A small sampling of things I cannot do

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Lent is all about reflection and about how we’re pretty much down in the dumps when we’re sans Savior. In accordance with that, here’s my seriously truncated list of things I cannot do.

I can’t:

  • Throw a football.
  • Do math above a fifth-grade level. (Probably. I haven’t tried. The only math I do on a regular basis is calculate tips, and sometimes I don’t even do that accurately.)
  • Eat chocolate without melting some portion of it into my clothes. Chocolate is really hard to get out of most fabric, kids. You’ve been warned.
  • Read anything, anywhere without looking for grammatical or punctuation errors.
  • Take politicians seriously.
  • Touch my toes. (Have you seen how long my legs are? I protest! They are too long!)
  • Dance.
  • Wear cable-knit sweaters. (But, really, who can? Welsh or Irish farmers may be the only ones.)
  • Pass a dog without wanting to pet it.
  • Watch war movies. See also: Talk about war movies.
  • Drive a manual transmission car. We got a 10-minute lesson from a car salesman in August, but I felt like we were all going to die in a jerky, fiery blaze the whole time I was behind the wheel and on the clutch.
  • Read music.
  • Watch golf for more than three minutes without crying out from desperate, desperate boredom.
  • Skateboard. Not that I’ve ever tried. Or have any desire to try. It is easily the most stressful form of transportation to observe.
  • Watch FOX News without my blood pressure spiking significantly.
  • Enjoy a trip to the mall.
  • Make crafts.
  • Hide my emotions from my face.
  • Open wine bottles without seriously messing up or losing the cork.
  • Let my feet touch the bottom of a slimy lake or river without wanting to vomit. I can walk barefoot on rocks in a stream all day long, but please, please don’t ask me to put them in the green slime. See: Trip to Rivanna swimming hole, circa summer 2010, in which I bailed and sat on a log near the very pregnant and beautiful Cate.
  • Kill animals or watch animals being killed. See also: Kill people or watch people being killed.
  • Tell a joke without making an allusion to Liz Lemon or a member of the Bluth family.

And these are just a FEW of them! I can’t do so many things. Lenten conclusion? Jesus is OK with this list.

I knew I was not magnificent

Source: Flickr user lovebrowne

Part I. On Not Writing about Jesus

When I was a young blogger, I wrote more freely about my faith. At that time, I assumed that all of my readers were also like-minded Christians. This was a fair assumption, since I think my mom, my grandparents, and my sisters were my only readers. But over the past two years or so, I’ve more or less stopped writing about my faith and I regret that. The gospel is important to me, but you’d never get that impression by reading this blog. I write about all of the other things that are important to me–Guion, friends, family, books, dogs–but not about Jesus.

Why not?

Here’s my best guess as to why I stopped doing this. I have followed the tendency of many bloggers to whitewash my life. The one thing you learn about blogging for a few years is that you can’t express an opinion about anything without offending someone. Because of this, I have tried to avoid topics that are inherently personal and offensive, like religion and politics. While most casual readers could probably divine my political leanings (it is evident that I am not a Sarah Palin or FOX news fan), it would be trickier to actually figure out what I believe about God.

Lately, I’ve tended to keep my thoughts about God closer to my chest. I have many friends who are not Christians. I am hesitant to write about my many religiously oriented thoughts and concerns for fear of alienating people. Even I don’t like to read long-winded and highly emotional posts about religion. It’s not often enjoyable and it is often hard to relate to; faith is, by definition, such an intensely personal thing. Even more than puppies and books. It’s generally more enjoyable to read a post about someone’s kitchen makeover than it is to read a post about their internal turmoil over transubstantiation. Intensely personal things are not always blog (aka, The Entire Internet Can Read This) material.

However. All of this to say: I think there are appropriate and considerate ways to write about one’s faith on the Interwebs. I am going to try to do this with more frequency, but I think I’ll also spend some time studying good examples. Mrs. Pinckney and Betsey come to mind as people I know who blog gracefully and fluidly about the intersection between Jesus and life. I hold them up as valuable examples.

So, here’s a short attempt:

Part II. I Knew I Was Not Magnificent

No one enjoys receiving criticism. But when you don’t hear it for a while, you start to think that you’re pretty awesome. Boy, there’s nothing wrong with me! I am the best.

If we’re lucky, however, we have people in our lives who are able and willing to tell us that this is not the case. After a few months of believing that I was super, I’ve received a lot of criticism from important people in my life over the past few weeks. As these people pointed out, I am grumpy, judgmental, and anxious. I am an energetic young curmudgeon most of the time. I am fundamentally cynical about most things. I am an obsessive planner because I tend to expect worst possible outcomes and because I thrive on a high degree of responsibility.

As these people kindly pointed out, these aren’t the best personality traits. I had more or less forgotten about these unfortunate aspects of myself until I heard these reminders. To be pushed back to God, to a place of humility–it is a necessary chore. I think God speaks to us through other people sometimes. Often, through our closest friends and loved family–and sometimes, through a much-lauded hipster musician.

We were listening to Bon Iver’s new album on our drive to North Carolina this weekend. The gorgeous song “Holocene” came on and we talked briefly about the chorus.

we smoked the screen to make it what it was to be
now to know it in my memory:

… and at once I knew I was not magnificent
high above the highway aisle
(jagged vacancy, thick with ice)
I could see for miles, miles, miles…

“I knew I was not magnificent.” What a simple and perfect expression. It’s that place of humility that we all have to reach with ourselves at some point or another. Acknowledging that I am not magnificent was a surprisingly difficult thing to do. Difficult, but essential.