Waiting. (on family, blood and otherwise)

I’m at the Frist, a Nashville art museum. My husband asked to go this time. Plenty of times I’ve wanted to go and he has come along to humor me. I’ve asked him repeatedly to tell me if there is something he wants to do. It is important to me that he express himself. I want him to be the best he can be – to be the person he is meant to be.

I don’t want him to just go along with what I want because I want it. That is how he was raised. Just agree. Keep the peace. Your opinion doesn’t matter.

I’m trying to retrain him. It is kind of like getting a shelter dog.

This show is on Art Deco cars. There are actual cars inside this museum. I’m a little curious about how they got in here. The place is packed. I think it is smart that they timed this with the movie “The Great Gatsby”.

I’m bored senseless.

I’m glad there is a bench for me to sit on, because my husband has taken three times as long as I expected in the first room alone.

I remember a time when I was working in Chattanooga. A family came into the craft store I managed. It was the middle of the day and they were all a little tired and cranky. Naps should be built into vacations, but they aren’t.

The mom came in and her son, all of 4 or 5, came in just afterwards. He took one quick look around and, realizing there were no toys there for him, said in a loud voice “All right Mom, time to go!” Mom’s smile faded. Her shoulders slumped, and she started to leave.

Something struck me as very wrong about this. I decided to speak up.

As her son stomped towards the door, I said “Hold on, buckaroo.” That got his attention, and Mom’s. So far, so good.

You run a risk when you challenge people’s children. The parents tend to take it personally, as a statement against their parenting skills. Sometimes it is. But sometimes it does indeed “take a village.”

I continued. I made a pretty good guess about what they had been up to today to illustrate a point. I started with “I bet that you’ve been to the Aquarium and to the Creative Discovery Museum today.” Everything hinged on this being true. Yup. They had, he nodded. So far, so good.

I followed with “I bet your Mom waited on you while you were there, having a good time.” Also a guess, but a safe one. This looked like a self-sacrificing kind of Mom. Yup, another nod. The set up was complete. I continued. “This is a place that your Mom wants to see. It is your turn to wait on her. That is part of being in a family.”

Boom. He got it. He sat down in a corner, out of the way, and was perfect. He waited, patiently.

Mom and Dad were stunned. They stared at me. “Can we bring him back for behavioral training?” they asked. I explained that no, it isn’t about him. It is about them. They have to explain the give and take of being in a family. I explained that he wants to please them and not to just get his way all the time. He needs to learn about sharing. They have to explain it.

I’m reminded of the Hawaiian word “ohana” – nobody gets left behind. This is a concept some of us learned from the movie “Lilo and Stitch”. It is a word for family. In the biggest concept it means all family – blood, adopted, and intentional.

We are family, my husband and I. Family isn’t about blood. It is a feeling. We chose each other. We choose to be together, to look out for each other, to cheer each other on. We learned from the friend who married us that “Joy shared doubles it, trouble shared halves it.” That is part of what being in a family means too.

You can be blood kin to somebody and they aren’t very nice. You can have a better relationship with friends than your own kin. Family isn’t about blood but action. You have to make a family to be in a family.

Sometimes being in a family isn’t easy. Sometimes it isn’t very fun.

Right now I’m feeling pretty bored. But I’m glad I’ve got a way to write in my blog while I wait. I’m glad we got to be here for free. And I’m glad that he asked to go to this, and is enjoying it so much.

I’m grateful for this funny little family we have.

Why I wear equal-armed crosses.

I love equal armed crosses. They look like plus signs, rather than crucifixes. Sometimes they are known as Greek Crosses, but I’ve also seen the design in Tibetan double dorjes. There is something powerful about this image. I understand it as (from North to South) meaning “Heaven” and (from West to East) meaning “Earth”. Thus, when the two are joined, it means Heaven meeting Earth. It means God is with us, here, now. It means that God isn’t “up there” but “right here”.

I like this symbol far more than the image of a cross with a naked dead body on it. There is something really gory about using a dead guy as a symbol of faith. I get the whole “Jesus died for our sins” concept, but I’d rather think of Jesus being proof that God is real, that He cares about us, and that He wants us to live and love in this way – to serve all people in the same way that Jesus did.

I’m really wrestling with the idea of “Jesus died for our sins”. I’m not really a fan of it. We are human. We are faulty. We make mistakes. That is part of the package. The more I focus on the fact that I can’t be perfect, the further I get from where I need to be. I understand the Jewish concept of atonement – that you’d make some mistake and you’d have to pay for it by some innocent animal being sacrificed for you. So the idea of Jesus is the same. He’s the firstborn, unblemished male – just like what is prescribed for atonement. He was sacrificed – he took on the sins of the world.

Great. Now I have that to feel guilty for. My sins caused this totally innocent guy to get crucified. Crucifixion is a horrible way to go. Long, slow – you suffocate to death.

I feel guilty eating animals. I don’t see why they have to die so I can live. So why would I get some amount of peace from this perfectly innocent person being put to death so I can have eternal life?

This makes no sense.

I’d rather focus on what Jesus did. He stood up to the religious authorities of the day. He broke rules that stood in the way of what really needed to happen. He healed people on the Sabbath. He healed people who were “unclean”. He touched people who were considered outcasts. He hung out with the forgotten, the ignored, the “least of these.” He taught that God is real, not some story in a picture book.

He took away the authority and power from the educated authorities and gave it away to the street people. His disciples weren’t educated or special. He found them doing their jobs and asked them to follow him. They dropped everything they had and started to help him out. I know I don’t have that kind of discipline. Most of us don’t.

Here’s another reason I like equal armed crosses. Because they aren’t crucifixes, they aren’t immediately associated with Christians. I’m a little wary of that association. There are plenty of people who say they are Christian and they use it as an excuse to attack gays, women, immigrants – well, everyone who isn’t married, white, and American.

Jesus wasn’t American, and he wasn’t white. And he never married. Jesus tells us a lot about love and not judging, yet too many “Christians” forget this and focus on the words of Paul rather than Jesus. Anybody who quotes Paul to me as justification for their reason to exclude people just doesn’t get it. And I’m sorry for them.

Perhaps I should say I am a follower of “the Way” – the old term that the early Jesus followers used. Or that I’m all about the Tao of Jesus. That has a certain ring to it.

I’d rather have no church buildings and no ministers. We are told to build up our treasures in Heaven – yet we spend all this money on stained glass windows and altars and vestments. Meanwhile people are still homeless and starving. We are told to not call anyone Rabbi or teacher – because we have just one Father in heaven. Yet we do these things. How have we gotten so far away from the Source?

Something has to change.

I know I’m not alone in thinking this. It is like we have become addicted to the IDEA of Jesus. And we’ve put so much on him and around him that we’ve forgotten how simple it is to just let him work through us and in us and on us, to use us to heal the wounds.

I don’t feel guilty really for Jesus dying for me, I feel guilty that he died and it didn’t seem to make a lot of difference. People are still people, and still faulty. People are still using religion as an excuse to attack and kill other people.

Sure, there are some that get it. There are some that work in food banks. There are some that volunteer at shelters.

But remember the song “They will know we are Christians by our love”? Sadly, this isn’t true. It is hard to tell people you are Christian. They clam up. They get self-conscious. They stop being themselves. They think you are going to judge them – and with good reason.

We have to change this. We have to be the change in the world. We have to stop talking about Jesus and start BEING Jesus.

Sure, I don’t have all the answers. Sure, I’ve mentioned this before. But I think about it every morning when I go to put on a necklace that I want to be a good example of love, and that I don’t feel comfortable wearing a cross to do it. And something feels wrong about that. It isn’t the world’s fault. It is the Church’s fault. We are only as strong as our weakest link – and that is the WBC, that is Swaggart, Roberts, Osteen, etc. That is all the “ministers” who use Jesus as a moneymaker. That is all the megachurches that are so big they could house half a city’s amount of homeless, but don’t. That is us.

We have met the enemy, and he is us.