Why this photo with this post? Because even in the midst of unraveling, wow . . . what joy there has been.
The last two years have been a complete crap-show, friends. I don’t even know where to begin.
I can tell you this: I still love Jesus. I still adore my three people and the mister. I still believe in women encouraging each other. And I still believe in the ridiculous sweetness of yellow Labrador Retrievers, a glass of good wine, good coffee and good conversation. Usually all together in the same room.
I’ve dealt with more relational conflict in the last two years than the previous 42 years combined. Yes, I wrote a book about the importance of having heart sisters. I authored a six week Bible study on the same topic. I speak often to groups on the importance of girlfriends and why we need other women in our lives.
But today, as I stand here at 44 years of age, I can tell you that four heart sisters remain. Out of, once upon a time, twelve.
Four steadfast friends who are committed to working through stuff that comes up when it’s hard because they love you. Four friends who sit on the front porch with you as you cry, lament, drink coffee and say “I’m just going to sit here until you’re OK.” Four friends who say “Whatever you decide, I’m with you.” Four friends who are forever friends, not just for a reason and for a season.
And yes . . . trust me. I know. What a gift to have four.
Yet the conflicts have rocked my world. Some of which much of the blame can be laid at my feet, some of which were just downright betrayals leaving a machete protruding from my back. I so appreciate how Jen Hatmaker has chronicled her similar journey to authenticity and out of religiosity during the past few years as well. In a post from last year, she states “This year, I deeply experienced being on the wrong side of religion, and it was soul-crushing. I suffered the rejection, the fury, the distancing, the punishment, and sometimes worst of all, the silence. I experienced betrayal from people I thought loved us. I felt the cold winds of disapproval and the devastating sting of gossip. I received mocking group texts about me, accidentally sent to me; “Oh, we were just laughing WITH you!” they said upon discovery, an empty, fake, cowardly response. It was a tsunami of terror. One hundred things died. Some of them are still dead. Some are struggling for life but I don’t know if they will make it.”
This, in a nutshell, has been my story. Because then she says this:
“Simultaneously, other things died during the election season. Much ink has been spilled here and I won’t belabor the point, but I know I’m not the only one holding a pile of tattered threads in her hands, wondering what on earth just happened to our supposed holy common ground. The Christian Machine malfunctioned, and we are all still staring at each other, trying our damnedest to figure out how we understand the gospel so differently, unsure if we will ever find our way back to each other. The Christian community has been maligned, mocked, dragged, and dissected publicly, our civil war evident to a watching world. We are a meme. It is truly awful.
My mind knows the difference between the Christian Machine and Jesus, but this year it feels hard to separate. The whole system seems poisoned, and I struggle to drink any of it. Even as I recognize my cynicism throwing a wet blanket over the credible, sincere declarations of others, I can’t quite stop it. It’s all falling on damaged ears. Every bit of it feels manufactured, brand-building, pretty words that failed me, didn’t show up, joined the chorus that broke my family’s heart. This is plainly unfair, but here I am.”
And there you have it. I couldn’t express it any better than Jen did. We are kindred spirits, she and I.
It’s also a big reason why I haven’t written here because every time I sat down to so, I just couldn’t do it. What do you say when you’ve been vilified, misrepresented, gossiped about and treated like trash? Nothing. You say nothing until the words slowly return. And praise be to God, they’re returning because I heal through writing and oh how I need to heal through some stuff, friends. Maybe you do, too. If so, I pray healing over you as well in whatever form that takes for you.
There’s so much more to share. So much more to say. So much more to heal. But I’m going to share and say and heal because just as Jen’s words have done for me, maybe some of the explanation of my midlife, unraveling-self can do for you.
Disclaimer: I love Jesus but I cuss a little. I’m over judgement and “the pretty front porch” of the church but I still think we are called to be a part of it. I drink wine. I have a large tattoo on my forearm and this summer, I added some pink to my hair because why not? I’m not sure where I stand on a lot of big ticket topics the church spends a ridiculous amount of time talking about. I think it’s far more simple than we’ve made it. I haven’t been to seminary, I’m still growing and changing and what I believe today I may not next year (or even next week) because again, I am committed to growing and changing. If this makes you want to send me hate mail, call me heretical and/or shame me (which I won’t allow you to do) for having an opinion that’s different from yours, this is not the blog for you. I love you just the same because THAT’S what we are called to do but you won’t hurt my feelings if you choose to unfollow, unlike or un-whatever.
Peace be with you. Peace be with us all. No exceptions.