We The Church

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.)

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.