I told my husband last night that I need a new hobby. All I want to do is talk theology and figure out what is happening in the world. Jake mentioned dancing, and now we are going to sign up for a dance class together because of his amazing suggestion—but after I finish my final semester of seminary, not during. Ha! He then mentioned I could do “Just Dance” right now. I told him I am too tired to do that. I have to have energy for a new hobby, so I went to bed. Good move. I am still tired, but better. Dr. Thema wrote this today: Fatigue is not your enemy. Don’t fight it. Let it call you to breath, to rest, to release. You’ve done enough. You are enough.
I needed those words.
This is probably going to be my last blog post for a while. I have a ton of work to do and my final semester has not even begun yet. I have an online portfolio to complete, need to update my resume, I have a bookkeeping job that needs a lot of catching up on, and I am trying to begin some work on my classes. I like writing, though. These blog posts have helped me figure out what is happening within me, and they have given me an opportunity to offer up things I am learning. As my friend Casey said: I am not responsible or worried so much about who is hearing me, I am trying to be faithful and make sure it is out there so anyone who needs it has access.
Here is what I want to share today:
My friend Teri, who was a pastor professionally (now she is my personal pastor and an amazing Tik Tok pastor—check her out on Tik Tok @transgrams is her handle) for over forty years told me this about my latest sermon:
You were not preaching a sermon trying to win points as a preacher; you were trying to get the audience to understand the people in the story.
This statement is everything to me, because that is exactly what I was trying to do—and I do not even think I knew that is what I was doing. I am doing that because that is what is happening within me, so of course it is coming out externally too. I have noticed that right reasoning and perceived right relationship are not making things better for us a society or as friends. There is something deeper going on. If we do not work to understand what is underneath the chaos that is among us, we are going to continue to be yelling into a void, grow tired, and just give up. Nothing new under the sun. But I have more hope than that. My own healing work is what gives me this hope.
I do not think we need to be on the same page theologically, religiously, politically, etc. to know we have a problem in our society. Giving all the information that supports our stance and/or having an impeccable relationship with someone are not healing our divide in what we view as true. I do not know if you are anything like me, but I want a better understanding of what is happening—beyond just saying this is sin. We use that word too often without thinking any deeper about the person whom we believe to be a sinner. Also, that is putting sin on a person instead of on the system(s) that created this mess (white evangelical church comes to mind). Paul addresses this in Romans. Personal sins he lists as vices—sins of the system were(are) a capital “S” Sin. Not to mention, the church loves to call people sinners for no good reason at all too. It is a dysfunctional relationship with God to believe we are sinners and that is why we need God. I do not come to God with that posture. I come to God to be filled up with love again, and I will get to that in a moment.
I believe the word sin was used in the past because language about mental health and understanding stress in our bodies were not as well known. What we are uncovering now is amazing, and, I think, a better angle presented to us to do the healing work that is required instead of whatever work we are doing currently: scolding, yelling, acting out, going too hard when we need to go softer, etc. It is time to face reality that we have been taught not to value ourselves or our bodies. Our bodies are full of wisdom, and we have been taught not to trust them. This is why the act of self differentiation from a harmful system is so hard—we believe we are sinning, and the people in the system will make you question your own reality, or make your reality seem separate from theirs—so deal with it—and it is excruciatingly painful. The need/desire to belong is a powerful force. I feel this deeply. We are created for connection. This is true.
I am reading this book called Loving Yourself for God’s Sake by Adolfo Quezada. It is so good! Growing up hearing I am a child of God has meant little to me. Those were just words. “Why is that good news?” is a question I have asked a lot when it cannot be felt. My body was not receiving that message. Well, through pain I felt in my body and spirit, I have felt the healing love of God in a palpable way. I became open, through pain, to receive the love of God, and it is because I wanted to live. And in doing so, I have experienced heaven—I still do.
Quezada asks us to surrender to God and let God fill us up with love, because God is love. We did not create love and cannot create love. We have to receive this love or we cannot give this love to ourselves or to others. We have to let go of the need for approval and spend time loving God and ourselves, because God first loved us. This filling up with love will pour out onto others naturally, because we become the love we receive. We cannot give love to others that we ourselves do not have in ourselves to give. That statement right there opened up so much within me. People do not know how to love others, because they do not know how to love themselves or how to receive love from God. It is hard when you feel like a wretched sinner and told you are unworthy of God’s grace. Grace is a gift, yes, but not because we are wretched sinners. God loves us because we are God’s delight. That is the gift. It is not about deserving. Knowing this has grown my compassion when I am not loved by the people I want to be loved by well—I can see they love me in the capacity they have to love. I am also not responsible for their healing work.
I have done the healing work within me. What I struggle with now is not the past, but the present. I feel other people’s pain, and I have to distinguish when the pain is in my body and when it is outside of my body—to discern when it is or is not my burden to bear. I live my life as an invitation to the love I have experienced in God, but I cannot force it on others—nor believe all the things that will be said about me when I fail to show this love in the way I had hoped. There has to be room for failure in community and in friendship. Failure is part of love. Quezada said the goal is not perfection, but growth. I have also been listening to podcasts about what a friend is. A friend will never judge you with the worst intentions. They will understand your shortcomings and guide you back towards growth. They will not mistrust you and believe you are going down a path that is not love. I have to be careful when picking out my friends. I love freely and deeply, and I hurt deeply when the love is not returned the same way. But now I have the love of God so deep inside me, I am not as shook as I once was when I experience people in a different capacity than I thought was happening.
I will end with this quote by Quezada: The gift of yourself is not a gift unless you have owned yourself through love.
Actually, I am going to pull a pastor no-no and end this sermon again with my own quote: It is hard to take the body of God seriously when we do not take our own bodies seriously. (This was the opener to my sermon).