Thursday, April 29, 2010

Alligators

Today I was talking with a good friend. We laugh a great deal together and enjoy each other’s company. Our families do life together.

Our discussion was about being absorbed with the acquirement and possession of material things. Especially name-brand stuff (I use this word on purpose). We are about the same age and exchanged stories about being in high school when Izod and Nike tennis shoes were the status symbols.

Now, ahead of time as a precaution, I want everyone to understand I don’t have a bit of problem with brand-name anything. And I don’t have a problem with anyone who wears or uses such. But sometimes the name-bearing goes a little over-board.

At my high school, you were not anybody until you had an Izod polo and a pair of white Nike tennis shoes with blue swooshes. Anyone remember this? My two best friends got them long before I did, however, when I finally got the tennis shoes the swoosh was the wrong color. My swoosh was red—calamities of calamities.

My friend told me that their family couldn’t afford an Izod shirt. One day their mother found a pair of Izod socks on sale. They bought the socks, removed the icon and sewed it onto a regular polo. My friend had an alligator and no one ever knew the difference.

White-washed tombs.

Beautiful on the outside, white, spit-shined. The Pharisees wore their status symbols long and wide. And no one asked to see the tags inside.

Jesus didn’t ask. He just simply knew. He knew what was in their hearts. He knew what was behind the blinding white exteriors. Jesus knew the alligators were transplants.

Our minister often exhorts us to be real. Beth Moore in her Psalms of Ascent study (Session 2) talks about posing. Christians are not supposed to be posers. We are called to be real. Being real means we don’t try to hide the ugly and pretend it doesn’t exist. We don’t try to pose as something we are not.

We are called to be authentic.

When I met Steve, my neighbor next door and now my husband, I gave him a very long list of the ugly in me. The reason? It was two-fold. I thought the list would scare him away and I wanted to be honest. I was so done with hiding, covering-up and pretending.

I had had enough.

I decided to open the doors wide and expose the broken walls, the cracked tile, the faulty wiring and the peeling paint of this house of mine. I was very tired of pretense. I was weary of trying to be something I was not. I was frustrated with sewing alligators on my shirts.

This is one of the reasons for my last blog entry Ten Miles and Baggage. Relationships are places we often try to white-wash and sew on alligators.

I am trying to live an honest, authentic life. In reality, sometimes posing is so much easier. I know how to pose. I know the right angles to position myself to accentuate my best side. I learned at a very young age how to throw a little white-wash on the outside walls. I learned how to shine the exterior and how to be a good seamstress.

But let me tell you, if no one else has—

Eventually someone will walk through the door.

At some point someone will look at the tag.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ten Miles and Baggage

This weekend I spent a day in my hometown.

My two sets of parents live there. They divorced when I was less than two.

A little more than ten miles separates their houses, but this weekend I felt like I needed a passport to cross borders. I wondered if I would need to go through customs and claim the baggage I seemed to gather between the two far countries. Even my name changes—everyone calls me by an old name that I don’t recognize and rarely respond to because I think they are talking to or about someone else.

It is so strange, and very, very sad, to visit your childhood home and feel like an unwanted guest or more like an utter stranger. When did the language change? Did the dialect always sound like this? Did I always need a translator or has this just been a recent development? I realize I don’t understand the customs and traditions anymore. I have forgotten them, or maybe I never knew them. Perhaps, not only did I feel like a foreigner, but I was seen as one also.

And how odd and disconcerting it must have been to have a stranger living in their midst or to have one come to visit, one they almost recognize and know, but not quite.

I am a woman grown.

I am a woman grown until I go back to my mother’s house. And then I feel like a little girl again— wanting my mother’s approval, longing for her attention, hoping for her affection.

I received none of the above.

But the Spirit is at work, and during church yesterday I thought perhaps she longed for these things and didn’t receive them either. Perhaps, because I don’t know how to speak her language, I didn’t give her what she needed.

Could it be that in her wounded heart she longs for these things? Could it be that she lives with regrets? Could it be that she doesn’t know how to ask for what she needs? Could it be that her mother failed too?

I speak those words because of guilt. You know the kind of guilt I am talking about—the gnawing kind. What did I do wrong? What didn’t I do right? What can I do differently? What words and gestures can I say and do that would make the situation better or at least different. I have had this conversation with myself too many times to count.

I always come home from that far country with a lot of baggage.

As I drove home I thought and prayed. I allowed myself to be angry.I allowed myself to hurt. I allowed myself to grieve.

When I got home…

When I got home, for the first time, I sorted through the baggage.

I emptied and unpacked it.

Item by item.

Laying the articles out one by one.

The baggage was very difficult to sort; there was a lot of nasty garbage. Rotted and decayed things that had been left too long.

And I cried.

I cried for a long time.

Slow, hot tears.

Tears from deep places.

Tears I should have cried when I was a little, lost girl. Tears I should have cried when I was a rebellious teenager. Tears I should have cried when I was desperate college student. Tears I should have cried before I became a mother.

I cried this weekend as a woman grown.

I cried for my broken, inept mother.

I cried for the broken, inept daughter. Me.

We are a broken people. Hurt and hurting. Wounded and wounding.

A very good and dear friend of ours says, “Jesus plus a mess (us) equals grace.”

He says it often.

Jesus plus a mess equals grace.
That is hope. Blessed hope.

And perhaps, more than any other time, in the midst of the tears and the hurt I caught a faint glimmer of hope. Always before the baggage was just too monumental. Too much—too full.

Not too long ago, I read on someone’s Facebook status that the only place to go for approval and acceptance was the cross.

So, I am going to the cross. To Jesus.

I asked my God for healing. I asked him to heal my wounds. And I have asked him to heal her wounds. I have asked him to break the cycle.

And grace will make up the difference.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Peter's Bistro

I love Peter.

Recently my bread has been stale, and so I have been spending time in II Peter. I have just stumbled across a little bistro—one of the very best. I have been missing it because there are so many other big names on the same block and street, but this one has been tucked away, and on one of my jaunts out to find something really good to eat I found this little place. Just a little place.

Bumbling, impetuous Peter we say, yet have you read his epistles lately?

The message is deep and rich. Rich, strong food made to stick to your ribs.

And I have returned over and over to dine (yes, dine, not just eat) at this table lately.


Heavenly Father,

I long, in the deepest desire of my heart, to participate in your divine nature. I want to have fellowship with the divine nature who is the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

I want to escape the corruption of this world. I want to be pure—untainted. I want evil desires to be overcome and overwhelmed by the desire to know you and to be closer to you. With Anna I say make my desires line up with your will.

Heal my blindness. Spit in my eyes—rub mud in them. Cause me to see again. I want to see you. I want to see you, God. Call me out of darkness into your wonderful light. One step at a time, if you must. Heal me so that I might see more than shadows—more than trees walking around. I want to see your hand at work. I want to see your plan sweeping broadly across your Body. I want to be able to see the ripples and watch them extend.

Correct my near-sightedness. Adjust my vision. Enable me to not look always inward. Shorten the length of my eye so that I can see you. Measure my eyes and adjust my perspective. When I am near-sighted, Lord, I can only see what is right in front of me. I can’t see how far your hand moves into the distance or how broadly it panned in the past. Widen my line of vision—myopia is a terrible disease, cured only when our eyes are focused on you.

Amen and amen.