Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fear of political disclosure

So I have been stewing on this a lot the past few days. No, make that weeks. No wait...months. Years? Anyway, its something I keep coming back to over and over again, and its something that I have realized I need to work through and get over.

So here it is... I live in constant dread of others opinions/judgments of me, especially those in the church potentially calling my faith into question over moral, ethical, and political stances that don't align with the "mainstream." Part of this fear is justified through past experiences.

When I was in Bible college, someone suggested that I be kicked off our ministry team since I don't speak in tongues, and in his mind, that is the true test of deep faith...or something like that. Luckily, in her wisdom, the leader of the team sided with me and put him in his place, but it hurt me. It put doubts in my mind about my own level of committment and faith in the Lord, and made me feel like an outsider in an environment that I believed should have been affirmed and uplifted in, not questioned, judged, and singled out in.

Then again at a previous church I used to attend, there were a few times I expressed different opinions or views (mainly on mental health issues, attachment parenting, and spanking), and was told all the reasons why my thinking was wrong. And it was even backed up with people "sharing" the Word with me to show me how wrong my views were. (As if I don't know what the Bible says. Sorry...but I found it rather condescending and insulting.)

So far, praise the Lord, I haven't felt anything but accepted and loved at the church I currently attend, but I'm not going to lie... There have been a few times when others have been nodding in agreement with the pastor's opinions on world events and political issues, and I have been (internally) shaking my head in disagreement. When it comes to the Word, we align. My pastor, and our church as a whole, is right on the money Biblically! But where issues begin to stray from the Word, there are many on which I differ from the majority...in any Christian church or circle.

Oftentimes, I have wanted to post political issues along with my thoughts on Facebook, or here within my own blog, but have stopped myself (especially on Facebook) for fear of what others, mainly those in the church, will think. I know its silly, but I don't want them to question my relationship with the Lord or consider removing me from ministry, or...whatever...based on my views. (Hey, like I said, its happened before.) I feel like when it comes to hardcore Republican Christians, when they find out I'm (gasp!) not a Republican, I am automatically labeled as "backslidden" or having relationship with God issues, based on my political views. And in talking with the majority of Christian Republicans, I feel like that pre-emptive labeling prevents them from any effort of wanting to hear me out. My stances on certain issues have real - and even Biblical! - reasoning behind them, yet few listen long enough to hear my reasons. I just get the label, and that's that. Case (unfortunately) closed.

In my own personal life, my views do align with Christianity. Shouldn't that be sufficient?! Just because I want to afford all Americans - and "neighbors" around the world - the freedom to make their own choices governing their own lives, even if I disagree in my personal life with their choices, doesn't make me less of a Christian. My political views have no bearing whatsoever on my salvation! I'm saved by GRACE, not by voting Republican! It doesn't mean I am less dedicated to the Lord or less educated as to what His Word says. But yet, that is how I am too often left feeling when I speak my mind. So most of the time, I don't, even when there is something I really feel passionately about speaking out about. Which is sad, because these are "my" people; the people who should love and accept me regardless. Not tell me how they think I am wrong, not preach to me about the Word I am already quite familiar with and follow wholeheartedly, but instead to try and listen, respect, and understand where I'm coming from.

So I am left with a big conclusion that even I don't totally like. If I am judged, I need to let those people go from my life. If I am not afforded the same respect that I give to others with differing opinions, then how can I really call that person a friend? If I am expected to bite my tongue or face having my faith put on the chopping block, then why would I want to associate with such narrow-minded people? And certainly if I am judged and my faith is called on the carpet based on things that have absolutely nothing having to do with my own personal relationship with the Lord, then why should I allow myself continued exposure to such toxic people?

My friend, Logan, put it most eloquently in a conversation I had with him yesterday:

"If someone doesn't like you because you have the brains and heart to feel the way you do and the backbone to say it, it seems that that's their problem, not yours."

I don't mean to rant, ramble, and share with the world (okay, or all of, like, 15 people who will read this blog) this wierd self-therapy, but I do feel like I should at least make my thoughts and feelings known, because I feel like its the first step in my quest to full self-acceptance and letting the past hurts and go. Trust me, its SCARY to be this open and vulnerable, but as "they" say, how can you move forward when you're stuck in the past? And as Dr. Phil says, "How can you change what you don't acknowledge?"

Friday, August 27, 2010

Where values come from

There have been a lot of things in the media lately that have sparked the same thought in me over and over. I am going to try to keep this less political, and maybe I am a total nutjob for my views, but hear me out.

I keep hearing this undertone of, "Oh no! What is this going to do to our values as Christians/Americans/etc." And once upon a time I followed that herd. I was worried that if anything was ruled in favor of Muslims/foreigners/etc. that it would be the downfall of Christianity/America as we know it. But as I get older and (I'd like to think) wiser, I am beginning to realize that's not the case.

A big issue is gay rights. I have heard it said by many, many a Christian that it will undermine the values of Christianity to allow gays the right to marry? My question is, how?! How does it directly affect what I believe and how I live my own life? Does it really threaten my own relationship with Christ if gay people want to get married? One of my best friends is gay. Does having a close friendship with him undermine the Christian values I have? No! It doesn't! He and I have very different views on many things, but him being gay has no effect on my salvation!

Then I hear it taken one step further and people say, "Well, what if they allow pro-gay curriculum into the school systems." (Whatever that even means...) So what? My kids don't go to school to learn their core values. They go to school to learn math, reading, writing, history, geography.... And I doubt many people consider 2+2=4 or the capitol of California being Sacramento as core values. My point is - and maybe I am either naive or overly-confident in this statement - I don't feel threatened by what else is "out there." Jeremy and I work hard to bring our kids up right; to teach them good, godly, Christian values, and to respect and serve others, even if they're different.

I wrote a blog years ago about a woman who was suing her child's school for singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" because it was a Christian song (eyeroll!) and she was Jewish. My kids' school Christmas program includes songs from every religion except Christianity (for which my husband always gets a little grumbly every year), however, it doesn't bother me in the least that they are learning about Hannukah or Kwaanza. I mentioned this in that blog, too, but I don't honestly feel threatened by my kids learning other things. In fact, and maybe this is wierd, but I sometimes see public schooling my kids as a blessing, in that it opens far more doors to talk about the world, other people's thoughts and values, and reinforce what we believe and why we believe it. And trust me, Seth's only going into 3rd grade, and we've had a LOT of "teaching moments" already.

I pray for my kids, that they would grow up to know and love the Lord. I pray that they will grow up to be godly men and women who do great things for the Kingdom. And Jeremy and I do everything in our power to teach them how to "walk the walk" of a Christian. In the back of my mind, I do undertstand that maybe they will reject Him. Nothing is a guarantee. But I feel like if I allow that "spirit of fear" to take over and convince me that I need to vote to over-regulate others' lives and freedoms in order to protect my own, then am I really putting my full faith in the Lord to correctly guard and guide my childrens' hearts?

I get bothered by the very notion that we should restrict others' freedoms to begin with, just on the mere basis that we don't like what they say/do/think/believe. But it bothers me even more that we're doing it in order to "preserve Christian values." Obviously, I want to preserve my own values and those of my kids in our own lives, buuut....that's between us and God, and only us and God. That isn't the school's job! That isn't the government's job! That is the job of each and every individual and/or their parents. Values are learned at home, NOT at school or through the ballot box.

Christians, we need to be spending more time sharing with our kids about the Lord and showing them why we need to follow Him, and less time telling our kids to hate or fear those we disagree with. We need to spend more time showing our kids how to love others, and less time showing them how to judge, condemn, and ostracize them. And we ourselves need to do the same. Remember, we are "in the world but not of it." We need to be in it - actively working for the Lord, and teaching our children to do the same. But no, we cannot be of it. But the separation of self and surroundings needs to be more internal than external. We cannot shelter ourselves and our kids from the world by fear, hatred, avoidance, and legislation. That only goes so far, and hurts far too many people in the process...ourselves included. The way we shelter ourselves and our kids is by having a right relationship with the Lord. That can only be done through prayer, reading the Word, repentence, and reliance on Him.

Reliance on Him... I guess that's what it boils down to. If we wholeheartedly - without doubts and fears - rely on Him, then we have no "need" to rely on the schools, government, etc. to protect and teach our values for us.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"...or for worse. In sickness...."

In 3 days (August 5), Jeremy and I celebrate our 10th anniversary. So in light of that, I was going to draft a marriage blog anyway. But I had a conversation with one of Jeremy's aunts the other day about marriage, and it hit me hard. (In a good way.) Her words have been ringing in my mind non-stop since, so I thought it only appropriate that I pass them on and add my own thoughts to her wisdom.

First a little background...

Jeremy's dad has been battling cancer for the past few years, and has been going downhill more progressively over the past few months. He has become a lot more weak and has been having more trouble with walking and things like that because he is so weak. There are a number of other side effects too, but for the sake of family privacy, I am not going to elaborate much more. Jeremy's aunt - the one I mentioned above - has taken on the role of caregiver when Jeremy's mom has to work. She drives 5 hours each way, and stays at their house during the week, so that she can be there to support and help care for my father-in-law.

Jeremy's aunt and I were chatting in the kitchen the other day and I mentioned how concerned I am not only for my father-in-law, obviously, but for my mother-in-law. I just can't imagine the emotional, mental, and physical toll it has got to be taking on her. My mother-in-law is one of the toughest cookies I know, but I know it has to be unbearable at times watching the one you love in pain, having trouble doing the simplest things for themself anymore. Jeremy's aunt said this (it may not be verbatum, but its close):

You know the part in your wedding vows where it says "or worse?" This is the "or worse." When you are young, standing up there at the altar, you have absolutely no idea what "or worse" even means. You are just gliding by on those feelings that it will always be "for better." But this is what marriage is about right here. Look at her [my mother-in-law] and you can learn something valuable. There comes a time in marriage when you don't want to do it anymore. Its hard, it hurts, its no longer fun, and your spouse is no longer that attractive person you stood next to at the altar. There is nothing fun about the "or worse," but you made a vow. And there will come a time when you have had enough and will want to give up, but that's not what its about. If you can't accept the "or worse" as part of the package, then you have no business getting married in the first place. Too many people give up when it gets hard, but you have to recognize, marriage is for life. Its for the long haul. You made a vow, you made a promise, and you need to keep your word. And this is what keeping your word is all about.

Powerful words. And you know, even 10 years in to our marriage, I still don't think the reality of "or worse" has fully sunk in. Jeremy and I have been through a LOT in 10 years, but I still don't think we've ever gotten to severe enough of a level of "or worse" yet for either of us to really grasp it.

Its ironic... I was thinking about our past anniversaries, and 3 of our actual anniversaries have been great examples of "or worse."

***trig alert***

On our 3rd anniversary, we had to cancel our dinner reservations to rush to the women's center for a check-up because I was bleeding. Two days later, I miscarried. That was one of the toughest times. We were devastated. We cried, prayed, and got through it, but it was heartbreaking.

Another year is what I like to refer to as "the pot roast anniversary." I wanted to go out and do something to celebrate our anniversary, but we were so broke that all we had was a frozen roast. So instead of going out, having a break, and enjoying a nice date, we ate pot roast with our kids. In hindsight, I guess its not that big of a deal, but it made us sad that we were stuck at home with pot roast on our anniversary.

Another year, we had the biggest fight of our marriage (about what I now can't even remember) on our anniversary. We were up almost the entire night yelling at eachother.

Through that reflection, I realized that we've been through some hard days and gotten through it. We got through the loss of a baby. We got through (albeit temporarily) financial difficulties. And we got through a day of wanting to throttle eachother. I think its safe to say that life throws some pretty unexpected curveballs. And Jeremy's aunt is completely right. Standing at that altar I had no idea we would ever lose a baby, or feel so financially pinched, or have days when we couldn't stand eachother. (And that's just scratching the surface!) I can only speak for myself, but honestly, I did say my vows completely unaware of the full weight of the words coming out of my mouth. But as I get older, and the more challenges we face, the more I think it is beginning to click.

I may whine and complain about my husband's little habits that drive me bonkers, but when I look at the bigger picture, it comes into focus. I am married to a pretty great guy. He works harder than anyone I have ever known. He listens to me. He keeps me grounded (and anyone who knows me well, knows that's a feat in itself). He is trustworthy. He keeps our family afloat, even when it seems like there is nowhere to go but down.

So yeah, marriage is about the "for betters." We need to enjoy those days, those joyous occasions when all is right with our world. But we cannot ignorantly believe there will never be "or worses." So the million dollar question is, will we have the stick-to-it-ness to continue in a marriage that is no longer fun or easy? Are we willing to stand by our word, our promise, our vow, and see it through to the very end? All I can say is, I am pretty sure it will be worth it.