Dreaming of the Apocalypse

It’s the end of the world, as we know it” plays in my head on repeat today. Thanks, R.E.M.

Last night I had an entire night full of dreams that I could only describe to my husband as being trapped inside the Pacific Rim 2 trailer. “That sounds awesome!” he said. If you don’t know what I’m talking about it, look here.

Screen-Shot-2016-03-01-at-6.52.27-PM

Here’s what was similar from my series of dreams: It was intense from beginning to end, monsters were coming up out of the ground, total destruction, and people were running everywhere.

Here’s what was different: There were no giant fighting robots, there were no trained professionals to control them, there was no one on earth who knew what the hell was happening or how to fix it. Also, there was a sudden downpour of what I can only describe as lava rain.

I awoke once in the night. I have no idea what time, I awoke to find myself cover-less and cold. This is not really unusual, I have to fight my husband for the blankets on a regular. I re-situated them, scooted my body next to the man-furnace and fell back asleep hoping it was over.

I was right back in it.

This time I was watching it like a video game, and there were mutant animals climbing out of city buildings to join in the apocalyptic rebellion.

When my alarm finally went off I wanted to be awake, I couldn’t take anymore. I had slept all night, but received no rest. I lay there, eyes closed, waiting for coffee running through my “am I depressed” checklist.

I have a history of situational depression. If you want to understand how that is different then chronic depression, here’s an article. After Sunday’s shooting in Texas, it is no surprise that I haven’t wanted to get out of bed. Sadness overwhelms me, and if I am completely honest (thanks dreams…) I, at this moment, really do believe this is the end of our civilization. And therefore, through that conclusion, the end of the world as I (at least) know it.

This isn’t a shock, every great civilization falls, the American Empire (or “experiment” as some refer to it) will too. We cannot sustain ourselves the way we exist, the question was always when and what will be “the thing” that does it, the question was never “if” it would happen.

“Trump’s America”, gun violence, the unveiling of racist, xenophobic hate, the manipulation of our country’s (or any country for that matter) citizens by Putin is terrifying to me and if this isn’t bottom, then what is coming is downright Apocalyptic.

This is the depression talking. Or is it?

I have a nasty habit of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve worked through this in therapy, but I still try to anticipate how it will happen so I can best take care of myself. It’s the consequence of a lifetime if dropping shoes. But in America’s case, the shoe dropping and it all coming crumbing down, may by apocalypse to our way of life, but may actually save our humanity.

In a recent interview Ta-Nehisi Coates did with Stephen Colbert he responded to the question “Do you have hope in America?” with a simple answer. “No.”

Here’s the whole exchange:

“You’ve had a hard time in some interviews expressing a sense of hope in this country,” Colbert said toward the end of the interview. “Do you have any hope tonight for the people out there, about how we could be a better country, we could have better race relations, we could have better politics?”

“No,” Coates said, to scattered laughter. “But I’m not the person you should go to for that. You should go to your pastor. Your pastor provides you hope. Your friends provide you hope.”

“I’m not asking you to make shit up,” Colbert interjected. “I’m asking if you personally see any evidence for change in America.”

“But I would have to make shit up to actually answer that question in a satisfying way,” Coates explained.

I can’t shake this exchange. I am a pastor, my job is to provide people hope. He’s not wrong, that is my job. But not in the way Colbert is asking. If I, as a pastor was sitting in Colbert’s chair and he asked me if I saw any hope in this country I too would have a hard time coming up with something.

Because even though I am a pastor my hope DOES NOT lie in America, or to be completely honest, in its citizens. And if I have hope at all, it is from God.

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from God.
God alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken. -Psalm 62:5-6

My job is to have hope and to spread that hope to other people, but sometimes, I tell you, America, you’re making it really hard right now. We lie to ourselves and we let other lie to us because we don’t want to face our fears. We have made ourselves so comfortable that what we refused to deal with the fact that we are actually vulnerable and fragile.

Time to dust off Micah.

We have made ourselves God. We have put love of country synonymous (at best) with love of God. That, my friends, is idolatry.

So I don’t need Mr. Coates to make shit up, in fact, that’s what got us here in the first place. And he’s absolutely right, come to your pastor for hope, but if we’re doing our jobs right, we won’t be making shit up either.

My hope comes from God alone. I still have hope for all of humanity, I still believe through God’s grace humans are naturally good, and that God is working through each and every one of us in any way God can find to make us individually and as a society better.

I know this in my head and I experience people’s goodness and god’s grace on a daily basis, but I would also not be doing my job if I didn’t worry that it’s going to be too late for us. It’s both my sin and my sainthood to be Jonah in this moment screaming to the people of Nineveh to repent, but also believe we are too wicked to deserve redemption.

Which is why I am not God.

And why I need to let the sadness roll over me. I need to hold and kiss my babies tight knowing that while I stand in the pulpit I would not be able protect anyone fast enough for a AK-15 assault rifle, bought and sold, readily available in this country, not even my children who sit in the front row. I need to take the time and weep knowing the truth of that sentence, and the implications of it.

Then, I will pick myself up and proclaim my hope that comes from God alone.

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.

477395855_e1aa3d92cf_b

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.

Darkness to Light

The people

The people who walked

The people who walked in darkness

deep darkness

have seen

have seen

have seen a great light.

adventweek2

One of my favorite moments of the whole year happens on Christmas Eve. Yes, you can probably guess it’s the singing of Silent Night with the candles, but probably not for the reason you think. It’s what happens right before it. When the world (or at least the church) is dark. Darkness. It’s a profound thing.

It is the symbol, the tangible evidence of everything that is lonely, scary, and sad.

The church goes completely dark and I sing the first verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, I speak the words of Genesis and John 1. When God proclaims light I strike a match. God said “Let there be Light” “Ptchhhh” the match strikes and flame appears, so vivid, so bright in the midst of the great darkness.

I’ve been walking in deep darkness this week. We lost a beloved member of our staff, it’s a crushing blow, he was my creative partner, my friend. He resigned to deal with a a crisis in his life. I’m heartbroken. I’m in the dark about where to go and what to do, about how to move forward.

Today as I watched the Advent Wreath be lit in the first service I realized that the first candle brings the most light. I’ve been reflecting on how this is the Hope candle. If you light a candle in the midst of darkness the room is flooded in light, no matter how small the light, any amount of light overcomes the darkness. It literally is painful on the eyes at first. It’s a miraculous things to watch, it’s one of the most beautiful images of God’s love I have ever witnessed.

But as you add to the light (as we did today) it’s not quite as satisfying as that first candle. We are making progress, the amount of light has literally been doubled, yet it is not as miraculous for some reason as when something was formed out of nothing. Yet again, there is a turn. On Christmas Eve we will light all five candles and then spread that light throughout the room and the light, the love of God entering the world is overwhelming.

I am always sad on Christmas Eve for those in the congregation, I wish they could see what I see. I see a room flooded with light, a candle illuminating each face, some smiling with their families proudly, some silently weeping from heartbreak. It is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Each candle a representation of God’s love for them. Every candle a remembrance that the light shone in the darkness, and the darkness, the darkness cannot, will not, and shall never overcome it.

For the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. As we add to our candles each week this is my hope and my prayer. Amen.

Curses

Curse you new routine! Making my kids get up too early and scream all the way to school. Really because they went to bed too late.  They need more sleep but they also need to see their parents.

Curse you technology that family time is now spent looking at the tv, computers, iphones and ipads one (or two for everyone)

Curse you unusual thing that happened this morning to mess me up.

one-does-not-simply-curses_o_176553Curse the internet full of knowledge, memes and cute kitten videos that keep me distracted, links that lead to links.

Curse you email, text messaging, twitter, and facebook for helping to share every idea I have the moment I have them and filling others inbox’s with half processed thoughts.

Curse you winter rain- be cold or don’t- snow or don’t but quit lurking over us that the brother in the back of the car that is “not touching us” with his finger in our face.

Curse it all. Because then I can truly understand the blessing this life really is.

The Blessing that my husband and I have good jobs and a safe place to take our kids each day.

For the blessing of being connected with friends and family at the touch of a button.

Blessings for the unexpected and opportunity to meet new people.

Blessing of the quest for the unexpected and being reminded that I am not in control of this world.

To God be the Glory.