Saturday, March 25, 2017

Jesus in the shadows

"Is that Jesus?"

She whispered softly. She was pointing up generally in the direction of the crucifix and the altar.

My initial impulse was to just say yes. Yes. The priest represents our Lord and it's ok to see him as Jesus when he's lifting the chalice. Yes. The statue represents Jesus. Yes. The Eucharist is, really and truly, our blessed Lord. Whatever you're pointing at, the answer is almost certainly yes.

But you hear stories about confused kids thinking the priest is Jesus or that Jesus is a statue. I probably worry too much. Three year olds are very literal people. We should probably take the time, even now in the middle of Mass, to understand where she's pointing.

"Do you mean the priest?"
"No, silly. That's Father K."
"Right. Do you mean on the cross?"
"Up there? Mom. That's just a statue."
"Ok. Well. Do you mean the cross?"
"?!" No words. Mom is clearly not very clever.

"Mom. No. Behind the statues. Is Jesus there?"

What on Earth? Is she imagining a man behind the curtains. The great and powerful Oz-christ?

"I don't know what you mean, sweetheart. There is not a person behind the statues."
"Mom. I know. There's shadows. See? Is Jesus there?"
"In the shadows?"
"He's everywhere, right? But I can't see very well in the shadows. I think he's there. I think that's Jesus in the shadows."

I think she might be on to something.

When you are struggling, He's there. When you can't see, him or anything else, He's there.

Faith means believing when it isn't obvious. When good things happen we call them blessings. We see God in the good. Ah-ha! The medication kicked in! Praise God! Oh! We had a snow day when I needed sleep! TBTG! It's easy to see God when things are working out. We don't always thank God for our blessings. We don't even always notice our blessings. But when good things happen, it is easy to see God if you care to look.

But what about when things are not good?

The hardest part for me about having anxiety isn't the fear. The debilitating, painful, unfounded and unfocused fear. That's awful, but worse is that I can't control my mind. It's running off in a million directions.

For me, the hardest part of the anxiety attacks is that I don't know how to pray. I don't know how to attend.

So while my mind is running in a million terrible directions and I can't help but recall every awful thing I know, I don't know how to ask Jesus to calm the storm.

Doubt doubles down. Doubt grabs the swirling fears. What if it is all meaningless. What if I'm wrong. What if God isn't real.

Dear Lord, help. Quiet the storm. "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me."

And there, in the terrifying darkness, with my unfocused pleading. In the shadows. God is there.

It isn't a magic trick. I'm still scared. I'm still lost. I'm still confused. I'm still unfocused. But he's there.

"No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to this rock I'm clinging!"

I love the song, but that line in particular. What is calm clinging? It doesn't make sense. Not just holding on. Not just standing firm. Clinging. When the storm is knocking everything about, this rock is firm. Unmoving.

Cold. Scared. Clinging.

Close your eyes and hang on tight.

When you can't see your hand in front of your face, cling. Hang on with everything you've got. He's there. In the darkness. In the shadows. In the fear. When you need Him most. He's there.

The inmost calm is quieter than the noise of the storm. But it doesn't shake.

Becca is probably right. In some ways, Jesus in the shadows is more real than the statues.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

To my Trump supporting friends

This is my hope. 

I hope I am wrong. I hope you get to laugh at me and say I told you so. I'll take it gladly. I'll laugh too. I'd rather be an idiot than right. 

I hope that I'm overreacting and seeing things that just aren't there. 

I hope you're right. That I'm confused by a grand media distortion. 

I hope my family remains protected by the protections in the ACA. 

I hope my Muslim friends aren't more marginalized and endangered. I hope that my friend's mosque burning was an isolated event. 

I hope that the racism I see is getting better, not worse. 

I hope that when you yearn for yesterday, you mean you miss your ignorance of violence against homosexuals, and not that you miss the violence. 

I hope first amendment rights are not sacrificed at the altar of the second amendment. 

I hope first amendment rights aren't quietly crushed under the weight of fear. 

I hope that that intended list of criminal immigrants is not, as it seems to me, a tactic to create a scapegoat. Using fear as a tool of hate.

I hope you're right. 

Dear God, I really hope I am wrong. 

I hope that replace is as important to you as repeal. I'm not unsympathetic to the current problems. I hope you don't try to solve them by going back to the old problems. 

I hope that freedom of religion is as important to you as you say it is. 

More than any of that, I dearly hope that if I'm right you're ready to stand with me. 

You will not watch mosques burn. You will not watch bullies and bigots. 

You will not be shaped by fear. 

You will not watch a eugenicist agenda roll back decades of tiny progresses for people with disabilities. You will stand up. 

I hope that since you believed it when you said, "but he'll never," if he does you'll flip on him as fast as he flipped on you. 

I hope you're ready to scream, "Black Lives Matter," because they do. And you know it. And the only reason you're not screaming now is that you don't see what I see. 

I hope you're ready to register Muslim if they want to register Muslims. Allahu Akbar. 

I hope you'll let yourself see, if I'm right. 

I won't say I told you so. If I'm right we're going to need you. We're going to need each other. 

If we have to stand in the way of a steamroller, better to do it locked arms and many. And, I hope I'm wrong, but I see a damn steamroller. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

March for Women

This weekend was a hell of a weekend. Obama is out. Trump is in. Women marched all over the world. Crowd sizes are in dispute, but not really.

And the world suddenly knows that pro-life feminists exist. We are here! We are here! We are here! We are here! YOP! 

I have been sorting through my thoughts and emotions with respect to the march with a tinge of regret. This was a great moment in history unfolding relatively close to me, geographically. I did not go. 

I was considering attendance, but waffling about feasibility when all the sudden this crazy thing happened: an openly pro-life organization was granted partnership. The New Wave Feminists are an adorably quirky bunch. I would feel like the class nerd hanging out with them. And besides, our politics do not match up very well. They are Texas libertarians who are apparently also anti-abortion and feminist. But the fact that they were included officially was exciting! This march was all set to be show real unity across a slew of diverse opinions on diverse issues. Whatever you believe politically, we can agree that women deserve better. 

But the media go wind of this interesting alliance. Then Twitter. A twittering mob decried the inclusion. Pro-lifers do not belong. Pro-lifers are not us. And to my chagrin, the leadership caved to pressure and disinvited the New Wave Feminists. 

To be honest, at that point I still didn't see any good reason not to go. I mean, so what if the leadership is pro-choice? That shocks exactly no one. But it got worse. The leaders of the march pandered to their largest partners. Of course the pro-lifers shouldn't be here. Pro-lifers aren't real feminists. If they decide to march they should march with the knowledge that they are marching for a woman's right to choose. They're so stupid they might just do that. “If you want to come to the march you are coming with the understanding that you respect a woman’s right to choose,” said parade organizer Linda Sarsour.

The media was watching. This was a huge progressive event. It was international. And now the story includes me, explicitly. Pro-life feminists were interviewed by many major media. The New York Times cited a statistic that one in six of the women who voted for Hillary oppose abortion. People were talking about us. The pro-life right was angry. They think they own the issue. They know that without a perception of ownership they will lose elections. The pro-choice left, I think, was mostly confused. Some were angry, to be sure. But most just seemed surprised. 

If I went to the march, I'd feel dishonest. I could go with a sign which made my anti-abortion views clear, but that would feel like a counter-protest. I didn't think I could find the right balance. I do not want to be perceived as protesting a protest which I support. I do not want to be counted as pro-choice America. I was so angry. Pro-life women belong at that rally! But no in opposition. We should stand shoulder to shoulder opposing misogyny and bigotry. We are watching, Mr. President. We will not be quiet. 

In the lead up, a friend asked me if I would let Planned Parenthood march in the March for Life. My initial reaction was of course. Of course they should be allowed to march in opposition to abortion if they want to. They wouldn't want to, but if they did I wouldn't just allow it, I'd cheer! 

I still think that. But I would worry. What is their motivation? Is it an alliance or an infiltration? Would they be joining to join or to change the agenda? Liz lead me by the nose to the realization that the exclusion wasn't crazy, even though it stung. Even though by the numbers it is inarguable that democrats would do better if they didn't shut us out. Even though I wanted to be there. The pro-life movement has a nice long history of secret videos, infiltration, spying, and to our great shame even violence. 

Pro-lifers did go. They grouped in several contingents. Life Matters Journal showed up with a few dozen signs which, to my mind, tried to balance support for the march with opposition to abortion. And to the surprise of no one except the pro-life right, they were received kindly. People were glad they came. Building bridges, one incredible feminist to another. 

Students for Life did not aim for balance. They chose to rally in what can only be described as a counter-protest. They positioned themselves at the front of the march for maximum exposure and unfurled a huge sign which read, "Abortion Betrays Women." That is exactly what I did not want. They were absolutely not marching with the rest of the women. They did not join the march; they attempted to hijack it. Which is exactly what the people calling for their exclusion said they would do. Which is why they were excluded. And incredibly, they were not well received. People were angry. People even yelled at them, if you can imagine. Burn them bridges! They took to social media to tell the world how awful the feminists were. Awful. Just hateful. I mean, we picked a fight and they fought back! Jerks. Burn those bridges!

Real talk: I wanted to be there, but I didn't want to go. I hate crowds. I hate the metro. I was afraid I would have a panic attack and no where to go to calm down. Everywhere was going to be packed. I was afraid. Was the hullabaloo it a reason not to go? Was it only an excuse? Excuse or reason, I decided to stay home. And though I am sure I will have pangs of regret for years, I think it was the right choice for me.