October 10, 2012

Last Love

From Rachel McKibbens' poem, "Last Love"

"...Go with the one who resembles most your father. Not the father you can
point out on a map,
But the father who is here. Is your home. Is the key to your front door. Know that your first love will only
Be the first. And the second and third and even fourth will unprepare you for the most important:
The Blessed. The Beast. The Last love. Which is, of course, the most terrifying kind.
Because which of us wants to go with what can murder us?
Can pull us out of ourselves until
We are no longer sisters or daughters or sword swallowers but, instead,
Women. Who give. And lead. And take and want
And want
And want
And want
Because there is no shame in wanting.
And you will hear yourself say: Last Love, I wish to die so I may come back to you new and never tasted by any other mouth but yours.
And I want to be the hands that pull your children out of you and tuck them deep inside myself until they are
Ready to be the children of such a royal and staggering love. Or you
will say: Last Love,
I am old, and have spent myself on the courageless, have wasted too many clocks on less-deserving men, so I hurl myself
At the throne of you and lie humbly at your feet.
Let the day I was born mean my life will end where you end.
Let the man behind the church do what he did if it brings me to you.
Let the girls in the locker room corner me again if it brings me to you.
Let this wild depression throw me beneath its hooves if it brings me to you.
Last love, I let other men borrow your children. Forgive me.
Last love, I vowed my heart to another. Forgive me.
Last Love, I have cursed the women you loved before me. Forgive me.
Last Love, I envy your mother’s body where you resided first. Forgive me.
Last Love, I am all that is left. Forgive me.
Last Love, I did not see you coming. Forgive me.
Last Love, every day without you was a life I crawled out of. Amen.
Last Love, you are my Last Love. Amen.
Last Love, I am all that is left. Amen.
I am all that is left.

October 04, 2012

What Youth Group Taught Me-- And Didn't Teach Me: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Whoah. It's been a while. In honor of this weekend's opportunity for me to speak at a youth group for one of the first times since I was actually in youth group, I thought I'd write a blog. 

I "grew up" in church. I really grew up in youth group. It taught me a lot of things- some good, some bad. It also neglected to teach me some things. I am a firm believer in the Church (Big “C” Church), but my experience has taught me that the Church has very little to do with the building that a lot of Christians go to every Sunday, or Wednesday, or Saturday night. We-- Christians-- make up the Christian church, and if we take that lightly, we end up losing people to lies that look even better than the truth of what we are... a sick bride that lives for her own pleasures. Here are some of my own youth group lessons.

Youth group taught me that friendships are incredibly important. I made friends in youth ministry that have helped me through some really hard times, that attended my wedding, and that still pray for me any time I ask. These are all good things. What youth group didn't teach me is that youth group, or church, should never be the means to an end when the end we seek is solely friendship. Youth group taught me that fellowship is essential, but it didn't teach me that working out your salvation with fear and trembling is considerably more important than that fellowship, and that fellowship should flow out of fighting the battle shoulder to shoulder in word, thought, and deed.

Youth group taught me what it took to be a Godly college student. What it neglected to teach me, however, is what it takes to be a Godly woman. It taught me how to say no to sex before marriage, but it taught me nothing about sex within marriage, or marriage at all. It taught me about secret sin, but didn't really teach me how to combat it. It taught me how to defend my faith, but it didn't teach me how to cultivate it. The most beneficial times in youth group for me were when my leaders were much older than myself, and could tell me, “This is what God wants, and here is what it looks like.” I didn't know it at the time, but as a teen, I didn't need to be surrounded by leadership that was fun and enthusiastic as much as I needed to be surrounded by men and women of the faith that could lead me with level heads and compassionate hearts.

Youth group taught me that favoritism is prevalent in the world. This is not a good thing, because it was the people in the youth groups, and the people leading the youth groups that taught me this by their actions. I spent a lot of emotional energy trying to gain the attention of youth leaders-- any youth leaders, because I wanted someone to really see me and to help me see. A word to all youth leaders that are reading this-- Talk to the ones that no one talks to. Be the friend to the friendless, and if you don't have the heart to do so, pray that God would turn your heart toward it-- and then do it anyway. This is not bitterness speaking, this is a fair warning. If it hadn't been for one specific youth leader that would talk to me when no one else would, that would challenge me when I needed it most, and that trusted me to take sound advice when it was offered, I don't know where I would be. When I say this, I don't mean, “I would have been so sad and alone,” I literally mean, “I don't know if I'd still be here,” because longing for attention like that zaps all of your strength, and I probably would have given up. Don't play favorites. There are some really hurting kids out there, and they are usually the ones that won't just come out and tell you.

Youth group taught me that sincere music is a powerful spiritual weapon. It didn't teach me about a whole lot of other spiritual weapons, though. It didn't teach me about fasting, or meditating on scriptures, or serving other people. Most importantly, it didn't teach me that confession is not the same as repentance, and repentance is essential to having spiritual victory. I spent years of my life in a sin-confess-sin-confess cycle, lacking any sort of power over sin because I was never told that I could be free of what bound me.

I'm excited about speaking this weekend. I love that we've been invited to share in ministering to young hearts, but I wanted to take some time to reflect on what it was like for me when I was sitting there on Sunday morning, listening to the missionary guest speaker, and wondering how I could get from where I was as a broken, withdrawn 15 year-old to a passionate, sincere woman.

What are some of the good, bad, or ugly things that youth group taught you?

On Aprils

Ten years ago, I sat in the dining hall of a Christian camp. A man my father's age sat with me. It was April, and I had no idea... I had...