I’ve been so focused on the new job that I’ve felt like my brain has left me zero room to process emotions–does that make sense? I’ve been struggling with feeling like God is near (is He? I mean, of course He is, but He’s hard to hear when the world is so loud & obnoxious), in the middle of trying to get thru the day-to-day… But He finds ways & places to capture our hearts, sometimes when we least expect it, & emotions, like water, WILL make their way thru. Sitting at Hannah’s grave hurt today… it hurt in a way that it hasn’t in a long time. 💔
Maybe it’s the season–after all, her birthday was October 30th, & November 28th is the date of her death. Maybe it’s the fact that this time of the year, I feel pulled in more directions than are humanly possible to reach. Maybe it’s that time is flying by, & I get this “hitch” in the center of my chest every time my son outgrows another piece of clothing…
I sat at her grave, putting up her Christmas tree, & as I was making things “just so,” I felt God say, “Wait. Take a breath–you need to process this.” David & Jericho were in the car–they could wait. I sat there & looked at the beautiful hills…15 years. 15 years of memories, of decorations come and gone…15 years of tears, of occasional stoicism or anger, many years of finding, losing, and re-finding peace in the unknowing….even peace in the non-understanding…and still, 15 years of unanswered questions…
I still find myself asking if it will ever make sense…and I still find myself leaning back on Him, knowing that He is still there to catch me. He is in the unknowing, even when He is all we know.
You know, people have gotten really crazy with what I call “wallpaper Christianity.” I can’t do the whole, “live, laugh, love” thing on my wall…I have a Cricut, & I’m pretty sure David’s biggest concern when he bought it was that I’d plaster the house with all of that, “this is us” crap, LOL, but he needn’t worry…usually….But the other day, I saw a sign on Facebook that I’m going to have to duplicate. It said, “I still remember the days I prayed for what I have, now.”
Oooooh, that got me.
I still remember the letter 14-year old me wrote to her future husband, & all of the prayers poured into this man that steals my heart & my bath towel, or forgets to change the toilet paper roll. I still remember the prayers poured into finding joy again, or into recovery. I remember the prayers poured into learning to trust God all over again, into finding who I was again….and I remember on a daily basis, the prayers poured into the crazy-pants, static, loud, lovable, kind, adorable, occasionally obnoxious, and always-amazing now 8-year old miracle that I get to call, “Son.”
Even on the days where I have utterly failed at wife-ing or parenting, I remember those prayers, & I am endlessly grateful.
I’m thankful for this journey. Above all, I am thankful for a God Who loves & sustains us thru the the business & chaos, & Who lovingly calls us to selah, or “pause” & to listen to His voice….Who created us as emotional beings & Who never tells us to “stifle it” or to “suck it up.” He understands our processes because He created us in His image, & He IS an emotional Being–He loves, He grieves, & He celebrates. He doesn’t expect or want us to pretend; He wants our reality & our actuality.
We may want to focus on “live, laugh, love, ” but He is also in those commas & spaces between,,,in the parts no one wants to paper their walls with. He is calling us to pause in the chaos, and to allow ourselves to feel…to feel all of it, and to share it with Him.
So, I got a little….well, I almost said, “wrecked,” but it was more like an emotional flat tire: easily fixed, but not to be ignored. And that’s okay. There is peace after the processing.
I hope that you get to take the time through the next few weeks to breathe, to feel, and to fall into His arms. He will always be there.
Happy Thanksgiving, and if you don’t hear from me, Merry Christmas, beloveds. May you find your selah in this season.
When the year started, I felt the Lord say from the beginning to “give Me a year. Give Me this year.”
Sure, I hemmed and hawed about it…I procrastinated. I had my book about the Torah sitting on the couch (it’s still there) and a few other books set aside, and as life would have it, me & my hamster wheel just kept spinning, and I kept on saying, “It’s early, Lord. I’ll get there. I’ll get there….”
But I didn’t.
But then, COVID.
And lo-&-behold, I GOT THERE.
In hearing God say, “Give me a year,” what He was telling me was that it was time for me to get serious about His Word. It’s time for me to read it; to love it; and to push past the arrogance of a lifetime of Christian education, & to look at it through new eyes. It’s time to read it in humility & in wonder…it’s time to read the Word with acceptance and through lenses of His love for us (or as close as we can come to understanding His love for us–THAT is an ever-evolving journey). 2020 has been a year of unlearning and relearning the Bible, and in undoing & redoing my personal theology in ways I never realized could be done. It’s been a year of restoration, depletion, and of new creation, as far as my spiritual life has gone. God put me in a position where yes, He took the year, but I gave it to Him, first…He gently asked, I stalled; He made it possible, and I have slowly-but-surely turned it over to Him, day by day.
Up until this year, I NEVER had a heart for reading the Word. I’m not ashamed to admit it anymore–I realize why I became so calloused, and why it was easier for me to act like I had it together or was so smart, when really, my head knowledge about the Word has never matched up to my heart’s understanding or desire for the Word–and I’m not ashamed to admit it’s been a work in progress. I’ve been following a daily reading plan that includes an audio Bible, and I’ve been listening to it every morning on my way into work. It’s been revolutionary. There’s so much I never noticed before, and so much that I never realized I was skipping or glossing over. Hearing the Word has revived parts of me that I didn’t know were dead! It’s drawn me in closer to God, and even though we all know I’m a salty chick, I think I’m more in love with Jesus than I’ve ever been before. Again, I’m a work-in-progress, and I’m always afraid someone will read this blog and think I’m something that I’m not. I’m a mess. I’m just…I’m a mess that loves Jesus, and is trying her best.
I’ve tried to stay committed on this path, and I hope I continue it for the rest of my life. I’ve found myself tempted by the glossy theology of deconstruction, & the only way I know how to stay on the path of the Lord is to follow His Word, so here I am…knowing there is no where else I’d rather be, even if my friends or my spiritual icons, or my personal inspirations, seem to be veering off course.
That seems to be happening a lot lately….people I used to have on pedestals (which isn’t their fault) are tumbling down into softened Christianity, selling out moral compasses for comfortable mattresses of “One Love theology.” It’s so tempting.
It’s so, so tempting, to sit back and say that Jesus loves us all, so therefore, we can ignore everything in Scripture that makes us uncomfortable….
It’s so, so tempting to sit back and say that Jesus loves us all, so therefore, we can ignore everything that doesn’t make sense to us….
It’s so, so tempting to sit back and say that Jesus loves us all, so therefore, we can ignore everything that sounds like judgment or conviction….
It’s so, so tempting to strip Christianity to one word–Love–but then to interpret that word into permission…
It’s so, so tempting to strip Christianity to one word–Freedom–but then to interpret that word into passivity.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to be comfortable.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to be accepted by the world.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to accept the world.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to understand or that everything “has” to make sense.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to accept carnal influences and allows them to strip us of our abilities to make choices.
–Theology that ties love to acceptance, and states that in order for me to love you, I “have” to agree with all of your life choices.
I can’t live that way, and I can’t accept that’s the direction the Lord is taking His people.
Recently, our daily readings took us through Psalms 119. A particular verse stood out to me:
“I am a sojourner in the earth. Hide not Thy commandments from me.”–Psalm 119:19 (ASV)
The word, “sojourner” stood out to me; it’s not a word you hear very often, although it’s one I’m familiar with. I went ahead and looked it up, just to be sure my understanding was correct. A sojourner is a stranger or a nomad. Wikipedia says it’s “a person who resides temporarily in a place.”
There was a book series I loved when I was a kid, called The Chronicles of Prydain. If ever I was in love with a fictional character, it was Taran, the main character. In the book, Taran Wanderer, Taran goes on a quest to determine his parentage. Throughout the story, Taran proves his character & the end result (spoiler alert) is new confidence in the boy he was, and in the man he has become. The overall tone of the book is the journey itself, though, as Taran feels like a man without a family or a home. He has no roots, no lineage, and no claim to be able to propose to the woman he loves.
To wander through life without a feeling of belonging or home, is the very definition of what it means to be a sojourner. It is a feeling of being out-of-place, of never belonging anywhere tangible. It is a feeling of being, in a word, UNCOMFORTABLE.
Psalms 119:19 asks God not to hide His commandments from us–that’s because when you’re a sojourner, you need the anchor of His Word to ground you….to remind you that nope–THIS isn’t home, but you’re eternally tied into the place where you belong, which is with Him.
Christianity was never designed to be “comfortable.” It’s not designed to feel good–I mean, God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die a terrible death so that we could spend eternity with Him. It’s a belief system built on sacrifice.
Sacrifice is (wait for it)…UNCOMFORTABLE!
So, we’re sojourners—we’re just passing through this crazy world, and we know that no matter how difficult it gets, we have peace on the other side. Sometimes, that’s a huge comfort in and of itself (not always, but sometimes)…but “comfort” is the word I’m taking to task, because it seems to be more important these days than anything else.
We do EVERYTHING in order to make our lives more “convenient.” Like, I love me some Target Drive-Up or Walmart Pick-Up grocery shopping! I love me some Amazon! I love anything that doesn’t cause me to have to get out of my car or to interact with people. I love my electronics; I love my “quick fixes” for just about anything. I, like most Americans, do NOT like to be inconvenienced. I like my comfortable clothes, my super-soft blankets, and my aromatherapy mister.
I don’t like to be uncomfortable.
At some point, our desire to be comfortable has spread into our theology, and we have forgotten what our very faith is based in.
True love is uncomfortable.
True Love means I care enough about someone to say when they’re making a life choice that has spiritual repercussions. It means I care enough to have uncomfortable conversations in respect & in gentleness (I Peter 3:15). It doesn’t mean that I force my beliefs on someone, but it does mean that when that door opens, I am willing to step out in faith and talk to someone.
True Love means I stop expecting God to answer my questions. That might shock a few people–let me explain: Shortly after my daughter passed away, Natalie Grant’s song “Held” came out. The lyrics are forever burned into my brain; specifically, the line, “Who told us we’d be rescued? What has changed, and why should we be saved from nightmares?”
Those lyrics rocked my world, and woke me up to the absolute arrogance and entitlement with which I was living my faith. I will never understand the hows or whys, but what I do understand and believe is that God has a plan. I do understand and believe that God is GOOD…and even though what has happened does not always seem to match up on the surface with that, I am set in my belief that it is true. God. Is. Good….and that goes beyond the scope of my comprehension. Who am I, to demand answers and explanations from Him?!
WHY DO CHRISTIANS THINK THEY SHOULD ONLY EVER ENCOUNTER GOOD THINGS? Why do we think we’re immune to heartache? To loss? To sickness or disease? NOTHING in the Bible states that “you find Jesus, it’s green lights and allllllll rights from here, baby!!!!” NO–verse after verse after verse reminds us that this world is not our home. They remind us that yes, good can come from suffering, but THERE IS SUFFERING. I tend to blame prosperity garbage for these lies, and I most definitely think it’s a theology that’s responsible for devastating the church (I don’t agree with everything in this documentary, but the film American Gospel has some good sticking points about the Prosperity Gospel). WE ARE HUMANS. WE ARE BROKEN PEOPLE, LIVING IN A SICK, BROKEN, DISEASED WORLD. We are in the world, even if we aren’t of the world, and guess what? No matter what color you’re wearing, it’s gonna get dirty in a garbage bin. WE ARE NOT IMMUNE, and it’s total arrogance for us to think anything otherwise.
True Love means that when I don’t get the answers I want or think that I deserve, that I lean back in faith and still trust Him, even though not knowing or understanding makes me VERY uncomfortable.
A “comfortable” theology looks at the moral compasses and absolutes in Scriptures, cocks its head back, raises an eyebrow, and says those fateful words, “Hath God Not Said?”
“Hath God Not Said” are the Four Words that Wrecked it All, and they’re the first four words we say when we find ourselves faced with Uncomfortable Theology that we want to talk ourselves out of. “Hath God Not Said” are the Four Words that Satan the Snake used to lead Eve to eat the Apple and to corrupt her husband, and “Hath Got Not Said” are the Four Words that put us in this leaky boat on an ocean of UGH.
It is so uncomfortable to trust God. It is so uncomfortable to wander through this earth, through this mortal life, knowing that this unsettled feeling is permanent. We’re strangers in a strange land, and we’re a long way from Home. It’s okay that we accept the fact that it’s not easy, it’s not fun, and it’s VERY uncomfortable…
But it’s worth it….
It’s worth it for those glimpses into His character that we see in His Word. It’s worth it for those whispers we hear in our hearts from Him. It’s worth it to hear His Spirit speak into our hearts, to hear Him call us His sons and daughters. It’s worth it to know the security and grace only He can offer. It’s worth it to know we are forgiven, and that we are loved, and that we can share that love with others in this unloving world…in this world that sells a candy-coated, hollowed-out version of love that is so far from the Real Thing…We have in our hearts a Love that is more inclusive than anything the world can imitate. We have a Love that extends grace to all who ask…who extends eternity to all who seek it through Jesus. How great of a Love is that?
This has been a Most Uncomfortable Year for so many…I, for one, am glad that this world is not my home, because who would want to think this is it??!?! If this is all there is–if there isn’t an eternity to call Home–it’s sorely disappointing, even at it’s best, in the light of what Jesus offers us.
Truth be told, I started percolating on this blog last week, while I was sick, and while I was facing my 43rd birthday. I’ve had 43 years on this planet, and it takes me FOREVER to feel like I even slightly “fit in” anywhere. I always feel like a weirdo, but maybe instead of a “weirdo,” I should adopt the term, “sojourner,” because it seems more fitting. This world is not my home. Eternity is my home and my hope, and I am praying that as I continue on this road of reading and of falling in love with the Bible, that my eyes stay focused on just that….on hiding His commandments in my heart, and on hearing His voice. He asked me for one year…it’s turning into all of them. That’s uncomfortable to say…but I guess that’s the point of this blog.
When the angels came to the shepherds (who were no doubt freaking the heck out, because angels are NOT soft, cuddly lil’ things with wings and halos, NOT TO MENTION the fact that they just SUDDENLY appeared out of NOWHERE. In some translations, Luke 2 says they were “terrified,” and who wouldn’t be?!?!?), they made it a point to say, “Peace.”
Of all of the things that the angels could have said, particularly in regards to the mission they were on, don’t you find it so indicative of the loving nature of God, that they used the word, “Peace?” They wanted their announcement of our Savior to be met not with fear, but with rejoicing…not with dread, but with peace. He wanted us to greet His Son with Peace…that amazes me!
Yet, this season is often met with anything but…
And I am no exception.
I work in a University, which means that I am beyond blessed to have some time off in December and January. This also means that I have a ton of projects that are wrapping up at work, along with my own Christmas preparations. I have schedules to finish, papers to process, contracts to review, doctors to credential, and compliance training to complete. I’m swamped, and I can be very short on patience.
At home, there is cleaning, cooking, baking, groceries to shop for, presents to wrap, recipes to hunt down…laundry that still somehow manages to pile up (even though I swear, I’ve worn the same t-shirt through 3 days of baking…okay, that’s TMI). A few weeks ago, I had to make a run to the grocery store with my kiddo in tow. He’s usually pretty good in the store, so I thought, “Okay, this time, I’m not going to lift him into the cart. My back is hurting pretty badly, and I just don’t want to lift him. He’ll be fine.” And he was…for the first half of the store.
And then he lost his dang mind.
I have no idea what set him off, but he got plain ornery, as we say in my neck of the woods, and I just about spanked his rear in the baking aisle. I was NOT having it, so I hiked him into the cart, and told him I’d had enough. I needed to get some basic greeting cards for work. I saw this blue card that said, “Peace on Earth,” and “Goodwill to all mankind,” and I thought, “Hey, it doesn’t say ‘Merry Christmas!’ I can use these for work!!”
Do you see what I see, in the picture that heads up this blog?
I was so distracted by my shopping lists and my crazy kiddo, that I didn’t see the Manger in the middle of the card.
I finished my shopping and had my son stand in the corner while I bagged groceries. I’m sure I was the picture of Christmas peace, let me tell you. 🙂
We made it home; I got the stuff put away, and my kiddo straightened up his behavior before the TV remote got hidden for the remainder of the night.
A few days later, I was sitting in my office, writing out my cards, when suddenly, I looked at the picture again. There it was, looking right back at me–The Manger.
And I’d missed it.
At first, I laughed with a Jewish friend of mine–“Look what I missed!” She said, “Well, so much for inclusivity, right?” “Yeah! LOL–Can I still use them?” She said she thought they were fine, so I went ahead with it. I even posted it on Instagram, laughing about my typical dippy-ness. Pretty quickly behind that, though, came a feeling of sadness: How, in the middle of all of this madness, could I have missed the very thing that Christmas is all about?
I felt the Lord say to me, “My story will be told, even when you don’t see how. Even when you overlook Me, I’m still here” Ooof….yep, that got me.
I had to repent–even though it is such a small thing, it’s true that I had my eyes off of Jesus in the midst of the chaos of my life. The card may have said, “Peace on Earth,” but my stress levels said everything but. How did I get so caught up in this mess?!?
After Thanksgiving, our holiday decorations went up. This year, I gave Jericho the job of setting up the Nativity that I’d bought for his first Christmas. It’s unbreakable, so I felt like I could breathe a bit. 🙂 I set up the stepladder, and let him do what he wanted.
I’m kind of your typical Type A person, and I have “my” way of doing things. It’s hard for me to turn loose of things and to let other people give things a shot (I think “Type A” is just a classier way of saying, “anal-retentive,” and I will totally cop to my being a control freak in certain situations). He set up the Nativity scene, and I inwardly cringed–everyone was facing the “wrong” way!!!! But, I took some deep breaths, and I left it alone…he deserves to have decorations, too, so I got over myself….and then, the Type-A Grinch’s heart grew THREE SIZES that day!!!
Every time I take a look at the Nativity, I smile a little more, & I feel the Father send me a wink. Every character in this scene is solely focused on the Baby in the Manger.
They’ve turned their backs to the distraction, and they’re focused on the Promise that’s in front of them.
They weren’t so busy that they missed the Manger that was standing right in front of them, right under The Star.
They weren’t so caught up by what people would think…by deadlines and groceries and recipes and outfits and schedules…that they missed the fulfillment of the Promise of God.
My son set up this Nativity where every single character is captivated by the scene before them….captivated by the sight of a Savior that would eventually bring Peace on Earth.
I’m correcting my oversight, because a six-year old boy unintentionally pointed out the biggest spiritual lessons of Christmas, right under my nose. I may have missed the Manger, but he sure didn’t.
This past week, I’ve had questions about my faith brought up to the surface…broken places that I thought were healed, came up in a way that I had to lay them before God. We had some intense conversations this week, and I truly felt Him whisper into my heart a renewal of faith…an awakening of sorts…and a restored peace that I didn’t realize I was missing. Feelings of inadequacy came in like an earthquake, and I could see the cracks in my foundation; rather than tell me “you should know better!” or, “hasn’t it been long enough? Aren’t you past this?!?” I felt Jesus say, “It’s okay. I’m the same God now as I was 13 years ago; I was the same then that I was 1300 years ago. Things you see on this earth do not define Who I Am, and when I tell you that I Am enough, you can believe that it is, it was, and it will always be true. I felt Him echo those words about me…”Cassidy, you are ENOUGH. Trust in Who you know I Am.”
Chaos in the past…confusion in the present…fear of the future–these are all things that cause us to curl into a ball of static rejection and anxiety. They steal our peace, and they separate us from God and the joy that He gives. These are things that build armor around our hearts and minds, and cause us to feel alone in the dark…but that’s not where He calls us to be.
The shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem were out on night watch. It was dark, boring, and dangerous work; in a darkness like that, who could possibly predict what criminal or starving animal would approach, next? It was smelly, terrifying, and pitch-black…but then God came, and everything changed in an instant:
8 [a]Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. 9 The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. 10 The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 [b]For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
14 [c]“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14, NABRE)
God loved us so much that He gave His only Son to die on a Cross for our sins, and to be resurrected again three days later. He did all of this, so that He wouldn’t have to go through the suffering of losing a child ever again…He doesn’t want to lose a single one of us.
In this season, my hope is that we will all stop and see the Manger in a new way…My hope is that we can all take some time and solely focus on the gift that God gave us, in bridging the gap between sin and salvation with His Son, Jesus.
We are so grateful to the Lord for our son, for our families, and for our friends (that means YOU!). We’re thankful for our church and our pastors, and for the fact that they never stop their relentless pursuit of Jesus.
Have a blessed and wonderful Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, and of course, a wonderful Boxing Day, eh?!? Celebrate the season with joy and wonder, and may the peace of God be on your household.
See you in 2020 (and yes, in my field, I’m “looking” forward to a year’s worth of terrible jokes)!!! Shalom, y’all!
One of the Millennials that I work with said something very interesting to me a few weeks ago…
[Please note that when I say, “one of the Millennials,” it’s with a surprising amount of love and respect. I say, “surprising,” because a lot of people in the “millennial” demographic have honestly bugged the holy heck out of me. This girl though (this young woman, excuse me)–she continually surprises me with words of self-empowerment and wisdom that I WISH I had at her age (or at MY age), and I learn a lot from her. When I turned 40, I told myself I was going to stop making apologies over everything. Emma has been a very influential voice that has echoed that sentiment, and even though we don’t always agree, I can’t help but to admire her strength and almost-frightening level of self-acceptance. Her story is encouraging and beautiful, and tough and scary, and it’s not mine to tell…but what I can say, is that she’s still standing, and that she has so much more becoming to do…There is so much beauty in her, and she doesn’t know it, but one day I will tell her just how much she’s taught me. I just want to sit on the sidelines and watch her bloom; there’s such a richness in her soul…she’s amazing.]
Anyway, Emma looked at my Instagram feed, and said something to the effect of, “You guys LIVE for weekends.” It’s so true. My house is a wreck, I’d hire a housecleaner to bulldoze the kitchen in a second, and I barely stay on top of the laundry, but you know what? No one talks about a clean house when they tell the stories of their childhood. David & I are two very busy adults trying to keep a roof over our heads and raise a kiddo while working full-time and not abandoning either our families or our marriage, and it gets challenging. Monday through Friday, we barely seem to have time to carry on a full conversation, but on Saturday and Sunday? We refuel and burn it up in laughter.
Every weekend isn’t awesome, for sure. We’re far from rich, so we’re always doing things on the cheap; by the end of this hot summer, we’re sick of parks and tired of sweating to death…but October? Oh, you sweet, beautiful, melancholy month, how I love you!!!
I used to face the end of October like Grover in the “Monster at the End of This Book.” Hannah’s birthday is on the 30th, so every fall, I’d watch the days change on the calendar, and with every leaf that fell, my heart would break. For five long years, the month of October was crushing…but then, we were given the gift of making new memories, and of filling those painful places with peace and joy and anticipation…I have the greatest gift of having been given beauty for ashes, and for that, I can only sit back and praise God.
October still comes with “suddenlys….” I still have moments where my breath will catch, as a memory comes back, or with different realizations (I think I mentioned in my last blog that I realized out of nowhere that Hannah would be turning 13 this year. I’m still coming to grips with that one). Today, I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a picture taken at Thee Abbey in Arcadia Valley. The owner had posted a picture of her two children with puppies, and I suddenly remembered that we had been pregnant with our daughters at the same time. She was baking cinnamon rolls in the restaurant, and I was working long hours doing makeup on a film project. We were pregnant at the same time, and there was her beautiful girl, showing up on my social media feed. I doubt they remember me, or that we were pregnant at the same time…Thee Abbey holds a very special place in my heart, for multiple reasons, and we go back there several times a year, but it’s not like we’re friends with the owners or anything. We were just two women with dreams of families, who had very different outcomes from the same seasons in our lives.
It’s in those moments that I still make conscious decisions. Those are the “sink or swim” moments, those “suddenlys.” Do they become a noose or a beacon? Do I drown in the waves? Do I pause, take a breath, and let the tears fall? Oh, my Jesus….how many bottles in Heaven are marked with my name? He knows, because He cares about every tear that’s fallen on this journey and beyond…
Do I rush through the thoughts that hit, ignoring them even as I know they’ll come back to me later, when I finally have some quiet time to process them?
Should I even be affected by these moments anymore?
Those moments…some of those moments are huge, while others are minute, but they do still happen. When they do, it’s a conscious decision to move forward, to pause, or even to fall apart (which doesn’t happen very often, thankfully). There are conscious decisions to remain hopeful and wholehearted, to not become bitter or faithless. Sometimes, I hear other women tell their birth stories, and it gets hard to not be angry or hateful. Sometimes even now, old pieces of things I thought I forgave, as far as my medical care went, come up and I get mad. Two women in line next to me in a resale shop were bragging about how they had their babies out in public at 1-and-2 days old. I said, “Wow, you’re brave.” They laughed and said, “well, that’s how you GOT to do it!” One of them went on her way, but I quietly said to the other, “We lost our first from something very common…I didn’t leave the house with my second, except to go to the doctor, for 6 weeks.” The look on her face said it all–perspective. When other moms look at you like you’re some kind of germ-phobic freak or a helicopter mom, it’s hard not to lash out. There’s a conscious decision that’s made, to either tell the story in kindness, say silent and put up with the awkwardness and feel completely inauthentic, or to tell the story in a way to slap them upside their heads for judging your parenting. I’ve done all of the above, and I’m not proud of that fact.
There are conscious decisions made that people who haven’t walked this road will never understand, and that’s perfectly fine. I refuse to apologize for the fact that I am a woman who has given birth and said “goodbye,” and that this is the season where those memories and dreams are the closest to the surface….
So, like Emma said, we “LIVE for the weekends,” ESPECIALLY in the fall. October is full of everything beautiful…the trees are putting on their finest colors just before they blaze out into their rest, and I want to celebrate every one of them. I want the “basic” life of pumpkins and spice and bonfires. I want my (second-hand) UGGs and my leggings, and I want to jump into every pile of leaves I can find. I’m not a huge fan of corn mazes (I did my first one last week; it was a kids’ version, and it freaked me OUT), but I dig pumpkin patches! We didn’t do that kind of stuff when I was a kid, but we’re sure enjoying them now.
When the second lady in line at the store was talking to me about Hannah, Jericho jumped into the conversation: “I’m a rainbow baby!” I don’t know if she knew what he meant, but I laughed because it was the first time I’ve ever heard him tell a stranger that fact. It kind of blew me away–what does it mean, to grow up, knowing that about yourself? I had a friend chime in on an Instagram post that she was a rainbow baby, and that she loved knowing about what that meant; she said she loved that her parents never hid the truth from her, and that blessed me. I never wanted to keep it from him, but I also never wanted it to be a burden, so we always want to paint his birth as the miracle to us that it truly was. He knows he’s special (maybe a little TOO well, LOL).
We have this chance–we have this GIFT–to LIVE, and to live well. We have this opportunity to seriously carpe diem–to seize the day (can you tell I grew up in the 90’s?)–and to make amazing memories of each season. Jericho is no doubt spoiled. He hates the weekends where we’ve stayed home, and I get it. We don’t stay home on the weekends very often (although to be fair, we don’t go anywhere during the week. Total hermits.), and he expects an adventure. When he doesn’t get it? He’s kind of a punk, and I can say that as his mother. 🙂 And even today, after we drove for 2 hours, did a cool hayride, got lost in a maze, shoveled pizza in our faces in the car, and ate something amazing called a “cinnamon chimney,” he STILL had some bratty moments–he’s 6, and there was a LOT of walking–and I found myself wondering why I try to do cool stuff. Um, kiddo, I’m going to admit that sometimes, I am the one that wants to do the cool stuff, and you’re along for the ride. I want to make these memories with you, so stop whining and smile for the camera (“You will smile for this picture, or SO HELP ME GOD!” #TheStruggleIsReal). I want to make the cool memories, and I want to look back at that awesome photo book that I make at the end of every year, and look at this amazing life that God has given us.
I know that life in pictures is only part of the story…but what a beautiful part of the story it is. I have to laugh–when I was 8, my mom took my sister and I to Disneyworld. There’s a really cute photo album somewhere that shows us in all of our glory in Florida…but do you know what we still laugh about to this day? The fact that my sister and I were absolute MONSTERS on that trip. OHMYGOSH, I can’t–we whined so much, and my mom had to have busted her rear to pay for that trip; we were SUCH punks, I can’t even…AND I AM REMINDED OF THAT TRIP, EVERY TIME I TAKE MY SON TO DO SOMETHING COOL, AND HE WHINES. Like, #KARMA. I have to laugh. We have the pictures, and we have the memories, and oh, what a life we get to experience!!!!
Life is hard. It is–it’s a struggle for so many of us. But we have each day to start over, to make new memories and to make the conscious decisions to breathe, to move forward, to celebrate and to grieve. We have the opportunity to celebrate the sweet and to not become bitter…we have the chance to stop apologizing when we’re doing our best, and to accept the love Jesus offers us. We have the choice to pick grace, and to put one foot in front of the other on this journey, and to help others to do the same. Fall is the season of such incomparable beauty. I hope and pray that you get to embrace it and the changes that come along in it. “LIVE for your weekends,” and if you can, let the dishes wait a bit while you make some memories–and don’t make any apologies for it, dang it. You carpe that diem, dangit, and light up your Instagram feed!!!!
Seriously, though–take every chance you can to enjoy this season. May your “suddenlys” and your fall leaves remind you that you are loved by our Creator who made all of the beauty that you see, just to bring you closer to Him. ❤
I’m named thus, in part because of my paternal grandmother (who I never got to meet; I understand she was short & plump, and that’s all I know), and in part, because nobody liked my mom’s other suggestion: Bethany.
By the time I came along in my parents’ marriage, things were NOT going well. My biological father hadn’t really proven to be overly interested in my pending birth, so he didn’t have any input into the name I wound up with. “Cassidy” came from a person who said “hello” to their daughter Cassidy on a game show, that my mother happened to see. The rest is, as they say, history.
I’ve only ever met one Cassidy who is my age. The name had a surge in popularity in the late 80’s or early 90’s, thanks to Kathie Lee Gifford. She named her daughter Cassidy, and then nicknamed her “Casserole,” so if I ever see her, I won’t need a reminder to slap her silly. Other Cassidys that I’ve met have all been younger, and Lord knows, there’s a TON of spelling variations on the name (Kassidee? Kasidy? Casidy? Cassadee? Some of those hurt to type).
I’ve always believed that whatever you name your child is a proclamation over them for the rest of their lives. When I first looked up my name and saw that it meant “clever,” I wasn’t a fan. Further research made me reconsider; I definitely qualify as “crafty,” given my love of my glue gun (yes, I know, that’s not what “crafty” is inferring, but work with me), and “curly haired?” Really? Shut up. 🙂 I can’t imagine myself with any other name. I’m glad that my mama took a chance on this crazy name, and I’ve slowly gotten over feeling slighted because I can’t find anything personalized.
I recently received an e-mail from my son’s kindergarten teacher. He’s getting ready to graduate (sniff!!), and she does something with the meaning of their names every year in the ceremony. She asked me if there was any special definition we knew that she couldn’t find, because the only definitions she could find were “fragrant” or “City of the Moon.” I had to laugh–it’s come full circle, that the girl with the odd name would, after years of swearing off of odd names for her children, name her son something that’s not going to show up in a Christmas ornament kiosk. So, I had to expound a tiny bit on why we gave our child the unusual moniker shared with a city that got destroyed (and that had a curse attached to it, were it to ever be rebuilt…which it was….and bad things happened).
Even without researching the definition of the name, “Jericho” seemed like a perfect name for my son. It wasn’t just a city that was destroyed for the glory of God and the progression of His people.
It was a city that seemed indestructible.
It was a city that seemed overwhelmingly unstoppable, incredibly protected and well-armed, and like an impenetrable fortress. It was sophisticated, metropolitan, and and a place of great value. When the Israelites looked on the city of Jericho, they knew they didn’t stand a chance….but God said to take it.
He said it was theirs.
He promised them.
And they believed.
By now, you know the story–Jericho’s older sister died, and my heart failed. We were told we’d have no more children, unless I was ready to be too dead to raise them. Doctors told us “no” so many times that my husband was ready to stop asking; I begged for one last appointment, and that doctor (Michael Paul, MD, Missouri Baptist Hospital perinatology) said “yes.” We got pregnant in 2012, and I will never forget the spiritual battles that took place for the entire 36 weeks (okay, 35) that I was pregnant. The first 30 days of my child’s life were some of the toughest days I have ever known (post-partum piled onto everything else), and I was in the fight of my life…but we won.
We all won.
The people of Israel were told to march around the city of Jericho, silently, for 6 days. Only the trumpets could be played (how annoying would THAT be?!?! I sense a strategy…). On the 7th day, they were told to march around Jericho 7 times, and on the last time, to deliver a mighty roar. When they did this, God moved and the walls of Jericho fell down. The battle was won! The people of Jericho had put all of their faith into those walls–they didn’t have an army that could fight. I’m guessing their army was untrained, because they were so secure in believing those walls would never come down. They were wrong.
God moved, walls fell, and His people took the city.
They took what He promised them.
So did we.
“Jericho” has a few different interpretations in history, but the ones my son’s teacher found are the most common: “Fragrant.” “City of the Moon.” There’s also “City of Palms” (a place of respite?), or these definitions, which talk about “breath,” “way,” or “width.” Those are less common, and I tend to stick to the definition of “fragrant.”
The fact that my son’s name means something that seems so mundane, but has such a powerful connotation, is not lost on David & I. Every time we speak his name, we’re pouring out over him the fact that he is like a fragrance of worship before the Lord. Day and night, even when we’re in terrible moods, even when times are tough, no matter what happens, he is an answer to prayer and a testimony that resounds in our lives and evokes worship–that’s a powerful name. The kid was born out of prayers and trust, and he doesn’t know it yet, but he has a destiny to worship the Lord.
No pressure, kiddo.
So, yes, Jericho’s teacher, his name means, “fragrance.” And sure, he’s a stinky boy (are all boys stinky? Is that just part of it?!?!), but his heart was formed in the fires of intercession and prayer.
Our son is a living testimony to the promises of God that many people told us were not achievable (you know who told us they were wrong? Joe LoRusso.). We were told “no.” God said, “yes,” and we obeyed Him. Jericho was delivered to us, and our praises and prayers before, during, and after, are the least we can give a God Who kept His promises and blessed our socks off.
There’s a song called, “Worthy of It All” by David Brymer. It became a cornerstone song in my life during my pregnancy with Jericho, even before he got his name. My pregnancy was tough…really, really tough…and I’d sing this song to remind myself that God’s plan was worthy of all of it. I needed to anchor myself and remember that He is GOOD, and that He doesn’t fail, regardless of the past, regardless of the future, and regardless of the fears. He is WORTHY, even if you can’t see the outcome.
There’s a section of the song that says, “Day and night, night and day, let incense arise.” There is worship around the throne of God for infinity–it doesn’t stop. My prayer for my son is that he would learn the significance of his name…that he would know the power of God in his life, and that he would live to point others toward worshiping the Lord….that his life would be like that fragrance that rises before the throne, dedicated to Him and knowing His love…of knowing wholeheartedly that Jesus is Worthy of it All…
We’ve named our child well.
Oh, and if you’re curious, his middle name is “Daniel,” which means, “God is my Judge.” To this day, every time I think of the meaning of his middle name, I think of Tupac….but I never told my husband that when we were choosing names. 🙂
Steroids do funny things. I’m on Day 4, & I know they’re doing what they need to do, but I’m tired…but jumpy…and honestly, emotional.
Her birthday is this week….it’s Tuesday. If you ask me specifically why it hits me differently every year, I couldn’t tell you. Everything was running along smoothly, except for, same as last year, when I realized that life was running along so quickly that I wouldn’t have time this week to take that “pause” to honor her….to reflect on her life….and I hate that.
I had to say the words last night out loud, “Hey, I get this. We need this. She was real, she was a person, and she is part of who we are, so even in this crazy, busy week, we make time.”
I don’t know how that is going to happen, but it IS going to happen.
We move along in life so quickly….we have our routines and schedules. We don’t take time to sit and reflect, so it feels unnatural, but it needs to be done. Pain and sadness need to be recognized, so they can be processed….so that they don’t get buried….because we all know they don’t STAY buried.
For me, if I don’t take this time now, these feelings and frustrations will manifest themselves in a couple of ways. I’ll cry or fly off of the handle about something innocuous. I’ll sulk or withdraw. I won’t sleep. I will carry around unnecessary guilt and shame. I’ll get sick. My family will suffer, & it will all be fallout from my failure to listen to that still, small voice that says, “Stop. Breathe. Remember.”
My daughter…my beautiful winter butterfly…would be 12 years old this week. We’d be going through “the change” that all of the women in my family went thru at 12, and OMG HOW WOULD WE DEAL?!?!? I imagine we’d be having arguments about social media & boys, & junior-high drama…there would be the introduction to makeup, or maybe a CCW class with Auntie, & Lord knows what else. We’d be starting the conversation about college, and I would be internally freaking out about how much information about LIFE, & HOW do parents maintain that balance? I think my Hannah & I would have a good relationship, & that I would be finding myself on my knees more than ever before as we enter the last year before TEENAGERDOME. 🙂
My little girl passed away before too much of her personality could be established, but there are some things I know for certain: She loved music. She loved songs with soul & excitement. 🙂 She smelled like Cheerios, & she knew her Daddy’s voice. She was a happy baby, which is amazing, considering the duress by which she came into the world…
And she made me into someone I’ve wanted to be, for as long as I can remember: She made me a Mom.
I will always, always be grateful to God for blessing us with her. I will always be grateful for our 29 days on this earth together, & I have absolutely no regrets. We had a gift that changed the course of our lives, our marriage, & our faith, & we are eternally impacted by 29 days with the most precious princess this world has ever seen.
I love that our journey with Hannah isn’t over. I love knowing that because of Jesus, it’s only on “pause,” until we are together in eternity. I love that He gives us that level of hope, and that He takes our despair & turns it into a beautiful anticipation of what is to come….
Happy birthday, Hannah Elizabeth Gayle Cooley. You’ve made my world more amazing and beautiful, just because I had the chance to call you mine.
A few weeks ago, I had an unfiltered discussion with an old friend from college. We hadn’t seen each other in 20 years; we reconnected over Facebook quite a while ago, and randomly decided to host a yard sale together. During the down times of the sale, we caught up on all of the stuff that we HADN’T put on social media since Bible college, and needless to say, it got real.
It was cathartic.
We both agreed that the Church, in our experiences as Midwestern Gen-Xers that were raised in denominational/non-denominational upbringings, had done a crappy job of directing us as Christian women in what a “fulfilled” life should look like:
Follow the rules. Make sure your life is Better Homes & Gardens-worthy. Keep your voice low, your head lower, and remember your station in life. Love Jesus, love your husband, pop out babies, and live the American dream (God help you if those babies don’t come on the regular, you Barren Woman. You MUST be in sin).
Be bland, be meek, and for the love of God, never mention sex in any casual conversation…or ever. That’s for procreation, not fun, and any other perspective is just sin (especially for women). Never voice what you need or want (oh, and don’t have any wants) in the bedroom. After all, you exist for the pleasure of your husband and for his needs.
Do as your told. Submit, submit, SUBMIT.
Oh, and if your life doesn’t look like what we tell you it should (complete with a picket fence), you’ve FAILED. You’ve failed as a woman, and you’ve certainly disappointed God, you horrible thing. Go sit on the back pew (if you dare to show your face in church), and do not think for an INSTANT that you’re ever going to be fit for ministry again in this life. You don’t speak in church, you don’t question things in church, and you spend the rest of your life lamenting every missed opportunity. You’re JUST a woman, and you’re a second-class citizen, at best.
I’ve watched the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale (and read the book), and it was uncomfortable…the mind control and “biblical” structure they use is familiar to me, although highly dramatized. The concept, though, of owning a woman and of valuing her based on her fertility, all in the Name of God, is NOTHING new. Christianity has long been twisted and perverted to control family structure and the role of a woman. When I watched THT, my most recurrent thought was how easily everything flipped over to such oppression, and how easily it could happen today (I haven’t seen any of the new season, so no spoilers!).
Sexism is rampant in the American church, even in today’s world, even on a collegiate level (ask me about being a woman in a ministry program in Bible college, and why I couldn’t take Hermeneutics class), and I think it starts with a foundation of a jacked-up “understanding” of the structure of a family, which then turns over to jacking up the roles of men & women in the family.
(I want to clearly state that I am NOT a feminist. I’m an equalist: Equal rights, equal pay, equal roles, in Biblical context. I think my explanation of that term will present itself in the course of these posts…Save your “you’re a liberal!” torches for after I’ve finished the series. 🙂 )
After the conversation at the yard sale, my friend sent me the following graphic, with a caption that expressed her discomfort with the tiers:
I agreed with her discomfort. I’ve seen this reposted a few times, and every time I see it, I inhale reflexively. Everything in me as a Christian and as a woman has issues with this graphic. For this first blog post, and because I believe it’s hugely foundational for the conversation, I want to focus on the importance of Jesus being at the forefront of the discussion…but not as an overlord or as some kind of oppressive umbrella. I want to focus on Jesus as the Song of Solomon portrays Him to be…as the Lover of our Souls. Bear with me, and let’s rethink this design…
I cannot say it enough: Jesus has to be at the forefront of the family structure. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ—not a relationship where you do all of the talking, not a relationship where you follow a routine and a protocol, but a true, genuine, personal relationship with Jesus is foundational for any relationship we have with other human beings. It’s foundational for how we treat ourselves, our friends, our spouses, our kids, our pets, whatever. There is no relationship without a relationship with Jesus Christ. How does that happen? What does that look like? I’ll tell you right now, in my house, we get it wrong on the regular, and that’s okay. Jesus’ first priority isn’t looking at how we’re doing things wrong. He’s looking as to whether or not we have a desire and a want to TRY TO DO IT AT ALL. Eventually, we’re going to get it “right.” but in the meanwhile? Do you WANT to serve the Lord? Do you want to be His friend? Do you care about what He thinks? Do you read His Word (ouch—that’s a huge hurdle for me)? Do you WANT to read His Word? Do you know that He loves you with all of His heart? That His love goes beyond His death and resurrection 2,000 years ago? That His love is a daily, confounding, life-altering thing that will render you unable to ever be the same person, the more you learn about it? Do you know that you are His perfect Bride, the one His heart beats for? The one He chases, chastises, embraces; the one He longs for, the one He truly desires? He LOVES us, collectively and individually, and that Love is greater than any Umbrella graphic, any stereotype, any sexism, feminism, or –ism at all. We are so, so loved, and it goes so far beyond our ability to put words or thoughts around it. It’s REAL, and it’s amazing, and every day, I marvel at it. It makes no sense, but there He is, and there is no place we can hide. There is no cosmic “smite” button that’s waiting to hit us with a lightning bolt whenever we screw it up; there is gentle conviction (NEVER CONDEMNATION) from His Holy Spirit, but He’s not waiting in Heaven to take us down. He’s waiting for us to talk to Him, to have a relationship with Him. I can’t stress it enough: Jesus loves us. The Umbrella graphic makes the Name of Jesus seem like it’s ominously looming over us. It couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Song of Solomon 2:4 says that Jesus (portrayed in the story as the Bridegroom or the Beloved) leads us into the banquet hall, and “His banner over me is love.” He’s not looming or oppressing; He is pouring His love over us, and that is a foundational concept for Biblical family structure.
When we say, “His Banner over me is Love,” do we think about the actual definition of the phrase? Banners in today’s world are hung as ways to identify celebrations, and the word has lost its luster. Banners were signs carried like flags over troops in times of war; they identified the clans or tribes that were fighting, and allowed allies to spot each other from a distance. It also allowed the enemy to get a broad scope of just how many people they were dealing with. Banners showed unity & cooperation in battle! People carried the banners either on their own, or in groups where they EACH took a pole, and walked the banner out in front of the troops to guide them into the battlefield. Banners were carried off of the field, sometimes in tatters, to lead the troops into celebration and to rest. The banner was the biggest inspiration to the people that were fighting, because as long as it waved, THE FIGHT WASN’T OVER!!!!! Think about the history of “The Star-Spangled Banner:” Francis Scott Key wrote the song because during the war, “whose broad stripes & bright stars, through the perilous fight, over the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?”?!?!?!!?? Bombs bursting in air! Gunshots! Fire! BUT THE AMERICAN FLAG STILL WAVED, so he knew the war wasn’t over, and we are still singing that dang song to celebrate!!!! (I’ll never sing it live again; I’m forever traumatized over accidentally butchering it in college)!!
The banners of the enemy in battle were DESTROYED…taken down, burned, erased, because they LOST. They were BROKEN. The U.S. Military uses the phrase, “Loss of Colors,” meaning that when troops lost, their flag was captured by the enemy (remember playing, “capture the flag?”), so the losers had no banner to wave over them on their return to their base. They went back to their barracks in shame, unable to be identified by their people from a distance! There was no celebration, because no one could see them coming, because they LOST the FIGHT!!!!! The Banner of Jesus is Love, and Love is VICTORIOUS.
Jesus goes before us as an Advocate with the Father. He goes before us, before we go into judgment, and He stakes His claims by identifying us as His own…by proclaiming His Love for us over all. Song of Solomon 2:4 says He leads us to the banqueting table–that’s a place only the victors are welcome to be. Losers don’t get to feast. We are His Beloved, regardless of the state we’re in. We’re His treasured, and we get to celebrate with His banner over us, leading us into the party, leading us into freedom without judgement…leading us away from sadness, from desolation, and from failure.
When you take a look at Biblical family structure, and you throw that picture of an oppressive, encompassing umbrella away and replace it with the idea of a banner, you open up a world of hope and of possibility. You throw away judgement, and you walk under a banner of love and freedom–no ceilings, and nothing holding you back from embracing everything He has to offer: Peace, rest, and eternity with Him. There are no limits to the love of Jesus, and there is no limit to how He embraces His children….
So, that’s Part One of redefining so-called Biblical family structure. I’m starting at the top, and I’m building a foundation of identity. When you start to rethink this thing, and you start to reidentify as a free Child of the King, as a Child that wears His Name, you start to see that your concepts of this structured, cookie-cutter, Martha-Stewart fantasy life of picket-fence perfection does not have to hold you back. You don’t have to be valued or categorized by your gender in the home, or by whether or not you’ve procreated, or by whether or not you bring home the bacon, or run the household. Don’t get it twisted–Jesus values gender, and I’ll get there. He loves us and He created us as men and as women, and we each have multiple roles to play in our families…but one is NOT better than the other, and one is not oppressively looming over the other, nor sycophantically fetching the coffee for the other. As spiritual beings, our spiritual lives take precedent over our physical bodies, so once we understand His love for who we are, and for how we draw near to Him, then we can discuss boys and girls, their physical/mental differences, and how those best equip us for various roles in the home. If you go into rethinking Biblical family values and you focus on the physical (boys vs. girls, for example), you’re already starting off on the wrong foot.
We start with Jesus. We start with His Love, because it’s Who He is. And we go from there.
Let’s throw the umbrella away.
Let’s run together under His banner of love.
To be continued….
*Note: I’m writing this from my own mind, my own prayers, and my own research. Occasionally, I’ll come across a resource that I like or dislike, or that I feel is worthy of note. I’ll usually link such things in the blog, but this deserves a separate shout-out. I found this after I was 3/4 of the way through writing this:
Seminary-types as a rule tend to freak me out, because I sort of feel like once someone’s gotten to that level of academia, their brain gets bigger than their spirit, and they start waxing uber-philosophical. However, I enjoyed reading this, and I plan on digging a bit deeper…
Luke 12:2-3 “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.”
Everything in darkness will be brought into the Light…isn’t that an Obvious Truth that we should all be familiar with by now? We get away with NOTHING in the end…or sometimes, in the middle.
When I was a kid, I swore that God had some kind of hotline to my mother. She KNEW, not from the look on my face, but by the tone of my voice, if I’d lied about something. It was the craziest thing, and now, as a parent, I get it. We know our kids better than they realize. Yesterday, I picked my 4-year old up from school, and he said in a little, panicky voice, “Have you talked to Miss Leslie?!?” I hadn’t, but I didn’t need to, did I? I knew from the look on his face and the tone of his voice that he’d behaved badly (it couldn’t have been too bad, because she would have messaged me). He told me exactly what he’d done, because he knew I’d figure it out, eventually.
Society needs to get that point: It ALL gets figured out, eventually.
Headlines were made recently when our governor was outed as having had an extramarital affair back in 2015. He had already dealt with it internally with his family, but now the media had a hold of it, so it’s being excavated all over again. Apparently, the husband of the woman he had the affair with, was getting pestered by the media to dish the dirt, so he came out with the story, and now the governor has to address it…as does his wife. Even when we’ve been forgiven, sometimes the consequences come back years later to haunt us….
But should they?
The internet is full of headlines about men behaving badly (and some women). The #MeToo movement has grown wings, and women everywhere are coming forward with their stories of sexual harassment. Many of these are just that—stories—and cannot be corroborated as anything more than he-said-she-said. In fact, once an accusation is made, a career is seemingly over. This strikes me as overkill, but before you eviscerate me, let me explain:
Find me a woman on this planet that has never, EVER, had a man make an inappropriate comment toward her.
I don’t know of a single one, based on how far-reaching I’ve seen some of these stories.
Being forced into a physical encounter is one thing. Having a guy catcall you as you walk down the street is another. Both things are being labeled as “sexual assault,” and without any further explanations, accusing someone of such can be easily misconstrued.
As a young woman (in Bible college, of all things), I was nicknamed “Hoots” by a member of the basketball team, who felt the need to comment at any given opportunity about the size of my breasts. This was demeaning, rude, and embarrassing. Should I name him? Should I name every other guy who felt the need to comment about my body? Should I talk about the shame I felt? Should I talk about the confusion I had, wondering why in the world this was “acceptable” behavior? I guess I could. I guess I could track him down, I could track down the others, and file suit. I could write articles naming them, and bring them embarrassment and shame like they brought me. Would it be justified? Maybe?
It’s been 20 years since I was in college. Those guys have families. I have a family. I’m sure those guys are all different men, and if they’re not, well, that’s on them. God can take care of them. I’m not going to be their judge and jury, and forgiveness has long been issued. However, I can take that experience, and use it to educate my son (when he’s of age) that you don’t treat a woman that way. It’s a learning experience that is not lost on me as a mother of a boy.
Over the course of the past 2 years, I’ve gone to several people affiliated with my alma mater and discussed their culture of sexual harassment. My alma mater has repeatedly hid their head in the sand about several stories of harassment and assault. Rather than acknowledge the past, they’ve simply remarked that they will try and improve in the future. This is not the best solution, and I don’t accept that it’s “better than nothing.” However, I do believe that per the verse I quoted in the beginning of this blog, truth will out, and our stories will be told. Patience, as they say, is a virtue.
My point in sharing my stories with my alma mater has not been to punish the men in the past who made poor choices. The goal in sharing #MeToo with my college is to teach women that they do NOT have to wait 20 years to speak up against sexual harassment. They can speak NOW, and they do not need permission to do so. Leadership cannot harbor the people who do these things, be they male or female, and ignoring a culture of harassment encourages MORE harassment. I don’t feel that names need to be named, in the stories of 20 years ago. However, if that story from 20 years ago helps the girl who was groped by a student in the back of the classroom YESTERDAY to go to leadership and have the offender punished, then YES, tell your #MeToo and shout it from the rooftops. Stop making people feel ashamed for what others have done to them. It’s time to make the current harassers feel ashamed. It’s time to make the people who cover it up, feel ashamed. It’s time to STOP CREATING A CULTURE THAT SHAMES VICTIMS. It’s time to encourage people to speak up when they have been victimized, instead of 10, 15, 20, years later.
That being said, I do not believe sexual harassment is a reason to end someone’s career. I don’t feel that telling the story needs to be in such a way that a crime from 20 years ago ends a life that’s been built today, unless there is corroborated proof. Anyone can say someone did something from 20 years ago that affected your life. Naming names without proof, however, is a dangerous thing, and I think it’s something that is going to have some serious backlash. I can say that Joe Snow attacked me in a parking lot 20 years ago; I can publicly out him, but there is absolutely no shred of proof. It brands him; it makes him guilty until proven innocent, and I think as a society we need to be extremely careful in doing that with any kind of criminal. Joe Snow (not a real person, of course) might be a jerk. He might be a reformed family man. He might be any kind of a person, but he doesn’t deserve to be punished for a crime he may or may not have committed based on unsubstantiated words. Michael Douglas came forward recently, stating that he had been contacted by a reporter that wanted his comments regarding an accusation of sexual misconduct (that can be SO broad-sweeping, right?!?). He decided that rather than comment, he would come out and directly make a statement prior to the running of the original story. He stated the accusation, denied the accusation, and made some really great points in explaining his side of the story. Do you think anyone will hear HIM? Or will they see, “Michael Douglas” + “Sexual Harassment,” and make their choice that he’s a miscreant? It’s thin ice for the accused, and we have to be careful.
Again, I believe in sharing the stories of 2, 10, 15, 20 years ago. I do not necessarily believe in sharing the names, unless you have absolute proof of something that has been done. It’s far too easy to create this movement that’s full of unsubstantiated claims, and then cut off your own feet because of hyperbole. It’s what the #MeToo movement is in danger of. It’s a trending topic that should be much more than a trend, but without substantiation, that’s as far as it will go. It’s time to make real change, which can only come from facts.
People need to live in a culture of understanding that things done in secret will be brought to light. The harassment of 20 years ago will come to light. The affair of 2 years ago will be brought to light, whether you’re an ordinary person, or a governor, or a President. We live in an age of technology where everything is archived. Everything is accessible, we have a footprint, and it’s aaaaaaalllllll out there. Nothing is secret, and in today’s world, that’s truer than ever. We have to be accountable for our actions, and because God is Who He is, we have to be accountable to Him above all. Even without the cyberworld, God is God.
Jeremiah 23:24 “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the LORD “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD.
He sees us. We have to live an exemplary life, so that when the past tries to haunt us, there’s nothing there to trip us up. If there is, there’s forgiveness…but that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t consequences. Our dear Governor is seeing this truth today—he’s forgiven by his wife and by God, but the State of Missouri may not be so kind, and his reputation is tarnished.
He’s just like the rest of us. I don’t want my high school hijinks coming back to haunt me. I don’t want the inappropriate things I’ve said, to come back to haunt me. Could someone accuse me of inappropriate behavior? I don’t think so, but I guess in today’s world, anything is possible? We’re to live our lives in such a way that when such accusations come against us, they’re immediately disregarded, because of the standards by which we live. That’s a difficult thing to do, but in today’s world, it’s more necessary than ever. Daniel, in the Old Testament, lived a pretty great life as far as standards go: “Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.” Daniel 6:4
“No error or fault was found in him?!?!?!?!” No one could say he had any skeletons rattling around in his closet! That’s pretty amazing. That’s The Gold Standard. And that’s also where grace and mercy come in, for those of us that fall short.
There’s room for grace and mercy in the #MeToo movement. There’s room for awareness, for positive change, and for education. There’s room for FACTS in the #MeToo movement, and I encourage those that support the movement to reiterate the importance of such. My biggest hope for the movement is acknowledgement, education, and improvement….that boys and girls would be educated that they are valuable and worthy of respect…that we would learn the beauty of boundaries, and the sacredness of these bodies we live in. There’s more to the #MeToo movement than the media portrays, and it all starts with viewing ourselves as unique, amazing creations of a God Who values and loves us. Once you understand your worth, you understand that you are worthy of protection, and that those around you are worthy of honor…I want to see this restored in our young people. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit…we were created by a God Who loves us with all of His heart, who gave His only Son for us. We are individual reflections of Who He is.
I don’t want to be a #MeToo. I want to be an #IAm:
I Am loved by God.
I Am His unique creation.
I Am His child.
I Am who He made me to be.
And to that, I would like to hear an entire generation of young men and young women echo back, #MeToo.