Tough Weeds

This year I’m trying my hand at a little gardening, and a few weeks ago I poisoned the weeds to try to kill them, and nothing happened. So I poisoned the weeds again, and this time they started dying. Today I bought the cheapest weed eater I could find, fired it up, and chopped up those weeds. Then I got a shovel and dug up the roots in the soil and pulled them all out. There are still things left to do, like prepare the soil properly, and plant the seeds. The seeds will hopefully sprout, grow, and produce food. However, the process of growing involves a lot of preparation.

The process of growing is messy, it sometimes hurts, and it can take a while. Sometimes there is a lot of dying and uprooting that needs to happen before any growth can ever take place. And sometimes, it’s a little easier. I have some sage plants in a pot, and all I had to do for those is put dirt in a pot and plant the plants. Sometimes the soil is already fertile and the plant has already been started, and the process of growth is a little easier.

Once the plants are planted and growing, there are still weeds that grow and need pulling out by the roots, and the plants need watering. Sometimes they get a lot of water all at once when it rains, and sometimes they get a little water from the hose or watering can.

Working through eating disorders is a lot like my gardening. Before any growth can really take place, there are lots of counselling sessions, lots of uprooting weeds of lies and negative thoughts, lots of hard work, lots of cutting up of wrong ideas or nasty words and actions of others to forgive. There is digging, lots and lots of digging, there is lots of uprooting. After that, there will need to be a foundation of fertile soil before any real growth will take place. In my yard, the weeds were so hard to get rid of because they had been growing for a long time. My personal weeds have been growing for an awful long time too, so I am not going to experience growth overnight. Sometimes that frustrates me and it seems like I’m not getting anywhere, but going through the process that I am in the yard has also been frustrating and has seemed like I’m not getting anywhere. Slowly but surely, however, things have been happening, and each thing needs to be done in order and each things takes time. It’s just the way it is.

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My Journey: The Food Edition

Sometimes I know something, but I don’t really know it. I’m a sociology student, which means I know all about how society constructs gender and how we embody certain philosophies and ideas. I have the scientific knowledge I need to research and explore topics such as why women feel the need to have slim bodies and conform to particular ideals. I know what the Bible says, too, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I know that God loves me the way that I am. I have studied basic psychology and know about eating disorders, what the symptoms are, how they affect people.

And yet, I’ve struggled with eating disorders for most of my life. I have gone from anorexia, to bulimia and sometimes have gone between the two. It makes me feel really stupid, to know all the things that I do and yet to struggle the way I do. Food and I have had a controversial relationship for sixteen years. I’m sure food and I will continue to have a controversial relationship.

I thought that I could get through this if I could simply learn some self-control. I have some great friends who share truth with me about how God sees me, and yet I loathe myself and pick on every imperfection, over and over, not being able to realize that God doesn’t see them as imperfections, because it’s how he chose to make me. I forget that I’m an authentic, handcrafted creation. Over and over I try to force myself to believe the truth of who I am, and I have made some progress with that.

But it’s not that simple. It’s been a sixteen year battle and finally I have gone to get help. I’m going to be getting specialized counselling and getting the help that I need. I want to get through this. I know that some people document journeys through cancer and other diseases, I’m hoping to document my way through this, and I’m trusting God for healing (well, sometimes).

I’ve been pretty good at hiding my issues until now. I have started altering my wardrobe choices in order to hide as much fat as possible. I’ve been trying different things with my hair and style, never fully liking anything, going from one thing to the next. I want freedom, the freedom to be who he made me to be. I feel kind of stupid because I feel like I should have “gotten over it” when I was a teenager. I’m embarrassed that I’m 28 years old, and yet I still have these issues.

Interestingly enough, this issue has come to a head during Lent, while I have been focusing more closely on my relationship with God. I know God wants me to find freedom, and I think that’s one of the lessons he’s teaching me through the ritual of Lent. I’m really scared and I’m afraid of accountability because quite frankly, analyzing my eating choices that much just isn’t appealing to me, and yet I realize that that I analyse my food choices all the time, it’s why I do what I do. I just don’t want to be accountable for them.

The Bible says that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I’m trying to believe, and I’m trying to get well. 

The Christian Left – Part 5

Looking at the teachings of Jesus changed my worldview drastically, and it was the teachings of Jesus that, in the end, made me change my political beliefs as well. I’m not totally on the left side of politics either, I identify as a moderate that leans left because when it comes right down to it, on some issues I’m conservative and on some issues I’m liberal, I just happen to be liberal on more issues than I am conservative.


“As far as I’m concerned the teachings of Jesus are far too radical to be embodied in a particular platform or represented by a particular candidate. It’s not up to some politician to represent my Christian values to the world: it’s up to me. That’s why I’m always a little perplexed when someone finds out I’m not a republican and asks, ‘how can you call yourself a Christian?’” Rachel Held Evans, “Evolving in Monkey Town”, pg. 206-207.

If Jesus was walking this earth and he was in America in this day and age, I don’t think he would be a republican. I don’t think he would necessarily be a democrat either, because his teachings were so radical that not even Christians believe or follow all of them. I know that for me, sometimes the teachings of Jesus are downright scary because they are so radical and I’m afraid that if I live passionately for him, I’m going to face ridicule for it, because people are going to think I’m crazy. I’m not arguing that we need to fit in to our culture necessarily; I’m arguing that Christians need to obey the teachings of Jesus, and, if we did so, I believe that the current political landscape in the USA would look much different.

As Tony Campolo says in his book “Red Letter Christians” (2008, pg. 215), I’m a theological conservative who has embraced socially progressive ideas. I know that a lot of people don’t understand how the two can go together, but for me they just do. When I really and truly focus on what my Savior taught, I find that the two go together just fine. The “Lord’s Prayer” says “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Matthew 6:10 NIV. I believe that when I accepted Jesus, I became a citizen of the kingdom of God, and that as such I need to live by kingdom principles. These principles have changed me, and I think that’s the point.

I’m nowhere near perfect at living out the teachings of Jesus, I fail at it every day, but when I absorb the teachings of Jesus and meditate on them, and live them, they change me.

“If our theologies make us focus only on the eternal and the individual (i.e., getting my soul into heaven) so that we avoid God’s concern for the historic and the global (i.e., God’s will being done on earth as well as in heaven), then the more people we win over to our theologies, the fewer people will care about God’s world here and now.

                The more converts we make, the worse the world will become.

If God really cares about justice in this world here and now, and if we are converting people away from that concern, then we are working against God. We could inadvertently become enemies of God’s wishes. Brian McLaren, “Adventures in Missing the Point” pg. 57.

I realized that if my political beliefs did not align with the teachings of Jesus, I was going against God. I started to realize that perhaps God cared much more that I love my neighbour and less about the culture-wars. Perhaps he would rather me act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8). I started to realize that if I live as God is calling me to live, that would make a bigger statement than any political position I hold.

“Jesus replied: ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NIV.

References:

Campolo, T 2008, Red Letter Christians, Regal, Ventura

Campolo, T and McLaren, B 2006, Adventures in Missing the Point, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Evans, R 2010, Evolving in Monkey Town, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Christian Left – Part 3

When President Obama got elected, I was severely disappointed, and I “just knew” that it was a huge mistake and that the problem was that the American people had rejected God. I myself had worked with my church to promote Ron Paul’s campaign, something which now embarrasses me but is part of my journey. During the period of the Obama administration, I have gone from the extreme right, from believing conspiracy theories, from extreme conservatism and fundamentalism, to a position I believe is more balanced. Now I claim to be just Christian, definitely not a fundamentalist, and to being a moderate that leans left. Looking back, I’m glad Obama was elected, although sometimes I wonder if I might not have preferred Hillary Clinton for president. I personally believe Bill Clinton was a pretty good president. Anyway, the main thing that changed my mind on my political views is the teachings of Jesus.


The very first issue that I faced in my journey was the issue of war and peace. I had always struggled with the concept of war, and had always been unsettled about the idea, but I wasn’t sure why. So I purposed to study the issue out, and I have to say that it changed me. Basically, as I looked at the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament and the historic teachings of the church, I became a pacifist, and for me this was life changing in a number of ways. Not only did I become a pacifist, but it was not long after that that I started to support the idea of gun laws, and I have several ideas on what kinds of gun control I would like to see. I believed that human life was valuable, certainly more valuable than stuff. I say this because the main reason I hear people in this country claim that they need a gun is for if someone breaks into their house and tries to steal their stuff. I would rather let the person take my stuff than take his life; life is precious and certainly more valuable than stuff.

As I delved further into pacifism and my support for gun control, and the sanctity of human life not only for the unborn but for the born as well, it changed the way I viewed people, and slowly began to change the way I treated people. As I turned away from violent thinking and violent imagery, I began to think differently about people, and recognize how valuable they are to God. And in my journey to non-violence, I quit spanking my kids. Now when I get into an argument with someone, instead of just lashing out and fighting with them, I usually stop and think about how precious they are to God, and it helps me to be more calm and rational with my responses. (I did write some articles on pacifism which I am going to put up on this blog as an archive).

I believe that Jesus really meant it when he said to do good to those who treat us wrongly, and that by me choosing to love others, people will know that I am a Christian. As my ideas about pacifism and gun control and non-violence evolved, so did my ideas about social justice. Now that I viewed all people as precious and worthy to God, I believed that Jesus would have me help the poor, and do right by others. As I walked in the new things that God had shown me, it changed me, and my Christian faith began to have so much more meaning than before. In fact, here’s a quote that sums up better than I could what I am saying here:

“Jesus came to offer more than just salvation from hell. I realized this when I encountered Jesus the radical rabbi and re-examined my life in light of his teachings. When I imagined what it would be like to give generously without wondering what was in it for me, to give up my grudges and learn to diffuse hatred with love, to stop judging other people once and for all, to care for the poor and seek out the downtrodden, to finally believe that stuff can’t make me happy, to give up my urge to gossip and manipulate, to worry less about what other people think, to refuse to retaliate no matter the cost, to be capable of forgiving to the point of death, to live as Jesus lived and love as Jesus loved, one word came to mind: liberation. Following Jesus would mean liberation from my bitterness, my worry, my self-righteousness, my prejudices, my selfishness, my materialism, and my misplaced loyalties. Following Jesus would mean salvation from my sin.” Rachel Held Evans, “Evolving in Monkey Town” pg 174-175.

Another quote that really made me think just recently as I take these ideas and values further and I live them out is this:

“I’m not always sure how to react to war today. I can vow to work at Dunkin’ Donuts before taking a job as a defense contractor. I can threaten to weep should my children decide to become soldiers. I can choose not to tell the lie that it’s sweet and fitting to die for one’s country and say instead that it’s tragic. But all of these are just taking stands, and Jesus requires something more. Jesus didn’t say ‘people who speak out against war will inherit the earth’; He said people who embody, in their character and soul, this strange and alien value of meekness will inherit the earth. He didn’t say ‘blessed are those who refuse to fight’ but blessed are those who make peace. He didn’t say ‘blessed are those who don’t kill’ but blessed are those who show mercy. He didn’t call us simply to oppose positions that are wrong but to embody values that are heavenly.” Alisa Smith, “Raised Right” pg 107-108.

In other words, I see now that God is taking me even further, not just wanting me to be against something, but to be for something, and to live out the ideas that I claim to believe in.

*Disclaimer: This is not intended to be an attack on people who believe in war, or the military, or those who are conservative, fundamentalist, and right-wing. I’m simply trying to tell the story of my own journey and why I believe what I believe today.

References:

Evans, R 2010, Evolving in Monkey Town, Zondervan, Grand Rapids

Harris, A 2011, Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics, Water Brook Press, Colorado Springs.