Jealous

I received my first call to a church less than a month after my 25th birthday. The church wanted a young pastor, guess what? They go one! This meant, however, that the first decade of ministry was spent with the expression from others, “You’re so YOUNG!”

I didn’t have a response to this. It’s like when you’re 9 billion months pregnant and someone says, “You haven’t had that baby yet?” You want to retort “does it LOOK like I’ve had the baby yet?!?!?” (and expletives also filled my head). 

“You’re so young.” Yes. Yes, I am. I am an amazing accomplished young adult. I grew up and have gotten along better with adults than people my own age since I was 8. I was called an “old soul”. Life circumstances made me “wiser beyond my years”. At 25 I had been living as a self sufficient human being for more years than should be acceptable.

However, saying that because tiresome and downright rude, so I thought about it.

“You’re so young!” a person would say, “Oh, you’re just jealous!” I would say in a flirty but authoritative way that said, stop projecting your assumptions onto my age and judge me on my merits, also, I’m fun!

Yesterday my boyfriend and I went to see the movie, Don’t Think Twice. It’s about an Improv group who has been together and they’re all trying to advance their careers, it’s a movie about being not-so-young anymore and wondering what the meaning of “success” is.

After, as we drank Sangria and ate Tapas we discussed this ying and yang of jealousy and competitiveness. There are some people made for a certain thing. In this instance one of the characters “made it” on to the Saturday Night Live type show. He was a showman, he was good with the scripted but not as good as some of the others with improv. However, he had “made it” and the others hadn’t.

Earlier that day, I was going through my mail at work. There was a large catalog for church books, which of course I was pouring through. A couple pages in, side by side, were two books my best friend’s from Seminary had written.

In seminary the three of us were besties from the first year. Faith, like mindedness, snark, and a limited number of outlets in the classroom brought us together. (literally, we fought over the one accessible plug, three of us for two plugs and yes, we did get an extension chord).

As I look back on that time I think about Paul in his Letter to the Romans:

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. -Romans 12:6-8

I was not jealous of my friends, I loved them and love them still. I want good things for them. I was them to succeed and be happy each according to their own gifts.

I do not say this to be pretentious. I have certainly been jealous of things my friends have done, but that jealousy comes from seeing that they carved out the time, or they made certain things bigger priorities than I did.

For instance, I am jealous of people who play the guitar, but I am smart enough to know that if I put the time and effort into learning to do so, I would. (side note: this type of jealousy excludes things we have little to no control over such as pregnancy).

They have done great things, but so I have. Each in our own way, according to our gifts.

I don’t get jealous easily but when you turn to competitiveness, I become enslaved. Jealousy has to do with having something someone else wants. I guess life has taught me that nothing comes easy for anyone, and if it does come easy than there are issues with that (entitlement, for instance). There’s always a catch.

Competition is different. Maybe it’s because I don’t go after something unless I really want it. Competitiveness hits me at my core. It’s personal. Why would someone want them, when they could have me?

Yes, I am this egotistical.

When my “Kool Kids” (yes, this is what we called ourselves, and specifically made the ironic “k”) respective books came out I was proud of them, I also felt this pull of jealousy/competition, (what had I done with my time since Seminary? should I be writing a book? Is that what I’m supposed to be doing?) It was about me, not them.

There is a scene in the movie (which I am going to get wrong) where one of the characters tells the mopey “why wasn’t it me” guy that he should stop looking to the one who “made it” work on his own strengths instead of relying on his friend to get hima  ticket on the success train.

This was a blip of a scene in the movie, but very poignant.

If you’re jealous of the people you are in competition with, then spend that energy focusing on yourself. What’s the saying? If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, then water your own grass.

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No one’s marriage is perfect. No one’s got it all figured out. If you want something, go for it and if you don’t get it or it doesn’t work out, reflect, regroup, and redirect your attention. (yeah, I totally just came up with that! See I’m awesome!)

Focus on yourself in healthy doses. And then, with confidence, the next time someone gives you a backhanded compliment you can exclaim with joy, “You’re just jealous!”

(You can buy Kool Kids books here and here. and we were cool way before Echosmith was even born…)

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Belonging

This last year has been horrendous. I can’t even tell you all the things. The people that know every story of the last year are sick of me (they just have to be). They love me and say I’m not a burden, I am SO grateful, but this year has been more than “drama” it’s been nonstop pain, sadness, depression, circumstances that could have been prevented and some not. Loss after loss after loss.

Every week my therapist braces himself. I don’t think a week of this year has gone by without him tearing up at least once a session. Do you know what it’s like to have your life so broken that your therapist cries for you? Consistently!?!

For the last 2 years I have waited to fall part. I’ve been worried about myself. I’ve had to let others worry about me. I’ve had to let others help me in ways I couldn’t refuse. I worried, they worried. How long can I handling being under this amount of stress? How much more can my body take? Physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? When will this end? The most hopeful and promising things the people closest to me have said is, “I will not be the next thing.” (*Deep Breath*) “May it be so,” I pray.

This past week the Jenga tower fell.

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Over the last two years pieces have been removed one by one slowly, the tower was close to falling over and over and over again, but this week, finally, the piece that held the tower up, tipped the scales. I have never felt so hopeless. Ever. Where did I belong? To whom did I belong? If one more thing happened I can’t handle it. Where would I go? Who would I lean on? Then, in full traumatized fashion, there was a moment of needing to push those people away before I had a chance to get hurt. Then I stopped.

When a Jenga tower falls it never completely falls, there is at least the base, maybe one or two left on the second level. I reached out to the base when the tower fell. The people that will never leave, the people that will never betray, the people who will take me seriously when I say “it’s bad.”

Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die– there will I be buried. May the LORD do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

I am a complicated woman who has had a complicated life. Like Naomi, I have lost much. Not everything. But enough. People have left as it got too hard for them. I let them go, some freely and willfully, others with gnashing of teeth and covering myself in ashes. But to those Ruth’s in my life, I say thank you. You have bound yourself to me, and deserve more than I could every repay.

You have bound yourselves to me in the worst of times. I am a child of God, always, but you have proven and insisted that I also have other family. No matter my name, no matter my city, no matter my heritage. I am my beloveds and my beloveds are mine. God help them, as they have insisted: they will go where I will go, they lodge where I will lodge, their people shall be my people and their God, my God. They will not be the next thing.

I am not alone, I belong.

Be Kind, Rewind

So today this article (Social Scientists build case for Survival of the Kindest) was floating around Facebook, at least on my timeline. The article is from 2009 when I remember writing a sermon about downside to all the “happiness” going around. In the years post 9-11-01 we obsessed with staying positive, we possibly still do.

This is particularly true for us in the church, church has to be a place where only good things happen. Where Mary accepts the announcement of the angel, where a beautiful baby is born and where Jesus concurs death. People have to come to church in their best clothes, with their perfectly behaved children and their saintly, unwavering faith.  God forbid we acknowledge that there were hardships and difficulties like overcoming the possibility of being stones to death by her family and fiance, the slaughtering of the innocents, and a horrifying betrayal and crucifixion. God forbid we acknowledge that we are not perfect and all sin and sometimes do not believe.

There are difficulties in life, we all have bad days, but we still preach kindness, love, goodness- because in our faith, everything did work out in the end… just not the way we expected. This is not necessarily because of kindness, but generosity, love, and commitment, all of which we can embody in kindness. So here are some thoughts:

Take Initiative – My kids and I were shopping for groceries and they were handing out free samples (my kids LOVE this by the way) and one of the samples were apples- yes apples.  My kids (6 & 3) both ate an apple the rest of the trip. At checkout my 3 year old choked on the skin and gagged. He proceeded to spit up in my hand (yes, the things we do as parents). Just then a woman who had seen what was happening ran over with a wad of napkins for me. I was eternally grateful. I never would have asked anyone for help out of my embarrassment, but when I needed it, it was there.

Know When to Restrain Yourself- So the opposite of helpfulness is well, getting on my nerves… There was another time, over three years ago when I was in the grocery (hey- we all spend a lot of time in grocery stores). My son was no more than 2 weeks old and I was using the grocery as an “outing excuse” to walk around, etc. All of a sudden a middle aged woman comes running up to the cart and yells “I just HAD to come see”.  Really… you have so little self control that you just HAD to come see my baby. Try a little restraint, look from afar, I’m not in the mood. Just pay attention and ask yourself if you’re being helpful or selfish.

Keep Hands, Feet, and All Other Objects to Yourself – My daughter and I were in the bank and she was flicking herself, you know where you take your middle finger to your thumb and push, well anyway, she was. She was telling me it didn’t hurt and then she did it to me. It didn’t hurt, but I told her it did because she shouldn’t go around flicking people (off, on, or otherwise). Then I said, “You can do it to yourself, but you shouldn’t do it to anyone else”. The teller looked at me and said “sound advice for many things”.  hmmm… not sure about that, but it worked in this case, and in the cases of little white lies and anytime it involves people’s hair, butts, etc.

Give Generously– Of your time, your talents, and your money. This summer I was working with a seminary intern and a friend called, it was one of those moments where I spent an hour on the phone calming and supporting them. When I came back to my office I looked at her and said, “One of the most important things we do as ministers is to take or return phone calls.” This is true for everyone, it’s what makes us human and able to be kind, we have to support and be supported by our friends. Some people have more time than others and have preferences for phone, text, email, etc. I have people I talk, text, Facebook or twitter to daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly. But I take their calls whenever possible, I followup with them when I can’t, and I tell people when I’m thinking about them. Those conversations, these relationships nurture me and them. Without them I would be but a noisy gong or clanging cymbal.

Finally– always, always, always over tip. 20% is the minimum, unless they were REALLY, REALLY terrible and even then it’s 10-15% trust me, they need that dollar or two more than you. Smile at people, all the time, look them in the eye, and even when they are annoying the crap out of you- suck it up, it’ll be over soon.

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I’m Praying for You

225994_1636So as a pastor I have taken on as my person duty to pray for those part of my “flock”. Okay, I literally laughed out loud as I wrote that… I don’t know, maybe it’s the word flock.

Anyway, I pray- a lot- for my congregation,the people individually, for the community, for the world, for direction, etc.

There is a lot of conversation about this subject and the empty “I’ll pray for you” in my house.  The idea being that “I’ll pray for you” is literally the least we can do as being in community.  That Jesus, while meeting someone in pain, never turned to them and said, “I know you’re starving, or need shelter or are freezing to death, so I’ll pray for you.” In fact the whole point of the Good Samaritan was this- That Jesus took action and calls us to do the same.  Rob Bell says in his Nooma Video ‘Open’ “Don’t ask God to feed someone when you have food to share.”

So yes, I’m with it 100%, following through is a challenge, which I am constantly striving to do better.  However, there are simply not things in this world that we can “will into existence” or “think positive thoughts about”.  For example, When I was struggling to get pregnant that is not something I could will into existence to simply think positively about, I had to take action with the help of doctors (more people than I care to count) and pray, just simply pray in my hour of need.

I grew up thinking, “you can do anything you put your mind to, be anything you want to be”.  Yet the older I get the more I see that this philosophy is not always true. I am a very private person, and yet, I am an open book (I’m a conundrum, what can I say… and I really don’t know how my husband puts up with me).  I keep friends very close and those friends become family to me.

And lately I have been praying and sending love to the people in my family who are hurting. These are not empty gestures.  There are things in our lives, demons that we face, hardships, depression, sadness, stress, being overwhelmed that we simply have to walk through that shadowed valley to get to the other side.  And when my friends, loved ones family face this I pray for them, I send them love in my prayer, I envision their well-being.  I envision them happy, healthy, and able to put love and joy into the world again.

This is community, this is what it means to be the body of Christ.