Friday, February 25, 2011

who i really am

we got invited to a party last night.

i deliberated over and over in my mind if we were going to go. we didn't really know the woman for whom the party was being given. some of our friends from church would be there, but so would a bunch of other people we didn't know at all. there would be an hour of mingling before a movie. AN HOUR OF MINGLING IN A LARGE GROUP. and so it struck:

social anxiety.

i decided to email our small group -- who expected us to be there -- and tell them the truth. i knew they would be compassionate and understanding, totally non-judgmental. honestly, i sometimes struggle with social anxiety, i wrote. i often feel very self-conscious and shy in large groups where it's just a social gathering, especially when i don't know some of the people.

and today, two others in our group confessed their own struggles with this same issue. for me, this was just one of the many ways God has been affirming my understanding of community. in a real, genuine community, people can let their true selves be revealed. they can be honest about their struggles, they can openly confess the depravity of their hearts.

in doing so, the layers get peeled back, the barriers get broken down, and we begin to be knit together, human to human, rather than our facades merely exchanging pleasantries while trying to squelch everything that is hidden below and behind. when this becomes our paradigm for true community, we have others who can walk with us -- supporting us, exhorting us, encouraging us, rebuking us -- towards becoming who God intends us to be.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

not a magic trick

for the past few months, i've struggled with the idea that faith works like a magic trick.

it's a bit like being told when you were younger that jesus would come back at an hour nobody knew, which somehow got translated into that jesus wouldn't come back if anybody in the world was thinking of his return at any particular moment. it had to be when nobody was thinking about it -- then he'd return and surprise us.

if you're like me, you used that to your advantage at moments when you weren't ready for jesus to come back. you just thought you could think about it and, with that thought, control the whole course of redemptive history.

for me, i've tried to will our referral by similar magic. i've read countless referral stories where people said, "i wasn't even thinking about getting our referral today." and, in my mind, i've believed that God has been disappointed in me for thinking so often about our referral, as if my thinking about it was a way of distrusting him. so i've tried not to think about, hoping to appease him and thus convince him to give us our referral.

every time something discouraging has happened regarding our adoption, i've thought, "God will certainly give us our referral now because i've allowed myself to be broken before him about all these setbacks. i have done all the right things -- prayed, acknowledged his sovereignty, etc. surely he will reward me with a referral." and then, of course, when the referral hasn't come, i've wondered, "did i pray enough? did i cry enough? did i do enough surrendering?"

in all of this, i've had to realize that thinking about God as a magician who is placated by concoctions of good deeds and "right" responses is so far from truth. if God is such a magician, he is not sovereign; he is, instead, completely bound to human action. but truth says God is sovereign. and while it is good for me to trust him, to pray, to be broken about our situation, none of those things can will God to action because he will act when he has willed himself to act. our referral will come at his appointed time, not when i have done enough to earn it.

my pastor said tonight that it's possible to treat God like an idol, which seems a bit strange since it seems good to idolize God. but his point, which seems relevant here, is that we idolize things not because they are worthy of our worship, but because of what they do for us. they make us feel good, give us security or affirmation, comfort us, etc. and i think that's what i'm doing when i think God is a magician -- i'm trying to set up my life around him, trying to find the right combination of deeds and actions to please him, so that he'll give me what i want. what i'm missing is the opportunity to know God as loving and sovereign, desiring to grow me and make me new through this process.

so this week, i'm trying to give up on magic tricks. what about you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


when i decided, on a whim, that i wanted to start a new blog, i knew immediately that i wanted to call it planting trees. i love the symbolism of trees. i love how they are so applicable to the christian life. i love that andrew peterson decided to write a song called planting trees that weaves trees and the actions of faith so beautifully together.

there's a tree on the campus of unc-chapel hill, where i went to college, that is still standing after almost 300 years. i think they've attached some kind of wire to it and linked it to another tree to keep it supported, but it's still there and going strong. everyone on campus knows about that tree -- davie poplar as it's called. some people know it because they sat under it on a sunny chapel hill day. others know it because it's big and full and not easily missed.

but all people marvel at it because it has endured.

i want to live out my faith that way. i want the things i do to endure like trees do -- to last past this world. not only that, i want the things i do to be blessings to others in need like trees are when you seek refuge from the heat of the day. and i want the things i do to be big and risky and not easily missed not because i want the glory for those things, but because what i believe in is worth all of that.

unfortunately, i mostly plant weeds that are hurtful and parasitic and easily ripped up and thrown away. and that's why i decided to start fresh with a new blog. for sure, i planted some trees on the old blog. but i most certainly planted weeds, too. it will be the same here -- i won't always get it right. but my hope is that this blog will encourage me (and the handful of people reading) to always be seeking out places to plant trees.

(and a shout out to my friend, erin, who designed this blog. she is the bomb dot com).