I grew up in the South, so I learned early that good Christian girls (and women) were expected to always be “nice.” This fundamental edict is ingrained in me at a very deep level, and I measure myself against it constantly.
One of the (many) gifts I took away from my recent class in Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was a renewed appreciation for the role that story plays in a life of faith. The Old Testament begins with long sections of story-telling. These stories are re-told and re-interpreted throughout the rest of the Old Testament books and into the New Testament. In fact, we still engage with those stories today both in traditional religious settings and in literature.
While there are ways that my religious upbringing has left some deep scars, one of the things that it did give me was a strong knowledge of these stories. Some of the stories are comforting, many are disturbing in one way or another, but all reflect the messiness of real life as it was then and as it still is today.
I know from life coaching just how powerful questions can be. The right question from a coach is often key to a client discovering their own answer to a situation by creating the space for the client to see the situation from a different angle in some way. When I went through my coaching training, we studied the art of powerful questions and practiced them on each other in coaching practicums. The idea of how important questions can be is not new news to me.
And yet, someone asked me a question last week—simply out of curiosity, without any aims at changing my life in any way—and I’ve been floored by the fact that I cannot get this question and the implications of my answer out of my mind.
I’ve learned the hard way that when it comes to people and relations appearances can be deceiving, words can be used to trick and to hide as much to expose, feelings can’t always be trusted, and that the “truth” in any given situation usually depends on who you ask. In short, there is seldom an absolute truth to any interaction between human beings, and even the truth that can be reliably nailed down in some way is likely to be interpreted differently by each participant and each viewer.
For many years, this made me hesitant to trust my own perceptions of situations I found myself in. I distrusted my feelings, questioned my motives, doubted my observations. Most of all, I ignored my intuition. At the slightest hint of contradiction to my own opinions, I accepted the “truth” of those around me above my own knowing.
“Writing makes a map, and there is something about a journey that begs to have its passage marked.” ~ Christina Baldwin
Tomorrow’s blog post will be my 500th post that I’ve published here on this blog. Because I’ve taken some longish sabbaticals at times from blog writing, it’s taken me almost three years to get this far.
This blog began as a safe space to record my journey. It continues to be that space for me, but over time, it’s also become the map showing where I’ve been. It’s the record of what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown through the experiences I’ve encountered along the way.
I enjoy writing, and words usually come fairly easily for me. (At least, they seem to in comparison to the struggles I’ve heard other people describe for their writing process.) But the last few weeks have felt really dry and flat for me as I sit down each evening to write my blog post.
I know I’ve been stressed and busy with wrapping up the semester, preparing for the holidays, getting as many items up on Etsy as possible for holiday shoppers, finishing the yard work preparations for winter, and attending holiday functions. I know that some of my struggle to find new ideas each night is simply exhaustion. But that’s not all of it.
Today marked the end of both the semester and of my Christmas “doing” for this year. All gifts have been made, purchased, and given (or at least shipped). Cards have been given or mailed. Baking is done. I can now rest.
And as I settled in tonight to rest from the busyness of the last couple of weeks, I had a startling realization: I actually enjoyed my gift giving this year! This probably sounds odd to most people, but gift giving occasions (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) are usually times of intense anxiety and stress for me.
I’ve been studying for my final exam in my Introduction to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament class this weekend. One of the topics that I have been reviewing in preparation for the exam is the category of wisdom literature found in the Bible.
All wisdom literature is made up of human reflections on the meaning of life and how it works, but we find two kinds of wisdom literature in the Bible. One is proverbial wisdom, which comprises collections of short, pithy statements (and sometimes short stories) that is general good advice about how to live well. These proverbs often take a concrete example and generalize it to all of life. The problem is that life is rarely that simple, and there are many exceptions to these “rules” for living.
The second kind of wisdom literature is known as philosophical wisdom, and we find this type of wisdom literature in the books of Job and Ecclesiastes. Both of these books are asking and exploring a question about life. Ecclesiastes is asking about profit we get from life. What is the point of life beyond working to get our basic needs met? Job is asking whether there is ever such a thing as disinterested righteousness. Do we ever do good when there is no reward (or no perceived reward) for doing so?
I’ve been thinking a lot about faith in the context of questions lately.
In the class that I am taking on the Hebrew Bible, we have reached the Prophets and the time of the end of the Davidic kingdom and the Babylonian exile for Judah. On Friday, we took a look at how these events caused shifts in the way that the Israelites thought of God and of their relationship to God. How do they worship God when they are no longer in the Promised Land? When there is no longer a temple? What does it mean to be the people of God when in exile?
Today marks the end of my month of publicly posting my daily gratitude statuses to Facebook and Twitter. The month has gone by quickly! There are still so many things that I am grateful for that I didn’t get a chance to mention.
Although this is my third year of doing this on Facebook, I still made new discoveries this year about myself and my relationship to gratitude as I observed my progress through this exercise.