Loon’s linkage (October/November ’11)

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  • Emily Rapp on her journey as a “dragon mom,” parenting a child with a terminal diagnosis (NY Times op-ed)
  • David Nilsen on the challenges of leaving (and finding) a church
  • Laura Leonard on why women are obsessed with Pinterest
  • Brett McCracken on the Coldplay effect
  • Richard Mouw on why Mormonism is not a cult, plus a response to those who think he doesn’t understand it (or knows it too well)
  • Andy Rowell on using Hitler in Facebook posts
  • John Ortberg on when God seems far away
  • Mary DeMuth on why church (still) matters
  • David Gushee on the rhetorical use of “sacredness of life” language
  • Scot McKnight on whether Steve Jobs’ legacy can be called ‘kingdom work’

Grief journal (1 year)

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I’ve been dreading this day for quite some time. It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since we lost Vincent. He seems further away than ever. Since I don’t want to write anything new today, let’s instead take a look back at the journey I’ve documented these past 12 months:

November 20, 2010:  “Yesterday, there were two cute little boys under our roof. Tomorrow there will be one.”

December 3, 2010: (Memorial service) “Tonight, as we honor the impact and influence of Vincent’s life I am no longer in the role of a grieving son. This time, I am the grieving father.”

December 20, 2010: Vincent’s memorial video: “Victorious in Jesus’ Arms”

January 20, 2011: “I don’t always want to talk about Vincent, but I do. I don’t want to change the subject, but I do.”

February 20, 2011: “We  visited his grave twice last week. The soil is still soft, no marker yet.”

March 20, 2011: (from Chicago) “If heaven is real, my son’s value is rooted in far more than an earthly family who misses him or a cemetery marker bearing his name. And if Vincent is now truly safe with God in a place beyond this world, there is now hope of an expiration date, both for my despair and the sufferings of humanity across the globe.”

April 20, 2011: “Next month is going to be especially difficult. Mother’s Day is May 8. Vincent’s birthday is May 10. My graduation is May 14. We fly out May 16 to visit Rebecca’s parents in the Philippines. Plenty of significant events in the month of May will remind us exactly how much our family shrunk on November 20, 2010. We’ll always be one Vincent short of a complete family. I’ll always be one Vincent short of being a happy daddy.”

May 20, 2011: (from Manila) “He was such a great kid, that boy. Inquisitive and curious. Playful with a sneaky streak. Good instincts, big heart. Guaranteed handsome and talented. So much potential. He wasn’t ready to go. Kept fighting to the end. He loved all of us.”

June 20, 2011: (from Manila) “I wish Vincent could have seen the Philippines. I wish the Philippines could have seen him… I’m still not ready to admit that I’ve accepted Vincent’s death, but I’m starting to think that tears are not the only way to honor his memory.”

July 20, 2011: “I’m just thankful we got to say goodbye… I wouldn’t trade my time with Vincent for anything, except maybe for more time with Vincent.”

August 20, 2011: “Nine months before Vincent was born, I had no idea we were having another son. Nine months since his passing, I have no idea how to live without him. He was an unexpected gift; neither did I foresee giving him away.”

September 20, 2011: “There’s only so much to say, and I’ve already said plenty. I don’t want more words, just more Vincent. He was super.”

October 20, 2011: “We still miss you, Vin.”

Today: I’m not sure I can keep doing this every month. I don’t have much more to to say, so this could be it for a while.

What you can’t blog about

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We 21st century Westerners seem increasingly comfortable sharing our baggage online. If you experience poor customer service or an expensive car repair, it’s fair game for a tweet or status update. In my case, I had a son who got cancer and died, so I blogged about it. No one told me to stop or change the subject. Most people, Christians or otherwise, can generally tolerate blog posts about how much you miss your deceased child.

What is simply intolerable is sharing how you were mistreated in church. First of all, there’s just no way to get away with it. The internet is far too public a forum for such deeply personal wounds. Plus, everyone will know who you’re talking about—or at least they will think they do. Ironically, the sweet and thoughtful people will heap guilt upon themselves. “Oh no, was that me?” But the real culprits will have no clue. So it’s not actually worth it. That’s why we don’t blog about church stuff.

Even in our increasingly permissive society, just about any topic is safer than a first-person account of church-inflicted wounds, including the standard taboos: politics, race, theology, sexuality, hell. To air one’s dirty laundry about church issues is to commit the eighth deadly sin. After all, it’s bad for business and probably won’t fix anything. So we passively bottle it and lug it around for years until the festering stench starts to scare people away. Keenly attuned to others’ possible agendas but not our own, we become self-appointed victims of spiritual abuse the world will never understand. Hrumph.

Yes, yes, I know. Matthew 18 tells us to share our grievances with the offending person and seek reconciliation on an individual level before taking it to others. Fair enough. There’s clearly a place for mustering up the guts to tell someone they ticked you off. The few times I’ve actually done it, I can report that it generally prevents a lot of bitterness and future headache. Any therapist will vouch for the basic principles of assertive conflict resolution, including an even-keeled use of diplomatic statements like, “My feelings were hurt when you dismembered my teddy bear’s arms.”

But what if there was no single person who actually offended you directly? What if you find yourself in an atmosphere where territorialism and suspicion lurk just beneath a waxy glaze of smiles and pseudo-inclusive lip service? What if you’ve tried your best to play by the rules and voice your viewpoints through the proper channels, but you still know you’re not welcome to be your true self? What if your expectations are likely too high and you simply need to accept certain realities about churches being smelly hospitals for sinners and clowns?

That’s why you don’t blog about church stuff.

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