I was telling my story to somebody the other day and I got to the various injustices of racism I’ve endured, and he told me, “That doesn’t happen. Not anymore.” I insisted it did, and he counter-insisted, “That’s just something everybody goes through, you’re just injecting race into it.” I tried to tell him about the times someone had physically assaulted me while yelling “ch_nk” or “go_k” or “yellow kid” or “your dad killed my dad in the war,” but he kept telling me, “That’s not that bad.”
So I excused myself from the conversation. I felt a bit humiliated, honestly. This was a guy I really trusted, who I was sure would understand. He was absolutely adamant he was right.
I’ve seen this sort of thing with mental health, sexual abuse, family upbringing, classism, gender, religion—you try to tell your story, and a wall comes up. You get the reply, “It’s never happened to me, therefore it never happens.” And you start to wonder: Am I the crazy one? Is it just in my head? Am I overreacting and too sensitive, like they’re saying?
But then I’ve found those who heard me. Who listened. Who weren’t just treating me like a sad pity project or asking out of voyeuristic curiosity. I’ve found safe people who may not have gone through the same thing, but they can literally become the other. They pause to believe.
I’ve also found those who have walked in the same shoes and skin. Sometimes they thought they were walking alone, against insurmountable forces with no community and zero support—until they heard someone say a similar story and they knew they weren’t crazy. That gives me enough courage to keep speaking, to keep sharing. It’s in the telling of our stories we find healing, and each other. You may be lonely for a while, but you are not alone.
I wonder how they could yell Barabbas instead of Jesus.
I wonder how they sang “Hosanna” and days later, “Crucify him.”
I wonder how Pontius could wash his hands of it, as though a dirty conscience could be so easily cleaned.
But – I am Barabbas, sinner set free.
I yell “Crucify him” as I sing praises with ease.
I am Pontius, who turned a blind eye to glory.
And yet, so Christ still died for me.
Still he died, where I should be,
a perfect love on that tree.
Everyone has a vision for your life. Everyone knows who you ought to be. Everyone has advice, the right answer, the easy fix.
But no one can bear the burden of those expectations. You can’t be enough all the time, not even for yourself.
You will disappoint people. You will disappoint you. It happens. It hurts. And that’s how it goes. The eventualities of life have a way of creeping in, regardless of best efforts and right motives.
You will get crushed by the weight of others’ plans. But you’re not obligated to respond to everyone’s criticism all the time. There’s no pleasing everyone. Some will have already made up their mind about you, no matter how much you sing and dance. Your side of the story won’t always be heard. Your intentions will be negatively filtered and your words shot down at first glance. That’s okay. Criticism is important, but you can’t speak on what you didn’t say. You can only mean what you did say, and mean it well.
Be encouraged, friends. You are doing a good thing. A new thing. By the grace of God we do our best and get up again.
I imagine that when Moses split the Red Sea, there were two groups of people.
The first group was composed of victorious triumphant warriors saying, “In your face, Egyptians! This is our God!” They were pumping their fists and thrusting their spears.
The second group was composed of doubtful, panicking screamers running full speed through whales and plankton.
I’m a Screamer. I’m a cynic. I’m a critic.
I’m a Peter, who can make a good start off the boat, but falls in the water when my eyes wander.
I’m not endorsing a halfway lukewarm faith. I believe God wants us to have a robust, vibrant, thriving relationship with Him. But as for me, I’ll be limping to the finish-line.
I’m more of a Thomas than a Paul. I’m more Martha than Mary. I’m more David than Daniel.
Yet the Warriors and Screamers all made it through.
It’s not easy to have faith the size of a mustard seed. But Jesus promised that this would be enough to move mountains, and I’m learning to be okay with that.
God, forgive me for when I lack empathy,
when I jump to making talking points out of tragedy,
when I forget the pain of community and family,
when my voice is louder than theirs.
Note to future self:
When you don’t get it right —
Apologize quickly and let go.
Don’t beat yourself up or defend yourself too long.
Humans are squishy with small brains. We don’t get it right every time. And that’s okay. Being wrong is not the end of the world.
Don’t settle for less.
Don’t sell yourself short.
Don’t be rushed into a feeling, a decision, an opinion.
Don’t let anyone talk you down.
Drop the mic often.
Prioritize, for our time on earth is short.
Think for yourself.
Find your vision. Listen.
Do not hide tears; they’re yours.
Trust God. Take heart. Keep passion.
Fight the good fight, fellow traveler.
Words we need to give and receive.
A little typewriter therapy:
I’ve heard this too many times.
“You will never be enough. You will never be okay. You will never be successful. You will never be happy. You will never be picked. You will never be loved. You will never be forgiven. You will never be trusted. You will never be friends again. You will never be at peace again. You will never be at home again. You will never be better.”
I know it’s a lie most of the time. But in the moment, in the worst of every downward spiral, there comes the voice that says “never.” It’s an irretrievable vacuum, like the lights are shutting off behind me and I’m getting chased by darkness. Getting nevered is to be exiled.
I had a math tutor in fourth grade who used to shout at me. “You will never be smart enough for this.” He made me write the Pythagorean theorem hundreds of times, until my hand was swollen, though I wasn’t sure how it was helping. For months, this tutor kept yelling how stupid I was. My parents never found out. I still think about this all the time.
I have had to grieve when “never” became true. Sometimes “never” does happen. Loss happens. All change involves loss. All loss is change. I have had to welcome “never” with a bitter embrace. I don’t like it. I still don’t.
I think there are times I must refuse to believe “never.” I have to know when to pick those battles. I have to fight that voice.
Are you dealing with this, too? What does it look like? Sound like? How do you get free? How do you fight this voice?
In Heaven, there will only be one person with scars. You’ll have none because he will have taken yours.
Real love doesn’t meet you at your best.
It meets you in your mess.
[Art from Judith Bernice]
If you’re breathing, you matter, because you matter to the One who gave you breath.
Art by worshipgifs
Love doesn’t keep a score. It wipes the record clean each day. It says good morning today and goodbye to yesterday.
Art by jeannedarvin
God is in the business of breathing life into hurting places.
Art by Nikolette Montaño
I hope we have eyes to see that God is doing something we cannot see. This takes discipline, but we have help. God has a vision far greater than my sight. He has an imagination that infinitely outweighs mine. We think a person is an impossible case: but God is in the business of the impossible. After all, He saved you and me.
Art from thehopeletter
Jesus welcomes doubts, questions, confusion, frustration, venting, and disbelief. He welcomes those who draw near and say, “I feel so far.”
If you haven’t talked to him in a while, he will not bite your head off.
His arms are always open. Jesus can handle your clenching of the teeth and shaking of the fist. What he does not want is for you to stay there.
Art from worshipgifs
You’re doing better than you think. You’re in the middle of your motion, so it’s hard to see where you are. But so long as you’ve been taking one heavy step forward after another, no matter how awkward your stumbling, then this is worth celebrating. Every moment you’ve done right is a miracle in itself.
Art by here_as_in_heaven
I am with you.
I am for you.
I am sorry.
I love you.
I want to help.
[Art from Nikolette Montaño]
Real love doesn’t meet you at your best.
It meets you in your mess.
Art by 1of1doodles
The fear of moving forward is often obliterated by moving forward. Do it scared.
Art by Pam Carbungco