I’ve Long Since Put the Halo Away

haloSociologist Robert Ezra Park said, “It is probably no mere historical accident that the word person, in its first meaning, is a mask. It is rather a recognition of the fact that everyone is always and everywhere, more or less consciously, playing a role.”

In my life, the mask that was my biggest temptation was spiritual superhero. My writing instructor Judy Hougen described it this way in her book Transformed into Fire:

“We’re all haunted by some image of the perfect Christian – the person who is rarely ruffled, full of right answers, and tirelessly ‘there’ for everyone.  Such people glide through life with a two-inch gap between their feet and the ground.  They pray for ten hours a day and can recite the New Testament over coffee.  And, most important, they seem to have no needs, no obvious wounds or weakness.  They’re always cheerful, never touched by depression, loneliness, or other heavy emotions.”

Nope. No way. Not anymore.

It has been in sharing my wounds and revealing my weaknesses that I have been the truest version of me— and in doing so, I welcome others exactly as they are. And even scripture says that it’s in our weaknesses that God’s power is made perfect. So, like the Apostle Paul, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses.

Someone made a joke a couple weeks ago about my halo. I was quick to correct him.

I have set down the halo (which was itself a mask) so that I could take up freedom.

3 Things I Want to Say to My College Self

  1. Quit being so damn proud and ask for help.
  2. There is more gray than you would imagine– and it’s a good thing.
  3. Give more grace. 

college

Ask for Help

Look, I know that all your life you have prided yourself on your intelligence– how you can figure things out on your own, how your mind is such a steel trap you don’t need to use a planner, how you don’t take shortcuts in anything (except maybe gym, ha!). But things are gonna get harder and harder and harder, girl, and the sooner you learn how to suck it up, ask for help, and accept that help, the better it will go for you. In fact, you will feel even smarter— which makes sense, since it’s wise people who collect resources and use them. Quit trying to get to the Everest summit without oxygen. Utilize your mentors, the counseling office at your college, the weekend extension given on that writing assignment. One day, you will be so happy to have tools and to use them. One day, you will see that it was always smarter to humble yourself and ask for help. The sooner you learn this, the happier you will be.

Gray isn’t the Enemy

The truth is that you have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder– OCD– which is making you so incredibly uncomfortable with anything that isn’t black or white. And if something is gray, the uncertainty of it makes you wild with panic, enough that you will think yourself in circles until you are able to move that gray along the spectrum, one way other other, to black or to white, so that you can breathe again. But the truth is that the sooner you learn how to sit with the gray, to let it be, to learn how to breathe even in the midst of uncertainty– that is where you will find relief and freedom.

Grace

First of all, you’re a bit of a self-righteous jerk right now, aren’t you, Sommers? Because you don’t accept help from others, and because you force everything in your world to be either black or white, and because you have scrupulosity (sit tight, you’ll learn more about this in a few years), you sometimes act like you have cornered the market on Being a Good Girl. Please stop. It is in your weaknesses that God’s power is made perfect. It’s in your humility and vulnerability that you draw others and help them open up. The mask of perfection that you wear feels so necessary right now, but it’s when you take that off that you will start experiencing deeper friendships. It’s when you show the darkness of your heart and find that you are still beloved that you will taste that richest flavor of being known. Give grace– to yourself and to others. This is the better way.

Sacred

Last week was so incredibly productive. I had to take my laptop and write in my bed, since my office somehow seemed too overwhelming, too formal, too demanding. 

So I wrote in my bed. It was a simple measure I could take to feel safer. I don’t know. Am I alone in this?

It makes me think of Virginia Woolf, of A Room of One’s Own, of how I, at 18, was so idealistic about writing that I wrote not one but two research papers meant to disprove Woolf’s claims, and how, a decade later, I would wonder, Maybe she was right.

Man, writing is hard. I saw this posted on social media today. I felt it.

I’m not complaining. Or I’m trying not to, at least. I have a calling on my life, and I am rising to it. No, my writing life isn’t easy, but it is sacred.

Warm Thoughts about the End of the World

I’m re-reading through the New Testament and today I read from Matthew 24– wars, rumors of wars, nation against nation, famine, earthquakes– and it’s kind of felt familiar for a while, hasn’t it? And yet these are the beginning of birth pains.

What struck me was verse 12: “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”

Please, God, don’t let my love grow cold.

I am so grateful to be surrounded by the best friends in the world, friends whose love is scorching in the best way, friends on fire for love and justice and mercy and grace and faithfulness, no matter the cost.

Thank you, friends. Thank you for keeping me from letting my love grow cold.

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Why is it Called GOOD Friday?

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Growing up, I was always confused about why the Christian church called this day Good Friday– the day that Jesus Christ was put to death. I knew the story: the blood, the nails, death on a cross, the method used for criminals. I had learned about crucifixion in gory detail, and how the one crucified would struggle to breathe in such a position, how Christ would have needed to lift his body weight just to get a breath– his body weight pressing against the spikes nailed through his feet. I knew about the hours of darkness, the quaking earth and breaking rocks. About the curtain of the temple being torn in half, top to bottom.

My family would go to a Good Friday service, the front of the sanctuary bearing a cross adorned with a drape of purple fabric. Sometimes we would hold a railroad spike in our hands. We would always take communion: a small tab of bread to represent Christ’s broken body, a small sip of grape juice to represent his blood.

And I would wonder: why is this good?

I remember as a passionate, deep-thinking, sensitive child thinking, I wish I could have stopped this nightmare.

My God had been ridiculed, beaten, and killed. Why was this good?

……………………………………

Friday is good because of Sunday.

Because Friday was not God losing the battle– it was part of the battle plan all along. It was a well-conceived, strategic move before the checkmate.

Because, as I said above, the curtain of the temple was torn in two— this represents our direct access to God, where before we needed a priestly intercessor.

No matter what it looked like on Friday– the end of the world, I’m sure many of Christ’s followers thought, and certainly the end of hope— Sunday was just around the corner. Sunday, the resurrection, the culmination, the checkmate, the victory. It was all part of a master plan, one that we– nearly 2000 years later– can see in full, even if our brothers and sisters at the time could not. We can see the rescue waiting just around the corner. We can say, This is good.

……………………………………

Years ago, I attended a conference where I heard a sermon by Louie Giglio that I will never forget. It profoundly moved me and helped to shape my worldview. The bottom line of it is this: when the bottom drops out of life, we can still have hope — because of the cross.

If you will do just one this for me this entire year, would you please watch 1 minute and 38 seconds of this sermon? I’d love to have you watch the entire thing, but please at least watch from 24:45 to 26:23.

From the foot of the cross, the cross appeared to be the worst thing– from the perspective of history, we Christians see it as the best.

And we can trust that God is at work even in the times that are hardest. This is why I have hope.

……………………………………

This is so core to my identity that I put it into my book in the form of a parable.

Silas tells West that he believes that God is in control, even over the bad things, and she asks him why.

“Writers know that the climax comes before the resolution.” He was quiet for a second, then said, “Not just in fiction, either, West, but in real life too. How many times has the worst thing turned out to be necessary? Or even the best? Rescue wears masks, you know. It’s why people say it’s darkest before the dawn. Sometimes things take a long time to make sense. Could be years and years—or only a weekend. Or they might never make sense. But that doesn’t mean you stop trusting that the world is being rescued.”

Or only a weekend.

Good Friday, everyone. I’m looking forward to Sunday.

One Word Revisited: Sacrifice, a Trip Through Scripture

You might recall that my one word motto for 2017 is sacrifice

Sacrifice is such an interesting word, and between the Old Testament and the New Testament, there’s a big shift in the way it is viewed. I may have studied the Bible in undergrad, but I would never consider myself an expert. Still, join me for a little walk through scripture in regard to sacrifice.

Of course, in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel offered burnt sacrifices as a way to have their sins forgiven. In fact, it’s described this way (later, in Hebrews):

Hebrews 9:22 – Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Then, in the Psalms, I start to see a shift:

Psalm 40:6 – In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.

Psalm 50:14 – Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,

Psalm 50:23 – The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Psalm 51:16 – For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

Psalm 51:17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

And in Proverbs:

Proverbs 21:3 – To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

And in Isaiah:

Isaiah 1:11 – “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.”

THEN CHRIST COMES.

And now we learn a whole new way of looking at what we offer:

Matthew 9:13 – Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 12:33 – And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And when Jesus dies, the temple of the curtain is torn from top to bottom, symbolizing that his death was a sufficient atonement for sins. It was the final sacrifice– by Old Testament definitions. (Hebrews 10:12 – But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.)

After that, we are encouraged to be LIVING SACRIFICES:

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Ephesians 5:2 – And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Hebrews 13:15 – Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Hebrews 13:16 – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

1 Peter 2:5 – you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME IN 2017?

Well, I don’t know. But I see that my body is to be a living sacrifice, which makes me wonder: how do I honor God with my body? How can I treat my body right as the temple of the Holy Spirit and how can I use my body in ways that glorify God and promote holiness? I see I am to walk in love “as Christ … gave himself up for us,” so there is still that element of being poured out for the benefit of others. This, I think, includes my time, my heart, and my money. I see that I need to offer a sacrifice of praise– perhaps to carve out time to worship my God even in my busyness. I see that I am to do good and to share what I have; again, this encourages me to open my wallet again and again. Mercy and love are prioritized; they should be my priorities too.

So, that is what I am trying to do this year.

I am learning my friends’ love languages and trying to love them on their terms, not mine. That means taking the time to think through what would best show them how special they are and then making it happen. For example, I am a hermit. I’m happy to sit alone in my home all weekend, writing. But some of my friends feel best loved when I spend quality time with them. So, that means getting out of my house.

I am trying to become a more gracious, merciful, generous, and thoughtful friend to others and follower of Christ. To care about righteousness and justice. I am a work in progress, trying to keep my hands open.

sacrifice

 

 

One Word: Sacrifice

At myoneword.org, readers are encouraged to ditch the long list of new year’s resolutions and instead choose one word to focus on all year long, one word to inspire you, one word that encapsulates the character you want to have.

I’ve chosen sacrifice.

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It came to me over the last couple weeks– but, honestly, it’s something that’s been on my heart for over a year now. I’m not even totally sure what it will dictate my actions look like.

But I do know that I have been given much. And I know that I am selfish and don’t want to be. There is a story in the Old Testament in which King David wants to build an altar to God on land that is not his. The man who own the land offers it to him for free, and not only that, but also the oxen for the offering as well as threshing sledges and yokes for the wood.

But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.”

This year, I want to explore what that means for me. To offer to God and friends and the marginalized something that costs me.

Am I inviting discomfort into my year? Well, yes. But I also believe that “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

Amen. Here I go!

 

Messy: a Consolation

A new friend of mine admitted, “My faith is messy; it’s not a not cookie cutter story.”

Same.

But the gospel is messy. The story of the cross is not a cookie cutter one. Blood and betrayal; beauty and victory; agony, intention, determination. And for the believers, being gobsmacked with uncertainty, terror, heartache– but then the resurrection, the joy of it, the mind-blowing triumph.

This is my faith. Messy, unexpected, and everything I want.

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If you have a question …

and would like to ask me … you can do that now.

If you’re on my actual website (www.jackieleasommers.com), just click the blue doors in the sidebar that subtly read ASK ME ANYTHING.

Otherwise you can always click here too.

It’s anonymous or not, up to you.

Why did I add this?

  1. NOT because I’m some sort of guru.
  2. But people do have lots of questions about OCD and writing and faith and stuff, and they often email me. Especially about OCD.
  3. That can be a little overwhelming, and I’d prefer a more public platform to respond.
  4. This.
  5. Also, this way we all learn together. (P.S. I can totally do the dance below.) (No joke.)

Thanks, Wildcats! I hope you’ll use this! It will really help me know what readers want to hear about! 🙂