Friday, November 20, 2015

The Problem of "Casting Stones."

I cannot tell you how many times I've heard it (and, lets' be real, said it) in my life:

"Judge not, lest ye be judged."
"Let him without sin cast the first stone."

Most often, those things are said as soon as someone mentions to another person that they are concerned that they are sinning. They come to the person - either humbly or not - and say the words, "This is a sin," and our automatic defense mechanisms go off like a car alarm in a thunderstorm and we get all, "DON'T JUDGE ME, YOU JUDGY JUDGER" on people. At this point in time, it doesnt' matter if the first person came in humility or not. We've just decided that because they're not Jesus Christ himself they aren't worthy enough to point out our flaws.

We're ever so transparent (sometimes) about our own flaws.

"haha. You know me! I'm SUCH a procrastinator!"
"Look at me eating this entire pint of Ben and Jerrys! I'm such a glutton!"
"Just livin out my total depravity, yo."
"Well, I never said I'm not perfect!"

But when someone else says that we're not perfect?


"Wait. YOU'RE judging ME right now? Who died and made you our Lord and Savior? I thought all that judgement stuff was meant for when I meet Jesus face to face and he gives me that gold star right here over my heart for doing good things!"

"Well, the blood of Jesus certainly covers a lot - I mean, all the stuff it has to cover in YOUR life?"
- - -

When did calling sin, "sin," become the equivalent to throwing people off cliffs and raining heavy rocks upon their battered bodies?

When did saying, "I'm concerned about this area in your life," become something we can't say because of planks and specks in eyes?

When did we start using the word of God as a way to justify our own desires and sinful nature?

Well, the answer to that last question is, "In the garden of Eden." There was once a crafty serpent...

But seriously.

There are so many churches today that refuse to even come close to touching the words, "Church Discipline," with a ten foot pole. They won't even pick up the pole. When there are blatant and serious sins in a person's life, it is our job as the body of believers to take our concerns to that person in humility and say, "I'm worried about you. I see this pattern of behavior in your life and it concerns me. And I'm going to call out this thing right now and call it sin."

And it is our jobs as believers, when someone comes to us with those concerns, and SHUT UP before we decide to point out every single one of their flaws and, thus, making their concern and their words nil.

Just because someone else sins doesn't mean that it cancels out your own. 

We have held SO TIGHTLY to the words of Jesus, "Let he who hasn't sinned cast the first stone," that we've forgotten his words to the woman right after everyone left:

"Go and sin no more."

Lest we forget that those words of Jesus are just as applicable to us as they are to everyone else. Lest we forget that those words of Jesus are heavy. Go and sin no more? How? 

And as for specks and planks? The very moment we use that verse when someone points something out in our lives, we now have that plank in our own eye and are judging the speck in our fellow believer's. And all of that is because of a few verses before that - "Judge not, that you will not be judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged and with the measure you use it will be measured to you." When we tell people, "judge not, that you will not be judged" in response to their concern, we've become the judge in their lives. 

It's tricky.

And it's one of the major reasons that I think we're seeing more and more abuse in the church. Spiritual abuse, spousal abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse - these things, unchecked, kill. But if our super-sensitive-defensive-alarms are the only thing we listen to, we will never let anybody touch that sin in our lives - 

"Because who hasn't done bad things?"
"I'm just doing things the way I think the Bible says."
"Submit. The Bible tells you to submit to me."
"Honor your parents and all will go well for you."
"She wasn't satisfying my desires enough so I was forced to watch pornography/hire an escort."
"If you don't listen to me, you're not doing what God wants you to do."
"What did I do to deserve this from you? Am I that horrible that you would do this to me?"

And then we will need to face it come judgement day. 

And that...
that won't be pretty.

- - 

Maybe instead of seeing called-out sin as "casting stones*" or "pointing out specks," we can see it as an opportunity to grow; or maybe we can even see it as Jesus talking to us through our brothers and sisters in the faith, helping to sanctify us, allowing us to see parts of ourselves to that which we may be blind.

*note: if ALL you receive or give is criticism or you decide that a person's worth is based upon how many sins they've done, or you're unable to see your own sin for what it is, then that's what I'd call casting stones. 

If we take the time to see our own sin, there is SO MUCH GRACE for dealing with other people's sins - or at least there should be. If we look - REALLY LOOK - at ourselves and where we need help and where we need growth, then we can look at our brother or sister who is struggling and our first response should then become, "Hey. I see this thing in your life and I'm concerned about it's implications. I know that I'm not perfect, but I just want to help in any way that I can."

But if we see abuse happening and let it happen because, "I mean, I'm a sinner too..." or because you're afraid that they're going to point out your sin, then you've become a part of the abuse. And that's how abuse becomes systemic.

Discipline ≠ Bad. 

It may be uncomfortable, but it doesn't mean that it's BAD. If it's done well, it is good

So let's learn to not be impulsive and Hulksmash everyone who comes to us with concerns about our behavior.

Because the weight of Jesus' command, "Go and sin no more," isn't something we can do on our own strength. We need Jesus. We need each other.

And we need a good dose of humility.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Life is a Journey

So this one has been a month or so coming, but the words just never seemed to find their way to my fingers. Until today.

Learning how to not be a victim is tough, especially when most of the time, you blink and months have flown past. 

For me, the last 6-8 months have been a whirlwind, to the extent that the other day I still thought it was September. Oi. The problem was me, obviously, but it wasn't until I recognized that the only reason why I felt like life was happening to me was because I refused to get emotionally involved in...well, myeslf. I have taught myself that I am too busy for emotions. I've cut myself out. I've overworked, over-stimulated, over-numbed myself so that I can't feel what is actually happening to me, or, rather, I can't feel the things in which I participate. So I numb. I become more emotionally involved in other people's issues than my own.

And, friends, I burned out.

And I guess, that's a major part of this life-update.

I exhausted myself in my effort to not realize what was actually happening to me. I had all of these words, all of this hurt, pent up in my body that I became exhausted.

And so I'm taking a step back. I realized, very quickly, that the move to South Haven was a shock to my system - as good as it was to be closer to home. In Houston, I had really close friends, a support system, and a really good therapist. As soon as I came to South Haven, I had to re-build everything. While my friends and family were close, they hadn't been through the past two-and-a-half years with me. They had held me from afar but they hadn't been fighting the wars with me that my support system in Houston had. I had roots in Houston that I didn't even realize until I left. I needed to make new friends in a town that, sadly, doesn't work for people in my age/life-situation. I lost my support system, I lost my therapist, and falsely believed that I could do this thing on my own after suffering trauma in Houston.

I didn't feel at home.

I felt a strange pull towards Western Theological Seminary, though, and at one of the busiest times in my career at Hope, I threw in my application there. It wasn't until orientation that I realized how life-giving seminary would be for me, how incredibly easy it is to make friends who understand what you're going through, studying the same things you're studying, and willing to be silly. While I had burned myself out at work, I found life and joy and light and peace at seminary.

And so, about a month ago now, I sent in my resignation letter to my church. I needed to take a step back from something. I kept being pulled towards seminary. And somehow, everything just fell into place. Two of the best people I know have opened up their home to myself and Chewbacca. I just signed the paperwork today to work in the dining hall on a 25-30 hour-a-week basis. Life is becoming centralized again where I have a therapist and I'm gaining a support group outside of school and everything that I'll be involved in is less than a mile away from me at all times.

And I feel at rest.

I feel at home.

I feel at peace, for the first time.
I feel like I'm in a safe space to express feelings and I can't tell you how excited I'll be to take a giant pay-cut and learn something completely new.

Because taking a vacation from myself isn't something I can do anymore.

And right now, I'm just recklessly trusting that God will provide for each and every single one of my needs.

Does this mean that I hated my time in South Haven and that I am excited in terms of "giddy, happy" to leave? No. I will weep big fat crocodile tears on November 15th. I did gain valuable relationships. I got to know amazing people. I loved the church and the people of the church. I will miss the church and the people and the town. I'll be back to visit as often as I can.

But am I excited as in, "ready to go?" Yes. I am.

So if y'all could throw some prayers up for me during this season, here are some specifics:

- Somehow I need to pay for school this year. Falling and breaking my elbow ended up pulling money out of my school fund.
- My arm, while it's getting better, still hurts.
- For the ability to trust without doubting that God has got me.
- Sanity.
-  That I don't drive my new housemates crazy.

Peace. Love. Light.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Be Cautious: Delighting in Evil

I find myself in the strange situation where I can put myself in the shoes of victims of abuse because I've been there.

It's uncomfortable.

It's especially uncomfortable when I hear the love and devotion to abusers.

And it's even more uncomfortable when I hear the voices of outsiders telling those who love  abusers to, "leave. Get out. Walk away. He is a piece of trash and will always be a piece of trash."

And, to go further, it is maddening to see the people who say those things also rejoice in his downfall...
and profess to be Christian.

Here's where I find the words to say, friends. 

I have experienced loving a man with all my heart - loving who he was at that very moment and seeing the potential in him while thinking that I knew the sordid details of his past; believing fully that he had changed, reformed, and found Christ; trusting him with my heart and with my life because I thought I knew him. I believed, with my whole being, that I knew him.

I have experienced the ripping pain that comes with realizing, very suddenly, that I don't actually know the man I married - that the past that I knew about wasn't everything; that the past melded with the present in a very real and tangible way, and that I had been given the Reader's Digest version mixed with a fairy tale. Some truth, some fiction, and a whole lot left out.

I have experienced the soul-crushing, suffocating feeling of finding out that the man you love has been looking elsewhere for sexual satisfaction. I have curled up on multiple floors, weeping uncontrollably, fully believing that his indiscretions were my fault, and, the first time that he confessed, fully believing that I could forgive him, and if I loved him through it, he would have no choice but to never be unfaithful again. And then finding out later that he was once again, unfaithful. Multiple times. 

I have experienced well-meaning friends and family telling me, multiple times and in multiple ways, to just, "leave. Get out. Walk away. It isn't healthy for you." 

I have experienced the expectation of the Church to stay and the maddening confusion of Christians telling me to leave while being unable to shake away the feeling that I was still supposed to be a, "good, faithful wife," leading my, all of a sudden, unbelieving husband to salvation.

Friends, in this process, there is ZERO room to delight in the downfall of one who had once professed a saving knowledge of Christ. There is more to the story than the abuser. There is more to the story than the adulterer. 

Someone's life is being ripped apart and you delight in that? Someone's family is being ripped apart and you rejoice in that? 


Let me repeat that.


Today, Josh Duggar was once again called out - his actions done in the dark were brought to light in regards to his name being on the the Ashley Madison leak list. He, supposedly (for while the credit card statement certainly looks like it's him, he hasn't made any statements as of yet and there were some reported fake accounts on that list; and I don't like to jump the gun), used the site for all that it was worth, as a way to meet women open to committing adultery with him. And people around America are delighting in his demise. 

Christians are delighting in his demise.

Can I repeat something I said before?


Stop it.

He has a wife. He has children. He has a family. And while you might think he is the sleaziest of sleazeballs, there is NO reason to delight in this evil. 

Yes, all things done in the dark will come to light - but there is zero reason for us to delight in that.

It is a cause for mourning; a cry of our souls for Christ to come quickly. But this deed will cause extreme pain for those who love him, who believed him, and who live with him. And that breaks. my. heart.

I. Don't. Care if you don't like him. I don't. But not liking someone was never a cause for not loving someone. "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

How are you protecting the victims of his indiscretions? Are any of you hoping that he truly repents and seeks justice for his wrongs? Or are you hoping that more comes out so you can hate on him further? 

Are you delighting in evil?

If so, check yourself. Were it not for the grace of God, that could be you, your family being ripped apart - and don't you for one second think that it's because of your own willpower that it's not because we are ALL the worst kind of sinners. 

As for grace? Grace, in this case, can take the form of hoping and praying that he seeks help for both himself AND his family. Grace takes the form of praying for him and his family during this time. Grace takes the form of not delighting in evil, in hoping that the Holy Spirit works through him and his family and uses them for the glory of God. 

You don't have to like him. But you don't need to spread slander. You don't need to jump the gun. And you don't need to delight in evil.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Victim No More

Sometimes a fresh start is necessary.

This little online journal of mine has gone through some significant changes over the past 24 hours. To be honest, there are a few journals that, as of today, are now ashes. To those of you who wonder who in the world would ever set a journal on fire, considering the things those journals contained, it's a wonder they weren't set on fire before today.

Stories are meant to be remembered. Life, for me, is not filled with regret, with wishing things had turned out differently. My life, for all intents and purposes, is one that is marked with perfectionism, with pain, with great sorrow and great joy. In the setting free of the words that had been trapped on the pages of those journals, I chose, not to forget, but to let go. 

I won't ever forget. I don't need journals to remind me of the laughter that was once so prevalent I ended up sore, with wet cheeks of the tears that were filled with pure joy. I don't need journals to remind me of the love that was tangible, of the desires hidden beneath a paper-thin surface, ready to break through at any moment. I don't need words to remember the joy of expectation, the broken hearts, the pain of hope deferred. 

And I will remember. But I do not wish to remember from the viewpoint of being in the trenches, not knowing what the future was to hold. In that narrow view was a girl, terrified of the world and what it had to offer. In those stories was the raw pain that has since mellowed.

And while some find it interesting to go back and feel that pain all over again, I am not one of them. I feel pain now. I feel the pain of those who have been outed as victims of assault without their consent. I feel the pain of an unjust society perpetuating violence by fighting with violent words. I feel the pain of people who aren't allowed to speak up for themselves, who are told they are stupid, unworthy; those who cannot speak for they have been told that their voice doesn't matter. I feel the pain of people who know they are being abused but don't know what to do about it. I feel the pain of those who believe they are completely in love with wonderful people only to find out that the person they love is not the person they thought. 

I will never not feel the pain. I pray I will never stop empathizing, that I will always feel. For it is in the feeling that I can understand. It is in remembering the pain that I can know the joy that comes on the other side. It is what allows me to see, to speak, but to choose my words carefully.

It is what allows me to stop and listen. To hear the stories of those who have been severely hurt and simply say, "I am sorry for your pain. What can be done?"

And so, I start over. I look back at the years gone past with new eyes, a fresh perspective, and the generous space of a few years - something my timehop reminds me of on a regular basis. I have the support and love of a man who does not judge me on my past but sees it as something that God used to grow me into the woman he now knows. I do this knowing that my story is similar to others, that I am not alone, that maybe someone may be given the same courage that was given me from one of my friends who went through a similar experience around the same time that I did.

I speak. I open my mouth. There are very few people on this earth that know all the details. My therapists, my pastors, the friends who walked with me through every moment. Even through speaking, though, I will omit some details. I will speak as one who WAS a victim.

But is a victim no more.