Real Talk: People aren’t Projects

When I think back to my time at Howard Payne, I remember the people most of all. Sure, I heard a lot of sermons, a lot of lectures, did a lot of reading/researching/studying. But when I look back, I remember the people: friends, roommates, best friends, professors. I’ve never felt so loved in my life. The friends I had loved me in my happiest and in my darkest moments.  They were “God with clothes on.” Not meaning they were perfect, but they loved me in my mess, despite my mess, and encouraged me consistently. Were there rough times? Yes. Tough conversations? Yes. Did I get along with everyone all the time? No. But that’s community for you. There’s nothing worse than faking it, pretending everything is cool when things aren’t.

As I reflect back, I think about how cheated I would feel if my friends only befriended me so I would become more like them. Like, what if I was this rebel child gone astray, and they treated me like their project and they had this agenda of “fixing me” when they befriended me. That would totally cheapen every nice thing they did for me. Of course, none of that is true.But its so convicting because I’m guilty of treating people like projects. Oh, you drink a lot? Let me fix you by “loving you.” Oh, you gossip? let me love you enough so you’ll stop. Gross right?
Not to mention, you can finish a project when you’re done with it. Right? People aren’t a science experiments you can display at a fair, or a C+ book report that you’re trying to turn into an A- report. Let’s ditch the agenda based relationships. And Let us never deem a person “ready” or “unready” to be loved.

Jesus had every morale high ground to stand on, but He didn’t get on a high horse. And who are we to get on ours? When we interact with the world, with non-christians and Christians, who are we to stand on pedestals? Who are we to ride Manny the Horse of Morality around and pick people to treat as projects? People are not projects. We can’t fix people. we can’t save people. We can’t even save ourselves, if we could, we wouldn’t have needed a Savior.

I’ve been in John lately, and I noticed something about Jesus and the miracles He performed. He never said “Okay, I’ll heal you, but first you have to clean up your act. I hear your thoughts, I know how jealous you get. So, try and be less angry and jealous. Then I’ll heal ya. Deal?” Nope. He sees the leper, the woman at the well, the thousands of hungry listeners, and loves them where they are at. He meets them where they are. Interestingly enough, afterwards, each person is so moved that they run and tell people about what Jesus did!  Jesus loved people in their present condition, but He didn’t leave them there. God loves you so much right now. He doesn’t hate “past” you. He doesn’t just tolerate you. He isn’t going to love the “future version” of you anymore than He loves you right now. He loves you. Period. The end.

And there’s nothing we’ve done to deserve His love. In John, there’s a story of a man who was paralyzed and waiting by a pool to get healed. He waited 38 years! Then, Jesus came and saw Him and healed him.  We love because He first loved us. We’ve all fallen short. Every last one of us. Man, if none of what I’ve said has made any sense, please read Ephesians 2:1-10. That’s basically what I’m trying to say. And these things too

1) People aren’t projects. They are works in progress just like you and me.

2) to love like Christ loves, is to love people where they are at. Not a “future version” of them. God loves us in our mess. So, we should love others in theirs.

3) relationships are powerful. the most important relationship we can have is one with God. Our vertical relationship with God effects our horizontal relationship people. (know God, Know love.)

okay that’s all.

thanks for reading. now go read ephesians 2:1-10, and John! because both are so good!

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Sunny days

Sonset

This was the sunset from my bathroom window.

John 8:12 popped into my head.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

What a reminder. What a comparison.

God is love. The Sun is a ball of fire.

God loves. The Sun shines.

*My actions do not effect the Sun. I can stay inside all day, I can be outside all the time. The Sun is going to shine nonetheless. The sun’s ability to shine or not shine has nothing to do with me, but without the Sun I would cease to exist.
God does not love us base on what we did. Your actions, your words, your sin is not a measuring stick for how much God loves you. His Love does not waver each day based on your performance. It is constant.  God is love. It’s what He does, It’s what He is.

*At night, I might not be able to see the Sun, but I know it’s still there because I am alive. Without the sun and it’s heat, we die.
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed: by darkness, sin, circumstance, addiction, lust, depression. He is our hope and he is our Comfort through the night.  His comfort is like the warmth of the Sun. You can not see warmth, but you can feel it.

*The sun does not make darkness. Darkness is the absence of the sun.
God does not create evil, or make bad things happen. He cannot make evil anymore than the Sun can make darkness. He is the Author of all life, and all good things. Darkness is the absence of God.

I heard this song recently, True Love by Phil Wickham, and the song starts out with:

“Come close, listen to the story about a love more faithful than the morning.”

I was confused at first, how could God’s love be more faithful than the morning? and then it hit me, one day the sun won’t rise, the morning won’t come, but God’s love will still remain.

thankful for the sun, even more thankful for the Son.

-Marlie

Good grief, Christians.

“Think you’re having a bad day? Watch this video of a 6 month old baby get his ear replaced.”

I found that article scrolling through my news feed. It really irked me. When did grief become a competition? When did our struggles turn from a burden we carry to a badge we wear proudly on our shirts? We go through crap, and it’s obviously much worse than anyone else. Right? Or if someone is complaining about something, we make sure we put them in their place. See, I can be an idiot sometimes. At school, occasionally, there’s mini competitions in conversations of who is the busiest. Especially in the beginning of the semester, and dang it sometimes I fall into the trap of responding to someone who just hashed out their schedule for me  and I, like a jerk, responded:  “that’s your busy day? that’s nothing compared to my busy day!”  Comparison turns a group of young adults into a bunch of 6 year old kids at the lunch table. Arguing over who has the toughest life.

Children eating lunch: 

Little boy: My goldfish died today. 
Little girl: My great grandma died today!
Other little boy: Oh yeah? Well my papa died today. 

And then as we get older, it’s not only about what happens to us, but what how much we are responsible for. 

Middleschool kids at the lunch table: 

Boy: This sucks. I have football practice after school every day, and I have to do chores at home. 
Girl: oh Yeah? Well I’m in all advanced courses, orchestra, choir and newspaper! Plus, my mom’s sick so I have to do all the cooking this week. 

And then, it’s what happens to us, what we are responsible for and how our problems compare with the world around us. 

College students at lunch: 

Girl: My boyfriend of 3 years broke up with me today. Didn’t even say why. 
Other girl: Well at least, you’re not dying of AIDS like the kids in Africa. Get over it. 
Boy: My dad’s sick of cancer. He might not make it. 
Other boy: Well, my dad is dead. So, just be glad you’re dad’s still alive. 

Other than all these situations taking place at lunch (I’m writing this and thinking about how hungry I am), the people in these conversations all lack one thing: Compassion. Instead, they use comparison. People use comparison as a club to beat each other up with. Think you got it bad? *swings club* Just think about someone worse off than you and be thankful, then you won’t have much to complain about.  There’s two things when it comes to suffering and I think we get them mixed up a lot. 

Mentality of suffering:  People say “think” a lot when using comparison. And that’s just the thing. You know the saying, a picky eater at the dinner table and his mom turns to him and says “Now Johnny, think of all the hungry kids around the world who’d be lucky to have that.”   Gratitude is a mentality. Someone might have a negative mindset, meaning it’s in the mind. We all have different perspectives of the world, of our own lives based on what we have seen and gone through. My band director has been an EMT for 22 years, and at the beginning of each year he tells us “Look, I’ve seen a lot of things in my life. My reaction to your crisis will likely not look like your reaction.”  A war veteran has a different view of the world than a 14 year old girl. Why? Because they have lived through different things. We all experience and see the world through different eyes. And process it through our own past, and present. A person can be thankful that their life is not as bad as the others around them, but that does not change the fact that their life might be in crisis.  Gratitude is important. But, someone will always be better off and worse off than you. So sometimes people get stuck. They don’t allow themselves to grieve because people keep telling them that they don’t have a right to. Only the people at the bottom of the totem pole have a right to be sad. Everyone else has to suck it up and keep moving.  I want to challenge that. This whole “thinking” yourself out of a rough time. 

Actuality of suffering: I started running this summer and as I was running I was thinking about how my mile run (which is really just a jog/walk) failed in comparison to the many who have completed half and whole marathons. I respect those people a lot. Their physical strength, mental stamina, work ethic. It’s incredible. But,  as I ran that mile, knowing that people around the US could be running a marathon right at that moment did not make my mile run any easier for me physically. My heart still pounded as fast, I sweat a lot, I breathed heavily. What if someone told me “Hey Marlie, while you run, just imagine the runners who are running 2 miles, or 5 miles or 100 miles! Then you will no longer be tired at the end of your run!” Yet, knowing they are running a 5K does not make my mile run any easier. The same applies to grief. Understanding that people are suffering greater or less than me effects my mentality, my view of my suffering.  It does not change my  actual suffering. I still have to run, sweat, breathe, keep going. step after step. It’s like the kid in middle school from earlier, his dad was on death bed, and the other kid instead of having compassion, says well at least your dad is alive. Yeah, he can be grateful for his dad’s life, but he still has to spend  long nights at the hospital, watching the dad he knew and loved have the life drain out of him. Some life to be thankful for, right? 

Instead of comparison, instead of the “well at least…” or the “just be thankful you…”  can we start having compassion for one another? We serve a very compassionate God. And if anyone suffered, it was Jesus. If anyone suffered, it was God. And He has compassion for us.  When we come to God in prayer, lifting up our pains and sorrows, God does not point to the cross and says “I had it worse.” He points to the Cross and says “I understand.” He understands loss and grief. He understands us. 

 

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.–Ephesians 4:31-32

 

Raise the Armrest

I’ve been working at a movie theater for a month now and I’ve noticed something about the theaters that I clean. And maybe it’s a stretch, but I’m going with it. This Summer some really sad and some really scary movies came out. I.e, The Fault in our Stars, Deliver Us from Evil, The Purge: Anarchy. When I go into those theaters to clean them, I’ve noticed that there are usually 10-15 armrests that are raised, I can only guess that the people seeing the Fault in our Stars or Deliver us From Evil wanted to lean in closer, be closer to the person/people they came to see the movie with so they raised the armrest. They needed each other for comfort. To reassure them that they were not alone. While i cleaned other theaters that were playing comedies or just generally happy movies (Tammy, 22 Jump street) I noticed there were not as many armrests raised. All this to say, we need each other. We need each other during the good times, but especially during the bad times. When the news of loss hits, when we are filled with fear, we need other people. It can be as easy as lifting an armrest, or as difficult as telling someone: “I’m not okay.”

5 things Christians should stop saying

Late Tuesday evening, an explosion is heard in your neighborhood. You run outside to see what happened. Other neighbors are exiting their houses in various states of shock and confusion. You join the crowd walking/running towards the noise. Just around the corner, you see the house, or rather what’s left of it. Your heart breaks. It is your close friend’s house and so far your friend is nowhere to be found. You decide to search the remains to find your friend. Indeed, you find him, underneath a fallen bed post. He’s covered in ash and dirt. You lift the post and see his shattered leg and have to swallow the urge to scream. He is conscious. You start shouting to your neighbors. “Help! Come help! He’s alive! But he’s hurting!” They come over. A woman looks at him as he writhes silently in pain. She reaches in her purse, you think she is pulling out her phone to dial 911. But instead she starts pulling out band-aids. She passes them out among the neighbors and they all work together to put bandaids on him. Your face fills with disgust and confusion. “What are you guys doing? His bones are shattered. Those are not going to help him.”

They start to speak:

“Are you okay?” One asks your friend.
Your friend has no strength to speak. After no response, the neighbor shrugs and walks away.

“The ambulance is coming soon. Just be strong.” A man says and walks away.
“let me know if you need anything.”  His wife adds.

“I’ll pray for you and let my small group know this happened.” A young student said.

 

——————-

It’s not everyday that a house down the street spontaneously explodes. However, reality as we know it sometimes does.  You know how it is, life is going so well and then a phone call, or an email from a relative or friend begins with “I have bad news…” And boom, your life explodes. Your ears are ringing from the shock and and it takes awhile for the ashes to settle, until you really can become aware of what you’re dealing with. Friends and family hear the news and flood to the rescue. And people, especially Christians, say things, meaning well, but they in the reality of the situation don’t really help. I’ll refer to them now as “verbal band-aids.”

1) “Are you okay?”

-I don’t like this question because it makes me choose “yes” or “no”. If I say yes, will you write me off and go about your life? If I say no, will you freak out and try and fix the situation. Instead, Ask me how I am  feeling. And  not just the first time we talk about what happened, but frequently. “how are you feeling?”  Opens up the door for me to talk about whatever I want.

2)Let me know if you need anything

I just need you to be my friend. Listen to me. Shoot me  a text. Call me. Reach out to me  because you are strong right now and I am weak and hurting.

3) I’m here if you need to talk: anytime, any day. Really!.”

It’s so easy to feel alone especially when rough things are going on.  Countless people have told me this and how many have I called? Only a few.  Instead, try engaging me in conversation. Inviting me to go get coffee or see a movie. I’ll welcome the break and really enjoy being around someone.

4)  “God has a plan.”

Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28. etc. etc. I know God has a plan, but His plan is hurting me right now. Telling me it will all work in the end, doesn’t help me here in the now. 1 year down the road, this might make sense, but right now I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to work a job, write my undergraduate thesis admist all that is already going on . It doesn’t hurt to be reminded, but we know: turn to Jesus, cast your cares on Him, Run to Jesus. We’ve heard those things and we’re doing them the best way we know how.

Instead: Be real with us. Acknowledge the suckiness of the situation, weep with those who weep. Be present with me in this pain, because that’s where I’m at right now.

5) I’m praying for you.

Last semester I was sitting outside the apartments and writing in my journal, a friend came up to me and just casually asked how I was doing. I broke down crying and she started to hug me. It was one of those hugs where you get that person’s shoulder wet with your tears. The craziest thing happened, she just started praying, out loud. She didn’t know what was going on or why i was crying. She just prayed for me. That meant so much. So much more than comments on Facebook or texts from someone saying they are praying for me. Not that I doubt them or the power of prayer, but the Enemy lies so much and can convince us that we’re abandoned. But Satan’s lies lose weight when you’re hugging a friend and you can hear her praying and see her tears.

 

When tragedy strikes nearby, it might be tempting to grab the band-aids and cover up the wounds of your friends. Covered up or not, it still hurts. Let’s leave the fixing up to God, put the band-aids away and listen to our friends. Go get coffee, go to a park, wherever and whatever, be present and available. An open ear, open heart, a hug or a prayer might be exactly what they need.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)

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You guys rock.

-Marlie