Me Too

Me Too

“Me too.” Just two words and I waffled over whether to post them for over 24 hours. Not because I didn’t meet the qualifications, but because I felt that I barely met them. On a scale of 1 to 10, harassment to assault, (which should probably be more like a scale or 8 to 10 because it’s all incredibly damaging) I was entry level, at best. And what right did I have to equate myself with women have borne the full brunt of what misogyny can do? Because yes, I have laughed off uncomfortable commentary, I have invoked non-existent boyfriends/fiancés/husbands to escape the advances/offers of men who cannot grasp the concept of an unclaimed woman, I have changed subway cars to avoid being alone with both too many men and too few, and although I never feel particularly unsafe in New York City, I am I never not aware that I need to be very aware of where I am and who’s around me at all times. Because to be caught slipping, is to be caught. Which can almost sound like victim blaming, I know, until you realize that this walk we’re trying to navigate is paved with ice and littered with banana peels and marbles. We are all slipping. All the time. It can’t be helped. The odds are just not in our favor. And the devastating truth is that for me to have lived this long with no major violation is not normal. I have lived an exceptionally lucky life to be able to say that nothing has ever happened to me. So how dare I post, “Me too” when nothing has ever happened to me.

Except… and then I remembered.

I was 20 when my parents divorced and my mom, sister and I moved into a house a few blocks from my grandma. My sister and I brought our bedroom furniture in the move, but my mom left all hers behind, so since she didn’t have a bed, she slept in my room in my bed and I slept on the couch in the den. No problem, no big deal. Until that early early morning when I woke up and felt someone standing over me. I don’t remember what time it was, but it was still dark and all I could see was the outline of a family friend. Someone who had known me since I was child and had been staying with us for a few weeks, sleeping on an air mattress in our living room. But now he was standing over me. And then kneeling next to me. And then jacking off. And I was just laying there. Frozen. Pretending to still be asleep while trying to filter through and regulate so many thoughts… what is he doing here he thinks I’m asleep should I scream I have to still be asleep I don’t know how to scream I’m not breathing I have to breathe so I can scream but it might just make him mad he’s not hurting me stop breathing so hard you’re supposed to be asleep heart slow down he’s gonna hear you and know I’m not asleep and if he knows I’m not asleep breathe don’t breathe scream don’t scream just wait just pray just God please please God please… and then I heard a door open. And I could hear my mom moving down the hall. He heard it too and laid down on the floor. And we were both frozen. Both waiting. Listening. But she didn’t come all the way down the hall, she had just gotten up to use the bathroom. We both listened as the toilet flushed, the bathroom door opened and my mom’s footsteps started retreating back down the hall. She wasn’t coming to save me. So I had to make a break for it. With him still lying on the floor, I sat up, threw myself over the back of the couch and ran down the hall. My mom was just climbing back into bed when I burst into the room, shut the door behind me and collapsed against it, “He… I was… and then he… he…”

He didn’t hurt me. So nothing has ever happened to me. I even remember thinking at the time, “Wow. It took twenty years for something that kind of bad to happen to me… and it wasn’t that bad. I’m so lucky.” And I still am. So damn lucky. That that is the worst thing misogyny has done to me.

Except it’s not. The actual worst thing misogyny has done to me is to make me feel legitimately lucky to have moved through this life relatively unmolested. Because it’s all relative. So fucking relative that not having been physically sexually harmed by a man is not the expectation, but the exception. There is something wrong when I consider myself extremely lucky, fortunate, blessed to have made it safely thus far; when the disrespect, denigration and devaluing of women is so commonplace, so usual, so expected and so extreme, that my experience doesn’t even rate to me. Because I know what’s out there and what’s happening to women everyday. Everywhere. In every industry. And so I know I have a lot of nerve posting “Me too,” when all things considered, nothing has ever really happened to me.

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.

Best Ever

Best Ever

Have you ever had a moment of realization and growth that you felt really good about suddenly turn around and kick you in your face? I have. Just this past week. There I was, fresh off my last post about not being afraid to let go of things because even if it’s the best you’ve ever had, it’s not the best that God can do and then 17 minutes later I’m crying because I have just written one of the best lines ever and I don’t want to give it away.

For a year now I’ve been working with an up and coming artist on his debut album. It’s a project that started out small and no-budget, but has grown and now has some pretty serious steam and momentum behind it. I started the gig as a favor and didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about the future of it, but dammit… this kid has got the goods. And he’s gonna make it. And my writing is part of that. And overall, working on this album has been a great experience. Within every song there have been moments of inspiration and frustration and some point where I hated everything about it and wanted to quit. And then just past that… somehow… it would all come together. And we’d be on to the next one.

And it’s not my album, but there are obviously pieces of me all throughout it. And there are moments and lines that I really love in each song, but there have only been three times when the writing has actually moved me to tears. And for two of those times, it wasn’t the brilliance of my lyrics as much as how they stepped right on something I was feeling at the moment. But the third one… I thought “Wow. This is a really good lyric.” And I got really sad at the thought of giving it away.

Because what if I never write something that good for myself? What if I’ve peaked and it was all for someone else? So for a good 24 hours, I had to do some soul-searching. Because it’s easy for me to let go of places and things, I know money comes and money goes, but what about what I really have to give? My gifts and my talents, my words and creativity — what do I do with this urge to hold back, to be selfish, to keep the best for someday for myself?

Well, I wish I could say I heard the voice of God say “Don’t be silly! Of course you haven’t peaked!” but I didn’t. If I heard anything it was just the question being thrown back at me “So what if you have?” What if the greatest work I ever do and the best contributions I ever make are on behalf of other people… would that really be the worst thing?

Honestly… Yes. Because God’s not done with me and I am still extremely selfish. But also… No. The worst thing would actually be to hold back today’s creativity and then spend too many tomorrows trying to shoehorn it in somewhere it never belonged.

So I let the lyric go. I gave it away. And now, looking back with the added wisdom and experience of approximately 6 days, it’s actually laughable to me what a legitimate struggle that was. I still think the lyric is amazing, but as I was working on some lyric ideas for one of my shows yesterday, I could feel the old magic lurking and I knew, I know that I’m only scratching the surface of what’s possible. Because God doesn’t compartmentalize generosity – He’ll honor any area we choose to live with an open hand in.

So I’m really grateful for this album project. For many reasons. But mostly for how much it’s stretching me. And teaching me. And reminding me that experiencing that Ephesians 3:20 better-than-you-can-ask-or-imagine means having to let go of whatever I could ask or imagine and probably thought was the best thing ever.

Because **spoiler alert**: it gets better.