En proceso

Al despedirnos de un año para iniciar otro, es casi inevitable entretener algún pensamiento existencial. El calendario sigue avanzando, nuestras vidas se siguen desplegando, seguimos aproximándonos a la culminación.

Hay muchas maneras de clasificar una vida. Se puede hacer desde la perspectiva de logros profesionales, o de esfuerzos ideológicos. Se puede hacer midiendo la felicidad personal alcanzada, el amor encontrado, o las sensaciones acumuladas.

Pero existe una clasificación mucho más primordial. Se trata de rumbo. Hacia qué, hacia dónde, nos dirigimos.

El apóstol Pablo, uno de los grandes pensadores del primer siglo, prescindió de cualquier otro criterio y dividió la humanidad en dos únicos grupos: los que se están perdiendo, y los que se están salvando.

Esto puede parecer demasiado severo, incluso reduccionista. Pero lo cierto es que, en el sentido más básico, todos estamos “en proceso”, en camino hacia alguna meta.

Impone considerar la posibilidad de que con cada paso terrenal – proyectos realizados, idilios, retos afrontados, experiencias inolvidables – nos podamos estar esencialmente atrofiando, disipando, perdiendo.

O por lo contrario – y a pesar de desventajas, perplejidades, reveses y hasta intenso sufrimiento – que sea posible estar salvándonos, progresando hacia gloria.

Todo depende de hacia dónde nos dirigimos.

Por eso Dios nos llama a todos en algún momento a aquello que suena tan rancio y anticuado – el arrepentimiento. Porque arrepentirse es exactamente eso: cambiar de dirección. Reorientarnos.

Sin duda es más atractivo escuchar la voz de la sabiduría popular, que nos recomienda seguir siempre al corazón. El problema es que el corazón puede llegar a ser muy mala brújula, y a veces toca ignorarlo para responder a un llamado superior.

Que Dios nos dé la perspicacia y el valor en este año 2020 para escucharle a él por encima del corazón; y si nos llama a ello, a cambiar de rumbo.

Soltando a los demás

Durante años, en mis relaciones interpersonales, seguí unas directrices heredadas que me llevaban a gravar sobre los demás el peso de mis convicciones espirituales. Pero lejos de conseguir buenos resultados, solamente servía para enajenar. Era deprimente ver como mi pasión por el Señor cosechaba unos frutos tan negativos.

Gracias a Dios, un día llegó a mis manos un libro titulado El despertar de la gracia, de Charles Swindoll. Ese libro me abrió los ojos para muchas cosas. Una de ellas fue que la gracia me lleva a respetar la libertad de los demás (lo cual a la vez me quita el peso de una responsabilidad que nunca fue mía). A continuación comparto el pasaje que comenta este tema y espero que os sea tan útil como lo es para mí.

“A pesar de las horribles consecuencias que puede traer el pecado, todavía debo enfatizar que la gracia significa permitir a otros la libertad de elegir, pese a los riesgos. No respetar esa libertad es abusar de la gracia tanto como aquellos que la toman como una excusa para pecar. Creo firmemente en rendirnos cuentas mutuamente, pero la gracia implica que yo no voy a manipular, juzgar o intentar controlarlo, y que usted no lo debe hacer conmigo. Para la mayoría de las personas no es natural ni fácil respetar la libertad de los demás. Como nos importan, tendemos a hacerles sugerencias o advertencias. Nos resulta muy doloroso dejar que fracasen o caigan, pero esa es la forma en que Dios nos trata a nosotros prácticamente cada día de nuestra vida. Nosotros tendemos a aferrar, no a liberar, tendemos a poner a las personas dentro de nuestro molde, y no les permitimos moverse a menos que se adapten a él.

Si es así, la siguiente pieza (de origen desconocido) está escrita precisamente para usted. Le ayudará a soltar su agarre. Ser una persona de gracia requiere soltar a otros.”

SOLTANDO A LOS DEMÁS

Soltar no significa despreocuparme, sino que no puedo hacerlo por otra persona.

Soltar no implica que me distancie de los demás, sino es darme cuenta de que no puedo controlar a otro.

Soltar no quiere decir ser permisivo, sino permitir aprender de las consecuencias naturales.

Soltar es admitir impotencia, lo que significa que el resultado no está en mis manos.

Soltar implica no cuidar de alguien sino interesarme por él.

Soltar significa no estar en el centro tratando de controlar todos los resultados, sino permitir que los demás decidan sus propios resultados.

Soltar no significa ser protector de alguien, sino es permitirle afrontar la realidad.

Soltar no es atosigar, regañar ni reñir, sino descubrir mis propias deficiencias y corregirlas.

Soltar es no ajustar todo conforme a mis deseos, sino tomar cada día como viene.

Soltar es temer menos y amar más.

Abrazando el misterio

A veces como cristiana me invade el sentido del absurdo. ¡Construir una vida entera alrededor de un Ser que nunca he visto, ni oido, ni tocado…! Me miro y veo la demencia que sugiere semejante postura. Me pregunto si creo las cosas que creo simplemente porque estoy acostumbrada, porque es la herencia que recibí…y sin duda, en muchos sentidos, así es.

Pero en otros momentos me embarga una sensación diferente. De privilegio, por raro que suene. Como de haber matriculado mi pequeña vida en una prueba única e irrepetible. Como de haber emprendido una aventura épica.

Encarar el misterio de vivir “como viendo al Invisible” es algo que para mí merece la pena por un motivo muy simple: amor. Puro amor. (Sí, ya sé que hay quienes venden la fe por temor – “Busca a Dios o te quemará para siempre” – pero esa patética caricatura ha dejado de impresionarme.) El amor que tiró la casa por la ventana, que hizo visible al Invisible, es un amor que tira de mí con fuerza ineludible.

Male and Female Created He Them

Despite our (western evangelical) obsession with “biblical manhood and womanhood”, God doesn’t seem to have had any particular interest in spelling out or even highlighting the differences between the sexes. When you come right down to it, if you’re looking for prescriptive Scriptures on gender differences/roles, you won’t find much of a leg to stand on.

When Eve came on the creation scene, both God and Adam emphasized the SIMILARITIES, not the differences, between male and female (“a corresponding strength”…”bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”).

I really doubt binary gender differences are the great central feature of marriage, or society, or church. However, the other day I was thinking about two complementary proverbs and it occurred to me that if you wanted to find, say, an emblematic virtue for each sex, this might be your ticket.

Proverbs 20:6, A faithful man, who can find?
Proverbs 31:10, Who can find a woman of valor?

A truly masculine man is … fill in the gap. Tough. Athletic. Assertive. Masterful. Bearded.

A truly feminine woman is … fill in the gap. Sensitive. Nurturing. Delicate. Tender. Aproned.

Sure, men and women can be those things. But isn’t it interesting that what God chose to spotlight as particularly masculine and feminine virtues were, respectively, FAITHFULNESS and VALOR.

Faithful is also translated as trustworthy and reliable. He may be an outdoorsman or a poet, an extrovert or an introvert, shy or assertive, sensitive, energetic, stay-at-home, entrepreneurial – but whatever else, a real man is faithful. Being reliable and trustworthy is his truest expression of masculinity.

Valor is also translated as strength. This – not fragility, not dependency, not servility, not lace or the color pink – is what God chooses as the feature expression of femininity. Pretty remarkable, isn’t it. (Sorry, members of the Misreading Paul Club, but “weaker vessel” doesn’t mean what you think it means.)

Many of our concepts of manhood and womanhood come from history and society, and are therefore fluid. But faithfulness and valor are the enduring gifts men and women give each other.

Darkness Is Present

Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness were popular when I was a teenager. We didn’t have them (I think they were a bit too lurid to pass my parents’ vetting) but I borrowed them from a friend. They made for an exciting read, although I do remember being a bit skeptical at the idea that spiritual warfare meant there were demon conspiracies behind everything. At the time, I certainly did not catch the very revealing theme woven through them (see Twitter thread by R. L. Stollar below for specific paragraphs). But then, of course I didn’t… I was well-trained to dismiss women, children and any accusation against Authority.

Accusations were either false – Peretti portrays them as demon-inspired – or, if they proved undeniably true, they were the victim’s own sad fault. I recall a conversation I overheard years ago among some women in our congregation about a murder case on the news, a victim of domestic violence. The comment, which I will never forget and which illustrates how we were taught to think, was: “She must have provoked him. She was probably a contentious woman.”

R. L. Stollar points out that in Peretti’s narrative, helpers (such as Child Protective Services) are evil and villainous – another very familiar theme. The World™ was always trying to get in our homes and steal the children & subvert the women.

I echo Stollar’s criticism: “These portrayals are cruel, false, and dangerous caricatures of abuse survivors and survivor advocates.”

You can read his whole thread HERE.

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1177746142051745792.html

You Hold Me By My Right Hand

God had never withheld love to teach me a lesson.

Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

As I finished Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, this sentence stood out to me. For anyone who has been taught to believe that God suspends fellowship with them when they sin, it’s a pretty revolutionary thought.

And yet it is not new. Thousands of years ago a poet named Asaph wrote about his battle with envy, doubt and bitterness. He described himself during that chapter of his life as a fool, an ignoramus and a beast. And then he broke down and I bet whatever he was writing on was blistered with teardrops:

“Nevertheless, I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.”

It might seem spiritually logical to think that God cuts communication with us when we sin, puts the relationship on hold. Perhaps our interactions with authority figures or caregivers – parents, church leaders, teachers – have taught us to expect this. If so, here is good news: GOD IS NOT LIKE THEM. He doesn’t turn away from us, doesn’t disown us. He does not withhold his love – in fact (Romans 8), nothing can ever cut us off from it. We are held, shepherded, glory-bound, come what may.

I hope this truth will comfort someone’s heart today.

Unbelieved

I just finished watching the new miniseries on Netflix by this title, inspired by true events. It’s about a young woman who reports being raped but later recants under pressure and “confesses” having lied about it (and is prosecuted for her supposed false report), and the police investigation in a different state that finally led to the capture of the serial rapist who had indeed raped her and many other women. It is a grim story to watch but good – even necessary, I think.

As Adrian Horton put it in his review for The Guardian, the series is “a portrait in how things should be – how serious sexual assault cases should be taken, how crucial it is to listen to victims, how memory lapses and scattered details should be considered part and parcel of trauma memory, not a strike against it.”

Marie Adler, the victim accused of presenting a false report, was not believed even by the people closest to her. Her friendships, her mental health, her lodging, her job, all fell as collateral damage. There is a very poignant scene where she was asked by her assigned therapist how she would handle the situation if it ever happened again. This was her answer:

If I had to do it over…I would lie earlier – and better. I would just figure it out on my own, by myself. No matter how much someone says they care about you, they don’t – not enough. I mean, maybe they mean to, or they try to, but – other things end up being more important…Even with good people and with people you can kinda trust, if the truth is inconvenient – if the truth doesn’t, like, fit – they don’t believe it.

I could not help but think of the many people in religious systems – specifically my own, the evangelical world – that have borne such terrible burdens. The burden of living in environments where abuse is structurally enabled, and abusers protected. The burden of being forced to occupy positions (because of age, or gender) that make them terrifyingly vulnerable. The burden of being shamed and disbelieved. The burden of having to keep secrets. The burden of having to pretend or lie because the truth is inconvenient to others. Burdens that they must stagger under their whole lives.

And I ask, with Detective Karen Duvall, WHERE IS OUR OUTRAGE?

Marie Adler’s stern, two-word response to the officers’ fumbling and inadequate apologies applies to us as well: DO BETTER.