I should be writing today.
By definition I am writing right now, but what I mean is I should be working on my third installment of the Jesus Freaks series—long overdue by my previous standards, quite on target by my new ones.
I’m sitting inside a robust deli/coffee shop in the center of Amherst, warmed more by its atmosphere than the century-old construction. I’ve just picked up my breakfast sandwich from the counter; an egg Florentine breakfast sandwich the description told me would come on a buttered bagel, but reality shows me comes on buttered, house-made focaccia. While I was in the mood for a bagel, it turns out I am more in the mood for this.
Perhaps God really does do for me what I can’t do for myself.
I’ve been held hostage in my house since Sunday. It’s now Thursday. A stomach bug has held its knife to my neck for the last several days, and I wasn’t even the sick one. My helpless, pitiful children have bore the brunt of this nasty virus. The littlest ones earned an ER trip for dehydration this weekend while the older one perfected his acting skills in the areas of misery and despair. I made everyone go to school today—their bodies loaded with Children’s Pepto and ibuprofen. I promised Charles that if I get a phone call from either school telling me that any combination of children has to be picked up due to illness that I’ll end up on the news, and then be institutionalized.
(The vintage heating system just kicked on in the coffee shop—blowing hot, forced air that smells like my great-grandparent’s house used to. Maybe it’s not so much that this smell is theirs, but it’s Amherst’s. Old Amherst—the kind that raised Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson, and bred some pretty fantastic counter-culture).
If I have my way, I’ll finish this sandwich and Fair Trade, Organic decaf-with-a-splash-of-regular-hazelnut coffee, wander into Amherst Books, then to Amherst Coffee to write for a bit. I’m looking for a physical copy of Anne Lamott’s “Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace.” I’m listening to the audiobook, and hearing her voice is an elixir to absolutely everything plaguing my soul. God uses her to speak directly to me. I don’t know if she’s aware of that—and it might be best if she isn’t—but I’m thankful for it just the same.
But all of that is contingent on me having my way, which I rarely do. That is, unless, I pray really hard to align my will with God’s. I say this prayer every day—often multiple times a day. I’m beginning to think I might not write in Jesus Freaks 3 at all today. I need some nursing of my own. My body and mind are exhausted from days upon days of serving others endlessly. From puke buckets and mopping up poop, to making sure Charles was fed before he left the house this morning, this is the longest run of selflessness I’ve had in a while. And, it’s exhausting.
In the middle of all that, I was wrapped up in a theological/personality debate/war/discussion/something with an acquaintance of mine that could have gone better. She told me I was being defamatory and defensive, to which I countered I might not have to be so defensive if she wasn’t spewing self-righteousness all over me.
All in all, it didn’t go well. It ended okay, each of us retreating a bit and me learning a lot about myself and others (not just her) in the process.
It was suggested to me that (Oh my God I just sipped the coffee and it’s so divine. Divine. ….) perhaps I need to change my delivery. Be softer, gentler. Because, after all, I am a public figure (so they say), and my job is to bring people into the Kingdom, not turn them away.
It’s taken two days for me to come to the conclusion that I’ll change nothing. If I ever change in the future, I doubt it’ll be for the softer.
Jesus overturned tables, commanded people to leave their families, wives, parents, children, jobs, money, status. He accused the greedy and hung out with thieves and prostitutes. While love was his message, soft wasn’t his delivery. And, while I’m merely a wart on the back of the heel of anything Jesus ever accomplished, softness isn’t likely to be my delivery any time soon.
Still, I’m bothered by the conversation. A very indignant, “How dare they say that about me.”
Then, Anne Lamott to the rescue.
She told a chapter-long story about a mom in her son’s first grade class who she referred to as her enemy, and figured the woman would be floored to know she harbored such a title. Now, the friend in my scenario is far from my enemy, as I try not to keep stock of such things, but there were some similarities in the story that made me think about why I was so defensive during that conversation.
And, surprise surprise, it had nothing to do with the Gospel.
This friend of mine is stunning, has things and people in her life that I envy. She can eat sugar without turning into an overweight monster, and people want to be her and be with her. It’s a dark charisma, that even I’m attracted to. She’s oceans more successful than I am professionally and, via Facebook, lives a life worthy of magazine coverage.
Alas—as she picked at something about me that was outside of all of those things I mentioned, in my head it validated every other shitty thought I had in comparison. Like her saying I was mocking Jesus was actually her saying, “you’re fat, ugly, and poor.”
She never said those things. I said those things for her in my head, and I was all “not only is she attacking my relationship with God, but she’s attacking ME.”
This was the experience Anne had with her “enemy.”
Now, it’s time to pray.
To get out my God jar and pray for forgiveness. First for myself, then myself toward my shit attitude toward my friend, and then for her in general. I’ll write our names separately and on the same sheet of paper and place it in what Anne refers to as “God’s Inbox,” and be willing to let him do a work in me.
We’re both passionate Jesus-lovers with slightly different theology and world views. We come from different places geographically, emotionally, and spiritually, and we’re having a hard time understanding each other. At least I’m having a hard time understanding her.
But I do understand my feelings of worthlessness. So, while she might pray for me to not be such a heretic, I’ll be busy praying for myself. All my pussy wounds and ugliness that I turn onto myself. How quickly I allow my worth to be held in the hands of others and not in the hands of the One who made me.
Looks like I’ve got lots of work to do.