Nothing To Lose

Nothing To Lose

I have prayed for a lot of things over the course of my life. Significant things, insignificant things. Things I never got and still think about; things I did get and don’t even remember. I have prayed prayers that have been selfless and others that were completely selfish. I have prayed in anger, happiness, confusion, sadness, frustration, guilt. And lately, I have been praying a lot of thankful prayers for heartbreaking things.

For a long time, I thought God and I had a deal: that He wouldn’t take one love without giving me another. And so as my cat was getting older, I was sure I was getting closer to finding/being found by “the one” who would be there to fill his spot as the love of my life. Because my cat was the love of my life. Not just in a crazy cat lady kind of way but in the very real day-to-day sense of him being the sole thing I had to tangibly love and care for everyday. Regardless of how I felt or what was happening or how much money I did or didn’t have or where I was living or what I was working on or struggling with, David was there. Depending on me, grounding me and loving me. And that cat didn’t just love me; he loved me more than he loved anyone else. And that was the important part. That was what I would lose if I were to ever lose him and what I thought God would surely have in place before he took him. Because without him, without that more-than-anyone-else kind of love, I would be so… optional. So unclaimed. And yes, I am loved. I know there are people who love me. But… not like that.

So when David got sick in April, so did my faith. And I got so angry. Because I could see the writing on the wall and seriously God?! You’ve had 16 years to give me something else to hold. SIXTEEN. And you couldn’t do it?! And I’ve been here, doing the best I can to stay close to You while progressively becoming more unlovable because I’ve had all this free time to become more and more passionate and vocal about things most people would rather not concern themselves with, and now You’re just going to leave me out here? Completely, like completely, alone? Well… alright then.

What?! I know. I’m sorry. I keep wanting my story to be more inspirational, to be a better example of “Look at God! He will test your faith and then He’ll really reward you!” but… that’s not how my story is going. Not so far. Not on the surface. Because my life is nothing that I wanted it to be. But my suspicion/hope is that it might be something close to what He always wanted it to be.

So much of Christian faith has become about our wants, about God fulfilling our dreams, while forgetting that He actually has us here to fulfill His. And while there are parts of what He has for us that we can’t wait to get to (wife! mother! superstar!); there are other things, the harder things (advocates, forerunners, warriors) that He can’t wait for us to get to.  But if we’re honest, most of us didn’t sign up for that kind of faith. We didn’t sign up to work, we signed up to be loved and comfortable. To be challenged and changed, solely for the sake of becoming better people for the better lives we’ll be rewarded with. And yes, there are rewards and good things ahead of us, but they are not the goal. And they are not the proof of God’s faithfulness or His pleasure.

Think about that parable of the three servants and the 1, 3, 5 talents that the master left them. When the master returned and saw what they had done with what he gave them, what did he say/give to the faithful servants? Basically, “You have been faithful over a little, so I’m going to put you over more.” But more what? MORE WORK. And yes, along with that would probably come more fun, fortune and fame, but those were byproducts, not the main thing.

So if we can’t reliably track God’s faithfulness through comfortable rewards, how do we locate it? Well… for me, I’ve found it in the grace and strength I’ve had to do the hard work. And the peace I’ve felt in the moments that should have devastated my faith. And in thankfulness for the prayers that He has answered. Because sometimes answered prayer looks like holding on to your cat as he takes his last breaths because you prayed that he not suffer and that he not die alone. And God was faithful. And so, even as I was walking straight into the reality of the thing I feared most (being completely alone), and when I probably should have been doing everything I could to hold onto love and comfort wherever I could find it: I actually had the peace and strength to forsake another comfort zone for the sake of the work that I feel I’m supposed to do.

I’ve lived in New York City for seven years. And there were only two things that were constant the whole time – my cat and my church. And coming into this summer, I had a feeling I would be losing them both. And sure enough, as of two weeks ago, it’s a whole new world. David died in the first hours of a Monday and that Tuesday afternoon I sent an email officially withdrawing from Hillsong NYC. So that’s that. I’m out’chea with nothing, y’all! (Which isn’t exactly true, because God is faithful. #staytuned)

But I just wanted to write this post, partly because I am starting to break the news that I’m no longer at Hillsong (surprise!), but mostly to send up a flare from the dark side of faith. So much of social media and the parts of our stories that we share are from our highlight reels – the moments of triumph and success – but those aren’t the only kinds of moments that God shows up in. Or the only moments we should be using to gauge His love for us or His interest in our lives.

Listen, I would be lying if I said I’m never terrified that this is it, that I’ve peaked and am already living the best life I can expect. That I’ll die someday and it won’t really matter to anyone. But there’s a flip side to having nothing that I thought would by now, I also have nothing to lose. And I do have the faith that I will have a family someday, but I don’t have to wait for that to start building a legacy. And neither do you. There is work for us to do. Now. And it probably won’t be found in the comfort we’re chasing, but there is comfort to be found in the work we were created to do. At least I hope there is. Because I’m betting everything on it right now.

Mom-ish

There were three things I wanted to be when I was a kid. Well, two that I thought I wanted to be and one that I knew for sure. I thought I wanted to be a singer and a veterinarian. And I knew I wanted to be a mom. For as long as I can remember, those things were pretty set in my mind. So fast forward a hundred years and I am currently zero out of three. The veterinarian dream killed itself during a particularly boring day of high school biology, the singer dream occasionally comes to life, but is resting quietly at the moment. But the mom dream… that’s the one that cuts me. Because that has always been the number one dream. If I had ever been told that I could only have one, there would have been no hesitation, no question that motherhood is what I would have chosen.

But the chance to make that choice never materialized, so… here I am.  And a little while ago I talked about the evening when I was faced with the horrific prospect of my teen-mom cousin becoming a grandmother before I was a mother. I was on my way to Connect Group that night, but had to take a few minutes to cry in public and grapple with my faith and the feeling of being cheated. And then I pulled myself together and continued on my way. But the story didn’t end there. Due to the aforementioned crying and grappling, I was a few minutes late to connect group, so a few of the girls had arrived before me and when I walked in that night, one of the girls looked at me and announced “Mom’s here!” and for the next few moments everyone greeted me with “Hi Mom!” and as I was hugging and smiling on the outside, on the inside I was telling God “Oh hell no. This is NOT what I want.” Because it wasn’t.

I can imagine the darkest timeline, the one where I never have children and I can see how it could totally happen, but if it does… I will feel cheated. And that’s real. So in that moment, it felt like God was trying to trick me into accepting a consolation prize.  Like He’s been trying to trick me for years. Because people have been calling me “Mom” for years. And it’s never bothered me, I’ve never taken it as a bad thing, if anything, I’ve taken it as a compliment. But that night was the first time I completely rejected it on the inside. I felt like, If you’re not going to give me this the way I want it, then I’m not going to walk in it at all. So I didn’t say anything to anyone else, but I said to myself (and God), “No. I will not be the mom here.”

But no one knew any of that was going on. And it was a beautiful day outside, so we decided to move our bible study to a nearby park. We set ourselves up at one of the bench tables and everything was fine. At first. But New York is a funny place. It is full of characters and even though we’re all brushing up against each other all the time, we still keep our distance for the most part. So when worlds do collide, it’s always memorable. And on this night, our world collided with a cray-cray lady in the park. We had been chatting for a few minutes when she deliberately wandered over with her dog and asked if she could join us.  And these are the moments when being a Christian is tough. When you can pretty quickly tell that someone is not all there, but when you ask yourself “WWJD?” you’re pretty sure the answer is not Chase her and her dog away with a stick. So you say “Yes, of course — please join us.” So she sat down with us.

And the next ten minutes were spent trying to keep her, her mystical mumbo-jumbo stories and her general off-ness from dominating the conversation. At one point I remember snapping my fingers at her and saying “Look at me, you can stay, but you have to be quiet and listen. Do you understand?” (Which is not at all something a mom would say.)  And she did settle down a teeny-tiny bit, but after a few more minutes it was clear that she was too disruptive. And that somebody needed to do something about it.  But I didn’t want to. Because I was not trying to lose this particular battle of wills with God.  So I tried to hold out, but she was making everyone too uncomfortable and I loved those girls too much to let it continue. So I took back the mom mantle and took one for the team. I took our new friend aside so she could tell me everything she wanted to say and my connect group could continue safely and sanely.

And I don’t remember anything that lady told me, I know there was a lot of crying and hugging and zero reading of social cues, but it didn’t matter, she was mostly harmless and I was busy accepting my fate. If this is the kind of mom I am right now, so be it. It’s not enough forever. But it’s what I have for now.

So I started making peace with the idea of being that kind of mom, instead of rejecting it out of that old suspicion that my acceptance of it would encourage God to withhold what I really wanted.

And what I didn’t know that day was that almost exactly a month later, I would be starting this blog. And even though I started it with total focus on single women age 27+, over the past few months, I’ve recognized more and more the importance of speaking honestly about this walk, not just for our sake, but for the sake of the women right behind us.  To hopefully spare them some of the mistakes and better prepare them for the challenges. And to not pass on the same fears and hindrances that have stumbled so many of us.  And to ease the way and open as many doors as possible. And even I have to admit, that sounds pretty Mom-ish.

So if I never have children and I someday say “It’s okay, I don’t even mind anymore.” I want you to know that I’ll be lying. 100%… 103%. But I’m not going to let the fear of that make me hold back now. So to those of you who do let me “mom” you on occasion, thank you. It’s good practice. (And sometimes a helpful deterrent). And to the women like me who are still waiting for “the real thing,” for whatever reason, don’t lose heart. And don’t give up hope. That’s not what a mom does.