Friday, October 31, 2008

who would have thought?

who would have thought that by me uncovering my wounds and seeing where i've been broken and hurt and the actions i choose out of that hurt and pain would lead me to see the goodness in others? i've run into a couple of people lately that have demonstrated some behaviour that i would normally think is unacceptable or rude or petty or inappropriate, but now i see through the behavior and recognize that their actions are probably a result of their own pains and wounds.

for example, i watched a teacher the other day roll her eyes and show contempt for young children in the classroom that were upset, or acting out, or not listening. and at first, i was wary that somehow her actions would be directed towards lucy and was therefore afraid that lucy would receive the eye-rolling, or the humph-hawing if she acted out, or got upset or didn't listen right away. so, my first reaction was to make sure lucy didn't do any of those things. then, i sorted through what i was seeing and realized - even a perfect angel would have somehow warranted her not-so-perfect-teacher reaction because it isn't about the children, it's about her.

maybe she rolls her eyes because someone was intolerant of her. maybe she doesn't extend grace to children because grace wasn't extended to her. maybe she shows contempt for them in the same way she shows contempt for herself. i found myself analyzing what it could be that causes her behavior, and then i stopped myself short of figuring it out. it doesn't matter what it was...it only matters that she too has been wounded - and her wounds are causing her to respond to others in the same way that she has been responded to and in the same way she responds to herself. by seeing that her actions were out of a place of hurt - not arrogance, or a better-than-you attitude, i was able to let her actions - even those directed to my own daughter - be tolerated as a way of grace.

knowing that my less-than-perfect actions come from a place of empty and pain, and not out of a place of arrogance or better-than-you attitude, i'm able to extend grace and mercy to those who offend me, upset me, irk me, or otherwise. uncovering my own pain has led me to be more tolerable of the actions that others take as a result of theirs.

k.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Battle of the Sexes

I've avoided writing about some of my thoughts surrounding my current Sexual Disorders class simply because the subject matter just feels too personal. But after submitting my own Sexual Development Paper this week, I'm finding it difficult to think about much else so this may be a way for me to work through some of what I've been thinking upon lately.

I think I could spend of the rest of my life solely devoted to analyzing and making as much sense as possible of the first three chapters of Genesis. You may be wondering why I'm always so bent on going to the beginning...to the past...in order to understand the present and ultimately to understand where I might place my hope. I've been accused (even recently) of being obsessed with utilizing the past as an excuse for current short-comings or failures - so this is a touchy subject for me (and by "touchy" I really mean to suggest that I'm rather passionate about my perspective). The beginning of a story sets the tone for an entire book - it introduces themes, paints a picture of the setting and the characters, it constructs a context that helps us to make sense of how we got to where we are today. If people understand or are able to read the beginnings of our stories they will gain a better understanding of how we got to where and who we are today. And like our individual stories, the beginning of the one grand story offers us a context for which we can begin (or at least attempt) to make sense of things so that we will be able to determine where to go from here. The purpose of examining the past is never to stay stuck - but to determine where and how to move in the present toward the future.

And so back to Genesis where we discover that we were created in the image of God, both male and female - together, we were created as image-bearers. There is something of the essence of being a female that reflects the image of God and similarly there is something of the essence of being a male that reflects the image God. Both are necessary for the glory of God to be made most visible in the context of this world. I'm not sure how influenced I am by the cultural stereotypes and history of oppressive thinking that has infiltrated most systems and structures in our world, but it seems to that at least in part, the essence of being female has something to do with surrender, receptivity, an openness, a softness. Some may call it "weakness" - but I won't use that description only because of the negative connotations associated with that particular word and the images it may conjure up for many (if not most) of us. I am less familiar with the essence of what it means to be male (for the obvious reason being that I am not a man) yet I think it has something to do with strength, creation, penetration (I'm sorry...there's no way to describe such attributes without utilizing such sexually-explicit terms). Some may even ascribe "power" to the nature of masculinity, but again, I refuse to use the word on my descriptor list because of the ways in which that word has come to represent something it really is not. I don't think that these categories of masculinity and femininity are mutually exclusive by any means - and I also do not think that they grant us much direction (or justification) in terms of relational roles.

I've been specifically fascinated with what actually took place in the garden when Eve took the apple and offered it to Adam. In the past, I have been receptive to the theological perspective that in this scenario there was "role reversal" whereby Eve took the lead and Adam became the receiver/follower. But I'm looking at it through a different lens at this point in my analysis. It appears to me that Eve was indeed distancing herself from her gender-identity. In this particular scene she doesn't appear to be surrendering or receiving. I don't sense that she was open and soft to what God had laid out for her and her partner. But what I'm not buying is that Adam was taking on the "feminine role" in this scene either. He is equally rejecting the essence of femininity as he allows his companion to take a bite of the apple. There seems to be a mutual hatred toward what it means to be a woman, and they both kill that part of their relationship in hopes of becoming all-powerful - because after all the big draw for them here is to become "like God." They are deceived because they both believe that by becoming completely autonomous and powerful they will be more like God. Ironically, it is through the loss of feminine "weakness" that the image they had previously been able to clearly represent together is no longer as easy to identify.

Evil seems to be bent on destroying "femininity" and exaggerating "masculinity". Evil is intent on destroying the perfect union that God originally created. I have been accused of being a "feminist" many times, and so I feel the need to clarify a few things at this point. I am not suggesting that men are intent on destroying femininity. Men and women are both equally susceptible to the deception of evil and so we are all guilty of killing femininity and exaggerating masculinity. Plus, the label of "feminist" seems to suggest that one is "pro-female" and I would rather be called something like a "unionist" - someone who is pro-union between the masculine and feminine.

This isn't just some theological/philosophical perspective that is removed or detached from the reality we live in. We don't have to look very far to see the ways in which the essence of femininity is being violently attacked. We live in a world where violence against women and children (who interestingly enough seem to exude the same sort of "weakness") is rampant and horrific. This hatred of femininity is oozing out of how we, as women, view our own and other women's bodies. The violence we do to ourselves and other women is difficult to acknowledge and take responsibility for.

And isn't it interesting that the way in which God redeemed the world was to send his son made incarnate in the flesh. This son came into the world as a weak and receptive infant who grew up to be a man who fully exemplified the union of power and weakness. It wouldn't have had the same effect had he come as a woman. But as a man unafraid of embracing the essence of femininity with the balance of masculinity, God revealed his divine image. And evil still attempted to exploit his weakness - to defeat the weakness with excessive force and power...and yet, it was Christ's weakness and surrendering that ultimately led to salvation.

So here we are...two women who have done great harm to our own femininity - though in very different ways. Your wounds have led you to kill desire, surrender, receptivity. My wounds have led me to invite harm in my own desire, surrender and receptivity. How can we learn together what it means to reclaim our femininity for the purpose of union and ultimately the revelation of the glory of God? How can we reclaim the beauty we possess within and without? How can we help our daughters to know what we're only learning now?

~S.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

we are all stroke victims

i was reading a children's book with lucy that we'd checked out from the library called "Now One Foot, Now the Other." the story is about a grandfather and his grandson and all the special moments they share together. it was a magical relationship until the grandfather had a stroke. the boy was devastated because his grandfather was gone from home and in the hospital for months. but he was even more so when his grandfather came home and couldn't do any of the things they used to do, and instead sat in a wheelchair, staring out the window.

the boy didn't know that his grandfather's mind still wanted to play games and go for walks, but his body wouldn't let him. the grandfather still had the capacity to move and talk, but the stroke had greatly hindered his abilities.

aren't we all just like that grandfather? our minds want to change our pasts, modify current behaviors, or control the outcomes of our futures. we all have great capacities for love, forgiveness, gratitude, generosity, selflessness, but the stroke of pain, betrayal, abandonment, shame or suffering has hindered our abilities to exercise those capacities.

there are many things i want to do and ways i want to be, but just wishing for them doesn't make them so. i want to break the cycle of my generational sin. i want to do what i need to do, instead of only what i feel like doing. i want to wake up happy every day. i want to put other's needs before my own. i want to act gently and kindly, especially in frustrating moments and unending days. i want self-control. i want to feel good about the mundane things i do everyday, knowing that my sacrifice is benefitting someone. i want to sacrifice without thinking about how my sacrifice is good because it's benefitting someone.

i believe God has given us the capacity to do all the things he lays before us. but, we've all had strokes of pain: wrong-doings done to us, had our shame laid bare before us, been betrayed, felt alone for too long, had needs repeatedly go unmet, had feelings unreciprocated, fears have been realized, doubts have been confirmed. all these strokes paralyze our abilities to live into our potentials and our capacities. while our minds say we can, our bodies and our spirits act otherwise.

but stroke victims do have hope. through physical therapy and much needed attention and care, stroke victims can recover from their paralysis - maybe not completely, but they do move closer and closer into the capacity their minds have been telling them they were capable of all along.

we have hope to recover from our strokes too. but the effort - oh the effort required to recover is titanic! through time - a lot of time - and careful attention to our wounds - not ignoring them and hoping they'll resolve on their own, we can recover from the fears that paralyze us, the emptiness that haunts us, or the pain that still causes us grief.

most days i sit and stare out a window. and yet, my mind is telling me that i can walk and talk. will it take a grandson believing in me to motivate me to live into my potential? no. but it has taken a daughter.

k.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Forgive us...


Well...I'm at the very beginning of my reading week (which is literally what the week suggests - a time to catch up on all of the reading material we are inundated with at school), and I'm already thankful for the space this week provides to process through all that I'm learning both in school and in my own life. It's fascinating to me how we seem to be learning the same lessons simultaneously but with different stories and varying contexts. Strange how God seems to be leading each one of us to the same place but with different methods.

I, too, found myself longing for comfort this morning as I attempted to come to terms with what it feels like to be unseen, unknown, unnamed and unvalued by others. We're each familiar with that place because it's simply a part of what it means to share in the human experience. And yet, the universality of it never seems to soften the blow or soothe the bruising. I just recently heard news that my little brother was bullied by a group of kids who for whatever reason (justified or not) strongly disliked him. After spotting him skateboarding in a parking lot they proceeded to physically drag him to a nearby elementary school where one of the kids took it upon himself to unleash his anger at the world on my baby brothers face until he pleaded with the kid to stop. With a black eye, broken nose, possibly a broken bone in his hand and bruising covering his entire head and neck, my poor brother's body looks how my heart feels right now.

All I can think of to say right now is, "Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do." Those boys have no idea how they have contributed to the wounds my brother has had to deal with from the second he came into this relationally-handicapped world. They don't even understand that they were using my brother as a punching bag out of their own woundedness. And likewise, those in whom I feel are associated with my own metaphorical beating are unable to see how they are further wounding an already nearly lifeless body. They are unaware of how their own defense mechanisms and coping strategies for the reality of the world we find ourselves in have developed out of their own woundedness. So, forgive us Lord, for we know not what we've done, what we're doing and what we will continue to do.


And somehow, saying those words out loud as I type them now reveal the comfort I have already experienced. It is a comfort that seeps out of the roots of a heart that knows it's own depravity. It is a comfort that is born out of acknowledging that I, too, beat him, scorned him and ultimately nailed him to the cross. It is a comfort that comes from those who see my own guilt and their own guilt and together we grab hands and cry out, "Lord, forgive us, for we know not what we do."

~S.

p.s. I found the image on flickr - it's by Sighthound and it's interestingly enough titled "Grace Among the Dead".

Sunday, October 19, 2008

i think i thought of one.

i think i thought of an example where i did indeed feel comforted. but a bit of history is needed to understand.

growing up, the cardinal sin in my family was getting a speeding ticket. having a dad who owned his own insurance business meant that he knew all the costs involved with getting a ticket: the initial cost, then the increased cost of insurance, and the oh-by-the-way-it-stays-on-your-record-for-3-years-cost...so no hope of lowering that increased insurance expense for a while. top that with him being a policeman too, and the pat response when i slumped forward handing him the piece of paper, eyes staring at the floor was: "you did WHAT?!?" and anyone who has ridden in my car knows that i know this response so well because i got so many tickets (is anyone really that surprised? just imagine me driving as fast as i talk).

now that you know what i was used to, you will see what comfort looked like for me the first time i got a ticket after being married - out from under my father's problem, i became karl's.

karl used to leave for work just minutes before i did. we drove nearly the same route to work, only mine was shorter. so, one cold morning, i was rushing, as always, to get to work on time. i blew right through the stop sign just blocks from my house. sure enough, no amount of krista-charm could talk me out of a traffic violation. no, it wasn't for speeding - this time - but nonetheless, a ticket, the record on my insurance, as well as all the other costs involved. i immediately called karl, knowing he was only a few minutes in front of me. i was sobbing when he picked up and he knew something was wrong immediately. i expected, "you did WHAT?!?" but instead he said, "what's wrong? are you okay? what happened?" i proceeded to tell him the consequences of me getting out of the house late, once again. he said not to worry, but instead, to meet me at the next starbucks and he'd buy me a latte and everything would be okay.

i slumped into starbucks, eyes staring at the floor and handed him my ticket. he took it, put it in his pocket and offered me a warm beverage, a kiss and a tight squeeze. he sat with me until i was finished crying and told me he hoped the rest of my day would go better. and though i don't remember for sure, i bet the rest of that day did go better, because i had experienced comfort.

karl has had the fortune of comforting me the same way many, many times. while i did learn to stop at that particular stop sign...i still have a problem with speed limits and red lights. and every time i call to tell him what's happened, his response is the same, "what's wrong? are you okay? what happened?" i tell him, and he assures me there will be a kiss and a tight sqeeze for me when i come home.

k.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

what does comfort look like?

last night as i went on my evening walk through the neigborhood, crunching my way through the crispy fallen leaves, i was in need of something. it seems rough patches are just that - patches. just spots, moments, days or weeks that don't seem to be going well, and the past few have been that for me. so, as i walked by the light of a bright full harvest moon and breathed in the sweet smell of autumn, i was looking for something to help me through this rough patch.

as i put one foot in front of the other, i didn't know if i needed guidance and direction, or correction and wisdom, or simply to be comforted. i tried to imagine what it would look like for Jesus to be walking with me. after having read The Shack, i was trying to picture how Jesus would look right beside me. what did I need him to be? did I need a wise and correcting father? did I need an open armed loving mother? did I need a silent friend holding my hand?

as i tried to picture what kind of Jesus i needed, it became painfully clear i needed Comfort. not someone to tell me what to do. not someone even to listen and help me process. i didn't need someone to tell me everything would be alright. i just needed Comfort. and i started to cry (once again for the umpteenth time in the past few weeks) because i realized i don't know what Comfort looks like.

i racked my brain for examples of pain and hard times when i had been comforted. and i could think of hard times, but i couldn't picture what Comfort in those times looked like. as i wept i realized 3 things: either i indeed was never comforted, or i was comforted and didn't know it, or someone or something tried to comfort me and i wouldn't allow it.

frankly, i haven't needed a lot of Comfort in my life. for one thing, life has been pretty good to me. for another, i'm a boot-strap girl. when life has gotten me down, i've picked myself up by my bootstraps without spending a lot of time needing Comfort. so, it doesn't surprise me that i couldn't call to mind a visible time that i knew being comforted.

so, what does Comfort look like? is it a hug? someone holding your hand? someone with gentle words? flowers? cards? a warm blanket and a pillow? i have had most of these things and more but have not felt comforted enough by them to remember a time feeling or having known Comfort - why?

and perhaps i surround myself with comfortable things because of the absence of Comfort i feel within. i wear sweats pants and ugg boots. elastic and scratchy fabrics bother me. heels give me blisters. my bed is my favorite place in the world with high thread-count sheets, feather pillows and a down comforter. i eat a lot of comfort foods. ice cream being the most filling. i drive a mini-van, because of its ease with 2 small kids. any free money i have is spent on organizing things because i love being surrounded with order and comfort.

so, is it possible that i have been comforted - but not by a person, a touch, or Spirit, but by things? and is that of my own doing? has Spirit tried to reach me and i've built an untouchable wall?

how fascinating to me that i crave Comfort (i.e. after church on sundays, i run home and take off my heels and tight clothes and put on flannel). but yet, can't think of one time where i have known Comfort.

k.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

hold on until tomorrow

this morning i thought life had pricked my balloon and the rest of the day was a slow deflate. one tear came, then another and another. each time i finished crying, i thought i had poured it all out. and yet, it was only noon and i knew there were more to come. i couldn't wait for the day to be over putting my hope in the fresh of a new morning. but i still had many hours left until the moon would rise to give hope that the end of today was near. so, what do you do with a day that starts off bad and continues that way until you feel it couldn't get any worse? what do you do when you crave the night and its covering of darkness, only the sun is paused at its height in the sky?

i don't know if there's a salve for every day that is like the one i'm having today, but for this moment, i'm balming myself with Lamentations 3:21-23:

this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

how interesting that in our laments, His compassions never fail us. in fact, his mercies are new every morning - and that's what i'm clinging to. while i'm sure the rest of the afternoon will bring as many tears as the morning did, it's important for them to be shed. i need the catharsis that crying brings. i need to experience this suffering - for without it, i don't have the hope of redemption.

i've said it over and over to many people, lately: you don't put a bandaid on skin that hasn't been cut. there is no hope for redemption without being cut wide open and acknowledging that we need the good nurse to care for us and ultimately, make us whole again.

until tomorrow.

k.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

In the in-between

I have been reminded repeatedly lately that I am living in the in-between, the already...but the not yet. After returning from another brief trip back home to Colorado I find myself at a loss today for how to process all that occurred...but more importantly - how to process what did not occur. In Colorado I seem to be more connected to my creative, productive and worker-self. In Washington, I am much more rooted in my contemplative, reflective, book-loving-self. The communities (and I use the term loosely here) that I am a part of in both regions of the country may know both of these sides of my personality, but for some reason the nature of my role in Colorado seems to call upon my productive self with greater energy as Seattle bids the contemplative side to thrive. And I am apparently lost in-between the two.

What is it about these two distinct locations in my story that reveal such a dichotomy? I think that in Colorado I learned early on to take care of everyone else so that I would not have to acknowledge my own neediness. The moments when my neediness surfaced always led to extreme humiliation or rejection. So I learned to focus on all of the presenting needs around me rather than sort through or discover the root of my own. I made an excellent "church worker" because of this. Now, in retrospect, I realize that true discipleship requires that we face our own neediness honestly rather than splitting off from it.

My role here in Seattle is quite different. I am here getting an education on how to help people in their neediness, and yet the point of this education is to recognize such neediness in myself first and foremost. And so most of my time here has consisted of terribly difficult introspection and reflection. I am painfully aware of my fragility and neediness here which actually seems to lead me to greater isolation. But both worlds are rather lonely. In Colorado I am lonely because I have forgotten how to feel my needs within that context. In Washington I am lonely because I am overwhelmingly familiar with my needs.

Right now, as my trip to Colorado is still fresh in my mind...and my entrance back into my life here in Seattle is sitting here staring at me in the face, I am very aware of the contrast. And I'm wondering what will bridge these two realities in my life. Previously I would have determined that I am the one responsible for building the bridge. But now I'm convinced that it is through relationship that the bridge, which actually already exists, will become evident. As I learn to communicate my needs (which would require that I release them from being trapped within me out here) then those in whom carry them with me and for me will help guide me to the otherside and it will become impossible to disregard them and replace them with the needs of others. Then my giving to others will feel grounded in my own experience and not as a way of quieting that part of me.

~S.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

a poem, not prose

when i visited dan allender's class with you a couple of weeks ago, i was intrigued by something specific he said. he noted that often, things are not readily clear, like prose, but need a deeper dive into their mystery, like poetry.

so, to honor mystery, i'll share a poem that i wrote in 1996 for a man i would not meet until 1999 - figure that one out.

hands

they grip a book firm and then tight
his fingers turn pages night upon night

eyes filter the page, he reads and takes time
to render each word and unmarked sign

his mind is searching for meaning,
looking to find truth and understanding

fingers follow each sentence from start to end
his hands flip the page at the corner's bend

word tell stories that fill his cluttered head
and remind him of dreams he's left unsaid

of one day building his house in the sky
a house built by his own hands; a paradise

i want to know details of his hidden dreams
is it a house of stone? or of wooden beams

show me pictures, use a thousand words or more
tell me why your hands are now wounded and torn

his lips spoke an undeniable story
a voice rang strong, a tale of truth and beauty:

'i chose not beams, wood, or stone - instead,
i used my hands to make a house into a home.'

k.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

the tourniquet of silence

it's not surprising to me that when emotional trauma occurs, we shut down and shut up. the wounds are so deep, and so great, that all we can do is stop the blood flow in order to prevent great loss. we bind ourselves with silence to impede the feeling, and the hurt, the guilt and the pain that is coursing so powerfully and violently from our hearts.

and while initially, this is a life-saving, face-saving, or soul-saving act, in the long-term, it can deaden reality and all the emotions that go with it. then, the loss of life becomes too great to sustain. by keeping the tourniquet of silence on too long, we have to amputate not only the now deadened, wounded area, but with it, any vitality and life that surrounds it.

can we use a tourniquet of silence to accomplish only what it was meant for - a temporary, immediate act of desperation for rescue? and once its made clear that we will have to live with and be forced to face our wounds, take off the silence and seek refuge in the arms of a good nurse?

may i be a good nurse now for when i will inevitably become the patient later.

k.