I’m having a hard time finding joy, recently. I read a reflection today by my friend Sarah who had encountered wisdom saying that joy flows from compassion. I wonder if I am not finding enough compassion, either for myself or for others, right now. Or maybe I just see the great need for compassion and feel that the task is far too large to take on myself.
Joy is a big deal and I want to do it right.
My daughter has started a new game where she laughs and then does something that she shouldn’t do, such as hitting me in the face. I tell her no, and she does it again. Laughing again.
I love my daughter’s laugh.
I do not love being hit.
I do not want her to hit me, or learn that hitting is how we do things.
She laughs again.
I tell her not to hit. I take hold of her hand. I tell her not to hit.
I let go. She hits me again.
And so I put her down out of my lap. I put space between her and me, so that she cannot reach me to hit me. She doesn’t like the space.
Nothing stops her until I do it. Saying no has not really become effective, even though she loves repeating the word.
The hitting stops.
So does the laughter.
But then she hugs me. And we are better together until she decides to try a new boundary again.
I’m wondering how she interprets the joy I share with her. Does she remember me laughing more than she remembers me teaching her a new limit?
And then, does God rejoice when I find a new game to play but is let down when I turn the game to my own destruction?
I believe God wants what is good for me, and that God wants to celebrate joy with me. I don’t believe that God is watching me to seek out an opportunity to punish me.
I am not a perfect parent. I lose my temper and get frustrated when my daughter keeps on doing what I have already asked her not to do. I have the feeling this tendency is far from over. Yay exercise of free will!
However, God is a perfect parent (among other things) and though God can and does get frustrated, God is more saddened by how I turn away from what God wants because it hurts me more than because it hurts God.
God wants what is best for me (and you) and goes out of the way to show love in whatever way possible. This is the compassion I long for in each of my relationships no matter if they are fleeting or forever.
My grandmother Janet died four years and six days ago. I keep seeing reminders, the daffodils bravely standing on the side of the road. I opened one of the jars of preserves I have of hers that I keep rationing so that I can keep tasting the goodness that she saved for us to enjoy. I want to save each jar so that I can savor her memories for as long as possible, but I also want to make sure that I don’t keep them so long that they spoil.
I’ve found that I eat each jar slower and slower, savoring the taste, spreading the sweetness as far as it can possibly go. Just a drizzle will go so much further now than when I was growing up.
I know that when the last jar is gone that I will still remember her. I wonder if I should wait until my daughter will be old enough to remember to open that last jar. Or I wonder if I should try to perfect the recipe that she left for me so that I can preserve her memory by preserving a new jar of pears.
I imagine, however, that the best way to preserve her memory is to teach my daughter what it means to serve, to teach, to care, and to explore. Because beyond my shrinking collection of pear preserves is the growing knowledge that my grandmother gave me the gift of loving by example. She shared her hope through gracefully serving everyone around her, even when she was dying.
I won’t grow up to be exactly like my grandmother, even though I have her clothes and walk like her and talk like her. I will follow her example of persevering through difficult times and loving through hardships and pain.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. […] “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. —John 15:4-5, 9 CEB
Simple small voices call us to stay.
When my daughter goes down for her nap, she generally has this moment when she seems asleep and yet she isn’t quite under enough to keep her from wanting me not to leave. I’ll back up, disengaging her latch, and she will whimper and root back onto my breast, not yet ready to give up this form of comfort.
She’s still growing, still used to resting in my arms, and she is definitely ready to let me know if I have backed away too soon.
She remains in my love, even when she finally sinks deep enough into sleep for me to slip away as she hugs Peter Jiwe, her bear that I kept for myself for similar comfort over ten years ago.
I’ve been married long enough to have an argument or seven, and last night I was in a funk and so everything my husband did was wrong. He just couldn’t get it right. We argued over the closets… It was not one of my finest moments. I realized, after a while, that I was hearing with the wrong ears, and he needed a little more grace. I apologized, though I did let him know that he shouldn’t try to discuss anything else with me, mostly because I was not ready to listen.
I think I was tired, or exhausted, or touched out, or weary, or all of it.
(But this is not one of those mommy blogger moments in which the evangelical christian holy woman tells you to be a submissive proverbs 31 wife. No. I just realized I had angry ears on. He’s been wrong before and deserved it. In love.)
I know I disagree with you over something. We’ve got heads. We’ve got to have something that we don’t fully agree about. But I need to be in relationship with you. I need you to stick around and love me when I’m hard to love. I’m willing to do the same.
I want to bear the fruit of a beloved community with you, wherever you are. We can do this, no matter what comes next week, next month, or next year. Or the next four years. Or the next ten. I’m committed to sticking it out, loving through it, staying even though it is difficult.
Simple small voices call us to stay.
Today we begin Black History Month, the time when white people spend a month attempting to show how much they have learned since slavery. Or how much more enlightened we are.
As we begin Black History month now with our first Black president in the history books, I wonder what we need to focus on. What do we need to remember, now and this whole year?
And it’s the shortest, coldest month of the year. Black History month should be July, so that we are constantly reminded that our liberation is caught up and dependent on the liberation of everyone who lives in our nation.
Leslie Jones did a bit on SNL Weekend Update a couple weeks ago that geared us up for beginning our journey through this month. There is so much we do not know. We still have so much to learn. We’ve got to look with better eyes than the ones we’re using now.
As a white woman, I need to listen more than speak. And I need to expand the group that I listen to. I’m working on it. I’m working on breaking the chains I have been living between, where I stand in the middle of an echo chamber, where everyone is angry about all the same things I am angry about.
I’m trying to understand what other people are angry about and why.
I find it too easy to go get angry about something that sounds good, and then not do a thing about it. And then I am also finding it too easy to get so angry about so many things that I am stunned into nothingness. It’s a common theme since the beginning of the year.
What chains need breaking today? What can I do to break a link in this moment?
I want them all smashed, but for now, I’ll work on this link right in front of me, and move on to the next and the next when I can.
Realizing that I am caught up in the anger of the moment, I am determined to share love instead. Who needs a note? I’m saying: “Keep up the good, hard work. We are glad you are here.”
As we work towards justice, we would do well to be reminded of the work that those who were enslaved enacted on their journey towards liberation. Maybe the timing is perfect. When the night is darkest, the smallest glimmer of light can be seen for miles.
I’ve found myself wondering if this is how families felt right before the beginning of our national civil war. Division seems to be inescapable.
I’m waiting for our nation to be the subject of mass sanctions that cut off our supply of cheap clothing (made under unjust systems) and so the government tries to sell us all on thrift shopping, even to the point of stealing the use of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop as propaganda to encourage us to go.
We have gotten to the point that when I wear a pink hat with cat ears, I feel rebellious, and just a little unsafe. Will someone run me and my daughter off the road if I wear it on my walk? How can it be that I feel like I am challenging a community with a pink hat?
For the last three months I’ve woken up wondering what bad news will meet me in the morning, and over the past week, it seems as if our greatest fears have been confirmed.
But see. That’s the crux of it. We are in this current situation because of the mass proliferation of fear. As a nation, we were told we should be afraid, and so using the structure of the current electoral system, this nation elected someone who told us we should be afraid and that he had the answer for our fears.
I’ll give him one thing: he tapped into something and was very persuasive about it.
Because the world does look different. Power is shifting. Freedom is spreading.
But let us not think that freedom is spreading thin. Freedom is not a limited resource. At least, it doesn’t have to be. It is not as if we are spreading freedom thinner and thinner as butter on a piece of bread.
Freedom is the bread itself, rising with the yeast inside it, growing and doubling and tripling in size.
I’ve not talked with enough people in person who do not agree with me. I’ve seen the angry fights on social media, where we are too easily drawn into conclusions without lending dignity to the other.
I want to scream and shout, but shouting is not how to understand someone else.
More people who have done more work with freedom have written better things about liberation than I can. But I wonder if they are hard to hear. I wonder if my words will have a difference when we have been told that the truth and facts are up for debate.
You know, I suppose even I voted based on my fears. I don’t really think I’d considered it before. I knew why the election went the way it did, and I knew that I had a pit in my stomach that only has grown since November 9th, but I never really thought I was voting based on fear.
I woke up that morning with the realization that the nation was not the nation I thought it was. I wonder how many had woken up in the years leading up to November 8th thinking the same thing.
I grieve that we were unable to communicate that freedom does not have to be limited. That freedom is not a resource to be used up, rather it is something that becomes more powerful the more that it expands.
Freedom doesn’t get used up.
We’ve been lied to. Diversity strengthens freedom.
If you are afraid, whether it is because your memories of your childhood are different than what you see today, or because you know that this administration will work to limit your freedom, then know that I am praying for you. I truly am.
And yeah, I don’t want to Jesus Juke this post, but for me, a lot of this is about prayer, and where I need to be praying and marching and standing as we see changes come. I’ve written here about freedom in this nation, but my sole allegiance is to Christ. In the coming months, we are going to see many different people use their faith to say a host of different things that will undoubtedly conflict. We do an incredible job at making our Savior agree exactly with us. That’s called sin. Our goal should be the opposite.
I’m looking for ways that God challenges me and convicts me and creates new spaces in my heart. It can be too easy to pick my favorite bible passage and just use it for the next four years. God’s freedom calls me to something better than that.
God’s freedom invites me to extend welcome and hospitality to people who don’t agree with me, don’t look like me, don’t talk like me, and don’t have the same privilege as me. As a Christian who lives in the United States of America, I’m called to work to extend this radical kind of freedom to everyone, regardless of whether they were born here or believe in the same God as I do.
I have hope that we can be better together. I’m holding on to that hope.