Kick Me When I’m Down

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Yesterday I was working on the bulletin, as I do on Monday mornings, and of course, I decided life wasn’t hard enough so I was going to change the scripture, liturgy, and hymns I had previously picked.  Because of course. As I searched for a better text for my theme I read this verse from 2 Corinthians.

But God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. -2 Corinthians 12:9

I stared at this text for a while, contemplated using it, and then got really angry. I mean ridiculously angry.  I texted with some friends about what this could mean. I mean, I know what it means, “I must decrease so Christ can increase” it means that those of us in positions of power should get out of the way for God, for God alone has true power. It means a loss of ego, of self, of worldly pride and power. It means being knocked on our asses the way Paul was.

But yesterday, it felt like God was kicking me while I was down. Forcing me to stay down. Like me lying on the floor in the fetal position, arms protecting my face, begging for it to stop.

It’s been a hard few weeks.  I am adjusting to a custody schedule where I only see my children 7 of every 14 days. We are “nesting” until my husband’s apartment is ready and I am tired of living out of a suitcase. I am working with a lawyer to write a separation agreement, dividing debt, making budgets in which I adjust to a new way of life and a new financial reality.

Money wise I’ve been here before. For many years of our marriage we were on one income. 5 years one of us was in graduate school, there were at least 2 years thanks to the economic recession that my husband was out of a job and I made less than $30,000 a year. I made it work, we had more than enough, we provided for our children, I will do it again, I am just tired and don’t want to.

Which is where the kicking feeling came into play.

I like my God as a good God, one that does not kick me when I’m down. One that lays on the bathroom floor with me while I cry uncontrollably, one that weeps with me and loves me through the pain and darkness.

I appreciate that God can give me a swift kick in the ass every once in a while or a smack upside the head, that’s fine, that correcting. But does God kick me when I’m down? Has God done this before and I blamed myself or others?

 Maybe it’s a little of both, maybe I’m missing the whole point. But it’s a thought worth exploring.

Vulnerability begets Vulnerability

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I wrote a post last fall on the importance of kindness. My little advice on how to be kind, you may find it here. I don’t often talk a lot about kindness since I grew up in the south and the “nice” portion of that often meant sweeping truths under the rug, backstabbing, and the like. Call it a trigger word, whatever. Also my personality has always a little “cruel to be kind” in it, it’s the rebel in me.

I tend to use words like – grace, mercy, love – these imply so much more than kindness or “being nice”. I wear my heart on my sleeve, there was a time in my life that I could not pretend to hide if I did not like you, I could not contain the feelings, mostly because I was so emotionally broken.

These days I am emotionally broken in a different way. Through years of therapy and spiritual discernment I am emotionally healthy, yet, with separation and divorce, loss and grief, I am emotionally raw. Over the last few weeks, as my news has become public, I have struggled to keep my emotions at bay, yet, I have been met with grace, mercy, and love. 

Yesterday I returned to church for the first time since going public with the news of the separation. I was vulnerable. I have been vulnerable and my congregation responded to vulnerability beautifully, with vulnerability. They not only met me in it but became vulnerable themselves.

Because vulnerability begets vulnerability. Honesty begets honesty, love begets love, mercy, grace, and so on. It has not been easy for them, for anyone who knows and cares for my family, but it is not about ease, it is about authentic relationship. 

There were many reasons I needed to keep the troubles in my marriage a secret from “the world”. I do not think that was the wrong choice, I talked to whom I needed to, I sought help, and I lived in genuine hope of reconciliation. But this choice left my community and many of my relationships in the dark about what was happening in my life. They are not mad, it’s not about that, but it has reminded me that we are masters at putting on a happy face for the world and hiding, masking what is really going on inside of us.

Since the news has gone public in my community people’s stories are coming out of the woodwork, not just of past struggles but of complications in life that, usually by choice, they are keeping secret until the time is right.

So be kind. Or better yet, treat others with grace and mercy and love. Because we are broken people who are masters at hiding our pain.

God is Doing a New Thing

fontThis week I had the privilege of leading chapel with my DMin class, as we planned we chose this text from Isaiah:

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise. ~Isaiah 43:18-21

Some of you may already know, although it has not been publicly announced on this blog or social media that my husband and I are separated. It is a fairly new reality, as the official separation started July 2 when I left for this trip. When I return home my home life will be completely different. Monday we will meet with a family therapist and deal with the realty of telling our children. We have yet to tell them given that they were without a parent for almost 2 weeks.

As anyone who has ever gone through separation and divorce knows this is not a simple admission. And for those of you who haven’t, I cannot tell you how heartbreaking it is. As a child of divorce I understand all too well that children are resilient, yet I also understand that this will forever change my children and the life I dreamed for them.

I have a great community, friends, and the support of family, both blood relation and not. I have a wonderful therapist and a church who supports and comforts me. However, this is a difficult, vulnerable, and very raw time in my life. Everything has changed, and over the next year of this separation and impending divorce everything will continue to change.

Isaiah’s message is that God is going a new thing. For me, a new thing is definitely happening, I don’t know if God is doing it or not, but it is happening. However, my faith tells me that God is always doing, reforming, “working” on me. But what is provocative about this text is – notice where the new thing is… it’s in the wilderness and the desert. It’s in a difficult place. We like to lift up a “new thing” as if it is the salvation from the old thing, but there’s a part of me that really liked that old thing. I was comfortable there. I liked being married, I liked my family, no it wasn’t perfect, but I was happy and wanted it to work.

Maybe this “new thing” is for the best, although I admit, I can’t quite perceive that yet, or maybe I just need to believe that. But right now I am tired and thirsty in the desert. Right now I am cold and lost in the wilderness.

God will make a path, and God will make the waters come, Isaiah says. Because sin and death does not have the last word, because I will not sit in this darkness forever, because I believe in a God of resurrection, a God of a new thing, even when I cannot yet perceive it.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and guide my way. Amen.