I’m sitting here with my mind in a whirl and I just can’t sleep and have to write this down, whatever it is.
Today I finished a book, “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Adichie. It was about the Nigerian/Biafran Civil War of the late 60’s, which I knew nothing about. It was a wonderful, difficult story to read, and I’m having trouble with it being finished because I want to continue to be a part of the character’s lives. In it she talks about something called “kwashiorkor” afflicting the children in the refugee camps. I wasn’t sure what it was, I thought it was like dysentery, so I looked it up. It is this:
Those famine pictures you see, of children suffering from severe protein deficiency due to malnutrition and starvation. The images that popped up in the Google search have haunted me all day long.
Then I took 2 of my kids for a hike and picnic in a state park. It was gorgeous and warm and sunny and breezy. We picked up lichen and sparkly rocks and a stick that looked like bamboo. We just meandered up and down the rocky trail. We saw a mother deer and her 3 fawns dash across the trail in front of us and then watch us warily, tails twitching, from the trees until they dashed off again. It was a beautiful, perfect summer day.
I took my oldest to her 6th grade orientation. It was a flood of information and new things to figure out, to get used to. It was overwhelming and an overload of things to remember. It was exciting to see her new school, meet her teachers, imagine all the new and exciting things coming her way this year. She was reassured by finding many people she knows in her homeroom class and on her team. I left feeling great anticipation for the year and years ahead, knowing this is a huge step in her growing up, her becoming the young woman she is going to be some day. My head was spinning with all the things I need to remember.
I read Jamie The Very Worst Missionary’s blog today, where she talks about how activism requires action, and how most of us are “passivists”, in that we passively talk about, share, pass along information about horrible and desperate situations, without actually doing anything about any of them. Kind of exactly like this blog here.
I started and finished another book, “If I Stay”, by Gayle Forman (I know, I know. But you know I am a notorious Devourer of Books. And this one was very short.). It was about an 18 year old girl who is in a terrible car accident that kills her parents and little brother. She has survived but is in grave condition, and the story is told from her point of view as she contemplates whether to stay or go…to live or die. It is heart-wrenching, even though it is a fictional story, because you can’t help but wonder if you were in that situation, if that choice were even possible, what would you do. If everyone you loved was lost. I don’t think I could stay. It made me feel very sad and melancholy.
So here I am just thinking about how odd this life is. The juxtaposition of pain and beauty. That this is a world where
Thousands, maybe millions, of children, suffer from kwashiorkor, look like that photo, live in that reality, and worse, every day.
That somewhere a little girl is being raped by a man who paid to have sex with her.
That little boys are being conscripted to fight in a war they don’t understand.
That someone is losing someone in an unthinkable tragedy.
That you can go from being intimate friends to total strangers in less than a year because of a stupid misunderstanding.
That you can go outside and see something incredibly beautiful, probably right outside your front door.
That you can see the potential and the future in the eyes of your child.
That you can dream about the possibilities of your own future, as you think about the things you are passionate about.
And at the same time as all of these things, you
plot and strategize how to get through the list of things you have to do tomorrow.
try and remember to call or write to friends and people important to you.
wonder how the $300 to fix the dryer is going to affect the bank balance.
think about the random things you want to do to the house.
wonder why you spent all your birthday money on locker organizers and gym shirts and PTA memberships.
sit and write another silly blog.
This life. It’s kind of insane. It’s exhausting to think about.
So why aren’t I tired yet?
This morning I was reading some blogs on some of my favorite websites…Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary, Momastery, Rachel Held Evans, Jen Hatmaker…I love reading these ladies because it’s like funnier, better writing from my own head. On Jen’s I was reading some inane, funny story about her appearance on The Today Show, and then I saw it.
I made the mistake of trolling through the comments section, and there it was. I imagine it in some prissy, church-lady voice: “I was very disappointed to see you use the word hell. I thought this was a Christian blog.” And suddenly I wanted to throw the iPad through a window.
Because (and I hadn’t even noticed it) apparently she used the word “hell” not in a “I went to tell my neighbor about Jesus because I didn’t want her to go to hell” way but in a “What the hell!” way. Because apparently cussing is a measure of your worthiness of admission to the kingdom.
Well if that’s true then let’s just say I’m totally f***ed.
I took a brief break from Facebook and internet stuff, other than my email recently, because I found myself getting way too agitated about people like that. I feel like so many folks now are entrenched in this cultural warfare, this “I’m right, you’re wrong”, us vs. them, take no prisoners approach to Truth. This is true in all sectors of culture right now, politics, health, environment, but when it comes to Christianity it’s particularly pointed because it all revolves around your admission to the Club. Your worthiness (or not) to get to heaven someday. I found myself getting so angry and fired up and spending way too much time thinking about other people’s thoughts and opinions–both similar and different to my own–than was healthy. I got sucked in. I wanted to craft the perfect argument to “be right”. So I took a break and stopped reading even stuff I enjoyed and agreed with for a bit. It helped. My brain slowed down.
And then I read this lady’s comment and spent all morning feeling angry and trying to craft the perfect witty response (because in this Internet age, don’t bother saying anything unless it’s clever and witty) to why she was such a complete idiot. To why I am right and she is wrong.
This train of thought continued into my morning run and I got myself thinking “Well, the Bible says that if we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves that that is the whole point! Not the words we say or music we listen to or…”
Huh. Then I got the old smack-in-the-face of “So how are YOU doing with those two things, huh lady???”
Well let’s see. Loving God. I think the fact that many days I question his very existence is well, not a real plus for me. Ok. Loving “neighbors” how about. Um. Hmm. I’m terrible at loving my friends. Not great at loving my husband or family. Hell, I’m not even good at loving my own children a lot of times. And if honoring my mother falls into the category of loving others, which, hello, of course it does. Well. Hmm. Awkward shuffling of feet and staring off into the distance.
Yeah. So screwed.
But you know, I have come to this conclusion quite a bit over the last year. That I am a mess. A god-awful mess. I have tried, I have tried! I have spent my entire life checking off lists and doing the “right things” and trying to be a good daughter, sister, girlfriend, student, teacher, mom, friend, Jesus-type person and yet I continue to fail miserably. I’ve worked the program, completed the assignments, talked the talk, and yet I continue to fail.
Christians would like you to believe that if you just follow this certain set of “rules” (white, middle-class, American 21st century evangelical rules) then you’ll be set. You’ll be good. Write in your prayer journal. Get up at 5 am every day for your “quiet time”. Go to church and take notes on the sermon. Only listen to K-love (barf!). Don’t drink don’t cuss don’t dance don’t watch certain movies Vote Republican. Christianity in America is the biggest “fake it so you make it!” club going, in my opinion.
Well, I’ve tried all of these things. And I continue to get it all wrong. In fact, I have come to the conclusion at the ripe old age of not-quite-41 (6 days!) that I am pretty much Wrong About Everything.
I have also come to the conclusion that, in light of this fact, God’s either gonna love me and have enough grace for me or he’s not. And there’s not really a damn thing I can do about it. I am me. I am here. I am who I am and I have the thoughts and beliefs that I have and I will continue to try and do better in all ways, (loving God and others ways, not Follow Some Arbitrary Christian Rule ways) but that inevitably I’m going to fail, inevitably I’m going to get it wrong, I am going to stay some form of f***ed up for the rest of my life.
And guess what?
So are you.
And I think (although heck, I am probably WRONG) that God’s love is big enough for all of it. For all of us. If it’s worth anything, it has to be.
So maybe we can stop trying to be right, stop trying to fit some other person’s mold, stop trying to be other than who we are, and just be loving of one another. Broken, messy, ridiculous, probably wrong as we are.
Because I think we’ve all got it wrong in some ways. In most ways. And maybe figuring that out is kind of the point. Cause when we’re so damn sure we’re right and everyone else is wrong, it makes for an awfully bitter and ugly way to live.