Last week, on the first day of my first visit to Northern California, I visited one of the famed redwood forests. It is difficult to describe the experience other than to list a few words that left a lasting imprint on my soul. Majesty. Peace. Stillness. Holiness. It was akin to approaching the throne room of God. It was one of those experiences you just have to soak in while you’re there and process it all later. But the very next day, the news from Charlottesville broke, and with it, the hearts of all of us who despise racism, hatred, and injustice.
Of course, the news only got worse from there. And here I am, on holiday, enjoying peace, rest, and incredible beauty. I received a powerful word from the Lord about the interconnectedness between his presence and the world around me. Yet, racism has surpassed the boiling point and the ugliness of sin is ever increasing in that same world. How are we to reconcile the two? Do we focus on one to the neglect of the other? These are some of the questions I’ve been wrestling with this week, and the following are thoughts I’ve had on racism and Christian community, based upon a few things I have learned from the redwoods.
I could hear its seductive call from Aisle 2. Buy me. You know you want to. What could it hurt? The past couple of years have been brutal and emotionally draining, and I’ve put on nearly 20 pounds. Last week, I finally decided I’ve had enough of that, and I’m ready to take it off and get back into shape. Yet, there I was, standing in front of the salad section, contemplating.
Why do I always want what’s bad for me? Kettle-cooked potato chips, chocolate bars, pizza, cannolis (in Jesus’ name)…even, dare I say it, beer. (Don’t judge me.) Tell me I can’t have something and it’s exactly what I want. Now, I’m not someone who has historically struggled with food or overeating, but I have wrestled with other hangups that have been far more unhealthy than a little extra padding around my waist.
Love. According to God, Author and Creator of all things, love is pretty important. In fact, it’s actually number one on his list. It is the motivator behind all he does and says. And as we are called to imitate him, love must be in and through all our words and actions, too. Paul even goes as far as to say, “if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.“(1 Cor. 13:2) Nothing? Really? That’s a bold statement right there.
If we’re really nothing without love (and I think that means both the giving and receiving of it), it follows then, that how well we love matters. If we seek to grow in our relationship with God, we must always be learning how to love, and how to love better. I don’t know about you, but my ability to give it and receive it needs work. Like every day. As I explained in my previous post, love can often be complicated, difficult, and sacrificial. But improving the ways we love–actually loving others better–isn’t that hard at all.
Every time my family goes somewhere all together, we end up causing a stir. One time during a road trip, we stopped at McDonald’s for lunch, and I let my kids go first up to the counter. The five of them–two Asians, two Africans, and one skinny white kid–noisily talked over one another trying to decide what to order. The guy behind the counter stood there with his mouth open. “Uh…is this some kind of an event?” Yeah, it’s an event, alright, I thought. You have no idea.
We’re kind of a walking billboard for adoption, and we know it. Most of us get a kick out of the perplexed looks we first get from people, but it also warms my heart to then watch their confusion melt into a sort of wonder and introspection about what it really means to be a family. It’s tempting to tell you a fairy tale story about how adoption made our dreams come true and taught us about love, but that would be misleading. Don’t get me wrong–those things are true, except our story is far from idyllic. But that’s exactly what makes it real, and what makes it love.
It gets you every time. And you know it’s coming: the dreaded downward spiral. Maybe you got some bad news or experienced a huge disappointment. Or maybe it’s something relatively minor that somehow manages to have major impact, like finding out you weren’t invited…again. We all have our triggers, the little things that never fail to remind us of all the things we wish we could forget. And before you know it, down and down you go, as one thing quickly leads to another.
Anxiety, fear, panic, depression, hopelessness. However it manifests itself, the pain we carry inside will eventually surface, often when we least expect it and never at an ideal time (is there ever an ideal time?). Our feelings themselves aren’t wrong or bad, but how they affect us can be unhealthy and move us into even deeper places of pain.
Everybody loves a good adventure story. Think of one you know and love right now. Maybe it’s Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars. Or Braveheart. Huckleberry Finn. Lord of the Rings. Back to the Future. If you want to see a lively debate break out, ask a group of friends which is ‘the best’ adventure story out there, and you’ll find everyone has a passionate opinion on why their favorite is superior to all others.
I believe that the reason we get so passionate about adventure stories is that, at a very foundational level, we resonate and identify with them. Somewhere deep down, you and I long to be the hero in the story. The beautiful truth is that we already are, even if we don’t recognize it yet.
Most dictionaries will tell you that brave means “fearless” or “without fear,” but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why that is. I mean, how can you be brave if you’re not facing something you fear? And is there some kind of standard for bravery, or is being brave just in the eye of the beholder?
And furthermore, why are we so drawn to the brave and heroic in the first place? Could it be that being brave is actually part of our true identity in Christ? I have come to believe that it is.
There used to be a house across the street from us that was a boarded-up eyesore, uninhabitable and condemned. After its owner passed away, her drug-dealing son and his cohorts turned what once was a nice little Cape into a crack house and a ramshackle mess. When the money wasn’t coming in, they began to dismantle the house in order to sell anything that might be of value: copper plumbing, kitchen cabinets, even the aluminum gutters! Even though they confined their destruction to their own property, it of course affected the entire neighborhood. It was heartbreaking, embarrassing, and unsafe.
Before long, the city condemned the house and kicked its inhabitants out, and then there it sat, just like that, for more than two long years. One glorious day–the day my two daughters graduated middle school–an excavator and a huge dumpster arrived on the property. We were elated, to say the least! After the graduation, we came back home and sat in front of the picture window, watching the action like TV.
What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘orphan?’ A waifish, poverty-stricken child like in Oliver Twist? Or maybe it’s the sad, pleading eyes of a hungry little one in a far away country. What about that face looking back at you in the mirror? Could you have the heart of an orphan beating inside you and not even know it?
We were all born with an orphan heart. Every last one of us, to some degree or other, has come into this world and lived our lives from a place of abandonment, rejection, and isolation. When we accepted Jesus as Savior, we were grafted into the family of God, fully adopted with the same birthrights and inheritance that His firstborn son received. But speaking as an adoptive mother of four children, I can tell you that just because you are loved and adopted doesn’t mean you will automatically stop living like an orphan.
My dear friends, I want to make sure my blog does the best possible job of answering the needs and desires of my readers, so that means I need to know a little more about you. In order to do that, I’ve created my 2017 Reader Survey.
Would you please take a few minutes to fill out the survey? It’s comprised of 25 short questions that are designed to give me a clearer picture of who my readers are and what is important to them. By taking the survey, you will ultimately be helping yourself. Why? Because you will be helping me create content even more interesting and relevant to you.
Your input is important to me. The survey is easy to fill out, and the results are completely anonymous. I can’t tell who said what. And you can finish in five minutes.
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