Holding Space for Grief

I’ve been reading the book Inspired by Rachel Held Evans, and it has validated a lot of my own ideas about my faith and how I view Jesus, the one I call my Lord and Savior. I was inspired to start it (pun not intended) when I heard of her unexpected death last month at the age of 37. I haven’t finished it yet, but I wanted to speak to one of the topics today as I have a lot of experience with it.

So, holding space for grief. Over the past few years, I’ve learned about lament and about how many of the Psalms in Scripture are psalms of lament. In them, God is cursed, wrestled with, complained to, and doubted. It was almost a relief for me to see the words in black and white and see that they matched the thoughts that were in my head. Evans provided a few examples I want to mention.

From Psalm 139:19-22:

“If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.”

Or from Psalm 109:9-12:

“May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.”

Not quite the words people usually share from Scripture. Right?

But, I find I must quote them if only to bring to light a major problem in the American church and some hypocrisy in my own life. There is a lack of lament in the American church. There is no “holding space” for those in grief. The nearest we come to it is individual counseling with church staff members or with trusted friends. We all suffer from the heaviest of burdens, but we refuse to lament with each other. We just pretend that everything is okay. Evans had this to say which says it better than I could. “That American tendency toward triumphalism, of optimism rooted in success, money, and privilege, will infect and sap of substance any faith community that has lost its capacity for “holding space” for those in grief.” (pg. 110, Inspired, Rachel Held Evans) No one is willing to sit with people in their pain without judging or offering solutions. They don’t want to share their pain either because they are afraid of being judged. This is a conundrum I’m not sure how to navigate, but I see it as a problem we, in the church, need to talk about. The comment I quoted also reflects how we choose our leaders. Because there is a veneer over their appearance in which none of their burdens are seen, we choose them thinking they are effective leaders. But then, we don’t allow them to lament or lament to them, and the cycle starts all over again

These words have resulted in another conundrum in my own life, one which I’m not proud of. There are many times I don’t feel seen in my faith community or in my life. There was even one time I was told to “go away” by someone in my faith community. As you can imagine, that comment made me feel like garbage. But, it brought me to a conclusion. I want to be important, to be an influence too. I want to be noticed and to have friends. Isn’t that what being a faith community is all about? Isn’t that the definition of community? I believe we should recognize ALL of those in our faith communities whether they are leaders or not.  But, it also made me ashamed. It made me think my wanting to be an influence was not coming from the purest of motives, that I was letting Satan influence me.

But, Jesus clarified my thoughts and reminded me of something. There’s nothing wrong in wanting to be an influence for Him. He reminded me I probably wouldn’t have done the reading I’ve done if I’d been more of a “person of influence” or “leader” in my faith community. My heart wouldn’t have been open to the changes it has undergone, and I wouldn’t have been willing to explore the concept of lament or to challenge the status quo either. He wanted me to be open to His voice.

Let me leave you with another quote by Evans to consider. “Life is full of the sort of joys and sorrows that don’t resolve neatly in a major key. God knows that. The Bible knows that. Why don’t we?” (pg. 111, Inspired, Rachel Held Evans)

God bless you all today!

The Tension of Striving

I’ve been thinking about this lately. Striving, striving, and striving again with my writing. Getting rejected and being knocked down by said rejection. Thinking I had nothing to contribute because I was so different. Getting back up and trying again. Wondering if I was where God wanted me.

These are all things that have created this tension within me and, I’m pretty sure, within all of us who are creatives. This brings me to a question. How can I create from a settled place? Does there always have to be tension, or can I actually feel settled as I create? This place would say I’m going to keep trying no matter what, but it would also say the writing, just the writing, is what matters in the grand scheme of things. Not the achievements that could come, not the goals that could be reached, just the writing.

For me, I have figured out I need three things to feel settled as I write so I can strive from the best place. The first of these is my writing life itself. Octavia E. Butler had this to say about writing. “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking its good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. So, persistence is important in staying settled. I also like this quote by Anne Frank. “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” Writing also helps my courage. That’s another reason to keep doing it. Finally, one of my favorite quotes by Virginia Woolf leads into my second thing. “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” This is truth for me, so much truth.

This also leads to the second thing I need to be settled with in order to write from my best place. My life. That’s it, plain and simple. I might not ever have any family or friends that read my writing or encourage me with it. I might always be considered too strange to contribute to anything or anyone else. There might not be people who want to be my friends because they don’t like who I am and wish I would be different. But, I can’t be different. I can only be the way God made me, and that needs to be enough.  Enough for the settling and enough for the striving.

Finally, I need to be settled with my faith in order to be at the place where I can strive with my writing. I’ve spent a long time denying who I am–not in the blogosphere, but in the real world. I want to be accepted in my community (Who doesn’t?) so I pretend to like things I really don’t and don’t talk about things I do like. It’s a conundrum. We try to fit in when we’re not made to fit in. We’re made to stand apart and reflect the love of our God who made us. As it says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus died on the cross for all of us, and for me, when I’m settled in this truth, I can strive and I can write with my truest self.

Praying for all of us to have success in the tension of striving!

Overcoming

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about being at a stalemate (http://thrivingingrace.com/stalemate/) and not thinking I had the talent or will to move forward. It seemed to me that the approach I had taken with my writing was too general, and no one would ever read what I had written, not strangers and not even people I knew. It was a frustrating place to be in since writing was the only place I felt like I could clearly communicate. My spoken words were not easily understood, and I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I wasn’t sure where to go from this hard place.

For several reasons, I still feel like I don’t fit into real-world groups or situations, but I figured out I had been more specific with my writing than I had thought. I’m still asking myself how I got to this point, how my confidence was renewed. It was simple really, and something I would heartily recommend to anyone who has the funds for it. I went through what turned out to be a life/ writing coaching session. Let me outline how it came about. One day, I was scrolling through Facebook, and I saw a post in one of my writing groups. It was from someone who was doing research on creativity. She was asking that people complete a questionnaire and participate in a phone call with her. It sounded pretty simple so I decided to give it a whirl. I completed the questionnaire and then emailed her to set up a time to talk. It took us a bit to find a good time but then we decided to do our call this past Saturday.

I got up Saturday morning excited, but a little nervous. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. She put me at ease immediately. We were both moms. In fact, one of her children was the same age as one of mine. We talked about the different parts of the world we lived in–She lives in Spain, and I live in the southeastern United States. Finally, we started talking about writing. I shared my desire to help people with my words. I shared how writing had helped me with some dark moments from my past. And I shared how I had developed my writing routine over the past few years and especially over this past year as my younger son started his post-high school career. She had me do an imagination exercise of where I would like to be in three years. The conversation was fun. We laughed, and I felt like we made a real connection.

Then, she asked the question that brought me out of my stalemate. She asked why my answers to the questionnaire had been so different from the conversation we had been having. I had to think for a second. I explained about the stalemate I had been in and how I was feeling lost about my prospects of going any further with my writing. Then, a word came to mind. It reminded me of the words about having a theme I had read from author K. M. Weiland. I knew what the theme to all my writing was now. Everything I had written so far had been about overcoming. I write about other people overcoming things I wish I could overcome. I write about gaining and losing courage and then gaining it again. I write about my faith and my writing and the challenges I face as an introvert. I write about my God who overcomes and my Jesus who overcame His death on the cross to become my Lord and Savior.

So, my writing is more specific than I thought. It has a theme and a purpose, and I can see a way forward now. I am so grateful for this conversation with someone who gets me as a writer and as a person of faith. She also reminded me Jesus shared stories during his ministry. I had always wondered how life coaching worked and now, I know. My wish for all of you who are creatives is to have that friend, that person in your life who can have that conversation with you.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Permission to Feel

I dreaded the days leading up to this Mother’s Day. It’s always been a hard day for me because of my relationship with my own mother, but I made it more difficult last year by thinking my permission to feel my own feelings had been yanked from me. It was not really yanked; it was just how I felt.

God gave us feelings when He made us. Feelings that we, in the church, have classified as good feelings and bad feelings. When we come together to worship, it’s okay to have the good feelings. The bad feelings, not so much. Or maybe I should say that people are uncomfortable with bad feelings. I know I have been in the past.

But, as I’ve gotten older and experienced more of life, I’ve realized some things about myself. First of all, I feel deeply perhaps more deeply than other people, and it’s gotten me into trouble more times than I can count over the years. Second, I suffer from a mental illness that makes these deep feelings even more prominent. It tells me that my feelings are wrong even when they’re not, and I have to jump through hoops to figure out how to reconcile my feelings with my faith. Finally, I battle with realizing my worth to my Lord and Savior and to the people around me. I have a hard time knowing what feelings are true and what feelings are not as I seek to live my life as His disciple.

So, this past year has been a tough one for me as I’ve sought to figure out how I was supposed to feel in the different situations that came up in my life and what would be God-honoring as I negotiated my way through it all. When things went well and when I had what I considered to be good feelings, I didn’t struggle, and those were the good times. But, as we all know, the good times never last and are always interspersed with bad feelings. Those were tough times for me especially when I felt I didn’t have God’s permission to have the feelings I had. I felt alone and ashamed and felt like I had nothing to offer to God, to others, or to myself.

During those times though, I was also studying, praying, writing, and talking through my feelings. It was like a yo-yo. Sometimes, I felt God’s presence through all I was doing, and the times would be good. And then, there were the other times when there was silence. I felt like I never knew what was okay and what wasn’t since I couldn’t sense God’s presence and felt like I had to model what I was seeing in other Christians.

I know that was a mistake now which brings my story of this past year up to yesterday morning. I’ve studied and written about Scriptures where the writers were honest with God about their feelings. Scriptures such as Job 3:25-26. “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” Or Psalm 109:6-9. “Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him be found guilty and may his prayers condemn him. May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership, May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.” For some reason though, I had it in my mind that those “bad feelings” were only okay for writers of Scripture and not for me.

But, yesterday…yesterday, it came together for me in a way it hasn’t before. From verses used in Sunday School to verses used during the sermon to a phrase used that has become the title to today’s post, God showed me I had done something to myself He had not ordained. It’s okay to feel whatever I need to feel whether it’s a good feeling or a bad feeling. I had His permission. There was even a present for me, a deep thinker, in the verses used, Luke 2:19 says, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Yay! A deep thinker in Scripture. Someone like me. It was a moment I will always treasure.

God made me just the way I am for a reason, and I’m gonna live into it as much as I possibly can. I won’t be ashamed of my feelings anymore. Thank you, Jesus, for helping me forgive myself and for giving me permission to feel. May we all feel that from you today!

God bless you all!

Holy Gets Angry

Today, I’m going to spotlight the second of the phrases I found in my Lenten book, 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole. The phrase is “holy gets angry.” There aren’t many instances of Jesus getting angry in Scriptures. I am sure though we are all familiar with the most quoted instance of Jesus’ anger with His clearing of the temple. Until now, I had always heard sermons of why Jesus cleared the temple–the religious establishment was cheating those who had come to worship. But, I had never paid attention to the words of how he had cleared the temple. So, I went back and read the verses that stated the how.

John 2:15-16 says, “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

The other Gospel writers covered this instance and at least one more–one at the beginning of his ministry and the other towards the end. Jesus was seriously angry about this–serious enough that it was covered in the written accounts of his ministry.

But, anger is not a nice emotion, right? It’s not nice just like grieving isn’t nice, and people don’t know what to do with it except maybe to tell people they shouldn’t be angry about a particular situation. Now, I agree. There are many instances where we shouldn’t be angry. Anger can have a negative effect on emotional and physical health. Getting angry can result in violence you really don’t mean to happen. It might be the result of a misunderstanding. Or it might be the result of a legitimate situation. God knows we get angry just like we grieve, and He doesn’t condemn us for it. It’s part of who we are as humans.

So, with that negativity against anger, is there ever a good reason to be angry? To get angry, yes, but to stay angry, no. That’s where forgiveness comes in. Anyway, I did some thinking before coming back to writing this paragraph, and I realized that Scripture shows us the way. God wants us to use our anger on things that affect others. I’m not talking about a hashtag campaign on hot-button issues like abortion or poverty either. I’m talking about getting down in the trenches with someone who needs help and getting angry when the church refuses to help. I’m talking about not condemning a person for their “sin” and instead loving them in Jesus’ Name. We all sin. There is not a one of us who sins less than the other. In fact, the only person who never sinned was Jesus, as we all know.

I’m talking about walking with the person who is being abused, walking with the woman or couple who is facing an unexpected pregnancy, walking with the person who is not the same race or income level as you, or walking with the person who is addicted. God doesn’t want us to stay in our comfort zones. He wants us to get in the trenches with those who need to see His love.

I guess that’s why I get angry when I see news coverage on any of the hot-button issues. There is never a solution, only angry words offered–from both sides. Even from Christians. What happened to sharing instead of greed? (And don’t tell me only one side is greedy. I’ve seen greed on both sides.) What happened to hope instead of despair? And finally, what happened to love instead of condemnation? When I consider the answers to these questions, I get angry at others and at myself. Because, we’ve all sinned in this way. I think that’s when God gets angry too. We’re not living the way He wants us to live.

So, as I finish this, consider the answers to these questions in your life. And then, when you get angry, are you angry because something hasn’t gone your way or are you angry on someone else’s behalf? How can this anger then be turned to show Jesus’ love in our sphere of influence?

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

God bless you all!

“Higher, Further, Faster” (With God as my Co-Pilot)

It generally takes me awhile to go and see a movie. Between not wanting to be in the crowds on opening weekend (That’s my introvert self talking.) and looking for the cheaper showings (I hate how much it costs to go to the movies nowadays.), waiting for a couple of weeks seems to be the norm. But, last Monday, I saw K. M. Weiland’s blog post of 4 Pacing Tricks to Keep Readers’ Attention in her ongoing series of The Do’s and Don’t’s of Storytelling According to Marvel. It focused on Captain Marvel, the most recent Marvel movie. I was entranced when I read the post. I could go see this movie, learn some tricks for my own writing, and be entertained at the same time. Seemed worth the price for a ticket so I headed to the theater last Thursday afternoon.

The movie was worth penny I spent. Not only was I entertained; not only did I learn some tricks I could use in my own writing; I also saw some of my own life in Carol Danvers’ life. No, I haven’t been to another planet. No, I haven’t had amnesia. And no, I certainly haven’t gained super powers. But, I’ve gone through a lot of the past year not knowing who I was. I was no longer a homeschool teacher, and there was no natural niche where I felt I fit. The parts of my life were in pieces with parts not being acknowledged by other parts. I’ve had a difficult time working my way through it.

But, back to the movie. There was something happening every fifteen minutes or so that kept me in the story. That, in writing terms, is called pacing, and the movie was a great visual example of it for me. And it wasn’t just random. It was something that moved the story along and brought Vers (Danvers’ Kree warrior name) to our technologically challenged planet. She had decisions to make at each point too.

I also liked how they began the story in the middle of the action, but were also able to combine character development with it which made sense and didn’t feel forced. Her character arc combined seamlessly with the story as it should have since this was an origin story.

There were two things though that felt off during the movie, but not off enough for me to take my good rating away. The first was the jarring nature of the flashbacks where the Skrull commander repeatedly “rewound” Vers’ memories forcing her to pay attention to details she originally hadn’t focused on. It reminded me of the skipping of a record player each time it happened. (which should tell you how old I am, 🙂 ) But, in its defense, it was a different way to do a flashback which made it memorable.

The other thing that bothered me was the characterization of the villain. Even if it wasn’t already known this particular character was going to be the villain, it was easily figured out by the way he behaved toward the heroine. I didn’t see very much good at all in the way his character was presented even before his villainy was on the movie screen.

When everything was known though, when Carol was about to know and knew who she was, and when Yon-Rogg was shown to be the villain, some of the best scenes of the movie sizzled on the screen. I could see the good writing. I could see the good characterization. I could even see that the revelations were handled crisply and cleanly.

And the part about it relating to my own life? I saw my life coming together as a whole through watching this movie. That might be a funny thing to say about a secular movie, but bear with me. I felt awkward with the thought at first. How could my faith life, my writing life, and my life in general come together through watching a secular movie? That’s when I thought of the addition to today’s post title, “Higher, Further, Faster” (With God as my Co-Pilot). I had thought I needed others’ approval for what God was calling me to do, but I really don’t. I just need to do what God is calling me to do on whatever path He sets me on.

So, that’s it for today. Highest recommendations for the movie! Can’t wait for Avengers Endgame in just a few weeks!

Holy Grieves

For almost a year, I’ve wrestled with the question of whether it’s okay to grieve in church. If I’m honest though, it’s been longer than that. I’ve just been thinking about it in particular over this past year and wondering if it was okay.

Sometimes, I think I’m the most human person in the world when I go to church. I weep when I grieve. Tears come easily though I do my best to hide them, and there aren’t many people who understand when I try to tell them. So, I keep my thoughts and feelings to myself when people ask what’s wrong, or I just don’t cry at all even though I want to. And all along, I think I’m a terrible person because it seems like I’m the only one who needs to grieve, and God must think badly of me because I grieve so openly. As you can see, I internalize many things about grieving.

But, I’m going through a book during this Lenten season as I’ve mentioned before, 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole. One of the more recent entries had the answer to my question, and I’m using two of the words in that entry for the title of my blog post, “Holy grieves.” The author provided the translation of the word Luke used when he was describing Jesus riding into Jerusalem. When Jesus cried at the sight of the city, He was wailing. Yes, that is the translation of the Greek word–lament, wail, cry–all of those words. He grieved for Jerusalem. He grieved for all its inhabitants. He grieved for all of humanity.

I read the author’s words and felt better about my question. We’re all familiar with the Scripture where Jesus weeps at Lazarus’ death though he was about to be resurrected. But, the other instances, I had never heard them explained so clearly.

We don’t do a good job though of wrestling with this in the church. The author of my book calls it “wrestling with the mystery of the Incarnation,” and I think that’s appropriate. We use words that are easier for us to understand though they cut open the heart of the receiver because we don’t understand the point and the purpose of grief.

Here are some of those words quoted directly from the author. “You shouldn’t cry, grieve, wail, or weep. God is in control. He works all things for the good of those who love Him…so there’s no need to feel___.” (Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days of Decrease) I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard those words spoken to me or have spoken them to others. We’ve lost the art of just sitting and grieving with each other.

So, I wonder what I should do in church when I hurt. Should I weep and feel awkward and lacking in faith after I do so? Should I keep it all in and not share it with anyone? Or should I remember this sentence from the author of my Lenten book? “It is never weakness to grieve where God is grieving.” (Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days  of Decrease) Crying is not a sin, and grieving is not a sin, and I think I finally understand what God has been trying to teach me.

May all of us who are believers grieve authentically knowing that our Lord and Savior grieves with us. Praise God that “holy grieves!”

God bless you all!

Enough?

I hesitated before deciding on this topic for today. Who likes admitting they don’t think they’re enough. I don’t, and I’m sure y’all don’t either.  My Lenten devotional was what convinced me. It suggested that today’s fast should be a “tidy faith.” We should doubt and question all we need to, and our faith would be stronger for it. It made sense to me, and since my courage has been growing, I’m going to write it all out no matter who might like or dislike it.

A long time ago, I left the church, and I left my faith. Oh, I said I didn’t. I said I was still a Christian, but for the most part, God wasn’t spoken of in my home except in our homeschooling curriculum when we began homeschooling. With what I thought of as my own strength, we moved through such things as death, moving, illness, hospital stays, moving again, and a miscarriage. Drastic changes, to be sure.

But then, I found my faith again, and I found the church I attend now. I’ve written about this before. In the almost seven years though since I found my faith again, I’ve wondered about something. I’ve wondered if I was enough in God’s eyes. I know, clearly, the things I’m not enough of. Not pretty enough. Not wealthy enough. Not with my spouse enough. Not Christian enough. (I wasn’t raised in the church.) Not knowledgeable enough about the Bible. Not in the “in crowd” enough. Not good enough to pray out loud. Not good enough to teach. Not good enough to serve. (At least not in the places where my gifts lie.)

Now, these haven’t happened all of the time. There have been seasons for each where I’ve been enough, and some where I haven’t. I’ve been tempted to walk away during the times when it hasn’t been enough because, as I’ve already said, who likes feeling like they’re not enough. It was especially difficult when I started thinking if just my presence was good enough which made me want to ask this question. Is just my presence in a church to worship enough? Does God value my worship enough for me to come to church even though I might feel lonely for the presence of other people in my life? Does God value me enough as a daughter to value my worship?

I know He does now, and I will never let others take away His love again.  That is how much my faith and my relationship with my Lord and Savior means to me. I’ve prayed, studied Scripture, and just talked to God more in the past almost seven years than I have in a long time. The growth I’ve experienced has re-established my faith in ways I didn’t expect. God has been there for me countless times.

But, there is that pesky thing called “meeting together as a church body.” God wants us to do this, and it’s called for in Scripture. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” So, meeting together to worship. The times when I’ve felt the most lonely and wondered whether my presence was enough. I could easily give up corporate worship. In fact, there are times I feel closer to God when it’s just Him and me. I don’t feel the judgment of other people for not being enough, and it’s calm and peaceful in my heart and mind.

God called me to corporate worship though, and I want to acknowledge and fulfill His call on my life. So, even though I may never “do” another thing for God or serve Him in the church in any capacity or even be acknowledged during a service, I am enough because God says I’m enough. Worshiping Him with my presence is enough.

God bless you all!

Lent as “Sojourn”

I started something new today on Ash Wednesday. A book called 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole focusing on the 40 days leading up to Easter. I’ve never done anything like this before for the time of Lent. In fact, I’ve never really gone through the whole period of Lent thinking about Jesus and His journey to the cross. Last year, I did read a devotional, but I started it late and with everything going on, I don’t think my focus was fully on it.

Not this year though. I have an insatiable hunger to know my Savior better. To know what it really meant and means for Jesus to go to the cross for me. This desire does not mean I will be doing activities in the church all of the time though I will do some activities. It does not mean I will adopt the attitude of being better than anyone else. I am the “worst of sinners” as Paul says in I Timothy 1:15. What it does mean is Jesus will be the focal point of my thoughts every day, and I will make a point of spending time with Him every day. Now, it might be argued I should be doing that all of the time, and I admit it. It’s true. But, Lent is giving me an opportunity to let the world dim and let Jesus be first. I plan on taking that opportunity.

So, Day 1. It was an introduction like one might expect for a book like this. It talked about the practice and history of Lent and of fasting. There was one thing that intrigued me though, and that’s what I want to focus on today. “Lent as sojourn.”

Usually, when I start something like this, I consider it a project. It’s a natural thing to do. All of my writing endeavors are projects, things I want to do my best to complete. Last year, I even blogged through a devotional wanting to prove to myself I could write every day for 100 days.

But, this is different. I don’t want to be keeping track of how often I’m reading or writing in the journal part of the book. I don’t want to measure my “success” by whether I spend enough time with Jesus. And today’s entry focused on that. “Lent as sojourn.” The author defines sojourn as a “temporary stay at a place.” “And a “stay” is about presence, not productivity.” (pg. 3, 40 Days of Decrease, Alicia Britt Chole) I want to be present during this experience. To stay with my Savior as I get closer to Him.

I might not write or post about every day in the book, but I wanted to record what I was doing so I could remember what I was thinking and feeling on March 6, 2019, at the beginning of Lent.

I want to end this by quoting Psalm 51:17 which represents what I want to take away from Lent this year. “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

God bless you all!

The In-Between Place

Creak! The exit gate from my complex begins to open. Creak! It opens slowly, not usually at the pace I’d like it to open. Creak! It finally opens all the way, and I’m able to leave my apartment complex with my car. I always have to take a deep breath while I’m waiting for the gate to open. My impatience to be on my way can disrupt my peace of mind if I let it, and it has on any number of occasions. Just like waiting in general, to be honest.

I started thinking about this the other day when I met a young couple about to have their first child. We did all the normal chit-chat expected of people meeting for the first time. Then, the wife said something that I think is fairly normal of people in this life situation. She said, of their impending birth, “I guess we’re going to be adults now. We finished our conversation, and the couple walked off. I was left thunderstruck though I know it was a normal kind of thing to say. But, did that mean my own children weren’t adults at the ages of 19 and 22? Did that mean single young adults or married young adults who don’t have children weren’t really adults? I know there are many young people who are living at home longer and who are putting off getting married, but…really? Why do we say our young people don’t have the capability  of being responsible or contributing to society before they are married or have families. It made me mad, and I’m neither sad or childless. Then, it got me to thinking of the in-between place my sons and I are both in right now, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

So, the in-between place. It’s like when I have to wait for the gate to open. There’s nothing to do, but wait. But, I think there’s a way to flourish in the waiting without hurrying to the next phase. My older son and his girlfriend get it. He graduates from college this May, but she has a few more years to go so they’re gonna wait until she finishes. My son knows he needs to start working and making money. They also know they’re not ready to be married yet. I don’t know about you, but that sounds responsible to me.

My younger son doesn’t have a regular girlfriend yet, but he also knows he’s not ready. He needs to prepare for his career and make his faith his own. But he’s responsible too. Does everything he’s asked, takes care of his classes and his part-time job, and is a genuine pleasure to be around. Yes, he and his brother play video games, but it’s certainly not all of the time, and it’s after all of their other responsibilities have been fulfilled.

I’ve already talked about my waiting place and how I’m  doing things to establish the next phase of my life so I won’t go into that further. But, I do want to ask a question. Do churches recognize this as a time where young people can flourish and have responsibilities? (beyond working with the youth group or having a college/singles ministry within the church) If the church is large enough, they might have a college and/or a singles ministry which can give young people opportunities to minister.

But, in general, I don’t think churches recognize this. Their college students were just their kids a short time ago, and it’s hard for people to get out of that mindset. When these students still have parents within the church, it’s even harder. I believe that’s why many young people leave the churches of their youth. So, they can be seen as adults.

This in-between place though shouldn’t be a dead and stagnant time for young people in their churches. It should be a time when students and single people are given increasing responsibilities in the church and taught about leadership. They should be mentored by others and able to flourish. That was the experience I had in college and as a single person, and I pray that happens for my own sons.

As I end, I ask you to think about this untapped potential in our churches. These young people want to change the world, and we have the opportunity to tap this energy for Christ. Because, they will find a place to expend it. If not the church, then where?

Have a great day, everyone!