Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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There were many courageous and thoughtful comments posted about faith here recently, and I cannot stop thinking about all that was written. You Monkees never cease to amaze me. Some of us have thriving, fulfilling relationships with a creator or a higher being, and some of us do not. Some of us wrote about our spiritual questions and doubts, and that was comforting for me because I have questions and doubts too. As I’ve mentioned before, I do love Jesus. I love Jesus because I was taught very early on in life that He loved me first. But my faith waxes and wanes. And I am sorry to say that my love for Jesus brings me almost as much anxiety as it brings me comfort and joy, and this anxiety often makes me feel like a Christian outsider. So if the Momastery posts about religion inspire you to skim instead of read or if they make you uncomfortable, please don’t worry. This is your sanctuary, too.
I want to tell you about one of my biggest spiritual struggles. Ladies, I have Bible issues. The Momastery posts that make me squirm are the ones that include Bible verses. I love talking and reading about Jesus, but the minute someone starts quoting the Bible, I tune out.
Just a few weeks ago, I was driving down the road listening to a country music station, and I found myself starting to get teary-eyed. The song playing was one I had never heard before, and I came in at the chorus, which said,
There might be a little dust on the Bible
But don’t let it fool ya about what’s inside
There might be a little dust on the Bible
It’s one of those things that gets sweeter with time
Well, I started thinking about how much I love Jesus and what a sweet song it was, and I started to get weepy. Those who know me well know that this is nothing out of the ordinary. I cry at sad movies, sad songs, happy movies, happy songs, and any time my heart strings are tugged even a wee little bit. Like many of you, I often cry while reading this blog. So there I was, sitting at a red light, working myself up into a good, hard cry and searching the car for clean tissues. I was thinking sheepishly about how long it had been since I had mindfully read my Bible, and it was too many months to count. My Bible was surely coated in dust, just like the song said. The guilt I felt was horrible. Shame on me.
It was a few minutes later that the chorus played again, and I realized I was mistaken about the words to the song. The words weren’t saying dust on the Bible. They were saying dust on the bottle. The song was about booze. Dangit. Figures I’d end up in tears over a song about booze.
After realizing I was wrong about the lyrics to the song, I started thinking about my favorite childhood Bible. It is one of my most treasured possessions. It was mother’s old Bible that she handed down to me. Originally, it was a gift to my parents, given to them on their wedding day by my mother’s Aunt Edna. The inscription is still there, in blurred ink, and I love to read it. What I loved most about that Bible was the illustrations. There were only a few pictures scattered throughout, but I remember each of them because I used to flip through my Bible and gaze at the pictures during long, boring sermons. My favorite was titled, “Jacob’s Dream.” The colors were all sorts of lovely shades of shiny, pale pink and metallic purple that you see in gasoline puddle rainbows.
Although I love all three of my childhood Bibles, I think I love them more for the sake of nostalgia than because of what is written inside. This is hard to admit because again, it makes me feel terribly guilty. And when I feel guilty about something, I try very hard to just stop thinking about it. Guilt makes me maniacal. But the truth is, I am not good at all about reading my Bible. I believe it is holy, and I keep it in a very handy place, but I do not read it very often. At all. This is scary and shameful for me to admit because I know that Jesus wants me to read it. I know that good Christians read it. I feel sure that people who read it sin less than people who don’t. I know people who have been transformed by daily Bible reading. I feel my Bible calling to me sometimes. It’s on the shelf behind me right now, and I’m imagining it with two bulging eyeballs with enormous, incriminating pupils that are following me around the room while a funky version of “tell me whose watching…” plays in the background, just like in those Geico commercials that get on my nerves. My Bible is watching me, and it wants to be read. I just don’t want to do it.
Then I started thinking about why I avoid it. What the hell is wrong with me? (This is a question that I ask myself every single day, approximately every hour.) The truth is that the Bible scares me. The Bible scares me because when I read one of the juicy parts, like one of the Gospels, I feel called upon to change my life. But I really like my life just the way it is. I’m happily married with two healthy children, and we live in a comfortable house. I feel loved by my family and friends, I have a lot of fun and most of the time, I try to be a nice person. Not everything is perfect, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve that are working beautifully. I pray, I bury my face in my husband’s chest, I take my Prozac, I eat, I email Glennon, I have a glass of wine or three, and then I pray and eat some more. I am content, and I don’t want that to change. But when I think about people who are suffering all over the world, I wonder if I should give up this comfortable life, go out in the world, and make a real difference. That might sound fanatical to some people, but when I read the Bible, the teachings of Jesus are an explicit call to live a radically different life than the one I am living. I honestly don’t want a radically different life. I’m thoroughly enjoying this one.
At this moment, I am tempted to just find a fancy, scripty font and type the words, “The End.” I wish I had more to write. I really do. I wish I could tell you that I have devised a plan for reconciling my love for Jesus with my dread of the Bible. But I have no such plan. I wish I could tell you that I prayed about this and was relieved of some of my crippling guilt, but I wasn’t. I wish I could tell you that putting my thoughts to paper inspired me to resolve to just sit down, open my Bible, start reading, and let God do the rest. But that didn’t happen either. My Bible is still sitting behind me on the shelf while another layer of dust settles on it.
With one rather important exception.
Bubba taught us to NEVER QUIT. Growing up, it was important to think twice, for example, before taking up gymnastics or the viola, because you just knew you would be turning cartwheels while fiddling at your own funeral. I really do appreciate and respect his position on this. His mentors are Vince Lombardi and Joe Paterno, after all. But I have a very different position than he does about quitting. I think quitting is exactly the right thing to do sometimes. I actually love quitting. It often takes a lot of quits to find the right fit. I think sometimes quitting something that’s not working requires a lot of self awareness and courage.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. Because my family is about to make a BIG quit and a BIG New Try.
The Meltons are quitting life as we know it.
We’re responding to a feeling down deep in our souls, in that place that won’t be ignored, that our family needs something different. Something other than the high paced life we’re struggling to keep up with right now. This is how I feel about raising three children and a marriage and trying to keep track of the PTA meetings and birthday parties and fundraisers and thank you notes and athletics and play dates and girls’ nights out and storytimes and life in the suburban fast lane. Just this. This is Craig and me. Everyday. Obviously, I’m Lucy, for too many reasons to discuss today. Craig is Ethel. Just imagine her with better abs.
In short, we feel like a family stuck on a roller coaster who would prefer to be pulled along gently in a Radio Flyer Wagon. And for years we’ve dreamed of dropping out. Of literally stepping back from the conveyor belt, slowing down, and focusing up. In three weeks, we’re doing it.
It’s been a tough year for our family. The Lyme has changed us forever. Mostly for the good, as far as I can see.
Monkees, we’re moving.
We’re pulling our kids out of school, packing our bags and renting a little house on the Chesapeake Bay in a Norman Rockwell town in which the only store is the Ice Cream/ Gossip shop. We won’t have a mall or restaurants or beauty salons but we will have a big front porch to sit on and watch our neighbors walk by and a back porch to watch the fishing boats haul in their catches for the day. And that’s what we’re gonna do.
We’re going to sit on our dock of the bay and watch time roll away. We’re going to count oyster shells and catch crabs and spend Sundays at the local church and then walk to the farmers’ markets. We’re going to hike the half mile to Bubba and Tisha’s house for dinner, or maybe kayak over on an especially nice evening. My girls and I are going to wear sundresses and flip flops exclusively. Chase is going to carry his fishing pole around like Huck Finn. We’re going to say ya’ll a lot and try hard to develop some sort of accent. I have no idea what else we’re going to do with our time. I guess we are going to do whatever it is that people do when there is nothing else to do. Except drugs. I really hope there are other options.
I’m aware that all of our problems won’t be solved by moving. As Bubba says, “Wherever you go, there you are.” But I think it’s worth a try. I want to honor each of the deep desires of my soul, in case God put them there as the stepping stones toward my best life. So, I am going to honor my soul’s desire to live in a place that matches my insides a little closer. My insides are slow. I want to live in a place where it’s okay to be slow.
I want to have no schedule, nothing on my To Do list other than enjoy my kids and read and write and pray and heal. Not just from the Lyme, from everything. I want fewer options, less noise, fewer cars and stores and outings that require dressing nicely. I want more space, not like walk-in-closet- space but can’t- see- another-soul-space. I want more empty time. I want to learn how to relax. I want to deal with fewer people more intimately. I want to go to a small town church every Sunday morning. I actually want to plant a garden, which is a desire I find absolutely inexplicable. I want there to be fewer things I have to buy. Fewer meetings to forget about. Less less less. I just want Craig. And my kids. And my mom and dad. And the water.
We’ve rented our little water house for six months. Maybe we’ll be back sooner. Maybe we’ll never be back. I absolutely love not knowing.
To anticipate a few of your questions…Yes, we will keep our house here, Craig will commute back and forth. He’ll work from the bay house often. He can do that since he sells soft silverware. No, we can’t afford to do this. But more importantly, we can’t afford not to. And yep, I’m nervous about homeschooling Chase. As the #1 fan of public schools, I never planned to make this decision. But we all know that life is what happens when you’re making other plans.
So Chase. Listen Up, Brother. Homeschool Lesson #1:
When life gives you Lyme (or something comparable),
It becomes time to Follow your Dreams.
Even, especially, if they seem quite nonsensical and inconvenient.
Because that’s how you know they’re your dreams
And not someone else’s.
You’re Dismissed Honey. Now go check the crab pots.
P.S. Ya’ll come visit, you hear?