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.

When I Stand Screaming in Front of the Fridge

Priscilla Shirer is dynamic, and in an arena of 13,000 people, she holds us captive on the edge of our seats.  Seriously.  She’s one gifted communicator.

She told us about the temper tantrum that her niece often threw when she was two years old.  She would stand in the kitchen and point to the refrigerator and say, “Eat!”  And her dad, knowing she was hungry, would pick her up and set her in her booster seat at the table, because in their family and in most, the table is the place to eat.  Not on the floor in front of the refrigerator.

And she would scream and shout and kick, and she would climb down and go back to the refrigerator, point and say, “Eat!”  And her dad would carry her back to her booster seat, knowing she was hungry.

 

And the battle ensued.  Back and forth, back and forth, daughter, father, daughter, father.  She demanded what she wanted, but he knew the environment he needed to place her in so he could give her what she needs.

 

Hello, Tricia.  Welcome to yourself in this story.  Impatient, agitated, feeling  misunderstood and climbing out of the space I’m in, because I’m sure God doesn’t know what I want.  When really,

he’s placing me in the position, in the environment, where he can give me what I need the most.

On top of that, God’s patience with me is something I can’t really understand.  I think I can, but I have no idea how boundless he is.

Just because I become impatient and irritable with the redundant questions from my children,

when they ask again and again the topics we’ve just gone over,

the plans I have promised them a dozen times already,

just because that is my frame of reference because I suck,

and just because I feel embarrassed and foolish because, there I am, lost and confused – yet again – asking him to answer me, to confirm his will, to tell me again what he has already promised,

and for crying out, he’s probably thinking,

“Tricia, I need to take a nap before we talk about this – yet again,”

 

I assume the same God is impatient and irritable with me. He is not.  He puts me back in the place he has in mind for me, the place where he needs me to be so I can have what I need, and maybe even what I want.

 

I do wonder, though, if it all makes him smile.  If he leans back in his big comfy chair and thinks, “Sure, Tricia.  Pour all your energy and emotion into this.  It will only make you tired and worn out.  And when you take the nap you’ll finally need, perhaps you’ll wake up in a better mood, ready to obey.”

A Word to Graduates

I have been invited to speak at the Continuation Ceremony of a class of kindergarteners I taught nine years ago.  (Nine years ago!)  I have marked this date on my calendar for many weeks now, so honored to join them for this celebration of such a victory.  Plus, I couldn’t wait to see them again.  It always jars my brain when the children stand before me, forever changed.  The boys have muscles; the girls have curves.  It’s an alarming thing, really. 

But so very sadly, I am sick today.  Bronchitis has hit our home with a dark cloud of ferocity, and I can’t barely utter a whisper today.  So there’s no sense in handing me a microphone.  With great resignation, I will not be able to go tonight.  A friend will read my words to them on my behalf.

So, I’m sharing with you the words I planned to share with them. 

* * *

 

First of all, congratulations.

Congratulations on finishing the last nine years, from the first day of kindergarten to where you are now. Those of you who have excellent handwriting, I hope you’ll remember we started that skill in my classroom. Those of you who raise your hand before you blurt out answers in class, I hope you’ll remember that nobody knew the importance of that on the first day of kindergarten. We worked and worked on that until you became proficient at waiting to speak.Those of you who sing songs throughout your day, who sing good morning songs to yourselves and your families, I hope you’ll remember how we did that too, for every transition. Oh, we sang, sang, sang.

I am exceedingly proud of you, eighth graders. You are a beautiful bunch, and you will forever live in my hearts. Although in my memory, you’re much smaller.

So, congratulations on finishing the last nine years, but more specfically, congraulations on finishing the last three years. Sixth, seventh, and eighth grades are notoriously the worst years of school, and you can ask almost any adult: they will say they didn’t enjoy middle school or junior high.

Everything gets harder in those years. Everybody get a little meaner. They’re some tough years. And you did it. Congratulations, my friends. You have finished middle school.

Let’s think for a moment about the Green, Yellow, Red card system in a classroom. Everybody begins each day with a green card, and then your choices throughout the day will determine if you stay with green, if you get a warning yellow, or if you must suffer the consequences of red. I have a kindergartener of my own now, and we celebrate his green cards with grandeur. For a six year old, it’s the definition of a good day of wise choices.

The best thing about the Card System is this: you get to start over everyday. Everyday begins with green. No matter what happened yesterday,
how many times you cut in line
or shouted an answer
or giggled in the hallway
or made a mess of paper towels in the bathroom
or argued with your teacher
or got out of your chair to roam the room,
the next day is a new day.

And every new day starts out Green.

Guess what? Here’s the best news about graduating from eighth grade: you get a brand new card. Each one of you. New card. And it can be any color you want.

When you enter high school, you’re starting a new stage, and for some people, those are their favorite years of school. (They were mine!) It doesn’t matter what color your cards were in grade school and middle school – it doesn’t matter anymore. You get to start fresh. With your new card, you get to decide who you will be.

Will you get good grades?
Will you be on time?
Will you do your best?

Will you manage your planner and finish your homework and study for tests and be prepared?

You get to decide. It doesn’t matter who you were before now. It’s all new.

More importantly,
Will you be kind?
Will you encourage others?
Will you show compassion?
Will you share what you have?
Will you love well?
Will you make decisions that are respectful and honoring to you and your family?

You get to decide. It doesn’t matter who you were before now. It’s all new.

And keep this in mind, in case I don’t get to see you on the day you graduate from high school: you’ll get a new card that day too. There are are a few times in your life when you get to start over, define yourself, and choose who you really want to be.

This is one of those days.

As you enter high school, as you’re deciding who you will be and how you will be known at this new school, let me let you in on a secret. Lean in close. Closer. This is an important secret, and you might not hear it from many people. Ready?

Everybody around you is a little bit miserable. Everybody is worried about something. Everybody is afraid nobody likes them. Everybody is afraid they’re not good enough. And everybody’s trying hard to look like they’re not miserable.

When you look around your high school next year, when you see so many new faces and they all seem to have their friends figured out and they have found their places in the social structure of high school, remember: everybody is a little bit miserable. You’re not the only one.

The best way to help yourself feel better is to make someone else feel better. If you see someone sitting alone in the cafeteria, make it your responsibility to help them feel included. Join them at their table or invite them to yours. Look for ways to make other people feel better about who they are and how their day is going, and I promise, yours will get better too.

So let me challenge you with two words: Choose Kindness.

There are lots of words about anti-bullying right now. Posters, bracelets, commercials on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel, all against bullying. I agree. Bullying is never acceptable and we need to rescue those who are being bullied.

But.

Instead of trying to bring an end to the trend of bullying, what if we try to begin a campaign of Kindness?

There are enough of you in this room to make a serious change in your high school next year. You won’t have even have to do it alone. Look around you. These people are the faces of your teammates. Choose Kindness.

I love every single one of you, and I’m so sorry I’m not there to say these words myself.

You are loved.
You are important.
You are kind.
You are brave.
You are one of a kind, one in a million.

And remember: nearly everything you need to know, you learned in kindergarten.

So be kind.

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.