Tuesday, October 15, 2019

On Rape and Slaughtered Lambs

I was reading this morning yet another powerful article about King David and what we have heard called for forever it seems as his "adultery" and how this "adultery" was, in fact, rape. This article brings to the forefront the very destruction of the abuse of power.

I was reminded again of when the prophet Nathan comes to David and tells him the story. There was a  rich man with a whole ton o' sheep and there was a poor man with one lamb. He nurtured and cared for this one lamb and loved this one lamb dearly.

Some dude comes through town and the rich man wants to serve him so instead of choosing a lamb from his own ample supply, he takes the one lamb from the poor man to serve up to his guest.

This is where the story of the lamb ends. Nathan tells the dim-bulb David "You are that man" and David falls down weeping and cries that he has sinned against God. That is where the story ends for us.  We are taught that ll sin is sin against God. Poor Uriah was the poor man whose sheep was stolen from him.

But the lamb? We don't hear about the lamb. It is almost like the lamb didn't matter. Like so many victims of abuse don't matter.

But I stopped and thought about the lamb. The lamb was taken. The lamb was used to satisfy the appetite of another.

The lamb was slaughtered.


She was a lamb that was slaughtered. Those who are abused by power and by appetites, those are lambs that are slaughtered.

Jesus knows. He gets it. Because he was the Lamb that was slaughtered.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

On Casseroles and Private Pain

Making its way around Facebook is an incredible article called The Casserole Rules which talks about the unspoken rules, so deeply ingrained, which determine what crisis warrants support. Or at least warrants a vat of lasagna or that steaming pan of chicken, rice and broccoli glop that everybody makes and nobody has a name for.

Death. Sickness. A new baby. Maybe a bad car accident or even a house fire. Public pain. Shameless pain. Polite pain. When these things happen, the troops rally and the fridges and freezers fill. Nobody goes hungry. Nobody goes it alone.

But what happens when the husband leaves or a child goes AWOL? What happens when the wave of depression comes crushing down and you can't get out of bed? What happens when you have to spend time and money and more emotional resources than you even thought you had in the lawyer's office? The therapist's office? The pastor's office? More often than not there is silence. No acknowledgement. No support. And certainly no casseroles.

I remember this well in my own life when my father left. There was no public acknowledgement of his leaving. No obituary of the marriage. No neighbors rallying around. No extended family rushing in. Because of the shame surrounding the whole thing we weren't even allowed to tell but one or two people from the time he left until 3 months later when the divorce was final. It was a death with no grieving. A burial done alone.

In the 1990s Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control conducted a study looking into the correlation between childhood trauma and health problems across the lifespan and the association is staggering. They pulled together a list of 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and your ACE score is an indicator of your risk for all sorts of issues well into adulthood. You get one point for each "yes" to the following questions:

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
  2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
  3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
  4. Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
  5. Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
  6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
  7. Was your mother or stepmother:
    Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
  8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
  9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?      
  10. Did a household member go to prison?
When I first read these questions I found it baffling that the death of a parent or sibling was not included. Or a major accident or perhaps a natural disaster. A dear friend had just lost her husband and I was well aware of the intense pain and trauma that she and her children were going through. The explanation is that the list comprises the most common traumas of childhood mentioned in the survey. But I think there is something else to it as well. The Casserole Rule.

Death and accidents and natural disasters are one time incidents that garner much social support. But look at the above list. These are all private traumas. Ongoing traumas. Shame-filled traumas. Traumas nobody wants to talk about. Traumas that, if talked about, make the conversation uncomfortable. And that is part of what makes them so very damaging. That a child enduring these kinds of traumas must do so alone. 

I don't have an answer, really. I wish we could talk about things. About the hard things we face or have faced in the past. I wish people didn't get so uncomfortable about it all. Shuffle their feet and laugh under their breath and change the subject. Or worse, put a smiley face on it. Tell you to be thankful. Pat you on the head. Find a way to tell you what you should have done. Or lob a scripture bomb your way. 

I wish that divorce, abuse, depression, wayward children, addiction, job loss, bankruptcy, special needs children got the same support as the more public and polite traumas. 

Perhaps it starts with being able to share these hard things in life openly, without fear of judgment or scorn. 

How can we do better? 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

More Than I Can Handle

“I just said, ‘Listen God, if you don’t give people things they can’t handle, I’m just going to say I can’t handle this, so please handle this,’” she says.
“I had this very frank conversation with God saying, ‘I’m just going to turn over this situation to You, and I’ll work as hard as I can in whatever way You can guide me, but there’s no one else I can turn to in this situation.’”

These aren't my words. They belong to Jeannie Gaffigan, wife of comedian Jim Gaffigan. She said these words to God after the diagnosis of a pear-sized brain tumor. I read these yesterday. They stuck with me. This morning I had a conversation with God and used these words myself.

Now, as far as I know, I don't have a pear-sized brain tumor, though it might be a better explanation for my overall forgetfulness, inability to focus, and brain fog than my current belief, that there is a starving weasel inside my head gobbling my brain cells, or the most likely possibility, that those damn hormones are to blame for it all.

No, I am not staring a huge, life-threatening BIG THING, the way Jeannie was. But nevertheless, I am overwhelmed by so many of the smaller things and yet things that I cannot handle. My heart aches with the stress, confusion, challenges and struggles of my adult children, as they work to find their way. I want to be there as a stable and safe place for my granddaughter. I want so badly to serve the often complex needs of my clients well. As I transition to a new company, I want to learn the ropes with confidence (not in large supply) and competence (do I have that either?). I wrestle with this middle-age stage of life where I question what I have done and what I should do and why I am here and why do I feel like it is all over (am I all washed up?) when I could quite reasonably live another 35-40 years, given my genetics. The more stress I am under, the harder it is to fight off the internal prosecutor who tells me I am a failure and turns the mirror into a reflection from the House of Horrors. And sometimes it seems like there are things knocking to bust out of the Pandora's Box of my past. Things I just don't think I have the time or the energy or the focus to deal with, but things that are screamer louder and louder to not be ignored. And over all that is my wrestling with God. With who he is and what he expects from me and is he really there at all and why does everything churchy make my skin crawl and my stomach turn?

So this morning I told God it was all just too much. I could never handle a brain tumor. But I can't handle all of this either. So I am asking God to handle this, please. Please. I'm not sure, but I think he heard me.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

They Say

They say not to throw the baby out with the bathwater but sometimes the bathwater has become so thick with filth and slime and chunks of refuse and sometimes the baby is so covered with the mud and mire that he is more swamp monster than baby. Sometimes you can't find the baby at all in the foul-smelling, toxic stew. And so sometimes you have to dump it all out, mud, baby and all, and begin the rinsing and the cleaning. Slowly. Gently. Until you see a baby again. A baby who was born to give sight to the blind and bring justice to the oppressed, to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds, to feed the poor and heal the sick and raise the dead.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

On Deconstruction

The idea of the deconstruction of faith has been buzzing around the interwebs for quite some time but it came to the forefront recently when homeschool world hero turned pastor turned seminary student Josh Harris announced not only that he and his wife are separating but that he no longer considers himself a Christian. Weeping and gnashing of teeth and all sorts of name calling and finger pointing have ensued.

While nobody but God knows exactly where Josh Harris is and where he will end up regarding his faith, many people I know, myself included, have or are in the process of deconstructing their faith.

I want to say this for the record, lest some get up in arms: deconstruction is not the same as destruction.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines deconstruction as the act of breaking something down into its separate parts in order to understand its meaning, especially when this is different from how it was previously understood."

For many of us, that is precisely what we have been doing.

I've likened it before to the process of cleaning out my purse. When it gets so heavy and overloaded and I can't reach in to grab my keys without jamming my fingers into a pile of exploded ink goo or a melted Hershey Kiss, I have to dump everything out, determine just what I need, and put back only the essentials.

Or think of it like this:

A house on our street has a super steep and quite dangerous set of stairs to the basement, making the prospect of carrying a basket of laundry, much less a wiggly toddler, down the stairs rather terrifying. The new owners are fixing this and in order to do so they have to tear out the existing stairs. Demolition is loud and messy and has resulted in a big-ass pile of debris but it is absolutely necessary before they can build the new, safer set of stairs.

Some of us are just now starting the demo process. Some of us are busy slinging crowbars and sledgehammers. Some of us are watching as the storms of life do the demo for us. Some of us are sitting, dazed, on a pile of debris, too exhausted to move. And some of us are getting a vision for what our faith can and should look like and are starting the building process.

This process isn't pretty and can take time. We can lose hope and feel like heretics. But I believe that we all have a responsibility to ourselves and before God to examine who we are and what we believe and why we believe what we do. God isn't threatened by this. He gives us the freedom to work these things out. We shouldn't feel threatened either.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Online Shopping and the Memory Pouch

Lately I've been scrolling through the websites of those ads that float through Facebook, looking for a dress. I'm not really sure why I'm looking for a dress as I don't have a lot of occasions to wear a dress, but they look so nice and airy and I picture myself in one and it makes me happy, so I scroll anyway.

I saw a dress I liked today and then I asked myself, "But would that dress accentuate my Memory Pouch?" My Memory Pouch is the lump that my husband and I have decided to affectionately call that area of my front between my belly button and the nether regions. It's that bump...you know, the thing that looks like a fanny pack but isn't because it is part of you? The thing that might make some brave and/or clueless people ask if you are expecting but they won't because they know you're not because you have grey hair and wrinkles and sag in places. Yes, that place. We call it the Memory Pouch because when you have spent 55 years on this planet you have a lot of life and a lot of memories to store somewhere and, if you are like me, your brain sure as hell ain't doin' it.

Anyway, my reflexive response to seeing this dress was how would I look in it? And all you ladies know this. That those models are all 5'9" with thin, gangley bodies, no hips, and certainly no Memory Pouches. So it is hard to tell if I could pull off such a dress or would look like a sleeping bag poorly rolled into its stuff bag.

Then it hit me. When I see a woman with a perfect body, especially a woman my age or older with a perfect body, I feel a total disconnect. They aren't like me. They must have it together. They must have more discipline. More time. More energy. More something that I ain't got. And I step back and step away.

I remember one day watching Chopped. I hate cooking and I love watching Chopped. It doesn't make sense to me either. Well, after years of watching Chopped I have found that I really admire the women chefs who serve as judges. During this particular episode the judges themselves were competing with each other. Now they were no longer talking torsos behind the judges panel but full bodies, rushing, and chopping, and cooking. And I noticed that the chefs like Alex Guarnaschelli and Amanda Freitag, though both gorgeous in any estimation, had normal looking bodies. They weren't supermodels with killer culinary skills. And this may sound strange to you and maybe I am just weird like this but for some reason the fact that these highly esteemed, awesome, beautiful women had ordinary bodies gave me permission to have an ordinary body, too.

Those who spend any time reading my posts on Facebook or my blog posts know that I feel things intensely and have some pretty strong (an understatement that would make my husband snicker) convictions and one of my convictions is that the unrealistic expectations regarding women and physical beauty must change. I have realized that I cannot be simultaneously caving to these standards and trying to change them at the same time. That is why I no longer color my hair (and, yes, people now assume that I am older than my older sister).

Back to the dress and the Memory Pouch. What if I bought a dress I really loved and I let my Memory Pouch do its thing? What if the obvious presence of my Memory Pouch makes another woman feel more normal? More acceptable? What if having an ordinary body gives somebody else permission to have an ordinary body, too? Then it is all worth it. Bring on the dresses!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Mother Love

When I was a young mother, the emphasis in parenting was all on training. Training your kids to do things. Training them to work hard. To do chores. To obey the first time. And cheerfully at that. I failed terribly on most of these fronts.

The emphasis was on structure. "Kids need structure," I was told again and again and again as I shrugged when asked about naps and meals and bedtime schedules and rituals. I wasn't so good at structure.

The push was always on performance. Either theirs or mine. A woman called me one day to ask how I got my kids to make up their beds neatly every morning. Her children were 2 and 3 and struggling to keep up with the program and she was baffled. Why on earth she thought I would have a solution, I'll never know.

Babies were supposed to be able to fall asleep alone and self-soothe. Kids were supposed to learn responsibility and competence and independence. I knew kids who, by age 10, were capable enough to run a small country.

What I never heard was how important it was to just flat out love on your kids. To nurture them. Rock them. Sing them to sleep. Listen to their fears. Rub their backs. Laugh with them inside their forts made of appliance boxes. Cry with them. And love them no matter what.

In Without a Map, Meredith Hall tells the story of a friend who gives blood every time there is a blood drive. When she tells her friend how generous this is her friend responds, "I only go because I need the mothering so much. It feels good to be touched. The nurses are kind and make me feel loved."

This breaks my heart that there is an adult woman out there who so desperately needs someone to nurture her, even for a few minutes, that she has to seek it out at the local Red Cross.

Mothers, love on your kids. Even when they make a mess or fail a test (even when they could have done better) Love on your kids when they make you proud and when they embarrass the heck out of you. When they grumble and grunt at you or roll their eyes. Love on them when they come home pregnant or come out of the closet. Be there for them. Be their safe place. Give it to them while you can. Love on your kids.

Nobody should have to go to the Red Cross to get mothered.