The One Question We Have to Answer

bridge.jpgThe past few weeks have been notably reflective both for me personally and for us as a collective, internet-using community. There’s been much talk and many posts about the past year and our resolutions for the new one. I’m not much for resolutions. I prefer to think in terms of goals, both short- and long-term, because to “resolve” seems more permanent and I know myself too well for that.

You could argue the difference is just semantics and you might be right. But what the two have in common is the desire to change, to be different in some way than we currently are, and the belief that that difference will be better.

This is driven by a unique kind of hope. A hopefulness for a brighter future or a better version of yourself. Hope that your current experience will improve in whatever way you’ve decided it needs to. But it also seems to be driven by a unique, feverish kind of fear. A fear that things won’t change or improve unless you do something. A fear that you’ll get to the end of this year and be just the same as you’ve always been. A fear that if you don’t change these things now you’ll never become the version of yourself you want to be.

Emily Dickinson said that “hope inspires the good to reveal itself.” Our resolutions seem to hinge on this. We hope that through these changes we commit to our real self will finally be revealed – the healthier me, the thinner me, the more budget-minded me, the me that calls my grandma more often.

So then the fear driver is that the opposite will happen. Instead of good, we’ll just reveal disappointment or stagnation. It’ll just be me again, still. Not any healthier, not any thinner, not any more attentive to my grandma or my finances, just the same me I’ve always known and wish would change.

I find that hope and fear sit together in so much of my life these days. In things much bigger than resolutions. There’s a lot ahead for me this year: I’m getting married, moving to New York City, starting a new life in a new place with new people. And I’m so hopeful for the change and the excitement and the privilege those things bring. And am in equal parts terrified of the newness and the loss and the unknown.

It’s a strange pairing, hope and fear. And yet they seem so closely intertwined so often. Like some bizarre Venn diagram. I’ve seen this in the lives of my friends and family, too. In moving, having kids, singleness, job transitions, retirement even. Fear and hope take each of your hands and beg to be the one to lead you to what’s next.

One of my favorite writers, Anne Lammot, said that “the opposite of faith is not doubt: it is certainty.” I’ll extend that to say that the opposite of both hope and fear is certainty, too. Neither exist without uncertainty. Both swim in the sea of the unknown, and sit there firmly next to you, each asking the same question but offering different answers:

Who do you believe is in control?

I know the right answer, I could say it in my sleep. And yet I still find myself afraid, so much of the time. What if I’m a terrible wife? What if I don’t make any friends? What if moving across the country is horrible? What if my single friends don’t think I’m relatable any more? What if I miss my mom?

When my answer is “God is in control, but what if…”, my answer is that God is not in control. My answer is that the world is, chaos is, or, worse, I am. I’m saying the right answer, but believing the other. I’m claiming hope, but pledging allegiance to fear.

Let me pause. Oversimplification can be damaging and unfair. I don’t believe the world is fundamentally binary and I want to leave room here for blurred edges and grey matter. Not everything is black and white. But I also don’t want to make excuses or concessions for the choice this question presents. So let me aknowledge the limitations of simplification but pursue the absoluteness of this question. Because if I choose to believe in God’s supreme authority, bolstered by a correct understanding of his character, I am drawn out of fear as it loses its power and am led invariably to hope.

I keep typing “it’s a simple choice” and then deleting it. Because simple is not the right word. The decision is difficult, every time, and I don’t want to ignore that part. But it is a straightforward choice. It is absolute. It is a one or the other situation.

My older brother is one of the kindest and most intelligent people I know and is decidedly not religious. We have respectful, meaningful disagreements about Christian theology almost every time we’re together and I cherish each conversation for how they challenge me, teach me, and deepen my understanding of both my faith and the incredible thinker that he is.

One of his chief complaints with today’s Christians is what he would call the convenience of falling back on God’s will. As if phrases like “well, it just wasn’t God’s will” is just an easy, simple-minded way to deal with loss or dissapointment – an escape route rather than a true mark of faith.

This could be said of hope as well. Maria Papova, author of Brain Pickings, puts it this way: “hope without critical thinking is naiveté…believing blindly that everything will work out just fine also produces a kind of resignation…we need to bridge critical thinking with hope.”

But I would argue that this hope I’m talking about is different. That the hope that comes from remembering and trusting in God’s authority is neither convenient nor simple-minded, and it is certainly not blind. Rather, it is emboldened by our understanding of his character, our belief in his word, and our experience of his continued faithfulness to his people.

This hope is not naïve. As Brene Brown says, “hope is not an emotion. Hope is a cognitive, behavioral process that we learn when we experience adversity.” This hope is in the God that I know and trust. It is based on all the moments I have seen the ribbons of his faithfulness, even and especially in hardship. It is personal – swollen with intimacy as he numbers the hairs on my head. But it is broader, too – marked by the understanding that I am a tiny spec in his massive story of redemption. Both of which deepen my hopefulness.

Krista Tippet, whom I quote too often with no plans to stop, summed this up brilliantly in her recent book Becoming Wise.

“I’ve traveled a long way since my early life in Oklahoma – far enough to know that I might be accused of taking this virtue of hope too far. So be it. I am inclined now, more than ever, towards hope. I’m consciously shedding the assumption that a skeptical point of view is the most intellectually credible. Intellect does not function in opposition to mystery; tolerance is not more pragmatic than love; and cynicism is not more reasonable than hope. Unlike almost every worthwhile thing in life, cynicism is easy.”

So, too, is fear. It is the easy choice. We are quick to succumb to the chaos around us and resign to its power and pain. But hope is the braver truth. It is the “But God” of our emotional intellect (Ephesians 2:4). Hope is resilience. Not a fall back, not a convenience.

The world is hard and big and scary and painful. Always asking who’s in control – does God really care about your suffering, will this season of waiting ever end, is all of this arbitrary, is anything promised, did God really say you can’t eat of this apple (Genesis 3:3)?

And yet amidst the chaos and unknown we answer again and again that the Lord reigns and that he alone is in control. Uncertainties are certain, but by believing in God’s authority and his boundless love for his people, our hope will inspire the good to reveal itself. “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10).

Seasons and Shepherds

morning

I like the word “season” because we use it so liberally. Winter, summer, spring. The months before a baby can walk. A bout with depression. Angsty teenage years. The honeymoon phase. The wake of a divorce. We take our blurry-edge periods of time and call them seasons to give them shape and significance and succinctness.

We love to categorize things this way, to give a name to something otherwise undefined. And I get it – everything changes, and the passing of time is unruly and a little terrifying, so we want to put brackets around our experience. We want firm beginnings and ends. We want to feel like we can contain whatever we’re going through, so we call it a season to highlight its impermanence and wait for it to pass.

I do this constantly. In hard times, I am desperate to “season” my experience. I want to name it, tag it, feel power over it, even if just in rhetoric alone. “Oh, it’s just a tough season.” “I’ve been really struggling this season.” “That was a really dark season of my life.” It’s verbal punctuation.

I do it in good times, too. Engagement, for example. Weeks when I feel particularly close to God. The holidays, even. I denote them all as seasons, wrap them up in a neat little package, and feign order amidst the mess and chaos of life.

I don’t think this is inherently wrong. To every thing there is a season (turn, turn, turn). We are right to expect change. To remember that this too shall pass. I think it’s OK to bookend chunks of our lives as we live them, learn from them, and move forward.

The danger comes when we start writing off seasons while we’re still in them. Of which I am infinitely guilty. I’m quick to shade in the rest of the picture as if it’s already happened – to be so anxious for what’s to come, I skip the last two paragraphs and try to jump to the next chapter.

There are a lot of veins here we could follow: the value of living for today, the weariness of endless transition, the desperate human need to organize and make sense of every phase of our lives. These are all good, worthy topics that I’m sure have been and will be written about by people much smarter than me.

But what I’m most interested in is the part we shade in. The weeks or months we try to skip to get to the next phase. Those last few leaves that finally fall and concede to the impending winter.

I’m getting married in 108 days (I mean, if I had to guess) and I feel an endless tug to jump right past all of them and just get to my wedding day. But I know that isn’t right. I know that’s not what God has for me, but it’s unsettling. I want to be married. I’m uncomfortable in this weird in between.

I think of Advent. A season of hope for what is next, of anticipation, of excitement for the coming of our King. A season in which we remember the years of silence, the gap between Old Testament and New, the seemingly endless waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people.

And then it happens. Unto us a child is born. The angel calls to the shepherd. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus praise we.

And celebrating that child, that coming, that new and glorious morn is so good. In no way do I want to take away from that. But I also don’t want to ignore the night or weeks that led up to it. When that shepherd was just a shepherd and that stable was just a gross, dusty stable. I don’t want to miss the last moments of the waiting or that last few leaves to fall from the tree because they carry no less significance than what follows.

We hear it ad nauseam, but God’s timing truly is perfect and right and beautiful. He did not send his son one moment too late nor one second too soon. So to him, and in his infinite wisdom and love, the night before the manger, the shepherd’s dull, monotonous watch, had value and deep, eternal purpose. God didn’t just shade in the rest of the picture. He didn’t skip the last few paragraphs. He waited for the last leaf to fall and then broke open the world with a boundless mercy I can’t begin to understand.

So in these seasons of waiting, or of heartbreak, or of longing unfulfilled we can rest in knowing there is value in every hour or every week. There is purpose in every dull, monotonous watch. In all 107 days left of engagement or the indefinite number of weeks left of whatever season you find yourself in. So let’s not rush through it. Let’s let the shepherd just be a shepherd. How much more satisfied we would be if we just stood still and stopped racing towards to the next thing. If we sucked out every ounce of goodness in these last few paragraphs and watched the delicate dance of the last leaf falling.

God will end each season not a moment too late nor a second too soon. A thrill of hope. The weary world rejoices.

Everything is Waiting for You

Waiting.jpgA poem by David Whyte.

Your great mistake — Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice
You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you courage.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity. Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
The tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves.

Everything, everything, everything is waiting for you.

The Plague of Happiness

Girl.jpg

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. My “best” posts (or at least the ones I like the most) have been the darker ones. The ones written in times of struggling, frustration, confusion. The ones most “relatable” since we all so often find ourselves struggling, frustrated, and confused. So I’ve carried this fear with me that if I write anything outside of those categories it wouldn’t be received well, or worse, would be fall into that untenable category of “cheesy.”

I fear sounding trite more than maybe anything else, and the last thing I want is a “puppies and rainbows” kind of post here. But I’m going to write about happiness and I hope that’s ok.

I listened to a Ted Talk recently given by Daniel Kahneman and titled “The riddle of experience vs. memory.” It’s fascinating and I recommend it. One of the things he talks about are the “cognitive traps” of happiness. I’ll quote him here:

“There are several cognitive traps that … make it almost impossible to think straight about happiness…

The first of these traps is a reluctance to admit complexity. It turns out that the word “happiness” is just not a useful word anymore, because we apply it to too many different things…

The second trap is a confusion between experience and memory… between being happy in your life, and being happy about your life or happy with your life. And those are two very different concepts, and they’re both lumped in the notion of happiness.

And the third is the focusing illusion, and it’s the unfortunate fact that we can’t think about any circumstance that affects well-being without distorting its importance.”

I can’t do justice to any one of those ideas, much less all three, but o how they resonate. “Happy” has always felt like such a shallow emotion to me. In the Christian world we talk a lot about the difference between happiness and joy, the former being fleeting, while the latter carries a connotation of depth and endurance. And I think I interpreted that to mean that happiness is useless, weak even. Happiness is for the immature Christian; joy is for the varsity.

To be sure, happiness has a place in our lives. It’s a gift. It’s a reprieve from the trials that we are warned of, even promised, in scripture (John 16:33). But how much weight should it carry? Does it make me a more mature Christian to downplay my happiness because I know it is temporary? Or is that the cognitive trap of distorting its importance?

I’ll pause here because there are so many tentacles of this issue that I want to pursue and I’m finding myself heading that way. Is happiness a worthy pursuit for the Christian? How does Christian hedonism come into play? Why is suffering so seemingly “glorified” in our culture? And on and on.

I hope to explore those ideas soon. On my own or on paper, I’m not sure. But today I’m most struck by happiness itself and why I’m so damn scared of it.

I’m terrified to be happy. Which is pretty inconvenient because recently I really have been. I love the freedom of my job, the ability to travel as often as I want, the slow mornings in my apartment spent with hot tea and open windows. I love fall and the long awaited release of the Texas heat. I love my family, amidst all the messiness and change, and the friends who’ve walked with me through it, and who dream with me about jobs we might want and lives we might live. I have two legs that can run (albeit slowly), two hands that can cook (albeit messily), and this wildly good looking guy that keeps wanting to hang out with me and I couldn’t tell you why.

And I’m scared to enjoy any of it because what if I enjoy it too much am I making it an idol does that mean I don’t love God enough will he take it away to teach me a lesson I really don’t want to go back to the valley what if this is the calm before the storm

Somewhere along the way I’ve convinced myself that I get too happy the plagues will come. Just as the Lord sent plagues to the Egyptians to dethrone their gods and empty them of their promises, surely God will plague the very things that make me happy, too. Surely I’m too weak to enjoy something without making it an idol. Surely the locusts will swarm the second I get too comfortable.

To be sure, God does love us enough to reveal to us our idols to remind us that he alone satisfies. And often he does so by taking that idol away or diluting its effect. This is good and right for him to do. He has done it for me many times and, though painful, it is beautiful, gracious, and kind.

But I think I’ve bloated this picture of God’s love for me to the point of denying his good gifts. I’m so terrified that my happiness will inevitably lead to loss – so paralyzed by the fear of enjoying them “too much” – that I’ve confused blessings for arrows and act like there’s a target on my back.

As if God is up there with his bow just waiting to teach me a lesson. As if he doesn’t want to give me good gifts. As if he’s waiting for me to cross some arbitrary threshold of happiness to remind me who’s boss. As if he isn’t the author of happiness himself.

It’s good to be aware of the potential pitfalls of idolatry and to be careful. But when we end up doing spiritual somersaults to avoid them, I think we miss the whole point. We start looking for locusts. We miss out on enjoying his good and perfect gifts (James 1:17). We distort the importance of the giver himself.

There are still a lot of questions here, a lot of fears simmering, a lot of unknowns in the days and months to come. But for today, and for however long this season lasts, I want to know that God is not trying to trap me, trust that he delights in my gladness, and enjoy the still waters he’s led me to.

Is this miracle enough for anybody? Or has the thunder of “god loved the world so much” been so muffled by the roar of religions rhetoric that we are deaf to the word that God could have tender feelings for us?” – Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning

An Elevated Position – The Dallas Shooting

Dallas

Tonight I sat in my bed watching Suits on my computer while eleven police officers were shot two blocks from my apartment. And I’m not sure what I was doing when Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed but I imagine it involved something similarly trivial like snacking or watching snap stories. Sirens are still loud outside. The live feed of the news is playing in the background and I feel a weird mix of scared and sad and helpless. They said the snipers opened fire from an elevated position.

I said I’d never post about this kind of thing. I always feel irritated when people do. I avoid Facebook on weeks of social outrage because people’s posts irritate me and I don’t really know why. I hate that about myself. We all feel indignant, or outraged, or spurred on to action and no one knows how to handle that, Facebook or otherwise.

But this is my home. I run on that street. I ran there yesterday. And now I’m seeing it on the news littered with cops crouching behind cars.

Earlier today, I prayed about my annoyance with social media after events like these. It shouldn’t be irritating – we all want to speak out, to be heard. But it starts to feel like we’re all just trying to outdo each other on how reverent and reflective we can be. We’re just hashtagging things. Broadcasting our outrage or support or prayers, but to what end? Updating a status isn’t really doing anything and it pisses me off. I get a weird, elitist attitude about it, but I don’t know why. It’s not like I’m really doing anything either.

So I try harder to identify my underlying frustration and I struggle. Because, like all of us, it’s a hundred things at the same time. Disgust and fear and dumbfoundedness and deep, deep sadness. But I realize that one thing ties all of those emotions together, one thing is common in almost every Facebook status and blog and tweet and hashtag in these moments, and it’s that we all act as if we’re all so above this. We just can’t believe things like this can happen in our world. We just can’t believe people can do a thing like that. I just can’t believe I can exist in a time where I can be watching TV in my bed while the police are being gunned down outside my door.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying – we are, I hope, above this and I can’t, in fact, believe it. I don’t think everyone is capable of killing a man outside a convenience store or opening fire at a protest. Those who are are deranged and mentally unstable and very, very out of touch with reality. But let’s take a moment and remember that while these events, God willing, remain the outliers of our time, the people that carry them out are real people, someone’s son or daughter, someone with pain and fear and self-interest and goals, however misguided they may be. And don’t we have all of those things too?

I don’t want to dilute the horrendousness of these acts or excuse those capable of doing them. But I do want to point out that at the root of these things lies things we are all capable of: sin, elitism, entitlement, hatred, pride. We’re not above those things at all. In fact, we are those things – all of us. We put our interests above others. Put our plans above God’s. Put our emotions, our reactions, our beliefs out there, loudly, and look down on those who oppose. We set ourselves on our own little thrones and reign with fists full of air. Because isn’t that what pride is? Aren’t we all in an elevated position?

I don’t say this to antagonize or add to the sadness of the reality we’re seeing. I think for the most part we’re all doing the best we can. But I invite you to join me in stepping down from my indignance, hopping off my tiny throne, and falling on my face before God’s. Because what we all have in common here – those hurt, those scared, the victims and the villains – is that we’re all guilty. We’re all elitists. We’ve all in an elevated position – devaluing another’s life for the sake of improving our own.

So yes, pray for Dallas. Pray for the black community, the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the law enforcement, the world. Pray for mercy. Pray for safety. Pray for Christ to come soon.

But let’s pray also for ourselves, for humility. That our eyes would be opened to every prideful thought, every moment of elitism, and every place we look down from an elevated position and think someone else’s life matters less than our own.

We’re all guilty. We all need grace. And we won’t find it in a blog or a protest or a hashtag. But amidst chaos and confusion, loss and unimaginable fear, we will find it in God, in Christ who came, who left his rightful throne, who valued our lives over his own.

Unweaving the Rainbow

Red.jpg

I listened to a podcast last night and it wrecked me. It was a conversation between Krista Tippet (whom I love) and a physics professor named Frank Wilczek (whom I knew nothing about) and was titled “Why is the World So Beautiful?” Wilczek recently wrote a book trying to answer the question “does the world embody beautiful ideas?” from a physics perspective. The podcast was a report of his findings.

I was making dinner as I listened, chopping vegetables with the wrong sized knife because all my good ones were dirty. I’d finished dicing two zucchinis, a red onion, and a few bell peppers while half listening to Wilczek discuss an article he’d written for the Wall Street Journal. I started on a tomato and Krista asked him how he finds meaning in the world.

The tomato slipped under the knife and I sliced the hell out of my finger. Like, big time. I missed the first part of Wilczek’s answer due to a slew of expletives that came from a dark (and emphatic) place within me. I held my hands under the sink for a while, letting blood mix with tomato juice as it ran off my fingers, and caught back up as a reference was made to Keats’ “Lamia.”

Specifically, they were discussing this passage:

“Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomèd mine—
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade.”

Keats’ words have since been used as a complaint against science, claiming that it demystifies beauty – that it unweaves the rainbow. That the detailed explanation of a thing dilutes the magic of the mystery.

Wilczek, a firm believer in the beauty of the world and physics and science as a whole, rejects this notion, arguing instead that the colors of the “unwoven rainbow” are all one thing. He based this idea on Newton’s theory of relativity. (I know, stay with me.)

I can’t begin to do this justice so I’ll quote him here:

“So what you learn in the theory of relativity is that when you look at a light beam of a different color, and you’re moving towards it, it gets shifted towards the blue end of the rainbow. So if it was red, it might become yellow, or green, or blue, or ultraviolet if you’re moving fast enough. And if you’re moving away, there’s what’s called the redshift. Things move towards the opposite end of the rainbow. So all these colors can be derived from one of them by moving at an appropriate velocity. So really the existence of one implies the existence of all the others.”

He calls this “science’s poetic response to Keats’ chief complaint,” and then tacks it in with this:

“We humans are poised between microcosm and macrocosm, containing one, sensing the other, comprehending both.”

He said it as nonchalantly as he might take a sip of a coffee and moved quickly on to the next topic. Meanwhile, I threw soaking wet hands over my mouth and immediately started crying.

Just weeks ago I went for a walk with my dearest friend and we discussed this very thing. How bizarre it is that we just have these jobs that we do every day and then eventually we stop doing them and the world keeps going. And how disorienting it is that the things that mattered and hurt and meant so much two years ago are just memories now – and what that says about what matters and hurts and means something today. And how sin seems to carry this same element of distortion, feeling both overwhelmingly big and fleetingly small at the same time. How damn confusing it is that my sin is said to grieve the heart of God and yet has no bearing on his love for me. And what that means for how much weight should it carry.

It’s been one of my hang-ups since I was old enough to have hang-ups – feeling both too big and too small at the same time. I feel constantly suspended between every little thing becoming the biggest ordeal and nothing really mattering at all. I know and trust that God loves me in intricate ways and yet I feel caught in the current of a story so infinitely huge that surely my little world is all nothingness. I feel despairingly overwhelmed with options and grotesquely underwhelmed with meaning. And that lends itself gravely to apathy.

I see the rainbow and I want to unweave it. To dissect it and sterilize its pieces with knowledge. To watch how red bleeds into orange bleeds into yellow.

I see God’s story of redemption for his people and I want to do the same. To see how Tuesdays and conference calls and cleaning my bathroom fits into it all. Much less hospital rooms and divorce and the grey areas of conviction. I want the purpose of the big things to speak meaning into the small ones. And if I’m missing this somewhere please tell me, but it just doesn’t seem to always work that way. And I hate it.

But then I’m slicing open my finger with a paring knife, making dinner for one in an unswept kitchen, and hearing Wilczek argue that you can’t unweave the rainbow – that all colors are one thing – that “the existence of one implies the existence of all the others.” And later, that there is “…a deep unity beneath, supporting the diversity of appearance.”

And amidst tears and blood and a few more expletives (because God always seems to win my most indignant arguments) the analogy humbled me, hard. All purpose is one thing. The existence of His implies the existence of ours in everything we do. The magic of the mystery, a deep unity beneath.

 

 

Less Earnest than You

Pug

Disclaimers:
– I know the pink coloring is awful and offensive – we’re still working on it, stay tuned.
– This post felt a teensy bit cheesy so I thought this pug picture was needed. Enjoy.

I’ve learned about myself over the past ten years or so that I constantly strive to be the least earnest is any given situation. With few exceptions (read: literature, wine, Labrador retrievers) I will almost certainly care about something less than you, or at least pretend to. I will be less tied to our plans, on the off-chance that you cancel, and less invested in our relationship, on the (not so) off-chance that it ends. I will be less earnest than you, and I will make sure that you know.

I’m sure there are some underlying causes here, daddy issues or shitty ex boyfriends or that time my stuffed animal fell out of our moving truck when I was eight. But I pay my therapist so I don’t have to analyze these things myself. Instead, I’ll offer my non-paid for hypothesis: I do it to control the narrative you weave about me. I’ll never be the character in your story who looks like the fool. I’ll never be the one found disappointed or grieving. I’ll never be the one that feels ashamed.

This is a pretty annoying quality about me. Not so conducive to healthy relationships and a bit abrasive to those around me not crippled by this obsessive need to care less. It’s a hindrance. Poet Jack Gilbert writes (beautifully), “We must risk delight. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.”

But I don’t do that – I don’t risk delight. Because if things fall through or I get burned, I desperately don’t want to look stupid, or be pitied, or be the one left standing at the altar. I think I’m the furnace.

So when I came across this verse this morning the words jumped up and dug into my throat:

“For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” (Hebrews 2:11)

I can’t swallow that. Despite what I know about grace and mercy, I feel (quite earnestly) that Christ should absolutely be ashamed to call me [sister] (edit courtesy of #internationalwomensday*). I’m a major flight risk, and do nothing for his sacred, holy narrative.

And he knows this, better even than I do. He knows I’ll be the one to walk away, the one to leave him at the altar. Because I do, willingly and often.

Yet, he is not ashamed to claim me as his own. And I can’t understand it. To love with such abandon, such earnestness – to risk delight on one so buried in the ashes of the furnace of this world – I don’t get it. Oh that I should ever grasp the weight of that reality.

I don’t know how to move towards that truth, much less how to apply it to my life (or how to wrap up this post). But I know that despite my lack of understanding, truth prevails. I know that the narrative of Christ has already been written, that nothing I do can thwart it or lessen its value. And I know that my flighty, fickle, emotionally stunted self is loved, delighted in, and called [sister]*. And for now that’ll do.

*Do we really need our own day? As half of the world’s population, aren’t our achievements just humanity’s achievements? When is international men’s day?