The first #FindingGodChallenge has been issued: find a Bible verse, a song, and a moment with God from your life that show God is with you and meet back here next week to discuss!
“What I’m hearing you say is you can’t love these people.”
This came on a hot July Sunday morning after many explosive words on both sides.
My anger had never been loud before that day; it was a quiet anger that manifested itself in a hardness in my eyes and an igneous rock casing around my heart. In the face of volcanic anger that day, though, something gave way inside of me, and I found the courage to express myself in a small way.
And I’m going to tell you what I told my parents that day: I don’t want to be part of a local body whose primary method of dealing with sin, or challenging people or situations, or difference of opinion is to hold itself apart from the offender, the difficulty, or difference.
My dad heard me correctly. I could not, or far more likely, would not love these believers. In fact, my lack of love made me not want to fellowship with them at all.
My dad (being who he is) swiftly turned this around on me and asked me how my behavior was any different from how I was accusing the Church of behaving. (Touché).
I’ve shared different parts of this story before: how my dad accused me of taking the easy way out (many times before that), how I finally asked him how that could possibly be, and how I have long since learned that he meant that I didn’t fight for anything. I’ve even talked about my lack of love, and how God began growing me in that almost immediately after that blustering anger-turned-argument-turned-discussion.
Honestly, three years ago, I would have told you I had the whole loving-the-Church thing down pat. (I think because I was a part of a local body that did a great job of loving me unconditionally).
But I bring it up now, because over the course of the past three years, God has shown me that I still don’t love the Church well. I still don’t want to be part of local bodies or be friends with Christians who shy away from people in sinful or challenging situations, or oversimplify the problem and the solution. And in these three years, I’ve uncovered some new things that give me pause about the Church: the pedestal it has set itself on and its love and affirmation of the people it can use.
Now, before you run and get your “not going to church because of hypocrites is like not going to the gym because of fat people” meme, or your illustration comparing your one bad experience at Chick-fil-a to a bad church experience, or the popular Rick Warren illustration about having to have a good relationship with the Church (the Bride of Christ) in order to have a good relationship with Christ, please understand: I love the Church and I identify with her – I belong to Christ, too. I strive to be a part of a local body. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be any better than the parts of the Church that I’m less-than-thrilled with.
I’m just saying, loving the Church is hard. And it clearly doesn’t happen overnight where there is history like mine. It’s not impossible, either: I believe that with Christ alive in me, I do have the power to love the Church, no matter how sticky and challenging it gets. I have a complicated relationship with the Church.
This is important with what’s coming tomorrow in the Big Reveal Extravaganza and in six months when the book is released. (Ergo, if you’ve been following, you were just got a little reveal a day early. You’re welcome).
I say all of this because for a large part of the novel I’m writing, the protagonist and her story center around the Church, but by the end her priorities have shifted and realigned to something better. There’s a whole lot of flat out not-lovin’ and imperfect-lovin’ of the Church that goes on, and I can’t promise that she nails it at the end.
So, don’t get offended, at least not until you’ve read the whole thing. (Or do get offended, if that’s your thing. Just know I’m not taking any complaints from people who haven’t read the book).
by Hillsong United
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown, where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep, my faith will stand
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed, and You won’t start now
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours, and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
Lessons I Learned Writing and Directing a Play for Eleven Months
Whether you know this or not, some eleven months ago I was approached about writing a play for my church’s Christmas program. (That’s right, the one that just took place last Saturday night). We began bouncing around themes and ideas in February and decided on “Emmanuel: God With Us” in March. We wrote the script and I was asked to direct in July. Finally, we performed the play on Saturday night. This play has pretty much characterized my year, and many of the lessons I’ve learned this year have centered around its production.
“One of Jesus’ many names is Emmanuel, which means, ‘God with us.’ During His life and earthly ministry, Jesus walked with humans, changing their lives with His presence. He healed the sick, spent time with social rejects, and even made sure His own mother was taken care of as He was dying. More than that, Jesus took the punishment for our sin on the cross and defeated death by rising again. Although our sin had separated us from the Holy God, through Jesus, God set up a plan for humans to enjoy His presence forever. If you accept Jesus’ work for you, He can and will save you from your sins and change your life through a relationship with Him.” ~Emmanuel: God With Us, by Joselyn Varghese and Lydia Thomas
Other posts about the 2013 Christmas Play:
Keeping it light this week, because I am in my head too deep. If I take on a heavy topic, I might accidentally-on-purpose verbally sucker punch somebody, and then I’ll feel worse.
On Sunday, a friend and I were talking about high heels, and why I never wear them.
Never wearing them is an exaggeration on her part. I have a pair of black boots with heals, that I consider my big girl shoes. Much like big girl panties, I put them on when I’m dealing with big girl stuff. I also own two pairs of black sandal heels that I bought for two siblings weddings five years ago. I wore them to the weddings, and when I’m feeling especially daring I wear them now.
But the bottom line is, I really just don’t like wearing high heels.
And my last outing in them illustrates why.
It must have been a Sunday morning at the beginning of June. I was wearing a purple and black dress with black leggings and (you guessed it) a pair of black sandal heels. I was feeling pretty confident.
Thing # 1: They just aren’t comfortable.
Then I got to church and found out I had nursery duty. Guess what? Those heels came off, because it’s just not comfortable squatting and playing with kids while in heels. During the second service, I help in a Sunday School class. One of the kids’ favorite songs to sing is “Hallelu-Hallelujah/Praise Ye the Lord”, which if you didn’t know is an up and down song. Yep, the heels came off again. I spent my morning barefoot.
Thing # 2: They make me waddle. Thus, any cuteness the heels may inherently possess is completely undone by the unattractive waddling.
I then agreed to help out with an outreach my church does on Sunday afternoons. (Back story – I live like 40 minutes away from the church, so it was impractical for me to go home and change, otherwise I would have). My feet and my back were in pain from wearing my heels for about fifteen minutes, and I was taking them off every opportunity I got. Our outreach was outdoors, and I thought, “Eh, that’s fine, I’ll just take my heels off and go barefoot.” Unfortunately there was broken glass everywhere, and I had a vision of myself getting a piece of it stuck in my foot and having to explain to my dad exactly why I was barefoot. (He’s a stickler for shoes being worn outdoors). So I waddled around outreach, and couldn’t play the games with the kids because I was wearing heels. (And I’m pretty sure some people who don’t have the back story like you do were judging me just a little bit for wearing heels to outreach).
Thing # 3: I am already an Amazon woman, I don’t need (or want) to be taller.
Working with kids, I like to be on their level for communication purposes. (Well, actually, that’s true of anybody). That’s already challenging because I’m pretty tall, but in heels, it’s even harder.
I laugh when girls tell me they want a guy who is tall enough that they can heels and he’ll still be taller. I just take the whole heel thing out of the equation, and can be happy with a guy right around my height. (Let me tell you, it opens your world up).
I’d rather wear a cute pair of flats, exude confidence, feel beautiful and comfortable in my own skin. Heels just don’t do that for me.
The Traditional Courtship Model
When I refer to the “Traditional” courtship model, I don’t mean that it is necessarily normal, and I certainly don’t mean that it is somehow better or more Scriptural than any other brand of courtship. I do mean that it is the model I was raised in and that many of the people I grew up with were raised in. However, even among us, I use the term “traditional” very loosely, because there are varying degrees at which it plays out.
At its most basic, this model teaches that the father is the keeper and protector of his daughter’s heart until she marries, at which time those duties are passed to her husband. For this reason, any young man (or maybe old man, I don’t know) expressing interest in the daughter must be sent to the father. The father ascertains the man’s suitability for his daughter on the basis of maturity – spiritual, emotional, physical. If he passes the father’s inspection, and the daughter agrees, the man and the daughter get to know each other within predetermined (by the father and sometimes the couple) boundaries. Again, it can work a little differently depending on the family or even the daughter.
I have been blessed to see my two older sisters have successful courtships and marriages based on this model. I even have a handful of friends who have courted and married. For me personally, there is something hopelessly romantic about a guy who talks to my dad about getting to know me, mostly because if you don’t know him well, talking to my dad takes courage. (And I value courage). And I certainly prefer this model to the commitmentless dating games that go on in secular relationships.
But I’m not completely sold on this model. (Shocking, I know).
My Reservations About the Traditional Courtship Model
Despite what some people believe (yes, even in my circle), the “Traditional” courtship model is not commanded in God’s Word. Trust me, I’ve been asking and looking for years. Nor can I find a shred of evidence to support the principle on which this model is based – that of the father being keeper and protector of the daughter’s heart. Don’t get me wrong. As I said earlier, I like the idea of courtship. I am so thankful to have a dad who is willing to look out for me, who desires to know who and what I am involved with, who prays with me and for me. But. The Bible is clear: I am responsible for my own heart. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life.” The command to keep one’s heart falls to the individual, not her parents, I think for obvious reasons.
The other thing I have noticed (and it sort of goes hand in hand) is a really subtle, but harmful message being sent to some Christian young women because of the execution of this model in some circles. I was reading the courtship story of a woman from a prominent homeschooling family. She said was not equipped to discern God’s will for a husband because of her gullibility. And I just about cried. Who gave her this view of herself? This view that she cannot be trusted to know what God’s will is for her, what is good and necessary for her? Again, please don’t take this the wrong way. I don’t think it’s the “Traditional” courtship model sending this message. I think it’s the courtship model in the hands of an enemy using a fallen race to destroy each other. Still, I think it’s an issue worth considering.
Women were created in the image of God, just as much as men. He created women for a high purpose: to be helpers and companions of men. On top of that, I am a redeemed woman. That is the blood of Christ covers my sin just as much as it covers the sin of any man. The Holy Spirit indwells and seals me, just as much as redeemed men. And as He leads and guides, I am able to discern His will, His heart for me, what I really need. Oh sure, I make mistakes, but it’s not because I’m a woman. It’s because I’m a sinful human being.
My Personal Preference
Basically, the way I want to go about a relationship involves balancing a watched-over heart with vulnerability, getting to know a guy to see if there is marriage potential, and seeking out godly counsel and accountability for the relationship. It doesn’t necessarily involve a guy getting my dad’s permission to get to know me, or letting a guy do all of the “work”, or letting someone else set up the boundaries.
Guarding my heart and being vulnerable. In terms of relationships, this is the ultimate tight rope walk for me. On one hand, I don’t want my heart to be broken by developing an emotional attachment before anything official happens, and on the other hand, I want to be the kind of girl who is approachable and vulnerable with any godly man who wants to pursue me.
I think for women it is important to know our emotional triggers so we can better watch what is going on in our hearts. There is nothing I like or respect more than when a guy takes the time to draw me out, or to ask for and listen to my opinion on something. Since it means so much to me, I have to be careful not to make more of his consideration than it actually is. If I end up developing feelings for or an attraction to him because of this trigger, I know I’m in dangerous territory. Not because my feelings are bad (because I typically am attracted to good things), but because these feelings can quickly develop into lust for me – where I get possessive and protective of someone who isn’t mine. The other option I have is being aware of my feelings, bringing them before God whenever they arise, and resting that if He thinks this is a good thing, He can make it happen, or otherwise take care of my feelings.
My other struggle is that I’m sort of unapproachable. I’m not intentionally this way, I’m just quiet until I’m comfortable. I’ve been praying about being more approachable in general, and last week, God convicted me to smile more. So simple. I’m also not very good about initiating vulnerability. I will share when I’m asked, but I typically don’t volunteer information. Sometimes, I’m pretty self-centered and don’t think of other people’s needs to be vulnerable. Availability is important.
The objective of marriage. For the record, I do want to get married. I believe that someday I will be married. If I didn’t want to get married, and I wasn’t ready to be married, I wouldn’t be interested in being in a relationship right now.
So what does an objective of marriage mean to me? It means that throughout the relationship, we will get to know each other within the context of, “Could I be married for the rest of my life to this person?” If yes, we will go from there. If no, the purpose of the relationship has been fulfilled and we can hopefully move away from it amicably. Obviously, a lot of prayer will go into it.
Godly counsel and accountability. I want to have an open relationship. Not just openness between the guy and I, but an openness that makes people feel comfortable giving us advice and keeping us accountable. These people include parents. I think our parents typically know us well, and can offer insights that our feelings may be blocking. And older siblings who have been there before. And other couples who have relationship experience. Proverbs says, “In the multitude of counselors there is safety.” And I believe that.
And this is the approach I will use when discussing dating and relationships from this point forward on my blog.
Since I’m going to be talking about romantic relationships a lot on this blog, I think it is important to address the different perceptions of gender that exist among Christians as a sort of framework for future posts, and where I come in on that debate. To be clear, I don’t think one’s perception of gender is a salvational issue, but how I view gender has certainly informed the views I’ve developed regarding romantic relationships. Since this is not a salvational issue, I don’t expect you to go away questioning your faith because you disagree with me, nor will I question my faith because I disagree with you.
I have been exposed to three views concerning gender in Christianity: egalitarianism, patriarchy, and complementarianism. According to Theopedia, egalitarianism ” is a movement based on the theological view that not only are all people equal before God in their personhood, but there are no gender-based limitations of what functions or roles each can fulfill in the home, the church, and the society.” Conversely, complementarianism “is the theological view that although men and women are created equal in their being and personhood, they are created to complement each other via different roles and responsibilities as manifested in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere” (Theopedia). It is harder to nail down a definition for patriarchy (in other places known as Biblical patriarchy). Wikipedia says patriarchy “sees the father as the head of the home, and responsible for the conduct of his family,” and I think that is fairly accurate. I would add that traditionally in patriarchy, the woman’s place and purpose are in the home.
All three of these belief systems are more like spectrums: people vary in degrees of liberalism and conservatism in all of them. Because of this, there are fringe groups between egalitarianism and complementarianism and between complementarianism and patriarchy. (But never between egalitarianism and patriarchy – they are pretty much opposed).
I was raised on the borderline of complementarianism and patriarchy, but as I’ve developed my own convictions about gender, I am squarely complementarian.
Unlike egalitarians, I do not believe that God created males and females to fulfill the same roles in life. As a woman, my fundamental design is different from that of a man – physical, emotional, spiritual – and therefore my purpose is also different. My purpose may include anything God has laid on my heart to do, but rest assured, God does not call anyone to do anything outside of His revealed will (the Bible).
Unlike those within patriarchy, I do not believe I am a lesser being because I am a woman, more susceptible to temptation and sin and thus incapable of making my own decisions. Granted, I have made bad decisions in my life, but that’s not because I’m a woman; it’s because I’m human. Nor do I believe my father or future husband will be held accountable for my faith. I have the same access to God as any man and am responsible for my own response to Christ’s salvation and following Him.
What does any of this have to do with romantic relationships? The way we look at God’s design for gender will inevitably determine how we look at authority. How we look at authority will determine how we look at potential mates.