Friday, February 19, 2016

A Rebel, for sure. But a Loner?

"I’m a loner, Dottie.  A rebel." - Pee Wee Herman, Pee Wee's Big Adventure

Don’t you just love Pee Wee?

When thinking of a solitary sort, someone who likes to be by herself a lot, one who prefers time alone and away from others in a crowd, this clip comes to mind.  It’s a leftover from childhood, a silly scene from a movie that we watched on a loop and quoted often.

It resonates with me, this line.  Despite it being funny that Pee Wee Herman could be anything that closely resembles a rebel, that a person could be characterized by her need to get away, to be alone often, to not rely on the company of others to feel energized, and to be recognized as this specific type of person, is validating.

I didn’t realize it then, but I was this person.  I am this person.

Being in community is wonderful and fulfilling, fun and meaningful.  Spending time among others, taking part in inspiring conversations, learning and helping and living together – this is why we were made.  No man is an island.  We need each other to survive.

I know this.  I live this.  I keep my family members alive every day.  Proof of this is that they rely on me to know what they will eat later.

The service aspect of my job is obvious.  I’ve spent years doing for others; it’s my main job.  But serving is exhausting.  I know this.  I live this.  Regularly getting away from constant service is the key to physical and mental health.  Asserting my need and taking the time to for rest has become a side job, because who doesn’t like to always have someone around to serve them?  There is always another need.  It’s up to me to retreat.

I learned this with difficulty, but Jesus knew it well.

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
When evening came, he was there alone.
Matthew 14:23

 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up,
left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Mark 1:35

 After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.
Mark 6:46

 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Luke 5:16

 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray,
and spent the night praying to God. 
Luke 6:12 

Now, look. I Googled “Bible verses about Jesus retreating” and came up with these. They are written by different people about the same guy, and are probably written about the same events they experienced together, so seeing these verses together may be overstating Jesus’ need to run off into the woods to get away from everyone for a while. We all know Jesus was a rebel, but maybe he wasn’t the loner I am hoping he is to further validate my own loner tendencies. He is a good role model, though.

During those times Jesus gets away by himself, he doesn’t lie on the couch and read, or cruise social media, or watch TV, or shop, or even drive aimlessly, doing his best Adele impression along with the radio.

Jesus retreats, and he prays. He spends his downtime with God. He doesn’t hoard the time, hurrying to get miracles and teaching and work for the day over with so he can get back to his room and relax by watching YouTube videos.

Jesus doesn’t grumble over the time he spends serving. He serves, stops to eat, rest, and pray, fills up on God, and gets back to it. Because he knows that is his job. And his job is important.

We are all here to do whatever it is we are doing. We were made to serve, and rest when we are tired.  Jesus knew the importance of these things, and he knew how to do them well.

I recognize that my time to regroup and rest is as precious as what I give away. But maybe it is a little too precious and not as fulfilling as it could be if I focused on asking God to restore me during that time.

YouTube can fill the minutes, but it can’t fill my soul.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Church Talk

It was inevitable, no matter how much I tried to stop it.

I started journaling along with a daily devotional that I swiped from our church’s public supply, not even bothering to put a donation in the box for the first couple of booklets.  I was such a creeping Christian then.

Every morning I’d read, then write a one-pager about my thoughts on the daily scripture, a sort of personal devotional to go with the published one.  Eventually I ordered a devo booklet to come directly to the house.

The pages in the first notebook I filled were personal, in plain diary-speak.  Sentences started with “I don’t understand…” and contained questions like “Does God care about…” and I copied Bible verses to remember.  Sometimes the pages contained a pouring out of feelings, not unlike my journal entries from my teens: “I can’t believe that this happened!  Eeeeeee!!!!!”

Six years later, my sentences go like this: “Hope exists for those who trust that God will do what he says he will do, and wisdom comes when we ask for it, take his word into our heart, and live according to it.”

Wait.  What is that, now?

When my husband and I met, he was strong in faith and I was not.  We were not church-goers as a couple, but he assumed that I knew church talk when he told me that “You are a Christian when you invite Jesus into your heart.”  I thought this was the weirdest thing I had ever heard.  I warned him that it was very cult-like to talk this way.  I didn’t get it.  Invite Jesus into my – what?  Are we in Crazytown?

Turns out he was using church talk.

Church talk is ending each sort of complain-y rant about your husband and kids and horrible in-laws with “But I am so blessed” and “God has given me so much” and “I owe my life to Jesus” and “I’m praying for you” and “Hope exists for those who trust that God will do with he says he will do.”  Peppering every conversation with words of faith.  ßSee?  I did it right there.

It’s a little weird, a little secret society-ish to those who don’t go to church regularly, who haven’t heard it spoken for years and years.  Church talkers can have regular conversations with other church talkers, can hear it and not snicker and become alarmed that the speaker is about to toss you into the back of his van and drive you to a farm somewhere and make you give up all your worldly possessions for the good of the commune and marry someone named Supreme Leader Ricky along with 240 other lucky ladies.

It’s why Jesus used parables, and why the Pharisees hated him.  He told stories that people could relate to, and stayed away from church talk.  He did this so everybody would understand what he was about.

Church talkers think that they are using regular worldly words, but they aren’t.  They are using words that – get this – Jesus put into their hearts.

Because it’s easy.  Because when the Holy Spirit stirs, you want to share it.  But often, what the Holy Spirit wants is for us to wait.

Listen some more.  Decide what to say.  Say a quick prayer for wisdom, for the right words.

Often, the right words aren’t You are blessed.  Or God loves you.  Or Jesus says.  Instead, they are I love you.  I can help.  I understand.  I have those feelings, too.  Your kids are great.  I always feel welcome at your house.  I hope your husband gets a job soon.  I’m sorry your mother-in-law is a monster.

Sometimes, the right thing to say is nothing at all.

It has become a struggle for me not to default to church talk when talking about faith, or God, or even everyday situations that I think are teaching something.  After a while, church talk takes over because it’s just easier to use in explaining things, because I have learned so much.  The hard work becomes using real talk when speaking to others about what I think I know about God.  Holding back when the truth is right there, about to come out.  Waiting for wisdom, which trumps church talk.

Every time.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Before I accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation, I had trouble enjoying life.

I lived in fear, sadness, anger, guilt.  A strong victim mentality hindered my growth; I shouldered blame for things I didn’t do, and spent time feeling sorry about the way I turned out.  Time spent covering lies and feeling paranoid that I’d be found out was significant. 

I wasn’t a criminal, and on the outside I looked perfectly happy, well-adjusted.  Inside was a different story.  I felt alone; there was no one to forgive me for my wrongdoings, no one to comfort me, nothing that filled me with peace when I righted things on my own.  I held people at arms’ length; trust was an issue.

Uncertainty was the reigning theme of my life.  I didn’t know what was right and what was wrong, and I was fearful of the future.  Adrift in the darkness, and without a focal point to steady me, I fell frequently.

It was no way to live.

Rebellion is a potent drug – it makes us feel special to know that we’re living on the edge of the norm.  Toeing the line and crossing it feel normal after a while.  Eventually you feel as if nothing can touch you and nobody can see you.  It becomes true.  Few people can spot a rebel because a rebel spends a lot of time hiding behind a façade.  A rebel sneaks around, thinking she is without limits or boundaries, but she creates her own walls by trying to hide.  This is how my life looked when I rebelled against God.

I wish I could say that the moment I stepped out in faith, the instant I accepted the gift of Jesus’ salvation, that the switch clicked off and flushed all of these awful feelings away.  It didn’t; established patterns of behavior are hard to divert.  It takes work and maturity and determination to change the way we live.  That my current way of life wasn’t working so well made it easier.  Major life changes that happened during that time were natural new beginnings, too – a good time to make changes in life and heart.

When I opened my eyes and saw that life could be different – better – when I accepted God’s will, I moved forward.  No longer was I glancing over my shoulder to see what lie I might get caught in, scrambling to shore up another part of the crumbling wall I had shoddily built.  I became certain that as long as I kept my eyes on him, I could live out in the open, even despite my faults.  When I realized that I could acknowledge them and ask for forgiveness for my wrongdoings, I could move on, even more determined to do better, to live more honorably.

When we expose our truths to each other, ourselves, and God, we heal and become whole.  We shed our self-made uncertainties and fears and reach toward a new way of life, one that we can freely enjoy.

When we accept Jesus’ gift of salvation, we each become who God intended us to be.  It starts with having faith that God wants what's best for us.  We will know what to do.  He will show us when we believe.  

Of this I am certain.