Friday, December 30, 2011

A New Way

The past month and a half have been the hardest of my adult life. I'm sure there are worse days to come, as I plan on living much longer and there are far worse things in the world, but so far, I can say without doubt that these have been the worst thus far.

About a year ago, I started seeing a counselor. In our first meeting, she asked me what the 9/11 events in my life were. What shaped me? What changed everything? I listed them for her. Most all of them happened before I was 15 years old. For the past year, we have been working out these events and my responses to them. I've learned how powerless I've felt. I've learned how rejected and lonely and afraid I've been. I've learned that in order to deal with all these feelings I've created a wide array of coping mechanisms that make me think I'm taking care of myself. She calls them “fortresses.” She talks using cool words like that all the time. She says things I'll never forget. She says things like, “this is not that,” and, “Kylee, there is another way.”

This is not that.

I was sitting in a rolly chair when it happened. I love rolly chairs. You know, chairs that roll. I had taken several rides on this particular chair pulled by coworkers in the past. And that's where I sat as my world changed very suddenly. A safe place became a strange place in a second. And in that second, I was six years old again. Powerless and rejected and afraid. And this moment most certainly felt exactly like those past moments a decade or so ago. Exactly the same.

The thing is, I am not six years old anymore. I'm twenty-seven. Facts are: I'm not hiding beneath the window. I'm living my life. I'm not alone. I have an incredible group of people around me who love me. An amazing husband who is proud of me. And I am not powerless. I have skills, gifts, passion, and more than all of this, a God who did not give me a spirit of fear. He gave me spirit of power, and love, and a sound mind. This is not that. It's different this time.

I've tried to run to the old fortresses. I've spent the night in the safety of hatred, denial, self-absorption, self-hatred, revenge, codependency....all the old tricks. But-

There is another way.

A new way. A living way. The Gospel. I don't need to close off my heart to being hurt again, or seal away my hopes in tombs of cynicism. We have a God who raises the dead. We have a God who cares about forgiveness and grace and justice. We have a God who asks us to leave it all behind and follow him down roads we don't know yet that seem strange and dark and like they will cost a lot to walk. Our pride, our pain, our security- they cannot be the gods that govern us. They won't be the gods that govern me.

Jesus answered them, "Do you finally believe? In fact, you're about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I'm not abandoned. The Father is with me. I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world.” John 16:33 (MSG)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Cost

In the middle of all of this (it's probably just the beginning) I find myself staring down into a silver communion cup. The bread (His body shed for me) is dry in my mouth and I'm just staring into this cup and it might go on forever because Jesus is asking me the question and I don't know the answer: “Is it worth what it costs?”

Communion is one of my biggest spiritual pet-peeves. Here's why:

  1. If done correctly, it is almost always awkward.

  2. No one knows why they do it (all that awkwardness for nothing)

  3. If you start to ask Jesus why this might be something that matters, then Jesus asks you questions you can't answer like, “Is it worth what it costs?”

  4. Those wafers are sick

Jesus died. I eat, I drink, I remember. Check.

Staring into that cup today, I remembered more. Like, that prayer Jesus prays the night he is betrayed in John 17. “My prayer is...for those who will believe in me... that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.”

Jesus died for his Church. His imperfect, terrible, beautiful, tragic Church that he loves with the kind of love that bends down to wash his betrayers' dirty feet even though the betrayal is going to be profound. A bunch of dirty feet attached to men who refuse to hear anything but what they want to hear. Men that make promises they can't keep. These men would walk away from him. Lie. Fail. Again and again and again. And he's bent down washing their feet. He's praying for them in the garden with blood like sweat pouring down his face. He's going to the cross and taking the shame and taking the sin. For this, His church. And then we remember that he told us to remember this. Do this, in remembrance of me.

I've been failed.


And I fail.


I think we would like to believe that Jesus didn't care. That when he turned his head to Peter as that third rooster crowed, Jesus shrugged and thought, “Oh well, I'm cool with the Father. Who needs these chums?” And what do I know? Maybe that's what it was like. But this unaffected Jesus is neither attractive to me or fitting with what I know to be true of God or God's Word.

It mattered. It matters. Jesus' death and the events leading up to it lose their whole meaning if you take away the fact that loving people involves risk. Our God RISKS. He FEELS. He is MOVED. And loving people like Jesus loved them will ALWAYS involve the same. A gospel that tells us different- that there is a way to live without the profound pain of the Church's inevitable failure- is not a gospel I believe in. There is no intimacy without conflict. Avoiding conflict and avoiding pain is avoiding true community. A community we were made for, a community Jesus prayed for, a community Jesus died for.

A community that costs.

I drank from that cup today. I told Jesus, “yes.” It's worth the pain. It's worth the failure. I NEED community in all of it's beauty and tragedy. It's worth what it costs.

Boomerang Grace

In elementary school we did a project where everyone went home and asked their parents the story of how they were named. We researched what our names meant. Some of my friends had profound names: Samantha = "listener of God," Rachel = "innocent lamb." Kylee? Kylee = "boomerang." In an Australian Aboriginal language. Thanks, parents.

Wasn't until a little later I looked up my middle name: Rae. A Scottish name that means "grace." Now this is a name. Now I am:"Grace-that-keeps-coming-back-no-matter-how-many-times-you-throw-it-away-from-you."
Now I am: "Grace Returning."

This is a blog of preaching and teaching and searching and words. Of looking for grace- what it is to hold it in your hands, to drop it, to throw it, to have it hit you in the head when you can't catch it well or don't see it coming.