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ANDREA BURKE
Rochester, NY, 14620

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Good Enough

Andrea Burke

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I talk with a lot of women. All the time. As the director of women’s ministry at my church, this is my day in and day out. Through texting, emergency tear-filled phone calls, the humming soundtrack of coffeeshop conversations, the quiet of counseling rooms. I hear their stories in my DMs, on Sunday mornings while my children run amok, at our community group when the women gather around the sink, the snacks, the couch. I’ve prayed for them over paninis, challenged them over omelets, listened to their hurt over oat milk lattes, shared my story while sitting on a sun-cooked park bench. They’ve been 18 and hurting, 25 and hopeful, 32 and broken, 47 and tired, 60 and encouraged, 80 and laughing. Married, single, divorced, abused, tired, successful, driven, widowed, broken, sinful, bold.

And if there’s anything I’ve seen in the myriad of different faces I’ve sat across from, it’s this — there is a thread of gold within each moment. In each tear, in each prayer, in each question that claws at the earth, in each breath, it’s this — the world cannot deeply and wholly satisfy. The hope of the Gospel is the answer.

Really and truly.

And yes, there are some immediate treatments. There are bandages and salves, words of comfort or rebuke, stories and snippets of wisdom to apply immediately. But at the core, when we’ve exhausted our worldly depths of wisdom, there is only one thing that remains.

Christ is enough. He sees you and says, because of Him, you’re held, sustained, kept. From beginning to end, from author to finisher, from first breath to final gasp, He sees, loves, intercedes, and is near.

In every bend and curve of our life and femininity, there is design, there is hope, there is a chance to be made new.

I’ve heard time and time again of the heavy burden of the world. I’ve seen how it has contorted thinking. I’ve seen how in my own life, my own habits, my own shortcomings, how I’ve feasted at a table that cannot ever fill. How I’ve binged on Eve’s fruit. I’ve believed the world could answer my appetite, be the standard-bearer for beauty, and make me wise. 

It was an empty well. A deadly tree. A counterfeit truth.

My friend Lore and I have a text thread. One that looks a lot like updating each other on life, asking how the other is doing (“Friend, how is your heart? How are you really doing?”), and then things like this — “Why is the message for women so loud and so wrong?”

One day we asked why and then spent hours texting about the doomed mess that is the messages of “You’re an amazing mermaid!” And “Trust yourself always.” And “Go get what you deserve.” And “You don’t need to change. Everyone else needs to accept you the way you are.” While we elevate ourselves, we also have become masters at destroying every good gift He’s given us. From our hips to our thoughts, our homes to our wardrobe, women hear that we’re not pretty enough, slim enough, sexy enough, smart enough, brave enough, rich enough, funny enough, and on and on. Everywhere we turn, the message is saturating my feeds, my meetings, and even my thoughts. What seemed harmless and silly a few years ago now has a following, a conversion rate, an influence, a platform.

And because of all the faces who look me in the eye week after week, because of the young woman I’m raising in my own home, the cost is too high to turn a blind eye. I can’t pretend that it’s not trickling down into thought, practice, families, homes.

So Lore and I decided we’d take our conversations public and start a podcast. Good Enough is going to exist for this reason — in a culture that tells us who we are and what we do is never enough, God breathes into these bodies of dust and says “It is good.” When we are weary of all that we cannot carry, when the burden is too heavy, Christ says “Let me keep you. Let me sustain you. Let me remind you of who you are in me.” 

We’re going to look at 14 different ways the world tells us we need to strive more, believe more, taste the fruit, feast at the empty table. And then we’re going to find the better way. We’re not going to get it all right. We’re going to make some blunders, no doubt. But I told her at the end of the podcast, when we ask “Was that good?” We can say, “Eh….it was good enough.”

Good Enough launches in May 2019. Stay tuned.

When You Make Your Bed in Hell

Andrea Burke

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It was a dark and stormy night. Quite literally. Texas thunder, apocalyptic lightning, and a frightened 23-year-old girl pacing the carpeted hallways of her apartment.

I traced my finger along the words of scripture. As if I could read it again and find a different edge, a different meaning, a different way to interpret it so that I could fall asleep. On my laptop, I had pulled up multiple websites that told me what I was doing was ok. They had even given me scriptures. They told me how I was actually doing what was good, necessary, life-giving. I found comfort, ears brushed with a gentle breeze that told me I wasn’t walking into the blistered arms of sin. They told me the words I read were misinterpreted. They asked “Who really knows if the Bible is true at all?” They told me repentance wasn’t necessary. Suddenly the teachings of the church and of the Bible seemed archaic, outdated, and I was misunderstood.

But the scripture burned my heart. The Bible felt heavy in my hands, gravity pulling at its edges and my knees.

The words of Christ were the edge of a sword that was ready to cut me down.

From the outside looking in, things were going fairly well. To anyone who met me, I was living a decent life. I was a recent transplant to Denton, TX from New York. I worked long hours for the regional newspaper office as a page designer, writer, and occasional photographer for whatever event they wanted me to cover. I attended church and was making new friends. I was even in the process of becoming a member and had joined a small group. I went out with friends on Friday nights and introduced them all to my boyfriend as if everything was right, good, and not blowing up in my face.

Which it was, by the way. It was a massive dumpster fire.

Because my boyfriend was also someone’s husband back in New York. I had left New York when news of our affair became public and I needed a place to disappear. I wanted a new life, to start over, a new identity. For awhile, I considered even going by a different name. I tried, asking new friends to call me by my middle name. I could rewrite my identity, give myself a new name, create my own future.

I figured if I could change my home and my name and the faces that knew me, then maybe I could change the outcome of my life. Maybe I could change the verdict. If I didn’t want God or the church telling me what to do, then surely I could rewrite my own story.

I didn’t want to be told I couldn’t be with him.
I wanted someone to tell me it was ok.
I wanted the Bible to fit my story. I didn’t want any impositions.

So I’d spend hours at night, searching websites for a truth that fit what I felt. And I found it. Other people with the same story. People who knew what I felt and thought, “How could God possibly be against this?” I built entire friend circles of people who didn’t tell me I was wrong, who celebrated my freedom, who wagged their finger at those “judgmental Christians.”

I marveled at stories of American heroes like Johnny Cash and June Carter. If they could make it work and everyone loved them still, so could we.

And one night I faced the choice. The lightning lit up the parking lot and I could see the outline of the trees, the buildings, the alleyway where I parked my bike. It felt like darkness was hiding me in that small one bedroom and I rounded my shoulders under its weight. As I looked at the idea of Christ, and looked at what he had to offer, and then considered the man with whom I shared my heart, my home, my bed, I realized I didn’t want what Christ had to offer.

“If it’s you or him, if it’s heaven or hell, I’ll take this earthly joy and pay the price.” I slammed my Bible shut. I asked to make my bed and lie in it.

Even typing the words now sends a cold slice of fear down my spine as it did the day I whispered them.

Psalm 139 says “Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

Years later, I think of that girl. The one who thought she could run from the “Hound of Heaven.” I think of her, knees shaking, stomach knotted into nausea while she thought she could tell God to go ahead and let her go.

I thank Him that he didn’t take my direction. I thank God that He kept me when I asked Him not to. I marvel and wonder that He thought it best to hear my words and not willingly grant me my ask. That somehow within a few years time, when I had followed the path that gave me the most earthly freedom and joy and I realized it was all dust in my mouth and moths in my heart, He was still there. In fact, when I made my bed in hell, He was there. When I said “Let darkness cover me and the light about me be night,” He never once took his hand or eyes off of me. On my darkest night, when I whispered those words and prayed that the sword of the son of God would stop gutting me, He was immovable, compassionately detached from my pleas, sovereignly unmoved by my rebellion, eternally faithful to His own promise in my heart.

I couldn’t change my name, as it turned out. My identity wasn’t mine to write. By his mercy, he preserved me. He upheld me despite my kicking and screaming.

So dear friend,

when you’re wringing the words of Christ and looking for away to get out of your contract,
when the Bible feels heavy and the sword cuts deep,
when the words of the internet bring more comfort than the Spirit,
when you realize you’d rather make your bed in hell than trust him with your despair,
let me save you some time.

There is no greater joy, no greater pleasure, no sweeter love, no deeper knowledge, no truer identity, no steadier grace than the one that comes from the hand that preserves, that slays, that keeps. And my prayer is that you’ll see as I did—

One day he would let me die so that I could live.
That one day I’d see the bed I’d made was in His hands.

My Mother's Table

Andrea Burke

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I grew up with my mom’s Bible open at the breakfast table. She wasn’t always there. Work called early for an RN who walked the floors of a hospital. I’d be slopping milk in a bowl of cereal and see where she sat just hours before.

Her open Bible, her notes in cursive fresh in the margins, a mug with one sip of tea left at the bottom, a cooled tea bag resting on a spoon. This was a familiar sight.

If mom ever writes you a note, you know it’s going to include scripture. It’s going to include a verse that she’s praying over you, or something she read that reminded her to write. Years ago, when I was dining with the wayward and drinking my fill of what the world had to offer, my mother would write me notes and slip them into my room, the mail, in e-mails. Floral notecards with her familiar handwriting, a hint of her perfume in each opened envelope. Without fail, she’d speak scripture and it would slice me open, expose me, and make me wonder why I ever walked away at all. Even when she knew I didn’t want to hear it, she sent it. She never defaulted to the wisdom of the world. She knew what had sustained her and offered me the same bread. It was a familiar call from mountain to valley. Echoes of what I had once known.

Mom’s open Bible was so normal and seemed so easy. It was an extension of the rest of her. 

But today, I’m at my dining room table and my 10 year old is trying to explain to me the mnemonic device she learned to convert Kg into mg and gallons into cups. Meanwhile, my toddler is crying that the toast he asked for isn’t the toast he asked for, and that his pencil isn’t blue with a pink eraser as he apparently is convinced is necessary in this moment.

I have re-read the same 10 verses in 1 Corinthians 1 about 5 times now, each time with more frustration, more annoyance, more feeling like a failure to each of these things: my eager 5th grader, my attention-desperate 2 year old, my hungry and tired heart.

And then I remembered my mother’s Bible. No doubt (because I remember) she cracked it open when we all flooded her with questions and conversations. It sat open when I cried about boys. It sat open when my brother and I bombarded her with complaints on her day off. It sat open when the vacuum ran, the dishes clanked, the voices raised. My mother understood something that I’m just now learning.

Sitting at scripture isn’t something to check off my list. It’s not always a solitary feast. It’s where I dip my toes for a moment to remind me of the water that fuels my spirit. Somedays I have time to study. Somedays I have time to open a commentary, to dig deeper into the text, to know it and realize I don’t know it in 100 different ways.

But today I read “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” And I ask my 10yo while she checks her homework and fills her backpack, “What do you think that means?”

She stops. “What does folly mean?” she asks.

Oh, she’s actually listening. 

And we talk. About how the world may laugh. How friends won’t understand. How even we sometimes don’t get it. And yet, it’s the water, it’s the meal, it’s the sustenance, the Gospel that keeps us. She asks more, the Bible stays open, the toddler cries a bit more because now the milk he has is not the milk he asked for, and I am moving around like a blur. A robed, slipper-wearing worker bee who is meeting the needs of body and soul this morning. My coffee is nearly done and yet it sits, cooling, by the open book, my notes scribbled on a small notepad nearby. 

In one moment I look down and I see it. No, I see her. I see my mother and the faithful, well-worn path she laid before me. Our breakfast table wasn’t about the cereal and the tea and the toast and the coffee. It was a feast she laid before us, remnants of what she had found, morsels that whisper “Walk this way.”

So, mothers of young children, lets walk the well-worn path. Let’s open our Bibles while breakfast is served, while the bus watch is moments away, while the coffee is poured and the bananas aren’t banana-y enough, while questions about the metric system and “Can we have a sleepover” are bouncing around the table. Open the Bible, trust that even in imperfect, quick moments, the Bible is far more capable of doing the work it was created to do. To cut, to plant, to grow, to sustain. All right here.