My God, My God: Finding God in the Brokenness

I feel like my life has just fallen to shit, I said to one of my pastors, and  new found dear friend, over coffee this morning. I’m having a hard time even staying alive, and there are many days where I doubt God–his existence, his goodness, his unfailing love. For so long I’ve felt like I have to pretend that my life is perfect, that I don’t struggle every day with anxiety and depression and suicidal thoughts. I felt like I had to pretend that I wasn’t raped and that I don’t struggle with doubt and my faith. Sometimes I feel that when I needed the church the most, it abandoned me. When I needed the love, support, and encouragement of people walking along beside me, they left me high and dry.

Is there room in the church for doubt? Is the church a safe space where we can ask the tough questions like: if God is real, why do bad things happen? If God loves me, why was I raped? In a culture where millennials and Gen Xes are leaving church at an alarming rate, many people have theories as to why this is an increasing trend. (If you don’t want to do a Google search, I have searched for you here.)

As a Gen X’er, with strong ties to the Millennials, I have my own theory, a theory that will be hard to hear for some people: young people are leaving the church because the church tries too hard to be perfect. We focus on the goodness of God and the power of God and the love of God, but at the same time, we fail to discuss the brokenness of the world. I mean, sure, we can mention the brokenness of the world outside: the homelessness in our community, the bombings in the Middle East, the Hurricanes in Puerto Rico. But we fail to acknowledge the broken people within our four walls.

It doesn’t happen to us, only them.

But it does happen to us. Bad things happen to Christians; Christians hurt; Christians doubt; Christians struggle to stay alive. I struggle with all these things. 

I’ve attended the same church for my entire life, but it wasn’t until recently that I felt like it was home–like it was a safe space where I could discuss the hard topics, share my brokenness, express my doubt.

And maybe part of the reason young people are leaving the church is because we are more connected to the world than we’ve ever been. With the advent of Social media and online news sources, we are more engaged in the world around us, with the people around us. It’s easy for us to hear about the shootings and the genocide, the bombings and the hate crimes. Social Movements like #BlackLivesMatter and the #MeToo movement are everywhere. We don’t have to search out the brokenness and the hurt; it finds us in way that it never used to.

We used to be so isolated from each other. Not anymore. Now our smart phones and laptops are constantly informing us about what’s happening in the world–the latest technology, the latest celebrity news, the latest School shooting. All of this information is at the tip of our fingers, and the church has lost touch with the younger generation.

We’re all hurting and broken people, but the younger generations are more eager to talk about their pain and struggles than the older generations, and the church hasn’t caught up. And it needs to because now, more than ever, there are people out there who are hurting, hungry to feel accepted, hungry to feel love, hungry to find a community where the formerly taboo is now openly discussed.

Right now, more than ever, need that.

Right now, need to know that I can walk into church on a Sunday morning and have it be ok if I breakdown.

Right now,need to know that I can pull someone aside, anyone aside, and say Hey, look. I’m really struggling today and could use some prayer, instead of just saying I’m fine. How are you?

Right now, need to know that I don’t have to pretend to be perfect. I don’t have to hide my struggles. I don’t have to hide the fact that I struggle with depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts, that I was raped and I self-harmed. I don’t have to hide any of that.

Right now, need to know that it’s ok to share my past and not be judged, not be told to “Get over it,” not be told that I’m a bad Christian, or that how I am is not enough to be loved by God.

Right now, there are a whole bunch of people out there like me: born and raised in the church who are seriously wondering if the community and acceptance they’re searching for can actually be found with the people they worship together with on Sunday morning.

We are so desperate to find places where we feel like we belong. We are so desperate to find places where we can discuss the tough questions; where we have the freedom to openly doubt, openly question our faith; where we have the ability to love, to be encouraged, to grow.

How can we believe in God when there’s so much hurt and pain in the world? How can I believe in God when I’ve been hurt by the church?

I believe in God because I believe in his power, his love. He saved me from myself. And for every day that I’m convinced I’m not going to make it, somehow, I make it through.

But, I also believe in the human side of God.

Right now, that’s the side of God I need. I don’t need an all-powerful God through whom all things are possible.

I need the God of John 11:35 who wept. I need the God who cried out as He was being crucified “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Because that’s where I am in my life. Right now, I feel abandoned and forsaken and some days, I’m full of doubt.

But it’s ok–because Jesus felt those things, too. And I take comfort in that.

And I think the church needs to take comfort in that, too. Because, yes, God is perfect and all-loving and all-powerful, and it’s ok to praise Him. But there are people out there who need to hear about the human side of God.

Because Christians are human too. None of us are perfect. None of us should have to pretend to be.

And on my darkest nights, the ones where I’m not sure I’m going to make it to see the sun rise, I think about God crying out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I take comfort in the fact that Jesus weeps right along with me.

That’s why I believe in God in a broken world: He understands the broken; he sought out the broken. He loves us anyway.

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Letter to My Biggest Bully

This letter has been a long time coming—forgiveness has been a long time coming. And it’s not like I haven’t tried to forgive; I have.

I’ve forgiven others.

I’ve forgiven my rapists for what they did to me, for the years of pain and anguish they caused me, for changing the trajectory of my life.

I’ve forgiven God for the injustices I perceived He let happen to me, even though He did absolutely nothing wrong. But when you’re hurting, you need someone to blame.

I’ve forgiven the friends who walked away when I needed them the most, even though they had every right to, because when you’re depressed, you tend to sabotage relationships.

I’ve forgiven those who bullied me throughout Middle School and High School because someone has to. And in order to move forward, I have to step out of the past, even if that means never going to a High school reunion.

I’ve forgiven those who have caused me harm, who have hurt me mentally and physically. But I haven’t been able to forgive you, yet.

Until now.

I had forgiven everybody else, but I hadn’t been able to forgive my biggest bully: me.

I forgive you—I mean, me. And I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for allowing the opinions of others to become the way I defined you. I’m sorry for the way my voice began to echo and mirror what other’s said about you. It’s hard enough to ignore being called ugly, fat, unworthy if it’s someone else’s voice doing the calling, but when it’s your own voice that suddenly becomes your biggest nightmare, it’s next to impossible.

I’m sorry for silencing you. I’m sorry for making you feel like you couldn’t say anything, you couldn’t speak up about what you were going through and struggling with because every time you looked in the mirror, you said something mean about yourself. It’s hard to speak up when every though that sprints (and then trips and hangs around for a while) in your mind is harsh and cruel. You believe in Thumper’s mantra: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all. And you couldn’t, so you didn’t, even if speaking up could’ve saved your life.

I’m sorry for making you hate your reflection. I’m sorry for making you feel unloved and unworthy and how all of that unworthiness translated into not eating. Now you’re stuck learning how to do all of that again, because once upon a time you ate too little, then too much, and now you have to learn how to find the perfect middle. Learning how to love yourself again is so hard, but I promise it will be so worth it.

I’m sorry for making you believe that your whole identity and lovability was definied by your attractiveness.

I’m sorry for allowing you to become some numb and full of hate that the only relief was found in a knife (or a razor, or scissors. Whatever was convenient).

I’m sorry for making you believe that you weren’t beautiful the way you were, and are, and will continue to be.

I’m sorry for becoming your worst enemy when you needed me to be your biggest advocate. I’m sorry for abandoning you, for causing you to lose yourself when you really needed to be found.

I’m sorry for the tears cried, the blood shed, the scars gained, the pounds lost. I’m sorry for trying to die.

I’m sorry for all of it.

But mostly I’m sorry for taking so long to realize how much I hurt you. I’m sorry for taking so long to apologize. I’m sorry for taking so long to forgive you.

It’s hard to forgive others, and it’s even harder to forgive yourself.

But I’m ready now. I’m ready to say: I forgive you. (I forgive myself.)

Most of all, I’m ready to accept your apology. (I’m ready to accept my own apology.)

I’m ready to step into the future together: past me and present me. I’m ready to combine the two to prepare for future me. I’m ready to learn from my past mistakes and apply them to what I will encounter down the road on the journey ahead.

Because I don’t know where this future leads, but I am ready to take that journey—together.

Conflict Resolution?

You know that part in “the Lion King” where Simba returns to Pride Rock and battles his uncle Scar for control? I still close my eyes, and I’ve seen that movie dozens of times.

I hate suspense more than anything. I can’t watch shows until after they premiere because I need to read the recaps before I watch–I need to make sure I know what happens, I know if everything’s going to be ok. So, if it’s a two-part episode, I have to wait until the second part premieres before I can watch the first part. Watching Season finales before the next season starts is basically out of the question, obviously. (Grey’s Anatomy is particularly difficult in this aspect; Shonda Rhimes is the bane of my existence.) When I’m reading a book, and I get to a suspenseful part in the plot, I have to close the book and give myself time for my heart rate to calm down before I finish reading; it’s a character flaw of mine.

My favorite thing is watching a show or reading a book for the second time because I know how everything unfolds, I know how it ends, I see the character development, and I get unbelievably excited when I notice foreshadowing of what is to happen later.

Tomorrow will mark 6 years since I was sexually assaulted. I’ve forgiven. He’s apologized. But this whole depression thing is really throwing a wrench in my “moving past this” plan.

Depression isn’t always beautiful girls slicing their skin, and handsome guys fighting a glorified, heroic battle. Sometimes Depression means not wanting to get out of bed ever, because somehow your feet refuse to believe they won’t shatter on impact when they hit the ground. Nobody likes things that are broken. Sometimes Depression means doing laundry is the biggest feat of the week, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. Sometimes Depression means lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, thinking about nothing and everything, because your body is convinced it’s paralyzed. Sometimes Depression means that I, a writer at heart, can’t even string together coherent thoughts other than, “I’m trapped and drowning, and I swear I’m trying.” And people don’t want to hear the same story over and over again. But sometimes, that’s the only story I know how to tell. Sometimes Depression means every bone in your body aches, but you have to keep doing your routine, because some people still think Depression isn’t a valid disease. Sometime Depression is ignoring every text message you receive, because even though the number is right, the person they’re searching for is nowhere to be found. – “Just Me, My Selfie, and I

I’m tired of people saying, “It’s all in your head!” You’re kidding, right? It’s a Mental Illness. Of course it’s in my head.

Some days, I’m ok. Some days, I have to give myself an hour and a half Pep talk before I can get out of bed. These are the days when I’m scared about the future. These are the days when I wish I knew how my life is going to go, what job I’m going to have, what my kids will be like, who I’ll get married to. If there was a wrinkle in time, I’d fast-forward to the part where I can look back on my life, see how far I’ve come, find the pieces of foreshadowing, and see the major plot points. And then I’d move back in time, live my life as normal, because, like reading a recap of a tv episode, I’ll know how it plays out.

And don’t tell me I’m being ridiculous, because I know I am. I’ve read enough books to know that the best part about life is the journey, not the destination (and, no, I’m not talking about Death, Heaven, and Hell). All I know is that I don’t want to look back on my life and realized I didn’t “live life to the fullest,” whatever that means; I didn’t Carpe Diem; and I most definitely didn’t achieve everything I was capable of.

Right now, I have these lofty plans for myself, which is ironic because I have a fear of failure that is stopping me from doing a lot of things I want to. And I know that plans change for two reasons: 1. When I was five, I wanted to be a Doctor. I am not currently, nor will I ever be in Med school–other people’s blood makes me feel queasy. 2. I applied to College to be an engineer. By the end of my Senior Year of High School, I switched to being an English Major.
So, ya. My plans have worked out well.

The future and the unknown terrify me, probably more than they should, but I know God has a plan for my life that, right now, I cannot comprehend. And I know He answers prayers, even if it’s not always the answer I want to hear. He’s called the Father for a reason.

Parents tells children ‘no’ when they try to stick things in the outlets, because the parents know it is in the children’s best interest to not electrocute themselves, even though the child doesn’t know that. But parents also have to let the children learn the stove is hot so they won’t touch it again. Sometimes experience is the best teacher.

Children complain when things don’t go their way, and sometimes I do, too. But I imagine somewhere God is saying, “Silly, girl. She thinks this is what she wants, but she doesn’t understand how much it will hurt.” Sometimes He allows me to get hurt because of what I need to learn.

I’ve certainly learned a lot from all my experiences. God’s steered me away from danger, but I’ve also experienced hurt. God’s taught me lessons the way I need to learn them in order to make them useful. He’s certainly been faithful.

But sometimes I’m still scared.

Tomorrow, it will be 6 years since I was sexually assaulted. I’ve seen how far I’ve come, and I’m amazed. I can’t see how far I have to go, but I’m excitingly hesitant for the journey.

I’m excited because I believe God will do great things in my life. I’m hesitant because the world’s a big place. I want to make an impact on those around me, and my ultimate goal is to leave the world a little prettier than it was when I arrived. I hope I’m on the right track.

Depression has this way of making you see the world differently. People with depression see the cruelty, the joy, the pain, the compassion, all at once. I look at a person, and I see their capacity to hurt and help, and I’m always wondering which one they’ll choose. I see the world as it is, how it was, how it could be. I see my life the same way. Nothing is black and white. Sometimes, the weight of all this seeing is overwhelming, which is the cause of the pep talks in the morning, the faith trusting the floor will hold firm beneath my feet.

Depression has made me who I am today, and I know it will make me who I am tomorrow. And I will live one day at a time, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. The future is overwhelming, but I know God has great plans for my life. He has provided me with so much healing; When my strength has run out, He has carried me, and I know He will continue until I see him face-to-face. I have a bright future, thanks to Him.

But right now, the suspense is killing me.

Thanksfullgivingness *

*Yes, I am aware it’s a made up word. But there are so many great words contained within its borders, I just had to use it.

Thanks. Thankful. Giving. Full. Thanksgiving. Fullness. Thankfulness.  The way I hope Tom Hanks signs his autograph: T. Hanks.

So many great words, and I hope to touch on most of them in this blog post, but first, can we look at the word thanks. Look at it. Soak it in. It’s such a weird word. It’s one of those words where I second guess the spelling when I write at it–are you a real word?

Anyway, I digress. That was a tangent.

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all we have, and today my College did exactly that. They held a Chapel where students could get up and tell everybody what they have to be thankful for this year. The only catch was you only had two minutes to do it.

Yeah, no. How can I begin to sum up what I have to be thankful for in 2 minutes? The answer is: I can’t. But, I’m going to try to sum it up here.

I’m thankful for the way God has brought me through so much. I’m thankful for the way the sun rises and sets everyday and the way it paints the sky with all the colors of the wind. I’m thankful for the way the waves refuse to stop kissing the shore no matter how many times it’s sent away.

I’m thankful for my whole family, and everybody’s sense of humor. Speaking of which, I’m thankful for laughter, and how, if you laugh hard enough, you can forget your name and what year it is. I’m thankful for my friends, who they are, and what they’re going to become.

I’m thankful for my overactive writer’s imagination, and the way it plans out all these ridiculous scenarios that will never happen, but I know what I’ll say in case they do. (unless of course a guy talks to me, in which case, I’ll words my over stumble). I’m thankful for the way everything can become a poem if you try hard enough, because the two things I know best in this world are music and poetry.

I’m thankful for the way I can think of a good comeback… 5 minutes too late, but if you ask me for a pun, I’ll be so sharp I’ll be banned from airplanes, which is a shame because 37,000 feet in the air is beautiful.

I’m thankful for the seasons, because just as they change so do I. Spring reminds me of fresh life and beauty. Summer reminds me of all the dreams I have. Fall reminds me that everything beautiful has an end. But ends bring new beginnings. Winter reminds me I’m still alive even on my worst days. Because some days it’s so cold, my lungs feel like they’re on fire, but in those moments, I remember I’m still breathing.

I’m thankful for the beauty of the first snowfall and for Christmas lights and Thanksgiving dinner and for how giving so much can make you feel so full.

I’m thankful for light breezes, because being kissed by the earth reminds me how beautiful this life can be. I’m thankful for rain, because it can wash everything away if you just let it. I’m thankful for the strength to get out of bed in the morning even when I don’t have much faith.

I’m thankful for the phrase, “Blood is thicker than water, but maple syrup is thicker than blood.” Because I don’t like pancakes that much, but one day, I’ll meet a guy who will make me want to eat pancakes with him.

I’m thankful for language, and the way it can change lives. I’m thankful for the places I’ve been, the memories I’ve created, the relationships I’ve formed.

I’m thankful for my past, because, yes, it hurts, but if I hadn’t gone through it, I wouldn’t have formed the relationships I have, and my life would be a lot less meaningful.

I’m thankful for so many things, and since I can’t number the stars, I can’t list all of them either. But, boy are stars beautiful, and so is life. And that’s what I’m most thankful for anyway: life and all it has to offer.

And so I ask, what are you thankful for?

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Look Like a Leprechaun!

Have you ever laughed so hard you sound like a retarded seal?

I have. I do. All the time. When I laugh, I either blow a little bit more air out of my nose than usual, or I laugh so hard tears stream down my face, my face decides to do tomato impersonations, and my very distinct giggle turns into a deep laugh, which turns into absolutely no sound at all. I have been told I look like a leprechaun when I laugh. I have also been told my laugh makes other people laugh, which is a good thing… I guess?

I remember one time I was sitting in my college’s library, and I read something punny on the internet. And I laughed so hard. A few seconds later, one of my very dear friends came and found me. She told me, “I was sitting upstairs in the library, taking a nap, and I heard you laughing. So I had to come find you.”

…Gee, thanks. I laughed so loud and hard I woke you up from a nap. I was never self-conscious about my laugh before, but now I am. My laugh may be obnoxious, but hey, it’s better than the cackle I used to do. I’m moving up among the Ranks of Laughter. Gold star for me!…

Personally, I think laughter is great. It’s one of my favorite things to do (besides smiling and crying), and I believe everybody should have a healthy dose of it every day. If you live in my house, it’s not hard to do. Seriously, if you ever come over to dinner at my house, be prepared to have most of your dinner come out your nose.

There is no such thing as “normal” conversation at my house. Conversations at my house turn into stand up comedy routines pretty quickly. We use accents and different voices and hand motions and puns and one liners and more sarcasm than you can imagine. And we’re pretty much the stupidest bunch of geniuses you’ve ever met.

But this post is not about that. My post is about this picture one of my Facebook friends dared me to make my profile: 1005200_10201617908555441_329423959_n

This picture was taken after I had had a particularly difficult day, which, I’m sure you know if you’ve read any of my other blog posts, occurs frequently.

I once read somewhere smiling is the easiest way to trick yourself into being happy. It’s as if the simple act of smiling is enough to release Magical Happy Hormones into your bloodstream. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it worked that day. The smile turned into a deep fit of laughter, which is not uncommon. Because, as my family can tell you, I’ve been known to start laughing hysterically for no reason.

Some days, smiling is the last thing I want to do. Some days my Depression is so bad it’s hard for me to get out of bed. Some days I hardly ever smile. But that’s ok, because some days I can’t stop smiling.

2 weeks ago, I had to be to work at 6:30 in the morning, and I was extremely un-smiley (mostly because I am the complete opposite of a morning person. I’m as close to being a morning person as a mouse is to being a blue whale).

But, by the time the end of my shift rolled around I couldn’t stop smiling. I had a conversation with Rudy the Janitor, and we were discussing my boyfriend situation. I told him I didn’t have one. To which he replied, “Oh. I’m sure you have two or three. They just haven’t introduced themselves yet. I mean, you sit in the Pearce Coffee Shop all day, staring out the window with a big smile on your face. It’s like you’re so happy to be here and are so content to just sit, think, and watch the world around you. You’re just so content and relaxed and studying hard, all while daydreaming. And you’re always smiling. It’s like you’re telling yourself stories in your head, which, since you’re an English Major, you probably are. That’s the kind of girl most guys want. They’re just too scared to admit it. Keep smiling! It lights up the room!”

This information had me smiling all day for two reasons.

1. Boys.

and 2. Random compliments are fan-super-tastic!

For the longest time I didn’t think I’d ever laugh and smile again. I thought my past prohibited me from ever feeling happiness. I thought my hurt and pain was too great to ever overcome. And I thought beauty was only reserved for those who were never ugly.

But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s life is beautiful. I’ve learned how to feel pain, and I’ve learned how to feel joy. And I will keep smiling, because one day the one whom God has planned for me will reveal himself.

I just hope his laugh is as joy-filled and obnoxious as mine!