Friday, April 29, 2016

Free Shipping Fridays: My Main Self Descriptors

Dear Readers,

While on the one hand, I think descriptors about race, gender, vocation, etc. can be stereotyping and limiting, on the other hand, I appreciate identifying myself with certain characteristics. And I think the problem with telling our stories via descriptors is not when we start there, but when we end there. I want the fact that I'm a multi-ethnic Christian woman in graduate school (etc. etc.) to start conversations, not end them.

So in your virtual mailbox today is a Census Bureau pamphlet, expanded. In this particular mailing, "check all that apply" is standard, and filling in little multiple-choice bubbles is just the beginning. I'd love to hear--do you identify with any of this? What descriptors do you claim? We are more than the sum of our parts--more than just data points--yet, those survey questions matter.

What is your ethnic identity? (check all that apply)

What is your religious affiliation? (check all that apply)

What is your gender identity? (check all that apply)

What is your current career/educational status? (check all that apply)

What is your political affiliation? (check all that apply)

What is your marital status? Do you have children in the home? (check all that apply)

What is your favorite color? (check all that apply)

Monday, April 18, 2016

To an Absent Friend

Dear Little Critter,

I’ve dreaded this moment, and I’ve known it had to come eventually. It’s a broken, fallen world, and loving something means risking the pain that comes when we eventually have to say goodbye.

So death and sorrow has entered our little world, and I’m angry. Angry that my daughter has seen the murky, bloated face of death, and has had to face the ugliness of it. Angry that such a little thing as you—a pet fish—in your passing, now embodies all that is wrong in the world.

A little more of the veil of childhood has been lifted from her eyes, and she sees a little more clearly now. This is but another step in learning about the brutality of the world, and I’m angry. Angry that eventually, our girls will have to know about much more than the simple death of a fish. Angry that they will need to know—in the appropriate time, of course—about war, and famine, and rape, and genocide and the myriad of horrifying things that we humans are capable of doing to each other.

I'm angry that even though I truly believe that Christ has won, we are still in the "here and not yet" of it all. That we feel, as I heard it said once, the "death throes" of satan as he thrashes around trying to take down with him whomever he can. I'm angry that we still bleed, and die, and sin, and feel grief. 

We just celebrated the resurrection on Easter, which of course requires first mourning the crucifixion. We’ve talked about the pain, betrayal, and abandonment that Jesus endured to atone for our sins. Perhaps you overheard some of our conversations last week, little fish. But as I watched my little girl take in the grotesque shape of the corpse of her best aquatic friend, suddenly I knew that the physical horror of Christ's crucifixion made a little more sense to her. It was no longer so abstract. And that makes me angry. 

I know John Owen has written clearly of the "Death of Death in the Death of Christ," and that for us to grow and be transformed, we must first die like the seed (1 Cor 15). I know that my grief over the grief of my child is sanctifying and reminds me that this is not my home. I know all this, but I'm still angry. 

And maybe, this isn't so much about you, little fish. Maybe it's about the four year anniversary of dad's death and getting older myself and realizing that my babies are, as Cindy Morgan sings, "flesh and blood, and bone and marrow;" here but for a breath, then gone (Psa 90). And that I myself am but dust and that as "my fathers before me," so shall I follow into the long sleep of death someday. Leaving my children to grieve. Leaving them to try to keep the memory alive through pictures and videos and telling stories. 

I know that victory is already won, and that a day is coming of joy and reunion and completeness, because of the sacrifice of Christ. I don't know how exactly that works for you, Swirly fish, as you had no soul to be saved. But you did have a little personality, and were much loved, and part of this created order that God is in the process of redeeming. 

Maybe I'm not so much angry as I am sad. Sad that death is in the world, sad that the girls have to learn that painful lesson, and sad that I can't protect them from all that. But even as I'm sad that you're gone, it does help me to remember how fleeting life is, and how important love is. I know, it sounds like a Hallmark card. It's really saccharine, you say? I don't feel embarrassed in front of a fish. Everyone knows fish aren't very sentimental, anyway. 

Rest well, little friend. 
With love,
A fellow creature.