THIS IS NOT A WITCH HUNT

The past couple months our country has been set ablaze with talk of sexual misconduct, abuse and harassment. It’s nearly impossible, it seems, to go a single day without reading a new report of accusations, arrests and firings. Couple that with social media movements, such as the viral #metoo posts and it can feel like nothing and nowhere is safe. And, if nothing else, it serves as further proof that we have a long way to go in healing our gender relations.

A few weeks ago I wrote a Facebook post that, to be honest, I thought was fairly innocuous…because I admittedly continue to be fairly naive when it comes to social media and mass thinking.

It read:

“People claiming ‘it’s a dangerous time to be a man’ are wrong.
It IS a dangerous time to be a creep, a pervert and/or a sexual predator. And it’s about damn time.”

For the most part, the feedback on the actual thread were positive and in agreement. But privately the messages were a bit more mixed and nuanced.

The majority of responses I received were gracious, even if in opposition. A couple friends addressed the issues of potential false accusations and the like. I am not writing to address those, although I’d implore you to read this, if that is your fear.

What I would like to address however, is the concern several men have expressed as to what is allowed and what’s deemed harassment.

“I’m more afraid than ever that I will offend or hurt someone,” one man wrote. “So many men are being raked through the coals and that scares me.”

“Here’s the thing,” I replied, “I believe, unless I am sorely mistaken, that you are a good man. I cannot speak for all women, but I can speak for myself and tell you, that even as someone who has been assaulted, I never walk into a room and assume it’s about to happen again. If anything, I’d probably assume you were my ally should anything go down.”

And I believe that’s the truth for most women. We are not looking to accuse innocent comments or gestures as abuse.

What we are looking for is respect and equality. That’s the thing I believe is missing in each and every one of these instances of harassment and assault we are seeing reported. People don’t harass, belittle or abuse those they see as equal partners and humans.

I don’t believe I, or any of my female counterparts, have ever been raped, assaulted or felt threatened by a man who truly respected her and cared for her well-being.

If you’re still nervous or unsure, it’s okay to ask. Ask the women in your life if you are doing something that makes them uncomfortable. And ask yourself, how would you want you mother, your daughter, your sister or your friend to be treated.

Where we’re at currently in or society is not a witch hunt and it’s not a cry for attention. Nor is it an issue of men vs. women, but rather, both men and women vs. sexual assault and abuse.

What we’re seeing is a reckoning; shining light on a dark underbelly that grows stronger when kept hidden. This kind of violence can’t thrive in fresh air. The courage of both those who are speaking up and those who are listening and responding is a powerful thing and it’s long overdue.

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Looking Hope in the Eyes

As I’ve mentioned in my previous writing, this last year has been a difficult one in many respects. It’s been full of highs and lows, heartache and grace and a lot of confusion, as I attempt to clean out some old garbage and replace it with Truth.

One thing I have come to terms with is while I’ve always suspected it, I’ve never fully embraced my white-knuckle fear of hope. It may sound kind of silly, but it terrifies me. Hope confuses me. But I am—or am at least trying—to learn to trust it. To look it in the eyes and stay.

A few weeks we had Young Life Club and I was responsible for giving the talk/leading the discussion. If I am being honest, I didn’t want to; I felt tired and ill-equipped.

When I’m struggling I often find it difficult to know how or what to say or not say when sharing with these kids I hold so dear. I strive to be honest, but it can be hard to feel like my struggles are valid. Many of the kids I get to walk with have seen and been victim to harsh realities of the world I will never fully understand and that can be hard to reconcile within myself.

I am a pretty big believer in teaching from where you’re at personally, so I decided to share the story in Mark 4:35-39.

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.

After reading the story and giving some examples from my own life, I opened it up to discussion. A few kids gave accounts of “storms” they have or are currently experiencing; broken homes, drug addictions, fear for the future, to name a few.

We sat for a minute in silence and then one boy said, “The disciples were scared shitless, but what’s crazy is that Jesus was actually IN the storm with them. He was experiencing it right along with them.”

Another boy then followed with, “Yeah, and even though he eventually calmed the waves he first let them go through it for awhile, that was probably real confusing…but it’s kinda cool I think.”

It was wild—and perhaps sounds a bit cliche, but in that moment I felt like I was no longer teaching these kids, they were teaching me. This story is not new to me, I can practically recite it in my sleep, but in hearing from these boys and seeing it through their lens, something in me began to changed.

God is here.

He’s letting the storms rock me, my friends, my Young Life kids, even our country, but He’s in it.

And He has the authority to change everything.

Look it in the eyes—that is HOPE.


Our Monarch Young Life team is currently participating in an end of the year campaign to raise money for 2018. Our hope is to raise $9,000 to assist in supporting those in emergent needs, getting kids to camp and securing our operating budget. We currently need about $5,000 more in one-time or reoccurring donations. If you feel led to give, here’s the LINK. We need you, love you and appreciate you.

 

PRESCRIPTIONS OF FAITH

I am, by nature, a fixer and a runner. It’s hard for me to stand by quietly or sit in the mess of life. When faced with discomfort, I’d much rather jump in to mitigate the problem or get as far away from it as possible.

I often move forward, facing conflict with haste, not so much as a means for resolve, as much as a one of ridding myself of feelings I dislike . And for a long time this method, more or less, felt like it worked.

Until it didn’t anymore. Until the facade of peace I bought and sold myself no longer held its value and things began to crumble.

Through continued trial and error, I’ve come to learn there is no quick fix to finding true growth and healing. That, for me, the only way out was to go in—to dig deeper and wait longer. To take in my full surroundings, retracing my steps and truly learning who I am and where I’ve come from.

Honestly, it’s really hard and some days I fear it swallow me whole.

This last year I’ve seen more pain and confusion in my own heart, and the hearts of many I care about, than ever before. It seems that all around me people are struggling with questions of identity, shame, deep heartache and fear— and what it all means when coupled with faith.

In an attempt to employ my previous method of attack, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time reading and listening to others’ proclamation of faithfulness, prescribing it to myself and turning it around and appealing those around me to do this same.

I’ve read and regurgitated verses from the Bible, like a coach—hyping myself and others up to get out there and take on life like a champion.

This in itself is not so wrong; I believe faith can beseech faith. Encouraging one another to keep going with the knowledge we’ve been given about God is a beautiful and essential thing. I wouldn’t have made it this far without a pretty solid team holding my hand and stirring me out of the dark seasons—and I consider it a great honor to tell of where I’ve been, standing in those same gaps for others.

So please hear me when I say, this is not a plea for silence or timidity. We belong to each other and sharing our stories is one of the greatest gifts we can give and receive.

But I fear sometimes we do it without really listening; without really standing in our own muck or that of one another long enough to look around and take in the whole scene.

Instead, we hear the discomfort, we feel the ache and immediately go on the attack. We sidestep true healing be reaching for passages and prose, accounts from our own lives or stories we’ve heard and apply a one-size-fits-all answer to pain, faith and uncertainty that’s all very relative.

It’s an easy thing to do—we throw solutions we know at questions we don’t understand. But it rarely works. With great matters of the heart it’s almost always a process as unique as we are as individuals.

We, as humans, are strange and wonderful creatures. We are complex and idiosyncratic. We have great commonalities with one another—but each of us has lived a different experience and therefore we see, hear and feel both life and God in unique ways. This makes it damn near impossible to fully understand one another without great effort and patience.

When choosing to be allies with one another, we need to sit down next to, not across from each other. Taking in the scene before us, we need to note each piece of detail in a true effort of understanding.

We need to listen longer and move slower—matching our pace with those in the process. It’s tempting to want and rush one another into healing—but growth is often strange, moving at inconsistent speeds, at odd hours of the day.

So together we wait. We walk. We cheer and we mourn. We fight and give up. Then we fight again. We find moments when words of great faith and hope bring pieces together  and others when only cold beer will do.

We will fail. We’ll misstep, finding ourselves faulty friends, offering imperfect words in crucial moments.

It’s okay.

We’ll find forgiveness.

We will heal.

Just don’t let go.

Stay.

We need each other.

We’re all just winging it

A few months ago I was asked by some friends to take part in a video series entitled “Transformed People, Transforming Our World.” I was a bit reluctant, primarily because I hate being on camera; I get jittery and awkward. While it’s hard enough for me to speak live, in front of an audience, at least when it’s done, it’s done and there is no chance of re-watching it. But with the belief that stories and lives are meant to be shared, I agreed.

I went in for what I thought was a brainstorming session, only to learn that we would in fact, be filming that day—they tricked me with the hope that I’d be less nervous and more candid. (I have sneaky smart friends.)

The interview itself went well enough—there were some rough patches indeed, but for the most part, while I found it uncomfortable talking about myself for an hour and a half, I had a good time.

Then I went home. And completely melted down. I am talking full panic heart-beating-out-of-my-chest-I-am-going-to-throw-up-all-the-tears kind of meltdown.

I felt like a liar. Because the truth is, I feel like I have no idea what I am doing, where I’m going and often, how I even got to where I am now. There has been no real method to my madness and much of this life I’ve been given always feels like a heartbeat away from disappearing. So to be praised for my efforts, deemed “transformed” or looked upon for answers as though I have any sort of handle on things feels like a big fat lie.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I love my life. I consider myself lucky to get to do what I do—but some days all I can see are the mistakes of the past and question marks of the future and it’s terrifying to think that if dissected, people might see what a colossal mess I am.

I am fortunate to have great friends who helped talk me off the ledge that night and the following day…and the day after that. And while I wish at this point I could tell you I’ve come to some great resolve within myself, I haven’t. I still feel all those things I’ve mentioned above.

But instead of running from them or letting them run me, for now, I am choosing to identify these feelings and let them be used to push me toward compassion—for myself and for those around me.

Because I suspect I am not alone in this. Perhaps we all feel a bit fraudulent as we post and pose ourselves for others, knowing full well we’re actually fumbling our way through life, hoping and praying something good sticks.

In talking with others, I’ve found there seems to be two prominent responses to this feeling. The first is to apply the fake it ’til you make it method, relying on appearances of perfection to guide our self-worth. We exhaust ourselves, trying to appear as though we have it all together, until we break.

Which then seems to lead to the second; quieting down our victories, for fear the cracks in our facade will show. To confuse shame with humility and allow it to lead us into hiding.

Neither seem to work all that well.

Maybe instead, the answer is simply a little more honesty and a little more grace. Letting ourselves celebrate the good stuff, knowing full well it came through a whole lot of trial and error. Keeping the perspective that we are imperfect and unsure, while also capable and equipped to change our families, our communities and our world.

“We’re all winging it, Rachel,” one friend consoled me with, “None of us know really where we’re going. Doing something successfully, rarely means doing it perfectly and without error. The sooner you can accept that in yourself, the sooner you’ll be free to actually enjoy the process that is, well…life.”

Argh. Okay. That sounds hard, but I’ll try.

Now. If you promise to be gracious, you can watch the video linked below.

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Welcome back.

Hi. And welcome back. I suppose that welcome is as much for you as it for me—we’ve both been away from here for awhile.

I’ve missed you. In fact, I’ve missed me too. This last year has been a wild one. It’s spilled over with good and weird and very hard soul-searching. I wanted to write about it through out the process, but it seemed every attempt I made only ended in knots in my stomach and tears of frustration.

So I stopped and hid out for awhile. I made the conscious decision to leave this little site behind for a bit and dig a little deeper into what was leaving me so overwhelmed and heartsick. And as it seems is often the root when look further into my negative feelings, I found that I’d become afraid. Very, very afraid.

Being scared will make you do odd and silly things. It can paralyze you or make you act out in haste. It can make you pull out your sword and fight or leave you cowering in the corner. Quite frankly, it can make you feel like you’re losing your damn mind.

In this case, I found that a slow growing fear had taken over my voice, leaving me feeling stuck and quiet; afraid that my words would either be too much or watered down and insincere.

I became nervous that sharing my words would leave me too known or worse; not really known at all—not the real me at least, as I only offered a shell of who I really am and where I stand in this strange and confusing world.

But I am back now. And I am going to do my best. I’m coming out from my hiding place, with the hope that this site offers you the freedom to do the same.

Because the truth is, being a human is messy and hard and I think we need each other more than we may know.