Sidekick to Your Superhero

A friend of mine once performed one of those tests where she asked a group of us questions that were supposed to represent different aspects of our lives.

“I’m a little concerned,” she told me. “You said your favorite color is green, but you don’t know why. Your favorite color is supposed to represent the way you view yourself, and I wish you were a little more excited about it.”

Disappointing, perhaps, but accurate. (I don’t know why I like myself; I just do.)

“I think your second answer is really sweet though,” Alina continued. “Your favorite animal is supposed to represent how you view other people.”

This brought a smile to the entire group because, while I may not have gotten excited about the color green, I had a pretty cool monologue going on about why I like horses.

“I just think they’re incredible creatures,” I said. “I love to watch them run. Like, I could watch them for hours and not get tired of it.”

This conversation came to mind last night when I was trying to convince my brother that I think my purpose in life is to come alongside someone else. Because I would rather play sidekick to a superhero than set off to save the world by myself.

My brother insisted that two Batmans were better than a Batman and Robin combination, but I disagreed. Batman doesn’t need an exact replica of himself; he needs a Robin.

But if I absolutely had to be a superhero, I would be Violet from The Incredibles. I would be the girl who stands invisible on the sidelines until her brother is in mortal danger. I love that scene where Dash is cornered, certain he is about to be shot, when Violet throws herself over him, envelopes them both in a force field, and confesses she doesn’t know how she did it. Then Dash does what Dash does best as Violet continues to guard them from enemy fire.

That would be my superpower—the human shield. I know this because even in video games I adopt that role.

My sister taught me how to play Gears of War (because “guys dig chicks who play video games”), and while my siblings and their friends are all charging into the fray in search of bonus points and achievements, I make it my duty to keep them alive. So while they’re out there armed only with chainsaws and scorchers, I’m hanging back near the base, picking off anyone who would cause them harm.

And it makes me happy.

I find absolutely no joy in that game when I don’t have a partner to keep alive. Sure, I’m still shooting the same mutant creatures, but I’ve lost my purpose. I’ve got no one to protect. No one to support.

And though my brother was hard pressed to accept it, I’m the same way in real life.

There’s not a whole lot I want for myself, but I want the world for you. And I may not get excited about many things, but I will always be moved by watching you run, seeing you fly.

And I would be happy, always, to just be the sidekick to your superhero.

gears of war

 

Dance to the Beat of Your Fears

I used to harbor a deep fear that the Indians were going to scalp me.

That probably sounds ridiculous to anyone who didn’t grow up across the valley from Zane Caverns where war drums can be heard at various times of the year. Maybe it sounds ridiculous even if you did grow up within earshot of the caverns because maybe you didn’t have an older brother who was dead set on convincing you that the natives were coming for your scalp. (Brothers can be pretty doggone convincing.)

Even when I wised up and grew skeptical, arguing that if the Indians were coming they would take his scalp too, he responded with a statement so logical I lost the willpower to doubt him: “They won’t want my scalp because my hair is black like theirs. Yours is long and brown and beautiful. The Indians are going to want it.”

I take that as a compliment now, but at the time it served its intended purpose.

From that moment on, whenever the drums would start to pound in the distance, I would stick close to the house lest some Magua-lookalike would appear in my woods and come for me with bloody, outstretched hands. (This is why you don’t let small children watch The Last of the Mohicans. Cough, cough, Dad.)

And I remained confined by the boundaries of irrational fears.


Funny Fact about Fear: so much of it is, without question, irrational.

Our minds conjure up multiple scenarios and we fret and we worry and we dread all these things that never come to pass.

But they might, we think. They could.

And we confine ourselves to the same kind of boundaries I set for myself as a child.

Don’t leave the house. Stay away from the woods. They’re out there waiting, but you’re safe here. If you remain behind closed doors, they won’t find you.


As a child, I resented those festivals at the caverns. I resented them because I loved the woods. I loved climbing trees and splashing in the creek and painting tablets of slate with the juice of wild berries.

I resented the drums that played in the distance because they crafted fears that held me captive indoors when my little feet wanted to create a rhythm of my own, pounding down paths that had been carved by a thousand footsteps that had gone before.

But I was never brave enough to chance the woods when the Indians were on the warpath. I was never reckless enough to face my fears head-on.

Then I got a little older and discovered that the drums were a performance, the natives were friendly, and my scalp was never in any danger after all. And once I realized all of that, something strange happened…

I learned to love those drums.

And the same rhythm that once struck fear into my heart became music to my ears.


Some of us will spend our whole lives believing the natives are hostile. Some of us will never step outside the four walls of our homes because we’re afraid of what lurks in the woods.

But we are restless.

Though our fears may strap us down, the fact remains that, deep inside, We. Are. Restless.

And we want more than these safe little walls offer.

We want the world.

We want wide open skies and and an endless path before us, brimming with new things just waiting to be discovered.


Darling, you have two choices when those drums start pounding in the distance: you can hide, or you can dance.

I hope you dance in complete abandon, twirling to the beat of your fears.

the beat of your fears

Letting Go of Me; Holding on to You

Over the weekend, my housemates and I took a personality test—just for fun. There was a lot of laughter as we tried to guess each other’s answers, pinning each other with words that didn’t fit at all, before giving a serious response. Overall it was an edifying experience, pointing out the strengths in each other and remembering certain occasions when Lynn was thoughtful and Ellen was inspiring and Amber was a mediator.

I learned a lot, mostly about the people I live with, but also about myself. Sometimes as I was poised to give one answer, everyone else would say another.

“Will the real Rebekah please stand up?”

There are things in myself I don’t see.
There are things in myself no one else sees.
There are things in my life people assume I’m good at because I’ve spent so much time forcing myself to be those things.

And I wonder what my life would look like if I learned to be a little more transparent. I wonder if maybe there’s a place for taking down the walls and letting myself be known just a little deeper.

I just finished reading Victoria Schwab’s The Unbound, where the main character is afraid of letting people too close because when she makes physical contact with someone, she can hear the noise of their lives. She can read their thoughts like a book. Their memories play like movies in her mind.

While I may not share Mackenzie’s supernatural gift, sometimes I think I’m also afraid of the noise. Afraid if I let someone too close, they are going to encounter mine, and I’m going to get tangled up in theirs. And by and by, I’ll be forced to realize that life is messy.

There are no simple answers. No perfect solutions. No easy way to navigate this big old world in which we live.

I’m pretty good at putting on a face and letting you see what I want you to see, but I’m not always good at letting it unravel and saying, “This—no, this right here—is who I truly am.”

Just this morning I was encouraged to be the kind of person who makes whoever she is with feel like they are the center of her universe. As I read those words, I knew that I wanted that. I knew I wanted to ascribe that kind of worth to everyone I encounter. But the longer I reflect on it, the more I realize I can’t be that kind of person if I’m withholding pieces of myself.

I’m realizing that God didn’t make me a whole person so that I can be half of one; He wants all the pieces of me to shine forth for His glory.

And it’s hard. It’s hard to expose that much. It’s exhausting to try to put your whole self into everything.

But this world deserves our everything.

You deserve my everything.

So here’s to being the kind of person who bares her heart, embraces the noise, and lets everyone be the center of her universe for however long they need to be.

center of our universe

Double Life

And I’m so tired of living this double life. Of trying to be my own, and trying to be Yours. I’m torn between the life You ask of me and the life I demand from You.

And I’m sorry I try so hard to do life my own way. You know that ultimately I want Your will. It’s just that mine so often gets in the way…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Can I be honest with you?

It’s been five months since I first penned this prayer, but I feel like I’ve been writing it every day since. So much of what I want is not what God wants for me during this season of my life. And it’s hard. It’s hard to keep pushing through the muck of this life when I don’t know what’s waiting for me on the other side of this mess I’m in.

I’m in transition. I’m making a move—a literal, physical move out of the town I’ve called home for the last four and a half years. People keep asking me if I’m excited.

I’m not. Not really.

Sure, there are things I’m looking forward to, but it’s hard to get super excited when you don’t know what you’re moving toward. When you don’t know what’s waiting at the end of those five hundred miles.

Can I be really honest now?

Sometimes I forget to practice what I preach. Sometimes my Beyond Waiting journey is paved with more anxiety than adventure, more pouting than praise.

Sometimes I don’t believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Sometimes I don’t believe in the impossible at all.

Sometimes I try to live two different lives—the one God weaves for me and the one I desire for myself. And let me tell you, it’s really, really, really hard to be two different people. One of them takes over. One of them wins. And I feel so often that it’s my own selfish will barreling the other out of the way.

If I’ve been quiet here of late, it’s because Rebekah’s voice has been trying to drown out God’s voice, and anyone who has tried arguing with God before knows how this story ends—with me being too tired to raise my voice and too stubborn to listen to His.

And so there’s silence where the words used to flow freely.

And there’s that whisper in the back of my mind—those words I once humbly confessed:

“You know that ultimately I want Your will. It’s just that mine so often gets in the way…”

Let today be the day my will shatters.

Little Faith; Big God

I don’t know why I ask such big things of God while expecting so little. I don’t know why I can’t manage to muster that mustard-seed faith that moves mountains. And I really don’t know why God is willing to overlook my doubts and hesitations and move the mountains anyway.

I wore holes in the knees of my jeans on Thursday morning, only to be surprised the following afternoon when God showed up and said, “I got this,” by proving that He does.

In my heart, I know that He does. But somewhere in that culture-tainted, life-stormed, tragically-logical part of my mind, I’ve stopped looking for miracles. Stopped hoping that God will redeem that which has been torn apart by the world.

Why is it that I can dissolve into puddles of tears, begging for redemption, and then be surprised when God proves to me again that such redemption exists?

God looks at me and shakes His head. “O ye of little faith…”

That gentle reprimand sticks to my heart, convicting me as it has a thousand times before. And I find myself repeating the words of the man whose son was demon-possessed. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

I’m thankful for a God who is bigger than my faith. A God who doesn’t need my unerring belief to make beautiful things of the messes. I’m thankful that, regardless of my unworthiness, God still works miracles in my life. He still allows me to be part of them—to observe from a distance or stand in the midst of it all.

I may have little faith, but I have a big God.

I stand in awe again.

Hate the Sin. (No, Really, Hate It.)

Warning: This is probably the most controversial post I’ve ever written, so if you don’t like having your toes trampled upon, you might want to stop reading right now. Or maybe you’ll agree with me. A lot of you won’t. I fully expect disgruntled readers, angry comments, hate mail, even (It’s beyondwaiting@yahoo.com, friends). I’m okay with that. Because I realize that, in this day and age, the “H” word is a little hard to swallow.

Yesterday afternoon, a friend linked to this post. I had a major problem with removing the word “hate” from my vocabulary, arguing that the moment we stop hating sin is the moment it swallows us up. The age old quote is “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.” It is possible to do both at the same time, I said. That’s when a helpful commenter linked me to this post.

I think that post was supposed to debate my point; I believe it only enforced it. Remember what I said about removing the word hate from our vocabulary? It looks to me like the author believed one thing until his brother was the one struggling. Now he’s changed his mind about hating the sin because it puts tension on his relationship with his brother?

I fully agree that we should not hold homosexuality to a different degree of sin, but I don’t think that means we need to brush it under the table. It ranks right there with idol worship, adultery, stealing, and a number of other sins (sorry if you don’t like my saying that, but Paul said it, too—1 Corinthians 6:9-11). A sin no greater than any others, but a sin just the same.

I understand why the author wants to quit believing his brother’s lifestyle is Biblically unacceptable. I’ve wanted to give up on my own beliefs before because it would have been so much easier to pretend everything was all right. It would be much less painful to just accept people as they are and not have to question their life choices. I’m sure my own brother wished the sting of conviction in my soul didn’t speak so loudly, because I know I wished his would shut up when the time came for him to turn the tables on me.

I think we’ve confused love and tolerance, thinking they are one and the same. But compare these definitions:

Tolerance: the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

Love: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) :  the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2) :  brotherly concern for others.

If I’m truly concerned for the good of another, I’m not going to simply “tolerate” their harmful habits. Because I don’t think loving the sinner and hating the sin are mutually exclusive.

Which brings me to the second point in Article #2. When writing of the adulterous woman, the author states:

But Jesus knelt with her in the sand. Unafraid to get dirty. Unafraid to affirm her humanity. “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

He could have said “You’re a sinner, but I love you anyways.” But she knew she was a sinner. Those voices were loud and near and they held rocks above her head.

Um, Jesus kind of did tell her she was a sinner. It’s sort of implied in the phrase, “Go and sin no more.” Yes, He accepted her. Yes, He refused to throw rocks alongside the others, but He didn’t completely sweep her sin under the rug. He acknowledged it. He entreated her to leave it behind. To start new and afresh. Essentially, Jesus did say, “You’re a sinner, but I love you anyways.”

I think that’s where the Christians who are preaching grace are falling short. We’re looking the broken people of the world straight in the eye and saying, “Neither do I condemn you.” And that’s a beautiful thing. But we’re forgetting, always forgetting, to remind them to go and sin no more.

Maybe Jarrid Wilson was right, and people don’t know how to separate the sinner from the sin. Because, in accepting people, we’ve made it look like we’re accepting their sin. Or maybe we feel like we have to accept their sin in order to fully accept them.

I was once in a social setting where a friend asked another friend what her sister was doing these days.

“She’s doing really good,” the friend replied. “She’s living with her boyfriend in Columbus.”

“Oh, that’s cool.”

That’s cool? Does anyone else see a problem with that statement? Or was I the only one choking on my tongue? Those are the kinds of reports about my friends that I find disappointing, not because it makes me love them any less, but because I only wanted God’s best for them. I hate that they’ve walked away from that. Yes, hate.

Let’s bring it down a level. Imagine you have a kid, and of course you do what all good parents do and warn him away from the hot stove. But he’s a kid, and kids will do what kids are going to do. He touches the stove, he gets burned, what now? You’re probably going to pull him into your arms, stick his poor, little hand under the faucet, and whisper soothing platitudes like, “It’s okay, baby. You’re going to be all right. Mommy/Daddy loves you.”

All those things are good. All those things are true. But you know what else is probably going on in your mind? You probably hate that he disobeyed you; not because you’re hard-core authoritarian, but because he’s hurt. You probably hate that he got burned. You hate that he had to learn this lesson the hard way.

Does this distract from your love for him? Absolutely not.

Because love and hate are not mutually exclusive.

I love my parents, therefore I hate disappointing them.
I love my brother, therefore I hate watching him make poor choices.
I love my students, therefore I hate that many of them have so much hurt in their lives.

There is never a good time to speak hateful words to someone, but it’s okay—no, really, it’s for the best—to gently correct your brother when he has failed (and to allow your brother to correct you). It’s time to take our fallen brethren by the hand and truthfully say, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

Hate the sin. (No, really, hate it.) But speak the truth in love.

love

On Words and Worth and Singing in Silence

Sometimes I fear I place to much value on words. I find my worth wrapped up in them time and time again, and I’m not talking about the words of others (though I won’t shy away from a compliment. Unless you’re creepy. I don’t accept compliments from creepers, just sayin’).

It’s my own words that hold the potential to undo me. Or rather, the lack of words.

I’m a writer. Words are my life. I find fulfillment in pages upon pages of words streaming through my fingertips.

But sometimes… Sometimes there’s nothing but silence where the words used to be. Sometimes I have absolutely nothing of worth to say. I’m terrified of those silences because, when the pages of my journals are blank, when the cursor on the screen blinks empty, that’s when the doubts set in.

What am I doing here, really? Do my words carry weight? Can I possibly create enough of them? Is this yet another story that was born for the dusty shelves of Never Meant to Be?

Every time the silences start swallowing my words, I fear they’re lost forever, which is ridiculous because I’ve gone through seasons like this so many times and they never last. Winter sets upon my writing every once in awhile. The words curl up in their caves and hibernate like bears dreaming of spring. And that’s okay.

That’s what I have to keep telling myself over and over again. It’s okay to not have the words sometimes. It’s okay to dig deep and come up empty every now and then.

Steven James once wrote on the importance of silence. He said that without the silence between the notes, music is nothing but noise. We need the silence because then, and only then, can we finally hear the song.

When I stop trying to force the words, I can hear it. Playing softly in the back of my mind is a tune I’ve long forgotten to enjoy because I’ve been so busy trying to fill it with lyrics that never quite fit.

Some things are bigger than words. Some songs too beautiful for lyrics.

And it’s okay. It’s okay to melt into the silences as they fill our lives.

It’s okay to not know the words every once in awhile… just as long as you remember to sink into the song that has been playing all this time.

spider dance

Sorting Through the Wreckage

God’s timing is perfect. That’s what they’ll tell you. We’re all just waiting on God’s timing and, darling, you’d better believe it’s better than ours.

But I don’t always believe it.

Sometimes I think God shows up at really inopportune times. I mean, is it really too much to expect Him to arrive on the scene before everything comes crashing down around me? But I find Him among the wreckage over and over again.

“You’re late,” I say. “The tower has crumbled. The train has wrecked. The bridge has burned.” I feel like I’m right there with Mary and Martha, shaking my head and swiping at tears. “You’re four days late, Jesus. Lazarus is dead.”

“A God is never late, Rebekah Snyder,” He replies. “He arrives precisely when He means to.” (Because sometimes God sounds a lot like Gandalf.) Then He smiles and He laughs, and sometimes I laugh with Him, but most times I just stand there because I don’t know exactly what that means.

Because I’m still covered in ash and soot and wondering, always wondering, Where were You? Where were You when the foundations started shaking and the train skipped the track and the flames were shooting sparks into the sky? Because that’s when I needed You to intervene; not now that the crisis is over.

I know that He sees the accusation in my eyes. I know He knows exactly what I’m thinking, but it doesn’t seem to bother Him one bit.

He crouches down in the rubble that is my life and pulls out a rock—a single blackened stone. “Here,” He says, pressing it into my palm. “Keep this. Carry it with you. You’ll need it later on.”

Gee, thanks God. My life has fallen to ruins around me and You’ve left me with a pocket full of rocks. I’m touched.

But I forget…

I forget the weight and power such simple things can carry.

I forget that not everything is lost to this tragedy.

I forget that giants are felled with stones.

And I realize that when God shows up in the wreckage, He isn’t collecting souvenirs; He’s gathering weapons to supply His army.

As a friend of mine told me when this siege on my soul first began, “You are a soldier in all of this. A lovely, lovely foot soldier.”

Sometimes I don’t want to be. Sometimes I just want to crawl back to a place I can call “home.” Sometimes I want to take this pocket full of rocks and launch them into the next river I stumble upon.

But I don’t. And I won’t. Because, like it or not, I am a soldier in all of this. And I like to believe God handed these pieces of wreckage to me for a reason, so I won’t let them go.

I carry them here in my pocket, my fingers running over the jagged edges until I finally know what God was trying to say when He gathered them up in the first place.

“You are an overcomer, my daughter. A victor. A champion. A conqueror. Don’t you ever forget that you’re stronger than your circumstances, steadier than your trials. You are a soldier in all of this. A lovely, lovely foot soldier. Don’t give up. I have need of you yet…”

felling giants

Doubting My Way Back to God

“I haven’t really been close to God lately,” she said. “And I don’t want to be.”

Her confession sent me back twelve years. Back to the day I lost my first loved one and started questioning everything I had ever believed to be true. Back to the time when the same words would have sounded perfectly natural coming from my own mouth.

I haven’t really been close to God lately.
And I don’t want to be.

Is it bad that I told her that was okay? That her doubts are perfectly natural and she’s allowed to question the existence, the goodness, the faithfulness of God?

Sacrilege.
Blasphemy.
And I call myself a youth leader.

What should I have done instead? I could have offered her a dozen platitudes:

“There’s a reason for this tragedy.”
“God brings forth beauty from ashes.”
“The Lord makes all things work together for our good.”

My ten-year-old self would assure you that those are not the words a girl needs to hear when she stands in the midst of tragedy. When everything hurts. When she hasn’t been close to God and she doesn’t want to be.

I didn’t need to tell her those foundational truths of Christianity because she already knows them. She’s spent her whole life hearing them, but this is the moment when she decides for herself whether or not they are true.

So I told her what I would have liked to hear myself when the doubts came rushing in. That what she’s feeling is all right. That the questions are good. The questions will cement her faith and make her stronger in the end.

We demand perfection of ourselves—of our faith; but God never does.

Jesus didn’t scoff at Nicodemus’ many questions or ridicule Thomas’ need to see the resurrected Messiah with his own eyes. And when a faithless Peter sank beneath the waves, I don’t think the words, “O ye of little faith” were a reprimand, but an invitation to reclaim the belief he had fumbled.

It’s okay to fumble your faith every once in awhile.
It’s okay to question and doubt the things you once believed.
It’s okay to feel a little distant from God at times. (And to not want to be closer.)

It’s okay because God really wants to answer our questions. God really wants us to learn to trust Him more. And God truly is big enough to draw us back into His arms, whether or not we were looking to find our way there.

And I think my young friend is going to turn out just fine, because deep within her hurting heart, she searches for truth. And I believe it’s possible to doubt our way back to God, because I did it myself many years ago.

So let the questions come as they will, and may they always lead you back to the heart of the Father.

beyond waiting running

 

 

Heart Cracked Open

I’ve been emotionally wrecked. From the seemingly trivial losing one of my favorite students to another school, to the deeply personal things God is working out inside of me, to being powerless to keep my friends from making decisions that are wrecking their lives, there’s been a lot going on in this heart of mine.

While preparing to start my day the other morning, I boldly (and foolishly) challenged Life, “What else have you got for me?”

Moments later I came across a message informing me that a missionary friend’s 16-year-old son was killed in a motorbike accident.

Dear God, will it never end?

Tragedy and I communicate on a first name basis. Oh, I wouldn’t say we’re friends. She’s more like that person who makes me cringe when I see her coming down the hall because I know we’re going to have a long conversation that I don’t want any part in.

“Hey, Tragedy, how’s it going?”

“Oh, you know. Just wrecking lives and stuff.”

And by the end of our conversation, I feel tired all over. But I think the thing I hate most about Tragedy is that she makes me feel so insufficient. Because, as I’ve said before, my arms aren’t big enough to cradle the whole world all at once. And this world has wounds that are bigger than I am. And superglue may work just fine for busted heads, but it doesn’t do a whole lot of good when it comes to broken hearts.

I don’t know what to do with broken hearts. I may be able to sweep up all the pieces, but I guess I’m not good enough at puzzles to figure out how to put them back together. And I wish with every fiber of my being that I could put them back together. But all I have to offer a broken heart is my own heart breaking in response.

I feel like I’ve spent the last few days falling on my knees and saying, “Okay, God, here’s my heart cracked open. Do with it what You will.”

And I know that He will.

I know that God is big enough to restore even the most broken of hearts.

So I think I’ll tell myself the same thing I told myself when I lost Maggie five months ago:

There’s still Someone who can make sense of the pieces where others have failed.

There is a God who makes beautiful things from broken things.

And that is the knowledge I cling to when the world rocks crazy and my heart lies in fragments on the floor.

Yes, I still believe in a God who redeems the messes we’ve made of our lives. I still believe in a God who accepts the sacrifice of a broken heart. And I still believe that these paths paved with heartache are ultimately the best thing for me.

So here I stand with heart cracked open, fully and finally alive.