Because They Promised

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_3a34

This woman. She’s been my mom for over thirty years. I’ve called her mom since the day I married her son. Easier, I suppose, since I no longer had one. We’ve been very different people for those thirty-some years, except in our mutual fierce love of our children. I know she didn’t understand me in the beginning or, really, for quite a while.

But she loved me. It didn’t matter. Honestly, when your son marries a 23-year-old who knows a lot about Shakespeare but not about life, you can assume she won’t even understand herself for a good many years.

Kneeling by her bed and crying last week, I listened to her soft voice, almost inaudible from dehydration, tell me those things we seem to only tell when we know we have limited time to speak them. I heard, “You’re one of my girls. You’re my daughter.” And I will treasure those words for as long as I have my own breath.

She deserves her loved ones around her, fiercely protecting her this time, and she has them. Children and grandchildren, being the loving humans she taught them to be. I see her nearest granddaughter drop by regularly, her grandson sitting at her side whispering kind words. I watch my own daughters paint her toenails, hold her hands, and caress her hair.

I am undone by this.

It’s the hard work of 85 years to have family like that. There is a legacy that will remain a thing of beauty long after breaths are taken and heartbeats cease.

I’ve never walked with someone at the end of life. I’ve lost a lot of people. Both parents and two sisters. But they all were there one moment and gone the next. No preparation. No ability to say all the things that need to be said and hear all the things that need to be heard. No time to process all the feelings that come with this downhill walk, and no choice in whether you want to make it.

I do want to.

I had this discussion with my daughter recently about our two cats that passed. One quickly and with no warning, the other with a diagnosis a few months before. Which was worse, saying a sudden, unwanted goodbye, or dragging through the daily hurt of watching it happen and being helpless? We mourned out kitties—we loved them so, and two in quick succession was too much. We both knew we were talking about more than the cats. We both agreed warning was better.

Yet we don’t know how to take this slow walk down the hill, a quicker walk than we had hoped, really. We don’t know when to laugh, when to cry, and we’re figuring out that both are OK, and they happen when they happen. We hate the tug-of-war between our lives here, jobs that demand us, lives that need living, and our longing to be there, sharing every minute we can. We don’t how to dance that choreography, and we realize no one does.

And what of this man? He’s walked beside her for over sixty years. When I tell him he’s a good man and a great husband, he merely says, “Well, it was all in those vows.” Indeed it was, but I’ve seldom seen anyone live his promises so well. He knows that a man’s promise is where his character is determined. But I don’t think he’s thought that—he’s simply done it.

I know this is supposed to be a series on young peoples’ voices. But these words needed to be said. Maybe these words need to be said to young people, not by them. I know marriage isn’t so popular anymore. I know suspicion of institutions leave the next generation wondering if it’s worth the risk. Commitment is frightening, and there are no guarantees. If there’s anything we have taught the next generation, it’s that they should always demand guarantees. Never try anything that isn’t sure to succeed.

Silly us. Why? That was such a foolish lesson. These are the lessons we needed to teach. The lessons of time. Long-haul belief in the family you’ve created. Faith that others will cling to after you’re gone. Love regardless of comprehension. Commitment to people who change, hurt, and confuse you, because they’re your people, and we keep hold of our peoples’ hands. Even, especially, when they have no idea where they’re going.

I’m glad she knows well where’s she’s going.

Men who delicately wipe their spouse’s forehead and hold her hand and walk with her through the pain of loss. Because they promised to. 

If only we had taught you that, rather than “success.” Because that right there is what success looks like. Like my mom and dad.

Morning Glories Aren’t Glorious (Or: Hindsight Is Hard To Clean up After)

morning-glory-1510958048Eho

I have not planted a morning glory seed in my garden for at least twelve years.

You would assume, by that statement, that there are no morning glories in our yard.

You would assume wrong.

They’re Here (said in best Frodo voice)

In fact, every year, morning glories pop up. In the front yard, in the back yard, in the side yard, in all the garden beds. The thing about morning glory vines is, they can be nonexistent one one day and three feet long the next. These things have the growing capacity of mold in an untreated hot tub.

Why? Because we were enticed by the heavenly blue blooms on the seed packets and the ubiquitous Pinterest photos of innocent, stunning morning glories climbing (slithering) up peoples’ mailboxes as if they had no evil intent whatsoever.

I know better now. 

IMG_9795

Enticements come in all kinds of packages. Stunning flowers. Easier money. Better reputation. Upgraded resume. Beautiful bodies.

Those things look so small (like a morning glory seed) in the beginning. They looks so beautiful, helpful, needed even to our unsuspecting (or, let’s be honest, intentionally blinded) hearts and minds. Then one gets it vines into our hearts and souls and minds, and it won’t let go of its grip.

  • Marriages dashed sideways by porn.
  • Careers wrecked by a little embellishment on the job history.
  • Kids in high anxiety because parents padded their abilities in an attempt to make them more competitive.
  • Women devastated because they pursued that relationship, ignoring the red flags, only to learn their intuition was right and they had traded their identity for attention.
  • The remembrance too late that someone did tell us so.
  • Christians offering up their souls for the sham promises of power and security.

Morning glories are everywhere, aren’t they?

I don’t have a deep, profound message today. “Nothing under the sun is truly new,”  right? (Ecclesiastes 1.9) Our task, as I read just last night, isn’t so much to create some brilliant, unique concept that amazes the world as it is to remind the world of what it already knows but has let the quicksand of the world bury for too long.

“A remembrancer is a servant who brings things from the storehouse, a farmer who helps the listener harvest memories previously planted. If you have been shamed into believing that every sermon has to include novel ideas—No. Telling the old, old story stands in the front rank of the preacher’s calling. It is the work of soul-watchers. Our people need reminders of the great truths of the faith. We are like the hobbits who ‘liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions.’” (Preaching as Reminding, Jeffrey Arthurs)

So with today’s reminder—

It’s easier to make the decision not to plant the seeds than it is to root out the weeds.

IMG_9799

Every year, I feel like I may be winning the war against the morning glory seeds, and every year, more come up. I’m sure that’s exactly how my dad felt after he took that first drink to cover his sadness when my mom passed. So many times he thought he had won over it, but it just emerged somewhere else, attacking from another front, and he lost himself again.

The good news is, we can win. With dedication, determination, and a lot of RoundUp, we will eventually eradicate the morning glories. There are fewer every summer. Don’t lose hope if the battle seems impossible. It absolutely IS NOT. We are children of a God who knows how to do resurrection.

Still, it would have been better for us not to have ever entertained the temptation. We could have used our energies in so many other places. We don’t know what could have been had we never succumbed to those tempting photos.

It’s easier never to have planted the seeds.

Men Prefer Women Who Love Jesus (but that’s not our goal, anyway)

The-Transformed-Wife-6

A blog post went viral this week. Not one of mine—I could wish. It was another one. Perhaps you saw it.

Men Prefer Debt Free Virgins without Tattoos.”

“Do you know how much more attractive debt-free virgins (without tattoos) are to young men?”

Well no, I don’t, because you never actually proved that point with any research at all. But I digress . . .

Perhaps it made you angry, or perhaps it made you feel shamed. I know it had me all up in my “smash the patriarchy” righteousness.

The premise of the blogger was simple: If young women want to be married, they should make themselves into the kind of woman Christian men want to marry. Presumably, debt-free virgins. But more importantly, according to The Transformed Wife, a young woman who has rejected an education while she waits for her man to supply her the thoughts, beliefs, and ideas she is supposed to have.

The-Transformed-Wife-1

(“The husband will need to take years teaching his wife the correct way to act, think, and live since college taught them every possible way that is wrong.”)

I used the barf emoji. Five times.

Because I know the Bible pretty well, I took issue with her theology.

Because I raised three daughters, I took issue with her philosophy.

Because I know my husband, I laughed uncontrollably at the idea that he was really looking for a woman with no ideas of her own when he accidentally fell in love with me instead.

If you were bewildered, enraged, or hurt by that post, please know that, while I have no objections to debt-free virgins (tattooed or not), being a transformed wife is not your goal. Here’s what I know.

God didn’t create you for the sole purpose of finding a man.

You are complete. You are whole. You are not waiting. Your life is now, not when someone else comes along to fulfill you and tell you what you need to know. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in his image, and there is nothing incomplete about that.  (Psalm 139.14, Genesis 1.27) )Nowhere in all of scripture does God tell women to wait for a man so that they can fulfill their purpose, except to wait for Jesus himself, who gives us all purpose with no exceptions and no hierarchies.

Whatever you do in this life–marriage, children, or not–do not sit around waiting for a day when you are good enough or complete enough to be used by God. That day is now.

God chooses women.

You are part of a long heritage of women of faith who stood on their own beliefs and their own ideas and used them to act. Esther. Ruth. Mary. Hannah. Deborah. Priscilla. Lydia. Miriam. The Hebrew midwives. Joanna. Abigail. The women at the tomb. The woman at the well. The unnamed hundreds who inhabited that world and never got “credit” this side of eternity but served God anyway with all they possessed. Not one of these women was passive. They were great actors in God’s story, with or without a man, and you are, too.

(I mean seriously, Abigail, you should be ashamed of your lack of submission to your man. Shouldn’t you? I guess God didn’t think so.  Don’t know the story? You really should read it.)

They were all born “for such a time as this,” (Esther 4.14) and so were you. They all defied the ethos of their culture, not because men would not or because they were unique or someone gave them their beliefs and ideals. They did it because God gave them his fire. He’s given it to you, too.

The-Transformed-Wife-4

God created you to uniquely further his kingdom as you, not as your husband’s helper.

God created women because he knew that humans need one another. It wasn’t good for one to be alone. God called woman “strong warriors” and “corresponding partners” in the task of making this world into his kingdom. We were created as equals—see the real translation of Genesis 2.

He put us beside men to do the work as a team, not as solo practitioners. It’s true—we cannot do this kingdom business alone. It’s not true that we can only be sidekicks to the real work. If you’re married, your husband’s calling is amazing—support it. Your calling is amazing, too. Find it. We need every person to use her gifts in the kingdom of God. It’s a travesty and downright blasphemy that so many things that could have been for the kingdom are not, because women have been hindered from changing the world in their way.

The-Transformed-Wife-3

There is no one between you and your Father.

No one. Jesus came and brought freedom and access. The curtain in the temple was torn in two. He did not do that and then tell the women standing around the cross, “Oh, hey, now go find a man who will explain all of this to you. I just broke down the barriers–but not for you. It wasn’t quite good enough for you.”

How insulting to our Savior. His sacrifice was not enough to break all the barriers of access to God and his word? Women still need a man to tell them what the Bible means? Nonsense. (I could use a stronger term, but . . . ) He has gifted you with his holy word to learn, treasure, keep in your heart, and obey. He says this is not too hard for anyone, and surely that includes all the women ever created.

Yes, Paul told women–uneducated, curious women–to ask their husbands what some things meant. To satisfy their craving to learn, not to quench it. To strengthen the bond of marital love and compatible faith, not to create a subservient, childish dependence.

More than that, he has gifted you with his Holy Word–the Word made flesh, to know, love, and obey. No gender requirements. You have access. Know and love your Savior, with all your heart, soul, strength, and glorious mind.

The-Transformed-Wife-2

God didn’t create you to be ashamed of who you are.

(Unless, of course, who you are is really a jerk.)

It doesn’t matter if you’re married or unmarried. College educated or GED. Childless or house filled. Loud or shy. Assertive or conflict avoidant. Old or young. Strong or slow to speak at all. God wants to use the woman he made for his purpose.

He didn’t give you a mind to only have it be filled with other peoples’ thoughts. He didn’t give you a heart to have its passion reined in by someone else’s ideas of where you should spend your time. He didn’t give you a desire for purpose in order to limit it to the sphere someone else tells you is the only one you can inhabit. God gave you dreams, and a big heart, and a curious mind. He likes you that way. Don’t ever let someone else tell you he can’t.

 

God loves you. He loves you so stinkin’ much he died for you. I truly believe that love is lost on people like this blogger. People who don’t experience the great, full love of Christ try to make up their acceptance by creating rules. They believe that if they make enough rules, and get enough people to follow them, they will find that acceptance they’re looking for.

It’s not different than the Romans or the Canaanites who tried so hard to appease their gods that they would do anything, even sacrifice their children, to be accepted.

I refuse to sacrifice my children. Or the young women who already teeter tenuously on the belief that maybe they’re not enough wherever they are. I won’t give up the women He has equipped to march headlong into his kingdom, ready to use themselves up for his cause, because someone told them they can’t on account of their gender.

I won’t make the sacrifice.

The-Transformed-Wife-5

Marriage and children are great gifts–but they are not destinies. And men? You are too wise and good to believe you are so shallow as to be intimidated by a smart woman pursuing her calling. We know better. We know this is insulting to you, too, and you are better people than that. We love you for it.

I pray that today you will find yourself drowning so deeply in the love of God that the only rule you need as a woman is to love him back. Oh, the places you’ll go.