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My Friend is Dying

So, my friend was recently admitted to hospice.



I’m having some difficulty processing this.



Not that it doesn’t make sense to me – she’s been declining through cancer over the last year.

Not that I can’t accept this – she lives completely in love with Jesus, I know she’s going home and her destroyed body will be made new.



But I can’t quite talk to anyone about it, because it seems like everything I feel is wrong.



I see all of my Christian friends who know and love her posting things about how our only hope now is a miracle, and it just seems so weird. Our only hope is Jesus, yes? We are all in agreement on this? And we’re all living with our sights set on Him and being with Him? 



So our only hope to prevent our friend from being restored and living with Jesus is if Jesus does something about it?



I feel like I’m missing something crucial here. Something that makes this add up. I’ve probably seen some forty people from Camp post this same idea. Camp was where I learned about loving God, and how this family of believers interacts and meshes together because Christ is our head. 



I do get that she has a lot of kids, and several of them are quite young. But this is the Camp crew; we’ve seen God miraculously provide in thoroughly unexpected ways every year.



I get that she’s married and her husband treasures her.



I get that she’s a wonderful person, who has cried with us and prayed with us and done so much good in her life, just following Jesus.



So, it seems logical to me that all of us following Jesus would lead to us being pleased that she’s home with Him.



And instead, everybody seems upset about that.



And it’s not like we’re really losing anything. Sure, we won’t see her until we’re home – that’s going to be, what, sixty years for some of the longer ones? Two, for some of the unexpected? Drop in the bucket, next to eternity. I have a friend who moved to Damascus with his wife – I’m probably not going to see him again this side of Heaven, but they’re doing some serious good where they are, and we’re not all mournful about that.



I feel like I can’t talk to anybody about what I’m feeling, because I’ll hurt or shock them for having a different perspective. And I can’t even understand WHY I have a different perspective on this.


 
 
   
 

'ware the jabber...
"Yes, words are useless! Gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble! Too much of it, darling, too much! That is why I show you my work! That is why you are here!"

So that's Edna, from the Incredibles. Possibly my favorite character, just for sheer enthusiasm.

Couple of us wives are meeting once a week, going through Ephesians, looking for the statements about our identity. That's pretty cool. And we talk about what that identity means for us in our marriages, in our friendships, at work, with our church family, etc.

So, both wives had an odd request for me. I'm used to thinking in terms of, women deal with women, men deal with men. This is, perhaps, something of a cultural leftover from the hypervigilance several of us had when a friend's wife cheated on him while we were all working overseas. They asked me to stop doing this - that if I need to talk with either of their husbands about something, that I just talk with him, instead of going through his wife. There are other points that bug them, too, like being hyper-cautious about riding in a vehicle with one of their husbands by myself, or that I'd rather stay over at my single girlfriend's place for the night than with S (who lives next door), because mornings are an intimate time for me and I would feel awkward sharing that with her husband when mine is unavailable.

Overall, the message was, "Look, it was kind of sweet when we didn't know you, but we're friends now, we really do trust you and our husbands, this is just ridiculous."

So, that's been on my mind. I don't have an answer. I can't keep irritating them with this, and it's going against the grain of what I'm used to, to just interact directly with the guys. Okay, yes, these guys are friends with Rick.

Apparently I've also been communicating to both of them, by talking in the group more than my husband does, that I don't respect my husband.

Huh.

This is especially interesting to me, because one of these women has communicated by frequently ridiculing her husband in public that she doesn't respect him. (Not the case - turns out that was an outpouring of her own feelings guilt and dislike for herself.) S pointed out that she and her husband know each other's views of the Bible so well that she already knows what he's going to say when he speaks, so she doesn't feel the need to add anything to it.

H-uh.

That's definitely not going on with Rick and me.

(Actually, Rick thinks I read too much. We tried me-not-reading for about four days. I was really stressed. We tried me-just-reading-at-designated-times, which worked about as well as watching a movie for an hour each day. Currently, we're trying the approach of overloading my reading plate with material I need for class, so that what I'm reading is theoretically useful. I like anatomy. Nom nom A&P textbooks.)

And then we three wives got into why do I talk as much as I do? I mean, they were honestly interested.

I usually just shrug and announce, "I'm an extrovert," but there's two reasons that doesn't work here. One, S doesn't believe there's such a thing as extroverts and introverts. Two, I know perfectly well that I talk when I'm excited, and I talk when I'm nervous. When I'm relaxed and happy, like hanging out with Jewel at her house and it's just the two of us, I'm a "quiet extrovert." I want to be around people, but I don't necessarily need to converse, just want to be near them.

In our little tribe, I'm nervous. Every time I talk, it's because I'm eager to prove that I have something of value to offer.

Because I feel like I don't. More than that, I feel like if other people don't believe I have something to offer, then they'll leave me out of things. They won't want me around. I'll lose the opportunity to have relationships

It's actually pretty stupid. Because I know that Rick, S, and A think I'm beautiful; they all tell me so. I know Jewel appreciates me being there; she's told me so. There's always a nasty little whisper, "That was then. This is now. You messed up in THIS way and THIS OTHER THING since then. You have to prove yourself again." And, of course, all I end up proving is that I'm overeager to talk.

Last night, I had the opportunity to experience the other side of this. Several of us in class are assigned to a sort of group project, we're getting to know each other. One young lady (dresses well, very pretty hair and skin, has a lot of the visual points women like to have going for themselves) is the most likely, out of the handful of us, to burst in with commentary designed to prove that she has some experience and knowledge to share. It's not that she's wrong in what she's saying, it's that it's a little irrelevant, and it's honestly okay not to know much; this is a basic level course, the instructors expect that most of us are beginners.

So, Thursday I had this talk with the other two wives, and then Friday I'm watching/listening to instruction punctuated by happy-desperate bursts of semi-relevant information, thinking, "Huh. Is that what it's like for the others?"

There's a point where Jesus advises people, "If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it from you. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it away." Obviously, He's not referring to physically maiming - it's still completely possible to lust with the remaining eye, steal with the remaining hand. But that's what I'm thinking of. I seem to keep coming back to this idea that I just plain talk too much, and I wish I could just remove my tongue and fix the problem. Physically removing the offending member isn't going to change the heart-nature, though; whatever the problem is at heart, it'd just find some other way to express.

I don't want to be disrespectful and offensive. Do I "not-want" that enough to put in the effort to make an uncomfortable change?

I really don't know. I thought I did. But we keep coming back to this.
 
 
 

   
Baseline
So, my husband, yesterday, gave me instructions on how to wash my hands. Or, rather, a household handwashing policy he was now implementing.

Handwashing.

(Admittedly, this is the same man who has given instructions on how to brush my teeth, take out my contacts, and defecate. H has taught me to look past the words to the heart, and I can recognize, "All right, he's not saying this to be bossy, he's saying this because he genuinely cares and wants me to be healthy/unhurt. I can appreciate that motivation." I am not yet to the point where my heart perceives these instructions as loving, but at least my head can.)

This came up because there is a particular handwashing procedure at one of the medical facilities he frequents. I was a bit grumpy about it because it is identical to the food-safety handwashing procedure at nearly any restaurant.

Everybody at some point works a minimum-wage food service job. Nobody's proud of it, but it's how we all started. This is how I thought of the world. It's silly to be telling me how to do something that was the first priority to teach everyone at the first job they ever had.
But wait - one of the hoops Rick is jumping through right now is partly because that WASN'T part of his experience. He didn't work fast food, because there were other considerations at that time. Maybe my experience is not everyone's.

So, what's the baseline I'm thinking of here?
When I started pursuing a nursing major, I had a very keen interest in being a Pediatrics nurse someday. I love kids. Later, I learned from other young nurses that, "everyone wants peds," so only the very best get it.

Well.

I don't really think I can be the very best.
And I also have a keen interest in NICU, which is a little unique. (Peds, you get to wear fun cartoon-character scrubs and play with your patients. NICU, your patients are very tiny, incredibly vulnerable, and you ache seeing them in whatever condition got them there.) So, I had my sights set on working as a nurse in Mayo Clinic's NICU. 

Two years later, I'm living in the Bighorns, going to school, working at a daycare. Loved it. Loved it loved it loved it. I distinctly remember one October afternoon running around with about twenty four-year-olds on a big grassy lawn, thinking, "Could Heaven BE any better than this??"

(Yes, of course it can. I've come to understand a bit more about God since that year.)

Still had this idea, though, that everyone wants to work with the little ones. Yes, we would all like to do that, but we can't all do that, now can we, so why don't you pick something a little less competitive? Same thing with doing music as a career. You can't do what you love if everyone wants to do it and you're not the very best. No one will want you. I believed it.

Today, I help with about a dozen two-year-olds one morning each week. Their moms get a chance to gather, meet with other adults, one of the grandmothers teaches from the Bible. We who love toddlers get toddler-time, moms get time with each other, toddlers get to see other kids and play with other toys, moms know their kids are right there in the same building so they can relax, it's great.

Toddlers are a hoot, I tell you. The things they say. The things they do. Their tiny-but-furious dramas. (I have one pair of sympathetic twins. Bold-twin will be totally nonchalant, even playful, about having her diaper changed, while Sensitive-twin is five feet away having a meltdown because somebody is doing something to Sister.) I just figured that, this is a middle-of-the-week thing. EVERYBODY would be doing this, except that they all have jobs and aren't available.

I usually share at least one entertaining moment from this with my sister. (Last time's was, when we are two, and our dear friend is one, we do not pick our dear friend up by the neck. Rules to live by.) My sister is a teacher of middle-schoolers, and after over a year of these, she asked me if I had any interest in ECE, because schools really needed ECE teachers.

What? This had not occurred to me. Here, I'd been thinking preschool teaching was what a lot of young women did when they wanted to work with kids until they could get married and have their own. I'm married, whoever heard of a married preschool teacher?

Later, same week, I was hanging out with my neighbor S. (I'd had a really bad night, and Rick had to work, so he arranged with S that we'd hang out and watch a movie, rather than letting me wallow in my hate-misery.) S is also a teacher of middle-schoolers, and I mentioned what Butterfly had said. And this woman that I usually kind of envy, because she is slim and blonde and gainfully employed and keeps to a regular workout schedule and has a big family in the area that she can connect with who will take care of her when she's sick and spend holidays together...clearly expressed that she had no interest whatsoever in little ones.

What?

No, seriously. She likes working with kids where you can have a rational conversation about their actions. 

I can see the sense of this. It's pretty tough to get the message across to one of the little runabouts, "No, he had the toy first. We don't take a toy someone else is playing with. Let's go find another toy." Five minutes later, same conversation. 

But Rick's encouragement, and Butterfly's encouragement, and S's encouragement all came together, and something clicked, "Wait, this is something I know I can do...that NOT everyone can do! There IS, actually, a need for this!"

Look, it's not that I think the things I can do are without value, anymore. It's just that the things I can do, and like to do, it seems like everyone would want to do them, so why would anyone hire ME to do them?

This is kind of eye-opening for me. I'm hopeful, and excited, and going to be chewing on this idea for a little while.
 
 
   
 

Guilt Culture

H and I get together about once a week to chat.

Jesus said that when you leave everything for the Kingdom, you receive more than you left in the Kingdom. H is one of a few women who’s sort of filled the mom-role for me here. (My mom is awesome for advice on improving as a musician, gardening, food-prep, lots of very practical tasks, but when it comes to worldview and relationships, I have to talk to someone who read their Bible that morning.)

We have tea, talk over life. Usually at her house, sometimes at a bookstore coffee shop. There’s some other overlap – I watch munchkins for two hours one midweek morning, and three of them are her granddaughters. We’re in the choir together. But this is the time when nothing else is pulling our attention, and I can pull out the drawer of everything weighing on me right now. H listens, and offers practical advice, based on years of teaching, raising children, being married, and leaning hard on God through all of it.

One of my favorite pictures is when she gathers all three of her kids (the middle one is my age, so this is years back) close and says, “Okay everybody, we’re going to stop for a minute and pray that God will give mommy more patience.” Love it. It never entered my mind to pray FOR my parents when I was a kid. Give thanks for them, certainly, but the idea that God could help my parents handle things that they couldn’t handle without Him – mindblowing.


So, this week we’re talking over about seven different things at once, and somewhere in there comes the concept that one of our marriage-mentors believes Rick and I keep having the same issue because of some unconfessed sin between us.

H knows me. She hears me out about my mom and my sisters, my frustrations, my goals, my marriage, my confusion about what I’m supposed to be doing in all this, and she’s been doing it longer than I’ve been married. So she listens to my bafflement, because I can’t think of anything I’ve been keeping from Rick, and I know Rick isn’t keeping anything from me (because he can conceal important information from the person who needs it for maybe all of ten hours). She was calm, “No, you’d know if you had some unconfessed sin.”

And then she reminded me of something – I do guilt. It’s a pervasive part of how I understand my place in the world. I am guilty. Not in a logical sense. It’s, “I am guilty,” in the same sense that, “I am female,” in my mind. It was a major part of my growing-up; I didn’t understand that my parents had problems, I thought that my parents were wonderful and *I* caused the problems. If I could just be a good kid, they wouldn’t have these issues.

This is something I have to work through, and get past. Same way that H has to work through being emotionally demonstrative. She didn’t grow up with it, her husband did, and it was a long time before she could be comfortable with hugs.

The thing is, this dovetails with what this marriage mentor is seeing. It doesn’t have the same root cause, but a lingering, pervasive sense of guilt is usually the result of some hidden sin. And it can easily produce the things that he’s seeing and hearing in our marriage.

I haven’t actually been doing anything wrong. I don’t have to DO anything to be female, I just am. It’s similar with guilt. I don’t have to DO anything to be guilty, but it’s very easy for me to accept that I’ve done something wrong and it’s my job to figure out what it is.


This was one of the hardest parts about Christianity for me, by the way. Christianity isn’t about guilt. You have godly sorrow over doing something ungodly. Guilt is like a brand, or a bad smell hanging around you that you can’t get rid of. You sorrowfully bring to God what you’ve done that’s ungodly, and He considers a broken heart a worthy offering. He lifts you up at the right time, and you’re free, and you have joy again. I’ve experienced this so many times.


For H, demonstrations are separate from love, and she has to work to link them. After several decades, she’s pretty good at it now, though she still isn’t very emotional. (I am TOO emotional. When I learned that H never cries in front of her husband, because she doesn’t want to upset him, I took that to heart as swiftly as I did learning that J never denies her husband sex. Made it my goal to never cry in Rick’s presence. This was fairly exasperating for him.)

For me, guilt is separate from action. I can ACT guilty, the way I can act more feminine, or I can try to ignore it and distract myself, the way I can dress frumpily and swear like a sailor*. The best remedy for this I’ve found, so far, is to read gobs of Scripture. Big, big chunks. Like, let’s knock out the book of Acts this afternoon.

*Okay, meaning no disrespect to your personal definition of femininity. Culturally, my sisters and I grew up with the ideas that women are to be lovely, well-read, kind, and above all, gracious.

Because I’m not fighting an idea, a statement. I’m fighting the sense of who I am. That’s not something that gets answered in a one-time wilderness experience, not for me, anyway. I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods. In the woods is where I go to meet with God and haul out the pieces of myself that are sunk in the landscape like truck carcasses in a redneck lawn. It’s where I go BECAUSE of who I am, not to find who I am.

I’m one who needs God. I’m one who God loves.

I read Scripture in big pieces because I have big pieces of guilt culture. Some Christians have to fight the sense that they’re the wrong gender. Some have to fight the sense that they’re married to the wrong person. I have to fight the sense that I’m guilty.


Let all tears turn to gold
And all the hell I've raised
Lord, let it fade away
As Your glories unfold
Give me a part to play
Grant me another day....

 
 
 

   
Guilt Culture

H and I get together about once a week to chat.

Jesus said that when you leave everything for the Kingdom, you receive more than you left in the Kingdom. H is one of a few women who’s sort of filled the mom-role for me here. (My mom is awesome for advice on improving as a musician, gardening, food-prep, lots of very practical tasks, but when it comes to worldview and relationships, I have to talk to someone who read their Bible that morning.)

We have tea, talk over life. Usually at her house, sometimes at a bookstore coffee shop. There’s some other overlap – I watch munchkins for two hours one midweek morning, and three of them are her granddaughters. We’re in the choir together. But this is the time when nothing else is pulling our attention, and I can pull out the drawer of everything weighing on me right now. H listens, and offers practical advice, based on years of teaching, raising children, being married, and leaning hard on God through all of it.

One of my favorite pictures is when she gathers all three of her kids (the middle one is my age, so this is years back) close and says, “Okay everybody, we’re going to stop for a minute and pray that God will give mommy more patience.” Love it. It never entered my mind to pray FOR my parents when I was a kid. Give thanks for them, certainly, but the idea that God could help my parents handle things that they couldn’t handle without Him – mindblowing.


So, this week we’re talking over about seven different things at once, and somewhere in there comes the concept that one of our marriage-mentors believes Rick and I keep having the same issue because of some unconfessed sin between us.

H knows me. She hears me out about my mom and my sisters, my frustrations, my goals, my marriage, my confusion about what I’m supposed to be doing in all this, and she’s been doing it longer than I’ve been married. So she listens to my bafflement, because I can’t think of anything I’ve been keeping from Rick, and I know Rick isn’t keeping anything from me (because he can conceal important information from the person who needs it for maybe all of ten hours). She was calm, “No, you’d know if you had some unconfessed sin.”

And then she reminded me of something – I do guilt. It’s a pervasive part of how I understand my place in the world. I am guilty. Not in a logical sense. It’s, “I am guilty,” in the same sense that, “I am female,” in my mind. It was a major part of my growing-up; I didn’t understand that my parents had problems, I thought that my parents were wonderful and *I* caused the problems. If I could just be a good kid, they wouldn’t have these issues.

This is something I have to work through, and get past. Same way that H has to work through being emotionally demonstrative. She didn’t grow up with it, her husband did, and it was a long time before she could be comfortable with hugs.

The thing is, this dovetails with what this marriage mentor is seeing. It doesn’t have the same root cause, but a lingering, pervasive sense of guilt is usually the result of some hidden sin. And it can easily produce the things that he’s seeing and hearing in our marriage.

I haven’t actually been doing anything wrong. I don’t have to DO anything to be female, I just am. It’s similar with guilt. I don’t have to DO anything to be guilty, but it’s very easy for me to accept that I’ve done something wrong and it’s my job to figure out what it is.


This was one of the hardest parts about Christianity for me, by the way. Christianity isn’t about guilt. You have godly sorrow over doing something ungodly. Guilt is like a brand, or a bad smell hanging around you that you can’t get rid of. You sorrowfully bring to God what you’ve done that’s ungodly, and He considers a broken heart a worthy offering. He lifts you up at the right time, and you’re free, and you have joy again. I’ve experienced this so many times.


For H, demonstrations are separate from love, and she has to work to link them. After several decades, she’s pretty good at it now, though she still isn’t very emotional. (I am TOO emotional. When I learned that H never cries in front of her husband, because she doesn’t want to upset him, I took that to heart as swiftly as I did learning that J never denies her husband sex. Made it my goal to never cry in Rick’s presence. This was fairly exasperating for him.)

For me, guilt is separate from action. I can ACT guilty, the way I can act more feminine, or I can try to ignore it and distract myself, the way I can dress frumpily and swear like a sailor*. The best remedy for this I’ve found, so far, is to read gobs of Scripture. Big, big chunks. Like, let’s knock out the book of Acts this afternoon.

*Okay, meaning no disrespect to your personal definition of femininity. Culturally, my sisters and I grew up with the ideas that women are to be lovely, well-read, kind, and above all, gracious.

Because I’m not fighting an idea, a statement. I’m fighting the sense of who I am. That’s not something that gets answered in a one-time wilderness experience, not for me, anyway. I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods. In the woods is where I go to meet with God and haul out the pieces of myself that are sunk in the landscape like truck carcasses in a redneck lawn. It’s where I go BECAUSE of who I am, not to find who I am.

I’m one who needs God. I’m one who God loves.

I read Scripture in big pieces because I have big pieces of guilt culture. Some Christians have to fight the sense that they’re the wrong gender. Some have to fight the sense that they’re married to the wrong person. I have to fight the sense that I’m guilty.


Let all tears turn to gold
And all the hell I've raised
Lord, let it fade away
As Your glories unfold
Give me a part to play
Grant me another day....

 
 
   
 

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