The Burden is Light

After a couple months of wondering around in fuzzy-mindedness towards the God I had previously decided to give my life to – glossily sliding around spiritual conversations with skillfully placed B-school cliches, always readily available, and without much effort, at my fingertips – this is their nature, these cliches, verses and phrases – they take little effort, they are designed to get one out of a tough spot. No need for empathy towards a needy soul or somewhat reckless wisdom inspired by the Spirit, kneading you in and out of tough places. This is the most fragile procedure you could decide to endeavor upon; choosing to feel a depression that isn’t your own, weeping with tears that belong to someone else, mourning for grief that you never had to choose to feel. Being with them, souls side-by-side, feeling the same despair, together. Bearing burdens. The incredible healing comfort of the messy meshing of people. Together.

This type of interaction is hard. It takes work. It involves self-sacrifice of simple comforts to engage fully with a struggle that someone else is inching through. It’s not comfortable, and it shouldn’t be – if it is, you can doubt whether you’re giving the other much comfort at all. And while I used to feel pretty passionate about this, the place I have been in for the last several months has been one of utter selfishness and disregard for the souls of the immortals walking with me.

I remember days where I would, for lack of a better word… Swim – through people’s backstories, frontstories, dreams, wonders, imaginations, journeys, hopes and fears like a marathon. This was God. I am naturally selfish beyond what I could ever describe. Anyone who really knows me knows this. Any ex-boyfriend would tell you this and so would probably most of my friends from high school. But for the joy of relating to another human – what I believe we were designed to do, even when the relating is over soul-crushing heartache, alive and well in this world – I was sometimes able to put my selfishness aside and enter into another’s heart. Stand side by side, holding hands, and walk deeper into sad places. And people did the same with me.

Others have given cliches and scriptures with no knowledge of my heart. And I have done the same to others. I have absent-mindedly looked over another’s soul, seen the bruises, the wear and tear – I’ve looked into their worn out eyes, and just panicked. I’ve panicked and thought, “How can I make it out alive?” And so I have thought of the best Bible School cliche I could think of, sometimes in the form of a Scripture, sometimes an encouraging line, something about God, something about hope, something about trust, something about the future and about life being short and about Heaven. I gloss over. I have no idea where their bruises have come from, whether or not they need surgery, and where – and yet, I hand them a band-aid. They smile, say thanks, eyes still dead, conversation over. I made it out alive.

“Hey, I did my part,” I justify. “I reminded them about God. I talked to them. I did all I could.” But of course, a very real doubt lingers.

I came back to God today. It wasn’t anything spectacular. I wrote in my journal for the first time in months, scribbling away a mess of thoughts that were taking up spots in my brain where good things are supposed to exist. I asked Him to prove that His burden is light. That was my main prayer. Because up until now, it hasn’t felt light.

After getting this off of my chest, though, I’ve realized – what is more heavy, really – entering into fellowship with another person’s soul, bonding together through tormented experiences, relating to one another in the cesspits of life, crying, maybe screaming, maybe feeling uncomfortable, but eventually reaping the rewards of a shared understanding, hearts that are connected, the experience heaven kissing earth in relational goodness that must be as pretty damn close to the Trinity as we can become, or..

Spouting out shallow cliches without ever knowing the other person. Feeling something missing in relationships but never knowing what, exactly. Feeling no freedom to be ourselves, to be broken, to be depressed, in anguish, confused – because we will only be shut down with the particularly heinous brand of Christian-esque positive thinking, being told “God is still good,” when a relative dies and “you need to trust Him,” when you are sinking helplessly into a particularly dark cavern of gut-crushing depression. Hearing Bible verses to meet your supposed needs, although they miss the mark every time – and being made to feel unspiritual because quoting Scriptures, playing worship songs on repeat and repeating mantras like “Keep your eyes on Heaven!” and “Jesus loves you, just keep your eyes on Him,” just aren’t doing it for you.

Jesus never asked us to randomly quote Scripture and cliches at each other to make each other feel better. Not that there is no place for Scripture – obviously, I would never, ever argue that. Conversation can be dictated by Scripture, and by the Spirit. But sometimes, the Spirit may lead you to have an entire conversation with someone without ever quoting Scripture. Sometimes, the Spirit may lead you to simply cry and ask questions with someone in need. Sometimes, the Spirit may just ask you to simply shut up and listen.

This principle is shown most clearly in Galatians 6:2 – we can’t ignore this! “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” I love the Greek Commentary on biblehub: “The mutual bearing of moral burdens is the mutual, loving participation in another’s feeling of guilt, a weeping with those that weep in a moral point of view, by means of which moral sympathy the pressure of the feeling of guilt is reciprocally lightened.” This is fulfilling of the law of Christ! To be sympathetic, empathetic, compassionate, loving, understanding! To pursue, and to care, deeply – and to ask questions sincerely! This is healing for us as Christians, and absolutely essential for life!

There is a rule of thumb throughout the book of Proverbs, which basically demands we speak good words in season. This must be taken to include Scipture, encouragement, etc. But how will we know which season someone is in if we do not hear their hearts? If we do not ask questions and learn about them? If we act haphazardly, more often than not, we will quote something at them that will make them feel even more alone.

I understand that this is not something that people usually do purposefully. It is a high calling to engage in the hearts of others. It takes time – much more time than quoting Scripture – and effort – much more effort than a Bible Study.

But I want to rededicate myself to this practice, because without it, I really think life is empty. Human relationships will not work without empathy. And we cannot accomplish this task without Christ – it is an other-centered type of love we are talking about here, one where we put all positive thinking and self-preservation to rest, and choose to feel bad in order to help someone else survive.

This is a high calling. But it is one that is absolutely essential.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

It’s Really Hard To Write

It’s really hard to write when you have nothing to write about. Artists, poets, creators – I feel like we’re all reliant on these vital incredible awakenings: hits of inspiration.

They usually come in the form of bursts of brain activity right as mind is slipping into dream. A little bug buzzing around your ear makes your heart beat faster – I know this is a good idea – so a long time’s spent planning and plotting the details of creative goodness as the insect climbs into your ear and knocks the walls around a little bit. He tends to keep people up late. Sometime’s it’s worth it. Inspiration also comes in the car. When the mind is finally too zoned out to be completely safe on the road, it opens. The bug climbs in. Flies around before you can even notice and before you know it you’re unconsciously writing your next great article.

I’ve relied on these little insect givers of creative clarity throughout my life, jumping on whatever idea they had decided to concoct in my brain that day. That is what the majority of my blog posts have been. Sudden strikes of little ideas waiting to be formed at my fingertips when I decide to say yes to the buzzing bee of artistic stimulation. And that’s been amazing. Lighthearted, almost, and fun and otherworldly to see what things I’d be given next and when.

These ideas came freely for a while. They’d pop into my head, beckoning to me about the subject of being written down. I’m not sure if they would have cared if I wrote them in a notebook, or a journal or whatever. But I knew that once these ideas were dropped they would want out of my head quickly, or else they’d get annoying. So I drew from them and it felt very sanctifying as I clicked at the alphabet on my keyboard. Even more so when I shared these tiny flickering firefly ideas with the people on my facebook.

I loved sharing my heart with people. The problem is, that the cute little ideas haven’t really visited me lately. As much as I’ve tried, as much as I’ve asked, nothing has penetrated through my head to my brain except small little “what-if?” ideas that are so boring and dull that I’m sad that I’m even thinking of them, when I used to think of things so much better.

So, with this dilemma in my heart, I wonder – are artists truly reliant on hits of inspiration? Many people say they have written great songs in one go because the idea just slaps them across the face – but others spend years and years composing. Could art school really be possible if what was expected to make great art were those bursts of inspiration that make things so much easier?

Is the real test of an artist to draw, paint and create without the help of a buzzing bug planting magic ideas that come with a blueprint for you to follow? Can I write, even when I have nothing to write about?

All I know is that I’ll always enjoy those little hits of inspiration. But I think I learned at Bible School that while feeling God is amazing, you can still walk along with him when it doesn’t feel too pleasant or inspiring. Well, maybe the same with art. Maybe the same. But how when my whole existence is wrapped up in feeling and emotion? Maybe it goes hand in hand with a drab but consistent walk with God.

Consistency, dammit. Says the girl who has made 7 different Tumblrs. We got a long road ahead of us, little insects.

Don’t be so needy

Just a quick thought late Thursday night: why do we get so frustrated when people put personal shit about their lives on Facebook? God forbid anyone is honest about themselves on the interwebs. Dog died – lost my house – boyfriend crushed me – aka a poor lonely soul trying to get attention. Needs to make some friends and stop being so needy. But a whole other host of people are dumping their college degrees, promotions and newborn babies for all to marvel at and gaze upon. Is this not also a cry for attention and validation? However the latter seems a little more humble. A little more authentic. But we hate that. Show your best self on Facebook to make people jealous and get a lot of likes That’s more mature, eh? More mature than being real and having no where else to go than the internet? We really devalue the broken in this culture. We try to make everyone look good, shiny and new. BS man.

I could walk in

I could just go over and walk in. The banging on my door at 8 this morning, I don’t know what that was about. I didn’t check. But those people I see across the street as I strum on my guitar – one man with no arm, two plain looking gents and a girl in tight Nike pants  walking across the lawn. Those people are sure interesting. A little unsettling – what are they doing?

Strumming, strumming, observing. I poke my head to the window and hope they don’t see me. What if they see me and get angry and come over and shoot me? Maybe that’s what that banging on my door was at 8 this morning. Maybe they’re collecting cans, going from house to house, because they’re homeless, and found a way to get into my complex and were knocking on all our doors. That’s silly, isn’t it? They’re coming up to a house… Spread out like girl scouts ready to sell. I expect them to knock, but the man with one arm opens the door. The two men walk in after. One has his arm on the Nike girl’s back. What are they doing? Should I call the police?

Hey, the door’s open. I could just walk in. I never think about it because it seems impossible. Like, that’s a restricted zone. It has a force-field.I’ll get zapped. But for all intents and purposes, there is no reason I couldn’t approach that old brown beautiful house with all it’s mysteries hidden inside. All these wild thoughts that rattle in my brain could be answered. How do you get that brave? I watched Batman last night. I bet Batman would walk in. He’d just walk right in and look around and take no shit. And I’m just left here wondering.

Police officers are brave. To just go in to a place like that and look around. Although, they do have guns. Could I ever handle a gun? I probably wouldn’t be too welcoming if I had a gun. Could I bring them cookies? Even if they are dangerous people, are they really going to shoot me if I bring them cookies?

The door’s still open. What would happen if I walked in? Maybe they’d just look at me, confused. Maybe I’d be killed. Maybe they’d be happy for company. I know a lot of people live there, I’ve seen so many different people go in and out. I’m not sure if it’s several apartments or one big house. It’s brown and pretty. The windows are white. There’s a huge, obstructing tree right in front, with no branches until over half way up. White people walk by casually, wearing clothes that are familiar and comforting. I would be scared to walk by casually. My upbringing has made me scared, my town white-washed and perfectly safe. It has made me curious, suspicious of houses across the street. I have no idea if I should be.

Maybe they are a loving household, but my gut disagrees. I feel as though I am wasting time with these thoughts. But this is the nature of my brain daily. Scattered and confused. Wondering some of the most impossible things to ever make conclusions about.

Unless, of course, I walked across the street and knocked on the door. (It’s closed now.) I could ask how they are, what they’re up to. If they want to go get breakfast at McDonalds or something.

But of course, that would be foolish, because people are dangerous.

And I’m a woman. And it’s true, people really are dangerous.

Why can’t life be a little more welcoming, a little less threatening? And if the world actually is not as threatening as I think it is, I wish I could know. But I guess I’ll never know unless I go and walk into the neighbor’s house, but of course that would be foolish and dangerous and scary. So I’ll all just sit here wondering about the private lives of everyone else, behind closed doors. We all will. At least, I’m hoping I’m not the only one who does this. I’m hoping that this isn’t isolated experience.

I assume we all yearn for relationship with other human beings, crave to know their stories. Sometimes, especially, those who are so different from us. Craving to know what goes on behind closed doors, to know the story of the dog-walker wandering down the street, the gas station employee with the nose ring, the 4.0 MIT graduate. But whatever, we won’t, because the world is scary and we’re insecure. And the world really is scary. And we really are insecure. And it’s no one’s fault. This place is just broken and rotting, behind closed doors of middle-class neighborhoods and from where I sit in run-down Jackson, Michigan. And hidden behind cellphones and averting glances on subways and blanked hardened stares forward so that no one will talk to you. To me.

I’m just saying, okay, I’m just saying. I wish I could go over and walk in, sit down and be offered a drink and hang out. I wish I could know their stories. But I never will. Cause this world is too scary and things are so dangerous, especially since I’m a woman. But here’s the thing. Aren’t you so excited for a world where there is no fear? Where we can knock and enter stranger’s houses, because no one is truly a stranger?

This world I crave.