Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ugly Grace

Grace is not pretty. I feel like we hear the word ‘grace’ and we think of it written in pretty script with lots of loops and swoops in the lettering and we picture it written over an image of the beach and get a warm fuzzy feeling of this sweet term. But that’s not the grace I know. Grace is hard, it’s ugly, often involves a person with a tear soaked, snot nosed, red face, with a stomach full of dying butterflies. That’s the grace I’ve experienced. It’s hard and usually has to come from intention, without ease.

I’ve heard stories of people being persecuted for their ‘big’ sins within the church. The things that are considered the taboo and make people uncomfortable to even talk about like premarital sexual relationships, affairs, divorce, homosexuals, and some even just drinking… you know, normal life stuff that we have all been intertwined with at some point. I’ve had friends and seen people be shunned, and shamed, and treated as if they were nothing.

My divorce has been final for two years and I just experienced this for the first time and it fucking hurts.  I’ve been in a battle of my emotions and my hurt to not speak out and react, but rather breathing deep, staying centered and remembering the amount of grace I’ve accepted from my God. To accept shame from anyone at this point would be taking a step in the wrong direction, it would be akin to a prisoner that has been freed and released to a fresh new start, banging on the prison doors to be shackled again. I’ve read a lot on shame, I’ve written about shame and how no one has the ability to shame me more than myself. They’ve certainly tried, however my inner voice is loud and more cruel and honest than anyone else could attempt to be.

But, grace. I’ve stepped out of the prison and am well on my way to the good life, arms and legs and heart unshackled and free to live. 

Here’s the thing, and I’m sad I feel like I have to say this, no one, not even you, has the authority or power to judge anyone’s life as sin.  When we attempt to shame someone for things they’ve ‘done’ we’re attempting to step into God’s role of judgment and delivering punishment. Like saying ‘hold on, God, I’ve got this one.’ But you, my co-human, are just not that powerful.  You don’t get to decide what my punishment should be and by attempting to you’re not teaching me anything about God and you’re not acting like the Christ you say you're just being an asshole. 

MY God, is loving, and kind, and his heart is BREAKING for things I’ve endured and decisions I’ve made.  My God, even in my ‘sin’, adores me and sits beside me, and invites me to sit at the table and break bread with Him. He’s seen my red faced, snot nosed, tear soaked face, and has taken the time to know why the butterflies are dying in my stomach.  He’s taken the time to know my heart, yet still calls me His favorite. Most importantly my relationship with the Lord is mine, it is deep, and intimate, and does not need to be explained. 

Hear me friends, I’m by no means saying there isn’t consequence to our sin. There is absolutely a cause and effect to all of the decisions we make, good and bad. Believe me two years out and I’m still feeling the ache and ripple effect of my divorce…but, there isn’t an ounce of regret and I truly don’t believe God is punishing me for it.

So now that I’ve been delivered a man made punishment for my divorce I will feel the hurt and process those emotions, but I will deliver grace in return. I will act in love, not out of spite but because I have felt the depth of what grace actually is and to not extend it would be the hypocritical churchy thing to do, and I’m determined to attempt to be like the Christ I say I follow. I have a natural conviction to believe that people are doing they best they can, but I also believe we all have a lot to learn. I cannot deliver punishment to my co-humans no more than I can accept shame from my co-humans, and I’ll never return to that prison again, my God told me so.

Friday, March 10, 2017

My PB&J God

I think God is a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich.

I've always known there to be a God. I was raised Catholic, I came to know Christ personally when I was in high school in a summer camp in the depths of the mountains in Colorado. I worked in a church, and helped in recreating a House of Prayer. Played the pastors wife role… not very well, but I did. I've seen the church do some amazing things as well as have experienced the hearts of some that were very Un-Christ-like and unkind. I have Atheist friends, Mormon friends, Agnostic friends, Muslim friends, Jewish and Messianic Jewish friends. I've been in it - the religious world. I’ve done some research, as well as run from it. I've paraded my faith around telling people they are wrong in the way they are living. I've been a hypocrite. I've been that Christian asshole spewing Jesus jukes. I've played all sides, but I've never not believed that God is real. And now, I’ve got questions. I believe, but I wonder if I’ve been wrong a lot of the time. I am pulling it all apart, asking a lot of questions I've been scared of before. I’m wondering if I've wasted an incredible amount of time focusing on this a Monte Cristo, deep fried, very complex and fattening sandwich of a God, when really, I think He’s as simple as a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich.

I've been in these conversations with friends for a couple years now kind of questioning some things here and there after traveling through some traumatic events. I know the copious amount of grace I've been shown and feeling like God has perfectly timed opportunities and split the seas for me to flee emotional abuse even though it's against what the bible says... I've got questions, and I feel like I'm finally at a place where I can ask them, and be wrong, and be right, and change my mind, and it's all okay.

My daughter is four and learning to read. Over the last year or so each letter has been introduced and we practice what words start with those letters. It's been a jaw dropping experience to see her brain working and her excitement as it was starting to click. I’d laugh to myself trying to teach to her how ‘C’ can make a ‘K’ sound, like in her first name "Collins" ... but her middle name “Kay” starts with a K, not a C - you see how this is confusing? Now she's starting to put together things she's learned about letters and sounding out words to read. I'll sit with her as she's trying to piece together words, sounding out the first two letters together, the last two letters together and then putting them altogether to figure out a word. But then you throw in the 'ch' sound or 'ie' and she has to ask for help... and then just because it's that way in one word doesn't mean is the same in another word. The English language is not for the weak. But I love to sit with her as she's figuring it out and am exploding in excitement with her as she's putting all of this together and giggling to myself when she's so far off because of the English rules that just don't make sense and some I can't explain yet because she has to learn the basics before she can begin to grasp their, there, and they’re… which lets be honest, a lot of adults still don’t understand…but, I digress…

I feel like this is how our PB&J God is looking at us, his children. He's seeing us figure some things out, whether that’s science, parts of the bible, or even what were supposed to be doing on this earth, and is throwing his arms up saying 'YES, you're getting it!' and then other times he's just giggling at us thinking "dude, you're so, so, SO far off, and this one you're just never going to understand." Then other times with His head cocked to the side, and eyebrows concerned for His children that have just gotten it so wrong and turned him into liver and onions... when He's simply a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich. Then there are those that have thrown away the sandwich, because they're tired of it, they expect more or want to experience a Thanksgiving feast.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Monte Cristo Sandwich, it's this incredibly gluttonous meal, made with turkey, cheese, ham, triple-decker, battered and deep fried glory. This is all the glitz and glam and rules and regulations and JUNK we've turned God into. I'm in a season of deconstructing that sandwich. I want to get rid of all of this extra crap that is just not needed. It’s over-kill, and literally doing damage to the body. I'm listening to this podcast called ‘The Liturgists.’ It's a guy named Science Mike and Michael Gungor and the journey they've taken, completely deconstructing this gluttonous fattening faith they've always known and loved and have pulled apart every piece until they were left with absolutely nothing. At all. They came to realize it was all crap. Then they started simply. They decided they don't have all of the answers but they do have a lot of questions. They have an understanding of facts, and science and what they could prove, what was just mystical that they couldn't prove but were just believing because they just believe it and cannot convince anyone of. They took it all apart, deconstructed this Monte Cristo God and realized He’s simple. Bread, peanut butter, and jelly. And this is the extent. Simple and perfect.

I have atheist friends who act more Christ-like than some of my most theologically studied friends. One of them is the MOST loving person I've ever observed and constantly building people up, with love spewing from his pores, and frequently doing charity work in our city. Another hosted a fundraising event for my family years ago after our house was hit by a tornado. He is very vocal about his angst with the Christian religion and how were all so far off from actually being like Christ, who we claim to follow…and he's not wrong. So many Christians are concerned with if people are acting right and wrong and following the 'rules' than we are about just loving people- and that doesn't mean loving people in spite of their sin, but just loving them because they are co-humans. Just love the people.

The PB&J God we experience now is different than the Thanksgiving Feast we’ll experience in heaven.  Eternity is described as a wedding and with a feast, and drinking and dancing, but we’re not there yet. We have these understandable grand expectations of our Almighty God to be the ultimate feast. But we're not there yet. We haven't reached completion and we don’t feel fulfilled by our PB&J God that we experience now. We won’t get to feast until we meet God. That's when we'll finally understand all the things we couldn't comprehend yet or can’t scientifically explain. That's when we'll reach completion and finally be fulfilled and experience the feast. I don't think we have capacity to understand now just like my daughter doesn’t have capacity to understand where commas go in a sentence and not to throw them around like confetti as I tend to do. "I can no more understand the totality of God, than the pancake I made for breakfast understands the complexity of me."  A God this feeble mind could comprehend isn’t worthy of my worship.  People end up throwing away the Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich because they can’t explain it all, or are wanting to be full when what they’re craving is the thanksgiving feast that they haven’t experienced yet, and won’t until earth is as it is heaven. 

All of this to say I’m ok with being wrong. I’m ok with asking questions. I’m ok with not having all the answers and the inability to debate someone into believing as I do. I’m just trusting in the simplicity that we’re here to just love each other. I want to stop complicating the simplest of ingredients when it all comes down to our PB&J God as we get to experience Him now and just know that one day we'll get to sit at the table of the feast and finally comprehend the totality of God, but not today. I’m going to ask questions, but most importantly I’m totally okay with not having all of the answers.