2am angst

(wondering if this is what a mid-life crisis feels like?!)

the questions that are currently getting in the way of my falling asleep:

  • how is it that a person can be so convinced that things are heading in one direction, to feel in the deepest part of their being that this thing is going to come to pass, but then have that certainty shattered in a few short hours by an equally intense pull in the opposite direction? To “know that you know that you know” a thing, but then to be confronted with a sense of being equally certain of another thing that, if true, would make the former thing, that thing that you were so sure was about to come to pass, an impossibility?
  • how much does a person choose to give up out of love for someone else? This is where I know that I am quite clearly NOT as much like Jesus as I would like to be . . . because a selfishness screams out of me, and the words I’ve heard so often echo in my mind . . . is it a lie, something the world tells us, or is it a healthy level of self-preservation that brings the advice, “you need to take care of YOU . . . you can’t live your life for other people”? even in this, there’s confusion, because the reasons I want to do this thing “for me” have so much to do with this calling I’m convinced I have to “do” for others. . .
  • how do I let go of my desire to feel like what I’m doing is “important”, as I define that word? (part of that definition involves a rejection of any other person’s attempt to convince me that my idea of “important” is too limited.)
  • is my dissatisfaction with my life a flaw in my character, or is it a catalyst that will bring me to a place where I can assuage this intolerable, unrelenting restlessness? really, will I ever have a life that I don’t despise? it’s not even so much about having a “Spark-worthy” life as it is about feeling like I am doing what I was meant to be doing. is the problem really in my circumstances, or am I doomed to be restless, dissatisfied, and feeling like an underachiever for the rest of my days on this earth?!

The crazy thing is that all of this middle-of-the-night speculation is based upon two things that I don’t know at this moment. In other words, neither has come to pass as of yet. There is this thing that I feel so certain is going to come to pass, but there is also this new bit of information that would wreak havoc on that certainty.

In a few days, I will know about the latter, and in three weeks or less, I will know about the former. But in this moment, I have zero knowledge that either thing will even come to pass . . .

I am just so afraid, though, no matter what the outcome, that my life will not be any less unsatisfying than it was before this journey.

And now, having spewed up some lovely self-serving, too-much-informationing ranting, I am finally feeling sleepy enough to try to go to bed . . .

buenos noches . . .

worlds turned upside-down

The irony is not lost on me . . . that I was walking out of a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, my mind still echoing with the message that God can bring good out of even the worst circumstances. The play was extremely well-done, and I was making my way towards the ticket booth, to see if by chance they might have any seats left for the evening performance.

And then there was a text message on my phone. Three simple words that changed a snowy-but-leisurely Saturday into a time of grief. “Bob Reed died”. With an annoying level of predictability, I began down the “denial” phase of grief. But it wasn’t denial in that I truly didn’t believe it could be true; rather, it was that everything within me didn’t WANT to believe that it was true. Not again, God . . . not again. I have a list of people whose death would be of much greater benefit to humanity than this man’s . . . please? Can I give you that list? Can you reconsider this one?

And then I reluctantly remind myself that Bob got the “good” end of this deal . . . in the presence of Jesus, whose “Well done, good and faithful servant” surely must ring out a little louder than it does for most. From Middleville, MI (yeah, I still don’t even know where that is) to the Madison neighborhood, to Liberia, then to Ghana, Bob (along with his amazing wife Renita and their two kids, Hannah and Noah) followed Jesus wherever He asked them to go. And Bob, with his heartbreakingly witty writing, brought us along with them on the journey.

From Michigan to Monrovia and beyond, many tears and prayers are going up today . . . and in my little corner of the world, I withdraw to my home and my bed, wanting to be alone with the immensity of it all, but at the same time wanting to connect with others who understand what a huge loss this is.

As the Reeds left Liberia and prepared to move on to Ghana, Bob wrote an entry that included (in his inimitable style) these words:

Since this is not “goodbye,” but simply “HEY! We’re usually over THERE now!” I’ll spare us all the tear-jerking.

Oh Bob . . . I know that you are “over THERE now” . . . in that place where there is no more crying, no more grief, no more pain . . . but our leaden feet are left behind in this place where there IS still crying, and grief, and pain, and so much work left to be done. That God took you, who was in the midst of the work He had called you to, leaves me asking myself what God is calling *me* to do while I’m still on this earth.

I pray that your legacy will lead many, many others to follow Jesus whereever He asks them to go . . .

Sunday blogging against racism–wrestling with the Haiti question.

Like the rest of you, my heart has been heavy in the past few days with the news of the disaster in Haiti. The immediate gut reaction of most has been, “We just have to help them”. And yes, we do . . . but I have not been able to shake a vague sense that there is something that “we” (particularly the United States) have been doing that left Haiti so vulnerable to such a disaster.

I already knew some of the history of how Haiti came to be. I also knew that the country has struggled mightily ever since. And while my local “Christian” radio station opined that the  DR has prospered where Haiti has failed because the former is a “Christian” country, I was more inclined to believe that the difference in skin color had much to do with it. I also couldn’t shake a nagging sense that there has been a “get back in your place, boy!” kind of attitude on the part of the white, Western world towards a black people that would dare assert that justice and freedom ought to be their birthright.

So I had to do some reading . . . and I found this article.

The part that took my breath away was this paragraph:

Haiti’s vulnerability to natural disasters, its food shortages, poverty, deforestation and lack of infrastructure, are not accidental. To say that it is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere is to miss the point; Haiti was made poor–by France, the United States, Great Britain, other Western powers and by the IMF and the World Bank.

I want to read more . . . I want to educate myself further. Yes, please give to relief efforts, choosing wisely as you do . . . but stop and ask yourself just how we got here . . . not the earthquake itself (which was NOT God’s judgment on anyone!), but the tenuous infrastructure of a nation ill-equipped to face such a disaster.

We cry at pictures now . . . we whip out our cell phones and send ten dollars their way . . . but are we looking at ourselves? At our nation, and its role in paralyzing Haiti up until this point?

Not easy questions . . . but I will continue to wrestle with them, and I hope you will join me.

cutoffs

I am not good about cutting people out of my life. well, I suppose that’s a lie. I am perhaps a little bit TOO good at it sometimes. A better way of putting it would be that I don’t take lightly the idea of making that decision.

I still struggle mightily with a decision I made eight years ago to end a relationship with a friend who had become like a sister to me. For years, people had been telling me that she wasn’t good for me, and yet I held on, probably because her three kids had become like my own kids, and I couldn’t bear the thought of not having them in my life.

When it came down to it, though, she had failed to stand up for me at a crucial point, and that, combined with my continued discomfort with her parenting style, meant that I had to make that choice. It’s NOT an exaggeration to say that at the time, I needed to concentrate on keeping myself alive. But cutting off  that friendship meant that I was cut off from her children as well. There’s no provision in the law for “friend joint custody”–even grandparents are put through the wringer when they want to see their kids–and although I half-heartedly tried to reach out to them, it was years before I saw any of them again. (Thank you, Facebook!) When I did, one of the kids reamed me out, a reaming I know I deserved, but despite the fact that I will always regret having walked out of their lives, I still maintain that I “had” to do it.

This doesn’t, however, make it any easier to live with myself.

Fast-forward a few years, and I found myself in a situation where I was the “cut-off-ee”, so to speak. What was hard for me in that situation was that the friendship was severed with very little explanation, and when I pushed for an explanation, the one I was given was entirely vague and not at all satisfying of my confusion, anger and hurt.

So I then put myself into a different category–“Sure, I’ve cut someone out of my life, but I was very clear on the ‘why’ of it at the time. I would NEVER do that and not explain to the person why I was cutting them off.”

(But, while I know that is the truth, it doesn’t help me to feel any better about myself for making those choices. Plus, if you include my on-again, off-again connection with my father, then it’s not true that I’ve never cut someone off without a full explanation. No matter how much I would like to believe that I’m not “that” person, the fact is, I really AM that person. But who among us ever wants to admit that we are what we despise?)

So why am I bringing all of this up now? Because I’ve now made a decision again to cut someone off. This time, it is definitely clear WHY I did it, and this time, I’m able to keep the person’s kids in my life. In fact, I’ve been trying to help the kids get through the hurt and pain they’re experiencing as a result of the bad choices their mom has made, the same choices that have driven me to what may seem to be a drastic decision.

The problem is that the old adage, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you” seems to be in play here.

She is my friend . . . my sister . . . and she is at the tail end of an extremely risky pregnancy, with her own life and the life of her baby at risk. And I can’t trust that she will make the right decisions, that she will care for herself the way she ought to.

But I can’t stand by and watch.

I can’t fall in love with this baby.

I can’t be around this man who has done NOTHING to earn the title “daddy”.

I need her to know that this is NOT okay. and while I despise “toughlove” techniques and anything behavioral, I don’t know any other way to get the message across to her. I had made it clear to her (before I knew that there was a baby involved) that I would NOT be around if he came back into the picture. I am standing by my word . . . but it is very, very hard to do.

I miss her.

I worry about the baby. and about her.

My heart is broken for her sons, who are acutely aware that she is choosing this man over her own children, and to be honest, my heart is broken for myself as well. That my friendship means that little to her . . .

I keep thinking “Stockholm Syndrome“, and maybe that’s what’s going on here. I know she’s scared, and feels alone. but I also know that she doesn’t value herself enough to know that she deserves so much more.

And that breaks my heart more than any of the rest of it.

to tithe or not to tithe?

no frickin’ way. I just wrote an extensive, impassioned, painstakingly-edited post on this topic, and it seems to have disappeared. I was saving the drafts all along, but I must’ve hit some other key at the last minute and deleted the whole thing.

I have no doubt in my mind that this was the enemy’s work . . . I’m not at all being facetious. But I’ll write it again . . . of course, it likely won’t be as good as the original, but no matter how many times I try to hit the “back” arrow or the “undo” key, it’s just not there.

(pale imitation of the original post’s greatness follows after the fold . . . )  

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