It’s one thing to believe in heaven as a destination or to read stories of after-death experiences that envelop individuals in bright light and peace, undressing time and connecting all the dots. But it’s something else entirely when you find yourself face to face with God, is love, having a conversation that seems to have been written within the recesses of your right mind. Meaning is not contrived and steps toward consuming the light are no longer necessary because the truth emanates from within — a conversation happening without words. Completely still. Eyes involuntarily closed. Complete awe with slow motion remembrance of your flowered soul as you wholly open to God, is love.
So this is what it means for time to stand still
For the past to touch the future
And rend love real
With words cut through steal
I do want to run away
And skip on clouds all day
Toward your perfect beginning
Where light knew no ending
And love was seed
Waiting to be born
With centered passion torn
Body not my own
To the other side
Since a child, I had this sort of fantasy about sacrificing my life for the greater good of all. And it wasn’t until recently that I realized this death wish is more likely to surface as an integral part of certain personalities but also as a tricky preoccupation that most Christians struggle with day to day, no matter our personality type. The other night, I had all my children sit around the table at dinner and write a vision of their future selves. My fancy way of disguising the question, “What do you want to be when YOU grow up?” Well, my sweet hearted martyr child immediately emerged with a halo around her head. Despite her siblings’ desires to be drummer, artist and medical doctor – she chose the selfless road and generically stated her desire to be “sin less.” I’ve always identified with this child and have often thought, “Poor thing, she’s plagued with my faux Saint Mary personality.” But at the same time, I wondered how her exposure to Christianity, Biblical teachings and upbringing to this point, had contributed to her selfless desire to simply be a better Christian. She frequently cries to me that even though she is nice to others they seem to never return her kindness. She, sobbingly said, “I try to do unto others as I’d have them do unto me, but it just doesn’t work. They’re still mean.”
My first thought was to tell her to turn her other cheek. In other words, “Child, if someone isn’t treating you the way you want to be treated, just let them continue to treat you that way.” But it hardly seemed sane to tell an 8-year-old that. So I gave her this befuddled version of “turn the other cheek” advice — “Turn the other cheek only if….pause….welll…there are certain circumstances under which you shouldn’t turn the other cheek, you know that…right?….well, God does call us to love uncondition…..Cough….Um, It will all be ok. Just keep treating them nicely. Long sigh. Have you told these more selfish than you people how you really feel?” I sensed her frustration deep in my bones. I’ve lived most of my life struggling with Christian concepts I’d internalized as ruthless edicts to live a completely selfless life. There are so many selfless situations in which I’ve mysteriously landed or placed myself in the name of Christian fervor. While I learned great lessons and some not-so-great lessons, I might have short circuited the pain, had I focused a bit more on SELF, the four-letter word of Christianity.
I can feel your defenses going up. Trust me, I just installed lightning rods on my roof. But somebody’s gotta do it. Have this conversation. Why you say? Why even talk about the subject of self? Clearly there are already selfish Christians out there. Plenty. And in fact, all of us can be periodically selfish at times. But what I’m addressing goes deeper than appearance. I’m tackling a selfless way of life in the name of Christianity that tramples our joy, imprisons our personalities, subjects us to abuse, leaves us suicidal and in many cases, ready to abandon our faith altogether. Somehow picking up our cross and following Christ turned out less than what it was cracked up to be. Certainly, there are some Christians out there who have the whole “It’s ok to be selfish” thing down and may even assume that this book is still about them. They liked the cover and picked up the book simply to discover additional ways to exploit the unassuming selfless. But this book is not for them. It’s for you. Those who carry this kind of sticky icky shame around, feeling like what you give is never ever enough. You’re certain Christ has called you to be last so that you can one day be first. Not only do you feel shame for never giving enough, you also feel shame when it’s time to set a boundary. But there’s a small voice of reason within, whispering, “Enough is enough.” It’s just that you don’t know where to start. Every single circuit or solution seems to be blocked with a scripture you memorized as a child, or perhaps you’re surrounded by individuals who innocently or not so innocently prey on your inability to be selfish. This book is meant to debunk some of the myths around selfless living, empowering you to develop a sense of self more closely aligned to the way Jesus lived his life—not based on some sermon meant to control the masses as sacrificial saints.
What I love about the Bible and Christianity in general is how we often pick the most miserable interpretations of Scripture and apply them to our lives like an old lady applies bright red lipstick, believing she’s stayed within the lines of her lips. All the while it’s obvious to everyone else but her, that something’s not quite right about her face. Those outside our religious circles are dying to take their index finger and do the squeak-squeak motion across their teeth, letting us know something’s off. But we’re just too pitiful in a way for them to bother. It’s easier for them to have an entire conversation with us, pretending nothings wrong. What’s sad though, is when the little ole’ lady takes a trip to the bathroom, looks in the mirror and realizes how things really appear. Have you been there? Lived as the gawky Christian who everyone knows is dying for approval through performing selfless acts of martyrdom? You don’t even know how to keep your place in line at the church homecoming. “No, you go ahead. Really, you go first. Nah, it’s no problem. I’m not even really that hungry…”
A few years removed. Bigger house. Better paying job. Even another child. Yet wrinkles and crinkles and catasotrophic caveats that stifle the full pleasure of success as you’d once defined makes you question and beckon and long for less. Less of the long and dead stares that happen when we are conditioned to nod and say I’m good and you. You are not good too. Numb just like myself who still has moments of believing there might just be life before death. First death of boredom and detachment and half dressed approval where we all drink our own concoctions of what we know best, a tick and a tock away from never feeling alive again but this is what we bargained for – illusion of safe where no one really knows what we think because we dont know ourselves. Opinions running rampant with no beginning and no end. But nothing to set us apart from the crowd because it is scary to be alone. We’ll flock and find our same and step in pace with what’s to be until time stops like we never saw it going.
“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” Acts 9
Ruthless Religious Hatred is nothing new and it isn’t by intellectual reasoning, psychological assessment or social study that we will cauterize the infectious heart ready to kill whatever or whoever poses a perceived threat to our safety and piety. Can we say in the face of organic evil, not the Hollywood edition of rated R kicks we get out of killing, but evil that touches down to our core and sears a sick gut feeling into our mind’s eye–Can we say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” ? If we step outside our religion, outside the familiarity of our chants and creeds and memorized allegiances to our God, what do we see? Do we see ourselves unflinchingly surrendered beneath the sharpened blade of hatred toward our ideal of a Savior? Are the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles’ Creed enough to break our hearts for those who have yet to see the light? God knows at the sight of this message to “The Nation of the Cross,” my own heart hardens first and I eventually, after indignant shock and awe, fearfully pray His Kingdom comes before corruption wins and the rooster crows.
Warning: Graphic Content not Suitable for underage. (I encourage us to be aware of current events and individually resist an attitude of flippancy toward religious freedom. Please stop watching the video at 2:58 if you do not wish to view the graphic portion.)
Two criminals hoisted on either side of Jesus Christ on the cross, one still mocking even to death and the other repentant of what He’d done-imagine the poignancy of a crushed Savior offering paradise to the likes of those whose bloody hearts were unknowingly in His hands as white as snow. One chose life in his dying, revealing that the potency of our religion is not in our level of conviction to kill for its cause but in the evident redeeming power of what it is we claim to believe.
3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Acts 9
To the Muslims, Christians, Jews, Humanists, Hindus, Buddhists, the religious and irreligious, this is not a battle of the intellects. This is not a matter of human will. It’s a matter of power of God unto salvation. A matter of inexplicable conversion that makes us fall to the ground, ready to die, knife to the throat for Christ, not rising up in arms to shed blood for a God whose favor we must ruthlessly win.
Salvation. It’s a miracle, the light that lies beneath our sinful desire for revenge, and rises to the surface as hope for even those who still believe they hold the power of eternity in their murderous hands.
You are the light of the world. You cannot hide a city that has been built upon a mountain. Matthew 5:14
To those of us whose Christianity and affiliation with the cross keeps getting blown down at the huff and the puff of wolves at our window: It’s time we pray for a conversion of our creed into a solid belief in Jesus Christ our Savior, collectively as a nation whose cross has become nothing more than a symbol of shame because we’ve confused political correctness with love. Where is the light? And where is your city on a hill? Do you have a safe place? Don’t depend on your cognitive ability to defend the cross. It will fail you. Go ahead and try to make sense of Isis/Isil. Spend your time figuring out why your wife left you for another man or why your children are all messed up on addiction to sex and drugs. Wring your hands about the political plight of the world. Mourn the sex trade and keep trying to be the best person you can be according to your own understanding of what’s good and bad. You’ll end up right back here with me. A soul searching and needing to be found. God, save me. Save us.
Our great grandmother said it.
Our grandmother said it.
Our mother said it.
“My How Time Flies.”
And for years, we chuckled with a slight eye roll in our youthful innocence – feeling sorry for them – thinking we would shortly have it figured out. Wondering why over and again they’d say it just like it was all they knew, how time just slips through their fingers ~ when for us
IT was practically standing still as we made big plans for the future and twiddled our thumbs waiting for our destiny to happen to us – concocting clever explanations as to why their destiny was so lackluster and typical: childbearing, dinners, laundry and the such.
But my eyes caught me in the mirror just the other day and I saw myself mouth those words, as I pulled them taut. “My How Time Flies.” And this time, the sound of those words had a different ring. I’d never understood it before. But now I knew that I’d let it catch up to me just like all the generations before: streaked mirrors that will never perfectly gleam, laundry baskets that will never completely empty, pots and pans that will never stop soaking, children who grow up, mothers who die, and wise words that eventually find their meaning.
“My How Time Flies.”
“The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” Genesis 6:6
Even God feels regret. And both biological and adoptive parents should not expect an immunity from regretting your choices at times.
Absolutely nothing qualifies me to write about adoption other than the fact that four years ago I adopted 3 teenage girls from Cameroon, Africa. I have yet to know if this was a successful “Rescue Mission” as others title it, much to the chagrin of some. The girls were my husband’s siblings and their mother died when my husband and I lived in Cameroon. Their father had died a few years prior. What prompted me to write this post was seeing a friend’s update on FB yesterday about how unfortunate it is to hear others talking about adoption as if it’s their own little personal rescue mission, in effort to
abduct rescue a child from poverty.
I understand her point, I think. Completely. I don’t think any child would want to grow up hearing their “rescue” story every time things go wrong OR right. Aka, They make an A in school. They hear, “Oh, aren’t you so glad we rescued you so that you could get a “stellar” American education and make straight A’s so that you could then graduate, get an 8-5 job and have children of your own?” OR to the other extreme. They start selling drugs on the street corner. They hear “How could you CHOOSE this life when you were RESCUED for the very reason of escaping the STREETS?” Maybe they don’t “hear” it but have you ever “thought” it?
Maybe you DID adopt to add a family member to your family or to finally experience parenthood AND the idea of “rescuing” a child or trying to “give them a better life” actually does seem as foreign to you as your adopted child’s native country. But as un-glorified as it may seem, some people DO adopt out of obligation. A naively glorified obligation to assist those who seem to have a need that outweighs the good sense of just leaving those “poor” children right where they are. I mean, why is having a parent so important after all? You’ll never replace their biological mother or father, EVER. If you’re not looking to fulfill your maternal instinct–what’s the point of getting all tangled up in the complexities of adoption? If you have children
of your own, you know just how difficult it is to parent biological children. What makes you think parenting adopted children would be ANY easier?
Don’t THINK. Just DO. And for what? Because somewhere in the back of your mind, you believe that you will be providing that child a better life than they would have had otherwise. Sounds like a rescue mission to me. But suit up. With the whole armor and such. Because the angels won’t be serenading you with heavenly songs from above when everything below seems just a little bit more than you bargained for. Not everyone who adopts, adopts with the intent of “rescuing” that child into a better life. But some do. And at times, when they tout the fact that they’ve “rescued” someone, maybe, just maybe– it’s because they’re trying to find value up against the “cost” of what they’ve done. Maybe they’re trying to reconcile their own losses with a melancholy disposition of an adopted child they thought might have found happiness already. Naive? Yes. A common reality? I think so. None of us are immune to our own human depravity.
Here are some reasons why ALL adoptive parents who adopt with any inkling to “rescue” need grace rather than distant skepticism peppered with criticism:
1) Adopting a child in order to give them a “better life” will eventually force you to define just exactly what a “better life” is. This is an excruciatingly painful process.
2) “Rescuing” a child through adoption will force you to constantly scrutinize their life “here” up against what their life “there” might have been.
3) Most people assume you’re adopting for “some other reason“…they just haven’t quite figured it out yet. Ironically, they will emphatically say it’s “pious” to claim that you’re rescuing a child, yet at the same time, they think it’s o.k. to insinuate point blank that there MUST be SOME benefit in “adding” an extra set of “helping hands” to your family.
4) You will find yourself in a constant battle to treat your biological and adopted children one-in-the-same, when in reality, they’re not. They are NOT the same. I know that over and over again, people appear on talk shows and radically claim that there is no difference between their biological and adopted children. But there is. To me, anyway. And you’re constantly trying to make heads or tails of those differences. Because after all, why would you “rescue” a child just to treat them ANY less than your own?
5) You’re in a panic because you set out to rescue someone else, but now, you’re in sudden need of rescue yourself!