For You, When You’re Facing Internal Conflict

Have you ever felt yourself deadlocked in internal conflict, bouncing back and forth between the comfort of staying put and the lure of letting go?

Ever struggled to choose because part of you wanted something new, while another part of you needed to keep everything the same?

I have. Once upon a time, I worked as a nonprofit program director in DC. It was a stable, undeniably meaningful job, one that connected me to a caring community and supported my deepest values.

Those things were true, but there were other truths, too.

There were the tears that prickled behind my eyes on my morning commute. There was the relentless thrum of exhaustion, the drumbeat of my jam-packed days.

And there was the whisper of my true self, the one who wanted so badly to be a writer.

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When Hope Seems Lost, Remember This

When my brother Willie was diagnosed with autism, he was three years old and I was five. Neither of us had been to church yet, so I didn’t have much of a God concept. But somehow, I’d already arrived at a very clear idea of heaven.

I used to lie awake at night and think about it, so eager for it to be real.

I believed that heaven would be just this: a place where I could talk freely with my brother. It would be a place without the limits of autism on his part or lack of knowledge on mine, a place where I could ask him a question and receive a complete answer.

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“Please Don’t Go Crazy If I Tell You The Truth.”

Have you ever heard the Snow Patrol song How to Be Dead?

Snow Patrol, 2004

It’s about an intense conversation (read: a fight) between two people, one of whom is on drugs. They’re trying to work things out, but control issues and lies are getting in the way.

The song’s opening line is, “Please don’t go crazy if I tell you the truth.” This line haunts me, and I suspect it haunts all of us people-pleasers. And you know why, right? Because it’s the plea of our hearts. It’s what we would say if only we had the courage.

Please don’t freak out if I say how I truly feel. Please don’t fly into a rage if I disagree with you. Please don’t go crazy if I tell you the truth.

This request is so important. Even if it’s not honored, it’s valuable to ask for what we need. And what we really need is people who won’t shame us into silence.

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We need people to whom we can say …

I love you, and I can’t make it to the party tonight. After the full day we’ve had, I am so exhausted that I can barely see straight. I understand that you’re disappointed, that you wish things were different. But the truth is that, in this moment, I have nothing left to give.

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“When it comes to God and faith and religion, I have some hunches…but I only know two things to be true- 1. I am God’s beloved child. 2. So is everyone else.”
– Glennon Melton

I love you, and I can’t pretend to believe in the same God anymore. I can’t nod or say I agree as you expound on the ways in which your group is the only one with the keys to heaven. The last time I heard the phrase ‘eternal damnation’ spoken from the pulpit of a church, I regret to say that I didn’t leave right then. But today, I would.

You see, I used to believe in a God like that. I used to think that some people were ‘chosen’ and some people weren’t. I used to believe in a lake of fire. And all I can say is: that’s no way to live, because it’s not about love. Not at all.

Right here, right now, I can’t pretend to believe in a God that wouldn’t choose me in all my doubt, choose you in all your certainty, choose my friend who died of a heroin overdose eight years ago in all her confusion.

I can’t pretend to believe in a loving God who wouldn’t choose EVERY one of us.

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I love you, and I believe in supporting the commitments and marriages of my gay brothers and sisters. I believe that wherever charity and love are found, there is God. And I believe in erring on the side of mercy in all things that I don’t fully understand. Which, from what I can see, is just about everything.

I also know that I need to take my own words to heart. I know that I am a hypocrite, that I have missed mercy and chosen judgment more times than I can count. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.

And I’ve never seen my hypocrisy as clearly as when I listened to you speak against gay marriage. Because as I listened, I realized: I have unfairly judged people who hold this exact set of beliefs. I have secretly stereotyped them as harsh, bigoted, and unloving.

But the thing is, I know you. Though I disagree with what you’re saying, I know that you are kind and strong and compassionate.

And I’m not sure who told you to be afraid, but baby, I have a feeling it wasn’t God. I have a feeling that those who told you to fear the ‘gay agenda’ have some suspect agendas of their own.

So let’s talk about a Love agenda instead. Let’s kneel together and wash the feet of the people we fear.

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Today’s the day.

I love you, and one of my core beliefs is that, in any situation, I might be wrong. So it’s okay if you think I’m off base here. Maybe you’re right! And I can live with that. I used to think that I couldn’t, but honey, both of us are stronger than we thought.

I love you, my friend, and I get that it’s scary for you when I write posts like this. But you can relax, because it’s not about you. It’s about me, finding my voice after years of silence.

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“Both my shoulders are heavy from the weight of us both,” the Snow Patrol singer says. I know how that feels. I know the weight of burdens that were never mine.

You know what all that is, don’t you? It’s an instruction manual for how to be dead. It’s how you kill your true self: you bury it under the weight of what other people think you should be.

I am so scared to publish this piece. I’m really good at playing dead, and I’m not sure if I’m ready for choosing life. But I want to try. I do. So I am sending these words out in faith.

Please don’t go crazy if I tell you [my] truth.

Instead, tell me your truth. I’m listening.

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Florence-area readers: I’ll be speaking at a local event tomorrow! Entitled, “Caring for the Caregiver,” and hosted by Alabama Respite and Shoals Area Sharing the Care, the FREE event will take place at Crosspoint Church Wednesday, October 30, 2013, from 9a-12p. See you there!

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