itch, itch

I’m now working on a Reader’s Companion to my little novel, so that when we do a book study of it in our church, people have questions to reflect on with each passage as well as things written by the author (holy [bleep] that’s ME!) to help them understand why certain things were presented certain ways, and motivations of the characters that simply couldn’t be written into the actual book.

It would also have a whole lot of Biblical passages that were referred to but not quoted in their entirety.

The interesting aspect of this process is that I am writing this to use.  So I, the author of the book, will be organizing and leading the first study of the book.  And for some reason this idea at first made me really uncomfortable.  I felt like I was saying, “hey, church, I’d like to organize a group for the sole purpose of forcing all of them to read my book.”  My husband, when he heard me voicing my discontent, nearly laughed at me.  Because, as he put it, who better to teach from the volume than it’s author?

Ah, that would be ME.

So I’m coming to terms now with two facts about myself- one being that I have now written a book on a subject that people have purchased, and thus without any irony I can say, “I’ve written a book on that subject.”  Ah, authority.

The other is that if the initial study shows good results I want to export it to other local churches.  I don’t know if any of this will really come to fruition- at this point I don’t even know how many people will sign up for the study or when I’ll be ready to start really selling people on the idea.  The materials aren’t ready yet, and I doubt they will be this month.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I’m finally coming in to my own.  I’m willing to stop relying on the comfort that comes from the status quo.  I’m not happy to be a single voice in a meeting- I want to be out there, beyond my church and beyond my friends and beyond even this blog, talking to people and getting them to face reality.

I’m stretching my wings.

And it sort of itches.

You’re the one with the problem

This is a theme that has been coming up in my life often in the past few days.  Not that “you”, specifically, dubious reader, are the one with the problem.  No, just the idea that there is a problem in the first place, and if there is such a problem- IT’S NOT MINE!

Let’s take a walk together.  Imagine that there is a mother and a daughter, fighting.  The daughter wants to peirce her ears and the mother doesn’t.  The mother keeps arguing about the reasons the daughter shouldn’t make this decision.  The daughter is too young.  Will she care for the piercings properly?  Why does she want them anyway?  Is it truly about the aesthetic, or fitting in?  The mother argues, and argue, trying to convince the daughter that there is a problem to be fixed, and it belongs to the daughter… then comes the revelation.  It isn’t about the daughter’s responsibility- not in full.  It is also about the mother’s fear of her daughter growing.  So the mother relaxes her hold, let’s the daughter grow… and they both realize that ear piercing isn’t such a big deal, after all.

Or imagine a married couple, arguing heatedly about the fact that the husband bought himself a new gaming system without properly consulting the wife.  The wife tells him he’s selfish, he never thinks of her, he always follows the short term to satisfy his desires.  The husband tells her that she’s too controlling, she’s too petty, she always wants it to be about her and sometimes it’s got to be about him doing what he wants.  “You’re the one with the problem”, they keep telling each other.  But whose problem is it?  And what is the problem?  Because they both do have very serious problems, just not the ones that they are accusing each other of.  In this case the wife has a problem with voicing what she really needs.  She feels uninvolved in his life and his choices, she feels ignored and rejected.  And he fights back and is accusatory without truly weighing what she says.  If he were less defensive, he might hear the subtext to his words, he might be humbled, and they may be able to have a more intimate relationship.

Let’s step it up a notch, to the Christian man who is protesting outside an abortion clinic.  He holds a sign of a mutilated fetus and he yells.  He is enraged.  Ask him and he would say it is the women walking by who have the problem, it is their fault for making the choice that they are.

But who has the problem?  Is it really the girl, the girl who is likely brokenhearted, the girl who just wants all of her pain and her troubles to dissapear?  Or is it the man, the man who is raging instead of helping, the man who is yelling instead of listening, the man who has forgotten one of the greatest lessons that Jesus taught?

Don’t pick at other people’s specks until you’ve dealt with your own splinters.

Handle your heart and your sin first.  Change the world by changing yourself.  Stop struggling, stop fighting, stop raging.  Stop pretending that it’s someone else who has the problem.  Stop saying “if the homosexuals could stop being so gay everything would be fine.”  Stop saying, “if he or she could stop being such a jerk I would learn to love them.”  Stop saying, “if the government weren’t such a hopeless cause I would get involved.”  Stop saying, “it’s my kids fault for being so difficult” or “it’s my husband’s fault for being so self righteous” or “it’s my pastors fault for not teaching me about the right things.”

It’s you.  It’s your actions, your reactions, your perceptions.

Your splinter.

Your problem.

Your choice.

You can change the world, if you can change yourself.  If you can’t control yourself, you can’t do anything.  It’s really that simple.

So go.  Change yourself.  Change the world.

Life lessons

When my daughter was an infant I used to be terrified.  Terrified that she would be hurt somehow, that there may be a second I was away from her that she needed me, that she would have a life full of pain and there was nothing I could do.  I would hold her constantly, look at her paler-than-cream skin and her clear blue eyes, and I would be terrified.  Just terrified.

All I wanted in the world was for her to be happy.  I felt so woefully insufficient.  So many girls I knew had been abused, I wondered if my daughter would be.  If there were any way for me to protect her, always.  I knew there wasn’t.

As I’ve already said: I was terrified.

One day, I had a revelation.  I was talking with a friend, and she said, “all you can do is try every day to prepare them for the moments they are on their own, and then trust them.”

The best protection I could give my daughter was not my constant presence, but the preparation to be without me.  The most I could do for her was not to guard her but to teach her to guard herself.  Sure, she’s still a little thing, and too young to ever be without supervision, but already I find myself teaching her the life lessons that will get her through.  When she says she is hungry I don’t jump up and run for food.  I help her into the kitchen and help her pick out the food herself.  When she can’t find a toy, I don’t tear apart the house for her, we do it together.  And every day we come closer to the moment where I will realize that I am no longer so constantly needed.  Soon the day will come where she looks on her own without asking me first, where she refills her own cup of water and doesn’t need me to take her into the bathroom to do her business.

Soon, my role will change, and I await it eagerly.  Soon her lessons will be less about managing in daily life and more about how to treat other people, how to tell when someone is cruel and not a good friend, how to behave when out in public.  And one day I will no longer be needed for those lessons, and instead I will be teaching her how to take care of younger kids and then babies, how to plan and cook meals, how to care for a house.

God help me, one of these days the lessons will start to be about sex and how to choose a life partner.

And all of these things, all of these lessons, these are how I protect her.  I am not a pit bull or a black bear or a gun-toting mercenary, I am her mother.  I protect her not with my strength but with my knowledge.

I look at her, at her supple spirit and tenacity, and I think that maybe I’m not even the one teaching her.  Maybe by her accepting these lessons, she’s actually the one teaching me.  Teaching me to trust, to let go of worry, to have faith, to wait for the seeds to sprout and the blossoms to show.

I have a lot to learn.