The War That Never Ends

I am helping out at children’s church for a few Sundays. I was pretty excited about it because I get to be in my daughter’s class. But the curriculum and message has got me a bit perplexed.

The Bible is a hard book to read. In case you think it is all fluff and stuff…you have another thing coming. It is a complex book of war, torture, oppression, slavery, conquer, victory, surrender, love, lust, sex, relationships…I mean it’s like a bottle of Ragu – It’s in there!. It’s ALL in there.

Let me first of all say that I really like my church. It’s not perfect…but it is real. The pastor is sincere and humble and the staff actually does stuff for the people in the church, the community and abroad. They care. They say they Love God and Love People and so far – it has rung more true than anywhere else I have found. It has been a place of refuge for me these past few years in many ways. I also adore the children’s ministry leaders. They are simply amazing women. They didn’t write this curriculum…it is just a program.

Anyway – This really has nothing to do with with my church or anyone in particular. This is my blog…so forgive me I am a bit egocentric. I’m the only one I am allowed to pick on in this space. This is my therapy, my platform to work things out…so this is all about…me. My perceptions…my struggles and weaknesses. I get to say all the ridiculous things that you may think but never say out loud.

The only reason I bring my church into this post at all is because it was the whole starting place that got me thinking so deeply about the thoughts I have been wrestling with the past 24 hours.

I am teaching 8 and 9 year olds, and we are taking them through the old testament book of Judges that focuses on war, massive destruction, conquering and destroying, and grand scale murder – all in the name of the one true God.

Forgive me. This is hard. I am conflicted.

So here I am, in a suburb in somewhere Ohio…teaching our local children about the glory and blessings that awaited the Israelites when they actually obeyed God and completely and utterly devastated, destroyed, murdered and overtook the peoples that were there worshipping other gods. It was considered a cleansing of the region or something.

Somewhere in a small village in somewhere Pakistan…there is a small group of local children gathered together to hear about the glory of the reward of killing in the name of THEIR true God. It would be considered a cleansing of the region or something.

And to be honest here, we are not 1000’s of miles apart. The reality is that we are just down the street from each other…having these very drastic points of view. It is not just the far removed children in Pakistan…it is children in the same schools as my daughter…or maybe even in a large white house somewhere in DC. Honestly – no one knows what goes on deep inside the soul of a person behind closed doors.

Isn’t that the wonderful and frightful consequence of freedom?

It was about at this point in last’s nights torturous fitful sleep that I realized how sorely under qualified and totally incompetent I am of such a huge responsibility of teaching Sunday school.

We are talking about Holy wars here! This battle has been brewing for thousands of years. It is one of the most powerful, sacred, mysterious, forces of all times.

Yes…I am having a major tripping dilemma. I thought I was just going to do my duty and good thing by trying to give back of myself like so many wonderful and faithful volunteers have done for my children these past 2 years.

Why this curriculum now? Am I the only crack pot thinking this? I mean how is this appropriate 8 year old content? Maybe it is…and I am just an idealist or naive. Not to mention – just the sheer amount of huge 3 to 5 syllable names of tribes and villages alone – kids can’t read them – let alone get any major content out of it after they have read it. It’s like a whole different language.

I think everything has a place in time. These stories are important to tell and know. History is absolutely important. I just don’t feel right about telling it to this age bracket. It’s not something I want to go into detail with my own 8 year old. When do they even start teaching history in schools?

Let me also say that I don’t believe in being condescending, sappy sweet and presenting a Mr. Rogers like message about only goodness and fluff either. I know children are capable of mature content and we sometimes underestimate what they can and should grasp. And, unfortunately, I do believe that they have to know – at least in part that there is evil in this world.

It just gets really really out of focus when you take a few 1000 steps back and look at the whole situation…as if we were all just insects. How do you even know which side is “evil”? Well, for most of us…it is just whatever side we are NOT on. It is reality that we point our crooked unsteady fingers and assume different is wrong.

Looking at it from this confusing M.C.Escher-like perspective it gets REALLY hairy…because no matter which side you are on from this stand point…wouldn’t EVERYONE be created by ONE God? Because each religion would claim “Creation” rights. So, essentially – when instructed to invade and destroy – you are in fact killing the children of your own God in some fashion or form…right? Ugh…brain cramp!

And yes – I do realize that I have traveled into the fringes of the extremists view here. All major world religions have the bell shaped curve with the bulk of believes being the stable, peace loving folks – with their right and left winged factions that warp love into hate. But when reviewing the history and foundation of the old testament…it sounds pretty extreme.

Even the current state of affairs – kids needs to know and respect our veterans and current military members. But do they need to know the gory details of what these amazing men and women have seen and are currently facing everyday?

Do you let your 8 year old watch the details on CNN and local news? Kids should understand the basics of 911, but do they need to see the horrific details? Maybe? Some of you think so. I remind myself of the luxurious far removed life we live, safe from front line war zones (again – Thank you military men and women) that some kids live in today and even some of our grand parents lived through themselves. Sometimes – yes – kids need to know the details.

Is it a case by case basis? I only have girls…and my oldest if a very dramatic, sensitive girl. Maybe my perspective is just all out of whack.

Hell…even the weather report can be a bit precarious around our household. The other day we had tornado warnings and I am here to tell you – I flat out lied to my 8 year old to avoid sheer pandemonium. If I knew we were actually in danger – THEN I would handle the situation…but again…why provoke fear and drama when they really only need to know so much at this age.

I really am at a loss here. A cross roads. Religion is a crazy dichotomy of redemption, saving grace and torture. Depending on which side of the world you live on…we all think we are right.

And no…I don’t subscribe to some Utopian or Orwellian antiseptic society of no religion at all or a sedated, unaware one united world religion. I can’t see how that would ever even be possible without major manipulation, brainwashing, coercion by force or, back to topic…extreme genocide.

It may be safe to say that the only thing that is certain in this world is…war.

Lordy…I need to get a happy post in here soon. I am bumming myself out lately.

May your God be with you…whatever side you are on in this war that never ends. And don’t think you atheists or godless ones are off the hook either, because even if you choose not to decide…you still have made a choice. (that’s for you Rush fans).

Welp…smile. Sleep well little ones. May you dream of sugar plums and hand grenades, blue skies and homeland invasions…all in the obedient loving name of God(s).

Removing your own internal organs

When you go through a divorce with children the cliche phrase “It feels like my heart is being ripped out”, becomes more than just a dramatic statement. It is about the only way to accurately describe the manifestation of the pain you emotionally feel…but for me – I physically felt it. My heart physically hurt…my whole body hurt.

I even starved myself for awhile and I found out somewhere along the way that it wasn’t just because I was not hungry – but it dawned on me that I actually “liked” the pain of being hungry all the time because it kind of masked the pain in my heart!

In my case it was all so shocking. I had just had our daughter when I found out about the affair my husband had been having for a year and maybe more. Though we had not had the most stellar of marriages, I honestly did not see that coming. He was traveling excessively, I was a pregnant stay at home mom – and these situations can cause some stress on any marriage. We were finally having a baby together for heaven’s sake! For some odd reason I thought we were on the same team!

So when I found out about it and the way I found out about it (phone records and hotel receipts) I was in shock. I even fought to somehow overcome it and keep the marriage together, but he didn’t want that. He had already moved on.

It was completely bizarre to me. After all the professions of his love to me – I was the golden girl that got away. His childhood dream girl that he finally got to be with. The one he had been waiting, hoping and dreaming of his whole life. No…I really didn’t think he would so easily jump on board another train at such a critical time. Blah Blah Blah…

The shock and pain of a marriage dying and crumbling was bad enough…but there were children involved.

So to say my heart felt like it was being ripped out is kind of an understatement. More accurately – it felt like I was being asked to remove my own major internal organs. Reading over all the legal documentation and trying to work out visitation schedules – this is specifically where it felt like I was reading instructions from some foreign piece of paper and trying to slit open my body and figure out which organ is the right one to take out.

First of all – I never wanted the divorce and secondly – now I am being asked – “So which major holidays would you like to willingly give up your child for?” WHAT?!?! And the questions are asked with such coldness and ease – as if this were just the most normal question in the world. While my spouse is across the table acting like this IS the most normal thing in the world. OMG! My heart is racing, I feel like passing out…where is the door, some help…something!”

It felt like I was in some science fiction movie where nothing was making sense. I am being asked to decide or do something that I really shouldn’t be asked to EVER do! And everyone is just staring with normal expressions on their face handing me the pen, asking me to sign so nonchanlantly. I want to scream “I am being asked to sign something that says I willingly agree to NOT be with my lovies on certain days!! What kind of mom does that make me?!?!?! What kind of person does that make me?”

Can you just imagine someone handing you a knife and spinning a wheel with different internal organs to see which one it lands on and then ask you to go ahead and cut yourself open and hand that one over.

Maybe I am being ridiculous, but you moms and dads of the world out there try waking up to an empty house on Easter morning and see if I am really ridiculous. It is just not normal. It feels completely foreign. I am lost. Despite the joy that I am supposed to feel on this day, I feel like I am missing all the best parts of me.

And if any of you want to throw at me – “Just focus on what Easter is really about – Jesus”…Well I would ask you to think before you talk, because the irony of your statement reaches hypocrisy at an alarming rate. Because this holiday is so important to me and because I do love God and Jesus and all that – it makes it even a bit harder because that is also part of what I want to share with my girls who are not waking up in their beds this morning with their sweet little faces and voices and snuggles.

And yes – then there is the “pagan” rituals – like Easter egg hunts and little girls in beautiful spring dresses and bonnets. And though I took my little one to an egg hunt yesterday – I am still hearing the sounds of laughter and joy from other kids right outside my window – the neighbor kids that my girls should be right there mixed in with. It is kind of sad when a childrens laughter is actually a source of sadness.

Despite how much I have worked on buliding “me” back up and working towards restoration…this is the part that will probably never be OK. Not being with my children during important holidays that mean so much to me will probably never be “comfortable”.

I think I have talked a big talk and made it sound like it does get better in time. Maybe it does…I guess even people who have had internal organs actually removed can survive sometimes depending on the criticalness of the organ itself. But that person is never really the same. They are always missing that part of themselves.

I guess if anyone out there that is still married – if you have ever considered divorce as a simple option – or even a not so simple option – I would just encourage you to think about it. Are you ready to do a self inflicted surgery on yourself?

Happy Easter.

99 White balloons

It’s hard to even know where to begin this post.  I am overwhelmed tonight with confusion, sadness, irony and so many questions that I know may have no real answers.  Yea…look out…tonight is a deep thoughts kind of post. 

My moral compass has been so shattered this past year through the divorce that I admit I am a little confused by the once black and white standards I used to hold that have now turned to several shades of gray.  Somehow I still believe in God.  Probably more in some ways than ever before.  But what sucks is that there is a tiny part of me that actually wonders…is He real?  I am surprised and disappointed with myself for even entertaining the thought, let alone blogging it outloud.  

I guess once I became a Christian some 20 years ago, I just accepted everything blindly.  I HAD to believe.  I needed to.  Now I CHOOSE to believe.  I have moved to a different place in life where I am not threatened to at least ask the “are you real” question.  And the God I believe in can handle it.  I think he appreciates honesty.  Especially when I have news like I have had this past week.

A man died this past week.  Well, lots of people died this past week, but this man in particular was a man that overcame unbelievable obstacles.  He survived an accident that left him severely disfigured, blind and dependent on others to function in daily life.  He was the kind of person that little kids stared at in awe and wonder.  My daugther was one of them.  She was fascinated and drawn to him…luckily in a sweet, innocent, and kind manner.  She wanted to be close to this man.  Underneath his mask she could sense the sweetness of his soul.  He beat unimaginable odds by surviving the accident, endured countless surgeries and was just at a place where it seemed he was getting a bit of independence back in his life and was on the up.  Then…suddenly he died.  He left behind 5 beautiful children.  That sucks. 

Also last night a little boy was enduring his first round of chemotherapy.  As I was home in the comfort of my own cluttered surroundings with my healthy girls tucked safely in their own beds, this little guy started the fight of his life.  While I heard thunder softly rolling through and the rain on the windows, he and his parents were surrounded by nurses, beeping electronic medical devices, needles, monitors, nurses, doctors, and a host of other unfamiliar sights and sounds.  I could tip toe over and kiss each girl as they slept peacefully, smell their freshly washed hair and touch their soft cheeks.  This other family was in a room smelling of antiseptics and were probably experiencing unimaginable cries and wishing for it all to be some kind of terrible nightmare to wake up from.   Our worlds couldn’t be more different.  And just a few weeks ago…they were having the same kind of normal moments I am right now and probably taking it for granted like I have done more than I care to admit.  But not tonight.   

Tonight my heart is broken for a little boy that should be getting ready to meet new class mates and teachers this fall but instead is meeting the doctors, nurses and other patients in a pediatric cancer wing of a hospital.  God…are you there?  Why kids?  Why?  I also see 5 little faces weeping as they said goodbye to their dad for the last time today.  And again I struggle with where God might be.

Near the end of the funeral the pastor and family handed out white balloons to everyone.  He said, “When Jesus comes back he is going to give one command”.  And in the pastor’s interpretation he said he thought that one command would be, “Come”.  And when he said that he asked for all of us to let go of the balloons.  The result was a profound and beautiful image…soul-like balloons rising to the heavens…obeying the simple command…come.  Whether you believe or not – that was an awesome image, thought or wish.  To be released from any chains of inhibition, doubt, cynicism, sickness or bitterness…or even death. 

Some people think that believing in God means you are weak, stupid or juvenile because it shows that you “have to believe in something” that – in all honestly could be fiction.  Some people think it is just a list of rules and have been turned off by hypocritical Christians out there that may have meant well, but came across as narrow minded, judgemental, opinionated, brainwashed, nut cases.  I am guilty of “not helping” the Christian cause at plenty moments of my ungraceful life.  Because I very, very human.

I can’t tell you or convince you what you should believe.  I am not that girl.  Because it has occured to me lately that I just might be wrong.  I can only say what I believe, or what I want to believe, or yes perhaps – what I need to believe.  That there is something out there…something, someone bigger than me.  When I am alone, which I am a lot, I have to believe there is someone out there watching over me and my girls (no…not a stalker).  I have to believe that one day my soul/balloon will rise to the heavens…or somewhere and be released from this world riddled with pain, anguish, tears, and death. 

You can call me a fool.  You can disown me.  You can belittle me and determine that I must be a pea brain to stoop to such a level of stupidity.  You could limit your interactions with me or walk on eggshells around me and really mess up a great friendship.  But I am still the same person today as I was 8 blogs ago.  I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me.  I’m just trying to figure it out too.

Maybe it IS juvenile.  But for me it beats the heck out of the alternative.  Nothing.  Just science and life cycles.  If I am wrong…so what?  I lived a life believing in a beautiful idea.  Non believers, you get the last laugh.  But if I am right?  Then…wow.  The image of those balloons today will probably stay with me for a long time.  And I almost missed it.  My daughter was the big reason we were there.  She wanted to be there to say good bye.  I am so glad.