The Problem With Eating People

There’s been an internal damage done within the hearts of people.

And now, we’re hell bent on eating them.

You might have heard about this phenomenon, the one where we’re so angry with rich people, we become inclined to swallow them whole. Or perhaps chopped up into fine little pieces smothered in ketchup.

I’m not sure how the process is supposed to go. I only work here.

I find that sort of thinking completely shortsighted, obviously. And if I have to pile it into any specific category, I suppose I’d go with an old favorite: “the pile of malarky where I have to stop being a human being to others and let my lying feelings determine my fate.”

You know, my favorite category.

There are rich people. There are poor people. There are black people and white people. And straight people and gay people and people who are one day a her and the next day a him.

There are people who can’t see and others who can’t hear and some who do both at the same time like Hellen Keller. There are people who love dogs and people who love cats and people who made an entire childhood out of torturing God’s creatures. And there are people who lean towards the good and others who lean towards the bad.

And guess what?

We’re all sinners.

To ascribe our precious feelings onto another soul buried in a meat sack is a waste of time. Time not wasted would look like this: knowing the truth, knowing what’s bad and what’s good and loving another human anyway. Because we aren’t to judge. We ARE, however, to clothe and feed and humble ourselves even before the ones who spit on us. Even before the ones who are making this life just a wee bit unbearable.

We are not to eat them. Jesus didn’t eat people. Remember that.

Every single one has a heart that beats, and I might be going out on a limb here, but none of them taste very good.

So take your own bleeding heart and wipe it up. Stick a band-aid on it. And realize, it doesn’t look much different than anyone else’s.

Like Marie Kondo, Only Meaner

There’s a very small and beautiful Japanese lady called Marie Kondo who goes into people’s homes, helps them assess what’s needed in their life and what isn’t, and then has them say a deep and heartfelt goodbye to all of the personal items that once had a place in their existence but have long since wreaked havoc on the state of their affairs.

She’s basically me if she came with a set of matches and an affinity for the phrase, “Do you really need that sweater seeing that we’re all gonna die one day anyways?”

Matt and Ava have learned how to hide their things. It really is a glorious art to find that pair of sweatpants with the knee in the hole and the waistband that’s too tight, scrunching itself into a neat little ball in the closet as if I’m some well-mannered Japanese TV host with a penchant for sparing people’s feelings and who doesn’t enjoy the smell of burning fleece.

I just feel that stuff is stuff. To tag a sentimental value to something seems almost foreign to me, save for the few trinkets from close friends and family that actually mean something. But gathering stuff for the sake of stuff gathering is akin to the man storing surplus grain in the larger barn he builds so that he can take a load off, pop open a cold one, and enjoy the feats of his labor (Luke 12:16-21).

Oh but then spoiler alert: he dies.

I have to ask myself daily where my treasure is. I have to light my own match and hold it close to the things I think I own. I own nothing. I am a steward of God’s good graces. I am merely borrowing my home and my car and my dog and my daughter and my husband and all the other things that surround me that reflect an erroneous semblance of safety.

There is nothing safe about this world. Remember that. I’m not saying there is no joy, no hope. Oh gosh no. WE are that joy and that hope to a barren world that thinks it knows better. Which is why it’s so important to burn the mental ties to anything that keeps us from being salt and light.

The more tethered we are to “our” treasure, the less valuable we are to others.

But the more we light the fire to the ties that hold us to worldly thinking, well, we lift up and away, feet dangling, eyes toward heaven.

As It Should Be

The twins are two men I’ve stumbled upon during my daily outings. Well, not literally. They’re always safely stored within the confines of a 1980’s Nissan Vanette and are looking at me like I have no business looking at them.

But let’s be fair about that and break down the facts:

  • They drive a 1980’s Vanette. I know I’ve already mentioned that, but I think it’s worth mentioning again.
  • They are grown men who always sit in the front and passenger side seats. This seems like a non-issue except for the fact that…
  • …they’re twins and wear the exact same outfit.
  • I always see them as they’re going in the opposite direction of me, which means I get a full shot of them practically being the same person, wearing the same outfit, and sitting in a van roughly ten people on this planet have ever actually owned.
  • They wear expressions on their faces as if they are any other people who don’t look exactly the same, roaring through the side streets of our sleepy little area in a machine that takes me back to the days of fanny packs and crimped hair. It was a simpler time.

Another fact: they only ever didn’t wear the exact same outfit just one time. It was the first time I saw them after my dog passed away. I like to think it was their way of grieving with me.

I told Ava about The Twins. She didn’t believe me until she fortuitously saw them cruising towards us one afternoon. She was in disbelief.

“How…”

“I don’t know, Ava. I just don’t know.”

And then there was Matt who is used to my natural gravitation toward fancy. But Matt being Matt didn’t blink twice the first time he saw them.

“Looks like that thing’s running pretty well,” he choked out, solidly ignoring the fact that two grown men roughly his age were coming at him in matching v-neck sweaters with white undershirts slightly peeking out.

“I’ll say,” I said, stifling a mini panic attack.

I think about The Twins way too much. They’re an anamoly. A weirdness to my day that would only be made weirder if they didn’t exist. I know in roughly a few short hours, I will see them careening toward me on Dixieland as I head to the gym. I am already mentally preparing myself to keep my face straight and eyes somewhat on the road. And I’m ignoring the short conversation they’re probably having with each other this very second:

“Time to go see that weirdo in the maroon Honda Civic.”

And everything is as it should be.

Talk is Cheap

So many people argue about whether abortion is right or wrong.

So many people are wasting their time.

I always go back to this: “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…” – Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 22:21).

The government’s going to make decisions. Some of them will be vile and poisonous and champion the cause of Satan and present this package with a crisp white bow on top.

We’re not to be fooled. But we’re not to cause chaos because of it. We’re to be in the trenches, loving and aiding those who are bereft and find themselves in a position that they can’t even fathom breaking through.

Because we have the power of God within and us and a host of angels at our shoulders, we KNOW that this moment, this idea of a whole world, a whole life changing is not a mountain that can’t be climbed. But they don’t know that. And that is why the church is to be the church, never to condemn but to sit side-by-side women who have found themselves in a position they never thought they’d be in. We are to pray for those who have been viciously attacked and offer a servant’s heart.

The law will be the law. But we will be the people of God.

And when we sit bickering at one another about what that means, we waste precious time helping those we feel we’re fighting for in the first place.

The second part of that verse? “…and to God the things that are God’s.”

We are to give God what is His, which is us. We are made in His image. If we were to truly do this, give EVERY part of ourselves and aspect of our lives – our sexuality, our bank accounts, our parenting, our jobs, our social lives, etc. – our world would be one in which the idea of abortion would be obsolete.

But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in this one. And like Christ redeemed the broken, we too, have that opportunity. He didn’t do it by shaking His fists and opinions in people’s faces. He did it by ushering in the Kingdom of God, an upside down kingdom that begins on bended knee.

I will serve the brokenhearted and the scared. The lost. And not because Cesaer requires it, but because God does.

And Then I’ll Smile

At night, near the end, Roxie would come into our room, requesting my pillow. She’d do this by sitting at the end of the bed and look at me silently. Her eyes were my downfall.

She might as well be asking me to give her the moon because I was three pillows in, my back perfectly situated several inches from the wall behind my bed. But I’d do it. I’d remove the middle pillow (admittedly, the least plumpiest one), and put it there on the floor where she’d lay down and breathe heavily for the rest of the night.

One day, I was in the kitchen and I was looking at the picture our daughter had drawn of our family. We are a small family, three people. Big personalities. Not to the outside world, though. To the outside world, we are the Clays. We are small people who are kind and generally seem to have it all together.

We are nothing if not con artists.

I don’t mean that in a bad way. We’re not going to swipe your wallet any time soon (although Ava’s a bit of a wild card, so keep an eye out). I just mean we hold our cards to our chests because they’ve all been defaced with that dubious art of living.

We’ll be honest with you. We’ll love you through unending acts of service. But except for a select few, the curtain will remain closed.

Nothing to see here, folks.

I was studying that picture. I look like a dowdy fraternity house mother who needs to get her roots touched up and Matt looks like the questionable neighbor leering out his window across the street. Then there’s Ava, mouth wide in an excited “o,” (smiles are so last year), holding Roxie who looks more like a horrified meerkat than a dog, and then Rocco, a wild fox/half lemur at her feet.

I remember looking hard at that picture, at Roxie, thinking one day, this picture will be a lie.

And now it is.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about how I hate the cold and hate the hot but also love winter but then kind of despise it.

She laughed. And I put up my hands and said, “I don’t even know what I want.”

This over a plate of tacos.

I don’t want the past, necessarily. But there are moments of it I’m still swimming in. The present is too complex for me to think about sometimes, and the future? The future is the enormous rock down the lane that my feet walk towards, but I’m too put off by the fact that I have to walk there myself to realize how much closer I’ve gotten to it.

I think about this. About the universe God created and how much reason and logic has been drilled into it. We don’t go spinning, uprooted off this earth on Tuesday only to be safely spun back down on Wednesday. I think about chaos theory, how there’s an infinite number of ways to lose your mind and break your heart, but at the crux of it is God’s hand, his order, always guiding you home.

He can’t leave me. I won’t let Him. Because without Him? There’s no more honesty. There’s no more unending acts of service.

The curtain becomes a wall, and He’s no longer allowed to live behind it.

So these are the things I think about, and then someone comes up, a new person. Someone who will see me, small and slight, particularly unassuming. They will think, she looks like a nice person, and find comfort in the modest way about me and come to say hello.

And I will want to peel back the surface of hair and pore and skin and skull and brain until they see the workings of my own chaos, how it’s patterned and approaching a reasonable sense of stability.

But instead, I’ll just say “Hi, I’m Ericka.”

And then I’ll smile.

My Friend Ericka

There’s another Ericka Clay.

I receive her emails from time to time (I suppose our email addresses are pretty close), and I’ve learned a lot about her.

She’s from Chicago. She has a daughter. She’s African American and enjoys martial arts and drives a luxury sedan. She travels a lot and has her own personal travel agent who plans vacations for her, like trips to the Bahamas.

Her two friends, Pam and Melvin, are getting married, and I’m invited to the wedding. Okay, she’s probably the one invited to the wedding but I’m the one who technically received the digitial invitation and can do a killer electric slide.

So you do the math.

It’s strange seeing your online counterpart live life and to take an extreme personal investment in someone you’ve never even met.

Well, maybe for some people.

I pray for her, Ericka Clay.

I pray for her friends, Pam and Melvin, that they have a beautiful wedding and a marriage that is a the true embodiment of God’s never ending love for them.

I pray for Ericka’s daughter and her upcoming parent/teacher meeting, which I’m sure will turn out just fine if she’s anything like her mother.

I pray for the trips Ericka takes and the car she drives, that both keep her safe on the road and in the air.

I pray for a woman I don’t know and will most likely never meet and who looks nothing like me and can’t know the thoughts in my head or the words in my heart.

But I pray for her, because her pulse throbs, and mine does too. She’s a child of God. And so am I.

I have His breath and so does she.

You see, it’s that simple.

We all need to stop making everything so complicated.

Complication is the devil’s dance, and right now, he’s doing it beautifully.

Let’s trip him up, shall we?

Let’s pray for and make friends with and serve those who are nothing at all like us.

And yet, everything we are, too.

The Black Hole of Bitterness

It’s easy to not want to forgive. To slide feet first into the black hole of memory and bitterness.

It’s punishing yourself, over and over again.

People have theories about forgiveness, especially people who lack forgiving hearts. They see it as pardoning someone else, owing a horrible human being a favor because anyone who steps on somebody else’s pride has to be horrible right?

You’re the innocent. A sacrificial lamb. There are no black marks brusing your own heart.

False.

None of us are innocent in this game called life. When I remember that, it’s a lot easier to spot the momentous wall I’ve built up against the world and to smash it to smithereens.

I have a choice: choke on the pure image of I’ve made of myself (an idol that doesn’t actually exist) and my ruinous intent for the person in question or breathe.

Choosing the former is easy. It feels good. It takes no resolve or dignity or internal fortitude to allow yourself to be consumed by bitterness and rage. It’s just a matter of standing still and letting it happen. And then watching the years go by as you turn into someone that doesn’t love and doesn’t receive it in return.

But forgiving someone is an act of worship. It is active and a complete denial of the evil that started this whole mess in the first place. It’s a strong indication to Satan that you are not someone to be messed with. You will not be blindsided by his attempt to stroke the fire of your anger.

You rise above.

Jesus was the ultimate forgiver. He laid His life down for everyone who didn’t deserve it, and he did it with a heart for God.

It wasn’t about Him. It wasn’t about the mountainous work of growing His hatred, an act that never truly affects the person we’re angry with but works like cancer in our own body as well as our relationships. It was about glorifying God and proving that nobody and no thing would ever make the detrimental mistake of believing He’d sidestep His purpose for a lifetime of internal misery.

Forgive. Let it go. You owe it to yourself and your God.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24