Monday, February 16, 2009

i'm probably not going to go by way of tsunami. i know that now.

       I used to think, while growing up in rural Landenberg, PA, that there was a very real danger of a tidal wave wiping out not only me, but my family as well. I remember pumping my parents for information about them, both fearing and being in awe of that unstoppable wall of water that could come from somewhere deep in the middle of the ocean and level everything I held dear. 

      I was even fascinated by the word tsunami, picturing that t that, like the awful cliche about children, is seen and not heard. 

      I suppose the fact that I lived a good two hours drive to any shore did not give me the comfort it should have. I was in more danger of being run over by a cow than by getting water-logged by a tsunami, but there you go.  

      I used to think that NFL football players were not human. Like, literally another race. They were built differently, had boulders for shoulders, tree-trunk legs, and thick, corded necks. I didn't know about all their padding, I just thought that was what they looked like. What their species looked like.  

      I used to think I would be a veterinarian.

     That I would be a ballerina. 

     I thought I knew who I was going to marry twice before I even met Drew.  

      My point is that I am not always right. Not even close. But the thing that is so dangerous is this phenomena of feeling being reality. 


      So what's an emotional, sensitive, deeply-feeling person to do? Not feel?

      Not likely.

      But I can talk about it. Air out my heart, so to speak. Telling someone about my life, the way I see it, helps me to gain perspective. It somehow brings into balance that seemingly transient-at-best truth to feeling ratio.  

    Because here's the thing:  There are people who tell me the truth. Friends who tell me that yes, maybe I am being a little crazy. Or yes, that was hurtful. Or no, it probably wasn't intentional. Or hey--you don't sound like the person I know. Or let's pray. Or let me help you.  Or girl, it isn't just about you. 

      I recently watched Ted Haggard's interview on Oprah. You know, the evangelical pastor of a mega-church in Colorado who was accused of buying crystal meth as well as paying for the services of a male escort a few years back.  After some denial and much devastation both privately and publicly, he confessed to it.  

    Something that he told Oprah broke my heart, however. After asking him how long he had been experiencing homosexual thoughts, he answered, Pretty much my whole adult life. He continued to explain that he had in fact been honest when he was first starting in ministry with some of his peers, asking them for help, and their response?

     You need to busy yourself even more with the church. 

     I'm sorry. What? 

     How is that anything like the God I know who cares so deeply about the state of our hearts? Here was a man who was confused. He loved his wife dearly, was attracted to others--be it men or women, the point is he wanted to be faithful to his wife. And the advice he got is to simply forget about his heart. Don't deal with it. Go busy yourself.

    His friends missed the boat. And in so doing, caused lots of damage, I think.  I wonder if Mr. Haggard's feeling to truth ratio--his compulsion eventually dwarfing how he viewed the sanctity of his marriage vows--might have changed, had he had friends who listened to him. Prayed for him. Took an honest look at his heart with him. Talked to him seriously about what he wanted in life, and how his actions might just directly effect that.

    I think we can be afraid to talk so deeply. I know we are afraid of being judged. And sometimes it is easier to just pretend we are all fine.  But the truth is that we never are. Not now, not here.  

    I want to be an honest person, not shying away from the questions that might lead me to realize that I don't have the answer. Or the topics that might lead me to realize that even the best of us aren't perfect; even the brightest of us have dark moments.  

   I'd like to be the kind of person, who, in our collective fumbling towards righteousness, I hold out a hand to hold. Slow down a little if you'd rather just sit a spell.  

   I'd like to realize that we've all come from the same place, from a God who decided long ago to love us. In the darker places. In the lighter places. In our numbness. In our dog-like devotion. And also in our dog-like ability to get distracted by what might or might not be a squirrel in the woods.  He even kindly takes it seriously when we dejectedly make our way back, having only recently discovered the bitter truth that what we'd been running after for so long was only wind after all. 

  Maybe knowing this is what causes us to have compassion on each other because if we haven't been there yet, we just might be some day, and goodness knows we'd like a kind word as much as the next one.

   A kind word and honesty.  

   A reminder that the way we feel isn't everything; that measuring the heart against reality is a necessary endeavor.  

   God knows I need it. 

   And look at me now--staying for the next two weeks not ten minutes away from the shore here in Florida, and not one bit afraid that a tidal wave is on its way. 

  I'd say that's progress.


kathiek said...

Wonderful post, thought-provoking and compelling, Jess!

mine said...

"...having only recently discovered the bitter truth that what we'd been running after for so long was only wind after all."

Thank you for this.

Ash said...

Reading this post was exactly what I needed this morning...thanks!

Ash said...

Reading this post was exactly what I needed this morning...thanks!

Emily said...

I love reading your blog, Jessica. It's funny, I had a serious fear of tidal waves as a child.. a leg-numbing, throat-closing terror. Weird. And writing is so therapeutic for me, also, it sorts out my mind, which has a tendency to swirl 'round a bit too quickly. Reality is so easily lost when one dwells only in the realm of thoughts.

christine said...

This was great mind is a little dead right now so I don't have any profound comment to leave but I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading this and I second the notion that letting others give a bit of balance to your thoughts/feelings is a great idea as well as being honest about how/what you're feeling is also a great thing. Pretty profound I know : )

Jessica Latshaw said...

thank you, ladies!

And Mine--you know you promised not to be a stranger and I am gonna have to keep you to that. Friends do keep friends accountable, after all;-)

Emily--interesting about the tidal wave fear. I used to dream about them a lot, too...though I haven't as much lately. Oh, and I love reading your blog, as well!