"She runs a bit, hesitates, stops,
and, all while dreaming, shakes her head
for or against.
Then she dances a few steps
that she invents and forgets,
no doubt finding out that life
moves on too fast."
-Rainer Maria Wilke
"Child in Red"
Okay. Let's get stupidly vulnerable here for a minute.
I struggle... A LOT... with the way I see myself. Specifically when it comes to body image. It is a battle I have been fighting ever since I can remember. And it is a battle that at many times, I have lost.
I'm kind of obsessive when it comes to working out... in the sense that I can run an entire half-marathon on an elliptical machine, given that I have an hour and forty-five minutes to spend at the gym. It's a good thing that I enjoy it and it isn't just some sort of strange masochistic habit (although, I'm sure some would argue on that...), but the thing is, I know that I care way too much about it. I have pretty much always known that I have. I just choose to ignore it most of the time.
Just as I choose to ignore the entire issue most of the time... at least outwardly. Inwardly, it eats me up at every single moment. If my clothes don't fit quite right, it ruins my entire day. I notice myself telling myself negative and hateful statements in my head non-stop, and I convince myself that I deserve them and that they will stop if I start "doing better".
So maybe it is masochism. In a round about way.
But here's the deal, in caring way too much about this, my own body image has become my idol. I serve it without question and think about it constantly. I will make any time that I possibly can to get to the gym to "work off" whatever I just "did to myself" that day. (And yes, this is frightening to hear myself acknowledge out loud...) But recently, with all the Call+Response stuff going on, along with my 10 hour work days, and the weather getting colder, I haven't been able to go to the gym nearly as much. If at all. And I have noticed myself slipping, slowly, back into that self-hating routine.
But something happened last night. Something changed. And I am still trying to put my finger on what exactly it was. Earlier in the day, I had been sort of secretly lamenting doing so much with this project and not being able to work out. I could feel my body shifting and changing and was not happy. I felt as though I needed to get control in order to make myself feel worth something. But there was (and is) absolutely no time. So what was I supposed to do?
I was at the Radical Living Marcy House with Alissa working on C+R plans, when Jeremy called with the news that the link for purchasing tickets had gone live. After jumping up and down in excitement, I saw that Courtney had posted a new video about our time in Thailand on Facebook. This video is honestly one of the most personally moving things I have ever seen. It means so much to me. And it meant even more at that moment as we began to see the first stages of the fruition of our work. Through streaming tears, I watched those girl's faces flash across my screen, and all I could think of after the events of the evening and the events of the past week was that their rescue is coming. With every single step made in advancing the awareness of this horror of sex trafficking... their rescue comes closer and closer and closer.
Only in retrospect did I realize that in that moment, I completely forgot to hate myself. I could not remember how to only care to a fault about my own selfish desire, like I always have.
Is my own body really what I am going to make my life about?
As all of this was happening, I wrote Ashley:
"The link for C+R just went live (http://www.tribecacinemas.com/calendar/Call__Response_Screening_Guide.html) at the same time Courtney posted her video that she made about Thailand (it's now reposted on my profile). I can't explain this feeling right now. I balled like a baby at the convergence of these two events I can't stop crying. Those girls in that film.. my girls... this is their rescue. I'm claiming it...They're fate DOES NOT lie in trafficking. They will be happy, and healthy, and innocent. They will be free.
This is what I want to spend and spill my life on for the rest of my life.
I don't care what it takes, I don't care what it requires of me, I don't care what I lose. All I care about is setting captives free. This feeling is unlike any other I have ever had before. And I wish I could share it with everyone in the world right now.
I love you, best friend.
Everything is so so right."
Everything has a purpose. And last night I remembered mine. Food was made to be eaten, and life was made to be embraced. I was made to set captives free and dance with abandon while doing so.
A heart that has not fully embraced itself for all that it is, all that it will be, and even all that it will not, can never known the exhiliration found in that abandonment.
Because it can never know the freedom found in surrender.
I surrender, for I am not my own. And I was made for Something More.
Help me, Jesus. Teach me how to love myself like You love me. My body is not my own. Release me from it. Set me free.
"...You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."
I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do-nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble-rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black-nationalist ideologies a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides-and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.
But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we viii be. We we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jeans Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some-such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle---have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.
Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a non segregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.
But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find. something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who 'has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of Rio shall lengthen.
When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leader era; and too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.
In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.
I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, on Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Walleye gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?". Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? l am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists. There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators"' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests.
Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Par from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jai with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.
I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham, ham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation-and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.
Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.
It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handing the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather "nonviolently" in pubic. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."
I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face Jeering, and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers? If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.
I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
Martin Luther King, Jr."
These words comfort me.
His free expression of disappointment in the church, but acknowledgement that that disappointment found it's root in love.
God Almighty, make us creative extremists for love once again.
You know, I think about "my girls" a lot. The sweet sweet little girls from the village I lived in this summer. I remember their faces, their names, their eyes. They loved me and accepted me more powerfully than I have ever known, and that love and acceptance has been one of the greatest sources of healing for the deeply wounded places of my heart. More than they will ever know. In many ways, those sweet girls rescued me and during my time in Thailand, and the call the Holy Spirit placed on my heart to repay the favour has been loud and clear.
There is a distinction to be made between when something is on your mind, and when it is on your heart. My girls are always on my mind. But today, they were on my heart. Heavily. Maybe it's because of all the talk of trafficking that I have been around recently. Promoting the Call + Response screening in New York City. Recently coming on board to develop Nomi. Contacting anyone and everyone to see if we can network Prang and Servant works to Nomi Network to get them the help they so desperately need.
This past week has been an intense time of diving in and scraping around to the very bottom of what I desire to see, what I burn for, and what I am capable of. And it truly is more than I ever thought I would actually see come to fruition. From the instant I met Alissa and she told me about the drawing board parameters of Nomi, I knew it was a purposed connection. It is no mistake when another person who a week ago was a complete stranger is repeating back to me exact phrases that the Holy Spirit gave to me months ago.
I thought I was moving to New York to study these things, get to know this world, and set out on my own with guns blazing against the powers of the empire that be to start this battle against human trafficking. The plan was to attend FIT for the next four years and gradually ease into something, that I was praying would take shape and form, impatiently knowing that "these things take time".
There I was, having prepared myself to not be able to bring this direction and immediate message of hope to these women. There I had been... screaming and crying at my Warrior God, my Saving Lord, because I didnt want to wait. I couldnt stand the thought of these girls... my precious girls... growing up... facing one more day without hope. One more day without another option of a way out. One more day bringing them one step closer and closer to the bars. One more day making them more and more susceptable to being trafficked into the horrors of the sex trade. I had literally cried aloud for justice and called to him through tears to save them, and I began to formulate my plan of action, as the sense of urgency in my heart grew. The best thing I could do was give myself a timeline, as I was convinced it would be longer than what I desire. I grudgingly resided myself to wait and wait and wait... I braced myself with patience and began to wade through deep frusteration with timing that did not mesh with the dire sense of urgency in my soul.
Oh, how little I knew! Oh how small my vision! My Jesus had other plans. He was already doing it here! He has been harvesting it for a year! And He was bringing me to the "it" that I didn't even know existed! Because it is what I have prayed for. EXACTLY what I have prayed for!
This is so much faster than I ever thought it would be, and now that the initial whirlwind has started to settle, the magnitude and weights of the reality of this situation has slowly started to hit me.
He has suprised me! He has overwhelmed me! He has pushed through and rushed past my own expectations and limitations of what He is capable of doing and He is on His way to save them NOW! He is urgently, expectantly on the move! And their freedom is so close that even I can feel it!
Today, I was unexpectedly overcome with a foretaste of freedom for those captives nearest and dearest to my heart, and the realization that He has placed me here, not for the purpose of preparation... But for action.
He brought me so he could send me.
Hold on, please, my sweethearts. I am coming. Just a little bit longer and I will be there. Your rescue is on it's way.
Hold on, please, my precious ones. He is coming! Just a little while longer and He will be there! Your Rescue is on It's way!
Is not to just become okay with it. That does not make it go away.
You have to actually invade and fight back the darkness, in order to set the captives free.
You cannot simply walk away and pretend that it isn't there.
While that option may make you feel a lot better at the moment, the slaves still stay as they are.
Do not mistake my joyous waves For drowning I hope to escape I have come to occupy this sea Completely willingly I ran into its wild waters Hoping to be swept away Hoping it would pull me under To that secret resting place One that I admit I've never known But through this love has grown And caused me to forget my own ability to swim
I will not float above, for life begins when I am plunged below As I abandon everything I thought myself so wise to know
This flood, this flood, this raptured flow Take me, toss me, to and fro This flood, this flood, this vision swells Oh Heaven, move us, make us tell!
The dead and desert thirst For what the blossom holds, Tucked safe inside The glory of the coming kingdom Longs to bloom, instead of hide
I will not float above, for life begins when I am plunged below As I abandon everything I thought myself so wise to know
This flood, this flood, this raptured flow Take me, toss me, to and fro This flood, this flood, this vision swells Oh heaven, move us, make us tell!
Return again, oh ransomed one Shout with joy and come away To Zion, as it welcomes you For salvation is here to stay
My calm exterior does not mirror correctly in the least what's inside my spirit these days. Sometimes I worry that my speech will only ever be my speech... There is a new language emerging: a brand new type of typical And though it sounds more radical than the former, the danger still remains the same Spoken too much, it just lays lame It serves for too little action It is an empty rhetoric that watches time just tick... and tick... and tick... and shhh... Just listen.... As we speak of revolution! Oh, but good little boys and girls will do their best to keep away! Held at arms length, power stays When we don't do the things we claim As we continue to simply say that we want to see these things Want to want to want to want to But never want to follow through You know, the ones that are actually do... are not spending nearly as much time talking about it They're too busy being honest.
So I'm approaching a divide, it seems. And, in truth, it scares the hell out of me. The things I asked for now are being brought unto fruition With the one last final step being entirely my mission. Well, obviously.
But I just cant live like this anymore! Every single time that I get closer to sincerity, Is every single time I get so tired of listening to me!
My deepest desire is for everything to be simple. And I abandon lofty notions of comfort and wealth. Forfeiting your rights is supposed to attract attention. Because it is never done. It isn't even safe to mention.
I feel like I don't have the strength. And you know, I don't. It's true. At my root, I find I'm too afraid to call upon the total strength Of the One who does. Because I know what when I do, nothing will be like it once was. And I fear it.
I don't know how to live, Oh, I don't know how to live! I've got no more strength to grasp this thing and no more room to give To excuses
I don't know where the answers are I don't know where to seek at all This muffled message, calling, waving, whispering inside my soul...
And makes you want to shout and cry and dance and sing for feelings you aren't even entirely sure you are feeling...
But you know you want to.
"Come on, Stone! Come on, Star! Come on, Snow! Come on, Car! Come on, Hand! Come on, Feet! Come on, Face! Come on, Street! Come on, State! Come on, Song! Move it fast! (Take it up!) Move it along! (The Ohio River!) Come on, Life! (Take it up!) Come on, Lord! (Take it ever!) Make it right! (To the Mississippi!) Make it Yours!"
How on earth do you make someone who has only ever known a relational eastern culture truly understand a time and task-driven western one? Especially when they are half a world away? Topped off with a language barrier?
Apparently, love alone cannot always speak loudly enough. And the best of intentions can only get you so far.
I have already cried once for Thailand this morning. A certain situation made me realize the things I were saying were actually true.
"Yes, I am happy here in America, but if I could, I would be back there in Thailand with you right now." "If it were up to me, we would be like real sisters again, living in the same place." "I love you and miss you very much and it hurts me that you do not believe that."
How do you do everything at once? How do you make everyone happy with you all the time?
I guess you just can't. Because I have tried all I know how to do.
Today, when sorting through some CD's, I saw one on the list literally called "Bomb Iraq" by a man named Rusty Humphries. It's a parody song album. The back of it had a little blurb that said something like, "Dedicated to all the brave men and women who serve our country. The best way to intimidate your enemy is to make fun of them." Comedy. Humour. About WAR. Over thousands upon thousands of lives being lost. Literally "making fun of" human beings. And death. When I found the CD I stopped dead in my tracks. My heart was so heavy... in a way I have never really felt before.
And I cried again.
These are PEOPLE! Honestly, what about that is so difficult to understand?!
You know, Jesus, when I asked you to show me depths of your heart and the sorrow that is held there... I didn't expect you to do it so soon.
We must not underestimate the weight of the importance to "know how it feels". Without Jesus' own desire for such... we would be at an eternal loss. The funny thing is though, that in our pursuit of Him, often times we miss this essential component of becoming LIKE Him. To suffer His sufferings and to feel His sorrows. We miss this... because we would simply rather not.
And who could blame us? It's uncomfortable. It hurts. It's lonley. It's everything out heart clamors to run away from.
But I am quickly becoming incredibly aware of how deceiving the illusion of comfort and safety really is. Not only that... but how dangerous it is for us to choose to believe the deception. Because it is NOTHING like the life that Jesus Himself chose. Even as I write this, I notice its absurdity and how much my heart, body, mind, and spirit want to deny deny deny. To read between the lines of His words. To find something else... anything else... that fits my hand like a better suited glove. One that I chose for myself. One that I prefer.
But see, thats the thing. I surrendered that right a long time ago. Along with all my others. And it is not my place to try and take it back. And even though often times I have tried, I have failed. Because it is in those times that I try to function alone... left to the weaknesses that used to define me.
What if I took You up on it for once? What if I ventured out under the umbrella of Your Word and Your promises ONLY? What if I actually let you BE the God You have promised me You are strong enough to be?
I have been too afraid of the lonliness. That has been my functioning deception. But Jesus chose the ultimate lonliness. To be away from his Father, from glory. To walk a place riddled and covered with the sin He had never known. To be constantly and consistantly misunderstood... and left. ...To live a life of being left. ...To be left.
He was left. He knew He would be left. And He came anyway. He knew the lonliness and uncomfort that awaited Him. And He came anyway.
So how on earth have we turned that true Gospel of His own actions and decisions into empty rhetoric about how God's greatet desire is for us to be comfortable, clean, and happy?
There is something extremely unsettled that rises up in my spirit when I think of that. It is not the Gospel that resonates in my heart as Truth. Because it is not the true Gospel of my Jesus. Of my LORD.
To suffer. In order to truly understand Him and to feel His heart... and to honestly know Him in order to make Him known... we MUST suffer. Without it, we cannot bring His kingdom, because we have no idea what it holds.
The great paradox of my God, however, is this... which I do not now, nor never expect to understand until I reach completion: In the midst of that suffering... there is joy. Inside of the sorrow... comfort. Life. True and abundant life. Somehow.
I will admit now that I have NO idea what that means. It goes against every single way my mind has been trained to process happiness. But I serve a God who turned the world on its head when He sent His son to bring His kingdom. The rules and laws of my nature no longer apply.
I will admit also, that part of the reason why I have no idea what that means, is because I have never tasted it. I have never truly chosen it. I dont have the slightest clue what it means for Him to give me HIS life... and HIS joy... and HIS comfort... because I have been too busy chasing after mine. And too afraid to stop.
But I serve a God who does not lie. Who cannot decieve. And He has promised all these things and more.
I don't understand it at all. I don't have the slightest clue how it even begins to work this way. It makes absolutely no sense to my head...But something in my heart is shouting louder than ever before right now. Telling me try Him at His word for once.
To embrace what I do not know. To trust what I cannot see. In order to gain what I could not imagine.
Fairest Lord Jesus, where do I begin?
Let me feel your sorrow. I want to know your heart. It's deepest depths. Let me feel the pains that are held there.
Today, I find myself dwelling on what it means to be "holy".
ho·ly/ˈhoʊli –adjective 1. specially recognized as or declared sacred by religious use or authority; consecrated: holy ground. 2. dedicated or devoted to the service of God, the church, or religion: a holy man. 3. saintly; godly; pious; devout: a holy life. 4. having a spiritually pure quality: a holy love. 5. entitled to worship or veneration as or as if sacred: a holy relic. 6. religious: holy rites. 7. inspiring fear, awe, or grave distress: The director, when angry, is a holy terror.
-specifically definitions one and four.
What blows my mind is the fact that I have been declared holy by the only One who really is ultimately Holy. And, having already been declared as such, I am recognized as having that "pure quality".
But do I realize it and live up to my own title as much as I should? Or even ever for that matter?
pure/pyʊər/ –adjective 1. free from anything of a different, inferior, or contaminating kind; free from extraneous matter: pure gold; pure water. 2. unmodified by an admixture; simple or homogeneous. 3. of unmixed descent or ancestry: a pure breed of dog. 4. free from foreign or inappropriate elements: pure Attic Greek. 5. clear; free from blemishes: pure skin. 6. (of literary style) straightforward; unaffected. 7. abstract or theoretical (opposed to applied): pure science. 8. without any discordant quality; clear and true: pure tones in music. 9. absolute; utter; sheer: to sing for pure joy. 10. being that and nothing else; mere: a pure accident. 11. clean, spotless, or unsullied: pure hands. 12. untainted with evil; innocent: pure in heart. 13. physically chaste; virgin. 14. ceremonially or ritually clean. 15. free of or without guilt; guiltless. 16. independent of sense or experience: pure knowledge.
The Purity of Holiness takes it's root in the Beloved. In becoming and being the Beloved. It is what I am already consecreated to be and have been since the beginning of time. It is the "taken" in the process of being Beloved: Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given. It is the essential first step. It is a necessary decision to claim my holiness and let it define and transform me completely. In every single way that it possibly can.
Holiness leaves no room for halfway. Holiness leaves no option for other loves or split affections. Holiness cannot coexist with apathy in any way.
Holiness is passionate. Holiness is radical. Holiness is so incredibly out of the ordinary; and honestly, out of place in every system that this world has set up for itself.
Holiness is fucking nuts. Seriously. REALLY messed up. Why on earth would I want to pursue it in anyway?
Why would I ever want to accept the call to be holy as He is Holy?
I wish you had been with me to see it all and feel it all and take it all in too.
I love you, best friend.
He tried to focus on his book, but it was no use. The skyline called. And the setting sun warmed his face too gently to be ignored. He looked up to give it the attention it deserved and as he held its piercing gaze, the memory of that place he once called home came to him again.
Why had he even left Italy in the first place? These days, it was hard for him to remember. Well, sometimes. Other times, there were days like today with moments like this one where New York City seemed like the most beautiful place in the world. But most days, his soul knew better. Those hills, that sun- nothing could rival it in all the world. He was sure of it. But as lovely as it was, scenery alone couldn't make him stay. It wasn't enough. The small town life just wasn't the kind of life he was made for. He knew his heart was longing for adventure that was bigger than these vineyards could ever contain within them. And so he had waved goodbye to the only place he had ever known to come to a place where they all said dreams came true.
But they hadn't really. Not yet, at least. A small apartment, a shitty job. No one who really knew he was even there. There were bodies all around him everywhere, but he constantly found himself wondering where all the real people had gone. No one seemed to look him in the eye or even want to know his name.
And so came the books. He had enjoyed them as a child, but now, he thrived on them. They were his friends, companions, and conversationalists. The most loyal he had found since leaving the family that he loved so much. They transported him to different times, different places, different worlds. And sometimes, through them, he even became a different person, surrounded by different people. People that he could know intimately and thoroughly in a way that reality could never offer.
He looked up. The sun had disappeared behind the buildings. All that remained were the last traces of its rays- as if they clung to the sky to remind it to hold out hope that the sun would indeed rise again.
In what I have found, so far, to be the least pretentious place in all of Williamsburg.
This coffee house, that doesn't even have a sign on the wall or hours on the door.
No decorations, no clutter, no fluff.
Some people that walked out earlier had apparently brought the staff here dinner tonight.
And the workers seems to want to know everyone by name.
This is rare.
They are hiring.
I think it's meant to be.
Basically, I love everything about this place already.
I have never ever EVER in my life felt so at home anywhere I have lived.
Don't get me wrong, I miss the people that made Saint Louis home and at times, I still lament silently over the fact that I am no longer a part of their everyday lives and they are no longer a part of mine. But it is so clear that this is exactly where I need to be right now. And I cannot even begin to tell you the peace, comfort, clarity, and hope that come from reminding myself of that at every moment of everyday.
By the leading of the Holy Spirit through two very very dear sisters to me, I am reading a book right now called Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen.
It is completely beautiful and so much of what I needed to hear from the voice of God recently.
Many decisions have already been made and many more are on their way.
But know this: Holiness is worth being pursued. At all times. In every way.
Mostly in the small ones...
Because it is within those small moments that the real true decision of what kind of woman I will be is made.
I will pursue.
And even more...
I will let myself be pursued by Holiness itself.
I am my Beloved's and He is mine.
There is absolutely NOTHING more beautiful, more captivating, more defining, and more comforting than that.
I have this tendency to believe in myself and what I am capable of doing a lot less than those around me do.
I also, apparently, have an extremely hard time being alone with my thoughts.
Blogging makes me uncomfortable.
It really really does.
Which is exactly why I know I need to do it.
Why on earth am I so afraid of my own heart and the honesty it contains?
Why am I so inclined to do anything and everything but scrape past the surface into the deeper realms of my motivations and emotions?
What is it in me that hungers so much for distraction?
I'm attempting to write this piece that I don't even really feel like I'm qualified to write.
Because the qualifications involve caring.
And for a while now, I have not cared about much of anything except for me.
I definitely made it look like I did, quoting exactly all of the things that I knew I needed to say.
I am tired of always going in these circles.
I am tired of running away from my heart.
I was born to set captives free.
Liberty was purposed to be on my tongue to proclaim.
And I know "why" in the sense of the standard answer to give to any questions...
but I just don't really know why it moves me so.
(And why I seem to be able to forget it so quickly.)
But why it tugs at my heart so distinctly when I do remember it even for a moment.
Why my tears catch me by such surprise when I speak of those forgotten ones I adore.
And even why I adore them in the first place.
The textbook answer is "because He loves them too" and I suppose that's true... but there has to be more to it than that. Or at least it has to be deeper than that sentence alone and what it has become.
Even now, I sit in the middle of a comfortable city inside of a comfortable existence. Drinking a coffee. Listening to an ipod. Typing away on a computer. None of which I really need, among many other things.
So what right do I really have to write this?
Because I can.
Because I have the computer and the words (somewhere) and the capabilities and the motivation (somewhere) and the ability to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
I am supposed to be their voice.
What has shaped the way I think about change?
Choosing to think about it in the first place.
It fucking hurts and it's really hard.
To choose to go into those places of darkness that I have only touched in order to tell about the ones that are held hostage there.
But if I do not go... who will?
If we do not go... who will?
What has shaped the way I think about change?
The way I view my own efforts.
The fact that the effort itself brings the Kingdom of God whether it looks like it or I realize it or I see its effects or not.
What has shaped the way I think about change?
Realizing that what I desire is not so much answers, but just the freedom to be able to ask the questions.
The freedom to scream at and cry to the Creator and know that He not only listens... but joins me in my anger.
What has shaped the way I think about change?
Understanding the concept of working for what I desire to see while in my waiting for it to be fulfilled.
What has shaped the way I think about change?
Their hands in mine.
Dancing with them. Laughing with them. Loving them even when I didn't feel like it.
Attempting to look into their future and hating the only things that I could see.
Living within those feelings of potential mixed with hopelessness; of shaky promise- a walking on eggshells of sorts. Afraid to get too attached to or too excited over dreams or visions of restoration because the reality was too harsh and too clear.
What has shaped the way I think about change?
Refusing to continue to pass the blame- whether onto God or other human beings.
In the same words that I have said before, "we cry and cry and cry for Him to come to the oppressed and set the captives free. We call to Him to come down and meet us and them in our darkness. But the part we seem to have missed is the part where we agree to work for it... in our waiting."
We take responsibility for them. We agree to care for them. We decide to speak for them.
We choose to suffer with them. We choose to suffer for them.
What has shaped the way I think about change?
The straight, unfiltered, untampered, difficult words of Jesus himself and not what I have always thought they were. Not my preconceived ideas. Not my childhood church's rhetoric. Not the politics of any man.
Just Him. And His heart. And how loudly it speaks to mine.
I care for them because He cares for them and I know He is who He says He is.
I know that I know that I know that His words must be obeyed... not out of any guilt or obligation. But rather because they contain life. They give freedom. Because they are the only way for me to live. Because through them alone can I make sense of myself. Because they are my only hope and the only hope I have to offer the hopeless. Because they have been tested and have come forth as true. Because they resonate deep within my spirit as that binding tie that of all humanity is searching for. Because they settle my soul and welcome me home. Because they pursue me gently when I run away. Because they inspire me passionately when I am stagnant. Because they make me feel. Because they make me sincere. Because they make me feel alive.
What has shaped the way I think about change?
The ability to be honest with myself and say that what I truly want, I often don't. That what I think I know, I never do. And that what I need to do scares me shit out of me.
What has shaped the way I think about change?
Knowing that in order to bring the healing that I desire to bring, I first have to let myself be healed.
Lives are on the line.
The longer I sit here, unmoved, the longer they wait.
I laid awake- my eyes heavy, but my heart heavier. My thoughts racing. Had all that really just happened? Had I really just been completely exposed?
I know I slept because I know I dreamed. Briefly, but it was there. And the weird part is, the dream exactly mirrored my thoughts; only, it took it one step further to the conclusion I thought I was afraid of.
In my dream, I left him.
In my dream, he took me.
In my dream, I was released in the gentlest way.
It was almost unbelievable just how applicable the conversation that had occurred between us earlier that evening was to everything I had already been thinking. And as if my body itself also anticipated its coming, my heart had already been racing for three hours straight. I was confused and impatient; nervous over what I did not know. And I did not know anything.
Well, no. I knew one thing. I knew I was frustrated with myself for not being able to answer all of the questions I had been receiving for the last month. "What's next?" "What now?" "What do you want to do?"
For some reason, whenever I tried to respond, words never came and I ended up stuttering out some half-assed rehearse about how right now, I just needed to "take some time" and "figure things out". Every time being fully aware of just how pathetic I sounded and just how dissatisfied I was with that answer. But what else could I do? Any other response would have been a lie and to be quite honest, that one wasn't entirely true either.
Sure, I was "taking some time". Lots of it, actually. But there was absolutely no figuring going on in any way.
And he knew it. He had heard me give that response dozens upon dozens of times and I suppose the final straw had broken the camel's back fairly recently when he sat me down to say everything I needed to hear, but didn't want him to say.
As he laid his honesty at my feet, he never broke my gaze and with every passing moment of continued contact, my pulse quickened and quickened. I wanted to run from his words. Mainly because they were the words I had been running from my whole life so far. My whole life that had never really begun. My whole life I had disguised as really living when I was merely wasting my time with making sure I felt good about myself every night when I laid down to sleep.
He was right- I had started to let him define me more than I should. More than I ever thought I could because I always told myself I never would. I wanted to be one of those girls. An eel. A gypsy of a free spirit. The nomadic type that you could never even dream of pinning down. And after 20 years, believe me, I could talk a good talk about it. I maintained and groomed an image that I had specially selected for certain specific occasions where I knew I could either impress or frighten; captivate or elude; entice or evade. But I would never ever bore. I carried it effortlessly and wore it well, but the truth of the matter was that the image contained within it everything that I am not. I was not brave. I was no daring. I was not independent. I was a scared indecisive little girl who got lucky on occasion when opportunities that were almost altogether impossibe to avoid almost literally fell into her lap.
And in one graceful motion, he had ripped that stranger in two- leaving this one with absolutely nowhere to hide.
"I hear you say all of these things you want to do, but I don't see you doing any of them. And I just don't understand."
Neither did I.
"I'm frustrated with you and how it just seems like you aren't really going anywhere."
So was I.
"I don't want to keep you from going somewhere or doing something you feel like you need to do. I worry that you're letting me define your decisions too much. I want you to make your own."
So did I.
I have never been so desperate to know myself in my whole entire life than at that moment. I wish so badly I had an accurate picture of my heart to show him. But my mouth was left wanting of words to fill the space and soothe the soul. The only speech I knew was the kind that I had molded into what I knew my audience wanted to hear. That simply would not do for him. He was smarter than that. He knew me better than that. He loved me more than that. And that scared the hell out of me.
I suddenly became extraordinarily aware and ashamed at how I must have looked to him- not only at that moment, but for the many months before as he watched me slowly lose myself to him. How silly I must have seemed- thinking no one noticed or knew. But he obviously had, or at least had his suspicions that were confirmed the night she brought up New York. He was my reason. He was my excuse. The best and only one I had- seeing as none of the roots I had attempted to put down here in Saint Louis had taken for the last month. The timing could not have been nor would ever be more perfect and my heart had leapt at the thought of this glorious redefinition and recreation of myself. But just as quickly as it jumped, my all too familiar fears disguised as gravity brought it crashing back down again- reminding me of logic- and logically, this new and lovely thing that was springing up between the two of us had no reason to end. No reason- other than the fact that I was being called away to another life.
I opened my eyes and fixed them to the shadows surrounding me. I knew where I was, but all of the sudden, I felt out of place. The room had become too small, the bed too hard, the silence too loud; my skin too warm, the air too thick. I turned my head and gazed at the only thing that had any hope of making sense at that moment- him. I studied his face- those features I had purposely burned into my memory for months. They were deep and inviting in the way they called me to them silently.
They had been something to call mine and I loved that. To know that those eyes that slept in perfect peace were the ones resigned to watch me from across a room. That his ears hungered to hear my voice alone and contain it within them. That his lips had formed themselves to mine time after time after time, like a habit not easily broken. And now, without any warning at all- a cyclone to my best laid plans-, I was being asked to surrender this possession that had become so familiar to me. The thought alone was jolting enough; the possibility that he could have been placed in my life and in my arms for no other reason than to show me what I am worth and to teach me how to walk away.
And it was at that moment, as the steady light began to creep in through the cracks in the curtains, that I knew I was going to lose him.
Because I was meant to.
I had been asked to give up this moment and the many more moments like it that could have, but not would not, come. I had been asked to commit those features and this face to my memory because soon they would no longer be what I could call mine. I was moving towards a greater thing than this and I could feel it so clearly and so strongly that no matter how much my heart tried to hesitate, I knew that the place it was meant to find rest was not next to him.
I had laid here long enough.
And before I closed the door behind me, I glanced back one last time to ensure he would be sleeping soundly on the other side.