Don’t Talk to Me About White Privilege

I’m sure it’s a thing, white privilege. One need look no further than, say, Donald Sterling to know that there’s something very wrong with the world, that systemic racism exists.

That white privilege is a thing.

But don’t talk to me, a white guy, about it. Because white privilege, insofar as I can tell, never did a damn thing for me.

Let me explain.

Behind the middle class fačade, was an empty home. A home devoid of any real sense of security, or love. Emotionally distant, and uninvolved, my dad couldn’t keep it in his pants, “screwing around” on my mom for fourteen out of sixteen years. And my mom? When he left, she had to take on two, and sometimes three, jobs to keep us fed, and a roof over our heads.

The net effect is that I lost both parents.

While there may in fact have been more creature comforts, I was still latchkey. I came home to an empty house day in and day out. Left to my own devices, I didn’t get into drugs, but rather porn. Nobody cared.

Nobody cared when the centerfolds went up on my bedroom wall. They just closed my door, and pretended they weren’t there. There was no dad, or father figure, to tell me that women were not objects, or hos, that existed just for me. Nobody cared when I stayed up late at night, watching the racy movies.

I was, by and large, ignored.

Like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, I was ignored. Until I fucked up, that is. Then it was all OMG! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?

But even then it was mostly bark, no bite. People couldn’t bother to really care. I mean my mom once took my cigarettes away, saying she didn’t want me to smoke. She hid them literally on front of face, like I wouldn’t retrieve them almost immediately.

The list goes on. The greatest travesty of my upbringing was that it was virtually consequence-free: there were no real boundaries, and thus no real, tangible, sense of love…

Wait. I can recall one thing that white privilege gave me:

My mom, the counselor, threw me an eighteenth birthday party. She and her boyfriend vacated the house so I could have friends over. Did I mention that she brought me along with her to the videostore to rent pornos? Yep, she did. And she, the youth diversion coordinator, also supplied all the booze we could drink, including hiding a bottle of Southern Comfort in my bed.

Lucky me, right?

So there’s my white privilege upbringing,  people. Didn’t, and still doesn’t, feel very privileged to me. To this day, my relationship with mom is strained; and with my dad, it’s nonexistant.

Divorce and dysfunction hath it’s privileges, eh?

Anything & Everything But God

Pascal said that we all have a “God-shaped blank,” a hole in our souls. Problem is, we try to fill it with anything and everything but God. I’m not just writing of non-believers, but Christians, too. We don’t get a pass just because we’re saved. No, we still carry around “this body of death,” and as such will sometimes often try to cope, to fill the perceived holes in our souls, with things.

Instead of God.

C.S. Lewis (paraphrasing) said we much about with drink and sex–when all the splendors of heaven are available to us. It’s not that our passions are too strong; rather, they’re too weak. But Jesus said “blessed are those who have not seen, yet have believed.” And that, I think, is the crux of it: like Abraham, we believe, but think we can take the short road to the good thing God has promised. Yet it seems there is no shortcut to righteousnes, for even Jesus “learned obedience through those things which he suffered.” If the Son of God Himself had to learn obedience, how much more ourselves?

Yet we don’t like pain (I don’t), and will try to cope, mask, cover it however we can: through food, entertainment, sex, porn, drugs, alcohol, etc. Problem is, we treat Jesus like just another bottle in the medicine cabinet: we try a little, and when it doesn’t work, we pull something else off the shelf. Proving that we’re no different than the wayward children of Israel (going after foreign gods).

We don’t know how to endure. We are a culture of now. If You, Sovereign Lord, aren’t going to come through, well then, we’ll just hedge our bets. Because You’re too slow, distant, implacable, invisible. You don’t know. You promise life, and by God we’re going to find it somewhere. You just don’t know.

Yet He does:

Jesus was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

And the beauty of His sacrifice is that we don’t have to anymore. We don’t have to sin: we have a new nature. Yet we still carry around this dead flesh, and that in a fallen world. “For the Spirit lusts against the flesh, and the flesh against the Spirit–the two are contrary to one another.”

“Who shall deliver us from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ Our Lord.” Thanks be to God!

But do we really believe it? Do we live like we believe it? Most times I confess I do not. And so we come back around again…

Trying to fill those holes. Which is why, for me, the answer is no longer things. I’ve tried things: gone to conferences, tried liquor, stuffed my feelings with food.

None of them, not a single thing, ever gave me life. Life, hope, is only found in the nail-scarred hands of the One Who died for me. I’m done beating myself up for my failures, and giving them to Him. I’m also, in the interests of developing better strategies, surrendering my pride and going for counseling.

There are things I’ve held onto for too long. And I need help laying them down.

How about you: what do you do to cope? Where do you try to find life? Is there anything you need to lay down?

The Fine Art of Getting By

If you’re like me, you’re good at getting by. You do what you need to, and not much else. You’re quite possibly a follower of Christ, but maybe not. Maybe like me, you’ve entered, or will be  entering, your middle years. Again, maybe not.

This is (your) life. Or something like it:

You’ve got a great career: you do what you do, and do it well. You have a wonderful wife, a great family. But what you don’t have is purpose:

Why are you here? Why does it feel like there should be more? You should be happy, content. Why does it feel like something is missing?

What’s wrong with you? You have so much, and yet your life feels like (to borrow a phrase) you still haven’t found what you’re looking for?

You, my friend, have mastered the fine art of surviving. But somewhere along the way you forgot how to thrive. You traded purpose, and fulfillment, for mere thrills. You forgot that one does not feel one’s way into actions, but rather acts one’s way into feelings.

You’ve put the proverbial cart before the horse.

You’ve forgotten that you’re not a human doing, but rather a human being. Your purpose is innate, put there by God. He created you for Himself, and the good works will follow–as you follow Him. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

But don’t let’s put the cart before the horse; we must needs worship before we can serve. It’s not either/or–it’s both/and. Worship and service go hand-in-hand.

And purpose will follow–as we follow Him. First be, then do. He is the vine, you are the branch.

Let’s not cut ourselves off, okay?

He knows you, and who He made you to be. Don’t be afraid to fail forward as you follow.

The Futile Gospel of Behavior Modification

We have a problem here in the modern American Evangelical church. The problem isn’t the Bible, or Jesus; it’s us. We, by-and-large, preach a gospel of behavior modification. We tell people, “Come to Jesus,” but don’t accept them until they look like us.

The problem is that instead of making disciples, we’re trying to make clones. We forget that we were once sinners in need of a savior; consequently, we say we’re down with grace,  but either explicitly, or implicitly, tell folks to come to Jesus.

But only after they’ve cleaned themselves up.

The irony here is that who among us can even do that: clean ourselves up? As if. Else why would we need a savior?
We take God’s free gift of life, and make the price of entry too high. Much like the Pharisees of old. We take the Gospel, and turn it into rules of the road. Rules that we ourselves, if we’re honest, can’t often attain to. I mean Jesus said that He didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Meaning that it’s our duty to proclaim this message–not worry if it’s been received. Or try to change the mores of a fallen world. We say: “Come as you are.” But do we really mean it.

Come as you are… but not if you have some sin we don’t approve of. Jesus might accept you. But we don’t. We’re the gatekeepers of orthodoxy, of faith and practice. And you can’t come to our party if ______. You change your behavior first, and then we’ll talk.

It’s as if we don’t believe in the Holy Spirit anymore. And his ministry to “convict the world of sin, righteousnes, and judgment.”

If the Parable of the Sower is in any way a reliable guide, ours is to proclaim the message. Not make the hearts receptive. That’s between others and God. Further on in that chapter in Matthew 13:30, it says:

“Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

The point being that the tares (weeds) and the wheat were to grow together, and that God would do the reaping. He knows who’s His, and who isn’t. Our business is to proclaim, make disciples (but not clones), and trust Him with the outcome. A tall order, I know: to trust.

Who among us can even change our own heart? Why do we think we can change another’s?

The Gospel of Behavior Modification needs to die. Because it’s not a message of imposition: of enforcing change from the outside. It’s about lifechange,  about transformation from the inside out.

What do you think? What do you have to say?

Too Much to Ask?

If the other day I wrote of love being more than they have to give, today I’d like to address the other side of that coin. Namely, how growing up with a marked lack of intimacy creates questions, and puts burdens on others they were not meant to bear. For you see, nature (and here I mean human nature) abhors a vacuum. If we don’t get the mother love and/or the father love we need in our formative years, we look to other people, to tbings, to substances to fill that void.

We put burdens on spouses, and friends, that were simply not meant to bear.

If the questions:

“Daddy, do you love me?” and

“Do have what it takes?”

“Am I pretty?” (in the case of a little girl)

Are met with stony silence, or outright hostility, we naturally question our worth. The inference is that we don’t have what it takes, and we will do what we can to find it. They are all questions asking the same thing:

Am I valuable to you?

If the message is that we’re not, then we’ll go looking. And it’s often a fruitless, and heartbreaking, search for identity. As a husband, and as a man, say that I go to my wife: I’m not going to  get the affirmation of I’m looking for. Because she is a woman, and masculinity is something which is imparted. Besides which, having coming from a broken home, who is role model? My dad, with his philandering? Is that how a woman is to be treated? He took his question to the woman–and still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. Just a string of affairs, and two divorces.

And several disappointed kids.

The cycle of dysfunction set him up to fail, and that is the legacy he has handed down. I have learned I can’t look to him. Yes, looking to God is the answer.

But…

Other than His Word, the Bible, God is largely silent in today’s world. It’s not like we can sit down with Him and have a face-to-face conversation. Oh, sure, we can have a heart-to-heart via prayer. And we know He loves us–the cross proves it. But sometimes we want arms, we need our daddy’s love. Let’s face it our hearts are fickle: when we don’t get what we think we need from:

God

We turn to people

And when people likewise let us down

We turn to things

But the things never satisfy

Leaving us longing for more.

It’s a recursive loop, like a serpent devouring its own tail. It’s nuts to be so needy, but growing up without those loves needs met leaves one very vulnerable to getting on this affirmation treadmill.

Because enough just never is enough.

And I know Jesus is the answer. I just don’t know how. My heart is fickle, and wants to go full on Children of Israel:

At least I knew Egypt, but like song by Sara Groves says, “Those places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned. And those roads were closed off to me while my back was turned.”

Maybe it’s a trust issue, you know? Maybe you and I know that God loves us. But maybe we’re just not to sure about his people? Or we view Him like we view our earthly fathers? I just wish He would show up more often and help me make sense of my messy heart.

Is that too much to ask?

What do you think?

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