Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Slow Drive to Insanity

Home leave..... supposed to conjure up warm fuzzy thoughts of connecting with old friends...

what is not in the rosy picture is inbetween those times where you hug old friends and sit to eat what they offer...

hours and hours and hours in the van with five kids... a slow drive to insanity.

We've driven from one side of this great country to another.  We are still not to our destination, but we are at least at rest for a week.  We are with family in a vacation house for a week of a some-what family reunion. 

I am at least glad that I do not have to sit in the van today.  I do however, have to go out and clean it out.  Somewhere are some dirty socks that smell.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Hike Through Giant Rocks: A rough way to learn the blessing of accountability

The heritage I was given never taught me how true accountability really works.  Part of this, I think, lies in the teaching against transparency.  If we do not want to be open with our weaknesses and struggles, we can never be truly accountable.  Accountability is not a curse.  It is actually a huge blessing.  It is not someone watching over us to pick apart every mistake and catch us in every failing.  It is a loving care of ones who want us to be successful and healthy.

A year ago, I went on a hike with my son's class to an area by a large lake.  The "beach" was a hill that ended in a series of large boulders.  Some of these rocks were larger than my house.  The way through meant climbing up and over, down and under, and bracing ourselves precariously between two and inching along.  In their excitement, everyone took off to reach the point - the goal of the hike.  I set off with a group, but we did not have a leader or a set way to check on each other, and quickly became separated.  Halfway though, as it began to drizzle, my foothold on a moss covered rock slipped.  I fell and was tightly wedged, badly scraped between two large boulders with one arm stuck above my head.  I hollered and hollered for help, but there was no one to hear.  The waves drowned out all sound, the rain continued to fall, and I was out of sight.

I was not accountable to anyone.

In trouble then, I was alone.  There was no one who knew I needed help.  Any one of my fellow hikers would have wanted to rescue me and no doubt would have if they knew about my circumstances, but they did not know.  There was no one who would have noticed until we reassembled at the bus three hours from then that I was missing.  I had not been accountable to anyone.

I did manage with great difficulty to extract myself and, holding my injured arm, to finish the hike and meet up at the point with others.  I had learned my lesson.  For the way back, we organized ourselves in a group of five.  We chose a leader.  We decided to help each other, to be accountable.

It meant doing things I wouldn't have chosen.  I am terrified of heights and will choose to go under rather than over large rocks.  Another in our group intensely disliked going into small spaces.  Crawling under boulders had her almost blacking out in fear.  Both of us had to give in to go together.  Our leader led through places neither of us wanted to go.  When I said, "No, I can't", my team said, "yes, you will.", but they also said, "Here, hold my hand." and "Here, I'll sit here on this ledge between you and the edge.  You can hang on to me."  When my fellow hiker said, "I'll get squished in there, no!  It will never come out!", we said, "I'll go first, and tell you each step of the way." and "Only a few more steps and it opens up to the sky again, you can make it!"

We all made it out safely.  No one left behind.  No injured people trapped where they couldn't get out.  Together we were safe.

Exhausted, but happy, we stripped to the basics and plunged together into the ice-cold water to rinse off the grime and sweat.  Then shivering in the cold wind, we dressed and began carefully picking our way over the pebbly beach to the bus.

Accountability - it is a beautiful thing.  It does require some submission to each other.  It requires limiting ourselves to the weaknesses of others, but the value is priceless.  

I won't fall alone.

Polar Ends on Authority

When I was working on sorting out what I chose to believe now as an adult, I got to the end where I left it last time, and wrote a note.  "Go on to talk about authority and accountability and emotions."  I just didn't have time then.  We had to do the typical emptying and storing of our household enough that another missionary family could move in while we are gone.  We had to get all our paperwork in order and pack for a trip.  So I left it for later.

Besides, I was still puzzled over this one.  I don't have it so neat and clean.  What I have is a slow sorting through the things I was taught and the things I was shown and how that impacted me growing up in the middle of it all.  I see storm clouds that gather in the future over some of these very issues and I wish that things were different.  I've learned over a very difficult path that "having my head" is not always the best way to be.  There is a place for good, Biblical authority.  There is a blessing in accountability.  There is also the potential for abuse of both.  However, the potential for abuse is not reason enough to shun either authority or accountability.  You can not throw out the baby with the bath water.

I grew up in an odd mix of complete disregard for authority and accountability, and a complete totalitarian approach to it at the same time.  As children, immediate, complete, unquestioning obedience and respect was demanded of us.  Seldom were we heard.  Our motives or intentions were not considered.  Our feelings not taken into account.  We were to obey.

[There was actually a time period in my life when I just decided that whatever I did in the day, I would end up getting a spanking when I came home, so I may just as well do whatever I wanted.  The end result would be the same.  A spanking at the end of the day was going to be as routine as a bedtime story for some.]

Yet in the same environment that total, unquestioning obedience with respect was demanded of children, the adults were modelling a disregard not only for authority, but also for accountability.  Rules were made to find an exception to.  Our family sought missions and churches which exerted little to no oversight, control, or requirements of its missionaries.  Our family functioned as "lone ranger" missionaries.  We left groups if they had requirements that were not acceptable to my parents.  Perhaps some of these disagreements with authorities were based on good thinking and choices, but the result was the same.  We disagreed, and usually we left.  We often would remain friendly with groups we left, but we would work alongside them, outside of their authority and not accountable to them at all.

The other example set before us was of walking away from people who attempted any confrontation or correction of thinking.  We were good at leaving things.  My family just functioned best as "lone rangers".  I was often taught about how the way we do things was so much better than how "they" do things.

There is something I appreciate about that upbringing.  I appreciate the ability to think creatively about a task.  I value the skill to think outside the box, to risk doing something that no one else has attempted.  That is a thing to keep.

The weakness of it was that we did not have modeled how to work together, how to set aside our views and cooperate.  We were not shown how submission to authority functions in a Christian environment.  We were not taught how to respond to authority and accountability.  (My husband would likely agree with me here, and our marriage has suffered for it.)

Authority and submission to it was shown either as total submission of mind, body, and will to a stronger power as a child would; or it was non-existent, an evil to be thrown off and avoided.  Neither are the right position that I believe God wants us to have about authority, but it would take me years to learn this.

On the Road

Sorry if my blogging become sporadic and unpredictable.  Right now, I am on the road with five kids visiting all our home churches.  Yup, it is that time of year again for us all to head home to do the rounds.  I find that as much as I like visiting friends, more and more I dread these summers.  I think it has something to do with the fact that we are increasingly feeling settled into our "temporary" location, and going home is not so much going home anymore.  I love home.... it is just that I have two of them.

The other reason is that stuffing four or five kids in a van and being on the road for two months is less and less appealing as my kid's energy levels increase.  Two are teens, and we picked up another teen, so three teenage boys in one vehicle long term is only so delightful.

I love people.  I really do.  But, I also recharge by time alone in quietness.  This proves hard to find on a travel summer, and by the end of the summer I am really ready to do nothing but watch the late fall birds eat seeds or take long walks alone.  I struggle my way through the summer hoping against hope that every few days I can get a little time alone, but it does not always come.  I love people, truly, but I also love time to recharge, and this summer will prove difficult for me.

But today, I am sitting in a quiet place.  All the kids are running around a lake catching bugs or playing ping pong.  My husband is in a meeting, and I am toasting my toes in the sunshine coming through a picture window, and enjoying silence.  Maybe even long enough to blog.