14 April 2009

Last week was Holy Week in the Christian calendar. It's the time of year I feel I ought to be most focused on Jesus' actual suffering - from the anger of the turning of the tables in the Temple, to the angst in the Garden, to the pain and agony of the crucifixion. Since I was little, I've been told that Jesus did all that out of love for all of humanity - out of love for me. It's a bit difficult, as a child, to understand the profundity of sacrificial love. I think that is because that kind of love comes much more naturally to children, or to those who have not yet been hurt by love. Children are more willing to love with reckless abandon, purely, honestly, without bias or guardedness or barriers. As an adult, having had too many experiences of being hurt by love which built many barriers around my heart, I have become too secure in the practice of withholding my love in order to avoid further heartache. This made Holy Week's focus on sacrificial love all the more difficult, as I was not only unable to envision how it felt to receive it based on my own experiences, but also how it felt to be the giver of that kind of love. It was safe to say that aside from parents or close long-time friends (from whom, in my mind, it was more expected and less of a choice), I had never experienced being the recipient of sacrificial love from a human being.

Last Monday, the Monday of Holy Week, I was scheduled to go to my doctor for a biopsy. Nothing crazy, nothing that was really concerning, but I had a slight abnormality they just wanted to check out to be safe. Unfortunately, my gift of a wild imagination did not serve me well in this case, as I began imagining all the worst-case scenarios and worrying they could, in fact, happen to me. At the peak (or valley, as it were) of my morbid imaginings, two days before the appointment, I had what could be described as a mild "freak out." My boyfriend sat me down on the couch and rubbed my back as I cried uncontrollably about the fact that I might die sometime soon. (I'm sure he was rolling his eyes when I wasn't looking. I would have been. I would have been sitting there thinking "Good LORD, this is out of control!") Thankfully, he knows that when I'm upset, all I want is for him to rub my back, listen, and tell me things are going to be okay. He executed this brilliantly and I calmed down soon enough. The day of the appointment, however, I felt my nerves climbing again. About 2 hours before I was supposed to leave my apartment, my boyfriend called to ask how I was doing. I told him, truthfully, that I was nervous but that I'd be okay, and could I call him back in a few minutes since I was on the other line with a different friend who was calming me down. He said, "Sure... or you could just open your door." And my doorbell rang. It was him. He had woken up that morning thinking about how nervous I was and decided to surprise me and take the day off work (knowing that if he had asked me I would have told him not to come) and go with me to the appointment. I was touched... overwhelmed... but most of all, relieved to be in his arms. He escorted me to the doctors office, and when they called me back, he sent me a text message that said, "Just remember I am with you." I looked at it at least a hundred times before the doctor came in.

Over the next few days, every time I'd tell someone about the overwhelming kindness he had shown me, I'd get misty-eyed and be at a loss for words. I didn't know why. Then on Good Friday, just 4 days after the appointment, I was sitting in church and it hit me: this was the first time I had experienced true sacrificial love. This other person made a huge sacrifice for me, not because he thought I wanted him to or out of a sense of obligation or guilt, but simply because he loved me and knew I needed him. He loved me without considering the consequences or whether it would be returned. I realized how much I'd been shielding myself from both giving and receiving that kind of love, which ultimately made my boyfriend's sacrifice extremely profound. And I realized that this is how Jesus loves us. With reckless abandon. Purely. Honestly. Sacrificially. Without considering the consequences, or whether his love will be returned. I realized the faulty place from which I have been operating for so long: only love people if they are guaranteed to love you back. What if Jesus had loved the world in that way? There would certainly be no Good Friday - and certainly no Easter. The thought brought tears to my eyes, and I saw Good Friday differently than I've ever seen it before.

As it turns out, when I left church and turned my cellphone back on, there was a voicemail from my doctor. She said that my biopsy results came back normal. I suppose I should have been rejoicing, but there was something inside me that knew this was the case all along. I did breathe a sigh of relief though, and over dinner that night I told my boyfriend what I had prayed about in church that day - that he had been a beautiful model to me of the kind of love that God has for us. At least, finally, I returned the favor and was able to render him speechless.

16 December 2008

I heard a news report this morning about controversy over allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia. I had a flashback to my last trip to Armenia, where the children I worked with saw a woman driving into the camp and all ran to get a look, because they had never seen a woman driving before. And I thought about how I tried to explain to them that in many countries around the world, it's very normal for women to drive, and they just looked at me like I had 5 heads, even when I told them that I myself drove and owned a car. Then, and now, what overwhelms me the most is the feeling that the gap is too wide between their mentality and my Western one. I don't know how to explain gender equality as progress and as a positive thing, and maybe even as something that's necessary.

And I think, especially, about what happens to women, or any minority, when they are caged and suppressed for too long. They forget who they really are. They stop listening to the voice inside that tells them that they are human beings who have worth, and they start listening to the voices of men who tell them they are second-class citizens.

My prayer tonight is for women.

15 October 2008

Newspapers have a way of showing us the popular perception of things.

Today's Metro newspaper did a little comical blurb about "Where does President Bush's career go from here? We have a few ideas..." They had some fun with photoshop, with pictures of Dubya as a clown, dictionary editor, televangelist in a white robe, FBI profiler, and American Idol judge. For each choice, under each picture, they explained the reason why Georgie would be a good fit in these various occupations. (e.g. the dictionary editor was "If you can rewrite history, you sure as hell can rewrite the English language. 'Misunderestimated' and 'sovereigninity' are good starters." The FBI profiler was "It's the best way to continue probing people's personal lives without having to ask permission. And you are the law, so it's easy to deny people their freedom.")

Under the televangelist, it said:
"You love God. You love guns. You hate gays. You won't get a better audience than the Sunday morning gospel shows. So put on that robe and preach that hate in the name of the Lord."

It makes me so, so sad that this is the popular misconception of Christians. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the Republicans have kidnapped and raped the Christian faith for their own political gain. Not all Christians are gun-wielding, war-loving, gay-hating, judgmental, out-to-save-you, hateful radicals. George W. Bush has shat on his own religion and butchered it and displayed it to the masses. It's as violating as taking somebody's relative, decapitating them, then mounting their head on a stake and planting it in the person's front yard. The God that most Christians know and love does not love guns and does not hate gays. And most of all, the Christian God does not hate any human being, because they are all created in the divine's own image.

30 September 2008

Mood swing, defined:

Yesterday's menu: dumplings, bagel with cream cheese, the entire dish of pad thai, ice cream sandwich, bag of popcorn.

Today's menu: apple, banana, soup & salad, 2 sushi rolls.

I think I'm feeling a little better today.

27 September 2008

I'm very sad right now.

There are tears in my eyes and pain in my heart. I see the same injustice over and over again, and I'm witnessing it right now. And it hurts. When I see women treated as less than the fully dignified human beings that they are, a part of me dies. And when I happen to be one of those women, it makes me want to scream.

03 September 2008

Great job, Sarah Palin, in taking the low road and totally bashing your unnamed "opponent" in your acceptance speech tonight. (I'd like to add that her opponent, whose name is actually Barack Obama, maintained complete respect for his opponent throughout his acceptance speech last week. That's called the high road.) I only heard fear in her speech, fear of the truth that she is a very weak candidate. Funny, in the Christian tradition we know that fear is the absence of love. And there was very little love and compassion in her speech tonight. If there was any hope of finding it, it was completely lost in this insulting comment about her experience as a small-town mayor compared to her "opponent's" experience as a community organizer. "I guess being a small-town mayor is sort of like being a community organizer, except you have actual responsibilities." My reaction to this comment was similar to the sensation of projectile vomiting, not only because it made me sick, but too many things were spewing out of my brain at once as my ears took it in. For a more accurate understanding of the responsibilities of a community organizer and the compassion it involves, I refer you to this post.

I'll save my spewage of thoughts about my disgust over the myopic and false rhetoric about our victories at war with a dangerous world for another time.

02 September 2008

I had so many thoughts about the new Republican Vice-Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, but as it turns out, Jon Stewart said it all for me.

And as you all know, runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination Hillary Clinton gave an excellent speech at the DNC last week, challenging her supporters to consider the reasons they supported her: was it who she was, or the issues she cared for? "Were you in this for me, or for a candidate who would fight for universal health care, bring our troops home, ensure a quality education for all our children, and so on?" she asked the audience. (I'm paraphrasing a bit here)

In Sarah Palin's acceptance speech, she "thanked" Hillary Clinton for all her hard work in putting 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling before slapping her in the face and saying, "But it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all!" Yeah, because you worked JUST as hard as Hillary to get on that ticket.

I have to thank Samantha Bee for so comically pointing out the obvious. Do Sarah Palin and John McCain really think the "women of America," especially those who supported Hillary Clinton, are that stupid and shallow, and that irresponsible as voters? That they would vote for a candidate who opposes rights for women, simply because she is a woman? The very definition of a feminist is someone who stands for equal treatment for women and men. That not only means we feminists will vote for candidates who treat women equally, but that we will not discriminate between candidates based on their gender. Wake up, McCain, and give women some credit.