Love Your Enemy

Last night I had the privilege of meeting a young man who is Rohingya. His father is Muslim, his grandfather is Muslim, his relatives are all Muslim. He himself has a doctorate degree in Islamic studies.

In 2012 the people of Rakhine state attacked and killed the Rohingya people, burning villages to the ground. You may have heard about it in the news. Go ahead and look it up if you haven't. I'll wait. Try searching Rohingya Massacre 2012.

This man was contacted by a Christian organization who asked him to help coordinate the delivery of relief supplies to his people.

He was shocked. He didn't understand why Christians would want to help his people.

They told him about Jesus, in a contextually appropriate way, and he started telling hundreds of other people about this Jesus person BEFORE he decided to be baptized as a Christian himself.

He now travels around teaching people about Jesus and receives death threats regularly because people don't like what he does. He says that if you want to be a good Muslim you should follow Jesus.

But the point I want to make here is that this man would never have even considered following Jesus if Christians hadn't reached out in mercy to help his people while they were still Muslims.

I see a lot of people that identify as Christians who are comfortable speaking about Muslims in ways that are dehumanizing and full of fear. They talk about the threat of terrorism, the threat of Muslims taking over and establishing Sharia law.  They are worried about their safety and the safety of their children. I get it. I know what it's like to be afraid. I also know that it's not a good place to stay in and act out of.

Recently someone I know posted a meme that said, "The pope just told Christians that they should love Muslims. Why doesn't he go to Iraq and tell Muslims to love Christians."

It seems to me that His Holiness might be remembering the words of Jesus a little more accurately than his haters. You know,
Luke 6:27But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. 31 Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.
32If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Mat 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you,

If Muslims really are the enemy, which I am not at all convinced that they are, many Christians are going about this all wrong.

Think about it.

Do you love Muslims? Do you pray for them? Do you go out of your way to find things you can do to help Muslims in need? Because that's how Christians are commanded to treat their enemies. I know many, many people who claim to follow Jesus and are doing exactly that.

If you identify as Christian could you please explain to me why it's ok for you to allow fear to keep you from mercy? Your faith is in a man who was homeless, and who willingly walked toward brutal death because of love, because of redemption. Jesus set the example in self sacrifice.

The heroes of the Christian faith were martyred, imprisoned, and persecuted all over the globe because of their deep faith in Jesus. Did they stop spreading the gospel when it got hard? Did they stop obeying God when their lives, and the lives of their children, were threatened?

If you are claiming to be a Christian and your primary concern is preserving your Christian way of life and your Christian culture as the dominant culture then you are likely missing the point. You have lost track of what the gospel means and what you are supposed to be doing with it.

If we want to win the "culture war" we have to remember to be people who live and breath mercy. We must to be the kind of people that look like Jesus in our actions and daily life, who love until it hurts, who sacrifice for people who are our enemies.

Jesus didn't promise comfort and safety. He promised a cross.

May I ask why you are fighting so hard for comfort and safety? Is that really the Christian thing to do? What would Jesus do I wonder?


Thoughts on Marriage, sixteen years in.

When Aaron asked me to marry him, he did it three times. (I wrote about the first time here.) He says he wanted to give me lots of opportunities to back out. The third time came after a period where I kept making plans for the next year, assuming that he would just tag along with me in my life. When I finally asked him why he didn't seem all that excited about the plans that I was making for both of us he said something to the effect of, "You realize that if we're married we're going to make plans together, right? And I might not want to do the same things you want to do."

It shocked me into tears, which is rather embarrassing to think about, that I didn't understand that 17 years ago. After we talked about it a while he asked me again.

"So, now that you understand what it is I'm asking of you, will you marry me?"

I told him I needed time to think about it, and asked for 24 hours before I gave an answer.


It's our sixteenth wedding anniversary today. Sixteen was the last anniversary my parents celebrated before their separation and divorce so it feels significant to have made it this far and not be looking for a way out.

Back when I first chose marriage a way out was actually something I made sure to not give myself. One of the reasons I told Aaron I needed time to think was because if I had said yes right away, without careful consideration, that would have left me a back door, an excuse that would let me off the hook if I tried this marriage thing and decided it wasn't for me after all. "I didn't realize what I said yes to. I didn't take time to think."

Before we were engaged. 1999
I really wasn't sure I wanted to get married at all. Not when the reality of it was staring me in the face. The idea of having to make choices with another person, to compromise, to do something I might not want to do because my husband wanted to, these were all uncomfortable, but that last bit was downright terrifying. It meant trusting another person to make choices that affected my own well being, trusting him to make choices that were good for both of us.

I knew from experience just how messy it can be, how much power you give another person to hurt you when you give yourself to them, body and soul. I'd seen the hurt that my parents caused each other in their marriage. I knew what a weak position a married woman can find herself in, with children, dependent on a man, a flawed human like herself.

In truth, I think anyone who actually knows what marriage involves will find it terrifying. I'm not sure many people would get married if they knew beforehand what it would cost them.


But, the beautiful moments are breathtaking. The possibilities for unspeakable joy are endless. But I don't think marriage is good because it makes you happy. Marriage is good because it will break you down and refine you, showing you the ugliest most selfish bits of your heart, all your worst fears, and demand that you deal with them. The only way through is to grow up, become less selfish, less insecure, and ultimately think of yourself less and less, if at all. It's good that it's a relationship that is hard to end, that begins with a promise you make that you want to keep, because without that you might run away from the refining crucible that marriage is before you can be truly refined. You may run away when you're hurt, or when you're afraid to let your spouse see the ugly things you are ashamed of and try to keep hidden.


 It's that promise that keeps you there, keeps you apologizing when you were wrong, and controlling yourself when you are angry, and learning not to assume the worst in each other in every word and action. Because you promised, you keep trying, and you get beyond your hurt and your fear and your anger and your feelings, you get over yourself, and you learn to love. You learn to act out of love, rather than fear. You learn to forgive, and let it go. You learn to give thanks for the beauty, for the one you walk with day by day, you learn to speak truthfully of your own heart without fear of being rejected.


These are the things that marriage can do for you. That marriage did for me.

Doing a Charis event. 2012
 Who you marry does matter, a lot. I'm certain I married up. But what matters most is that they are as committed to staying in this relationship as you are. You must both be people who work to keep your promises. You must have the character to chose to love, even when you are angry, or hurt, or stressed. You have to both keep coming back, because you promised. Love isn't a feeling, it's a choice. And the more you chose love, the easier it gets. Forgiveness isn't a feeling either. The more often you chose to say the words, "I forgive you" the easier it becomes to forgive. The more often you choose to be thankful, the more thankful you become and the more beauty you will see.

 Some years might suck. Some decades might suck. So why do it?


Twenty four hours later when Aaron showed up at my door again, I still didn't have an answer. I had made pro con lists, I had prayed, I had asked the counsel of friends.

I had asked myself all the questions. Do I trust him? Do we want compatible things in life? Do I love him for who he is now, not who he could be? The answer was always yes, but I still didn't know.

We went for a walk and I tried to put it off on God. You know, if God told me to marry him then I'd say yes without hesitation. I didn't realize at the time that that was another back door. If I didn't choose, and God did for me, then I could blame God for everything if this relationship went south. Personal responsibility for my choices was not something I was very good at.

So Aaron asked if I wanted his opinion. I did.

He said, "I think God is asking, 'What do you want Carrien? Who do you want to be?' If you choose to get married, God will love you and bless you and be with you. If you choose to stay single God still will love you and bless you and be with you. What do you want?"

Can I tell you that the ugly cry is not the most attractive thing to do during a marriage proposal? His words terrified me. I felt like I was standing on the edge of a precipice in a whirlwind as I realized no one was going to tell me what to do in this situation. I had to choose, and I'd have no one to blame but myself if I didn't like the results of my choice. I cried for a long time, 5 or 10 minutes I suppose.

When the storm had passed only one thought remained. I truly believed, and still do, that what matters most in life is how well we love God, and love other people. So I asked myself if marrying this incredibly patient man standing in front of me would in any way hinder my ability to do those two things.

I reasoned that getting married would give me more, not less opportunities to love people well, and with that, I said yes, for the third and final time and "I do" six months later.


Though I can think of many other opportunities one might have that would build strength, character, and your capacity to forgive and love another person outside of marriage, I know marriage is a pretty efficient way to go about it.


It's hard work. But the work pays off. There is nothing quite like knowing that you have hidden nothing from this person, they know all of your flaws and triumphs, and weaknesses, and they still choose to do life with you and love you, all these many years later.



Camping out in the Pink Palace

I wrote this a year ago, when we first moved into this house, and never hit publish. I was trying to take a video tour to add to the post so you could see what I was talking about, but it didn't turn out well, and so I was going to try again... you know how that goes. Anyway, we've lived in this house a year now. I'm using pictures I took on my first walk through it before we signed the lease. This is what it was like just before we first moved in.

Yes, there's a tree trunk in my living room.
The last 9 Thai kings have their pictures displayed over that window

The living room from different angles.
This built in cabinet hides a stairway that goes down to a basement. Most Thai houses don't have basements. Ours is full of water, maybe that's why.
Here's the flooded basement.
bathroom off the upstairs balcony

The Kitchen is actually very bright with windows looking at the back yard. But the shutters are closed in this photo.
This funny little room between, kitchen and living room became our dining room. The stairs make fitting the table in a bit awkward.

I couldn't have lived in this house two years ago, and not just because of the bats in the attic, or the flooded basement. I would have been overwhelmed by the squatty potties, the bucket showers, the way I go outside and then back inside to get to my bedroom.

The girl's room. It's pretty nice.

the little bathroom that adjoins the two kid's rooms

The play/school room. The boy's room is a little bedroom behind that door.
 I couldn't have handled the setting up of mosquito nets every single night, because until we find someone to install screen, this house doesn't have any. I didn't know about mosquito coils and how to burn them to keep the clouds of insects out of the kitchen while I prepare dinner.

upstairs balcony

The stairs from the balcony to our room.

Our room. That door opens on the tiny high balcony you see in the first picture
 There are also all the spots that are just so dirty after years of misuse and sitting empty so long.

It's felt a lot like we're camping out in a mansion. Everything is just as much extra work as when you're camping, hauling bottles of drinking water to each child's bedside, trying to keep people from getting dirty again after they bathe, setting up nets, the need to crawl into nets, and spit on the ground to brush your teeth. (Every single one of the sinks in this house, except the kitchen, were torn off the walls when we first moved in. So we spit in the bathroom drain when brushing.) At least now the sinks are fixed, and the doors now shut again since we fixed or replaced all the missing doorknobs.

I think once we have screens installed I will lose the camping out feeling altogether and start feeling at home instead. You know, when I don't have to decided whether to just go straight to bed after the sun sets or huddle in bed under the mosquito net with my laptop in order to keep the beetles from landing on my head and neck while I type.

two huge outbuildings in the back yard

But I love this house. I love the space outside, the whole acre full of fruit trees with a fish pond even for my kids to roam. You know, after we finally get all the broken glass and trash picked up, clean the piles of rotting trash out of the pond, fill it with water and stock it. In other words. This house has so much potential, but it may take time to realize it all.

But one of the best parts? We also have a really big guest house. Like, a two bathroom, three bedroom guesthouse. Perfect for volunteers, and guests, and even to sublet on occasion if we want. It's rather ideal. Of course, at present it's completely unfurnished, and also needs a sink or two installed plus screens, but soon. Soon. That's a Thailand soon, by the way, so any day now, give or take 6 months in either direction.

guest house from the side

guest house from the front, looking across the dry fish pond.

One year later, we have screens, though 2 screen doors need repairs already, we've installed showers and hot water heaters in the bathrooms, we cleaned and stocked the fish pond, much of the grime has been washed away, but not all, and there are still parts of the yard that have broken glass lying around. I got pregnant unexpectedly, shortly after we moved in, and there were many things that I wanted to do on this house, that I didn't have the energy to do. We'll finally plant flowers this rainy season I think, for example.

We pumped the water out of the flooded basement when rainy season ended and we've lined the leaky room with waterproof concrete. Now we wait for it to rain again to see if we fixed the problem, or if it will flood once more.

But it does feel like home. Baby Pax was born upstairs in this very house. We've settled in, and we don't plan to leave for a long, long time. The rest will come.
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