Thursday, November 12, 2015

To The Bully

     You are now a guest in our home. You see, everything you do to my son, the name calling, the threats, all of it, follows him home every night from school.  It sits in our living room, it rides in our car, he wears it on his face, this venom that you see fit to spit at him because your have latched on to cruelty as your means of defense... or perhaps as your means of offense. Either way, you are hurting my child and that is not okay.
     Now, I know that you yourself are just a child. You are in my son's grade at school so I am assuming that you are 12 or 13. You are not old enough to wield the power that you hold. You are not old enough to understand that for the rest of his life, when he sees you on the street, when he thinks about you in the future, at class reunions, you are going to be the bully. You have pigeon-holed yourself. You will never be more than you are now to my son and to those of us who love him. What a foolish and childish thing to do. But then again, you are just a child. And for a child to say those very overtly "adult" things that you are saying to my son, I can only assume that there is little parental control in your home. Some might let that be the explanation and just shake their heads and let it be over. I won't.
     In case no one in the school system or your home environment has ever told you, I will make this very clear: It is wrong to call people names. It is wrong to tell people they should just go die. It is wrong to make people feel bad to try to make yourself feel better. It is wrong. I am sorry if it happens to you at home. I am sorry if it is happening to you at school. But I have told you that it is wrong. I am an authority figure. You should stop. You should have stopped a long time ago. Let me tell you why you should have stopped.
     Because sooner or later the flaws come out to play. My son's flaw is that he is fat and you think that makes him weak. Your flaw is perhaps hidden a bit better, but it is going to show up soon enough and when someone finds out that flaw and exploits it, you will be so shocked and shaken and lost. You won't be able to believe that you, the stronger, the alpha, the instigator, is being bullied. And you will be bullied, because everyone gets bullied. You, however, won't be able to deal with it because you have little to no compassion for others which means that you internalize everything and you will most certainly implode at some point.
     There is another, more important reason why you should stop bullying my son. That reason is this: he is a good kid. He is funny and smart. He loves to play video games and watch movies. He's a great cook and he's kind. He loves to do nice things for others. You are missing out because you have turned him into an enemy just because he doesn't fit into whatever narrow parameters you have for existing without the pressure of the torment that comes from your sad, uneducated mouth.
     I know all of these things because I was bullied when I was a kid. I would have been one of your victims. But now I understand that you are a coward. I understand that you have no coping mechanisms. I understand that you may suffer from a bad home environment. But mostly I understand that you are mean... that you enjoy being mean. You like laughing at my child when he doesn't know how to react to you. You like the power that comes with pushing other people around.
     That is why I am going to pray for you... for several reasons actually. I'm going to pray for you because I have watched my "fat" son knock an 80-pound heavy bag into a horizontal layout without gloves or wraps. I'm going to pray for you because any human being can only put up with so much and I sure hope you grow some compassion and back off of him before he has had enough. I am going to pray for you because I need to forgive you. I need to forgive you for ruining our evenings together as a family, for taking away his laughter, for making all of us hurt. I am going to pray that you will get a glimpse of how he sees you and that will scare into being at least humane.
     But mainly I am going to pray for you because the world is not tolerant or welcoming when it comes to self-important, cruel-hearted bullies. The world loves an underdog and hates an overlord. The world loves to watch the alpha become the omega, the meek inherit the earth and the stepped on climb to the top. I pray that you get over yourself before it is too late. I pray that you realize that everyone has value, including but not exclusive to you. I pray that you choose to learn the lesson before life says it's time. Because that never, ever turns out well.
     I don't want you to be friends with my child. I know that in time you will fade to the back and just be some shadow on his seventh grade year. That should make you sad, but it won't. Not yet. Not until everything evens out you see the light. It may be in the next year; it may be in the nursing home. I can't foresee the future, but I can foresee parts of your, there is the reason why the phrase "Oh how the mighty have fallen," exists. I just regret that you feel the need to elevate yourself to the category of mighty. Remember little one, there is only way to go when you are all the way up...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Being Broken

     When I was about six years old, I did something horrible. My mother had this beautiful lead crystal vase that she kept in the kitchen window. The vase caught the light no matter what time of day it was and cast a prismatic rainbow over the entire kitchen. I knew she loved it because she had given me the "don't touch it" speech. Long story short, I touched it. I touched it so much that I broke it. The bottom was still in tact, but there were four pieces of glass where one beautiful piece of perfection once was.
     I had no choice but to gather up the pieces and take them to Mom. She was upset... upset that the vase was broken, upset that I had touched it when she had explicitly told me NOT to touch it, but mostly upset that I had picked up the broken pieces and brought them to her. "You could have really hurt yourself by picking them up," she said to me as she gingerly took the pieces from my hands. "The edges are sharp." 
     I got grounded for touching the vase - totally deserved it. And I helped Mom glue it back together. It took hours, putting glue on one piece and holding it until it bonded with the piece that would stabilize it, then adding another piece and holding it until it bonded with the two other pieces and so on... Finally, it was back together. We set it in the window and sure enough, the light still caught it. But the brokenness of the vase, despite the fact that we had put it back together, had changed the way the light reflected. It was almost twice as bright with new patterns of light bouncing both inside and outside of the vase. Mom stood back and looked at it... a pattern of blue and yellow prisms on her face and she smiled. "The seams where it was broken, they are letting the light through into the glass." 
     I've thought about that incident a lot lately. Mainly because of my brokenness. I never realized, when it was happening, that my mother was teaching me about living in that moment. The brokenness is where the light comes in. I have embraced that and there is no freedom like the freedom that comes with realizing that you are going to get hurt, that it is inevitable. You are going to be broken... it is a certainty. But it is what you do with your brokenness that matters. Will you hide it from the light and make it a crack that just collects dust? Will you set it on the window and wait for the sun to rise so that it can help make the light dance? 
    I often think about brokenness in relation to the church. Churches, the body of Christ, even in this day and age, doesn't accept brokenness well. Television commercials show perfect little hipster families, websites are slick and modern, worship services are more like mini-concerts... and these are wonderful advancements. Unless you are broken. When you are broken, you don't want to see that. You want to see people who might understand you. You want to know that when you enter into a sanctuary you are going to be accepted for your brokenness, not gossiped about or held up as an example of what not to do. 
     When my mother passed away almost a year ago, I stopped going to church. I'm not sure why. My faith in God was at a new place in its growth, a place I had never considered. But I couldn't do church. Maybe it was because the fellowship I needed at that point wasn't with people but with the Lord... maybe I was subversively angry at God and just didn't realize it. I look back now and I think that I didn't go because I was so broken and I couldn't bear the idea of no one addressing my brokenness because I was wearing it, I was living it and I was speaking it but it made me difficult to be around. I needed some light to shine through the cracks... I needed someone to recognize my brokenness in a loving, caring, Christ-like manner. Not with self-righteous indignation. Not with judgement. But with love, unconditional and firm. 
     Then it occurred to me that there is no wonder that most people are put off by Christianity as it stands today. We want perfect. We want perfect people to come to the perfect service. We don't seem to want to upset the applecart of Christian. We are the city on the hill, the problem is that the hill is one that we have built by turning the church into a country club for part-time sinners, a social center where the only outreach we perform is reaching out for more money, building, adding on, etc. The only currency that we need as the situation grows more and more desperate is courage and acceptance. And honesty.... oh to be able to enter a building full of human beings to whom I could open my brokenness, share it, allow them to carry it for me and with me. That, more than anything, more than a building or gathering of people, is what the church should be. We should be seeking out the broken and helping them carry the pieces. They are sharp, those pieces of brokenness and as much as the breaking hurts, carrying the pieces is even more dangerous. We should be offering to carry them. And it seems that we are not. 
     So I will start. I am broken. But there is light inside of me. And the light, should it ever shine on me again, might bounce right off of one of my broken pieces and blind you into believing that it is the broken who need what we have to offer... the broken among us and the broken outside of us looking in, hoping to catch a glimpse of something that might offer them healing.