In the midst of holiday celebrations and preparations, a round of the stomach virus, A studying for her upcoming finals and the day-to-day parenting mayhem this week I stumbled on this article on what a four-year-old should know and it has stopped me in my tracks. I can get very impatient with my kids, often about getting things done and behaving well, but also about what they do or don’t know or what they will or won’t try. Why hasn’t she learned yet that she always needs to… Why won’t he just sit down and do this… It is hard in my often hectic-feeling life and our competitive culture not to feel behind, and not to look at my kids sometimes and think of them as behind, when what is really important is a different set of things entirely.
1. She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.
2. He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.
3. She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.
This advice for parents is gold too:
That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.
I have no further comments. I am still digesting.
I heard once there are two kinds of people in the world: people who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and people who don’t.
Lately I’ve been wondering if there’s really only one kind of people in the world: the kind that sees two kinds of people in the world. People for whom everyone registers according to a certain set of criteria, whether intentionally or not, or even consciously or not. The “like-me’s” and the “not-like-me’s”, perhaps, or the “desirables” and the “undesirables”. For example:
Fat people and skinny people
Pretty people and unpretty people
Pretty girls and everyone else
Rich people (aka “people who have something I want”) and average people
Intelligent people and stupid or ignorant people
Conservatives and Liberals (or pick your political dichotomy)
People who might be my friend and people who probably wouldn’t
People with authority or influence and people without it
People who appreciate me and people who don’t
Black people and white people
White people and minorities
Now surely no one thinks of everyone as always in one category or another. But everyone I think has a set of categories like this, or more than one. I know I do. It’s a sort of blindness, like walking through a breathtaking park and only seeing how much it needs to be mowed.
I’d like to be the sort of person with only one category of people around me: people who need love. Love sheds a lot of light on a person, or group of people, and makes it pretty difficult to relegate them to a category. And I think it’s a tall task to uncover someone who doesn’t need love. In our own ways we are all hurt, or forgotten, or angry, or alone in ways that only being loved can address.
I had an unexpected encounter with someone this week whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, someone who during her time in my life abused me emotionally in a fairly significant way. I don’t speak of her anymore except sometimes with others who know her, and then usually with a certain mutual understanding, like one speaks of a crotchety grandmother, or maybe Hitler. We rode the same elevator, she and I, and the people we each were with, and it was as tense a dramatic elevator moment as any Greys Anatomy writer could have devised.
I’m trying now to tie this story to the topic at hand and honestly I’m having trouble figuring out where I land on it. I can say with relative confidence that I have very little love for this person, and I can also say with the same confidence that that really bothers me. And not in a religious guilt sort of way, but in a way that goes right to the core of my faith. If what I say I believe is true, if there is a God who is all that is good in the world and whose nature is centrally love, then somehow this woman is loveable – and even loved.
Now would be a good time to bandy about the “love thy enemy” command, as though I knew what it meant. But that’s not the sort of command you just up and do, as with “fold thy laundry,” or “haveth some coffee,” two of the lesser-known biblical commands (at least around my house). As with most of the teachings Jesus delivered in the Sermon on the Mount, this one falls under the pretty-much-impossible category, the sort of task that’s unaffected by determination and willpower, that I can’t just rouse myself to do. In fact, I don’t think that overall the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount are things I’m meant to do at all, so much as be.
Be the sort of person who loves the people you want to hate.
Be the sort of person who doesn’t hold judgments over others.
Be the sort of person who does the things that are good, rather than just learning and talking about them.
Be the sort of person who only sees one sort of person in the world.
Be the sort of person who is perfect, like God.
If I were a master web coder I would have put checkboxes next to each of those things to illustrate how ridiculous they are to do. Jesus has left absolutely no room to think I am capable of these things under my own abilities and motivation. What he is describing is a person with a fundamentally changed world view, and I clearly can’t just up and make that happen.
I believe it’s possible though, which must be why my feelings for this person bother me. Being in an elevator with her brought back many of the feelings of dread that she previously inspired in me, though this time noticeably without the anvil that used to rest squarely on my chest long after she would leave. She was a significant part of a season of hurt, disappointment and loneliness in my life, when I lost much of my youthful optimism and dreams. I don’t blame her for that, because that’s the sort of thing that no one can really be blamed for; on the other hand she did do her damage. So my context for her doesn’t help her much – I’ve sometimes wondered how I would have felt differently about her had I known her five years earlier, when I was well-supported relationally and better resourced emotionally and spritually.
Eh, I could go on about what her upbringing may have been like from what little I know, and find some other reasons to sympathize with her, but this is perhaps all an exercise in meaningless pity. The inescapable reality I keep coming up against is that no matter what she has done or what was done to her, she is either loveable or she is not. Either love can see beyond any evil or it cannot. I am banking my life on the former.
I read Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love the better part of a year ago, and I’m going back through it now with our small group. It’s a short book and a quick read, but I think I’ll always be measuring my life by some of the standards it touches on. Reading it alone the first time, I felt overwhelmed. This time through, as I begin to talk it out (I’m such an external processor), I’m seeing some things I hadn’t before.
There’s not time now to explore what I’ve come across, but here’s what I’ve been chewing on recently:
It’s not about me.
Such a simple and self-evident statement pertaining to the sort of impassioned and self-sacrificial life I believe a faith in a good God requires. But I really don’t get it.
It’s not about me.
The roadblocks to the life I really want are all about me. What I have or don’t have, what I can or can’t do, what I will or won’t do. These things keep me in my current day to day life. Which is a fine life. But perhaps its defining characteristic is that it’s about me. This other life, or way of life actually, is not.
Signing off, mid-ponder.
A New York Times article by a woman married 20 years to hear her husband say one day, “I don’t love you anymore.” Her completely unexpected response here. Worth the full read.
My prayer life is so spotty largely because I get frozen when it comes to what to say or figuring out what I really want to pray about or how I’m really feeling about something rather than praying as a natural extension of my life and thoughts without all the constant metaprocessing and backstepping and analyzing. And deep down I find I’m also looking for an experience each time – some moment of peace or clarity or otherness that lets me know I’ve connected with God rather than just blabbered at the windshield. Miller has this to say:
Don’t hunt for a feeling in prayer. Deep in our psyches we want an experience with God or an experience in prayer. Once we make that our quest, we lose God. You don’t experience God; you get to know him. You submit to him, you enjoy him. He is, after all, a person.
I’ve heard the exhortation to be natural in prayer, to speak as I would to a friend rather than composing religious-sounding language. And I’ve heard the one that says don’t go experience-hunting. This though somehow strikes me differently. It goes beyond just prayer for me – it challenges my perception of God. If I’m looking primarily to experience God, then to me he is an event or a set of circumstances. If I’m looking to get to know him, then he is free to be a person, and experience is only a part of the relationship. Joe quotes Miller again as saying,
In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, making us unsure of where to go.
With a relationship it’s like spending all your time thinking and discussing how the relationship is going rather than just having it. There are downsides to being überanalytical when there’s life to be lived.
“A Thousand Winters Melting”
I’m realizing with each successive TSTSIMY post (plus the handful I posted when this feature was a page unto itself) that the songs featured here aren’t usually ones I’ve listened to recently, thought of specifically, or otherwise intentionally allowed into my grey matter. Instead they pop up unbidden, cracking into my consciousness with a protruding melody or phrase and prying their way into full foot-tapping status. So it is with today’s sticker, a galloping statement on love from my latest favorite band The Myriad. The verses talk about angels and the comfort of supernatural presence, but for me the haiku-like chorus is where I live:
A thousand winters melting
As you wrap your arms around me