celebrating the body

1 Corinthians 12:12-26
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

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I should begin this post by saying that my “church” story has not always been a happy one. Like many of us 20-something Christians out there, I have had my fair share of anger, bitterness, and sorrow rooted in my local congregation. Christians are flawed, and the Church is broken. I am fully aware of this, and one day, maybe I’ll write more about that season of my life. There is a story there, and like all stories, it is worth telling in it’s way.

But for now, I simply want to celebrate the beauty of the bride of Christ.

The worldwide Church is made up of all Christians- through time and space- and identifies us in both our individuality and our communion. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the bride and the body of Christ, the children of God. It isn’t simply one congregation or one denomination, or even those who agree with each other on every point. It is mysterious and sweeping and invisible and simply incredible.

But also, my interactions in the Church are marked by the small things. In my experience, some of the most powerful and lasting images are memories of gestures, words, actions, and smiles. I love the singing and shaking hands and sharing coffee that comes with being part of this community. There is something about that shared belief, about having aligned experiences of faith, about knowing the same words, worshipping the same God, praying the same prayers that is incredibly moving. There is something so sweet, for example, about that moment in a worship service when the leader stops singing… and all you can hear are the voices around you. Or about reading Scripture out loud with other believers- either as part of a liturgy or simply in spontaneity- and hearing the Word of God spoken with power.

But my favorite, my truest celebration, is that of communion. The Eucharist, in its essence, is joining in the death of Jesus Christ… and when I take communion alongside other Christians, it is an incredible reminder that I joined into Christ’s death as a part of something bigger. It is a mark of community, of communal covenant, of partaking in something all together. For me, it is a promise that I will continue to live in the Church, continue to act in such a way that “If one part suffers”, then I suffer with it, or “if one part is honored”, then I rejoice with it… just as I join in the blood and the body of Christ.

And these moments build up into a shared life: one generation mentoring and teaching and discipling another. It means going to lunch together, or picking each others’ kids up from school, or celebrating birthdays and holidays and the victories of life with one another. It means mourning, too, and bringing meals and sending flowers and being there when someone else needs you. It is friendship with the spiritual bonds of family. And despite how flawed it is, how often I feel frustrated or disappointed with those who bear Christ’s name (myself, of course, included)…. I cannot help but see the Church’s beauty, and God’s grace, as more powerful than sin. It is good.

praying

“It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.”

-thank you, Mary Oliver

being jealous of cancer

“Love seeks its whole good in the good of the beloved, and to divide that good would be to diminish love.”

-Thomas Merton

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Here, my friends, is one of my most shameful and saddest truths: even in my greatest moments of love, I am terribly self-serving.

I first considered this concept when I was in high school, after reading C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces: “selfish love” seemed to me to be the overwhelming theme of the book. But it wasn’t until I was a sophomore in college that I recognized the profundity of this truth in my own motives. You see, a dear, dear friend of mine was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the middle of our fall semester that year. She had gone to the hospital after noticing a lump on her collarbone, and when she returned, five of us gathered in her bedroom, holding on to each other’s arms, faces white as she relayed the news. I immediately canceled my plans for the weekend and within hours, had re-oriented my life around her well-being… my memories of those days are equally about “her” and “I”. She made the decision to continue living on campus as she underwent chemotherapy, and so her doctor’s visits and medical decisions are inextricably tied together in my mind with the shades of my own concerns, of schoolwork and preparing to study abroad and the beginnings of a new long-distance relationship. And though I wish I could say that these concerns were simply those of love- that I was solely concerned for the heart of my friend- I cannot pretend that my motives were so pure.

Instead, it was a blundering, confusing period where it seemed that everything I did was could be interpreted as both caring and self-serving, for my own benefit and for others’. I was constantly attempting to identify my own motives, and continuously finding it impossible to distinguish between wanting to do what I did for her, because it made her feel loved and taken care of, or for the glory and comfort of doing it. There was a clamoring of people when the diagnosis was made public… everybody, all of the sudden, wanted to be right there. As the news spread and her chemotherapy begin, I watched my friend as she had to gently turn well-meaning friends away. “I’m tired of talking about it”, she would tell us, “please keep them from knocking on my door.” I saw the dark circles under her eyes and without pause, took up the task. But as I stopped the flow of classmates, I tried to examine my heart: was I doing this simply because she needed sleep, she needed rest and privacy, or there was underlying pride in being the close friend, one of those in the “inner circle”? And looking back, I know that the truth was that it was both.

Throughout those months, I wanted to be the one to take care of her when she was sick. I wanted to be the one who took her to chemotherapy. To be the person who she came to when she was sad, who kept acquaintances updated, who made sure she got out of bed on the days that were tinged with depression and hopelessness. And so I did those things, and more. I missed class, went to the hospital in the middle of the night, shaved my head when her hair began to fall out in clumps. And in many ways, those were incredible things… in the midst of every one of those moments, I felt deep love, mingled compassion and grief, for my friend. I do believe that all those actions were good, in the deepest sense. And yet, my heart was tinted with the desire to be the closest, the most helpful, the deepest sacrificing, the best. It was selfish love, love that sought both the good of my friend and myself, a love dimished.

And so, I titled this post, “being jealous of cancer”. Not because I wanted to have cancer, but I wanted to name my friend’s battle as my own, as well. In those months, I was blessed enough to see our community wrap around this beautiful friend, to be a part of something filled with deep compassion and bold friendship. And so I struggled to be worthy of this group of friends, to love lavishly and selflessly, to repent of my selfishness and gain more of the generosity I saw so clearly in others, to have a fullness in love.

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Is there any way to do something truly loving, in that it doesn’t divide the good? Is it possible to love simply for the sake of the beloved? In myself, at least, I am sure that it cannot be done. Whether it is found in my response to tragedy or in my daily interactions with those around me, my affection towards others is always bestowed with the knowledge that it also benefits myself.

But what can I do except to ask for God’s grace, and continue to love to the best of my ability? For now, that will have to be enough.

*My friend recently celebrated three years of remission from cancer. She is, simply put, thriving.

alive

“There is more magic and more possibility and more redemption in this world than our little brains can even handle, if we would just start living as though we expect it, as though it matters to us, instead of living like the mall is the holy of holies and the remote control the Ark of the Covenant.

I want more than I ever have, feel more acutely about what my life might be for. I want and will scrap around for a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. I believe more than I ever have that change is possible, that a Holy God can bring grace and bravery to even the smallest and deceitfullest, most selfish people, that our lives are more than junk mail and sale racks and warmed over fajitas at Chili’s. We each follow along in the thousand century-long parade of human beings, and this is our tiny little window. Hundreds of millions who have gone before us have walked these continents, these streets, asked these questions, sang these love songs.

And now is our time, our one shot to build an altar to the God who keeps this world spinning, drags up the sun and lets it fall each day. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, or to my twenty-fifth birthday and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and make babies and wear high heels and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now and tell my friends I love them in as many languages as I know how. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and drink champagne and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down and I want my everyday to make God belly-laugh, glad that He gave life to someone who knows the difference between life and half-life.

Because I have lived the half-life, afraid and sullen, tears at the back of my throat and anger in my mouth like a shot of vodka. I have lied to everyone I know, telling them that I am fine, that I understand my life, that I have a clear sense that God loves me, and then have gone home and eaten a whole cake with my fingers, trembling and choking on tears and icing, have gone to bed numb and hoping to die in my sleep rather than lie to everyone and reckon with myself for one more day. I was more lonely then than I ever want to be again. And then in the space of a few months, or more accurately, a few moments stretched out over several months, God reached into the dark and dishonest life I had pulled around myself like a blanket and turned on the light. And for a few minutes, that felt like getting my skin pulled off. Because I had to look myself in the face and realize, in no uncertain terms, that there was a selfishness and a fear that ran through my life like a virus, poisoning me, and God came to heal me. And He did and He does, and the thing I will do, because of Him and because of what He does in me is I will live hard and bright and crazy. I will live with bravery and color and hope because He gave me hope, and I want to press through my life with passion and energy…

…Wake up your mind and your heart, and hammer out a life that gleams like one perfect snowflake. God did not form me out of dust so that I could fit into Banana Republic pants. He didn’t send His son to die so that we could live small easy lives of convenience and apathy. He didn’t raise the dead so that we could sit around and wait to die. The drama and rhythm of this world is lost on us, because our minds are packed like piñatas, spinning and gaudy, filled with noise and junk food, and we like it that way. But my greatest prayer is this: that each one of us will experience silence so deep and shattering that we can’t even breathe, so that our lives will slice open, crack wide open, laid wide to the face of God, piñata candy laying on the ground, forgotten. And in that divide, that open wound, the nature and essence of God will pour in like anointing oil.

And all at once, all the shabby, tired, used-up bodies and minds start to wriggle and pop, like they’ve been dropped into a deep-fryer, sizzling and dancing, transformed into motion. And something that has been deadened and distracted by the candy and noise of this world comes to life anew, wakes up and wiggles like a fritter in a frying pan, anointed and taught to dance. Because we were made for motion, for arching up toward God with all the energy and passion of a thunderstorm, lightning slicing through a sleepy world to remind us that we serve a fast dancing God, a God who set this world whirling and crashing through space so that we could live out loud and drum out the pulse of a billion veins carrying life blood to a billion hearts, temples to a God that got His Holy hands dirty making us from dust. Let us get dirty, in His name. Let us sizzle and pop in His name. Let us dance and shimmer and scrawl out our stories across the sky, like He taught us to. Because, once again, there is more magic and more possibility and more redemption in this world than our little brains can even handle, if we would just start living as though we expect it, as though it matters to us, instead of living like the mall is the holy of holies and the remote control the Ark of the Covenant.” -Shauna Niequist

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p.s. photo found here.

it is well

Happy Easter, friends of the blogosphere.

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Here is my prayer for you, and for me, on this holy day (and every day):

That you would find yourself opened up, bare and raw and exposed to the realities of this world. That you may know, with the deepest clarity and pain, just how broken and full of sin you are. That in that brokenness, you would experience the truth of Jesus Christ’s death and His glorious RESURRECTION, and feel wonder in the knowledge that He has made a way out of death for you. That you would be overwhelmed by his love and his sacrifice, and that you would live out the rest of your day with the assurance that, now, all is well.

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

metalypsis

Metalypsis [met-uhlep-sis]

What a funny word. What does it mean, you may ask? Well, according to my old “Doctrine of the Word” papers, it’s definition is something along the lines of when “one text alludes to an earlier text in a way that evokes resonances of the earlier text beyond those explicitly cited” (thank you, Richard Hays). So, essentially, it’s a literary echo. It’s when you learn more about the second passage of a book because it reminds you of the first. The very structure of the text is like music, self-repeating and layered—throughout the Scriptures, the authors reuse phrases, changing the wording subtly so that it has an even deeper meaning that evokes the first (this metaphor can be attributed to Leithart).

The concept is one of my FAVORITES, out of all the things that I learned while getting my Religious Studies degree, because I think that it epitomizes some of the most essential doctrines of the Scriptures out there. When many Christians think of the Bible, they think of it in confusing or watered-down terms. The Bible is a “love letter”, they say, a mirror for our personal struggles and a storehouse of encouraging quotations. There are a few stories thrown in, and a couple of books that don’t make any sense, but mostly it’s just God’s way of helping us through hard times. This picture, guys, doesn’t even come close to the realities of the intricate, powerful, written Word.

Above all else, the Bible is first meant to be the narrative of God’s work over the course of human history, not something that can be randomly utilized for our own purposes. Both the Old & the New Testaments are continuously telling one long story about how the divine has interacted with humanity- that is, it’s a story of creation, of sin, and of redemption. At the beginning (think Genesis, Exodus, all the way to the prophets) this interaction primarily took place between God and Israel, but through Christ, Gentiles (that is, anybody who is NOT a Jew) are pulled into that narrative as well. This concept is reinforced by… you got it, metalypsis. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul mentions a portion of Israel’s history that is described in Exodus and Numbers: although he is vague, his use of metalypsis opens up the world of the New Testament and evokes images of, among other things, a golden calf. The New Testament passage is referring to the Corinthians’ situation regarding meat sacrificed to idols, and Paul addresses the issue by first speaking to the Gentile Christians as if they were Israel. From that point, Paul’s entire argument is based on an imaginative projection of the Gentile’s lives into the framework of the Jewish narrative. That means that Gentiles can read that Old Testament as if it was our heritage, too.

This historical-redemptive narrative is often broken up into two parts: the Law and the Gospel. The Law are those portions of the Old Testament that lay out the ways that Christians are supposed to behave to become righteous, and the things we can do to try to atone for our sin. It’s a disclosure of God’s will, which, in the ancient times of the Old Testament, separated his people from the nations surrounding them. It was an expression of their special relationship with God. In the history of salvation, it acts as an indicator of man’s (both Jew and Gentile) sinfulness. Enter metalypsis: in Romans 3, Paul uses passages from Psalms (13:2-3, 5:10, 139:4, etc), which emphasize the unrighteousness of those outside of the covenant, to apply this failure to both the Gentiles and the Jews. Thus, the Law reaches out of its purely historical and narrative sense (as is connected to the Jewish identity) to judge all of humanity, which then causes it to point to the need of a Savior. And so, we realize that the true heart of all these rules is to make us realize that we can never keep them. We can’t do it. The Law condemns all people as sinful and broken and indicates that God has gathered his people in unity under his righteousness, both Jew and Gentile.

And then we get to the Gospel. This portion of the Bible is the accounting of how God, in his love and mercy, makes a way for humanity: Jesus Christ (God incarnate) lived a perfect life and died; by faith in him, now any person can be saved through grace. Throughout the New Testament, metalypsis is used a thousand times to reinforce the nature of Jesus as God. For instance, the use of the phrase “in the beginning” (1:1) in the gospel of John echoes the harmonic process of creation in Genesis, where the sovereign God created and filled the world in an act of divine self-giving. The reader is reminded of the foundational nature of this act and connects Jesus, the Word, with all that God does from the point on, for “He was with God” (John 1:2). Connections between the Incarnation and creation are instantly drawn— ties of renewal, of God’s self-sacrifice, and of hope become clear and the Christian’s reading of Scripture is enriched. This apostolic reading is generally used as a tool to read Christ into the larger narrative of the Biblical story, as the older texts change meanings in light of the newer ones. Thus, the purpose, inspiration, and unity of the Bible become even further interwoven, pointing to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

The Bible is so much more than we give it credit for. It’s the complex, culture-laden, living and active narrative of God’s work throughout history. It’s a story of the Law and of the Gospel, of our sin and our redemption, of Christ making a way into life where before there was only death. As I said, it’s powerful. Like so many good things, the Scriptures are incredibly simple and yet way more complex than you or I could ever understand … in that, I would say that they are beautiful. Metalypsis is only a tiny fragment of how layers of meaning in this text are unearthed, revealing that verse after verse points to the truth of Christ. When I was first introduced to the concept, I found it mind-blowing. And now, well, I still do.

a blessing for you

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“May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart. May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people. May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim.”

-The Franciscan Blessing

mere christianity

When I was fifteen, I spent a glorious summer selling ice cream at a hotel pool. It was the best type of job for a high schooler, and I distinctly remember sitting on a stool with my feet propped up, the warmth of the sun on my legs, and snacking on a ice cream cookie sandwich while reading C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. As long as we sold the ice cream when a customer approached, we were free to spend our time however we liked. And so the summer passed as I turned the pages, and I have to tell you, the season left me mesmerized. Mere Christianity was inspiring and influential, and I truly believe that reading it was what set me out the path that lead me to Westmont College, and then to receiving a degree in Religious Studies. It was the catalyst.

Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis

“In 1941 England, when all hope was threatened by the inhumanity of war, C. S. Lewis was invited to give a series of radio lectures addressing the central issues of Christianity. More than half a century later, these talks continue to retain their poignancy. First heard as informal radio broadcasts on the BBC, the lectures were published as three books and subsequently combined as Mere Christianity. C. S. Lewis proves that “at the center of each there is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks with the same voice,” rejecting the boundaries that divide Christianity’s many denominations. This twentieth century masterpiece provides an unequaled opportunity for believers and nonbelievers alike to hear a powerful, rational case for the Christian faith” (summary found here).

mere christianity

When I think of Lewis’ theology, I imagine it as if he were coloring in a drawing done in ink, filling in the blank spaces with wide, bright, watercolor strokes. The lines are those pieces of Christian theology that are clear enough in the Bible: the doctrines that most every Christian will agree upon. In grace-filled humility, Lewis acknowledges that there is a “core” of Christian beliefs that span across denominations (that is, “mere” Christianity), and that the rest of it just doesn’t matter quite as much.  Absolute truth. The existence of a holy, Trinitarian God. The Hypostatic Union (the dual humanity and divinity of Christ). Salvation by grace. Santification. Life (or death) everlasting. The watercolor that connects all those lines, bringing depth and color and feeling… those are Lewis’ philosophical, moral, and emotional responses to the said doctrine. Could that drawing be colored with slightly different hues? Probably. Is there any reason to believe that the colors he has chosen are wrong? No, I don’t think so. And so that is what Mere Christianity is. It is an wise, affable old man laying out the foundations of Christian doctrine, and then using metaphors and illustrations to fill it all in, so that at the end, there is a beautifully drawn, intellectually & emotionally compelling, picture of his faith and mine.

I imagine Lewis’ voice as one that is both matter-of-fact and storyteller-esque. Perhaps it’s because I see him as the narrator of The Chronicles of Narnia. Or maybe it’s because he does his best to appeal to human nature at its very core, and that core is on one hand, simple and concrete and clear, and on the other, mysterious, complex and, well, a little bit magical. Some may say that he’s pompous. I prefer to think of him as speaking to both the adult and the child in me. The rhythm of the book is the same: some passages are plain while others are more intricate. There are bits and pieces of Christian theology can be addressed in just a few sentences, and Lewis does not hesitate to do so. Those doctrines that require more explanation, conversely, are bravely met with thoughtful attempts to portray their complexity. This natural rhythm, I believe, rightfully mirrors the layered depth of the Christian faith and so is a great attribute of this apologetic work.

To attempt to summarize my favorite parts of Mere Christianity would take much too long. The fourth portion of the book, “Beyond Personality” is most definitely my favorite, centering on the Trinitarian relationship and how it affects the Christian life. It is enough, I think, to say that it touched me. See for yourself:

“Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has — by what I call “good infection.” Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”

blessed

“Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matthew 5:1-12

It’s counter-intuitive, isn’t it? And it’s certainly counter-cultural. In today’s Western society, we are told to grow up to be strong & assertive, charismatic & likable, rich in every way, initiated into the things of this world. To make it, we must fight to be seen, to be heard, to be respected. That is the “kingdom of the world”. And it makes sense to us, to me, because our very minds are seeped in sin, in brokenness, in pride and self-centeredness.

But then there’s the “kingdom of heaven”: this holy, grace-filled rule of God is both a current reality (found in the incarnation of Christ and indwelling of the Holy Spirit) and a prophecy (the future hope of the new heaven and new earth). If I’ve learned anything from the book of Matthew, it’s that this kingdom of heaven is the very opposite of the kingdom of the world. Christ promises blessing on those who are poor in spirit, mournful, meek. While we seek strength, Paul tells us instead to delight in our weaknessOver and over again, the Biblical writers told us to rejoice in persecution.

As children who have been adopted by God, Christ’s work in us is one of sanctification. And that means righting our perspectives, our attitudes, our priorities, so that we live for the kingdom of heaven. It may seem illogical to stay naive when those around you consider it foolishness, or to chose to mourn rather than pursue happiness, or to show mercy when it can come back to bite you. But, our striving for righteousness necessitates it. And we are promised so much as a result. Look at the second half of those verses…to be blessed, and in such incredible ways, is certainly worth being counter-cultural.

p.s. If you want to listen to the sermon that inspired and guided this post, you can find it here.

things that give me heavy boots

Some days, some nights, I feel overwhelmed by the state of this world. There’s so much pain and so very much suffering, and even though there is beauty, there is also more brokenness than you or I could ever know. In the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the narrator Oskar calls this deep feeling “heavy boots”. He’s only nine years old, a little boy who lost his father on 9/11, but he walks through life like he’s trudging through waist-deep snow, pushing upstream in a strong river, taking each step with weighted shoes.

In the book, there’s a passage where he is speaking to his mom, simply listing all the things that give him heavy boots. It’s inspiring, in a sad sort of way, because sometimes I feel exactly the same way.

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So, what gives me heavy boots?

… Alzheimer’s disease, condescending people on the Internet, how my insurance company doesn’t really care about my wellbeing, how I can’t stop biting my nails, text-speak, regret, short-term mission trips, arthritis, kids who can’t get adopted because they’re too old to be “cute”, local commercials, when people don’t understand that they’re being made fun of, the flowers at Wal-Mart that have been dyed unnatural colors to make them more attractive, the people who think those neon flowers are attractive and actually buy them, parents who ignore their children, headaches, middle school, church-shopping, elitism, unrequited love, when I get presents that show that the person doesn’t really understand who I am, daytime TV doctors, homeless people who hold up signs on the side of the road, widows, husbands and fathers who go to war, kitchens that don’t have dishwashers, and knowing that having ten dollars in my pocket makes me richer than two thirds of the whole world.

Will once told me that one of my greatest traits was that I felt deeply, both the pain and the joy surrounding me. Both are good, he said.

 Although it may be tempting to only talk about the bright and beautiful parts of the world, the truth is that this life is worth grieving over. The people around me deserve my sorrow.  The world is broken, and to deny that fact would be refusing to acknowledge how it all should be. Not only in the big, sweeping ways- the poverty and injustice and rape- but also the thousand little ways. So, I feel the weight of it all sometimes. And on those days, I just keep moving forward, acknowledging the tragedy and lamenting the pain, waiting for redemption. Walking in my heavy boots.