Letter Seven: Forgiveness…

A while back a good friend was deeply wounded by another aquaintance.  Shortly thereafter that same aquaintance, in my opinion, betrayed me.  In both cases the “perpetrator” of the situation used the rationale that “it wasn’t personal.”  About that same time, an article in Time magazine and later a book by the same author came out and proclaimed, “It’s always personal.”  It is.  We are people and when our personhood is threatened, when we are reduced to things not individuals, it is personal…especially when the hurt comes from people we trust.

I still haven’t recovered fully from that wounding.  I have tried repeatedly to “forgive” and I just can’t get there–yet.  I’ve talked to my pastor more times than he probably wants to hear about all of this and he reminds me that people are messed up and that it’s okay to be angry sometimes–but that I need to let it go. 

My therapist–also a pastor–asked me what it is that I wanted.  He assured me that the person involved isn’t going to apologize and isn’t going to repent.  He’s right and I acknowledged that.  Then he asked what it was that I wanted from them.  I told him.  “I want the person and his associate to be the people I thought that they were.”  “But,” he assured me, “they aren’t.”  And what do I do with that?  Typically, when people aren’t what I want them to be, I am able to reframe them–as weak, or lost, or broken, or sad–in need of love.  But what happens when the people are people that you once admired or at least once really, really cared about?  What then?

My therapist noted that when he talks with sexual assault survivors he notes that too often, survivors allow the perpetrator to drive the cart–so to speak.  The perpetrator moves on.  The victim keeps waiting for the apology, for the repentence, and the perpetrator moves forward.  The perpetrator is able to justify themselves, believe in his/her rightness, or even convince themselves that it was the victim’s fault, and then the perpetrator moves on–feeling like it’s in the past.   Meanwhile, the victim holds on…waiting for the apology so that they can let go and move on…it doesn’t come.  The victim keeps getting pulled around by the driver.   At some point, the victim, just needs to let go or they will continue to be pulled around and pulled apart.


I started this two days ago.  I am pretty sure it was supposed to have a conclusion…but I don’t know what it was and I don’t know how to get it there.  So, I guess, I send this letter/post and trust that it’s resolution is somewhere…I just don’t know where yet…

Letter Six: Emerging Damaged Queen

So, long story.  I started Beekeeping class last week.  To quote my friend, Maren, there is nothing about bees that isn’t fascinating…but I just didn’t realize how fascinating until the class started.  

The day after my first class,  I was still chattering about the racial identities of bees when I got to school.  I had a meeting with a new associate, Scot, who was in from Chicago for the day.  Scot, a self-proclaimed country mouse from suburban Chicago (I know, he’s not a country mouse) is currently into bats.  I am a bat girl from way back.  I have a bat house and my bats are great at pest control.  Once in a while, one of them gets stuck inside for a night or two, and I just shut out the light, open a window and let them find their way out. 

ANYWAY, Scot and I had a great meeting.  And we talked about bees.  And throughout the day, quite unintentionally, Scot did legions for my self-confidence.  There is something about having a person from outside your immediate world look at you and genuinely compliment your work that is a great ego-boost. 

And the day after he left, he sent me an email that said in it’s subject “Thought of You…” and included this October 21 blog by his friend Tabitha:  http://beelievable.wordpress.com/    I know that Scot wasn’t trying to be figurative…he’s a former computer gaming techie now doing instructional technology consultation.  He was not being poetic.

Sadly, I am sure that by the time you all are old enough to appreciate her photos or her post, Tabitha’s blog will be long since dead.  But if it isn’t, you really should read it.  It’s amazing. 

And although I don’t know why exactly, somehow, it seemed more metaphorical to me than literal and it reminded me that in all things there are times in which we really need to wait and see what happens, if the queen is there, if the damage is surmountable, if there are others waiting in the wings, and if the hive will survive.  




Letter Five: Trying to be professional…

I am trying hard to be professional.  The dilemma is that I am not really sure what that means.  I have never been particularly good at professional distance.   My boundaries with students have always been more permiable than is probably ideal.  I come to love them as people and that means that I end up developing friendships and I end up wanting to say things to them that I probably ought not say.  

Today, I had the opportunity to interview an incredible woman for a job.  She is, seriously, one of the most incredible teachers and scholars that I have ever known.  I love and respect her both for who she is as a professional but also for who she is as a person.  I trust her in ways I can’t really explain.  I have watched her as she moved through some very hard things.  I have prayed for her as she grew from a rather timid young teacher to, arguably, a pedagogical powerhouse.  I have hoped and wished for her.  Had I the power to do so, I would have given her everything I felt she deserved months ago.  I couldn’t.  And it was best that I could not.

You see, today, she did it herself.  She showed me and four other people that she didn’t need to be given anything.  In fact, as I sat back and listened, I heard her participate in most probably one of the finest interviews I have ever been a part of.  The candidate spoke from her heart and from that heart came the honesty, the conviction, and the strength that I, egocentrically, thought that perhaps only I understood.  The candidate spoke of vocation in a way that is born out of rich wisdom and a pure understanding of God’s word.  The candidate helped to illustrate why and how intellect, faith and emotion must never be separated.  Our outside member walked out and stated, “It’s rare that I leave a search and feel totally, and completely, at peace.  Today, I felt that.”

What that candidate can’t really understand and what I can never probably tell her is that we weren’ t allowed to hire internally.  For what, I guess, were legal reasons, we had to post and we had to post for a set amount of time, and we had a LOT of applications.  We knew her and I respected her, but I had to abide by the rules.  I am not good at that.  There were at least 40 people.  There were many qualified applicants.  And we sincerely looked at each one.  I often feared that somehow there would be a person that was “better” than this person that I so admired.  But there wasn’t.  Week after week, we kept coming back to her.  For good reason…

Today, I was reminded that a person I care about a lot is no longer a mentee but a peer and a minister to me.  I can’t guarantee that nothing will go awry between now and the end of this hiring process.   Certainly God may still be in the process of showing me how clueless I really am, but I learned a valuable lesson today.  God’s time is always good time and I need to be patient whether with colleagues or with students.  And I need to trust that the people in which I believe most are capable of great things without my interference.

Perhaps what I learned today is that God parenting is a lot like real parenting.  There are times when the best thing a parent can do is to let their child stand up on their own and speak…and then celebrate with them.

Letter Four: Watching Dancing With The Stars

Okay, so this is NOT the role-modeling you need.  I watch trash television.   I love trash television.  Isn’t that horrible?  When I am tired, cranky and uncertain, I watch stuff no one should watch:  The Bachelorette, Dance Moms, Sister Wives.  It’s terrible.  People exploiting themselves, their children, their religion.  I would NEVER tell you to watch that stuff.  It’s really, really dumb.  But somehow, like a formula mystery novel or trashy romance (which I used to read but I really can’t read anymore because the women make me a little queasy), it makes me feel happy to feel self-righteously superior to the people on trash TV. 

Which brings me to Dancing With The Stars.  It’s NOT trashy (most of the time) although I am sure that’s open to debate with some.   I enjoy it for a different reason.  It’s about people doing something that they are decidedly not good at and doing that thing in a frightenly public way.  These are accomplished people in their individual worlds…some currently…others formerly…and they do what they do and they let the world judge them for that with no apparent remorse.  WOW! 

Eleanor Rooseveldt reportedly said that one should do something every day that scares oneself.  As a fundamentally conservative person, I am not always good at doing that…although I am getting better…and I admire people who REALLY live that.  I hope you can.  Be brave.  It’s not always easy and you may never know if what you do is the right thing…but do it and trust that God is there with you in doing it.

Dedicated to my friend, Josh, who made history–literally–in recent weeks by being brave.  (And yes, Josh, if you ever read this, I bought your book:).)

Letter One and One Half: A Place to Start

This draft was started on March 3, 2010.  I didn’t post it for a LONG TIME.  It’s not profound.  It is true.

People will hurt you. What a place to start, huh? But it’s true and it’s the primary reason I am writing to you. This side of heaven, we spend a lot of time trying to please people and trying to be what we think that others want us to be and sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. And ultimately, what others want is significantly less important than what God wants for you and what you need for yourself.   I am not good at this.  I pray that you will be.

Letter Three: Bethany’s Birthday

Another summer has almost past again. The end of summer is always a bit depressing to me. I was at Bethany’s birthday party today and her papa announced that I might feel differently if I had his organic chemistry students. Somehow, I don’t know. I wish in many ways to freeze this period of summer in time. I am not a big fan of the heat, but there is a wonder at work when the vines are in full production and life is so full everywhere. The birds are busy doing whatever it is that they do all day long. The snakes sun on garden stones. The butterflies flit about. There are so few of the burdens that weigh down the winter. Somehow, in summer, the work seems less tedious as if it has a clear outcome and a reason that winter’s days lack.

I say all this with the full realization that nothing is ever perfect this side of heaven. This week to be is marred by the presence of a meeting that I wish not to have and don’t fully understand how it came to be. Good intentions shadowed by evil and a spiritual attack not expected. Knowing that one is right means little when others are blinded by motives unclear.

Anyway, today, we celebrated Bethany’s birthday. Happy birthday, little angel. You are a blessed girl with a family who loves you and cares for you in so very many ways. Thank you for letting me share your cake and your family.

Letter Two: Idealism…

Let me start by saying that I haven’ t posted a letter to this site since the weekend in which I resolved to start a blog.  That says something about my resolve I suppose.

I wrote my first and last post at a debate tournament over a year ago.  I was at the tournament, the president of that organization in my second year, faced with the reality that although I believed once in the possibility of change, I probably wouldn’t change that organization in the course of my presidency.  A year and six or so weeks later, my term with the organization is done.  I didn’t change anything of which I am aware in the organization. 

I’ve had a similar experience in regard to my administrative work at the university this year.  And three years ago, I had that realization in relationship to a volunteer group to which I was deeply committed.

This morning I was listening to the 2011 White House Correspondent’s Dinner on YouTube.  Two very funny speeches.  And one moment.  The comic for the evening, Seth Meyers, turned to President Obama and he commented on how there was one man who could definitely run against Obama for re-election and win.  That was Barak Obama of 2008.  Obama was a lot more idealistic back then.  Obama nodded.  Then for a fraction of a moment, Obama genuinely looked sad.  He understands now what most of us don’t when we start an important project.  Sometimes, it hurts to live in the real world.

Ideals matter.  They are the things that fuel dreams and good intentions and without them…very little good comes this side of heaven.  But idealism dies very quickly when you actually are the person in charge, and no matter what good you believed possible, in the end, sin corrupts the best intentions.  Sin hits hardest in those moments in which there is the most potential for positive change and doing “good.”

And it hurts like heck when you realize that you aren’t going to succeed in a dream. 

In the end, I guess that’s where Hope (real hope–not the rhetoric thereof) kicks in.  Somewhere and somehow…we have to cling to hope.  Heb. 11:1  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

I can’t imagine being in the shoes of Barak Obama.  I do know what it means to mourn the person I used to be…the idealist that I once was.  And it is incredibly hard.  I pray for President Obama.  He must be mourning a great loss and, I also pray, that his faith gives him Hope.

Letter One: The Greatest Gifts

First, I want to offer my apologies to Reynolds Price.   A while back I was looking for a gift to send to the oldest of my not quite really my Godchildren Godchildren and I ordered his book.  It was a good read.  It said important things but much of it wasn’t what I would say to you.  So, I resolved to write my own thoughts to you.  I tried with a literal letter first.  It was a Christmas letter that I have to say wasn’t as effective I wanted it to be.  (Too ponderous for the holidays I gathered.)  Since I have never much liked writing Christmas letters and my first attempt at something meaningful for you probably missed the mark, I concluded that wasn’t my best option.

The next choice I had was to blatantly steal Mr. Price’s idea and write something worthy of broad distribution.  After reading an article in some periodical or another–The Chronicle of Higher Education, I think–I realized that the odds of my successfully publishing a book that attempted to share something significant or helped you in some minimal way to be what God made you to be was tragically low.  (Whatever article it was assured met that both academic papers and news articles will be totally irrelevant in a short amount of time.  The article further assured me that if I wanted any hope of anyone ever actually considering my ideas on a broad scale, I would not only have to write a blog, I would also have to go viral…which isn’t likely at all…but I am overlooking that for the moment and forging forth.)

So I start.  I start while sitting at a debate tournament for an organization in which I am not sure I belong wondering when or if there will be a reason for me to be here.   But then I realize that I am here because God put me here.  I am here with some of the best friends for which I could ever ask.  (Don’t get me wrong, there are people here who depress me as well, but that’s a different post.) 

So then is the point of this post:  In your life, God will give you many things.  Literally, things.  Each of you was born into a loving family with plenty to eat, a place to sleep and more material blessings than that held by entire tribes of people in other parts of the world.  For this, you should be thankful.  That said–the greatest gifts in your life will not be material.  These will come in the form of people. 

It goes without saying that I love all of your families.  I wouldn’t have chosen to join with them and to commit to your spiritual care were that not the case.   Like the people in this room, your parents are some of the few really good friends I have and who are the hands and heart of Christ in my life.  Sometime, maybe already, you will have these same kinds of people in your life.  Some of them will be lifelong friends whose lives take divergent paths (after graduation or a move) but with whom you have a sense of connection and confidence that allows you to see them once in every decade and still know that they are your “best friends.”  Others will be people that you connect with in the journey of life.  In my experience, these gifts are often the least expected benefits of things that have both challenged and tried you.  These friends come in unusual and sometimes unlikely forms.  Although these people may be nothing “like you,” they are in every sense a part of you.   These people may not initially seem special to you.  Sometimes, in fact, you will not like them at first.  Yet, God has put each of them into your life for a very special and significant reason.  Whether lifelong buddies or gathered spirits, these people should never be taken for granted.  They will be there at times when you are frightened to death…when you are feeling small and lost…AND when you are bold and brave.  They will touch you when you need to be touched and they will correct you when you need correction.    They will be in almost every way the hand of God in your life.