Friday, May 19, 2017

Beware the Stone Throwers Web

Since becoming a Christian in 2004, I have heard the message preached (several times) about how we should stay out of the world lest we become infected. I do agree with this on some level of conscience. But only in the sense where we need to be mindful of the allure the darker side of humanity can have on the flesh.

For example, if Mother Teresa hadn’t diligently pursued the Vatican to allow her mission in Calcutta, India, she might not have gone out into the world to help the impoverished people in the slums, embracing the people of different faiths that she found there. 

I have had many conversations with non-Christian friends and family members about their concept of God. Most of them confirmed their belief in God but perceived many in the church to be stone throwers rather than servants like Mother Teresa. 

And, as sad as it is, I do understand why the secular world could have this impression of the church. I have witnessed incidents of segregation in my earlier church life as well. But I still believe most Christians are fundamentally good at heart. However, as passive Christians, we cannot sit in silence and allow the aggressive personalities of a few stone throwers to be the loudest voice for the Christian faith. 

In Matthew 23, Jesus addressed the Pharisees about how on the outside they embodied the look of holiness while on the inside, their hearts, minds, and souls were filthy. They were the religious leaders of the day, who knew the ways of God, who selfishly stirred up the people, and who, at times, turned them into stone throwers. All in the name of religion.

Jesus analogy strikes a distinct contrast between religion and Christianity for us today. He reminds us to be more concerned with what is going on within, making sure our cup is clean on the inside because he knows that for us to live a life pleasing to Him, our outward life must match our inward life. Discernment should always be a virtue of the heart; a heart that’s in sync with God.

I'll be the first to admit that it isn’t easy to become less selfish and more selfless. It’s something I have to work on daily when dealing with the motives of my heart. However, to err is human. We can all be drawn into the "stone throwers web.” 

But it's up to us to resist this enticement. It's up to us to show the world the real heart of the Church, a heart where the majority of its members long to be more Christ-like. And if we can succeed at this, I believe the great works of the Church will stay in the forefront, opening doors for more people to join the fold.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Unresolved Grief

Grief isn't something we anticipate or want. But whether it's through death, a divorce, loss of a job, childhood pain, or by some other means, grief comes into our lives as an uninvited guest.

And if grief is left unresolved, it will eventually hunt you down. It will take you to a place where you will have no choice but to look back, relive events, and seek a resolution to your pain.

So many of us carry around unresolved grief without even being aware of it, though. I know I sure did. But through much self-reflection and prayer, I now have a deeper understanding of the far-reaching implications my unresolved childhood grief had taken upon my life.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s, an era where openly discussing personal grief was hush-hush, where children were thought to be too young to understand grief, and this notion held me back from mourning the death of my nine-year-old brother.

As a five-year-old, I may not have been able to grasp the full concept of grief, but I certainly was aware of what was happening around me, and it was both confusing and frightening.

I have never forgotten the vision of my mother crying at my brother's gravesite. And I don't want to minimize how painful it must have been for her to bury her son because no parent should have to bury their child. But seeing my mother so sad in the days to follow was the beginning process of putting my emotions into the deep freezer (so to speak), and by doing so, I had frozen a part of my heart.

I still went on to function well in life. I held down a great career, raised two beautiful children. But I wasn't oblivious to what was happening in my body. There was always a feeling of disconnect in my soul, like a piece of me was missing. At times, out of the blue, despair would show up and grip my life, for no apparent reason, leaving me questioning what was wrong with me. Then when I lost my mother suddenly in 1987, grief had become complicated due to my frozen emotions.

Frozen emotions don’t go away; they only lay dormant in our innermost being, numbing us, and limiting the depth of our feelings, making any new experience with loss more complicated and prolonged. To heal, we must feel the pain. We must unthaw our emotions. And we must allow the unspoken parts of ourselves to emerge. Only then will be able to connect with our losses.

It was in this discovery I came to understand that grief still gripped the inner child in me, that the little girl frozen in time would be the key to my wholeness, the missing piece that my soul lacked. And by the grace of God, we are both thriving today.