My coworkers bring me great joy; we’re like family. In large part, it’s the reason I’ve chosen to keep working where I do, even though my organization has experienced numerous transitions. But I know this isn’t typical; a job often is a difficult place to find strong relationships. For some, work is simply a way to put food on the table.
In October 2017, the Twitter hashtag #metoo reached epic status, but the movement began in 2006 with Tarana Burke’s efforts to bring the reality of sexual assault before the public eye. Recently, my husband and I met with a longtime friend who shared with us her own pain of having been sexually abused by family members at a young age. As we listened, we felt led to tell her that, while God is a God of mercy who could forgive those who had hurt her, He also felt deep anger toward the injustice of the pain created in her life by the violation she’d experienced.
Hanging up the phone, I gathered a few items and waited for my husband to arrive. He’d just called from the church where he and our son had been working on a few building repairs. From the brief exchange, I learned that our son had been in an accident but was stable enough for us to drive him to the hospital. Even with uncertainties pounding in my mind, I knew in that moment how important it was to make my worship stronger than my worries. The supremacy of God and His goodness had not changed.
I’ve learned through various job and ministry experiences that being surrounded by others too long can often lead to exhaustion, anxiety, or stress. There are other relationships, however, that create a sense of rest in our lives even though the investment in those individuals makes demands on our time and energy.
With my focus on my computer screen, I was vaguely aware of the worship music playing softly in my headphones. But after the first chords of a powerful song began to play, I could suddenly feel the strength of God’s presence filling my heart just as it had the first time I’d heard it. My soul was like parched ground, cracked from the trials of ministry, and the delicate notes and powerful lyrics refreshed me during a season when I felt like giving up.
Facing transition in my current job, I’ve been diligently asking God for direction. Feeling called to take a leap of faith, I wonder how others will respond to my decision. As I was ruminating over the circumstances with my son, he said, “Mom, you are a Lucy,” referring to the Prince Caspian segment of The Chronicles of Narnia. “She could see Aslan when the others couldn’t, and he told her to follow him regardless.”
When I was growing up, my family attended an occasional professional baseball game and often watched the college basketball playoffs on TV. Overall, sports were a peripheral pastime, a practice that continued with my kids. But our daughter has become a diehard NBA Golden State Warriors basketball fan. She’s a faithful follower of her team and can hold her own in a discussion of players, stats, and the Warriors’ winning seasons.
As we ascended up and out of a dimly lit subway station, the street corner’s bright lights belied the evening dusk settling over the city. Although we had already been in New York City for several days on a family vacation, the activity of Times Square far surpassed any busyness we had yet encountered. Flashing advertisements, video screens playing production clips, and the constant buzz of pedestrian and automobile traffic met us everywhere we turned. Not a single corner of quiet could be found.
A close friend lost his father unexpectedly. Though my husband and I both had responsibilities on the day of the funeral, we asked others to cover for us so we could drive more than 350 miles to be with our friend and his wife. Overwhelmed that we would travel such a distance in one day to be with them, our friends held us close when they saw us. Others had brought food, still others had taken care of details back home, but in this moment we found that our simple presence carried comfort.
The oldest of eight children, my mum can tell quite a few stories of sibling hijinks, mischief and rivalries. She became the appointed babysitter and had to learn quickly to hold her own among her energetic charges. To her siblings, she was simply bossy. On occasion, those relational contexts of long ago rise to the surface, so with any advice she offers her beloved siblings today, my mum reminds them the only life she’s in charge of is her own.
Well into my thirties, I learned how unchecked optimism can blind us to the detrimental effects of an unsound relationship. Projecting what we want to see in an individual leaves us with a false picture, not only of the other person’s motives, but of our own. When a close relationship brought a series of disappointments, I realized the truth behind the saying: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Talking with a colleague at a Christian school, I was reminded how easy it can be to judge others. Accustomed to the short hairstyles of most of our students, he was offended by the creative haircut of a visiting teen. Challenging his assumptions, I reminded him that our perception of others’ appearance isn’t an accurate way to gauge a mature, spiritual life in Christ.
Reminiscent of an era we wish were bygone, individuals consumed with hatred and prejudice carried torches and shouted slogans from a hideous time in America’s racial history as they marched across a university lawn. Barely twenty-four hours later, the governor of the state in which the school is located declared a state of emergency due to violent clashes. Only the base depravity of sin decries the life of another as less valuable, less human—and only the power of the cross brings us deliverance.
In 1972, public schools in my state in the US were court- ordered to desegregate. That same year, the private Christian school where I currently teach began. While much has changed since then, we still struggle to talk openly regarding the impetus of the school’s beginnings and the hidden cultural walls still present. Recently, while meeting with a prospective student’s family, I answered their questions regarding diversity with transparency because the body of Christ is healthier when facing its brokenness honestly.
One day, I noticed my bird feeder hanging in the distance and remembered it had been some time since I’d refilled it. Walking over and reaching for the refill cap, I stopped as I noticed the interior of the feeder had been taken over by a wasp’s nest. The transformation reminded me that, similar to the way a wasp nest and birdseed couldn’t occupy the same space, our choice to be filled with the Holy Spirit must be full and complete.