27 February 2013

Mrs. Jesus

I've never read The Da Vinci Code. But today, the biology professor I have come to greatly admire handed me an article from TIME titled "Did Jesus have a Wife? A new fragment may provide fresh clues" (Meacham, 2012). [Note: The full text is not officially available online without a subscription, but you can read the beginning here, and the full text can be found by using Google. I actually read a photocopy of the original.]

While I consider myself moderately conservative (religiously, not politically), I try to keep an open mind about Christianity, the Bible, and science. I read the article with skeptical curiosity, but in the middle of the article I remembered something I'd read in an ethics textbook yesterday:

Dogmatists tend to disagree about the actual issues--which would be amusing if it were not so common, since the whole point is supposed to be that the Truth is so simple and obvious that it needs only mentioning to be instantly decisive. Dogmatists do agree, though, that careful and open-ended thinking about moral issues is not necessary. After all, if you already know the answer, there is no need to actually think about it, is there? If you need to argue for your position, you admit that it needs defending, which is to say that people can legitimately have doubts. But that cannot be true; you already know that your position is the only right one. Therefore, any reasoned argument for your position is unnecessary. And any reasoned argument against your position is obviously absurd. So why listen? (Weston, 2011, p. 7-8)

I really don't want to be a dogmatist. That's just not on the list of future aspirations or even current desires. So I stopped reading and tried to look at it from another point of view. I asked myself, "Even if Jesus had been married, how would that change my beliefs, my faith?" Maybe it's something I'll have to process, but when the Bio professor and I discussed it, my first instinct is that it wouldn't change anything at all about my faith. Even if the Bible doesn't mention Jesus' wife, does that necessarily mean he didn't have one? Would Jesus not be just as fully God and fully man if he were married? In some ways, wouldn't that make him perhaps more able to sympathize with us as humans?

Let me clarify. I am not saying I believe Jesus was married. I haven't studied the topic enough and have not read enough evidence to support the theory. But when I think of how adamant conservative Christians are that he was absolutely not married, I have to wonder why? What about that theory is so infuriating? So disturbing? So sacrilegious?

I'll be honest. I'm glad I don't live in a day and age in which heresy means being burned at the stake or otherwise executed. When I think of other religions that are not so tolerant (or our own a few hundred years ago) of professed believers expressing different ideas or doubts, I breathe a sigh of relief. Literally. It's nice to live in a time and place in which we can bounce ideas around and discuss them openly.

So was Jesus married or not? I have no idea. Does it matter? Something to chew on.

References

Meacham, J. (2012, October 1). Did Jesus have a wife? A new fragment may provide fresh clues. TIME.

Weston, A. (2011). A practical companion to ethics (4th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

26 February 2013

Survivor in the hands of a gracious God

It's been just over ten years since I last really contemplated suicide.  

It was January 2003, and a friend of mine had just ended the weird relationship we had. I'm sure now it was the brave and right thing to do, to save us from the pit of codependency into which we'd fallen. His timing was terrible (the night before spring semester started), but it was the right thing. 

But I took it pretty hard. So hard that  my sister literally drove after me in the middle of the night to make sure I would be OK. So hard that my parents ended their trip to another part of the U.S. and returned to Wheaton to make sure I was coping. I wasn't coping. I hit rock-bottom. The only thing--or so I tell myself now--that kept me from turning on the gas and going to sleep during those weeks when I had the house to myself was that the home was a duplex, and I was worried about the people next door. My roommate that year was a gift from God. She would turn on U2's "Grace" and just let me cry. We'd listen to it on repeat until I finally fell asleep. 

I did pull through, obviously, after a special sunrise in Michigan while listening to K-Love, followed by four months of weekly counseling and meeting biweekly with a senior psychology major. ("I'm not a peer counselor," she'd say, but really she was.) Things did get better. Life got brighter. And over several months, I was finally able to see him again in social situations and not spiral into pain. 

Ten years. 

It wasn't the first time I'd had suicidal thoughts. I was only 11 when I first thought about suicide. We had moved back to the U.S. in the middle of my sixth grade year. I was starting a new school in urban Los Angeles. I had gone from a middle school of about 110 to one of 1700. I showed up wearing the wrong clothes. My cute lunch bag that my mom had gotten me was stolen the first week I used it (with my lunch in it). I said the wrong things in class and got funny looks. I went the whole first three weeks or so in Language Arts writing in a journal every morning without realizing there were prompts on the board (behind me, of course). I was lonely, ostracized, out-of-place. And the worst of it was that my older brother and sister had gone back to Nigeria without me so that my sister could finish up her senior year of high school. I resented their being there in my world without me, and even though I fought with them like cats and dogs when we were together, I missed them terribly when we were apart. Even church activities did little to boost my spirits. The youth minister, Mike, was young and lively and forced me to play all the active games--games my sister had adored when she was in the same youth group but that I detested. I dreaded youth group many weeks; all I wanted to do was sit on the bench and watch the games, but Mike would drag me onto the field and make me play. 

My mom tried to hard to help me that semester. To be fair, she and Dad were overwhelmed with a lot of other things going on, like my dad's cancer treatment and my siblings' being 7000 miles away during a very important part of my sister's life. Mom did her best to cheer me up. She was always there when I needed her. She made me cookies and amazing lunches with sweet notes. She baked me a Cat Who birthday cake for my 12th birthday. I remember walking to Jack-in-the-Box after school on a minimum day. And we did have a few foster babies that spring, too, which helped. But there were certain points when I wondered what would be the most efficient way to die. Pills? Getting run over? 

It was a pretty awful time. 

But that, too, got better. I did eventually make one friend toward the end of sixth grade who helped me get through the first part of seventh grade before we went back to Nigeria the next January. And youth group got a little better. The best part was that my brother came back from Nigeria in the summer and stayed until we all went back home in January. We bonded in our loneliness and together fell in love with Star Trek: The Next Generation (and later Star Trek: Voygaer). We'd watch Get Smart on Nick at Night. We went to see Star Trek: Generations in the theater together.  

There were also two ladies from church who would invite me to do sundry fun activities--shopping at the mall, walking on the beach, visiting a bookstore (one of my favorites!), and of course playing Hell Fudge. I don't think I would have pulled through that year without Irene and Geri (may she rest in peace) 

But I did pull through. 

And once in high school I thought about throwing myself in the midst of traffic outside our school when I had particularly low self-esteem. Between a friend insinuating that I was fat (which--looking back--he didn't actually do; it's all about perception) and a few neighbor girls saying my face looked like a pizza, I just wanted it to end. That didn't last long, though, and everything was once again peachy. Or at least as peachy as the average life is for a 14-year-old girl. 

I often think, though, about these times. I still occasionally feel the pain of the loneliness, the ridicule, the rejection.  

I got a prayer chain notice recently about a family whose 12-year-old daughter had committed suicide and was found by her older sister. While I prayed, a flood of emotion overcame me. I was so, so blessed to have a loving, attentive family and caring people around me to get me through my crises. God saved me from myself. I don't know why sometimes, but He did, and I'm glad. My heart aches for the families  of those who gave in, who surrendered to the darkness. And I grieve for those who are struggling daily just to keep from giving in, usually in silence and alone (at least, in their minds). 

Now that I have two children, I can't afford to think of suicide. Sure, some days are low days, others are really, really low days, but I would guess that at least 80% of my days are bright. Tiring and stressful, sure, but not hopeless days of despair. I only wish I could somehow reach out to those who are walking in darkness, to let them know that they are not alone, that they are beautiful, that life is worth fighting for, that it does get better. To listen and understand because I've been there.

I'm a survivor, but only by the grace of God.

The bug

I'm a Third-Culture Kid (TCK), so I have the bug. 

The travel bug, that is. 

Every once in awhile, it itches real bad. (Hear me in a Southern accent here.) 

Once I got my driver's license when I was 20, I started driving all over the place. Because I'm a TCK, I have friends who live in all parts of the country (and other countries, but I haven't gotten there yet). I drove to Michigan a lot, drove down to Texas a few times, drove to the East Coast at least twice, made it down to Georgia once, drove down to New Mexico for a wedding, and finally ended my college days by driving all the way to California. 

I like driving. And I like seeing other places. In October 2004, I drove all the way up to the Northeast just to visit the states that I hadn't visited yet. I did, of course, see friends along the way, and I'm not sure I would have gone without friends to see. But the official point of the trip was to see the fall colors and to nail my off-states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. 

I love driving. 

I used to love flying, too, until I got a sinus condition that makes flying pure hell about half the time. I miss flying. But then, flying with 2 children has little appeal anyway. I think I'd like to try taking the train one of these days. Of course, wouldn't you know that there are no train routes across Georgia and Alabama? I would have to go all the way north to Washington, DC, to catch a westbound train. Pretty funny. So maybe we'll just take the train up to Washington, DC and stay there to see my sister's family. Not a plan, just a dream. 

Because I have the travel bug. I have lived in southeast Georgia for over two years. In those two years I've only made two trips of more than 250 miles. I think I am going to go crazy. If my aunt, uncle, and cousins didn't live somewhat locally, I think I would have already lost my mind. 

So maybe this summer I will escape, if only for a few days, to a destination north of the Mason-Dixon Line or west of the Mississippi. 

Here's hoping.