A Place for Pain

The Heavy Hope

Last week, I made a comment that may have opened some wounds. I knew it would. I said it anyway, because, though it was not for everyone that has walked that road, it was for some. And at times, words that seem harsh open eyes. And sometimes, those same words are worn by others they weren’t intended for. 

To both the intended and unintended, I want to say that you are loved. So much. The ache you feel is real and valid. Your cries are valid. I wrote a letter awhile ago on my old site. You may need it. 

I too have needed it. I wrote it for you, but this week my heart has been aching, longing for things that seem always just out of reach. I have wept a lot this week. For myself. For the ache. For the pull between wanting to make something work, and wanting to give up the hope altogether. So I needed to read my own words. I needed to preach to myself a bit. 

So today, we’ve already had one letter, but I share this one as well, because I need it and you may as well.


I have been carrying an ache in my heart for you these last days.  To see you wrestle with this want, this beautiful, God-woven want…it peels back the covering of put-togetherness we all desperately try to keep tethered to the ground around our feet. But I have seen glimpses of the frayed corners of your covering. A picture. A 140 character sigh. A far-off stare occupied by a deeply rooted thorn in your heart. A one-ton tear breaking through your “I’m fine” eyes and cutting a path of escape down your rose-garden cheek.

You are hurting. And life has not stopped to allow it. Holidays have steamrolled through as a constant reminder of hope deferred.

Hope deferred.

Such heavy words. Such known words.

It is this child. Loved before known. Held in your heart before your arms. Prayed and planned for. And grieved.

I know only a glimpse of this child-longing. I have dreamed of the day I hold my little heart-capturer as well. But, I don’t know it the way you do. I don’t know the creating of space for the expected and having to fill it again with the what once was…not as a mother does. I don’t know the sharp entrance of the arrows of well-meaning questions of “when?”.

It is him. The one with whom you hope to battle all other deferred hopes. He is your delayed desire and as a friend so rightly said, the faces of the others only serve as reminders of him not yet here.

This longing I know. This heaviness of a bare-finger. This canyon of an empty hand. These arrows have left scabs, torn through with every probing “why are you still?”

Friend, I ache for you because I know the ache of Hannah’s heart. I know the sobs and seemingly drunken slurs of words tangled in heartache.  When approached in her mess, Hannah shot life-blood into her ache by breathing out the honest words; and the hearer agreed with her prayer. “May it be.” So I will do for you. “May it be.” May the longing of your heart be met, with all the poorly-timed truths people say when our hearts hurt-yes…with more love for Jesus-yes….with deeper trust-yes…I always want those things for you, for me, but today I will beg for you to find your longing filled, for hope to be deferred no longer, for arms to be filled with the one for whom you have created space, time and again. Let’s, even if for a moment, take down the tents of put-togetherness and trade them in for coverings of grace. Longings are allowed to be spoken there. Aches find a voice. Hope deferred is met with a “May it be.” And lament leads the way to life.

From my Hannah-heart to yours,


Break the Circle

I cried myself to sleep this weekend. Nothing was wrong, at least not in my little world. In fact, aside from a few inconveniences, a couple of bad habits that I can’t seem to shake, I am loving my life. I wasn’t crying for me.

The fourth Planned Parenthood video was released. I had previously watched the others, and the callousness of the conversations bothered me. But this one, it broke me. Everything in me wanted to look away, to just navigate my way back to buzzfeed or some other mindless time-suck. Instead, I made myself watch. I forced myself to pay attention while a baby lay pulled to pieces in a dish.

I thought about the pain that baby must of felt as it was dying. I thought of the hardness of a heart that can do that job day in and day out and not feel the weight of it. I thought of how broken our world is that little image-bearers get ripped to shreds and then sold piece by piece in the name of “research”.

And then, I thought of the mother. The kidneys that the lab technician was prodding, the tiny, newly formed eyes being rolled about in a dish, belong to a child…a child who has a mother. A mother who was so terrified, or so hardened by pain and anger that she chose this for her child.

I began to wonder, “How are these mothers feeling as they see these videos?” What would it do to a woman to hear her aborted child being sold to the highest bidder piecemeal? I’m sure there are those who are still convinced they made the right choice. But, I would imagine there are many who have already tried to put behind them the guilt of choosing abortion. And I would imagine that these videos, this national conversation, feels like torture.

And here we are, all huddled up, praying that the government would defund Planned Parenthood. It’s not a wrong prayer. But if we are so busy circling up to pray that we are blind and deaf to the ones around us drowning in sorrow, screaming for relief, that is wrong.  Perhaps, just as there is a time to pray, there is also a time to shut our mouths and listen, a time to lift our heads and open our eyes and see the masses shrinking away in shame. See the woman who can’t seem to figure out how to love her three year old because she regrets the choice she made for her baby who would now be eight. Hear the muffled weeping of the teenage girl who wanted to keep her child but chose to listen to the ones who promised this would be better, that she wouldn’t want the burden of a child to steal her life.

Yes, we are busy praying that the government would make better choices. You see, much of the problem is that we want it to all rest on the government. Either we think the government can solve everything or we think the government ruined everything. Neither is true. As Christians, we are known mostly for what we are against and we want the government to side with us. (A non-Christian government regardless of how we would like to claim that this is a Christian nation.) So the fact remains that abortion is legal. Planned Parenthood is funded by our taxes. We have to make choices in that reality. Most of us will choose to fight it in some way. But the question remains what will that way be?

Prayer is important. But, so is compassion. Do you know what compassion means? “To suffer together.” In other words, to not excuse ourselves from someone else’s mess. I wonder what would happen if, instead of screaming at women who choose abortion, we were there when grief strikes them? What if, instead of trying to condemn them for considering that path, we offer to help them walk through the pregnancy and help them find a way to navigate parenthood or find an adoptive family? What if we stop viewing adoption as plan b, stopped spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on forcing our bodies to have babies when they won’t and instead spent that money giving a home to an orphan?

It is hard to step into the mess around us. Much harder than just blaming the government or hoping laws will make it all better. But the government didn’t break mankind and they won’t fix mankind. The fault is on everyone who has ever sinned…so me and you. And the solution, I believe, is Jesus, His death and resurrection…and the power that He gave to the Church to carry out His Kingdom which I imagine looks very different than what I see happening in our culture wars today. It’s time for us to pray with our eyes open, watching for those who might need someone to roll up their sleeves and step into the junk with them. Break the prayer circle. Our hands are needed for holding frightened teenagers, squeezing the hand of a woman in the labor of choosing life, opening metaphorical and literal doors, building metaphorical and literal homes. Pray continually, but not at the expense of compassion.

If you have made choices in your past that have been stirred up the recent videos, know that you are loved. There is forgiveness available. There is hope. There are churches, though sadly not all of them, that will welcome you, bandage your wounded heart, and walk with you through healing. There is a Father who knows your pain, knows your shame, and loves you in all of it.

(All that said, given the horrendous things we know about PP, I would love for that government funding to go toward making adoption more affordable. That seems like a better use of government funds and a more agreeable cause than where it is currently going.)

In This Skin

The last few weeks, we have been asking questions about what it means to be a woman and meanwhile, Bruce Jenner has faded away and has transformed outwardly to have the shape of a woman…a woman named Caitlyn. And so we find ourselves, once again, navigating the borderlands. Once again we are being asked to step to one side or another of the line drawn in the sand.

There are articles every which way you turn. Many praising Caitlyn for her courage. Others demonizing Bruce for this decision. And still others just seeking to understand. But why must we always choose a side?

I don’t agree with the choice Bruce made but I can, on some level, relate. And, if you are honest with yourself, I believe you can as well.

See, Bruce was at odds with his own skin. His outsides did not match his insides. There was a disparity between who he felt he was at his very core and what people saw when they looked at him, even when he looked at himself. This disparity caused Bruce to feel disconnected from himself and at war with his life.

I too have felt as though the person others see does not seem to align with who I am certain I’ve been created to be. When your skin doesn’t seem to fit, it is an isolating experience. This distance between your soul and your skin seems to carve out a hollow space the size of the Grand Canyon within you and create a vastness that spans the universe between you and those with whom you share life. It seems as though no one really knows you, including, and perhaps especially, yourself.

I don’t claim to know the intricate and intimate aches of this journey that Bruce has walked in becoming Caitlyn. Gender identity has never been the hinge of the discomfort of my own skin. There is much I do not understand about this particular struggle but I can easily see the humanity of it. I can easily, if I stop demanding that people agree with me, see my where my own heartaches overlap with those Bruce must have been feeling for so long.

To not feel at home in your own skin…

That is to be human.

Not wholly human but to be a human in a world this side of Eden.

I believe at creation, before sin, we were wholly human. Rebellion broke that wholeness and ever since God has been working to restore us to the complete perfection of humanity in which he first breathed life. That first act of distrust, pride, and rebellion broke every relationship that ever will be. As broken humans, we cannot find perfect peace with God, nature, one another, or ourselves. There is no fix we can employ to bridge the gap between us and God, and there is no fix we can employ to bridge the gap between our soul and skin. However, while we cannot fix the destroyed, God can. And Jesus is that cure.

Now, before you run away because you fear I might get preachy, let me be clear. I’ve had a relationship with Jesus for the majority of my life and there are still many many days, months even, when I do not feel like one whole person, at home in my skin. If we were created for a perfect world, and Jesus is going to bring that perfection about, then we are not home yet so it stands to reason that we wouldn’t feel settled. Jesus had the same aches. The one He knew he was and the one people saw him as were not in sync. This skin we wear was created to hold a soul that was in perfect harmony with God and all of creation and until that is restored, we will always have moments when we feel like our flesh pinches and pulls.

As The Church, we are quick to show our disgust when people make choices that are contrary to The Truth we hold to. We roll our eyes and tell the world why Bruce will never be a woman and why he is destroying they lives of his family and why we just cannot understand why someone would do that to himself. But, be quiet for a moment. Put away your “righteous indignation” for a little while and examine your heart. If you cannot understand why someone would make these choices, perhaps you have not acknowledged some aches in your own life. Have you really never felt at odds with your own skin? Have you never made any choice to try to bridge the gap? Dyed your hair, changed your wardrobe, rearranged your surroundings?

I dyed a strip of my hair teal a little over a year ago. It was the first time, in a long time that I left the salon feeling a little more like myself. It’s silly but outwardly I don’t feel like there is anything particularly unique or striking about me. I blend in. On my worst days, I wallow in feeling forgettable. But inwardly, I believe God has created a spark in me. I feel like I have something to offer the world that is significant and special and anything but forgettable. I’m generally a rule follower outwardly but there is a rebellious streak internally that I don’t know how to release without it reeking havoc. So, I dyed my hair an unnatural color to try to lessen the distance between my soul and skin. And I still like my hair, but it no longer effectively fills the cavern. It was a short-term solution to an eternal problem. An eternal problem that we all carry in this skin.

So let’s take a break from drawing lines in the sand and choosing sides. Perhaps, rather that running from the transgendered community in fear or barreling toward them with “righteous anger”, we could come alongside them. Perhaps, we could put an arm around them and listen to their stories, hear their heartache. And perhaps, we could even honestly confess with them that we aren’t sure how to feel at home in this skin. Know what you believe, stand firm in it, but choose to find common ground. Choose to be kind. Choose to set down your stone, scribble in the sand, and speak peace like Jesus did when the religious mobs threw a sinner at His feet.

I don’t have to understand his choices to know that I can relate to Bruce. I’m certain you can too. And I fear, when the fan fare dies down, Caitlyn will find herself standing in this place once again.