Silent Saturday

The Catholics say today is Holy Saturday.  Others call it Easter Eve, or Black Saturday.  

Last night I heard a new title for this day : Silent Saturday.

Somehow silence rings truest.

I picture Mary Magdalene spending months with Jesus, hearing him speak like none had before.  Giving back the dignity to women religious leaders of the day had taken away.  Watching him heal the sick, feed the hungry, and all the while knowing she’d found something more than human.  

She loved Him.  Put her faith in Him.  She followed Him.

And then wept broken tears as she watched Him die.  He just died.  Like any other convicted Roman criminal with nails in their hands and feet - Jesus simply died.

The Garden Tomb where Jesus may have been laid.

The Garden Tomb where Jesus may have been laid.

I can imagine hours later when the storm of grief lessened out of nothing more than exhaustion, Mary felt the heavy weight of “what now?”  

“Now I’ll go and help prepare his body for the tomb,” she may have said.

She’d met a rich man who’d gotten permission from the Roman authorities to bury Jesus in his own tomb.  As Jewish tradition required, Mary would rush alongside others to get Jesus’ body wrapped and laid out for burial before the Sabbath would allow her to do no more.  

Once he was laid on a hard slab of rock, cut out from side of an elaborate cave, she sat across from him and watched.

The area they would lay bodies.  Jesus being the first in the new tomb, would've been on the far left section.  Mary would've sat just across, probably the place where the picture was taken to weep and mourn.

The area they would lay bodies.  Jesus being the first in the new tomb, would've been on the far left section.  Mary would've sat just across, probably the place where the picture was taken to weep and mourn.

And again perhaps, felt the heavy weight of “what now?”  What of this man she put her faith in? Who deep down, she believed was more than a man, but God himself.  

A God who was now very silent.

Forced to leave the tomb so a giant stone could be placed at the entrance, Mary still couldn’t leave His presence.  She found a spot on the grass, amidst the dozens of rows of grapevines, and watched.  Waited.  Devastated in the silence.

She’d had plans, dreams, and ideas.  She was going to follow Jesus until the day she died.  She would help him heal the wounded, care for the sick, and comfort the broken hearted.  She’d dreamed of telling the world about this love that had rescued her from a life she couldn’t even bring herself to think about now.  And oh, what Jesus would do for women!  He believed in her.  The first to see her with the same worth, value, and gifting as men.

Were those dreams now as dead as her Lord?  Were they as silent as the heavens felt now?

Mary didn’t yet know the full story.  

She didn’t know what would happen tomorrow.  

She didn’t know He would to do so much more with her dreams than she’d ever imagined. She didn’t know He’d come to her first.  She didn’t know He would make her, a woman, whose testimony wasn’t even valid in court, the very first evangelist. The first to preach to men about this God, who himself became a man and died, only to come back straight to her.

She could only sit in the silence and hope it wasn’t all for nothing.

I believe there are things in our life meant to die and never come back.  There’s dreams, relationships, even loved ones, who die and don’t return to us. In our mourning, when we feel our God is as silent and dead as our broken hearts, remember...we don’t know how the story ends.

Silence doesn’t last forever.  There will be a resurrection.  A resurrection of hopes, dreams, loves, faith, and even our weary souls.

The price was paid.  Our place was taken.  It is finished.

But the story…Your story…it is far from finished.

The silence is merely the calm before the glorious storm.

Take a lesson from Mary, and wait for it.


Friends over Family

There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friend.

Why does the guy all about love, tell us in it’s greatest form, love lays down its life for a friend?

Not for their child.  Not for a parent.  Not for a sibling, cousin, or grandchild.

But for a friend.

Pop inside almost any church anywhere in the world and you’ll get an immediate impression of the importance of family.  In the Bible belt, they’ll even go a step further into “family values”.

We hold family high above our friendships.  Friends come and go through our lives like the passing seasons, while we stick like glue to family members we don’t even like. Family feels like the greatest love.  There’s a certain weight in our hearts, a natural instinct if you will, to sacrifice for and pledge loyalty to our family.

Yet, Jesus didn’t say the greatest love was to your own bloodline.  In fact, He’s the one who tells us to hate our father, mother, brothers and sisters in comparison to our love for him.  

Those twelve closest to him weren’t family.  They traveled with him, learned from him, and most of them ultimately died for him, and they weren’t related to him.  

They were his friends.  

This is why I believe He says the love of a friend is greatest.  

Friendship doesn’t come with a built in instinct to be on the same team, fully committed to not just lay down one’s life, but live one’s life alongside another.  It must be offered freely.  A risk must be taken to love a friend, for they may not love you back.  They may turn their back on you, abandoned you, or worst of all...sell you for thirty pieces of silver.

friend collage.jpg

Friends are an active choice.  You choose to be in the life of a friend.  You make conscious decisions to call, invite, and invest in their world.  

I’ve had many choose to come into mine...

The college friends who fought alongside me for my sisters.

The TV News friends who understood a few office tears falling.

The California friends who help me navigate this strange new dream.

And the best friend...who knows where all the bodies are buried.



 

 

 

Let Me Lament

For the last several weeks, I’ve been co-teaching a class on some books in the Old Testament.  Unlike my co-leader,  I’ve never taken a college level type Bible course in my life, so I’m pretty much making it up as I go along.

Thank the Lord for commentaries and the internet.

Last week we were in this book titled Lamentations.  And it’s exactly what it claims.  Five full chapters of lamenting.

According to Merriam-Webster, lament means to mourn aloud, cry out in grief...wail.

This book wails.  

It’s set right after the Babylonians sieged and ransacked Jerusalem.  Filled with starvation, disease, and death by the sword, the book spews uncontrolled sorrow.  Understandable since there’s even passages about mother’s boiling their babies to eat. (And here I thought Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road was a dark tale.)

But as the grief continued, what got to me was the freedom allowed for the author to express that grief.

I feel so often, particularly in the church world, we rush to make everything all better.  We set time limits on pain.  Stopwatches to monitor mourning.  Send well-meaning counselors to handle hardships.

We have catchphrases such as, “Don’t pray for an easier life, pray for it to make you stronger.”

Or, “Difficulties and obstacles are God’s challenges to faith.”

And my personal favorite, “When life knocks you to your knees...PRAY!”

Ten years ago, hearing words such as these only made it worse.  I felt they believed my inability to rejoice in my sufferings was a faith problem - not a life is shit problem.

Now when I hear them, I simply hold back the urge to call the person closer so I can punch her in the ear.  

Because no matter how many times you say Jesus made it all better, it won't make the real healing come any faster.

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Healing is on it’s own timetable.   

I know too many times when I've deserved a good ear punching myself for fixing instead of loving.  Encouraging instead of listening.

Sometimes we need to just let people lament.  Give people permission to feel like ass.

They aren’t weaker for it.  They aren’t suffering a lack of faith for it.  They certainly shouldn’t be immediately diagnosed with depression by those lacking a PhD for it.

Sometime life just sucks.  And it sucks bad.  And it can suck for a long time.

 

What are your thoughts on this?  Are there some times in your life where you’d rather have a quiet shoulder than an encouraging doer?  Have you experienced someone trying to make it better, when you really just needed to lament?

 

 

 

Finding Him

Earlier this week I asked, "Where is God in broken and abusive childhoods?"

The answers I received both publicly and privately, touched such tender places in my heart.  They ranged from God doesn't win all the battles, to questioning the very existence of God, to God is quiet because He is sad too.  

All very humbling responses.

So many searching for the same answer.  So many suffering from dark memories that refuse to be forgotten.   So many seeking to explain what may be unexplainable.

Or is it?

I hate the Sunday school statement, "We may never know.  We have to live in faith."  I hate it down deep in my bones.  If the very nature of God is to be the God that answers prayer, why is He not also the God of answers?

So I've spent the last week seeking my answer.

Here's what I've gotten so far... 

He never wastes a hurt.  Anything I've been through, He can make it matter. He can turn the hurt into something beautiful.   The very joy I'm having writing this book is only a small piece of the redemption in my life.

We have no idea what He's saved us from.  I complain and cry and groan against all that has been allowed to happen, but I have no idea what He's NOT allowed to happen.  Considering my background, I imagine there must be a quite a bit He stopped. 

God didn't do it.  Some will say God never gives us more than we can handle.  A woman very dear to me said that's crap.  God didn't do this, a person did. 

BUT...

God allowed it to happen.  Here's where it gets sticky.  When I have a certain amount of control, or power over my life, I see God working through, around and in what He's allowing to happen.  When I was a child, helpless and small, it's a different story.  He felt so very not there.  

Here's where I think He was:

God was getting pissed off.   That Old Testament angry God who everyone uses against you when you do something as horrific as vote differently...that guy... He's most ticked when the strong abuse the weak.  He's not mad people don't "live right".  He's angry for the children, widows, and the poor.  In His world, the least are the first.  

He was working a way out.   I got out.  Moments before it would've all been too late, an aunt stepped in and changed everything.  Arguably, because God didn't remove me sooner, I formed an attachment to my half-sisters that might not otherwise have been there.  Five years later, we got them out too.

He inserted survival spots.  Small, shiny moments of good amidst mountains of bad.  I saw them in the woman I babysat for who taught me to drive and bought me new clothes.  The girls on my soccer team who didn't care my cleats came from Wal-Mart.  A summer job that got me out of the house.  A love of reading that took me away for hours on end.  Sisters.  

I still wish there'd been more comfort...more protection...more help.  But since I started writing No Beauty Queen, I've had this scripture on a sticky note on my desk.  I think it's simple and I hope it's true. 

Out of Joel... 

"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten." 

 

Where is He?

It’s been a rough couple of weeks.  The kind of rough that leaves you unable to stop crying for about 36 hours straight and then wondering why the hell you can’t seem to get it together.

So instead of preparing my blog to be out fresh and ready this morning, I spent all of yesterday on the couch with my remote.  (What is going to happen to Carol on the Walking Dead?!?!)  It’s exactly what I needed.  To shut my head off and fill it with mindless garbage I can dump ten minutes after the credits role.  Except for that zombie series.  (Seriously though - he just told Carol to leave???)

From the surface, my sorrows all seem to come from different corners, different parts of my life from relationships to book rejections.  But after a few episodes of Revolution and Covert Affairs, (don’t judge) I stepped far enough back to finally find the forest.  

It’s all about childhood.  And a very broken, abusive one at that.

About two weeks ago a friend and up and coming producer (I live in Southern California now where you say things like my friend writes on this show, or starred in that commercial and you aren’t lying.  Very surreal.) gave me some intense feedback on my book.  

She told me she couldn’t care less about me, or what was happening to me, until around chapter 6.  “Why do you even need those first few chapters?” she asked entirely serious and pulling no punches.

Ouch.

When I recovered from the knockout, and continued our conversation later over a glass (or five) of wine, I realized she was right.  My first five chapters make the reader believe the book is going in one direction, when it’s going the opposite.  And not in an amazing surprising plot twist kind of way.

The hard truth is that I know, that I know, that I know, since I printed out the very first draft...the first 50 pages are wrong.  

They’re wrong because they’re about my own broken, abusive childhood.  

One of the problems is the fact it wasn’t abusive enough to have insane stories of bats being shattered over my back, or having so many cigarette burns one could play connect the dots on my arm.  That didn’t happen.  It was more subtle. A lot more mental.  I can’t hide behind shock value.  To make you care I have to go another, deeper layer of vulnerable into how it all made me feel.

Frankly it makes me feel weak and stupid.  There’s a thing that happens in childhood abuse that’s similar to coming out of a bad romantic relationship. You feel a sort of shame for “allowing” such treatment to happen to you. Doesn’t matter that you know it’s not your fault, your adult self is still mad at your 8-year old self for letting it happen.

In the latter part of my book I regain control.  Even better I fight back.  Even better than that, I see God charging before me, making a way where there was no way. 

I don’t see God in my childhood.  I see Him after and how He used it, but I don’t see Him in it.  

The thread of Him is what holds my book together.  I’ve fought and fought that I don’t want No Beauty Queen to be your typical, evangelical type book...and it’s not.  (At least I hope it's not.)  I never want those I dearly love and respect to feel I’m pushing some version of religion on their lives.

But No Beauty Queen is a struggle in, with, and through faith.  A struggle you don’t feel when I’m seven.  A struggle you don’t feel on page 22.

So I'm asking everyone reading to please do me a favor.  Fill my comment box with your thoughts and opinions, whether you believe in any version of a god, or not.  

Answer me this:

Where is God in abusive, broken childhoods?

Not where is He after, or how He can use them to His glory later.  And please, not the “He’s right by your side holding you through it” answer.  Where is He in that moment you are becoming a victim?  What is His glory then?  Where’s the God strength in being a weak child?

I’ve got five new chapters to write.