Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Not Writing

I did not blog for an entire month. I did not write much offline either. And not because there wasn't anything happening in our lives.

March included not only my middle son's birthday and my husband and my 16th wedding anniversary but it also held Easter and a Tuesday morning spent teaching about communion at my church's mom's group. It was a month of figuring out how to live without a pay check, considering different job opportunities including some far away from where we live now. March was also full of reminders of how blessed we are, we have a beautiful home, amazingly generous friends, a great community, and savings enough to not panic. It was a month of such amazing growth for my eldest son, my hockey boy who branched out and tried some new and scary things and lived.

But I did not write about any of it.

I couldn't.

Or I wouldn't.

I'm not really sure. All I know is that the West Wing needed to be watched during the day when the boys were at school. That all my energy was spent on keeping their days as normal as possible. My husband and I faced panic and possibility and fear and provision when the boys were not looking or we tried to as much as possible. Though I am sure our stress leaked out. That is what stress does. It leaks into all the gaps, over every part of our lives, dimming the lights on the joys and weighing down the heavy even more. 

I watched my mom be depressed when I was a child. I saw it again as an adult when circumstances shocked her world. When meds didn't work any more or life became too much.

And now I worry about what my boys see. When I sleep later in the mornings and have a hard time facing the day. When I lose my will and let them play video games for far too long because I am lost in my own addictive game. When I am short with them, my patience thin not because of them but because stress does that too.

I am thankful though that for the most part, we do believe that things will be okay. That we trust that God has a plan, even if it is not what we had in mind. He has been ever faithful in our lives. There is no reason to doubt.

And yet...

Sometimes I get angry. At God. Why now? Why us? 

I feel like Job finally asking God why. Why him? Why his family?

And then I remember God's response to Job at the beginning of chapter 38:

“Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.

Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?"
And it keeps going for a couple of chapters.

I get it. But I am not always happy about it.

But I think that's okay.

I hope.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Story Telling

I love stories. I love telling my own stories. I love reading stories, my bedside table is covered with books. I love hearing my friends' stories. I love reading stories on blogs or watching a story in a movie theater.

I learn so much more from a story than I do from a lecture. I read somewhere that this is true for our kids too. They will remember so much more if we tell them our own stories as examples instead of lecturing them on how to live. When I taught history, my students often remembered the stories even when they could not remember the exact name, places, or dates of the events described.

Stories resonate with me. They let me consider new ideas at enough distance for me to feel safe to explore without being judged. They let me tell the truth about my experience without having to place blame or explain why I have made the choices I have. 

Jesus loved stories. When you read the red lettered words in the Bible, the words Jesus spoke, more often than not you are reading a story he told to the crowds gathered around him. There are few sermons in Jesus' teachings, only one that I can recall without looking - the Sermon on the Mount. But the stories he tells, there are too many - the good Samaritan, the Prodigal son, the rich young man, the lost sheep, the lost coin, the Vineyard workers, and on and on. And these are just the stories Jesus himself tells but then there are the stories of what Jesus did. The healings, the miracles, the feeding of thousands, the travels, the rocked boats. The gospels are full of stories.

I have learned so much about what God wants for my life from these stories, so much about who God is and how much He loves me.

And I am sure the crowds listening were touched by the stories Jesus told. His stories were not always easy, some were quiet pointed. But here's the thing about Jesus' story telling. He never made the listeners the characters. He never labeled them as the rich man, the lost sheep, the passerby who left the robbed man behind. He didn't need to accuse, to label. The stories spoke for themselves. Humanity has not changed that much over the centuries since. The listeners then and the readers of these stories now can see themselves in those characters.

Sometimes I am the prodigal, sometimes the elder brother. Sometimes I am the Samaritan but more often I am the one pretending I don't see the person in need on my path.

Stories are powerful. They evoke emotion. They speak truth.

Lately though, I have noticed stories being used to lecture. Speakers using their personal experience to tell the listener how to live. Writers putting down words in a story format that barely hides the prescription they want the reader to find.

I love stories. I will continue to write my stories.

But I don't want to weaponize story telling. 

Jesus could have easily used the people in the crowd for his characters but he choose not to. He told stories and the crowds discovered their own place in them. Lives were changed without him ever demanding that the crowd become a part of his story.