So, two weeks ago today I fell on an icy driveway and broke my ankle. It was classic; my foot started to slip on the ice, hit dry gravel and stopped. I continued my fall, my foot did not. Just like in every other broken ankle story you’ve ever been told, I heard the crunch of breaking bones, screamed and went into shock. There … Continue reading It’s a Disaster but Everything’s Perfect. I Guess
I’ve written a couple of times about what I call “the hardest, best spiritual discipline I’ve ever tried” – that being not judging. Now, this is not something that came naturally to me, to say the least. I’ve always been pretty tolerant and laid-back, but let’s face it; some people are idiots. Some situations are so ridiculous that you pretty much have to be in … Continue reading Me and That Judging Thing
Now, this may come as a shock to some of my long time readers, but sometimes I make jokes that people thing are inappropriate. Like maybe I throw out an animal sex joke in the middle of a discussion of scripture. Which I don’t think anyone should be offended at; animal sex jokes and scripture go waaaaaay back. But you know, there’s just no pleasing some people.
The thing is that this isn’t a problem that’s confined to my writing. I frequently laugh at things other people don’t think are funny. For example, I was once telling a couple of women the unbelievably hilarious story about my wedding. As I got to the part where my uncle got set on fire, I looked at one of the women and realized that she had started crying. Which both made me feel bad and made me laugh even harder.
Conversely, I’ve been known to laugh at things people say, thinking they were joking only to discover that they were perfectly serious. And, you may not realize this if you have better social skills than I do, but that’s uncomfortable. Yeah. Continue reading “Laughing At Inappropriate Things”
What parent doesn’t want to be a better parent to their kids? And what Christian doesn’t desperately wish to be truly humble? (OK, almost no Christian actually wants any such thing, but play along with me here.) What if I told you that I have the secret to attaining these two highly desirable goals all in one fell swoop? Well, I’d become a viral sensation … Continue reading Suffer Us Little Children
So, yesterday, I started writing about pain. In particular I wrote about the pain fallacy – that is the idea that the more pain you have in your life, the more pain you are capable of dealing with. As I said, in this view, our tolerance for pain is like a muscle which gets strengthened with use. However, we know for a fact that often just the opposite is true. People who have already dealt with a lot of pain are often less able to cope with additional challenges than others. Today I want to go back to that muscle analogy and explain why this is.
Now, the idea that pain tolerance operates like a muscle is actually a pretty good one. Infants are born with basically no pain tolerance. But after 15 years of dealing with bumps, bruises, the odd illness, hunger pang and injury, you often end up with a kid with ridiculously high pain tolerance. He can practically rip half his flesh off in a dirt bike accident and continue goofing around for hours without stopping to tend to his wounds. A kid who was once devastated to be denied another scoop of ice cream works through the loss of a dear pet or even a relative like a champ. Clearly, pain tolerance, like a muscle, does get stronger with time and use. The problem is that not all use is created equal and not all challenges have the same results.
When you life weights, the goal is to create tiny tears in the muscle by forcing it to bear a weight greater than its current capabilities. Your body then creates additional muscle tissue to fill that gap and heal the muscle, thus increasing the strength of the muscle. But anyone who knows anything about building muscle will warn against attempting to lift too much or tax your muscles too heavily, lest you cause damage which is destructive rather than helpful. Continue reading “When Muscles Get Damaged”
I think courage is a terribly underappreciated virtue. There’s a tendency to see courage as something a soldier or a superhero needs to face grave danger, while failing to realize how much courage everyday life requires. You can’t grow as a person or keep a living faith life without ample amounts of courage. The Greek word for courage is tharseo. Jesus uses it four times. … Continue reading Take Courage
Over the last couple of weeks, I have found myself thinking about pride and the ego. There are no end of spiritual teachers who are falling all over themselves to tell us how awful pride and ego are. How they are the root of suffering. How they separate us from God and set us up for a fall. That we can’t live freely and fully … Continue reading Ego and Pride, Compassion and Healing
In Trotter family lore, the years of 2010-2012 will go down as the time of the great breaking. Because everything we owned broke. In a relatively short period of time we had a TV, a VCR, three DVD players, two cars, 4 kitchen chairs, our refrigerator, dishwasher, dryer, washing machine, nearly all of our plates and glasses, a kindle, two laptops, a business and what little was left of our financial stability break. (I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things.) It got so bad that one day I went to take a drink of my coffee and the handle of the coffee mug I was using broke off in my hand. Seriously. We just started laughing about it after a while.
It was also the period when my marriage broke and my husband and I separated for about 7 months. So, lots of breaking.
When events pile up like that, it’s often not a coincidence. There’s a reason for it. (For the record, our house was only 7 years old and one of the laptops was just over a year old. This wasn’t simply a matter of things just getting worn out and breaking.) While we were separated my husband actually prayed about why everything we owned was breaking. He came back to me with what he believed he had been told. The reason things were breaking, he said, was because he had been the glue holding our material world together. When he left (or at least checked out), there was no glue left to keep everything from breaking.
When he told me that, almost without thinking, I blurted out, “but I don’t want broken shit that needs glue to keep it from falling apart!”
Now, glue has its uses. If nothing else, it can be a stop-gap to hold broken things together for a while longer. But it’s not a permanent solution. Things are always weaker at the spot where the glue is holding it together. And it can’t do anything to keep the next break in a different spot from happening. Duct tape may hold the world together, but eventually, broken things need replacing.
It seems to me that humanity has been depending on glue to hold everything together for a long time. We’re broken and our world is broken, so we just keep gobbing on the glue. We want money so it can hold everything together for us. We fight wars and each other, thinking that will preserve us. We lie and cut corners to cover the gaps between what is and what we need it to be. We lose our tempers, use intimidation and control others to keep them from tearing our world apart. We seek pleasure and comfort to fill in the breaks in our souls. We hold grudges and see others as enemies to shore up the weak spots where previous breaks have occurred. And we pass on the glue from generation to generation.
When God tells us to do something – not worry about money, not judge, love freely, give up our lives – we say “that’s nice” and go right on playing with our paste. Continue reading “Let’s Stop With the Glue Already!”
My early twenties weren’t exactly a stellar time. Within a short period of time I was raped twice. I found out I was pregnant shortly after I decided to take Jesus’ words that it’s better to enter the kingdom maimed and had broken up with then boyfriend. The people around me didn’t exactly rise to the occasion. One woman I told about one of the sexual assaults told every-freaking-body. A man she told became so belligerent towards me that I had to interrupt his screaming rant to let him know that if he laid a hand on me, I would call the police and have him hauled away. One of my dearest friends died after a life-long struggle with a rare blood disorder.
I had been studying to become a high school English teacher, but would now need help so I could complete my student teaching in order for that to happen. Instead, I was sent out into the world without so much as a chair to sit in or a bed to sleep on. I became homeless and wound up in a homeless shelter/half-way house for single mothers. My roommate was an orphan who stole a ridiculous amount of money from me. The other women there were children of drug addicts, forced out by violent step-fathers, recovering from addictions themselves, etc.
Some of the people around me felt free to demand that I go into hiding and then place my child for adoption so my siblings, relatives and community wouldn’t know of my shame. (The idea that perhaps a person who has already had their right to self-direction grossly violated shouldn’t be told what to do with her own baby didn’t register, of course. And no, this wasn’t the ’50s. It was the mid-90s)
After I had my son and decided to follow God’s leading and raise him myself, family and friends refused to have anything to do with me. Some went so far as to tell me directly that I wasn’t welcome to come around anymore – particularly if my son was with me. I did manage to eventually finish my degree, but what sort of work to pursue with a degree in Literature and Communications still eludes me. I was poor, alone and directionless beyond knowing that I needed to care for my son.
There were a few brighter spots. My then 16 year old sister was supportive and actually happy about her new nephew. A local church held the only baby shower I had until a couple of my husband’s friends’ wives threw a spectacularly under-attended shower for me when I was pregnant with my 5th child. So, at least I had a stroller when my son was born. Continue reading “The Gift of Delayed Grief”
I don’t know why, but from the time I was a kid, I have had this idea that there is a certain amount of pain and suffering in the world that gets distributed across humanity. Like suffering was an actual thing with quantity that could be measured in cups and miles. Or maybe tears and hours of agony. Some people are dealt a larger portion of this suffering than others. The way to reduce the amount of suffering in the world is to process what comes to you and let it go. Pain and suffering that doesn’t get dealt with, gets passed on to those around us. It can even be multiplied in this process. The ability to suffer without passing it on to those around us is part of how we can serve the world. A person who can endure a lot of suffering without passing it on is performing a real service to humanity.
Like a lot of highly sensitive people, I have spent my share of time crying over people, circumstances and suffering that I do not know, have not encountered and can do nothing about. (I wrote about how I learned to stop doing this so much here.) Even as a kid when I would find myself crying over people and events that affect me not one whit, I would pray, “please let every tear I cry be one less that those going through it have to cry.” It doesn’t make much sense and I have no reason to think that it works that way, but I hope it does. The burden of grief should be shared, not multiplied after all. Continue reading “Suffering as Service”