*As promised, this is the conclusion to the blog post I wrote last week. Fair warning: it’s lengthy. But I hope you’ll read every word. I believe it’s vital to both the struggles we face in the midst of ongoing cultural issues of today, answering some questions you likely have…and the vocal faith Jesus expects us as His followers to have. P.S. Press on. I love you.
After you have taken the step of faith, you must talk your faith. Those who are not afraid to announce their convictions to the world and defend them will have true stability. A universal law underlies the declaration, “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10 kjv). ~Brengle, Take Time to Be Holy
I hadn’t planned to be back, full time on social media until January.
But then she changed my mind.
“Hi. You don’t know me, but I have a question for you. I hear so many of the “liberal” female Christian ministry leaders speaking out all the time about things, but the more “conservative” voices have grown quiet. It’s hard because I wonder where all the leaders I relate to have gone and why they seem afraid to speak up for some reason. Thanks for listening.”
Her comment wasn’t even on my social media feed. It was on a friend’s feed that I happened to be scrolling by in my nightly mindless scrolling. But I saw her comment and it struck me, in that way that something feels like right between the eyes. That was 9 months ago. It hasn’t left my mind since.
It was enough to change my mind about my plans and intentions, to take an extended online break from my short and blissful September-October reprieve, since after 1 book and another on the way, there’s been so much writing.
She was enough to change my mind.
I pictured her, alone in her apartment or maybe her cute house with her dog or baby on the hip or leaning against the brick outline of the coffee shop window on that city street for just a few, waiting on a friend who was late to meet…pressed enough inside to reach out to someone she admired online and leave a message to ask in the only way she knew how for someone with a bigger microphone than her to please be her representative.
I knew then: I must speak up. If I’m honest, I think Jesus carved the conviction deep in my heart and that kind of thing lingers.
(An important aside: Let me quickly address the label (conservative/liberal) issue and tell you: I didn’t come up with them, I don’t like them, and I don’t find them particularly helpful. But I also understand that in this moment with the important theological issues hinging on certain schools of thought and the leaders which adopt them, churches and people must be diligent in knowing core beliefs of who they read, listen to, and follow and should. Further, because of my Biblically conservative convictions such as these of which I clearly and previously wrote, I am considered in the conservative camp. (Though conservatives don’t quite know what to do with me as I am rather fiesty, unbridled, and tattooed.)
I wrote last week to the remnant – to remind us that we are not alone…that our conviction does not conflict with love but rather, depends upon it…and most of all…to encourage us to remain faithful to Jesus and follow Him to the very end.
The last piece of this encouragement to us is that now is the time to speak. I know we may have wondered. I know we may have thought it was for the usual ones or the loud ones or the bold ones or the ones with the most to say. But it’s the time for all of us, the ones who have the quietest voices, the ones who usually don’t get involved and just want everyone to get along, too. Jesus wants all of us to speak about who He is, what He’s done, how much He loves us, how much He loves them.
To remain silent about Jesus and the convictions following Him brings to our life is to weaken our ability to stand strong in hard times. Exercising a vocal faith is not an option we pick at the point of salvation; it is part of the package of our choice for God. When we chose God we didn’t choose a life of mere social activism. We chose the life of the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19-20). We don’t get to prefer to let someone else say it, do it, live it, disciple them, bring them to Jesus. It’s our life, responsibility, privilege.
“But it’s really volatile out there right now and I don’t want to add to it.” When it comes to politics, oh friend, I agree. When it’s for the sake of needing someone to hear our opinion, we best get over that, sleep on it, most often leave it alone. You don’t know how many nights I’ve done just that, and I know, you, too. Speaking up for Jesus should carry a different tone, driven from and done with a different heart, one that others will notice, even if they still disagree. Bold and combative are not the same. Motive and character will determine which way we land. Jesus has not called us to fight each other. But He has called us to fight for the Kingdom of God.
“But I don’t know what to say and how to say it.” For so many of us, this is the case. Often it is the latter, the how we don’t know, because we care so much and know the stakes are so high to either draw to or away from our Lord, and we take this seriously. It is why prayer is so important before speaking out – prayer, in heaps and masses, and sometimes, we stop there because God knows. But let us not let the not knowing be the excuse that keeps us from the going on record for our faith, for God knows that, too. God doesn’t need perfect orators. He needs faithful servants preaching the Gospel message with life and lips. All of us can do that.
“But I want to be known for what I’m for not for what I’m against.” I’ve heard this said a lot, as of late. I like the idea behind it – this thorough preaching with our life that we don’t have to be against anything because we are so known for what we are for there is no need for further discussion. This is just the problem. (Hold on. Remember I love you. This may get tense.) We, the lazy Christians aren’t known for the for things very well. We haven’t been preaching consistent Jesus messages that draw the world in. We haven’t been very attractive. So when we open our mouths and start preaching now, all that comes out is noise. So this may take awhile, my friends. We will have to be dedicated and patient. I’ll talk to you much more about this in Put Your Warrior Boots On but for now I want you to know that the solution is not to clam up. It is to start, from this point forward, preaching a solid Jesus first and only message with a loving heart of grounded, Biblical conviction and a proven track record of personal holiness and solid people investment so that when we develop the clout over time, people won’t be able to say we are preaching “against” anything. They will know what we are preaching for and automatically our tone will sound different.
“But what about the quote I love from St. Francis of Assisi “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words”? Isn’t this telling us the opposite of what you are saying? Didn’t Jesus model this, as well?” I love this quote. It’s beautiful. It’s true. Lifestyle evangelism is something I’ve written about for years. Feel free to look back in my archives. It’s all there.
In the sense that we are to live what we believe, first and foremost, and not vapidly or judgmentally gab on and on about God without substance of life, this quote is key and by the way, biblical. Friends. Isn’t this issue way past settled, I hope?
But this does not mean we don’t speak at all, so let us not misunderstand. Jesus was far from a silent Savior. He was not unnecessarily wordy but He was also not quiet, and He certainly never shied away from fighting for Kingdom things. The times He remained silent were times when He gave up fighting for His own rights, not for the Kingdom of God. When He “spoke not a Word” (Matt. 27:14) it was in reference to his silence before His accusers. Never doubt that when it came to where He stood for Christ, everyone knew.
We aren’t God. We won’t do this, perfectly. But we, the remnant, the faithful followers of Jesus Christ until the end, must exercise a vocal faith. Jesus is our life. We gave up our right to stay silent about Him when we gave our life to Him.
I don’t know what this looks like for you in your everyday life, friend. I can’t give you a perfect formula for a discussion you are considering diving into right now on your Facebook wall. But moving forward, as part of your faithful following of Jesus Christ is your vocal witness for Him, know this:
We’ve got to be honest with ourselves.“Sometimes, in order to sincerely resist the infighting of the Church and the hot button culture conflict – in our claims to not want to be known as a person against something but rather, for something – we unwittingly leave Jesus hanging. Yes, the road narrows when we go on record for our faith. True, everyone won’t like it and some, in order to jab below the belt, will call it judgmental and fighting against. But with the heart intent to be for God, it is the right and only choice to make. And we have to be strong enough to weather the unwarranted accusation and live with our truth.” ~Put Your Warrior Boots On
Let nothing be an excuse for weak witness. Let us not hide behind sin and call it subtlety and personal style. Jesus is worth more than that.
We’ve got to understand the why. It’s not charity work to go on record for what we believe; it’s the anchoring grace of God. When we speak up for God, a courage inside of us is called out and the fear place inside is overcome. Over time, this chipping away changes us for the good. Not only do we go on record for us, but we go on record in order to strengthen the body. We go on record for the young woman who reached out on social media to ask for someone to speak up and share our beliefs, so she would not feel alone. Isn’t this the point of community — to lock eyes and lift arms and humanly communicate the best we can me too? We speak up for the body of Christ to be strengthened and not fall away, just like we need people to speak up so we won’t fall away, either. I can’t help but believe that Jesus blesses those who step out and step up, first, in all faith things, including our speaking out.
We’ve got to want God the most, first. There is one reason wanting God the most is the most important thing in your life: because everything hinges on it. It is the game changer, because it changes what you fight for, what you are willing to tolerate, what you are willing to change, what you love, what you chase, what you justify, what you stake your life upon, what you spend your life doing for the rest of your life. If we don’t want God the most, we will never go on record for Him. We won’t love Him enough. We will love ourselves more. Self preservation will be more important. This issue has to be settled first and if today, you haven’t done that, I hope and pray you will. (Here’s a resource to help, if you’re interested.)
I will be taking the month of December off from blogging, as I am finishing up my next book, 5 Word Prayers, preparing for my January retreat with 50 beloved friends from 11 states all over the U.S., and enjoying the holidays with family and friends like so many of you.
But know that I am praying for you, praying for your faith to be strengthened, for you to love God more than ever in the coming days, and for Jesus to show up big in your life in 2017 like He so desperately wants to do.
And OH SO FUN...
January 2 I will be back with a brand new blog with much better navigation and fresh, new things JUST FOR YOU! And I will be telling you about a FREE 2-week Bible Study I am offering from January 16-27 just for you about how to go into 2017 ditching the typical resolutions and marching on with new hope and belief in your future! I am so very excited about all this and Put Your Warrior Boots On, coming April 2017!!
I love you. I love Jesus, the most.
*Disclaimer: I approach this post with great love, thought, prayer and under the accountability of II Corinthians 5:14: “Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us.” p.s. It’s a longer post than normal. But I ask you to read every word.
There’s been a lot going on in Christendom lately, what with the election and differing stances and views by the body of Christ and all. The truth is, the Church has always had differing opinions on things and controversies because of it. I’m not sure why we are reacting now as if it were scary and new.
I think sometimes in our effort to use the Acts early church as a model (with good reason) we mistakenly begin to think it was perfect. Stephen, a “man full of God’s grace and power” enters the scene in Scripture in Acts 6 when the early church is experiencing growing pains and controversy of its own. Lest we think the early church was perfect, we need only remember that it was made up of people. And as we know, people will ruin a perfect thing, every single time.
The body of Christ has been a hot mess with a Savior and a cause since the beginning. Until we meet Jesus, we will hold a Bible in one hand and a flesh desire in the other. It’s the human plight.
But before we settle into this idea that the realities of our flesh keeps us from growth, let’s remember that sanctification – the long obedience work of becoming like Jesus – is to be our beautiful pursuit. Until we stop breathing, may we never rest in a less than Jesus wants us to be position.
Listen. I don’t want us to be scared. I don’t want us to be angry. There is truly no need. No matter how it looks right now, this is a time of recalibration, not fear. These tough times are forcing the Christians to live the Bible we’ve read many times, back up all our many preached words. It’s time and it is good. Hollow spiritual lives won’t point people to the Savior of the world, which by the way, remains the reason we are all here.
Controversy brings out the real stuff. Social media can trigger us. But it can only push out what is already there.
If we are fearful, if we have unresolved baggage, if we are Christian in name only but the depth isn’t there, in controversy it will all come out. (Perhaps the knowledge of this is the root of much of the fear.)
And in the same way, if we are full of the good real stuff – the Holy Spirit completely controlling our life – we will be able to not only maneuver controversial waters but respond to those who differ from us in such a way the stance is known but the love is, too. If we are to have angst at this moment, let it be because we see the realities of how we are not yet like Christ.
Now. I need to tell you a few personal things.
I’ve been on Twitter in recent days. I’ve scrolled Facebook. So many unnecessary, ungodly thoughts have come out and general human decency has been disregarded from my fellow believers in Jesus. There’s absolutely no way we can include Jesus in that. May we tremble in our justifications of flesh behavior, most especially if we claim it is done in any way under His covering. Let us not be fooled into thinking we will not be held accountable for our behaviors at times like these. We will.
I have friends, some Christian famous and some not, whom I disagree with about things important to me. But they are my friends, and I do not fear our theological differences because Jesus is our bond. I have readers of this blog who are atheists and some who believe in gay marriage, as do some of my ministry friends. I will not change my stance for them. I will also treat them with love and respect, as both are non-negotiables in my higher commitment to Jesus.
So I exhort us all, the followers of Jesus, to get on our knees and pray like crazy for Christ’s love to control us moving forward. With His control over our life and lips, the crazy will not overtake.
The truth is, we are all products of our background, environment, education, and personal trains of thought, as well as the depth of our relationship with Jesus, so it is no wonder we won’t always agree. (And yes, the Bible says some will become disillusioned and fall away from the faith.) We shouldn’t fear the disagreements. We should only fear God if we, as His rep, don’t respond to them in a way that honors Him. Trust me, at this moment, I’ve asked Him to take my inventory.
We can stand and not waver on our position while responsibly modeling the grace and kindness of Christ. We must stand for the Bible. We must stand for Truth. We must also treat people well. These are not mutually exclusive.
It is a lie to believe love and grace means accepting and agreeing with all views. It is also a lie to believe holding strong to a standard means you shun or lash out at the person you disagree with. Love and grace are an innate response of a Christ consumed heart. Perhaps if this is not our response we ask Jesus to mine deeper.
And because I am personally weary of the just grace and love claim: grace and love exist in the context of standard and conviction. To suggest that Jesus is all grace and love without standard is to grossly misunderstand and misrepresent Him. (That’s for a different post.)
I believe the Bible, every word. I believe Jesus was more than just a good guy, but was and is the Almighty Savior of the World. I believe a baby is a person at the point of conception. I believe faith in Jesus is the only way to heaven. I believe in the sanctity of marriage, between a man and a woman. And I also believe many of us as Christians are walking around pious in our God-ish living, which is equally as distasteful to God.
I believe we worry more about pointing out the sin in others than weeping over our own neglect in caring for the poor, orphaned and widowed, things Jesus speaks in Scripture directly about as non-negotiable actions.
I believe we generally don’t treat people like Jesus would. I believe this is because we have replaced intimacy with Him for surface spirituality so we man our daily reactions.
I believe in the importance of unity in the body of Christ, which does not mean we meld our convictions on every issue but we meld our hearts to reach this world for Christ. Right now, they want no part in the perceived circus.
And I believe most of all, that The Great One thrives like always in bringing clarity to chaos, hope to disappointment, and peace in the midst of controversy.
Let’s put our eyes back on Him.
Coming up with good words after you’ve given your brain a month off is a little like trying to get the ketchup to come out of the bottle for the first time: it’s all in there, but it takes some maneuvering to set it loose.
That’s where I am this morning.
I read two books (fiction and memoir) in the first 3 days while on my “sabbatical –“ a forgotten love I haven’t had time for in years as I bury myself in commentaries and non-fiction inspiration like a good Jesus writer. I sat and watched my kids ball game after ball game and never once checked my phone, not even at halftime. (p.s. Who knew it was possible to sit and not scroll?) I went to the doctor with my ailing father and had necessary, hard conversations with my mother about plans for the future. I sweated and painted and fixed and pulled knobs off of things and nails out of walls in an empty house and cried a lot – the bottled up tears I have neglected. I petted my dog a little longer. My husband told me he likes me, again. Turns out social media can hamper a marriage silently and before you know it, you are in need of marriage ER.
I’ll be brutally honest: there have been moments in this hiatus I have feared I am done with writing – that the words won’t come, again…and maybe even scarier moments when I fear I am not – because when you’ve gone and gotten yourself a taste of a normal life – one outside the swirling social media world and the awesome burden of public inspiration and yes, consumption – you begin to crave it more, at least for the introverts.
The latter fear came true as I am standing on a ladder last week, fresh smudge of paint on my face, painting the inside of a bookcase I’ve known for 11 years but needed freshening. The symbolism to my own life doesn’t escape me.
I am thinking about you and how to tell you why we moved back to our old house after moving to the mission house for a year and all I can think about is Romans 8:28.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
And I know in that Holy Spirit speaking kind of way, that we, the people who so badly want everything to work out and all stories to have perfect endings, often misunderstand this. We take it to mean that all things work out, but it’s not true. All things don’t work out, at least not in the way we anticipate.
But with God, all things work together. Together is different. It’s not just one thing but joint things, in concert, collectively. Somehow, as we make each experience of our life mean everything, we miss this piece of all things, together.
This means that sometimes particular stories won’t end pretty, but when you put it with the rest of the stories and things, all of it, together, will be for our good.
And then, even with all the planning and hopes and following Jesus…some stories don’t end particularly bad – they just don’t meet human expectation, which quietly has become our Gospel. You must have an epic mission house story ending, some to me have said, and I know they want me to have one to tell. The thing is, I do not. We moved because some things happened that we know only God could orchestrate and we walked in obedience with the information we had at the time and we move back for the same reasons. It wasn’t bad and it wasn’t amazing. It just was. This year, we learned. We grew. We got less selfish and maybe learned to appreciate space. We also still fought and had to say we were sorry and got on each other’s nerves, just like in the other house. But it’s like when we started and closed a church in 13 months some years back and there was no neat and perfect story to tell the people like I wanted: some things are too God to be understood and too soul cavernous to be explained in 500 words. And some stories don’t yet have endings so it makes sense we can’t fully tell them. Sometimes stories aren’t epic, they are just another story.
All things don’t work out. I need to remind us of this, not to make us pessimistic about our life, but to remember God’s promise that if we love God and follow Him, our life works together – all the good, all the bad, all the hard, all the disappointing – and it is truly the best life, still and always because life doesn’t depend on one just thing — even a big thing — to make it good.
I tell you this because I know you’ve had things not work out at times, too. And I want you to remember that a perfect plan on paper not working out disrupts nothing about God’s bigger plan for your life experiences to work together for your good.
I have to tell you this one last thing.
Before God called me into this life of ministry (or perhaps when I finally said yes), I wanted to be an interior decorator. I was a few weeks away from enrolling in the Art Institute of Charlotte to further my dream when my mom and I decided to start teaching a class at church that wound up becoming my first book. As God furthered my writing and speaking, I put the enrollment papers away and determined one day, I would pick them back up if He ever let me.
Somewhere between travels and words and looking into people’s eyes and seeing God use me, the desire to pursue being an interior decorator left. But my love of decorating never did.
As I painted the bookcase the other day, I recognized the unexpected kindness in the things not working out like I had planned – one only God could lace a disappointment with so beautifully.
After 11 years of the same old paint, the same old look we were moving back into when we really wanted to be moving forward, I was getting to redecorate my home and make it almost like new. It wasn’t my plan when I lived there. It wasn’t something I had the time or resources to do. Had we never moved out in the first place, none of it would ever be done. I can choose to see it as coincidence. Or I can choose to see it as the Father who loves me, made me and knows me so very well, knowing what I love and letting me get to brush off the decorating passion and use it in a healing way in the midst of disappointment. I have to tell you – it’s been the sweetest of unexpected gifts to take this month off to create in my home.
That’s our Father, friends. He doesn’t stop being present when our life on paper doesn’t work out.
That’s our life: not just one thing working out but all of it, working together.
For our good.
When we love God and live in line with His call and purpose.
p.s. I’ve missed you. I am not sure exactly how all of my re-entry will look, as of now. But as always, I will write as God puts things on my heart to share. Thank you for your love and patience. I’m so very grateful for you.
We have just entered into a club we knew we would one day be a part of, but in the midst of parenting like a boss, seemed so far away. That kid that was blowing out diapers and slobbering for a living one day turned into a nearly grown person, and we had no vote. We know it was meant to be. We are grateful we’ve made it to this milestone. But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard.
So, here we are now, that season of life we dreaded, if we are honest. We want them to grow. We want them to be independent humans. We also don’t want them to do either, because that means we no longer get to have them full time in our home. This is the rub of parenthood.
I don’t want to make this any harder on us than it already is. So I won’t.
This post is not let’s reminisce about how little they once were and now they grew up. Dear goodness, we’ve read enough posts about that. This post is me putting my arm around you and saying…I know. Me, too. We are kindred, so let’s talk about a few things that may help us both.
- I think it’s good to admit we don’t like the system: us parenting awesome crazy and then one day, “bye…please text me every once in a while and I’ll see you for the holidays.” Listen. I know it’s the very best one. I know it’s the way it needs to happen. But I do not like it. I repeat. DO NOT LIKE. And I just want to say to you that you have permission not to like it, either, instead of pretending for the sake of others that you do.
- Related to the last one but also, a next step kind of a thing. Though this moment is hard and yes, let’s take some time to mourn things…we can’t stay in the house and hold baby pictures and cry all day. Gosh, this has been known at times to be me. And sometimes an hour of this does a lump in the throat and personal sanity some good. But then we must dry it up and get up and get out of the house and keep doing life. Life is still really, really (mostly) good.
- This is a good time to find friends in a similar life situation if we haven’t already. I’ll be honest: right now I gravitate towards you, and I think that’s ok. I adore my toddler-mom friends. I adore my single and newly married ladies. But this is a unique life thing, letting the kid we have raised, go. We need the specific support of others walking through as well as the wisdom of those who have walked before. There will be a day we are able to do coffee with new moms and hear about their grand, fresh adventures in motherhood but this is probably not the day for that, as we are remembering and struggling with what it feels like to let go and hope and pray we’ve taught them enough. We’re in a unique season, and I think it’s ok to gravitate towards the safe and knowing kindreds right now.
I have two more things I want to tell you – one which I find a huge help and mind shift – the other I consider the real lifeline.
So I’m continuing this conversation on Thursday at 9am EST on my Lisa Whittle author page on Facebook to talk about these things. I’ll be live at 9am EST with my coffee and a cyberhug, so LET’S GET TOGETHER for a few more minutes then. And if you are not in this particular life season but know someone who is…by all means, invite them to join me. I promise, I’ll take good care of their heart. (p.s. Even if you aren’t in this life season, you can still join, too! Non-exclusivity alert.)
In the meantime, head over to any of my social media accounts (FB, Twitter, Instagram) and leave me a comment or question related to this subject, and I’ll do my best to include it in our conversation on Thursday.
Happy Monday, my kindreds. I know. Me, too. I love you.
Every now and then I write something that threatens to make me unpopular and marginalized. Turns out Jesus freaks are annoying. Sigh. It’s true.
The last thing I want to be in this post is divisive to the wonderful, flawed body of Christ or self-focused and whiny…so trust me, I’m being careful.
But I read an article today that messed me up – about the Western Church and how we don’t have a clue what true Gospel living really is. And now I can’t write anything else but this post that threatens marginalization that was not on my schedule. Hashtag inconvenience.
Please. Don’t you know how much I don’t want to say hard things? It’s not my goal in life to scare people off and have them run away. But God presses me hard, sometimes, and His pressing bosses me to death. My allegiance is to Him. It is not to my peers. It is not even to my readers. I gave up caring largely about what people thought of me when I wrote I Want God, thank God, and it’s too heavy to take back.
After this article (which, please, believers, all read) I sit with a lump in my throat and tears pushing to come out in all the conviction. All I see lately is let me post a selfie with a random Bible verse caption and buy my latest book and post after post on Twitter, ad nauseam, with our answers to all the things. Every conference that has a get ahead theme to it, with the best people still, but chasing, chasing and I literally want to throw myself across the bed and scream.
Where is God in all this? We are dying to hear everything we don’t need to hear and being in the most popular Christian group. I’m tired of who knows who and all that, when it comes to the ministry world. It tarnishes God’s honest concept for community and makes those who don’t know some particular who wishful they did.
I’ll be gut level honest: by virtue of that I do, I’m enveloped in a weird Christian celebrity world of sorts that I did not sign up for and I can’t be silent and pretend it doesn’t exist. (If you don’t know about this, I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you.) And I have worked very hard with Jesus for this kind of strong calling out not to be baggage or envy or anything else, and I can promise before Him now that I truly believe it is not and if it is, I give Him full permission to out me.
(Hold on. This part is hard.)
I’m tired of Christian circles where compliments are gushed publicly without true relationship, conveniently right before our new book comes out. We’ve scratched each others backs so hard we have fingernail marks.
I’m tired of Christian cute: all the zillions of inspirational sayings that we have trained ourselves to now need to hear every 2.2 seconds for the next fix that float around on social media…the way we mostly circle around ourselves as believers instead of reaching out to the lost…our Christian t-shirts and jewelry we can’t get enough of but mostly just wear and don’t live…our complaint after complaint about everything under the sun while missionaries in other parts of the world live under mosquito nets and fear for their very life…being so very proud of ourselves for our short bursts of faithful to the Lord.
Sometimes Christian cute and Christian celebrity makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and quit, especially when I read an article like the one I did earlier today and remember the persecution of believers in other parts of the world that are real, people, really real and I am so very wimpy and soft. And in the next minute I see a picture of what Christian celebrities are taking a picture on Instagram together, more please buy my new book (p.s. Please don’t write to me about why this is necessary because trust me, after 10 years in the business I get it, and there’s a difference between responsible book promotion and pimping ourselves to death), and my own tweets last night while watching The Bachelorette. Let me not be falsely humble. I’m a fan of myself, too. We all are. Humans.
So then I’m convicted in my own self sin, and I just want to quit and cave up, like I do when it all seems so wrong and so much and that article that messed me up won’t stop bugging me and I’m not sure what to do about all that’s wrong with me, with us.
(Good for the article. I needed it to mess me up. For a second I forgot.)
All of this Christian celebrity and Christian cute is about nothing but tactics of the enemy to keep us focused on self, which, in fact, is working. And we can call it favor and call it being exalted by God but let’s not lie to ourselves about all the hustling we do to get there in many cases, too.
And I know this calling out needs a solution or it’s just venting, which is a further waste of our time, and I don’t want to be held responsible for that.
So as I sit here with a lump in my throat and tears pushing, still, I can only offer what I know for sure to work:
- John 3:30: He must become greater; I must become less. (The only way I don’t think of myself so often is when I’m thinking of Him.)
- John 15:5: Without [God] we can do nothing. (Let’s pray to stop being so enamored with ourselves. Really, that’s what it is.)
- II Chronicles 7:14: Get humble, pray, seek God’s face. (Let’s just pray. I mean, for real, instead of all this other stuff because it’s the only thing that will help.)
I’m going to forewarn you: I won’t do this perfectly, so please don’t be expecting that or you will be sorely let down. I won’t promise not to slip, because I may. I don’t ask you to do it perfectly, either. I promise to love you through the muck of sorting it out, as I hope you will, me.
But we’ve got to fight for our purity of heart and stop settling for a glossy version of a Gospel that daily costs real, skin on believers their lives. If we aren’t going to go be physically in the trenches with them, we can at least fight for and with them here in our safe world through prayer.
And most of all, just God, forgive us for our Christian celebrity and Christian cute. It has absolutely nothing to do with You.
If I may, first…this post is about taking time to care about people, not a persuasion piece against boundaries/saying no or intended to guilt recovering people pleasers into regret over necessary life adjustments they have made. If you struggle with boundaries, please read Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend and deal with that important issue, first. I do not suggest now or ever that people substitute in my assessment from a blog post for their personal heart convictions. My goal is to help us see things in a way we haven’t seen them before…consider important things we may need to change. Honestly: I just want to help us and point this world to The Hope. p.s. I love you.
My best friend, Colleen, tells me something over the phone last week – about how her pastor-husband does a funeral for a man and only 5 people show up. I hear this, and I feel sad. (Remember this for later.)
Just a few days after that, my in-laws drive in from the beach where they live, almost 4 hours away, and we arrange to meet them for frozen yogurt, so they can see the kids on their way back home.
7 Whittles, all sitting around 2 tables, yogurt piled high in cups, toppings of choice sitting proudly on top. What was the reason for your quick trip, again? I ask my father-in-law, sharing the table with my husband and me. I know he had just gotten home a little more than 24 hours before after being gone all week. I also know they had driven nearly 4 hours…to just a few short hours later, turn around and drive home. I hadn’t yet asked them about the why behind it. Surely they have a very good reason for this kind of trip.
Our pastor’s grandmother died and we came for her funeral, he says between bites, like it’s the most normal thing in the world. I repeat this for clarification, thinking surely I heard wrong. Your pastor’s grandmother? I ask, with the emphasis on grandmother. I know it can’t be. Lots of people won’t drive across town for someone’s funeral, let alone drive 8 hours (roundtrip) in one day for one.
Umm-hmm, he says, casually. It is clear the yogurt is more interesting to him than the topic of conversation. Did you know her? I ask, guessing it will be a yes. Nope, he says, matter-of-factly and digs his spoon back into his cup.
My husband and I sideways glance but save our words to each other for later. That’s pretty incredible, I say back, and I mean it. I’m honestly floored and don’t know what else to say. I know my in-laws to jump in the car and drive hours to be at my children’s birthday parties. That sort of thing has been happening for years, and what a blessing it’s been to my kids. But to do the same for a stranger, even if the grandson of the decreased is your pastor and you love him deeply? I’m in awe.
I struggle to make it to birthday parties 10 miles down the road for kids my kids grew up with and have half lived in my home.
I only attend funerals for people I really know and have meant something pretty significant to my life. Otherwise, I don’t even think twice about staying home.
It could be just me, but I don’t think so. Lots of people I know who care about my son didn’t come to his graduation party. They were busy, I knew. It’s not like I’ve kept mental track in my head of who was invited but wasn’t there and been upset about it. But some that meant a lot to him didn’t come, for whatever reason, and I think this is not unusual.
Only 5 people showed up to that guy’s funeral my friend’s husband did. (Remember…the start of this post?) No matter the why, it’s still a tough reality. Surely he had other people who had known and cared for him in his 60 something years of life. Were they busy mowing their lawn that day? Were they too tired to mess with going? Would that have been me, too, if he were someone I knew?
I hope not. But I must be honest. We all have a million excuses for why we matter to ourselves more than other people. We don’t say that, but it’s true. Just look at our mostly me-focused calendars.
And I think about how we are all so ridiculously busy that we don’t even have time to call our mother to ask how she is many days, let alone take a day out to drive hours to a funeral for a person we do not even know. And how we don’t go to parties and things like that anymore for someone else because they don’t fit into our pre-planned agenda. We don’t want to do something? We don’t. Edit, edit, edit until all that’s left are mostly my things.
I can’t help but wonder if in all our necessary life edit, important as it is, we’ve edited out showing up for people. Could it be that in all our life de-cluttering we have begun to see people as clutter, too, and thrown them right out like those spoons in the kitchen taking up too much space?
I must be the first to confess it: this is sometimes, me.
Self-care is a yes. People-care is a yes, too. Our problem is we typically choose one or the other when both are what makes our heart truly happy and the world a better place, in the end. (God, for the win, with the balance.)
The truth is, we don’t have the power to solve everything, but we can do one by one things. If we don’t like the way the world treats its people, may we start a new trend. Rest assured…one day, in one way or another, we will need the people to show up for us, too.
When we show up for people we chip away at the climate of selfishness in our own lives. (Which, by the way, FEELS GOOD.)
When we show up for people we make the world better, even in just one kind act.
We are all half sad and crazy, walking around here on earth, everyday, wondering what in the world to do to help all the madness go away.
I think showing up for people is a good place to start.