Oceans Between Us – Jenni Cockerham *
Almost exactly 2 years ago to the day I penned these words*. It is a mini memoir that was written mostly for me. But it was written with others in mind…those who have had hard histories…who were struggling or disillusioned with life…or God. I think I have spent the past few years spiritually disoriented…after having spent the past few decades so very clear.
Disclosure: Sometimes when I write, I write for anyone who will read it. And sometimes when I write I have a specific message meant for a specific group. Now certainly anyone is welcome to read this piece, but this is written for folks who might consider themselves one of God’s kids, and specifically someone who is working to serve Him with their lives. Today I am writing with you in mind…
Not exactly a title that most Christian magazines want plastered across their pages. So I won’t be waiting by the mailbox for a request for further writing opportunities from their editors! I have always promised to be honest and the reality is…life with God is tougher than you think.
“Say whatever you want, it’s a free country.” Was a typical phrase filling the hallways of my middle school. We deflected random off color comments or offensive jokes…or dropped ridiculous things from our lips never thinking twice…just knowing we could say it because, it was a free country.
Recently, I have encountered some words spoken (and written) that have quite literally taken a lot of liberty to create. Words I believe many many American (and Western) Christians believe as truths. Words I would ask you to please pause and consider. Ask yourself the question: “Is this God’s truth?” Or is this something I have heard, and my parents passed down to me, and their parents passed to them…or maybe my pastor or my Young Life leader mentioned. But pause. Ask…is it an American Christian truism…but not actually a Biblical truth? Just pause. Just ask.
Confession: I’ve stopped trying to heal.
I came home from Uganda in April…shell-shocked and in survival mode. We let down our defenses and I immediately got to work…doing my best big girl job to heal. I did all the right things…went to my counselor within less than 24 hours of arriving on US soil. We took a month at the beach to adjust to the western culture and to quietly unlock the grief box. And I did pretty well. I grew angry and shook my fist at God, I doubted and questioned, and then grew sad–unashamedly sad, and the stages of grief rapidly unfolded in textbook fashion.
Most 18 to 20 somethings spend their college-age years doing the stupid things in what I call the stupid years. Some get a quicker start and others are late bloomers in the area of stupidity. The stupid years are spent doing the stupid things, the hazy years, the wake up and dread, “did I really just do that?” years. The confusing years. The “who am I And where am I going?” years. We just aren’t putting all the puzzle pieces together and for some we aren’t even trying. Oh, and not only do we do stupid things, we care too much! But not in a good way caring…in a bad way caring. Caring what others do, say, or think. We think SO many thoughts about their thoughts. If I could reclaim and bundle the hours I spent thinking about what others were thinking–I am pretty sure I could take at least a week’s vacation. We care too much in the stupid years but we also strive too much. We strive to be something we are not. We strive to be someone we are not. And some of us realize quicker than others we are striving and we stop. But if you are in the stupid years or care too much or are still striving…just stop. You be you.
I wrote this blog a few weeks back. Once I heard the news of the heinous hate crime that occurred in a church Charleston, I really began to rethink the timing of my post. That said, I find the words relevant…and still worth sharing. Ironic to be sure, but I write this with sensitivity, respect and heartfelt sympathy for those whose lives were lost last week.
Walking through the doors of your local church could be one of the riskiest things you do all week. In a place where healing, health, and love should flow from every interaction…we often times are met with fear, failure, and brokenness instead.
Don’t know your history…whether you have been attending church since birth, having never missed a Sunday morning, Sunday night or Wednesday evening service. You may be one who has never (and has no intention to ever step foot in church) and you have your reasons and I respect them. But more likely you are somewhere in between…you have gone, used to go, or attend occasionally.
Have you ever walked in to church and then did a 180 degree about-face pretending you left something in the car? Have you sat in a service and something the pastor said caused you to feel so very uncomfortable, you felt you might come out of your skin if you had to sit there a moment longer? And so you left? Have you felt judged by the eyes of those around you? Lonely in the midst of hundreds of people?
No? Guess it’s just me then.
I am not quite sure why we say these words. I do it too…I don’t say these specific words, but I say others. Cliches…words tagged on to the end of sentences of which we have no real end. I am learning in my own life, as one who aspires to help others…unfortunately…my words often fall short. This word loving woman has learned…at times silence is best.
You may be surprised to learn, good-hearted helpers…in attempting to bring comfort we choose bad words. Much like, “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”–“Words-That-Must-Not-Be-Spoken”!