I’m joining Lisa-Jo at Gypsy Mama again for 5 Minute Friday. Join us! Just write for 5 minutes–no edits, no extra time–just write and post. The theme today is “If I knew I could, I would. . .
If I knew I could find the words that would convince you that God loves you, I would drop everything and spill those words out for you to hear and watch your eyes and heart light up.
If I knew the acts in my life that would show you how much God loves you, and what peace you would find if you knew Him, I would stop everything else and just do those things that would show you.
If I knew I could find another person in this world who could help you to see God and have faith the way I do, I would push aside my introverted nature and introduce you to that person and serve you tea and cupcakes while you talked.
If I knew that I could point you to a passage in scripture that would speak to your heart and show you His, I would sit with you in silence as you read and pray for God’s presence at that moment.
If I knew that I could pray for God to pursue you and prepare your heart and that nothing I could do would help, I would pray anyway because I love you that much, and because I know God loves you that much, and because I know hope and faith and love prevail. . . .
I log on to Facebook. Something I thought would only be for my son and daughter. But I find friends there from grade school, high school, and college. We reconnect electronically. As we “friend” each other, we scroll through photos, posts, and the info page—education and work, philosophy (religious and political views), arts and entertainment, activities and interests, and so on. We look to see who we might connect with, and we find those things that make up our friends’ identities—or at least that part of their identity that Facebook has space to include.
Christian, without any qualifiers is missing from all but a few. Some Christian friends—and I—leave off our religious views entirely.
I wonder what it is about our identity in Christ that makes us choose how we express that identity in this particular electronic media, but I also think about how we respond to others who ask us about our religion. How do we express our religious viewpoint–our faith–to those who only see our “online” presence? Or, for that matter, to those who we first meet?
Kathleen Norris, in her book Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith touches on our identity as Christians. She notes that she is reluctant to speak of herself as a “Christian” because she knows how deficient she is in practice. But, she is reluctant also because “so many of the people who make the most of their ‘Christianity’ in public represent a distorted version of the faith.” She adds that so many in America regard “Christian” as synonymous with “fundamentalist,” and that the media seems “bent on perpetuating” that error.
I agree with her and grapple with this issue. It is not that I don’t find my identity in Christ. I do. But, the negative views of “Christianity” that ooze from history, and through the media and some “Christian” public figures—well, let’s face it, the negative views are, sadly, well deserved. They even stir up anger and heartache in me—like the burning of the Koran recently that resulted in violence and death in the Middle East.
And so, when I first meet someone or publicize on a medium where people might “meet” me only electronically and not ever get to know me, I want to distance myself from the public view of “Christianity.” Rather than “Christianity” allowing me to connect with others, I fear it will create an unwarranted divide.
It isn’t just the media image of Christianity either. As Norris states, “I know how deficient I am in practice.” I, too, am a blemished and broken human. I am deficient without God’s grace and mercy. I am deficient without the loving God who sent his son to the cross to bear my sins.
So, in the context of twenty-first century America, and knowing that I am broken and blemished, publicizing—headlining—that I am a Christian—seems counter-productive. It is a roadblock for the unbeliever—or people of other faiths—to relationship with Christ-followers.
I don’t know how to redeem “Christianity” for Christ except through relationship with others. If “Christianity” is suspect and associated by some with hate, divisiveness, violence, or arrogance, I can’t redeem Christianity if using that word to identify who I am creates a barrier before I even have the chance to establish rapport.
And so, as I walk through holy week—knowing that God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to die on the cross—I look to the cross for answers. The only answer that seems clear is finding my identity in Christ and inviting Christ to transform me so that I may love others fully. I know that love is the heart of Christian faith. And, that Christ suffered the cross because of God’s love for all of humanity.
In twenty-first century America, keeping a distance from the “C” word seems almost necessary. Instead of posting my identity on Facebook, I need to turn toward Christ and pursue my relationship with Him so that I may meet others with His love, as an image-bearer of God. To let God transform me so that He might use me to transform the hearts of others.
“Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” 1 John 3:18.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 12:5-8
I feel God tap on my shoulder sometimes. Call Judy. Have coffee with Denise. Go visit Ryan and Dina and the kids. Make time for those you love and care about.
I ignore the shoulder tap. Work. Fatigue. Tomorrow is soon enough.
God taps on my shoulder again. And, I hear His voice. This is what matters. This . . . is . . . what . . . matters. Love others. That’s what I intend for your life.
Okay, I think. I know that is what You intend for my life. But what about work and all I have to do?
I’ll reach out. . . Soon.
And then the blow comes. This time it isn’t a shoulder tap. But, instead, heart-break. And, regrets.
Too late. No chance for that cup of tea. Or laughter. Or hugs. Or catching up on each other’s lives.
No chance to say thank you for just being you. For being part of my life. Part of my kids’ lives. For making my life better.
Forgive me. Forgive my selfish hours. Priorities misplaced. Excuses for not taking an hour or two just to laugh with you.
Your smile and laughter fade in the distance now. Beyond my reach.
Know that you are loved.
Know that next time God taps me on the shoulder, I will listen because I will hear your voice singing and laughing in the distance.
I headed out for my morning run. Beautiful, cool, October day. Sun at my back and a light breeze on my face. I felt inspired to find myself running again this past month. Until last month, I had let my running shoes lay idle for too many months, for too many years. I had forgotten how it renewed me. Helped me reflect on my day. To find time to talk to God. And, to enjoy the beauty of creation.
But, as I rounded the corner to the next street I felt a sudden pain in my left ankle. Pain enough to have to stop. No twisting or turning of my ankle. Just pain. I walked home the half mile or so, admonishing myself for not stretching enough, praying it was only a minor strain and that I would be back on the road again soon.
It’s been a few months now and I haven’t been back on the road again. And, I don’t know yet when I will. But I smile and think that, somehow, God had His hand in this. Somehow, my desire to run again, to work towards running a half marathon — even a full marathon–was not part of God’s plan. At least for now.
The road He has taken me down instead, has been transforming. A stress fracture in my left leg just above the ankle, has led to the discovery of a variety of health issues, and, in turn, lots of reading and research. To learn. To understand the underlying causes — not just the treatment. And, ultimately, the decision to eat a plant-based and whole-grain-only diet.
My disappointment about not being able to run has subsided. In its place, I find peace. Peace that this is a life change — a direction — that has bigger implications than I know. That this is what I need to be doing now so that I can live a full life, as God intended.
Eating only fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains–and eliminating all meat, seafood, dairy products, processed foods, and refined sugar and grains–has been easier than I ever imagined. While I would never advocate a particular diet for everyone else, I feel blessed on this diet. For the first time, I see food as nourishment and healing for my body–not as a quest to satisfy a craving or to give my senses momentary pleasure.
I pray that I will continue to see food as nourishment and healing. Not just of my body, but in my relationship with Christ. In spending less time on earthly things — on satisfying my cravings and momentary pleasure–and instead, “setting my heart on things above.” Colossians 3:1.
So, as I begin my journey into the new year, I journey towards Christ — to learn what life Christ wants me to live. My running shoes still lay idle in my closet. And, my soul is not nourished by being out running on the road. Instead, I find nourishment and healing in food. And, I find nourishment and healing seeking God in other places and reading His word. And, I am reminded “not [to] worry about [my] life, what [I] will eat or drink.” Because “life [is] more important than food, and the body more important than clothes.” Matthew 6:25.
I am blessed. I have peace. I have hope. God nourishes my soul.
Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you. . . Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. — Matthew 6:33.
“Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit, and so be at peace with one another.”
While change is difficult, marriage can amplify the difficulty. When two people come together to make decisions, two opinions, two approaches, two sets of feelings enter the conversation.
Often during my marriage–23 years and counting–I know my husband and I have failed to work together to make decisions. One of us would just make a decision and bring the other along for the ride–cajoling, nudging, pushing, and even pulling at times. Other times, we have thoughtfully walked through the decision-making process, together.
Sometimes, I want change for our life, but I feel held back because of where my husband is in his work or with his health or something else. I’ve thought, more often than I want to admit, “If it were all up to me, I would . . . .” I feel frustrated or stuck. I feel helpless and impatient.
I let my selfishness suck up my energy and my vitality. Instead of appreciating the moments and the journey together, I waste my energy on wishes and hopes and desires that beckon me away from this life, this reality.
But, marriage is my “rich reality,” as Nora Gallagher calls it. And, rather than live under the illusion of my readiness for change and my desire–I need to live in the truth of what marriage means. I need to see and appreciate the richness of the journey. I need to live the story of our marriage that God has provided us. I need the rich reality of this loving man that God has blessed me with.
Together, we need to be “led along together by the Holy Spirit” and to “be at peace.” Ephesians 4: 2-3. We need to be led in this journey. So simple. So much easier than nudging or pushing or pulling or cajoling. I feel peace just at the thought of being led.