different world,” and surely some people come to mind.

The following night, my group for the same class (which consists of me and a married couple in the program) went to do part of our project together. We went to the “feeding ministry” of the church we are working to get to know. It’s a meal-serving ministry to the community on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings. The church is an African American Baptist church with two locations in St. Louis. We met some lovely people, and afterward met with the director of a nonprofit that runs out of the church. This man (Rev. and probably Dr.) was a wealth of knowledge and stories. We barely got a question in edgewise in this “interview.” And we left after about two hours with a few answers and brains full of unknown names, places, and tendrils of stories trying to hang on to memory. (It was awesome.)

One of the most convicting and true things he said was…well, I’ll have to paraphrase: You’ll have to put yourself in harm’s way to help people. It’s going to happen. You cannot be afraid and help people at the same time.

((( You cannot be afraid and help people at the same time. )))

It just rang in my ears.

This Sunday morning (today), we were planning to visit the church. The service times are 8:00 and 11:00, and I needed to go early, but my partners were planning to go at 11:00, so I went by myself. My church background consists of going pretty much every Sunday of my life to a Presbyterian, Methodist, or Lutheran church with a primarily white congregation and pretty mellow-liturgical-everything. This was a primarily black church (mine was truly the only white face I saw) with a more responsive and active congregation. It was lovely, and everyone there was so kind. (I even have a privileged experience as a minority amongst people who probably know exactly what it feels like to be the only one with their skin in a sea of people and are often treated worse for it.) Digress, Emily.

Suffice it to say I’m a little relationally spent. All of my people energy is gone, and I’m not ready for the week.

My devotional book on the Psalms had me in numbers 42 and 43 this week – two of my absolute favorites, especially 42.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (42:5 & 11 and 43:5)

This back and forth is the turn that I have to force my heart to make every day. Yes, you get downcast and disturbed. But ask yourself why. You have almighty God, so you have hope, and you have a reason to be thankful every day. I’m not so good at this, which is why I need to hear it. What can I say to my soul in those downcast moments? How can I praise with a sense of true delight – not just out of the duty and imperative: praise him! It’s always a task to stop merely listening to the running monologue of my heart’s discouragement and to start speaking truth. You have to know the truth by heart to speak it on impact.

I breathe in (fear) I breathe out (downcast)
Quickly and my heart keeping time
You can’t help anyone let alone yourself
Hope in God hope in God why can’t you

I breathe in (truth) I breathe out (death)

I breathe in (hope) I breathe out (praise)

[Nod to national poetry month (I heard?), haven’t done that in at least a year, clearly.]
These instances, these conversations, and these thoughts are swirling and making me wonder what’s about to happen. There is a sense of impending decision, like maybe I’m on the cusp of figuring something out. But no epiphanies today.

See past the recommendations to listen to the Oh Hellos song.

Recommendations:
Ok, guys. Since I don’t blog super often, I’m making up for lost time here. 🙂

Podcast: “Missing Richard Simmons” (I’ve heard the whole thing, 6 episodes.) Yeah I know he’s fine and all that jazz, so if you’re cynical and think this podcast is stupid then I don’t want you to listen to it anyway. JK maybe you should give it a chance.
Podcast: “S-town” (I’ve only heard the first one, but I’ll be finishing it.)
(I listen to podcasts whenever I’m in the car now, because I’m in the car for about an hour a day. Makes it easy to burn through episodes.)
Album: Listen to the River, by The Collection (And their first album if you haven’t heard it!)
Book: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic, by Emily Croy Barker (FIRST IN A SERIES which is very important information that I did not have at time of reading LOL)

justice = social concern

Lots of things I feel like I need to write about. That’s always the case. It’s how I most accurately process, because the words don’t come out of my mouth right. It really does feel like everyone’s a writer. It feels like they’re all posing. And it really feels like I am because really all I have to my name is a lifetime of teachers telling me I’m really good, and a bachelor’s degree in English. But I don’t have any material to show you right now. I don’t have a record of writing in my spare time. I’m pretty neurotic and kind of the worst and I can’t make myself do things. Stubborn, let’s say.

There is so much going on politically. I do feel like I’m in an echo chamber…though maybe not – it’s just that I’m not in regular contact with people who feel very differently about all that is going on…at least, not the kind of contact that includes talking about politics. It’s difficult.

All of my interactions are fraught with insecurity and the idea that I’m not interesting. I was at a gathering of (really cool) (friendly) (nice) (fun) people from school and some of their spouses. In general it was pretty cool. They don’t really know me, and signs show they’re not trying to. I asked one of them how she was doing and she basically said pretty good and turned the conversation. That’s that. Am I just not interesting to talk to with? No good conversation, no good personality? That’s generally how other people make me feel.

Trump supporters say that his actions targeted at keeping out refugees/immigrants/ANYONE from seven majority-Muslim countries are there to keep out the bad people and let in only the good people. (I know it’s been blocked, but gosh look at what’s happened.) That is completely arbitrary and terrible. It also ignores the FACTS (the actual facts, not the alternative ones) that terrorist attacks in the United States are SO rare, and not perpetrated by people who are in this country as refugees or immigrants. The idea that everyone from seven countries is just “BAD” assumes quite a lot. The idea that there’s not an “extreme vetting” process in existence is ludicrous. It is NOT easy for people to come to this country, as immigrants or refugees. Not to mention…can you IMAGINE walking into a refugee camp? Just visualize for a second. Go to the internet if you need some help. It’s not a mystery what life looks like there. Imagine walking in and telling a family they pose too great a threat to American life to be allowed, and they’re just going to have to make it work somewhere else, like maybe in the camp? Mmm. Yeah. Sounds great. I’m pretty sure that would go fine.

People don’t take the time to imagine what it’s like to be someone else. It’s SO SIMPLE. Like, how many times in life did teachers and parents tell us to imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes? Did anyone else ever hear that? That’s like…my favorite thing about life. I LIKE imagining other people complexly, as John Green always says.

Recommendation #1: “Dear Hank and John” podcast episode #79: “Tiny Useless Pelvises (That Are Still There)”

I’ve possibly taken in more information than I can process and write about. That is probable, actually. From endless podcasts to unlimited NPR news to class lectures to reading all of the things.

Currently listening to Auld Lang Syne in a coffee shop watching a girl and guy press their palms together in the air in what is maybe a more affectionate version of a high-five. It’s a great song…

One of my classes this semester is called Intercultural City Ministry. It’s somewhere between urban ministry-urban planning-racial reconciliation-ministering to the poor-issues of justice in the city-how does social justice work in/with the church. It’s all the reasons I’m studying in this program. The first day of classes was a Thursday, which is the day this class happens (from 6:15-9:00). The Wednesday night before, our professor emailed us to let us know the class would be meeting at a church on the other side of town from the seminary (about 30 mins.)…probably something everyone should have known several weeks earlier…or at least whenever registration happened. I was pretty upset to find out about the change of location with such short notice because it interfered with all of my plans. Even though it is much closer to my house and allows me to go home in the afternoon, and to have a short drive home when I’ll be tired. In the moment, I was angry.

I made an appointment to talk to an advisor about dropping the class. I strongly considered boycotting on that first night. But I went. I sucked it up and gave it a chance. And I got over my anger pretty much right away. It’s a small class. It’s in a less intimidating room than any place on campus. The content is tailor-made for my heart. The professors are passionate, and they want us to care deeply. I was almost in tears by the time I left, because it was the first time in any class since we’ve been here that I felt the tug in my heart saying, “Yes, this is it.” I was almost in tears when I got home because I realized the devil was all over the place trying to prevent me from going that night, or at all. People have talked about feeling spiritually attacked, and professors remind us of the reality that the enemy does not want us to be studying theology to go out on mission. But I hadn’t felt anything that real or that clear until that night.

We have been reading a book called The Great Reversal, by David O. Moberg, and if I could quote all five chapters I’ve read, I would just do that. Its subtitle is Reconciling Evangelism and Social Concern. It was written in the seventies, but it’s uncannily timely. Moberg speaks to the issue of Christians who want to remain politically uninvolved or “neutral,” which is a ridiculous impossibility. They inevitably get over-involved when it comes to issues they see as particularly moral. All signs point to the reality that once you meet people with an experience different from your own, you will understand something about life that only they can teach you. You will understand the need for things you previously saw as unnecessary or stupid, because you know someone who can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps, or has tried but because of injustices inherent in the system has been pushed back down.

There are some distinct and tragic divides along essentially conservative/liberal lines. Personal/social. Spiritual/Secular. What have you. “Each group reads different parts of the Bible; when it stumbled into the other’s domain, it provided a different interpretive schema…Christians became either evangelistic or socially involved, not both” (page 34). Evangelicals really do lack social concern – concern for justice, which is ALL OVER the Bible. The whole Bible. The Old Testament law shows us God’s heart for the vulnerable. The New Testament shows Jesus’ radical commitment to the poor. There are people who leave the church because they see it as inward-focused, with justice as an optional ministry. This is incredibly wrong. As our professor put it…people leaving the church because it isn’t concerned about justice is about the same as people leaving the church because it’s not preaching the Bible anymore. People should be leaving the church only if they no longer believe in God.

The last chapter I read was so helpful in articulating so much of why I’m angry with right-wing conservative Christians who so identify when it comes to politics. “Actually it is impossible not to take sides in a democratic society; neutrality supports the side of whoever wins in the struggle for power. Sometimes that side may be consistent with Christian values; more often it will support vested interests sustained by wealth, power, and privileged position. ‘Neutral’ Christians thereby indirectly communicate that they believe those vested interests are morally right in social controversies” (Moberg, 87). “No vote on positive efforts to bring about reforms in society constitutes a ‘No’ vote; no vote on candidates for public office is the equivalent of casting a ballot for the winner, whoever he may be. The aphorism, ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,’ clearly applies to the question of alleged neutrality on political issues. To be neutral usually is to give one’s support to evil” (88).

I have a lot more processing to do (and more reading!) but when I write my paper on the place of social justice in the church, I’ll put it out here. Right now, just thinking so much and appreciating this book SO much.

And feeling anxious to just write, and I just wrote, and still feeling like it’s not enough. Feeling like I just want a friend who just wants a friend. Who has time and space and not ten thousand other friends and doesn’t care if I’m married and wants to talk about real things. Too much too soon? (lol opposite of too little too late).

ALL over the place, y’all.

Recommendation #2: that book.

snippet

So many things to chase…to write about. There is too much to process, sometimes. I was trying to ease back in to real life and real time, only to get an influx of too much news at once. And that was just in listening to 20 minutes of NPR radio this morning. I found myself becoming angry at the things I was hearing. But did I stop? Nope. I went on to catch up on the NPR Politics Podcast, which actually exists to keep me from participating in the consumption of the 24-hour news cycle by summarizing and quickly analyzing recent events. Except I listened to three of them and was surprised when I started to feel gloomy and desperate.

I watched a series of videos last night. Michelle Obama was standing behind her portrait with Jimmy Fallon as people said thank you to her, and they were overcome when she came out and gave them hugs. Stephen Colbert was giving a monologue making cathartic jokes about crazy things that are way too real these days. Hank Green was talking about the anniversary of 10 years on YouTube – all the channels and causes he has started (*cough*VidCon) or been a part of. I laughed at pictures of George W. Bush struggling with his poncho at the inauguration and ultimately smirking at himself, which was just great. I haven’t been able to watch Obama’s farewell address all the way through (too soon it’s not over it can’t be over), nor have I watched Trump’s inauguration speech. I will definitely watch the former. Mere clips of Trump’s speech have been enough to make my blood feel a little warmer (as in not-blood-boiling-but-not-not-on-its-way).

Recently, I have been surrounding myself with more means of grace. I finally purchased a devotional book for myself to go through each day, because my aspirations to Just Read the Bible and Pray weren’t super effective, and I honestly was feeling empty and dry. Since we have been back in St. Louis, I’ve started doing this almost each day, trying to write my prayers in a loose formula suggested by the author. I’ve found myself able to be honest, so much more honest, not praying in a way that covers all the bases without actually digging in to my heart. This has been changing things already, and I think I knew it would, but it is difficult for me to grab hold of myself and sit me down to do what I need to do.

When we were in Nebraska, a friend of mine told me some about a book she had just read that was impactful and helpful and good, highly recommended. The next day, I got a text from a new friend at our church – the wife of one of the pastors of our church wanted to start a group to read that same book. So I’m sitting here with it, just in the first chapter but looking forward to the process. The quote at the beginning of the first chapter is what I’m talking about: “The kind of life that makes one feel empty and shallow and superficial, that makes one dread to read and dread to think, can’t be good for one, can it? It can’t be the kind of life one was meant to live.” – Willa Cather

I think I’m going to start tutoring with a nonprofit that runs through our church. We have been getting together with friends, and I’ve been pursuing time with individual ladies that I have been wanting to get to know but have been held back by some combination of fear and the thought that it’s not my job to pursue all the relationships I have all the time anymore. But maybe I’m just leaving the place where that feels too exhausting. Things are really lookin’ up…positivity, baby. It’s the time for courage – in my life, and pretty much as a person in this nation that is embarrassed to be a person under this administration.

This is a short just get-it-out-there post, because practice is the name of the game. And the blog, evidently. My 30 minutes to work on this is up, and it’s time for dinner!

Recommendations:
This is George Bush and his poncho.

http://www.npr.org/2017/01/20/510850745/-meme-of-the-week-george-w-bush-battles-poncho-at-inauguration-and-loses

and this is Hank, who is great.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU4ygz-vTQY

hope/fear/year

Faith and fear are interlinked but opposite. Hope is certainty, though it toes the line with doubt. I found myself swimming in the sticky web of these ideas all year (2016) long – tired, frantic, and unsure what to do with myself.

I wonder if I will always be trying to catch up…to myself or life or whatever I should be processing. I have been mindless or falling into doing whatever. Forgotten the process of intentional friendship with conversation and good questions – something at which I once considered myself adept. Forgotten what it is to ask God for help and to surrender control and the anxious searching in order to put hope and trust where it belongs – the only place the chaos can ever rest. Forgotten to live for others before myself.

End-or-beginning-of-year conversations, posts, and blogs are sentimental, tiresome, and helpful. New year’s resolutions have become something we consider trite, and we joke about the inevitable giving up and inability to follow through of all the people who join the gym in January. I know this, but I also enjoy reading and hearing about the reflections people have – I admire the people who can distill themes and lessons from their year, or who can set something before themselves for the year to come, something to intentionally learn.

In my fear and uncertainty, I haven’t been paying attention very well to what I should be learning and how I might grow through life circumstances and everyday experiences. What has been the theme of my year, then? Fear? Transition? Uncertainty? Self-loathing?

What do I feel compelled toward?
Obedience. Joyfulness. Kindness. Faith. Hope. Courage. Daring. Engagement.

It’s easy to feel defeated – these are lifelong pursuits, and you can’t just learn one and then keep it forever in a year’s time. I forget that it’s okay for a phase of life to last more than just one year, or a few months even. It takes as long as it takes, really. Patience and waiting…maybe that’s something.

But I have traditionally enjoyed and followed through on new year’s resolutions or goals for the year, when they have been manageable and really desirable and when a moment of failure isn’t allowed to ruin the whole thing. A year of no soft drinks. A year (for the most part) of no meat.

I went back through my Instagram pictures from this year – kind of superficial, maybe, but I try to capture real life moments I want to remember. Isn’t that one point of social media? It’s not all stupid.

The first four months were my last working for RUF. Our Winter Conference in Colorado, Spring Break serving in Chicago, and Summer Conference in Florida were the highlights. I started noticing strangeness in my heartbeat, and started investigating – anxiety, palpitations, more questions. Nick released his second CD, Sunflower.

In June, we moved to St. Louis. Nick started class immediately, and I spent most of my time job-searching and trying to get used to this life. I started working at Anthropologie, and I stopped at the beginning of September, when I started nannying instead. Nick went for a tour with his friend Paul before the crazy semester started. Pretty much everything felt overwhelming and stressful – possibly because we weren’t getting enough sleep and because part of being in a new place (for me) is insecurity, restlessness, and sadness.

I’m still processing the election. I’m still trying to figure out how to be gracious & compassionate in my heart and with my thoughts toward people I think just don’t understand the gravity of what’s happening. This has been teaching me difficult things about myself. I can so easily turn bitter, judgmental, and unwilling to listen. I’m working on calming down enough to open my eyes and see what’s going on. I was very interested in the election as far as it was in my power to stop Donald Trump (not much/at all). Right now, I am just sitting in shock and waiting to see whether I get drafted into the next world war, get killed by a nuclear weapon, or simply end up living peacefully though the phase in which our country is the laughingstock of the rest of the developed world (or so I think it must be?). Personal withdrawal wasn’t an option before, but I really wish it could be now. And I don’t even hope for things to go well. I hope things fall apart, because it would give folks a sense of the reality that who we vote for matters…and I need to feel that principle is valid, too…Still processing this stuff obviously – and it might take me a few years. I’m just in shock from catching a little bit of his press conference on the radio and wondering whether he understands the reality we live in or anything about how civilized life works/

Being home with family (mostly this applies to extended family) makes me realize how isolated we can become during the majority of the year. And then, for one or two days, we are supposed to come together and these are the people we should love to spend our holidays with, feel close with, and buy gifts for. It’s a strange feeling, and I know communication needs to happen more. Though it goes both ways, I feel a sense of responsibility or guilt…but it obviously isn’t just me that’s failing to keep in touch. I wonder if it would be easier to talk about the issues in our lives – and our world – if we knew each other better. Hmmm??? Hah.

I’m wondering why humans hang on to things so hard for so long. We hang on to relationships, we let past offenses and blunders influence our view of others for such an unreasonable amount of time. Sometimes I don’t feel like a human. I feel like an Observer, from Fringe. But then I realize I have a human heart, and I’m not completely numb. This goes in waves, in and out.

I feel more awkward than ever – less able to pull my weight as a friend, and definitely exhausted by the process of making new friends, even though there are many people coming into my life that I so enjoy. I just want it to be figured out. I don’t do the friend-shopping thing. I sort of know from the beginning who I feel I can dive-in with…and I just want them to figure out whether I’m one of those people for them, or not, immediately. I can’t invest in many people, and it hurts when I try with someone who doesn’t ultimately want to try with me. And I’m not that interesting on first-impression, so when people stick around after that, it’s usually a good sign. Not sure why I’m talking about this.

Not sure if this was a year (2016) of growth or resistance.
On the first of the year (2017), I found myself listening to a sermon with more attention than I’ve given for a while. Christ asks us not to be anxious, and his love promises to hang on to us and not let go. The call on our lives is to turn to God, repent, and believe in the good news that Jesus has been faithful for our sake; believe that the kingdom of God is both here and coming; surrender our lives and seek the good of others; trust what Jesus said is good news.

The sermon was an all-encompassing summary of the Biblical storyline, a reminder of the call to live as followers of Christ. I’ve been reminded over and over in two specific classes of the importance of obedience. The importance of how we respond to God’s work in our lives.

I find the desire to be vulnerable much more often than I find the ability. There’s the gap. Don’t know how to be my real self, especially when I am in limbo. Picture me blurry around the edges. But that’s what I have to start with.

I haven’t put myself out there to pursue cosmic answers because I have been afraid that it won’t actually turn out all right and I won’t actually be okay. Always thinking about my own interests.

My mind is twisty.
But I think it will be okay. For the first time in a long time, I am feeling optimism. I am feeling that hope might be okay.

“Every hope left in your heart is waitin’ on what you’ll do
With doubt.” (“Don’t Doubt,” Blind Pilot)

 

My current recommendations…because just one is not enough:
And Then Like Lions, the album by Blind Pilot
Tapestry, the album by Carole King
La La Land, the movie written and directed by Damien Chazelle

bye, bye facebook

I’ve been journaling a lot lately, and a couple of recent writings have coalesced into this post, as I’ve decided to deactivate my facebook account, which somehow is like a Life Decision these days? Not really that big a deal to anyone else or in the grand scheme, but it is the result of lots of thought.

So, I’m reading in the Bible’s book of Isaiah right now. Chapter 5:1-7. The people of God are the vines in his vineyard, but even though He tends to them, they produce “wild grapes” aka stinking things. Jesus is the true vine. Only those who abide in him will flourish and produce good grapes. Verse 7 of the passage I read seem particularly apt right now.

“For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,

and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting;

he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;

for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!”

Last week was dissonant. We were in Colorado visiting family, doing lots of fun things and enjoying each other’s company. It was wonderful. Also while we were gone – just before, we got news that a dear family had lost their daughter in the wake of surgery. Then in a matter of two days came two consecutive murders of black men by police – caught on video and unjustified. Then we as a nation woke to the news that snipers had targeted and killed Dallas police officers at an utterly peaceful Black Lives Matter march. Hatred and darkness. Paranoia setting in. I work in a mall, which seems like the worst place right now – where mass quantities of people make themselves easy prey.

Our two main presidential options are horrific examples. Donald Trump is an idiot and an unacceptable choice for any job where he’s in charge of people, let alone the most powerful job in the country. And Hillary Clinton, while obviously the better choice politically (as in, an actual politician with a history of political experience), is also corrupt just like most of us assume politicians to be. She is guilty of something a regular person would get fired for but because she is powerful, the government is going to look the other way. SO, here we are.

In the meantime, everyone lives in their own echo chamber and disdains the rest of the world. It isn’t healthy or helpful, and all it does is make us all more angry and therefore more convinced of our own opinions. It is, on all sides, completely self-righteous. I don’t care what the intent. I feel self-righteous when I click “post” and then I feel good about it when you click “like.” I find myself justifying the hatred I feel toward some of my “friends” on facebook because of how ignorant, one-sided, and closed-minded they are in their posts and comments. I’m not saying there aren’t truths and falsehoods. I’m not saying we don’t need to talk about all the shit constantly flying from the fan. But when I lose my sense of human caring…when I see people losing their humanity with one another, sometimes over minutia…it’s scary. I can’t do it anymore. I need to get my news from news sources and do my own research, form my thoughts, and pray.

I don’t share things – things I consider very important – most of the time. I listen to stories and read news and think about the issues going on in our country all the time. But when I’m getting excited about something online and about to click “share,” I take a look at the first two or three comments, and that’s enough. It stops my hand, because over and over it’s proven that no one takes what you’re trying to say, or gets your particular point of view. People don’t LISTEN. Rather, people don’t listen to listen or to understand. They listen to respond. As they’re reading or watching, they’re thinking of all the things they want to say in response, disproportionately on edge because of the controversial nature of things, always ready to provide the “nuance” or perspective they think you’re missing. Does it not occur to people that maybe the person who posted the thing is an intelligent human who has considered other perspectives and even so STILL deems their post worthy of consideration? Life is full of conversations. When we post something, it’s part of the larger conversation. I guess I understand that to be the case and so I can take what people put out there and consider it for myself – whether I accept or reject or need nuance for its point without having to go on a tirade in the comments section.

I stop before I post because I could write the opposing comments and interactions for you, without anyone having to educate me. All possible responses line themselves up in my head, and I know what people will misunderstand and blow out of proportion. It’s exhausting. I think I could have put some great content out there for consideration (others’ content, or maybe some of my own writing) but all of the self-proclaimed experts keep me quiet because I don’t want to deal with them.

For the record, most of my friends whose information usually comes up in my feed on a given day understand that yes, all lives matter, but black lives haven’t always and they deserve special attention right now. They understand that privilege, nuanced and all, EXISTS, and they understand that collective apologies are not a big deal and if you don’t see that you have some pride issues going on.

And that right there ^ is why I have to go away. I’m angry at people, and I don’t have a spirit of love for everyone. It’s hard when we’re all dehumanized because of the computers through which we’re interacting. But I feel like I need to be restored to all of humanity after encounters with debates or monologues on facebook…every day. And it’s just stupid that all of this is because of the stupidity that occurs on the internet.

I knew how bad this had gotten when my first instinct or reaction in the midst of tragedy became reading my newsfeed and its comment threads instead of getting on my knees and letting my tears go to Jesus. Praying to the one I know cares about this world infinitely more than everyone in it. I don’t pray for this world regularly, and that is the last straw. It’s time to step back and realize how far over the edge our discourse and our relationships have gotten.

Like I said, I’m not going to change anyone’s mind my throwing content out there. It’s not even worth it. You don’t help people to know Jesus by lobbing the Gospel at them at random, without the context of a relationship with meaningful, understanding conversation. So any points I might make or self-satisfaction I may feel are just for naught in the end. I’ll just get more puffed up, more angry, and less human over time.

I hope I can have civilized, deeply felt conversations – dialogues, not debates or monologues – with friends, people at work, people at church…and let God be in control. I am not going to change the world through reading or even entering the comments. That’s not how we form informed opinions. We are relational, emotional people at the end of the day. Reason is important, for sure, but we follow whatever has a grip on our hearts – fear, loathing, selfishness, pride – or humanity, compassion, courage. We learn and grow with the people around us, and by learning more about the one who created us and his vision for the world to be a place where we love even our worst enemies. I’m leaving because I’m angry, sad, and I feel hopeless. I need to go first to the place where hope is offered. The passage from Isaiah is so appropriate. But we are also reminded of the finished work of Jesus we wait for – eagerly and patiently.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Yes, this life is hard. Yes. And yes, this world is being and will be redeemed! Take heart. Have courage.

Maybe this departure is a temporary thing. Maybe I’ll be back later, after the election, after things are a little more calm (?). Maybe I’ll just wait until I have the energy to just spread positivity. Or maybe I’ll pop in now & then because it’s really a good communication tool. In the meantime, if you want to stay in touch or need to get in touch, here is my email: emilymsnook@gmail.com. And here’s my phone number: 254-338-3818. I’ll leave this post up for a little while before deactivating.

“The world may be broken, but hope is not crazy.” – John Green