Somehow I Didn’t Punch Him In the Neck

So, remember when I was all lit about about the book When We Were on Fire?

And I invited all of you to read it and join me for a giant book club discussion over lattes and scones at the world’s biggest Starbucks which might just be in my imagination and an ethereal dream?

I’m still pretty fired up about this memoir.

(No pun intended.)  (Okay, yes it was.)  (It always is.)

Addie Zierman has become one of my favorite authors and contemporary theologians, and (…wait for it…) she invited me to write a guest post on her blog, to her audience, for the people who call her well-written and wise.

Today is the debut: Somehow I Didn’t Punch Him In the Neck.

Please go to Addie’s blog, and give yourself the pleasure of a virtual stroll.  Give her some love.

And order her book.

 

Christians Suck Sometimes.

“Christians kind of suck sometimes,” I said, holding her hand.

“Oh, I know this.”

“I know you know, because you haven’t been loved well. But here’s what I want you to know: there are many of us who are mean and judging and hurtful. But those are just Christians behaving badly. That’s not God. That’s not his heart for you, or what he wants for you – and it’s not what he wants from us.”

Her eyes filled with tears.

“Oh, my friend,” I whispered.  “He just loves you. He is not the author of shame, confusion, or fear. When you feel those, you can know they are not from God, and they are not what he wants for you. Someone else gave that to you, handed it to you, placed it on you. But not God.”

She cried.

***

“Why do Christians suck so much?” I ask loudly when I can finally speak, because the moment of striking loneliness always brings me back here. To church. To the places where I am most wounded. I look at Miles, angry, my breath a mix of alcohol and dark roast.

“I don’t know,” Miles sighs. “They just sometimes do.”

I put my coffee down and put my head in my hands.

“I know what you’re going through,” he says quietly. “I mean, I’ve been there.”

“Why did you go back?” I mumble into my hands. I mean to the faith. To Church People. To the college on Snelling with the required biblical studies major and the ridiculous visiting hours and the rule about not dancing. To the people who look at you suspiciously, who wait for you to fail.

Miles thinks about it for a moment. “Because some of them don’t suck. Some of them understand what Jesus is all about. Some of them will love you without a thought.”

~ Addie Zierman, When We Were On Fire: 

A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over*

 

*I am in love with this memoir.  Addie writes about her journey of growing up in an evangelical environment, of cliches and guidelines that carry great meaning but are often divorced from the Scripture that they were originally derived from.  She comes of age and realizes that all of these words, cliches, rules, and contracts are not actually directives from God.  And it revolutionizes her thinking.

I would like to send a mass email to everyone from my youth group, summer camp, and college community.  I would say, Please read this and then let’s all meet at a giant Starbucks so we can talk about it.  I totally want to hear your thoughts.  And maybe we can each drop a line to the influencers in our lives who taught us how to think, not what to think.

If you grew up in the evangelical subculture, and you’ve ever questioned if any or all of it is legit, please read this book.  Stat.

Legos. Markers. Library books. Angry Birds. And Grace.

I cleaned the boys’ bedrooms.

Yes, I know they should clean them on their own. There are many things they should do. Add this to the list.

I laid down the ultimatum a couple of weeks ago – you have an afternoon to clean your room. If you choose not to, then I will clean it for you. And believe me, young men, you do not want me to clean it for you. My process involves trash bags. And no sharpies for labeling and retrieving.

I wonder if every parent ever has tried this tactic. I remember wailing at the kitchen table, grieving the contents of the trash bag, most of all the lavender corduroy pants. (Let’s all just take a moment for lavender cordury pants.) To put away or throw away: that was the question.

My mom still talks about the time this backfired on her. She swept through my brother’s room, filling bag after bag of his stuff, and she told him he could earn it back. Seven years later, he graduated from high school, and my mom found the trash bag of his treasures where she had hidden it in the back of her closet. At that point, my brother said, “It’s all right, Mom. You can have all that stuff.”

I tend to operate well under deadlines, great and small. When I write, I set my timer for 8 minutes and 44 seconds. Nothing sacred about that amount of time, just a good formula that is neither too short nor too long. And if the timer beeps and I have more to say, well, then command-R. Reset and we’re good to go. Check back in with me in another 8:44.

I do the same thing with cleaning. I set my timer for 15 minutes, thinking, ‘surely I can clean for fifteen minutes. I can do anything for fifteen minutes.’ And then I gain so much momentum that by the time those 15 minutes are up, I barely want to pause long enough to make the beeping stop.

Such was the case with the boys’ bedrooms. I was Tazmanian in my degree of productivity.

What I didn’t see coming, as I cleaned the boys’ rooms was the spiritual metaphor in this gift of grace.

In part, they hadn’t cleaned their rooms because – like their mother – they don’t like such menial tasks. But also, they didn’t clean their rooms because they didn’t know where to even begin in this sea of Legos and markers and library books and angry birds and yogurt wrappers and divorced pairs of socks.

I cleaned their slate.

When they came home, when they saw their carpet once again, they spilled with thanks. Thank you, Mommy! Oh, thank you! One of them actually knelt down to the floor to enjoy the plush carpet on his fingers and against his face. Thank you, Mommy.

They wanted out of the mess. They didn’t know where to start.

I get that, guys. Been there too.

Harvest Entitlement

“Boys, I bought new summer shirts for you. You can choose which one you’d like to wear to school today.”

There comes a time when their search for seasonal clothing isn’t about tidiness. Although it might be about laundry. Meh. That’s not what this post is about.

“Oh, I love these. Thank you, Mommy.”
“And look at mine! Angry Birds and Perry Platypus… dude! These are awesome!”
“What?! I didn’t get anything like that!”
“But you have skateboards and robots and drums on yours.”
“I don’t care! You know I like Angry Birds! You know that! Why did you buy me stupid shirts?”
Shouting, pouting tantrum.
Well, you ungrateful, entitled little snit.
“You may go to your room. You are very ungrateful, and that is not okay with me.”
“But you KNOW what I like!”
“And I did my best, young man. I had to buy what was in your size. There were no Angry Birds in your size. Upstairs. Go.”

I choose not to connect my children’s behavior to my identity or worth. (This is a daily choice.) As long as this attitude of unappreciation continues, I will withdraw the favors I do for you. There are certain things I am required to do, and those basic needs are met. So you can find your own breakfast in the pantry. Pack your own lunch. Gather your own backpack. I’ll meet you in the car.

There are moments in childhood when you realize you’ve pushed your mother too far, and the only way to reconcile this situation is to form a sibling team. In solidarity, they gathered themselves for the morning. They completed every task on their own. And not only did they meet me in the car, but we pulled out of the driveway ten minutes ahead of schedule.

There are moments in parenting when you realize you’ve been doing too much for your children. (Ding! Ding! Ding!) Turns out, I’ve been the one running around like a wild, crazy woman, grabbing shoes and coats and backpacks and lunch bags and homework, all while they simply lifted a foot so I may tie their shoes.

How did this happen? I’ve read books about this! I’ve taken measures to prevent this! When I was a teacher, I coached parents on how to break this pattern! And here I am.

Well, there I was. I shall be there no more.

There was a brief exchange of apology and forgiveness before they walked up the sidewalk and into school – oddly, they didn’t have to run to beat the second bell. We hardly knew what to do with our timely selves. In fact, Tucker actually did go in the wrong door and was gently penalized. Sorry. We don’t know the protocol for families who are on time.

I came home. Poured my coffee. Sat on my deck, which is maybe one of the best things about this house. Sure, I had a deck in the previous home, but it backed up to a four lane road, which only came in handy when I was locked in that blasted bedroom.

Anyway, I have declared this my spring and summer writing space.

I read from Galatians. “Let us not grow weary from doing good. For at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

I sat back in my chair and heaved a giant exhale of maternal exhaustion. I am weary. I am weary from doing good. I am raising leaders. Kingdom makers. By God’s grace, I am raising men who will be faithful husbands and loyal dads.

And at the proper time, together we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. In this field, I envision and pray for a harvest of integrity. Dignity. Respect. Responsibility. Leadership.

I am weary from doing good. Or even from doing not so good.
I’m waiting for that proper time. Bring on the harvest.

Foregone Conclusion

“Tricia, you seem to write and think and talk about marriage as if it’s definitely going to happen. Like it’s a foregone conclusion.”

Actually, that’s exactly what it is. I know I’ll marry again. I know this with an absurd sense of clarity and assurance.

“So does that mean you’re seeing someone?”

Nope. But one doesn’t need the bird in her hand to know that she’s made for the nest.

I think he’ll know that he knows. I already know that I know. We simply need to know each other. There is a place in my heart with his name on it, even though I haven’t yet fallen in love with him. But I’ll know when I do.

I think he’s looking for me.
I think he’s been waiting even longer than I have.
I think his heart has been broken in the way that brings perspective.

Perspective that shows you not to worry about little things,
not to fight about stupid things,
and to let most of it go
in the name of peace and grace and love and
I’m happy to see you again.

Perspective that shows you it doesn’t matter if the boys’ fingernails are trimmed,
that sometimes it’s good to eat dessert first,
that hellos and goodbyes matter,
the scattered Legos are a work in progress,
and silence is a language all its own.

I think he loves God and asks questions.
I think he’s solid in his career,
he’s established and confident,
and we can fearlessly support one another
and dive into a life of words together.

I think he’s smart and funny and thinking, and thereby the most handsome man in the room.

I think he’ll be afraid,
because so am I,
because the only way to be fearless is if you’ve never loved to a place of brokenness before.
I think he’ll be courageous,
because so am I,
because the only way to live is to love enough that you might break into pieces.

I think he wants to be a dad to somebody.
Or to two somebodies.
I think he understands the heart of an artist,
the mind of a writer.
I think we can walk alongside one another,
creating a sum that is greater than all its parts.
I think we will create.
I think neither of us can breathe unless we do.

I belong to him,
and I’m making today’s decisions with him in mind.
I think we will be great.
And we’ll know when we know.

It’s a foregone conclusion.