Acts and Intent

Acts and Intent

I was taught that it is a fearful thing to judge another’s motives. Only God knows the heart.

And yet I have watched the very people who taught me this basic principal abandon it at increasingly disturbing rates.

People I love insist President Obama wants to destroy America. Not just that they believe that his policies are destructive, but that he wants to destroy our country. 

And people I love believe that those who voted for Trump are bigoted, misogynistic racists. Beyond the few that are indeed proudly and outspokenly just that, I believe most found some reason that, while not directly misogynistic, and racist, justified voting for someone who expressed those sentiments. Some believe he didn’t really mean those things. Is that a risk? Yes, but their willingness to take that risk is not necessary motivated by bigotry.

There is a difference between intentions and actions, and it’s a difference that I’ve seen sincere people struggle with again and again.

I usually see it most clearly when I venture into a mediating role. I once told a friend that their interaction with another friend over a difficult issue had left the second friend feeling like the health of their marriage had been questioned. The first friend responded by accusing me of lying. In that moment they couldn’t consolidate their intentions with the actual results of the actions, and it was the veracity of the result that must be in question.

I see this same pattern play out continuously on all sides of social issues. 

So many of us intend only to live our lives in peace, with freedom to pursue our business and interests. It can feel like an attack on our goodwill and personal integrity when someone calls out a consequence of our actions that hurts others.

So many of us, while trying to expose injustices we see or experience, miss things. We want to address problems, and it can be hard to hear how our best intentions can misfire.

The thing we thought was safe instead draws blood.

Whether on a personal level or societal, intentions just don’t always equate with outcomes. As important as it is to acknowledge the intentions of others and examine our own, it’s even more critical that we be open to identifying and owning unintended consequences.

That requires empathy. It requires the compassion to hear and really listen to people who are different than us, who experience the world in ways we can’t conceive of.

It requires the willingness to adjust and change for others’ sake – to let go of things we may cherish for the sake of those we may not understand.

Love is intention wedded to action. Always both together. It’s all too easy to judge ourselves by our intentions and others by the results of their acts.

If we really want a more loving, just, and generous life and world, perhaps we should switch that.


Work and Pray

Work and Pray

It’s been a hard week, and I don’t expect that to end anytime soon.

I live in the most diverse neighborhood in the country. I have friends and neighbors who are afraid for their lives and their families. I’m afraid for them, too. One friend who lives a few blocks from me said she wants to wrap our neighborhood up in bubble wrap, to protect them. There’s a lot I’d love to protect us all from right now.

And I come from Trump country. I worked for a Republican in the “Gingrich Revolution” over twenty years ago. I know that many family and old friends may have voted for Trump while still disgusted by his character and words. And I know that many of them felt this kind of fear eight years ago.

Fear doesn’t have to be rational to be real.

The outward expression of my faith has changed over the past decade and a half. It doesn’t look the way it used to in many ways. Following Jesus called me down different paths than many of my family and friends who also love and follow Jesus.

I trust him with that.

And I pray. I tell him my fears and doubts and hopes and wishes and loves. And I do my best to listen.

I pray, “Thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, even if I’m missing it altogether.” I pray, “I believe; help my unbelief!” I pray, “Father, forgive them – they don’t know what they are doing.” And sometimes, “Father, forgive them, even though they know exactly what they are doing.” I pray “Lord, have mercy!” and “Help!” a lot. And I breathe, “Thank you!”

As an only child and life-long single, who else would I talk to most of the time? I can’t ever remember not talking to Jesus. It seems he likes listening to my stuff, and he can handle my anger and doubts.

There are a lot of people talking about praying this week. And they’re not wrong – those of us who pray should be praying, for ourselves and others and for our leaders.

But we shouldn’t let our praying hold us back from doing.

Yes, everything is in God’s hands, but he’s seen fit to put a great many things in ours. Jesus prayed to sustain himself for the work. He prayed and did stuff. And he told us that after he was gone, we would do even greater things. Then he left, and now we are called “his body.”

We have a lot of his work to do. Proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind. Set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18).

For followers of Jesus, that’s our work. Whoever you voted for, this is your work.

Too many of our neighbors got a very clear message this week from white Christian America: we don’t want you. Just because that’s not what you believe or how you feel doesn’t mean that’s not the message we sent.

We’ve got a lot of work to do.

Stand with those being attacked – even if you think they’re wrong. Jesus did (John 8:1-11). Really listen to the disadvantaged, and be willing to let them change your mind (Matthew 15:21-28). Hang out with people who would never be comfortable in church. Speak up for those who are on the margins of your community. Look around – who’s missing? Find them (Luke 15).

Don’t just pray for them. Don’t just pray about it. Do the work.

Loving the Cubs

Loving the Cubs

I don’t have a long history with the Cubs. And I don’t have much of a history with baseball at all.

I moved to Chicago twelve years ago, and was largely amused by my new Cubs-fan friends. (Hi, Dan!) If the Cubs were winning, “Don’t worry, they’ll get over it!” I’d assure them. And I told them, “Going to a game at Wrigley Field is on my Chicago bucket list, but if they win, can I get my money back? I want the real Chicago experience!”

I’ve been cheering for and with those friends this year, and particularly the past few weeks during the post-season. As game seven approached the 9th inning, I began to make my way down to Wrigley with thousands of other fans, and I’m thrilled beyond words to have celebrated with them after we watched that final catch peering through bar windows to try to follow the action in Cleveland.

For so many of my friends, loving the Cubs goes back generations. Following the Cubs and always hoping for “next year” is the stuff of family rituals and memories.

I realized this week that my affection has similar associations.

My daddy died just after my third birthday. He had ALS – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. As a young girl, I watched Gehrig’s own story, The Pride of the Yankees, with the intensity of a detective looking for clues to who my father was – and would have been. And Gehrig was a worthy designated hitter.

The feel of vintage baseball became inextricably associated with Daddy, with a warmth and goodness and affection that only comes with the memories and associations of childhood.

I didn’t feel it when I went to a game at the concrete behemoth the White Sox call home, but it was there the first time I went to a game at Wrigley Field. One of only two Major League parks left where Gehrig played, it’s a place where vintage baseball lives. The joy and disappointment and hope of decade upon decade echo in its confines.

And there’s something about the fans. They waited their whole lifetimes to see the Cubs win the Series, and when they finally did, they covered the brick walls of Wrigley Field with the names of those who didn’t live long enough to see it. The walls have become a memorial to those the fans wanted to share this day with. Loved ones who taught them to love the Cubs – who shared so many games. But not this one.

This city that I love has been filled with the aroma of history this week. History shared together – every player who wore the uniform in the past 108 years, and every fan who cheered. The Cubs are about that continuity. It’s something that’s as big as and bigger than baseball.

I was here when the White Sox won the World Series, and blessings on my Sox fan friends, but it was nothing like this. Even the joy that a Blackhawks championship brings the City is totally different.

Nobody was writing names on walls.

I will never be a life-long Chicagoan. But in an accidental and convoluted way, my Daddy taught me to love the Cubs. And this week has taught me that I belong to this City.

Maybe I should go write his name on that wall.

Taking Another Way

Taking Another Way

I have not chosen the easy way.

Following Jesus to the place where I affirm and advocate for my transgender and gay and bisexual and lesbian and queer friends has been one of the most challenging and at times painful things I have ever done. It certainly hasn’t been a “feel-good” path.

And I am not where I am because I don’t really know the arguments against same-sex marriage. A member of my family literally wrote the book on those arguments, and I made them myself for many years. Sincerely, and with a desire to be both faithful and loving.

I am also not here because I think I’m smarter than the Scriptures. I’ve sought a good education in the Bible and theology – from a highly respected conservative seminary – and my respect for the gift God has given us in the Bible has only grown. So has my awareness of the assumptions we bring to it, and I want to do my best to engage what’s been given to us on its own terms rather than mine or anyone else’s.

I do believe I know things now I didn’t know before. I’ve met people, loved them, and lived life alongside them. I’ve realized that many things I once believed are only partial truths – there’s more. And I know there’s more than I know now. The more I learn, the more aware I become of how much I don’t know.

Life was simpler before, and easier. But also smaller.

There are many people I love on the path I chose to leave, and I know they don’t understand. The thirty year old me wouldn’t have understood either. I would’ve thought I understood – that this me was rebellious or at least deceived. That this me had to have lost the faith to stay faithful. There was no other explanation. Looking at where I am now, I would have thought I must have sacrificed truth to emotion.

I get it. I do. Which doesn’t mean it hurts any less to be judged in that way.

I wish those who do not agree or understand could trust my love for Jesus and my relationship with him. I wish they (you?) could continue to trust the work of God you’ve seen in my life all along, even if you can’t understand how it’s brought me here. I wish you could trust the fruit of the Spirit in me – the increasing love, joy, peace, faith. The shalom – wholeness and integration – that has blossomed. The way that as love has grown and expanded in me, fear has diminished.

I wish you could see, but I understand why you can’t.

Just know, it wasn’t the easy way.