The wound is the place where the Light enters you
Occasionally I pop in here to write a post around someone's birthday because, you know, I feel all reflect-y and introspective. Simultaneously I just want to curl up in a blanket and watch poorly written television shows while eating kettle chips and drink a VERY cold La Croix, poured over ice in a very specific mason jar. Just living my best life.
Someone recently asked me how I felt about my "old life." I knew exactly what they meant. They meant my life before moving away from California. At first I said, "I don't know." But that was a big fat lie so my eyes filled with big, hot tears. Sometimes I'm angry as hell. I promise I don't hate church but I can't not talk about church because what you do (or do not) believe about God, WILL inform every facet of your life. That's just how it works.
What I was taught about God, informed every decision I made (or didn't make). More recently however, over the course of a couple of months, the equation was not adding up anymore. The formula stopped working (it wasn't ever working, by the way but we often cover that mess up with just DOING MORE THINGS to ignore our feelings). And sometimes I'm really angry about it. If you have spoken with me, that anger has probably leaked out in one way or another. A smart ass comment here. A knock against pastoral ministry there. Because I know what kind of influence church can have over people's everyday lives and I know that broken theology can be truly detrimental. Fear and shame are INCREDIBLY effective tools. They get the job done. And because fear and shame were used to manipulate "Scripture," I never thought I could be a journalist or a scientist or a baker or an artist or a doctor because . . . BAD THEOLOGY. A theology that has nothing to do with being HUMAN and everything to do with being a Christian. So. I made Christian decisions. Not human ones. And after being married at a young age and having kids at a young age, I looked up and thought, wait. I could have done what?! I could have given up church camp for science camp? I could have gone to Europe instead of be a jr high ministry leader? I could have gone to a secular college with quality academics instead of some Christian liberal arts school that eliminated the psychology department?!
Maybe you're like . . . duh, Jess. What is wrong with you? Did you grow up in an underground bunker? Well, in a spiritual sense, YES. Yes I did. And it's really hard not to be angry. It feels like I lost a good chunk of my youth. I know some women truly mourn the loss of their identity before becoming a mother. That is real. But I'm over here like . . . I didn't even have an identity. I just was. I was youth group girl. I was college ministry girl. I was Africa missions girl. I never took a beat to figure myself out. Instead I walked straight into a covenant and then bore HUMAN BEINGS. We just made more bodies with souls, without every figuring our own souls out.
This is incredibly real. Fear and shame drive people towards decisions that look healthy from within the circle. From within the tribe. But no one considers stepping out for a moment to check the view.
But there is redemption. I look at my girls and feel immense gratitude. Birth broke me open. It woke me up. Having babies made me realize that there are ACTUALLY "the least of these" around me. Because pregnancy and motherhood were/are so fucking hard and I thought... wait. If motherhood is hard for me, and I belong to a loving family and community... how much harder is this for the person who has nothing? No support. No choices. No love. No voice!!
And then I realized that didn't apply to just motherhood but ALL MY NEIGHBORS. To ALL the people around me who are without love, support, community. Growing flesh and bones inside my body and bringing my babies earthside made me realize that WE ALL BELONG TO ONE ANOTHER. And damn't, there is NO such thing as other people's children.
Again, maybe you're thinking . . . Jess! Didn't you watch the news?! Didn't you know there were people in the world outside of your cute bubble? No. I didn't. Actually, that's not true. I did. But remember, the theology I had been given focused on Christian stuff. Not human stuff. So helping humans wasn't really a focus. I believe some have coined these sorts of things as "non-Gospel issues." So I stuck to "Gospel issues." Like monitoring people's church attendance, raising money for summer camp and distracting myself with large commentaries. At one point in my life, I would come home from work and attempted to write a Bible study. Like an actual Bible study. Not for myself. For others. Did this bring me joy? Hell no. And at one point I thought Jesus didn't really care about stuff like racism because He didn't care about "life being fair." You want to talk total depravity?! Look no further folks, than a privileged white girl dismissing racism.
But back to the point. Babies. Birth. Motherhood. It broke me open. In fact, it wrecked me (and still wrecks me! I'm sure it's an ongoing affair). And I had to choose; I could be angry. I could sit it in my anger, let it stew and continue to mock and troll people on Twitter (#guilty) OR I could take ownership. I could acknowledge that I am not responsible for my wounds but I AM responsible for my healing. I could do something with the gift I have been given in my beautiful, young, tiny family. I could take all the health issues I've encountered and body stuff I have learned and do something outside myself.
Because if I cling to any sort of theology these days, it's this, "Jesus didn't come to make us Christians. He came to make us fully human." - Hans Rookmaker
So I took all that I knew about the body and birth (not much) and following after it. Rick has done nothing but help me and encourage me. Because we are trying. I'm trying. Because we want to see people flourish. We want to give all the goodness we have been given and literally spread it like confetti. But that happens one day at a time. One unsexy, mundane choice at a time. Or at least that's what I keep hearing from my mentors and heroes. We push forward. We move "further up and further in." Because like Glennon has taught us, "first the pain, then the rising."