AUNTIE SHARON’S GUIDE TO GRACE-FILLED NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

The usual way American Christians go around making New Year’s Resolutions is beyond-belief-stupid.

It goes like this—you indulge in end-of-the-year festivities from Thanksgiving until Christmas. You eat, drink, or sleep too much at Christmas, because—hello!—it’s a celebration! Then, you allow the enemy of your soul to get a foothold—it’s called self-loathing—and you start to wonder how you can punish yourself for Celebrating The Birth Of Jesus. I had pie in celebration. Now I will give up pie. I reveled. I must give up reveling. I slept in. I must get up early.

[I see those cogs turning, but please don’t quote Franklin to me here: he didn’t have electric lighting. Nor was he a believer, so he could not access supernatural grace for health, wealth, or wisdom.]

The devil knows we aren’t giving up Christmas, so he wants to make you think the indulgence itself is evil. He calls out the Puritans on his side, or the Separatists, or the Lollards, or Luddites in general, none of whom lived in the United States of SuperAbundant Food and Ubiquitous Opportunity like we all do. They had to limit themselves so their kids wouldn’t die of starvation. He calls these Spiritual Idols (admit it) into witness and says, “They didn’t; you shouldn’t.”

So we call pie a sin when it was God who created pecans, and we call sleeping-in a sin when God declared all of Eternity will be Sabbath Rest. We take days off to enjoy a Remembrance of Bethlehem, and the devil worms in (damn him to hell!) and calls good evil.

Then, the worm turns, and he calls evil good. He puts up Deprivation, Lack, and Overwork, and calls it Resolution, a nice Puritan-esque word. He puts up Self-loathing, Self-made-law (with its inevitable end: failure, guilt, more self-loathing) and calls it Happy New Year!

Woe to you who call evil good and good evil! Stop it!

So, before you go putting yourself under new self-made laws which, when you break—because you will break them—you will feel guilty, failed, and stupid for even trying, listen to Auntie Sharon’s three guidelines for making grace-filled, peaceful, and happy Resolutions for 2012 that will give you joyful anticipation for the whole year.

First, let’s look at a few things you should not do.

1. You should not put yourself in a position of inevitable failure, especially if the result of that failure is guilt feelings. Or failure feelings. Or, “What’s the matter with me?” feelings. Nothing is the matter with you. You are awesome. (Stop with the “Wait—I can do all things through Christ…” because Christ does not empower you to place yourself under more law! He died to redeem you from all that!)

2. You should not put yourself under you-made law (what? you want to be like God, deciding good and evil? Where have I heard that before?). Jesus died so that your sins would/could (depending on your soteriology) be forgiven. If you are one of the Redeemed Ones, God doesn’t see your sin. Therefore, making up things that will now be sin for you is both ridiculous and self-defeating.

Deciding on Saturday night that on Sunday morning it will be wrong to eat chocolate, to sleep-in, to spend your own money, not to marry for another year because you have to finish school or save another thousand dollars (or whatever is keeping you from your heart’s desire), or whatever it is you decided to deprive yourself of, is both stupid and wrong.

Let’s not even discuss how ridiculous it is to decide the night before a Major Holiday that we are now going to deprive ourselves—what? At least, have your deprivation start on January 2, silly! Deciding to give up feasting the night before New Year’s Day is like deciding on July 3 to give up watching fireworks, to “fast and pray for a season” the night before your anniversary. Dumb, not to mention hurtful to the people who are working in the kitchen to make yummy things!

3. You should not say “bad” on what God said was “good.” God looked at the entire creation and said, “Good.” Then he looked at you (humanity) and said, “Very Good.” Ahem, I rock. Made in His image. Redeemed. Blood-purchased. Another year has dawned—pass the pie! (I’m a chocolate cake person, myself, to be honest, lots of frosting, please.)

Caveat: Of course—duh—if it is some morally-depraved sin you are wanting to give up, that’s different, Buster. What’s the matter with you? Throw the computer in the trash and take up Reading Scripture Aloud to old people who can’t hear—so you have to read it really loud: maybe then it will get into your own thick skull: but, please start in the New Testament so you hear some Grace. Trust me, you need it! Sin is not a matter for New Year’s Resolutions. It is a matter of Right Now Repentance—you’re waiting til Saturday night at midnight? Jesus died over that thing: fling it to hell. Now.

Caveat Two: Of course—more duh—if it is an organizational thing for your family, sit with the other people involved and figure it out. It’s not a Resolution; it’s a Plan. Go to college. Change your job. Sell your house. Get a dog. Marry—Saturday is better than Sunday, though, because you’ll get the tax break for the whole year, just fyi.

If you’re a grown-up person, stop waiting for someone else’s permission to do That Thing you want to do: fly to Florida and meet the guy you met online—make a decision about him in person; don’t wait for your parents to get onboard about your adoption, your homeschooling, your wife getting a job if she wants one, your move to another state, your move to China to teach English. Stop holding yourself back from Good Things God Created: opportunity, aspiration, promotion, expansion. Listen to me: go for it.

And now–drumroll–Auntie Sharon’s easy and practical guidelines for Grace-Filled New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Sit alone—no people, no music, no apps—for 15 minutes. If you fall asleep, you have to start over. Think only this thought: God loves me. I am blessed. Jesus died for me. I am favored. Holy Spirit empowers me. I am gifted. Think this over and over and over. Get it into your head that you are deeply, truly, and wholly loved, forgiven, and accepted in Christ. That thing you did back then is over. It has disappeared. It is nothing.

2. Think—in light of that Thought, what gives me joy? What would make me super happy to do? (Here, you may check with your spouse/friend/child to see if it’s okay to keep thinking this way, if it’s something that would need that person’s approval and cooperation. That is, if you realize: “Wow, God loves me. I am favored and empowered: I’m going to medical school/taking up mammography/moving to Phuket,” you need to check with the mother of your eight children, and, frankly, the children.)

3. Do—if possible, do this before midnight on Saturday night. Do the first step: apply online, mail a check, mark off the space for the flower bed, pull up the adoption website and call your wife over to see, book a flight, go to Groupon and buy that hang-gliding lesson, clean the fridge and stock it with raw food, put the first brush-stroke of bright purple on your daughter’s bedroom wall—say yes, already! Let your friends know you’ll be taking in piano students, starting a reading group (announce the first book), starting a blog, getting a job at seventy-two, because, for crying out loud, you like to work.

That is, actually indulge in the goodness you are following after. Jump into the plan. Throw your hat over the fence. Apply for promotion. Make a step to expand your influence. Once you’ve done the first step, the second step will be obvious. The point, of course, is to make positive steps to expand your influence, not negative steps to deprive yourself.

That’s it—sit, think, do. As opposed to the usual way we go about New Year’s Resolutioning: self-loathe, self-law, failure—rinse, repeat. No wonder we’re defeated.

But just to be clear, I think it is better not to make Resolutions at all: you should always be meditating on God’s love for you, what would give you and your family joy, and taking steps to expand your influence in the world. But, if you must, at least make them in such a way that you are happy, full of joy, and looking forward to a Wonderful 2012.

A Thought on BJU and Chuck Phelps

A 15-year-old girl was repeatedly raped by a man who attended her church. She was found to be with child, shipped off to another state. There, she was counseled to place the child for adoption, and a loving, church-approved family was found. Got it?

Years passed. Young woman grows up, finds her voice, realizes she can speak. That it wasn’t her fault. That it is never the fault of a 15-year-old girl when she is raped by a man twice her age.

That the time she was made to confess in front of the congregation her “adultery” as if the sex had been consensual was, in itself, a violation.

At long last, the rapist (his name is Ernest Willis) is arrested, tried, convicted, and sent packing for 15 to 30 years.

The pastor of the church is named Chuck Phelps, and somewhere along the line he was appointed to the BJU Cooperating Board. Turns out he knew about the rape at the time, but chose not to act decisively, chose not to insist on a criminal action against the rapist. Under the carpet, into the closet with it, was apparently his idea for the best way to deal with a situation in which an adult man has forcible sexual intercourse with a youth group member. (Pastors, a hint: this is not the correct solution.)

As the case went to trial, rumblings, thunderings, and outcries were heard. Chuck Phelps needed to resign from the cooperating board. He refused to do so. BJU did not pressure him to resign, but waited.

Just so you’re aware, when these sorts of things happen in “The World,” the person is sacked instantly. Maybe with pay, maybe without. Maybe a “voluntary resignation” is “accepted.” Maybe it’s more unilateral, more top-down. The thing is, you have to act swiftly or you risk tarnishing your image. In many cases, it doesn’t matter if the person ends up having actually done the thing in question—the important thing is to guard that very precious thing: reputation.

Ah heck, I’ll say it. When it comes to reputations, BJU needs to watch out. We humiliated ourselves for decades over the silly dating rule. The entire country had to focus a laser-beam of disapproval at us for that bad boy to get thrown out.

(I came to chapel the day after Dr. Bob III went on Larry King and announced The Rule had been tossed. When Dr. Bob walked into the Amphitorium, everyone stood up and clapped. Maybe a teeny part of that was relief—“Couldja please not make it embarrassing to go here?”)

Finally, this week, there was a board meeting, and Chuck Phelps resigned.

Here’s how I want to imagine it: Dr. Stephen Jones, who is in constant physical distress (and for whom we should all pray daily, and I call you to do so, as he is desperately, desperately needed), gets wheeled in, points a long, shaky finger at Dr. Phelps and says, “You? Here?” in which his meaning is: “Are you kidding me? Why why why why do we have to be going through this humiliating, constant agony?” at which Chuck says, oh, sorry, I thought you were standing behind me, turns tail, and runs.

He should have been sacked the moment this whole thing came up. In fact, before it all became known, Dr. Stephen Jones should have had a letter from Dr. Phelps informing him that “Due to a very painful situation in my church, it is impossible for me to continue my work for the Cooperating Board.” He should not have waited one second.

We should not wait and wait and wait and wait until it becomes physically painful for the words “Yeah, I go there,” to come out of kids’ mouths. We would never treat our children’s peccadillos this way: we act swiftly, actively, creatively, and with effect. We don’t treat the faculty like this: someone is accused of a time/place/manner indiscretion, and oh-my-goodness, they’re not welcome on campus for a year. Kids get thrown out for going to a movie (or they used to), for smoking, for drinking.

Okay, but this isn’t my whole point. My whole point is that the Throw Chuckie Out crowd is out of control. Now they want to regulate the heart of the matter. They won’t be happy because it wasn’t done sooner, or with certain words or whatever.

Fine. But what I don’t want to see is a feeding frenzy, because frankly, probably all kinds of nonsense goes on at school, like goes on at every other school. And yes, a policy needs to be implemented, firm things need to be said, but if we let this get out of control, the inmates (read: disaffected alumni) will swarm the asylum, wanting apologies for everything from Junior’s unguarded demeanor to being terrified by being asked to pray in front of 6,000 people on Day of Prayer. “Say Sorry For The Discipline Committee” will be a new Facebook page. Someone will admit: “I was the one who pulled the fire alarm so I could escape the Vienna Boys’ Choir Concert: Down With Required Artist Series.” (Tim LaHaye has a story about doing something illegal with the dorm plumbing, but I can’t remember the details. Still, it would make a good Facebook fan page: “The Flood in the Graves Basement: No Wonder I’m Afraid of Being Left Behind.”)

So, yes, it’s true that this thing wasn’t handled right. The dating thing was handled horrendously also in its time, but it was handled. The apology for past racial policies was handled badly, late, only after a huge petition push, but it was eventually and graciously handled. There are still things to handle. Still things to change. Lots of things aren’t right. Women and minorities are shamefully underrepresented, for one. (“Looky! There’s a black lady on faculty!”)

(I still shudder from the underrepresentation thing. You try being 19 and the only girl in Dr. Bell’s graduate Systematic Theology class.)

So, yeah, this episode in if-you-smoke-you’ll-be-shipped-but-if-you-cover-up-rape-you-can-stay-on-the-cooperating-board-until-you-decide-to-resign is over, what a relief. Next time, let’s act more swiftly.

Next time—listen up, people—if it’s you embarrassing my school, making me cower all over again with some lame, Southern or racist or sexist or whatever-ist thing: if it’s you, please be gracious and quit. Leave. Go. It should not be the University’s job to cover for you, to make you look good. It is your job to make them look good.

And yes, since you’re asking, I have a whole bunch of awesome ideas for how the University could up its image and move along into the early 21st century, and I think many, many things need to be done, but they need to be done with grace, with time, with love for the old folks who think about skirts and ties and syncopation and slippery slopes. People need to be gracious about change, but swift and effective when it comes to nonsense like we just saw here.

THANKFUL FOR FACEBOOK

This year I’m thanking God for Facebook.

I know there is a holier-than-thou attitude out there that declares Facebook to be a waste of time and just one more means of pretending to be connected with people you don’t actually know.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m no stranger to holier-than-thou attitudes. My goodness, I practically invented the genre: “Are you kidding me? You watch television? Your kids trick-or-treat? Wassamatta you?

But consider that description: “one more means of pretending to be connected with people you don’t actually know.” At least for me, this isn’t true. In fact, it’s wildly inaccurate.

Here’s why: Chris. Chris is my sister’s brother-in-law, and, no, I can’t claim a decades-long friendship with Chris. I’ve met him only a couple of times in person. But through Facebook, I’ve interacted with him dozens of times, argued, connected, compromised, and learned some fascinating things. I’ve been challenged. I’ve been stunned.

Here’s another why: Joseph Prince. He’s a pastor in Singapore who preaches about Jesus as if He’s real, as if Grace is Grace, as if the Old Covenant isn’t in vogue anymore. What a thought! I heard about Joseph Prince on Facebook, because someone posted a little youtube clip about I John 1:9. Find it.

Not enough could be said about Brenda, a smart, beautiful woman I sort-of know in real life, but whom, because of Facebook, I now consider a very dear friend. I could meet her at Corona’s–I’ll have the pollo fundido–and I swear we would talk, laugh, and cry for hours. Without Facebook, I would not know Brenda at all. She would be someone I used to be acquainted with.

Brenda leads straight to Dan, without whom the last year and a half of my life has much much much less meaning. I can’t overestimate the influence this good man—whom I don’t “really” know—has had on me.

Because of Facebook, I know my kindergarten friend Gail, my high school friend Cheri, my Hemet friend Jill (long live Forest Lawn!), my writing friend Rebecca, my drummer friend Amanda, the wife-of-the-guy-in-art: now my friend Penny, Jen–the mom of a baby Brian cared for in the NICU, and on and on and on. Plus, of course Nancy and Tammie whom I actually know, and shoot, now I’ve started to list people, and there’s no good place to stop, so someone is bound to feel left-out and offended. If you’re on my friend list, you know who you are!!!

Not to mention my relatives: we’re not a large family, and we’re not all particularly close. We don’t hang out much. But on Facebook, I’m allowed to rejoice in my nieces’ and nephews’ changed relationship statuses, cheer their academic achievements, see immediate pictures of their newly-born and newly-adopted babies, enter into their struggles, their gigantic IKEA purchases, their new homes, their prayer requests, their marathons. Totally love all these people: Amy and Brandon, Rose and Winnie, Danny/Jenny, Aaron,/Emily, Drew/Monique and all their beautiful children.

Oh, and of course, my siblings, but I have to admit to being far more ga-ga over my nieces and nephews!

Moving on, I have to admit that without Facebook, no one would read this blog. I haven’t mastered, or even thought about the fine art of self-promotion. I’ve left the whole thing to chance, as it were: who reads it reads it. The joy I get from putting words on paper is only heightened by the joy I get from hearing that someone laughed at my review of Angelina Jolie in Salt or cried at my Thought on the Resurrection (see A Thought on Saturday Night).

(Never mind the fine art of self-promotion, I don’t even know the fine art of getting around my own web site. So go to the top up there and click on the tab that says “THOUGHTS” and hunt around until you find the Saturday Night one. Coming soon: a Thought on That Unsilent Night.)

Here’s something else: book recommendations. I don’t know how much money I’ve spent on Amazon.com because Facebook friends have posted recommendations. Bonhoeffer, War, If you have to cry, Go Outside, The Help, and on and on. All books that have intrigued me and enhanced my life.

And one more thing: encouragement. This year I had one of those hit-by-a-semi disasters. My world fell apart. My heart broke. It’s still bloody here, and I’m still adrift, awash, a mess. But enough Facebook friends have come alongside and said, Hang in there, be strong, Jesus cares, I love you. When the “real” people in my life have not necessarily said that, but have been more of the “told you so” variety, it has been nice to have the unreal (?) people extend grace.

So here’s the thing—whether the people in your life are “real” or “only on Facebook,” they are Imagebearers of the Most High God. Their prayers reach the Throne of God. Their encouragement brings peace. Their posts, comments, relationship updates, links, and likes enrich your days. I count my Facebook friends as precious.

Yes, I know, you get your book recommendations from real people, you see your “real” friends every day at work, your nieces and nephews are people you actually see, and so forth, but the point is that because of Facebook, I who stay home, study, and homeschool my boys can have these things too. And without putting on hose or make-up. Score.

“WHO CAN FIND A VALIANT WIFE?”

Proverbs 12:4 “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband; but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.”

Proverbs 31:10 “A virtuous woman” is worth “far more than rubies” and that “the heart of her husband trusts in her. He will have no lack of gain.”

The Hebrew word here translated “virtuous” is used 243 times in the Old Testament. The word is transliterated “chayil,” and sit down, friend, because your understanding of this word is about to be adjusted.

Two hundred and forty-three times, the Spirit of God used this word, this lovely word “chayil.” Two hundred and forty times, it is not translated “virtuous.” It is translated “virtuous” only three times, less than 2% of the time!

(In what turned out to be a cosmic math epiphane, I just divided 240 by 243 to get the percentage of how often chayil is not translated virtuous. The answer: 0.987654320987654320987654320…it’s an endless, downhill slide, people.)

Yes, you guessed it: it is translated “virtuous” only when it is attached to women: Ruth, a hypothetical woman in Proverbs 12, and The Lady Herself—Mrs. Virtuous—in Proverbs 31.

Frankly, we’ve been sold a bill of goods on this one, because along with our mother’s milk, we’ve imbibed the idea that the “virtuous” woman is a sweetly able, softly efficient lady who glides through her day cheerfully busy about the household. Sadly, she did have to work outside her home, but if we can do without that icky part, we’ll be better off.

Instead of being invigorated by Mrs. V’s amazing qualities, we are guilted into getting up early to get the oatmeal going (we don’t have maidens to direct), and do a little hand sewing, because, after all, she made belts for the tradesmen.

Forget all that.

Two hundred and forty times the word is not translated virtuous. When it is not referring to women, it is translated (hold onto your hats): army (56 times), man of valour (37 times) host (29 times), forces (14 times), valiant (13 times), strength (12 times), riches (11 times), wealth (10 times), power (9 times), substance (8 times), might (6 times), strong (5 times), and 33 “miscellaneous” uses which include: activity, able, goods (as in substance), war, valour, worthily, a great train (as in entourage), company (again, entourage), soldiers.

Mostly, it is a military word. It is never a soft word. It is never sweet, never housebound. It is in-your-face, it is out-there-in-the-world.

When the word is used as an adjective describing a man or group of men: man of valour, men of wealth, men of might, men of power, worthy man, strong man, able men.

It is crystal clear that this word chayil indicates strength, power, might, wealth, substance, and valour. Instead of saying, “Look, here’s a military word, and God is clearly indicating that these three particular women had valour and strength in abundance,” our translators shrunk back in their Jerusalem-chamber chairs and said, “Oh no, it’s about women, let’s soften the connotation.”

We don’t have to ask ourselves why the 17th century translators translated as they did. We know. These were the same gentlemen who were crafting and developing the common law of England that gave a woman’s property to her husband to manage, did not allow her to testify in a court of law, kept her from education, and hindered her in independently considering fields and buying them, making profits and planting vineyards, selling garments and sashes to merchants, you get my meaning. Everything she is described as doing in Chapter 31 is softened out by use of the word “virtuous,” because the translators, good men that they no doubt were, had certain societal, traditional, and yes, religiously-motivated norms they wanted preserved.

Remember, 1611 is less than 100 years after The Hammering On The Door. Women weren’t highly valued, weren’t seen as equal image-bearers. These men were operating in their time, and their time was oppressive to women. Sure, we were slowly working our way to full personhood, but, honey, we weren’t there yet, not by a longbow-shot.

So, when these men got to Ruth and got to Proverbs, they had already translated this word a couple of hundred times, but they couldn’t bring themselves to translate the word with its full power. They weren’t going there. “Virtuous” worked. They went with it.

We understand their situation. We understand their hesitancy. I mean, if you give this woman the word “strength,” she’s probably going to want an education. She’s probably going to see herself as an equal. Maybe she’ll want to see if she can learn math, or physics, or surgery, or law…or translation.

Enter Mr. Strong (1890), and the jig is up. Now the ordinary inquisitive person can track the original God-breathed Hebrew word through the text and see the inconsistencies, the translation choices gone wrong. (When I was a little girl, I used to carry around the giant green Exhaustive Concordance and look up words by the hour. I was entranced by 8 or 10, and never recovered, but happily now it’s all online.)

Perhaps the translators knew we’d eventually realize that the lady they called Mrs. Virtuous is a powerful, able, efficient, strong, valiant woman! She is out there impacting her community. She is engaged in commerce. She has a voice and she speaks. Strength and honor cover her–she is all over strong, all over honorable. In a woman–hear me now–the words strong and honorable are linked: it is honorable to be strong.

Not only that, but her husband is not afraid of her or of her accomplishments. He happily goes about his business in the community. Nor are the kids intimidated or feeling abandoned. They rise up and bless her. They think it’s awesome that their mother commands servants, profits in her business, and speaks truth and kindness wherever needed.

She’s rich. Her household is clothed well. She has servants to direct. She even has enough money to give to the poor people she encounters.

No wonder her husband trusts her and has no fear of poverty. He knows she’s got everything under control. She’s not weeping in a corner begging her husband to lead her—she’s out there living her life in an active, productive way.

She’s not sitting home thinking of yet another craft to do, yet another home-arts class she can take, yet another way to fill her time because she “shouldn’t” get a job, teach a class, run a marathon, run a store, take a trip to Europe, join an investment club with money she’s earned, or whatever her heart desires to do.

(We’ll leave “plant a vineyard” for the Reformed Baptists.)

To be clear: they could have (and probably should have) said Worthy Woman, Valiant Woman, Strong Woman, Mighty Woman. They chose a soft word because they were afraid of what might happen if they said it out loud:

“A strong woman is worth more than rubies. Her husband can trust her, she’s going to bring him abundance.”

How she uses her strength, power, and might for the good of her family is her own business.

More to come, of course, because I can hear you: “But what about ‘Keepers at Home’?” Yeah, yeah, we’ll get there. Be patient. I’m a busy woman.

A THOUGHT ON RIDING WAVES

Yes, that’s me out there. I’m the fifty-year-old round woman with bleached-blonde hair, wearing shorts and a tank top. The boogie board strap is around my wrist, I’m carrying the board, and I’m stepping out into the cold, cold waters of the Shining Sea.

The other 50-something fat moms are on the beach under their umbrellas, reading. I see them (thank you, inventor of Lasik) and I feel, momentarily, foolish for being the fat lady in the water, moving farther out, aching for the ride.

Smack! A wave tags me, and I move through it. It wasn’t the right wave. I know this, because from generations past, I am a California girl, and when I am in the water, the 50, the fat, the mom-of-five, the lady living with an emotional disaster, the law student who crashed and burned on a Constitutional Law practice exam, the ordinary person that is me simply disappears, and I am, not to be melodramatic, but really, one woman against the ocean.

But wait, I’m not against the ocean. You can’t be “against” the ocean. The ocean is not something you can tame, not something you can have dominion over, not something God gives you dominion over. The ocean is The Ocean, and this particular ocean is the biggest one we’ve got. I’m not against it: I’m in love with it.

(Sure, I’ll take you on over “subdue the earth,” which can be partially done, while subduing the ocean is simply not possible. We can travel over it or explore under it or play at the edges, but subdue? Hardly.)

Here it is—this is the wave I want. I bend my knees and launch at the right instant and ride, laughing, all the way up onto the sand, where I roll off the boogie board, clamber up onto my feet and run—literally run—back out into the water.

At this moment I wonder if the Umbrella Ladies have a tiny bit of longing to have what I have. If they think, “For crying out loud, if that lady can do it, why am I here doing the Will Shortz crossword puzzle?” Or are they rolling their eyes and thinking, “What is the matter with that lady?”

Do I care what they think? Yes, a little tiny part of me (okay, a pretty big part) feels conspicuous, over-aged, wrong gendered, and so forth, for this activity.

Still, the desire to participate is overwhelming. I long for this. I’m going to have it. I’m going to ride waves until I physically can’t get up anymore. I’m going to get scraped up on the sand, submerged by the water, tossed, and trashed, and I’m going to love every moment.

I look around. My boys are not doing so well. Here’s why:

First, they don’t know the waves like I do. I know what a ride-able wave looks like. Been doing this for a while now, people, and even though I haven’t been to this particular beach in decades, a wave is a wave is a wave, and the ones you can ride up onto the sand look a certain way.

Second, the boys are not pointing their boards the right direction. To access the power of the wave, you have to be going in the same direction. Did you hear what I just said: To access the power of the wave, you have to be going in the same direction. Sit there. Ponder.

Third, they don’t know where to stand. You have to be at the right elevation in relation to the wave. You have to be standing on the sand with a certain amount of your body out of the water, or the wave will power over you. You need a good foundation.

Fourth, you have to know the right moment to launch.

Fifth, you have to push off. There is that infinitesimal moment when you are out there before the wave picks you up and carries you along. This is the faith-moment. The commitment moment when you step off the ledge, into the air, onto the limb, into the breach.

If you read my work with any regularity, you know that while all this was going on this week at Huntington Beach, I was actively thinking about the work of the Holy Spirit. As I pointed my boogie board, I thought, “I have to be going His way.” As I observed waves forming just beyond me, the ones that I wouldn’t be able to ride, because I wasn’t far enough “out there,” I realized there were things I could not yet access, places I could not yet go. And I wanted to access; I wanted to go.

(I can hear some people wondering: Does she really think like this all the time? FYI, yes.)

A few more thoughts:

You have to get in the water. It’s cold at first. It’s really cold at first, and you have to get used to it, bit by excruciating bit. Then you’re in. That’s when you’re ready to look for waves, and not until then. If you get slapped by a wave before you’re properly in, it just knocks you over. You can wonder at the power, but it isn’t doing anything for you. You’re not moving in concert with it; you’re actually in the way.

Or you could say at this point that you are being enticed by the water, lured. Come here, person who aches for the ride. Come here, desirer of joy. Come here, you who long to be one with the water. Come: the ride is exhilarating, the ride is life-giving.

Sometimes when you are riding a gigantic, powerful wave, and you are speeding toward the dry sand, you realize that you are going to collide with people who are right in your way. You have to make a decision, but the answer cannot be that you allow the collision. You have to get off the board. You have to drag your hands, you feet, your legs in the sand or do whatever you have to do to avoid crashing into little children who are unaware of your speedy approach.

This can hurt, because you get scraped on the sand trying to stop yourself in time, and in the end, you have to just stop cold and fall over onto your face. No one thanks you for this. They just look at you funny, or maybe it’s just me. Someone help me with the spiritual connection on this point. I’m still thinking.

One other thing: when the day is done, there is evidence of what happened. I’m wet, for one. I’m joyful. My whole body aches for rest. I’m browner, even with 45 SPF. And I want to go back tomorrow. I want to live there.

A Thought on a Time of Trouble

A thing has happened here, and I wondered if there was any value in blogging through it, instead of afterward, when it’s all smoothed away and the corners are tucked in.

Because later, I’ll be able to say, “Looky there, see what God did!” while right now—at this moment—I can hardly breathe, am having trouble putting one foot in front of the other, am crying a lot.

Of course, I have to fake it. I have a husband and children and a house and the laundry has to get done, and when I answer the phone I have to say “hello.”

When/if the people start calling, I have to be able to chat amiably and heroically and not give way to blubbering incoherence. I have to hang tough. And if people don’t call and don’t meet me at Starbucks, I have to take that and not start whining about how God’s people don’t help in crisis. Maybe they don’t know what to say. Maybe they know if they ask, I’ll say I’m fine, thanks.

Later, I’ll be able to say, “Well, maybe I could have done this or that,” whereas right now, I can only wake up, go through the day, and then go back to bed, knowing that whatever is happening is happening—that there isn’t anything I can do about it.

The sky has fallen in and I was the person underneath. Perhaps I could have propped it better, or differently, or longer, but I didn’t.

Of course, I could have avoided the entire situation by not trying, by not being there, by not getting involved, but I didn’t avoid then, so I can’t avoid now. I went out on the limb and it cracked under me.

That sounds awfully dramatic, doesn’t it? And yet at the same time cryptic, unclear.

The experts told me it would be risky, it might fail—it would probably fail. That doesn’t make it easier. Other experts are telling me now not to look at what I see, but to look at what God can do. And of course that is what we did all along—that is why we tried to begin with.

Because God can when we can’t. Because God takes the disqualified and qualifies them. Because God takes the weak and molds them into the strong.

So, anyway, we’re having this problem, and I have to be the Mom still. I have to be emotionally stable. I have to courageously face the day without reference to loss. Without reference to failure. Without reference to “Told you so.”

I have to cling to the fact that I am a favored, loved, graced child of God, that I can walk on this water, that I can weather this storm (no doubt getting soaked to the skin), that I can maintain myself, my focus, my responsibilities, my children’s needs without wavering, without losing faith, without losing my way.
Jesus is more than enough. His grace if sufficient in this moment.