Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ready, Set, Collide

She said, "The dangerous thing about that mindset is that it projects fear onto outside forces, when in reality, the demons are inside us." 

Have you ever heard just one line of poetry, one piece of advice, one song lyric, one aphorism that rearranges the whole system of your thoughts?

The quote above, courtesy of my therapist, did just that for me.

I was going through an excruciating breakup, trying to get a grip on my newly-identified anxiety and depression, and to top it all off, dealing with that phase of growing pains right between adolescence and adulthood.  I wanted to be independent and make my own decisions, but at the same time adult life was already hurting me, and I was afraid of it. I was pretty much ready to hide under my blankets and never come out.

Instead, I was sitting in her office on a red couch that was trying so hard to be comfortable that it almost swallowed me, pouring out my woes as casually as possible and trying not to reach for the very obviously placed box of tissues. I didn't have the right to cry. I was 20, I believed in God, I had a loving family, I shouldn't need to have an emotional breakdown.  My life should be under control.

She was good at noticing all those "shoulds" that have consumed me for years. I absorb them everywhere.  I existed half in a world of cookie-cutter Christians that all went from homeschooling to Catholic colleges (except me) and had strong opinions about what kind of clothes and music were appropriate in churches, and half in a hectic family of eight dealing with the death of a grandfather and two male toddlers who had no low-volume setting. It was a hot mess, so I knew I couldn't be one, too. There was no room for my inconvenient needs or mistakes. The fact that I even had to be here made me a failure; I had messed myself up badly enough to need special treatment.

I explained to her how I had taken the risk of dating someone from outside the "fortress" of the Catholic homeschool community despite their skepticism, and the whole thing had fallen apart, making me doubt my own judgement and feel the need for childlike reliance on my parent's wisdom more than ever. I explained that as frustrating as it was, the most obvious course of action for me was to try to forget my pain ever happened and retreat back into the safe zone under the protection and guidance of other smarter, holier people.

She listened with this intent, almost frowning look on her face, nodding slowly. Then it was her turn.

"I used to homeschool my kids," she started. "And I met some very good people with good intentions, but I couldn't help but feel out of place once I put my kids in public school. Because you're right, that culture tends to be very fear-based and the dangerous thing about that mindset is that it projects fear onto outside sources when in reality the demons are inside us."

She was right. I may be confused about where I'm going. I may not be safe.  I may be messed up. I still deal with a lot of the problems I brought to her on a daily basis, but I refuse to die inside yet. I also refuse to believe that hiding under the blankets will solve it. I learned from Lecrae Moore that "You can't be part of the healing process if you run away at the sight of blood." I learned from Miguel de Unamuno that "una fe que no duda es una fe muerta." (Translation: Faith that does not doubt is dead faith.) I learned from Pope Francis that a church soiled by the mud of the streets is preferable to a church suffocated by staying isolated indoors (Evangelii Gaudium, paraphrase).  I learned from myself that the only way to survive the world and still have a heart at the end is to collide head-on with it. That's why I chose the title of this blog. I write because I am outgrowing my hiding places and I am trying to bring you out into the open with me before I let my demons kill me.

Hiding from imperfection is not avoiding evil; it's avoiding redemption. 

Choosing not to say anything when you know your friend is struggling is hiding from redemption. Giving up on forgiving someone after what they did hits you in the heart for the seventeenth time is hiding from redemption. Shutting down your blog because you feel like you say the same thing over and over and no one gets it (including you yourself) is hiding from redemption. Working your butt off so that you don't have to think about how much pain you're in is hiding from redemption. Holding yourself to an inhuman standard of perfection so that you never have to admit you're afraid God doesn't love you is hiding from redemption. Not allowing yourself to cry in front of people who seem to have it together is hiding from redemption. Spending time exclusively with an elite group of Christians who put up the same facade you do is hiding from redemption. Assuming you already know how God feels about you or about anyone else is hiding from redemption.

What God Actually Wants 101 (Don't get mad this is from the Bible not me okay): 

Person who dresses correctly, follows rules, gives donations, offers knowledge to others, surrounds self with like-minded individuals, is easily offended by sin, makes self useful, reads scripture and proclaims it to others= "brood of vipers."

Person who hurts self and others, doesn't understand rules, is cast out by community, asks for help, feels inconvenient, blames self before others, appears to be wasting time or resources, deserves to be punished, publicly admits shortcomings= literally all the people Jesus had meaningful and healing interactions with. 

This is why I don't understand God.  In fact I think most of us don't, especially the ones who grow up thinking we do-- like me. I am at a point in my life where I'm not really sure I know who God is or what He wants, because I'm finding out it is often the opposite of what I would attribute to him. I still assume I know. I still hurt people. I still don't take care of myself. I still hold grudges and neglect responsibilities and want my own way. And I still hide under my blankets.  I know I said that wasn't the answer, but I still do it.

The Catholic Church celebrates Holy Week this week, which is a week about not hiding from something terrible. This is when Catholics remember that Jesus was convicted of criminal activity, tortured and publicly executed by the Roman Empire at the request of those brood-of-viper-people, and then somehow miraculously was seen alive three days later.  They say that all happened because He thought it was important for you to know He doesn't like those perfect people any better than you. There's even an indication that He still loves you even though He knows about all those things you did and why you did them. But that's not my business or your mother's business or your boyfriend's business or even the Pope's business. That's between you and Him to determine whether it's true.

Honestly you don't need me to tell you why you're hurting or which part of you needs fixing or what the solution is. The real demons aren't out here in the world somewhere for me to pin down and write away. They're the ones you already know really well because you are dealing with them right now as you read. You might call them sins or addictions or bad habits or maybe illnesses or heartbreaks or failures. They're not all your fault, but they are still yours. You probably hate them more than anything in the world, when you slow down enough to feel their presence.

If you can relate to any of this, I'm sorry I can't destroy them for you but I'm here for you. I'm still trying instead of caving to anxiety and doubt and depression because of you, because I want to prove to myself and the world that we misfits are loved. We are the ones who are called the children of God-- whether we like it or not. We are the ones who Redemption is happening for. And it--He--doesn't need you to do this thing properly.

He wants you, ready or not, to collide with His messy, crazy love. That's the only way He ever uses to bring things back to life, and if it breaks you, he is strong enough to pick up the pieces.

That is the God I believe in.

The Forgiveness Myth

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