Check this out before you listen to the message, it might matter later 🙂 Enjoy!
Check this out before you listen to the message, it might matter later 🙂 Enjoy!
Wednesday evening, we had our first ‘E.’ Several months ago, the decision was made to overhaul Family Connect (our mid-week gathering), splitting it into four sections (H. O. M. and E. making an appropriately clever acronym) and giving it new purpose. The ‘E’ was, simply, a monthly excuse to get together and play music and laugh and ask, “what’s your story?” with time to hear the answer.
It was really terrific – easy and open, and everyone gone by 8. 2 parentheses: (Now that we’re older, my kids have bedtimes, my wife has an early job, and it was a weeknight – on weekends, I am tip-top till the wee hours of the night, maybe 9:30 or 10) and (My good friend showed me a Pinterest idea where there was a banner that, instead of ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘Welcome Home,’ read ‘Please Leave By 9.’ HA!)
Anyway. As I looked around at the people who had (or would soon) become my extended family, I started to think about how grateful I am. You see, I have been reading an inordinate amount of Kurt Vonnegut books, as they are only just now being replaced after losing my entire collection in the flood, and one of his main themes is that we are miserable because we don’t have enough people. Rather than a giant circle, we have isolated ourselves into groups of 3 or 4, and that isn’t nearly enough. If I expect my wife – and she expects me – to be my/her only friend, lover, counselor, partner, babysitter, co-worker, and all the other things we require, we will both be inadequate and unfulfilled. This will, of course, as we all know, lead to the biggest pile of steaming resentment in the middle of the living room floor, spilling into the kitchen, dining room and bedroom, staining every look, word, and moment.
The book I just finished was called Slapstick and, in it, the President re-named all citizens, changing their middle names to, for instance, Daffodil-13. Chad Daffodil-13 Slabach. All Daffodils were family, All 13’s were family. If you needed a loan, you would not go to a bank where they didn’t know or care about you, you would see another Daffodil. If you needed someone to pick you up from the airport, you’d call the 13 down the street. Your family grew exponentially overnight and the nation’s mental health with it. People had others to hold their hands, encourage them, help them find the road when they’d lost their way.
This year is the 25th year since I’ve graduated from Cocalico High School. Last night, I saw this post on Facebook: “Who’s ready for a reunion???” First, how did I get so old? Where did the time go, so fast? And second, not me. But fresh from the book, I wanted to be ‘ready for a reunion!’ I wanted to lead the committee, wanted to be the most enthusiastic 25 year alum this planet had ever seen!!! YAY, reunions!!! So, to stoke those fires, I started to scroll through the members of the Class of 93. Oh baby, the memories! I couldn’t wait to see these great friends to relive these great times!!
Except for just one thing. I hated almost every day of high school. And sitting next to Elisha on the couch, I repeated, “I don’t know who that is.” “I don’t remember her at all.” “You know, buddy, I’m not sure this was my class at all.” And then I’d check. Yes, 1993. Cocalico.
Of course, there were some I remember, some very fondly, but probably not the best thing if I headed the committee, probably shouldn’t be appointed head cheerleader for the cause.
I don’t imagine I’ll go at all.
The thing is, we all said we’d stay close – at least that’s what we wrote in each other’s yearbooks. They were our Daffodils, our 13’s. And we didn’t ‘stay in touch,’ haven’t seen some for 25 years. And we gained new Daffodils in college, and then lost them. And each time, the circles got smaller and smaller, until it was pared down to just 1 or 2 or, if you’re very lucky, a half dozen.
My neighbor just moved, and didn’t ask me to help. (To be fair, I wouldn’t have asked her, either, even though we are very friendly.) I’ve seen too many cry alone. Do you know who you would call with great news? Or bad news? Or when you’re terrified?
So, we had an ‘E’ in my house Wednesday, and these are my people, my Daffodils. I am starting to see, the scales are falling on this misguided, destructive notion that we are independent. The lie that if we ask for help or need someone else, then we are weak and embarrassed.
I held my boy last night, tears in his sweet sad eyes, and I said, “Remember in Guardians of the Galaxy? Star-Lord held the infinity stone, and sure he held it for a while, but then it started to break him apart. His face started to crack into pieces, right? Until Gamora grabbed him. And then Rocket. And then Drax. And then, they could hold it.”
I wrote this in my journal Monday afternoon, at the bus stop, waiting for my boys.
“Sunday afternoon, I saw an ugly part of myself. Yet another instance where I let the tapes in my head, the insecurity, the unworthiness define me instead of God.
You see, I have a dream to write a book. That’s when they start – the same Sanballat (the name of the villain in the book of Nehemiah, always the undermining voice of opposition) voices that spent so long arguing that I had nothing to say on Sunday mornings – “Who are you to think you have anything to say? Why would anyone come to hear you? Who do you think you are? I know who you really are…”
Now, they’re shouting at me, same words dripping with judgment, their only goal to fill me with shame.
And I listened.
Not to the Creator, who lovingly placed these dreams in me, but to the enemy, who has never wanted anything good for me (or you or your sister or co-worker or anyone else).
I kept my mouth closed, embarrassed at what I was being re-programmed to believe were delusions of grandeur – not grandeur, really, just value. Re-programmed to think value was a delusion. Shhhh, don’t speak because ‘what if’
What if what?!!?
What if I were created in love, by love, for a purpose? What if God gave me dreams and passions? What if God called me?
Which isn’t too far fetched, by the way. God has called us ALL, yet I seem to think I’m not a part of this super-secret exclusive group ‘ALL.’ What?
Anyway, what if?
Back to the ugly part. We had close friends over for dinner, really terrific people who truly care about me, us, and most of all, they care about Jesus. So, they asked me what I was feeling/doing/where I was spiritually, and I answered (mostly the things I told you last week). But I stopped short of the book (which I’ll call Chronicles, Nehemiah, and Other Books Nobody Reads). I can’t tell you why.
Then my wife pressed me to share it with them and I hesitated (I still can’t tell you why), letting it escape like a dirty secret – And they were thrilled. Of course they were.
I shelved this exciting part of me, instead choosing to display the me the voices described. But those voices are filthy liars. The person they describe isn’t me at all. AT ALL. I honestly don’t know the person they are describing.
When given the choice, I decided to court the discouragement of wrecking balls rather than the love and support of angels in human skin. (And they really are angels, these friends, these beautiful Liedtkas)
I wonder why…
Either way, it was disgusting and so far beneath me. I’m not going to do that again. In fact, I think I’ll shout from the mountaintops about this book. About how I am new. About how we are loved, and valued, more passionately than we could ever possibly imagine.”
If I had any sense (or privacy), I wouldn’t post pages from my journal. We all know I’m prone to over-sharing, but this one feels different to me, much harder. But even though this is extraordinarily frightening to be so raw and vulnerable, I know it’s necessary.
We can all see that it’s not just about a book, right? It’s an apology to my friends. It’s a public denial of the tapes that run, telling me I am less than, convincing me I am not good enough. It is an affirmation of the Gospel that whispers straight into my heart that I am not who I was, that I am not a better version of that guy, but that I am new, thanks to Him.
It is a New Day.
Today is my first day post-Lehigh Valley Respiratory Care, and Angel’s first day of the new job at the school. Today is also a day of an avalanche of emotion and reflection. Socrates said ’the unexamined life isn’t worth living,’ and that would mean my life is totally worth living because I do almost nothing but examine. However, Socrates was quoted at a trial for piety and corrupting youth, where he was sentenced to death. So, um, I hope it turns out better for me than it did for Socrates. Anyway.
I have so many things swirling through my head and heart. I started that job when I was 26, married one year, and a boy who bears almost no resemblance to the man I am today. In those years, I bought a house, had 2 children, lost my dad, lost that house, bought a new house, lost the only church I’d ever called home, gained a new faith community, a new Bridge, and on and on – I can’t even begin to color in the lines of my life over those years. Suffice it to say, I probably wouldn’t even recognize the Chad that walked into the office in 2002.
My brother-in-law texted me on Monday, “Wonder if you’ll have feelings of guilt or being lost initially,” and no truer words have ever been spoken. I do have both of those feelings, along with so many others, in equal measures, but it was jarring to hear them spoken aloud. I had been feeling those things, but I was hesitant to give them voice. You see, most people are wildly uncomfortable with honesty. Most people want you to cheer up (or at the very least, think about them and fake it convincingly). We are not a society that deals in authenticity. His words were liberating, water for a thirsty soul. I am frightened, guilty, lost, inadequate, insecure and I am strong, excited, happy, peaceful, encouraged, adequate, secure, held, joyful. My tears are full of sadness and celebration. If I were forced to use just one word, I would choose thankful.
No matter what happens from here, I am unbelievably thankful.
I don’t know what I’ll do – I have many ideas (so many ideas). But today, I woke up at 3, worked out, ate an obscene amount of blueberries in my cereal, washed the dishes, took a shower, emptied my work bag, and now I am eating Skittles and writing this to you. I will have to get a cell phone plan today. I suppose I’ll figure it out. I can get overwhelmed with thoughts of where this is all heading, but where I am right now is that all I need is the next step. And the next step is to sit with my heart, equal parts broken and more whole than ever, and breathe, acknowledging what has happened, and breathe, in anticipation for what will. I guess the next step is really the same as the one after that, and the one 100 steps from now. You see, we’re children of the Living God, so the best we can do is to hold His hand, wherever that leads.
Last night, at our ‘H’ gathering, the topic of forgiveness crawled out of the corner and circled between our feet, nudging us, until she finally reclined right in the middle of our circle, refusing to be ignored. And I suppose that is exactly where she belongs. She must be addressed.
So. I’ll welcome her to the light and make her comfortable, hope and pray she stays.
First, this is what forgiveness is NOT.
(I am operating under the assumption that you have been wronged, seriously wronged. The Bible says, “IF someone has wronged you…” and “IF someone offends or sins against us…” They did, it’s real and it hurts. This is not personality quirks and preferences, these are wounds that leave scars.)
Forgiveness is NOT justifying what they did, it’s NOT saying it wasn’t so bad, it’s NOT saying they were right. Forgiveness is NOT reconciliation, NOT the same as restoring the relationship. Sometimes, people are toxic and dangerous and should not be given access to you, should not be given the chance to hurt you again. You are much, much more than someone’s carpet, that they will walk all over. You are worth much, much more than a punching bag. Forgiveness does NOT mean there are not consequences for their actions.
Here’s what forgiveness is –
It is you releasing them from the jail you put them in. You want them to be punished, want to be the one to punish them, want it to hurt them (at least as severely as they hurt you), and want them to see their error, make amends and change before your very eyes. Right?
Sadly, this is not our job (as much as I may wish it was was). We aren’t the Chief Justice of the rest of the world. Most of the time, they don’t recognize what they did, how big it was, how much it mattered, how much it hurt you, or in some disastrous circumstances, don’t care. People will do what people will do, and too often, that means hurting other people. The only good news about this is that, sometimes (I’m sure very rarely, almost never) you will be the one who needs forgiveness, whether you know it or not.
We have to open our hands and let them go. Why? Because Jesus says we do, and that’s enough.
And, because when we release them from that prison, it will mean that we are also released from that same jail that we’ve been guarding, in our heads, hearts, souls, making sure they stay locked up, making sure they lose, too. What we fail to realize is that we’re also in chains. How much time and energy do we spend thinking about what they did, twisting into bitter, burned, resentful pretzels of angry offense? When we let them go, we let ourselves go. We release ourselves of the responsibility for being the Police Of All Mankind. It’s heavy, and something we were never meant to carry. Imagine what you can do with all of that time and energy and stress – watch the sunset, read a book, take me to dinner, watch a great movie, go to the Bridge Sunday morning at 10:30;) You can do, literally, anything you want to do. You’ll be free!
One more thing.
When you release them, you are also releasing yourself from their control. I had issues with my dad for much of my life, issues I couldn’t forgive or move past. Several years after his death, I was able to lay that weight down and only then could I see that every decision, every step, every part of the man I was becoming was, largely, a result of him. I was angry, frustrated, constantly not feeling good enough. I made decisions based on doing the exact opposite of what he would do. Only when I could set that down and leave it behind, I was liberated to discover and step into who I really was. Only when the control I had forced upon him (that he unknowingly possessed) was stripped, could I find and become Chad. And being just Chad is the greatest.
I probably make this sound easy-peasy, but it’s not. We’re not in the business of pretending – This is very hard, and takes so long, full of missteps and backslides, but like most everything, it’s totally worth it when we can fly without the ropes we’ve tied around our own wings.
I’ll see you Sunday morning
HE IS RISEN!!
This is how The Bridge starts off a resurrection Sunday!