Do you remember junior high? Sorry, I know that was a painful question. We all remember those days (and not necessarily in a good way).
Here’s the thing: Where my house is located, I have a front row seat to the on-going pre-teen drama at the junior high bus stop . . . and frequent flashbacks of my own to that dreadful era:
How could I forget the kid with the unfortunate first name of Orville? No doubt his parents intended to honor some beloved relative by giving him that name. But Orville? He paid dearly for his parents’ choice to hang that one on him.
There was the overly tall, awkward guy everyone in the seventh grade called “Slow Monroe” and then snickered as though he couldn’t hear them. I hope he ended up a CEO somewhere.
I still remember Ellen in Mr. Hunter’s math class. She used too much Coppertone QT over the weekend and came to school with her face orange. Even the teacher had a field day at her expense. I’m not sure she ever lived it down.
Early on in my single parenting years, I bought a fixer-upper house in a charming neighborhood full of young families with kids. A few short months after moving in, I joined a singles group at my new church.
I don’t know what made me do such a thing. I mean, the house was an investment and a way of bringing stability to a wobbly life. That part made sense.
But the singles group?
It sure wasn’t because I needed more to do. I was working an all-consuming, often dangerous job that required me to be on call 24/7. And now I had a house in dire need of TLC, a lawn to mow, a temperamental car to nudge along, and a not quite 3-year old to raise on my own.
But for whatever reason, I decided to give the “kickoff” singles event a whirl. I hired a babysitter and then went into image-management mode. I wanted to project the together, professional vibe; to give off a self-sufficient, polished air. I couldn’t have people knowing how hectic and chaotic my life really was. Continue reading The Lesson in the Peeling Wallpaper→
Some days are just hard. Then another one comes along just like it. Then another. And before you know it, they’re stringing together like the links of a heavy chain and you’re dragging the weight around, exhausted and discouraged and maybe a little (or a lot) angry at the unfairness of it all.
When I start to feel that heaviness, I find myself waking up well before daybreak and whispering, “God, please let today be better”. It isn’t a plea grounded in hope, as in I know God is with me and will make all things work together for good if only I will believe. No, usually it’s more of a desperate, I give up, I’m drowning here. I’m at Your mercy.
It’s not a time I need a sermon or a theological explanation about God’s grand designs for humanity and what a small part of it all my tiny life is. It’s true the big picture of human history is infinitely vast and knowable only to an all-powerful God. And it’s true I can trust Him to take care of me in the larger context of eternity.
People are complicated. I’m sure that’s not news to you.
I think about my own life and the image I always try to project: polished, confident, intelligent. You know the drill.
But I’m an iceberg and so are you.
There’s what we let other people see, and then there are all those other layers and dimensions we keep below the surface: our past, our weaknesses, our fears. To be seen as who we aspire to be requires that those aspects of who we are remain hidden. But all that other “stuff” is still there below the surface.
Being in relationship with each other – unless we keep it strictly superficial – is going to be tricky, maybe even dangerous. We’re sure to bump up against each other and those layers we didn’t know were there for others will bruise us, while ours will bloody them.
The loss of comedic great Robin Williams this week really drove this point home to me. Here was a guy who brought so much joy and laughter to his audiences and seemed to always have a funny retort and positive outlook.
I think I could have been friends with him if our worlds had intersected in some way. No doubt I am not alone in that. He was a rare presence.
I’m not kidding when I say there was a glow in the room. My neighbors had invited my daughter and me over to meet their new grandchild – their long awaited, breathlessly anticipated, deeply adored grandchild. They knew how much we had been looking forward to meeting this little one and it was going to work out perfectly. Their daughter and son-in-law would be there with the baby all afternoon. I could hardly contain my excitement.
She was everything we thought she would be and more. Beautiful, angelic, perfect. That is the absolute truth. But what impressed me even more than the preciousness of this child Continue reading When the Circle Widens→
Do you know how much energy I expend trying to figure out why some people do and act the way they do? How hard I try to figure out the best way to relate to certain individuals so they either respond in the way I think is appropriate… or at least don’t insult me?
With some, I struggle just to figure out how I can get them to flat leave me alone.
I’m guessing you spend a fair amount of energy, too, trying to balance your interactions with other people, determining how best to communicate, convince . . . or simply not end up in conflict with them. Continue reading A solid strategy … not a bad word→
I am part of that group known as “GRITS” – girls raised in the south. I was born in Florida and spent my most formative years there. Well before the various ancestry databases were put on the internet (before there was even an internet), both my parents could trace their histories back multiple generations, even as far as the Revolutionary War.
My southern roots run deep; I was well into adulthood before my career prompted me to move away.
I’m more than one of the GRITS, though.
Where my “people” are from is just one of countless labels that could be used to describe me. I’m sure that’s true of you, too. We all anchor our identities in things like where we’re from, our career choices, sports allegiances, religious affiliations, and political parties, to name just a few. These descriptors become part of our personal narrative that helps us (and others) understand who we are. It’s pleasant to discover shared interests – or establish the basis for some good-natured ribbing – in order to enjoy common ground with other people.
But I wonder if there is a different way to think about our roots?
Last May I joined a vibrant, growing church in the Chicago suburbs, one very different from the mega-church I had served in for the prior 25 years.
The pastoral staff at my new church is young (by that I mean, the lead pastor is in his early 30s, and he’s the oldest of the bunch). They are all filled with passion, energy, and Godly wisdom that inspires me every time I interact with them. Theirs is the generation taking the Church into the next grand chapter and it’s crazy exciting to be a part of it.
I had a partner in the FBI who was a brilliant agent. Jack* had the ability to survey a complex set of facts and glean exactly what was necessary to make a prosecutable case. He could focus on what mattered and not get distracted by all the rest.
That alone would have been enough to win the admiration of his peers. But the other thing was, Jack was unfailingly respectful to everyone, even those suspected of egregious crimes.
One day we showed up unannounced (not uncommon in the FBI) to talk to a guy who really did not want to answer our questions (also not uncommon in the FBI). The man we were interviewing resorted to insulting us to try and make us angry so we would leave. He called us every vulgar name in the book and cast aspersions on the moral character of every one of our ancestors. That’s putting it nicely.