Crisp evening air, the Buick whirred down the four lane road headed toward town. A girl’s night out with Grandma, Ashley, and me. Sitting in the backseat, Ashley chats about her Barbie dolls, her unicorn storybook, the Disney Princesses–all sweet, innocent girly things. Her very essence wrapped up in one long car ride, and I’m thankful for a moment to listen, to hear her non-stop banter about her favorite things. Until she asks:
“Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Cause I just don’t get it.”
A pause, silence chokes out everything else. I fumble for a reassuring “yes, He did.” Perhaps, the easy answer will end her questions for now, but it never does.
“But wouldn’t that make Jesus a Zombie?” she asks unabashedly. “If He dug out of His grave, then He’d be a zombie. But all the pictures in Sunday School show Him next to a big rock.”
She waits quietly for answer, any answer more than my emphatic “yes, He did.” But I say nothing. Not for lack of “right” answers, my Christian college education gave me all of those with the bonus of Bible verses supporting all of those answers, but I’m not sure exactly how to explain something that I don’t firmly grasp either.These moments, I wished I could simply believe all of those easy faith answers. I wish I didn’t need to question everything that I have been taught about God and Jesus and the church. But I do. I need a safe place to ask, but sadly, I haven’t found it yet.
And it scares me to think that my daughter, with all of her questions, won’t have a safe place either. Already, she’s asking hard questions. Questions, theologians still debate and wrestle with, not to mention so many of us in the church. I’m thrilled that she didn’t accept a clichéd response and kept asking, but I worry too. Right now, she’s a child, and it’s okay for children ask if Jesus is a Zombie because he came out of his grave, but what will happen when she is older. When asking such questions will cause the church to shun her, reject her curiosity, and perhaps, force her to leave.
Will the church still be as unwelcoming to we doubters, we askers of questions? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But what gives me hope is that she won’t be alone. There will be other Christ followers asking hard questions. Others chronicle their journeys through the labyrinth of faith. For now, she talk about unicorns and rainbows, but I’m sure I haven’t heard the last of Zombie Jesus.
Write for 5 minutes-ish(close enough to count is fine).
No Editing, Over-thinking, or the like…JUST WRITE.
Comment on another 5 Minute Friday post.
Today’s prompt: TRUST
The carpeted gym, the myriad of awkward teenagers, the overenthusiastic leaders–there is really nothing like church youth group. Every summer, we shuffled into the youth room to endure another round of group activities, a devotional, and maybe if we were lucky snacks. One of the worst activities every invented by our youth leaders was the trust fall. All of the teens lined up to catch the willing victim, but I never could conjure up enough courage to try it.
Then, the leader likened the fall to trusting God. Somehow, he (always a male because women couldn’t teach a both guys and girls) would praise those who attempted the trust fall and would show how it proved their trust in God. Sitting with my friends, I felt like the oddball, the one who couldn’t do the activity, and it showed I couldn’t trust God either.In youth group, trusting God sounded easy like brushing my teeth or getting dressed, but it has never been easy for me.
Even now, I struggle to trust people whom I can see, hug, share my life let alone trust God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit whom I can’t see. Too often, I have trusted people, only to be disappointed, frustrated, and humiliated. I have endured people lying about me, slandering me, and simply ignoring my need for their friendship. It is a dark road that many times I have traveled alone. Now, I’m used to being alone, to enduring alone. Along the way, I built up walls so that I wouldn’t be hurt again, so I wouldn’t be tempted to trust anyone ever.
But I couldn’t live like this. Despite being strong, I needed to trust, to relearn how to trust people, to trust God. How could I fully love my spouse or kids if I couldn’t trust them? So I opened my heart to trust them. Once I began slowly removing the brick walls around me, I learned to allow others to help bear the oppressive weight of life, its uplifting joys. It is a slow process, even now, I struggle with trusting that God is good, that Jesus does love me, that the Holy Spirit does hear my prayers. But the process is a start, and I trust that I will find its end.
Some days are heart heavy, laden with overwhelming stress. Others, sneak up softly from behind and embrace us with a warm hug, a bit of grace in the calendar of hard times. During this holiday season, the days of subtle grace feel fewer and more spread out. Expectations never quite satisfied leaves with us a salty after taste usually from our tears. We can’t do it all. But we won’t admit it. We allow the mistress of perfectionism to whip us into submission, and she is a bitch of an overload. Yet, we listen to her commands, obey, and loathe ourselves for our failures.
We believe the lie of perfect.
Maybe, it’s just me, but this year, I’m not really into the whole Christmas spirit. I tried. Our Christmas tree, real and smelling of the deep mountain woods, decorated with Hallmark ornaments looked beautiful. Until the its lopsided weight cause it to tumbled down several times. Ornaments broken and another tarnish on a potentially perfect Christmas. Stocking hung by the fireplace, and Christmas lists filled out and delivered to Santa and Grandma and aunts and uncles. Slowly, they complain that the gifts desires cost too much, and Christmas gifts become a competition for children’s affection, the favorite present, the best gift. Another blotch on a perfect Christmas.
But the first Christmas wasn’t perfect either.
But we place such a great weight upon ourselves for a perfect Christmas–perfect tree, perfect Christmas presents, perfect cookies. We choke on our perfect while Christ offers us a respite from our striving. Why do we believe ours should be perfect? Jesus born in a stable, hunted by Herod, and spending his early years in a foreign land. The first Christmas didn’t need to be picture perfect postcard of holiday cheer. It simply needed to take place. And we simply need to remember and celebrate.
Myth: Jesus requires us to be cleaned up, prettied up, and perfect prior to coming to Him.
Problem: Would someone please explain this to the church?
Sunday mornings are the worst day of the week. Trying to find dress shoes, church clothes then forcing kids to change out of one outfit to another usually means I have cursed about a bazillion times before entering church. But as long as kids and adults smell clean, dressed in perfectly ironed(well, fresh from the dryer) clothes, we pass the church inspectors(my church doesn’t really have clothing inspectors, but some of the older ladies certainly feel like this is their ministry).
Hardly, the beginnings of a worshipful experience. Sunday School doesn’t soothe my soul or make up for my wretched start to this day of rest. I’m still upset and seething from two kids whining about breakfast and clothes which hinders me from paying attention to the lesson. A large swarthy hunter green choir robe and an alto who sings off key standing next to me certainly don’t help me feel any more worshipful. At this point, I have my painted on happy-to-be-in-church face displayed for all to see.
That’s when I am confronted with Jesus.
Not the clean Jesus in white robes who I imagine smells of Old Spice and lilies of the valley, but the Jesus who allowed snotty nosed kids to climb in his lap. Dirty, loud filthy kids had priority over relatively, clean adults. I’m sure that even Jesus couldn’t escape all of the odors and oozing coming from those children. In fact, Jesus probably didn’t smell clean at all. He took on the smells and the dirt of the children. Intermingling with those who didn’t clean up, pretty up, or dress up to see Him. When He could have just allowed the disciples to shoo the children away, Jesus allowed the children to come just as they were–filthy, loving, and open.
And I wonder if Jesus looks down at my overly clean hands, neat clothes, smelling like butterfly flowers, wondering when I’m going to start smelling more like Him. Mixing up my fresh clean unapproachable smell with the work of loving those who aren’t clean or fresh or easily lovable—learning to smell like Jesus. When am I going to stop handing out Old Spice and perfume to those who need to be loved just as they are?