Life is About Addition. Not Subtraction.

Yes, I used mathematical terms in the title of this piece.  No, that does not mean I have wavered in my view that math is the devil’s language.  However, I have learned something interesting this past year of my life.  Or should I say remembered.  The first time I learned it I was in elementary school.

I always loved addition.  Carrying those ones, discovering the sum, finding satisfaction in the increase.  It felt like I was going somewhere.  That was thrilling.  I hated subtraction.  The method was just more complicated.  Scanning from right to left, invariably you had to borrow and take away.  Just like robbing Peter to pay Paul, you knew at some point, down the line, you were going to have pay the piper.  As the numbers grew bigger, it just became harder for me to keep up.  In fact, the only thing I liked about subtraction was checking my work with . . . yep, you guessed it . . . addition.

It is easy, as we grow older, to see life as a relentless game of subtraction . . . one that leaves us with a less than desirable difference.  As our chronological age increases, the things we lose become more and more evident.  Dexterity, flexibility and physical prowess retreat.  The 40’s squint kicks in as you realize the words on that page three inches from your face aren’t as clear as they were yesterday.  Hairlines recede, skin dries and cracks, hormones diminish leaving you a sweaty, angry mess.  Our families spread out. Children leave for college or for life.  Good friends accept promotions across the country.  Neighbors sell their homes.  We live paycheck to paycheck, playing beat the bank with mortgage payments and school tuition checks.  We watch some relationships disintegrate; alienation doesn’t knock on the door.  It simply moves in.  We sit with our loved ones on their death beds.  We hold their hands.  We sing them away.  We ache.  Time gets small.  And oh, how we feel the irony when we realize that the only thing in our lives that is increasing is our waistlines.

I made a giant move in my life this year.  I left a place of employment I loved and cherished for the better part of my adult life for another.  And it was scary.  And it hurt.  Really badly.  The only thing I can tell you is that the decision I made that seemed to be a divine appointment initially only felt like a profound loss.  I didn’t get it.  God was moving in my life, and yet it felt like I was dying.  And then one day I wasn’t.  I looked up and saw the power of addition.  Unfamiliar faces have become more than just familiar.  They have become friends.  An early carpool commute brings with it cherished companionship and spontaneous hilarity.  My students of old have become folk heroes to my new crew.  They routinely ask me for stories.  And as tales starring Meatball, Horton Haven, flying snakes, strange chapel speakers and A102 spill out, I find myself calculating a most exquisitely beautiful sum.  All of those soul ties that I thought I was breaking?  I was just bringing them with me.  And the people who have loved me through it all?  Well, they still do.  God was just asking me to die to an idol I had created in my own image so that He could give me more than I knew how to ask for.  That’s how dumb I am.  That’s how good He is.

I don’t know what you are busy calculating in your life.  But I encourage you to use the plus sign.  I think you will find the total an overwhelmingly gracious and undeserved gift.

 

The Apprentice

I am the greatest sinner among you.  No, I’m serious.  Oh, so rich in depravity am I.  Weak and troubled, I fall upon God’s mercies every morning.  Understanding this about myself, I have closely inspected my righteous indignation swirling around this upcoming Presidential election.  Why now do I find myself armed with words ready to dissect each candidate?  Why do I cringe with each soundbite and distract myself with nostalgic trips down memory lane?   This isn’t my first time at the rodeo.  I have voted in some pretty important elections, but this time, I have truly railed against so many facets of this campaign and against candidates on both sides of the aisle.  This morning, I stood in front of my mirror thinking about the upcoming primary vote, and there it was.  My answer.

For decades, our culture has twisted our most essential values, hyper-dramatized them and packaged them in a reality show.  We have reduced the value of life and death to survival on a distant island.  We have minimized the sacred commitment of marriage to a rose ceremony.  We have diminished the sanctity of the family by living vicariously through a whole host of people who have sold their souls and worse still, their children’s souls for the glittering pursuit of gold.  We have diminished the value of true friendship by reveling in all manner of programs that glorify backstabbers, shysters and scammers.  Our entertainment industry has successfully played upon our “fascination with the abomination” for more than a generation, and we have happily consumed it like candy.  We have winked and laughed with each other over the water cooler.  We have raised our eyebrows, and we have turned the channels.  At the very least, we have ignored it, and at the very most, we have been complicit.

So perhaps, it is just punishment that we wake up one day to find our race for the highest office in the land has become an episode of The Apprentice.  Debates playing out more like a reunion show of the Real Housewives franchise than a thoughtful, intelligent, civilized discussion of the beautiful experiment that is America.  The hopes for our children’s futures have been exchanged temporarily for personal attacks, profanity laced interchanges, and childish arguments over appearance and hair styles. And guess what, debate ratings for this cycle have soared.  Try as we might, we just cannot look away.

When election time comes, I am going to exercise my right by casting a vote into the madness.  I’m going to pull the lever with the same hopes of all those who have come before me:  a better tomorrow.  And that humbles me.  It convicts me.  And frankly, it has forced me to take a look at my own reflection and wonder what part I have played in this chaos.  It makes me aware that every decision we have made culturally has had dramatic, life changing consequences for our society’s stability.  Truth be told, we cannot demand a principled discourse from a culture that has long since abandoned a cultivation of principles.

So, maybe we will wake up.  Or maybe we will not.  Either way, I will be once again falling on God’s good graces and asking that He heal our divided land.

It’s Good. Except When It’s Not.

This is going to be short and sweet.

It finally happened. I’ve been waiting, anticipating, planning, articulating my beautiful three point sermon with a tiny, but life changing poem in my head. And then, boom.

“Momma, I think it’s weird that you and Daddy didn’t have any real kids.” Luca said, nonchalantly last night as I tucked him into bed.

“But, Luca,” I said. “You are our real kid.”

“Oh, I know, Momma. You really do feel like my momma and Daddy really does feel like my daddy, but I have other parents, you know.”

You see, up until that very moment, Paul, Luca and I have largely lived our adoption story inside the pages of a sweet, preferably Christian, storybook. An angel with feathery wings, hovers above a beautiful, chubby-cheeked boy, whispering words of affirmation in his ear, singing to his soul the truth of providential appointments and God’s divine order. Page turn. Adoptive mother serenely strokes adopted child on the cheek, singing the prayers of her heart and the appreciation she feels for his birth mom. Page turn. New family runs together, hand in hand, in a field of daffodils, while creation watches in wonder. The End. I know that book. I have that book. It’s on the shelf in Luca’s room in seven varieties. And that book is good. Except when it’s not.

I opened my mouth to say all the things I am supposed to say in that moment. God brought us to you. The judge declared to all the land that you are our boy. We loved you before we knew you. All the things. Yet, the whole time I was thinking to myself. This wouldn’t have been enough for me. At 8, these words would not have been enough. If I were him, I would want to know why I wasn’t with her. Why she cast me aside. None of this. No, nothing would make any sense until I had answered that question.

And, let me get this part straight. I am not offended by his line of questioning. I KNOW I’m his mother. I have bandaged wounds. I have cleaned ungodly messes. I have wiped . . . it all. I have paced the floor over a crazy high fever, more than once. I have prayed, cried, and celebrated. I have held him to me in the moments of his deepest, wildest desperation. I have disciplined. I have stood as sentinel over a table filled with homework. And the pancakes. Good grief, the number of pancakes I have made. Nobody has worked harder to earn the right to be called his mother, but me. Nobody.

What I am is hurt. I am hurt that this is his cross to bear. I am hurt that this question will linger. That this will be his fight, and there is nothing I can do to change it. And as I was considering the depth of my hurt over his hurt, I got my moment of clarity. I am always trying to make Luca’s pain about me. But this one. This isn’t about me. It’s not about infertility or inadequacy or inability. This is about him. This is about his story. This is about his destiny. He doesn’t need my pity. He needs my strength.  That way, he will know that he will be okay when the storm of pain subsides.

So I got in my car this morning on my way to work, and I asked God to make me an oak. To cut out my heart. To make me as strong as the tallest tree in the forest so that he never feels like he can’t tell me that he sometimes misses her. And then I cried a little.

Real life is not a storybook. It’s tougher, but it has such a better plot.

 

Dancing in the Shadows

I love watching the world fall asleep. Dark, low-hanging clouds cover the expanse like a soft blanket. Nature stands erect, stained in piercing crimsons and radiant golds. The intense beauty is a wonder to behold. And we do. As temperatures fall, humanity is drawn into the splendor. We can’t help ourselves. It is in us to marvel at that we do not understand. And with synchronicity and precision, fall arrives, and we are compelled to dance in its shadows.

This world is a broken place. Shots ring out on the horizon, and carnage remains. Hurricanes threaten our shores. The deluge swallows people and objects whole. War, hatred, vice, animosity hold court as we grapple with how to depose them. We watch with downcast eyes and shared understanding as the funeral processions march by. Looking full in the face of grief threatens to undo us. So we usually don’t. Not directly.

Destruction is always at odds with peace. Upsetting the delicate balance of life is its express occupation. It is inevitable. It is universal. Since the beginning of time, mankind has been trying to answer one resounding question posed by the great deceiver, “Did God really say?” And pouring into that void, doubt fills our hearts and souls as we attempt to reconcile what we say we believe with the expression of that belief amidst our unspeakable circumstances. At the great intersection of faith and action, we are left to ponder how to proceed.

Like fall, we respect the death that winter brings. In nature, we can so easily identify its unstoppable momentum, and we adjust to its verocity with the warmth that home and hearth brings. We give thanks for our blessings and live in anticipation of spring. However, in culture, we abandon that understanding. We spin our wheels attempting to patch the gaping hole that death creates with a post it note. In our arrogance, we believe we can set things aright. An unmitigated futility.

It is not our job to solve death. It is not a force we have the power to eradicate. We can’t will it, push pills at it, disarm it, or undo it. We are simply inadequate. Perhaps we should approach the destruction of our world as we do nature. Acknowledge it. Respect it.  Adjust to it. Live to spite it. Anticipate an eternity without it. And while the world scrambles to solve another death filled conundrum by debating political agendas, the power of death will remain in time and space despite our best efforts.  Evil doesn’t fear legislation.  Perhaps if we spent as much time at the feet of the only one who has defeated death, we would spend more time living in spite of it. Even dancing in its shadows.

Pinterest: The Downfall of Modern Motherhood

Pinterest, I hate you.  Sincerely.  If there were ever a threat to my status as a respectable mother, this “social curation” is certainly it.  You see, I work.  Both inside and outside the home.  That doesn’t make me special or somehow better.  It just makes me really busy.  However, no matter how busy I might be, that intrinsic drive in the soul of every woman to be mom of the year is always there; rearing its ugly head at all times of the school calendar: birthday parties, Thanksgiving luncheons, Easter celebrations, teacher appreciation week, Christmas pageants, field trips . . . you get it.  We all want to pack the best lunch, provide the hippest snack.  I don’t care who you are.  At one time or another on our parenting journey, we all have wanted to be “that” mom.

Before Pinterest, “that” mom was mortal.  Her blood ran red.  However, she never had night sweats.  She never applied the searing pressure of “the claw” on her child’s cheeks right before walking into a social situation.   Her hormones have been and will always be perfectly balanced.  Despite her lack of menopausal symptoms and aberrant fits of rage, she was more like one of us.  Normal.  She sometimes took her children to school without make-up . . . in sweats.  She packed nutritious lunches in brown paper bags and added her special spice by including a sweet note, reminding young Timmy or sweet Sarah that they were loved to the moon and back.  She volunteered to be room mom, coordinated events, provided transportation . . . all the kinds of things we all wish we had the organizational skills to pull off.  At class parties, she looked put together, unstressed, and petted her generally well-behaved, compliant child on the head as he or she moved judiciously throughout the room spreading good cheer to all the other students.

Pinterest mom is another animal altogether.  She has made a new category of parental perfection that is virtually impossible to achieve.  I bring seasonal Double Stuf Oreos to class parties.  I usually pick them up the morning of said event and deliver them through my child still in the bag from Kroger.  Pinterest mom created a board for the class Christmas party in April.  She has been posting “cutsie” ideas for the food buffet and gift exchange from all over the world, taking note of color schemes, organizing paint swatches for the table cloth and crafting a life sized Christmas tree with only deco-mesh ribbon, zip ties, and a tomato cage.

Pinterest mom sends a gluten free snack in bio-degradable packaging.  I’m not even sure if the Cheeto’s Cheese Puffs I send with my child are bio-degradable.  For lunch, Pinterest mom has sent sandwiches in the shape of the child’s monogram, fruit and veggies with hummus, and water filtered with indigenous moss into a stainless steel, BPA free water bottle with a retractable top.  She also included a Valentine’s heart napkin and a hand crocheted cardigan, a design she found on Crochetholic’s Pinterest board,  just because she had extras and the classroom might get cold.  I sometimes send my child to school with a Lunchable (I just heard the Internet gasp), but more often than not, he eats a “hot lunch” (code for I didn’t have time to pack him a Lunchable).

Pinterest mom looks good in yoga pants, works out in a fake gym with light bulbs that tan you without dangerous UV radiation.  She made them by hand with tiny crystals she harvested in the diamond mines of Sierra Leone.  Her house looks like a photograph from an interior design magazine and her custom built-ins under the staircase double both as a children’s playroom and as a command center for her Pinterest empire.  Most importantly, she has a label maker, and she knows how to use it.  My house looks like an episode of Hoarders meets F-5 tornado.

So, what are we less than average moms to do in a world where Pinterest makes ideas more accessible than hours in a day to bring them to fruition?  Well, as for me, I’m off to Kroger.  Halloween Double Stuf Oreos are half price this week.

 

I’m Not Comfortable

I’m not comfortable.  Not entirely uncomfortable either.  I’m somewhere in between.  And it’s weird.  Really strange.

When you venture off the shore of your life into unchartered waters, you quickly realize, no matter how many people love and care about you, that you launch the skiff.  You alone skim the surface and ride the waves.  In solitude, you stand at the prow fronting the winds of change.  It is both chillingly frightening and wildly thrilling.

Your people, your tribe, your squad.  They are still there.  They still love you like crazy.  You hear their voices in the distance; they are waving from the shore.  Shouts of encouragement, bursts of timely directional advice, empathetic outcries buoy you . . . from afar.

On the edge of that boat, you hear a voice that you don’t normally hear.  It carries a tragically unfamiliar tenor.  A quiet whisper typically drowned in the clamor of your former life.  It’s the voice of the great sailor.  The one who has traversed these uncertain waters time and again.  He is always speaking.  You simply have chosen not to listen.  Until now.  Until the fear opens your eardrums and clears the cobwebs from your mind.  His voice is crystal.  It is warm and it is comforting.  It is real.  It is tangible.  It is liquid life.

Now, I’m not prescribing you all grab your canoes and take off into the murky darkness.  I haven’t covered enough distance to feel safe in offering that admonition.  I do know one thing though.  I am closer to the one who has wooed my soul in the middle of these boiling depths than I have been for some time.  And, I will be honest enough to say it.  Because his providential sovereignty is the only steadying force in the midst of this uncertainty.  And even though I am seasick, there is a part of me that doesn’t want to find the opposite shore.  For I fear the clarity of my discourse with him will fade again into the complacency.  And I don’t know if I ever want to be comfortable again.

The Promise

“I didn’t marry you because you were perfect. I didn’t even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them – it was that promise.” -Thornton Wilder

We don’t care much for keeping promises in this day and age. Promises require time and precision and waiting and diligence and commitment and long suffering and patience. All the things a 21st century citizen hopes to avoid. Comfort and convenience are more our style. That’s why we like the drive-thru rather than the dining room, texting rather than talking, the microwave over the oven. We have a tendency to shy away from situations that are going to require more emotional energy than we feel we can spare.

We live in an age that has at its disposal more tools for efficiency than ever before. More apps designed to assist us, to help us be smarter, slicker, more savvy. Yet we are the most busy culture on the planet. Covered up with chaos. Stifled by inconsistency. We replace substance for shiny. We sing the praises of upstarts. We put their faces on the covers of magazines. We put longevity in the nursing home and feed it apple sauce. Like a child, we change the rules as we go along, especially when we don’t like the way the game is being played or when it stops advancing our singular agendas.

Doesn’t it stand to reason that with all of this intellectual development, technological support and evolutionary growth, we would be the culture who got it right? When those who would come after us opened up our yearbook, they would find we were voted Most Zen? Instead, we need an inordinate amount of counselors to console, pills to find peace, substances to soothe. We sacrifice our sons and daughters on the altar of technology every single day believing that somehow broadband will heal brokenness. We are the smartest fools that have ever lived.

Today, I’ve been married 14 years. A drop in the bucket compared to the many successful marriages I know and respect. But on this day, I made a promise. One that I, in my flawed humanity, was not capable of keeping. I cannot see a diet through to the end, much less a lifetime of monogamy. My husband, in turn, promised me what he could not deliver on his own. The kind of promise that is a reflection of a permanence fit only for worship. God deals in promises. They are His currency. He created the spiritual muscles that are strengthened while we wait. We don’t need the latest technological device. We need courage and accountability. We need resilience and persistence. We need faith and hope. Turns out, we have never needed an app for that.

 

Just Four Days

I thought I was pregnant four days before I got the call that changed my life forever; the call that introduced me to my grandest adventure. Baby Luca was waiting for Paul and me in Russia. I thought I was pregnant. Bloating, fatigue, unexplained nausea….pregnant. Pregnancy test taking…pregnant. For the 500th time…pregnant.

How do I remember this? Yesterday, I was cleaning out my saved emails, streamlining my life and eliminating some unnecessary clutter that at one time I felt invaluable. Links to receipts, sub-par recipes, long outdated teaching sites, all of which I expeditiously deleted. There, tucked in a folder eloquently named “Important Emails,” was a nondescript exchange with “Hey” in the subject heading. It was dated August 16, 2008. My dear friend Kathy had responded to my heart wrenching update on the torturous
discovery that I actually wasn’t pregnant . . . for the 500th time. The cruelty seemed unbearable. We had been waiting over two years for an adoption from Russia to materialize. The political climate was tenuous. A potential U.S. involvement in the Georgia conflict had once again put the adoption relationship between America and Russia in jeopardy. The fear of another shutdown was real and imminent. Oh, the desperation, the faithlessness, the despair. I can recall those emotions so easily, like an old neighborhood I used to live in.

So, I thought I was pregnant. Kathy responded:

“I get it. But don’t think that you are being ridiculous for taking a pregnancy test…the
possibility is not impossible nor unbiblical.”

My struggle, in my own mind, had reached old testament proportions. This was punishment, clear and simple. We had been trying for six years by this date, both biologically and through adoption. Nothing had ever come back to us but emptiness…empty crib, empty rocking chair, empty womb. I felt as if I were staring into an eternal abyss of darkness. Spiritual bankruptcy.

Four days later I would be a mom. Just four days separated me from a dream realized. Four simple days. Kathy continued:

“This too, shall pass . . . good times are ahead. A beautiful baby lies behind a curtain for now but not indefinitely. This wait will become a faded memory.”

Actually, the wait would become a faded memory in just four days.  Four days later I would be crying tears of joy.  Four days later I would be running around the school where I taught, darting into classrooms,  screaming that my proverbial water had broken.  Four days later I would be gazing into the eyes of a two month old, a 4×4 image of my little boy.  Four days later I would be celebrating with my husband.  Four days later I would be purchasing airplane tickets, making last-minute preparations, and planning for my first trip to Russia.  Just four days.

God wasn’t absent.  He wasn’t refusing to answer my endless petitions.  He wasn’t labeling me defective.  He wasn’t powerless to produce life where there was only death.  He just wasn’t ready yet.  My baby wasn’t ready yet.  I was asking for Act II.  He was still writing Act I.

This life is really unpredictable.  This world is excruciatingly fickle.  The foundations that we rely upon in the temporal eventually feel more like quicksand than concrete.  We can so easily get lost in the despair of uncertainty.  Where is God?  He shows up in the voices of our friends, in the quiet moments of confidence, in the strength that we find when we think we can no longer push on.  While I wrote that email to Kathy, He was sitting there with me, wiping the tears from my eyes, pushing my hair out of my face, cupping my chin in His hand, lifting my vision heavenward.  Yet, I couldn’t feel Him.  He was comforting my impetuous desire, my impatience to have what I wasn’t ready for . . . for what wasn’t ready for me.  Yet, I didn’t really trust Him.  What if our life on this planet in time and space resembles just four days in the face of eternity?  Why do we so often live on the edge of desperation, when we know the end of the story?  Why don’t we trust His providential timing when He proves over and over again never to be late?  I don’t have the answers.  I just have the questions.  I guess I will find out in just four days.

My Sweet, Little Megalomaniac

“Mom,” my son whined loudly as I handed his dad a Father’s Day card, “I wish there was a Son’s Day.”

“Got news for you, Luca,” I shot back.  “Everyday is Son’s Day.”

It’s summer.  That is a good thing.  Long, hot days filled with unscheduled time.  No worrisome alarms.  No nagging deadlines.  For a teacher, June and July are a part of the package benefits.  So, why do I feel my skin crawling and my anxiety rising?  Perhaps it is that little mercenary of personal pleasure sitting in the backseat of my car.  Propped up in his booster seat that generally doubles as a throne, this egomaniacal dictator of self-interest strategizes his next move like an elaborate chess game.

“If I eat ALL my food at Cracker Barrel, can we just get ONE thing in the store?  Just one, little thing.  Like one piece of candy.”

“When we get back home, will it be morning or afternoon?  Can I see if Addison is home?  Wait, can I see now?  Why do I have to go to the grocery store with you?”

“If I am really, really nice, will Grandma give me just one prize or do you think I might get two?”

“I don’t have to go to bed right now, Momma, it’s the wrong eight!  It’s the other eight when I go to bed.”  (For the love of all that is holy, what does he mean?)

Oh, Luca, I remember when I wished you could talk.  How short-sighted of me.

Seriously, how can one human being . . . one relatively under-sized human being work so tirelessly for his own gain?  If I stop at Publix, he wants me to pick up the sugar cookies with blue icing.  If I swing through the Starbucks drive-thru, he soooo needs a cake pop.  If I get the mail, he wonders why nobody sent him anything.  That’s it.  I’m raising a megalomaniac.

And his process mirrors that of a five star general.  He starts off with a simple, although self-deprecating request.  “Momma, I’m guessing you’re going to say no, but dot, dot, dot- fill in the blank with an outrageous request that caters only to one.”  After I invariably do, he begins his systematic assault.  He produces his baby like whiney voice at the precise decibel of annoyance.  He seems to intuitively know the exact tone that sets my nerves on blast.  “But momma, whyyyy???????  Why  can’t we go to California today?”  (We live in Tennessee.)  It starts low and slow, increasing in strength and stridency the longer I ignore it.  In my head, I sing through two verses of “My Favorite Things” from Sound of Music and the next thing I know, there is an explosion of caterwauling in the back seat.  Now, he brings his best assault, anger with two guns ablazing, gathering all the fortitude his eight year old lungs can sustain, demanding that I pay attention to his humble and easy to deliver request.  My internal temperature rises like a menopausal hot flash, and before I know it, I have whipped out my “Momma’s gone crazy” voice.  Screaming into the abyss and threatening all manner of disciplinary consequences, pressing on the gas pedal for effect, I have an out of body experience.  I can see and hear myself, but it seems only from a distance.  Then, the echoes of my anger reverberate off the back window, falling to the ground complete with the shrapnel of a military counter-attack.  Head drooping low, eyes and mouth squished together in despair, my opponent is defeated.  “We will NOT be going to California today,” I silently congratulate myself.

And then, just as I gather my sanity, a small, puny voice emerges from the backseat, a phoenix rising from the ashes like the villain in a horror film, “But, Momma, why can’t we go to California today?”

Change. I Want to Punch You!

I hate change. Wait, hate doesn’t quite cut it. I despise change. It makes me sweat. It buckles my knees and puts a perpetual pit in my stomach. It preoccupies my days and terrorizes my nights. Change. Those shifting seas of life that send my boat tossing in unchartered directions. Yeah, I don’t just crave smooth sailing. I would rather not be on the boat at all.

There are no areas of my life where change is welcome. And before you respond with some sage advice about how “nothing is certain except uncertainty” or “everything changes” or “Jennifer, get out of the fetal position,” let me tell you a thing or two. I already know. My head knows it all. Every scriptural reference, every fortune cookie, every ancient philosopher, every single truth about change, I have already processed in my life intellectually and spiritually.  My friends, this has been a life long battle.  I also know that not everyone rails against it like I do. I have known people who change addresses, places of employment or significant others more times than their underwear. Obviously, change is not their issue. Wanderlust. It’s never really been my thing.

Here is the real problem, for me, with change. Change hurts. It’s painful. And not the unexpected paper cut kind of pain either. It’s the compound fracture, open heart variety that knocks you down and keeps you in the hospital for a while. And, yes, I know that not all change is bad. Sometimes Sonic adds a slush with Nerds in it. Occasionally, Starbucks rolls out another delicious Frappucino. Every once in a while, you go from a size 10 to a size 8. Yes, some change is welcome.  However, I am talking about the life quaking variety. That’s the kind of change I want to punch in the face.

Ay, there’s the rub.  I can know all day long that change in life is going to come.  And I can even know that change is going to hurt.  But having that knowledge doesn’t keep me from feeling it, shouldering it, doing the emotional work necessary to see the other side of it.  Knowledge doesn’t act as a shield that protects our hearts from feeling the separations that life quaking often brings.  As young children, we learn all about life from our sensory interactions with it.  When we touched a hot stove, we learned never to do that again.  When we got screamed at for crossing the road without looking, we learned to be more cautious.  When we hurt someone, we were disciplined.  Pain became associated with behaviors that we should not repeat.  Change feels like pain and pain feels like punishment.

I am learning that we often do more harm than good in life when we tell those around us struggling with change that they just need to “pray harder,” or my personal favorite, “have more faith.”  Or better yet, we tell them,  “Don’t let the fear swallow you whole.  God’s got this.”  Yes, I know He does, and I am going to be completely honest, that’s what scares me.  He is after one thing in my life.  Sanctification.  And the last time I checked in on my own spiritual journey, that has the tendency to hurt too.

Now, this is about the time in my writing when I often turn this bad boy around on the highway of despair and drive it straight to the corner of lesson learned and goal achieved.  But I can’t do that this time.  And not because I don’t love Jesus, but because my mortal enemy, change, consistently lies in wait for me, reminding me of everything I have to lose.  And on the other side of that same coin is everything there is to gain.