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

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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.

A Recent Conversation With God about Being Uncool

Dear Lord.

Please make me cool, Lord. It’s hard bein down here not knowing how to be cool. I beg and plead with you every year to take away my social anxiety, and You don’t. I feel like it’s my… weakness, like Paul’s, you know? The one You gave him to keep him humble? Whatever he had, I’d trade him. Being uncool and awkward is the worst.

I’ve tried for so long to look cool and act cool. I grew out my hair, dye it sometimes, and wear clothes from Salvation Army. I think I have a pretty good Instagram. I write in trendy cursive letters in my journal and notecards. I even know about cool alternative Christian bands, like Rivers & Robots (in fact, I think I knew about them before a lot of people!). I listen to secular bands, too! Like Radiohead! And Led Zeppelin!

I’ve tried to throw parties, eat at lesser known restaurants (even though I like the chain ones… how I’ve sacrificed!) and take a lot of pictures with my friends. I go to Ann Arbor regularly and drink alcohol, bar hop, and smoke a cigarette here and there! In fact, I used to smoke weed everyday. I did shrooms once, even? My past is edgy and unique and I have a cool salvation story. I’m skinny, fit and have long hair. I’m well-read in C.S. Lewis and Harry Potter. (Is Harry Potter cool? I still can’t figure it out.) I don’t understand why they don’t like me. I’m hip!! Help!

I mean, okay, I’ll admit I’ve made a few mistakes along the way. I probably like Pokemon a little too much for it to be cute and quirky. I started a club about it at Bible School because I’ve been obsessed since I was eight. You know I love anime and cartoons and you saw me set my cover photo on Facebook as a scene from Steven Universe… Why didn’t You stop me? I might occasionally watch Anime Music Videos (I don’t publically announce that one, at least… I’d die if anyone found out) (I even used to make them.) (Do you like anime, God?)  I think participating in a Magic: The Gathering tournament might have been a big slip-up for me. As was dressing up as Misty two years in a row for Halloween. I don’t mind wearing shirts with stains on them. I get really over-excited when someone orders pizza. I like chain restaurants. I listen to classic rock, which I think might be kind of cool, but I’m not sure.

But God, I feel like a lot of really cool people get away with this stuff. I’ve known cool people who like Pokemon and watch cartoons. And like pizza. I’m starting to feel like cool is a natural gifting – something you’re just born with. Which honestly, God, I’m pretty pissed off about. UNfair. I’m not the most attractive, I know, or the most socially… elegant… but does that mean I’m destined to be completely excluded? Never taste the fine wine of acceptance from the elite of society? Never be loved the way they are? Looked up to the way they are? Wanted the way they are?

I know I’m not at the bottom of the totem pole so maybe I shouldn’t be complaining. But Lord, I’m getting pretty sick and tired of thinking that I might finally have a relationship with one of these cool and elite Christians, be in their cool pictures and be invited to their parties, and then I’m not. What gives? Pls make me cool, and likable. Thank you. Because I cannot honestly handle another day of being excluded from their groups! Like, what is wrong with me?

Please change me Lord. I hate who I am. I hate being on the outside. I hate getting 12 likes on my instagram pictures while the cool girls get a thousand. I hate walking around awkward and rejected by them. I hate my social anxiety. I hate that my jokes aren’t funny enough. I hate being excluded. I just want to be loved, Lord. Accepted. Looked up to by the world around me. I’d probably be more relevant for You, then, right? If I could be cool?.. That’s a good reason for you to do this for me. I really think You should. Because the way You made me really sucks.

Sincerely,

Average

Dear Beloved Child,

I am sorry that this world has rejected you. I feel your pain. I know the struggle. Please remember when I sent my Son onto the earth, there was nothing about Him that attracted any human. He was normal – average – and perfect. Please know that to be like Jesus does not mean to be the popular and elite of society.

Listen to me. You need to know that I have created you beautiful. It hurts my heart hearing that you do not love yourself. I love you infinitely. Immensely. I would part seas for you. Split the earth. Come down from the clouds of Heaven to rescue you from all this. I want to save you from this world. And I will. But you’re there for a reason now.

You are unique. No one on earth can do what you do. I am sorry that this so called “cool” group of people has rejected you. They are no better or worse than you, only different. In the world system that Satan has created – and make no mistake that he has created it, and it has infiltrated my beloved Church, the bride of Christ – there are the beautiful and the rejects, the loved and the unloved, the cool and the uncool. Trust me that I am aware of this and I have felt your pain. I have felt millions of my children cry out in pain because of their exclusion. I am not flippant concerning this. My heart breaks over the exclusiveness of members of my Church.

I wish all who call themselves Christians would heed my words. I chose things despised by the world – things counted as nothing at all – and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. The Holy Spirit has devoted an entire chapter in the book of James to the sin of partiality – to not view people as lesser or higher based on worldly requirements! How, knowing this, do my children judge and exclude one another based on what the world considers important? Awkwardness? Not wearing acceptable clothes? Listening to off-putting music? Not being what Satan has deemed most desirable, whether by attractiveness or personality, or likes and dislikes?

No! Pure foolishness! This is not the way I think at all! No, daughter, do not let yourself be defined by this world. Do not let anyone tell you that you are less because you are different. This is a lie from the pit of hell itself. You are chosen for a special purpose that only you can fulfill. You have much to offer that I desire everyone to see. Unfortunately, sin has cursed this world and divisions are a result. Your task is to be inclusive, and to love everyone, despite their wealth or poverty, attractiveness or lowliness, intellect or lack thereof. All of these things make no difference to me – I show no partiality – and in fact, I often seek after those who are poor and helpless – not often those who the world considers the best and most beautiful; most desirable.

With pain in my heart I must rebuke you as well. I do feel and understand your pain but I see you putting certain people on a pedestal where they do not belong – this is wrong. This is why you feel so needy to be accepted in these groups. You are changing yourself to be included. No, child. Be secure in me. Be secure in the person I have made you, even if everyone in this world tells you that you are unlovely and weird. Through My eyes you can see the good things about yourself – but not without Me. Do not let go.

You are beautiful, daughter. Love those who ignore and reject you and do not reject anyone. Listen to the music you love and cultivate the talents with which I have blessed you individually. Find your identity in me and in my love for you. I love and pursue all my children equally, including the ones who reject you. Find it in your heart to love them, through my Son. Only love will bring you freedom to be who you truly are. Being authentic will bring you closest to Me. Being closest to Me will make you most effective. Identify with me. Care about what I think of you. I care about you so deeply it hurts. I adore you. I love your quirks and your spirit and the way I have made you special. Do not let that go to waste. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Love,

Daddy

How your smartphone usage could be limiting your relationship with God (and your whole life)

Five minutes ago I was journaling to God about the three day hiatus I had taken from reading the Word and praying. I was sorry, and ashamed, and it actually took me a while to formulate the words because I was so ashamed.

I’m usually pretty honest with God. I’m a messy messy messy piece of justified work. It aint pretty. So I was kind of shocked and disappointed with myself when I kept dancing around the issue with Daddy. I couldn’t broach the subject. I was too embarrassed. I kept almost formulating what I had done, but then I’d distract myself – unconsciously – trying to avoid the issue.

Because if a three day trek (and on-and-off for the past… three years) through making an idol out of crap isn’t bad enough, I did it with something so stupid. My stupid Smartphone.

Dumb. Walking around in this daze all the time, half aware of things and half not. I feel like my smartphone makes me think faster and more slowly at the same time. You know what I mean? And more foggy, too. Like when I finally settled down to pray, there was this thick, syrupy layer of gunk I had to remove from around my brain to finally think about anything spiritual or important.

So, yeah, that was why I was embarrassed. Because… really? If I’m gonna have an idol, couldn’t I have picked something less embarrassing? My spouse. Very common. My career. Semi-noble. Knowledge. At least that’s useful! Anything but my little stoopid plastic device.

So the last words in my journal are, “I’ve got some issues right now, Lord – I’m addicted to my iphone.” I  was about to write all the ways, numerically, my iphone was keeping me in bondage. But I decided to blog it instead so my many followers lol can read this.

  • I wake up and check my phone for 1-5 minutes. Doesn’t seem like a big deal. Then I go pee and sit with my phone and I end up on the toilet for at least a few minutes longer than I would have without my phone. Then you have to do the whole awkward, put your phone down, get toilet paper, pick your phone back up thing. Hopefully the willpower to not check your phone is there during breakfast, but probably not. Chalk up at least 1-2 minutes.3-10 minutes on a good day of wasted time on the smartphone in the first 10 minutes of your day. Guess what gets left out? Time with the Creator of the Universe.
  • Justifying everything.
    I’ve become a pro at justifying everything because of my smartphone usage. Five 10 minute videos about nutrition? Well it’s really good for me to watch these videos actually, because my body is a temple and it’s important that I know about nutrition so I can feed my husband and future kids good food so they won’t die, even if I disregard our relationship in other ways (like talking.)

    It’s okay to watch every single snapchat story when I have a lot to do, because I need to know what’s going on in other people’s lives, and it’s kind of just a normal thing that people do, is look through all their snapchat stories, and snapchats are really short so it won’t take very long. Besides, how would I keep in contact with my youth group without snapchat? It’s a ministry tool really.

    It’s okay to scroll on instagram for forever, because there is a lot of really good stuff on Instagram and I wanna see what my friends are up to and it’s fine because it is.

    Posting these videos/Instagrams/Snapcats/pictures/whatever aren’t to get attention. I want my family to know what I’m up to. Besides, I’m just being relevant with my culture. I “don’t care” if people think I’m special/pretty/cool/have a lot of friends.

    Reading 20 facebook articles in a row is probably going to make me smarter so it’s fine.

    Checking my phone consistently while in social situations isn’t a way to unhealthily escape awkwardness, it’s just a good way to fill silence which is fine because I’m not creating any long-term bad habits.

    The list goes on. Many lies mixed with little truth, my friends. Social media has made me a literal pro at consuming a bunch of useless information, making bad choices, wasting my time, and then convincing myself that it’s okay rather than really evaluating myself, with all my motives and decisions.

  • Addiction
    This goes into justifying but it’s probably okay that my intention is to look on facebook for two minutes and I end up sitting there for 45 minutes compulsively clicking on different links and different sites and I end up researching mad cow disease on a little known blog in a tiny corner of the internet, right?

    I can’t remember where I read it but you know you’ve heard that it changes your brain composition. I’m SO addicted to the comfort. Why is it so damn comforting? I don’t know. All I know is that I crave it, and I’ve been frightened by how natural it is for me to click off of sending a text message to facebook without even thinking about it. Muscle memory at this point. Yikes.

  • Lack and loss of intentionality and self-control.
    Similar to addiction but a lot of times when I click the beautiful round button at the bottom of my iphone, or the little rectangular button on the side, I have no plan for what I’m going to be doing. I’m using it as a distraction during a social situation. Or a time-filler, sitting on my couch. Or just doing it even though I have better, more important things to do. Or a de-stresser. A comforter. (Hm… A priority? A de-stresser? A Comforter? Sounds like what God should be.)

    When you pick up a book, you know what you’re getting into. It’s straightforward. Same with a bath. Or playing an instrument. There’s some variation, yeah, but there’s also a goal of some sort that you’re working towards. The problem with the internet is that it’s never ending – there is no goal – you can scroll forever on any given social media – unlimited Instagrams, practically unlimited friend-of-a-friend Facebooks, unlimited INTERNET. It goes on forever and it sucks you in and you can never find the end. If you don’t have a goal you’ll never get the reward you’re looking for!

    There’s no plan going in so I’m just click click tap tap scroll scrolling, searching for something that I’ll never find! Which is why I’m on there for 200 hours a day… No purpose, no plan, and looking for… something.

  • Satan freaking uses it to minimize your potential!
    Look at u. Look @ U! God’s given you so many skills and abilities you could grow. Things you could learn. For me, it’s art. Love it. Love the idea of finally honing my doodles and getting better at drawing. Know what gets in the way? Know why Satan loooooves this? Internet – and because it keeps us from reaching our full potential.I’m just so distracted. I’m so distracted with my phone that I have no time to talk to Daddy, no time to draw, write, or think, no time to meditate. Because I’m constantly filling empty spaces with IT. The proverbial black hole. Internet.

    I just wanna stop. I know this is Satan’s game and he loves all of us being so distracted. I’m not even going to get into embracing the moment, being fully present, cherishing real people and conversation, and disconnecting from technology. But I want those things too.

    I WANT REAL LIFE BACK! And I want my Daddy God, not electronics that just rewire my brain into mush anyway! Thanks for listening, whoever’s listening.

    EDIT: My iPhone broke 2 days after posting this entry. xo