Getting Friendship Backward–What Really Goes First?

Community is the word for October. In that spirit, I’ve invited a friend Andrea Stunz to guest blog today. She has a great message about community, friendship, and being totally honest with ourselves. I love it, and I’m sure you will, too.

Live in true devotion to one another, loving each other as sisters and brothers. Be first to honor others by putting them first. Romans 12:10 (The Voice)
Friends don’t care how old you are.

I’ve gotten it backwards for a whole lotta years. Not on purpose but out of just not knowing how to do it right. Not being taught. I do selfish very well. Too well. Don’t we all? I’m just shy of 50 years old and I think God may finally be getting through to me and helping me understand how this whole friend thing works.

First, you have to be a friend. Then you get to have a friend.
Ahhhhh….. soooo….. Well, I’ve been trying that out and guess what? It’s working!
But it’s not easy for this control freak.
I’m putting myself out there more and with a different outlook. I’m trying new things. I’m risking.That’s the hardest part. Risk. Being vulnerable. Knowing that if I truly let myself be a friend to have a friend it might hurt at some point. Knowing that it will most definitely hurt at some point. I don’t like that part. The hardest part for me in all of this relationship business is being willing to be hurt. Because it will happen. Even by those who aren’t supposed to hurt me. They aren’t God. God is the only “person” who will never disappoint me.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ~C.S. Lewis
Somewhere along the way I decided that risking heart exposure wasn’t worth the pain. What I’m finally learning is that risk is not always worth it but it is sometimes worth it. Love is costly, but anything of value costs. Being willing to be broken is also being willing to accept redemption.
If I let myself be a friend and have a friend then it might just might turn out okay or even better than okay. It might actually be great!
Or how crazy you are.

The thing with friendship is that we can have a lot of them but not all of them have to be bff’s. If we follow the model of Jesus, he had a three “bff’s” in his inner circle. Three that he went all in with. Three that he shared his guts with. Then his circles broadened. As his circles broadened so did the amount of information he shared with them. Not because he didn’t want to but because those he would be sharing with couldn’t handle it or wouldn’t receive it.

I am coming to realize that those who can’t handle me don’t deserve me. That may sound harsh, but this control freak has to have some boundaries. I can still love and share Jesus and share my life with everyone but I don’t have to share my guts with everyone. We’ve told our kids countless times that you don’t have to be friends with everyone but you do have to be friendly. I’ve got friendly down. I’m working on being a friend. Got trust issues? I do! My trust issues include trusting God enough to put people in my life whom I can trust. Then, the onus is on me that once he does that to not squander it. I have to trust and try. Once the loneliness gets lonely enough, we’ll either choose to move out of it or resolve to stay in it. I’m finally in the place where I’m choosing to move out of it.
Relationships are messy and what I’m coming to learn (not having arrived just yet but learning) is that messy = living and living = messy. I’ve gone far too long without really living and then getting all upset because no one else was helping me live it. Ridiculous, right? But it’s true and ridiculous and I’m tired of not living. Life is so much better when it’s lived.
“In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
There will be strong and unfriendly winds that will make a mess of our lives. On those blustery days, the kindness, prayers, and simple-but-profound ministry of the presence of dear friends will be the anchor to our unraveling, the rescue to our storm.  ~Dr. Leslie Parrott

Those kinds of friends are few and far between. I have a few of those and they know my mess and love me anyway and come to my rescue. Some have known my mess and chosen not to love me and that hurts but there’s nothing I can do about that now. Somewhere along the way I got in my head that people were just supposed to know when I was hurting and miraculously come to my rescue. What I’m realizing now is that I have to let them in. I have to take the risk. The power of the lies of thinking I need control and not trusting because it hurts are a relationship killer. Somewhere along the way I got in my head that if I shared too much or exposed myself they wouldn’t stick around. But now I know that if they don’t stick around then one of us still has work to do. I can’t fix them but I can work on fixing me. I need to be careful and have some boundaries but isolation is not where it’s at.

Remember we were meant to be in community. Don’t isolate yourself. Insulate your heart but don’t isolate your body. ~Patsy Clairmont
God has been faithful to show me the way. I’ve forced myself to become more involved in a few things at church – which really is not bad at all once I’m there. I’m purposely asking old friends and new friends to lunch or coffee and just letting whatever happens happen. It’s mostly been wonderful. Not easy and not without some anxiety and heart palpitations but wonderful. I also signed up to get some email tips from (in)Courage on “how to be the friend you wished you had.” God is lovingly but clearly telling me that I need to figure out how to be a friend before I can have a friend. I’m getting it. Slowly, but I am.
So in all of this, I’m still learning. I’m still growing. I have not arrived. I’m trying to be brave. I’m willing to risk. I think…
God help me. Amen.
~Andrea
“I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.” ~Maya Angelou

Andrea is: “A homemaker, a traveler, a seeker, a writer, a pilgrim. I love cooking and sharing good food with others who love good food. I take pictures that tell a story, my story, God’s story. An almost empty nester. A fellow struggler. A fellow stumbler. In need of God’s grace. Oh, and coffee. Grace and coffee. Then I’m good. Oh, and a sunrise. Grace, coffee and a sunrise. THEN I’m good. Oh, and my grandson. Grace, coffee, a sunrise and my grandson. … you get the picture. 🙂 I have many favorite scriptures but my “go to” scripture which seems to encompass all I may be stumbling through or rejoicing in is always this: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

This was originally published on Andrea’s blog, here. Check out the rest of her writing while you’re there!

Do It Again

A week ago was Easter. Today is Easter. Every day is Easter, from my point of view (and the point of view of some pretty reliable historic sources). True story. Because if what the Christian church says happened on Easter really happened, then every day after that is a repeat celebration. An encore. One more chance to stare up into the heavens in what really should be daily freaked-out surprise and say, “I can’t believe you did that for me!” 
If Jesus truly–physically, spiritually, historically, existentially, and any other ‘ly’–was dead and then wasn’t anymore forever,  then today is still Easter. And that needs to mean something. Quite honestly, if such a thing happened, and you don’t think it merits more than one day’s notice in 365, you’re not taking this whole life and death thing we’re all in very seriously. 
At one point in my life, I did look at that cross in freaked-out surprise and say, “I can’t believe you did that for me.” I cried, right there in front of late night TV. No one had ever told me about Jesus, but somehow I knew. It happened when I was watching the movie Jesus Christ Superstar. Not a conventional conversion, I admit, but a fact. It took a few years of being around better people than I to realize exactly what that belief meant. I’m still working on it.
One thing a conviction that Easter is a daily celebration means is that we face those days with anticipation, not fear. My personal ministry revolves around helping people be freed from fear. Easter is the ultimate release from fear. Without Easter, I’d have nothing to say about fighting fears. I might try, and I might unleash all kinds of pop psychology to make you feel better temporarily, but really, without Easter, I’ve got nothing.
On Easter, it seems appropriate to point out that fear comes from somewhere. It was never innate to human nature. Humans started this gripping emotion called fear by running away from God in the Garden of Eden. Why? Because they knew they had messed up, they knew He knew it, and they didn’t know what He was going to do about it. 
It’s the same basic principle that caused me to hide in my closet when I was eight and I skipped out on dishwashing duty to go out and play even though I knew that my name was clearly on that chore chart and my mom would find me. No one who knows in her soul that she has deliberately opted to go against the established order of rightness feels good about that choice for long. We may go through all kinds of emotional gymnastics to pretend and believe we do, but eventually that delusional behavior bites us from behind. How long we choose to run from it depends on how stubborn we are. 
We don’t like accountability for our actions. We don’t like the notion that any behavior could actually be wrong. (It’s just different.) And we certainly have lost all enchantment with the word ‘sin.’ It’s quaint but irrelevant. 
Except no matter how far or fast we try to run away, we have soul-deep-knowledge of a variety that won’t be suppressed that there is wrong; that in fact, there is wrong in us, and it scares us. We hide, because our Parent might notice our name on that chart at any minute and realize we aren’t doing our job.
Then hiding hits the blinding light of Easter, and it has to make a choice. Run farther into that dark closet, or stare at that cross in the morning sunlight and surrender to the inconceivable surprise that it happened because I couldn’t stop hiding. And now I don’t have to. 
Personally, I’ve come to realize that hiding in the closet because I’m afraid of the consequences of my own behavior comes with a few problems:
One, the anxiety about what my parent might do imprisons my soul. I could just go and find out and get it over with. But why do that when I can spend hours imagining it? Or a lifetime. (God’s reply–“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6.23)
Two, It locks my relationship into the realm of fear, when it could be transformed into the heathy thing it was meant to be–a parent and child teaching and growing. (Which is what God wants, too. “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” Romans 8.15-16)
Three, hiding becomes my default whenever I don’t want to face something, robbing me of experiences outside the closet. (Which is not what God wants. “The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?” Psalm 27.1)
Four, it’s really hot and stuffy in an upstairs closet in a century-old house with no air conditioning. I think this may have been the beginning of my claustrophobia issues.

It’s Easter. Still. Running was never part of the nature God intended for us. He proved it by walking straight into the consequences of our behavior, facing the terrors there, and blasting them to bits with one shove of a stone away from a tomb and a sunrise beyond our craziest dreams. Today, instead of turning around and going about your day like it’s a normal day, look up. Stare into the sky. Say in freaked-out surprise, “I can’t believe you did that for me.” Yell it if you want to. Then close your eyes, and let the Easter light do its freeing work.

Would You Rather–Tend a Grave or Hold a Spider?

These guys?

I am fascinated by insects. Yes, I like them. They are interesting to watch, amazingly varied, and just plain cool. You know the odd thing, though? Add two legs and subtract one body segment, and what does that make an insect?


A spider.

They are awesome.
And they are decidedly not cool.

I cannot explain this.

All I know is, there is family lore about me involving a bathtub, multiple shoes, and one large spider. Also another involving me and a spider on the shower wall and a subsequent non-family-friendly dash through the house, but that is another story . . .

I do not like spiders. I used to hyperventilate going down the aisle in Petco where I know they are kept. Actually looking in the aquarium would have required an EMT situation.

So what, oh what, could have ever inspired the picture below? (Warning—graphic picture below. No, not of the shower dash. Worse.)

A refusal to give in to fear.

Not. So. Much.

I know I’ve told the tarantula story before, and some of you have read it. But there’s more. We need to know the power of fear to take our identity from us and keep us from moving toward growth.


We fear too many things that steal our identity.


I forced myself to stop in front of the tarantula cage one day and allow that nice young man to put a spider in my hand because I knew my fear would hold me back from being what God wanted me to be. It sounds silly, I know, to say that fear of spiders can get in the way of being used by God. But whenever fear, whatever the fear, controls your choices, it blocks who you were made to be.

In this case, it would control my choice to lead a team to Costa Rica to minister. In the middle of convincing other team members to cast off their fears and go for the trip, I had to face mine or be a hypocrite. After all, they grow some big spiders in Costa Rica. (I never actually saw one in two weeks there. Only a hole where the tour guide told us we could see one if we looked. I did look. I didn’t see.)

The older I get and the more I go through, the more I am adamant – I do not want to give control over to anyone but God. Certainly not an eight-legged critter with a brain the size of . . . I don’t know . . . do spiders have brains? Conventional ones? No clue. But I do know they have to be smaller than human brains, based on fundamental laws of physics.

“Get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.” (Romans 8.14-15, The Message)

What do grave tenders do? They make graves neat and lovely. They ensure pretty, clean plots. Over dead things. Past things. Things with no life and no future. I don’t want to be a tender of dead things. I want to live adventurously expectant.

So why don’t we? Why don’t we feel like we are created for incredible purpose? Why don’t we wake up every morning asking, “What’s next, God?” Why don’t we expect wonder?

Because we fear. Rather than jump into our days, we dread them. We look at our lists and groan. We plan our next escape. We’re terribly afraid to step into identity as those children of God, because it might mean risk, conflict, change. We may dread mornings, but at least we know them. Being God’s representative – Stepping into our identity as His children and taking on whatever that means? That’s a scary unknown. It could involve things I’m not ready to give up, risks not I’m ready to take, changing values and ideas I’m not ready to reexamine.

Look what I might have missed in Costa Rica?

It could involve holding that spider. And we hyperventilate at the thought.


Sadly, I could not get over fear of spiders by thinking about them. Pondering their purpose. Looking at photos of them. I just had to jump in and face that stupid fear head on. It’s the only thing that works. And it’s in doing that we realize the anticipation was far worse than the actual execution.

We’re more afraid to start than to follow through. So just start.

Observer or Participant?


Jesus said, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” In is fullest definition, “rich and satisfying” means “over and above, more than is necessary, exceedingly, abundantly, supremely, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon, beyond imagination.

Wow. That’s a whole lot of satisfying.

So the question as we work through Lent and prepare to jump into the power of Easter is: Do we want to observe an extraordinary, uncommon, abundant life–or do we want to participate in one?

If the latter, how are you being a timid grave tender today? How are you listening to voices that steal your identity by telling you to be less than extraordinary? (Extraordinary is not, by the way, always newsworthy and show stopping. Extraordinary is simply getting yourself off center stage and looking for all kinds of ways to love like Jesus loved.)


God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!


Fly Like an Eagle (and now you’re singing that song)

It takes a lot to get me out of the house in winter. I’m trying to renegotiate the basic human need for food so I can eliminate grocery store trips, but so far that hasn’t worked so well. I don’t like cold. Or snow. Or . . . you know, Amazon and PeaPod deliver . . . 


Still, almost every winter I love to venture down to Starved Rock State Park with my family to hike the trails to see the frozen waterfalls. Usually, we manage to choose one of the coldest Saturdays of the winter. So you know I believe it’s worth it to see those frozen sheets of water. 

Another required stop is the bluff to watch the eagles. Soaring over the Illinois River, bald eagle pairs are a sight to make cold seem less relevant, somehow.

I started to imagine, while thinking about this topic of identity in God—what would it be like not to know you’re an eagle? What if an eagle thought it was a mole? What if it spent its days digging through the ground, eating beetle grubs, wondering all the time why it was so incredibly ineffective at this digging thing. Why did it hate the feel of dirt in its feathers so much? And why, oh why, were grubs so disgusting and unfilling? The eagle would feel like it was a failure. Like it had one job and it not only was no good at it, it didn’t even care.

Identity. Reprise.


That sounds like a lot of us. Last week, I talked about how being made in the image of God means that we should respect that image in others. We need to be about the business of seeing others as mirrors of ourselves, with their pluses, minuses, failures, and successes reflecting back our own. God included all people in his declaration that humans made in his image are very good. No exceptions.

But what if there is at least one person I don’t treat with that kind of respect? And what if that person is . . . me?

What if one of the reasons we have such a difficult time understanding and living out our true identity in God is that we do not believe we are eagles? We spend our time digging away at pointless things, crying out to God Why? Why do I feel like I can’t ever get better at this? Why is this so unfulfilling? Why am I not making any headway at all?

And God looks at us and says—Because you’re not a mole, you idiot. You were never meant to paw at the dirt. I made you to soar.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2.10)

Eagles are some of God’s most incredible creations. But you? You are a masterpiece. Right up there with the Mona Lisa and the Pieta. God’s stunning creation. You should be hanging in a museum and having people gawk at you.


OK, maybe not. That wouldn’t even be very much fun, I’m guessing.

Be An Eagle


But what if I don’t feel like a masterpiece? At all? Well, the good news is it doesn’t matter how we feel. God called us one. His word is the rule. If He said it, it is fact. God called human creation very good. He called people in his image three times in Genesis 1. That’s significant, as we discussed in the first week of this topic. If He has declared it to be so, my feelings don’t change it one way or another. That’s excellent news for someone whose feelings of worth vary as much as the tide level in the Bay of Fundy.

However, it’s going to be hard for me to treat others with the respect of God’s image in them if I haven’t practiced treating myself the same way. If I sell myself short in a hundred tiny ways every day, I’m highly likely to do the same to others.

God wants me to stop selling myself short. He wants me to be an eagle. Maybe that’s going to be your hardest battle in 2015 when it comes to retaking your identity in Christ. Believe that you are an eagle. (This is starting to sound very Karate Kid. Whatever.)

We hear that we are to be God’s representative on earth and we think, I can’t do that. I’m not good enough. Holy enough. Smart enough. I’m not Mother Teresa or Billy Graham or that doctor in Africa on the cover of Time. I’m not even my pastor or youth pastor on a good day. They’re trained/educated/just plain born good. I’m not. I’ll leave that ambassador for God thing to them and go on digging around down here. It’s good enough. I’m not cut out for more.

God says—stop being a mole. Stop selling yourself short. The truth is, every time we choose to be less than an eagle, we disrespect the image He gave us. We choose to be a cheap postcard reprint of a Thomas Kincaid when we could be a Monet.

No one can figure out his or her God-given identity sitting an assembly line of identical knockoffs of the real thing.

Who Does God Say We Are?


Things God says about you if you have given your life to Him:

  • You’re his image—with all that includes. (Genesis 1.27)
  • He knew you before you were born and had a plan for you. (Jeremiah 1.5, Psalm 139)
  • You are a new creation—you can start over. (2 Corinthians 5.17)
  • You are chosen, and you belong to Him. (1 Peter 2.9)
  • You’re his child, and you will become more like him all the time. (1 John 3. 1-3)
  • You are his friend–trusted. (John 15.15)
  • You are wonderfully made. (Psalm 139.14)
  • You are reconciled, holy, and blameless. (Colossians 1.19-23)
  • You are fearless. (Romans 8.14-15)


That is just a short list.

We all have the choice to soar into those things or to ignore them and keep digging around in the ground.

–It takes stepping into that belief, knowing we might fall and get hurt but taking the chance anyway.

–It takes continuing those flying lessons, even after we tumble down because we lost sight of where we were meant to be. Like Dori said, Just keep swimming. Or flying. Same thing. Sort of.

–It takes looking at a situation and thinking about it not through lenses of fear but through a lens of “What would God’s image-person do here?”

–It takes looking at the thieves who try to steal your identity in Christ and saying, “You know what? I don’t think so. I’ve seen the list. I know who I am.”

Today, I choose to soar.

Identity Theft–Living Who We Are in 2015

Every New Years our family has a tradition. We watch the same movie. But when the Richardsons do anything, hey, we go big or go home. We don’t watch just any movie. We watch The Lord of the Rings, extended versions, all three films. It’s a long day. 

Big as in big screen. As in, a big white bedsheet.
Because I do own a projector but I do not own a TV.
whatevs, guys.

If you are as good at nerding out as we are, you know that the character Aragorn is the man destined to be king. Yet for several hours worth of film (and the first 86 years of his life), he hides from that destiny. He’s kind of the Robin Hood of Middle-earth, swooping out of the woods to do good things for helpless people, then going back into hiding. He’s a Ranger, a lone Ranger, uninterested in the responsibility of being a king.


Until he is told quite succinctly (and when an Elf-Lord speaks it’s usually succinctly) to stop it. No one else can do this job, he’s told. It’s yours whether you will or not. “Put aside the ranger; become who you were born to be.”

I love that moment. The big shining sword comes out (it’s a huge shining sword. Seriously. No one could actually swing that thing), and it’s time to face true identity.

Sometimes I think God says the same thing to me. What are you afraid of? Why are you hiding behind lesser responsibilities? Why are you messing around with meaningless, trivial things when there is a kingdom at stake here? 

Why are you content to live a small life? 

Wasn’t kidding when I said we go big, was I?

Ouch. God is worse than an Elf Lord, people, when it comes to telling it like it is.


We hide from who we are. Too often, more often than not, we don’t even know who we are. But I am convinced that most of our life’s battles would be significantly easier, even over, if we knew the answer to these questions: 

Who am I? Who am I meant to be?
 Why aren’t I? 

They’re questions it’s good to explore in a new year. It’s never too early–it’s never too late–to become who you were born to be. And the best place to look is in the beginning.

Really. In. the. Beginning.

Three times in Genesis 1 God uses a phrase when he talks about the creation of human beings. 

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

“In our image.” 

You know, if something is said three times in Hebrew scriptures, it’s pretty serious. Like, Chicago getting mildly excited if the Cubs win the World Series serious. It means the thing mentioned is not even up for debate. It’s settled.

So, the point is, God meant this emphatically. 

You are made in my image. Each one of you.

Every single human on this earth. All sizes, all colors, both genders, even all the kinds of baptists. Even when you really, really don’t feel like you’re living up to your end of the deal. That’s who you are, plain fact. Are you ready to stop being anything less and become who you were born to be?


Soon after that pinnacle of creation in Genesis, a slinking, sneaking scoundrel (I do love alliteration) stole our true identity from us. And here’s the kicker—we let it happen. We walked right into it. It wasn’t like a stranger hacking into our credit info at Target. We opened up the account and said, “Have at it. I don’t want to be what God made me to be. Let’s try something else.”


It didn’t end well. 

I don’t know about you, but in this new year I think I’d like to take back what was stolen from me. I want to be what I was born to be. Time to put aside the sometimes-heir-sometimes-child-often-roaming-ranger and accept the challenge of being the King’s image bearer, not just in creation fact but in daily life.

So for a few weeks, let’s explore this idea of identity. Who are we? Who were we born to be? Why aren’t we being that? 

“People are portrayed as the pinnacle of creation, endowed with dignity as those made in the image of the Creator. They are made in order to serve God, not as slaves but as partners, whom he delegates to do his work in the world.” 

Are you ready to learn to be a delegate? I am. What do you think being made in the image of God means?

Pink towels and new adventures

Who knew a laundry load of towels and sheets could ambush you like that? It’s been things like that today. Little things that put me on the floor in a puddle. Cleaning the bathroom and noticing her towel is no longer on the hook. Turning around while packing and seeing the preschool picture on the shelf, tentative smile and leopard dress her sister made for her. 

In two hours we pack the van. She is ready. I so am not.

Those were my words last Thursday. And now it’s done—the baby is off, packed into her dorm room (on a day where the heat index read 114 degrees), happily organizing her new life. While I organize mine.

Borrowed van. Because you know what?
An entire life will not fit in a Prius.
There is plenty to do. I will never be one of those who wonders what to do with my time. I know there are new adventures to find and old ones to give my full attention to. I know God has a new chapter for me as well as for her, and I am ready for it.

Yet there are last words to say, and things I want her to know. I’m not going to take this space to lament the passing of time or the loss of a smile and someone who speaks simultaneously the same thought. 

Although, I will definitely miss her uncanny facial expressions that can always light any situation. But you know, the child is texting me as I write this, so it’s not like she’s in Siberia or anything. There is that. At least that.


With all the “you can succeed at anything,” “you are awesome,” and there are no limits to your adventure” talk our kids have been getting as they head into college, I want to add something. Something I don’t think they hear as much, Something I think they may need to hear more. So here, dear Child #3, is what I want you to know as you begin this, indeed, limitless adventure.

You will fail.

When you took that Buzzfeed quiz about “What place in the family are you?” and you got “the perfect one”? Please don’t believe that’s got to be you.

You will fail. You will make mistakes and have regrets. You will disappoint yourself and others. There will be tears. There will be days when you feel your entire identity is tied up in whether or not you get the grade, make the team, or impress the instructor/choir director/interviewer.

And you won’t.

Did you think I was kidding?
Because part of this new adult thing you’re trying to get used to is that the cushion is gone and stuff happens that lands you on your butt. Hard. I’m not there to catch you, and the tough truth is, if I was, I should not, and I hope, would not. You never know with mommas.

Is this depressing advice on your first week when everything looks so rosy happy? I hope not. I hope it’s encouraging, really. See, I know somewhere, in the back of your excited, anticipating, expanding mind, there is fear. 

I know it. I am your momma. 

Fear that this is going to be harder than anything you’ve done before. Fear that you’re standing on a tiny outcrop of stone, and it’s a long, long way down if you misstep and there is no net below. It’s all on you now. Scary.

Please do this at school. You will make
friends. I guarantee it.
So know now that it’s OK to take that misstep. You will fall. But it will not be the end. It will not be disaster. You will have the courage and the resourcefulness to learn from it and make other choices, and new mistakes, next time. You will stand taller after you fall, not smaller. You will have looked fear in the eye and defeated it.

We will still love you. Your community will still love you. Your roommate will still love you. (Just don’t wipe her computer like you did your sister’s. That may tax her love a bit.)

You will still be of infinite value, because your value depends on things other than your output, GPA, or face in the mirror. Eternal things. Things that don’t change like the day’s classes. 

You will fail. But it will not define you. 

Falling will not be the end. It will be the beginning of discovering for yourself that you have wings. And God is holding you up on his wings. So fly, kid.

Old door.
New door.


is safe overrated?


Fear. Risk-taking. Change. Becoming. All words in popular use right now. All words I use a lot in this blog. Words that, on this day after Father’s Day, I want to put into the perspective of parenting.

I can’t say my parents were the overprotective sort. As the parents of seven kids, they considered crowd control their main activity and lack of injury on any given day a bonus. 

As the last of those seven, I basically flew under any radar that remained. I could have done just about anything. But I didn’t. Like Binkley, I lived with a closet full of fears that didn’t make a lot of sense if one examined them, but I never did.

Naturally, with that background, I followed the masses who tried to make certain no nasty beasties harmed my wonderfully special children. I covered their ears; I fought their battles; I slapped helmets on their heads and blinders on their eyes. It made sense. Then. (And bicycle helmets still make sense—let’s be quite clear on that, my children.)

Now, I have children who want to skydive and take flying lessons and go on archaeological digs in the Middle East (and that’s only one of them).

I have a theory. Maybe this regeneration of thrill seeking and risk taking is a result of a generation that has been trussed in bubble wrap and carefully structured from sunrise to bedtime since the day they were born. It’s their rebellion against the can’t-be-too-safe paranoia of their parents. I don’t really blame them.

In fact, quite often I’ve joined them. It’s been terrifyingly freeing. Honestly, you don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re zipping down a mile-long cable over the Costa Rican canopy.

I wonder–maybe all the half-pipe skiers and shark swimmers are one big reaction to American paranoid parenting.

And now, we have studies like this one that surprise us by showing that, when we allow kids to be kids and use their common sense around risk, they actually do better. They are less bored, less violent with one another, and more engaged learners. Maybe, we were wrong to take away the slides and dodgeballs.

Might I turn a corner and suggest this is also true spiritually?

With three-fourths of youth leaving our churches and not intending to return, we have to ask the reasons. And while they are probably complex, I wonder if one of them might not be that we focused too much on protecting said youth. 

We spent too much of our time holding their little ears lest they hear a bad word and too little of our time opening their ears to the world around them and their place in it as God’s person.

Young people are turning away because, according to Barna surveys, they find the church too judgmental and too ingrown. Might that be code for “You taught us to stay away from what was wrong but never told us how to make those things right? You kept us in our sanitized Sunday school rooms and homeschool classes but never accepted the messiness of honest life? You kept us safe but pointless? 

(I am NOT blasting homeschooling here. Let us be clear on that. Only some of the reasons people give for doing it. I believe it’s a great alternative for reasons other than protectionism.)

Our kids want to go down giant metal slides and feel the wind and yes, sometimes feel the concrete beneath. They want to get on the dodgeball court that is the real world and see if they have what it takes to play hard and long. They find our Holy Grail—safe—overrated. They are leaving the church that has told them that safe is their highest goal. I don’t blame them. We lied.

And there’s one of my terrors. Going up stairs
you can see through. Many, many stairs.
I see two choices for the church and parents. We can equip them to take on their yearnings with Christ, or we can retreat and let them go at it alone. We can guide them toward the battles worth fighting and the thrills worth seeking, or we can let them jump off cliffs for their thrills, desperate for a feeling but devoid of purpose. We can smugly watch them “get it out of their systems,” or we can point them to the heart worth following, the one that took a giant risk to love us and live among us.

Theywill go at it. This is a generation that believes in blasting the door off the anxiety closet. If we want them back in the church, we’ve got to stop steering them away from the doors and instead put the light sabers in their hands. And honestly? If we want to be taken seriously in that, we’ve got to go through a couple doors ourselves.

Afraid? Try ziplining somewhere. It will put you in the mood.