Jesus the Feminist

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Last week, we looked at the story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus refuses to condemn her, escaping the trap the teachers of the law have set for him, and her, once again.

The fact that she is freed, not only from death but from her life of shame, is the first amazing part of this story. But it’s not the only amazing part.

As modern people far removed from first century Palestine, we can’t really recognize the revolutionary things Jesus did. We don’t know that culture, and we often don’t see his actions as they would have. We usually are left to take the obvious moral and assume Jesus meek and mild except for that tossing temple tables aberration.

But Jesus was not about the status quo then, and he isn’t now either. Jesus doesn’t play, and he was never meek and mild in the face of evil. One of biggest areas he refuses to play is in the just  treatment of women. Make no mistake–that’s what’s going on in this story. We have to get into the minds of the audience to see it.

Jesus doesn’t play

He isn’t solely about setting her free here, although he certainly is about that. He’s about much, much more. He’s about the way we treat women, still, oh so horribly, sadly, still treat women, two thousand years later.

He wasn’t having it then, and he’s not having it now.

Look at some details.

She is surrounded by a circle of men willing to sacrifice her for what they want. Isn’t that relevant?

It doesn’t matter who she is or what she’s done for their purposes — but yet it does. They’ve waited for this woman  and this sin.

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Think about it—there are sinners all over the place. All they had to do was find some disobedient teenager and haul him in front of Jesus. It could not be too difficult to find. Being disrespectful to your dad would warrant the same sentence, according to the law, and they could have probably found that on any block. Why not do that, rather than create a convoluted, contrived, completely confusing drama with this woman and adultery?

Why?

Because women and sexual sins were easy targets, just like they are now. It was easy to blame them then, and it still is. It was, and is, simpler to stand aside, pretend that since we don’t sin like that we can feel like the better person.

She’s got a big red “X” on her chest, and not much has changed for the pharisees of the world.

Last week I said that sometimes, we’re the woman in this story. Sadly,

Sometimes, we’re the pharisees.

“It is terribly important that the ‘accused’ in the story is a woman. In the first century, Judaism had stereotyped women as instigators whenever sexual sins were committed and labeled them as lacking the spiritual and moral fiber needed to uphold the law. The sexual passions of adolescence, for instance, were viewed as coming from the seductive attractions of females. The absence of the woman’s lover in the story is crucial. (Gary Burge, The NIV Application Commentary)

In other words, what was she wearing? What did she have to drink? Where was she walking? When? How did she lead him on?

You know the drill.

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Jesus saw no man present at the kangaroo court. He did see a whole mess of men throwing blame at a woman. He saw a story that had been and has been since played out a thousand times. He saw a woman, a co-image of God, used as an object of someone’s passion and then blamed for the outcome. The man got a pass.

Don’t tell me Jesus isn’t relevant. 

For every #MeToo story out there, Jesus knows. He saw it. He refused to let it go by.

This isn’t the only time he made it clear that blaming the woman was not OK.

I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. (Matthew 5.28-29)

He contradicts every evangelical modesty lesson ever right here. Nope, guys. It’s not her. It’s you. Take responsibility for your own stuff. Stop blaming the women. It’s. On. You.

Eye gouging is serious language.

It’s radical. Revolutionary. Jesus was so insanely pro-woman, but his followers are still having the same issues the pharisees did. Times do not change. There should never have had to be a #MeToo if the church was really following Jesus.

Sometimes we’re the woman. Sometimes we’re the pharisees. And,

Sometimes we’re the audience.

It’s a gambit that has not changed. Vulnerable women are used by the powerful for their purposes. We see the news stories every day, and we don’t even register a reaction anymore to the Harvey Weinsteins, Larry Nassars, or Andy Savages.

The crowd watched the woman dragged half-naked before them, and they knew this was wrong. Yet no one stepped forward to say so. No one. They were too afraid of the powerful religious establishment.

It’s too tempting, and too dangerous, to watch #MeToo and #ChurchToo move across our vision, be outraged for a moment, and then move on.

Jesus confronts the whole mess. He sees a woman de-imaged before him by the religious leaders. When he forgives her and gives her back her dignity, he sends a powerful message to his audience.

See these women. Hear them. Don’t turn away.

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If we’re the audience, we have some things to ask ourselves before we move on from Jesus’ question—Does no one condemn you?

  • Do we listen to women’s stories?
  • Do we disallow the tired stereotype of women as emotional creatures, or temptresses who make up stories to trap men?
  • Do we let judges know that slaps on the wrist for assault on women are not acceptable?
  • Do we raise girls who will respect themselves?
  • Do we refuse to shame them or burden them with the sins of men and boys?
  • Do we teach our boys that we are all responsible for our own sin?

Sometimes we’ re the crowd, too afraid to speak up. Afraid to contradict the religious leaders of our day as well.

I love Jesus even more after this story. He’s not having it. Not then, not now. He won’t stand for people using women or for meting out unequal justice between the genders.

It’s radical. It’s beautiful. And we need to see it for exactly what it was and is.

Comparing Harvests

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Photo courtesy of Terri Fullerton

Finally, the soil is warm enough to put tomato plants in the ground and anticipate sunflowers stretching toward warmth. It takes until June for that to be a reliable bet in Chicago. Before that, we’re busy working the midwestern clay soil with all the compost it can hold and culling the thousands of weed seedlings that don’t care as much as tomatoes do if the soil is healthy.

The harvest, though, depends on more than the soil.

What does your harvest look like? What does it look like through God’s eyes? You might be surprised at the answer. Join me over at The Glorious Table to talk more about harvests, hard work, and that devil comparison that steals our joy over the sweet summer growth.

Do You Want To Get Well?

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If you’ve been following my saga, you know I’ve been in physical therapy for almost four months. That is a long time to spend three precious mornings a week being pulled, pressed, and otherwise challenged in ways my body does not approve.

I graduated. Finally. Not, however, without my therapist informing me that, if I want to stay well and avoid back surgery, I have “a lifetime of stretching and strengthening ahead.”

A lifetime is a long time. We can hope.

Staying well

Here’s the thing, We all know what we need to do to stay healthy. We all know that when we leave places like physical therapy, however, that resolve goes south pretty quickly. I can skip today, we think. Of course I’ll pick up tomorrow. I will. It’s only right now I just don’t feel like doing all those exercises.

“Right now” turns into today, tomorrow, the next day, and before we can say “invasive surgery,” we haven’t done any of the things we know we need to do to stay well in a long, long time. Exercise, diet, habits—it’s all the same. Our human tendency to take the path of least resistance makes health hard.

In all areas of life.

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There’s a story in the Bible that I come back to when I am tempted to take that path. It’s a man Jesus forces to face a question he has avoided—for 38 years.

Do you want to get well?

Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! (John 5.1-9)

You can see Jesus’ love for this man. But he doesn’t heal him right away like he does others. He asks him a question first. Why? Wouldn’t anyone in this situation want to get well? Isn’t that a no brainer, Jesus?

Apparently not. When faced with the question, he evades it.

I would, dude. Really, I would get well. But, see, these other people. They always win. I never catch a break. Life is hard. If everything wasn’t against me, I’d get in that pool and be healed right now! But it is. I’ll never do anything except sit here. Poor me.

Sorry, friend, but it’s been 38 years! Surely, in all that time, someone could have helped get you further up in the queue. Someone must be feeding you, keeping you warm, giving you clothes in the last 38 years. You couldn’t have asked for a nudge closer to the edge of the pool? In all this time?

Nope. The inescapable conclusion, I believe, is the he doesn’t really want to get well. He knows what it would mean. Getting a job. Going home. Being a part of life that probably caused him some pain he’s afraid to face. Putting himself out there for rejection, hurt, failure. It’s easier to sit by the pool where he can’t do anything, but at least no one expects anything of him. It’s what he knows. Wellness is frightening.

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Wellness is hard

Wellness means working on your stuff, and I don’t mean physical. It means figuring out why you’re part of your own problem, becoming vulnerable by starting to change, and learning to be with other humans in a new, challenging way.

He doesn’t want that, and I understand completely.

I don’t want to spend every day doing exercises that strengthen all those muscles around my backbone. My therapist wants abs of steel on me. I’d settle for getting rid of the abs of flab.I will do those things, though, because there are other things I do want to do.

I want to hike the Coastal Trail in Wales. I want to walk the Camino de Santiago with my daughter as promised. I want to ride long distances in cars, trains, and planes. I want to pick up grandchildren someday.

I want to avoid steel rods in my back.

If I want those things, I need to do the things that lead to health, even if I don’t want to take the time. Even if it hurts. Even if it’s boring, and painful, and seems pointless some days. Because I want to get well.

What do we want?

The word here—“want”—has a few meanings in Greek, and some are interesting in this situation. They are: 1) to will, have in mind, 2) intend, to be resolved or determined, to purpose, 3) to desire, to wish.

What if we asked—do you intend to get well? Are you taking the steps, making the plans, determining what you need to do to get well? That puts the initiative back on him. It takes away the excuse that it’s all other peoples’ fault.

I’ve been a pastor long enough to have seen many, many people who want to blame everyone else for their unhealthy choices. Problem is, their lives never get better. They stay by whatever their own personal pool of Bethesda is, hanging onto their problems, telling themselves it’s everyone else and life would be great if it weren’t for what the world has done to them.

They never get well.

“We often abandon our desire for wholeness because we are deeply afraid. While the reality of our life may be far less than what we had expected, over time we make a certain kind of détente with our brokenness. It becomes what we know. It’s a fearful thing to surrender the security of the present (no matter how disappointing or painful it may be) for the uncertainty of the future.” (Winn Collier)

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Some of us know the feeling of being deeply afraid.

  • Our marriages are sick, but taking the initiative to get well opens us up to things that have been buried for years. Digging them up, dealing with the stench of dead things, asking Jesus to revive and restore when you’re not sure the other person is invested? Scary. It’s easier to stay sick.

 

  • Our family relationships are ill, but having those hard conversations? Telling parents or siblings we can’t keep forgiving because we’ve never forgotten? Being rejected because we’ve dared to dig deeper? Scary.

 

  • Our finances are sick, but sacrifice stinks. Making tough choices is hard. Sticking to a plan has never worked before so why try again? Why not drown our fears  and worries in more spending on things that make us feel better?

 

  • Our souls are sick. Talking to God about where we are and where we’d like to be frightens us. It might mean change. It certainly will. Uncovering deep behaviors we know need to stop. Trusting our lives to a being we can’t see when those we can see have dealt cruelly with our souls. Learning to walk with hesitant steps as we can’t see the path ahead of us. Believing something enough to center our lives on it. All those things scare us to death, if were honest.

“We all can see ourselves, in a sense, helpless, weak, crippled and lame, lying at the pool of Bethesda this morning. We all need help. We all find ourselves paralyzed at times, unable to do the thing we want or ought to do. We find we are lame: we do not walk very well spiritually.” (Ray Stedman)

Do you want to get well? Such a good, penetrating question. One we cannot always answer honestly.

But I want to.

My favorite part of the story, perhaps, is Jesus’ command that he take up his mat before he walks. Why? To ensure he can’t go back there. His spot by the pool will be gone. Without his mat marking his place, he can’t return to his old fears and failures. He has no choice but to move forward. He has to intend to get well, in all areas of his life, from that point on.

Jesus really knows what he’s doing.

Do you want to join me in steps toward being well? Are there things in your life you know need healing? How would those change if we saw Jesus’ question as “do you intend to get well”? Is there a connection between a whole life and our willingness to get up and walk when Jesus offers us healing?

Here are some steps we can start on, today.

Do you INTEND to get well in your:

  • Health
  • Marriage or another relationship
  • Finances
  • Relationship to God
  • Work/school situation
  • Mental health
  • Addiction to something
  • Other?

Does not being well in any of those things give you something you like? What will you have to give up to get wet? Are you willing?

Do you have hope for healing?
Choose one area you intend to get well in. Map out five concrete steps you are going to take this month to move toward that. Include in your steps:

  • A move that shows your goal to get well
  • A move that keeps you from returning to where you started (take up your mat!)
  • A move that makes you accountable to someone
  • A move that makes you want to dance and laugh for joy at your freedom, as this man might have wanted to do.
  • A move that includes prayer

Jesus asks the man by the pool—Do you want to get well?

He asks us the same question—Do you have hope, purpose, prayer, and a plan to get well? If you take these steps in some area, I’d love to know about it.

Everybody, Always: A Litany on Bob Goff’s New Book

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You may have noticed, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, that I have opinions. Opinions about a lot of things. Many of them could be classified as “political,” although I prefer to classify them as following Jesus. I believe them to be well researched, thought out opinions.

Opinions and Other People

But the stunning surprise every time for me is—not everyone agrees with me. I don’t even know what to do with that. Shouldn’t everyone see things the way I do?

Not only is that divergence disturbing to me, but it has brought out parts of me that could not be classified as following Jesus. Anger. I do know that not all anger is wrong—anger over injustice is not wrong at all. How many of us, though, stray away from anger over injustice toward anger at people, rather than problems? (Insert raised hand here.)

Frustration. Doubt. Mostly, lack of genuine love for sisters and brothers who are completely on the other side of the issue. I devoutly believe they are wrong—but lack of love is not following Jesus. I don’t like that. Fix it, Jesus.

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Enter Everybody Always

That’s why I wanted to be on the launch team for Bob Goff’s new book, highly anticipated after a couple year’s hiatus from Love Does. He promised that he would tell me how to love Everybody, Always. The subtitle said it all: Becoming Love in a World of Setbacks and Difficult People. I needed that book.

Fortunately, I made it on the team and got to pre-read the first part of the book. When it came out in April, I ordered the whole thing on my iPad, because I needed the rest of the story–now, not in two day Amazon prime shipping. So here is your reason to get the book—if you haven’t already.

I wanted to preview this book because Bob raises the question I am struggling with—how do we really love people who try their hardest to be unlovable in today’s political and religious climate? Bob manages to open eyes to not only how we do that but, of course, how we sometimes are those unlovable people to someone else. His striking humility and hands-on personal testimony about how this works are enough to sell his authority.

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Resisting the Offer

One of my favorite quotes right off was: “I’m trying to resist the bait that darkness offers me every day to trade kindness for rightness.” Knowing it’s many of our struggle, not just mine, was a great start. It’s a daily thing, not a one and done. We have to resist that bait every single day it’s offered. And believe me, it’s offered a lot. Every time we turn on social media. To realize that it’s darkness trying to get me to click, swallow, and react helps make the right choice.

It doesn’t mean I have warm, bubbly feelings for everyone whose posts make me cringe and scream quietly into my Earl Grey. It does mean that sometimes the better part of love is to scroll past them, know what’s being offered, and refuse to take it. Say a prayer for the person and move on. Nothing to see here. Nothing to trade my peace and kindness in for. The people aren’t dark, but the temptation is.

A few of my favorite sections:

What I’ve been doing with my faith is this: instead of saying I’m going to believe in Jesus for my whole life, I’ve been trying to actually obey Jesus for thirty seconds at a time. Here’s how it works: When I meet someone who is hard to get along with, I think, Can I love that person for the next thirty seconds? them. I try to love the person in front of me the way Jesus did for the next thirty seconds rather than merely agree with Jesus and avoid them entirely, which I’m sad to say comes easier to me. I try to see difficult people in front of me for who they could become someday, and I keep reminding myself about this possibility for thirty seconds at a time. It’s easy to agree with what Jesus said. What’s hard is actually doing what Jesus did.

Right???

I love this. What can’t we do for thirty seconds? If we love for thirty seconds, I suspect it gets easier to love for thirty more, because for at least that much time, we’ve listened, heard, and looked at someone with new eyes. It’s hard to go back to anger and hate and dissension after we choose to love for thirty seconds.

Whether we want to or not, we end up memorizing what we do repeatedly. It’s the way we were wired from the factory. Because this is how we’re made, it’s a great idea to pick actions worth repeating. People who are turning into love do this. They adopt beautiful patterns and surrounding imagery for their lives. They fill their lives with songs, practices, and habits that communicate love, acceptance, grace, generosity, whimsy, and forgiveness. People who are becoming love repeat these actions so often they don’t even realize they’re doing it anymore. It’s just finger memory to them. They don’t need anyone to clap for them. They don’t need validation for things they know are inherently right and true and beautiful. They don’t need all the accolades that come with recognition. They also don’t feel a need to criticize people who have gotten a couple of things wrong or hit a couple of sour chords in their lives.

I want this. I want to practice grace. All the time. Until it’s the song that flows from my heart, fingers, and mouth every moment. Thirty seconds at a time.

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OK, this might be my very favorite quote. 🙂

Each day I start with the things I’m certain about and try to land my weight on those things. It always starts with a loving, caring God who is tremendously interested in me and the world I live in. I’m picky about what else I add after that.

That sounds like fantastic advice to me. It sounds like Jesus advice. What do we continually add to the basic facts that God loves me, God loves all the other people as much as me, and he cares what we do with it all? I want to land my weight on what matters and know that it’s going to hold. All the requirements we add are what makes us bounce off the runway, overweight and unbalanced. I want to travel light with what matters as my baggage, pilot, and landing gear.

There’s much more, told in his storytelling style that makes you want to go out and do half of what he does. (Except the skydiving part. I still have zero desire to skydive.)

I’m not sure how this introvert will manage to be such an active inspiration in peoples’ ives as he is, but at least I know how to start. Thirty seconds at a time.

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Where Is Your Brother?

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Siblings . . . 

Sibling rivalry was real in my house. We didn’t have arguments; we had wars. I remember frying pans to the face, doorknobs to the teeth, and golf balls to the head as things that actually happened between my siblings and me.

Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when I met a Christian family who behaved very differently, I wanted to know what this Jesus thing was all about. I didn’t know people could act that way with their brothers and sisters.

I’m very grateful to say our kids never engaged in fisticuffs. (Grateful because they didn’t and also because I got to use that wonderful word.) Jesus made quite a difference in my outlook on appropriate sibling behavior.

God’s children do not, however, always follow this pattern. Almost the second question in the Bible, after God asks the leaf-clad Adam and Eve where they are and why they’re hiding, comes the question he addresses to their oldest offspring.

It’s a pretty serious question.

Where is your brother?

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” (Genesis 4. 2-9)

Spoiler: God knows the answer.

Cain must know God knows, so why he gives this patently flippant answer is anyone’s guess. Although, I suspect we know too well why all of us give God absurd answers to things we don’t want to look at too closely.

I don’t know. Am I supposed to be looking out for my brother?

Apparently, we were still pondering it in Jesus’ time, because someone had to ask Jesus exactly who his neighbor was, and Jesus had to tell another story that asked the same question God starts the whole human race with here—Where is your brother/neighbor?

Everywhere.

That was Jesus’ reply. Are you your brother’s guardian, Cain? Why yes. Yes, you are. I’m surprised you didn’t know that. It’s the way I made people to be.

In his new book Everybody, Always, Bob Goff suggests that God created us as one big neighborhood on this earth–all made for one another no matter where or how.

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God decided it wasn’t good for people to be alone, so he made us for one another. Then he made it clear right after the first sin that we were going to have to take that very seriously, because the world was going to get a lot harder. We would need to be one another’s guardians, or no one would make it out alive.

That’s one of the scariest parts of our current obsession with tribalism. When we start to form our groups, deciding who’s in and who’s not, denying brotherhood to those who are outside our boundaries, we become cadres of Cains, denying to God that we have any responsibility in the welfare of anyone beyond what we’ve declared are our lines.

Even when our brothers’ blood cries out from the ground.

To make this easier, we find reasons they don’t deserve our attention. That’s why Cains find it easy to believe sensational news stories with questionable data. If we can make it Abel’s fault, our hands are clean. Humans, and by humans I mean me, will do just about anything to avoid guilt.

“I don’t know. Am I my brother’s guardian?”

I think we’re helped in our answer by the words just before this story. Eve gives birth, and she also gives thanks to God. Remember, the birth process was going to be rough, and Eve not only accepts this part of the curse but gives gratitude to God for bringing her through it and giving her a child.

Gratitude

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Eve’s approach too life oozes gratitude. She chooses to live, after her first unfortunate choice, with constant thanks to God for his provision of everything she needs.

Cain, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have inherited this attitude. We don’t know why God chose to accept his brother’s offering and not his, but he responds with anger. He feels cheated. He wants what he thinks he deserves. He chooses resentment rather than gratitude.

Interesting studies into the attitudes that have created our tribalism in the US point to the same conclusion. Those who choose resentment also choose to close themselves off to their brothers. One study reported by the Washington Post reveals that, 

 Economic anxiety isn’t driving racial resentment; rather, racial resentment is driving economic anxiety. Racial resentment is the biggest predictor of white vulnerability among white millennials. Economic variables like education, income  and employment made a negligible difference. When white millennials scored high on racial resentment they were 42 percentage points more likely to indicate feelings of vulnerability than those who scored low.

People who would prefer to blame and resent rather than open their arms and hearts in gratitude for their lives are the people who refuse to see “brother” in the refugee, immigrant, person of color, or sister.

Interestingly, this is true regardless of the person’s actual economic or physical circumstances. The well off are just as likely to shut out their nonwhite, non-American-born brothers as the poor if they are already inclined to resent others for what they think they don’t have.

It’s as old as Cain. And as devastating.

The answer isn’t anything complicated. It’s gratitude. Choosing to be thankful for everything God provides to children of Adam and Eve who don’t really deserve anything at all but who are granted so much.

It’s utterly impossible to take the attitude of Eve and have the heart of Cain. We can’t revel in the undeserved graciousness of the Lord and refuse to invite your brother into the circle.

If we live consistently grateful, humble lives, we will always know exactly where our brother is. He’s all around us. He’s everyone. And we are his keeper.

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*I’ve signed up for the Human Race again, raising money for World Relief and refugee resettlement. These wonderful people I have come to know and love as I work with them more and more are certainly those God calls our brothers and sisters. With God’s help, I’m going to walk it and meet my fundraising goal! If you’d like to donate to my walk, please follow the link. I and the amazing refugee population I know and love would appreciate it greatly!

Lies We Tell Our Girls

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May is a crazy month for us. We pile on Mother’s Day, a birthday, and two anniversaries. As we’ve all just celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday, and we’re celebrating so many occasions this month, I thought it might be tine to revisit a post from a while back on moms, marriage, and all those things we tell our girls are part of who they are. If it is part of our lives, fantastic. I salute you, moms everywhere.

I am one of you. We are blessed beyond measure.

But what if it isn’t? What if we tell our girls a lie when we talk about marriage and family as if they are the essence of God’s intent for them and their biggest goal?

Lies we tell

One of the most pervasive lies we tell girls in the church is this—Your purpose in life is to be a wife and mother. Period. Other things added on might be fine, if they don’t distract you, but they are not the main event.

Don’t mistake me—being a wife and mom are fantastic aspirations. They are even better realities. I like the gig, especially now that those kids can cook dinner and run errands.

But—wife and motherhood are roles; they are not identities. Deeply ingrained, heartbeats of our lives, yes, but not indicators of our worth and fulfillment.

Because, see, if we transfer our identity to anything other than who we are in Christ, even a very good thing, we hang all of our self-worth on our job performance at that thing. (And let’s be honest here. My own job performance at the wife/mom things has hovered between abysmal and “You’re fired!” at times. The struggle is real.)

We give up the only identity that lets us know why we’re alive. And we make ourselves redundant when that “job” is over.

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I know—you‘re staring at me through your screen with bleary sleep-deprived eyes and assuring me that this job will never be over. You will be changing diapers and overseeing homework and negotiating completely illogical arguments until the end of your natural life.

Except you know this isn’t exactly true because look at you. You were once that breastmilk-spewing tornado in your mother’s arms. You grew up. And too often, when our children grow up, if we’ve wrapped our sense of self around them, we stand there staring at the door wondering who we are and what we’re going to do now. What we’re going to be now.

All because of that one lie.

Why take this very good thing on as a lie we tell girls? Because it denies so many women a chance to see their value apart from their relationship to husband and child. If you have daughters, it tells them they cannot be complete or capable for God’s work in their own selves. If you have sons, it tells them they are a girl’s savior.

Men and women are partners in God’s kingdom. They make lousy saviors for one another.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Genesis 2.18

Bear with a little Bible school here. The word “helper” (ezer) is used in the Old Testament almost exclusively as a description of God helping us. Hardly a needy role. The SAME WORD used here for Eve is used for God, repeatedly, to imply strong helper—an arm of power when another is weak and needs assistance. Eve was created to be what Adam needed when he could not handle life on his own—and even when he could.

And “just right”? It means a perfectly matched partner. Someone willing and able to join Adam equally in that whole “Fill the earth and govern it” shindig. Nothing secondary about it.

Men and women are partners in God’s kingdom. They make lousy saviors for one another. 

So isn’t this a mandate for the role of wife? Not if we look at all the independent, capable single women of the scriptures. (Seriously. Look some time.) It’s really a mandate for women to be strong partners with men in God’s design for creation. Those could be single women, young women, older women, widows, married women with small children, divorced women, black, white, or hispanic women—any woman. All women. Created to be instruments of God’s kingdom on earth, first and foremost. We were not created for Adam so much as for the job he had to do and could not do alone.

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It’s quite a wonderful thing that many of us enjoy that partnership as a spouse to someone we love like crazy. Modeling a joyful marriage partnership to our children is one of the best things we can do for them. One of the other best things? Model to them that our purpose and identity  come from Jesus alone—not one another.

Instead of a lie, how about we tell them some of these things?

–Tell our little girls that they are waiting for no one but God to give them a purpose in life.

–Tell our little boys that girls who know their purpose are the most fun to come alongside.

–Tell our little girls that needing someone else to define them will always leave them empty.

–Tell our little boys that it’s far better for a girl to want to be with them than to need to.

–Tell our little girls that if they don’t know they’re beloved, beautiful, strong, powerful, and accepted through Jesus they will never truly know it from someone else.

–Tell our little boys the same thing.

Tell them both that marriage and parenthood are beautiful and worthy of all kinds of sacrifice and effort.

But tell them that walking with the will of God is even better.

Surprised by Peace

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May is my favorite month. I gaze out the kitchen window at the brilliant pink crabapple trees standing over blushing tulips. Lilacs come into the house in bunches. Bikes come out for long rides, during which we smell morning rain over the forest preserve prairie. Sound carefree? Don’t let it fool you. This kind of peace doesn’t come easy in May. It’s also my craziest month.

 

When our oldest daughter got married two years ago, I informed my other two daughters they had to follow suit and keep all the family weddings in May. We could all go away for one big weekend to celebrate four anniversaries, one birthday, and Mother’s Day.

What’s the answer to craziness that threatens to steal our peace? Click on to the rest of this post at The Glorious Table to find out.