It’s not what you signed up for. But there you are, every Sunday, going to church without daddy (or mommy). He had a bad church experience; he doesn’t believe in “organized religions”; he thinks it’s all brainwashing; Christians are all a bunch of hypocrites. Whatever. But doing church alone really sucks. And even though you’ve prayed for things to be different, there you are. At church every week – alone. People look at you with tsk-tsk pity. You poor thing…come and sit with us and watch us hold hands during prayer. That’s not really true, but that’s the way it feels.
I know. Thirteen years, four different churches, four different cities. Until daddy and I were divorced. But by then I was a pro at doing church alone and it didn’t seem so weird.
Why are we so shocked when this happens?
Logically, I know that all Christians are humans. I know they are sinful like me. I know they mean well, usually. And yet, when Christians hurt me, it stings more. It hurts worse. I bleed. And oftentimes, it’s not one big blow up conversation from one big annoying person that I hardly know. It’s several small, little surface wounds from friends and people I trust.
Didn’t they read the scriptures? Aren’t they supposed to be filled with love and compassion? Where are God’s people when I need them?
“Mmmm…a short skirt!” my boss said as his eyes scaled up and down my frame. “I hope you wear more of those!” I closed my eyes and gulped, reminding myself of how badly I needed this job.
I was in my late 20’s and had landed a legal secretary job in a prestigious law firm, located in a schwanky building in downtown Phoenix. My boss was an influential, well-connected lobbyist in this very large firm.
And he was a creep. Continue reading
My new neighbor: “I think I may have really annoyed the neighbors this morning.”
Me: “How so?”
New neighbor: “I spent the morning in bed singing to God, reading my Bible and…ya’ know…just praising Him. I think I got really loud.”
Me: Blank stare.
New neighbor: “I had the windows open and I’m sure Beverly next door could hear me.”
Me (in my head): “Wait. What? You spent the MORNING praising God?”
This is the conversation in the driveway of my home in a new city, while our sons played in the yard. Although I’d never heard of such a thing, I played it cool like that was normal for us Christians. And I quickly reviewed in my head how “productive” I’d been that morning…laundry, grocery store, dishwasher….
Do you ever feel like this chapter of your life is an endless quest for an elusive answer to a crazy math formula? I did. I felt that if I said a certain prayer + go to church a lot + serve others + be a responsible single mom – sex before marriage – bitterness – the sharp tongue + forgiveness = peace with God.
But no matter how many times I tried to formulate this equation or switch up the integers, I could not quite have it all make sense. I still believed in God. But believing in Him didn’t seem to be enough. I kept scribbling and re-arranging and erasing my mistakes and re-evaluating the equation and I just couldn’t come up with the right answer. I wasn’t even sure I had the right question.
“Code Red. If I don’t make it out alive, I love you.”
“What’s Code Red? What’s going on?”
“Someone is shooting. I’m in the auditorium with a bunch of people. We’re in lockdown.”
This was the text exchange between me and my then 16 year old son, who was a Junior at Millard South High School in Omaha.
It was absolutely stunning. Beautiful countertops, beautiful carpet. Everything brand new. And the master bedroom – oh, so romantic with beautiful windows. This would be where they would make love. I was thrilled for my friend. She’d stumbled into this fantastic man. He was so kind, so good. He was handsome, loved her kids and was financially secure. And he loved her. She was living a miracle. Her life had been such a mess. She certainly deserved a wonderful man and future filled with love and security. And so did her kids. But, I cried myself to sleep that night.
“Where’s MY miracle?” I whispered and tried to pretend I wasn’t praying to a God I shouldn’t question. But I was.
“Pain nourishes your courage. You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” I love that quote. Mary Tyler Moore said it.
Her sentiments mimicked what I felt in the middle of a sprint triathlon race – of all things.
It’s the hardest part of the race. The first mile of the run – right after the bike ride. If I’m going to stop and quit at any part of the race, that first mile will be it. If I’m going to have any mind failure…it’s there. But I’ve also had the most amazing thoughts at this point in the race. And it’s there that this thought came to me:
It Takes Courage To Fail.
“I never got to watch my parents get old,” my friend told me as we sat at his kitchen table. His parents both died when they were in their early 60’s. Cancer was the executioner. And although he’s outlived them now by several years, he feels like he missed out on watching them age.
I remember at the mortuary, looking at his body there on the table. My ex-husband. He was at the mortuary by choice and his own gun. He and I sorta grew up together since we had been high school sweethearts. We started dating when I was 16 and he was 17. But after 20 years of marriage, it crumbled and he quickly remarried. Two years later, there I stood over this face I knew so well.
“Don’t touch!” my mom gently scolded as I stretched out my hand towards the kitchen table. But the eight-year-old me was so fascinated by what I saw. It was hard to resist. I wanted to touch all the shininess laid out before me. Continue reading