On {not} Becoming a Cynic

by Laura on December 31, 2010

The following is a post I’ve been thinking about for two weeks, but have been living out for a few months now.  As we begin a New Year, I’ve read a lot from other blogs about choosing one word as a resolution of sorts for 2011.  Alece is talking about it, and so is Nicole.  And I haven’t come up with “my” word, yet, but I have most definitely been thinking about a word I don’t want to become in the upcoming year. And it is. . .  {que drumroll}: Cynical.  Thanks for visiting here, again, and Happy New Year, friends.

I’ve never considered myself a cynical person. I’m the type who’s glass is perpetually half-full, who’s life is an open book, who’s doubts aren’t raised by the car salesman’s best pitch.

But that was all before our move across oceans, before this gasping swim-upriver began. That was my idealistic optimism, before nine months of struggle and spiritual weight, missed expectations and culture shock.

Because motorcycle burns and kids packing suitcases wanting to go home does something to your dreams. So does the accumulated stress of driving in Asian traffic, communicating with a vocabulary of 50 words, and hacking out homeschooling, really at home, all-alone.  The idealism from there takes blows from the reality of here in the form of three moves since April, holidays without family, rice for dinner again, and hot water that still alludes us in our shower.  And we were inspired by the bigger picture from our couch in Colorado, but Matt told me last night, under Asian-sky, that the gritty daily has left him more broken than ever before.

And what are you to do when Risk and Faith and Courage, result in

Disappointment and Doubt and Loss?

These days instead of William Wallace riding into battle, it feels more like I’m Mr. Tumnus in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I’m the unsuspecting faun at the end of the White Witch’s wand– flesh slowly crackling to frozen stone.  And I can see it happening– to my heart and to the heart of my husband. It’s a gradual death of

loving-big, dreaming-radical, and offering-vulnerable.

And I fear I am becoming a cynic in the process.

Because cynics seem to respond to the length of the battle or the depth of the disappointment by

refusing to trust again,

assuming the worst,

sitting the sidelines, and

holding the cards closer next time.

And I see it in myself, this cycncism creeping in while my idealism is gut-kicked out.

But gut-kicking or no, I cannot dismiss the very simple truth this week brought to my attention–

“Love always Hopes.”

Always. Hopes.

And to be hopeful means I trust, again.  Means I step into the arena, again.  Means I assume the best, again.  Means I dream,

again.

“Love always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres. Love never fails.” {1 Cor. 13}

Two Questions for You {Pick one, or both, if ya wanna}:

In what areas do you find yourself the most cynical?

What would be your “One Word” for the New Year?

  • http://kendalprivette.blogspot.com/ kendal

    oh, your posts are so tender and truthful and tear-jerking. i pray for you laura. i do.

    i’m cynical about church leadership. and honestly, i’m not even trying to work on that right now. there. some yuck. but….my new year’s word is hope.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Church leadership. Yup. I’m afraid “organized religion” has made me quite cynical over the years too, even though my husband’s almost entire career has been in various churches. It seems that churches are so often not what I think Jesus has in mind . . .

      Happy New Year. Love your word, too.

      I might just have to copy you. :)

  • Kim Starnes

    Sweet Laura,
    How can I be any less honest or vunerable when you put it all out there. Hold fast to the hope that is Christ Jesus (and I know you are and that you will) You and Matt are piercing the darkness with the glorious Light that is Christ. Because of this a very present enemy seeks to rob you of your joy and your hope. Christ’s death has overcome the darkness and while present circumstances cause you weariness and days of desert just know that He is there and He will give you what you need for each day, perfectly measured and poured out and the refining fire of life in Thailand will for eternity bring glory to the One who brought you there. Praying for you precious one, loving you all from across the ocean. My word for 2011 is Christ-ward.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura@life overseas

      Yes, Kim, without joy and hope, daily life or embracing any kind of calling, anywhere, is so.much.harder. Thanks for your encouragement and your prayers, friend. Truly, thanks for taking the time to leave such a hope-filled comment.

      And I love your word for the year, too.

      Love yall, L

  • http://www.prudychick.com Prudence

    I’ve become more cynical since I married my husband. He’s ever the pessimist. I question a lot more than I trust. This can be good obviously, but it can also be damaging.

    I keeping my One Word secret until Monday. But God’s been working it in my life for at least a couple weeks.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura@life overseas

      You’re right, Prudence, there is a goodness to questioning. There is a wisdom in that. There’s a wisdom in being measured and not trusting everything, all the time. I reckon you get in a lot less trouble that way.

      And I agree that if we are married to a pessimist or an optimist, this definitely starts to affect whether our own glass seems half-full or half-empty.

      Can’t wait to read about your word in the upcoming week . . .

  • Val

    Laura – While I am in a much different season of life, abundant life never seems to be without its trials. Recently, I have been challenged with whether or not I honestly believe two things: (1) is His grace really sufficient for me? and (2) can I trust that that He is the GREAT I AM? I pray and desire for my response to both questions to be a loud “YES!”, but honestly, I am not there…yet. Love you and Matt and your brood.

  • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura@life overseas

    Val, love those questions and love your honest wrestling with them. And I totally, totally agree that “abundant life is never without trials.” Absolutely it’s a fight to really walk in the joy, hope, and love we’re supposed to have in spades.

    Thanks for commenting, thanks for your desire to have a “loud YES!”

    Happy New Year to your gang, too.

  • http://www.tapestryofgrace-carol.blogspot.com carol

    You are not a cynic. You are tired, hurting, lonely, that does not make you a cynic. A cynic does not move across the globe to bring hope to young girls that she has never met. A cynic buys the plane ticket. One who wants to hope doesn’t.

    We have been told that it takes three years to adjust to a major move. I think that is dead on. You are approaching the one year mark. Keep leaning in.

    One word is hard . . . the past few months have been so death filled that when our 3 yr old dictated his birthday card for his sister this week he said, “I hope that you don’t die” I thought that as a result of the path that we have walked I was embracing each moment. A few weeks ago I realized that I wasn’t doing an amazing job of embracing each moment. I was simply terrified that I would lose my family. Three weeks ago I would have said “embrace”. As in, embrace each moment. Now I know that my word really should be “trust”. As in, trust that God will provide moments worth embracing and will embrace you when the pain is deeper than you ever thought that your heart could stand up against.
    Happy New Year, friend.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Carol, man, thanks for your words and taking the time to write them, truly.

      And, wow– hard to have “death” surround you. I know seasons when that has happened to us and I start thinking, “okay, is God preparing me for something??!” And that can totally freak you out . . . or bring you to the much much better place of TRUSTING. Good word, friend.

      Happy New Year to you guys, too.

  • http://mqcorner.blogspot.com Donnetta

    I recently found your blog and am enjoying it.

    I also did a post on selecting a word of the year. Although it is my practice to not share my current word, my word for 2010 was grace.

    You have also now challenged me to decide on a word I DON’T want to take root in the coming year.

    May you sense God revealing Himself in new and completely unexpected ways in the days and year ahead!

    Happy New Year.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      GRACE– that’s a beautiful one that can apply to so many levels.

      Thanks for stopping by, and hope you have a great New Year, yourself.

  • logan!!

    Man friend…I read your posts and wish for you all the starry eyed-ness that got you there in the first place…I pray that the life that is being lived will begin to feel better than you thought it could be when it was still just a conversation on your couch. And here’s a thing too…this Christ following you are doing…all the good parts you see there…those are from Him for you…and I believe so much of the hard stuff is just the enemy having more spaces to pop us since the old” comforts” aren’t around anymore. !nd when I think of the refiners fire…I try to remember that he’s making something so beautiful…and to think you already were that when you left for that foreign land…you become more STUNNING each daymy friend. There really is no place like lonely and isolated though. Find hope though too in remembering that the greatest warriors in the Bible (including Jesus himself) emerged from periods of time in the wilderness. Your sword is being sharpened my friend and the enemy camp is shuddering over when you too will emerge from the wilderness. Hang in there William Wallace…you will be winning wars soon enough…I know it. Love you friend, Logan

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Um–

      perfect. encouraging. response.

      Thank you, friend. Your words speak hope and Truth and grace to me. You and your prayers are a gift . . .

      Love you back, L

  • flyinjuju

    Wow, cynical. I have felt overly grumpy lately which how you described cynical sounds like what I am feeling. Anyway, I was reminded of you saying hope when I had my quiet time this morning. Part of it is 2 weeks with kids waking in the night and part of it is just a season, but I most definitely want to choose hope and joy and don’t want grumy cynicism to define me. :)

  • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

    Oh, Man, there’s nothing like waking children in the middle of the night and interrupted sleep to begin to bring your spirit’s down! Ugh. I know.

    Life with small children is SO HARD sometimes.

    Glad you are wanting to choose joy in the midst of it. We are now diaper-free, and I promise, the sleep-stuff, does get easier. Hang in there.

    Give yourself grace and more grace and more grace.

    Happy New Year . . .

  • http://www.gritandglory.com alece

    oh maaaaaan…. i am so cynical. the torturousness of the past few years have drained me of hope. trust is hard. believing the best is difficult. seeing a future feels impossible.

    thank you for challenging me today to be aware of my own cynicism. and to do something about it.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Alece,

      Girl, I can’t imagine. The road you have walked, the hurt you have endured– definitely the default would be to harden . . . .

      I love that you are fighting that. And I love that you are sharing that honestly with the world. People are watching and learning from your journey . . .

  • http://www.lovewellblog.com Kelly @ Love Well

    This is so raw, Laura. I think the war against cynicism and hardness and unbelief rages hotter with each passing year. We’ve seen more, we’ve experienced more. It’s difficult for reality not to leave scars where our idealism used to be.

    That said, I know the battle must be won. It’s worth fighting. It’s worth praying for tender hearts, even when we know they will be hurt again. It’s worth choosing to believe, even when God doesn’t give us everything we want. It’s worth it.

    I’m fighting with you, friend, and praying God’s gentle breeze blows to give you fresh faith.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Kelly, this is a really insightful comment. I guess I had never connected that the older we get, the more disappointment we experience, and thus the greater chance for cynicism happens. I love what you wrote here . . . .

      “It’s difficult for reality not to leave scars where our idealism used to be.”

      Man, I can relate to that.

      But I can also relate to this:

      “I know the battle must be won. It’s worth fighting.”

      Thanks so, so much, friend.

  • http://www.seekfightpray.blogspot.com Melissa

    I’ve been clicking through the links from Alece’s blog and this is a powerful post.

    I can relate to the wholistic fatigue that happens when relocating to a different country. After less than three months, I have to go back to old journal entries, blog posts and emails to be reminded of the dreams and hope that brought me here in the first place. I don’t want to become cynical. I want to be an eighty-year old dreamer for Jesus!

    My word for the year is Beloved, so that God’s love will breakthrough years of feeling unlovable.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Melissa, Thanks for stoping by and thanks so much for your encouragement here. I love your Word, too. “Feeling unlovable” is so far from God’s heart for us, right?

      Happy New Year.

  • http://www.ourwrightingpad.blogspot.com richelle

    we are 10 years into this missionary journey now and i remember vividly that first year… colleagues abandoning the work… loneliness – having spent 15 months learning to speak french and finding that i still couldn’t communicate with the women here and it wasn’t appropriate to communicate too much with the men… marriage suddenly becoming almost impossibly hard work… scary-unknown-deadly illnesses for our children… more often than not doing and acting like the very missionary i’d promised myself i’d never be or become… all in a truly desert land that held nothing appealing or attractive to me – good grief, i grew to detest the colors brown and orange!

    i only returned after that first 6 month home assignment because i couldn’t be the one crush my husband’s dream, or the one that would cause people to look at us and call us quitters…

    not really the right reasons – in fact, if you ask me, i’d say those were reasons based in cynicism… and i find that now i cycle through times of idealism and joy… cynicism and sadness – and i’m starting to learn that it is ok… to just hang in there.

    1) job goes through an impossibly hard time, becomes quite cynical – but at the end, after all his losses, trials, persecution and faultfinding he says: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you…” (job 42)

    2) something our local pastor shared just this past sunday – as we travel this road of life, our vehicle will always have a wheel or two mired in suffering and a wheel or two spinning through joy… as determined by human accounting. if we choose to look at where we are, feelings of joy and sadness will be determined by our circumstances. if we fix our eyes on the destination or on the One who promises to journey with us, we can continue through the circumstances and find real abiding joy.

    as i said, i find that cynicism cycles… i needed that reminder last sunday.

    your story of your first year has touched my heart. as one walking a same but different journey, i am and will continue to pray for you.

    my word – and has been, starting on year 4 now – is gentleness.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Wow, I just spent some time looking at your family’s work in Nigeria. I am so beyond impressed with you guys that you have been able to STICK LONG TERM, OVERSEAS. That is a hugely hard thing, and it say so much about your faith and character that you guys have chosen to give and serve and love the World in that way. It is inspirational to those of us who are new kids on the block!

      Thanks for your encouragement, and I agree– perhaps like so many thing, cynicsim comes and goes in seasons.

      Thanks so much for commenting–

      You are a hero in my book . . . :) Gives me hope!

      • http://www.ourwrightingpad.blogspot.com richelle

        thank you for visiting our site and your kind words… but we aren’t heroes… the one we serve is. we wouldn’t still be here were it not for Him.

        that’s the best hope… He who is faithful WILL do it!

        blessings and keep on keeping on.

  • Jennifer

    My church in NC is the one that started “My One Word” several years ago. So we hear lots about it and I have loved it in the past. Yet, this year I still can’t find a word. I am like you… I am finding words that I need to get out of my life. So maybe this will be the year I pick one of those and work really hard on getting rid of it.
    On another note I have no idea what it is like to live in a different country. I have a heart for mission work but married a man who does not. So I enjoy yours ( and others) posts everyday. I also pray for you and feel your pain.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Happy “House Cleaning”, in the New Year, then!

      And take heart, if you have a heart for missions, I bet God will use that somehow in the future– whether by your own traveling to another country or missions at home . . .

      Glad you stopped by, and glad you are visiting here!

      Happy New Year . . .

  • Tamara

    Ok. Was going to post something insightful but then read Logan!!’s post and could not have said more eloquent words. So. Ditto Logan!!!
    We are praying for you and Matt, that the evil one leave you alone for a rest.
    Where am I cynical? My relationship with my daughter.
    My word? Joy, as in “this is the day the Lord made, I WILL reJOIce and be glad in it”!

  • http://60piggies.blogspot.com nicole

    i’m comfortably cynical about a legion of things: church leadership, the american (and first-world) church, and so on, but when it comes right down to it, i’m most dangerously cynical that i will never change. that i won’t yield to the Holy Spirit. that i will waste this time and rob Him of glory, wither in a first-rate case of myopia.

    funny thing, though. when i’m close to despair, He brings me to blogs like yours, posts like these, and i can almost feel Him hoping enough for the both of us until i soften enough to yield to Him again.

    so thanks.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Wow, Nicole. This was an honest, meaty, thought-provoking, “I’m-there-too” comment.

      I love this . . . “I can almost feel Him hoping enough for the both of us.”

      I LOVE that. Because I reckon as long as one of you has some of that, “withering” doesn’t have to be the end-game.

      Your words and photos (at your site) are beautiful. Thanks for being for-real right back at me. I love it.

      With Hope,
      Laura

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  • http://www.anotherbattlewon.blogspot.com Donna

    My heart hurts for you….really. I can’t say I’ve ever been thousands of miles from home, but I have been in those places where I have felt cynical. I have to wonder if the “great” Bible leaders we tell about in stories ever felt this way. My guess is they did. I often read the Psalms that begin with “cynicism” and yet end in praise. God will make a way.
    My one word for last year was hope and at times it was all I could do to hold on to that hope. This year my word is anticipation – that would be hope coupled with expectation. I don’t know what the year holds, but like a child staring at a wrapped Christmas present, I am excited! I know I can’t unwrap it yet, but it is there! God has not failed me – not now, not ever….even when I felt He had forgotten me completely.
    We don’t serve for the “feeling”, but praying that you will get some blessed doses of anticipation each day. They make more of a difference than we realize!
    Donna
    anotherbattlewon.blogspot.com

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