Where Were You When You First Met Anne?

anne-lamott-credit-sam-lamott-final-small_custom-508ad61ad7cd1860a90521caedf65c1aeb330750-s6-c10It’s not like I’ve never heard of her. I have. “If you want to learn how to write, read Bird by Bird.” my friends say. I own Bird by Bird and while I’m not entirely certain as to whether or not I’ve read it, I know it’s here in my home somewhere.  I put it away for safe keeping — along with all of my other safe keeping dreams.

Time and busyness of life have relegated the book to one of my piles of things that stack up when unattended. Sometimes my piles of things include tangible things like books and papers, other times they are more reminiscent of Pandora’s box — this dream, that lust, this need, that resentment. Which box or which pile or room I’ve relegated that book to, has yet to be determined. In many ways, I’m still sifting through yesterday’s hopes, and clearing out some wreckage in order to make room for the good stuff. Only recently am I starting to remove the bandages on my wings and testing their muscle. I do notice that while they tire easily, they grow stronger every day.

I could simply go buy it again. It’s not like I can’t afford to. And maybe I will, maybe I won’t. It doesn’t matter at the moment because in all honesty I didn’t meet Anne in Bird by Bird. Maybe I sensed something when I held that book in my hands that I was just wasn’t ready to face. I think I was afraid. Afraid of change. Afraid of truth. And maybe even a little afraid of meeting myself.

Because the truth is, you cannot  meet Anne and not be changed. I wasn’t ready to meet me yet. Sweet little,dishonest to a fault,  people pleasing, just give me the rules and I’ll follow them so you’ll like me, me — standing on my branch and rather than flying choosing to climb back down for a while. The clamor of life: laundry, dishes, dirty floors, homework, sex, obligations, gardens that keep dying cover the voices screaming in my head that there has got to be more.

More to this recovery thing.

More to this God stuff and service.

More to writing and family.

More to life.

More to me.

Anne’s is a name that is sometimes spoken in hushed whispers in my somewhat conservative circles. Even in AlAnon, she is considered contraband  “Non Conference Approved Literature” and all. It’s not as if she’s Voldemort or anything. I mean she’s just a woman like me – except for the dreadlocks. Oh how I love the freedom in those.

I didn’t meet Anne in Bird by Bird. I met Anne in Sunday School while teaching a safe and Board of Education approved class on Spiritual Disciplines. Not a bad study really. We talked about the importance of prayer, and meditation, forgiveness, and walking in the Spirit. Strong, spiritual Godly stuff. Stuff fit for women taught to serve and not ask questions. Problem is, I had a lot of questions. I still do.

Two visitors wandered in one day and joined my class. After a month or so one of the ladies torn over the ultra conservative nature of our church and her own personal beliefs, offered me a book on loan. “Read this and give it back to my friend when you are finished. I’m not coming back.” –

The book is Traveling Mercies.

This is where I met Anne.

This is where I learned that it is okay to have a crazy family, a messed up testimony,and a messy faith that is wholly mine and no one else’s. It’s okay not to have all the answers, have teeny tiny control issues, and I learned that thinking things that would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of a cat dish is a starting place for forgiveness sometimes. It’s okay to tell the truth. To stand up for women. To be ourselves, without apology. It’s okay not to believe everything people believe and to think for yourself.

It’s okay to find your own music and purpose in life.

We listen to the same radio station, (K-FKD) only I was too embarrassed to admit it. Not Anne – she called it was it is and dropped the F-Bomb right there in black and white. I giggled out loud and looked around the room to see if anyone had heard what I just read. Feeling safe in my overstuffed green chair, certain that no one had overheard,  I sank in deeper and read the book through the night. By the end of the book, I wanted dreadlocks as well.

I don’t have them. Frankly they would look foolish on me.

Being the only daughter of an alcoholic mother myself, I run the gamut of loving and hating Anne. Sometimes I feel jealous and fall into traps of self-pity and wonder what my life would be like had my mother stayed in the program. Other times, I feel alive and torn between conviction and reassurance that I am indeed on the right path.

Anne is to me what women like Gloria Steinem were to my mother — an awakening. A voice to be heard and digested. A reminder that I am a child of God first, as well as a woman and a sister to others. All of my roles, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend MATTER.  I too have a responsibility to wake up and keep the fight that the women before me fought. Freedom does not come from passively enjoying the benefits bestowed upon my generation by my Grand Mother’s and Mother’s generation or by assuming they will always remain. Simple things like credit, workplace equity,educational equality,  peace in this world, caring for the poor, all of those things matter and can go away with the very next generation if we don’t speak up.

This world needs voices.

This world needs women.

This world needs you and it needs me.

I’ve been asking Anne (via Facebook, I know weird right?) if she’d please include Tulsa in her book tours. That hasn’t happened yet. She is however on tour again discussing Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son and is coming to Kansas City MO in April. The church she’ll be speaking at is only four hours from my house — I’m going. Bought my ticket already and everything.

I just want to meet her and say thank you.

Hopefully I won’t gush. That would be embarrassing really —

She’s influences me as a woman and that influences me as a writer.

She is just a mirror really — because the truth is – you spot it, you got it.

That which is we dislike in others are things we usually dislike in ourselves

AND JUST AS TRUE

Those things we hold up and admire in others are also those same things that exist in ourselves.

So, where were you when you met Anne? Have you? If not — let me introduce you — I think you’ll like her. I do.  — ANNE LAMOTT FACEBOOK PAGE

Pondering Peace

Luke 2:19 “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Have you ever been so blown away by God that all you could do was ponder? If I were to sum up my feelings and my heart over the past week, that would be it. I’m treasuring all that I have seen and pondering those things in my heart right now.

Now there is a word you don’t hear much, PONDER. What does ponder mean?

According to the Merriam/Webster Dictionary

transitive verb
1
: to weigh in the mind : appraise <pondered their chances of success>
2
: to think about : reflect on <pondered the events of the day>
intransitive verb
: to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply
 I made a decision recently that has a few people in an uproar. Only a handful of those closest to my heart and inner circle know about this decision. I know that I am following God and that he is not a God of division and I am trusting that he will find a way.
Please forgive me for choosing to keep it close to my heart for the time being. I’ve actually been writing on it at great lengths in private and yet it’s not coming together. I do know why now. It’s not coming together because I’ve been trying to testify to myself rather than of God. I’m defending and not proclaiming. I’m stuck in worry when I should be resting in hope.
When the fullness of time comes and only once He gives me the words, I will testify to Him.
Luke 2113 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

Oh I forgive you, but I’m still going to make you pay.

Not long before she died in 1988, in a moment of surprising candor in television, Marghanita Laski, one of our best-known secular humanists and novelists, said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.”

John Stott in The Contemporary Christian.

You’ve blown it and you know it. Rather than deny it, you suck up your pride and apologize. Being forgiven feels wonderful (see Can you Give Me Three Days?), but what happens when they choose not to forgive you? Do you fall apart, jump through impossible hoops, or do you just walk away?

It is impossible to make someone forgive me and I hate that. I like to think that I am basically a nice person and that most people like me. And yet, we all have people in our lives who cannot, for whatever reason, forgive even the slightest of hurts even after we’ve apologized and made ammends. Or perhaps, they say they’ve forgiven , but oh are they gonna make you pay.

While I know that forgiveness is not an entitlement or a right, I do believe that being willing to forgive comes with healthy relationships.

I live in the same fallen world as the rest of you and not all of my relationships are healthy. I have choices as how to respond in light of this. I can either:

1. become a neurotic insecure people-pleaser, crushed by failure in the face of unforgiveness. I know this world well.

OR

2. I can accept who I am in Christ, know that God is in charge of everything, including my dysfunctional relationships and allow His Grace to carry me through.

I spend a lot of time in both camps. Learning how to stay in Camp 2, takes time, practice, patience, and lots of prayer.

Like it or not, there are people in this world who would rather set them selves on fire over my sins (real or imagined) and hope I die from smoke inhalation than forgive me. It doesn’t matter how many flaming hoops I jump through, or how deep the eggshells I walk on are, I can still feel the undercurrent.

I’m not a strong relational swimmer and under currents can pull me under more quickly than you can say…

                               well…..

                                             anything really.

It is difficult to show love in the face of being unforgiven;  anger brews just beneath the surface, snarky remarks and lit arrows flow freely and there are not eggshells big enough to walk on to keep the tinderbox from igniting. Fortunately love is a verb and not a noun. It is not my responsibility to make sure the other person forgives me or receives loving actions well, it is only my responsibility to make amends carry them out.

Maybe you have people like that in your life, or maybe you are that unwilling to forgive person. Either way, unforgiveness is an invisible weight that bares down on the soul and suffocates hope.  Unforgiven might make for a good Clint Eastwood movie, but it doesn’t cut it in real life.

Unforgiving people suffer from all kinds of spiritual maladies such as depression, anger, fear, insecurity, isolation, and  loneliness to name a few.  An unforgiving spirit almost feels entitled to punish those who’ve wounded them in the past by either withholding relationship, or by constantly reminding them of past mistakes. I know because for a long time, I was such a person. Unforgiveness is based in selfishness and pride.

Now I’m not talking about major screw ups here, although I’ve been guilty of those myself and yes, even those can be forgiven. Rather I’m referring to the lifetime of mis-steps, misunderstandings, and oversights that add up and take their toll when someone allows those events to take precedent in their mind.

It isn’t the little things that kill relationships, it’s the unwillingness to let them go.

An unforgiving person will ask me, “How do I know you won’t hurt me again?”

The unfortunate, yet honest, answer is, “You don’t and truthfully, I probably will. I’m not perfect.”

It really boils down to choices you know.

  • We choose to love.
  • We choose to be in relationship
  • We choose to forgive.

So what do you do when you are in a relationship with someone who chooses not to forgive past hurts? Do you choose to love them anyway or move on? I think it depends on the relationship and it depends on you. —

Three things I like to remember:

1. It is not about me. – It is impossible to live up to the unrealistic expectations of others, and being imperfect people we will inevitably have a bad day and let each other down. Healthy relationships involve telling each other the truth, facing problems head on, confessing our shortcomings and forgiving each other without keeping score.

I have no idea what has happened to the other person to create such a lifetime of hurt. Only Christ can fill that void and heal that hurt.

2. Unforgiven does not equal unforgivable – I have a book I like to read and it states, “As God’s people we stand on our feet; we don’t crawl before anyone.” — I am God’s child and my past is in his hands and no one else’s. Jesus Christ came to die for my sins. I am cleansed by his blood and set free from the past through his sacrifice. When I place my self-worth on a human beings ability – or lack thereof to forgive me, I place them on a higher plane than God.

3. The bells tolls for them not me, it’s okay to drop the rope. – Corrie ten Boom told of not being able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn’t sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest. “His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor,” Corrie wrote, “to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks.” “Up in the church tower,” he said, nodding out the window, “is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down.” “And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force — which was my willingness in the matter — had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts.” (source: http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/f/forgiveness.htm)

Just because we have someone in our life who insists on pulling that rope and ringing our bell, it doesn’t mean we have to answer it, we can drop the rope. We can choose to detach with love, forgive them, and surrender them to Christ. Only then can we be free.

Being unforgiven by others does not mean I am unforgiven by God, nor does it mean that I can be unforgiving.  Beth Moore has a great teaching on this very subject on Life Today. For more information on Living a Forgiving Life — You can see Beth Moore on Life Today at: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JB99CMNU and Part 2 at: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JBE0MJNU

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. July 30, 2011. All rights reserved.