Monday Musings: When I Have to Practice What I Preach

I decided I didn’t like the name Wisdom for the Week.  It was bulky and pretentious and altogether non-pithy.  So after being absent for a few weeks (dreadfully sick – dreadfully, dreadfully, sick have I been), I am back.  With a new name.  And a new bounce in my step.  And hopefully, health that will have some sticking power.

Introducing…Monday Musings.  Here’s this week’s Musing straight from the brain of Yours Truly:

I firmly believe in the importance of not taking myself too seriously.  For this reason, I regularly have a good laugh about this work I’ve chosen, the glamorous life of bringing people together who will get disgusted at one another, and then helping them to be nice to each other.  It really is delightful, but it can also be extraordinarily stressful.  The most laughable moments are the ones where I myself have to practice what I preach, and I don’t know how to – or if I do, I don’t want to.  Reconciling with the proverbial ‘other’ is part of what God calls us to and I love the results, but the process is really rather annoying.

It is unusual for me to have to work at wanting to reconcile with someone.  To a fault, I don’t hold grudges.  I love peace and harmony, which is, of course, why I decided to adopt a cause where those two qualities are almost always impossible to find.  (Again, time to laugh at myself).  But there are always exceptions to the rule, even for good-old-harmonious-me, and there are two grudge-worthy people in my life – two people that when I consider having to reconcile with them, my stomach turns into knots and I think I might have to vomit.  Or run away.  Or have a panic attack.  I’m sure you know the feeling.

There’s this foreboding sense I have that someday, I’m really going to have to practice what I preach.  Honestly, I am waiting for the day when God sets me smack dab in a situation where I am presented with an opportunity to reconcile with even these folks, because, as I said, this is my life.  It’s funny like that.  If God ever calls me to go through that gut-wrenching work, I’ll reference this post and tell you all, with much dismay, that I was prophetic.  In the meantime, I seem to be getting some good practice with all kinds of folks that remind me of those two in various smaller ways.  Maybe this is reconciliation boot camp I’m in?  Perhaps.

Here’s the truth: Reconciling is hard work.  Freakishly hard work.  It’s a balancing act which oftentimes feels next to impossible.

The process of establishing boundaries which protect, truthfulness that destroys inauthenticity, and boundless grace that restores life is only one that God has perfected.  It’s tricky.  This idea of convicted civility, as Richard Mouw puts it, is nice and pretty as a theory.  It makes you feel warm and fuzzy, inspired and excited as you read about it, but making it a practice of your life is not so “tie it up in a bow” pretty.

Sometimes we’ll disagree on the borderline between honesty and hurtfulness.  Sometimes we want someone to extend mercy and kindness to us and instead we meet with unapologetic truth telling.  Sometimes our timing is off – we misinterpret what the other person needs or worse, sometimes we just don’t care. The fact is, sometimes we will just disagree on what is true, right, and good.  And when we disagree, it’s going to sting.  So how do we live in the tension of “someone might get hurt” and still not act in ways that are hurtful?  How do we avoid harming one another in the midst of disagreement?

When common ground can’t be established, default to letting the other person know (either through your actions or words) that you are for them.   You might disagree with him/her, you might even be hurt by what they’ve done, but be for them.  Root for them, if even from a distance.  I am convinced there is a way to humble yourself before another, serving them kindly and compassionately, even those who have defiled or violated you.   There is a way to serve those who have hurt you without lessening or violating yourself.  I’m still stumbling through what this looks like, but I think it’s possible.  I have a good model.  After all, Jesus washed his betrayers feet.

It’s because of Christ’s example that I’m reminded of something.  Those folks, the worst ones, the terrible ones – even they are the beloved of God.  I have to pray this.  I have to say it out loud sometimes when I’m struggling the most to forgive and reconcile: “________ is the beloved of God.”

And so are you, dear ones.  So are you.

I talk about reconciling and sexuality and faith every day, and I answer people’s questions about these things constantly.  And sometimes, I listen to my own advice and wonder how to put it into practice.  But sitting in the midst of the questions and the mess, I feel like I’m becoming a little more like the True One.

What about you?  Whose name do you need to put in that blank, remembering that they are one of God’s favorites?  How can you serve even your enemy this week?

Shout Love Louder

I found out a few weeks ago that I had been selected to participate in a training event (put on by GLSEN and Lexington Fairness) to equip me and 25ish others to train educators in bullying prevention.  Today was day one of three and it was intense – a mixture of team-building exercises, ice-breakers, heart-breaking statistics, group work, new friendships, critical thinking, networking, painful stories, and just plain silly fun mixed with tears in our eyes and laughter in our hearts.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed.  My compassion gets the best of me when, for the seeming millionth time, I watch someone’s eyes well with tears as they tell stories of being thrown out of families, churches, and homes.  Even worse, sometimes I can tell that the stories I’m not told, the ones that hang silently in the air, are the worst ones.  When someone levels me with a telling gaze as they thank me for the work I do, I hear the words dripping with unspoken pain and disappointment.

All the brokenness of the world seems too big to surmount and all I can ask is, “Lord, how will this ever be fixed?”  Confession: It paralyzes me. Sometimes I come face to face with how incredibly unprepared I am to answer questions people ask me when lives hang in the balance.  Who am I, after all?  I’ve been stuck for weeks, unable to write, because the experiences and stories I have heard recently have sat so heavily with me that I get lost in my own inadequacies.

Walking out of the meeting space tonight I felt the familiar crushing weight crowding in as the nagging question settled in again, “How on earth are we ever going to solve this horrific problem?  Children are dying!”

So I drove home.  I turned my music up so loud that I couldn’t hear my thoughts.  I went for a three mile run.  I hit the shower.  I asked God to speak.  Pajamas on, hair dripping, muscles sore, I pulled out my guitar and sang out my prayers.

Me: “Lord, how can those who have been so brutalized ever become able to hear Your message of love  – past the screaming voices of shame, past the degradation, and past the humiliation which cripple and victimize into lifetimes that extend far beyond the moments they are spoken?”

God: Because my voice is bigger.  I shout love louder.

His voice is bigger.  He shouts love louder.

Praise Him!  His love trumps all.  There is no brokenness he cannot fix.  There is no wound he cannot heal.  There is no death into which he cannot breathe life.  He trumps it, fixes it, and heals it.  Maybe you need the reminder that I needed tonight.

His voice shouts louder than the pain.  His restoration shouts louder than the destruction.  His love shouts louder than the hate.  His voice is bigger.  How do I miss this?

How is it that I find my God too small to fix it?

When we draw close to Him, when we experience His presence and His unconditional acceptance, we let His voice shout louder in us, so big that others can hear it.  Darkness doesn’t stand a chance.  Love wins.  Reconciliation wins.  Redemption wins.  Restoration wins.  He wins, because His voice is louder.

Let his voice SHOUT LOUDER in you.

Be rooted and bold.