The end goal…

I am going through a bit of theological transition right now. It’s scary and exhilarating at the same time. It has been difficult to put it all into words, but this is my attempt to do so. I’m speaking from the heart here, so don’t take any of this as final, completely formed thoughts. This is only the beginning.

It started for me the weekend of Mother’s Day. I drifted back onto Twitter a few days before that, and found it in freak-out mode over some SBC churches allowing women to speak from the pulpit for the occasion. Beth Moore was the subject of particularly hostile rhetoric, and the ensuing conversation roiled me. In addition to that, much Twitter “ink” was being spilled over matters of social justice, critical theory, and progressive Christianity. On still a third front, the responses of some to the shocking death of Rachel Held Evans were appalling. Instead of mourning the loss of a fellow Christian, so young, with family and two littles and a sea of friends left behind, certain groups took the opportunity to politicize the loss and trash her life’s work. Classy.

All this drama left me rattled, and seemed to accelerate what was already becoming a major thought path for me. Where do I land on matters of social justice and the church? Or women and the church? Since I am a Black woman, these two subjects are deeply personal to me. I am not a spectator in this debate.

I’ll start with the question of women in ministry, as this seems to be the most pressing issue for me right now.

I love the Word and love to share it with others. That is the passion of my heart. Where did this passion originate? I have no interest in usurping anyone’s “authority”; I don’t care about titles or platforms. I just want to preach Christ and Him crucified. For those of us who don’t know what to think or believe about women in leadership or teaching roles in the church, this most recent (and ongoing) Twitter spat has been disorienting and demoralizing. Everyone says theirs is the *right* biblical view – who do I believe? What do I believe? It is frustrating and wearying. This is not theory for me. This is life, this is my love for Jesus. This is real and tangible.

Thirteen years ago I walked away from seminary jaded and disillusioned because I didn’t see the point of having the degree. I’m a woman after all – and the seminary I attended didn’t encourage me to explore what this passion for ministry meant, unless it was restricted to women or children. I still wonder, I still question, and still feel the confusion and frustration of this conversation. This is a soul ache, not an academic exercise. I want to be faithful to the Lord. I am less confident of my ability to do so now more than ever.

The Bible is life to me, my spiritual food. I love thinking about it, talking about it, meditating on it – and teaching it. I love theology. I love the pursuit, the acquisition – and yes, the teaching of it. I love to teach. I love to declare truth. I’m passionate about it. Where did that passion come from if not from the Lord?

This is the challenge: I have been for the most part fairly conservative in my theological leanings. At one point I strongly held a Calvinistic view of soteriology. Reformed Theology (RT) in general is fascinating and deeply satisfying to me on a certain level because it is so systematic and tidy. I like all the blanks filled and the PowerPoint presentation with multilayered bullet points to define and refine every detail. My brain is wired to analyze the life out of darn near anything – and then analyze my analysis. I think it’s a sickness…

But for reasons that go beyond the scope of this post, the fascination with RT has led to dismay on many fronts. I am especially dismayed by the marriage of Reformed Theology with Complementarianism, and the implication that Complementarianism is integral to an orthodox belief of the Gospel message. The favored translation of Complementarians (the ESV), is “unapologetically Complementarian“, and their changes to passages like Genesis 3:16 in their 2016 revision proves the point. The implication is that you can only be “biblical” if you believe Complementarianism is true. If not, well…

This is essentially what was taking place in the Twitter freak-out over women preaching on Mother’s Day. The question that rang louder and louder in my ear was, “But is that true”?

Let me be clear: I do not doubt the Gospel, the reliability of Scripture, the existence of God, or any of the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith (read my most recent post). What I am arguing here is that Complementarianism is not one of those foundational doctrines. It should not be used as a measuring rod for biblical faithfulness, orthodoxy, or saving faith (especially saving faith) – and the insistence that it must makes me queasy. At bottom, I am questioning the notion that is the only “biblical’ way, or the best way.

I’ve started on this journey before and stopped and turned around because it was too uncomfortable. I’m sure if I look in my archives, I will find a similar post with similar laments and frustrations. I have been avoiding this path. I don’t want to take this journey. But it keeps coming back. The “certainty” I once had about complementarian views of biblical manhood and womanhood no longer hold as much weight. The cognitive dissonance is becoming too much to bear. I can no longer avoid this question. I must take a deep breath and dive in.

The end goal is drawing deeply for the well of God’s Word, drawing closer to Him, and growing in my understanding of who He is and who I am in light of that.

Comments about the Gospel and justice will have to come in a later post. Right now all my emotional and mental energy is focused in on this question of women in ministry.

I don’t know where I will land. I just know I want to follow Jesus wherever He leads.

More later…grace and peace…

Full stop…

I am a Christ follower – I believe in the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe in the virgin birth, the sinless perfection of Jesus Christ, the God-man, and His sacrifice for our sins. I believe in His bodily resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high; and the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son and indwells me and enables me to see Truth in the Word, both written and incarnate. I believe in Word of God, that is the measure for life and faith. I do not worship the Bible; I worship the God to Whom it points. I believe Jesus is coming again to consummate His kingdom, and make all things new. In Him are truth, righteousness, and justice, and He will establish these at His return. I, along with all my brothers and sisters who have called on the name of the Lord, will reign with Him forever. Amen.

My life’s mission is to love Jesus and love people. To help people draw closer to Him. To magnify His name as I seek to follow after Him. To share the good news of the Gospel to those who do not know, and trust in God to do the work in their hearts that bring them to repentance and faith. I am to bear witness –  that is all I can do – to the wondrous works of our Lord. I am called to share His truth to all who will hear, and pray that all would come to know Him. All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.

It does not say all who call on His name – and believe in Complementarianism/Egalitarianism, and cessationism/continuationism, and Calvinism/Arminianism, and…fill in the blank. It says ALL who call the name of the Lord will be saved. Full stop. It is okay to have convictions on these finer theological points, and to decide which make better biblical sense. But don’t hang my orthodoxy and ESPECIALLY my salvation on pet theological positions on secondary or tertiary doctrines. I am willing to be taught; but I am unwilling to be manipulated.

I am not a Calvin follower. Or Arminius follower. Or MacArthur follower. Or TGC follower. Or Strachen follower. Or Moore follower.

I am a CHRIST follower.

Full. Stop.

The broken places…

This past weekend, Rachel Held Evans died. She went into the hospital a few weeks earlier to be treated for the flu and an UTI. She developed a strange reaction to a medication they were administering to treat her infections that caused constant seizures. They placed her in a medically-induced coma to stop the seizures and seek to determine a cause.

Last week they began the process of weaning her off the coma meds. Unfortunately, this was not successful. Her brain began to swell, and the damage done was irreversible. She died early Saturday morning. An incomprehensible tragedy for family and friends. My prayers are with them.

Ever since I learned who Rachel Held Evans is I have struggled with her. She was a compelling writer and passionate advocate. She fought for her faith and faced her questions and doubts head-on. I did not always agree with her conclusions, and as someone who clings to the need for certainty, her ability to be comfortable with her doubting were both maddening and challenging to me at the same time. Sometimes I met that challenge with steely resistance, unfollowing her and others like her or swinging wildly to the opposite end of the theological spectrum to prove that I was a good, doctrinally pure Christian.

Of late, I have begun to question this clinging tendency of mine. The quest for pure, pristine doctrine has left me a crabby, dry woman who sees heresy at every turn. Instead of engaging others’ views with an open heart, I interrogate them to determine where they have strayed from what I have decided is orthodox Christianity. And many times, the things on which I judge are merely personal preference.

The historic creeds of the faith – the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, Chalcedonian Creed, Athanasian Creed – are the benchmark for orthodoxy (small o) in my book. We have added layer upon layer to these core doctrines over the centuries, and find ourselves twisted up so tightly it is difficult to breathe – or let others breathe. Hear me when I say this: I am in no way saying that doctrine is not important. But doctrine and life have a way of becoming complicated. When we get to secondary and even tertiary doctrines and viewpoints, the grey areas become much harder to nail down.

Paul determined to preach nothing but Christ and Him crucified. But that did not mean he didn’t wade into the murky waters of what that implied to everyday life in the churches to which he wrote. Much of our debates about doctrine stem from how we understand his admonitions to churches with reference to things like women in the church and home, or marriage. Were his responses culturally conditioned or hard and fast rules for all time? How do we tell the difference?

Women in ministry, human sexuality, the church’s response to social injustices, just to name a few are important issues that press in on us every day. What is the Bible’s message in these sensitive areas and how do we determine that? These are the questions we wrestle with in this generation – and I don’t think we are unique in our struggle.

On a personal level, the question for me is: where is the line to be drawn? There are beliefs that I consider “non-negotiables” of the Christian faith, meaning, things that must be believed and embraced to be called a Christian. That list is informed directly by the creeds I referenced above, and do not go beyond them. However, there are other, secondary doctrines, that are derived directly from these core beliefs that carry a fairly hefty weight – I am thinking of the doctrine of the Trinity – that are implied but not specifically named within the creeds, but logically follow from them. But even beyond that, there are tertiary issues that are directly impacted by those core doctrines, like the women in ministry issue, that are largely based on how you read the Bible and how you define the term “literal interpretation”, among other things.

The further you move out from the core, the greyer things become. And this is where I live right now.

I like the core. It’s certain, safe, and secure. I can fill on all the blanks in the core. The core is what holds me together. But I cannot escape these grey areas of faith, even though I try very hard to do so. This is not doubting for doubting’s sake, or being “authentic” and all those buzzwords. This is real life for me. I am a 46-year-old single Black female with no children. I am a bookworm and theology nerd. I am stubborn, highly opinionated, and given to melodrama from time to time. My idea of relaxing is reading a book on the five perspectives of the end-times.

I am also barren – meaning, I don’t just not have kids, I physically can’t have kids. I question God about why He has kept me single for so long, even though my passionate heart’s desire is to be married. I am fair-complexioned and at times can look racially ambiguous. Blacks and Whites alike question my “Blackness”, and I don’t feel comfortable in homogeneous settings of any race. I am not “Woke” in the current theological or social sense, but I also am very aware of real issues of racism, sexism, and oppression that still exist in our society. I believe the Bible means it when it says marriage is between one man and one woman, that God created us male and female by design, and this His design is best. But I don’t know how to reconcile that with friends and family I dearly love who are LGBTQA, and how to love them well and show them the beauty and grace of our Lord Jesus.

I bring all of this into my relationship with Jesus and ask Him to heal the broken places. But what does that mean?

I don’t want pat answers. I am an investigator; that is how I am wired. I pick things apart and put them back together again in order to understand how they work. I dig into the why of things just as much as the what. I am a hardcore Gen Xer, whose opinions are rarely sought after, and who do not live in the petri dish of sociologists like Millennials do. But my generation paved the way for our Millennial friends, mastering the art of skepticism and cynicism, and refining the language of snark. Mine was the generation of the rise and fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Jerry Falwell’s Christian Right. TBN become a mainstay, and televangelists, faith healers, and prosperity gospel gurus began to rule the Christian airwaves. Authority became a curse word.

None of these things are excuses for non-belief. But they are stumbling blocks that should be seriously considered. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit regenerates the heart and brings repentance. But loving my neighbor dictates that I take these things seriously and not brush them off or immediately label people who struggle with them. I have to walk through the grey areas to get to the core, and be okay with the fact that the grey will always be there until our faith becomes sight.

It is sad to me that it has taken the death of this courageous woman of valor to find enough courage within myself to even give voice to these things. But here I stand – I will take on my mantle and become a woman of valor as I was meant to be.

Thank you Rachel. You have run your race well; it is time to take your rest.

An ordinary measure of success…

Can I publicly process for a moment?

It seems odd to blog about blogging, which seems to be what I’ve been doing on this page at a torturously slow pace. But over the years, I have questioned the need for blogging – in particular, the need for me to blog. What is the point?

Today I came across a post on Tim Challis’ blog about the slow death of the personal blog. He wants to encourage a revival of this genre. Reading through the compilation of blog posts about blogging was a much needed encouragement to me. Many days, even as I think “I should write on my blog today”, I simultaneously ask the question why. My life is not spectacular. There is nothing profound or earth-shattering about my experience. I am not an expert of anything. What do I add to the cacophony of voices that litter the Internet landscape? It is quite small and humble, I assure you. Nothing that will get me a million likes or follows.

And I think that’s is quite alright with me.

So much of what the blogosphere has become of late is a screaming match between opposing views. Our social media saturated selves feel like we have a right to dress down anyone with whom we disagree, without concern of the impact of our vitriol on their lives, livelihoods, or emotional health. There is no such thing as grace, even within the Christian sphere of the Interwebs, for any mistake, no allowance for growth and change, no mercy when someone obviously screws up and recognizes it and owns up to it. No matter how you apologize, someone seems to think you haven’t apologized enough, or used the right words, and so on. It all gets a little tiring.

Writing is a deeply personal exercise. And yet I feel compelled to share it with others. But when you lay your heart out to bear for others to see, you run the risk of being trampled upon. Thus, the hesitation in reaching out at all.

But what if I look at this from a different angle? Here’s what I mean: Perhaps this seemingly endless state of writer paralysis (I’ve gone beyond writer’s block at this point) is that I am asking too much of myself. As I mentioned above, I am not a mover or shaker in any sense of the word. I’m just a person who loves to write. And I love to share how God is working in my life. I want to encourage and exhort for sure, but my goal is not to “blow up”, get a book deal and be a “professional Christian”. When I began blogging, my main objective was to help me work through all that I was learning as a seminary student. Somewhere along the line,  the goal changed, and now it seems I feel this pressure to want more of my writing. What’s my “niche”? Who is my audience? Is my introductory line catchy enough? What about branding? There are ministries out there that can help me craft my message and build my blog to be something that will draw in the readers. Illusions (or better delusions) or grandeur float around in my head. And while it would be cool to get published someday, my measure of success is much less dramatic than that.

I just want to write a coherent blog post that says something of substance that helps me and any reader grow. Even if it’s just one. I want to share the extraordinary love of Jesus that He has chosen to shower down on this remarkably ordinary person, a deep abiding love of which I am so unworthy. The goal is not be the next big thing in celebrity Christianity. I going for a more ordinary measure of success – doing something I love to do, to the glory of God, praying that in some way He will use it to bless others.

So at some point, I will get this writing life together and start writing about something other than writing. Until then, thank you for your patience…

Grace and peace…

m.

Why did this take so long?

That’s what I asked myself when it hit me. It seems the most obvious of obvious things, but somehow it was escaping me. That’s usually how these “aha” moments hit me.

Sometimes the most obvious things are the hardest to see.

As it pertains to this blog, I have lived on a struggle bus for a while. I can’t even tell you what iteration of my blogging life this particular blog represents. I put an end to that by actually paying for my domain name – if I have some monetary skin in the game, I am going to stay put! But even after that, pain and mental roadblocks have left me feeling helpless as I sit down to write and nothing happens.

But something hit me just now as I was in the Ladies’ Room…sorry y’all, but that’s where I am hit when some of my most profound thoughts.

I am a delightfully ordinary woman seeking after God. And that’s absolutely enough. 

This call to be ordinary is not a call to mediocrity. It is a call to slow, steady abiding in Christ and letting Him do His good work in me in His timing. The peace of this ordinariness is otherworldly. I am tired of trying to be something and someone I am not, to fit into a mold or image that “they” have crafted (who is “they” anyway?!). And I am TIRED OF FOCUSING ON MYSELF!! And that is what whole long tortuous journey has been about – me! It’s time to kill that noise and get back to writing and thinking and talking about what is my deepest passion – the things of God.

I thank you for your patient tolerance of my public navel-gazing. Let this post serve as a re-calibration of sorts. A turn back to what started this writing journey in the first place…our Lord Jesus. 

More later…grace and peace…

 

And yet, she said yes…

At first blush, she was the most unlikely of women to be called to this extraordinary role. But I think that was exactly what made Mary the perfect candidate for this vital role in redemptive history. Nothing about the birth of Messiah was how it would have been envisioned by the Jewish people of the time. They expected a king – and all the attending pomp and circumstance. Christ’s birth was the complete opposite of that. Everything was upside down – including the “royal couple” who would be His earthly parents.

Mary was an unassuming figure, probably 14 or 15 years old at the time we meet her. She was betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter; she was a virgin who lived a quiet life in Nazareth of Galilee (think Danville or Decatur; not a metropolitan mecca or center of cultural or political power). She was preparing to be the wife of carpenter. She did not have dreams or visions of greatness. She was…ordinary.

But her life changed completely when an angel appeared to her:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. – Luke 1:26-28 ESV

A few items to note:

Mary was betrothed to Joseph. Betrothal in those days was nothing like what we call “engagement” today. Ending a betrothal was not as simple as returning a ring and canceling the reservation for the reception. In order to sever the agreement, the man would have to write a certificate of divorce. So when we meet her, Mary is a woman who has been promised to Joseph,  a woman in waiting for her bridegroom. She was expected to keep herself pure until the wedding night, when her union with Joseph would be consummated.

So, to be visited by an angel and told she would be with child, and that child would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit was probably a bit disconcerting to say the least!

I mean, can you imagine the scandal? How many people do you think believed her when she shared this story? Joseph surely did not; when he learned this, he determined to divorce her:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,  and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. – Matt. 1:18-25 ESV

We hear this story so often that I think it could be easy to gloss over this, to sanitize it. But this was no small event. Old Testament law was not kind in these situations. The law stated that a betrothed woman who claims to be a virgin but is found not to be is to be stoned to death at the entrance of her father’s house (Deut. 22:20)!

Harsh.  And Mary would not have been ignorant of this. She knew exactly what she was getting herself into when she say “yes” to God. And I would imagine she would have no expectation of Joseph standing with her. But she said yes.

Mary believed God. And that belief came at enormous cost. That belief was risky.

Who would believe her?

What would Joseph do?

What would her family do?

What would the public think or do?

Her very life was at risk.

And yet….she said…Yes, Lord. May it be to me according to your word.

There are three things that came to my mind as I thought about Mary.

First – faithfulness is hard, and the road taken is usually the road less travelled. Last night I was trying to imagine myself as Mary. It did not go well. I have so many questions…and not just about the virgin part! All the questions I posed – and more – would have flooded my mind and spilled out of my mouth. The fear that would have gripped me would have been paralyzing.

I have no doubt that Mary felt fear too. I have no doubt that her mind whirled with questions. But she did not hesitate. She knew the road would be hard, treacherous even. And still she said yes.

Secondly – Obedience doesn’t always make sense. How much of what God had revealed to her through His angel “made sense”? Human sense. None of it. Did it make sense that Joseph would understand and marry her anyway? Would it make sense that her family wouldn’t seek to harm her? Did it make sense that she, an ordinary woman from a nondescript town would be chosen to fulfill the promise of God, a promise that is woven through the entire fabric of Israel’s history up to that point? I mean, women dreamed of being the mother of the Messiah. Why would God choose Mary?

Why does God choose any of us? I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t make sense that I am a child of God. It doesn’t make sense that He saved me out of my misery and sin. But He did. And when He blesses me with the gift of ministry, when He showers favor on me, it makes no sense. The only thing that makes sense in that moment is to say Yes, Lord.

Thirdly – Obedience belongs to God, not to other people. Mary’s ultimate statement: I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me according to your Word. This is the battle cry of a woman of valor. A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Mary is praised, is called blessed among all women because she feared God more than man; she sought to obey Him, and not other people.

Had she been consumed with the potential consequences of say yes – even the very clear and present danger of being STONED to death – she would have shrunk back. She would have hidden. She would have said no. God’s plans would not have been thwarted – but she would have had no part in them.

What does this mean to us?

Mary displayed deep faith and enormous trust in God. She was confident, but not in herself. She was confident in her God. Confident in His character, His power. Confident that He would do what He promised. This is not something that can be mustered at the snap of a finger. This is a heart that has been shaped by the Word of God, belief in God, love for God – over time. So the first thing it means for us is a slow, steady walk with the Lord that is day by day. It’s kind of like a marathon. If I were to try to run a marathon tomorrow, I would probably drop dead after half a mile. But if I spent the next six or seven months training and slowly working up to that 26.2 miles, I would probably be able to run a marathon by July or August. Don’t know why I’d want to….but you get my drift. Slow. steady. Consistent. In the everyday and the ordinary. This is where you prepare; this is how you prepare.

Yesterday I watched the state funeral for George HW Bush. One of the eulogizers said something that cracked me up: “Those who travel the high road of humility in Washington do not encounter heavy traffic”. To which we all could say a hearty AMEN!

But is that no less true in our everyday lives? What do we hear from our culture. Our celebrity culture is omnipresent – and we all want to capture some sliver of it – hence the term “15 minutes of fame”. Limelight looks good on any complexion. Or so we think. The one on top is blessed, favored, etc.

But the life of humility is much different. It is hard, it can be painful. It can be dangerous. But this is the life that God commends. Mary was said to have found favor with God. I often hear the phrase “Favor ain’t fair”. It usually refers to something awesome happening, as if to say, “Don’t be mad; it’s favor”. But sometimes favor doesn’t feel good. Sometimes favor is hard. Sometimes you want to ask God to stop favoring you so much! But those moments and seasons in life are often where our greatest blessing are born.

Mary traveled the road of humility; a quiet, ordinary, but faithful life. So the second thing, which flows from the first is realigning what we value to match what God values. His values are completely antithetical to what the world values. So that slow, steady walk with God reveal His will and ways to us, rewiring us as the Holy Spirit works in our hearts.

God may indeed call us to extraordinary things. He might not. But regardless, our lives should be under-girded with a faithfulness to God and a desire to follow Him where He might lead – be it in the unseen, everyday of life, or the giant and amazing. In whatever God calls us, our heart’s cry should be “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me according to your word.”

Where I am whole and free…

My journey has been a story of searching. Searching for identity, searching for belonging. Trying to figure where I fit. As my previous post explains, my “frochronicles” have been about more than hair; they have been about owning who I am, as I am, how God designed me. From head to toe. No apologies.

When I first began this blog, I toiled over a name. I have tried blogging for years, and have always hit a wall, not quite sure where the process was leading. Was there a purpose to my writing? What is my primary message? What is the mission or vision behind the words? The title I settled on was “Encourage to Wholeness”. But what does that even mean?

In my pursuit to figure this out, I’ve made fruitless attempts to emulate different styles of bloggers. The social justice blogger; the political commentator blogger; the how-to-be-a-godly-woman blogger; the theology professional blogger; the God’s-got-a-plan-for-your-life blogger. Each attempt ends in failure. Because I am none of these. And trying to fit into these molds has left me feeling awkward, frustrated. Because I was not meant to be any of those bloggers. I’m saying nothing against them in affirming that; we need all these various voices and more. But that is not the voice I’ve been given. That is not the fire that burns in my belly. Strands of all the above mentioned styles run through my writing; but none are my true heartbeat.

Back to my title…

Encourage to Wholeness. What does that mean? It means to encourage a move toward an identity that is fully rooted in Christ, not in the various identities of this world. It means living into the freedom we have in Christ.

That is my true heartbeat.

There is nothing new about this message. It is the Gospel message. We are new creations in Christ; we are one in Him; we are children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. If you name the name of Jesus, your primary identity is child of God. By ourselves, we are broken and fragmented by all the identities and categories put upon us by our culture. It is the result of being broken by sin, and living in a world broken by sin. My personal struggle with identity originates here. But in Christ I find peace. In Christ, I find joy. In Christ, I find refuge, a place where I am whole and free.

That is the vision of this blog. That is the mission of my writing.

A few weeks ago, one of the elders of my church preached a message about identity. His primary text was Galatians 3:26-29:

“..for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (ESV)

He used the imagery of buckets to describe the different identities we carry with us. We have a gender bucket, a racial/ethnic bucket, a familial bucket, a friend bucket, a work bucket, and so forth. The point of this passage is not that we lose these identities when we come to Christ, or that they somehow disappear. The message is that all these other “buckets” are now placed inside the larger “bucket” of being “in Christ”. How I choose to live out my other identities must be shaped by and subordinated to this primary identity of being in Christ, so that, no matter what “bucket” I am drawing from, people see Christ’s character in me. My life should be hidden in His; my life should be all about Him.

Again, there is nothing new about this message. But it requires repetition and reminder. We so easily forget. We get consumed by what is right here before us and lose perspective on what is true. We forget what makes us whole and free. That is why we need encouragement. We need to encourage one another to wholeness.

So as I take my steps along this journey, I want to encourage you, my fellow sojourners, to continue on toward freedom and wholeness in Him.

Until next time, grace and peace…