Community: You Keep Using that Word


Is community a game of risk?
As you might know, I’m working on a book. Rather, we’re working on a book. (We as in two of us, together.) Just Hear Me Out: Conversations in the Generation Gap. And you can find out all about it here. (We have a fun video!)

It is, as the name implies, a conversation. About church, faith, leadership, and all the messy bits in between that cause generations to argue and be general turkeys rather than work together. About what we value, envision, and fear as different generations. One of those recurrent themes is community.

Conveniently, community is also my blog theme for October. So today, I thought we’d run with an excerpt from the book.

Community—You keep using that word.


Emily (the Millennial):What do we value in church? Community, first-off. We want to be accepted as we are, which can be good and bad. Everyone wants a community they can belong to, though. We just need to make it clear that this is a community that goes both ways, and that while we accept everyone, we also push everyone to look at issues in their lives.

Or full of loaded questions?

Jill (The Baby Boomer): Community may be your new buzzword. Yet almost all the Boomers we talked to for this book also cited community as an important value in church. Everyone wants that family feeling. But if you’re not feeling it, either we’re doing it wrong, or we don’t mean the same thing by that word. One difference is that when we Boomers talk about loyalty to a church body, we are also talking community. The two are not separable to us. The church we are inisour community. It’s the same word you use—but it means something subtly different.


Emily:Like what?

Cheers for Friends


Jill:Companionship, social events, comfort, friendship, welcome. These are all mentioned as important church considerations to the Boomer generation. Basically, I think we all hope to find our best friend at church. We all hope to fit in there and find people we can be like, talk to easily, and rely on in times of need.

We still operate under smaller circles of interaction than you do. Yes, we are on Facebook, but we don’t really have the global “families” that you do. Ours are closer to home. We still look to our nearest outlets for friends and companionship. The family comes first. Work is often second. Somewhere in there, the church is a consideration, especially if the family doesn’t work out the way we had hoped. And when we go there, we seek an atmosphere like that iconic TV show of the 80’s, Cheers—a place where everybody knows your name.

Your generation found the same thing in Friends. The difference was, in Cheers, they still went home to family in the end. In Friends, those people were the family. A not so subtle shift.

Does just trying feel like a trivial pursuit?

Emily: The concept behind Friends is independence and community outside of immediate family–a building of a chosen family. It’s odd that the show is called Friends, then, instead of family. Perhaps it’s because all of the main characters have messed up relationships with their actual family, and so the Central Perk regulars decide to hold Friendship up to a higher standard than their memories with Family.


Jill: But knowing one another’s name isn’t the same as knowing them. Most Boomers, like Millennials, say that they yearn for a place to be real, to tell the truth and be accepted with their messy lives. But again, you aren’t getting that vibe from us. Truth is, I don’t either, so something is clearly more important to Boomers than the genuineness we claim to want as much as you do.

Safety versus Authenticity


And something is. We value safety. We value looking good and presenting a stoic front over being vulnerable. Where you find it safe to be among peers telling true tales, we find it safe to pull in privately and keep our stories to ourselves. That’s changing, between pressure from our kids (you guys) and simply being sick and tired of the whole false front game.

Or maybe we just don’t have a clue.
In a larger worldview, where your response to a frightening, unpredictable world is to say “What the heck, let’s go kayak a waterfall, it’s all the same,” ours was to wall ourselves off and play Risk with our lives, strategizing political and social moves to protect our territory (while preferably expanding it). So those values of authenticity and community? We like the sound of them, but we want to define the terms.

Emily: As a Risk enthusiast, may I just say this is game usually ends in multiple people upset and one winner lording it over everyone else. Until the next game. When everyone gangs up on the last winner and distrusts any alliances formed.

Jill: Community and authenticity. Two hallmark values of your generation. Two words we want to love but pull back from. Where are we going to come together, then, in faith and doing church if we can’t agree on the definition of these terms?

And bonus–our favorite community-inducing
board game. You’ll get to know each other.
Fast.

Spoilers? No, we are not going to give them to you. What do you think the answers to that question are? I would love your input, your definitions, your experiences with community and faith.  

And . . . If you’d like to be part of the ongoing research/launch/fun team for the project, find me on facebook and talk to me.

Screaming Comets, Hot Messes, and Grace


I have been blessed for the last several months to be a part of the launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards (available here on Amazon).
But guys, the wild unpredictable can be gorgeous.


This is the final installment of my series taking chapters of the book that spoke to my work and discussing them. Thus far,we’ve covered crazy self-imposed expectations of parenting, responding to the millennial generation, and allowing the gospel of Jesus to be what He said it was.

This week: grace. That’s it. Just grace. The topic of my seminary thesis, so you know, it is just a tad important to me. However, that thesis was written twenty years ago, and you know what? I had no idea what the word meant.

Oh, theologically, sure. We were told to choose one word that defined what we believed and described God and the gospel, or something like that. I chose grace. Somehow, I knew it would be a very important word for me. Or God knew. But really? I hadn’t a clue.

More life had to be lived before I would have any idea what grace meant. Far more hurt had to be experienced, far more gratitude realized, and far more pride peeled away before I could even get a start on a kindergarten comprehension of that word.

See, I was a high school debater. I was also high school valedictorian. You know what all that means, in addition to being facts I can trot out to impress approximately no one at this point? I specialized in persuasion. I knew how to argue, I knew how to research, and I knew how to get it right. When I became a Christian, I took those skills with me into the brave new world of belief.

I soon discovered they could be used as weapons.

I believed in grace, but it was mostly grace for those who had already repented. My concept of grace looked more like forgiveness for those who already had figured out how to get it right.

Now, I understand the truth of what Jen says about that line of thinking.

“We tend to formulize the mysterious, opting for a more manageable gospel than the wild, unpredictable one we have. We’d like one with clearer edges and better boundaries, because who can fathom a Savior born in a barn who washed the feet of His followers before dying for people who hated Him?

It is no wonder humanity has long preferred legalism, which involves much cleaner territory. Give me a rule any day. Give me a clear “in” and “out” because boundaries make me feel safe. If I can clearly mark the borders, then I am assured of my insider status—the position I feel compelled to defend, the one thing I can be sure of. I want to stand before God having gotten it right. Doctrine is tidier terrain than flesh and blood.”


I wanted life, and grace, to be manageable. It wasn’t until life got so unmanageable for me, beyond the capabilities of my valedictorian credentials, that grace screamed in, stunning and electrifying, like a comet with a star-streamed tail across my dark sky. Disorienting like that, too.

The God who spoke from a flaming bush and pushed his way into a cattle stall swaddled in blood and fluid never offered us clean lines. He brazenly led the way to coloring outside the clean lines when he dined with prostitutes and called tax collectors out of treetops.

God led us into the wild terrain of unmitigated, incomprehensible grace. And sometimes, we don’t like it.  .It messes with our clean lines. It defies our borders. It threatens our safe standing.

Grace forces us to stare at the depths of our own capacity for sin. Honestly, I’d far rather stare at the depths of someone else’s.

Looking at our own forces us to look at those others differently, as folks just like us. The place this is the most difficult, sometimes, is right in the chair next to us on a Sunday morning. Because if anyone should have it right by now, it should be those other church people, right?

Wrong.

Church can sometimes be like this, right? And this is FUN.

“Church people are regular old sinners too. If I could fix this, I would. As it turns out, the church isn’t a gathering of shiny new pennies. It lets anyone in the door! All sorts of hooligans fill the sanctuaries: kind and good ones, angry and cynical ones, mean and judgmental ones, smart and funny ones, broken and sad ones, weird and awkward ones, precious and loving ones, scared and wounded ones, brave and passionate ones, insiders and outliers, newbies and lifers and trying-one-more-timers. Just a whole bunch of human people. Every church has all these folks. It is just the hottest mess, but clearly you belong here because everyone does.”


Grace. A church throwing open its doors and admitting to the world that it is what it is. Not a bunch of people who have it all right and are waiting for the world outside to realize it. A bunch of people who, like the Israelites of old, have gotten it wrong time and again but who still show up, still try, still ask God to take them just one step closer to what He wants them to be. People who do not cover up their awkwardness to welcome the awkward into their world.

We don’t see it often. But when we do, we recognize it immediately. It’s grace.

“The breadth of God’s family is mercifully wide. Grace has no discernment, apparently. Jesus created a motley crew, plucking us from every context and inaugurating a piecemeal clan that has only ever functioned with mercy. We should be grabbing hands, throwing our heads back, and laughing that God saved us all, because surely this is the messiest family ever and He loves us anyway. Our shared redemption should keep us grateful and kind, because what other response even makes sense?”



That last line. That’s grace. 

A favorite quote from another great book.


Are We Muzzling the Next Generation?

(further commentary on Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love)


I have been blessed beyond expectations for the last several months to be a part of the launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards (available now on Amazon).
For the next few weeks, I’ll be taking chapters of the book that meant a lot to me and discussing them. Please, chime in.

Given my current book writing project (and it is very exciting!), it should not be a surprise that Jen Hatmaker’s chapter “Jesus Kids” both broke my heart and validated everything I know about raising the next generation to be followers of Jesus.

Not followers of me. Or a political party. Or a church. Or a code of behavior.

Of Jesus.

It makes a huge difference.

Seventy-five percent of our younger generation is leaving the church, and the worst part? Some people seem almost glad about it. Their us-them outlook on following God allows many folks to say good-bye to the backside of anyone who criticizes the church with self-assured conviction that theirs is the high ground of defending the faith. (See her chapter “Dear Christians, Please Stop Being Crappy.” Just the title . . . yep.)

But isn’t it about time we stopped wringing our hands over how unhappy being criticized makes us feel and started being more unhappy about losing an entire generation for the kingdom of God? Isn’t it time we stopped building our own little kingdoms and looked around at the havoc defending those personal fiefdoms is truly causing? Do I want to stand up for His kingdom or mine? The former may not look like what I think it looks like. It may not even look like what I want it to look like. But it will be His.

Jen mentions a great first step.


First, pay attention to the grievances. This is no time to defend our perspectives and dig in our heels. We have to raise the kids we have, not the kids we were. Young adults are abandoning church, so we can either listen carefully or watch their backs as they go. We cannot be more committed to our methods than our message. Do we want to raise disciples? Then pay equal attention to what isn’t working as much as what is.”


She pounds out a message you’ll hear continually on this blog. A message central to the book I’m working on.

Listen.

Just. Shut. Up. And listen.

And realize that we have churned out a generation who knows what movies are OK, what books will send them straight to the devil, what clothes are not God-approved, and what groups of people are untouchable.

But they have no clue why any of this matters.

They know Jesus loves them and wants them to be good. But they do not know Jesus. They don’t know what the width of their shoulder straps has to do with the gospel. They see this kind of gospel as lacking anything of substance for meaningful life.

And they are right. I can’t say how much I love her take on this:

Are we arrogant and judgmental? Do we subtly (or overtly) teach our children to suspect anyone ‘other’? Do we put mainly defensive spiritual tools in our kids’ hands, fostering an ‘against them’ rather than ‘for them’ posture? Do we emphasize behavior over character? Because good behavior won’t guarantee anything. If they don’t love Jesus and people, it matters zero if they remain virgins and don’t say the F-word. We must shepherd their hearts, not just their hemlines.



Shepherd their hearts. To do that, we need to know their hearts. We need to hear them. We need to just stop talking long enough to listen to the heartbeat that informs their life and gives them passion. Then shepherd them into using that passion for the Kingdom. But it can’t be done if we care more about setting them straight than showing them Jesus.

I so want to hear the heartbeat of the next generation. I want to see them unleashed to do what God has put into their hearts to do. I do not want to hold them back, even as I do want to make sure they are equipped with all the truth they need to pass on in their turn.

This book has great insight into how we do that. 


If you want more information on our own writing project on this theme, visit here

To order Jen’s fantastic book, available today–click here. You will not be sorry.

Are you interested in a book club discussion of her book? Comment below!


For the Love of Five Great Quotes


As I mentioned in Monday’s blog, I’ve been blessed to be a part of the launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, (officially releasing next week!). It has been a ride I won’t forget for a book that should be on everyone’s bookshelf and heart. This Friday, we are linking up to share our favorite five quotes from the book. Let me tell you, this was tough. Five? Five???? I have, like, five hundred. But here we are. I whittled it down. Here is a quick taste of why I love her words.






“If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true. 
Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere. This helps untangle us from the American God Narrative and sets God free to be God instead of the My-God-in-a-Pocket I carried for so long. It lends restraint when declaring what God does or does not think, because sometimes my portrayal of God’s ways sounds suspiciously like the American Dream and I had better check myself. Because of the Haitian single mom. Maybe I should speak less for God.” 


This one has gone into a sermon already. And will again. Amen, sister. Soooo amen.





“May I suggest a starting place as truth receivers? It is okay for someone else to struggle. Furthermore, it is okay to not fix it/solve it/answer it/discredit it. Another believer can experience tension, say something true that makes people uncomfortable, and God will not fall off His throne. It is not our responsibility to fix every mess. If someone steps onto the scary ledge of truth, it is enough to acknowledge her courage and make this promise: I am here with you as your friend, not your Savior
We are not good gods over one another; we are better humans beside each other.”




“Are we arrogant and judgmental? Do we subtly (or overtly) teach our children to suspect anyone “other”? Do we put mainly defensive spiritual tools in our kids’ hands, fostering an “against them” rather than “for them” posture? Do we emphasize behavior over character? Because good behavior won’t guarantee anything. If they don’t love Jesus and people, it matters zero if they remain virgins and don’t say the F-word. 
We must shepherd their hearts, not just their hemlines. 
The best we can do is give them Jesus. Not rules, not behaviors, not entertainment, not shame. I have no confidence in myself but every confidence in Jesus.”

“You’ll never regret parting with grace, but you might deeply regret burning a bridge that might one day be safe to venture back over again.”


“The breadth of God’s family is mercifully wide. Grace has no discernment, apparently. Jesus created a motley crew, plucking us from every context and inaugurating a piecemeal clan that has only ever functioned with mercy. We should be grabbing hands, throwing our heads back, and laughing that God saved us all, because surely this is the messiest family ever and He loves us anyway. 
Our shared redemption should keep us grateful and kind, because what other response even makes sense?”



Is this enough to make you preorder the book? Take a look on Amazon? Well, you can right here. Be back Monday with more.

I Am Not Mrs. Havisham

My oldest daughter and I spent a couple hours every week last spring doing something that could be considered strange. We came to our church building and organized. We put things in plastic boxes (I have a bit of a plastic box obsession), labeled them, tossed junk, and generally created some order in a place where, just like home, things had been randomly torpedoed anywhere and everywhere after use. 

Why strange? Because we knew there was at least a 50/50 shot that we were going to be leaving the building and becoming a mobil church. It seemed to make little sense to organize a moving target.
What was the point if we’re going to pack up and leave? Why make sense of the place we’re in if it’s not our place to stay? I’ve made peace with it, theologically. It’s because of something I heard preached not long ago, and something that swirls around in my head often.
This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem:“Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away!And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29.4-7)

Consider wherever you are home. That it is not permanent is no reason not to unpack.

I listened to this Switchfoot song not long ago, and I pondered this idea of unpacking.
Until I die I’ll sing these songs

On the shores of Babylon

Still looking for a home

In a world where I belong


Where the weak are finally strong
Where the righteous right the wrongs
Still looking for a home
In a world where I belong.

The “Not Yet” is out there. But right now,
I’ll get my feet wet.

We live in a tension between the now and the not yet. Now is what we see and feel and know. Not yet is the world God has promised, the reconciliation of all things broken by the Fall, the regeneration of a Garden that held all perfection. Jesus awakened us to this promise, also promising that the Kingdom was here now, seeable and knowable, but not complete. It is not yet, but yet it is.

We cannot grasp this paradox.
But still, we must live in it. And we must not live as those who refuse to unpack and organize. With Jeremiah and his kin, we have to learn to put down our roots, plant our crops, and seek the welfare of our world. In a manner only God can orchestrate, perhaps that is precisely the way the Kingdom will show itself in the now.
I tried not to unpack when we moved to Chicagoland. The plan was to be here for a year and then to move on. To just about anywhere else. I hated it, and I intended to follow through on that plan.
Should I mention now that we’ve been here almost twenty years? It’s not where I want to be forever, but can you imagine if I was still living unpacked? Can you picture the strangeness if I had decided not to leave my house, not to make friends, not to become attached to anything because I was leaving soon? I read about Mrs. Havisham in 9th grade. (Great Expectations, Charles Dickens. Sorry if you didn’t have the pleasure/torture.) I do not want that level of weird.
Yet that is what so many Christians do. This world is not our home. In fact, this world is a downright scary place out to get us. At least, that’s the narrative playing on many an evangelical playlist. We circle the wagons and pull in, fearing the city we live in rather than seeking its welfare. We grow cobwebs around our souls Mrs. Havisham would envy.
But what if going into the city (town, farmland, foreign country, fill in the blank) around us is the only way God ever planned for His Kingdom to come here and now? What if we are Plan A, and there is no Plan B?  .And what if we sit in our homes (churches) protecting ourselves, waiting for the signal that it’s time to go, and that kingdom is still crying to be realized? What if we’re missing a LOT of chances to see His power displayed here and now because we’re so afraid to go out in its strength and see what happens?

Seek the welfare of the city you are in. 

That means learning about it. Finding out who lives there, what they dream of, what they need, how they think. Seeking welfare implies finding the brokenness around us and joining people to heal it.  .It is people who go out their doors to do what Jesus did—heal, feed, teach, forgive, love.

I want to be able to say I unpacked. I stayed. I did all I could to organize and make sense of the place I was put in so that others could find what they needed. I made it my home and made my home a better place. Not because I don’t know there is something better coming. Rather, because I do. I know about that place where the righteous right the wrongs. I know how unspeakably beautiful it will be. Well, I don’t know. I can’t know. But I can imagine.
While we will always live in the God-given tension of longing for home, we are also already there. I don’t understand this. But I know what to do when I’m at home. I unpack and get to work.

My Favorite RHE Book–Searching for Sunday

 
_Wrapped now in flesh, the God who once hovered over the waters was plunged beneath them at the hands of a wild-eyed wilderness preacher._
She got me at the beginning with the sheer beauty of that sentence and never let go.
I had the privilege and blessing to be on the launch team for two of Rachel Held Evans’ books. The one with the quote above, Searching for Sunday, grabbed me all the way through with it’s honest appraisal and experience of church in all its beauty and warts. Rachel’s language, a mixture of word-smithing poetry and flat-out sarcasm, resonated with me just a little bit.
My author page is riddled with quotes from her.
I cannot process that I will not be on another launch team, and that we will not hear any more of her wise words, both the beautiful and the sarcastic ones. When in future days people discuss her work, if I am asked which of her books meant the most to me, I will say this one I reviewed as a launch team member. If you want to read those words yourself, I’d advise starting here. Here is the review I wrote then.
Screen Shot 2019-05-04 at 5.31.27 PM
Rachel Held Evans, in her book Searching for Sunday, calls the church to regain its sacredness, passion, and yes, even its weirdness. As an evangelical who dearly loves my tradition and (usually) its people but has her eyes wide open to its harmful aspects, I breathed this book in. I live her frustrations and her passions about the church.
I don’t always agree with Ms. Evans. But I always love her humor, her willingness to “go there” on tough issues, and her heart for God. This book is no exception.
This book is above all a call to listen to, respect, forgive, and love beyond all of our abilities and even preferences for the greater reason that there is a Kingdom at stake, and we are spending too much of our time arguing over who should be in it and far too little making it look like Jesus.
We spend a lot of energy, time, and research in pinpointing why younger generations are leaving the evangelical church. I know I do. It’s a topic dear to me as the mother of three in that generation and a former high school teacher with an unaccountable enjoyment of young adults. It’s also the topic of much of my writing (see the banner above) and my doctoral thesis.
Yet the church tends to get defensive whenever someone actually tells them the truth about they ‘whys’ we wring our hands over.
Ms. Evans tells the truth. Her voice speaks for thousands who are feeling the same doubts, concerns, and fears but who simply leave without voicing them. Of course, “simply” is a poor word choice, because that decision is often anguished, never simple.
An excerpt of that truth in her own words:
We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind, without wearing a mask.
“I was recently asked to explain to three thousand evangelical youth workers gathered together for a conference in Nashville, Tennessee, why millennials like me are leaving the church.
I told them we’re tired of the culture wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled with party politics and power. Millennials want to be known for what we’re for, I said, not just what we’re against. We don’t want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff—biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation, and social justice—but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind, without wearing a mask.
Millennials aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity, I said. We’re looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, we’re looking for Jesus—the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places he’s always been found: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these.”
To flesh this out, she discerns our sacred need through themes such as baptism, communion, confession, and marriage. In each section, she poetically, theologically, and compassionately examines why we find these sacraments meaningful. What attracts Christians through the millennia to these same rites, these same words, these marks of Christ in life?
And how can we come to them trying to bring reconciliation and renewal to a church that desperately needs to see and hear those who don’t feel welcome in its doors?
In the chapters on baptism, for example, I love the bottom line truth of what it stands for that we can and should all agree on, whether or not we agree on dunking, sprinkling, or just about anything else.
“Baptism declares that God is in the business of bringing dead things back to life, so if you want in on God’s business, you better prepare to follow God to all the rock-bottom, scorched-earth, dead-on-arrival corners of this world–including those in your own heart–because that’s where God gardens.”
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The book is a cry to the church to stop trying to fix people or give them checklists to make them ‘OK’ before God (and more importantly, before us). It’s a call to come beside people and hear their faith cries. It’s a passionate request to be with God being with people, not over them.
Searching for Sunday should be read by anyone in ministry, and there are many definitions of that, whether or not the reader is an Evans fan. In fact, I’d say especially if not. If a person truly wants to be a minister, he or she needs to delve into the truths of how the next generation (and many above it) are feeling about church and all its baggage. We dare not ignore the warnings that people are giving up on the institutional church (and their faith). We cannot pretend the reasons behind it have no basis – not if we say we are people of the Word who speak and believe the Word. We need to have the courage to listen.
Searching for Sunday is an informative and beautiful step in doing that. If you’ve never read any RHE, start now. I’m so sorry it’s too late for any more words.

 

 

When No One Wants To Build a Snowman


So, I didn’t exactly watch the Academy Awards this year. Didn’t exactly watch

any of the nominated movies either, come to think of it. At least, the Best Picture ones. Still, I am well aware of what won Best Original Song.


Do you wanna build a snow . . . something?
This is not opinion but an assumption–anyone with a young woman/girl in the house under, say, the age of 25, knows the Frozensoundtrack by heart now. That is an assumption I might bet on, if it was not against some promise I probably agreed to when I became a pastor. You know the songs.

One of my daughters has even learned “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” in Spanish. That’s how hooked we are.

I watched a sarcastic take on the movie a while ago, and one of the things the writer had issue with was how the sisters’ relationship remained healthy. Wouldn’t Anna have harbored just a teensy bit of resentment, he wondered? A slight tinge of, “Um, Elsa? Go fall off an iceberg. I’m done.”

He had a point. I wondered the same thing at times. If your sister refuses to let you into her life for years, would you feel like rushing off to her rescue and ultimately sacrificing yourself for her? Dubious, I’m thinking.

Do you wanna build a snowman?

Probably not.

Do Relationships Heal?

The more I think about it, the more I realize how amazing this healed relationship really is. Because you know, I’ve seen it. Up close and personal. In my own house.

For a number of years, I witnessed big sister locked in her “room” of isolation. I saw her unable to relate to her family, unable to let others in to the world she could not escape.

I watched her little sister sitting outside, thinking, “We used to be best buddies. And now we’re not. I wish you would tell me why.” The scene manged to depict something that maybe the writers never intended but that is too common in houses where things are hidden behind locked doors.

Having magical freezing powers was a social stigma in Arendelle. (It has a name. It’s called cryokinesis. How cool is that? Literally. Living with a mental illness has the same effect in our world. It shuts people behind doors. It keeps them from normal relationships. It terrifies them that someone will know. It ends up opening the door to really bad choices that seem good compared to the reality of now.

It tears apart sisters who just want to build snowmen like they used to.

In an animated world, I guess you can go back to the way things were once the storm is over and love has conquered. But in this world, it’s a little more complicated.

It’s hard to call through locked doors and get no answer.

It’s painful to trust and hope and have it squashed. Again. And again.

It’s scary to never know what normal is or how long it lasts.

It’s tough to have your life controlled by things you had no say in.

Sometimes, little sister just walks away. Maybe for good. You can’t blame her. But you wish for the Anna ending. The one with happily ever after. You know how unlikely it is. But you wish.

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. October 10thin particular is National Depression Screening Day, National Bipolar Awareness Day, and World Mental Health Day.It’s a week thathelps spread awareness of mental illness so those affected by it can get treatment and move forward with their lives.

I believe with everything in me we are all created in the image of God, and we are all deeply loved and known by him. Whether we choose to acknowledge that or not. Because of that, and yes, because I’ve lived it, I believe in treating those with mental illnesses like the beautiful creations they are. No one can do that if we don’t let the secrets out of the locked room and be real about loving people–no matter what.

People living with mental illness are our neighbors. So are their children, spouses, and siblings. Love your neighbor as yourself. Learn aboutmental illness. Learn about warning signs and what to do. It’s not a lack of faith or effort. It’s so much more complex than that. It’s just a few clicks on the internet to discover (from reputable sources, please) what mental illness is and how it affects you, me, and faith.

But those clicks might open someone’s door.