The Picketing Identity Crisis

It was almost one in the afternoon at The Coffee Scene, and my iced coffee sat half drank next to my open Bible and journal. Jacob had just left to pick up Manny, one of the godly guys living in the Pad, leaving me studying my things along with three other ladies, who we’d come to meet up with semi-regularly on the weekends since Jake and I had returned from our honeymoon. As we were sitting there, we started to talk about feelings.

I realize some of you might cringe at this, particularly those of you who are serious thinkers, but this was good, so bear with me. 

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)

This verse came up as we talked. We all confessed a deep need and desire to have all of our opinions and thoughts be heard at any given time. If our thoughts remained unknown, we often felt like the people or person involved in conversation with us now lacked the benefits offered by the words we’d been unable to say.

In other words, our need for control in a conversation manifested itself through our inability to control ourselves. Examples of this, we confessed, included not listening to other people, or cutting them off, or trampling over them with our quickness to speak and our impatient approach to listening. None of these, we knew, were particularly Christ-like.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

All of this made me recall the truth of my identity in Christ.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!…Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” (Psalm 139:1, 4)

Oh! That’s why I can be satisfied with being “quick to hear, slow to speak.” Even if my opinions and suggestions and whatnot are not heard, I am not somehow lacking in worth, and yes, “worth” is the right word to use. I do not have to be defined by being heard by others, because God hears me, knows me, and understands what I desire to say better than I could say it myself. He is the One who can truly use my words to benefit others and change the world, if I would put them first.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

I can securely default to listening to others, and have self control in my words (Galatians 5:23), so that, when the right time to speak arises, I can deliver my thoughts lovingly and prayerfully, and the person to whom I am listening can genuinely feel valued and heard. Or, I suppose another thought would be that I get to sacrifice my desire to be heard in order to fulfill that need for someone else. 

The reason I’m writing about this in particular is, yes, because of the sudden manifestation of the modern woman’s identity crisis happening in the news. Yes, this is an identity crisis. A woman’s need to be heard and valued has been placed in the wrong thing, and somehow we have confused “right” with “merciful privilege.” 

What I mean is this: without Jesus, no one, men or women, have a right to anything, especially being heard by anyone. Why would they? They are condemned before God, cut off from the One who controls and has power over everything, including the political circumstances in Washington D.C..

They are entitled to nothing but a one-way ticket to Hell, and, therefore, complete and eternal separation from the One who loves them most. 

So I should have no ability to be heard, especially not by God. And yet, because of Christ, I am heard by the only One who really matters. Those women who desire to be heard by the world are suffering from a lack of knowledge that they are deeply, fully, and intimately heard and known by God, a right and adoption paid for by Christ. 

I do not mean that women should never talk. But I do mean that we don’t have to act fearfully and offer panic-stricken demands and cling so desperately to our rights. 

Hello, ladies. You do not have to fight your way through politics, through the societal changes of our world, or through the opinions and wrong actions of others. You do not have to operate out of fear, outrage, or panic. There is a God who created you to be so much more than you are right now. He sees you as worth dying for, protecting, hearing, and acting on behalf of. He will be able to make waves in the White House far better than the small ripples of your marches and protests. Your insecurities and fears for the future of our gender can be satisfied in the One who made you to reflect His beauty, gentleness, security, and meek power. Jesus died so that you could have life, and have it abundantly.

Do you truly believe you have that now?

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One Team?

It was 5:30am when Jacob dropped me off at the Starbucks located at the entrance of Cross Creek mall, just next to Zoe’s Kitchen. The sky was still dark, and there was a layer of fog on the whole of Fayetteville. I was planning on meeting up with Christie, one of the ladies in the ministry and a developing kindred spirit, as the day for most of the military began.

When I walked in, I quickly noticed that I was the only customer in the coffee shop. I took my place at the long table in the center of the majority of the other two-seater tables, slinging my heavy backpack down into the seat next to the one in which I would sit. There was a lone barista behind the counter, a middle-aged lady with her burgundy hair wound up into a tight bun.

I thought of the times back at Pratt, when I would finish basketball practice early in the morning, and would go to the Starbucks on campus around 8:00am, only minutes after it had opened. I’d often be the only one there as well, and it came to the point that I went there so often at that time of the morning that the barista knew my order, and we enjoyed seeing and speaking to each other. Those mornings were prayerful, and quiet.

Christie wasn’t coming for another hour or so. I began reading through the book of Ezekiel and praying to God. As I infrequently glanced out at the darkness of the morning, I thought it amazing how God can experience all of the mornings of every nation as the sun rises across the earth…but then maybe God instead doesn’t see any of the mornings that way, because He can see the sun as it’s remaining stationary, and the earth as it rotates…or maybe both…I think both.

As I read through Ezekiel, I hit the passage of chapter 33, verses 1-9.

“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” (v. 7-9)

Okay, so, Ezekiel is kind of heavy, and there’s some pretty wacky and inexplicable stuff going on here. But this particular passage struck me as reflective.

In the New Testament, there’s about eighteen spiritual gifts (see Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11-16). One of these is the gift of prophecy. Now, going through Ezekiel, I’m equating “prophet” to “watchman,” or, someone who is watching the walk of those believers around them, and playing a significant role in telling those believers when they’re getting off track, or when their walk is steering contrary to the Word of God and His clearly revealed desires for their life. An extreme example would be to say that I’m deciding to spend tout les temps pursuing financial security and becoming a millionaire at the sacrifice of all fellowship and growth, and someone with the gift of prophecy would come alongside saying something like, “‘No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.’ (Matthew 5:24) ” Or, if we want to dive into areas of gray, Person A is a believer who’s planning on having a romantic relationship with Person B who is a confirmed atheist. Person C, who’s a believer with the spiritual gift of prophecy, comes alongside Person A, saying, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).”

The above description is more of how I think the gift of prophecy works today. As the church was getting started in the book of Acts, before the Bible was complete and everyone had God’s Word, prophecy was necessary in order to give the church direction and guidance on different issues. But once the church was founded and the word of God complete, prophecy seemed to be no longer necessary.

Some Christians do believe that prophecy as it was in the New Testament is still applicable for today, but I don’t think this is the case, since we have all that God desires us to have concerning principal instruction for living on this earth as we seek to follow Him, and any guidance we have comes from the outworking of the Holy Spirit based on the truth of God’s Word anyway. But hey, I’m no theologian. I’m a millennial writing a blog from my dining room table that’s still sporting a Christmas-themed covering.

Ahem, moving on.

The point! In Ezekiel 33, the implication is that God is giving Ezekiel (“son of man”) a responsibility as a prophet of the people. If this prophet doesn’t use his gift of prophecy to guide and direct the people concerning God’s wrath, will, and word, then Ezekiel is responsible for any suffering they endure because of his failure. And so, my thought, considering the New Testament gift of prophecy, as well as the other gifts, is a question of if our spiritual gifts and the use of those gifts are our responsibility to the body of Christ, the Church? So, if the Church is discouraged and struck with confusion and anxiety, and I have the gift of exhortation (consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment, def. found on Blue Letter Bible), then does that mean it is at least in part my responsibility to encourage and restore them to hope and comfort?

Sometimes we tend to treat spiritual gifts like we do personality types, but this thought makes it so that my spiritual gift, whether it be encouragement, teaching, shepherding, evangelism, or prophecy, to name a few, is not just some part of being like Jesus that I’m particularly good at, and certainly not just a part of my personality, or a Church niche/category into which I fit, but rather it is my necessary contribution to the unification of the Church and its growth in Christ-likeness. It is my responsibility to God and to this body, with Christ as the head, to figure out what my gifting is, to develop it, and use it to grow myself and the rest of the believers around me.

 

 

 

 

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Then, Now, and Later

The other day, I had the thought while brushing my teeth (this is optimal time for epiphanies) that if someone had told me about four years ago that I would end up going to college in New York City for three years, date my future husband who is ALSO my best friends’ older brother for the latter half of those years, and then get married, become an army wife, and move to North Carolina with him, then I probably would have entertained the thought for a moment, worried myself sick over how all of it would play out, and then would decide it was all nonsense and God had a different plan in mind. Surely.

But here I am. Oh, how small is my imagination.

And this shocking realization of how different life has turned out to be in the present time is not at all bad, no! But it is certainly perplexing. I feel like I started this blog to track my growth and adventures and such during college but now I’m not even in college…I’m a housewife living in North Carolina married to Jacob Brock!

Lord! How different are Your ways than my ways, and Your thoughts than my thoughts! You clearly know the plans You have for me, and they are far more than I could ever ask or imagine. (Isaiah 55:8-9, Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 3:19-20)

As if this newness needed further emphasis, about a week ago I was folding laundry and realized that a pair of my jeans had ripped in the washer, and another pair had been damaged by the detergent we’d bought. I only had two pairs of jeans, so I tossed the ripped pair and kept the damaged one. Jacob was watching me.

“We need to buy you new jeans,” he said.

I looked at him uncertainly.

“I’m not quite sure why you only have two pairs anyway,” he said. “So we really should get you new jeans.”

I frowned. He was being kind, saying it lovingly and without criticism, but I felt embarrassed.

“Jeans are expensive,” I said. “And I’m a college kid.”

“But you’re not a college kid anymore,” he said. “You’re someone’s wife.” He grinned. “You’re an army wife.”

Wait, what?

So then, there’s all of these thoughts about my identity ultimately being in Christ, that, even though my relational status has changed, it does not mean my identity has changed. God will not see me as “Jacob’s wife” or “army wife,” but He will see me as His. Right. Sure. But I’m still a wife. Je suis une madame et pas une mademoiselle! I mean, even following Christ has taken on new meaning, particularly as I continue to consider and look to apply what God says via Paul in Ephesians, in Titus, and everywhere else depicting husband and wife as Christ and the Church. How deep does this picture go? How far does its meaning stretch? How thoroughly is Christ wanting us to apply this in our marriage? And what will my and Jacob’s relationship look like the more we understand this mystery?

Again, this isn’t bad…it’s just, wow! This is real, and God has really, actually put me here. He has really, actually given me to this man, and this man to me, and He has really put us in North Carolina, and we really are bound by the covenant of marriage, we really are living together, and learning how to follow Him together. Wow.

Thankfully, in the midst of all this, God reminds me that it all comes down to my following Him. He’ll take care of the rest.

“But this is totally different!” I think, “I mean, this isn’t Pratt. The people around me aren’t liberal college kids. I’m not single. I don’t live in the dorms with Bree anymore. I’m not leading a Bible study. I’m not going to the Shire on break…”

“And, ‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment,  like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.’” (Hebrews 1:10-12)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)

So God has done this amazing thing where He’s totally provided for His kids through the writing of His Word. God is so generous. Not only has He loved and pursued us from before the beginning of time, and provided us the opportunity for salvation and reconciliation to glorious and eternally fulfilling fellowship with Him through the death of His Son, but He’s also made sure that all of what we would need to know about Him, about the world, and about ourselves was written down so that we wouldn’t be seeking Him blindly, without instruction, unequipped.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Okay, I feel like this is turning into a mess of spaghetti noodle thoughts mixed with a marinara rant of some sort.

Anyway…I’m learning yet again that God uses change to change us, both good and bad change, which, when you look at change as God making us more and more like Him, then there doesn’t seem to be much room left to classify any change as bad. Regardless of circumstance, location, status, occupation, anything, God has equipped us to adapt, to thrive under pressure and in tumult, and to find deep comfort in Him as difficulty arises.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

With that last verse, I’m certain we have yet to understand what it means to find comfort and strength in Christ when we are truly brought low, facing hunger, and in need. Paul’s circumstances were much less comfortable than ours presently. And yet the truth still rings clear: the strength of Christ transcends all phases of life, all trends and changes, all circumstances, which is the secret to facing all of these, even the transition from being a city college kid, to being an army wife.

 

 

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Holding On To You

So, this is what has happened. There was a morning during our honeymoon that Jacob and I were making breakfast and listening to worship music, all in a remote cabin located in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. The song “Here With Me” by MercyMe came on.

“I imagine this song is really romantic to God,” Jacob said. I was sitting on the counter nearest the kitchen sink while Jacob made an omelet. A wintry sunshine filtered in through the windows, and highlighted the unfinished wood of the high-ceilinged cabin interior.

“Romantic?”

“Yeah,” he continued. “I mean, listen to the lyrics…”

I can feel Your presence here with me,

Suddenly I’m lost within Your beauty,

Caught up in the wonder of Your touch,

Here in this moment, I surrender to Your love.

Honestly, this reminded Jacob and I of making love. Not to freak anyone out, and not to make this explicit, but the lyrics spoke of a complete surrender and overwhelming feeling of being inundated by Someone else, as close to them as possible. The concept and its intimate implications (and applications) was still very fresh in our minds, and I thought of how wonderful I felt when I knew Jacob was caught up in me, when he was overwhelmed by my beauty, and showed me that. And here was the lead singer of MercyMe saying the same thing to God…and if my emotions, desires, etc. are an imperfect reflection of God’s, then how perfectly romantic must these words be to Him?

“God is a great lover, and he created marriage to play out on this earth a daily, living, breathing portrait of the intimacy he longs for with his people…It is a kind of incarnation, a passion play about the love and union between Jesus and his beloved.” (John Eldredge, Love and War)

I have absolutely no idea who God really is.

I had never really understood what it meant for God to be praised for His beauty, what it meant for Him to love us and be loved in return, however imperfectly. Before now, I hadn’t understood what it meant to surrender to His love…I feel like my relationship with Him is completely new, as fresh and unfamiliar as my marriage relationship with Jacob. I felt like not only Jacob’s new bride, but like a newlywed with Christ as well.

He, God, loves me much more deeply and intimately than I will ever understand, and here I thought I had some sort of grasp on His love, when, in reality, I have barely brushed my fingertips across the surface.

The next week of the end of our honeymoon and the return to reality would involve a lot of coffeeshopping with Jacob, where we would open our Bibles together and spend time with God, praying and reading and then talking about what He was doing in our hearts and what we were reading in His Word.

I found myself reading over the passages most familiar to me, those that communicated the most basic parts of God’s character to me when I first started accepting His eternal pursuit of my heart, and when I, in turn, began my own pursuit of His heart through His very own grace. I read through Psalm 139 about ten times. Then I started at the very beginning of the Psalms and found myself dumbfounded all over again by truths about God, as if I’d never before experienced them.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)

God is awake while I sleep?

“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.” (Psalm 5:4)

Just how perfect is God?

“But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.” (Psalm 5:7)

How deep and abundant is His love? What does that mean for me? How much more deeply does He love me than I will ever love Him?

“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” (Psalm 139:5-6)

No kidding.

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:11-12)

Darkness is as light with God? And He is always with me? And He loves me? So that means, if I’m with Him, then I’m never in darkness?

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” (Psalm 145:17-20)

Oh my.

As Jacob and I continue to make the wonderful and truly adventurous transition from single to married life (I know, I’m such a newlywed), I feel like I should be swept away and consumed by joyous feelings to the point of being delirious, like my focus is expected to be totally and completely on Jacob and the differences between us, and this new life with him. While some of this is certainly true of my mind and heart right now, they more often go back to the realization I just shared with you: I thought I was really getting to know God’s heart more intimately, and deepening my knowledge of Him, and becoming more and more like Him to the point of nearly reaching the bottom of His well…and yet here I am, a child before a giant, powerful, truly unfathomable God, an infant at the feet of the Prince of Peace.

This is going to be really cool.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.” (Psalm 139:1-3)

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Overwhelmed

It has officially gotten to the point where I use simple household appliances (like the stove, for instance) and think, “Woah…in very little time, I’m going to have to learn how to use a new (insert thing here).” And also, I habitually thank God for the fact that my life will not be forever overwhelmed by the tempest of wedding planning, and that things will “get back to normal,” that He’s using this process to SERIOUSLY expose my own petty desires and hard and fast comfort zones that clearly need to be stretched, cracked, and then snapped.

The other day, I traveled to Vestal in order to place an order for a wedding cake there. I managed to get myself completely lost, and in the stress of change, of several details falling through or being shifted around, and of being misunderstood too many times in a row, and having very frank and honest conversations with Jacob, I sobbed and cried and fell into thoughts of self-pity and frustration. All the while, I was thinking, “I said I wasn’t going to get this way.”

My desire of handling the stress of planning the wedding and preparing for the upcoming changes was to handle all details, all hiccups, all difficulties, and all relationships with God’s love, patience, focus, wisdom, and understanding. I would depend on Him and see Him move. I would pray off my knee caps. I would not drag His name through the mud while making this transition.

Apparently, that desire does not mean, “I’m going into this with such a humble attitude, so obviously everything is going to go perfectly.”

Anyway.

As I cried over the steering wheel, lost in the highways of Johnson City, without a GPS, I tried calling my Mom. No answer. Knowing my Dad had the day off, I called him, still crying. I choked back my tears and all of my feelings as I explained the situation to him. And he spoke to me in the exact tenderness and love and humor that I needed right then. And God loved me through my Dad.

He patiently talked me through how to get to Vestal, reassuring me that everything would be fine and the wedding would be wonderful…Which, of course, I wasn’t really actual concerned about the specific details of the wedding, or even what the day would look like…I was more concerned about the fact that things weren’t going according to plan, and delegating is difficult for me (which I totally knew would be one of the hardest parts of this process), and that I wasn’t handling the whole “lots of things are changing all at the same time” thing very well.

When I finally arrived at my desired destination, my talk with the cake lady was wonderful. I’ve found that I feel most loved when people see that I have a need (even if I seem like I have it all together) and say “I will take care of that.” The attitude of this lady communicated that to me, and put my self-pity to shame. Strangely enough, I knew that, virtually, God was saying the same thing to everything I was worried about. “I’ll take care of that.”

After accomplishing my task for the morning, I decided to park myself in a Dunkin Donuts at the Vestal Wal Mart and spend time with God…and drink iced coffee accompanied by a glazed doughnut.

As I sat in the Dunkin Donuts, I cried as I poured out my thoughts and feelings to God. Goodness gracious, why was I so emotional?

I felt very far from the throne of grace, very much not like Jesus, or even like the adopted daughter of the King of kings. I felt childish, bratty, and selfish, while simultaneously feeling unconsidered, unimportant, and hurt. I felt like I was seeking to give to others without their thinking of giving to me, like I was making mistake after mistake, like a hypocrite, like I was alone. I felt sad, afraid, used, and tired. And, even though several things had happened that “triggered” these feelings, they were communicating something to me that was so far from the truth.

I was very loved, and people were being very accommodating, and so many were asking me how I was, what I was thinking about, asking how they could help, and seeking to make things be wonderful. Aunt Lori and Uncle Doug were being so helpful and supportive. My parents were providing so abundantly and graciously. Jacob was being so loving and comforting. I was getting to marry a man that I thought I would never meet.

My emotions were out of hand, amplified beyond my control.

And so I ran back to the promises of God, which were, even if it were true that I was unconsidered and seen as insignificant to others, it didn’t matter. First of all, God notices and considers me. He knows my heart and understands my desires, values, fears, and struggles. And my security in that and my identity in Christ is what makes me able to love others selflessly in the first place, regardless of their behavior towards me. Second of all, I’ve been seeking to be sure I don’t adopt the perspective that, even though Jacob and I are the ones getting married, it’s about us, but the opposite: Jesus is about others, so, therefore, we ought to be about others.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Oh…right.

While I’m certainly not saying that I ought to be a doormat and just go with whatever anybody else wants me to do, I am saying that I shouldn’t become so caught up in having my desires met and my values respected that I am so overwhelmed by my own emotions. Yikes. If my values are disregarded, I get to work on my communication with others, but having them disregarded should not hinder me from remembering my identity in Christ and the greater reason I love and communicate with others in the first place…if that makes sense.

Throughout the day, all I wanted to do was cry (pitiful, I know), not even because of the lies about the future, about myself, about Jacob, about God were bombarding me (though they were) but because I felt an enormous pressure on my heart and mind and didn’t know what to do about it. I felt very, very alone.

“Do not laugh at me, O my enemies. For though I have fallen, I will get back up. Though I sit in the dark, the Lord is my light.” (Micah 7:8)

Later that night, I went to prayer meeting at my church and spent a long time praying with Pastor Dan and Julie’s daughter, Sadie. We prayed for Jacob, for the wedding, for all of Sadie’s friends, for her family, and for our different struggles. And the more I prayed, the more I listened to the prayers of the women around me, the pressure lifted, the lies lost their power, and the storm subsided.

The whole day provided me with an opportunity to be vulnerable with Jacob after that, during one of our last Skype dates before the wedding. There was a choice between pretending my day had been fine, and being willing to just handle the day and its repercussions on my own, and protecting myself from any kind of rejection or ridicule or embarrassment (which Jacob has never done to me during our relationship), or I could be vulnerable and honest and let God protect me as I sought to glorify Him in my relationship with Jacob. Do I let Jacob in to help and love and lead me, or do I protect myself and rob him of that opportunity?

These kinds of Skype dates almost always result in my and Jacob’s relationship being stronger, and our focus on God more concentrated and united, and this night was no exception.

Right. God has placed our love story with Him in the setting of war, and marriage is not exempt from or immune to that same war. But with this, our relationship with Him is meant to be an adventure, that overarching victory in the midst of temporary losses, and that constant comfort in the midst of lies, worries, fears, and cowardice. My…what a God.

“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?—the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.” (Psalm 18:31-34)

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Unashamed

So, normally I try not to talk about anything trending. But this is urgent.

There’s obviously a lot of hype about Trump and a lot of horrid frustration put forth in animalistic rage about the state of America. This election has not been a testimony of how “ridiculous some can be” for voting for this person or that person…the core issue here is the obvious and heartbreaking division that’s manifested itself now more than ever. We are divided, and by implication, we cannot stand…

But that’s not what I want to point out. I want to talk to the Christians reading this, and offer you this challenge:

This whole moment in history is crucial for the Gospel. It’s a moment where those who are seeking to follow Christ can shine His light forth more powerfully than we could possibly understand. And I’m not seeking, through this post, to support Trump or say that those who wanted Hillary as president are wrong. But I am saying this in an attempt o draw our attention back to the One who’s objective in this, impartial, and witjout taking sides. Do NOT waste this opportunity by giving into your fear, frustration, or selfish agenda. Please. These are the three ways we can obviously and easily show Jesus to our nation, now.

1. Apply and Lean on God’s Sovereignty 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Again, God is the One who transforms our lives so that, as we live, we look more and more like His Son (2 Corinthians 3:18). Jesus is the Lord of our life, and He’s the One who controls what happens. Period. Whether or not we believe things ought to have happened differently.

2. Live in Obedience to Romans 13

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (v.1-2)

Any authority placed over us, whether it’s our parents, a professor, or a president, the only reason they’re in that position is because God put them there, and, going back to leaning on His sovereignty, we ought to trust that He knows what He’s doing: even if the authority does not fit our definition of a leader, we should still respect the position they hold as an authority appointed by God.

3. Let God Change Your Values

This whole mess is NOT about our identity as Americans. It’s never been about our identity as Americans. Once we’re following Christ, we don’t even belong in this world anymore. Our identity is totally defined by Jesus and what He’s done for us and who He is. When God looks at us, He doesn’t see “Hunter, the American sinner,” but He sees Jesus and His perfect life and sacrafice  that has redeemed me from any other ties, those as deep as my sin, all the way to my nationality.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings  be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Looking at Romans 13, it seems like those in authority are held responsible for the way they rule, which means they are in a MUCH  more pressurized position than we as “the ruled” are in. So we need to be praying for our president, whether we’re happy about him being in office or not. Praying for him, as we should be for all people, will enable us to follow God more fully in word and deed as we live under his government. 

Breathe.

Don’t get carried away with the flurry and the feeling of the crowd and the media and the world in general. Think about your actions…think about the state of your heart, and let God satisfy your fears, eradicate your worries, and guard your heart and mind with His peace, which surpasses all understanding.

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Never Underestimate A Girl

Today I want to write about what God is doing in my heart.

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:3-5, ESV)

If you have any shred of feminism in you, you immediately cringe at certain pieces of this passage, maybe the entire passage itself. I know that even spending three years in New York City makes it hard for me to even consider most of this…or, it did make it hard.

When I came home at the beginning of this past summer (was it that long ago? Is summer that over?), I went to church on Sunday, and during Sunday school, my Pastor’s wife, Julie, had excitedly shared that her daughter, Sadie, had started cooking and baking in the kitchen. Her joy came from seeing her daughter grow into a homemaker.

Immediately, my thoughts attacked that joy. Now Sadie is being pigeon-holed into staying at home. She’ll be kept from doing what she actually wants to do and will have to be submissive and silent and unimportant and…

Woah.

It didn’t take me long to realize that something was wrong in my heart. So I drew on God’s Word to be reminded of the freedom He intends for women who stay at home, whether as wives or also as moms. For a while I reconciled it in my mind that God created the family unit in a way that made it so the woman, whether she had a career outside the home, or if she stayed at home, the woman would set the tone for the entire household. “If Mama ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy” and all that. Women should be able to be married and also have careers, but they should also be able to be home. The idea is having a choice.

But my thoughts still defensively drifted towards the career path. As in, the lie that women who stayed at home were somehow fooled into thinking this was a good thing, or they were being robbed of choosing how to live their own lives.

I see these thoughts as poisonous to seeing the world the way God sees it, but I know that a lot of America sees this as gospel.

Jacob and I have been going through a lot of pre-marital material. We’ve talked over everything five times, and then talked over the same things five times more. One piece of the material is a worksheet of sorts given to us by Jacob’s father, who I affectionately call Uncle Doug (don’t worry, he’s not actually my uncle). The preceding verse from Titus, including verses 1 and 2 of the chapter, was one of the passages from which questions were drawn for us to answer and discuss.

When I got to this page of the worksheet, I had been a sort of childless, unmarried, stay at home mom for about two months. God worked it out both circumstantially and in my heart to have me be without a job during the months leading up to the wedding. I had been the laundry-doer, dishwasher, vacuum cleaning lady, cook, and errand runner for my Mom and my brother and sister. I’d experienced a ton of freedom in being able to be available to my Mom and my siblings, to the Brocks, to my church family, even to Jake, though he’s several states away. I had so much time to spend with God, to grow, to memorize Scripture and pray for all of the people for whom I’d wanted to pray but never felt like I had the time to really sit and concentrate. Mom could come home and really relax…she could even make dinner at ease because everything else was done. I had started to see the power and freedom and joy that this position brought…and I began to wonder how anything else could possibly be better.

“Wives, submit to you own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

There’s that word. “Submit.” There have been several classes in which I’ve watched the faces of my classmates sneer as they’ve said this word. And I can understand why they’d feel the way they do…I have felt the same way before.

What I noticed, however, the more I read this passage as THE passage on having a godly marriage, is that this passage isn’t about the couple at all…It’s not about the roles of the man or the woman really. Paul even says so:

“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (v. 32)

It’s ultimately about Jesus. The way God designed the roles of men and women is not to hinder either of them, but to draw them both closer to Him, and to sanctify, transform, and free them from whatever they think they need. A freeing thought for me is that my worth and security and purpose is not found in Jacob. When I submit to Jacob, he is not my ultimate authority…Because I love God, and I desire to totally and completely give myself to Christ as being a member of His body, I will choose to submit to Jacob. Submission is a humble relinquishing of power and position for the sake of others. The thing I tend to miss? God via Paul asks husbands to this same thing, unconditionally, just as he asks the wives.

So what does this have to do with staying at home and being a homemaker?

Well, my desire in my walk with Christ is to follow Him and “offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,” to submit to Him in all things and be available to Him at all times and have all my focus be on Him. And if I am to submit to Jacob as the church submits herself to Christ, then I should seek to be available in a similar way to Jacob.

This is NOT to say that Jacob is God, or that he stands on equal ground with God. As with everything in life, God grows me in seeing the world through His eyes, from how I see my marriage, to how I see my family, to how I see finances, how I run the home, my attitude about life in general, to how I see people who walk past me on the street. God does not say that my husband is now taking His place in my life. At all.

For example: If I have a job outside of the home, that job will become a ministry ground for me. I will be seeking to love and reach out to the people I work with and will want to share that with Jacob, which doesn’t sound bad, of course. But if I’m taking this illustration of Christ to the church as husband to the wife, then it seems like this: I am doing my own thing and God is supporting me in that, which is contrary to what He desires for me. I’ve always seen the message of the Bible to be that I follow God, and He provides for me as I have a singular focus for Him.

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

But then the question is “Isn’t pursuing ministry at your job part of seeking first the kingdom of God?” Why yes, yes it is 🙂 But God has given specific instructions and principles for wives as they seek to follow God; part of following God is now submitting to and being available to do ministry with Jacob, and having a singular, united focus. As I seek to be transformed by Christ’s vision and mission on this earth, I should also be seeking to conform to Jacob’s vision for ministry here, to be his teammate, his ally, she who has his back when the battle gets ugly. I get to be that 🙂

Well…this will be an adventure 😀

 

 

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