Dorothy Gale never grew up. If you read Frank L. Baum’s books, eventually Dorothy, and her aunt and uncle, are whisked away to Oz to live. Since no one ages in Oz, Dorothy will forever be the little girl. This thought entered my mind as I considered the implications of Dorothy’s youth. She was allowed to be the hero without the overused subplot of romance. Other stories, featuring older female heroes are different. They remind me of a woman’s place. In Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen’s salvation is ultimately tied to her choice of Peeta or Gale. In Frozen, Anna’s big lesson is not to rush into choosing a partner, but the happy ending still involves a hook-up. In Outlander, we are supposed to see Claire as a strong female lead, while her big choice is whether she should stay with her future husband or her past husband. (It’s OK Claire, your decision will be made simple by the other male coming out as a misogynistic cheater.)
I ultimately realized, as long as Dorothy remained a child, she could be whatever she wanted to be. We don’t have to see her story tied to matrimony. Anyway, it wasn't like she could fall in love with any of her companions. They all lacked human masculinity. The Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion are so non-sexualized, they could easily be toys in her bedroom. Even knowing this, I want her to grow up. I want to see what she looks like as an adult.
Something happens to our girls. They reach a certain age, and everything is tied to their sex. In some ways it’s overt, and in other ways it’s very subtle. When purchasing summer clothes for a young girl, it’s very difficult to find shorts that are bigger than a washcloth. Female-focused stories can have a strong heroine, but only if her happy ending is tied to finding a guy. While a girl can be anything, a woman can be anything within her sexualized self. How would Dorothy handle this shift of purpose? Would she avoid marriage completely? Some women have, and lamented it. Guys can have marriage and a career. Women are often put in the situation where they must choose one or the other. Women, seeking equality, have spent generations trying to be like men. Maybe that’s not the answer.
With men, their fictional stories can be told without the sexual subtext. Our Hero stories are not hidden means to find them a spouse. If the hero does find love, it is packaged like a prize at the end of the journey. They can be our heroes without anything attached to what that means. If a man gives his heart and soul to the job, there are not many voices saying, “Why isn’t he home with the wife and kids?”
This is what exists under the surface of the subject of women in ministry. Our real life Dorothys must eventually grow up and deal with choices in relationship to others. Now to take a drastic shift from most female voices out there: This shouldn’t be a female thing; this should be a human thing. I once wrote, “We are not fighting a war on women, we are fighting a war on standards.” There is nothing wrong with the standard women are living out their call. Women ministers have to attempt to be without blame. They have to explain their calling within a scriptural context. If they are married, they must live out their ministerial call while also living out their family call. The issue is whether male ministers are living into the same standard. I question whether that is always the case. We are fighting a war on standards, because we want our male counterparts to be held to the same litmus test as us.
These kind of assessments are embraced in regards to the general society. It’s when we move them to the church, the egg shells are spilled all over the floor, and everyone is forced to walk on them. The thing is, I’m not some manager seeking equality among my male counterparts. I’m a minister. It is my call. I know naming all those female leaders in the Bible isn’t going to help me. Deborah the Judge, Anna the Prophetess, or Lydia and Priscilla the missionaries cannot stand up against Paul. That’s just alright with me. I had said this was a war on standards, and I plan to use Paul’s words to explain how.
When I read any Biblical text, the first consideration I make is context. During this time period, women were property. Only a small percentage knew how to read basic items for work related reasons. An even smaller percentage knew how to write. This made education a commodity. It was not the daughters being taught how to read and write. While there were exceptions to the rule, there wouldn't have been women who could have read these early writings about Jesus Christ.
All of this has to be taken into consideration when reading Paul’s words. Women were uneducated property. Half of this early truth, isn’t truth anymore. No one owns me, not even my husband. As for the other half, I have been to school to learn to read and write. I have also been to seminary to specifically learn about Christianity. I am an educated free female. I do not think this scripture was meant for my context. This doesn't mean we should throw it out. What does our communal context do with this scripture?
The answer is education and priorities. Women are called to be wives and mothers in the home, just as men are called to be fathers and husbands. As women pick up the mantle of pastoral leadership, they are retaining their familial roles. In other words, our Dorothys are growing up, and they can be anything they want to be within their feminine selves. This is uncomfortable. We have male ministers who are not educated, and sacrifice their familial roles as ministers. We have spent generations glorifying these men. I believe, they have become the very thing Paul was rebuking in 1 Corinthians 14. Instead of the females being the uneducated voices, there are males who have taken their place. The roles have reversed, and now is the time when some men need to keep silent in church.
We are fighting a war on standards because many females have become highly educated, family centered leaders. We have raised our own bar. We don’t want to drop down to this undereducated masculine standard, where some ignore the family for the sake of the job. We don’t want to be treated the same, in that respect. We want that standard raised. We want males to be treated like us. Dorothy must grow up, and in growing up she can take the female mantle with pride. I know I have. I am a female minister.
“Your gentleness has made me great. You enlarged my path under me so my feet did not slip.”
Last Thursday I wrote about the bill signed by Governor Mike Pence. I was fairly heated, and I wish I had given the moment some time. I feel everyone has reacted too soon.
One of the comments I made was about consumers and producers:
I love how conservatives can get all up in arms because a musician doesn't want their music played by a specific Conservative personality. They make the valid point, that it is legal for them to play that music with or without the band's permission. As long as they pay the proper fees, the song is theirs to use. Meanwhile, they can't see how two-sided it is that a wedding cake (Produced by a baker) can be purchased by anyone (the consumer.) The baker doesn't like it? That's not how goods and services work. A product is put out into the world to be purchased by whatever consumer wishes to consume it.
So the very next day I'm listening to Glenn Beck. (Yes, I listen to Glenn Beck. Yes, I have moments where I strongly disagree with him. Like I said before, I'm tired of boycotting things.) The point is, he said something that almost sounded like it was a direct response to my argument. Let me sum it up for you:
When a gay person comes into a bakery and wants to buy a cupcake, you have to sell that person a cupcake. You have to sell anyone a cupcake. It is discrimination if you don't. When someone wants to purchase a product to use in a religious ceremony, and that person is doing something counter to your religious beliefs, you have the right to say no. He also said, if the baker was part of the PCUSA, they don't have the right to say no, because their religion has said yes.
Now, I'm not going to be so arrogant as to believe Glenn Beck, a man who has millions in his audience, takes the time to read here, where we have hundreds in our audience. What I am saying, is this has to be the best argument against my initial argument. I'm going to use this to expand on the argument:
I think the Christian witch hunt is reprehensible. While I believe there are same sex couples who just want their favorite bakery or flower shop to make a good for their event, I think there are others that personally seek out Christians to set them up and destroy them. This is wrong. As someone who believes in radical love, these kind of actions are not loving. I feel Indiana (and dozens of other states) signed their own versions of religious freedom laws because they were reacting to these witch hunts. Going to the parable of the North Wind and the Sun.
A story is told about the North Wind and the Sun. I seems that each claimed to have the greater power over mortals and a dispute arose.
I feel both the Left and the Right, are so beaten and hurt. We are strong arming on both sides. We are being the North Wind, instead of the gentle Sun. This is my greater problem with boycotting. Honestly, if you tell me not to do something, I'm more likely to engage it or them to learn. I'm far more interested in learning how to disarm our enemies, and invite them to the same table to share the Lord's Supper. In fact, to stop calling them enemies, because they are not our enemies. They are our brother's and sisters in Christ. (And yes, our brothers and sisters can still make us pull our hair out.)
A secular store has to live within the secular rules. If a church were to open a bakery for their congregants and those who were getting married within the church, we would have an argument. A bakery, outside of the institution of church, is selling a product to a customer. Yes, I get it. It's more than just a cake. Yes, I get it. Personal love is put into the product. So are many products. Books. Music. Movies. Paintings. It sometimes sucks to be a creator. You never know who is going to want your creation.
My view on gay marriage. If Fig Tree loses people over this, then they haven't really been following what has been going on here. You can disagree with what I am about to write. This is about stitching the Body of Christ back together. We are not all going to think the same. We are not all going to agree. This isn't about what I believe, this is about getting to your belief using education and faith. I believe the scripture against gay relationships were written with two understandings in mind: "Be fruitful and multiply," and the health issues surrounding these kind of relationships. Today, we don't really have an issue with population. In fact, we might need to slow down on the multiplication. Secondly, there are ways to have sexually safe relationships. Therefore, I believe the biblical mandates were written for a specific time and place, not now. If two males or two females love one another, good for them. I'd officiate a marriage for a gay couple.
This post is the opinion of Rev. Melissa Fain. It is written outside the general ideal of Fig Tree Christian, the focus of which is biblical education over and above current events.
I've been making Disciples uncomfortable over the past twenty-four hours. No big names. Just personal friends who are cheering the General Church on.
What happened? Well, a bill happened. Darnit Indiana! Look what I've been reduced to! For the first time, and hopefully the last time, you got me talking about politics on a page that is supposed to be void of politics. Governor Mike Pence signed SB 101, or Religious Freedom Restoration Act, (RFRA).
It all came to a head yesterday when the General Church of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) sent a strongly worded letter to Gov. Pence saying they would consider a location other than Indianapolis for the 2017 General Assembly if he signed the bill. Well, he signed the bill.
Mother of Mary and all that is sacred! Now I feel the need to share why I made others uncomfortable, and maybe expand it a little further.
For me, this all started with Chick-Fil-A, or rather, the boycott of Chick-Fil-A. This was possibly the first huge moment of religious beliefs going up against LGBT issues. Truett Cathy said some things I don't exactly agree with, and among other groups, the Disciples of Christ announced a boycott of all Chick-Fil-As. It backfired. In response, people came in droves to support Chick-Fil-A, and some people ate there for the very first time. The backfiring isn't my point. During the whole fiasco Rev. Julie Richardson-Brown posted to her blog, talking about someone named Hollie. Hollie was pleading people not to boycott Chick-Fil-A. Why? Because she was a lesbian who managed one of the many restaurants. Basically, standing up for LGBT rights by boycotting would hurt a Lesbian small business owner.
Reading the post, written in 2012, I was done. I swore to God and my husband. "I am done boycotting things. From now on I'm going to be a supporter!" So far, I've been true to my word. I changed my coffee to Fair Trade and Conservation International. I try to support farms that treat their animals decently while they are alive. I raise up great voices when I hear them.
Now this. Are we believing this will bring wholeness in a fragmented world? (For you non-DoC this is our most recent war cry.) Or, are we at the point that the Body of Christ is so irreparably broken, we just need to cut ourselves free. Yay! Something else to boycott. Let's remember how good this is while businesses that accept everyone loses the income for being located in Indiana. No, you're right. Everyone should be punished for the actions of a room full of lawmakers.
[Breathe Melissa. Deep breathes.] Let me make two points. Take them or leave them.
Producers Choosing Consumers is Wrong
I love how conservatives can get all up in arms because a musician doesn't want their music played by a specific Conservative personality. They make the valid point, that it is legal for them to play that music with or without the band's permission. As long as they pay the proper fees, the song is theirs to use. Meanwhile, they can't see how two-sided it is that a wedding cake (Produced by a baker) can be purchased by anyone (the consumer.) The baker doesn't like it? That's not how goods and services work. A product is put out into the world to be purchased by whatever consumer wishes to consume it.
Let's take Fig Tree, for example. What comes out of Fig Tree is a product. The product are meditations, prayers, images, and songs. If I said, "This site is not for Catholics, and Catholics don't have permission to look at it," that would be silly. (Full disclosure, we've had a guest meditation written by a Catholic. It's just a silly example.) The point it, the product of Fig Tree can be consumed by anyone as long as the product lasts. Wedding cakes and songs are products that can be used by anyone who wishes to purchase them. You are not supporting a person's marriage by allowing them to purchase your product. You are selling them a cake. Period.
Instead of Boycotting Indiana...
To the General Church of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
Please, can we stop separating and drawing apart. Consider our call, "Wholeness in a fragmenting world." Instead of jumping straight to running away, how can we find wholeness in this fragmented situation? Perhaps we stay in Indianapolis, and make goods and services come exclusively from "open to all" businesses. Perhaps we can educate the area on why the bill is not appropriate. There is so much potential for healing, especially when the DoC is headquartered in Indianapolis.
Please don't do this. Give me something to support.
Matthew 22:33-40 CEB
Now when the crowd heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
A reflection for you:
I like baseball. I'm really the only one in my house that does. As a Kansas City native, I am watching the World Series this year. True, the Giants destroyed the Royals perfect post-season record in game one, but the Royals destroyed their own dry spell just making it to the World Series. Plus, they did come back to win game two last night. I can't complain.
In baseball, I like the "three strikes and you're out" rule. It's simple; easy to understand. If only the Pharisees had baseball back in biblical times. Before verse 33 in our scripture today, the Pharisees had struck out three times. They wanted to trick Jesus. They wanted to make him fall for a trap that would get him killed. They should have considered themselves out, and given up. No, instead, they try one last time. Maybe they just fouled that third hit, so they had one more go at it. There question was deceptively sinister. "What is the greatest commandment?" It was sinister because there really wasn't a good answer. Choosing one commandment over the other would negate the other commandments. Like he had just done, he could have given an easy out: "They are all equally important. No commandment is greater than another." Instead, I believe throws the Pharisees a pitch straight down the middle.
Instead he says, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself." This actually is all ten commandments. The first five commandments are related to worship of God, and the second five are related to how we treat one another. In giving the teachers of the law the answer in this way, he gives them ammunition. It wasn't the ammunition they wanted, a way to destroy Jesus. It was the ammunition they needed, a way to destroy their own destructive behavior. The answer is love. The greatest commandment is love. Love God. Love self. Love others. Let go of these dark and unhealthy attitudes and love.
Now a personal reflection:
Normally, this is the point where I would pull out my journal and write. You would be surprised what I journal out instead of sharing. (It's a healthy process for anyone who openly writes online. So many opinions are really better left between the writer and God.) Today is different, and it is different because it needs to exist on something other than a journal page.
I'm going to participate in the NaNoWriMo this year. (National November Writing Month) Normally, I wouldn't see a need to openly announce this, but this year I've decided to write out my experience at my ill fated call three years ago. Depending how it turns out, it might just be added to the stacks of written text, or I might seek publication. It really matters how the process goes. As a minister, I would only be able to publish if I could maintain a certain confidentiality between myself and the experience. If I can do that, I want to share my road to healing with others.
After meditating on the text this week, I truly believe Jesus was attempting to help the Pharisees. He was helping the very people who would get him crucified using the most disarming weapon we have: love. Therefore, before I can write a single word for NaNoWriMo, there is something I must write publically first. It's something I have journaled and prayed. Now it needs to be openly said:
- - -
To my previous call,
I've forgiven you. I forgave you when I didn't believe it. I forgave you in the car on the way to a retreat. I forgave you in my darkest nights when nothing was there but God and myself. I do not see you as spiteful or ill-intentioned. I see you as broken. It was in your brokenness you broke me. I cannot be angry or vengeful in that. I can only be sad you haven't found healing.
I am also sorry. I'm sorry it didn't work out. I'm sorry the type of minister I am was not the right fit for the type of church you are. I'm sorry it ended with people leaving the church. I personally talked with some of the families and suggested they stay at the church. They couldn't do it. I know they are ultimately where God wants them to be, so I'm happy for them.
As I have found peace and healing over the past three years, I hope you find the same.
Rev. Melissa Fain
Matthew 18:21-35 CEB
Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”
Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan.
“When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’
“Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 30 But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt.
“When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. Shouldn't you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt.
“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
"If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector." Jesus' words still hung in the air. What did he mean? Was he talking about how the general public treated Gentiles and tax collectors or how Jesus treated them? Jesus ate with them, healed them, loved them. The General Public ostracized and cut them off. The answer lies in Peter. When he was acting rightly he was the rock, the cornerstone for the early church.
Listen again to Peter's words, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?” This question is important because we see how Peter saw Jesus' comment. We should love those who hurt us. Turn the other cheek.
September 11th is one of those days where you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing. I was in the parking lot at my college when the first plane hit the first tower. As I remember, no one thought it was a terribly big deal. They thought it was a tragic accident. Little did they know. By the time I finished my first class a second plane hit the second tower, and we knew: this was not an accident.
I can still remember walking past the big screen televisions in the community center; watching twenty to thirty students staring in horror as they saw the aftermath of the fallen towers in real time. Fear gripped us all. We had no idea if the attacks were over, or just beginning. Was it safe to drive home? Was it safe to stay put? We didn't know.
I remember the fear and confusion following the attacks. Some ran to church the following Sunday while others asked if God was callous to allow such pain and suffering. Some wondered if God existed at all. Some said the attacks were part of God's divine plan. People purchased the Iraqi "Most Wanted" playing cards, and would gleefully removed or marked the ones when the United States "got one." Three years ago, at the 10 year anniversary, I knew our feelings were still raw. When Seal Team 6 took out Osama Bin Laden, people took to the streets and celebrated. An eye for an eye. Justice had been rendered.
In one of his sermons, Martin Luther King said something profound:
This pre-9/11 man lived in the deeper darkness. He personally knew the truth of inequality and hate. His family suffered terror attacks on his house, threatening to destroy his family if he didn't cease to preach. In those moments it is easy to show hate for hate and anger for anger. Yet, he knew anger only added to the darkness of a night already devoid of stars. Love was the real answer and love can only come with forgiveness. That alone, for me, is a weighted mandate. In our woundedness, it is natural to bite back in reaction. When we are dealing with woundedness and reactionary impulse... well, it's difficult. I get it, because I've been wounded. I know how it feels.
How many times one should forgive is a question for the ages. You have heard the phrase, "Fool me once shame on me, but fool me twice shame on you.There is a Jewish tradition of forgiveness being given in triplets. To forgive that much one was considered to have a generous spirit.. This kind of forgiveness mirrored God's forgiveness to Gideon and to Israel. Even Job talks about God forgiving in this manner. So, Peter's suggestion of forgiving seven times must have seemed more than generous. And, let's not discount Peter's clever use of the number seven. SEven was considered a holy and perfect number. God rested on the seventh day after creating the heavens and the earth. Samson's long locks were braided in seven plaits. The walls of Jericho fell after seven priests marched around the city seven times; blowing their seven trumpets. It is a perfect number and Peter was asking, in a roundabout way, if we should forgive perfectly.
Jesus wasn't seeking perfection, as if forgiveness was some formula or recipe. We can all do somethings perfectly if we put our mind to it. Some of us can bake the perfect cake, some of us can rebuild the perfect engine, perhaps some of us can pull a perfect score from a level in a video game. We can perfect our daily routine, or say the perfect thing to someone in need. In many ways those are things that are perfected by rote or paying attention to directions. Forgiveness doesn't happen that way. Forgiveness is organic and messy. It's not perfect, it's beyond perfect.
When we seek honest forgiveness from God there is no limit to the amount we will be forgiven. It is an unimaginable debt being taking from us all the time. Unlike Gideon and Israel this forgiveness is greater than three and unlike Peter's query it is greater than seven. This forgiveness is eternal. It is a debt we can't ever be able to repay. It's as if we owe billions in back taxes. No normal human could pay that kind of debt, yet God forgives it. That forgiveness is beyond perfection. Yet, we are the ungrateful servant. We are forgiven but we see someone who has done something against us and we can't bring ourselves to show the same love and compassion. And, don't think that Jesus was minimalizing the second person's sin. He owed the first person a 100 days worth of wages. Take your yearly earnings and divide by three. Imagine owing that kind of debt to someone else. It is doable but not easy. Yet, instead of seeing how reconciliation was possible the first servant wants vengeful justice: an eye for an eye... Hate cannot drive out hate.
A new kind of darkness fell over much of the world on September 11th. No longer could evil be tied to a specific dictator or tyrannical leader and no longer could American soil be considered a safe place from such evil. We could have searched for a face to begin the path of forgiveness, to not let sin beget sin; instead we searched for a face to exact revenge. It all made sense thirteen years ago. The American reaction was sudden. It was as if the planes on that day were a foot and we were the ant pile. On September 10th we were complacent and content in our home but once our home was kicked up we attacked. It was a knee jerk reaction, and an honest reaction to pain and suffering. It was a reaction that cost us. The War in Afghanistan has cost far more lives from multiple sides than the initial attacks on 9/11... Darkness cannot drive out darkness.
Just as Peter was clever in using the number seven, Jesus was clever in using the number seventy-seven. The problem with Peter's number is it has a conclusion, a finality to it. You can choose to forgive someone but if you are keeping track just how many times you should forgive than you are not doing it authentically. It is like promising to give someone fifteen minutes of your time and all the while you are staring at the clock. Perhaps you are doing everything the person asks of you perfectly but you are not truly giving your time. Once again, you might be able to forgive 'perfectly' seven times but you wouldn't be forgiving correctly. Jesus uses the number seventy-seven because it was a number one couldn't keep track of. In other words, we shouldn't be thinking about when we need to stop forgiving in the middle of our forgiveness. In that case, even if we say and act everything perfectly we never really mean it.
So now what do we do? Today, thirteen years after the initial event, our collective memory is still raw and hurt. We need to start putting stars back in the night sky until the dawn arrives. We need to forgive those who hurt the world's psyche so much on September 11th. And maybe that is just the first step. Maybe we need to look into our hearts and really understand who we need to begin forgiving in our personal lives. Forgiveness does more than just help the person you are forgiving. Forgiveness brings your heart right with God. It not only heals the person who has acted out in sin but heals your wounds as well.
Matthew 18:15-20 CEB
“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector. I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven. Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.”
Full transparency: This scripture saddens me, and this is why. I use the Revised Common Lectionary to work through the bible. Mainly, starting with scripture and what it means, keeps God the center of my study. I'm not taking what I want to say and finding the scripture that fits it. Because the Revised Common Lectionary comes up every three years, I see three years as a milestone. Three years ago, I was very pregnant. I had used my days off for about six months to meditate and write sermons leading up to and after the baby was due. The church I was working for was not offering maternity and I didn't feel it was my place to ask for it. Having two months of sermons pre-written was preparing for having a baby with no maternity. Little did I know, the Elders were also preparing to ask for my resignation two weeks after my daughter was born. The worst part of it all was this scripture. I gave this sermon just two months before it all went down. To this day I feel this sermon was God inspired, meant for the congregation already determined to act. Too many people were hurt because the outcome was never approached in a Christian manner. In fact, as a side note, in the end the two months of sermons were used against me as my lack of acting extemporaneously. Please read this meditation with all this in mind. When Christian Community fails, it can fail tremendously.
If you think you have discovered an easy way in Christianity than you better re-chart your course because you are headed in the wrong direction. Yes, the Christian path is rewarding, and yes it is fulfilling, but it is most definitely not easy. Many times I think it is like walking a tight rope. On one side you have to worry about your own care and wellbeing while one the other side you need to concern yourself with the care and wellbeing of others. On one side you have your sights set heavenward and your focus on God while on the other you have a mortgage, a full time job, kids to take to baseball practice, a checkbook to keep balanced… you fill in the blank. And no, you can’t choose one over the other. That would be easy.
So of course today’s scripture will not be an easy one to embrace. It answers the question we most want to avoid- what do we do when those close to us cause pain and suffering upon ourselves? What does Jesus want us to do? Let me start from another direction: this is what we shouldn’t do.
First of all, we shouldn't fight. There is no battle that is going to make the situation any better. I dare you to name a biblical fight that ended well in the long run. Even if the “good guys” win, animosity and anger still exists between both parties. That can be the cost of someone "winning." Fighting also inevitably causes more damage to reach a conclusion. In fights feelings are hurt, long held ties are broken and bridges are burned.
We also shouldn't ignore. I have never seen an issue in the bible Jesus ignored or ran away from. It was the Pharisees and Sadducees who ignored. They ignored those who were not like them, those who could not keep up with the hefty temple tax, and those who were considered sinners. Not Jesus. Jesus never ignored anyone, even the Pharisees and Sadducees. He talked and taught to anyone who would have an ear to listen. He ate with anyone who had a table to share. No, ignorance is not bliss. Ignoring, whether intentional or not, is like an ostrich sticking its head in the dirt. You are not hiding anything, only allowing the problem to persist.
Let’s add choosing sides to the list. I said this before and I will say it again. Jesus did not come to draw lines in the sand but to obliterate lines made by others. Once we get into an ‘us versus them’ mentality we have already lost the battle before we ever engaged in the war. Even today, we throw stones to solve our problems. True, unless it is an extreme case, those stones are more verbal than physical. When we talk about others behind their back or engage in bullying on an adolescent or adult level, well, we are throwing stones. Those stones create barriers and cut us off from healing and reconciliation. Jesus was a radical in many respects. Jesus did not throw stones. Instead he erased the barrier by saying, “Let those who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Oh, and there is one more I can easily add. We shouldn’t act out in a passive aggressive way. Want to know just how serious passive aggressive behavior is? Judas acted passive aggressively. I truly believe he betrayed Jesus for a few coins not because he was selfish but because he was trying to force Jesus’ hand. He acted behind Jesus’ back to make him rise up and rule with an iron fist. As all passive aggressive behavior does, it backfired terribly for Judas. I am most concerned by this kind of behavior because this behavior has the biggest chance to destroy a congregation from the inside out. As Christians we know we shouldn't fight, ignore or choose sides, but goodness, sometimes we get angry. Angry and fearful. It is that fear and anger that pushes us to share our problems in unhealthy ways. We end up getting third parties involved in our disagreements instead of dealing with the issue head on. We turn individual disagreements into group disputes. Passive aggression can destroy someone before they even have a fair chance.
In many ways all the examples I just mentioned are the easy way out. They all kind of stem from the same feeling,"They hurt me now I am going to hurt them." It purposefully chooses to cut people off. None of the examples deals with the problem. Well, let me tell you something, Jesus knew we would be inclined to turn to these kinds of negative solutions. That is why this scripture exists.
From the time the forbidden fruit was taken from the tree, God knew we needed rules and fences to protect us… from ourselves. Come earth wind or fire nothing can cause more damage to the delicate equilibrium of humanity than humanity. Any time God asks us to put down our weapons and work together it always goes well at first, but eventually something goes wrong. It’s human nature. What are we to do?
When we have a disagreement with someone the first thing one should do is stop. Take a deep breath. Impulsiveness usually leads to negative outcomes. When we could fight, ignore, choose sides or act passive aggressively Jesus asks us to first talk to the offender privately. Now for those of you who think this is an easy first option you have something I do not. Jesus also asks us to do all things in humility which means talking to the offender with an open and honest heart. When a person is wounded the last thing they want to do is openly talk to the person they believed wounded them. I am sure some of you are thinking, “Why do I have to talk to them first? Why are they not coming up to me and apologizing?” I have two answers for you and both of them are not easy to take in. First, we give a lot of credit to others. We often assume they know exactly what they are doing 100% of the time. The truth is we do many things in life we have no clue we have done. Some actions take months, even years, to come to fruition. Someone may have done something wrong against you but they may not even know it. How is someone going to say sorry if they don’t even know they are supposed to say sorry? Exactly. Second, and this one is more difficult to accept, if you talk to your offender you may find they were in the right. That is where humility comes in. Very very rarely is one side of an argument completely in the right. Talking to someone privately just doesn’t save their face, it may just save yours too. The privacy avoids embarrassment from both sides. Usually the first step is the only one you ever have to take.
However, if this person has chosen not to listen after this gallant first step, it is time for an intervention. Once again this is not an easy step. Humanity does not deal well with rejection and to be rejected once and possibly rejected again, can seem daunting and uncomfortable. You might think these steps exist because you just got to keep giving people chances to repent. I don’t think so. I think these steps are in place to protect the accused. The next step seeks a few more people to enter the dialogue. Those extra people become peer mediators. They are not there to pick a side. These two or three are there to listen to every word, not just the words of the accuser. (That is part of the reason passive aggression is so dangerous because usually only one side of an argument is heard.) If you have to take a disagreement to the second step you have to be willing to accept you could be wrong. If you don’t go through this step with such a mindset you are simply looking for a witch hunt.
If this step does not bring reconciliation then you take it to the entire congregation. Once again this is to protect the accused. Why? It is really easy to make those two or three people your buddies or friends who would find it difficult to have an impartial view. Without these steps it would be easy and alluring to work the system. Some of you might wonder why we would need all these steps. The person who feels slighted appears to need some vindication. That is an easy answer. Ah, an easy answer, that’s why it’s not the Christian answer. Jesus didn’t want easy answers that would eventually tear congregations apart; he wanted difficult choices which would bring a congregation together. Whether you like it or not, the person who has done you wrong is still loved and cared for by God. God wants that person to be included in the Body of Christ just as much as God wants you to be included.
Now the last and most difficult step: There are many who believe this scripture invoke rules on how to excommunicate someone from the church. They believe it is a way to give it a good ole’ try but unfortunately it just didn't work out so they have to part ways. (You know, putting excommunication in a good light. There have been some pretty nasty excommunications in Christian history.) But, Jesus didn't give us permission to cut them off from the family. No, he told us to treat them like Gentiles and tax collectors. So how did Jesus treat tax collectors and Gentiles? Just using the Gospel of Matthew I can answer that question. In 11:19 it was written, Jesus was friends to the tax collectors and sinners. In 8:10 he praised the faith of the Centurion servant who was a Gentile. In 9:10 he ate with tax collectors and sinners. Oh, and let’s not forget our scripture a few weeks back about the Gentile woman who wanted her daughter healed. Her faith healed her daughter. That doesn't sound like excommunication to me. That sounds to me like the most difficult road to take. When someone has done something wrong against you, try your hardest to work it out by taking multiple avenues of reconciliation. If those avenues fail, be with them and love them and guide them. Help them back into the inner circle.
I don't know about you but that sounds like something that is going to take longer than a week to work through. But please, think it out. This whole scripture sets up next week’s question: How often should we forgive? In the shadow of September 11th, it forces us to answer some really tough and difficult questions. But, do not fear. As long as our minds and hearts remain centered on Christ where two or three are gathered Christ will be there with us.
If you feel your situation is abusive, and not just a disagreement, please feel free to email me, or contact me through PM in Reddit or Facebook. If I cannot help you, I can point you in the right direction.
Those of you who will read this, know me in varying degrees. You may know, I struggle with what to share here. It all goes back to a friend and colleague announcing the title: "Wounded Healer" at my ordination. Another colleague bluntly said afterwards, "I see you as a wounded healer, just don't bleed all over everyone." I have learned, over the last half decade, the second colleague was correct. No one wants to look on the woundedness of the person lost in the muck of life. Humanity has the natural inclination to compartmentalize pain and suffering. Especially spiritual and mental pain. We know how to set broken bones, fight cancer, take on disease. Mental and spiritual illness? Not so much. Well, it's time for me to get honest. Don't worry. I'm not here to gush out my wounds. I had to work through them on my own time, and they are properly healing at this point.
My family and my life is full of spiritual and mental illness. My family suffers from depression, bi-polar disorder, and alcoholism just to name some of the issues. I used to carry the mental and physical abuse I suffered like some badge of honor. I would take it out every Summer Camp, and today, feel sorry for the fellow campers and counselors who had to suffer through my suffering. No one wants to deal with a wounded person.
Conversely, everyone wants to celebrate a person who made it through their woundedness. They don't realize, like A Beautiful Mind, the wounded carry their scars for the rest of their life, keeping their demons in check. A wounded person spends the rest of their life healing. As a wounded person, we understand that we need to conform to fit in. We get it. You just don't realize we might be holding back.
What many of y'all might not realize about me, are the fears that rolled across my psyche three years ago after I was let go by a church with a newborn in my arms. Someone callously remarked, "You'll bounce back from this." I knew he wasn't saying anything to make me feel better. He was trying to make himself feel better. If he believed I would bounce back, than the church really didn't damage me. I knew otherwise. I also knew, there was no way he could have personally known whether I would 'bounce back.' Only God knew the answer to that question. At the beginnings of this new piece of my life, I feared my family history would sneak in. Certain familial relations never bounced back from their personal events, not really. I also realized, no one could really help me. They wanted to offer prayer, and a pat on the back, but aside from some very specific circumstances, they kept their distance. I felt like I had the pox and my misfortune was contagious. The thought kept running through my head: Remember this time. Remember how you feel. Others feel this way too. Take this as a learning experience.
Since that time, I have bounced back, no thanks to the above mentioned man. I have also learned I am not alone. It almost hurts more to know others have been spiritually hurt by the institution of church, than being hurt by it myself. As hurt as I was, I felt an enlightenment of sorts through the whole experience. I can be divorced from contracts, people and groups (as a side note, still happily married to my husband), but I am forever an adopted child of God. This adoption was first made clear to me as I rose up out of the baptismal waters at 8 years old. It was clarified through the recent fires of adversity. I can say now, God was always there and always will be there.
I say this, because real adversity leaves very specific roads one can travel.
Either one can buy into the physical world and the limitations it brings: I could have seen God's call to ministry in my life destroyed. I could have fallen into depression. I could have become complacent and gave up. I was socially awkward as a teen, as I was dealing with my brokenness in unhealthy ways. I could accept that people would forever see me as a broken teenager instead of a healing adult.
Instead, I immersed myself in the spiritual world and it's possibilities. I was a beloved child of God, accepted into the family through divine adoption. My potential is the potential God gives me, filled with possibility. I discovered, because of this path, I showed compassion over anger. Showing compassion over anger actually brought me closer to the physical world. I can, with the help of God, accept my call as a wounded healer.
Genesis 21:8-21 CEB
8 The boy grew and stopped nursing. On the day he stopped nursing, Abraham prepared a huge banquet. 9 Sarah saw Hagar’s son laughing, the one Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Send this servant away with her son! This servant’s son won’t share the inheritance with my son Isaac.”
11 This upset Abraham terribly because the boy was his son. 12 God said to Abraham, “Don’t be upset about the boy and your servant. Do everything Sarah tells you to do because your descendants will be traced through Isaac. 13 But I will make of your servant’s son a great nation too, because he is also your descendant.” 14 Abraham got up early in the morning, took some bread and a flask of water, and gave it to Hagar. He put the boy in her shoulder sling and sent her away.
She left and wandered through the desert near Beer-sheba. 15 Finally the water in the flask ran out, and she put the boy down under one of the desert shrubs. 16 She walked away from him about as far as a bow shot and sat down, telling herself, I can’t bear to see the boy die. She sat at a distance, cried out in grief, and wept.
17 God heard the boy’s cries, and God’s messenger called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “Hagar! What’s wrong? Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy’s cries over there. 18 Get up, pick up the boy, and take him by the hand because I will make of him a great nation.” 19 Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well. She went over, filled the water flask, and gave the boy a drink. 20 God remained with the boy; he grew up, lived in the desert, and became an expert archer. 21 He lived in the Paran desert, and his mother found him an Egyptian wife.
Hello, my name is Melissa, and I am female.
Whew! That felt good. I'm glad I got that off my chest. I felt the need to start with announcing my gender, because I'm about to jump head first into the deep end of gender equality. I have to say, I'm not comfortable bringing this subject up, yet again. I really believed it would be a topic I would ignore, the obviousness of it all being that I am a female in ministry. The fact that I keep coming back to gender topics. There are also a few sharks living in this water I'm about to dive into. I'm not fond of getting bit. These sharks are:
OK, I just put all my cards on the table. I'm holding nothing up my sleeve. I come vulnerable and ready to discuss this topic. In our scripture, Hagar suffers from something not on the above list of sharks: Females can be a female's worst enemy.
The domino that started the whole line falling, leading to Hagar and her son being exiled to the wilderness, was Sarah. She had the issue with Hagar being the mother of the first born son of Abraham. Sarah tells Abraham to exile her and her son. She didn't want Ishmael to get any of the inheritance.
Reading scriptures like this week's, cause me to weep for both Hagar and Sarah. Females today will throw other females into the metaphorical wilderness. This all happens in moments where we could be the best cheerleaders. At times where we could raise another up, we push and cut down. I want to speculate as to why we do this, and what we could do in the future:
We see images like this, and begin to see female positions of power as a scarce commodity. This picture is the entire weekday line-up on the Blaze Radio network. To be fair, I'm sure it's difficult to find strong female voices for a radio show. It has typically been a male's field. The Blaze also added S.E. Cupp to their weekend line-up, so there is a female. They also have a couple on their television network. Yet, this image still disheartens me. Whether it is true or not, it makes me feel like there is no space for a female voice; female leadership. I feel the good-'ol-boys club still exist, and space is limited for female membership.
This mindset would set me up to see the scarcity of the situation, not the abundance. I think, the solution to this is generosity. What we have isn't the outcome of limited positions females can fill. What we have is from the ability we have to do the job. We have the potential to achieve greatness. All of us. This is why I tend to be overly generous in praise. If someone does something brilliant, male of female, I believe in abundant love. Abundant love means there is more than enough of God's grace to go around.
We have lower expectations for males than we do females. Another way to put it, women hold exceptionally high standards on their own. When I was in middle school I saw a female in the pulpit for the first time. My entire view of female ministers rested on this one woman's performance that Sunday morning. It was unfair to place so much on one person. Years later, at my first church job, I would see a male minister using the rainbow from Noah's Ark as a weak pretense to sing "Somewhere over the Rainbow." It was an absolutely horrible sermon. Seriously, I only learned rainbows were pretty. Yet, I didn't leave thinking all men should avoid preaching. I also didn't think his bad preaching was cause for him to be fired. My expectations of him were lower than what I naturally expect of any female.
I think we know what's on the line when we see a female taking a position we know has been primarily male dominated. We know what is going to be said if she messes up even a little, "Well, we tried a female and it just didn't work." I've heard it before. When I worked in Kentucky I was the second female minister to be hired by this particular congregation. A female congregant told me she wasn't coming to church, "We already had a female minister and it didn't work. We tried it, and it failed. I'm not coming for another one." See? All that pressure put on one person, to signify an entire gender. We, females, know what's at stake and we only want the best in the lime light.
I think the solution is to set equal standards on males and females. We need to expect more than Clark Kent from the males, and less of Super Woman from the females. This isn't saying the person working, male or female, shouldn't give 110% to everything they do. This is saying the people should look equally on our leaders for their character and performance, not their gender. This is easier said than done. It is often what we don't realize we are doing that causes the most harm.
What would I like you to do with this? As females, we know when we have been pushed into the wilderness. It is easier to recall when we have been slighted, than when we have slighted. Sometimes we don't even know when we have cut others down out of fear or unreasonable expectations. If you are up to it, I want us to meditate on the times we have been Sarah. I want us to think about times we were the one disconnecting someone. Then, I want us to pray for forgiveness. Follow it up by finding someone to be a cheerleader to. Abundantly love.
"Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
It's somewhat fortunate Fig Tree Christian is a digital audience. We all have thicker hides here. We necessarily have to. Anyone who doesn't just gets beaten down by callous and heartless words. It's culture. It's everywhere. Don't believe me? My son was playing Little Big Planet and someone had made a level called, Kill Justin Bieber. The whole point was to kill images of Justin Bieber in cruel and unusual ways. I made him stop the level.
He asked me why.
I said, "What if the game was, Kill Mommy? Would you still want to play it?"
"No!," he quickly responded. "That's mean!"
"Well," I explained, "Justin Bieber is a real person, with real feelings. Don't you think he would be upset by this?"
"Justin Bieber is real?"
The whole conversation crystallized how disconnected we really are. We can't see the humanity beyond the war cry. It's all fun and games, unless you are the person on the other side of the screen. If you want to know why I don't spend my time bashing Piper, Driscoll, Aronofsky, Beck, or whatever name is popular to smash right now, it's because the proverbial face approving of our desire to quell unpopular voices is not the righteous Paul, but the misguided Saul.
Acts 7 shakes me to my core. It's the truth beyond the silver lining of call. It's not all sunshine and roses for God's shepherds. They are stoned, crucified, burned at the stake (adding Joan of Arc to the mix). Accepting a call has no real promise for a long and lasting life on earth. Following a call doesn't mean everyone is going to think you are the bell of the ball.
While the internet isn't literally slinging stones, we are hitting people with words, and words can sometimes terribly hurt. I just want to leave you with a thought: What side are you on? And, what side our you taking? Maybe you are not the one writing and railing against someone, but are you supporting someone else who is? Does that make us any better?
While you might be scoffing at my words, calling me foolish for comparing internet slander to actual stoning, keep this in mind: When Stephen first said his mind the crowd first turned to slander his speech. It was only after slander, the story really turned dark. Sometimes, if humanity has the right Saul nodding in approval, we are capable of much worse than being internet bullies. It all starts with slander. Which side are you on? Acts tells us which side God's on. The second we start throwing stones, proverbial or otherwise, whether they speak truth or otherwise, God is on the side of the person being stoned.
We are a non-profit. Before we renew our non-profit status, board nominations are open. They will remain open until May 20th. More information under Upcoming Events, and in our subreddit.
If you like what you are reading there are many ways to connect:
And as always, contributions are greatly appreciated.
Luke 24:13-35 CEB
On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. They were prevented from recognizing him.
He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?” They stopped, their faces downcast.
The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place there over the last few days?”
He said to them, “What things?”
They said to him, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet. But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago. But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning and didn’t find his body. They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn’t see him.”
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets.
When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”
They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying to each other, “The Lord really has risen! He appeared to Simon!” Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread.
When I moved back to Georgia I was excited about rekindling my friendship with someone I used to know, Shelly. We were friends in high school. We hung out during choir class. We went to prom together as a giant super group. She was real, and I loved it. As chance would have it, she begun going to the church I attended as a youth. With her new husband, I could see double dates, and the opportunity to just be openly geeky. Unfortunately, not long after I moved back, she passed away. I wept at her funeral. I was such a bad friend. Only I was to blame for our friendship falling through the cracks. When she died I wanted a miracle. I wanted it to be a dream. Like other friends I have prematurely lost to illness, I wanted to know why. Why did God take someone with so much potential?
Jesus teaches us how to talk to someone in the midst of loss
The disciples in our scripture had a lot on their minds.. In many ways they were dealing with an "end of life" crisis. Jesus had died. This is not an easy discussion to have only two weeks after Easter. We want to stay in the ressurection. We can easily Google images of a risen Christ but, let's remember the image that is most startling to us, Christ dead. It happened. It had to happen. After all, we can talk all day about how he was fully divine but he was also fully human. The last I checked humanity still suffers from a 100% mortality rate. It doesn’t matter how rich, smart, or lucky you are- we all die. The disciples, they wanted a miracle, and I am not talking about rising from the dead. If they were searching for a resurrection miracle the disciples never would have been trying to fight back when Jesus was arrested, Peter never would have been ashamed to admit he was a disciple, and Thomas (with the other disciples) would have always believed. The miracle the disciples wanted to see, was salvation that completely skipped the whole death issue.
So in that mindset, Cleopas and the other disciple were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were feeling all the normal feelings associated with loss. They were obviously sad. (It is the only direct emotion attributed to them.) They were probably also angry. If they believed Jesus had come to redeem God’s chosen people the one group the disciples would have wanted to see stand up and help would have been the Sadducees and Pharisees. Instead their tone comes across apparently hostile towards the Jewish leaders as Cleopas explains it was them who instigated the crucifixion of Jesus. Also, because they didn’t get the miracle they wanted they couldn’t see a miracle actually occurred. So, if you read the scripture you will notice how easy it is to read Cleopas’ tone as sarcastic when talking about the women at the tomb: (Oh yeah, the disciples totally believed the women when they spoke of angels at the tomb. As Cleopas said to Jesus, “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see them.”)
Do you think some of the disciples maybe took the women aside and tried to justify what they saw? Perhaps they told them it wasn’t angels but the way the light reflected off the tomb? Perhaps they said they were sleepy or too emotional? I just wish to add, if I believed the story when someone told me Jesus was alive again, the last thing I would do would be head out of Jerusalem. This is what Cleopas and the other disciple were doing. All signs point to, they didn't believe.
Jesus knew the disciples were thinking and talking about the un-resurrected Christ while walking along the road. Was there anything the two disciples could have told Jesus that wasn’t already understood? No. Jesus understood exactly what kind of suffering the disciples were facing. So, Jesus did not enter into the conversation with, “I understand,” or “stop moping because there is nothing to mope about.” Instead, he asks a question, “What are you talking about as you walk along?” When we pray in the midst of crisis God wants us to communicate! Open up, tell what you feel. Be honest about it. Cleopas was honest. He was sad, angry and skeptical. Jesus was not condemning after hearing any of those feelings. They needed to vent. They needed to express how they believed their hopes and wishes for a miracle had not come to fruition. It is only after they were willing to open up and share, Jesus could begin the healing.
In that life continues. We can celebrate, thanks to the death and resurrection in Jesus Christ, that death is not the final answer for those we love and care about. We also have to realize, their death is not the final answer for us either. We must continue in this world. Sometimes it is difficult, especially if you are dealing with the loss of someone very dear and close to your heart. Life becomes very trying without that person in your life to fill the void left in their absence. If you find yourself in that place remember the disciples. They gave up everything to follow Jesus: family, friends, and jobs. They loved him and he was gone.
God did not come to obliterate death, but to fix life.
The problem the disciples were trying to overcome, and did not understand, was God did not come to obliterate death, but to fix life. Eternal life on earth is meaningless when it’s filled with so much pain, suffering, and evil. The disciples felt their prayers were left unanswered. That is an easy mindset to come to when we are searching for our answers and not God’s answers. I guess what it comes down to is within all the cosmic trials and tribulations death is not the final answer, but it is still on the test. We still have to face it and deal with it. There was no chariot of fire for Jesus to carry him away from his pain and suffering and there is no flaming chariot for us. Sometimes life means facing the facts. Unless our names are Elijah or Enoch, and we lived over 2,000 years ago, our time will come.
There was a time, over a decade ago, one of my friends passed away. I can remember I was sitting in my car, in my driveway. For the longest time I just sat there in silence, wondering what to do. Part of me even questioned prayer. God knew every thought rolling through my head during that time of loss. What could I pray to God that wasn’t already known? In the end I decided it was better to try to verbalize something than remain quiet. Even if it didn’t change anything regarding God’s knowledge of the past events or my emotional and spiritual life, it felt good to release. Looking back, I wish I could have given myself the Emmaus scripture.
God has plans, even after death
It seems strange to talk about the end of life so close to the recent celebration of new life: Easter. But, in some ways, it is fitting. When I was pregnant with my first child, my Great-Grandmother was on her death bed. She had been talking about death for most of my life. Finally, two decades after she lost her husband it was her turn. I knew she was finally ready to go. We had so much warning, it was sort of a blessing, I was able to take a trip to Kansas City to say good bye. I was able to let her know her third great-great-grandson was going to born in April. It was a gift to be able to say goodbye like that. I know many don't get that opportunity. A few months later Aeden was born and my sister gave me a book, a memory book called, On the Day You were Born. It had places inside to put pictures. There is one page in that book that reminds me of my grandma even to this day. The page reads: “On the day you were born the waves washed the beaches clean for your footprints.” My grandma left this world as my son entered it. Eventually footprints must be washed clean for the next tiny feet that walk this world.
The disciples had work to do and they had to say goodbye and get to the work. Jesus was still going to be there but not in the flesh anymore. We do not walk this path alone. It was time for the disciples to become apostles. Just like it was time for me to move from title great-granddaughter to mom. I love you Jesus, I love you Grandma, and I love and miss all the friends who have passed before me. I hope you are proud of me and the choices I have made as I continue to strive to be the best disciple, mother, and friend I possibly can be.