Last year at this time I started training with Completely Ridiculous and a class that really pulled me out of my sadness and self pity was a clown-based class. The heart of the work is to come back to delight, wonder, and hope. I think that’s also the heart fo life: coming back to the awe.
I may not walk around with a smile glued to my face nor recite Christian phrases like, it’s the joy of the Lord that does it for me! Praise be to those folks who genuinely hold that close to their heart and on their sleeves. I probably, once upon a time, was that too. Once in high school someone thought I was fake because I smiled all the time until he realized I was genuinely happy and wanted to be my friend. (Goodness please if you are reading this, remind me when this was because high school simply felt awful!) People would say my joy, my smile were infectious. Last year, a friend said, “Nancy…you seem….sad.”I think he meant more than the general allowed sadness we had; I was gray. I was heavy. I am still those things. These past 2 years, life in general, have dampened my outward infectious smile, or shortened the consistency of it.
But this new reality has made my moments of awe and wonder that much more powerful. Awe and wonder and delight can strike me at a moment’s notice, and I’m tearing up by the grace of god. I am more sensitive when wonder smacks me and pulls me up for air. Wonder by Bethel music gets me every time. Coming back to the present moment, like really coming back to it, gets me every time. Because I know the opposite. I’ve gotten comfortable on the other side. And the along with the doubt and despair plagued on the other side, I have also deepened my relationship with god in a way I need never to justify to anyone anymore. It can be lonely at times, and still I wouldn’t trade it for another journey to faith.
Today I will chase delight. Today I will smile at cute dogs. Today I will imagine that on the other side of this loneliness and lost land is gracious provision that will leave me saying, OH MY GOD. WOAH. WOW.
The last thing a person wading through waiting wants to hear is, “God’s got a plan for ya!” “Thank you so much for sweeping right over my present emotional state and desperate cry for help by reflecting some Sunday school truth that only makes YOU feel better! Thank you so much for smacking me in the face with a block of promise that makes God feel disappointing, slow to work and absent. Thank you for ignoring the human in front of you for the desire to be some sort of faithful sounding hero. Thank you so much! Thank you.”
I’m not frustrated by your pithy saying because I don’t believe it. I’m angry and sad because I do believe it so fully while feel like a scared desperate child. Yes and yes. I know God has plan for me. I have to believe that or why bother going on in this world that feels on the verge of a global explosion. I’m angry and sad because when you say, “God’s got a plan for ya,” I am reminded of my inability to control the future, my exhaustion from trying to predict the future and my need for a god who does have a mighty magical plan for me. I am sad and scared and I have great faith that things will pan out. I am angry and tired and hopeful that being present right now leads to the next right thing.
Humans spoon out trash sayings and advice. However if we allow it, egos aside and our radar for best intentions on, even that can become treasure. God has a plan for me. Right now I am feeling eh and expectant in the plan.
Does it feel like everyone is one stare, one shove, one slight away from a breakdown and/or a lashing out? I feel it on the train. I feel it on the streets. I feel that I’m one of the said folks. We’re in the middle of a pandemic that feels like a false tail end of living our best lives and feels like the shoe will drop any minute now which is why we’re living our best lives. Also best lives? Right alongside all this: Climate change. Afghanistan. Banning reproductive rights. Evictions.
So it feels like champagne problems to say I feel lost and gray and restless. I have so much. I’m alive. I have folks who love me. I have a laptop that allows me to blog this post. But can I just have this moment, like the private good cry I had while watching 30 Rock yesterday during the middle of the day?
I wish I could do the thing I love most. I wish I felt like all the moments till now are just prepping me for something big that’s about to happen. I wish I didn’t doubt this calling I keep reassuring myself with. I wish I would just be grateful and happy that I can crash at my parents’ house instead of feeling like I’m trapped. I wish I had a place I could call home and buy my own plant. I wish I knew things will work out, whatever that means. I think it feels like a big OH and WOAH and I SEE, NOW! I wish I felt more seen. I wish I didn’t think Christians who throw around — “I have the joy of the Lord,” “I will pray for you,” “The Spirit is carrying me through,” and the rest of those phrases that only seem “real” when you’re at the center of that kind of faith-led blessing — were just faking it and unable to meet me in my emotional gray cave. I wish I really did trust in being present in the moment. I wish I knew what my next step needs to be. Because of all deep well of wishes and desires I feel sad and angry and scared.
Yet somehow in my gray and in my self-pity, I happen to still feel God’s presence. When I allow for the anxiety and control to pause, I feel God’s kind love for me. I get a surge of hope that miracles happen. I remember again that the gospel is it, and if I can show God’s love, then today, this moment is a victory.
Faith and God are my most vulnerable spaces because here is where I hold my most doubts and my biggest hope. With God is where I feel most alive and drives me to live my life bravely. With God I feel the most angry and upset that I am not getting my way! (I’m sure it’s for the best….right?) I write this because I need to remind myself it is okay that I still love God even if I don’t look it on the outside or post scripture in my social media. I need God. I am a desperate skeptical human being, and only by the grace of God am I still here. I may not have a physical home I can safely and proudly call mine. I may not have a career that I can proudly and excitedly exclaim. But I have a home in God that I keep coming back to, and for that I am grateful.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
I give up being okay. I am not okay with injustice. I am not okay with hate. I am not okay with the lack of awareness. I am not okay with people who are going hungry. I am not okay with those who are suffering. I am not okay with justifying suffering. I am not okay with minimizing suffering. I am not okay with hate. I am not okay with hate. I am not okay that there are people suffering and feeling alone in their suffering. I am not okay with having to take care of your feelings while I’m navigating my feelings. I will never be okay with the things that were not meant to be and I pray that God will give me the patience, strength, kindness, mostly kindness and curiosity, to do something about all the things I find are not okay.
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
I give up living in the worst case scenario. Well, what do worst case scenarios reveal to me? That even if that did happen, I would still be fine? That I’ve put my identity and worth in the most trivial of things? I give up preemptively preparing for a crisis. I can trust that I am capable, that I am adaptive, that I will not be alone in handling anything that goes wrong. We have gone through a pandemic haven’t we? Breathe. Be in this moment. Who is leading? Can I feel spring?
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the chains of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
I give up thinking fault can only be found on the outside and in others. Where am I culpable? Where am I responsible for the quarreling and strife? I give up pointing fingers just so I can have some semblance of “control” in directing my anger somewhere. How can I be brave in looking in and seeing where I can choose better, listen better and respond better? I give up thinking the solutions are out there when big systems change and circumstances shifts. What if the progress is in my process? What if I have more agency than I feel comfortable admitting? What if I’m just as much at fault and just as much in power? If my worth and my relevance are not wrapped up in how stable I am, will I let go more and give into what needs to change?
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here I am.
I give up trying to figure it out on my own. I give up trying to figure it out in a neat and cute way. Screw you neat! Screw you cute! Screw you there’s just one way to shout. I give up screaming on the inside and being scared of shouting on the outside. I give up looking neat and cute in my need for help. I give up not wanting to be needy. I give up not wanting to cry. I give up not asking for help. I give up seeing my outward expressions of need as burdens. I give up the lack of trust that when I call, someone will answer. Someone will answer. People answer. God answers.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
I give up scarcity. I give up hoarding for fear of running out. I give up withholding when I can give. I give up thinking that if another gets, it takes from me. I give up these ideas rooted in white supremacy, that there are only so many seats at the table. I give up seeing flesh and blood, my neighbor, the person in front of me, as separate from me. I lean into faith by giving just a little. I lean into faith by giving a little more than I feel comfortable doing, aware that even if I give too much, it will come back. God always provides. I lean into giving knowing that there is enough to share. I lean into Jesus’ miracle of the 5 loaves and 2 fish. I lean into Jesus’ witness of the women who gave all her 2 coins. I lean into giving it my all. I lean into knowing the reward comes back in the moment and in the future. Generosity is seeing flesh and blood as my lucky responsibility and that I do have the means to make another feel seen, loved and important. Abundance is knowing without a doubt that generosity is integral not only for others who are hurting and lacking, but also for my well-being.
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
There is dark so light can break through. There is hurt so healing can appear. There are moments of lapse in judgment and poor behavior so righteousness can once again shine through. There is fear so the glory of God can push me to take my next step. There is my need for help that leads to my call to God. I let go of only holding onto what’s to come without acknowledging how I feel right now. I do not need to be okay right now. I do not need to look okay. I do not need to collect myself. I get to accept, embrace, be angry, be sad, be needing right now in this moment. Because my breakthrough comes when I realize this part of myself — the part that is messy, scared, lonely, angry — is just as beautiful. I give up needing to present only the side of me that works for the people around me. I give up spending energy trying to make those around me comfortable when I am shriveling up inside. I allow myself to be all in, in the pain with hope for the joy, in the sadness with expectation of the renewal, in the fear knowing if I dare to take just one step in faith, I will fly.
If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
I give up running around and around in this productivity hamster wheel where my worth is defined by the number of hours I can stay awake on my computer or maximizing profits. I give up living life according to the measure of man’s wealth and man’s success. I give up going and going without rest. I take in rest. I take in rest as delight. I delight in rest. I delight in God’s timing that is at the speed of fun and speed of faith, not the speed of panic. I have faith that this way of living that honors rest and honors work with integrity and kindness and breath will lead me to my triumph. I have faith that my journey and the speed I take on it are exactly for me! I feast on this inheritance.