“If being ordained meant being set apart from them, then I did not want to be ordained anymore. I wanted to be human. I wanted to spit food and let snot run down my chin. I wanted to confess being as lost and found as anyone else without caring that my underwear showed through my wet clothes.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
There are things most church folks keep hidden. We pretend our marriages are healthy, our children are making the right choices and that we have quiet time with God every day. We pretend to be part of the right political party for our denomination, to read the right books and know the right bands.
Growing up in the church I have pretended a lot. When my husband and I became ordained and entered full-time ministry I kept pretending. I didn’t talk with church members about the books I read, movies we went to or music I liked. When one talked about their favorite praise and worship band, I didn’t reveal that I don’t like the sameness of Christian music.
There’s nothing wrong the fiction books I read or the movies we see and music I listen to. But I was sure some members of our congregation wouldn’t approve so I kept the charade of piety.
My family is loud with stories and opinions but quiet about things that matter.
When my parents’ marriage was falling apart no one told us. At Christmas break they moved us to a new town, leaving the only life we’d known, not telling us why or what was next. They were experts at hiding what we needed most.
When you’re loud and talkative and laugh a lot, people can be easily fooled into thinking you’re an open book. Loudness is the best thing to hide behind.
The words of Barbara Brown Taylor stopped me cold. I read them again and then one more time. Although she was writing about leaving her calling as an Episcopal priest, I know those words because I live them too.
Even when you show parts of yourself, people think the title, pastor, minister, reverend, etc. takes away marital strife, depression, anxiety, or problems of any kind. Conversely, they think you are a biblical encyclopedia and have deep unwavering faith.
We decide a lot about a person based on their title or outward personality. Dr. gives an elevated status of education. Clerk marks them as ordinary. An introvert can seem awkward but behind the titles and outward signs are stories left untold.
Age is bringing an unwrapping for me. An acknowledgment of who I am without apologies. I don’t need to defend my reading choices or taste in music. Like Taylor, “I want to be human”. I want to be seen as the flawed, searching woman I am, clinging to God’s grace every day.
Perhaps more than an unwrapping it’s bringing an understanding and acceptance. I am Gods beloved. Every piece I think I’ve hidden is known to him and still, his love chases after me all the days of my life.
I was on my own when navigating what being a teenager in the 70s looked like. Well, not exactly on my own. I had Seventeen magazine to guide me. It was my primer for hairstyles, makeup, and teenage fashion. I didn’t have an older sister to teach me how to fix my hair or apply mascara.
The ‘70s was the generation of cool. Cool was defined in television shows like the Monkees and The Partridge Family, and in the pages of the few teen magazines available. In those early days of adolescence, being a cool teenage girl meant wearing skirts a few inches above the knee, bell bottom jeans, and platform shoes. Cool was anything denim. It was the natural look with long hair, brown shades of eyeshadow, and a few sweeps of mascara.
What we didn’t want was to look like our parents. Moms wore knee-length dresses, low heeled pumps, and a scant amount of makeup. Not cool.
My mama’s style was never going to be mine. She chose comfort over fashion where I tried to combine the two—and still do. She had baby fine hair that barely sustained her weekly set from the beauty salon. My hair was thick and coarse and defied her ability to control it. Noxzema kept her skin clear and smooth but did nothing to help my oily complexion. I never saw Mama wear earrings or makeup; everything about her look was minimal. We were alike in spirit but nothing was the same about our preferences in fashion and beauty.
Change brought new styles of fashion and beauty, and the magazines were there to continue guiding my way. When I outgrew Seventeen magazine, Glamour took over with its hair and makeup tips and my favorite “Do’s & Don’ts” column. We had Farrah Fawcett bangs and “feathers” in the ‘70s; Dorothy Hamill’s bob in the ‘80s; and Jennifer Anniston’s haircut from “Friends” in the ‘90s.
I modeled my outward appearance on these go-to guides from my teen years through the early years of motherhood. My jeans were always the right wash, and my skirts were the right length.
What I couldn’t find was the confidence in which to wear me. I could wear the right clothes; my hair could be a fashionable cut. And sometimes that was enough to be the armor needed to cover my insecurities and fears.
Even today, I measure my insufficiencies rather than honoring who God made me. The sag at my jawline bothers me, and perhaps I wouldn’t be opposed to a little “tucking” if I had the resources.
Today’s cover models fool me with their natural looks. I’ve been tricked into patterning myself after them only to discover the moisturizer the ads tout aren’t miracle creams.
I’ve found a better pattern from which to cut my own cloth.
To continue reading, please hop over to The Perennial Gen. Thank you!
The back row in church is where the teenagers want to sit. Once their parents let them sit with their friends they hurry to nab a seat in the back row. I remember sitting there trying to hide the notes we were writing to one another behind the hymnal. Today the kids just put their phones on silence and text.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s day is a sort of pause. Sometimes we fill it with more shopping and parties and travel and more, more, more.
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT
We lit the second candle of Advent and we called it love.
We didn’t have a time of sharing in our service this week. It’s busy with the extra bits put in for the season. Richard came to me after church, excited to tell me about another message he’d heard the night before. He was all smiles as he said it was the same thing. It was about love too.
During that service, they’d invited people to write a word on stones and he’d written Love. That was his word for this year. I remember him telling me that but it seems like a hundred years ago, not eleven months. I remember Richard saying he chose that word because he needs to learn to love himself.
These guys are good. They listen to the messages poured into them here. Messages from counselors helping them learn new ways. Even messages from me at times, reminding them that God makes them enough.
Terrace danced to words that sang about God loving us in our good and bad. It’s something Terrance has had to work on too – accepting God’s love.
Love is one of those things we’re better at giving than receiving. We allow ourselves to believe we have to earn love. We’re always trying to get ourselves right, to clean up our mess but we have it backward. Jesus sets us right. His grace makes us clean.
Last week we celebrated the hope found in Jesus. Next week we will proclaim his joy. All of this in the motion of lighting candles. Small flames will flicker great promises in their light.
The old song chimed ‘what the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing there’s just too little of’. Real love came down in the form of a baby. We remember it in the glow of a small flame. Maybe, just maybe, I can carry a spark in me. A love that is freely given, not earned. Love that wants to shine like a city on a hill for all to see.
Enjoy this video of Terrance and his offering of his talent to our Savior who came to be love.
Ten years ago, our firstborn daughter snuggled her newborn into that warm crook between her shoulder and neck, tilting her head toward the baby’s crown. She gently patted her daughter’s back and whispered, “One day we’ll be best friends but for now I’m your mama.”
This wise, grown woman was now bending her heart into mothering her own child. Meanwhile, as she’s transitioned into motherhood, my daughter and I are transitioning to a new relationship – that of a friend.
How do we navigate the journey from parent to friend? We’ll always be a parent, but in adulthood, we can become friends. What is that status called? Are we priends? Frarents?
People will tell a new mom how awful teething is but will say, “Just wait until they become teenagers”. For me, the most challenging phase has been parenting adult children and learning to be friends.
We don’t live in the same town with our grown children but we are connected by text, FaceTime, and email. We may not connect every week but those quick communications are made easier by technology and living in the same time zone.
Our children don’t need our advice or financial support. They have married good people and love each other and their families well. I’m proud of them, but also had to deal with the feeling that a part of my mission has been completed. Of course, that’s not the case. We’re a family, and they’ve faced challenges, just as my husband I did as we were raising them. An injury keeps one out of work for weeks, or a job change comes with a move farther away from home. Uncertainty looms for a spouse as her company reorganizes and another meets a disappointment with unexpected change at her job. As I follow the ups and downs in my adult children’s lives, I have struggled with feeling helpless. When they were younger, I could comfort them after a lost volleyball game or help with a last-minute science project. But there’s nothing I can do to help them when they face grown-up trials.
We went through a particularly difficult time after our younger one graduated high school. I remember standing in the aisle at the Christian bookstore scanning the shelves in the “Family” section looking for guidance. I felt like screaming, “I’ve read all these damn books and it didn’t help!” In spite of the challenges and tough decisions, our love for him was clear. He saw our love was unconditional. We continued to believe in him. Our faith fueled our hope and saw us through. Today he’s the one who most enjoys times we can all be together.
Today, I revel in the friendship I share with our adult children. Conversations on topics where we share similar interests in music or share memories of family times are easy and comfortable between us. We laugh and genuinely enjoy being together.
But these new relationships are not friction-free. There are times when I squirm a bit inside at the some of the adult decisions they make that seem foreign to how we raised them. Even though I treasure our friendship, inside, I am still a parent. I worry. I remind myself our friendship is more important. I have to refuse to give in to fear.
Our first-born daughter is in the midst of parenting her now-ten year old. As I listened to her weighing the options of deciding whether she wants to push her daughter to put on a sweater on a chilly day, or choosing to skip this particular battle so they can get out the door in time, I remembered my own years filled with everyday parenting decisions. I pray that her long-ago words will be true in her relationship with her little girl – she’s a parent now, but will one day be her daughter’s friend as well. The process of becoming learning to be friends with my adult children has taught me to be more observer and supporter. I’m no longer responsible for making the plans and scheduling their lives.
As we learn to adapt to this new season in our lives as a family, we are seizing the moments together to focus on strengthening our friendship. I’m loving this part of the journey.
This post first appeared on Perennial Gen blog.
Linking up with Holley Gerth and Coffee for Your Heart.
“Welcome back”, I said as I saw him sitting in the chair outside the Intake office. He’s always been a soft-spoken man and this day perhaps softer as he said, “thanks for having me back.”
I’m scarcely different from these men who have couch surfed in crack houses or lost their business, their nursing license, their teaching positions, lost it all because of the disease of addiction.
The only difference is that my failures have been kept quiet. It’s like that for most of us. The envy, hate or whatever it is that haunts us makes us no different. Just more presentable. Not to God but to each other.
God stands before us with open arms saying ‘Welcome back’, again and again through his forgiveness and grace.
I was raised in a church where alcohol and tobacco use is not allowed for its pastors and members. We come from a Wesleyan background where this was more commonly adhered to at one time.
This being the only church I’ve known, imagine my surprise when as a child, I saw a priest smoking! I knew with certainty that I’d spied something not meant to be seen by others. Later I learned smoking and drinking were acceptable for Catholic priests and parishioners.
The commercial featured a boy who was a picky eater. A bowl of cereal was put in front of him. His expression of disinterest unchanged as his friend said, “He won’t eat it. Mikey hates everything.” A pause, and then he takes a spoonful while the friend exclaims: “He tried it. He likes it!”
When it comes to alcohol, my stance is if you don’t try it, you don’t have to worry about liking it and the accompanying responsibilities.
I also grew up with stories of drunken uncles whose arguments erupted into brawls. These stories were told as funny with laughter accompanying each one. Why do we laugh at this behavior that leads to anger expressed in physical harm? ‘Oh, they were drunk. Ha ha ha.’
We laugh at drunken behavior but whisper about drug use. No wonder we’re a mess.
The freedom of drinking has become more a part of the lives of younger evangelicals. Bloggers write about that glass of wine. (Does wine sound more acceptable?) The 30-something podcaster mentions it and it seems there is a whole generation of young evangelicals who have found the freedom to enjoy alcohol as if putting an exclamation point on grace.
Which also means, there is a whole new generation of young evangelicals where one out of 10 will become an alcoholic. It doesn’t happen quickly. It can take ten years or more for it to become an obsessive addiction. You’ll barely notice the slippery slope of this disease.
I’m not against the use of alcohol. I don’t believe drinking is a sin or that you’ll go to hell if you do. I do believe, for many, they’ve opened something they never had to find out. Like Mikey, they’ve tried it and they like it. Only, they really, really like it and then they need it.
The next few days we’ll look more closely at alcohol and addiction within the church. Redemption isn’t reserved for a group of men in a residential rehab program. As we say in Celebrate Recovery: it’s hurts, habits, and hang-ups and we all have them. Whether it’s a substance, a habit, or hurt, we need the redemption of Jesus.
“It’s common for a person to relapse, but relapse doesn’t mean that treatment doesn’t work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.” Understanding drug use and addiction
We are not a treatment center.
Our sign says Adult Rehabilitation Center.
Our goal is to provide this rehabilitation through addressing their problems which more often than not, include addiction.
While we differentiate between treatment and rehabilitation we do identify addiction as a disease. This can be hard for many of us to wrap our heads around. The common thought is, just stop. Stop drinking so much. Stop taking all your prescribed meds for the month in two days. Just stop it!
I don’t have the scientific knowledge or words to explain this. I can’t find the exact analogy that would make this more relatable. I only know that addicts aren’t this way by their own choosing. No one thinks they’re going to be an addict or alcoholics. There isn’t even a clear predictor of the cause of this disease. Yes, it seems to run in families but no family is immune.
David grew up in the church. His father is a pastor with regional oversight for his denomination.
Sue’s dad was a lawyer.
Arnie’s family all held white-collar professional jobs.
Sam’s brother was a neurosurgeon.
Some are the only ones in their family with this disease. Or maybe the only ones addicted to the “wrong” things. There are acceptable addictions like workaholism and smoking. We applaud one and frown on the other.
Sue was college educated and taught school. She never drank before college but once she started, she couldn’t stop. She ended up in jail in a DUI charge. Her family wouldn’t bail her out. She eventually lost her job. It took this well-educated, bright woman 11 attempts at sobriety before something clicked. Twenty-five years later she can’t tell you why it finally did. She is only grateful it did.
None of these people wanted to be who they became. All of them are thankful for who they are now. They are part of the redeemed.
I haven’t struggled with addiction. But I wasn’t who I wanted to be. Something was missing in my life. I knew it. I also knew the answer. It’s the same answer we offer them: redemption through Jesus. For some, he has miraculously removed the desire to use drugs. For most, he uses people, programs, and groups, to help in the ongoing battle.
It is the same with sin. There are temptations all around. They are not eliminated from our lives. God works through a myriad of ways to walk with us in our daily journey as redeemed. For all of us, life is lived one day at a time.
There has to be a willingness to change. There is healing. There is grace. One day. Every day.