it’s complicated

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Image Credit: Steve Johnson on Unsplash

With Father’s Day coming up, I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot these past few days. I remember that he gave me a love for the outdoors and classical music, a deeply engrained hard-work ethic, and some infamous, not-always-healthy but stuck-in-my-head, life mottos like: “If you want it done right, do it yourself”. I also remember him saying often, especially near the end of his life, “It’s complicated”.

Back in the day, when he said “It’s complicated”, I would roll my eyes and oh-so-smartly think he was just making an excuse for not doing what I hoped he would do.

I’m afraid it has been too easy for me to judge others
before I have walked in their shoes.

I’ve noticed lately that I now say, “It’s complicated” all. the. time.

Life really is complicated.

And complex. And messy. And so much more nuanced and interwoven and painful and tangled than I ever imagined. If I didn’t know it before, the last few months of COVID-19 world implications and the newly ignited and overdue topic of racial inequality have made the complications run unstoppable through my head and my heart.

No matter what opinion or idea or suggestion or demand that surfaces, there is always a passionately presented contrary perspective. For some of those issues, whether it has to do with social isolation or correcting injustices, I have a clear conviction and satisfactory action steps in my mind.

On the other hand, there are so many topics, plans, and “We need to do this!” answers to our problems that feel not as simplistic as they appear in the heat of the moment. And I struggle with the complexity. One approach that will help some people would end up hurting others. One budget adjustment would benefit part of the community but compound problems in another area. People are created in the image of God, defined by much more than their mistakes, and somehow also accountable for harms that they inflict, even without the intent. It’s complicated.

I have recently experienced (again) that I still carry emotional baggage from my childhood that shows up uninvited into my present tense interactions with the people I love – and causes them pain. I have no desire to do that. I hope that I have grown past that, but it still happens. 

I work hard to communicate clearly, lovingly, and with empathy and grace to others, but I continue to hurt people’s feelings and cause misunderstandings. Although I want to exemplify asking powerful questions and demonstrating sincere curiosity for others, I too often end up pushing for my agenda, speaking my opinion as if it were firm and factual, and talking over others before they can say what they think. I wish I didn’t do that, but I do.

And so I continue to admit my mistakes, my selfishness, my immaturities, and my gaps and ask for forgiveness and grace from others. I keep leaning into difficult conversations and asking questions – some good ones, some that show my ignorance – with a willing attempt to sort through the “It’s complicated” to find some real solutions to deep problems. And as I hope to receive grace from others for my obvious imperfections, I press on to offer that same grace and love to others, no matter their point of view or contrary idea or even their expressed anger and displeasure with me. My Dad was right.

It’s complicated. 

Relationships, systems, history… they are complicated. And it’s worth it for us to care well for others and ourselves. To speak and act with kindness. To work together to fix things that are messed up. To bring hope to our shared future. To be Jesus’ light of love to others. Hatred, bullying, hurt-for-hurt is not the way. It’s not easy, but courageously pursuing truth and healing – with love – is our only option. 


What are some things you do to handle this complicated life of ours? 

a heart in turmoil

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Photo credit: Saneej Kallingal on Unsplash

Many months ago, I felt the weight of the many divisions and verbal attacks I was seeing and hearing on my communications platforms. I wanted to create a resource to help us learn how to truly listen to each other, communicate well, seek understanding, respectfully accept differences, and embrace the diversity of ideas, opinions, cultures, and personalities that make up our beautiful world.

I never found the time or the emotional energy to pull it off – and then COVID hit, and we were all focused on surviving a pandemic. The timing did not seem right.

Recently, my heart has been shattered anew by vocal spokespersons unknown to me and dear beloved friends who have passionately been sharing their differing opinions in judgmental, polarized, and hurtful ways.

I am earnestly searching for truth and breakthrough, enduring answers to the heartbreaking loss of life, the systemic problems and injustices, and the lack of unity in our country and our world. I am searching my heart for sinful attitudes and complicity in those wrongs and sincerely listening to a multitude of voices who have experiences that differ from my own. I believe them, and my heart breaks at their pain. I am learning new ways to engage, advocate, and support those who need my help.

I am very concerned about responses that flippantly deny another’s reality, over-harsh reactions that are full of hate and violence, disrespectful and derogatory judgment of whole categories of people, commercial and political agendas that prefer to instigate people to damaging harm rather than encourage the deep, thoughtful, excruciatingly-hard-work conversations and reforms that would genuinely serve people, right wrongs, and improve and benefit our country and world.

There is no easy fix for our mess. There are no easy solutions.
Our past, present, and our future are full of broken people who do horrible things AND full of brave, compassionate people who help make things better. 

My heart longs for a community that comprehends our need to listen, communicate, and work together to benefit all. That humbly admits that we do not know everything, we are not always right, and willingly offers to learn, grow, and change. I am urgently seeking those people who acknowledge our need to ask for and offer forgiveness, who accept the messy and the uncomfortable and the awkward. And who will create and implement laws, policies, and processes that bring a safer, healthier, more just way of life for each person – all the while recognizing and sacrificially entering the immense complexity and the heart-wrenching agony of the process ahead.

More than anything, I think I am looking for love.

Love for and from all sides.

Love as the foundation of all we desire and desperately need to do.

Is it possible?

I do not always bring that myself. I want to.

Only my faith in supernatural, Jesus-empowered grace gives me strength and hope.

How is your heart in the middle of this mess?  How do you bring people together?