It’s not him, it’s us.

Breathe…take another breath.

There are no words to describe the amount of heartache, nausea, and shattering pain that I feel in my heart. My “allegiance” is to God, but it is identity-shattering to absorb the full impact as we recognize just what this country is…and what the Christian church in the U.S. has become. I have never felt so ashamed to be an American, though I have carried and wrestled with the realities of it for decades. To realize that the same hatred and greed that drove colonization and slavery is still alive and breathing in the hearts of both men and women in this country. How can it be?! I scream out in terror as it has become so explicit. This isn’t about Trump. This is about what he illuminated in a majority of people in this country. What he brought back up to the surface and then fueled. This is about you. And about me. About us.

This is certainly NOT just about politics. I am so tired of hearing that this is somehow about two parties, about different “opinions” of political issues. This is so beyond that; in fact, somewhere outside of it because it fully encompasses human existence. I can talk to you about our politics all day long. I can and have had rich conversations, fruitful ones, about important issues. Life is messy and I can go there. I can talk about the complexity of political topics. But this is about what has been festering in the hearts of both men and women. This is about the hunger for power, dominance, and wealth that drove colonization and slavery. About ignorance and divisiveness. And it is so dehumanizing when people will not acknowledge that these biases are a significant part of the truth. The destructive beliefs and feelings–they still exist at the same level for many people in this country that we claim is somehow free and just? You’re proud of that?? To be a country that was built on the backs and with the lives of the people we killed then and reject and kill now? The very people that are judged, ignored, oppressed, abused, and excluded…the people that are deemed less than, in your heart of hearts, and you’re going to sit here and tell me this is simply about politics? Lies!!! Do not lie to me, to yourself, and to others who are legitimately vulnerable. That devalues the worth of every single human being.

Now, you may claim that you are not those things. Racism, sexism, prejudices–those are not the reasons that you voted the way you did. Many who voted for Trump say they are sick of the status quo, that they feel vulnerable or threatened, that their values would have been threatened with Hillary Clinton. But, I tell you, that is not good enough to vote for him. Look, I earned a Ph.D in empathy. I can understand that you are against abortion and big government, for example. I know that you care deeply about your loved ones and that you feel fear, too. I know that you hold values and traditions of your own and that you felt pretty stuck in this election. I, too, do not want women to abort their babies. I want healthy, loving families. Ones who have options that do not leave them haunted and ashamed. But, that is a limited view if it ends there. Do you know how many minority women do not have the same privileges, education, access to birth control, free will in relationships, etc. that you have?? You must know that men still refuse to use condoms, right? That women may not have power in relationships…you at least recognize that, please tell me? That sex education is sparse and superficial and completely absent in nearly all Christian circles. And do you know how much drug use, rape, and poverty overwhelms the lives of so many people because of the greed of others? Because not everyone has their own boots, damn it. Not everyone was born white (thank God, truly), or into a two-parent home, or into this country, or free. Do you know the sex trafficking industry breeds on 10-15-year-old girls? Do you know who pays for the porn industry?? White men and Christian men, too. The sexual abuse and manipulation of women crosses all demographics. So many people talk about abortion being a convenient choice for women who have what they need. And yes, those are some of the cases. But, not all of them, not even a majority of them. C’mon. You have to be ready to admit the complex truth of these situations. This is just the beginning of the complexity of the abortion issue, but do not be ignorant about a topic that is going to determine who you vote for on election day.

Please also do not pretend or claim that you did not have options. If you really detested Hillary or felt so against who she might appoint, or had deep conflict with her political policies, you had others to vote for. And that should have sparked the realization that Trump does not hold your values, either. He is a liar. He would encourage women to get an abortion and is in fact, pro-choice. Thus, that particular reason to reject Hillary is garbage. And I could talk about so many others with that same important questions. But, this is not about him. You had a choice. There were third-party candidates. And there was time and good reason to ask yourself why you were truly rejecting her if it means selling your soul (aka, morality, integrity) over policies. What your vote condones or allows others to do is just as important as whether your chosen candidate “believes” the same way you do about business, immigration, and abortion. And this is what you need to admit and wrestle with openly, as you dismiss the heartbreak and fear of vulnerable groups: Any vote for self-protection is selfish if it results in the abuse and neglect of others. 

What about lives? What about human beings? I thought you said you were pro-life?!

And to my Christian brothers and sisters, we have a higher calling. Are we really being salt and light right now? You cannot read the Bible and tell me that Jesus cared more about rules than about people. That he is somehow going to excuse us because well, we “followed the commandments.” No, you read the book we hold sacred and you see a God who loves the oppressed, who dies for them. He threw politics out the window. You see Jesus walking with those that you won’t even have a conversation with. Human relationships always trumped (ironic) the letter of the law. You see a God who loves and asks us to be the body of Jesus. To give until it hurts, and that means sharing your wealth. To give up your coat. To sacrifice so that others might share in what you have. You see a God who is going to rightfully call out the truth in us, and for us.

And the truth of the matter is that, as proud as you want to be of this country, we should be so ashamed of a number of things. We HAVE TO OWN the whole story. This country is not a white, Christian nation. We used, abused, tortured, and killed so many people groups and need to take full responsibility for that. Do you know who built our railroads?  Have you really strived to understand the enslavement of people because of their skin color? And the ways that still exists?? Do you have any idea what that looked like for human beings that deserve the same rights and freedoms that you have the privilege to carry because you happened to be born with white skin? Do you have any idea how many Native Americans we killed??? YOU SHOULD. This was not our land, and this is still not our land. This is God’s great earth and we are to tend it. We are to use it as a place of generosity, hospitality, and unity. We are not to strive for dominance and wealth, which is everything Trump values. Now, there are values that I am proud of in this country. And I do hold a profound amount of gratitude for what so many of died for. Our freedom, right? But to be proud to be an American can only happen if that freedom is actively being advocated and offered and available to all. My citizen African American brothers and sisters should not have to die for our comfort. For our freedom. For our power.

This is so much bigger than this one election. This is a huge reality check and some of us are completely traumatized by it. And I ache for those with far less security than me. I cannot imagine their valid anger, fear, and outcry. You should respect and honor that. It is sad that I even need to say that. It should be so clear. The pain that fills my eyes and the anger that is driving me to scream out to the Lord has to be a small portion of what Jesus felt when he overturned tables. And I am so flawed. I am guilty as well. But, I think it matters whether we are trying to do something about it or not. And in His great mercy and unfathomable love, Jesus, bleeding for us, somehow looked down at the people and asked God for forgiveness for them, for us, because we do not know what we have done.

Now, the scenarios running through my head of what could happen in this country may be a bit dramatic, but not unreasonable. Yet, I pray they are indeed blown way out of proportion in my imagination. And yet, the greatest pain comes when I really let the reality and fear sink in and realize that, if divided as it seems we are, I’ll be fighting on the opposite side of so many I love. And I won’t really be fighting, but praying. Advocating. Hiding perhaps. But to know that my heart and yours are in such different places is devastating to me. And can I share with you, that as a woman, I am so deeply hurt. It isn’t just the election, but the reality of the results sure dug the knife in deeper and then, twisted it. Women, half of the world, are still seen as less than; how can you handle that? Is that God? Is that what Christians stand for? That somehow women are still devalued, to the point where you would rather vote for a filthy man than to vote for a woman who has worked her butt off. Explain that to me. Tell me that you don’t have sexism ingrained in you as well. Ladies, it flows through us. We have been oppressed and have largely bought into this. I am guilty, and I fight it. It is killing me to sit here now, thinking of my daughter, and knowing that women were saying they would give up their hard-earned right to vote, if that meant Trump could win. Nauseating. Heartbreaking. That people are going to play the bologna email card against Hillary when your supposedly only alternative is a man who will do whatever he wants to, because he is a white male with money. He represents everything that I’m trying not to be or to allow. He is the rapist. He is the abuser. He believes his power gives him the right to determine whose lives matter. And that’s who you voted for? That’s who you want making decisions for your family, your friends, your neighbors? Because you agree with his politics? (that do not exist by the way…he makes them up as he goes, to get your vote). You are willing to check the box by his name because you believe that, even though he is flawed, he might somehow save America? From what exactly will he save it from?

As a way to close, I’m going to talk about those I love. So many faces fill my mind. Stories, memories, human lives. The people and things I’d be willing to lay down my life for. I’m going to share some of my beliefs and my positions, because I believe that I matter as a human being, as a woman. For starters, I am honored by the diverse friends in my life and the way they embody the beauty of humanity. I love my African American, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Mexican, Brazilian, Chilean, Taiwanese, Guatemalan, Ugandan, Ethiopian, and Cuban brothers and sisters, who have taught me so much about what it even means to love. To be human. I will fight with and for you. I care deeply for those who are rejected and ignored or ridiculed. Sexual minorities, those in poverty, with mental illness, those who are outcasted. Not heard and completely devalued so often by ignorant people. And that includes our rural farmers and those who have lost their jobs, their livelihood. That does matter. I’m sad if you somehow heard or perceived that it didn’t. That you didn’t. I also respect those with various religious beliefs, different from my own. I believe in a God of the universe who loves all people, Trump included. Even those we deem our enemies. Those who are destroying others. Somehow God, who when we were/are at our worst, in all of our sin, sent his only child to be brutally beaten and killed. I know that He died completely, and that His death was the victory. The moment you can love your enemy that way, you have already defeated hate, greed, and sin. And then, you have truly loved.

Thus, I have so much work to do over my lifetime. I will continue to strive to balance standing up for justice and loving graciously. Forgiveness–that is my goal. And because He loved me, I will strive to truly love others. To reach out to the sick, poor, needy, widowed, orphaned, oppressed. I will strive to be salt and light, even when that means confronting those I love with their choices as I expect them to do with mine. I will pray for those who have injured me and who have injured others. I will also, however, take a stand and advocate for those who have been put into a position where they do not have a voice that will be heard. I will fight for love and justice. I want to love our country, but I do not believe any country should be dominant. And with great power, comes enormous responsibility. So, if we are striving for true greatness, we will only achieve that by laying down what we think are our achievements. By giving up our power and comfort and our naiveté.

I love my children. My beautiful, strong daughter. I will tear apart any person that seeks to devalue her. I will continue to speak up about the longstanding and persistent gender issues that still embody our church. (So much more to say on that, but another time). I will teach her that she is not valuable because she is or is not beautiful, as subjectively defined by human standards. I will teach her, by example and word, that she is valuable because she is valuable. Because she is. She exists, she is human, and God gave her value. And the same for my young man. My son, who desperately needs role models, I will find those that can speak to him about humility, gentleness, and what true strength means. I will teach him that he does not need power, or wealth, or success, to be worthy of love and acceptance. That his greatest strength comes from his ability and choice to love others.  I’m not sure how I could kiss my children goodnight, quite honestly, if I had voted for someone who cares very little about human beings. That looks at my daughter and son and sees objects. I know many of you who voted for Trump do indeed love your children, and I am not trying to shame you. You made a choice and are probably uncomfortable with it. It’s just that I cannot reconcile the two right now.

I am so angry. But even more so, deeply crushed. Bleeding in pain. Writing has helped move some of the anger so that I can see even more clearly the person I want to be. But, I will not feel guilty for calling out the hatred that exists. I will not feel less Christian for feeling anger and for speaking up about it. Or for creating boundaries around just what I let you say to my children. You will have to answer to them when they ask the questions about who you voted for and why. My daughter woke up saying that she didn’t want to talk to anyone at school today. That she didn’t even want to converse. She, in her gentle and accepting spirit, has no words. I know she hurts so deeply and is trying to hold very complicated and heavy questions. My son stated that he was concerned about WWIII, and expressed that he feared he might die young. Can you hold that with me for a moment? And this is not because we go around bashing Trump or promoting apocalyptic thinking in our house. We have not talked about a war at all. This is because they truly get it. There is a lot at stake here. The country is fighting, divided, and many seem unwilling to offer empathy, to try to understand, and to grow in awareness. And I’m proud of my children for knowing that. For caring about it. For truly grieving and expressing themselves.

It is time for us to ask ourselves who we are. To search our hearts and minds and really be honest with ourselves and one another. I will pray for the church to mourn, to reflect, to come together somehow, and then to rise as the body of Christ, and to answer back with a love that will shake the ground we all walk on.

A 12-year anniversary and a dozen ways in which I have failed my husband.

Marriage is hard work.

Within it exists great power, great opportunity, to bring out the worst and also the best in us.

We are given the rare occasion to offer ourselves to another for a lifetime.

And by offer ourselves, I am talking about the gift we can give that is nothing short of everything we are.

Our past, present, and future.

Our hopes and our fears.

Our dreams, but also our nightmares.

We bring everything to the table and present it to the other.  Nothing stays hidden.

We become completely vulnerable.

Our weaknesses, our vices, our hidden secrets.  They have no hiding place in marriage.

 

Like a very clear mirror that is being held before us.

And we realize there is also a mirror we are holding up to the other.

These mirrors are powerful because they are held by the one to whom we have given our lives.

They reveal everything.

And we may not like what we see.

In our position of vulnerability, we may be terrified by the reflection.

At times, we may even try to distort the mirror we hold for the other because we feel weak.

 

But Truth reveals itself in these mirrors.

With time, we are faced with a complete reflection of everything we are.

This is where hope, Truth, and love can be strongest.

In our weakness and humility, love is that much more powerful.

When we have given our good and our bad, our beauty and our ugliness, we have then given our whole self fully to the other.

And when the other responds with love, our very beings are transformed.

This love is the catalyst for growth, transformation, and a deeper understanding of God.

This love is that which brings meaning to and victory over our strife and our battles.

 

But this love is not something we fall into haphazardly.

It is not simply a feeling we experience.

Love is a verb.

An active and persistent sacrifice.

And there is no such thing as ‘love at first sight.’

There can be attraction and connection at first site, but love, fortunately, is not reduced to this.

Love is much more.  It demands much more. It will not settle for anything less than giving your everything for the good of another….and ultimately, for the glory of God.

 

To love is a choice.  In fact, love is many choices.  It requires a decision to give and to let go.

It is by far the hardest choice to make…and you must make it daily.

But nothing can be so rewarding.

Nothing can compare to this sacrificial and demanding love.

 

12 years.

This year, Adam and I celebrate the fact that God has given us the strength and perseverance to make the choice to love one another for 12 years!

And we have failed one another on many occasions.

Some days, we have made the choice not to love with all that we have.

A dozen ways, each dozens of times, I have failed my husband:

1-I have chosen to not fight fair. When upset, I’ve used my words for low blows and unfair accusations.

2-I have forgotten to listen. I’ve let my anger or selfishness deafen my ears to his sincere words.

3-I have jumped to conclusions before hearing the whole story. Similarly, I have failed to give him the benefit of the doubt and thus questioned his integrity.

4-I have neglected to affirm him.

5-I’ve neglected to take care of myself, which leads to an irritable me.

6-I’ve taken out my pain from others on him, the nearest target.

7-I’ve made snide remarks instead of taking the time to come up with a thoughtful statement to express myself.

8-I’ve used sarcasm instead of gentle honesty.

9-I’ve been short with or yelled at my children when I really needed to converse with my husband.

10-I’ve let things build up and then acted resentful.

11-I’ve let my pain from other men in my past and present distort the mirror I show my husband.

12-I have forgotten to care for and nurture God’s creation, my husband, when I have instead prioritized me or the world above the gift that God has provided.

 

Indeed, I have failed.

Yet I, we, are more than our failures.

We are together and growing because our God is good.

Our God is love.

We have seen the best and the worst of each other, and have overcome many difficult challenges.

But this is only possible because of God’s grace and power in our marriage.

Our Lord has held us when we could not hold each other.

He has been our great marriage Counselor.

 

We continue to strive to be seen in all that we are and do.

There is no rock God leaves unturned and this, in the end, is and will be a blessing.

One thing we can say for certain is that our marriage is one of transparency and perseverance.

We do not hide our struggles and we do not ignore our weaknesses.

Our choice to love each other means loving the whole other.

And as we love, we are transformed more into that which God created us to be.

 

So, when asked how we’ve done it…in response to the comment ‘I don’t know how you guys have done it’, I answer,

We haven’t.

But God has.

With the same power that raised Jesus from the dead,

God is transforming us in our marriage.

And this is a great love that is worth the fight, worth the struggle, worth making the choice.

Sunrise

Ken the Garbage Disposal: Are Women the Only Ones Objectified?

Controversy over Barbie posing in the 2014 Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated is hardly surprising in an age where women (and men) are speaking up against the objectification of females that is present across the world. And let’s be honest: Sports Illustrated has done its share to present women as beautiful, stunning objects for decades. Beginning in 1964, SI has provided pages of barely-dressed females in seductive poses with eyes just longing for someone to take them, to devour them in whatever manner the consumer feels fit. The swimsuit issues have little to do with swimming or any other sport, and much to do with pleasing men by presenting the best side of women: their tanned, smooth, curved, available bodies. Though the magazine offers kudos to the women for their accomplishments and successes, it is the female physique that is most admired and praised.

And this year, the magazine has outdone itself and chosen to flaunt an actual object. Alongside human women will stand the infamous plastic doll that has been accused of contributing to the unrealistic ideals of how a woman should look. Silky hair, big eyes, perfectly-shaped lips, legs for days, and smooth skin. What better representation of the type of woman that belongs in SI than Barbie?

The articles, posts, and tweets that have come forward show the blurriness of the line between the female as a person or an object. It seems we have embraced Barbie as an actual person…one who has goals, careers, feelings, and the new unapologetic attitude that makes Mattel proud. Yes, Barbie gets her place along the other women in the magazine. But her spotlight is earned not because of her resume, but because of her hot body in a swimsuit. No reason to apologize miss, you fit the mold!

Now, let’s be fair. I loved Barbie growing up. I have at least a dozen of her and her friends that I have passed on to my daughter. I remember the days of dressing her, combing her hair, and having her walk gracefully off to various parts of the dollhouse to get on with her happy life. In Barbie’s defense, some have claimed she may be the most feminist doll out there. With over 150 career outfits, her own horse, and that snazzy pink convertible, it could be accurate to say that she has provided some positive contributions in addition to the unrealistic body image she has helped to cement in the hearts and minds of young girls. We would certainly be mistaken to claim that Barbie is the main problem when it comes to the objectification of women. As Charlotte Alter writes, “Barbie may be aiming to be the poster child for female empowerment…let’s not discard her just yet.” She poses unapologetic for who she is and how she looks, and I would agree that she may be the best of the worst when it comes to the pink toy aisle littered with Monster High and Bratz dolls.

However, we often become unapologetic for two reasons. 1) We actually don’t have (or don’t believe we have) a reason to apologize because we meet the criteria for what is acceptable or desired; or 2) We have given up the fight for something and decided ‘if you can’t beat em, join em.’ Barbie, and the actual human beings at Mattel, obviously feel justified that Barbie has joined her objectified counterparts in SI. In fact, Mattel is attempting to spin it so that women feel empowered to strut their stuff regardless of how they look (easy for perfectly shaped plastic to say). Yet, they may be ignorant to the ways in which they’ve joined the game in which the worth of women is decided upon by what they have to show and to what extent they decide to reveal it.

Yet, women may not be the only ones objectified by the relentless media tactics. If Barbie is the object to be consumed, what does that make Ken? And back to the real world in which we are speaking about actual humans…if females are objects for males to behold, to crave, to acquire, then what is the primary task of men?

The expectations we have of men in many areas of life may help answer this question. In general, it seems we expect males to consume. “Real” men can take in the world. They go after what they want and they get it. They’re expected to eat, and eat big. Steaks, burgers, whole pizzas. Men who eat salads or who cannot finish their meal stand out as odd, hardly a manly man by most standards. We also respect men who can hold their liquor. No one applauds a lightweight. And while food and drink are tangible consumptions, if we expand our term we can surely think of other areas in which men are expected to obtain and consume. Men are taught that they are to acquire the best of their worlds in order to truly be a success. A grown man brings in the income, secures the big home, and buys the nice car. While this certainly doesn’t apply to all men and there is often an expectation for men to also be providers, the general message many men seem to receive is that their task is to take it all in. No thinking, no argument, just go out there and get it.

And real men, they get the girls. Not just any girl either. As consumers, their job is to find the best piece of meat. No sloppy seconds! Once they have her, they are expected to enjoy. And at one end of the continuum, to discard when finished and move on to another item on the menu. Women are the objects, men the consumers. The man is not given permission to focus on emotions or intimacy. That would be “weak.” No, he is expected to be a man: swallow any pain or need for genuine attachment, and get the goods. A human garbage disposal. Consume, digest, and cleared out for more.

Ken

And the market benefits. If we can create stunning objects and convince men they are to attain them, we have a fool-proof system to make bank. SI and countless others provide the meat and care little about what that does to those who consume it. No matter that those men feel empty after the disposal system has run its course, we’ll simply keep providing the next meal. A more decadent, tempting meal, that will be sure to satisfy even the more picky and perhaps desensitized men.

Yes, Barbie is expected to present herself as the most desirable object for Ken. Women spend countless amounts of time, effort, and money to shape themselves to be trophies or arm candy for men to choose from. That is their job. And Ken is expected to be the best object as well. No woman wants to be consumed by just anything. She wants a consumer worthy of the task. He should be attractive and nicely-shaped himself, but even more, he should know his role. Which men are sought after? Sensitive men who show human emotion and desire to attach to another human in a vulnerable relationship? Hardly. Women often feel drawn to men who can handle their objects. Males who have that air about them. They seek to acquire and are successful in doing so. And to consume without particular attachment or contentment with what they have. Women often attract to men who are dismissive, able to detach seamlessly. Men who seem to be on the hunt, who thirst for more. Ladies often want to be the one…that one object that finally satisfies the other.

Now, this description is in no way fully accurate for many people. The caveat here, and thankfully there is one, is that many men and women recognize and live in ways that triumph over this mentality. I know many men and women who know the value of being human and who love and respect themselves and others.

However, I believe we are naïve if we go on thinking this does not affect most of us in some way. It’s subtle and subconscious for many of us, yet still very much a part of our psyche. And while I believe women are often more objectified than men (at least explicitly), it’s important to acknowledge that a person who truly feels human and alive does not attach to objects in healthy ways. That is to say, to treat another person as an object, one must in some way also objectify themselves. Genuine relationships require a vulnerability and relatedness that cannot exist between object and human. As Ken consumes, he is also demoralized as a garbage disposal. And this is not because women are garbage, but because they have been degraded into objects or food that leaves them feeling chewed up and disposed of, while Ken is left feeling insatiable and empty.

And it’s a vicious cycle and one that we must all choose to fight. Barbie and Ken belong to one another. Object to object, they can enjoy their lives in dollhouses and plastic cars. The rest of us deserve to embrace each another as human beings with much more to offer than unrealistic proportions and fake, cheesy smiles. My hope is that, as our children grow and play with dolls like Barbie and Ken, the line between object and human will become more clear and they can offer the dolls a taste of what it’s like to be human, instead of the other way around.