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Monday, July 20, 2015

This is Raw, Friends



Expectation: I thought people would be nice, but I thought I could handle anything they threw my way, even if they weren't.

I haven't talked about it much, at least not publicly or in great detail, but our recent stint in ministry has been rough.... so rough, in fact, that I recently told someone, "This has been the worst year of my life."  That's saying something. 

Our family has lived through a lot of stuff.  We are survivors.  As I've shared pieces of our journey, many of you have been kind enough to empathize, to walk alongside us and offer hope and blessing.  This support has allowed us to navigate all kinds of bizarre circumstances.  Forgive me for proof-texting, because context really does matter, but I have sometimes felt like Moses.  My hands are tired, and I have needed some friends to allow me to sit on a rock while they hold up these tired hands.  I can't even begin to recount how many times I have simply said, "I can't do this," in recent days.  You might be curious about what has made this so much more difficult than any other time.  I think I'm ready to say it, at least in part (which has been a theme for this era of life, so I guess it's fitting).

I can take a lot.  No one loves criticism, but I've dealt with my share of it.  In fact, it usually pushes me to work harder, try more, do better.  I hate to disappoint, and I am a perfectionist by nature.  I am my own worst critic, but others have tried to rival that, and when they do, I listen and take every word to heart.  If I'm not doing something right, or well enough, or in such a way that it meets the wants and needs of others; I'll fix it.  I'll change it.  I don't do anything halfway.

I have taken more than a few personal hits lately.  Over the course of the past several months, I have found that I am not qualified for any vocational position that I want.  Two degrees, a third one in progress, 18 years of volunteer ministry, a small business, the publication of a couple of books, and even some personal connections, and I still can't land a job.  As it turns out, it's not what you know or who you know, apparently.  The inordinate amount of rejection has been difficult, but whatever.  It is what it is.  And, I really mean that.  To this point, it hasn't stopped me from sending out another wave of resumes or taking one more phone interview.  After each process comes to a close, I need a few minutes to vent and regroup, but it's just lack of vocational assignment.  It's nothing new.  I can survive this...

I have lived through encounters with people in church leadership positions who are less experienced and less educated than I am, telling me that anything I have to offer is both unnecessary and unwanted, and that they question whether or not I am even a follower of Jesus, because my understanding of theology does not line up with the folklore they wish to impart.  I have to admit that the idea that I didn't love Jesus gave me pause, but I have had to remember the words, "consider the source," on many different occasions in my life.  It's not me.  It's OK.  I'm grounded enough in my faith and spiritual formation to recognize how ludicrous these charges were.  I'm really disappointed, in a sense, because I think I did have something valuable to offer, but it can't be forced.  It's just lack of ministry assignment.  I've been here before.  I can survive this...

But the day someone looked me in the face and told me what a crappy wife and mom I am and how glaringly inadequate the life and rhythms of my family are...  It shattered me.  Because that's the one thing I have always had going for me.  I was already struggling with being content with who I am and where I am in life.  As an introvert, I am generally intrinsically motivated, but as more and more extrinsic factors seemed to confirm my failure as a person, I started to look for some that would affirm me.  This rocked my world, shook my foundations, and came pretty close to ripping my marriage apart.  Lack of family identity?  This I cannot survive...

And if I may be blunt, I don't want to just survive anymore.

So, today, I find myself without a local church, again.  Don't cry about it.  I'm not.  If I'm crying (and I'm not going to tell you if I am, because I hate crying in public), it's because I know there's something better.  Please don't misunderstand.  I have been around the block enough times to know there is no such thing as a perfect church, and as the old cliché goes, if there was it would become imperfect the second I walked through the doors.  But there are places where people do not work tirelessly to shatter those who don't meet their flawed standards.  I know this, because I've experienced that kind of community, as well.  Much of this post might make me out to be a pessimist, but the truth is, I'm a realist.  I'm happy for that, today, because it helps me to put things into perspective and to remember the good days, too.

Let me take just a moment to talk about the difference between being broken and being shattered.  Only recently did I realize there is a difference, at all.  A tagline from a very old blog of mine read, "I am broken, and I do not need to be fixed".  This is still true.  Psalm 51 has been pretty important to me lately, and it speaks to brokenness in a way that is much more positive than what we usually consider, "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise" (Psalm 51:17, NIV).  God accepts our brokenness, not as something to be mended, not as a problem, but as a penitent sacrifice.  I can live with brokenness... 

For whatever reason (maybe it is because I am the mother of five children who have been a little bit rough on home decor in the past), I think of the Scripture that speaks of pottery and clay when I think of brokenness.  Romans 9:21 says, "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?" (NIV).  This probably shouldn't be as hard for me as it is, but I think it might be time to fully embrace a call to common use.  The truth is, I'm pretty good at loving common people, and sharing common meals, and listening to common stories.  Maybe my own narrative does not have to be extraordinary to be good.  And then there's II Corinthians 4:7-9 which says, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed" (NIV).  I need to learn, again, what it is to be pressed but not crushed... not shattered...  because I cannot live with that again.  There are too many pieces to pick up, and sometimes I feel as if I will never be able to put them all back together.  But maybe, just maybe, because I am not abandoned; God can make something whole again.

In the spirit of this blog, I would like to add a song that I have come to love.  It's about Eucharist.  And, it's about me, too.

Broken Bread
By: Rend Collective Experiment
From the Recording: Organic Family Hymnal, 2010

May I be broken bread, may I be poured out wine
May I incarnate, Your kindness Lord

Spend my life Jesus, anyway You please
Whether on great things, or what seems small

Your will done your way
Your will done your way
Your will done your way

I will not fight You
Take me past the line that my heart draws
I will not fight You
Take me beyond the laziness of my thoughts
I will not fight
Lead me further than I've gone before
I will not fight You
I'm abandoned to Your call

Do not let there be, any part of me
That’s untouchable, unreachable

Let my delight be, living out Your dreams
Washing dirty feet, and kissing yours

Your will done your way
Your will done your way
Your will done your way

I will not fight You
Take me past the line that my heart draws
I will not fight You
Take me beyond the laziness of my thoughts
I will not fight
Lead me further than I've gone before
I will not fight You
I'm abandoned to Your call

God let Your dreams come true, dream through us
God let Your dreams come true through us

L.

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