I need Jesus in a stable not on a stage

Every part of me is struggling.

Every part. I thought that leaving our church of twelve years would be good.

Healthy.

I was listening to what God was telling me to do. I was listening to the wrestling in my heart for over a year now and I was sure this was how I was to obey. So I did.

I left. We left. We said our goodbyes and started on a new path.

What I didn’t realize was that this struggle was only the beginning.

This journey is lonely. This limbo feeling. This in between, of being let go of where you were, and not connected to where God is leading you to be.

With questions all along the way.

It is a quiet and lonely place to be.

When you see things from a different view, but no one wants to invite themselves into that conversation. Between what is being said and what is not, is a space of angst and confusion.

So you follow God and meet Jesus there.

He has always been safer for me. Jesus.

The Jesus at the well.

He is where I feel I can bring every distrust and broken part of me.

The parts where the sadness and hesitations intertwine.

He is where my feet are bare waiting to be washed.

And my soul is thirsty for truth.

I find myself at the well lately. Asking questions and finding a soft calm for my unsettled heart.

I stay there.

Most days now I stay and just listen to him whisper who I was, is not who I am. He reminds me that this wrestling in my heart is not with him it is with the church.

What is happening is not how he intended it to be.

He reminds me that the peace I long for came in a stable, not a production Sunday morning.

The peace that I long for came quietly. Gently.

I plead with him to breathe new life into my heart. A heart that aches and mourns.

A heart that pulls away and longs to be close again.

So I am gentle with myself as he teaches me new things. He leads me back to routine and the healing that comes in the memories of the prayers prayed as a child.

This space. This in between is a hard place to be.

I don’t think I am the only one here. In the between. The space where you want to ask questions and listen for answers. The space where you want your voice to be heard without being silenced by status. The space where you feel safe enough to show your heart without it being shunned by authority.

This space. The space where the broken and bruised are healed. The space where the thirsty souls are fed. The space where your questions are welcomed and heard. The space where grace meets you at the door. The space where the wounded tell the stories of their scars. The space where truth is set free.

The space where Jesus is.

That is the space I long to be.

What Donald Miller taught me.

I read an article not too long ago by Donald Miller. He was exploring the idea of who we would be in five years is in direct correlation to who we actually spend our time with now.

His perspective was not only convicting but revealing in how I lived and how I choose to live now.

I ache for community. I have since I was little. I wanted to know that I belonged.That I mattered.

I was the oldest of the five children and like a million cousins so I always had people around me. Yet at times felt like the loneliest girl in the room.

As I got older I would surround myself with those that had the same desires and likes as I did. Even though they were not healthy or sustainable I still felt a sense of belonging there. We tend to flock to those that will keep our dysfunction functioning. So that is where I stayed.

Throughout my twenties I was a young mom who had no idea how to birth a human much less parent. Unless parenting meant finding the cutest outfits at Baby GAP and then dressing all of my children the same, then I guess I nailed it.

I was so consumed at the time with all of the loss in my life that I paid no attention to who I was spending my time with. I remember being drawn to people who were older than me and somehow knew what they were doing. But I did not have many friends who were the same age as me. Probably because they were still in grad school or serving in the peace core. Who am I kidding they were following around Pearl Jam and Lilth Fair.

In my thirties I found faith. Or more like faith found me. I had three little ones at home, had just quit my full time job and had never felt less of who I was. A mom at school had asked me to go a meeting at a church where other moms sat around a table and cried about exploding diarrhea and Jesus. I was more interested in the diaper situation than Jesus but I kept coming back.

That was a game changer.

This Jesus thing.

I began to realize that who I wanted to spend my time with acted nothing like who I used to be. They were by far not uppity Christian soap box people. They were more like “ I will wash your feet and then have a beer with you people”.

Through the years I have not always decided who I wanted to spend my time with. Circumstances and apathy decided it for me. It wasn’t until I realized that who I wanted to be was in direct correlation to who was around me.

If who we want to be in five years is determined by who we spend our time with now, then who will you be?

Are you surrounding yourself with people who are arrogant and self-absorbed? Are you having playdates with moms who are consumed with every thought and action of their child? Are you going out with those who are rude to waitresses and those around them? Are you friends with those that make racist and sexist remarks? Are you consumed with your work that you forget your family at home? Are you choosing to be with those that make judgmental statements like it’s their job?

The other day I was not having a good day. At the time I could not pin point exactly what was wrong but I felt so off. One of my best friends sent a group text and asked us to name three things we were grateful for.

I was in no mood to be Pollyanna that day. I wanted to stay in my pity party and invite everyone else to join.

Yet here is the thing. That text. Those friends. Those are my people. The people I choose to be around. They are the funniest people I know. I actually think Jimmy Fallon would think so too. ( We can send you a video Jimmy). They are also the kindest most generous people. They give of themselves every day to make sure that our friendship is fed and healthy.

I look at them and think, yes they are who I want to be.

I want to be a woman who knows who she is. I want to be mother who fights for her children. I want to be a wife who puts her husband before her children. I want to be a generous giver.I want to be fully present to those I love. I want to speak hope and life into people. I want to know that taking care of myself physically is important. I want to be a truth teller. I want to be an encourager. I want to be an author. I want to be funny. I want to be available. I want to say no to things that do not bring me life or joy.I want to be the best friend I could ever be. I want to be a gentle soul. I want to be healthy. I want to be always wanting to serve more. I want to take risks. And most of all I want to ache for Jesus every day.

That day I had a hard time coming up with what I was grateful for.

They pushed me. They pushed me to find what was needing to be spoken.

 

You need. We all need people in our lives who see more for us. Who push us to see things we forget to see. Who know that we can be more than we ever imagined.

We need people around us who remind us that where we are is not who we are.

GNO’s and NGO’s – how authentic community heals

 

I sat on the floor of her formal living room. I don’t think I had ever been in there before that night. We usually walked by the serious room and made our way to the family room. The room with the large couches and TV. The off white carpet between my toes in the middle of February that winter night. Hummus, nuts, chocolate laid out on the table before us. Chai tea steaming in the kitchen as we each took our places.
We had been having our GNO’s ( Girl’s Night Out)  for years. We would meet at coffee shops restaurants, bakeries. We each had our favorite spots and each month we knew it was something to look forward to. We made a commitment to the friendship that we would pick at least one time each month that we would all four set apart for each other. When I was in Africa I just pretended like they stopped. Like one of the four wasn’t there so they stopped talking and having any fun. That is what I told myself. That the fun stopped because I wasn’t there. Very humble of me.

These girls know everything about me. I am my best when I am with them. I sometimes am my worst as well. They have traveled across the world with me to Liberia and have seen first-hand the work of selfless people living their lives in servanthood. And we have been there when babies are being born or brought home. We have inside jokes that no one else gets. We also have inside pain that no one will ever hear.

That winter night as we sat on the floor around the coffee table I shook with fear as my truth was revealed. We had not gotten together as a group since I had come home two months before. Depression had stolen the normal rhythm out of my life. And the truth was is that I was afraid. I was afraid to be outside. I was afraid to drive. I was afraid of the dark. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid of night. I was afraid of myself.

I sat with my back slouched over with tears rolling down my face and admitted why we were here. In her home. Not out in public. Not dressed up and feeling fancy. Because what I was feeling was far from fancy, I was feeling raw and exposed. I had just told my truth. Told the truth about what PTSD was doing to my mind and my reality. I felt on that night that I may be saying goodbye to this normal. My life as it was I believed this too would be over. I was no longer going to function in their world if I were to expose the monster inside of me.

But this is the thing. When you have authentic relationships in your life. They don’t leave. They don’t follow any rules. They lean in. They see the pain and come closer.

So I told my truth. The truth that Satan was having a field day with my sanity.

The silence in the room was beckoning mercy to come forth.

Pain and truth had opened the door for a new layer of trust to be born.

And born it was.

These women sat on the floor next to me crying. Not for me. With me. They were entering into the pain and not leaving. They were not getting on their theological soap boxes and quoting scripture at me. They were not deleting me from Facebook. They were not thinking of a way to escape, they were crying.

They were putting a stake in the ground and deciding that what I was going through did not define who I was to them.
So we sat and we cried. We cried for the honesty that was revealed. We cried for the reality that things may change. We cried until I was done crying.

Authentic community does that. Someone very wise recently told me that “Authenticity is not bulimic truth telling. Digest the pain. Then share wisely.”

I chose very carefully who I told my truth to that night. I was living a hell inside my head that a casserole could not heal.

My pain needed a safe place to heal.

That night if I am being honest was one of the most difficult nights of my life. I was terrified that I was out of the house. I had come to the table a shell of who I used to be and yet the three most beautiful friendships were made clear.

They were my safe place. They were my net. They were where my truth would be sheltered and held.

That is what we all need. We all need those in our life that have seen us at our unhealthiest and choose to stay.

They may not agree with you. They may argue with you. They may even be Republican. But they stay. They stay and love you and laugh with you and heal with you.

They have become the filter I put every relationship through. How authentic can you be with me and how safe are you that I can be the same with you?

I believe very strongly that Jesus calls us into community.

But when he was at the table. When he was with his twelve or one on one is where true community happened.

It happens when we allow ourselves a safe place to be heard. A safe place to be understood. A safe place that is sheltered and held. A safe place where truth can be revealed.