Monthly Archives: January 2014

Actually, you probably should give up on some things you think about every day

never give up on...This little gem has been working its way around Facebook lately. Usually I just ignore the inspirational quotes that make the rounds, as I find many of them to be, in the words of Jack Black’s character in High Fidelity, “crappy pap.” This one, however, has worked its way under my skin.

It is terrible advice.

Sometimes, it is okay — hell, sometimes it is necessary — to give the fuck up. Throw in the towel. Fly the white flag.

There are so many things that we can’t stop thinking about that are so harmful to our lives. You know what a herion addict thinks about every day? Heroin. You know what a heroin addict should give up on? Heroin. Same for alcoholics, and any other kind of addict. Addictions take over your brain, work their way into your life so your every thought (or nearly every thought) is about how to get more of your addictive substance so that you can either get high or (depending on the level of your addiction) get normal.

Addictions aren’t just chemical substances. Video game addiction is a real thing. I wave watched kids fail out of school and people lose relationships because of their obsession with their games. If you find your mind racing with the thought of when you can again play Diablo III or WOW or you haven’t left the house in three days because you have been playing, you should probably give up on that.

Relationships can be addictive. You know what people in abusive relationships think about a lot? Their abuser. Chances are they have tried and tried to leave, or at least thought about trying to leave, and they can’t. But no, don’t give up on that relationship, dear. Because you think about it every day.

There are less harmful things that we think about every day that we should probably give up on.

For example, that person you really like and had a great date with and think about every day but he or she won’t call you back? You should probably give up on that. Also, stop calling. It is only hurting your cause (I know from whence I write).

I think about a lot of things every day that I should probably give up on: caffeine, gluten, sugar (I have a digestive disorder exacerbated by all of these but I have a hard time stopping), Diet Pepsi (that stuff is crack), Diablo III or whatever game I’m playing at the moment, whether I am good enough, whether I am really loved, whether I work hard enough doing God’s work, my weight… These are all things I would probably be better off giving up on or at least easing off of.

I do not give up. I hold on to things forever. I will not let go of people who have hurt me repeatedly. I am doggedly loyal and have deep faith in the power of love to fix human relationships. All too often, this loyalty and faith land me in a lot of pain. I need to learn how to give up. I have hurt myself in many ways because I refuse to give up.

I think the main reason this quote really pisses me off is because I spent so much time thinking about my marriage.In particular, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could fix it. For so long, both before and after my ex left, I practically obsessed over fixing my marriage (and, unfairly, fixing him). I so desperately wanted everything to be okay.  I tried everything and anything I could think of to fix it, even to the point of losing myself and becoming who I thought my ex-husband wanted (this did not work. this never works). For months after he left I tried to be the person I thought he wanted me to be. I cleaned, worked out and dressed in a way that I thought he would approve of in the event he came back. I gave in to requests of his that, in hindsight, were absurd — just so that he might come back. Then we had an email exchange that made it clear that it would never work out. And then I gave up. Mostly.

Giving up on my marriage was the best thing I could have done for myself. I was the only one working on it until I realized there was nothing left to be working on and I couldn’t fix it on my own. A huge weight lifted from me when that door closed.

I still, on occasion, in moments of loneliness or sorrow or weakness, think about emailing or calling my ex to see if we can’t work it out. I have actually followed through on that thought a few times, which only makes me feel like a total idiot about 10 minutes later. I am still trying to give up 100%. I am not there yet, but I look forward to the day when I am.

So, I am giving myself permission to give up on the things that are hurting me, the things that eat at my body, mind and soul, the things that harm my relationships with other people and God. I’m going to learn how to give up.

I encourage you to do this too. What are the things you need to give up? What is eating away at you, destroying you slowly (or quickly) inside and/or out?  What do you think about every day that is keeping you from becoming the person God created you to be? What is in the way of your relationship with God? Give it up. Go ahead. It is okay. If you’d like to give it up but aren’t sure how or don’t think you have the strength, talk to a friend, go to a meeting, find a therapist. You can give it up. It is okay. Give it up and let it go.


Adopted by God

Scripture for this sermon can be found here.

 

Once there were two women who never knew each other.
One you do not remember, the other you call mother.
Two different lives, shaped to make your one…
One became your guiding star, the other became your sun.
The first gave you life and the second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need for love, and the second was there to give it.
One gave you a nationality, the other gave you a name.
One gave you a seed of talent, the other gave you an aim.
One gave you emotions, the other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile, the other dried your tears.
One gave you up … that’s all she could do.
The other prayed for a child and God led her straight to you.
And now you ask me, through your tears, 
the age old question of the years…
Heredity or environment, which are you the product of?
Neither, my darling … neither.
Just two different kinds of love.

-Anonymous

 

This poem, called Legacy of an Adopted Child, hung on my bedroom wall as I grew up. It still makes me misty. For I am an adopted child.

 

My birthmother was already a single mother working minimum wage in a small town in Ohio. She wanted to keep me. She loved me, sang to me, prayed with and for me, nourished me, talked to me… She birthed me and then, in the ultimate act of love, she let me go to a family she knew would love me and provide for a good life because she didn’t feel as though she could provide for me in the way she would like to given her current life situation. She loved me so much, she gave me away.

 

My parents so desparately wanted children. They tried every fertility treatment available to them in the late 70’s. Nothing worked. They signed up with Lutheran Social Services of Ohio and went through a few huge letdowns before they got the call about me. When I was born, they rushed around to prepare – painted my room, went out and bought all the wrong baby things because they had no time to really think about what kind of high chair was right for me. My Godmother and Godfather who already had three of their own stepped in to help them prepare.

When I was three weeks old, my parents came to pick me up. As my father told the story, I was hanging from the judges bench by my diaper, ready to be plucked off and taken home. My mother says that was the longest drive from Colombus to Cleveland ever – my dad wouldn’t go above the minumum highway speed.

From the moment I was put in their arms, my parents loved me as their own flesh and blood and then some. I was both miracle and gift. Through the power of love manifest in adoption, I was. I am theirs fully and completely. But I am also my birthmothers child. She loved me through my gestation and then gave me away. My parents and I love to play the nature vs. nurture game. I have my birthmother’s mouth and cheeks, my birth fathers hair color, my father’s sense of humor and my mother’s frankness. I am the child of all of them.

I don’t remember being told I was adopted. I was so young when my parents told me that it seems like I have always known.

What I remember most, what I know the most, however, is love.

I know not every adoption story is as pretty as mine. Some are tragic, some are trying. I know not every person who wants to carry a child to term in order to give him or her life is able to. I know I am incredibly blessed.

Why am I telling you this?

Because, in one way or another, this is our story. Your story and my story.

This is God’s story.

God is both the birthparent and the adoptive parent. God gave Christ to the world – knew him, loved him, cared for him – then gave him up knowing that he would be rejected. God gave Christ to us for our own sake, for our good, out of God’s love.

In doing so, God adopted us – the unclean, the broken, the outsiders, those who were not a part of the chosen people of God, Israel – into the family. God gave up Christ and drew us in.

I have known many people in my life who struggle with not being good enough. I have known people who have not felt right walking into a church or taking communion because they didn’t feel worthy of God’s love. My heart grieves for anyone who feels this way; for anyone who has ever been taught that they are not good enough for God’s love — because there is no earning God’s love. There is no being good enough because it’s just not possible. We all fall short, we all mess up, we can all be selfish jerks sometimes. God loves us anyway. We are still a part of the family.

That’s the thing about adoption – it’s not earned. Generally there aren’t tryouts – particularly not in the case of God’s adoption of us. You are automatically precious in God’s sight. You are a beloved child of God.

God sent Jesus to us to help us see this, to help us see how we are all related. God sent Jesus to us to take down the boundaries that had been built up over time by well meaning priests and scribes. In an attempt to help people follow God more closely, people became separated from God and from one another. The unclean were sent packing – there were lots of ways to be out but few ways to be in.

Many of our human families function in a similar fashion – some of us have relatives who we can no longer bear to talk to because of the hurt they have caused, for our own good we cut them off. Some of us have family members who we cut off because we can no longer bear to watch them hurt themselves. Some of us have been the ones cut off, placed on the outside, often for transgressions we don’t know we did or we don’t understand. Some families have no room for the different, the broken or those who have hurt us too many times for them to be let back in again. Often the story of family has a few tales of pain.

But not in God’s family. God will never cut us off. We can walk away, we can hide, but God will always greet us with open arms, will always call us to him no matter how far we have wandered. As many times as we let God down, as many times as we go against God’s will and do things that hurt ourselves, others, creation and God herself – we will always be welcomed back with open arms, always gathered back up into him.

This is not just the way God deals with me or the way God deals with you, this is the way God deals with us. All of us. Our inheritance is the same. Our inheritance is the kingdom. We all get it.

In our contentious world, it is hard to remember that we are all adopted children of God. We have all been brought into God’s family. And, unlike in our families, there are no favorites, no black sheep. Or, maybe it would be better to say we are all favorites and we are all black sheep. Simultaneously saint and sinner. Loved beyond measure. A wanted child. Each of us. Doubly loved.

Welcome to the world of adoption. It is a wonderful place.