“It is as great a separation from God to take offense as it is to give offense.” –My Grandfather’s Blessings
My purpose in life is to try to see people more clearly so that in each moment I am becoming a more loving person.
My life’s purpose is not motherhood. That could be taken from me. It’s not wifedom- that could be gone in a second. It’s to love myself and my neighbors with growing passion and mercy. Parenthood and wifedom and teaching and friendship and Sisterhood and writing are just the training grounds that God has provided me to practice my purpose. To practice seeing more clearly, becoming more loving. This is what brings lasting joy, I think. Becoming less afraid of ourselves and each other by discovering that we are all One. And then, the lucky thing is that this peace and joy naturally make me a better mother and wife and Sister and neighbor and writer. Magic.
“Now, once again, what God cares about is not exactly our actions. What he cares about is that we should be creatures of a certain kind or quality.” – CS Lewis
Everybody has a love training ground or two or five . . . and this blog is one of mine. This blog is one of the places I practice straining my eyes and heart to see myself and other people more clearly.
I started this blog because I wanted to try to understand other women better. Things felt so contentious and divided and suspicious and harsh sometimes in the real world, like people were always hiding or actively at war. And one day I wondered, what would happen if I put down my guns, peeled off my armor, and came out of my bunker with my hands up? How would other women respond?
My hunch was that other women would be grateful for the invitation to put down their guns, too. They’re so heavy.
My hunch was that if we could just strain our eyes a bit, if we could resist taking offense, if we could listen with our hearts instead of our hurts, if we could quit categorizing each other, if we could laugh and cry together, if we could just try harder to understand each other . . . we would start to love each other. And my hunch was that loving each other would bring us all some courage and peace and joy. And that loving each other at Momastery would help us become brave enough to practice loving our real life neighbors.
This, my friends, is exactly what has happened here. But let us admit – Peace – like pimpin‘ – ‘aint easy. This is why so few people choose it. War is hell, but war is easier than peace. Hiding is easier, taking offense is easier, dismissing each other is easier, suspecting and judging each other is easier.
And even though we believe in peace, we do those things to each other, don’t we? It’s like it’s easier for us to accept that people far, far away are our neighbors. It’s easy to love the Hatians and the Rwandans and the Sudanese. Loving my neighbors is so much easier if my neighbors are those in third world countries whom I will never meet. It’s so lovely and easy when I get to love my neighbors by sending them cash. I just LOVE those third world neighbors.Because they never hurt my feelings. They never piss me off. They never ignore me.
It is easy for me to love them because I am not in relationship with them.
It is harder to love my REAL neighbors. Those people with different styles and mannerisms and opinions than I, with whom I’m forced to be in relationship day in and day out.
It is easy to stand for world peace and choose war in your own heart.
Peace with those around you . . . that’s the hard stuff. Loving your LITERAL neighbors . . . at home and work and in your own family. That’s the real work. Don’t bother working for world peace if you’re gonna treat those around you badly. Think globally, act locally.
And so it goes with this blog. We have become a family here, and we have taken off our armor, which makes us vulnerable.
I took a hit, armorless, last week. I wrote a post based upon my feelings about the adoption likely falling through…and someone said this:
Anonymous said…If I ever know of a baby who needs a home, there are more than a few couples I know of. None of them already have three beautiful and healthy children of their own. For most of them, the adoption process would leave them flat broke. My advice would be to say goodbye to the baby phase, which can’t last forever no matter how many babies you have. Then, after saying goodbye with fondness, enjoy this next phase of life, knowing that it will bring with it its own unique joy. And then enjoy the phase after that. Three children ought to keep two parents more than busy for the next couple of decades (though truth be told, I hear it never really ends).If it helps, I’ve never known an infant to give a mother 10 hours of sleep in one night.
Not trying to sound callous. But when I think of my friends who went through a decade of infertility and hormone treatments before adopting and when I think of those who can scarcely afford to adopt, well…
And I was so mad. Let me rephrase that: I was so sad. In our family, we talk about how when we say: I’m mad sometimes what we really mean is: I’m sad. But saying we’re sad makes us feel weak, so we say we’re mad to make ourselves feel powerful. But since power is made perfect in weakness, we decided that it’s likely best just to stick with sad. So we say, I am so SAD at you . . . to each other. It’s weird, but it kinda works. It helps take the sting out.
Plus it’s hilarious to hear Amma screaming I SO SAD AT YOU, MOMMY!!!!!! I. SO. SAAAAAAD AT YOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! in time out. Love it.
So anyway, after reading that comment, I had a sad.
Because them there was fighting words. That was the ultimate criticism for me, in a way I can’t explain. I’ll just assume you get it, since you always do.
And when I read that comment, I wanted to lash out. I wanted attack anonymous. I wanted to make a fool out of her. I wanted desperately to defend myself and my family.
But I didn’t.
Because when one is angry, one’s first reactions are not usually one’s best reactions. So I commanded myself to give myself some time. This was not easy, but sometimes time is love. This thing that was happening needed some time and space. Because the other thing that I know, that I HATE knowing, is that when I am very angry about something that someone has said, it’s because there’s some truth in what she’s said. I know that when I am angry at someone, that person probably has a gift for me, if I can just resist rejecting it.
“Every devil I meet is an angel in disguise.” – Indigo Girls
Now when I take hits on this blog, I usually decide that the loving thing to do is LET. IT. GO. That’s my M.O.: Pray for peace and change the subject. But this time I decided that love doesn’t always mean staying quiet. Sometimes something is so important that love requires speaking up kindly; assuming that there has been a misunderstanding and trying to clear things up.
So I wrote this:
Dearest Anonymous, If you don’t mind, I’d like to clarify the meaning of your comment so that I can respond appropriately:
And then anonymous wrote this:
And then I didn’t speak to anyone in my house for 12 hours. Truly, I just walked around like a zombie, thinking and thinking and thinking. And praying. Craig was scared.
And all of a sudden I remembered something my friend Beirne taught me the week before. And all of a sudden something moved that was blocking my vision and I could see a little more clearly. And I was filled with joy. I was JUST like the Grinch who’s heart grew TWO SIZES THAT DAY ….
And I wrote this:
When I was a teacher, I worked (loved) at a school made up of recently immigrated children. And while I was there, this set of laws was passed called “No Child Left Behind” which was a big problem for schools and kids like mine. The lawmakers started with good intentions, to hold schools accountable for their kids’ progress, but as with much else, things became oversimplified and therefore dangerous. In short, the tests they used to assess students, like all standardized tests, were massively biased against students who spoke English as a second language, students from poverty, and special needs students. So, basically, my whole school. I was angry about No Child Left Behind. My students were brilliant, and I wanted them to be able to show it. My school was filled with sacrificial, intelligent, passionate educators, and I wanted them to be able to prove it. I hated those tests. But I also knew that right or wrong, much of my students’ future success would be based upon standardized tests. And I knew that my job, then and there, was to prepare my 24 students for the real world they’d face, not the world I wished they faced.
So my friend, Amy, and I met and met and talked and worked and came up with some pretty amazing ideas to help these kids learn how to beat standardized tests. Well, my whole school did, but Amy and I got most of the credit for it. And our ideas started to work. Our kids started kicking tail. And schools like ours all over the country started using our ideas, and it turned into a book which still sells like crazy in the educational world today.
And I instantly became an educational “expert.” And people would interview me and say things like “So, Mrs. Melton, how long do you predict it will be until the American educational system catches up with China?” And I’d say… “Um. Seven?” And they say ”Yes, yes, very interesting.” That is a true story. About this time is when I stopped having any faith at all in experts of any sort. We got a lot of praise for our book, Amy and I. But we got a lot of criticism too. Many people said, “You are EDUCATORS. You KNOW how flawed these tests are. Why are you working WITH THESE HORRIBLE TESTS? Why aren’t you fighting AGAINST these tests that you know aren’t good for children?”
And we’d shrug and say: You’re right. We agree with you. But the thing is that we have these students in front of us. And we owe them. They are our job. THEM, not the law changing. We can’t march on Washington because we are in the classroom preparing our students. So maybe we could work together. Maybe YOU could march on Washington and meet with the lawmakers while we teach. Maybe this problem is so big that it takes both kinds of people. People at the capital working on the big ideas and the political structures and THE MAN while we stay on the ground and make sure THESE LITTLE LOVIES don’t fall through the cracks while change is happening. We won’t sacrifice a single one of them. Each one of them is worth more to us than the big ideas. That’s just the way we are, we teachers. We’re short sighted that way. But to solve challenges as big as orphans and fair education we need short sighted AND LONG sighted people. We need BOTH. We need folks serving on the ground and folks lobbying at the capital.
Anonymous, You are Right. I hear you. I agree with much of what you said and I have had many of those same thoughts about the politics of adoption…but as my friend Beirne says…NONE of that matters to the child right now, waiting in an orphanage, for a mommy and daddy to come take him home and offer him a chance at life. None of it, no matter how right it is.
I think it takes both of us, Anonymous. And and both. Love, G
My friend Kate just sent me a St. Francis medal for Theo and he wears it on his collar and it makes me very happy. I love that St. Francis. I love lots of those saints, actually. I read about them and learn from their lives all the time.
It certainly does have its hypocrisies and contradictions and shameful dealings, the Church, doesn’t it? All churches do. They’re made up of people, after all. I hope they have people on the ground and people at the Vatican. It’ll take ‘em both kinds to fix things, I think. And/ Both. Always does. But Anonymous . . . listen. If I ever get a chance to meet the Pope, I promise to slip him some condoms in your honor. Promise. Love Again, G
And then. Miracles of miracles. Anonymous and I finished with this:
I hear your apology and I understand, appreciate, and accept it. For what it’s worth, I am deeply grateful that you said what you said. The journey it’s taken me on during the past three days has been important for me. I’ll explain more later, but for now… I’ve been listening to this song this morning and thinking of you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6qDb-EIokA Love, G
I have to tell you that this was my proudest moment on this blog, ever, ever, ever. Just this little back and forth between me and a woman I’ll never meet, deep in the comments sections.Because remember this? Remember our common Monkee beliefs?
Monkees have no set of common beliefs except these:
Here, we treat others how we want to be treated.
Here, we believe that love and restraint can overcome differences, fear, mistrust and competition among women.
Here, politics and business die. Feel free to revive them as soon as you leave this place.
Here, we agree with Mother Theresa, that “when we judge people, we have no time to love them.
I think this interaction PROVED our beliefs to be true. LOVE WINS. It’s a miracle. It was a miracle to me…here were two people . . . ANONYMOUS people, so hurt by each other, but not giving up, trying to understand each other . . . and discovering- they were on the same team all along, just playing different positions.
Clarity. Joy. Peace.
I think if we want to see miracles like this in our real lives . . . we just need to try harder with each other. We have to be careful with what we say to each other and we have to be careful about how we listen. We have to listen with our hearts instead of our heads. We have to want to understand each other, and we must refuse to be easily offended. We have to stop loving drama and start loving peace. And if we do this, we WILL see miracles in our relationships. We will start seeing more clearly and we will become more loving people. And this will bring us Joy and Peace. I know it. I’ve done the experiment.
And listen to this crazy thing.
Today I was sitting in church thinking about all of this. And I thought: My purpose in life is not to adopt. My purpose is to see myself and others more clearly, in order to become a better lover of people. And this journey, this adoption journey HAS helped me see more clearly. With help from the Rwandan babies and friends like Tara and Isaac and Beirne and anonymous and so many others. With help from you.
This adoption journey has been a love training ground for me. And the outcome might not be a baby. The outcome might be that I am a better lover of people.
HOW FREAKING AWESOME IS THAT?
I can’t stand it.
Also, VOTE FOR US! Everyday!
Love, Love, Love
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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