Saturday, June 10, 2017

Chopping Down Trees


For months my writing has been reduced to adding things and checking off things from my TO DO LIST. Currently there are only 19 items on it, a record.

But if I am honest, the blogging hiatus has been due to more than my status quo of an always busy life.  It’s been several long months of pushing my way through my personal forest of old familiar foliage, and finally opening up new spaces for the sunlight to find its way through.

What is that like?

It's hacking away at some old dead trees, some of which I've been working on for years.  When they finally fall, sitting down on them for a while, staring off into nothing.  Then finally forcing myself to get up and try to roll them off the side of the hill to make space for new life. 

And pausing to look up at the now visible sky between the trees that I hadn’t noticed before.



Then figuring out what to plant next, and how to transplant new plants into the space left behind.  Figuring out how to make them live, how much water they need, and how not to kill them.

And when you have some brand new baby plants you aren’t even sure how to take care of yet, you prefer not draw too much attention to them, lest the curious or the critical come and trample the new life before it gets a fair start.  Hence the lack of communication.

My big dead trees included some surprising things. 

Church was one. Church with a little c.  Finally being willing to walk away from what was hurting me and leaving me empty over and over again without feeling guilty that I was abandoning God or His Church.  I still attend services, I have not forsaken the assembling together, but I no longer have membership, volunteering, being accepted, having a ministry title, and belonging to the club on the pedestal I’ve had it on my whole life.
 
The final breaking point was definitely the election as it unfolded in 2016 and its results.  Seeing so much of the church embrace and defend what so little resembled the true gospel was the final crack in the root of that tree in my life.  Going forward, my loyalty is to Jesus and his teachings, not to the Bible Belt political gospel.

The crash of that tree has opened up a clearing in my forest for many beautiful moments of having picnics in the open space. Finding and keeping like-minded friends from a variety of backgrounds and hearing God speak to me through their voices and lives without agenda has been both rich and healing.

Let me know if you want to come over to a picnic. :-)

Another big tree that was pretty dead already was complementarianism.  For several years now as a Christian, I have been reluctant to openly declare that I am a feminist and egalitarian, but I’m at the point that I feel it is the most honest and most Biblical place I can be.  I can respect my friends who are complementarian, but I would ask for the same respect in return.  I had already chopped down the tree of patriarchy quite some time ago which probably quite literally saved my life since it had me cornered in a cult (but that’s another story).

For those of you whose hackles raised at the mention of feminism, the dictionary definition of that oft misunderstood word is simply this: “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” That’s it. No bra burning, no male bashing, and nothing to be afraid of as a Jesus follower.  It is, in fact practically synonymous with Galatians 3:28 in the Bible: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

And for those of you wondering, yes, you can be pro-life and a feminist.  Check out the New Wave Feminists movement as proof.

Then there was tree that still had quite a bit of green in it that I didn’t realize needed to come down.  This was the tree of white privilege. Getting woke, as they say, has not been hard in the sense that I resisted, but hard in the sense that I had no idea how much I was missing all this time, right here in the USA.  Listening to my American brothers and sisters of color, beginning to understand more about past and current systemic racism in my country, seeing micro-aggressions as real and daily, and most of all, comprehending that, as hard as my life has been in many aspects, I have continually benefitted from white privilege over and over again and still do, has all been part of my waking up.

In the past I mistook being missional and having a degree of cultural awareness and competency for being woke.  I thought because I had been a missionary and lived as a foreigner overseas for six years that I got it. I thought because I had seen discrimination from the other side, understood the plight of the persecuted church, interacted with sensitivity and appreciation among other cultures, and comprehended the immensity of first world luxury that I was fully woke.

I was not.  I would still hesitate to claim I have fully awoken, but I am listening and learning how to be a better white ally to those in my own neighborhood.  That is a journey I am still on.  Sadly, I find it puts me even more out of step with many church folks and people in my conservative homeschooling circles who still deny both that their white privilege is real and that their brothers and sisters of color deal with racism daily.

But oh yes, the homeschooling!  That big lovely tree over there!  Two out of three of my children have graduated and one has two years left in high school.  I have to put in a disclaimer that our current version of homeschooling is my son taking all his subjects from tutors- he is with them in classes one a day week at a co-op, and does the work at home on the other days.  I am still the school principal and class monitor, but he is well on his way to fully independent study.

Happily for me, all three of my almost adult children are still living at home, and we get along decently well almost all of the time. While the specter of the empty nest looms it still somehow seems unreal and far away.

My midwifery practice is definitely one of the biggest trees in my woods, and this year I’m learning how to take on the role of administrator at the birthing center where I work.  It’s gratifying but not always comfortable, learning how to take care of things that need to get done without stressing myself out or driving everyone crazy.  Fortunately work has always been my happy place, and still is, even in my role as (sort of) boss.  There is nothing more redemptive than the labor of a woman and the birth of a baby, and as hard as it is to be a full time midwife, getting to share that miracle over and over again has been one of the most consistently bright places in my life so far.

Here’s one more reason why I feel my job is sacred- my role being compared to that of the Holy Spirit.

So with the three big trees of church idolatry, complementarianism and ignorance of white privilege and racism chopped down, I think I now have a nice open space in my woods to set up my desk, open my laptop and get back to regular blogging. 

Stay tuned!  And let me hear from you! Where are you in your journey, and what trees have you chopped down lately? Comments are open!