Current Events

A Daunting Journey

I let two Wednesdays go by without posting. There is plenty of current news to write about but I am honestly just weary from the mess of our world right now. The posts I write about current events get the most views but they break my heart. I just have not had it in me to write a thoughtful world issues post. But I don’t know what to write instead.

I want to tell you about all the wonderful news in my life. I want to celebrate with you. And yet, this week, I still cannot get beyond the tension in our nation. There is all kinds of insanity that had been filling my social media feeds this month. Churches burning, Planned Parenthood perversion, more Black Americans dying in police custody, and way more of the KKK than anyone should ever have to see. And to be quite honest, all of this tension has caused me to want to crawl into a hole and do my best to live and let live. Accept, there’s one problem with that. I have never been a live and let live kind of girl. It is contrary to the very fiber of my being.

I’ve addressed the racial tension twice before. It all started becoming apparent in Ferguson. And it continued in Baltimore. And the most recent evidence is the story of Sandra Bland. It is her story that has left me with so many questions. But it is the cumulative state of our nation that needs addressing.

Even earlier this week, I posted some of the questions I have about Sandra’s story on Facebook and was contacted by someone I respect and love who told me my questions do more harm than good and that the system is not broken. This friend is not alone in this mentality. It is the “American” way. Don’t ask questions. Just trust the system. We are the best nation.

Now, please hear me. I am not necessarily saying that the last statement is not true. But I would like us to consider something. What do you think the British government would say about their own system? Or consider Spain. What about North Korea? It seems to me that every governing body would make the same claims that their system is the best and can be trusted. We seem to be able to look at other nations and rightly identify the danger of not asking questions and requiring more accountability from the system and the officials that work the system. And yet, we want to turn a blind eye to our own issues? We want to go on claiming that we are one nation, indivisible? How can we? We are divided in every way. Race, religion, gender, socioeconomic status.

Disagreeing and being divided are not the same, by the way. We can disagree but be united in our desire to be a better nation and work together to that end. But I don’t see that happening. I see people crawling in their hiding places and trying not to ask too many questions. And perhaps, it is more than just blind nationalism. Perhaps it is a fear of being awkward. For me, that is certainly part of it. I see the evidence that there is something seriously wrong. Every one of those issues I mentioned can be boiled down to a racial divide. But, I do not know what the right steps are to change. I shared this earlier in the week:

Rioting doesn’t seem to be the answer. Signing petitions and writing letters…I’m not sure what that does. Just talking about it doesn’t seem to be leading us anywhere. Man, I’m just at a loss. I will be the first to admit that my life is too segregated. I don’t rub shoulders with those who are directly affected by these sort of events that we keep seeing. And even my friends who are, I often don’t know what questions to ask. I want to know how they feel, what life is like in their shoes, but I don’t know how to start that conversation without being awkward. Help me. How do we navigate this in a way that effectively brings change? In a way that closes the gap?”

My brother gave a wise response that boiled down to the fact that it is going to be awkward but worth it. He said, “Be awkward. Be patient with your own ignorance and with other people’s anger, even when it gets directed to you. Be kind, and understanding. Be honest and sincere. Ask for forgiveness, and ask what you can do to help. In sixty years when your white grandkids are playing with your best friends’ non-white grandkids, you won’t give a damn about awkward conversations. You’ll be so thankful that you had the courage to have them. Bring it all out into the light, you know? The hatred, the awkwardness, the invisible privalege, the injustice. No sense in hanging onto any of it.”

He is wise and right. It is a daunting journey we have ahead of us. Asking questions will cause more of a mess. But isn’t that always how life is made better? When I realize I’ve held onto to so much junk and it has piled up in my closets, when I begin to clean, my closet always looks worse before it looks better. And if we ask questions, if we risk being awkward, it will be a full-on mess. But one day, we will be so glad that we were willing to do the hard thing.

So, here I am, being awkward. If you are a Black American, or an immigrant, or a refugee, will you please help me understand what life is like for you? What do you fear? What makes you feel safe?

Are you from another country? What is great about your government? Where is there room for change in your government?

It’s time. Let’s do the hard work of discovering the humanity in us all.

The Distance To My Neighbor’s Door

I remember my childhood friend coming out to me through Facebook when we were in college. I remember the weight I felt in wanting to communicate to her that I love her deeply even though we don’t see eye-to-eye. I remember fearing she wouldn’t understand, particularly with the distance between us and no opportunity to look her in the eyes or hug her. She in Colorado, me in Texas, and 8 years since our last hug. And you know what, my fear was well-founded. She didn’t understand. She was hurt and put up walls. And had it been me, I probably would have done the same.

I recall, a few years later, sitting in a room with Jewish high school students, having been invited to be a part of a world religions panel. I remember them asking me, point blank, what I think about homosexuality. And, then, as if to add coal to the fire, they all looked to one student who boldly proclaimed that he is gay. They waited for my answer. The fear was smaller then than it had been in college, but the ache carved into me deeper. And for a moment, the distance between these students and myself seemed just as far as the physical distance between my childhood friend and me. How do you communicate to someone that you love them, you value them, even though you don’t agree with them?

I was hoping to post something upbeat today, but I’m just not there. Instead, I’m wiping tears from my eyes and longing for a taste of understanding. I find myself again, searching for some word, some gesture, some moment to close this gap. I’m not angry that the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. I’m not afraid or hurt by a law. This ache isn’t because there are people that live in contradiction to what I believe. No. These tears are falling for the seemingly insurmountable distance between all of us.

We are called to love our neighbors, but my neighbors feel far away. Some have boarded up their windows, turned out the lights and stay hidden in the back room hoping no one will knock on their door. Others have turned their fences into barricades, crawling out of their bunkers to launch grenades and then diving back to the safety of their side. How can we love each other when we live this way? And it isn’t just “them”, regardless of who “them” happens to be for you. It’s “us” too. We are all living as though our neighbor is the enemy.  It simply isn’t true. My childhood friend is living in a way I believe is contrary to God’s plan. But she isn’t my enemy. She is my friend. We haven’t spoken in years, but I will always consider her my friend. I will always love her, though we live from different world-views. If she ever needed me, I would be there. That high school boy is not my enemy. He is a human, made in God’s image and navigating this broken world just like me.

I am not better than they are. They are not more open-minded than I am. We believe different things. We live from different places. And we both want the other to understand what we hold as the best truth. But screaming at one another, dropping missiles of hate into each other’s yards will do nothing but blow all of us to pieces.

My neighbors feel far. It’s a distance created, not by disagreement, but by an inability to separate our moral compasses from human value.

I will share with you how I answered the students that day…if you want to know. You can message me and we can untangle the aches and hopes and joys of our souls together. But for now, I will weep and pray, not for laws or justice or protection, but for the vastness between us all to get a little smaller. For bridges to be shortened, gaps filled, and walls torn down. For boarded up windows to be opened and bunkers to be abandoned. I will weep for a friendship that seems so lost. I will pray for God-crafted souls to find their way in this broken world. And I will try to quiet my fears and find the courage to knock on my neighbor’s door and invite him to walk beside me.

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.