Most of the time it feels like the world lives in black and white. Pretty, ugly. Rich, poor. Smart, stupid. Christian, atheist. You’re either one or the other. I think it’s part of being human - we want to know where we stand. We want to know who we, and who other people, are. For every year I live, though, every new person I meet, every new problem that life throws at me, I realise that most of the time, that’s not how things work. We want black and white, we get grey.
I used to work for the church. I completed my teaching qualification at a Christian school. I teach Sunday School, and have done for a while. I am normally wearing either a cross or a religious ring of some kind. I guess most people don’t know this, but I pray daily and I normally start my day by reading the Bible over coffee. Much of the time I’d say it’s fairly obvious that I’m religious. White, right?
But everyone, even my colleagues, even relatively close friends, forget or don’t realise. Because I swear. Because alcohol passes my lips just a little too easily at times. Because I am all too honest about my struggles not to sleep with boyfriends and how I hurt and how I get sad and angry and lonely. Because I don’t speak up in that conversation when I know I should because honestly, I just want people to like me. Black. I’m a hypocrite, a liar, I’m making mistakes all the time and I need to ‘get myself right’ with God.
I hate the question ‘are you religious?’ because to me everything in that word exemplifies black and white thinking. I am a person just like any other, it’s impossible for me to live in black and white. On the face of it you may think I am ‘religious’, you may think I am anything but, but the fact is that I take my identity from a God who knows all about my black bits, my white bits, and all the messy tangled shades of grey that exist in between.
What I don’t do, though, is serve a sanitised, storybook God. I have been told that it’s ‘nice’ that I have ‘religion’. That other people wish that they could believe in the same way that I do because it’s ‘sweet’. No. My God is a lion. For some people, following Him is dangerous because it has required them to give up their lives, their freedom, in the literal senses of the words. For others, the sacrifices are smaller. We don’t have that extra drink, or swallow that pill. We don’t sleep with that person, although oh god we want to. We agree to spend time with that other person, even though at times we hate every word that comes out of their stupid mouth. Following Him takes balls. It means making hard decisions. It means denying instincts, and doing anything but what you think you want to do.
I don’t call myself a Christian because I think religion is ‘nice’ and ‘sweet’ and it will make me a ‘good person’. I don’t attend church because it’s something I think is nice to do on the weekend. I call myself a Christian because I got to know a person, and that person offered me something better than everything I’d imagined previously. I attend church because I need the company of other hopeless fuck-ups to keep reminding me what I’ve got.
So while everyone else is calling black and white, I’m going to call grey. Because grey is what we all are. It isn’t necessarily pleasant, and it isn’t necessarily easy. But it’s human, and it’s life. And tension is what living is all about.
If God is not real, why does He offend you so much? You say our God is as real as the tooth fairy, yet you do not see me slandering the tooth fairy and getting upset whenever someone even mentions them.
For the most part, people don’t object to God - they don’t even object to the idea of God. They object to the people who claim to be His followers who demonstrate hatred, intolerance and injustice. I have had countless conversations with atheists who like Jesus! Often Christians have a tendency to look at the ideas that Jesus was either a liar, evil, or was who he claimed to be, and simply see the ‘right’ answer. There is no way he could have simply been a prophet or a ‘great teacher’ or a ‘good man’. But maybe we should look slightly closer at that - even people who aren’t Christians, even those who don’t believe in God, still see Jesus as a positive thing.
Yes, it would be great if God would speak for Himself, to everyone, all of the time, but He doesn’t and so most of the time, when people think about God, they see the Christian. They see Pope Francis, they see Mother Theresa, they see C.S. Lewis, but also they see Westboro Baptist Church. They see the people picketing funerals, they see the people protesting against equality for the LGBT community, and that all gets lumped in together.
The next time someone slanders God, or gets offended by people talking about religion, or starts branding all Christians as intolerant, ignorant jerks or whatever, we need to ask the right questions. How have they been hurt, or let down, or excluded by people calling themselves followers of God? How have they been offended by the behaviour of people who forget the God they serve and live by their own rules instead? We all do it. We’re all human. But the chances are that God is just as offended by it as they are, some of us are offended by it too, and life is about us learning to live in the tension and the grey areas.
Jeanette Winterson, Why I adore the night (via stability)
Yes, so true.
There will come a time when you want to cut off all your hair. Do it. Realise that the thing you want rid of doesn’t lie in the long curls that frame your face so perfectly. Live with short hair for a while. It’ll grow.
You won’t always want to talk to people. That’s okay. When it’s late and you hear your friends talking in the next room, you don’t have to join them. You’re allowed your solitude. It makes company sweeter and it teaches you how to survive alone. You will need that skill.
In the winter, you’ll believe that nothing will ever grow again. You’re wrong. Every year, London looks like it’s on its last legs, wheezing through those last cold days in March. Every year, spring comes like an explosion and the city shakes off its sleep.
Mundane problems will get the better of you sometimes. Don’t worry. Try as you might, life cannot be an endless, beautiful, intense moment. Find comfort in money worries and late trains; they’re a welcome rest in between heartbreaks and breakdowns.
People will call you a cynic, a wry smile on their faces. Pay them no mind. You alone know that you are capable of a love greater than anything they can comprehend. You alone know that you are not willing to sell your identity and respect to the first smirking halfwit to pass by. It is not cynicism. It is reverence for your own vast and fathomless heart, and it makes sense only to love someone who understands that and is awed by it.
You will not always get what you want when you want it. Accept it. Your goals are not set in stone and you are not on a fixed trajectory. Sometimes, life will take its time and you will have to play the long, interminable game. Play it well and with as much grace as you can muster. Live at your own pace.
At night, you will occasionally wake up afraid, wanting to die. Don’t give in. Night plays its tricks, but you are not so easily fooled. Your mind will play its tricks, too. It will make you believe that you’re not who you are, but you must not give in. You take a breath and you tell yourself that you are here. That you always were.
Practical Advice for Difficult Women (#20 - 9th December)
some people are afraid of dogs but i’m afraid of the opposite of dogs. the absence of dogs. dogless space
I have some theories about your son. I wonder where he is, and why he hasn’t come back. My first theory is because you still haven’t forgiven yourself for what happened to him, so you’ve devoted your eternity to tending to his wounds. That’s beautiful, if so. I hope you two are happy. My second theory, is that he’s been here all along, in different bodies and different parts of the world. Maybe he’s got a garden in London somewhere, and he doesn’t have a lot of friends, except for a few, who notice the pure white light in his eyes, but shrug it off and blame it on the sun. Sometimes, I wonder if I’ve met him by accident. Maybe I brushed past him on the bus, or pressed my hand into his back while trying to squeeze through a crowd. I don’t think so, though. I think I would have felt that kind of heaven in my hands. I think I would have noticed.
Are you scared of us? Are you ashamed? I’m not accusing, I’m just curious. Did you plan for this? I mean, some of us are terrible. Some of us are just wicked to the core, and I don’t understand how you can love them like you love everyone. I think about how your son turned his cheek for angry hands, and I can’t imagine. I am shaking with rage at the thought of letting someone do that to me. Forgiveness is powerful, I know that, but so is smashing things and setting people straight. I’m just so angry, sometimes. I don’t know what to do with the hate, because it tastes so bad, but it burns if I spit it out. Do you feel anger? You must. I mean, you have to. There are so many of us who have destroyed you, used you, manipulated you, forged your face and worn your clothes. What do you do with it? Lightning? Are you the thunder? I guess it isn’t angels bowling, but wouldn’t that be cool. My memories of you smell like old wood and the smoke from candles. I looked for you in church on Sundays, and briefly wondered if that was your light in the stained glass windows. Can I be honest? I only believe in you sometimes. One time, I was on the verge of a panic attack and crying into my pillow, so I started talking (praying) to you. I don’t remember what I said, but when I was finished, the bees left my stomach, and I felt clean. I fell asleep sighing. I believed in you then, I really did. I could almost feel you.
Some days, you’re all I look for. Some days, I can’t conjure your name for the life of me. Please don’t be mad, I’m just being honest.
I think I miss you. I think people have ruined you. I think I’m a little afraid of you. I think you’ll forgive me.
Conversations With God, pt. I | Caitlyn S. (via sketchmedesire)