Dear Jen Hatmaker, You Might be the “Worst End of School Year Mom”, but When it Comes to “End of Summer”, I Wear this Crown Lady (and How Nutella Saved the Summer of 2017)

We started so strong. The minute my children were released from school, back in June, I was absolutely determined to develop and maintain a level of structure that would find us all thriving.

 

(Haha. So close.)

 

I have four sons who’s ages range from nine to two. The “big guys” would go catatonic playing Minecraft and Roblox without intervention. Seriously, watching a Disney movie together is practically quality time. So I carefully devised a “notebook system” which gave them accountability to accomplish daily tasks in exchange for one dollar ($5 in total per week).  They read chapter books, had “constructive” time both indoor and outdoor, and did chores. We did Ok for a while (These boys love cold hard cash and have been able to save most of it as the summer has progressed.).

 

I dug these out from under their beds tonight. Don’t you worry, I dusted them off just for you.

 

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And I can’t complain because I was absolutely loving that I didn’t have to schlep anybody to and from school. The mornings were amazing. Rolling over in bed, I’d gaze at the clock:  9:46 am. Tossing myself back over, I’d plan to reevaluate when I heard somebody crying and went right back to sleep (Mama’s of little “littles,” don’t hate. I did my time. It gets better. This is my little hopeful ad for you.). Not gonna lie, I usually got up at around 10:30 am, and remained squarely in my pajamas until well after lunch.

 

But of course that means that everyone was wide awake late at night. I thought we were doing Ok giving everyone ten minute warnings at 10:00pm, but then it just seemed to push later and later. By August, I awoke at 3 am to find my seven year old sleeping on the staircase. He was holding his tightly to his tablet and passed out on the way to the bedroom. (Oh my stars!) Carrying him to his bed, he whispered,

“You let me play too long…”

 

“My dear child, I failed you.”

 

I pray he never remembers.

 

Can we talk about my two “little guys” for a minute? They are two and four years old. My four year old has taken to yelling “Oh My God” randomly even though I haven’t taken the Lord’s name in vain, regretfully, since I was thirteen. He likes to hide behind couches while I imagine kidnappers have invaded my home and snatched him, laughing all the while I search in vain. He is almost always covered in his own feces. Heaven help me.

 

And my two year old is as clingy as saran wrap. He is most happy to be sitting on my lap while breathing my air and caressing my face. He is the world’s best hugger, the sweetest of sweet, and because of my issues with personal space, I often wonder if I am going to lose my mind by breakfast. I’ll take “poop kid” to this invasion of privacy.

 

One nice thing, is that their summer wardrobe is exclusively underwear. Camo, Superhero, or their Grammie’s generous gifts of neon boxer briefs, it all makes the laundry situation much easier. I do apologize to the neighbors though. There are a lot of underwear clad boys running around in our back yard. I suppose it takes a minute to get used to…

 

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I have one big guy that never stops talking, from the moment he wakes, until he passes out from exhaustion. He shares with me every nuance about Pokemon and Digimon and Skylanders with a passion that I wish I had… about anything. I adore you child, but I need a minute. The other big guy is truly fascinating, but he fidgets and can often be found tearing the seams of couch cushions and picking the leather from our kitchen chairs. His thoughts are deep and has yet to find a landing point so our home is very gradually being dismantled. It’s Ok. Summer is long. I’m over it.

 

I have what I call, “The Witching Hour.” It’s four o’clock. The moment that my patience drains like tub water and they start to hide and scatter in various corners and cubby holes. They all, including Mr. Clingy, have gotten wise to the moment it is time to avoid the lady with the grumpy face that we usually seek for anything we need. She doesn’t bite, but she barks…  I don’t know what happens to me at that hour, but I just can’t seem to get it together. Maybe it’s the disaster of a house. Maybe it’s the fact that I have yet to wash my face. Maybe it’s the lack of creativity that I can muster an interesting and nutritious dinner for this pack of starving wolves (and the fact that each one has been eating food, every moment of this god forsaken day since they woke up). I dunno. Maybe it’s just me.

 

I tried to drown my boredom and sorrows in Netflix binge watching but it hasn’t made me any happier. As they approach to present a new and damp watercolor painting, I can be heard muttering,

“I love you. Your picture is amazing. Mom is currently busy watching… something grown up. Please go do something else until I’m not sure when…”

 

(Forgive me again. Summer is hard.)

 

I’m not one of those moms that has the need to get them out of the house everyday. If that’s you… bless. I will never be you. I have dealt with a few too many tantrums, blowouts, and lost children in public places to believe that it’s really worth it. No thank you. This mom is committed to her children believing that boredom is good and their home is awesome and all they really need to thrive… here… in this house that we pay for with money that they can never really appreciate. Enjoy. It’s all there is.

 

This brings me to my final point… Nutella. You are my savior.

With apples.

On toast.

In sandwiches… my children have loved you.

 

And I thank Costco for selling two giant containers for $8.99 because my kids needed you in crunch time. When “Witching Hour” zombie mom gave you crackers and nutella, you were there to make sure that they were oblivious to my obvious depression, and they dug in. When I had a moment of rare creativity, I knew that grilling nutella in a beautiful and perfect sandwich would erase the woes and boredom and monotony this late August summer day.

 

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Nutella, you are heaven.

You saved my summer.

 

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Even for the child that avoided the bread and licked the insides clean, I could not give a rip because he was truly happy.

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And in the end of this summer, I’m thankful.

 

I’m thankful for the raw, uninterupted, time with them.

 

I’m thankful for my children. You are unique and amazing.

 

And, I’m thankful for Nutella. You kept it real.

 

Get your perfect… shining… flawless…. new backpacks on….

 

 

and get the heck out.

 

 

 

With all of my love,

Your mom

(Hope you had a fantastic summer!!)

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Superhero Underpants, Summer Fun, and Deep Thoughts

As I sit here and fold the laundry, it’s just little boys’ underwear.

 

Four piles.

 

 

Four sizes.

 

 

The same thing every single goshdarnn day.

 

 

 

It is their summer wardrobe.  And I’m just jealous because of bras and skin toner and shaving and…. someone coming to the door that I’m not prepared for………….

 

What must it be like for four children who know nothing of birds and bees and shame and patriarchy and privilege? I wouldn’t know.

 

 

I’m raising four sons to be leaders… not of women… not of their future wives… but of the world. I’m raising them to become servants of people, to be humble and considerate and kind and selfless… even though they are white, and male… and dear friends…..

 

 

It matters.

 

 

Forgive me if this post seems strange. I’m just trying to be honest. I have no idea why society will give them status and honor that they have never earned. I have no idea why they might be escorted to the front of the line or to the head of the table based on skin pigmentation and gender only. I have cautioned them to put others first… to be colorblind… to be feminists, to advocate… to be sensitive to the fact that they are, indeed, no more important than any woman, or man, or child, or anyone of any race than they themselves have found themselves.

 

But how will they understand injustice enough to care when they never experience it for themselves?

 

But I just can’t seem to find my footing. I am 37. I’m a free spirit. I love the fringes. I have pink hair. I have four sons. I have a very kind husband. I love the Bible and teaching and I have a heart for the lost. I’m a shepherdess and (at times) a prophetess and when I am mopping my kitchen God audibly tells me things…. (shhh, don’t tell anyone that this happens!)

 

 

But I just don’t seem to know what to do with that.

 

 

I’m… just…. lost…..

 

Four piles of tiny, superhero underwear.

 

Four carefree boys.

 

Four beautiful souls that could change the entire direction of our world some day…

 

if they wanted to.

-n

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I Preached My First Sermon Today….

I preached my first sermon today. A year ago, I would have called myself a heretic. Yes. It happened that quickly. I couldn’t even quite tell you exactly what led to such a change, except to say that one, seemingly kind, yet chauvinistic, pastor has himself to thank for throwing open the doors to my tireless quest for truth.

 

I could also thank my father, who taught me that my value in Christ could be directly measured in how well I supported and submitted to the men in my life.

 

Or I could thank my mother for submitting to him in everything, and teaching him nothing (He might have been a kinder person).

 

I could thank my youth leaders for ensuring that my shorts weren’t too short and that I was honoring my future husband with my current behavior.

 

I could thank the professors at my Bible college for training me well for positions that could only ever be on a volunteer level, in spite of my monumental tuition.

 

I never really disagreed with complementarianism until I found myself emerging as an author, Bible study teacher, and leader. And while most would tell me that I should have been content and honored to minister exclusively to women, I kept finding myself in this pastor’s way.  He seemed to feel that my influence would pull the congregation away from his elder led initiatives, which he reminded me were the priority. He gently squashed me at every turn.

 

And it didn’t sit right with me but I wasn’t exactly sure why. You see, I was raised to submit so I didn’t know that there was another way. Now, don’t get me wrong… there has rarely been a moment that I had an opinion and didn’t share it with whomever might be within earshot.

 

I’ve always found myself at the forefront of groups, whether it be in school or on teams. I never asked for the job, but there was something about me that kept getting me nominated. And in the world, my ambition and initiative were praised, but within church walls, I was viewed as difficult and insubordinate. While I was always trying to think out of the box, they were desperate to stick me inside of one. The box was framed out with seven separate New Testament verses.

 

Put ‘em on notecards.

Memorize them.

Honor God.

Be her.

 

(I tried.)

 

(I’m sorry.)

 

Today, I’m raising four sons. I’ve been married for almost fifteen years to a wonderful man who lets me be who I am. In fact, I would say that he is quite uncomplicated while I lean more towards intensity. We’re absolutely perfect for each other… but he doesn’t get me either, unfortunately.

 

He doesn’t understand why it is a  need for me to study Scripture and then communicate it back to others in a teachable and perhaps profound way. He can’t comprehend my passion for ministry and working hard with other believers to make the world a better place. He looks at me like I’m nuts when I rant about injustice. I write obsessively. I am almost always followed by some sort of flock of women who are wondering what I might say or do next.

 

So when I began to read books by Sarah Bessey, Jen Hatmaker and Carolyn Custis James, I think that he thought he was losing his wife. In the span of a few months, my entire belief system changed. How I viewed my husband, myself, and God was just… different.

 

*I viewed my husband as an absolute equal with strengths that I do not have (and didn’t need to in order to achieve some sort of “Biblical Masculinity” that was anything but). And I began to appreciate my strengths and value them in our marriage rather than to suppress them.

 

*I viewed myself as a daughter of the King, the Bride of Christ, and a fierce soldier that is armed and actively fighting for souls in the Army of the Lord. I was suddenly free to serve and submit to His divine will, not depending on the men in my life.

 

*I viewed God with both feminine and masculine qualities as both men and women bear His image. He just seemed approachable, compassionate, emotional, and caring. I loved Him/Her infinitely more.

 

Colors were brighter, sounds crisper, and I was filled with a joy that I had never before known. Things that had never made sense were now crystal clear. The truth was before me, and when I looked around, I was the only one who seemed to be able to see it.

 

I spoke to friends, pastors, family members, and the blank stares coming back threw me for a loop. It was like they had blinders on. They railed on me.

 

“Unbiblical.”

 

“Heretical.”

 

“Apostate.”

 

I have to be honest, the road ahead was probably the most frustrating I’ve ever endured. Loneliness overwhelmed me at times. Some days, I couldn’t get out from under the covers. There is a special grief to be surrounded by people who love, and yet staunchly disapprove.

 

But I’ve been learning to heed the still small voice of the Lord. I believe that He meant it when He said,

 

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And lo, I am with you even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

 

I long to obey Him. Like a fire in my bones, I cannot keep it in (ref Jeremiah 20:9).

 

So I can’t care what anyone else thinks. Today, I picked up a microphone at a conference and told my story. Amongst peppered “amens!” and passionate “preach it sister!” I was led by the Holy Spirit to open the Word and speak. I spoke on the Tower of Babel and unity in Christ, and how the sky really is the limit when we are united by Christ, rooted and grounded in selfless love for Him and one another. It was like God took me over and gave me His words… AND I FINALLY LET HIM!

 

I’m well aware that some (who are still rocking their blinders) will read this and call me a heretic.

 

Or maybe they won’t.

 

Either way, I can’t care.

 

Today was a very good day.

 

(And I’d say any day is good when the Gospel is preached and heard by many.)

How is a Pizza Shop Like the Early Church???

The word Pizza written in flour with various ingredients.

Lessons from a Fictional Pizza Shop…

 

Imagine that you bought a little pizza shop. Equipped with the secret recipe for your authentic Italian grandma’s secret sauce,  and a prime location, you were destined for success. Staffing seemed simple enough… the best person got the job. Men and women (even teenagers) proved themselves worthy of different positions and were based solely on their talents, skills, experiences, and interests. Looking around, nobody seemed more important than anybody else. Experience was something to be gained here… not coveted. Everyone was green as could be.

 

 

Given time, it was easy to see that this shop was destined to be a franchise and so you packed your bags and moved along, leaving it in the capable hands of the staff you’d carefully chosen. You knew that they could do it without you. They were a well oiled machine.

 

Well… the oil lasted for a little while…

 

Several months later, you received a disturbing phone call. Your face burned hot when it was reported to you that the once energetic, reliable, teenagers that you’d hired had gone rogue. They were whispering and gossiping about the management. They were making out in the cooler. They were crouching in corners eating entire pepperoni pizzas in secret. They were stealing from the cash registers and worse, they were targeting other teenagers and teaching them to follow suit. One, small, group of individuals was tearing the business apart.

 

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Shaking your head over the phone you tried to figure out what had gone wrong. They’d been so faithful, so dynamic and upbeat, wanting to pitch in and be an active part of the team! But now they were like a poison bringing their selfishness and disrespect. Without your intervention it was going to topple.

 

So you carefully penned a letter to try to help the management sort it out. You detailed all of the changes and helpful hints that you thought they should address in your absence and on your behalf. You refined the recipes, and showed them a more efficient way to deep clean the pizza oven…. and then laid down the law on the teens in question.

 

You told the management to put them in their place, to knock them down a few pegs and deflate any and all pride that might have crept in due to immaturity. You may have actually stated, due to your lack of trust,

 

“I do not permit a teenager to manage the registers or have any leadership responsibilities. They need to learn a thing or two…”

 

You did it because those particular individuals were out of control and the business was suffering. You gave the women and men who had been taking the business seriously the clout to teach those teens how to be productive and respectful.

 

Now let’s say you retired 50 years later and stopped by that original pizza shop where it all began. I can see you, sitting in a booth with a cane and a slice and simply observing (Ahhh, the sauce is still your grandma’s!). The place is still what it was, but everything is different! The decor is hipster-esque. The kitchen is rife with new technology. And the clientele has responded and the lunch rush is hopping! While you can remember a time when two registers used to get you through quite nicely, there are five beautiful computer types up front and lines are building up behind each one. Sipping your diet Coke, you’d notice that despite the long line of customers, the younger staffers are sitting idly by. They might wipe tables or refill napkins, but they were not stepping in to assist with the obvious work load in front of them. The line went out the door. The cashiers and cooks scrambled. And customers gave the death stare.

 

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You could see on their faces that the teens that knew exactly what to do, maybe even better than the ones who were in management. They wanted to help. It was in their eyes. They had energy. They were enthusiastic. They were well trained. They were smart. They cared. And the work that they were doing, while important at a lesser level, was not meeting the immediate needs at hand. For whatever reason, they didn’t feel like it was appropriate to pitch in. And I could also see that everyone was quite familiar with knowing that the pizza shop was ill equipped, though the materials were readily available. There simply wasn’t enough manpower. Nobody seemed to mind, save the frustrated customers who left hungry and with full intent to never return. They’d never know the flavor the pizza or the feeling of being in a thriving community. So they walked out… excluded… disappointed.

 

I can see your wrinkled, baffled expression in the booth. Why, in tarnation, wasn’t the entire staff participating in the work of keeping this business functioning properly?? At the end of the day, as they packed up and went home, you leaned out of your seat and approached the current manager. You asked directly,

 

“Why weren’t the teenagers helping? Why were they limiting their work to napkin dispensing, garbage removal, and table wiping?”

 

He blinked, wide eyed, and then he said,

 

“Ummm…. You told us not to let them.

 

Coat donned, ready to head home, he approached a filing cabinet and retrieving a color coded and stapled “Policies and Procedures Manual” for how to run this particular business. In the packet happened to be recipes, specific instructions, business practices and a particular letter from you in which I you’d offered a blanketed and unspecific statement about how those in the teenage age range should not ever possess such responsibilities.

 

 

 

Sound familiar?

 

 

 

Stay with me.

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Our imaginary experience directly relates to the Apostle Paul as he wrote his letter to Timothy regarding the church in Ephesus found in the letter of 1 Timothy. While I truly believe that God gave Paul the wisdom to advise, I also believe that Paul was responding to specific situations and advising accordingly, not necessarily putting down mandates that should be adhered to until the end of time. Is this heresy I am speaking? I hope not!

 

Take a look with me for a moment, will you?

 

Paul had planted a church, a thriving group of believers in Ephesus and then he had to leave, to move on and continue his ministry elsewhere. Within the patriarchal culture of the day, men were first to convert. It was only later that women took notice and craved participation. It was in and through the Gospel of Jesus Christ that might do what their social circles had not done… to actually include them… as equals.

 

But their spiritual immaturity and previous experience in idol worship caused problems. Apparently, they were distorting basic gospel truths. Paul advised his protege, Timothy, how to handle such a specific disruption with a letter. Having no idea of the longstanding and permanent impact, he instructed that:

 

“Men should worship with hands raised”

 

“and that I should not suffer woman to be in authority over a man… she should be silent”

 

and in the context of measuring the “spirit of the law” against the “letter of the law” I’m asking myself why God might not want men to learn from women. Is it because men are smarter? Is it because men are intrinsically better at leadership? Is it because women would become eaten up with pride if they were given opportunities to do what they might naturally excel at?

 

(Please tell me that these suggestions seem as ridiculous to you as they do to me!)

 

And so here is my perspective… the typical decision makers, the elders, the deacons, the leaders, the men, are put into positions where they have to direct the ship without half of the information needed to to so in the ways that benefit everyone. A woman’s perspective seems dispensable, unnecessary but possibly helpful if “appropriate.” She waits while they endlessly discuss and weigh options. She is humble while they struggle with the newfound pride of their responsibility and position. She does less because they tell her that it is her calling to be subservient. She studies and God reveals mightily but they will never stand to gain what she has learned. He becomes prideful. She becomes impotent.

 

Could this possibly be God’s plan????

 

 

because it is all I currently see in evangelical churches…

 

 

Women are about a million miles away from actively participating in making the decisions that might shape the path that the church will go. What is most surprising to me is that women have fully accepted their “non-participation” status and even seem to have the attitude of,

 

“I’m not interested in the job.”

 

The truth is this: I don’t want to be the sole decision maker, but I know myself well enough to be aware that if I don’t get a say, and it doesn’t work out, resentment inevitably follows. Perhaps I am sinning with my attitude, but I believe that regardless of doling out my own personal opinions, I’d prefer a Holy Spirit filled, wise, and “feminine” rep that gets me better than they do to speak on my behalf. But she isn’t there and so we wait to see if the leaders will extend themselves enough to ask, to consider differing viewpoints, perhaps even to value mine and create spaces where it can be shared and respected.

 

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Why is there this thousand mile divide when the Bible consistently includes and commends women who have leadership abilities? Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Esther, Priscilla, Junia, Nympha, Pheobe. You will never find a word of discouragement against them… only in these current days with our alive and well women…

 

How can this be???

 

Most often, the most “cherry picked” verse is utilized.

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Here, Paul is giving his opinion as he says, I do not permit…” which would be the same as if you laid out a rule in your pizza shop that said, “I do not permit teenagers…” 

 

Take note that it isn’t worded,

 

You should not permit for all of time as a standing rule…” but rather his current opinion based on specific circumstances. So what are the circumstances that Timothy is dealing with at the Ephesian church? Considering that we do not get specifics of the report given to Paul, we have to study the context clues to put into a clearer perspective.

(Hang tight for just a little longer on this! I’m going somewhere important in a minute!)

 

 

1 Timothy 1:3-7

 

“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

 

I would surmise that they are dealing with individuals that are teaching false doctrine and striving to elevate themselves, which would corrupt the essence of the gospel. Could some of these stumbling blocks have been women? I wonder what negative experiences Paul had with certain women and what instructions he might have for those? We do get a bit of insight in 1 Timothy 5:11-15,

 

“But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan.”

 

In 1 Corinthians 11 and 14, Paul speaks often to advise the church away from chaos to order. He speaks about the Lord’s Supper (as they were gorging themselves, getting drunk, and leaving one another behind). He warns the women to continue to operate within cultural boundaries and wear head coverings (as an uncovered head would lead to the assumption that she was a prostitute), and to stay away from anything, sin or not, that might cause another to stumble. He tells them that they no longer need to be circumcised, but should not eat meat offered to idols, and then adds that they can eat whatever they want because an idol is nothing. He advises them not to get married, but that women and men intrinsically need one another.

 

And…. He tells women (as well as men!) to learn in silence, not to leap into discussion rather and listening quietly first. Have you ever been in a group setting where an individual monopolizes the conversation, jumps in unexpectedly with questions, cutting off the person who is an expert on the subject? It’s so frustrating! But it is hard to contain one who is truly excited about the subject matter (I relate to this so well!).

 

It’s possible that women were completely and suddenly overly excited to have freedom in Christ. For the first time, she was being valued in wholeness, for her intellect, faith, and gifting, rather for her “son birthing” abilities.

 

 

She was late to the game and thriving in her newfound place at the feet of Jesus. He honored her for being a “learner” and eventually a “scholar” rather than simply a server….

 

 

finally.

 

 

 

I do not believe that Paul ever knew that his letter would stand the test of time while everything else changed according to culture shifts (ie: slavery, circumcision, meat offered to idols, head coverings, etc). I don’t believe that he had any intention that his few words on the subject would keep intelligent, Spirit filled, gifted, individuals from actively participating as leaders in the Body of Christ. I also believe that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that God is not a God of discrimination that gives a green light to female CEO’s and politicians but despises a teacher of the Bible within the church walls only.

 

 

There is much more to talk with you about but I will save it for my next installment. For now, have a slice of pizza and remember that God gives good gifts,

 

 

 

and He intends for us to use them with everything we have.

 

 

Might we learn to accept this as truth.

 

-n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Never Gonna Be That Wife…

Ephesians 5:21-33

“21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—

30 for we are members of his body.

31 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’

32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

I first became familiar with this passage as a little girl, sitting in a frilly dress in a wooden pew. Much too young to have picked up a Bible and interpreted for myself, I was riveted when the pastor proclaimed the differences between authority and submission as our responsibilities within a godly marriage. He spoke of a husband’s leadership. He spoke of a wife’s submission, obedience, and quietness. He preached with confidence and so I wholeheartedly believed him. Picturing my future marriage, I imagined sitting in a bejeweled throne next to a handsome prince as we lovingly gazed into one another’s eyes and held hands. My throne was smaller than his, but I didn’t mind.

As with any occasion of a first hearing, this perspective was solidified within me. A gray haired preacher who had absolutely no idea who I was communicated who I was supposed to be… and so began the creation of an elaborate tapestry of “biblical womanhood.” With pinks and yellows, similar perspectives poured into me. All throughout my life, words like, “submit,” and “gentle and quiet spirit” drew thin and thick lines, swooping into my perspective of myself and all that I thought God wanted from me.

I can’t say for sure when it began, but even that first day in the pew, I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I immediately noticed the scabs on my knobby knees. My hair was a rats’ nest and my middle finger was blue with ink from obsessively writing stories and adventures in spiraled notebooks. I was a girl with a voice, an opinion. I was saucy. I was strong willed. I was a spitfire. I was trouble.

I was never gonna be that wife he was talking about up there.

And not because I didn’t want to be, but because I just couldn’t be. I can’t tell you when the dismay began, but I can tell you that it has never ended and regularly overtakes me. Don’t get me wrong, I try to be quiet and gentle! Sometimes, when I’m listening well to a friend in need, my eyeballs are almost popping out of my head with words of truth and encouragement that are longing to pour out! When I sit for a sermon, I spend about half of it with my back connected to the chair and the other half leaning forward, ready to jump up there for active dialogue (I’ve never done it, I promise, but it is seriously hard sometimes!)! I must respond! Even when I read, I usually can barely stand to keep what I learn to myself before I have to pick up the phone and call someone and talk it through. I’m expressive. I’m emotional. I’m a bit… much… and I know it (I think that I might be “being a bit much” right now actually… My sincerest apologies!

Please don’t leave me just yet! So many exclamation points are ahead!!!)!

Heaven help me!!!!! 

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My point is simply this, our first exposure is the strongest influence in shaping our entire worldview and perspective. It is a heavy weight to teach children, especially if the view point it biased or founded in flawed (no matter how minutely!), self serving theology. And so I am learning to look with fresh eyes upon those Scriptures which I wholeheartedly believe are true. Perhaps hope is found within them. Will you look again at Ephesians 5 with me with your new glasses? 

First off, my Crossway ESV Study Bible states that the main theme of the book is to proclaim that “Christ has united people from all nations to Himself and to one another in His church.” As I read the entire book, I see a theme that the context would appear to continuously emphasize that we are one in Him, and that He is in authority of all people because of the sacrifice He gave when He submitted Himself to the cross (Eph. 1:22). Paul repeatedly speaks of equality and oneness, encouraging the Ephesian church to pursue humility and putting others first. See these passages for further evidence. 2:10-22; 3:1-21; 5:1-20.

It doesn’t surprise me that Paul would encourage the Ephesian church towards a bent on unity and selflessness considering that Jesus preached it constantly. While the disciples, a group of men, were clamoring to boast of who was the greatest among them (Luke 9, Luke 22, Matthew 18), Jesus instructed them that the last shall be first. He spoke against hierarchies that would create distance between the servant and served. He taught them a new way that was completely against their natural bent towards status and titles. He touched the diseased. He held the sinners. He washed their feet. He taught them what real love looks like, that it goes the extra mile (Matthew 5), and in doing so, He showed them who actually God is. 

…and then He commanded them to do the same.

And this is exactly what Paul is doing when we meet him here… communicating God’s truth to the church in Ephesus.

Shall we take a look again with our brand spankin’ new eyes??

“21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

(No problem! The concept is everything Jesus meant for us to understand and live by! Men, women, even enemies, are called upon to put aside their own desires, even physical bodies, for the sake of Christ.)

“22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”

(Once again, no problem. With a clear understanding that we are to submit to one another, this is not a difficult concept to grasp, I hope.)

“23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”

(Ok!  Hold up, what, in tarnation, does it mean that he is the “head?”)

Well, there are a few varying opinions, but the word for “head” is actually “kephale” in the Greek language. “Keyphale” is a more literal meaning in which the concept of “superior rank” is not found. It is actually a term that means “source” in the same way that a large water source would be providing for a smaller water source…. a lake to a stream is one example. And this would support the example that Christ has given to husbands in the way that He loved her, and laid down His own life for her. He is her source. He gives her strength. He pours Himself out to provide for her all that she needs to be the best that she can possibly be.

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It reminds me of John 15 when Jesus tells the disciples that He is the Vine (like a “source”) and they are the branches. They could bear fruit if they remained in Him. So it would make sense that the Ephesians 5 passage is not proclaiming a hierarchy of leadership- a word which never comes up in ANY passage regarding marriage-amazingly!- but rather a responsibility that the husband has towards faithfulness and selflessness. His posture should not be one that walks out in front, perpetually preparing to gently “hipcheck” her into place (out of love, of course!) if she step out of line. I’d venture to say that He’s supposed to lay across the mud and let her walk over him so that she can get where she needs to go!

So I believe that we need to brush new strokes onto our tapestry which challenge husbands to be like Jesus, and not like princes on thrones.

Considering that we do not have very many examples of Christ and His “active headship” of the church (I can’t wait to experience those someday, by the way!), we must resist taking the passage too far. I believe that Paul is instructing husbands to live out a truly sacrificial love for their wives… and for wives to actually let ’em…

“24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

(Please forgive me if this sounds rash, but I don’t believe that this passage means that men should be allowed to abuse or disrespect their wives. I believe that it means that we all must approach one another with humility, putting the needs of our spouses before ourselves. Having said that, staying in a relationship of abuse- whether it be male against female or vise versa, is never Ok. Please know that I am advocating for the abused to ESCAPE! But a posture of humility is a good thing when both parties mean to honor God.)

“25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

(As Carolyn Custis James explains, in the first generation Greco-Roman culture that valued wives as one half-step above livestock, this was massively counter cultural concept. Husbands did not typically consider love and self sacrifice as part of the marriage equation. They were much more interested in utilizing her to meet sexual needs, bring legitimate sons to support the business, and for slave labor. They were not viewed as intellectual counterparts. They were typically used, devalued, and abused.

Now, the comparison between husbands and Christ stops here where it explains how Christ sanctifies, washes, and presents the church as His own Bride (which men are a part of, I might add). I would hope that most scholars would agree that Christ has done this for all people, men and women, who accept salvation and that husbands do not have this ability over their wives. The interpretation can be confusing but we know that each person makes their own decision for Christ, and participates in the sanctification process individually.)

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—

30 for we are members of his body.

(You’ll notice that there is absolutely NO REFERENCE anywhere in this passage that instructs husbands to lead their wives, or to have authority over them. It continues to use wording that would support Paul advocating for husbands to love, nourish, and cherish their wives… and also reiterates the unity between husbands, wives, and Christ.)

31 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ 

32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

(Do you see it?? YEP! It’s still talking specifically and entirely emphasizing UNITY… not proclaiming who is in charge and who is not!! It’s togetherness! The theme here is not a picture of hierarchy or patriarchy but of letting go of everything else and clinging together!! And it demonstrates Christ’s love, not decision making status and deadlocked event trump cards of power. It speaks only of His desire to be in complete and total ONENESS with His bride, as though they were the same physical body. He is saying,

“Your marriage.. should be… like THIS!!”)

And lastly,

33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

(This final step is simply practical advice as they pursue oneness and harmony. Paul, a single man, seems to be acutely aware of what divides marriages and what unites them. Having said that, do you think that the wife does not need to love her husband? Paul doesn’t seem to see the need to instruct wives to love so it must not be very important, right? OF COURSE NOT! Every husband needs love! I know that when I am unloving to Chad, it tears him apart like nothing else! So then, we must also  be open to consider that wives are in need of as much respect as husbands. If he disrespects her, oftentimes she will become a shell, closed off to him and the relationship falls apart. Paul is using precious few words and details to help couples to pursue unity at all costs. It’s marital advice, meant to be helpful, not a mandate to diminish value and personhood in Christ.)

 

And so we’ve landed here, in a spot where we can view a new tapestry with fresh colors that create selfless love, unity, respect mutually… Is this a picture where he is perpetually overrun and she is usurping all over the place? I should hope not! But this is the fear that may keep you from considering this as a valid point. And so my question is this:

Are our marriages better or worse if we mutually submit, one to another, in reverence to Christ (Eph. 5:21)??

I believe that we can find our answer if we can analyze the fruit that is produced. Fruit cultivated in patriarchy quite possibly yields proud men, prone to disregard her voice and perspective. Bananas of dominance. Grapes of wrath (yes, I said it!). Oranges of condescension. And, God forbid, apples of abuse (I’d almost say it is dangerous for them!). And we’re not giving our daughters what they need to cultivate strength! She is ripe with avocados of co-dependence and guavas (sorry, gettin’ desperate for metaphors) of inactivity and unacknowledged resentments. I think you get it… She’s absolutely stifled. Peter gives the best example of leadership when he clearly states,

 

“Don’t lord authority over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.” 1 Peter 5:3

And so I’m never going to be able to be that perpetually submissive one, the one that fades away and waits for you to make all the decisions. I just can’t. It isn’t who you are and and it isn’t who I am. You know me best! I wasn’t made to go with the flow… I was made to make waves. But this I can promise, my dear, patient, husband who loves me selflessly with the kind of love that I just know makes Christ bust with pride (I am completely convinced of it!), I will respect you in everything. I will love you ferociously. I will listen. I will never stop trying. I will strive to learn how to wait. I will do my best to understand. God Himself, is painting in me a new tapestry filled with wild colors, creativity, and truth. Please don’t be afraid of it!! He is letting me know that it is Ok to be the woman of God, the wife to YOU, that He has made me to be! And please believe that it is my prayer that we’re so much better for it! It gives you a partner, not a consultant. A co-laborer rather than a servant. An absolute equal and working hard towards the same goals.

I give you me,

to my fullest..

the best me I can possibly be (knobby knees, exclamation points and all!).

Please trust me to do my best and not to manipulate, undermine, or usurp. 

Believe in me as I believe in you.

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and I will love you, selflessly, with a willingness to lay my life down, every time, as I know that you would…

(even though Paul didn’t say I had to.)

Love always and forever,

-me

A Note from a Pastor and friend…

(This writeup comes from a pastor friend of mine. He wrote this up several months ago as we discussed women’s roles in our churches. I was quite intrigued by his perspective.)

 

I am a pastor and I live in a man’s world.

Looking at the words I just typed, I can honestly say that I have never written them before and certainly have never spoken them out loud. Yet, as I look at my life, there is no denying the validity of this. It is time for a realization…

We live in a man’s world.

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Even in my upbringing, I was surrounded by boys. I never attempted to get in touch with
my feminine side and certainly never thought much about it. I did boy stuff; I played sports, threw mud, and had sword fights with baseball bats. I was quite content with my upbringing and I believe that my parents did their best and we were better for it. I would describe family as healthy.
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The family dynamic of those childhood years was our version of “normal.” I observed many things in my family and church life that I imagined were absolutely correct simply because it was all I knew.
We were heavily involved in our church. Men took the offering. Men made the announcements. Men held all the leadership positions in the church. Women were relagated to behind the scene positions. It did not bother me. I never
questioned it, and to my knowledge neither did my mother. She is more demure in personality and was always willing to serve faithfully in quieter, unseen ways.
Gender roles were never discussed other than as the accepted (and presumed obviously “biblical”):
Men lead and women follow…
(This was all I ever knew.)
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As a young man, I entered into the full-time ministry, which tends to be a male dominated arena. I recently went home to visit and stopped by that church. You guessed it, men still dominate, and the church that I currently call home is also exclusively led by men. But it doesn’t seem so normal anymore and I am doing by best to figure out why that is. Perhaps you can help me.
You see, there are women in my life and that seems to be changing everything. Knowing them puts me at an interesting crossroads. I can see how my past experiences caused me to have blinders up when it came to the value of women. How could the requirement of them to be perpetually submissive cause me to overlook them? How could I possible have missed it?? I’m happy to say that it’s not the case anymore. I’m a changed man.
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I am blessed with an extremely talented and very driven wife (and let’s not forget beautiful). Daily, I am an observer of the ways that she continues to grow and blossom. She is truly coming into her own in amazing ways! Constantly, I find myself looking to her for wisdom. To be honest, I don’t think that she has any idea how much I respect her and value her unique viewpoint.  She never ceases to amaze me.
(It was just a few weeks ago that I challenged her to be more open in sharing things with me. I can see that she holds back, not wanting to exercise too strong an opinion, lest she unknowingly usurp. But I see it differently. I am convinced she has so many gifts to share with myself, our family, the church, and the world. I must say that I am one lucky guy and we make an incredible team! I wish she could see herself the way that I do!)
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We have amazing children. Our daughter has a mind that I truly covet. She reads incessantly and retains most of it. She aces every test that she takes and consistently goes above and beyond that which is required of her. She routinely wins awards and is admired by her teachers. The Lord gave my girl a brilliant mind! She, like her
mother, has amazing gifts that are making the world a better place. I feel so blessed that they are my family.

So here is my problem: I’m afraid. It’s an unexpected fear that has crept up more and more in these last years. Ultimately, my fear is that while the world gives allowance for them to use their gifts and talents and brilliance to make it a better place, once behind church walls they will be stunted from becoming the individuals that God has designed (and called) them to be.

 

 

“Outside of the church, you are free. Within the church, you are limited.”

I gotta say it, as a husband, pastor, and father…this really bothers me.

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I cannot at this point fully articulate that which needs to happen and change. I’m simply recognizing a problem. What I can say is this; Our churches must do better. We must provide opportunities for gifted women to fully thrive as image bearers of a Holy God. The responsibility of the church is to set aside the invisible shackles of tradition, not to change theology, but rather to pursue a true and biblical understanding of God’s intention for all of us regardless of gender roles.
So here I am. As I said before, I am at crossroads. I’ve been standing at the doorway of this topic for years, not ready to go through it because I knew the immediate discomfort that would follow. It was only recently that God gave me the courage to venture down the path and truly dive in, regardless of the findings.
I owe it to my wife.
I owe it to my daughter.
I owe it to my church.
I owe it to the world (women, men, and children alike) that God has called me to take this issue off the shelf, blow the dust, and figure it out to the best of my ability.
(They are so worth it!)
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Honestly, aspects of this journey scare me. As I move forward, I expect to have some very uncomfortable discussions seeing as I still pastor a church led exclusively my men. I’m not afraid of finding truth; I am afraid of those who will come against my search as though it is threatening to them somehow.
Like I said, I still live in a man’s world, but now I can see why that it’s not quite so simple.
To be frank, most guys do not know that many of the women in our churches
feel like their gifts are not being utilized properly. These amazing and Godly women are too respectful to speak up! I have thought and vocalized to my wife that churches must change or I may be forced to change churches. So how this all fleshes out…
I don’t know.
This is a very early chapter in the book.

Here is where I am at, for now:

My goal is not create a ministry that is defined by egalitarianism or complimentarianism but rather to be in one that is truly biblical. To this end I have avoided finding myself in a theology camp. I pastor a non-denominational church and I do not define myself as a Calvinist or an Arminian. Rather, I am a Bible believing Christian. My question is not what did John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius think but what does the Bible say. I have no desire to fit a mold if that mold is not simply found in the Bible. I don’t care how they interpreted it. I care how it reads today, with cultural context, plainly, as a whole rather than the parts that make it up. What does God really want from our church, His Bride?

Here’s what I do KNOW to be true:

*Men without women cannot properly reflect the image of God. Creation was not declared
“good” and “very good” until after women were created.
*Because men and women were both created to reflect the image of our God they have equal and inherent value.
*Jesus did not shy away from having women sit as closely as possible while He taught. He called this, “the better thing” than serving. He valued their knowledge.
*When Jesus died on the cross, He did not just die for men. He died for all mankind. This
again shows the inherent value of both sexes in the eyes of our God.
*When Jesus rose from the dead, He first appeared to women. He told them to make the
announcement to the men. They preached the first Easter sermon. The first “He is risen”
message was not by a male pastor in a pulpit, but it sounded like nonsense to the disciples. Was this the fault of the women, or the disciples? Who was a truer disciple (“Christ Follower”) in those crucial moments?
*When the church of Acts began to explode, men and women BOTH came to Christ and BOTH spoke, prophesied, and prayed publicly.
*The Holy Spirit in dwells in men and women equally, and occurs at the point of salvation.
*In Romans 16, a woman is listed as being a deacon.
*In the book of Acts we find a woman referenced as a respected Apostle.
*Women and men alike stood and prophesied and prayed in the church of Corinth.
So here is my issue, as a person who is seeking to facilitate the usefulness of individuals within the Kingdom of God; I wholeheartedly believe that Spiritual gifts are readily made available to all who are in Christ, and when they are listed, there is no delineation in Romans 12 or 1 Corinthians 12 on which gender received which gift. What it means is that there’s no such thing as male gifts and female gifts, yet we are operating our churches as though it is properly laid out when the few verses offered are contradictory and confusing! I struggle to find sufficient evidence of her disqualification as a result of her gender.
Galatians 3:28 tells us that there is no hierarchy in the family of God. Everyone is equal. Everyone can identify with and actively participate in Christ.

Here’s the nitty gritty… Complementarian or Egalitarian?

 

Let’s just pretend for a moment that I did not mention all of the above Scripture references and briefly look at two passages that routinely come up with those who operate out of the paradigm that is often called complementarian.  (Those on the other end should be careful on how they dialogue with those in this camp.)
Their desire is not to silence women. The ultimate goal that they hold is to be Biblical. For
that, they must not be faulted. One must divorce their mind of an us versus them mentality. Both sides do bring up valid points with specific scripture verses to support. Yet, after much study, experience teaches me that both sides are not nearly as Biblical as they claim! Again, allow me to caution you not to align yourself with a cause, but rather with careful and unbiased interpretation of the text.
The Scriptures that often come to the forefront of this argument are found in 1 Corinthians 14 and in 1 Timothy 2. Before examining these Scriptures I wish to front load with a statement:
We must be consistent in our exegesis.
Again we must not place a higher authority on a position than we place on the Scriptures.
A question worth asking is why don’t most Christians exercise the principles of male
dominated governance in any other area of their life but in the church? Jesus promoted
value and freedom among the outcasts and devalued society. He ministered to women
consistently. Did He extend freedom with an asterisk?
And so I will continue to study and observe and ask those key questions that God does not seem to allow my conscience to put back on that dusty shelf. I would encourage my other brothers in the position of Pastorate to ask themselves such questions and to consider what might happen to our churches, and to the world if women knew their potential in Christ, and if we, as shepherds, unleashed them.
Your co-laborer in Christ,
your anonymous pastor friend

Permission to Contend

Are we allowed to get better? Are we allowed to try harder?? To improve our situations?

 

Is it a sin to contend? I mean, Jacob wrestled with God for an entire night and ended up with a blessing. So is it really Ok to struggle against difficulties?

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With that in mind, I’d like us to consider the Creation story as it is found in the Old Testament. Written by Moses at God’s Holy Spirit inspiration, I trust it, and I’m not a very trusting person.

 

The gist is that in the beginning, God made the universe, the earth, the animals and people. In six days He made it all and on the seventh, He rested. The Biblical story of the creation of mankind is found in Genesis 1 and 2.

 

Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in His own image,

In the image of God He created them;

Male and female He created them.”

 

In Genesis 2, we receive more details behind:

1.) the order in which they were created (Adam first, then Eve based on 2:15),

2.) the reasons they were created (To procreate, 1:28, to work the ground, 2:5, subdue the earth 1:28),

3.) how He created them (Adam was made from dust, 2:7, Eve from Adam’s rib, 2:22).

 

*It is important to point out that there is absolutely no indication of authority given to Adam over Eve before the fall. The words, “obey” and “submit” occur no where in these passages. Some will make a claim that because Adam had named the animals that he was in a higher rank than Eve. I disagree with this because it would be as though I told one of my sons to take out the trash. The fact that he obliges does not give him any charge over his brothers. It was a Blessed Alliance, entirely equal, a co-leadership in rank and work that was demonstrated and nothing else.

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Some also could make the claim that because God used Adam’s rib that she was somehow secondary in rank. I would agree with this thought process if it were Adam’s hands that formed her body from the dust and breathed his breath into her nostrils. He really had nothing to do with her creation other than the fact that he desperately needed her in order to fulfill the commission that God had given him. After all, he was unable to reproduce alone. The apostle Paul weighs in on this in 1 Corinthians 11:10-12,

“Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of a woman. And all things are from God.”

 

The point is- we need everybody! I also believe that we run a danger if we take these passages too far as a claim on all people forever. Is it a person’s highest calling to be married and bear children? If it was, then how on earth could the Apostle Paul get away with saying that it is better for people to remain unmarried as he was (1 Corinthians 7)?

Having said that, I do believe that there is a spiritual element to the command to going and “fill the earth.” God’s original charge to Adam and Eve is later transferred to the Great Commission that Jesus commanded the disciples to execute after He had ascended into heaven (Matthew 28  “Go… and make disciples…” aka “image bearers.”). All believers should respond to a calling to continue bearing His image and showing the world what He looks like, and that they really do need Him. It’s a different kind of procreation, but procreation nonetheless.

 

But I digress…

 

It’s time to talk about curses. After Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, Adam blamed Eve when he was called out directly. In fact, he said,

“The woman that YOU gave me did this!” (emphasis mine. Genesis 3:12)

 

The first rift between them. The first fight. The first true division. (I’m not sure any of us has really recovered.) He felt that she was more responsible and publicly humiliated her in order to save face. I wonder if she couldn’t believe he actually said it. I wonder how her heart broke.

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As the curses were neatly laid out, his was two fold. In Genesis 3, God calls upon the ground to to be cursed and not produce plentifully as they were used to in the garden. Adam was going to sweat all over his own forehead in order to eat the simplest of meals (bread, vs 19) and he would die eventually with his body decaying and becoming dust once again. How depressing!

Eve’s curse is equally as rough.

I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;

In pain you shall bring forth children.

Your desire shall be for your husband,

and he shall rule over you.” (3:16 emphasis mine)

 

In the original Hebrew, there were no exclamation points in the language  or emphatic wordings. Instead, for emphasis, repetition was used. If you look closely, anytime God wanted to make sure that they really got it, it was repeated. Here is a simple example but there are countless ones in Scripture:

  • “I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am Yahweh your God” (Numbers 15:41)

 

Similarly, when God says to Eve, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” 

 

Lemmie tell you, He wasn’t kiddin’!

 

But we need to hone in on the second part which is mentioned only once. Not that I am discounting it, but understanding it is quite important.

“Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.”

 

There are a few differing opinions as to what exactly “your desire shall be for your husband” actually means:

-Some say that it means that she will be extremely dependent on him and he will be an idol in her life. She will look to him always for her purpose and leadership. She will be unable to function without him. (If that was the case, then the second part makes sense because it demonstrates that she will be subject to him, even oppressed by him.)

 

Others say that it means that she will strongly desire to usurp his authority but will be unsuccessful. I’m not sure that I see this here. The wording is unclear and so I am quite hesitant to add words that simply aren’t there.

 

Either way, this part of the curse describes a contentious relationship. These two aren’t necessarily competitive, but I’d say that there are troubles in paradise. But hone in on something with me. When it comes to the curses that are imposed on the serpent, Adam, and Eve (when it comes to childbirth) are directly given by God Himself. He takes full credit.

 

“I will surely…”

“I will put enmity…”

but when it comes to a husband’s “rulership,” it would appear to NOT be a mandate handed down to her, but rather a proclamation of what will be. What she can expect in both culture and tradition. It will be normal for him to…

 

“rule over you.”

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So this brings me to my main point… are we allowed to contend against curses? If your immediate answer is yes, please keep reading.

 

(This is about to get good!)

 

Do we contend against the thorns and thistles? Think for a minute… how many of us poured sweat in order to till, plant, weed, harvest, pound, bake and slice our own bread today?

Question… how much bread have you eaten in the last 24 hours?

 

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Would you say then that it is Ok for us to support initiatives that keep crops growing in mass quantities that we might be able to hop in our gas powered cars, head into well stocked grocery stores, pick up a loaf at a fantastic price per slice ratio, and head home to make a beautiful sandwich without so much as a drop of sweat beading upon our brows?

 

I SHOULD HOPE SO!! (Sandwiches make me so happy!)

 

I would agree that work is still hard, but here in first world countries, it’s Ok to progress. We really could not possibly understand what it was like for Adam and Eve to break virgin ground in hopes that they and their children would not starve to death! What I’m saying is that faithful folks have successfully contended and we glean the fruits of their farming labors and technological breakthroughs. If we even dared to compare our struggles with those of Adam’s days I would emphasize that we have no idea what hunger truly feels like. So let’s give some respect to those who know true suffering.

 

And child birth… oh my heavens! I have successfully brought forth four healthy sons into this world. They were created, by God, knit together in my womb with my husband’s participation and genetic contribution. Our sons needed both of us equally in order to be here.

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This is me, Chad, Tony (the photobombing master) and there in all of my giantness is Toby Jay as we are two minutes away from driving to the hospital for a nice, neat delivery.

 

Don’t I look like I am in agony?

 

I have a confession to make…

 

I wasn’t.

 

You see, I am one of these women who likely would have died in childbirth without medical intervention. Apparently, my body just doesn’t really do this on its own. All of my children were born by ceserean section (some even emergency!). Thank God I was born in the day and age that I was born in!!

 

In the 1800’s, one out of four women died from complications from childbirth. Nearly EVERY woman had a full term baby die at some point in their “birthing career.” Infection was rampant. Antibiotics were not available. Babies were born at home and everybody hoped and prayed for the best but expected the worst. It was devastatingly common.

 

In the year 2016 we’ve come a long way, my dear friends, and we did it because of those who were willing to contend. I could never express thanks enough for those who stuck their necks out, worked tirelessly, and were absolutely determined to move the generations forward with medical interventions. Listening to his heartbeat on the monitor, lying in an adjustable bed made for mayhem, donning my little mushroom hat with my gown on and sanitized people wearing blue gloves, it never even crossed my mind that I might not hold a living baby at the end of the process.

 

Doctors, nurses, midwives, researchers, scientists, I thank you. Thank you for contending. Thank you for fighting the curse and giving me a life in which I know my children and they are here to live it.

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(This is Toby Jay and I just moments after giving birth with the amazing help of a room full of individuals who were professionally trained to keep us safe and alive. 4th son born into the world without a hitch or a worry! I am forever grateful!)

 

It’s time to talk about whether or not we are allowed to contend with this:

 

he shall rule over you.

 

(Let’s just take a minute and breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.)

 

Is it a sin to wrestle with this… to say…

“Wait a minute. I don’t really want to be ‘ruled over.'”

 

Is that really God’s plan for women?

 

To be honest, I don’t think that my Heavenly Father made me to be “ruled over.” And I don’t think that He made me to be a consultant, phasing in and out of project when needed. I don’t think that He made me to stand on the sidelines and let the big boys do the work. I don’t think that He gave me ideas so that I could hoard them. I don’t think that He gave me experiences so that I could keep them all to myself.

 

I think that He made me to live. To be active. To participate.

 

I’m not a consultant. I’m a co-laborer.

 

I’m not here to stand far off and tell him where I think that the building should go… I’m here to get my hands dirty, stand next to him, and start laying brick together. I mean, what good am I if I’m a million miles away from the process?

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I am longing to say, “I’m here with you. Please tell me that you see me as helpful and not threatening.”

And so I believe that God has given us permission to contend. Not that this means we should become combative and confrontational. I would much rather that each one of us finds the soft place where we realize that we truly are equals, rather than running around blindly demanding it from men!

May we never be women who contend in order to control!

Might we seek to truly contend in order to help, to wage war against the lies of the enemy and truly bear the image of God to a lost and dying world! Might we stop standing idly by and thinking that our interactions with him are enough to make real changes. Might we discover all that we have to offer without discounting all that he has to offer! Might we find ourselves holding hands again, truly, and as women and men representing God the way it is found most powerfully and effectively!

 

I am speaking to you, dear one. The one who assumes that your brokenness defines you. He broke your heart. He broke your confidence. He broke your entire perspective of yourself. He made you feel like you didn’t matter, that you were better off mute. In your head, you know it isn’t true, but your heart still struggles. I’m here to proclaim the truth that you are valuable

whether educated or not…

whether thin or not…

whether with a devoted and faithful man or not…

whether with a quivver of children or not…

whether with a career worth bragging about or not…

whether motivated or not…

or possessing wordly beauty or not…

or wealthy or not…

 

You were carefully created, are passionately loved, and ferociously defended

 

whether you realize it or not.

 

I’m here… to contend… for you…

 

It’s time to contend for yourself.

 

Your voice matters. Your experiences matter. You matter. (The God of heaven and earth died for you, after all!)

Go, and bear His image. Show the world what His love really looks like… Learn. Teach. Speak. Preach. Witness. Help. Serve. Do anything you want to do for God!

Stop looking to your husband/pastors/leaders to do it through. They can’t offer what God has uniquely equipped and called you to do! Step up and out. Be brave!

 

 

 

(even if you happen to be a girl.)

 

-n