Life with Jesus

Winter Lingers

I struggle with fashion. Over the course of my life, I have worn some truly unfortunate articles of clothing. And I’m not just talking about the quasi-cute things that I wore when my 5-year-old self chose her own clothing (saddle shoes, Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, and a vest). I’m not even talking about stirrup pants or mullet/bowl haircuts.

No, I’m talking about the fact that there was a six week period in middle school where I wore a white shirt, khaki pants, and a green sweater tied around my waist EVERY DAY. I’m talking about the fact that I didn’t wear JEANS until my junior year of high school. I’m talking about the fact that I literally dressed like a bag of skittles in college- the brighter, the better, plastic costume jewelry included.I’m talking about that as an adult i bought a pair of baby-poop colored pants that also didn’t fit well, so it looked like I was wearing an adult diaper. My current motto is, “Nothing a cardigan can’t fix” so I have about 15 sweaters that I use to cover up my ugly clothes.

Here, let me show you some examples of fashion mishaps when I should have known better…

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Here I am signing my first lease in college wearing a shirt that threatens anyone around me while simultaneously wearing a bright red sweater so I look like a menacing Christmas tree. Also, please note that everyone else is dressed like a normal person.

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Also college. Who doesn’t want to wear a monochromatic gray outfit to play tennis in the dark?

I have never and probably will never be a fashionista. When my kids are wearing space suits and fabric that has microchips that can change colors, I’ll still be plugging along with my yoga pants and 10-year-old t-shirts. I’m okay with this. Clothes don’t make the woman, in my case, so we’re good.

Today, I’m specifically reminiscing about some of the Christian paraphernalia that I used to wear. I had a t-shirt that was a bit too small with the words “Jesus Freak” emblazoned across my chest.  I had one of those “A Bread Crumb and a Fish” shirts that looked like an Abercrombie and Fitch shirt. I wore a rainbow “WWJD” bracelet for, oh, several years. I also went through a period where I wore two cross necklaces. I have photographic proof of that one.

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So much wrong with this picture. Curse you, 7th grade.

I was like mega-Christian. I grew up in the church. I did all the things- reading my Bible every day, being at church whenever the doors were open, attending all churchy activities at school, wearing the various (kind of lame) churchy things, calling people “potty mouths” when they cussed. I broke all of my secular CD’s. If it was Jesus-related, I was doing it. I have probably 12 journals filled with prayers and Bible reflections. I turned down a trip with my grandparents to Venice so I could go to WEST TEXAS for church camp.

In all truth, I believe that my faith was genuine. A little corny, pretty legalistic, but I had a good, solid faith base. I don’t remember very much doubt or wrestling with things.

Cue: College.

This is a story for another time (I’ve probably blogged about it in the oh, 15 years since I’ve been blogging), but, in the end, I went through a period of time where my faith and conceptions of God and His church were deconstructed, picked apart, and slowly put back together. Since then, I have struggled, ya’ll.

One of the things that did not make the cut when my robot faith was piecemealed back together was legalism and anything that smacked of inauthenticity. I just couldn’t stomach the cheesy Christian movies, the singing and swaying with eyes shut, anyone who spoke in Christian-ese. For too long, those things had represented what I thought my faith *should* have entailed and I just couldn’t pretend anymore.

The first time I heard about someone use the term “winter Christian”, I remember feeling a sense of release. Faith comes seemingly easy to Summer Christians. Maybe not always, but often. They can accept things at face value. Doubt and darkness is not welcome.

Winter Christians struggle. We wrestle, we cry out, we get angry and fling our lunch box across the room. Doubt follows us closely. I would venture a guess that many winter Christians are plagued by guilt and shame, since their walks with God look quite different from the summery walks that happen next door. Winter Christians’ struggles are blamed on their lack of faith. If we would just trust God, then we could step back into the light.

Barbara Brown Taylor (known affectionately in my church as BBT) puts it this way in her book Learning to Walk in the Dark

“I call it ‘full solar spirituality,’ since it focuses on staying in the light of God around the clock, both absorbing and reflecting the sunny side of faith. You can usually recognize a full solar church by its emphasis on the benefits of faith, which include a sure sense of God’s presence, certainty of belief, divine guidance in all things and reliable answers to prayer…Instead, I have been given the gift of lunar spirituality, in which the divine light available to me waxes and wanes with the season. When I go out on my porch at night, the moon never looks the same way twice. Some nights it is as round and bright as a headlight; other nights it is thinner than the sickle hanging in my garage. ..All in all, the moon is a truer mirror for my soul than the sun that looks the same way every day….What would my life with God look like if I trusted this rhythm instead of opposing it?” (emphasis added)

YOU GO, BBT. Get it, girl. Preach.

There have been times, ya’ll, where the presence of God is so thick in my life that I feel like I could interview Him on 20/20, sitting next to Barbara Walters and snacking on popcorn between commercial breaks. My trip to Mexico City last year was probably my most recent full-on solar experiences with God.

Most of the time, though, my faith falls firmly in the “darkness” category.

I wrestle.

Alot.

I have lots of questions, most I know I will probably never really have an answer to. Things that were previously very black and white to me now feel gray.

I struggle to reconcile the justice-loving Jesus of the Bible with the oft-struggling American church I see today.

My fear and disdain of legalism means that I read my Bible much less than I probably “should”.

My cynicism can be so thick that it threatens to drown me at times.

I often feel guilty because I do not know how to connect to God on a daily basis.

In truth, serving others is about the only place that I can see and feel God working right now. Justice and selflessness are the vehicles where God’s presence is delivered. It’s not Sunday mornings.

It’s not early morning quiet times.

It’s not worship music delivered over hot tea and a Bible.

It’s the nitty gritty, serving when it’s hard, being around people to whom God is ever-present because without Him, they’d have nothing. That is when I’m able to see God, in those people,  in their tears and their smiles. God meets me there.

And that’s why I haven’t given up. He continues to show up unexpectedly, announcing His presence in my life in such a way that I can’t deny that He exists. Faith is hard. This feels like the narrow road, the valleys that we are promised.

I’m learning to come to grips with my lunar/winter spirituality. If my fully-solar/summer spiritual high school self could see me now, she might shake her head and offer to pray the darkness away, but I hope to learn to walk in the darkness, as BBT says one can do.

Winter lingers. But I’ll be okay.

 

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