Friday, April 28, 2017

Am I Wanted?


No one ever picked me first at game-time. As a kid, I didn't mind. But there was a particular time where the sting of getting picked last still lingers. I had played plenty of ultimate frisbee and volleyball skirmishes post-high school. We always split off by ones and twos rather than captains picking teams. But I distinctly remember a time when I wanted to go for a walk and everyone else wanted to play volleyball. We didn't have many students, so I was 'needed'—except that one or two persons made it clear that I wasn't any good. I played that day because I felt obligated, but I fought tears over not getting to do what I enjoyed, along with being made to feel incompetent and unwanted.

It is that horrible feeling of being inferior, of being on the outside, that causes so much damage in our world. "Look, God is withholding something from you. He's on the inside of this secret knowledge and you could be, too..." says the serpent to Eve. She takes the bait and bites. "You're all alone. You don't matter to anyone." The enemy whispers this lie, and too often it is answered with bullets and bloody wrists. "You aren't good enough to fit in," says the 'in' crowd. And many people make it their life's goal to become good enough to fit in—never sure if they've made it, even if they get on the inside.

Trying to fit in or accepting that you don't fit in are hard roads to walk. I know, I've tried them both. I like myself and my life better when I'm trying to be who I'm made to be (and more like Jesus)—not trying to be what someone else thinks I ought to be or wishes I were. I hate disappointing my family, friends, or my supervisor—but I don't mind not pleasing people. There's a difference. When I try to please people, to be what I think they need or want me to be, or to do what they want, I am suffocated, stressed, and annoyed with myself. When I love and respect someone, I naturally want to give to them, to build them up, to serve them well.

I am most free to grow and to love others (and to like myself) when I am not needed but I belong and am wanted.

I thought I was longing for freedom, but what I've been longing for is being wanted, not needed. To be needed means to try to fill a void for someone. To be needed means feeling obligated and duty-driven—it can be drudgery. I can try to fill the need, but after a while, I burn out. It is life-sucking to be needed. But to be wanted...that is a different story. I need to know that I didn't just waylay my neighbour on their way to do laundry; that they really wanted to talk with me for twenty minutes about books and what God is showing us both. I need to know that laundry was simply the means to a good conversation, not something more important that I kept them from. I need to hear the actions and hearts of others say:

Come inside from the cold and rest your weary soul
You belong, you are loved, you are wanted
You're not alone
I've missed you so
Welcome home1

Don't we all need to hear that somehow? We want to be our one-of-a-kind selves—not a cookie cutter person—but also to have someone, some ones, who get us, who welcome us in—to welcome us home. The enemy lies to us and tells us we're on the outside, that we don't matter to anyone (not even God), or that we're all alone...but he's wrong. He lies. 

Home is real. Acceptance is real. Jesus invites us to belong, to rest our souls in Him. He shows us scarred hands and tells us how utterly wanted we are. And He often brings those one or two—or more!—people into our lives who don't try to make us into what they expect or want, but who encourage us to grow, to be better than we are. They love us—even when they know just what we're really like. They remind us that we fit, we belong somewhere. And we do that for someone and some ones, too.

You belong.

You are loved. 

You are wanted.

You're not alone. . . Welcome home. 



_______

1. Joy Williams / Matt Morris: "Welcome Home" lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Saturday, April 15, 2017

There Must be More. . .


PC: Brian Masbaugh (slacklinemedia.com)


I want the world to be different. . .

I want to respond in kindness every time. To have enough of God's love in me to always be ready to give to others. I want fear to evaporate. For old-fashioned values to be held by everyone. And I want to not get hung on one side of a dichotomy or the other. I want to see this life and this world bigger. To see possibilities. To know how to walk the balance of hope in the face of despair, or that of love in the proper tension of the truth.

My sister told me recently that I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too—like keeping a beautifully arranged dinner and yet cleaning the plate in enjoying all of its flavours. I do. I want it to be true that Good wins in my lifetime. I want the shadow to be small and passing, and for it to pass away right now. For the high Beauty to swoop in and save the day—and the nighttime, too. I long to live in the not yet, because the now is so broken. I long for perfect relationships without underlying currents of tension, annoyance, hurt, or frustration. I long for the fully redeemed Heaven and Earth, and confess that I kick against the breakage in which we still live.

I have been given hope and permission to dream more richly, to see God as bigger than the false dichotomies we are so often handed. . . And then comes the thud—the fact that not everyone else has been handed that gift, or that they have not received it yet, anyway. When I ask for answers and have the problem reiterated, it doesn't help. When I say, "There has to be more than just this—God is bigger than these two bad choices," I get blank silence.

When I've been told that God is bigger than my small vision, but I'm not expected—or even allowed—to see more, I get frustrated. I feel like I'm constantly on the outside and the majority is convinced that there is only one key to get in. But I am not convinced. I don't believe that my life is on hold until I get married or move or have a different job. Yet so many others believe those very things that I begin to live like I believe it, too. But I don't. I don't believe that a circumstance change is what will let me in. 

When it comes to relationships with fellow humans, surely I don't have to be relegated to being friends with only women—and mainly single ones at that. God made us whole humans. He made us to need others—male and female, single and married—in whatever state we are. What I don't know is how to practise the truth that God's vision, His world, His Kingdom is here and now

How do I maintain healthy relationships with my long-distance married friends? How do I have rich and healthy friendships with the men in my life? How do I love my single friends well? What is the best way to connect with my local married friends? Confessedly, I'm tired of getting shut out of various friendships because I'm not married. What changed with that ring? Don't we still have some of the same loves in common? Can't we still encourage one another in our most holy faith? Does my friend having a husband suddenly make all of that disappear? If so, it's no wonder that I've looked on marriage with a dubious eye in years past.

If what I've been told is true—that I belong to the Body of Christ, throughout time and space—then why don't I feel like I belong once my friends get married? Why do I feel like I'm a second class human as a single person? My admission ticket to the Body of Christ is not a gold band. It is being sacramentally connected to Jesus, the Head. It is receiving the very same Body and Blood that every other Christ-follower receives. 

I don't have to only have friends like me—that would keep my vision and theirs too narrow. I need people of various ages in different stages of life: single, married, with children, with grandchildren, in various vocations and with a variety of interests and talents. I need people who have different perspectives to help me enlarge my view of God and His world—of His universe. And I need to help enlarge the vision of others. . . Like those who see that there is a problem and think there are only two ways to deal with it. But God doesn't call us to impale ourselves on one stake or the other of these dichotomies. He calls us to the much harder task of another way, of balance and counterbalance—of a slackline walk. And that over a canyon. The stakes are high if we fall, but the stakes are sharp and deathly wounding if we jump to one side or the other, too. We must constantly keep our eyes fixed on Jesus to keep our balance on the slackline. To look to the right or to the left is to lose the view of our Anchoring Point—the Fixed Point in a world of turning. To look to one side or the other is to fall.

I don't want to pendulum swing, I want to walk the straight and narrow. I don't need people to paint the problem, I need help to find the answers. I don't want to see the world as small—it is not. I want eyes, heart, and mind to see how long and how wide and how high is the love and the glory of God. I want the now to step into the not yet. For time and eternity to meet. For chronos to cross into kairos. For all manner of things to be made well. For the shadow to pass and for the stars to shine through to us, to draw us near to them and yet to leave us alive. . . so much more alive than we've ever been before. The glory of God is writ large, but we need His perspective to be able to see it whole, not in pieces. We need to set our eyes on Jesus—the Author and Finisher of our faith—to keep us balanced on the slackline, rather than teetering over the brink, swaying left or right. 

The world is bigger than we've been led to believe. There are more than two options for how life can work. We know about what is past. We live in the now. . . and we long for the not yet to arrive and make all things new. We long for redemption to be fulfilled. We've been told the world is different than we've believed for so long. . . Now we get to learn to live that difference, to dream bigger, to see more than we could before—to not get stuck on the outside, but to finally get in.