unexpected hope (as always)

A little less than a week ago I sat on the floor of our church nursery. Evelyn planted herself on my lap, signing over and over again for milk. Rowan darted from one box of upturned toys to the next, popping up ever so briefly to scan the crowd for his mama, diving back in as soon as he’d caught my smile. I got to talking with another mom who was also on attachment-anxiety-child-duty and somehow, by the time the service ended, I left with her number and an invitation to call her about a job opening at the daycare center she runs. As we walked out I told Drew I was pretty sure that she meant the job was for me, not just that she’s got a potential childcare solution for us, but I began to doubt myself. Who strikes up a conversation with a stranger and then offers them an interview five minutes later?

Wonderful Kim does, that’s who. And so, 5 days later I’m now an assistant teacher for an amazing woman and her group of three year olds. Because of a generous discount, the twins will be able to experience ‘school’ for themselves in a room just down the hall from mine and Drew will actually be able to get some work done at home! Such an incredible gift. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to continue with a few odd weekends a month at the retirement home because even though it’s just been a few weeks I feel I’ve become good friends with so many of those lovely people and I hate the thought of leaving! (Also: we need the cash. But I love them far more than I am paid!)

And so, in spite of everything, life is working out.

I’ve struggled so much with faith over the last two years and I’m still struggling, but I have had this bit of a prayer. It is uttered in the scary moments where our bank account dips very near to zero, and on the long-feared day when Drew got laid off of his part-time job, and when our tire was rapidly leaking air and we didn’t have the money to repair it (or any other way for me to get to work). In those lonely, fearful moments I have tried to pray that God would make a way for us. That God would not leave us, halfway into this gift of something good and new, unable to sort out how to live.

I have mumbled that prayer. Cried that prayer. Shouted that prayer. And I’ve wondered what it means to pray to a God that I’m still getting reacquainted with. After a lifetime of this version of a God who pre-ordains and wills every last second and breath of life, creating some people to be #blessed and #saved and then creating others to live lives of hell-on-earth-suffering, (because it brings him glory, you see), I’m letting go. I’m trying to embrace the friendship and promises of One who loves and gives life and radical grace but but it has been surprisingly painful. The twisted theology that told me our little Selah was taken on purpose, (and to be clear: not necessarily for an eternal life in the kingdom made new –  I was told I must trust that, if it brought glory to God, her little life could have been destined for the fiery forever). Opening myself up to the possibility that this God that has always been preached to me is just a dim, humanized shadow of the infinite Grace and Mercy seems almost too good to be true. Can I really believe in such a thing? And if so, how do I open myself up to the movement of this mystical presence: a wild, untamable force that moves in and out of the universe, in and out of time, a small, quiet spirit that abides within and breathes hope and joy and compassion? I’ve always been taught that such theology is pure idolatry, forming God into the vision that we most long for. But I wonder, what is God if not the Healer and Defender and Provider and Renewer that the deepest parts of us longs for?

I have been cautious, thinking about these things. Even more cautious in speaking or writing about them. I am still afraid of the God of the Calvinists. The God whose wrath evangelicals can call down on any group they disapprove of. The God who is best heard by educated, employed, financially stable, north american white people. I am afraid that maybe they are right. Maybe I am no longer a christian. (Certainly not by most neo-reformed principles.) Maybe I am just a willfully confused person, directionless and hopeless as I stumble along.

Maybe. But slowly I’m gaining the confidence to hope in a God who is, somehow, in spite of all the bad theology and my refusing to listen to it any longer, quite near. The Being is seen and felt and known in the wild emotional turns of my children. In the gentle quietness of two nursing toddlers cuddled in our bed in the dark of the night. In the tenderness of Drew’s touch and encouraging words after a long 12 hour shift. In the other-wordly blood-orange Kentucky sunrises that melt through the inky blue of night. In the arguments about money and time and parenting. In our fear and our weariness. In the big pot of black beans that carried us through to payday.

How can that still, small bit of peace – a tiny flame of enduring hope – how can it be anything but the timeless, enduring, unending Love?

Our church is a gift. A community of hope and friendship that opens its arms to the visitor and the needy and the weary one. We are so grateful to have landed at Embrace and so looking forward to these next many years to learn about and love these people. Tomorrow I’ll join with a group of these new church friends to discuss Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. As I read, I’m finding words to explain who I have always been. A woman who has never been able to satisfactorily articulate her idols or insecurities, despite mining the depths of my apparently black and unrepentant soul. A woman who has been called proud and deceived and confused because of it. A woman who limps desperately into whole-heartedness, sometimes tripping on warped expectations of her own (often in-)consistencies, but with hope that it is the right way – maybe the only way – to a true and beautiful life. A life with Love.

These are scattered thoughts for a friday night. Thanks for reading, friends. I learn from your voices and your courage and your stories. I am so grateful. It is these things – sharing hopes and fears and laughter with those we love that makes our lives, don’t you think?

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2 thoughts on “unexpected hope (as always)

  1. You have inherited your mama’s gift of finding reasons for joy and celebration in the midst of chaos and pain. I am so grateful that God’s joy does squeeze its way into the middle of your struggles. Isn’t it amazing how God does that? But I am troubled that your experiences with the religiously and politically conservative have been so negative, oppressive, and painful. I find myself deeply entrenched in that “far right” position, but I don’t hold the types of views you’ve described. From where I stand, out in right field, God holds an endless reservoir of grace with which He lavishly anoints us. I hope that my life reflects the kind of conservatism that is in every way immersed in grace and love and peace and joy from Christ, who gets how all this works even when I do not. Thank you for sharing these deeply touching musings. Your honesty is quite amazing. I love you so!
    Bonnie

    1. It is amazing – I’m still learning to trust it, but it is beautiful.
      And, of course I’m learning from you, Bonnie – way out there in right field! 🙂 You have such a way of gentle love, of trying to see what life looks like to people unlike yourself. I so admire that! I’m curious how you sort out answers for these questions that I find troubling. Not that you owe me an answer – but my larger issue here is not with the existence of the conservative religious and political communities, but with how their faith impacts their theology and what they do with the questions that don’t have good answers. I’ve certainly seen it done in better and worse ways, but on an issue like predestination – I think to believe in that is to admit that you don’t know why God would purposefully create people and then willfully exclude them from Grace (usually I am told “we can’t know God’s purposed this side of heaven, but he must have a reason that brings him glory”). It’s a real hang up for me. If we talk about a savior for the world, but then also hold to this belief that God only called certain people to be his own…I think we’re doubling down on the wrong side of things. That God must exclude some people so his justice can be served. Grace isn’t enough. Justice still must be answered. We’re so committed to this ‘every act in the universe is willed by God’ idea that we can’t deal with it when we encounter questions of how sin exists, or where unborn, ‘unchosen’ babies really go, or what happened to people, old and young world-over, who were murdered at the hand of genocide.

      Much more here than can be fairly discussed in a comments section I think, but I’d love to hear your thoughts sometime!,

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