Sometimes, I don’t recognize myself.
It’s not that I started bungy jumping or dropping random f-bombs. One glass of wine is still all I can handle and, regrettably, despite all my conviction to be disciplined, I remain rather fluffy. I love to write and create. My family is still #1, I love Jesus, and, as Nadia Bolz Weber said, “I feel that God loves me and that’s the great mystery.”
I do look in the mirror and see the age creeping up. Stairs seem steeper and I hear myself saying things like Oh, that’s way too much food and What was that again? I see and feel changes etched by years and cherish the memories of each passing era. Yes, time has made its mark.
But my heart and mind seem different, too. My view of the world, for so long locked into the spiritual sanctum in which “we” had the answers, world without end, amen, is upended as I break down a self-made wall of certainty about the uncertain.
The changes I feel more than see have stirred emotions never expected this late in my life.
1. Remorse. I don’t mean experiencing regret when I look back, wishing I had done a better job of mothering or marriage. It’s not about beating myself up because I didn’t work hard enough to succeed or made a fool of myself in countless ways throughout the years – although I do and I did.
No, this is not regret. This feeling of deep sorrow, what we feel when we’ve hurt others is … remorse—from the Latin mordere, to bite—and implies the nip of conscience. *
Because what becomes more clear each day is that I bought into a deadly belief not unique to me: what I was taught in my youth, both in school and in church, was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In fact, the list of issues I was and may still be so wrong about grows longer with each passing news cycle and with each new honest look at what Scripture says – and what it clearly doesn’t say.
I am too frequently caught off guard by the revelations of those I’ve known and respected – and who have broken my heart – and by those whose voices I’m just beginning to really hear and value – who have given me more honest and more loving eyes with which to see the past and anticipate the future.
My heart is softening to the possibilities revealed when I turn off the Know-It-All and turn into the Listener. I am much quicker to say I don’t know/I’m not sure. When the lives, safety, and beliefs of others are at stake, I turn toward love and the example of Jesus instead of a select list of verses which serve only to support a narrow position and with little regard for the hurting or damaged souls.
When my comments or opinions about Christianity and politics, racism, entitlement, and white supremacy are offensive and when my position about a controversial issue or the definition of pro-life is disagreeable, it is up to me to reflect the love of Jesus in my comments, opinions, and positions. When I question the strict and loveless words of the church elders, both past and present, and my Christian status is then severely and publicly questioned, it is up to me to reflect the love of Jesus as I question and reconsider.
And when you confide in me that you face a difficult decision about your family or you realize at long last who you love, I believe it is up to me show you the love of Jesus.
I have no objections to healthy, civil, even lively debate on subjects that spark conflict. There was no lack of conversation between Jesus and the political and faith leaders of his time. But other than lashing out when his Father’s home was disrespected, his words were measured and true. Yes, he was clever and culturally outrageous, often using the words of ancient scriptures to counter the claims of the pompous and condescending. But, as far as I know, he never turned his back on someone who truly wanted to engage.
2. Even so, even with strong resolve in the comfort of my home, each time I believe I have turned a corner and start on a path of different understanding, I feel the urge to retreat. Maybe if I stay low and sing only to my own choir, I will maintain my status-quo, as milquetoast and grey and truly pitiful as possible.
If you have read my words here before, you may remember my zealous and heartfelt intentions about changes in lifestyle, habits, and bravado. I write with eloquence, effectively describing my well laid and commendable plans.
Often, however, that’s where they remain – on the page, on the screen, in my to-do list. Because I cannot escape the truth about myself – I don’t want to be listed on anyone’s THEM column. Peacekeeper, nonconfrontational, chameleon … put me in one of those categories. Just don’t make me a THEM.
Not only is it impossible to be on both sides of the fence, being Switzerland about things that matter is about as wimpy as it gets. Truth is, if my true desire is to be like Jesus, it’s not just his love that I am called to emulate. I am to be steadfast and true and willing to stand up for what I believe.
I am/we are to stand in the gap for the marginalized, disenfranchised, weak, poor, homeless, and orphaned. We are to call out supremacy in any form, racism no matter where it exists, and greed in a nation where everyone is falsely perceived to have the same fashionable bootstraps to pull themselves up.
To be fair, Tim and I are financially generous to the causes on the frontlines of truth, equity, and justice. We are not, however, on the frontlines.
So, I guess it’s time for me to come clean about a few things and maybe suit up (with a nod to Madeleine L’Engle – see the image above).
- I believe that life begins with our first breath.
- I believe that people should marry who they love.
- I do not believe that God’s blessings can be defined by our nation, family dynamic, health, or prosperity. His blessings are infinitely bigger – much more than we can fathom. We are not loved more because of where we live, nor do we deserve more because of where we were born.
- I am outraged when leaders and politicians who claim to love Jesus use sleight-of-hand, deception, and outright lies to gain power and position only to get their way. Shenanigans like that are not answers to prayer – they are the slippery works of mortal man.
You might be waiting for numbers 5-10, but for today, this is enough.
3. And now comes relief. Not that I won’t have second thoughts about spilling these beans. Not that I don’t dread hearing the words of disappointment and even anger from people who I love and respect – and who I will continue to love and respect, no matter what or how they choose to respond. Not that pushing the publish button isn’t one of the riskiest moves I’ve ever made in what I would call my spiritual life.
But relief, nonetheless. Because for I don’t know how long, I knew what I thought I believed and carried on without hesitation (more of the remorse creeping in here).
I’ve finally realized, this too-many-years-old, that I can answer any question about the gift of life, about marriage and family, about the Right and the Left, about any earthly subject worthy of debate with I’m not sure. And even though my own thoughts about most things are pretty solid, I’m more than happy to talk about them to anyone who wants to engage. I don’t have to be sure. And just because I’m asked a question doesn’t mean I have to answer it. I don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to.
But what I do know, what I am absolutely sure about is this: my calling on this earth has little to do with lifestyle, cultural beliefs, profession, or church of choice. While I care about your soul, it’s not my job to change your mind about your spiritual journey. And although I must carry the weight of citizenship seriously, I can’t expect the course of this country to follow my path. I can’t make anybody care about what is important to me – and I can’t let all of everybody’s causes, no matter how worthy, be mine.
But I must do what I am – and what we all are called to do…
Love. It’s really that simple.
In humility and a bit of hesitation,
I give you these words
and pray for all of us…
From The Difference Between Regret and Remorse, by David Zahl