Hope

This has been a rough week. I am entitled to at least one existential crisis a semester, and this was the first. Life has just felt heavier than normal lately. And that’s ok. For a very long time, part of my whole Good-Girl mentality meant I couldn’t feel pain or anger or sadness because, you know, Christians are always supposed to be happy and positive.

I write about redeemed endings and Kingdom come, but  hope becomes really hard to find when friends die and young girls pour out their stories of abuse and self destruction and suicide to me. It gets hard when the reality of working in emergency services looks me in the face, and I think “do I really want this?”. Because pain is inevitable, no matter what I do. I can’t escape it. Even if I ran for the hills and built a cabin in the woods where I could lock myself away from the world and the never ending stream of information, of morbidity and mortality. As long as my feet walk this earth, I will experience pain and death. It’s a part of the Kingdom-come, but not here yet reality of our existence.

And I lay on my floor with the pages of my Bible spread open, searching, searching for the Story, the story of redemption and of the God-Man who came to earth to be a part of this broken mess. I am tired of trite answers and a happy-clappy Jesus. Because “God has a wonderful plan for your life” is a wonderfully helpful line to give to a trauma victim with multiple stab wounds.

How do I impart hope? How do I articulate what I believe, what I know to be true about this world in the face of the reality of death?

Here’s what I’ve learned so far. Stop trying to tell people about Jesus. Stop spewing self-help idioms born of mainline evangelical protestantism, because that’s like trying to put a bandaid on an arterial bleed.  Just be Jesus to the people who need him (even if they don’t realize it). Sit with the broken and downtrodden and dying. Embrace it. Because they are made out of the same dust as you. And there’s something beautiful about that.

Later Days,

Jess

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Big Trees

I’m a skeptic and cynic by nature, but frankly, sometimes it’s exhausting to be so bitter. I feel like my sarcasm and cynicism is often a defense mechanism, an excuse for why the life I’m living right now is not the game of life I grew up with. My tongue stings with sharp words about everything that is wrong with the world we live in, but sometimes I just want to lay in the warmth on my floor and sigh about the beauty of it all.

I love preoperational children (ages three to six), because their reality consists of pixie dust, and magical stories of far away lands . They say things like “I’m a princess and penguins live on mountains”. They believe me when I say I’m a mermaid, and then glance with wonder at my glittery TOMS, which are a part of my mermaid tail. The concrete operational seven year olds stand in the background, shaking their heads in disbelief at my claims because mermaids aren’t real, and thinking they are smarter than the six year olds for knowing that I am truly not a mermaid. But secretly, they wish they could still believe in mermaids and penguin princesses.

I frequently joke about how nursing school has made me old and bitter before my time, but you must understand that my line of work is a lot more like Grimm’s edition of The Little Mermaid where Ariel’s time runs out and she turns into sea foam, instead of the sugary Disney version where she marries the Prince (which, by the way, this Disney movie teaches us it’s not ok to talk to men unless they kiss us first. Solid. Also check out the video at the end for a new interpretation to the ends of Disney movies. The Pocahontas one is my favorite, obviously). There are not many happy endings I see at work, and sometimes, I feel like my sense of child-like wonder and hope has disappeared.

I went camping in Calaveras Big Trees State Park this summer. I asked my Dad what qualifies a Sequoia tree as a “big tree”, trying to analytically determine if a specific trunk width, or height, earned the Sequoias the title of “Big Trees”. Then, we walked through a grove of giant Sequoias. Upon encountering the first tree, I exclaimed “Wow! That’s a Big Tree”. There was no scientific measurement preceding my awe-struck reaction. I learned the definition of wonder when I looked up at the tree and lost all my pretentious big-girl vocabulary.

One of my favorite love stories is Pride and Prejudice. I think this book explains the concept I am trying to convey, much better than I am attempting to explain myself. Lizzy is only able to accept Darcy’s love when she stops analyzing, stops expecting the bad ending, and lets herself just be in love with him (this is a gross oversimplification of the story, by the way. Please forgive me for not summarizing the entire novel in this post). I think it’s the same with me and God. I distance myself from His love when I critically survey the world and find it not to my liking. The world is broken, and we, and I, am deeply flawed. Sin and shame run deep and ugly in the family lineage of mankind. But I believe in a story with a redeemed ending. There is a King who is coming to reign, whose reign has already begun. And I want to seek that kingdom-come in my everyday life. I want to seek the story of redemption that I believe echos throughout the world around us.  I refuse to expect the bad ending, because I believe the story is already over and the battle is won and the ending is redeemed. So I, like Lizzy, am recognizing my own skepticism and prejudice (although that does not mean I am laying down my intelligence or wit). I’m stopping trying to understand why the tree is big. Instead, I’m letting myself be moved by the awe and beauty surrounding me.  Because it’s ok to acknowledge that life is beautiful, and take naps in the sunny spot on the floor ( yet another resemblance I have to a golden retriever).

Later Days,

Jess

Here are some related videos for your viewing pleasure. The first one is probably not the best idea for younger viewers. Also, if you ever want to see me completely lose my mind, watch P&P with me (although my favorite on isn’t accurate to the book at all. But I can’t resist Matthew Macfadyen).

Good Girl Theology, Part Deux

I have a golden retriever complex (this is not an actual diagnosis by the way. I made it up after noting the remarkable similarities between myself and Dug from “Up”. Hi there!). It basically means that I have an innate desire to make other people happy, and when someone raises their voice at me or scolds me, I get a feeling of I have displeased a person, I’m a bad dog, and I have to go hide until I feel like that person is not longer upset with me and maybe would throw the tennis ball for me again.

I was having my devotional time before I left for work after a particularly rough shift the day before, and I prayed something to the equivalent of “let me make everyone happy today”. Then I had one of those nice little Jesus moments, you know, the ones where it feels like you’ve been smacked upside the head? Nice, warm fuzzy devotional times are the best. Anyhow, the question that popped up in my head was “Are you more frightened of displeasing others or displeasing God?”. Ouch. I realized I was so focused on making other people happy,  that I was neglecting the Only person I truly need to seek to please (It’s Jesus. Also, this is what we nurses call having a lack of self-care. As in, I’m so worried about others I forget to take care of myself until I end up in bed for a week with a nasty cold because I forgot to do things like sleep. Not that that’s ever happened before) But then this got me thinking. What does it even mean to “please” God? Is he ever truly “displeased” with my actions? I wondered if there was a set of behaviors I needed to follow to make God happy, you know, read my Bible more, stop swearing when I see my exam grades on eclass, quit my habit of making everything into a vaguely inappropriate joke… but then I recognized making a list of do’s and dont’s was getting quite close to the good old “Good Girl Theology”, where I reduced my relationship with the Almighty into a set of action-reaction pathways that win me brownie points and gold stars if I do the right thing. It doesn’t work that way, you see. Because I believe in a God who is not controlled by my actions. He’s not a lab rat I can train into running the right pathway to get a cube of cheese. And I am not a dog he disciplines for eating socks (by the way, my dog Lenny LOVES eating socks. He’s like Fat Louis from The Princess Diaries– the book series, not the movie. Although the movie is great too). I am his peculiar treasure child redeemed by the blood of his Son.

God calls Israel his “peculiar treasure”. The NIV and ESV translate this Hebrew word cĕgullah (Strong’s H5459– I would put the actual Hebrew spelling but my computer is being ridiculous) “treasured possession”, but there is just something so beautiful to me in the wording “peculiar treasure”, because I relate to peculiarity. It’s my identity, being a peculiar treasure. I have perpetually slightly messy hair and slightly messy theology. I laugh a little too loud, usually at inappropriate times, and I’m really nerdy. Like Superwhoflylock nerdy. You see? Peculiar treasure. And being treasured by God is a profound thing to think about. What do you do when you treasure someone? You adore them. You are protective of them. You love them in a very special way. God’s also described as being “jealous” for us. As in, he wants the best for us (himself), and gets upset when we leave him for our little demi-gods because he is the better thing. Now, we could get in a whole discussion here about the dangers of taking our theology of God from the Old Testament, but I am a little old Jewish woman at heart (call me Yenta), and I love me some Old Testament. Also, when we read Christologically, we find the redeeming nature of God at work in every text.

Theological rants aside, my demi-god has been my pleasure-seeking ways. Not in that I want happiness for myself, I want it for others, and I feel responsible for making that happen. That’s neither a healthy nor a holy behavior. So I’m aiming to abide in Him. Abide in my belovedness and peculiar-ness and accept his loving-kindness. Because my worth is not dependent on my actions, or whether or not I was able to make people happy today. This is a tough concept to master, because grace is an unruly thing. It’s not fair. Sometimes I feel unworthy of His lavish love, but then I remember He alone determines my worthiness. And that was determined at the cross. Amen? Amen.

Thanks for delving in a little deeper to Good Girl Theology with me! As always, comment below,  or talk to me in real life about what you think about this whole Good Girl thing.

Later Days,

Jess

Here’s a clip from my new favorite show further explain my nerdiness. And why I exclaim “curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal” when I see toy dinosaurs.