Letting James Cone Speak

“Such personal suffering challenges faith, but social suffering which comes from human hate , challenges it even more.  White supremacy tears the heart to pieces and turns the heart away from God.  The more I believed in God, the harder it became to sustain any faith.  White supremacy was so pervasive that everywhere I went, it was there staring me in the face -in the North as well as the South.  If God loves black people, why then do we suffer so much?  That was my question as a child; that is still my question.”

-James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree

 

There’s not much I want to say in this post; this quote speaks for itself.  I want to be quiet enough, so I can let it sink in.  As a white person, I’m wanting to pay more attention to how I’ve read the Advent story in a sanitized way.  How I’ve been encouraged every Christmas since I can remember how I could respond like Mary, like Joseph, like Elizabeth, like the shepherds, like the wise men.  How we haven’t considered deeply that unless we, the white church, are willing to give up our power, we are Herod.  We are continuing to harm Christ Himself, in the form of our marginalized brothers and sisters, who are banding together to humbly lead us if we are willing to follow. And likely lose our life as we know it, so we can actually find it.

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The Waiting of Advent

 

My melancholy side naturally resonates with Advent on the Christian church calendar.  Waiting.  Longing. Questioning.  How long? Sitting in pain without knowing when it will stop.

If I make it more personal and actually ask myself the question,

“What are you waiting for?” there are so many answers I could come up with.

All would be valid.  None would be wrong.

I want healing for my body, for our nation, for division to stop, for pain to end, for all those who feel forgotten would be welcome, for the lonely to find meaningful community and friendships.  The list could go on and on.

What is at the top of my list though is:

Silliness.  Laughter.  Adventures. My smile.

I miss these parts of myself that have been suffocated by grief.  I miss the parts of my personality that have changed drastically in the process of illness.

You see, when I was 14, I was the happy-go-lucky kid.  It’s hard to believe that now.  I was silly.  I smiled and laughed all the time.  Yes, I was young and not so rooted in the world’s pain, and yet I miss her.  I miss the part of me that wasn’t so acquainted with grief, with pain, with fatigue.  I miss the girl who was always trying to make someone’s day just a bit brighter.

I know she’s still there, trying to emerge.

Some people today compliment me for my smile-and say, “I never would have known that you live with a chronic illness.  You make it look easy.”

I take this compliment for what it is, and yet in the back of my head I’m also thinking, “I miss my old smile.”

My smile now isn’t forced, but it’s weightier.  I can actually feel my jaw using more effort.  There’s more resistance now.  It doesn’t come quite so naturally.

One day (hopefully in the near future), I will write a book with a title something like this:  When Your Personality Changes Overnight: Chronic Illness in Your Teens and Twenties.  I will talk about that weighty smile and the laughter that seems to come with a small hesitation.

I’m back in therapy right now reprocessing trauma, helping my neural networks to find another route in my brain besides fear.  That seems to be the route most traveled.  Because of the length of my illness, and several traumas piled on top of each other, I’m spending this Advent season coming to accept the fact that I have a minor form of PTSD.

Living with PTSD is a humbling experience.  Learning to heal from PTSD is a stretching experience.  It’s taking all of my drive to go even deeper, to heal just a little bit more.  To be patient and kind to myself, as I mess up, as I cry (yet again!), as I long so deeply to be well, that I think I just can’t take any more pain.

Simple things make me profoundly happy.  A card.  A compliment.  An unexpected text. A drive down Meridian to see my sister.  On Saturday, we went to Winterlights at the IMA and it was wonderful.

Lightshows.  Bantering about why we hate taking pictures.  Going the wrong way into the Lilly House and being told we had to go around.  Watching kids run and teenagers dance to the Nutcracker.  Trying to find a place to park.  Deciding that we didn’t want $4 Swiss Miss and going to The Best Chocolate in Town 10 minutes before it closed to get Ghiradelli in our hot chocolate instead.  Laughing about how we should have brought in bags of our own marshmallows to sell so we could have made money for all those people wanting the perfect Christmas outing roasting smores at the IMA.

My night was a whole lot lighter because of laughter.  That’s what I’m waiting for this Advent.