Rabbit trails and winding paths…

I think this post should just be called “Random Stream of Consciousness”. All the thoughts flowing through my mind today spilled into my journal. I thought I’d share a sampling, just to give you some insight into the person behind the blog.

When I was in seminary, blogging was a relatively new phenomenon. I loved it; it helped me flesh out all the ideas and concepts I was learning prior to committing them to paper for a grade. My first “digital journal” if you will. Blogging then was much different than blogging now, but I still feel the need to wade into the blogosphere waters. It seems that in my pursuit of seeking understanding, I have lost my way as I try to get myself out of this theological sludge that presently surrounds me. I am tired of living for other people, but I feel trapped in this pattern. What do I do?

This is what I do: I begin to redefine what it means to follow Jesus, incorporating what I have learned, and letting go of things I cling to that I know are not correct. And it is time to own my faith, for better or worse, instead of looking to everyone else in the theological universe to tell me what to believe. The balance is delicate because I am not advocating closing myself off from all voices of influence and wisdom. What I am saying is that those voices of wisdom can come from different corners of the Christian world, and I need not be so dogmatic about it all.

Example from my political life: Although I tend to lean left, I am not a hardcore liberal. In terms of public policy and the definition of government protection of its citizens, I am what would be considered liberal. Protection in this view would be more than just military might, but also programs that provide safety nets for the least and most vulnerable. I find it ironic that organizations that scream the loudest that we need to reclaim our “Christian heritage”, poo-poo such liberal ideas – ideas that Jesus Himself spoke about when talking about separating the sheep and the goats. But, I digress…

Where I depart from liberal ideas are the social issues of marriage and family. In those areas, I am a conservative. I have tried to twist the Bible into a pretzel to justify SSA and marriage and I just can’t. I also cannot countenance the myriad justifications for abortion. None of them hold water for me.

However…I am not a social crusader for either of these issues. What I mean is, I cannot jump on the conservative bandwagon of trying to legislate homosexuality or abortion away. Quite frankly, I don’t think it can be done. More importantly, I don’t think that is what Jesus meant when He commissioned us to go and make disciples. To the contrary, I believe that this combative stance that is constantly railing about what we’re against undermines our true purpose as followers of Jesus, which is to show Christ’s love as He draws people to Himself. This is not a capitulation to the world’s ideas and ideals; it is a bit a realism that laws can only go so far. I am fully convinced that our mission as believers will necessarily clash with the society in which we live. We seek the welfare of that land; but for me, the cause of winning people to Jesus overrides the need for a society that matches my own moral code and is actually a deeper and more fruitful way of seeking its welfare. We simply cannot legislate belief.

And so, to those on the left, I do not go far enough in my liberalism. But to those on the right, I go too far. But for me, my desire is to love people and share God’s truth with them. I don’t need a law to do that, and to some degree, I believe that laws will actually hinder that process, especially when the people behind such laws are fellow believers. Love them into the Kingdom; let God do the hard work of changing them. We can’t do that, and no law ever will.

I digress again…

I use this as an illustration of the grey areas that bridge the distance between black and white answers on so many issues. In theory, things can be clean and neat; but life is not theory, and things are never so clean. Decisions have unintended consequences; lives and hearts and minds and feelings make life messy. Beyond the pages of a blog or a book, or beyond the steps of a platform or a chamber of Congress, life bears out the marks of those consequences, intended or not, in stark relief. We can never know all the consequences of a given decision or action; but we must own them all the same, regardless of intention.

The consequence of my own decisions is the big ball of confusion that is my inner life at the moment. I’ve chased the rabbit trails through winding paths, tossing to and fro with every wind of doctrine, seeking solace in this truth or that system. I want all the answers; I want the systematic categories to perfectly fit together.  If there is a sermon outline, I’m the one who must have all the blanks filled in or I have a breakdown. Doesn’t quite matter as much that I actually understood what was said. How completely backward, right?

I live in my head much of the time. I love figuring things out and systematizing ideas and beliefs. I want to be consistent from one issue to another. I don’t like loose ends and unanswered questions. But faith does not always satisfy the desire for certainty. By its very nature, it cannot – faith is not needed if you know all the things. Never mind the fact that I am a finite created being that can’t possibly know all the things. Minor detail.

Perhaps this current path to wholeness requires that I give up my quest for certainty in all things, answers to all questions. Perhaps this path to wholeness is acceptance of mystery, unanswered question, and paradoxical truth. I find myself in utter dependence on God when I understand the least; I cry out to Him when the questions are the most pressing. I reach and stretch and hope and pray and desire when He is hidden in mysteries.

Christianity is not merely a set of beliefs, but a way of being, a way of living, a way of being present in this world. Something I can’t quite grasp apart from living it out with brothers and sisters, no matter how many systematic theology books I digest or Bible translations I read.

This turns everything on its head for me, for my current categories do not fit the direction I’m going…

Monday Randomness…

I now have a group of friends that are holding me accountable to publish a blog post at least once a week. So you’ll be hearing more from me. Yay! I’m grateful for good sister/friends that are seeking to lift each other up. That is so very important.

After a long, arduous journey, I am slowly rediscovering my love of writing. Really my need for it. I process my thoughts through the words I write, and I am doing A LOT of processing right now. Processing and changing.

So let me just be real with you. I am in the midst of a major thought shift. I can’t quite put my finger on the source, and I have no idea the outcome, but I do know my heart and mind are changing about a few things. Where I will land is anyone’s guess, but I thought I’d share with you where I am in the process.

A few weeks ago, I spent some time walking through my foundational beliefs. The question I posed to myself was this: What are those things that are absolutely non-negotiables for you and what are “peripheral” issues that you have beliefs about, but that you hold more loosely. Peripherals can be things where I don’t feel I have enough information, or where I have information and think I know what I believe about the topic, but still feel like there are grey areas that are open for debate.

The litmus test for a non-negotiable is it has to be a belief or doctrine that makes us “wise unto salvation”. This list is surprisingly and delightfully small. Things like the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, Resurrection. While each of these items can branch off onto all sorts of rabbit trails, my goal was not to adjudicate every possible split of every theological hair related to each item. The point is that I believe in the Trinity, in the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Inspiration of Scripture and so forth. If I desire to be consistent, I can’t not believe these things and still consider myself “Christian”. These are the biblical and theological hills upon which I will die.

But those peripheral issues…whoa boy. That is where it all got complicated. After three pages worth of discussion about race, and a page and a half about so-called “biblical manhood and womanhood”, I had to take a break. These are easily the biggest topics, at least for me, and it seems for the American church today.

I am not going to get into the discussion about race for the purposes of this post. I’m not even close to a place where I can discuss that. And my mind and attention have been moved to another hot-button issue – womanhood.

What is meant by “biblical womanhood”? How do I know if I am a “biblical woman”? Much of this debate centers around two camps: Complementarians and Egalitarians. Complementarians say that men and women are both created in the image of God, and therefore are equal in worth and dignity. However, there are distinctive roles and functions that are specific to each gender; primarily, the focus is on the headship of the man and the submission of the woman in the church and home. In contrast, Egalitarians focus on the mutual submission of believers to one another and consider gifting to be the determining factor for leadership in the church and home, regardless of gender. These are generalizations and are not intended to bring out the nuances of each position. But these are the nutshell definitions as far as I understand them.

This is a hotly contested subject that shows no signs of abating. And as a woman who is passionate about ministry, theology and the Bible, I have a stake in this conversation. I long to be faithful to the testimony of Scripture, and truthful about the reality of life on the ground. My reality right now: I can’t say that I’m “Complementarian”, but I don’t know if I’m “Egalitarian” either. Are these the only two options? Is there a third way? And how do I find the answer?

This is the crazy thing about it…both sides appeal to Scripture to argue their point and make their stand. Both groups are passionate about their position, and fully convinced they are correct. Some go so far as to question someone’s salvation or commitment to the gospel if they do not fall in line with the “correct” position. These extreme reactions are what I wish to avoid like the plague.

But what is the “correct” position? That is what I seek to explore. And perhaps it will take me my entire life to figure it out, but I want to be free and open about where I am on the journey.

The Pandora’s box has been opened. Let the fun begin…

What are we remembering?

So this is the deal…I can’t not comment about what happened in Charlottesville this past weekend. I’ve held off on saying much because my reaction to what I witnessed on TV, the commentary from Trump, and the barrage of comments on both sides would have resulted in a screed, and much of that screed would not have been very Christlike. I don’t want to contribute to that. But I do have a lot to say.

The other day my cousin posted an awesome response on his Facebook page. His particular focus was on Trump’s equivocation of George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Here is what he said:

“If we’re talking about a founding father, i.e., George Washington, yes he was a slave owner, as were most of his contemporaries. He probably didn’t believe slaves should be free or equal. However, he fought another nation for the freedom to create this nation. Because of the government he established our society was able to mature to the point that people of good [will] of all races will have come to where we are today… The distinction I make is that Lee fought to break the union Washington helped fight for and found. Lee fought to further domestic oppression based on race. I get that he was a central figure in the civil war. [He fought on] the side that wanted to preserve a way of life that existed, in part, based on subjugation of non-white people based on race.

The thing [Trump] misses is that despite what he may want to believe, we have evolved as a society. What was acceptable in Washington’s time was divisive in Lee’s time. Today, the idea that we could do that to each other or subscribe to those beliefs is un-American.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself…but I will add to it.

I cannot, in good conscience, be anything but supportive of removing monuments that were erected in public spaces to memorialize or venerate leaders of the Confederacy. The Confederacy came into existence because of one issue: slavery. Yes, there were other issues, but they all coalesced around the issue of slavery and states’ rights to continue that practice (to view the original documents related to the formation of the Confederation, visit this link; this link is also a good resource for source documentation on the Civil War).

So what are we really memorializing? How are leaders who fought to break apart the union considered patriots? I do not doubt the sincerity of their beliefs that what they were doing was right; but as my cousin rightly pointed out, we have evolved as a society. We should be able to look back on this era of our history and see the error of these beliefs, not to celebrate them, but to learn from them.

What I find so interesting is that the monuments we speak of were not erected immediately after the Civil War. They were erected in the climate of the post-Reconstruction South, when Jim Crow laws were being formed and rights that had been won during Reconstruction were being taken away from Black people. Their existence was twofold: On the one hand, they were built at a time when Civil War veterans were beginning to age and die. They acted as a memorial to them, many of them erected by family members of fallen soldiers.

But, unfortunately, there was also another purpose. In particular, statues of Confederate leaders acted as a symbol, a message, of the true desire of the Jim Crow South to keep Blacks “in our place”. Their presence, especially in places like county and state courthouses, communicated a message of White supremacy and control. This second purpose is not divorced from their presence, and is the main reason they are a flashpoint of division along racial lines.

A  side note: The Confederate flag returned to prominence during the Civil Rights era, and again was a symbol of racism and oppression against the advance of the Civil Rights cause.

This is my primary point: Removing these monuments is not an erasure of history. In fact, I prefer that these statues not be destroyed so much as relocated. They belong in a museum, as a testament to history. Those monuments that were erected to memorialize to fallen soldiers by their families should also pose no real problem or threat, and perhaps a distinction should be made as we discuss the various monuments and statues in question.

As I think through this issue in my mind I have to ask the question: What history are we remembering here? More importantly, I think the question we must all ask ourselves as we consider this is: Are we remembering history aright? As it pertains specifically to monuments that honor the leaders of the Confederacy: If theses monuments obscure the painful reality of what the Civil War was about, they do not properly represent that history. If they serve to idealize an era that was brutal and painful, and that celebrated a belief that is completely and utterly antithetical to not only what our country is supposed to be about, but most importantly to the truth of Scripture and the message of Christ, then they need to be removed. If they venerate someone who led a fight to dismantle our country for the purpose of maintaining an institution that subjugated and dehumanized a race of people – of whom I am descended – then I cannot support their continued existence in public spaces.

As long as we allow these symbols of our past to remain and be celebrated, without being fully truthful about all facets of that past, we will not heal. The wound of race was inflicted on us upon our founding. We removed a race of people who were already here, and then took yet another from their homes and countries on another continent to build up this land and this country. This is the foundation upon which America was built. We cannot escape that; we must face it and realize that we are simply reaping what we have sown. God has indeed blessed America; but that does not mean He will not call us to account for our wrongdoing.

We cannot point the finger at the indigenous people who were here – and still are here, even if we don’t acknowledge their existence – and blame them. We can’t even blame the African people who helped sell off their own. The slave trade was lucrative for them because we participated in it. Our guilt is as great as theirs. We cannot project it all onto them, for it does not negate the reality of we did.

And I say “we” because I am an American citizen. I may have some general idea of where my family came from in Africa, but I have no tangible connection to it, no names, no understanding of custom. And my ethnic makeup is “mixed” in purely technical terms. I have European blood in my family history too, so where then shall I be placed? What would I “return” to? This is my country. And I care about its future. We must let go of an idealized version of our past in order to see that future.

This is not a theoretical issue for me. The people who marched in Charlottesville have a particular goal in mind: To advance and enact their belief of White superiority over every other nation and race of people. They are not “nice people”; they do not wish anything but harm to people like me. They were chanting “White Power” and “Jews will not replace us” as they marched. Any well-meaning person who sincerely wanted to protest the removal of the Lee statue would have left as soon as they heard these things and saw Nazi salutes flying all around them. There is nothing good or well-meaning about what this movement is about.

You may wish that I “get over” slavery, or “get over race”. But the clinging to and celebration of symbols of an era that was defined by it betrays the fact that we as a country have not yet gotten over it. For all the things the Confederacy may or may not have stood for, one thing it most certainly stood for was the continuation of a brutal, dehumanizing institution. I cannot celebrate it or its leaders. We should remember them, but I firmly believe America should not celebrate them either.

For more information, please check out the following:

Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy

National Geographic: Why the U.S. Capitol Still Hosts Confederate Monuments

How Charlottesville Looks From Germany

Vice News – Charlottesville: Race and Terror – WARNING: This video contains adult language and disturbing imagery. Please mentally and spiritually prepare yourself before watching.

 

Trigger Alert: Political Post Straight Ahead!

Hopefully, this will not be your average political post, however. I am working on a theory, and need to flesh it out. I could be wrong, but I won’t be able to figure that out until see it written down. If I am wrong, I welcome feedback and discussion. Deep breath…here goes…

I am an American, and as such, I have a certain idea of what political engagement should be. I have a specific understanding of government, a democratic republic, and my role in it and relationship to it. I don’t know anything outside of this paradigm. I live in a country where dissent is allowed, and we vote for our government representatives. I also live in a country that has as part of its national character a civil religion that borrows heavily on a “Judeo-Christian” ethic and therefore liberally applies biblical language and imagery to our public and political life. The American way of life is highly individualistic, focused on rights and freedoms, and champions the lone ranger who pulls himself up by his bootstraps and makes something out of next to nothing.

How much of that is really “Christian” though? That’s a post for another day, but I post that question to make this statement: America is not the Kingdom of God. And government can only go so far. No matter the structure, political philosophy or economic policy, every form of government is flawed. There are elements that are good, and elements that are sinful, because government is made up of a bunch of sinful people. It seems reasonable to me that if an institution or system is set up by people who are all sinners (a biblical doctrine, no?), then there will be things about that system that are sinful. Again, another topic for another day. My bottom line is this: Certain things are simply not biblical or Christian, no matter how many Christian words your sprinkle on them. And even in our most eloquent speeches advocating unwavering national pride, throwing God in the mix doesn’t make it Christian.

But, I digress, as usual…back to the point of this post.

Full disclosure: I am a left-leaning Christian. Not that anyone who reads my Facebook page or Twitter feed would be surprised by that statement. There are a few (extremely important) issues where I do not fall in line with the left side of politics; but for the most part, I would say I lean left. I own this preference, and will not necessarily apologize for it. What I will apologize for is that I at times ignore that I do look at things through this lens and therefore do not account for that particular bias when considering political commentary or news. If this past weekend has taught me anything, it is that I need to sit back and reassess how I’m seeing things.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a particular political preference. What I do think is wrong, and what I’ve seen in myself personally this last week is the fact that I allow my political preference to inform my reading of the Word versus the other way around.  There are elements on the left and the right that are God-honoring and very biblical. But there are elements on both sides that are diametrically opposed to Scripture. Naked Capitalism has winners and losers; it’s the nature of the beast. But applauding capitalism while ignoring the very real suffering of its losers and blaming them for their losses is not biblical. Treating men and women with equal dignity and respect in the home and workplace is a biblical concept. But redefining life in order to justify our desire to do as we please with our bodies is not. As you can see, I live on both sides of a very contentious fence. But things are not so black and white, and the lines we have drawn in the sand are proving to be more arbitrary by the day.

I point this out to suggest that perhaps we are focusing on the wrong thing, or better said, depending on the wrong thing to effect change in our culture and world. No matter what issue we’re debating or what side we are defending, all policy has unintended consequences. We are not omniscient. We cannot see all sides of everything. Fixing one problem can create a dozen new ones we never saw coming. When that happens, who is there to pick up the pieces and help those who have been hurt? Should that not be the church?

This is where I’m going: How would things look if we owned our political biases and allowed others to own theirs without automatically dismissing them as sub-Christian because they disagree with us? Or spent more time comparing our particular stances with Scripture and allowing Scripture to correct them instead of going to Scripture to proof-text the validity of our positions? Or stopped stereotyping each other and allowed facts to drive our discussion, even if they don’t support our position? This would require that we be willing to see the flaws in our positions and accept that the other side might have something valid to say. This would require that we hold our position loosely enough that we are willing to be wrong and change our minds. It would require more listening as opposed to speaking. It would require humility, some discomfort, and the potential loss of reputation and/or influence in the world.

But wouldn’t it be worth it?

We could then focus on being a prophetic voice instead of a political mouthpiece. We could a refuge that would help clean up the mess those unintended consequences of policy decisions will create. But most importantly, it would shift our focus as the church back to what we ought to be focusing on. Caring for the least of these, for the poor and afflicted. Caring for the orphaned and widowed. For the stranger. That is not a left or right position: it is a biblical position. It is uncomfortable and would require sacrifice. But I ask again: wouldn’t it be worth it?

I realize that opens up another can of worms. How best do we help the least of these? But that is a discussion worth having and should be had in the church. We have the resources within ourselves to do these things. We don’t need the government to do them. We need each other.

Again, this is a work in progress. I haven’t thought out all the implications, and as you can see, I haven’t yet dug deeply into scriptural content yet either. All or some of this is subject to change. I just know there is a better way than what we are seeing and have been seeing for a long time.

So this is part one of a multi-part series that will go on for who knows how long. I will take breaks from this topic because it is so thick that sometimes I have to come up for air. But since I don’t think this problem is going to get better any time soon, it’s not something I can ignore.

More later…grace and peace…

To be real…

I seem to be on a roll these days. For those of you that do not live in Illinois (congratulations…seriously), you may not know that we are the only state in the Union that has no budget, and has not had one for over a year now. Yesterday, in the face of K-12 schools possibly not opening on time, and our credit rating being lowered to the point that residents would have difficulty getting loans, our state government passed a stopgap spending bill to fund schools and other critical services through December.

Congratulations to us – we are now a mirror image of our federal government.

In the midst of this, I fired off in rapid succession emails to our governor and the Speaker of the House (who will henceforth be called The Godfather on this blog) urging them to get to work on a real, live budget. Not this fake “stopgap” stuff. I’ve hit critical mass and it is all spilling out.

This, in addition to the rather cathartic rant I have had about women in ministry, has made this week a banner week for me!

Welcome to my inner world. I understand if you need counseling after your trip…

Seriously, though…that “mojo” I felt was severely lacking seems to be returning, and now I can’t seem to type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. This can be good and bad – last night I only got about 3 hours sleep because I couldn’t turn off my brain. I amazed I am functional right now. So if this post doesn’t make any earthly sense, you now know why…

As I mentioned in my quick post earlier today, I am in the process of moving my blog over to WordPress. Back in the day, Blogger was the cat’s meow when it came to blogging. Lately, I have found myself underwhelmed, and looking on in envy at all these WordPress bloggers that look like rock stars. So, I am finding my way back, transferring my domain and post archive. Hope all goes well. I apologize in advance for any weirdness that may ensue.

With this change, comes yet another one. Can you keep up? Because I can’t! But I feel my vision for this blog morphing almost on a daily basis. At first I wanted to build a site to encourage women as we navigate all the false messages we are fed by both culture and the church. And there is plenty of material for that topic, let me tell ya! Then it became a site to encourage all of us to the same. This theme of wholeness has stayed consistent throughout. But my main struggle has been this: How do I encourage others to wholeness when I myself feel utterly broken most of the time?

The term shalom is usually associated with peace. But that is only part of the meaning of the term. Along with the concept of peace, shalom also signifies completeness, safety, soundness. Shalom is present when circumstances are without defect, when literally all is well. We are whole and complete in Christ. He is our peace. Our lives progressively display this wholeness as we draw closer to Him. But we do not arrive at complete shalom in this lifetime.

I so wish I could provide a pathway to wholeness, but since I have yet to find it myself, all I can do is provide you with a partner during the journey. Part of that journey is encouragement for sure, but not the type I first thought. I do not wish to present a prepackaged, branded and market-ready image of a woman who has it all together, who only has fabulous blog ready life story example experiences to show how to be whole. I also do not wish to invite us to wallow in our stuff and attend each other’s pity parties. I want real, honest, authentic and true. I want the kind of stuff we read in the Psalms – raw emotion, lament, praise, petition, and the occasional calling down of wrath (although I would like to keep that last one at a minimum). Most of all, I want all of this to be drenched in the blessed hope we have in our Lord, that even in the real and sometimes ugly stuff of life, that hope does not and cannot disappoint.

I can intellectualize all day long. I can theorize and pontificate – and use big words that make me feel really smart. But I want to sit in the spot where the rubber meets the road – where our theoretical theology hits actual real life and see what happens. It’s messy and unpredictable. But it’s real.

I want to be real.

So, in that spirit, I openly share my own journey as I seek to hear God’s voice for this blog. Hence the subtle, but important change to the title. And this longish blog post.

I’ll stop there for today. More to come…stay tuned!

Grace and peace…

 

This is the deal…

I suppose my mini-tirade from yesterday seemed to come out of nowhere. What can I say? I’m one that bottles it up, shakes the bottle, and then lets it all explode out of me all at once. I’ve tried to change my ways, to no avail. My thoughts have to simmer for a while before I can share them.

This is the deal: I don’t know where I land on this whole Complementarian (CM) vs. Egalitarian (EG) issue. Both sides have viable arguments; both are seeking to honor the witness of Scripture and follow hard after God. But holy moly, have we made a mess of things.

In recent weeks I have been reading about a drama unfolding within the ranks of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). Certain theologians within the CM camp are tying Trinitarian theology to CM in a way that is dangerously close to overstepping orthodoxy as set forth in the Nicene Creed and its final iteration that was ratified in Constantinople.

I do not wish to get into that on this blog; I will leave that to more qualified theologians. But I just can’t stop myself from expressing that I have grown tired of this debate. Flat-out tired.

Here is a an example: a few months back, John Piper answered a question about what kinds of jobs a woman could perform outside of the home. Specifically, someone posed the question if women should be police officers. His answer was – um, well – confusing. Here is a summary here: http://www.alliancenet.org/mos/housewife-theologian/john-pipers-advice-for-women-in-the-workforce#.V3VRLhUrKUk

Here is the actual answer: http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/should-women-be-police-officers

Legitimate questions abound here, and I have yet to find the answers, despite nearly a year of searching. But this was my reaction at the time:

“I am a single 40-something woman. As an adult woman, I, of course have adult responsibilities that I must take care of. I desire to glorify the Lord in all that I do, and how I conduct myself in this world. I frankly do not wish to carry the torch for Complementarianism or Egalitarianism because my questions for both of them are so long and complicated I have yet to be able to land on either side.

This is my frustration with so much of what is taught in complementarianism, and with the John Piper podcast in question here: the submission issue, and how it should translate to me as I navigate in my real, walking-around life in this world. As a single woman I puzzle over how the vision of “biblical womanhood” fits the reality of my life. What I find concerning about Piper’s response to this question is that it basically cancels out any instance in which I in my work context would be in a position to provide direction to men I happen to work with.

In my current role in my department, I advise students, male and female, in relation to their progress in their academic program. If there is a problem, I am the one who provides feedback. Is this wrong for me to do? Am I exercising too much authority over the men that happen to be in this program? Or, what if I was offered the job of director of my department: would I have to say no because there are men that work in this department and my giving them direction for their job would offend their manhood? But if I have the qualifications for the job, am I sinning if I were to accept it? Am I not fulfilling my biblical womanly role?

Is this really what Paul is talking about when he discusses submission in the Bible? I mean, most (if not all) of the references about female submission in the NT have to do with the relationship between a man and his wife. If we carry this to its logical conclusion and apply it to all male/female relationships, I would not be able to be anything past a secretary, or waitress, or some other service worker in order to avoid any instance where I might have to give direction to my male co-workers. Which, in turn could potentially consign me to a state of economic hardship since these positions do not generally provide high salaries. Not to mention severely stunting skills and gifts that were given to me by God (who, incidentally also knew He was giving these gifts to a woman because He created me as a woman…). I have to work; I have no choice in the matter. Is this really what biblical teaching on gender says? How did Lydia (Acts 16) conduct her business? Did she stop dealing in purple cloth after her conversion? Did she only work with women?

If biblical womanhood is primarily expressed in the context of a woman’s submission to her husband, and her role as homemaker and child-bearer, then how do I as a single woman who cannot have children show forth my womanhood in a biblical way? Or maybe I’m missing something; if so, I am sincerely asking for direction. The answers I find in the Comp camp are thin at best, and sometimes feel downright dehumanizing and insulting. And Egal is just not a viable alternative for me. When I hear something like Piper’s discussion, I am even more dismayed and discouraged. Perhaps I’m not being submissive enough…”

I find myself at the same place today. The struggles I have are manifold: The theological camp in which I would feel most comfortable promotes CM as if it is a Gospel-issue that must be defended in the same way substitutionary atonement is defended. I beg to differ. But it so deeply entrenched in this movement that it is hard to separate them out. As a single woman, I struggle to find my place anywhere. I am a woman who loves theological debate and is not really into those things that have traditionally been pushed as “women’s ministry”. This is not a slight for women who are; it is simply a statement of fact that I have interests that don’t always align with what church tells me my gender should be interested in. Does that make me less of a woman?

I’ll stop there for now. This may not sound very encouraging, but hey, what can I say – I have baggage. It’s time I start accepting it. The good news is that God helps me carry my baggage. If I put myself forward as the good news, we’re all in trouble. But, in spite of my baggage, and the crazy train we are on in American Evangelicalism these days, God is still on His throne.

More later…

Oh precious sister…

This post is for those for whom Mother’s Day is either a mixed bag or an altogether yucky one, filled not with joy but sadness or remorse, or mourning.

I totally get that.

The History Channel website has a great history on the origins of Mother’s Day as we know it here in the US. It’s a fascinating read. The basic goal behind this day is to recognize and thank our mothers for the sacrifices they made or make for us.

But for some, it is a bittersweet day – or just bitter – for a variety of reasons…

Perhaps you don’t have a good relationship with your mother…

…or your mother is no longer with you…

…or you never knew who your mother was.

Women who are not mothers may feel other things on a day like Mother’s Day.

…the woman who has miscarried…

…the woman who has lost a child…

….the woman who struggles with infertility…

….the woman who cannot have children at all.

I happen to be in that last group. I will never be able to physically bear children. This was what I wanted for my life, the only “career path” I was interested in. Being a wife and mother. One hasn’t happened yet and the other will never happen. A holiday like Mother’s Day tends to remind me of things like that.

I can say this: I love my mother, who I still call “mommy” to this very day. She is the wisest women I know, a woman of strong faith and character. I am grateful to my mommy everyday, and love to celebrate her on Mother’s Day each year.

But in that celebration there is always a mix of sadness, because I will never make her a grandmother. At least not the way I had envisioned and desired. The death of a particular vision you have for your life can sting…badly. It can leave you feeling empty and directionless, as you seek to redefine who you are in this new reality.

But God…

God always shows us a new vision. And He has shown that I am not hollow or barren. I still have a womb, a spiritual womb. He longs to fill me with purpose and meaning and ministry that will bring forth spiritual children. A brood I could not even fathom bringing forth physically.

Oh precious sister – Please know that this is true for you as well. He sees you; He hears your cry. And He answers. Let His love pour over you. He is near to the brokenhearted, and He loves you beyond measure. Let that be your strength.

Grace and peace…