Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thoughts on Forgiveness

It's W again...back with some more deep thinking to cut the lighthearted air surrounding M's latest blog post.

This topic of forgiveness is something I have thought a lot about over the years, because I believe that I held some mistaken views about forgiveness--that is, until I was really challenged to forgive someone who hurt me deeply a few years back. As such, here's a short post of what I have learned about forgiveness in my adult life.

1. Forgiveness is not a one-time deal.

For some reason, I had come to believe, in my youth, that forgiving someone only took one prayer. Imagine my surprise when, after offering a prayer of forgiveness toward someone, I woke up the next morning feeling just as bitter and angry toward them as the day before. "But I forgave them last night! Lord, I told you I want to forgive them! Why do I still feel this way??" This feeling went on for days, weeks...probably months. I didn't realize that often, we as Christians must choose forgiveness day after day. It is not in our nature to let go of our hurts and offer grace to those who have hurt us, and therefore, we must learn how to do it an inch at a time as we look to the Lord for guidance and strength. The journey of forgiveness can be an exhausting one.

2. To forgive does not mean to condone.

I struggled with this for a long time. I constantly felt that by forgiving someone for what they had done, it meant that it was "okay" that they did it. I felt like if I forgave them, it gave them permission to do it again because they "got away with it" without consequences. Not true. Forgiveness instead says "I do not agree with what you have done, but I can separate you from your actions, and I will no longer hold against you the poor choices you may have made." Forgiveness does not necessarily mean letting the person back in your life, or letting the person off the hook for their actions, but rather letting go of the bitterness toward them.

3. Forgiveness is about reconciling yourself to God, not to the person who hurt you.

In my early struggles with forgiveness, I often felt like I couldn't forgive until I received an apology. This system works fine enough until you encounter a situation where an apology isn't given. It is then that you realize that forgiveness is not about "fixing" what's wrong between you and another person, but rather about realizing the depths of grace that you have been given from God, and using that grace to give to the other. If God can forgive me for X,Y, and Z bad choices...over and over and over again...then surely I can look past the faults of others.

4. Part of forgiveness is recognizing that we are not entitled to anything.

It's easy to feel bitter towards someone for "ruining" what we think we are owed, whether that may be a promotion, a great spouse, a healthy child, or anything of the like. However, when we really see ourselves in our true state, we realize that the only thing we "deserve"-- the only thing that we have ever "earned"-- is death from our sins. Everything else that we have is a gift on loan from our Creator. When we view our lives in this light, we stop holding others emotionally hostage for preventing us from getting more, more, more of this or better, better, better at that. As hard as it may be, when we realize that the Lord never promised us a healthy child, we can forgive the doctor who may have made a mistake. When we realize that Lord never promised us an important job, we can forgive the person who fired us to hire someone else. And believe me, I am the WORLD'S WORST at accepting this reality (see previous post about living after the Fall), but I do believe that this is a key to forgiveness.

I wish there was a 5th bullet point, just to round out the list, but there's not. And this, folks, is what I have learned about forgiveness over the last few years.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Single Men and Bad Behavior, by M

I'm going to apologize in advance that, while W's posts have been very deep and meaningful these days, my posts haven't been as much. I suppose that's the beauty of having a co-author, right?

Okay, so I just feel the need to share some of my current thoughts about single men these days. Hint: I am generally displeased with them. Now, I’m going to go on record and say that I’m referring to a very generalized concept of the twenty first century mid-20s to early-30s single man. This is not all men. This is not all single men. This is not even all "twenty first century mid-20s to early-30s single men." I’ve encountered some exceptions… like maybe 5. Haha! However, I’ve encountered dozens of non-exceptions, and thus the generalization was born. Please note that I am (unfortunately) not distinguishing between Christian and non-Christian men, because frankly, I have not noticed a need for such distinction.

I’ve done my fair share of dating various iterations of this man, and I’ve also watched my friends cycle through their own. Ladies… if you haven’t had the pleasure of being single and dating in adulthood (no, high school and college do not count), let me tell you that it is rough. A good man is hard to find.

Here are some of the trademarks of the twenty first century mid-20s to early-30s single man… recognize any of them?

1) He’s into "hanging out"… not asking you out. Hanging out is more casual… it’s less pressure. Hanging out means that he can see you but not prioritize you. Hanging out means that he’s not responsible for planning, paying, or even getting fully dressed. He lets you know when he’s "free" (normally 1.5 hours max before desired "hang out") and just wants to know if you’re free too. The reality is that he’s bored, broke (likely ha!), and not man enough to risk the possible rejection of a real date invite. Not impressive.

2) He’s into texting… not calling. Texting is easy! It’s fast! I can do it while I’m at work! I can do it while on the toilet! Texting takes absolutely no commitment. You can say what you want, when you want, with almost no consequence. You can text multiple people at the same time... you can text while literally on a date with someone else. Texting keeps you from investing your time or your emotion into this person or this relationship. Texting is a poor, poor substitute for real communication, and that's precisely why these men prefer it.

3) He’s into being casual… not exclusive. He comes up with every possible vocabulary word to describe what this "thing" is, with the exception of "relationship" or "girlfriend." You meet this guy and find yourself "dating"… "talking"… "hanging out"… "courting"… "seeing each other"… maybe even "hooking up," but Lord knows that you aren’t in a relationship. He refuses to get attached, be vulnerable, give up his other options, and get serious. If you express concern about this fact, it’s suddenly your fault. Didn’t you know that it’s unreasonable to think you’re the only one? Please.

4) He’s single because he "just hasn’t met the right one." Homeboy lives in some alternate universe where apparently being with "the right one" means never having to compromise, sacrifice, do chores, communicate, be honest, meet her needs, and ride out a rough patch. He’s always looking for the next best thing… because it’s a deal-breaker that this beautiful, smart, kind, God-fearing woman just doesn’t love the Patriots. I mean, how could we ever raise children together if she doesn’t love the PATRIOTS!? He nitpicks and fault-finds to avoid facing the hard reality of his own baggage – namely, immaturity, emotional unavailability, and commitment phobia.

5) He’s too postmodern for chivalry. Didn’t that officially die with feminism? Has this guy ever opened a car door? Doubtful.

6) He’s consistently unsettled and uncommitted. Okay, we’re not even talking about relationships here. Now we’re talking about general life… We’re talking about the life of a real, full-grown adult. He doesn’t settle anywhere and doesn’t commit to anything. He switches careers every 6 months, switches roommates and apartments every year, refuses to make any kind of long-term plan, wants to keep himself "available" at all times. Available for what? For chasing after some boyhood dream of living in Key West and drinking coconut milk all day? For running around after the flavor-of-the-week women he encounters in bars? He spends all of his energy running away from that which distinguishes adults from children: responsibility. And we wonder why the thought of marriage terrifies him?

I am more and more convinced that real, respectable, mature men are a dying breed. And ladies, I regretfully say that I believe we’ve had a hand in killing them off. So many of us (definitely myself included) have grown to accept this bad behavior because we simply lack confidence that we can expect anything else. Isn’t that sad? But really, why should we anticipate different behavior if this is what we see over and over again, day in and day out, one by one with all of our friends? Like I said, it is rough.

One time W said that being engaged is like entering a secret circle of women who are all silently communicating with their shimmering eyes and glittering rings "We did it!" I wouldn’t know, but I think the unspoken victory might also read "We actually found a good one! We seriously, actually found one worthy of us. We win! We win!" That’s cause for celebration in my mind. Ha!

Anyway, my point of all of this was not to depress you, fair readers. But it was to bring all of this to light and say "Are we really going to deal with this any longer?" Are we really going to continue to make excuses for men who are apparently comfortable being immature, maladjusted, weenies? I vote NO. We deserve far, far better.

I’m halfway convinced that once we realize this and start to act like it, maybe some real men will step up their game. I mean, it’s worth a shot, right?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On This Side of Eden

Well friends, it's W here. What is on my mind most presently is the fact that I will be starting a new job soon (!), but I still have about a week and a half until that happens so I suppose I'll write here to distract myself.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be living after the Fall. You know, after the whole "Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit" thing.

This is what it means for me:

I was created to live in a world in which I do not live.

M mentioned this once, and it blew my mind. As such, I've been thinking about it a lot recently. This phrase has actually done a tremendous job in helping to assuage the guilt and self-condemnation that I often feel about not being good enough, or strong enough, or whatever enough. I have to remind myself that my sensitive soul was made to live in perfect communion with God, without the knowledge of anything evil, with eternity at my fingertips and a body and mind free from pain and illness. That is the environment I was MEANT to live in, when the Lord created me in His image and crafted me in His heart before the world even began.

When I remember this, I feel less bad about not being able to "hack it" out here in the fallen world. I no longer feel weak for crying when I'm sad, or cursing when I'm mad, or feeling defeated when I'm frustrated. I may try my best to develop good coping skills (an ongoing effort, ha!), but the final word is that my soul was never meant to bear the pain and brokenness that often surrounds it.

The other side of the coin, for me at least, is then to acknowledge the brokenness and accept it as reality for this life. I have a hard time just realizing and being okay with the fact that FOR SURE my life is going to suck sometimes (many times?) in the future. I hate knowing that I will inevitably get hurt (physically and/or emotionally), that my loves ones are definitely going to die at some point, and that in general, a lot of pain awaits in the future. I mean, that thought is really, really not fun.

But if I don't accept it, then I live in an idealized world where everything should be jolly, and it makes the crash even harder when things inevitably aren't. And if I spend all my time striving for things that are a "sure bet" for goodness and not pain, I will be constantly let down.

Henry Cloud says (...duh!) that we will never have a home here on Earth if we spend all of our time searching for that which only exists in Eden.

You know, that perfect job, and house, and husband, and life. How often do I find myself wanting to leave one thing for the next under the guise that it must be closer to perfect than the last?

I will never have a home on Earth if I spend all of my time searching for that which only exists in Eden.

Such a powerful thought. I think M needs to internalize this reality for her dating life, haha. But really, how does a person just accept that things are going to be bad sometimes, and people will hurt you sometimes, and life will just suck sometimes and be okay with it?

I don't know the answer. I never know the answer at the end of these posts. What I do know is that my hope and joy must lie in the promise that one day I will cross over to Eden itself and be redeemed into the holiness and perfection that my soul was created for and longs for. And until then, it's my job to bring as much goodness as I can into this broken world, to create as much love as I can from the Lord who lives inside me, and to be patient and enduring in the face of challenges.

But it's still no fun being on this side of Eden.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

That girl, by M

I'm back! Sorry about the delay... as W was saying, I have been rather occupied lately with a handful of suitors. HAHA! Really, I've been working overtime, had a few sick days, and okay, maybe one or two suitors. =)

I've really been feeling like my brain is cloudy lately... I don't know what it is. Maybe I need to be journaling, writing, and blogging more to try to clear some of my thoughts out? Who knows. In any case, I haven't been on here because I haven't had many cohesive thoughts to share. I hope that maybe this will turn it around!

Recently, I was thinking about "that girl." You know...that girl. I suppose that "that girl" can mean many things, but in this case I'm referring to the one in Christian circles that terrifies all of the young women who meet her. She's terrifying in that she's so freakin' awesome... and pretty... and single.

Okay, you know exactly who I'm talking about. She's on every campus on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ (or should I say "Cru"?!). She leads YoungLife for high school students. She mentors young adult single women through the church. For heaven's sake you are reading her books and blogs now and probably listening to her sing your favorite worship song! Everyone who is active in a Christian ministry knows that girl. She is in her mid- to late-30s and incredible... She's fun, she's hip, she loves Jesus like most of us love sleeping, she's radiant, she's beautiful, and she is probably the wisest person to walk the earth since Solomon.

And she is terrifying. Her very presence strikes fear in the hearts of her disciples. Why? Because we cannot possibly understand how she can be so darn fantastic and remain unmarried. We grab coffee with her and spend 80% of our time thinking "for the love of God, I would marry this woman if I could!" And we look at her perpetually ring-less finger and we fight off this little voice in our heads that says "that could be you, you know..."

And we become terrified because we know that that little voice is right. Give us 5, 8, 10 years and we could be those girls, certainly. Give us one or two more bad relationships and, holy cow, I'm that girl.

We know this terror isn't right, though... right? We shouldn't fear this woman in the way that most of us single women do. The reality is that her singleness is what has made her incredible. She is wise and radiant in her love for the Lord because He has been her focus... He has been her sustenance. She has determined that if God is not giving her a spouse (now or ever), she'll let Him rightfully fill this space. This is what we should want. But, naturally, we don't... because the ring and the dress and the attention and the sex and the security and the husband all seem better. We clearly believe that they are better. If we didn't, we wouldn't be so afraid of becoming that girl, would we?

I read a quote today that was really convicting along these lines. I pray that you'll read it, think about it, and maybe it'll move your heart.

Time for some honesty. Sometimes I think that we try to shove God into the role of spouse because we want a husband more than we want God. We try to fit the omnipresent God of the Universe into the mold of ‘lover’ because we want Him to make us less lonely, make us feel more loved, give us a hug.

At the end of the day, it’s not Him that we want. We want to feel wanted, and we’re happy to ‘worship’ God if He can make that happen. We’ll use Him to serve our purposes.

God won’t be used. He is too big to be squished into one role in our lives. He is more than a husband and He is more than a father and He is more than a friend, and He won’t pretend to be less than He is.

Powerful, right? It comes from a blog I follow regularly at, if you're interested in reading the rest. It certainly has made me think... and it's made me consider that I really need to accept being "that girl," whether or not it's in God's will for me. Because the reality is that whether I end up there or not, 1) it's already been decided and 2) it's no better or worse than the alternative. God's bigger and better than any husband. Perhaps one of these days I'll truly get that through my head?!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Mish-Mash of Thoughts

This is W here, saying that M needs to post again. She's been having fun gallivanting around Atlanta with all of her friends and numerous suitors and is apparently too busy for this blog. And she's going to kill me for writing that, ha!

I don't even have anything substantive to say right now either-- I just feel bad for leaving you guys hanging for a week.

I was searching for something I could write about, and the following topics popped into my head:

-My current favorite TV shows
-How exciting it is that my co-worker Lauren got engaged
-How I am dreading the impending start of winter
-The great deal on grown-up shoes I got this past weekend
-Thoughts about putting the best dog ever to sleep last week :(
-How I feel about not being at Vandy homecoming next weekend
-My current love of making soups from scratch in way-too-large quantities
-My random pet peeve about stepping in something wet when you're wearing socks
-The fact that I should be reading Henry Cloud/the Bible/journaling/praying instead of writing this pointless post.

So, maybe that is the point of this post...that even "good Christians" waste time on the internet instead of indulging in quality time with their Savior. Surely I am guilty of that.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Choices, aka Me Being Vulnerable With You All

Well, if you're hoping that this post won't include a blurb about Henry Cloud, today is not your day. It's W this time, and as you all know, Dr. Henry Cloud is my favorite author. So much so that I am currently doing a book study of "Changes that Heal" at my church, and it's dredging up all sorts of insight that I had forgotten about since I first read the book 4 years ago. But, more on that later.

I've been reminded lately that every choice we make includes a sacrifice of what we've chosen against, even if it's an easy choice or a good choice or the right choice. To put this concept into an Economics model, we say that every choice must be made by evaluating a cost-benefit analysis which includes the opportunity cost. "Opportunity cost" is what you lose by NOT doing something. For example, if I decide to go back to school and get my Master's, it's not only going to cost me $50,000 in tuition, but ALSO the income that I could have earned had I kept working instead. Say the program is two years long and I had been making $30,000/year at work- then, the program will actually cost $50,000 plus $60,000 in lost income, so I need to evaluate if the predicted future gains of having a master's is really worth the $110,000 it will cost me to get it.

When I first heard this whole thing about opportunity cost, it blew my mind. I had never thought about decision making in this way. For awhile it kind of paralyzed into a place of never making any decisions because all I could think about was the lost opportunity that would come from making a decision. Obviously this can't go on for too long before one has to pick herself and say "C'est la vie," but it really did reorder my thinking about how to approach choices.

I say this as a preface to the actual topic of this post, which is that I realized recently that I have been majorly unfair to T for the last 16 months since we moved to Chicago.


Because I have consistently given him a hard time about "making me" move here. It's been no secret that I don't love Chicago. It's been no secret that I want to move back to Nashville as soon as I can. It's been no secret that I feel "jipped" that T gets to live the dream here in a job that he's aspired to have since childhood while I feel stalled on the sidelines. It's no secret that I have spent some time making him feel guilty about this.

That is BAD wife behavior.

I was just so haunted by the opportunity cost of moving to Chicago. I spent a fair amount of time in the last 16 months thinking about what my life would be like "if it weren't for T's terrible job." In my mind I would've have a great job at a non-profit, I'd be chilling in Nashville with lots of friends and beautiful weather, we could afford a quaint, cute starter home for half of what we're paying in downtown Chicago for 800 square feet, and life would be great. But, because of T, and because of his job, that wasn't my reality. And I held HIM accountable for it.


Here's where Henry Cloud comes in and slaps me across the face with truth.

Nobody put a gun to my head and forced me to move to Chicago.

I am a 25 year-old woman, I am an adult, and I am responsible for my own choices. If I chose to be with T at the price of losing my "ideal life in Nashville," then I need to let it go, get over it, and take ownership over the fact that I made a choice and it's MY choice.

I often treated T like I had no choice to move here and that it was his fault that I was miserable. In fact, I did have a choice, and I made it. I decided that I value T more than I value the weather, and more than I value a bigger place to live, and more than I value having my dream job right now (...more on that later...). And because every choice we make is a sacrifice of whatever we have decided against, and because I'm the one who decided, my disappointment and anger at what my life was like last year were and are MY problems to own. And my happiness in Chicago is MINE to make.

I told you Henry Cloud slapped me in the face.

More than anything, I'm just feeling kind of bad about it. I fell so easily into the trap of "I feel bad so I want to make you feel a little bad too because for some reason I think it might make me feel a little better." And that's the kind of stuff that can RUIN marriages if it goes on too long.

And so today, I'm thankful for Henry Cloud, AGAIN, for helping me to see how I can grow to become a better person, Christian, and wife. And I'm also looking out the window and trying to view Chicago on this beautiful, 75-degree fall day as the home that I chose for myself, for better or for worse. And I'm trying to remember that there will be more choices to make in the future, and more opportunities to be gained and lost, and that life is a maze of trying to figure it all out and better yourself along the way.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Suffering, by M

This past week was a rough one for me at work. Most of you probably know that I work at a non-profit that funds cancer research and provides support services to patients and their families. I work specifically on a fundraising campaign that we do in schools, which means that I’m primarily focused on serving pediatric patients. Did you know that cancer is the #2 cause of death in children? Did you know that cancer "survival" is measured as being alive 5 years after diagnosis? 5-year survival is great if you’re 70. It’s not great if you’re 3. So we have all these statistics that say 80% this and 90% that… and it’s for 5 years. They rarely publish a 20- or 30-year survival rate for pediatric patients because it’s… well, it’s not 80%, that’s for sure.

As I’m sure you can imagine, things can get pretty heavy around here. There are literally times that I forget that the great majority of children do NOT have cancer… I walk through my office and see little bald faces staring back at me… some of them smiling, others decidedly not happy. It’s hard. It’s something that I’ve more or less grown accustomed to, between my personal experiences, my 2 years volunteering on the pediatric oncology floor in college, and my 10+ months working here. But, sometimes I have a week like last week and it just makes my heart ache. It just makes me sad and frustrated and upset and angry.

It makes me angry because it’s not even just the cancer. It’s the suffering. It’s the not knowing. It’s the hair and the insecurity and the loss of hope. It’s the side effects and the secondary cancers and the waiting-for-a-transplant-donor. It’s just so much, and I know enough to be aware that I don’t even know 10% of their pain. And so occasionally I get angry… because I’m helping but not enough. And I struggle with God over it. And I wonder how He can let His children suffer so…?

W and I had a friend growing up who had brain cancer. We were too young to totally understand it, but we knew she wore hats and sometimes a mask… and she had a collection of band-aids on her fridge. She was diagnosed when we were 6 and passed away at 15.

Shortly after her passing, W and I got involved in Young Life in high school, and really heard the whole story of Jesus for the first time. Someone finally told us that Jesus died for our sins and that He wanted to have a relationship with us. Pivotal moment… clearly. But then they said something else, and it sent what felt like a lightening bolt of anger through my body. "The penalty for sin is death." And here I am 16 years old, trying to make sense of my earliest friend dying from cancer… and are they trying to tell me that she deserved her death at 15? It took me a long, long time to wrestle with that one.

Now that I'm 9 years down the road in my faith journey, I have come to terms with the reality of what they were trying to express. No, our friend didn't get cancer and die young because she was somehow worse than the rest of us (very much the opposite, in my opinion)... but death IS the "pentalty" or the consequence of sin. Have you ever truly thought about the fact that before the fall, in the Garden of Eden, there was no death? Adam and Eve were created to live forever. They ate food that was endlessly provided by God and they neither saw death, nor knew of it, nor expected to experience it. Yet, the whole deal with the forbidden fruit is that these two trees in the Garden of Eden were mutually exclusive. Adam and Eve could eat from the tree of life, and be in communion with God, and live forever... or they could eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God simply says "look, you can't eat from both trees. Sorry." And we all know what happens next. In taking the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve forfeited their access to the tree of life. Death eventually came upon them (and the rest of the animals and plants and humanity) simply because they no longer were feeding upon life-giving fruit.

This isn't new information for me, but for whatever reason, I don't know that I'd ever truly thought much about the Tree of Life and what it meant. I don't know that it had actually occurred to me that Adam and Eve were created to never die. And it all makes death seem so simple doesn't it? It's just what happens when you stop living... when God stops giving you those temporary life-fruits that He still offers us, despite our sin - blood in our veins, food in our bellies, and breath in our lungs. We are not promised anything more, this side of heaven.

So I think about cancer and the unbelievable suffering that accompanies it, and I can't even pretend to understand why it's all necessary. But I find peace in the knowledge that it breaks God's heart more than it breaks mine. Because He didn't create life to be this way. His blueprint for humanity didn't include cancer. Sure, He's all-knowing, so I don't at all think it has caught Him by surprise. However, that's why He sent His savior so that, just like Christ, all of His children can have victory in death. Death is the only way for God to deliver us out of this fallen world and back into the world that He created for us. It is not pretty, but it is a gift. God has given us back our access to the Tree of Life through Jesus - the "giver of life," the "living water." It's simply a matter of getting there.

So, I pray constantly for the people I hear about in and through my work. I pray for their bodies, for their grief, for their spirits not to be shattered amidst suffering and seemingly unanswered prayers. I think I will always carry the burden of their pain, and it likely will always make me angry. However, I try with all that I have to focus my anger at the true culprit. I make sure that it does not dim my hope in a good and gracious God who is bigger and greater than death. For truly, it is only in death that He ultimately rescues us and brings us back to Him.