Monday, March 20, 2023

How we respond matters

When I was in high school my mom found out I was having sex. I was 16. And to make matters worse, it was with a boyfriend she didn’t approve of. And rightly so, he was no good for me. I was a broken teenager looking for love. When I found out she knew I was scared. Scared of how she would respond. Scared of what kind of trouble I would be in. Scared that the toxic relationship would have to end.

But her response surprised me. Shocked me, really. She was calm and collected and although I can imagine she probably wasn’t on the inside, she said “Let’s sit down and talk.” Of all the moments of my teenage years, good or bad, this is one I remember vividly. And I truly believe it was because of the way she responded. It mattered SO. MUCH.

When it comes to friends and family sharing hard stuff our response is so crucial, especially when it involves struggles with sexual identity, curiosity, or temptation. Topics like these tend to be pushed aside, especially in Christian circles, and I believe most of the time it’s not because we don’t love that person or want to help but rather because we fear we won’t know what to say or how to respond in a way that won’t make them feel isolated or cause them to lose trust in us. I’ve totally been there. But we have to do better.

So how CAN we respond when someone brings us something hard involving their sexuality?

We can listen. Most of us are pretty bad at this. I’ve been in church circles my whole life and if I’m totally honest, most people I’ve spent time with are pretty crappy listeners. If we want someone to feel valued, if we want them to know that we see their struggle and we’re ready to help them carry the burden, we have to listen well.

We can admit that we don’t get it. Issues involving sexuality can be complicated. There’s no easy answer or quick-fix to why someone struggles with any number of sexual issues and it’s probably more complicated than you know. You don’t have to completely understand what someone is going through to love them well through it. We’re better off asking great questions than we are making assumptions.

We can choose to care more about their soul than we do about their sexuality. Often times we push people away because we try and address their sin before we affirm their hearts. A person who is deeply known and deeply loved will be more likely to open up about what they’re struggling with versus a person who feels like they’re just trying to be “fixed”.

Several years ago I was with a group of friends at the Mall of America. Our Youth Pastor paired us up into groups of three and we were each handed an envelope with different amounts of cash in each. My group received $100. Our challenge was to do something GOOD with the money. We’d have to report back to the group at the end of the day on what we had decided to do. I walked the mall with my two friends trying to think of how we might use this money to do something good or to bless someone. We passed by two girls, holding hands. We assumed they were in a relationship so we awkwardly followed them into a shoe store (I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re on a weird reality tv show!) and we stopped them to ask if we could chat for a minute. We told them about our challenge and we asked them if they had ever been hurt or judged by Christians because of their relationship. They said “Yes.” We handed them the money as a gift and told them we were just three people trying to follow Jesus the best we could. We told them we were sorry for the ways they had been hurt by the Christian church. We told them we hoped this gift would bless them in some way. We exchanged names, hugged, and headed back to meet up with our group and as we walked away we could see tears streaming down their faces and looks of complete disbelief. Maybe they thought we were crazy or maybe, just maybe, it was a response they hadn’t experienced before.

The way we respond to the brokenness of this world matters so much. We can respond in disgust and judgement or we can respond in love and grace. Whatever we choose, it matters more than we know.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Letting the brokenness fall

I've felt a weight of brokenness over my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a broken family. I felt like a broken kid. As a teenager my brokenness oozed out in all sort of ways that led to many dysfunctional relationships. I didn't know how to not feel broken. And some days, if I'm honest, that's still true. 

Lately something has been stirring in my heart, maybe you could call a righteous discontentment. It's a discontentment towards hiding. Because we're really good at that aren't we? Especially if you run in Christian circles or even if you just go to church on Sundays it's probably no surprise to you that most of us aren't very good at sharing our junk. (In your defense and mine, the Church hasn't always been the most safe place to share hard stuff.) And I'm not talking about everyone everywhere needing to know your deepest darkest secrets. I'm talking about the closest people in your life, the ones who really KNOW you, letting them actually know you. 

Maybe it looks like letting them know you're depressed. 
Or letting them know you've been looking at pornography. 
Or letting them know you've been thinking about divorce. 
Or letting them know you've been feeling lonely. 
Or letting them know you've been drinking too much. 
Or letting them know you've been holding on to anger towards someone. 
Or letting them know you've been overeating and you feel ashamed. 

The list could go on and on. We all carry some weight or brokenness because well, we're broken people living in a broken world. But the good news is it's not ours to carry. Jesus has already carried it to the cross for us.

Lately, I've experience in my own life that when I speak out loud the brokenness I feel bearing down on me, the shame begins to fall. Our sin and our brokenness will only stay hidden unless we bring it in to the light. If you've tried sharing your heart with someone and it didn't well, I'm sorry. Can I encourage you to try again? I'm here and ready to listen. And can I also encourage you to seek help? I'm a huge advocate for professional counseling and there's absolutely no shame in admitting that you need help. Friends, this life is TOO SHORT for us to carry around weight that we're not meant to carry. It's time to lay it down. Let's do it together.

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Risk of Motherhood

Risk-taking looks different for all of us, doesn't it? For some, jumping out of an airplane would seem like a huge risk while for others it's considered adventurous and exhilarating. For some, meeting a new friend for coffee feels like a risk, while for others it's exciting and comes naturally. Whether we're talking extreme sports, traveling the world, giving a speech, or taking a relational plunge, I believe risk-taking is all relative to the one taking the risk. 

Several years ago I had the privilege of attending a women's conference in Austin, TX. It was a great weekend for so many reasons. It was my first time to Austin (which turns out to be a very cool city), it was MUCH warmer than the frigid Chicagoland climate I'm used to, and I was able to enjoy some alone time out of my normal day-to-day routine. The speakers were top notch and I met many women who shared similar passions and desires for God to move in their hearts as well as in the hearts of the people they do life with in their communities. The seating at the conference was a little different than most conferences I've been to in that rather than "stadium style" seating, we were all sat at long farm tables which sat 40-50 women each. We were facing each other. People we didn't know. And there were questions laid out of the table. I can imagine that for some of the women who attended that conference, just getting there was a risk. The thought of opening up your heart in whatever condition it might be in, to a bunch of women you've never met, can be scary.

There were times through out the weekend where we were to discuss some of the questions laid out at our tables. We grouped into fours or fives and dove head first into some raw, heart-revealing conversation with complete strangers. One of the questions asked that weekend hit me a little more than all the others. The question was this:

"What is one area of your life where you feel like God is asking you to risk?"

As the ladies around me started to answer I knew that my response probably wasn't going to be like theirs. Most said things like, "reaching out to my neighbors who don't know Jesus", or "getting to a place where I can say "God I'll go anywhere you want me to go". Some were afraid that if they loosened the grip of control they had on their own lives, God might tell them to move to a mud hut in Africa. 

For many of us, living a life of risk means our loving father is going to ask us to do the very thing we are terrified to do, and we have no choice but to say yes. And maybe sometimes that's the case. We often learn and grow the most when we are in a situation where we feel the least equipped or qualified. (Because it forces God to be in charge. And He's really good at that.) But risk doesn't always look like that. Sometimes it looks like the mundane, the day-to-day, the things that challenge us to persevere and test our level of faithfulness. A difficult friendship, a messy marriage, a wandering child, a role in which we don't experience meaning or purpose, those too can be times where God can ask us to step into risk. And often the risk is to just keep going. To keep loving. To keep obeying. Even though there may be pain and heartache ahead. 

The "big" risks tend to be easy for me. If God wanted my family to move to some third world country, I'd say "Let's Go!". Those are the kinds of things I dream about. Just ask my husband. It's not hard for me to say "God, I'll go where you send me." (Unless of course it some not-so-desirable place like Nebraska or Idaho in which case God and I would have to sit down for a chat.) 

The risk I struggle with is the RISK OF MOTHERHOOD. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE being a mom and I LOVE my kids more than I could've ever imagined I could love someone but I didn't grow up as a little girl dreaming to one day be a mother. I'm not naturally a nurturer and I often feel like the mom role doesn't fit me so well. 

The risks of motherhood for me are many. Being intentional, being present, being consistent, being selfless, embracing my weaknesses, asking for help, being physically run down, showing Jesus to my kids, and giving grace to those around me. 

I think anytime we feel like we might fail at something, that's when it becomes a risk. If the idea of failure isn't in sight, then it's probably not a risk. 

So there I sat at the women's conference with my new friends and I knew that Motherhood was the area in which God was asking me to risk. Because I feel so inadequate and ill-equipped and because so often failure seems to be too close in view. But when it does I remind myself that Grace is bigger and jumping into the risk of motherhood just might be one of the most rewarding risks of all. 

I want to risk. Risk to love my kids well. Risk to show them Jesus. And risk to let Grace be bigger than the fear of failure. Here we go!