Is it all for naught? I feel like I’m teetering on the edge. We all are.
I stayed longer, baffled as to whether or not to keep mulling in despair or get up and “face the day.”
I’m not sure when it happened (the time is blurry during that weird waking-up time), but a faint glimmer of “hope” flickered, just bright enough for me to feel its dim light in the darkness of my mind.
A small moment of clarity shoved its way in.
My whole journey to this healthier space was a marathon, not a sprint. And I ran it. I ran it. One moment at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time. I ran it.
I can run this marathon too. One moment at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time. There is hope. There is hope.
Grappling for the mental health tools I had right there in my bed, I talked to God about a few things I was grateful for today.
1. My bed.
2. My husband.
3. A fridge and pantry with food.
4. The sun shining on our philodendron.
5. My car insurance company kicking back 15% to us.
6. My computer.
7. My thyroid meds.
8. My parent’s generosity to our furloughed son yesterday.
9. You who take a minute to read and comment and encourage me in this space.
10. My kids.
It wasn’t magic. I don’t feel fine. But it was a step. A step of hope. That’s good enough for this morning.
I am amazed at how often “Millennials” are made fun of. Put down. Told they are lazy, entitled, spoiled, narcissistic. Even skimming articles online, I came across titles from prominent magazines and newspapers like:
“Millennials and Their Destruction of Civilization”
“This is Why Millennials Get Such a Bad Rap”
“Millennials are Uniformly Bad Tippers”
I have been constantly bombarded with negative viewpoints on this whole generation of people. I was raising three of them (with a fourth not too far behind) and every time they did something I didn’t like or agree with, I would dismiss it with “after all, their generation….yada yada yada.” I fell many times into the trap of blaming them for the ills in my home and in our world, jumping on the “Millennials Suck” bandwagon, complete with “eye-rolling” and outright contempt. NOT GOOD.
Allen and I (other than raising almost four of them) spend lots and lots of time with this generation. Between our nieces and nephews, our kids’ friends, the significant others in our children’s lives, and the young engaged and married couples we mentor, our lives are surrounded by men and women aged 22-37. Truth be told: WE LOVE IT AND WE LOVE THEM! News flash: they certainly don’t suck. They are an incredible group of human beings who have taught me how to live and love better. They are SO SO SO good for my soul! They have revealed God in a way that brings hope and healing to the core of who I am.
If there was anything that was hammered into my psyche from a very young age (by who knows what), it was the message that I should not reveal my true self. I should hide. I should only show the good parts of me, or what I think others will approve of. This was the way to keep the world, my marriage, my church persona and my friendships in tact. I even remember a deodorant advertisement that said, “Never let them see you sweat!” as if I couldn’t even have normal bodily fluids when I worked out. Millennials have shouted, “NO MORE!” “Sweat!” “Be yourself in all your good and bad.” “Be vulnerable and authentic!” Even writing this blog and having my podcast comes as a result of the permission I’ve been given to boldly be who I am, flaws and all. THANK YOU MILLENNIALS!
My parents were outliers in many ways in their own generation. Living in a world where their peers were living the “American Dream,” amassing wealth and pursuing happiness, my parents chose to give their lives for the “least of these.” This did not make my childhood filled with all rainbows and ponies (in many ways it was fraught with a host of difficulties), but ONE vital thing I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world is their hearts of generosity that penetrated my own. THANK YOU MILLENNIALS for listening to those outliers who went before you and solidifying this good place in me. You volunteer more than any generation before you. You believe it’s essential to GIVE BACK! You are changing the world, one cause at a time, one person at a time, with your love and commitment to the lost and the least. You remind me each day to live in and from this place of generosity, the very heart that God has towards me! YAY for you!
For years, I lived with the idea that if I could get my outer world under control, my inner world would follow suit. I believed that “to do” lists checked off at the end of the day would bring me what I truly longed for: a life filled with peace and joy. But the harder I tried to fix, fix, fix, perfecting my outer world, the more I realized it was impossible, sending me into much anxiety, wondering what was wrong with me. THANK YOU MILLENNIALS for challenging that lie, revealing the truth to me that tending to my inner world, my soul, where true peace and joy dwells, where God lives and moves and speaks and heals, is the best starting and ending place. You have helped me have an “anchor for my soul, firm and secure,” (Hebrews 6:19) one nestled in the very heart of God.
Today, on this very ordinary Monday, my heart swells in thankfulness for you, my friends, those of you who were placed into this world and especially my world “for such a time as this.” I am humbled and grateful for the deep truths that you have so willingly spoken into my heart, shattering the lies that held sway over me! Thank you for your vulnerability, your generosity and your wisdom!
To my own Millennials (Sarah, Cody, Jared, Josh, Daniella, Courtney, Brandon, Marina, Nick…with Rachel and Cara closely behind), THANK YOU for showing me who I am and how much I am accepted and loved, not only by you, but by the God who formed me from His very vulnerable, generous and wise heart! The best is yet to come!!
“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man and his wife were naked and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:7, 22, 25)
The first marriage story ever told goes something like this:
God makes a bunch of creatures, including a boy and a bunch of animals.
Boy checks out all the animals, but there is no one that “floats his boat.”
GOD: “It’s not good for the boy to be by himself. I’ll make the best fit for him”.
God makes a girl from the very flesh and bones of the boy. God sets up a not-so-blind date for the two of them.
BOY (after seeing girl for first time): “At last! She is all that I’ve been looking for! Thank you God! She is beautiful! She is part of me!”
Boy and girl are naked and they feel no shame. Boy and girl become one.
Time goes by and after working in a beautiful garden and enjoying companionship with each other and with God, girl meets up with a destroyer of all the goodness. Girl is convinced that God is holding out on her and not giving her what she needs.
GIRL: “I don’t need God. I’ve got this. He’s not to be trusted.”
Girl acts from that place of disconnection from God.
GIRL: “Come boy! Do what I do. We really only need each other.”
BOY: “Okay. Sounds great to me.”
Boy acts from the same place of disconnection from God.
Boy and girl now realize they are naked and they feel shame. Boy and girl cover up and hide.
GOD: “Where are you boy and girl?”
BOY: “I am hiding from you.”
BOY (blames the girl): “She made me do it.”
GOD: “Why girl?”
GIRL: “Someone else made me do it.”
Disconnection → hiding → shame → blame. This is how Allen and I lived for many years. The cycle repeated endlessly. We lived how Albert Einstein defines insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” It wasn’t like we weren’t trying hard. Believe me. We were. We just didn’t know how to get off the hamster wheel.
God designed us for the opposite of the above cycle. His original design for marriage is connection → vulnerability → responsibility → grace → intimacy. It’s the same as His perfect plan for His relationship with us, our journeys of FAITH in Him (there it finally is…the F you were waiting for…see the rest at the end of the post).
God longs for each of us to be “naked and unashamed” (fully-known and fully-loved) with Him. But why does it matter?
The vicious cycle of disconnection → hiding → shame → blame is a destroyer of souls, hearts, minds, even bodies. That’s why it matters. It does NOT work for good. It does NOT bring wholeness or healing. God wants something better for us. He has actually created us to have the same relationship with Him that He does with Jesus, the “I and the Father are One” kind of relationship Jesus speaks so freely of. He wants us to be One, naked and unashamed. How can this happen?
CONNECTION:It starts here. God wants us to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are loved by Him no matter what. This is not an easy undertaking. We have had voices of fear, guilt and shame that have permeated our lives and many times, we have associated them with God. Repenting (which just means “changing your mind or thinking a new thought”) is the first step. The truth about God, not what you’ve heard and assumed all your life is that He loves you. No matter what. His great desire for you is that you live from the place of this unconditional loving connection with Him.
VULNERABILITY:When we struggle and fail, he wants to deepen that connection without hiding, but with vulnerability, putting ourselves in the place of trusting Him and His love for us. Vulnerability is when we make ourselves susceptible to the judgment of others, when we let our guards down and relinquish control. It’s scary. It involves risk. We might be rejected. The good news is that God will never reject us. He is safe because He can be completely trusted with our struggles and our strengths, our trials and our triumphs. He isn’t going anywhere. He will never leave us or forsake us.
RESPONSIBILITY: This safe place with God allows us to be free to take responsibility for our lives, our actions and our emotions, instead of playing the blame game. Taking ownership of our own brokenness, without the self-deprecating place of blame and/or shame is a tricky path to walk. Recognizing our own humanness and frailties and then bringing that out into the light with God is a wonderful giant leap on this journey towards intimacy with Him.
GRACE: God responds to this out of His own complete goodness. He responds to us with grace, which simply means unearned favor. Instead of shaming us, He is kind to us. Instead of cursing us, He blesses us. Instead of turning His back on us, He turns His face towards us. Instead of sending us away, He pulls us close.
INTIMACY: Naked and unashamed. My favorite phrase in the English language. Fully-known and fully-loved. The definition of intimacy. What we all long for at the depths of our being. This is the end result of all the hard work. Completely worth it. It is the healer of souls, hearts, minds and even bodies.
As you can see, our marriages are designed to reflect this beautiful cycle of intimacy, the oneness we all long for, with God and with each other. Marriage is unique, the only human place where this can take place in all of its fullness. We are designed to know and be known, fully without shame: spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. How amazing of God to have invited us to experience this with another human being in the covenant of marriage. I have been given the gift of Allen. He has been given the gift of me. We both have been given the gift of this life-long union. Here’s to opening our gifts every day for the rest of our lives.♥
Thank you for reading today! Please feel free to “like” out on social media or here! Thank you again!
For the rest of the “F’s” in the series on marriage, click on the following links:
When I was just a wee bit younger (okay, like 30 years ago, but I’m not that old, right?!), I believed wholeheartedly in the formula above. Why wouldn’t I? It’s perfect. Just do it all right, make all the right, godly choices and life goes the way it should. After all, isn’t that what I’ve heard my whole life from preachers and family and professors and authors and friends and even from my own head? Things like: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in step with the wicked…whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1) “We proved to ourselves that when you do things right, good things happen.” (Tom Sawyer) And my new favorite:
To say it again: just do it all right, make all the right, godly choices and life goes the way it should.
What happens then?
Somewhere along the line of that cute little formula, the “right” side of the equal sign fails to happen. Sometimes it goes like this:
godly husband + passionate wife = messy divorce
great marriage + good parenting – child with Oppositional Defiance Disorder
well-behaved child + right school and strong youth group = teen substance abuser
wise-choice making teens + strong college = struggling-to-find-or-keep-a-job adult
For many years, I counted on the formula. When it didn’t seem to be working, I just tried harder. “It must be something I’m doing wrong,” I thought. “Maybe I don’t have the equation right.” After all, there is a way to guarantee a great marriage, well-behaved children, wise-choice making teens, and successful adults, right? I read “10 Step” books. I made long prayer lists on color-coded index cards. I went to seminars and then led them. My formula-living was not limited to the above scenarios. Much of my life was permeated by this black-and-white thinking.
Until the formulas stopped working. Good people got divorced. My kids weren’t all that well-behaved at times. Many teens, including my own, made “not-so-wise” choices and some of my children’s friends struggled with addiction. Well-educated people had a hard time finding a job. Many lost their jobs. Successful people were anxious and depressed, including me. Ugh.
My idea of how the world worked came crashing down. I didn’t know what to think. Anxiety took over. Hopeless thoughts came much more than I wanted them to. I kept trying harder. It just got worse. Finally, I came completely unraveled. UNRAVELED. My carefully-built-rubber-band-ball-of-how-life-works began snapping. If not this, then what? What do I do now? How do I live? UNRAVELED.
BUT, (and I love these “buts” of life) what seemed like a tunnel without a light became just what God used for a whole new “RE-RAVELING” as Rachel Held Evans refers to it: a very different way of looking at people and relationships and what matters. I began to live in more truth and with that truth came some slow steps toward freedom.
Once the formulas were stripped away, I was invited into relationship, both with God and with others. At first, this uncertain place seemed like a curse. It would take lots more time and wisdom and there wouldn’t be simple answers. It would be complicated, messy. But as I embarked on this different journey with much trepidation, I found that it just might be a gift, and a good one at that. The truth is that life is messy and no amount of “doing the right thing” ensures complete safety and success. This might sound harsh and hopeless at first glance, but it is actually helpful and freeing. Instead of viewing life as a problem to be solved, I began to see it as a mysterious adventure to be enjoyed (kind of like action thriller enjoyment, which is kind of scary and fun all at the same time). Instead of seeking certainty, I began to pursue wisely-placed trust, trust in a wild God, One I can’t control, but One who is completely good and utterly safe. I am steadily (actually it seems to be in fits and starts) finding that as trust is developed, love thrives. And this is what I truly want. Chasing certainty is slavery; carefully-placed trust in a God who loves us is freedom.
My relationship with others slowly began to change as well. Instead of having an agenda (the sum of the equation), I began to believe that I could just BE with others, no matter where they land on the spectrum of life. This is hard for me. I really struggle with this. I have an agenda for everyone. I think I know best. I want you to change for the better. And I believe I know how you should get there. It doesn’t come from the best place. It’s because I think I am better and know better. I like a little bit (I mean a lot) of control. UGH. But as I’ve turned the tables, and the truth is told, I don’t want to be anybody else’s agenda or project. Instead of “here is what I think you should do, be, act like, etc., I love when others say, “I’m with you,” and that’s the end of it. I don’t want to feel like I’m going to the principal’s office when I am with someone. No one wants that. It creates defensiveness and hiding. However, when someone is just WITH ME in my beautiful, messy life, this unconditional love opens the door for vulnerability and trust. Change is much more likely to happen in this safe space. As Bob Goff says in his book, Love Does, this kind of “love operates more like sign language than being spoken outright.” I need more of this in my life, both ways.
The best thing for us (and our world) is to love God and love others. Formulas are not love. And to boot, they don’t work. Loving God is trusting Him, especially when things don’t go as planned. It is a trust that is wisely placed. IT BRINGS US FREEDOM. Agendas are also not love. Loving others is being with them, especially when they are not where we think they should be or want them to be. That’s a love that’s unconditional and safe. IT BRINGS THEM FREEDOM.
I am glad my rubber band ball came UNRAVELED. I am also very thankful I am on the path to RE-RAVELING. I don’t know about you, but I want to keep living in and from these places, creating safe spaces for both myself and others, filled with vulnerability, trust, love and freedom. In the end, St. Paul was so right when he wrote, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Let’s do what counts together!
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