General Conference 1956

Today starts General Conference 2016. For months, years maybe, I have heard our church, my church, the church I love so much is broke. That we are weak and lost and maybe beyond repair. I have heard all the negative awful stories of decline, seen them with my own eyes, and felt it in my heart. In the days leading up to today, I have felt, like so many of my friends and colleagues, a tremendous pressure on my heart, a pressure we are laying very firmly on the shoulders of 864 delegates.

This morning however, I woke up praying. I hardly ever wake up praying as I am not a morning person and I do not have the peace of mind to talk to anyone in the morning, much less God. But this morning, before I even knew I was awake, I was forming words of prayer around General Conference. And I was lighter.

As I came in to the office, the thought struck me that perhaps, just perhaps we are wrong. Perhaps, the United Methodist Church is not worse off today than it ever has been. Perhaps we are not in as terrible a place as the ubiquitous “everyone” wants us to believe. Perhaps, just perhaps, it is our own panic and need to have things the way we want them that has made us forget how to hold in perspective where we are now with where we have been. I am not saying we don’t need to improve. I am not saying that there are not changes we as a church need to make. There are. But maybe we are making death inevitable by seeing only death instead of celebrating the death we have cheated to get to where we are today.

When I came into the office, I pulled out my 1956 copy of the Book of Discipline. (I was given this by a male colleague when I started in ministry who told me every clergy woman should own this BOD. I think there may soon be more UMC clergywomen then there are copies of the 1956 BOD. What a thing to celebrate!) Sometimes I like to just hold this book in my hands and remember how far we have come.

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In 1956, as General Conference prepared to meet, there was no United Methodist Church. There was a very divided Methodist Church. There was a Methodist Church. There was a United Church of the Brethren. There were African Americans who were segregated into the “Central Jurisdiction”, regardless of where their churches were located geographically. There were no clergy women in full connection. Sure, we had pastors who were going to new Methodists who move into the community and making sure they stayed Methodist. Sure, had a million committees that did a bazillion things that reported at a quarterly conference so everybody better look busy. There was way more accountability that, at least on paper, seems better. But we also has trials for church members who bought, sold or made liquor. Shaming people for their sins was the order of the day. Excluding people, lots of people, was accepted and expected, not just in the church but in the world.

In 1956, I don’t know what the delegates were feeling or thinking. I am not sure what pressure was on them. We don’t have blog posts or tweets or emails to tell us their every thought. What we do have is a forward thinking decision to include women as full members of the clergy. What we do have is a courageous decision to remove the Central Jurisdiction and allow African American Methodist churches to join the geographical jurisdictions to which they should belong.

Are we a better stronger church today? I believe so. When I can name more women clergy that I know than men, I say so. When I see the global reach of the United Methodist church, not as missionary outposts but as churches that are part of the communities where people live, I say so. When I listen to former church member tell me how much her Korean pastor has changed her life, I say so.

Do we have much work to be done? Yes.
Are there more people to be included? Yes.
Do I pray that the General Conference of 2016 will be as courageous and bold and visionary as the General Conference of 1956 was? Yes.

In all things God works. Whatever our delegates leave us with, our church, my church, will remain the church through which God worked and works in my life and in the lives of many people I know and love. We cannot let the work of Christ stop. It goes on, regardless. And I am convinced with God and with the people of God committed to doing kingdom work where they are at, the church will only be better each year than the one that has past.

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Perceptions

When did it happen that we became afraid to talk to each other?

All of us have different life experiences that lead us to interpret events, what people say, politics, and even the gospel differently. Even “knowing” someone does not mean that we fully know how they may interpret something that happens or that is said. More and more in my personal life, professionally and from other people, I keep hearing of instances when someone is upset because they have interpreted someone else’s words, thoughts or actions one way when they actually meant it in a completely different way all together.

When did we become so afraid of each other?

Jesus tells us that perfect love casts out fear and yet we have somehow decided that the loving thing is not to go to someone else when we are upset by what they have said or by what has happened and listen to understand. Somehow we have decided the loving thing is to stay silent, to remain offended, to let things fester that never should have been a wound in the first place.

I have not trusted where I should. I have allowed my perception to prevent me from meaningful relationships. I have missed the chance to love because I have feared rejection and deeper brokenness too much. I have much to repent of.

But the challenges that face us are too deep. I do not see how we can keep risking building up the kingdom of God in love because of our fear. And friends that’s what is happening. Families are being torn apart because they think they know things that they don’t know. Employees are leaving companies without feeling like they were valued or heard and returning to kill their former co-workers. Racial tensions are high and mistrust between communities is so low. The allure of the rich is drowning out the command of Christ to take care of the poor. The more we think we know what is going on in other people’s heart and heads and lives without talking to them directly, the more tension and violence we are going to see not just out in the world but in our families. This tension is exploding around us. This lack of community and connection and willingness to risk is costing us the brightest and the best of our generations.

Gods kingdom, the movement of the Holy Spirit, calls us into relationship. It calls us to look at one another not as demographics or focus groups or what we can gain from each other, but as Gods children, with individual stories and struggles, and to remember that no matter how well we know one another, we should not presume we know one another’s perception. We may find that we were wrong and we had been holding onto hurt and pain when we could have been filled with the love Christ wants for us.

If you are upset by the actions or words of someone in your life and you have not done as scripture says, go to them with humbleness and love and tell them you are hurt and listen to understand, not to respond, but to understand their perspective. You may find you were right to be upset. But you may find that there is another angle from which to consider the issue.

We are called to be a people of love, not a people of fear. God willing, every day I am striving to do better at this.

Living in a “Let It Go Culture”

My three year old came home from daycare the other day singing all the words to what sounded like a very complicated song. It wasn’t until she got the chorus that I realized she had learned Frozen’s “Let It Go” word for word along with intonations and hand gestures.

“Snow blows white on the mountain tonight, not a footprint to be seen. Kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen.”

As the mother of five daughters who tries really hard to teach them that love for each other is found in self sacrifice, I don’t think having their childhood defined by Frozen is such a terrible thing.

But I can’t help but wondering at the let it go type of mentality we seem to have. Concealing emotions is damaging and pretending we are not feeling hard stuff is no good for anyone BUT I am afraid of the “let it go” mentality more.

I am in a profession where I cannot let it go. I have to carefully think and consider what I say when, with appropriate explanations. I am not allowed to have pure, raw, fall to your knees grief that calls a community to gather around to comfort me. When I am faced with health crisis’, I am in the role of the comforter, assuring everyone else that all will be okay and God’s will will perserver. I am not supposed to be afraid of the future or voice frustration with other people’s hypocrisy or show my own emotions too much. I certainly am not supposed to have vocal political opinions or put my foot down at being on the receiving end of abuse. I am called into a world of “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them see….”

And trust me, in just ten years of ministry, I have crossed over every one of those boundaries in inappropriate way, even though I try to be self aware enough not to. But when I reflect on those times I would have liked to let it go and just allow the emotions, confusion, utter hopelessness spew out of me everywhere I look, but somehow managed to turn to the appropriate people to process instead of everyone I encounter, I see how my witness and how my faith was made stronger.

What the world needs is not people that just let it go. What we need is more people who understand how and where and when to let it go and when to conceal and not feel. But more than that, we need more people who are committed to being safe people, people others can turn to so they do not unleash the full brunt of their emotions on everyone. We need to learn to trust the people in our lives with our deepest most authentic selves so that we will not feel the ned to just explode.

One of the saddest things about Frozen, one of the things I don’t know was really resolved, was Anna standing at the door asking to be let in and Elsa feeling like she was keeping Anna safe by locking her out. We think its better for others if we lock them out. And we think its better for ourselves by letting go. I’m not convinced that either is entirely true.

For better or worse, our witness is learning to do both. To learn to allow the Holy Spirit when we should “conceal, don’t feel” and when we should “let it go”. We were created for relationship. But we have to carefully balance our relationships, knowing which ones we can “let it go” and which ones we need to “conceal, don’t feel”.

On a very personal note I am so thankful for the handful of people who allow me to be my fully authentically raw self with them so that I have the strength to witness to God’s working in me to others.

Being Christian = Life is Fair?

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Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Luke 12:13 NIV)

I have a confession to make. This week my family and I have been taken care of in ways I am certain we do not deserve or at least that I do not deserve. God has gone over and above and I have spent the last few days repenting because I know that I am not really worthy of the gifts that have been showered on me.

In the midst of being blessed, I have seen other people, good people, people I love, people who work harder than I do, others who certainly deserve more than I have recieved, have heaped upon them heartbreak and sorrow.

I am going to read into Luke 12: 13 for a minute. Its purely my biblical imagination with very little exegesis behind it so be careful in referring to it outside of my imagination. I imagine a younger brother, whose father has died, who is in the throngs of guilt, who is left without security, seeing his brother get everything his father has worked so hard for. He has heard that Jesus speaks and acts powerfully on behalf of those who are treated unjustly and so he seeks Jesus out assuming that Jesus would see the injustice of his situation.

Isn’t this how we stand before God?

“God, make life fair for me!”

“I deserve at least as much as that person over there!”

“How could you not bless me?”

“I don’t deserve this!”

“…I am not worthy.”

When we get wrapped up in what we deserve, what is fair, how unequal things are when we compare ourselves to someone else, we lose sight of the fact that a relationship with Jesus is not about us living (and getting) the life we “deserve”. God makes it pretty plan in the book of Job that bad things don’t happen just to the people who “deserve” them because of their sins. And good things certainly don’t just happen to faithful people.

Our relationship with Jesus should lead us to become the person that God wants us to be in every circumstance of life; in the times we should be most grateful because we do not deserve His gifts and in the the times when life has brought us low.

For me, I hope to answer the call to live graciously, with imagination and courage, pointing to God’s amazing love whether I am receiving good gifts or whether I am brought to my knees with the pain of living. I am certainly not there yet. I am still like the young man who came to Jesus asking for my fair share, but I hope with time and patience and prayer that day by day I will get closer to not noticing what I am due because I am focusing on Him.

We should have strong independent churches too…

Someone (I believe it was my father) once told me that the problem with raising strong, independent daughters was that you got strong, independent daughters. Now living with five strong, independent daughters I completely sympathize with this statement. (Hey dad, at least you only had one!) There are a number of days when I think it would be easier to raise weak, fearful daughters who are dependent on me for ever decision they make. In fact I KNOW it would be easier to raise children who are not allowed to be or do or think anything that I do not tell them. It would be so much easier to have them all live in such fear that they simply followed me where ever I told them to go.

When I think about the vast majority of churches, when I read over and over and over about the impending death of mainline denominations in general and the United Methodist Church in specific, I wonder if we have raised up a church that is afraid. It is so much easier to be the pastor of a church that lives in fear. I can come in and say “do this”, “don’t do that” and they will follow me. It is so much harder to help a church claim their unique identity, to help them find their voice and then to help them be strong and independent.

I suspect most of the problems in local churches come not out of lack of good leadership or the pastor not being relational enough, I suspect most of our problems come from a system where we have encouraged our churches to live in fear instead of boldly insisting that the pastor partner with them, giving them guidance and direction but essentially allowing them to be the people God has called them to be.

The truth is that we don’t want strong, independent churches. We want churches that fit into a mold, that provide numbers that steadily increase, that maintain the comfortable status quo with just enough change to make us feel like we are still relevant.

I am learning to claim my identity as a pastor; to be okay with who I am as a leader and who I am not. I am trying to apply the same strong independent leadership to the church as my daughters do to their life. I am also trying to teach my churches that it is okay to be who they are, to love with pride pie auctions and weird Jesus art and liturgy that speaks the same language they do. It is even okay for them to love what I do not or to not love what I do.

I believe that God has a place for us all and that the church should reflect the boldness of God’s choices in creating us. I celebrate in each of my daughters. They love what I frankly do not love (horses…ugh). They are excited about things that put me to sleep (the digestive system…yay!). They are passionate about things that I have to really work up pretend lukewarm excitement (ANOTHER app on constellations…my cup runneth over!) But I would not dampen the very real importance of any of these parts of their identity.

Why do we step into the doors of a church and think that it is okay to tell people that they cannot be who God has created them to be? This comes up in dramatic ways as evidenced in the current homosexual debate in our church but it happens in more subtle ways too. We use prepackaged bible study material that comes out of the Church of Resurrection or Ginghamsburg Church and don’t adapt it which makes our small 30 person churches with limited resources feel overwhelmed instead of inspired. We apply the same leadership model in a church of 75 as we do in a church of 350. We make them fill out forms that ask questions that don’t apply and don’t point out the things that they really excel in as the body of Christ.

I am struck by the fact that Jesus looked each person he healed in the eye. His solution for the demon possessed in Mark was not the same solution every time. He took time to assess the individual and the situation before he decided what would be the best way to offer healing. Maybe, just maybe we need to equip our clergy leadership as well as our lay leadership to do the same. Maybe we need to be willing to say that perhaps God has made us all vastly different and while we may not be enthusiastic about someone else’s difference we should not diminish the fact that God can and does boldly use them to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Ramblings today are inspired by my five year old daughter who sees the world with pure love and who reminded me this week how precious and important diversity is.

New Year Praying

Last night we prayed for a couple in our church. The girls don’t know them terribly well but I was able to share that their grandson, his wife and their three small children just moved to Narobi, Africa to do mission work for the next two years. We talked about how important it is to bring God’s good news to everyone and how hard it is to live in places where there are no roads for cars.

Every January 1st we begin the new year by taking down our Christmas cards one by one off of the walls where they are hung. At dinner, we pray for each person and family. Last year it was well into March before we got through each card. For most of one dinner, we focus on these individuals who took the time to remember us during the holidays.

I don’t know about you but when cards come in we often get five or ten in a day. I open them, but Nathan and the girls often don’t have the time to read them all. This tradition gives us the chance to talk about church members, present and past, friends, and family members. We often take the time to share memories or moments. It is a tradition that of all of our traditions is the most precious to me.

So many of the individuals on our wall at Christmas are folks we only hear from once a year. And if I am honest, some of them are people I don’t think or pray for often, and other than their Christmas cards or an occasional passing comment usually from a mutual friend, we don’t really even know what is going on in their lives.

In a culture where we have hundreds of ways to connect and yet remain so isolated, it is a sacred moment to stop, pray and celebrate the people with whom we have crossed paths.

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No Santa? Now what?

Navigating the month of December with children under the age of twelve in the culture of Santa-centered celebrations is a careful dance. Making the decision has had an impact on our December celebrations in ways I could never anticipated when we made this seemingly simple choice.

Everyone expects that your kids will be visited by Santa. This is especially hard when they are the preachers children and they have not just the usual folks but entire churches full of people asking them if they are ready for Santa to come.
I will never forget the first year Santa came up in our house. We calmly explained to our six, four and three year old that Santa was based on a man named Saint Nicholas who was a real person who gave lots of gifts to poor people. We read them a story about St. Nicholas and they were pretty comfortable with the idea that St. Nick was real but Santa is a way people honor what he did. On Christmas Eve at the end of the worship service one of my church members asked our very verbal three year old if she was ready for Santa to come. The response to this wonderful, elderly member of my church? “Don’t you know that Santa is dead?”
Yup. Santa is dead. That’s how our three year old translated all the justification we so logically laid out.

I’m not going to pretend it is easy. It is hard on a family and kids and on innocent bystanders who just assume that everyone celebrates like they always have.

We have found that some things help.

We don’t make an issue of it. When our girls ask, we tell them the truth but we try to be gentle and we try to be sensitive. They want to be the same as their classmates and its hard for them not to be. If they don’t talk about it, we don’t talk about it.

We let them pretend. Our now five year old very vocally announced a couple of years ago that she wants to pretend Santa is real. That is fine with us. She talks about Santa coming and she wants to see Santa and she is just like every other five year old you are likely to meet. But she doesn’t realize that Santa is supposed to bring her presents on Christmas morning so its funny that all the Santa stuff comes out in early December but is not mentioned at all on Christmas Day.

We talk to their teachers. This is the tough one. Every year towards the end of November I contact all the elementary teachers and tell them that we do not use Santa in our Christmas celebration. I explain our reasons (See the previous post) and ask that they not tell our girls that Santa is real or to have them write letters to Santa. I don’t care if the rest of the class does such a project but I am very, very adamant that Christmas is not about them asking for stuff they want. We have had several teachers give them alternate projects. When Santa comes to visit class I ask the teacher to let me know and I pick our children up for a special date. We do something fun and more exciting then Santa together. I have never had a teacher push back or be less than understanding. One very amazing teacher saw that our daughter was struggling and told her that she could come anytime during the day and talk to her about how hard it was. It helped to know that her teacher was her friend and was okay with her knowing Santa is not real.

Its really, really hard to have friends who believe. We have five sensitive, caring daughters. We try really hard in all things to not bully them into believing what we think is important. We figured out very quickly that making this choice meant that they easily felt like something was wrong with our family and by extension them. We have combated this in two ways.
First, we encourage them to talk about it and ask us questions. We read stories about Santa and we include him in small ways in our December preperations. There are all kinds of imaginary characters around them all year that are important to them (Rapunzel, Minions, their dolls, for example) so Santa just dove tails into that category. We just always figured that outlawing Santa completely would be too much for them to understand, especially when there is so much out in the world.

Second, we encourage them to be sensitive to their friends. We always tell them that different families celebrate Christmas in different ways. What Jesus wants is for all families to be happy together and to have lots and lots of love at this time of the year. For some families, Santa Claus helps them be really happy and show love. For other families, like ours we do other things. We have lots of traditions that have built up around celebrating Jesus’ birthday that are somewhat unique to our own celebrations. We tell them that they don’t want to take happiness away from their friends Christmas by telling them that they are wrong about Santa. Our children are sensitive enough to other kids feelings to understand this. Mostly I think they just go along with their friends, we don’t pressure them into any certain response.
For us, not including Santa is not about changing some deep seeded problem in society, its about worshiping and celebrating Jesus Christ as authentically as we can.

I have learned that most people are taken aback when it comes up. I have had churches that have Santa visit and while it makes me uncomfortable, I think that when we keep the gospel front and center we can find a place of letting it be just innocent fun. In all things, its important to have a relationship with your children where they can come to you when they are struggling or when things don’t make sense. We are honest with the older girls, we know its hard but they are learning about faith and life in ways that change them daily, not just in December. We have been able to have some really profound moments of faith development with our oldest two children as we make sense of what we believe and why.

I hope this helps some of you who may want to go in this direction and don’t know how. Soon I will do a post on some of our traditions that help fill in the Santa gap this time of year and that make the celebration in our house about Jesus.

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Divided and Broken

I have a confession to make. As I am reading my fellow United Methodists reactions to the trial and verdict of Reverend Frank Shaefer, I feel lost.

I sat at my desk today and cried because I don’t know what to feel. I read Reverend Becca Girell’s moving words on the Courage of Couples and wept for the many men and women and their families who are torn apart. I wept because we are a broken people and our brokeness has come down to hurting each other.

I have to confess that I am struggling. I have prayed, thought and read scripture as well as people on both sides of the issue trying to understand where I should stand. I do not know.

I do not know if a similarly-gendered couple came to me and asked me to marry them, if I would have the ability to say yes. I do not know if I would have the ability to say no.

I do not know if our church law changes, if I would be able to change with it. I do not know if I would stand up to my congregation and champion it.

I do not know if I would ever be able to give a sermon that included a definition of love as including marriage for everyone. I do not know if I would ever be able to give a sermon about marriage as being between one man and one woman alone.

I sincerely do not know.

Because I am basically a coward, I really just want to focus on taking care of the people in the Philippians and Illinois who are dealing with the devastation of natural disasters, or the kids in our town who need the support and care of adults who are healthy, or the families who will not have much of a Thanksgiving feast next week.

Because I am a coward and some of the people I love and respect most as colleagues and friends feel passionately about this, I am afraid in this church and in this time to say that I don’t know but I don’t. I cannot take sides. I cannot speak out one way or another. I want to be able to, but I am not convicted one way or another.

What I do know is that I made a commitment to this church and the people who call themselves United Methodist because this is where God has called me. There is so much I want to see changed in our church. There is so much that breaks my heart.

What I do know is that there seems to be very little love outpouring or grace being shown. We are divided without the ability to have conversation or to make changes. (Please, please, please among other things, the language of the Book of Discipline around homosexuality needs to be changed even if the position of the church on marriage does not.I am ashamed of it, even as I am uncertain of the issue.) People, people who God loves deeply, are being hurt.

Maybe there is no other way. Maybe the only way to make fruitful change is to actively go against church law as it stands and change it by force. After watching General Conference proceedings last April, I can see this as a valid argument. Certainly, we have at least one Bishop who feels like it is the only way. Maybe there is no way to change our broken church and giving up credentials to move on to new ministry outside of the church is the better way to live out God’s call.

It seems that there is no room for us doubters. (I can’t be the only one!)

It strikes me that the church should be about filling the world with love. We should be about promoting the things that bring love into the world. There is so much hate. There is so much division. There are so many people who feel rejected by what they believe or don’t believe, by who they are and who they are not.

When we cannot muster up enough love for each other in the church; when we are so busy being right that we cannot find a way to listen to each other and find a way forward, imperfect though it may be; when we are bogged down by a system that requires us to choose sides with no room for confusion or questioning or uncertainty; when we are causing our own people to weep, we are not able to witness to the love of Christ who came to point the way to a place where all our tears are wiped away.

One day, I am sure I will have no choice but to stand on one side or another. I will have to stop being a coward. Maybe it will be my child that stands in front of me asking me to chose love for them over the law of the church. I can only pray that the conviction of the Holy Spirit will help me to stand where I should. For now I am committed to speaking for loving one another to the best of our abilities. I am committed to loving my brothers and sisters who are hurting.  Sometimes love means pushing but sometimes it means respecting where boundaries are. Sometimes it means being committed to showing grace in words and actions to those whose life you could not or would not want to live.

John Wesley did not really think women should be ordained. He wrestled with women’s place in the leadership of the church. And yet, in 1761 he licensed Sarah Crosby to preach. I am not sure how he would feel about all the female clergy in our church today but I am so thankful that he was willing to open the doors. I am thankful that his witness was to God’s grace even when scripture and the prevailing wisdom of the world said it was better to keep women’s mouths shut in church. We are all better for the leadership of women in the church.

I suspect that anytime we err on the side of love, the church becomes stronger and fuller and the Gospel is heard more clearly. My heart hurts because it feels like some of us in our church believe that love is only genuine when it is presented the way we want it to be. It took many churches (and annual conferences) many years before they would allow women to truly live out their calling. In some places, women’s leadership is still not accepted. Changing what is is a hard and long and painful battle. Even though we know the attitude is still there today, no one in the church leadership would question a woman’s ability to be ordained simply because she is a women.

In the hardest things, we have to walk gently with love and care especially for those who passionately see differently than we do. We have to know that withholding our love and grace until the changes we want made, will only make the change harder and the brokeness deeper.

I do not know on which side to stand with regards to the church performing similar-gendered marriage services. My heart hurts because many I love and respect are feeling rejected and discouraged. I weep for a witness that is not of love and compassion. I can only pray that God will choose to step into the divide we have created and somehow bring us healing.  I am not yet ready to grieve for the church I love and have pledged to serve. I have hope that we can find ways to minister with and to people for whom love comes in different forms and ways. I have assurance that grace and love will make a way even where there does not seem to be a way.

Hurt feelings

“Mama, you hurt my feelings!” my seven year old told me in the midst of a melt-down while driving home the other night. She had just gotten in trouble for fighting with her sister (again) and thought that I should be nicer to her because (she argued) pulling her sisters arm nearly out of joint was an accident and her sister started it. (Said sister also got in trouble but was choosing to be stoic.)

Telling me that I have hurt her feelings has become the new “I hate you!”. Once she realized “I hate you!” had very little effect on me, she thought “you hurt my feelings” would get a more profound response from me.

It doesn’t.

Unfortunately for her, my mind was made up very early on in motherhood that my emotional well being was not tied up in whether or not my children were happy with me at any given moment. I do not believe God calls me to be responsible for my children’s happiness (nor they responsible for mine) but I am responsible for helping them navigate this world in a healthy way.

We all get our feelings hurt. I want my children to know how to deal with those hurt feelings in a way that will build up relationships instead of tearing them apart. I want them to learn to talk about their feelings and listen to others whose feelings they have hurt.

We are all disappointed in other people, in circumstances, in the fact that we cannot just wail on our sister when she makes us mad (even, as my children often argue, when it feels justified). Christ calls us to more. Christ expects more of us.

Our emotional wellbeing has to be tied up in what God wants for us. Not how we make other people feel (because, really, sometimes true love hurts feelings), not in whether others are first concerned about our feelings, but in whether we are earnestly striving to be the people God wants us to be. Most of the time, if we are honest, our feelings get hurt because someone is not coddling us, or seeing the world as we want them to see it. How many times I wonder, would Jesus have had his feelings hurt by the disciples ignorance if he were dependent on them for his happiness?

We are called to be light in the darkness. Our feelings are bound to get hurt. Our hopes are bound to be stomped on. But we do not do what we do for our own pleasure, we do it so that Christ may be lifted up, so that the kingdom of God can be built, so that love can triumph.

My seven year old doesn’t get all of that. What she does get is that her feelings of happiness, while important to me, are not the center of my existence and are not reason enough to justify causing someone else pain. One day I hope that she will see that this is not because I don’t love her but because I love her deeply.