Running Away From God is a Good Thing

I was talking to a friend recently about fear, doubt, and faith.  We’ve both come to realize that having and expressing our “shameful” feelings is better than hiding them or trying to conquer them.  But then my friend paused.

“I feel like God is coming closer to me, and I am away.”

“You’re going away from Him?”

“Yes.”  After a half hour of confident expression, she’d finally said something that she was ashamed of.

I’ve gotten to know this friend well over the past several months.  I know that she struggles to be close to people, and that she would prefer to have fortress-like walls around herself to keep herself safe.  So I immediately realized:

“Maybe it’s a good thing.”

“To run away from God??”

“Yeah.  Because that’s how you treat people.  When they get too close, you run away, right?”

“Yes.”

“So if you run away from God when he gets closer, that means you see him as a person.  Otherwise you could just keep going through the motions of “serving” God and assume that he’s some lifeless thing to manipulate.  You’re acting like you’re in a real relationship.  That’s pretty awesome.”

“Is it??”

“I mean, let’s not stop here.  I want you to be in a place where you feel safe with God.  But I do think it’s a really good sign!”

My favorite thing in the whole world is to turn shame into hope.  It’s much easier for me to do this for other people, so I’m writing this here both to encourage others and to remind myself that it’s true.

Advertisements

What I Read | September 2016

This month I filled by brain with murder mysteries, musical histories, travel anecdotes, high fantasy, and (auto)biographies of YouTubers and female saints.  Real on-brand, if my brand is “EVERYTHING,” which it is.


unknownHamilton the Revolution
by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

THE HAMILTOME.  My mom brought this to me, and it only confirms that LMM is a literal genius.  The background information about how the Broadway musical came into existence makes the show even more impressive (how is that possible), and Lin’s notes throughout the lyrics highlight his intelligence, attention to detail, and humor.  I’m forever grateful to know that he thought of the Hamilton/Burr rivalry as something akin to Harry/Draco.

51e6cmjvnlStrong Poison
by Dorothy Sayers

This little murder mystery was gifted to me by a friend who knew I love witty romances, and it totally scratched that itch!  I did, however, accidentally solve the mystery within ten pages, so the actual plot part was not very exciting.  But Lord Peter Wimsey and his too-good-to-be-true feminist feelings for Harriet Vane?  I swooned all over their conversations.

crazy-rich-asiansCrazy Rich Asians
by Kevin Kwan

“I’m getting kind of tired of hundreds of pages of ‘They are SO RICH, check out this thing they own,’” I said to a friend.  “Tricia,” she responded, “Look at the title, you should not be surprised.”  Despite the almost comical portrayal of sickening wealth, I liked its message that all the money in the world will not solve your problems.  Not an original concept, but I’m considering reading the sequel, so some part of me must have loved peeking into the lives of the fantastical Singapore elite.

unknown4Modern Lovers
by Emma Straub

I got this book because I THOUGHT Straub wrote a different book that I enjoyed.  She did not, which is why it turns out I did not super love Modern Lovers.  It’s not bad or anything, but the full extent of my notes on it read: “Eh – interesting but not memorable.”

original-imageThe Road to Little Dribbling
by Bill Bryson

I love Bryson’s travel books, and this one commemorating the 20th anniversary of his Notes From a Small Island seemed like a good investment.  Unfortunately, this time I found his wanderings around Great Britain to be wildly unpredictable – occasionally great, but too often boring.  There’s only so often I can read about an old man being gently annoyed by the state of the society today.

unknown3A Contemplative Biography of Julian of Norwich
by Amy Frykholm

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of all things shall be well,” is one of my favorite quotes, so I was interested to read this the-best-we-can-do-with-limited-information biography about Julian of Norwich.  It was very helpful to read about just how difficult it was for a woman to study the Bible centuries ago, let alone to have the freedom to write about her spiritual experiences and offer theological doctrines.  I adore Julian’s message of God’s love and am intrigued by her mysticism, so well, I should probably read her actual book, Revelations of Divine Love, now.  Whoops.

unknown2Assassin’s Apprentice
by Robin Hobb

A friend of mine fell in love with Hobb’s universe and suggested I start at the beginning.  I’m glad I knew there was obsessive potential up ahead, because the first half of this book wasn’t enthralling.  By the end, though, I was totally hooked, and I’m eager to see what political disasters Fitz diverts with the help of a little assassination and mind-melding.

it-gets-worse-9781501132841_hrIt Gets Worse
by Shane Dawson

I love Dawson’s brand, whether on YouTube, his podcast, or in his books.  He a furiously controversial figure, and he delights in crucifying himself…but running through the deliberately shocking humor is a wide vein of authenticity, vulnerability, and hope.  He’s a mess, and he’s writing to people who know that they too are a mess, and somewhere in that I find a lot of beauty.  Do many people call Shane Dawson’s work beautiful?  They should!

God Finds Me Even When I Don’t Go To Church

I am writing this on a Sunday morning when I ought to be in church, but instead am sitting at a coffee shop table in the center of a park near my house.  I am only here after an hour of mental anguish, because I knew I OUGHT to go to church, but I didn’t want to.  Well, part of me wanted to.  It’s the first Sunday of the month, which is when the church I (half-heartedly) attend does Communion, and Communion is the one thing about church that I find consistently satisfying.

But mostly I didn’t want to.  I loathe the process of going to church on my own.  Getting ready alone, walking to the metro alone, riding the metro alone, walking several blocks alone, opening the door alone, scanning the seats for a familiar face alone, seeing them sitting in a full seat and therefore finding my own place.  Alone.  It is hell.

So I didn’t go.  But it’s a beautiful day, and I DID want Communion with God, that mysterious practice that reminds me that I cannot do life on my own but must, in some way, consistently take Jesus inside of me as the food I eat and the wine I drink.  So I came to this park, and I’m drinking coffee (it felt weird to order wine at 11:00 a.m.), eating a croissant, and reading Gospel by J.D. Greear.

For the past few years, I have been trying to trust that God’s love for me is not dependent upon my actions.   Continue reading

What I Read | August 2016

From a Russian classic to a dragon-centric fantasy to inspirational non-fiction…my reading tastes were diverse this month!


theidiotThe Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I started this in July at the request of one of my new friends.  It’s her favorite novel of all time, and while I can’t claim that for myself, I was really impressed with it.  I’ve always felt scared of the dense Russian novels, but I found The Idiot to be a quick read for 700+ pages of stories and psychological analyses.  It did take me a while to acclimate myself to upper class Russian society in the 1800s, but there was enough common humanity to keep to me going.  It’s also pretty depressing, so fair warning.

Harry_Potter_and_the_Cursed_Child_Special_Rehearsal_Edition_Book_CoverHarry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling

I loved this!  It in no way compares to the novels, but I never wanted it to.  The screenplay is a quick way to jump back into the world of Harry Potter, and I so enjoyed watching Harry struggle once more (he can save the world, but he doesn’t know how to parent a child – seems accurate).  I also loved Draco getting more development and the adorable relationship between Albus and Scorpius.  Perhaps it really is HP fanfiction, but I love HP fanfiction, so that is not an insult in the slightest to my mind.

220px-HmsdragonHis Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

After reading this alt-history novel about dragons during the Napoleonic War, I am 100% that dragons are cats with wings.  Obviously, this means I am SUPER into a story about the intense bond between human and dragon, though I felt this first novel was more interesting for the potential it showed for future stories than its own entertainment value.

ThroneofjadeThrone of Jade by Naomi Novik

Speaking of future stories…this is the second Temeraire novel, and as I suspected, it was even better than the first!  This book follows Laurence and Temeraire on a long sea voyage to China, and it’s basically just one long “you two shouldn’t be together” “YES WE SHOULD” argument, which is exactly the sort of quasi-romantic co-dependent relationship I’m easily invested in.  Can’t wait to read more!

6415185Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire by Lars Brownsworth

Wow.  This non-fiction book about the history of the Byzantine Empire was SO engrossing, mostly because it is person centered rather than date centered.  I totally fell in love with General Belisarius and want to read even more about his life.  I also fell in love with the Byzantine Empire itself, to the point that I actually started crying when it finally fell and the Roman empire came to an official end (1,000 after its western counterpart).

710391The Story of My Life by Casanova

I was so excited about Casanova’s memoir.  It was super entertaining, and I really enjoyed reading about a sex-positive guy who seemed to be shameless in a really healthy way…until I got to a part where he participated in a gang rape and assured his readers that the woman really liked it.  At that point I felt physically ill for days, because I genuinely felt so betrayed.  I couldn’t read any more, and I don’t really care to find out what he did after that, because I doubt it was “felt remorse.”

34352-1Salt of the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as Sepetys’s other YA novels, but it was still a quick and interesting read.  She follows four people (with their own perspective and voice) to the harrowing voyage of the ship Wilhelm Gustloff…a true event that deserves for more attention than it usually gets.  I was mostly impressed, however, by how she showed that for many people in Germany/Prussia/Poland/etc, neither the Axis or Allied powers were good guys.  Death, rape, and property possession was inevitable, no matter which side won.

prototypPrototype by Jonathan Martin

I’ve already written a couple blog posts based on how inspired I was by this non-fiction Christian book.  It’s a fantastic reminder that transformation only comes when we are totally confident in God’s deep love for us.  I especially loved the way he described living in God’s love – that it’s found in those moments when we feel most free and creative, not when we’re hunkered in a room reading our Bibles (well, maybe it is for you, but not me).  It’s a very encouraging and uplifting book that I highly recommend to anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of God.


Did you read anything this month that was especially amazing (or especially awful)?  Leave a comment below and let me know!

The Doubting Christian’s Starter Pack

Are you drawn to the story of a God who lives and dies full of love for a rebellious creation…yet find yourself wondering how it could possibly be true?  Have you grown weary of rules that seem to cause slavery rather than freedom?  Are you skeptical about the usefulness of “good news” that doesn’t seem so good?  Do you worry that the religion you grew up with doesn’t apply to a more diverse population?

Welcome to the Doubting Christians Club!

In a desire to provide a strong foundation for its members, the Church has often promoted a rigorous belief system that seems to leave little room for doubt…which can make doubters feel like they either need to leave the Church or else hide their doubts.  I don’t believe either of these options is a good idea for the Doubting Christian – the first because you will miss out on the beauty you are drawn to, and the second because you will live a double life that will slowly isolate and destroy you.

Luckily, there are others out there just like you (myself, for instance)!  Listed below is the Doubting Christians Starter Pack that will stretch your mind, give you hope, and assure you that you are not alone.

71891781|  O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling by Jason Boyett  

This is the book that began my journey toward becoming comfortable with my doubt.    It was given to me, unasked for, by my pastor, which has earned him my undying respect.  In this book, Boyett gets honest about his doubts and comes to the conclusion that perhaps doubters are closer to God than those who never question their faith – after all, doubt is an inextricable part of a faith given to something unseen.

Continue reading

The Making of an Ordinary Saint by Nathan Foster

61a-Xthj+SL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I already wrote a more personal blog post about how this book made a huge impact on me, but I’ll try to be a bit more objective in this official book review.

IT WAS SO AMAZING AND HEALING!

Okay, no, I can be more objective than that.

Nathan Foster is the prodigal son of Richard Foster.  While his father was gaining Christian fame for his book Celebration of Discipline, Nathan was suffering from depression and suicidal ideation, alcoholism, and drug abuse.  After getting sober, going to counseling, and deciding to love Jesus, adult Nathan eventually got curious about his father’s life work in bringing spiritual disciplines to life.  But while the elder Foster’s books are more proscriptive (how to practice the disciplines), the younger Foster’s book is a narrative. Continue reading

Self-Hatred, Legalism, and Grace, Grace, Grace

 

I distinctly remember sitting on Lindsay T.’s couch on July 4, 2013, drinking from a cheap Strawberry Daquiri Seagram’s bottle.  “I don’t know if God loves me,” Lindsay admitted.  We had recently upgraded our acquaintanceship to friendship, and this conversation was a milestone.  “God loves me when I’m good,” I responded.  “But deep down I’m pretty sure He’s just waiting to give up on me if I screw up.”

Just two years later when I graduated from seminary, everything had changed.

I spent three years hearing my professors say things like, “God is not the god of karma, but the God of grace,” and “It is grace that justifies us, sanctifies us, AND glorifies us,” and “When I get to heaven and God asks why I deserve to be there, I’ll just shake my head and whisper, ‘Jesus.'”  I spent three years in a church that offered weekly Communion so that we never forgot where our strength comes from.  I spent three years in a small group where we argued about abortion and gay marriage and Islam and transsexuality and feminism in safety and love.  I spent three years befriending counselors who were delighted to discover my darkest secrets and shared their own with me.  I was spoiled with grace.

But then I moved home.  The problem with leaving your hometown and changing is that when you return…you revert to your old mental and emotional habits.  Or at least, I do.  Who was I before I learned to trust in God’s unconditional love?  I was the Good Girl.  I measured my worth in my modesty, I argued people into heaven, and I covered my possessions in simplistic Christian statements.  I was determined to earn people’s approval.  I was determined to earn God’s approval.  I knew how to work the system, and honestly, it was comforting.  Legalism is nothing if not controlling, and I am good at controlling things.   Continue reading