Thursday, January 27, 2011

Remembering my former life

Taking three theology classes is one of the best, and one of the worst, ideas I had about this quarter. The reasons for both are the same: my mind gets blown with new ways of thinking every class period. That means I have a mind-blowing experience 9 times a week: awesome and exhausting all at the same time.

Yesterday was an exceptionally exciting day as I learned a whole new vision of freedom and also a very different way to interpret the book of Hosea. I may write another blog to explain each of those, but what is more important than these radical new ideas, is the way I reacted to them.

I was excited and fully engaged. I could have spent hours just discussing these theories and ideas and just attempting to grasp their multi-faceted implications. I wanted, and needed, to digest them in the company of other students and professors because they were huge ideas that require long and thorough digestion. I was really excited to spend at least a class period on each of these, but was hoping we could spend a whole week of class on them. Can you see how excited I was? I was literally bouncing in my chair and furiously writing down almost everything the professor was saying. It was awesome.

The problem: as far as I could tell, no one else was half as interested as I was. I realized how apathetic students are towards learning. They are in the class to get the grade to get the degree to get out of school and into the world of fighting to make money. Maybe that is simplifying the life of an American college student a little too much, but then I wonder if it isn’t. Feel free to give me feedback, fellow students.

In my Hosea class the problem was also that no one, not even me, was willing to speak up and ask to go more in depth with this new, radical way to interpret Hosea. I am not sure anyone else thought it was possible, but I wanted to give them all the benefit of the doubt. Maybe others were just as excited as I was, they just felt outnumbered by the people who weren’t, or by our professor who did not give it much credence. Whatever the case, I was downright angry when he glossed over it, dismissing it as impossible, way too radical. Maybe he is right, but maybe he isn’t.

Most of my college life I have been an apathetic student, even in my last year of high school I was only doing the work to get the grade to get the degree to get out of school. Senior year we call it senioritis, but when I got to freshman year at college my senioritis was still with me, and it didn’t ever leave. Until I left and came back for my senior year, that is.

I love learning. I love discussing new ideas and challenging old thoughts with new, maybe impossible, thoughts. This quarter I love my classes not because they are easy or I can bullshit them, but because they challenge me to work harder, think deeper and go beyond the box of my former education. In Uganda this was encouraged and given lots of room to grow. Grades slowly faded in their importance and learning became the important thing; at least with some classes. Now, however, it is a fight for the grade, for the degree, for the job. It is all a fight. I don’t want to fight, I want to learn deeply and share that experience with other people. This is a problem when others do not share that desire. It’s hard to learn in a community when I am the only one in the community.

Though overall I felt discouraged by the end of the day, I am encouraged to catch a glimpse of the learner within me. To see this yearning for understanding, for learning beyond what gets me a decent grade, is beautiful, a side of myself I have not known within school since I was much younger. Now that I see it, however, I can see it was there all along. These past years of hating school I was still yearning to grow and learn and understand. That part of me was overwhelmed with having to grow and understand what the hell just happened in my family and in my life. Now that I have space and have experienced much healing I find learning within school is not only fun, but also it feeds my spirit and my brain!

How funny God is, that he took me far away from school, into a whole different mindset, in order to teach me how much I love school.

Shalom to you all!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Father, Can You Hear Me?

Sometimes my heart feels like it is full of all the pain my family feels. My one little heart seems to feel what everyone feels. Being blessed with the gift of empathy sometimes feels like a curse.
My family have gotten a backseat in this blog over the past several months. My life was overwhelmed with camp and California and going back to school

Yesterday, my littlest sister called me in tears. It took a few minutes of texting (cause first I got her tearful message) before I realized how much of an emergency was happening. She and the other two young siblings were going to work for my dad, helping him to move into a house he bought with the same woman he had an affair with. They are, obviously, still in an intimate relationship with each other. Well, this woman was also helping him to move on that day. No one my family wants to hang out with her. Most of us don’t even want to hang out with our dad. Kate was in tears because she was trapped, she had no warning of this. Protective older sister instincts took over and I had the urge to jump and in car and drive the 2.5 hours to pick her up. Instead I texted my mom that my dad was being a cuss word and her kids needed help. This worked better, cause my mom was closer.

I didn’t get much chance to process my feelings for myself about it all yesterday. I was fuming for the sake of my sisters; furious that my dad would decide such an idea was a good one. Those were feelings for them, for their situation. They were helpful because they propelled me into action, into helping my sister see she was worth rescuing, that her feelings are deeply important and she is worth protecting. I was so glad to be able to demonstrate that worth to her and to tell her in my actions how precious she is and that she should not be treated any other way.

This morning my feelings were for me. I was driving for church and found myself listening to my favorite cussing song, “Rootless Tree” by Damien Rice. The chorus is a satisfying string of F-words I can scream from the car. I was pissed and sad and outraged and would have liked to scream the F-word at him.

My dad is moving in with this woman and is either blind or choosing to ignore his children’s feelings. I guess he never asked us. Did he even think to? I guess I won’t speculate and project feelings or perceptions of mine onto him. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. Whatever the case, I feel like he is pushing himself away from us. My heart aches for my siblings, for my mom, and for me. It hurts like hell. It really does feel like I am losing him all over again because it feels like he is creating a new family for himself. I feel such sorrow for my younger siblings because they will have to navigate something so painful and difficult as they work to keep their dad in their life, but cannot handle having his lover in their life. That should not be asked of them. Do the sorrows of divorce ever end?

I keep listening to a song called Sorrow. It’s originally a Bad Religion song, but Jon Foreman did a cover of it that sits much deeper in my heart. The chorus says:

“There will be sorrow,
there will be sorrow,
There will be sorrow no more.”

I yearn for the day when there will be sorrow no more. When the horrors and pains of divorce will at last fade away. Today in church, however, the pastor suggested reconciliation might yet continue into heaven. Whatever we don’t reconcile here we may be asked to reconcile there. Before I went to the table with all my brothers and sisters in that church to receive communion I had to breath deeply and ask myself if I could receive communion with my dad next to me, or even with his lover serving it to me. If there was no willingness for that to happen I wasn’t sure I should take communion. Somewhere in me there was willingness, even hope, that one day we could move beyond the pain and sorrow into a communion with each other. I just hope that day isn’t today.

Maybe there will be no more sorrow because we will at least be able to reconcile with all the peoples of the earth. Maybe we will be able to wipe our souls clean of all the wrongs done to it, and all the shame for the wrongs we have done to others. I hope this is so.

Shalom to you all.

(also, here is the link to "Sorrow" sung by Jon Foreman. It's worth a listen.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Week One


A whole week of school has happened and I didn’t die! I didn’t really think I would, but at the same time I wondered if I might explode or something.

What has this week been? Like nothing I expected. When my plane landed in Seattle last Tuesday I had tears running down my face. Not from fear or dread or sorrow, no, these were tears of excitement and joy. After writing my last blog on that same airplane I was overwhelmed with the realization that I get a second chance at being a student, a second chance to love learning at an institution. The grace and mercy of this second chance brought me to tears and a new excitement about it rushed through my veins as my heart beat a little faster.

The excitement in many ways has lasted throughout the week. I love studying. I don’t know how that happened, but I get excited for the hours of studying I get to do every day. I also get excited to go to classes. For those who have followed my life you know this is beyond me. Last year ended with classes being a place of panic and fear. How did I get to this point? I guess I don’t really know. God has way bigger plans than I could have imagined, and also smaller. I had no idea my adventure to California was actually meant to lead me back to school. I had no idea God wanted to redeem school and my love of learning. I wonder what else I have no idea about.

I have also been living with men. Sometimes this is quite terrifying to me, but I also trust there is purpose in this so I am able to be patient within the tension of it. I don’t know yet how to be fully myself, fully comfortable at my home and I don’t know how to be bold in saying what needs to be different, but I know when one sit’s in tension growth inevitably happens.

In the midst if all this growth and excitement and joy I am also apprehensive and hesitant to really relax into it because for so long school has been hard and disaster has struck almost every quarter in some way or another. I find I don’t really know how to do school without impending doom. In some ways I miss it, which is really odd. The danger and excitement of having to just survive is thrilling even as it sucks the life out of me. Doing school when I can take the time to study, when I can sit through classes and just enjoy learning, when my life is actually stable feels abnormal. It’s not that I want disaster to strike, but I am confused by the lack of it and not sure how to just be in the stability right now.

That’s all for now, my friends. I am going to try and post weekly now so if I haven’t posted in a while feel free to get on my case about it.

Peace be in your weeks!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hindsight is Awesome

I wrote this post on Tuesday on a flight between Dallas, TX and Seattle WA.

I’m on my way back to Seattle. School started today, but I was in Kansas with my Uganda friends. One week full of laughter and outrageous stories, deep conversations and deep people. It was a week of challenge, but also one so full of love and care. The love and care of these friends is like nothing I have ever experienced, except for the love of God. It definitely was not what I expected it to be. Then again, I am not sure what I expected it to be.
Having people digging into some of the hardest stories of the past year and having those same people share their own struggles and heartaches was beautiful, but not easy; it was good. I do not even have the words to reflect on the week yet, I think the experiences are too close.
What I do want to reflect on is going back to school. Today I was given some glorious insight into it all. The conclusion: God had a purpose in everything that happened the last 6 months.
I saw that last spring, when I was contemplating dropping out, I had grown apathetic towards learning and that apathy was quickly becoming bitterness. I could have pushed through school and finished by the end of this year, but it would have been with a hard and angry heart. I think God saw this and knew I needed rescue. He rescued me; he gave me the freedom to walk away and then invited me on an adventure. I am an adventure junkie, so of course I accepted the invitation. In the last 6 months I have gotten to live in different places near the ocean, to experience different communities and families, to be welcomed into a different family and loved so completely by them. I also studied. I ate up books by well known theologians like Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Tolkien and Eugene Peterson. I got to study at my own pace and decide what it was I wanted to get out of these books. Friends, I loved it. Today my friend reminded me of just how much I love to learn and study. I even wrote papers about what I read! God must have seen my heart turning hard and bitter and also known how much I love to learn and study, and he knew he had to do an intervention. He loves me too much to allow my heart to be hardened towards something I love. It took six months, but I got a glimpse of the journey today and received a new perspective of renewal and a second chance to really enjoy learning in the community of SPU.
I don’t think I could have received this joyous gift unless I had spent a week debriefing the hard stuff and allowing my IMME friends to love me. Without the background of love and a supportive community I think I would have hated admitting that I love learning so much and that I might be getting excited about school tomorrow.
This week I didn’t feel pressured to sound ok with what happened in San Diego. It was ok to be upset, to question God and his intentions, to wonder if hope was real and if happiness was possible. It was ok to sit in those hard questions and have no answers, because none of us had any. We were all wondering the same things; the last year has been hard for all of us. Knowing it wasn’t just me who asked these questions and doubts was healing and freeing. It gave me the freedom to look closer and listen to what they all had to say with an open heart. It allowed me to really hear and understand my friend today.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Sitting in classes again, reading over syllabi, knowing I will somehow accomplish every assignment listed; will I be panicked again? Will I remain excited to learn? Will my heart be flooded with apathy and bitterness? Somehow, I have hope within me. Maybe I will panic, maybe I will feel overwhelmed and terrified of all I have to do. My hope isn’t in me. My hope is in God. Today I got a hindsight view of the deep love he has for me and the creative ways he cares for my heart and heals my soul. I guess I am raising an Ebenezer tonight and proclaiming hope and love I cannot understand and choosing to trust God because till now he has cared for me, even when it didn’t look like he was.