My Awefull Life » A Pilgrimage of Wonder

Masthead header

Confirmation Bias, echo chamber, gaslighting, Dunning-Kruger effect, logical fallacy- these are a handful of the phrases currently heard around our house at a growing rate. About once a day I will wander into my husband’s home office, baffled by the latest conspiracy or headline and broken by the people who are lining up to buy in. And by baffled I mean I either burst into tears or start yelling, because I simply CANNOT UNDERSTAND. It defies logic, and it completely breaks my heart. As Rob attempts to comfort or calm me (or just get me off his office floor), we dialogue, we sort through, we watch the viral videos and we read – so.much.reading. I am grateful for the conversation, often the debate (spoiler alert: my husband and I don’t always agree), and mostly the safety to be unsure or even wrong yet still wanted. 

At one particularly low social media moment last week, I was talking to God and really asking Him to help me keep my mouth shut. I was disappointed in some people, angered by others, and could feel the rush of emotion pushing me to comment, to call out – subsequently jumping right into the mud with the rest of the collective internet. It was in that place, inside that prayer for a Holy Spirit muzzle, when my perspective shifted just enough to see a bit of the “why,” and catch a glimpse of understanding as to how we seem to have lost ourselves. 

Grief. The glimpse was of grief. 

If you have ever walked with someone who was grieving, you may recall a time when their pain manifested in some challenging behavior(s). Maybe they have been short tempered, or low-filtered and say things without thinking. Maybe they are distant or cold, impulsive or intense. But you, from the outside of the grief cycle, can see they are hurting and so grace is most often extended. Empathy bridges the gap between each stage of their grief back to you again. We cover each other when one another is hurting. So then what happens when a large portion of the population suddenly finds itself in a pandemic-induced cycle of grief? How do we offer mercy for the misbehaving when our collective baseline of pain has been obliterated seemingly overnight? Who can be expected to keep watch and cover for the traumatized, when we are all experiencing a certain level of mourning? It is said all the time, hurt people hurt people. Friends, we are currently a world full of hurting people; And unchecked, we will become a world filled with people imposing harm on other people. Our weapons will be our anger, our confusion, our fear, our wayward words: Our Grief. 

One of the hardest wrestles for me personally has been watching so many leaders, people in a position of authority, use their platforms to dispense information/views counter to the integrity and character that aided them in being given their role to begin with. When a person of influence- which incidentally we all are in some fashion- can lead an audience, a facebook feed, a congregation, into a grief-driven biased news cycle? And we the people blindly follow, perpetuating the message, no questions asked, no facts checked, no deep breaths or pauses? Well, cue bursts of tears and disillusioned slumps into my husband’s chest. 

I have been thinking about Moses from the Old Testament a lot. In the book of Numbers, there is an event where Moses disobeys God by striking a rock for water instead of simply speaking to it as God instructed. His outburst was on display for the people he was responsible for leading. And yes, I imagine Moses was weary and thirsty- wandering around a desert for forty years with a bunch of complaining, rebellious people was probably not always a delightful assignment. And yet this man God used to confront an Egyptian pharaoh, walk the Israelites across a sea split straight open, a man who faithfully led an often faithless people, banged on a rock from a place of unchecked emotion. And the people stood witness. While in the end God was merciful and forgiving, Moses did not walk away without severe consequence for his actions. He was an ambassador, a representative, who in a moment misrepresented his Lord. 

Reactions carry consequences. Unacknowledged or unaddressed grief will show itself in destructive ways, and unchecked long enough the collateral damage will be dense. Leadership is a heavy, heavy burden. And we are all leaders in some capacity. As a person of faith, I live by the creed the Apostle Paul penned, “follow me as I follow Jesus.” So then how can the world reconcile one’s profession of faith if it is accompanied by a meme mocking those who choose to wear a protective mask to the grocery store? How is one helping people see Jesus by sharing an article or video slandering our public health officials? The words we choose to offer, the causes or conspiracies we distribute on a public forum, matter. I absolutely find great value in healthy discussion and debate- with the appropriate audience. Again, following the lead of Jesus and his approach to communication is often helpful for me to reference back to. There were messages Jesus spoke to the masses and others he saved for those few who walked with him in daily life. What communication of mine is productive and edifying on a larger scale, and what opinions or thoughts are better saved for my inner circle? My husband, my pastor, a few close friends, the Holy Spirit – these are the spaces where I may react or reveal a bias, but because I am known well outside of my grief, I am safe to wrestle through the uncertainty.

So what does grief have to do with logical fallacies and confirmation bias? 

graphic via James Clear

“Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to search for and favor information that confirms our beliefs while simultaneously ignoring or devaluing information that contradicts our beliefs.” – James Clear

How is grief fueling my bias?

How is grief fueling your bias?

Let’s remember, grief doesn’t only mean being sad. So, I’ll ask again.

How is grief influencing your bias? How is your disappointment over canceled graduations, proms, vacations, influencing your bias? How is fear over lost income, no cure, no groceries on store shelves, influencing your bias? How is isolation or boredom or anxiety, fueling your bias? What article, headline, expert, am I latching on to because it favors a belief I already have? What facts am I choosing to ignore because I am hurting and just want someone to be the bad guy? 

In a time of great human distress, we are grasping for control, solutions, someone or thing to blame. How are we wielding our grief experience? Is it a refining tool or a weapon in an arsenal against anyone who dares to challenge my position? This particular snapshot of time has shown me in new ways just how absolutely intolerable our culture finds uncertainty and grief. We have become so conditioned to have an instant solution- an answer to any and every problem- because the inconvenience and discomfort of uncertainty is simply unbearable to us. While we may post the occasional pretty hand-lettered graphic reminding us we are all walking out our own battles, by and large I see a culture so uneasy with trauma and grief we go to great lengths keeping our internal selves under armor by way of filters and highlight reel captions.

Please, let’s wake up to the uncomfortable reality that we may be struggling through our days. Attempting to carry the burden of our rage, fear, loneliness or disillusionment, while maintaining some level of basic human functioning and composure is a tall ask. Let us be brave enough to ask of one another, and give honest assessments in turn. 

One small way we are attempting to check in on each other at our house is a daily internal battery check, inspired by a tool Brené Brown uses in her family, called the Gap Plan. Our kitchen letterboard is currently serving as the family battery chart. I am trying to teach my kids to be awake to what is happening internally and how it impacts their outward selves. I am trying to train myself to be as honest as possible about what root emotion is propelling my actions and/or words. And I am trying to dialogue daily with my people so when one or more members of the family are running low, those who have more reserve can fill the gap by way of grace and empathy. 

To paraphrase one of my favorite memes of quarantine, this season on the internet has been absolute hot dog water. I am truly sorry being a human is so difficult right now. I am sorry for the weight our leaders are attempting to carry. I pray our politicians, health-care professionals, pastors, teachers, and parents all feel Jesus near. I pray we all can take a collective breath before reacting publicly to those topics that bait our bias. I pray we have dialogue and debate in proper forums- around a dinner table, a fire pit, a park bench, to name a few. For those in the back, Facebook does not qualify as a productive forum. Our grieving world is watching. 

Finally I pray the God of all creation may bless us and keep us; may He make His face shine upon us and be gracious to us; May the Lord look upon us and shower us in peace. (Number 6:24-26)

Recently, on the fringes of this latest holiday season, I received an internal invitation of sorts. It arrived as I stood quiet and still for several moments one morning- forcing myself to ignore the whistling locomotive in the distance of my mind- the all too familiar Anxiety Express barreling down the tracks.

There in the brief absence of my own thoughts, I heard that inside-my-soul- voice simply say, “an invitation to buoyancy.” The call to weightlessness was being extended even as I watched the engine steam from the train heavy-laden with burden and stress, break the horizon. It was an invitation I wanted to accept, and yet wasn’t sure I would. Or could. How can I, how can we, be buoyant here at the height of the fall season, where everything from the colors of the trees to the numbers on the scale appear heavy and dense? 

Watching the autumn leaves release from their once firm grasp on the limbs overhead, I can almost feel myself being buried under their volume. As if each fallen leaf is an obligation or thought filling my mind. Something at once so lovely, slowly smothering me until that invitation to lightness feels completely out of reach. 

I love words and their imagery. God knows this, so just as the leaves gently float down from branch to ground, he begins to talk to me about his invitation. Yes, the season feels heavy, and if I choose to look down at the weight surrounding us all, it may immobilize me indefinitely. But Jesus said His burden is light. Easy, weightless, restful even. And as another leaf breaks free above, the sunlight shines through its vacancy and I see more clearly than just a moment before. Jesus, the Light of the world- the light of this dark world, weighed down in brokenness- came to be and bring light. Jesus brings buoyancy. I am simply invited to the party he has already prepared. He has been offering the same invitation to all of us all along. In Matthew’s gospel we read of Jesus doing just that, ‘Come, all who are heavy. Come close to the Light. Be light.’ Come close, stay close- for it’s in the staying near that burden turns to buoyant. It requires of me though- the coming near, the laying down of my cares, thoughts, expectations. Things I have accumulated must fall to the ground to make space for more light in my life. As a practical point of transparency and accountability, a few of the things I am currently feeling prompted to let fall away from my shoulders include perfectionism, un-forgiveness in relationships, and time logged on social media. 

Isaiah 60 says, Arise- look up! For your light has come. It is only in the looking up that I can look back down on my circumstances with any sort of clarity. The invitation has been given and I accept. Here at the heavy end of another year- I am learning again how to look up, how to lighten my load, how to be buoyant. 

It struck me anew this week how the Gregorian calendar places our season of Thanksgiving immediately prior to our season of Advent. Thanksgiving- a time of offering gratitude- eucharisteo, a word tracing back to a root of kharis- Grace. It is only by grace we enter into the Eucharist- communion with Jesus- and from which we are filled to an overflow of gratitude. A circle of grace, a cycle of thanksgiving, rolling into a time of stillness and waiting- the days of Advent.

If we work from a place of rest, isn’t it also true we wait from a place of grace-full thanksgiving? Gratitude our tool of survival through the dark night of Advent’s waiting.

So what does that look like today, as we gather in joyful abundance? As we sit around tables of full plates, of full hearts, may we take stock of the grace as well as the aching wait seated on either side of us. May we toast to God’s goodness each one gathered has tasted of this year- the new marriage, the beloved baby, the provisions covering each home. May we celebrate the gifts of laughter and friendship- remembering fondly the days spent sowing into one another’s lives. May we look into the eyes of those around our table and recall the beauty of their days, giving a glimpse of God’s perspective over each of his kids.

And in the midst of offering our thanksgiving, may we also recognize with reverence the pain of the wait within every soul. The one waiting on love, the one aching for a child to hold, the ones awaiting healing, the ones desperately holding on for the forgiveness of another. May we recognize the strength of our kindred as they show up every day in hope for their own personal miracle. May we call it out and toast also to the desert’s journey- the waiting for our Savior’s rescue.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to walk this paradoxical road Home with you. Thank you for your kindness to me, your generosity of words and time- your forgiveness and mercy when I have offended or hurt you, thank you for teaching me, inspiring me and showing me the tangible kharis of Jesus. In gratitude and in the wondrous wait, my cup overflows.

  • Brooke Lackey - This is beautiful. I’m thankful for you, my friend with a deeper connection to the heart and soul. You have the words to make me think about what I might not otherwise have ever considered. I love you!ReplyCancel

We are entering what historically has proven to be an intense time of year in our family. Kids born into difficult circumstances can tend to struggle with holidays and celebrations- the disruption of routines internalized as an attack to security, the abundance of foods and gifts, triggering entitlement and sneakiness little deprived brains are convinced they still need to survive…I could go on.

In our specific story, we add into the holiday mix the anniversaries of our meeting, legally adopting, and then being separated for months awaiting proper documents. Stated simply- it is a heavy load for a little girl to carry. And I feel my own grown-up shoulders tensing as the November days pass, as if I am saying, ‘let me carry your cares for while,’ as if this year I will suddenly figure out a way to take the burden off our girl- off the rest of the family.

Humbled I admit, tension in my body often leads to tension in my thoughts, tension gripping my words. Until the very burdens I arrogantly intended to relieve, are made heavier still by my own hand and tongue.

Something I heard on a podcast last week has been looping around the mounting tension of my mind. Essentially, when the storm comes, am I choosing a narrative of trauma or one of joy?

Again, humbled. Trauma and all it’s fear, unknowns, unpredictable disruptions, has won out around here for quite some time. Joy has been surrendered, rendered too weak to stand against the force of this particular foe. But, it is not my own joy, but the Joy of my Creator, where strength is sourced. A swapping out of weapons is in order- lay down the arrogance, pick up the surrender. Lay down the weariness, pick up the Eucharisteo.

And so this season I am making a choice for Joy. Divine Joy doesn’t pretend the trauma isn’t real or avoid acknowledging its tendrils. Divine Joy may, in fact, shine light straight at the point of pain. But only to in turn say, “Yes, but…”

So many days can appear as if we are absolutely nowhere. Nowhere nearer to healing, nowhere closer to authentic attachment….Yes, but.

Look at the layers and layers of mountains behind her- all the ground she has journeyed with a family by her side.

Yes, but. Look at the slight smile, residing more in her eyes than even a year ago.

Yes, trauma. But, Joy.

Friend, what in your own life could you see straight on for the mess it is, but even for just today look back at it and say, ‘Yes, but,’?