Thursday, December 5, 2013

Good and Helpful?

My pastor, on reading a couple of entries to this blog a couple of months ago, asked me if this was good and helpful to me.  And here was my response:

"It has been helpful to me.  There's been an interesting dynamic all through my Christian walk that keeps cropping up, even from before I got saved... I've met so many people that feel like they can't be themselves "in church" and it has been my experience that many of us are very harsh with each other, very judgmental, and there's this fiction that telling someone something hurtful "in love" is actually some Biblical representation of accountability, when really it's just being hurtful and judgmental!

So when these situations have come up and I've shared my frustration or anger or hurt with someone, the answer has been an almost universal "ME TOO!" and everyone has a story about how THEY were also hurt this way or misunderstood, or received a message that they weren't measuring up to some totally ridiculous standard.  But until that "me too!" moment, we carry this stuff around feeling like we're the only outcasts.  Women especially are very nasty with each other about our life choices, wardrobe, children's behavior, whether or not we're working, marital status, whether or not we have kids, are divorced, swear, drink alcohol, laugh too loud, suffer from "bitchy resting face" (if you don't know what I'm referring to, tell me and I'll send you a HILARIOUS video), the list is really endless.

The most interesting thing about this to me is the almost universal "AMEN" that gets shouted when I finally start talking about this stuff.  I'm sure there are people to/for whom I do NOT speak, who really DO get offended to hear swearing or see alcohol in my home.  And to them I will try to moderate my speech and offer them tea, and we can find all kinds of other ways to relate to each other.

But there are THREE women that I've met just since coming back from Winnipeg who have chosen to keep coming to Mill Creek because they've overheard me chatting to one friend or another and they've heard my irreverent sense of humor or the occasional profanity in my language.  And I can totally relate to them because they feel "acceptable" with me because they feel like they can fit in.  As someone who struggled on the fringes of active church life for OVER TWO YEARS before getting saved, it's no surprise to me that there are others like me out there who WANT GOD but can't relate to CHURCH because we're all so stinking CLEAN.  Women especially play the comparison game CONSTANTLY, even women who have been walking with the Lord, serving in Ministry, given HUGE responsibility and are in real relationship feel as though we come up short when compared to "So and so".

So this does help me.  More importantly, I think I'm helping other people.  I hope that it's going to become more positive and less complaining, but wow, there's some real brokenness that needs to be brought out into the light so we can all sit and blink in the sun and realize we're not alone with these feelings.  We haven't even STARTED talking about SEX.  That's not even close to next.  The debate in my head is still raging over what might be next."

Obviously, since then, I DID talk about sex, and some other stuff too.  And then, about a month ago, I discovered and Glennon Melton Doyle, you are a wonderful inspiration to just admit it when life is hard.  And then a couple of days ago, I read this article about the lies we Christians tend to tell ourselves, and I was already considering that BOTH of these people seem to be processing their journeys with a lot more grace and a lot less frustration than I am.

Which begs the question... am I frustrated?  Angry?  Offensive?  And while I'm not really asking YOU, I would appreciate some (gentle!) honest feedback.  Yesterday's post got 168 hits and not a single comment.  Not one.  But the post on FB got 53 comments.  And my intention in starting this blog was to hear that "ME TOO!" and "AMEN!" that I hear in real life... but somehow with more traffic comes less conversation here.  If I'm really just shouting my opinion to the anonymous ether of the internet, then it's NOT "good and helpful" to me, it's just whining.

I AM frustrated with some of my church experience, but I keep going, and I choose to keep going because when I don't go, I miss it.  There's something significantly different between sitting at home or in my car listening to worship music and sometimes singing along (that's mostly in the car, and almost not at all in December since the Christian stations turn into Christmas music 24/7 and I'd rather hang out in the mall with a fork for a public meeting with my own eyes) and GOING TO CHURCH.  Having and sharing in the human experience of following where my worship leader leads me.  Learning to drown out The Sisters Shouting Verily and Miss Pitching Philippians so I can get in tune with what God hears when we sing to Him.

And the message is usually really great.  We are seriously blessed with a great pastor with a servant's heart who is well read, intelligent and very deeply caring about what he teaches, how his message impacts our community, and about the people in his life that he gets to be in relationship with.  I even feel free to disagree with him, because he encourages us to think for ourselves, search our own hearts and take stuff up with the Lord directly, because he doesn't claim to know it all and have it all figured out.

I regularly learn something new.  I'm sure he is very disappointed that I don't take notes and break out my Bible more often to read along, but these days I have to break out the glasses to read anything closer than my laptop and I don't like the snobby look I get when I'm peering over them to follow him so I don't have to juggle putting them on and taking them off every 12 seconds... so that's what THAT's about there, my dear pastor.  I've seen what it looks like on film, and it's the stuff of elementary students' nightmares.  I'm saving you from the insecurity of wondering if you're getting sent to the office because THAT is the look I get while trying to negotiate the over/through glasses maneuver.

So I guess my question to you is really his question to me: Is this good and helpful to you?  Because if I'm just whining with an audience, I'd rather not.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Something to Think About

I received the following message last night on FaceBook:

"I wanted to let you know that I am deleting you from my facebook page. I am finding that your habitual use of profanity that appears on my facebook page is just more than I want to read. I do not feel that it is edifying in any way. While you are free to talk in the manner you choose I likewise am free not to read it. Have you ever thought about it appears to those who you profess to be a Christian to and then use that terminology? The following scripture comes to mind..Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Is your language pure and of good repute? Something to think about."

Exit the barracuda from the post about prayer… and my FaceBook self heaved a TREMENDOUS sigh of relief.  Because you know what? This woman had continued to be a burr in my backside, and I found myself REGULARLY censoring myself because I didn’t want to provoke some bullshit drama. 

So I was vastly relieved to go to her profile page, find myself “unfriended” and just go through the little three-click process to block her altogether.  What a relief.  So then I sat with it for a few minutes, and thought about it, and reviewed my posts from the past few days, and wondered what crawled up her bonnet, because things on my PG-13 page had been pretty tame for awhile… Sure, I’d posted a link to some handheld scanner thingy that will analyze your food or whatever you point it at to reassure me that there are in fact, no jalapenos present (and since it is COOL SHIT, I labeled it as such); and earlier in the day I’d reposted a funny ad for an apartment for rent where their dog was stealthily photo-bombing EVERY SINGLE PICTURE and someone else had what appeared to be a prescient moment and commented: “He's an attention-hog. I'd call it something more vulgar and it might be funny if I did so, but I have no idea who reads your FB.” To which I replied: “well, it's safe to say that anyone who reads my FB is anyone who's already "exposed" to ME, so "attention-SLUT" is perfectly acceptable language in my PG-13 page.” My friend countered with: “I was thinking more the "w" word, but there ya go.” To which, I HAD to respond with: “"whore"? That one is in the Bible!” (WHICH IT IS… SIXTY-FIVE TIMES in the (uptight) King James Version HERE.)

Otherwise, it was Sheila Walsh’s status about being loved by God, a Brene Brown quote about faith, some (required!) kitten pictures, my dinner from the night before… pretty normal FB stuff, especially considering the weather has turned cold recently and the Seahawks kicked BUTT on Monday night… so I was just doing my part to give FB feeds everywhere some variety!

Regardless: while I do maintain that my FaceBook page and content is pretty PG-13, I don’t want to just be flat out offensive for the sake of being offensive.  It should at least be funny or at the very least therapeutic.  So I sought to take the temperature of the rest of the people that read my posts, and updated my status to this:

“It would appear that something I posted on FB cost me a "friend" today. It's probably either the one with the dog photo-bombing the apartment pictures or the one with the food scanner from a little later... can't quite figure out which one, though probably BOTH, but TODAY was apparently the final straw, because my constant string of profanities on her wall is too much for her to handle. So instead of just hiding me from her news feed, or applying a social filter to replace any posts containing words she finds offensive with pictures of kittens or whatever, I got a passive-aggressive message complete with the scripture from Philippians (presumably to lead me to repentance, as if we were in that kind of relationship to begin with!) making sure I KNEW I was being "removed". Thanks for saving me the effort of a confrontation down the road, "friend". Nice to know where we all stand from time to time. And a lovely way to end an evening. SMH. Some people.”

So then I got some encouragement from some friends and felt better, and I linked to the blog post here on swearing, and then the comments took an interesting turn all on their own.  I started hearing from friends from all walks of life; Christians from my church, Christians from other flavors of church, Mormons, Agnostics, Christians who have abandoned church altogether, an atheist, a nihilist… and a partridge in a pear tree… and the consensus basically is that it is not okay to dump and run like that.  Especially using scripture and in the Name of Christ, effectively.  Which begs the question of how effective IS my witness, when apparently even people who thoroughly disagree with my faith are sticking up for me in the face of Bible-bashing drive-bys!?

Anyway, I eventually came to the conclusion that she was looking for offense, and had clearly had something brewing for some time.  Since I’d just seen her in church on Sunday morning and she chose not to say anything to my FACE, I think it’s fair to say that drama llamas are as drama llamas DO.  Enter my dear husband and his passion about hypocrisy (there’s a reason we’re married, y’all): Matthew 5:22-26

“Yeah, the sad thing is that for some 'Christians', it's less important to take the time to know what's in a person's heart and more important to react to the surface. I know that's a bit harsh and uncharitable, but Jesus talked far more about things like character assassination and gossip then he ever did about what a person says. Not that it isn't important, but if you look at the sermon on the mount, it was important enough that he stated THREE TIMES that it's as important what you feel in your heart as what you do in your actions, and that they're the same. So getting bent because someone uses the 'f-bomb' when language is all about cultural context and intent as opposed to some bullshit arbitrary rules then I would encourage said person to examine their own heart, and pull the fucking log out of their own eye. I know my own are big enough.” – The Hubster. ;)

Which brings me (finally!) to my point: while CLEARLY this was not an example of “speaking the truth in love” there is this prevailing philosophy within our church culture that we are somehow bonded to each other and by showing up in the same building on a regular basis, this somehow gives us the right to not only form an opinion of what we think other people are doing in their lives, but somehow there is communicated that there is a responsibility to correct each other or hold each other accountable when we think they’re getting it wrong.

I believe whole-heartedly in the importance of accountability relationships.  I am a firm proponent of iron sharpening iron, I’ve also noticed that it causes some sparks!  But I do NOT think that I am in an accountability relationship with EVERY SINGLE OTHER PERSON WHO CLAIMS SALVATION IN THE NAME OF JESUS.  I think we get to CHOOSE who we want to be accountable to, in as much as it’s in our power to do so.  Clearly, we are to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s; obey the laws of the land and pay our taxes; wear our seatbelts and don’t drive under the influence.  Beyond that level of just functioning as a contributing member of society, if I’m in an accountability relationship with someone, it’s because we have both chosen to behave that way.  I’m accountable to my pastor, because I’ve chosen to attend the church that he leads as Senior Pastor.  I’m accountable to my Pastor of Women’s Ministries, because I’m a woman who gets ministry at this church where we are members.  I am accountable to my close friends because I have asked them to hold me accountable, and vice versa; and not even in all things with everyone… But Miss Pitching Philippians is just some other schmuck on the other end of the aisle in front of me singing loudly, an octave up from everyone else and half a beat behind… I don’t think she’s qualified to preach into my life because she’s NOT BEEN INVITED.

Let’s be clear on something else… this is not our first rodeo either.  While we were stuck in that Bible Study group together (the prayer post one), I tried to at least relate to her a little outside of the group so that she would hopefully spend less energy (and time!) IN the group trying to “fix” me.  She asked to be added to my FB friends list, and I added her, grudgingly.  And when my health continued to be a challenge, I got to spend far too many hours stuck at home on the sofa with my laptop feeling cut off from the world, so often my “How are you feeling?” status prompt would actually reflect how I was feeling… which led to the barrage of ADVICE from her.  Which then seemed to open the floodgates to everyone else that ever thought they had something worthwhile to share with my bizarre illness; and then all of a sudden, even my tiny FB social outlet wasn’t a safe place anymore.  

So I sent her a private message asking her to please stop posting advice and opinions on my health on FB, and if she had something to share, to feel free to send me a private message (she was a health professional once upon a time after all, she’s not completely full of shit ALL THE TIME), but to just give me a “like” or a “miss you” or a “praying” or something totally generic to stop the avalanche of advice that would inevitably follow.  And she immediately unfriended me, blocked me, and sent me an email with the least sorry apology for offending me I’ve ever heard and assurances that I’d never hear from her again.  Holy Overreacting, Batman!

So the rest of this is probably somewhat my fault I guess.  Because that’s not what I’d asked for.  I didn’t tell her to go fuck herself, even though she was practically BEGGING me to.  And frankly, I was too sick to put a bunch of energy into fixing something that wasn’t really my problem anyway.  Until this summer, when I got home from Dad’s funeral and everything, and the dust settled a little, and I ran into her at church.  So I tried to just mend fences a little, and she STORMED the beaches man.  Holy crap, like seriously unbalanced zero boundaries kinda stuff.  So it’s not really surprising that she has developed a head of steam over something and decided to crap all over me.  It’s sad that she’s so miserable that she needs to crap all over someone occasionally.

And finally, here’s the rest of my response to the actual passage of Philippians: Matthew 15:7-11, 17-20
“7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,    
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’[c]”
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
I know, Jesus was specifically talking about eating unclean food.  It has also been known to apply to the same circumstances she was trying to rebuke me over, it can be argued that swearing is in similar lists elsewhere in the Bible.  But what really speaks to me in this section is that out of the heart come evil thoughts, and the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart.  So if she were to attend to the log in her own eye (Matthew 7:3), she ought to be more concerned about how much she’s dwelling on MY language, and on the condition of her OWN heart.

“Something to think about.” INDEED.


This was a very popular post on my FB wall today.