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because I think Jesus would’ve walked at pride too.

July 21, 2014

I have been wanting to write this follow-up blog for a few weeks now, to expound on one of the themes from a previous blog. While I discussed a number of things in that post, this topic was the one that got me the most negative feedback. And I should have known that that was coming my way! But I’m glad I’m writing this today.

I was delayed in writing this by my father-in-law’s death a couple of weeks ago. My husband and I are still a bit raw from that (and I may address that in a future blog), but I felt it necessary to get back to writing. If you read this, and feel the necessity to comment in a negative way, I’d just ask that you’d bear in mind our recent loss and realize you may get a not-as-grace-filled response as I might otherwise be capable of.

So. The subject. The LGBTQ community and the church. Here we go.

I went to my local PrideFEST yesterday. With my church. And it was awesome.

Photo Credit: Russ Ware

Photo Credit: Russ Ware

A little bit of background: coming from a conservative Evangelical family and faith tradition, my journey to becoming an ally has been a long one. Prior to going to college, my experiences with the queer community were limited. Yes, there were a few friends from high school who came out after we graduated, but then I moved to Colorado Springs and was stuck in a conservative bubble of ministry and church for years. My assumptions about gays were that they were sexual deviants who had been abused as children and were in need of radical healing. When I started at Colorado College, I was suddenly exposed to the largest community of queers that I’d ever been a part of and I was invited into their lives as a friend.

One of those friends was K, who was one of the smartest people I’d ever met. K was curious and excited about learning and friendly and generous and also happened to be queer. We took a number of religion classes together and we ended up both working on a project to host a conversation on campus about homosexuality and the church. At that time, I was still very confused about what I thought on the subject, but I was committed to my understanding that Jesus loved everybody, so I figured that had to include gay people. I just wasn’t sure what that meant. Whether they needed to change after getting saved or live celibate or what. K remembers asking me at that time whether I could ever endorse civil unions or same-sex marriage and I replied honestly that I didn’t know. I struggled with the biblical passages that condemned homosexuality and I didn’t know how to make sense of them in light of grace and acceptance and love of God that was expressed in Jesus.

Since then, my ideas on many issues have changed. I eventually came to the place where I wrote down this faith motto that has been my guide for the past couple of years:

If I am to err in interpreting the Bible, which I probably will since I’m a human being, I would rather intentionally err on the side of more inclusion, acceptance, and generosity. I really can’t imagine Jesus saying to me, “You were too kind and loving and you didn’t put your foot down enough,” but I could definitely see him saying, “You didn’t take care of those around you and you alienated those that I love.”

Because of this decision, I have come to the conclusion that it makes no sense to remove the queer community from Christian fellowship and ministry based on a handful of passages that are difficult to interpret. I feel highly unqualified to hash through those passages here, so here are some links for further research if you’re so inclined. Matthew Vines’ excellent explanation is here. Here’s a discussion on justification through Christ and not the law. There are plenty more good resources out there, so if you’d like more, please ask in the comments or just do some Google searching.

More than tackling the big clobber passages in the Bible, the thing that truly changed my mind on this subject was the example of Jesus to stand with the oppressed, the marginalized, those on the fringe and to challenge those who were doing the oppressing (which was primarily the religious institution of the day). If, as Francis Spufford in his book Unapologetic puts it, “[The Church is] a failing, but never quite failed attempt, by limited people, to perpetuate the generosity of God in the world,” then we must constantly be working to help bring in, welcome, accept, share bread and wine with those who might be “outsiders”. Those who have been pushed aside by society, by the powers that be, by “Rome”, by the religious institutions. For my father, that means serving and ministering to convicts who have been set aside by our society. For my friend Matthew, that means working tirelessly to create a home for single women and their children.  For me, that means walking in a Pride parade, singing “This Little Light of Mine,” to a crowd that has been told that their lights can’t be added to the corporate light of the church.

Photo Credit: Julia Moss, The Gazette

Photo Credit: Julia Moss, The Gazette

This picture was taken yesterday at the parade and the man in orange’s reaction to our church’s show of support and love was indicative of the response we got all the way down the parade route. The joy on people’s faces was awe inspiring when they realized that the 50-75 people proceeding down the street with bikes covered in rainbow leis, kids out front on their decorated scooters, and a large rainbow balloon snake were from a local church. People joined in our singing. They yelled out “Amen!” They took photos and waved. They celebrated with us the mending of all things.

I recognize that the position that I’m taking now is not popular amongst my community. It’s not popular among my family to be honest. But it’s worth it. The negative comments and diatribes about my “heresy” are worth the joy of being a small part in sharing the generosity of God with the queer community around me. I had some of my gay friends write to me after my last blog and tell me they read it with tears in their eyes, so appreciative of my words of inclusion and acceptance. I see the relief in people’s eyes when they meet me and find out that I’m not “one of those” Christians. I hear my atheist friend K tell me that I must go sit with the kids of Inside/Out Youth Services (many of whom have been kicked out of their evangelical homes in town because they’re queer) and tell them that Jesus loves them.

I walked in Pride yesterday because I believe in hope. Because I believe that restoration is possible. Because I believe that grace covers a multitude of sins. And I’m not talking about the sin of being queer. I’m talking about the church’s sin of reverting back to the sexual purity laws of our spiritual parents and refusing to enter the big messy story of God’s love for all of creation.

And so, queer community – gay, lesbian, bi, trans, intersex, queer, asexual, questioning – forgive me. Forgive me for taking so long to figure out that it’s my responsibility and joy to love you and not judge you. Forgive me for not standing up for your political rights sooner. Forgive me for not believing the best of you. Forgive me for when I’ll get it wrong in the future. I want to say to you that I am yours and you are mine. Help me. I need to know you and your stories in order to better understand my own and the story of God in the world. Come. Eat and drink from the table of God. I will be there to serve you. I am proud of you for your courage in the face of prejudice. And I am proud to stand alongside you if you’ll have me.

And to my friend K who has challenged me in this process: thank you. Thank you for being a true friend. Thank you for showing me what it means to live with kindness and justice in this world. Thank you for answering my questions with honesty and patience. I love you dearly.

a clarification of sorts.

June 25, 2014

Ho. Ly. Buckets.

I was not expecting that last blog to go viral. I mean…maybe a few hundred would view it and it would create an interesting conversation on my Facebook page with some of my friends. But crap. Over 40 thousand people have read that last blog where I discussed some of the reasons I have decided to leave evangelicalism. Many who responded shared their own stories about their exits from evangelicalism and even the church as a whole. They were honest and kind and inquisitive and vulnerable. And many others asked really great clarification questions that I want to address here.

First, no, this isn’t my blog where I discuss LGBTQ equality and the Bible. That will come later. (UPDATE: I have finally written about this!) But I promise it will come. And honestly, full blogs are probably going to be necessary (maybe even multiple posts) to really clarify a lot of these issues.

Before we get there though, I thought that it might be helpful to describe my background a little more. I find that as we come to understand each other’s stories, it gives more shape and nuance and life to an avatar online that we might be tempted to just argue with. Anyway, I grew up a pastor’s kid in rural Eastern Oregon, in a non-denominational church that had theological ties to the Assemblies of God and Four Square denominations. My dad and his dad and aunts and uncles and everyone in my family basically were pastors and missionaries and evangelists in the Assemblies of God. I grew up learning about the Holy Spirit and the necessity for personal convictions and hospitality. After high school and an AA program at my local community college, I moved to Colorado Springs to join a large non-denominational missions organization. I traveled to Thailand right after the tsunami. I worked in orphanages in India. I taught English in China. I encountered a lot of things that I was not expecting, most surprisingly, my own inability to answer the questions of people I was working with, if I could even understand what those questions were in the first place! (No, I’m not talking about language barriers here. I’m talking about true cultural and religious and ideological barriers.) As a supposed missionary wanting to share the love of Jesus with the people around me, I struggled with knowing how to contextualize and communicate the gospel in ways that was helpful and meaningful in the places I was in.

I started asking different questions about the world. About faith. I interacted with people who shared their lives and experiences with me. I grew. Somewhere in the midst of all of that I started developing a deep love for the Middle East, Arabs, Muslims and seeing peace, reconciliation and justice come to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I decided to follow that love and passion into college (actually before I had even visited the region!) to study history/political science focused on the Middle East. I minored in religion and my journey of faith continued.

As I was going to school (at my highly secular college), I was also leading worship at a large non-denominational, evangelical church in the Springs. I enjoyed the friendships made there and thoroughly loved the band that I was able to work with. However, some other aspects of this church environment were less than great (another post necessary to tackle that bear of a topic). After five years there, I eventually ended up leaving on very poor terms with the church, in a state of woundedness and hurt. The effect that this had on my faith journey cannot be overlooked.

Whew. That was a lot of my autobiography. Onto some of the clarifications that need to be made after my last blog.

First, no, while you may have thought you ran upon the blog of a freaking genius prodigy, I do not know all the things. Shocking, right? With that embarrassing tidbit out of the way, we’ll all agree that I will say something that I don’t actually think or say something in a way that doesn’t quite express what I want or that I will have to leave something to smarter minds than mine to figure certain things out. That being said, I’m really invested in this conversation that we’ve started here and I’m committed to learning and sharing and journeying with whomever wants to.

While discussing the things brought up in my blog with my dad, he mentioned that it may have sounded like I thought all who read the Bible in more literal ways are ignorant or unintellectual. Clarification: no, that’s not what I think. I do believe that there is much to be learned about the Bible from academic scholarship both inside and out of the Christian spheres. However, I also think that literalist churches tend to discourage (maybe not intentionally or maliciously though) their members from academic reading and the asking of intelligent questions, hence my use of the word ignorant when discussing the overall feel of many of the evangelical churches that I’ve interacted with. That being said, I know MANY intelligent, thoughtful individuals who describe themselves as literalists, who approach the Bible with humility and honesty. I respect them very much. For those who have questions about the way that I am currently interpreting the Bible, this might be a helpful tool.

Many people mentioned the fact that evangelical does not equal anti-gay rights, complementarian, biblical literalist/fundamentalist, republican/NRA card holder. Sure. You all are correct. I was not as nuanced or specific with my words as I could/should have been. The National Association of Evangelicals describes the evangelical movement as being concerned with the “‘good news’ of salvation brought to sinners by Jesus Christ” and then uses these four distinctions of evangelical belief:

  • Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life long process of following Jesus.
  • Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts
  • Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority
  • Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity

Door and bricksThose things being said, some would argue that there are ways to identify one’s self as a progressive evangelical, or to be evangelical and hold the beliefs I have. I would agree with them. There might be those ways. However, in the context that I find myself, in Colorado Springs, a center of the culture wars, the Mecca of evangelicalism, the term evangelical has become something that I don’t identify with. Language, identification, labels should be helpful, useful even. When I call myself an evangelical in this town it does not say what I want it to. It comes with baggage and connotations that I cannot fight with on a day-to-day basis. So, I think my context has a lot to do with my decision. There may come a day when I decide that evangelical means something useful to me again. Or maybe we’ll all move on to different language that describes the place we’re at in our faith journey. Who knows?

The overwhelming response from my “coming out” blog has been a positive expression of people relating with the things that I have written. This excites me. Let’s continue in this journey that so many have traveled before, exploring our faith, testing the limits, stretching out our tent pegs, seeing how we can, “with God, set a table for all who hunger and thirst.” This is the vision statement of the church in which I am currently finding freedom to explore. I think it states beautifully the hope of inclusion, welcome and hospitality that so many of us are looking for. Let’s start creating this space for others.

 

what happens when you follow Jesus and he leads you out of evangelicalism?

June 22, 2014

I guess it’s time to “come out”: I don’t identify as an Evangelical anymore.

That’s hard to write and put down in words, considering that I’ve grown up in the evangelical church and worked in evangelical ministries and churches for my entire adult life, but it’s something that I’ve been feeling and thinking for awhile now. I think it really crystallized during the whole World Vision debacle earlier this year, when thousands of Christians (primarily those who identify as evangelicals) dropped sponsorship of over 10,000 kids in poverty because they didn’t agree with a policy change that would’ve recognized the rights of Christian employees who were in gay marriages. I stayed away from blogging and engaging the issue on social media due to my penchant for getting in over my head in online debates and, honestly, because I wasn’t ready to come out as an ally of the LGBTQ community and marriage equality. I know that I’ll need to write a follow-up to this blog on my allied stance, but that’s not what this blog is about. (UPDATE: see more on my allied stance here.)

This blog is about how I’ve dedicated my life to following Jesus and I feel like Jesus has led me out of Evangelicalism. Eek. That brings up a lot of questions.

journey

Let me state unequivocally that I still identify as a follower of Jesus, or, if you will, a Christian. I hope to frame my life and my will in light of the life of Jesus. However, there are certain decisions that I have come to about my faith in the past number of years that I feel remove me from the evangelical strain as it is currently being practiced in America. I understand that there have been statements and manifestos written, trying to untangle Evangelicalism from the political and cultural assumptions that have been created in the past decades, however, I feel that there are stereotypes and experiences of how modern evangelical is currently practiced that make me want to break my personal ties with the movement.

Some people might see my shifting faith perspective and identification as the product of a compromised moral compass or my secular, liberal education. And they might be right on the latter point a little bit. But I honestly believe that my shift out of conservative Evangelicalism is a result of my pursuit of truth as I follow the way of Jesus – to see the people around me, love them deeply, and work towards greater reconciliation and restoration of all things.

While I don’t have time in this blog to go as deep as I would like to on all the issues I have with modern evangelicalism, I would like to address a few of the biggies. These include an intense tie with the Republican party, a literal/fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible that ignores historical context, a view of women that I believe is misogynistic and repressive, and the earlier stated opposition to equal marriage rights.

First, I think that the evangelical church has been co-opted by Republicanism (and nationalism) to the point where I think Christian values have been supplanted by political conservatism and the church is no longer able to function in its prophetic calling in society. (To be fair, I feel that much of the church on the left has had the same thing happen with liberal politics.) This is most clearly seen to me in relation to patriotism, militarism, and harmful economic practices.

Second, I have long had trouble with a literal reading of the Bible that deliberately ignores the historical, sociological, and religious contexts in which the various Biblical texts were written. This reading leads to an ignorant church, unable to intellectually or thoughtfully come to terms with how to interpret the text in light of modern scholarship. (NOTE: my father pointed out that my use of the word ignorant may lead to some thinking that I think that biblical literalists are ignorant. This would not be true. I know there are many thoughtful, intelligent people who choose to read the Bible in more literalist ways.) As a religion minor in college, I found myself unable to deal with the questions lobbed at me by my secular friends in relation to biblical inconsistencies and started doing my own wrestling with how to read and interpret the Bible in light of the religious theories that I was learning. Unfortunately, this caused my faith to be called into question by my friends and my then church community, and was one of the big reasons for me leaving that life/work situation.

Third, as a leader and as a woman, I found evangelicalism’s overwhelming complementarian view of male/female relationships to be less than adequate. I firmly believe that women are equally loved by God, called into ministry, and able of contributing to societies and families as their male counterparts. The repression of women in the church is something I think that is baseless when looking at the life of Jesus and even when looking at the rest of the New Testament in its historical context. The way I was treated as a female leader in my previous churches was another large reason for my split with them.

Finally, the LGBTQ issue. This is a change that largely came during my time at Colorado College. Attending a secular liberal arts college afforded me the opportunity to be around a population where I was able to interact with more from the queer community than ever before. I know many of my right-wing friends will tell me that just because you have friends who are sinners doesn’t mean you have to justify their sin. Well sure. However, I came to understand that my friends were not gay because they chose it or because they had been molested or any of the other things that I had heard growing up. It was because they were gay. As much as I was straight and white and had blue eyes, my friends were gay. And I just can’t imagine being told that I couldn’t love Jesus and walk in his way or get married or get a job or rent an apartment just because I had blue eyes. So, yeah, that changed me.

A number of months ago I applied for a position at a large Christian ministry in the Springs (to remain nameless) and was asked to write my own personal statement of faith as a part of the application process. I found this to be an exciting and challenging project as it required me to really think through and process the past number of years and the journey of my faith ideas. I based my statement loosely on a short faith motto that I had written down years ago, in an attempt to give my faith some structure as I was wrestling through doubts and confusion. This motto has come to shape my journey.

If I am to err in interpreting the Bible, which I probably will since I’m a human being, I would rather intentionally err on the side of more inclusion, acceptance, and generosity. I really can’t imagine Jesus saying to me, “You were too kind and loving and you didn’t put your foot down enough,” but I could definitely see him saying, “You didn’t take care of those around you and you alienated those that I love.”

To be forthright, I think that if I hadn’t come to a deliberate decision like this, I may have walked away from my faith entirely, like many in my generation of evangelicalism have. I think that making the decision for inclusivity has helped me keep my love for Jesus and the church. From that decisive core, I wrote this more expanded statement of faith that, while it will probably shift and change a bit, I can see myself holding on to for a long time.

My personal statement of faith is fairly simple. I base it on the commands as simplified by Jesus – loving God with every part of my being and loving my neighbors as I love myself. As Jesus defined it in the story of the Good Samaritan, my neighbor is anyone in need, anyone who I find myself in proximity to, anyone who bears the image of the Creator – so essentially everyone. This love compels me to be proactive in justice, mercy, reconciliation, and restoration as these are the things that I see God doing in the person of Jesus.

My faith is dynamic and progressive. I believe that in being called to use my mind to love the Lord, I am called to continual progress in how I think about life and the world around me. My heart is called to be more and more compassionate towards my friends and enemies. My soul is called into great spiritual depth and intimacy with God. My body is called into greater wholeness and health so that I can effectively be an ambassador of reconciliation wherever I may be called.

My faith is communal. Because I believe in the mystery of the Trinity, I understand that at the core of the universe is a community of mutual submission and eternal love. This compels me to live life in community, caring for those around me as siblings in the faith, a part of the same body of Christ, without whom I cannot know the wholeness of God.

I do think that this statement of faith removed my chances of getting a job that I was highly qualified for, but that is what it is. I know that there is much more to be explored and discussed in the coming weeks and months about my faith journey and what it means for the way I live my life now. (This is my commitment to blogging on a more consistent basis, at least once every two weeks.) It is something that I am still wrestling with, especially what it means for the kind of church community that I want to be a part of in the future. But this I know for sure: sometimes the places that Jesus leads you to are exactly the opposite of what you expected or imagined, and sometimes those places find you identifying in new and different ways. All we can do is continue to say, “Where you lead us, we will follow.”

Where is Jesus leading you? Is it anything like you expected it to be? If not, how are you dealing with the change and the transition from what is known to what isn’t?


Hat tips to Jars of Clay for this song that inspired me to write this blog this week, and to Rachel Held Evans for saying a lot of what I want to say all the time, but especially in this blog. (UPDATE: many people asked very good questions after this blog. Read here for some clarifications.)

 

on birthdays and floundering.

May 20, 2014

So, it’s my birthday. Most years this produces constant refreshing of Facebook to see who’s wished me a happy birthday and joyous celebrations. Last year on this day I graduated college and had a monster party and laughed.

Today I woke up depressed.

That’s a hard word for me to write down. It’s a hard reality to admit. It’s difficult to be vulnerable with that piece of information. It’s even more difficult to admit that this is not a passing phase, but a constant struggle over the past months.

This last year of life (and actually the year before it as well) has been the hardest. It has included the loss of friends (both through my own choice for my health and through being cut off and through the natural transitions of life), the death of my grandfather, the serious illness of my father-in-law, the loss of a job (much bigger story there), the worst period of financial struggle that Gil and I have ever known, and a deep spiritual crisis that has left me questioning all that I once held true.

I wish that I had the emotional strength today to celebrate with joy the loveliness of life despite the struggles it includes. Unfortunately I feel that I have depleted the reservoirs. Fear seems to abound. Fear that life will never get better. That I will never again find confidence to be myself. That faith and God and light will remain dark.

Rational, thinking, typical Candace sees all of this as shit. She says to get it together, buck up, be strong, pull yourself out of this funk. I kind of hate that Candace right now. She’s mean and cruel and forces a facade of happiness and strength on my face when all I really want to do is lay in bed. She tells me that writing this is a pathetic plea for assurances and sympathy from the world.

I don’t know how to silence her.

Maybe writing this blog, coming clean with myself and the world about my reality is a step towards silencing her. Towards accepting the place that I’m in and the place that I’m no longer in.

I think that’s been the hardest part of this last year. The lack of stability I feel in my soul caused by no longer being in the places that I used to be. For so long, my life was structured around church and school and ministry. And community. There was consistency and pattern, even if those patterns were unhealthy and manipulative. Structure and hierarchy and standards even if they were abusive and overwhelming. Having released myself from those things, I was hoping for freedom, for life, for healing. I’m finding that those things are more difficult to find and create than I expected. And that realization is depressing.

Most of my blogs follow a consistent pattern. Maybe one I’ve forced on myself without knowing it. I question and process and think on the page and then find resolution, hope, resolve.

I’m not there today.

depressing water

 

on the transformative power of conflict.

January 15, 2014

I was recently asked by an acquaintance if I deliberately seek out conflict. This question came in the context of me sharing about my passion for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how I like to start conversations online (and in person) that tend to get a little heated. (Side note: during an interview once I may have said something to the effect of “I just fell in love with the conflict…well, wait, I mean, I fell in love with these people who are involved in a conflict and I want to help…well, crap.”) Anyway, back to the question at hand. I paused for a moment and my response surprised even me with its profundity. I told her that I don’t love conflict, but that I recognize the transformative power of it. There’s this amazing potential in seasons of conflict to bring about incredible change and transformation. The status quo is unable to be sustained and the parties involved in the debate, argument, frustration, cannot remain the same.

MLK Now, obviously, conflict has incredible potential to create much damage, pain, and suffering. That’s undeniable. But, I don’t think that pain is necessary. I have a deep belief in the idea that conflict, if it is well facilitated and mediated and stewarded, can create lasting positive transformation, both in individuals and large communities. Look at the Civil Rights Movement for example. The situation prior to the movement was unsustainable for the country. But we all know that change would have been slow-coming if not for the strong actions of the influential leaders of that day. However, at that time, those leaders were called troublemakers and instigators. Their actions were seen as inflammatory and unnecessarily confrontational. They created conflict. Conflict was necessary to bring about change. But what made all the difference for their cause was the manner in which their conflict was undertaken. MLK and others made conscious decisions to steward and mediate the conflict with the understanding that they were not fighting against a community or their fellow human beings, but against ideas and prejudices. The conflict was facilitated in a way that was able to bring about lasting change for two communities of people, instead of creating a win-lose scenario.

I see so many instances where conflict is seen as an inherently negative idea. In the conservative church environment that I come from, conflict over politics or disagreements over biblical interpretation are seen as a reason for leaving a community or for labeling someone a heretic. Facebook arguments about gun control or the death penalty end with digital shouting matches and name-calling. Conflicts in Congress are understood as a reason to move further and further away from the center, polarizing our nation.

What if there was a simple perspective shift that could dramatically change how we deal with conflict? What if we allowed ourselves to see conflict as a radical opportunity for transformation for an entire community? What if we decided to do a hell of a good job training our kids in conflict management and resolution? What if we decided to teach our leaders to do the same? What if we understood conflict as the way in which the status quo is done away with, in which we learn to listen to our neighbors and become the kind of society that we dream of being?

What if conflict wasn’t a bad word?

five years of marital….something…

September 20, 2013

Today marks the day that Gil and I were married five years ago at an adorable little park in Manitou Springs. The day was idyllic, filled with family and friends, a violinist and a blues band and our friend Josh playing iTunes DJ, green grass and a fall sky that brought a little chill in the evening, brats and burgers and my mom’s potato salad and a strawberry-rhubarb pie made by my grandma. I carried irises and wore Gil’s grandmother’s vintage ring. I bought my dress on Craigslist and I wore Tom’s canvas shoes. We rented a porta-potty because it was a requirement by the city of Manitou (and that became one of the remaining memories of that day). The day was absolutely perfect as we committed our lives to one another forever and ever.

IMG_7364

And then real life happened. I don’t think I was quite ready for real life. Real life kinda sucks sometimes.

I realized early in the marriage that our 10 week engagement and whirlwind romance (I was in China for 3 of the 7 months we dated, granted we had known each other for 4 years prior to getting married) hadn’t quite let me think through the implications of what giving my life over to another person really meant. Oh, you mean I have to make decisions with another human? You mean I don’t get to move wherever I want and spend money the way I want and do whatever the hell I want?? Bummer.

Marriage kinda hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t think I had ever heard anyone talk about how hard it is. Sure, I knew that the divorce rate was super high in the States and in the American church. Sure, I knew married people fought. But man, wasn’t all of the sex and lovey-doveyness supposed to make everything okay????

Apparently not.

On top of me realizing that marriage was not just all about sex and watching movies on the couch holding hands, and that maybe, just maybe, I kinda regretted getting married in the first place, REAL LIFE came on like a storm. Death, diseases, church crazy, friendship troubles, depression, college, weight gain, on and on the list goes. Real life doesn’t stop. Real life doesn’t care if you’re too tired. Real life doesn’t care if you can’t take anymore.

Of course there were those days when everything was perfect and we didn’t step on each other’s toes and we didn’t allow our triggers to be hit by one another. There WERE those days when we found life and joy and love again. But those have been the exception, not the rule.

Through five years of marriage, Gil and I have both changed dramatically.  We think differently about life and God and politics than we did five years ago. We have different passions. We have wanted kids and not wanted kids. What we thought we were going to do with our lives has changed. Nobody tells you that the person you marry will not be the same person in 2 or 5 or 12 years. Nobody tells you that you have to learn to love the person that your spouse is at each juncture in their journey. Nobody tells you that you have to learn to love yourself through the changes in order to be able to love that person fully.

In the age of social media perfection, we have a tendency to see the greatness of each other’s lives. We watch our friends get married and have perfect children and post hipster photos of their awesome vacations. But do we see each other? Do we see the struggle in each marriage and the pain of the terrible twos or the hurt of broken relationships?

So, that’s why I’m writing this today. To honor the struggle of marriage and to announce to the world, it may not be perfect, and it might definitely be quite a bit screwy, but damn it all, I love Gil Datz and I’m committed to him. There are days when I’m not quite sure I like him, but hell, there are days when I don’t really like myself.

Last night in yoga our instructor talked about acceptance. About accepting the place that we’re at in life and letting go of the expectations that we have had for what life is supposed to look like. So, today, on my fifth anniversary with Gil, I accept this stage of the journey. I accept counseling and long conversations and the days that are blissful (especially after a week of vacation it feels way easier to have blissful days).

Most of all I accept Gil and myself, as we are today, realizing that tomorrow we may be different.

I love this picture of us in front of our rented porta-potty on that day five years ago. Our photographer Beth edited it to look like a depression era photo and I think it so accurately represents us. Holding hands, maybe at times a bit distant from one another, worn out from the journey, but holding onto hope for what may come.

IMG_7088

 

UPDATE: Great quote here about this subject from Stanley Hauerwas:

It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person. We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.

why remember?

September 11, 2013

The members of this generation of college freshman were only 5 or 6 years old on that day 12 years ago that we remember today. Not quite old enough to have strong memories of planes crashing into buildings or the wave of fear and pain that swept the world in the aftermath. This generation has grown up in a state of perpetual war, coming to think of it as the normal way of the world. So, how we choose to remember and teach the next generation about what happened on September 11th will shape how they understand the past and create their own future.

So, what happened on that day 12 years ago? We all know the basics: the planes, the buildings, the first responders and air traffic controllers. We know about the fear, the devastation, the lives lost and the vigils. Do we remember the whole world watching in shock? Do we remember the candles lit in Tehran, or the fact that the Taliban renounced the attack? Do we remember the reasons that Osama bin Laden gave as his justification for the attacks? The abuse of Palestinians and the US sanctions in Iraq that had killed 500,000 children? If we don’t remember these things we are not remembering the fullness of the context of 9/11. When we choose to see it as a senseless attack, and not as a response to actions our government had taken in the Middle East, we fail to understand the full context of the events of that day. Of course, I am not justifying the terrible actions taken by al-Qaeda or bin Laden, but only hoping to help us learn from that day.

If we can look at history not only through our lenses as Americans, but through our lens of humanity, we can see how war has begat war, violence and colonization has begat terror and fear. Only then can we learn from that day, learn from the past 12 years of war, learn from those lives lost. We remember that day and the context that created it and we learn. We learn how to be circumspect about the action we take overseas. We learn that our actions have consequences. We learn that in the future, we want to treat the world around us like we want to be treated. We learn that an American life is of no more value than the life of an Afghan. We learn that death is painful. We learn that if we act out of revenge, our enemies will act out of revenge and the cycle will not be broken. We learn that our humanity is the common denominator.

We remember so that we don’t have to copy the mistakes of our mothers and fathers. We remember so that those lives would not have been lost in vain. We remember so that we can create the kind of world where terror can not reign and hate cannot rule. We remember so that we might change.

 

9-11

 

For more on how we as Christians engage in this remembering, check out Glenn Packiam’s blog from today.

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