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Are Women Crazy?

In Biblical Womanhood, Sin on March 7, 2011 at 7:40 pm

STEP TWO: Spot the Signs (Missing Emotions)

One of the largest tragedies in my life is that in my attempt to avoid the stereotype of ‘craziness’, I began to despise emotions.

At some point I began to believe the lie that emotions were the root of ‘craziness’ and the source of disobedience in my life.  I began to trust in the heretical mantra: ‘just obey, it doesn’t matter how you feel‘.  It’s a great victory for the enemy when we begin to see emotions as the problem.  Our distorted view leads us to fight our emotions as if they are sin in and of themselves.  We begin to see moments when we are ‘unemotional’ as victorious when the reality is, our lack of emotions can be as sinful as our over emotionalism

Emotions are the grace of God.  They are the root of obedience.  They are part of His glorious design and where emotions are absent, our ability to reflect God’s glory is diminished.

As my man JE says:

“Without holy affection there is no true religion; and not light in the understanding is good which does not produce holy affection in the heart…no eternal fruit is good which does not proceed from such exercises…where there is a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notions and speculations with a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing truly divine in that light.”

Bold.  Edwards says that where there is knowledge of God without a heart affection there is no true ‘knowing’ of God.  The Bible says that our hearts testify to our treasure.  If God does not move your heart, it can therefore only be said that He is not your treasure.  The mark of a spiritual man vs a natural man is that a spiritual man can ‘appraise’ or value God rightly.  The demons know a ton about God.  The difference between us and them is that we treasure the things we know about God – they taste good to us.  God tastes good to us.  He stirs our hearts.

So, what are we to do with our barren hearts?  How are they a product of ‘craziness’ or insecurity?

If our hearts are deeply rooted and found in Christ, if we place our security in Him, then it will certainly spill over into our emotions.

A heart that is never moved is a heart that does not care deeply.  It is a heart that is locked away.

It may just be that out of pride or a need for security we have locked our hearts away.  Maybe you dislike emotions because they make you feel weak or out of control or foolish.  Maybe in places that are too deep for you to even recognize you are unwilling to trust God with your whole heart.

Here’s the deal.  A lot of us have shut down.  Somewhere along the way we began to confuse cynicism with a realistic view of the world.  We have become hardened.  We have become cynical with the world and cynical with God.  We no longer pray with tears.  We no longer experience joy like children in His presence because too may people and too many things have failed us.  In places we won’t talk about, we have a sense that God has failed us.

We see hope as a symptom of the naive; we see joy as a disease of foolishly optimistic people.  A heart that feels things deeply about God is not foolish or naive.  It is obedient and faithful.

I’ve been going through 1 Peter (and loving it fyi).  He’s talking to a bunch of people who are going through some pretty rough persecution and suffering.  his counsel to them is this:

“have…a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

He doesn’t call them to ignore the evil in others.  He says – look at the world in all it’s brokenenss and instead of hardening your heart, keep it soft.

I think we’re afraid that if we go through this life with a tender heart we are foolish and will be destroyed, but the call from Scripture is that we find ourselves so deeply in Jesus that we are free to be tender with the world without fear.  If our security is in Jesus we are free to give to others without expectation.  We are free to love those who hate us without fear of being wounded.  Our identity is secure.  We have nothing to lose – only love to give.

A couple of blog posts ago, a non-believing friend posted a comment that still haunts me with its accuracy.  He asked if I even enjoyed being a Christian. He said my portrayal of Christ “comes off like an advertisement for being abjectly miserable, oppressively guilty and constantly confused about your every act and thought”.  My first instinct was to delete his comment, or defend myself or justify my heart.  But that would have been pretty ironic since the post was about fighting the temptation to do such things. 🙂 sneaky God.

The reality is – my friend is right.  So much of the time my life testifies that I believe Jesus is real and true, but not necessarily good; not sweet; not exciting and delightful and a source of unfailing joy.

I am an inaccurate picture of the sweetness of my God.  I make Him out to be a burden.  May my dear and precious and faithful friend Jesus forgive me.  May He redeem my heart so that it can reflect that He is indeed better to me than life.  I pray that my hardened heart may be softened.  I pray that my inabilities in this area may lead me to worship a God of such sweet grace.

Even now, I imagine the angels gathering around our great God.  I imagine the discussion going on as they look down at my heart and my life.  I imagine them humbly and curiously asking the Father – Why this one, Lord?  Surely this one is too far gone…surely this one can be of no use to you… Surely this one has defamed your name enough!

And I imagine them worshiping God anew as He reveals – through me – just how deep His mercy is and how strong His Spirit and how mighty His grace to redeem even hearts like mine.

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Are Women Crazy?

In Biblical Womanhood, Sin on February 24, 2011 at 11:59 pm

STEP TWO: Spot the Signs (positive emotions)

What we affectionately call ‘craziness’ is actually just the symptoms of insecurity rising to the surface.  In our culture, insecurity means self-doubt; insecurity is what happens when you don’t have enough self-esteem or you don’t believe in yourself.

I am holding out for a different definition.  I want to define insecurity as the state of being not secure.  Insecurity is essentially what happens when you put your worth in something that is not secure; it’s finding your value in a place that is not secure.  Biblically speaking – if you put worth in any person, place or thing apart from Christ you are not secure; you are insecure.

If we listen to our culture, then we will associate insecurity with negative emotions.  We will begin to identify insecurity with a negative view of self – eg. you are insecure when you aren’t confident.  But that’s not the definition of insecurity.  You could be the most confident positive person in the world and still be placing all your worth in things that are not eternally secure and therefore still be desperately insecure.

Negative emotions flare up when the places we’ve placed our worth reveal that they aren’t secure.   Our sources of ‘security’ are shaken or threatened and so we have emotional outburst triggered by fear or panic.  If we push past our defensiveness and don’t justify or blame, we can exploit those feelings to discover where we might be placing our worth and value apart from Christ.  However, just because we don’t experience the negative emotions, it doesn’t mean that we’re not still putting our worth in things that aren’t secure.

Here’s the thing.  Any place outside of Jesus is not secure.  Any person or role or place you are putting your security is failing you, whether you can see that or not.  They may not appear to be.  They may appear to be coming through for you and they may be filling you with joy in every other moment, but one thing I am certain of: they are failing.  The joy they offer is fleeting and temporal and shallow.  The hope they offer is a lie.  The promises they hold that lure you in with whispers of acceptance and value and worth are only deepening the gaping hole of insecurity in the center of your being.

We may have just as lethal an infection of insecurity, that’s deeper and wider than we ever know, that’s killing us, consuming us from the inside out, but the symptoms might never show up in negative emotions.

It’s sneaky.  I think, for example, that I’m someone who doesn’t find my worth in my work.  I think I’m someone who doesn’t struggle with insecurity in the work place.  I don’t think I’ve put my worth or value in my abilities.  I’ve convinced myself that I’m secure in Christ because I don’t see those negative symptoms flare up.  I don’t see a lot of fear or anxiety or frustration or doubt or visible insecurity when it comes to my work.

But it’s just started to occur to me that it’s possible that might be the case because I get a lot of good results at work.  I get a lot of positive affirmation.  I don’t get a ton of negative feedback and when I do it’s always bookended with encouragement.

In the same way that negative emotions aren’t universally ‘bad’, positive emotions aren’t universally ‘good’.  I feel a lot of positive emotions associated with work.  And I don’t think that’s bad or wrong, but I have to acknowledge that it’s possible that I AM finding my worth in my work.  It’s just that instead of that revealing negative emotions as my source of security gets starved and shaken, it’s actually producing positive emotions as it gets fed and fattened.  If I place my worth in my abilities at work, then by definition I am insecure; I am putting worth in a place that is not secure.  And the deadly thing is – if I do well at work – that place may appear to be more and more secure, convincing me to put more and more of the weight of my worth into it, despite the fact that it is ultimately going to fail me.

Sometimes, negative emotions are a greater blessing than positive ones.  Negative emotions occur when we are reminded of what’s real: that there is nothing secure outside of Christ.  Some of our positive emotions might actually convince us to trust even deeper into the lies that approval or power or earthly love or pleasure can offer us security.    There is a very real Enemy who will be pleased to increase and affirm you through the approval of your peers or the deepest love of a spouse if that causes you to put your trust in a place other than the blood of Christ.  There will be many who spend this life feeling secure and do not realize their desperate condition until they stand before God.

In the same way that our negative emotions can point us to the places we are placing our trust other than Jesus, our positive emotions can serve us as the same indicators.   We can track those emotions to the places of insecurity in our lives.  In this season you may not get the gift of negative emotions that offer you evidence of insecurity lurking under the surface.  But there are always signs; there are always indicators that will help us discover our sources of insecurity.  For some of us in certain seasons, watching our positive emotions will reveal our insecurities.

What makes us happiest?

Ask yourself this question and answer honestly.  It’s so sneaky because there are so many good and beautiful things in this world around us that offer us so much joy.  And we are creatures who are designed to enjoy life and one another and the blessings that we see this side of Heaven.

But the Bible is clear about the difference between the happiness we enjoy in God and the happiness we enjoy in even the sweetest places and people this side of Heaven: they do not compare.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44)

I love that story.  That’s what it means to be a Christian.  It’s not a calculated exchange – this world for the next.  It’s an act of joy; an overflow of a heart that values Jesus beyond any treasure in this world.

It’s good to enjoy your spouse and your family and your job and your community, but Jesus says some absolutely crazy things about the way we should feel for all this in comparison to Him.  He says that when we look at the way we feel about the greatest earthly treasure we have, it should look like hate compared to the way we feel about Him.

Jesus says crazy things.

Jonathan Edwards says that to be a Christian is not just to be happier in God than anyone or anything.  To be a Christian is to get an entirely new sense of happiness.  It’s the incredibly bold and offensive claim that for those who are in Christ there is a joy being experienced that cannot be grasped by those who do not know Him.

Paul speaks of dying as gain because Jesus makes him happiest.  He speaks of things in this world as trash in comparison to knowing God.  Could you call death gain?  Could you say that and mean it?  Could you, would you, sell everything you own out of joy of Him?  Could you look your family and friends in the face and say with the psalmist: whom have I in Heaven but Jesus?  And earth has nothing I desire besides Him?

It’s a simple but tragically revealing question: what makes us happiest?

Of course, none of us are fully there.  So, exploit the painful answer to that question to help you find the root of your insecurity.

  • Does the thought of a spouse or the love of your spouse make you happiest?  Maybe you are putting your worth in being wanted by a human.  That is not a secure resting place.
  • Does the approval of your boss fill you with unspeakable joy?  Maybe the joy of their approval or the promise of being seen as valuable is a place you’re finding your value.  It’s not a secure resting place.
  • Does the thought of the joy of seeing your children graduate cause you to desire  Jesus to delay His return?  Maybe you are putting your security in your children; finding your identity in your children.  It’s not a secure resting place.

Please hear this: God designed you to find joy in the love of a spouse and the encouragement of others and the fruit of your labor.  The things above are not bad things.  But, it’s not generally bad things that convince us to trust in them for security, it’s usually good things; it’s usually things that look pretty stable and safe.

It may be that you really do find your joy in the treasures in your life purely out of an overflow of love for God, but you’ve got to admit – sometimes it’s hard to tell.  If we want to know if our joy is truly an overflow of security in Him there are some really helpful indicators.  We can just look at our joy and see if it lines up with what the Bible says about those who find their security in Christ.

Does your joy ebb and flow? The Bible is filled with impossible sounding commands; commands like rejoice constantly.  In Philippians, Paul says ‘rejoice in the Lord always’.  How could that be possible?

A joy that doesn’t ebb and flow is a sign that you are finding your deepest worth in Christ, because Christ doesn’t ebb and flow.  A constant rejoicing in your heart is evidence that your joy is in Him.  He is your source of security and He is not failing or coming through more based on the day of the week.  God’s affection for you is as great today as it will always be.  If your hope is truly and deeply in Him, the overflow would be a steadfast joy.  (By His grace alone, right?!)

Is your joy circumstantial? While writing that same letter to the Philippians, Paul’s sitting in prison.  He’s having a rough time of it but he says that he’s rejoicing and that he will continue to rejoice because he knows that Christ will be honored.  He goes on to tell them the key to this rejoicing – put no confidence in the flesh.  The kind of joy that Paul speaks of is only possible if we will remove any weight of worth that we are trusting into places that are not secure and trust fully in the security that comes in Christ.

Can a shift in circumstance sabotage your joy?  Can a shift in circumstance produce more joy?  The joy that we have access to in God is not threatened by circumstance.  It’s a joy that rejoices in suffering. It’s a joy that doesn’t abandon you when your marriage falls apart or your dreams collapse.  It’s a joy that is sourced so deeply in Christ alone that it will be a safe and secure refuge in all circumstance.

Does your joy revolve around you or around God? Look for the common denominators in your joy.  Even if your joy is in good and great and Godly things, does it also include your own exaltation?  Does it always include you being made much of?

As Paul writes to the Philippians from prison, he’s watching a bunch of people take over his ministry. Their motives are jacked up.  They are literally sharing the gospel out of a heart that wants to take advantage of the fact that Paul’s in prison to get ahead and to hurt him.  Paul’ response:

“Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

How could Paul say that?  He could say it because his security was found in Christ alone.  Therefore, His joy wasn’t contingent on his own exaltation, but Christ’s.  Are you happy when Christ is exalted through another ministry?  Another church?  Another Christian?  When God ordains circumstance that exalts His name at the expense of yours is your joy still as secure?

When I first became a Christian it was so much easier to discern this line.  The things that I did in the world were so clearly enjoyed for my sake alone and not for Christ’s sake.  But the life of a Christian is a little more confusing.  I spend my days working for a church.  When I have success at work it’s usually because Christ’s name was lifted higher.  How can I tell if the source of my joy is His exaltation or my own?

When I sing worship songs on Sunday I am filled with joy.  But how can I tell if the joy I feel is a result of the glory of God that I see rising up in front of me or if it’s a result of seeing my own worth lifted up – being the object of His affection.

In Religious Affections, Edwards quotes this:

“There are such things in [our faith] which, when a carnal, unhallowed mind takes the chair and gets the expounding of them, may seem very delicious to the fleshy appetites of men.”

Gosh.  That makes my heart skip a beat.  There are great doctrines and truths written in the pages of the Bible that even if I cared nothing for God I might feel my heart quicken at the sound of them.  Someone who doesn’t love God at all could be filled with joy at the sound of the wonders of all He has done if they were at the center of those things.  I cannot imagine any more devastating realization than the thought that all of my ‘worship’ for God and all of the affections I experience for Him are ultimately worship of self.

This isn’t designed to make you panic, it’s just designed to make you test your heart.  There is only one person I know who finds their security fully in the greatness of God.  And the great news is that His righteousness is wrapped around me.  He is my refuge in the moments when the darkness of my heart causes me to tremble.

The goal of tracing our joy back to its source isn’t to make us feel bad about ourselves.  And if it results in that kind of discouragement it’s probable that we’re finding our confidence in the flesh.  The goal of pressing into these things is so that we can fight to put our worth and value in Christ alone.  The heart that is found in Him experiences more joy than the heart that runs after any offer of temporal security tossed its way.

Make no mistake – God made you to feel joy.  It’s not the shallow joy that creation offers, but the infinite joy only a creator can hold out.  Clive Staples says it better:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

The life of a Christian is a life of unspeakable and unshakeable joy.  It’s joy that is fixed in Christ and therefore doesn’t ebb and flow, it’s not circumstantial and it isn’t centered on us.  If we watch the peaks of our joy sometimes it will help us see the root of the things that provide us solace from insecurity.

Blessings of Singleness #6: The Pain of Misplaced Shame

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Singleness on August 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Okay.  Apologies for going dark for a couple of weeks on this blog.

The problem with me is that I’m a lot like Peter.  Some days words just come out of me and I hear ‘blessed are you, fabs. you have no idea what you’re talking about but God is speaking through you.’  But some days the only words that come out of my mouth are met with  ‘get behind me Satan’.

And on those days, by God’s grace, I try to blog less.

So, now I’m back.  Hopefully ready to affirm that Jesus is the Christ through my thoughts on singleness.

There is a pain I have been noticing in singleness; the pain of misplaced shame.

There are two types of shame.  One is good.  It’s shame for something that dishonors God.  This shame is the grace of God in our lives that leads us to repentance.  But there’s another shame that is misplaced.  This is shame for something that we feel dishonors us.  Shame for things that bring no dishonor to God.  Shame for things like noses that are too big or teeth that aren’t perfectly straight or singleness.

Every single in the world knows what I’m taking about.  It’s the shame you feel when someone exclaims out loud ‘why are you still single???’ and inside your head comes the shame: people are only single if they have some flaw.  what’s mine?

It’s the shame you feel when you overhear another conversation that speculates on how that beautiful girl could be single and inside your head comes the shame: it’s no mystery to anyone why YOU are single.

It’s the shame you feel when your confession of sin is met with the counsel ‘you don’t want to be married till you’ve conquered this sin anyway’ and inside your head comes the shame: I’m too sinful to be a good wife.  Is marriage just for the godly?

Of course this shame is painful.  It makes every offhand comment about singleness a stab.  This shame makes every marriage sermon leave you feeling like an insecure failure.

Every woman in the world wrestles with insecurity.  Married women don’t feel less misplaced shame than singles.  Ask any woman who has had issues with infertility.  Ask any mother who isn’t sure where to send her kids to school.  Misplaced shame is at the root of every defensive response, it’s in every whisper of gossip, every cry for approval or indifferent hardened heart.

While painful, misplaced shame is a blessing because it forces us to trust the gospel, not just for a future salvation but for our identity here and now.  If we don’t acknowledge the blessing of this pain, we will give misplaced shame a terrifying power in our lives.  We will make the tragic mistake of allowing it to lead us to believe that we are victims instead of sinners. If we aren’t careful it will lead us to seek affirmation from others instead of leading us to repentance.

Every ounce of misplaced shame is an offense against God.  It’s a deceleration that He is wrong about us.  Every shred of shame about our appearance is a pronouncement that God is a deficient creator.  Every sliver of fear that we’re not good enough is a shout of unbelief in the sufficiency of the atonement.

We will waste our misplaced shame if we attempt to quiet it by justifying ourselves or seeking justification from others.  If we seek justification in ourselves we will constantly be trying to prove ourselves to the world.  We will be tragically afraid of failure. We will find ourselves defensively proclaiming the ‘betterness’ of singleness to anyone who will listen because we think if we just speak a little louder we will silence the shame inside of us.

If we seek justification in others we will find ourselves seeking friendships and relationships where people will comfort us by telling us how wonderful we are.  We’ll try to conquer our shame by speaking badly of others or pointing out their failings.  We’ll seek pity from those around us, and we’ll do anything to secure their approval.

There is only One who justifies.  The glorious grace of the misplaced shame we experience in singleness is that it will not leave us till it drives us to Him.

We will waste our misplaced shame if we attempt to quiet it by denying our weaknesses instead of the deep truths of God.

Here’s the deal.  I’ve got enough crazy in me to give most people a run for their money.  I’m more emotionally schizophrenic than David.  I’m more stubborn than Peter.  I can say, with full assurance, that I would have a good chance of winning in the ‘worst of sinners’ category when up against Paul.  And I have no place in Scripture that assures me that none of these things is playing into my singleness.  God, for whatever reason, doesn’t find it necessary to tell me that my singleness has nothing to do with any of my personal flaws.

So here’s what I don’t  need.  I don’t need those around me to affirm that I would be the best wife ever and that my singleness has nothing to do with my own shortcomings.  Because if those were the words I needed to silence my shame, they would be recorded for me in His complete and sufficient Word.

What I do need is someone to point out that every single thing (even my issues and certainly my singleness) is ordained by my kind and gracious Father for my good.  What I do need is to hear that when I confess my sin He is just and faithful to forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness and any lingering shame is my declaration that His sacrifice just wasn’t enough to cover that sin.  What I do need to hear is that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and anyone who disagrees with that (myself included) doesn’t dishonor me, they dishonor the creator who holds galaxies in His hands.

The gospel in which we stand is great news.  It offers us a truth that will speak worth and peace and value into our deepest insecurities.  It offers us better hope than a good body or a sweet disposition or a great hair day.

Let your misplaced shame prompt to quiet your heart and listen.  Don’t be stilled by the words of your husband, peers, employers, friends but the Words of God alone.

Hear the gospel:

We are not worthy because we are beautiful or because we are married or because we are single.  We are not loved because we are intelligent or sweet or kind or gentle.  We are not valuable because of anything we bring to the table.

We are His.

If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  Shall any of our insecurity?  Shall our singleness?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Blessings of Singleness#2: The Pain of Freedom

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Singleness on July 10, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Okay – this may be a hard sell – but there is a unique pain in singleness in what the world affectionately calls ‘freedom’.

As a single woman, I have the ‘freedom’ to make my own decisions about where to go and what to do and there aren’t a lot of people implicated or effected by those choices.   I think this is sometimes something that others are tempted to envy about singleness: the freedom to just leave a place without any obligation; the freedom to make dreams for yourself and act them out without anyone asking you to be considered in your planning.

In my heart I believe in the rightness of binding our lives to one another in such a way that we move through this life in unison.  And there is a considerable pain in the facing the reality that tomorrow I could go anywhere or do anything without it effecting anyone on a profound degree.  I have a strong desire for my decisions to matter to someone.  I have a strange desire to spend my life making someone else’s calling become a reality.

I have these godly desires yet my decisions are seemingly made alone.  And the conflict between what I want and the perception of what I have creates pain.  It’s easy to convince myself that I have this pain because my heart wants something so biblical.

And this pain is such a huge blessing because it reveals that I’m a total idiot.

First, let me say that if singleness provides us with the opportunity to live out dreams without submitting them to anyone and make decisions without ever encountering interference, then we are not walking in the Christianity we see in Scripture.

When Paul talks about the freedom of singleness as a blessing, he’s not talking about the ability to do whatever you want whenever you want without anyone saying anything.  He’s talking about the freedom to submit every single moment to the leadership of Christ without a middle man.  He’s talking about the opportunity to go to the ends of the earth and to spend your life for the gospel and to die to self without distraction for the sake of the Father.

We will waste this pain in singleness if it doesn’t lead us to evaluate if we are truly living under the absolute kingship of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  We must ask ourselves if we are experiencing the pain of no one caring what we do because we aren’t living as if Someone cares what we do.  It may be that we are experiencing the sorrow of living out our own dreams unchecked, because we are not being obedient to the call to come and die and get new desires and new dreams that belong to our Father.

The pain we experience in this area testifies to our true desires.  If what we want is someone to care what we do, then rest assured – single and married – we have that.   But the pain reveals that we actually want something else.  It’s not that we want to be led.  We want to be led in the same tangible way our friends are led.

In 1 Samuel the Israelites go to Samuel and ask for him to go to God and ask for a King.  They explain that all the other nations have physical kings – men who go with them into battle and lead them and direct them and tell them what to do, but not the Israelites – they’re ‘stuck’ with God instead.  They don’t have a tangible representative ruling over them.

Crazy Israelites.  I am SO glad I’m nothing like them.  (sarcasm).

The Israelites aren’t foolish for wanting someone to lead them any more than we are foolish when we long to submit our destiny to someone.  The Israelites are foolish for looking around at their neighbors and thinking that what their neighbors have is better just because it’s more tangible.  News flash America: what is tangible in the here and now isn’t always better.

The pain I experience because no one cares where I go on a Friday night doesn’t exist because no one cares where I go on a Friday night.  That pain exists because the Person who cares about where I am on a Friday night isn’t as tangible as the person who cares about where my married friend is on a Friday night. I experience pain because I covet instead of trusting that my God has given me what is best.

Whatever our circumstance or stage of life we are prone to this coveting comparison that afflicted the Israelites.  Married folks are prone to covet the ‘freedom’ of singleness just as singles are prone to covet the constraints of marriage. It’s odd because the lordship of our King doesn’t shift with our stage of life.  In both we are joyfully called to lay down our lives for the reward of knowing Him.  This may play out differently but don’t be deceived: there is no such thing as a Christian whose life is their own.

If my true desire is to have my freedom constrained in love – no fear – that desire has been met and met in abundance.  But as long as my desire is to have what others have – I will never be free of this pain.  And I – like the Israelites – will live each day rejecting God as my King.

And that causes a new pain; a better pain.  I don’t want my life to testify that my King isn’t good enough.  I want my life to testify that I trust Him.  And if He brings a husband into my life, by His grace it won’t change that testimony.  I want to submit to a husband, not because I believe that the guy has any idea what he’s doing, but because I have learned through this pain in my singleness to trust my God to lead me even when I’m confused about what’s happening.  I want to trust His leadership so much that whether He leads through a donkey or a husband I will follow.

We will waste this pain if it doesn’t lead us to repentance.  Repentance is turning and trusting.  So turn and trust.  Take your gaze off your neighbors and the other nations that may have a tangible leader and fix your eyes on the author and perfecter of your faith.  Confess that you – like the Israelites – have rejected Him when you’ve questioned the manner He’s designed to lead you.  Turn back in faith that He is a better King.

In quietness and trust is your strength.  In repentance and rest is your salvation. (So says that crazy Isaiah.)

Women: Redeem Emotions

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Sin on February 20, 2010 at 4:32 pm

So this is the fourth sin tendency of women and the last I’m going to walk through…unless… you guys tell me some more to process through!

4. The Sin of Over Emotionalism

Crying right now as I write this.  Just kidding.  Not that it would be wrong.  Crying is not wrong.  Okay.  I should start over.

Proverbs says that the heart is deceitful above all else, and that the Lord will ‘try the reins’ of our hearts.  So, I’m going to define over emotionalism as a heart without reigns.   The assumption of this verse is that with the knowledge that our hearts can be sneaky, you and I should not work for our hearts, our hearts should be guided by some sort of wisdom and reason in us.

Women seem to have the gift and the ability to feel things deeply.  They seem to be able to make a connection between a truth and their hearts almost instantaneously, and I’m going to argue in a minute that this is one of the most precious things about women.  The thing is though, when these hearts run our lives without any reigns held by the truth, we are in trouble.

Here are two things I’ve seen happen when our hearts are calling the shots:

1. Apathy or Disinterest in truth. This is the tendency we have to avoid things that speak to our minds and not our hearts.  We find that our interest in God is based on how He makes us feel, so worship (when it’s good) on a Sunday is great, but if it’s the wrong worship leader, we’ll leave because we just don’t feel it when he sings.  Our worship of God becomes contingent on how we feel.  Or, we’ll listen to someone else (like Matt) unpack the Bible, but we’re not going to read it ourselves because ‘we never get anything out of it’.

We tell ourselves that we can just love God and not worry about all that weird ‘theology’ stuff that some people care about.  This produces a crop of women who have zero love for the deep things of God, are not based in truth and therefore are unable to speak wisdom or truth, fight sin effectively, and most importantly it produces a crop of women who are unable to know (and therefore really love) God.

Jesus died so that we might know God, so that we might have a relationship with Him.  It’s not cute or sweet to not care about the doctrines our God loves.  If I sat down with my husband one night and shared with him that I wanted to tell him something about myself which might be hard for him to hear, and he responded ‘babe, I love you but I just don’t need to know about you’, most of you would call that inconsistent.  But that’s what we do with God.  He has died so that we might know who He really is, but most of us just look at Him and say – ‘I love you, I don’t want to hear about that though.’

God is ready and able to teach you about Himself.  Open the word and trust that even when you don’t ‘feel’ an amazing response, God is at work.  If you’re not sure where to start, ask someone.  If that sounds terrifying than remember that your insecurity and your feelings shouldn’t control your relationship with God.  Knowing God is the only thing out of all the things you fill your days, months and life with that really matters.

2. Being led by feelings. This is when we are led by feelings instead of truth in the decisions we make and the paths we choose: who we date, where we go to school, how we spend our alone time, what movies we watch… Shortly after I was first a Christian I became involved with a non-beliving guy.  Great guy.  Didn’t love my Jesus.  But when I was with him we would have amazing conversations about God and about faith and I was sure I could feel God’s presence.  I cared about him, and I didn’t believe those feelings could come from anywhere but God.

Looking back – I can see that I wanted something and I used my feelings as a justification for why I should pursue that thing, but at the time it was really hard to see what was true.  My feelings made it impossible to know what was right.

There’s a reason God wants to test the reins of our hearts.  Because we should have some reins.  We should know that our hearts are deceitful.  God speaks through His word.  He does that because our hearts are sneaky and susceptible.  There are other forces in this world that hold sway over our hearts and they can’t be trusted.

I’ve had the ‘feeling’ that the guy I was dating was the guy I was going to marry maybe 5 times.  Two options: 1. God gave me that feeling and lied.  2. I was wrong.

Based on what the Bible teaches about God’s faithfulness and my sinful heart, I’m gonna go with number two.

You have to know that your heart can be wrong.  You have to lead it with truth or it will lead you into places you don’t want to go.

Now, this is important: all of our weaknesses are generally our strengths used against us.  So, when I first learned that my heart was evil, my response was to despise feelings.  I didn’t want anything to do with emotions.  I would ‘obey, no matter how I felt’.

But listen up gang.  That’s impossible.  Obedience without feeling is disobedience.  God cares about our hearts and He longs to redeem our emotions.  There are a billion places in Scripture where we are commanded to ‘feel’ a certain way.  Therefore, if we throw the feelings out, we will render obedience impossible.

Feelings matter.  God doesn’t want children who know the truth, but don’t love it and feel it.  He wants you to delight in Him, enjoy Him.  He wants you not just to pursue holiness, but prefer holiness!  He calls us to enjoy purity because it’s His kindness to us.  He wants us to hate our cold hearts that don’t feel as much as we hate those emotions that call us to be slaves.

  • which end of the spectrum do you fall on?  have you renounced feelings or are you a slave to them?  Spend some time repenting for either one.
  • when was the last time you had an emotional outburst?  Did you feel entitled to that outburst or have you repented?
  • do you press into the deep things of God?  If not, why not?  what are some things you can do this week to be more intentional?
  • are you making any decisions based purely on your feelings?  Below is a good way to test your decision:
  1. Is there anything in the Bible that prohibits or challenges your behavior?
  2. Sit down with 3-4 people in your close spiritual community.  Do any of them have any hesitation about what you’re doing?
  3. Pray for God to change your heart and to lead it in truth.  Do you have a peace?  Is this not only acceptable, but the BEST way you can think of to glorify God?

If any of those 3 questions don’t come up with favorable answers I would stop.   If number 1 is a yes – you are in sin.  If number two is a yes, don’t ignore or overlook or rationalize away your biblical community.  they were put in your life for just such a time as this.  If you’re not in a situation yet, get 3-4 people around you and develop such deep relational trust that when they speak – you listen.

Our feelings do matter – they just aren’t in the driver’s seat.

Our God has emotions and He feels things deeply.  Women are this amazing reflection of that.  We care, we are compassionate, our hearts break.  And God delights in that.  He give us new hearts, that are able to seek Him in the midst of their feeling and sculpt those emotions into honoring reflections of His own heart.

Women: Redeem Persuasion

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Sin on February 19, 2010 at 5:56 pm
So far we’ve covered passive interaction, insecurity & covetousness and now….

3. The Sin of Manipulation

Sigh.  This sin should just start with one fat sigh.

Manipulation is when you want something and there are circumstances or people between you and what you want.  You don’t want to directly disobey God or the people who’ve told you no, so, you ‘manipulate’.  Instead of waiting for God, you find a way to work your way around the obstacles to get for yourself what you want.

There are parts of us that long to be rebels and just directly disobey, but for a lot of us this brings with it too much guilt and shame.  We don’t want to break the rules and go against the people who lead us, so we find a new alternative.  Manipulation is our way of getting what we want without overtly disobeying.

There are three ways types of manipulation women struggle with (and probably way more, but I’m using my heart as a case study here..)

  1. Emotional manipulation
  2. Forceful manipulation
  3. ‘Womanly’ manipulation (I couldn’t think of a better name for this but I’m open to suggestions!)

Let’s start with Emotional Manipulation.  So, you have something you want but circumstances or people stand in your way.  You don’t want to just go and get it if it means clearly disobeying God or man, so you find a way to emotionally manipulate the people and circumstances around you.   Emotional blackmail, pouting, crying and creating a situation where you try to make people (or even God) feel like you are being ‘wronged’.

This is so deeply hidden in my heart that I can do it without even realizing.  If a coworker unintentionally hurts my feelings and I want an apology, instead of repenting and seeking to develop in our communication skills or prayerfully surrendering to God, I will get totally silent until they ask what’s wrong.  Then I say ‘nothing’ in a tone that communicates ‘everything’.  And I will continue this cycle until I get what I want.

Most of the time this isn’t intentional.  I don’t think women sit around thinking – if I cry at this point in the fight my husband will come and comfort me.  I think it’s more subtle. I think we have an arsenal of emotions at our disposal that work for us.  And when we’re in situations where we can’t have what we want we convince ourselves that we really have been ‘wronged’ so that when we convey this, we aren’t being deceptive.

Do you ever (even jokingly) try to make someone feel bad for not being able to hang out with you, take on a certain ministry obligation they don’t feel called to, or do a favor for you?  Why are you trying to change their minds?  And is emotional manipulation the right tactic?

Next is Forceful Manipulation.  This is where you don’t want to disobey, so you think you can convince the obstacle to move by force so that you can have free access to whatever it is you want.  Let’s say you are married and you want something that your husband thinks is unwise.  Forceful manipulation is the way we women can convince ourselves we are submitting while launching a campaign against him.  After enough berating, nagging, pressing and arguments he will change his mind and we will be free to get what we want without any feeling of disobedience.  We can convince ourselves we are submissive and trust his leadership ….after all…we didn’t go against his will, right?

The truth is, if you force the issue enough, most men will concede because the argument is more drama and stress than they can handle.  I’m not saying this is right, I’m just saying even as a single I’ve seen how effectively I can make employers, teachers, co-workers change their mind after enough forceful manipulation on my part.  But this is not respectful and it’s not obedient and it’s not trust.

Finally, ‘Womanly’ manipulation. Awkward title I know.  This doesn’t mean using our ‘women’s troubles’ as grounds for manipulation (cause that would probably fall under emotional manipulation).  What I mean by this is there are things that are unique and precious about women.  These things are in us to bless and encourage and affirm men.  This manipulation is when we use these things to get our own way and seek our own interests.

So, singles, this could be the way you dress on a Sunday: seeking to get attention.  What you want is a guy to be into you, but you don’t want to ‘break the rules’ by being overtly in his face, so instead you put on a shirt that you know accents certain parts of you, basically trying to entice him to sin so that you can feel wanted.

Or maybe you’re married and you use sex as a tool to getting something you want.  Or maybe you just become extra flirtatious with your husband in order to be more ‘persuasive’.

So, here are a couple of questions to think through:

  • What are the things in your life that you want?  Make a list (big and small)
  • What are the obstacles or people in your life that have told you no?  Think through your leadership – church, work, government, family, God.  Are there any of these things that they have said no to?
  • What are the ways that you try to manipulate them?  What are the ways you try to manipulate God?

Here’s the deal.  I am a woman specifically so I can reflect specific aspects of the character of God.  There are aspects of Christ that I alone can reflect because I’m a woman.  And every ‘no’ and every ‘obstacle’ exists precisely so can reflect that to the world.

Without obstacles between you and what you want there would never be a need for a trust that transcends action, and without that you would never be able to reflect Christ’s perfect obedience.

Christ trusted His father.  Even when He was being handed over to death by ‘leadership’ that was filled with sin and hatred for God, He didn’t try to manipulate His way out of it.  Because He believed the truth that God was sovereign over every heart.  God holds the heart of kings in His hand and He turns them where He wills.  There are no arbitrary obstacles in your life between you and the things you want.  There are only God given opportunities to trust and let go.

Women: Redeem your desires

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Sin on February 19, 2010 at 1:54 am

My thoughts on the sin tendencies of women continues…

2. The Sin of Covetousness.

Of all the things I see in the evil recesses of my heart, the root of covetousness often seems to run the deepest.  This is the part of a woman that feels a deep insecurity that is concealed with vain gossip or comparison or indulged with self-pity and bitterness.

This is the part of the woman that cannot find contentment until something about their circumstances shifts.  They have a hard time celebrating with those who are experiencing a joy they lack, and they can’t enjoy what they have because they are too busy looking at the blessings others receive.

In the book Undefiled the writer talks about insecurity as one of the most damaging things to the intimacy of a husband and a wife.  His theory, as a counselor who has seen the insides of a million marriages, is that there are two things that can destroy marital intimacy.  One is pornography – which distorts and disables the viewers ability to taste the good things God has given.  Another (and one that we someone have made a lot more acceptable than the last) is the sin of insecurity and comparison.

The writer basically proposes that every time a woman compares her body to another woman’s she feeds into the monster of insecurity (in the same way that watching porn feeds the monster of lust).  And that monster of insecurity robs her of her ability to believe her body is the perfect body designed for her husband, and that in turn, robs the marriage of healthy intimacy.

wowzah.  imagine if we fought insecurity the same way we expect others to fight pornography?

All of our weaknesses are distortions; they are good things gone horribly awry.

There’s something beautiful in the design of women that God is able to fully redeem.  Through Christ, we can have a heart that fully embraces the scriptures’ command to be content in all things because God has said ‘never will I leave you nor forsake you’.  At least that’s what Ms. Elliot tells me – I’m not quite there yet myself.

Here’s the deal.  God has secured our righteousness and acceptance in Christ.  We have a guaranteed advocate.  We have the approval of God.  We have a promise that we will never be left by the only being that we need.  This is an anchor to the soul. It should free us up to trust that all the circumstances of the day are working for our good and His glory.

If we believed this, we would be robbed of the need to put other women down or belittle them in order to elevate ourselves.  We would no longer have to dwell on what we didn’t get or attempt to secure for ourselves attention or approval.

Our insecurity results in fear, vanity, pride, arrogance, jealous, pettiness, cattiness.

Contentment would result in us being women who are spiritual, trusting, supportive, hospitable and graceful.

I want this so desperately.  I see how damaging my insecurity and my comparison is.  I want the quiet and peaceful heart that is able to trust all leadership because this truth is so secure: if God is for me, who can be against me. If God is for me, I don’t need to panic about what I’m missing out on or how I’m being rejected.

I would be free to trust.  I would be free to count others as more significant than myself.  I would be able to celebrate with other women, encouraging them without being threatened or panicked about how pretty, smart, talented, gentle and submissive they are.

I wouldn’t have to take stock of every wife I meet and measure myself against her to figure out what it is that I’m doing wrong.

sigh.

How do you know if this is something you struggle with?  Well, I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t struggle with this.  But good news gals, we aren’t slaves to fear any more.  We’re children of God.

So, pursue God.  Believe He can meet your needs.  Believe that His approval is the approval you need.  Get people around you who you can be honest with about this struggle and who will encourage you – not by telling you how great you are, but by telling you how great GOD is.

I long for Jesus. I long to be live as a child – free of this fear.  I pray for that.  I believe that God will answer those prayers.  Cause He’s just that kind of God – gracious and merciful.

Women: Redeem Passivity

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Sin, Uncategorized on February 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm

So, in case you missed the memo, over the next couple of days I’m going to walk through a couple of sin tendencies I think we women struggle with.  Let’s get started…

1. The Sin of Passive Interaction.

Recently, I’ve been processing with a dear friend of mine about the value of relational trust.  A relationally trustworthy person is one who can communicate clearly, speak encouragement and truth in love.  A relationally trustworthy person is one who deals with conflict in a direct, graceful and sincere way.  They state expectations clearly and receive correction humbly.

For some reason, women have a tendency towards passive (or occasionally passive aggressive) communication.  When their feelings are hurt they pout, or play the victim, waiting for someone to pursue them and seek them out to pursue what is wrong, instead of seeking healing in the Lord and then pursuing forgiveness in their own hearts.  We have a tendency to nurse our own entitlement and bitterness with self-pity.

And some people pitch biblical womanhood as being passive.  But, the Bible speaks a little differently.  In Proverbs 31 we see a woman who:

  • works actively
  • ministers actively
  • speaks actively

But somewhere along the line, women started thinking that what it meant to be ‘kind’ was to avoid direct communication and gossip rather than sincerely and graciously dealing with their own sin and conflict with one another.

I so long to be a woman who is ‘affirming’ instead of passive.

I love that word.  Being a biblical woman doesn’t meant you take on a ‘useless’ role.  It doesn’t mean holding back and not acting, instead it is the action of affirming.  It’s the part of a woman that values the friend, or the husband more than they value that persons approval, and out of that they are able to sincerely approach and confess and share and exhort.

“ In the heart of every fallen man is the self-doubt that wonders, “Am I man enough to climb this mountain God has called me to?  Can I fulfill my destiny?”  A wise wife will understand that question at the center of her husband’s heart.  And she will spend her life answering it, communicating to him in various ways, “Honey, I believe in your call.  I know you can do this, by God’s power.  Go for it.”  In this way, she will breathe life into her man.”

This is what it means to affirm.  It means to be able to see in someone what it is that God has wired and designed them to do and actively seek to enable that to be a reality.  Wives, this is your role with husbands.  Moms, this is your role with children,  but it doesn’t end there.  To some degree, women are called to be ‘affirming’ with co-workers, leaders (in the ways that are appropriate to their relationship), female friends and ministry partners.  To affirm means to take a step of action and develop healthy and Godly encouragement of the calling God has placed on the lives of those around you.

A couple of was to evaluate if you are affirming or passive:

  • When your feelings are hurt or you are frustrated, do you communicate directly, or do you tend to ‘vent’ to someone else?
  • When was the last time your friends and close relationships offered you spiritual feedback?  If you can’t remember the last time someone spoke into your life, or you spoke into theirs, maybe you need to cultivate an atmosphere that is open to humbly receiving exhortation.
  • Are people constantly failing to meet your expectations?  Are these expectations ever communicated directly and clearly?
  • When you have a friend who is walking into sin, do you love them enough to speak gentle correction, or do you avoid and hope someone else steps in?
  • Do you ever enable gossip by listening to someone ‘vent’ about a situation without encouraging them to engage the involved parties directly?
  • Do you ever say ‘yes’ to something you can’t commit to, or answer ‘maybe’ when you already know the answer is ‘no’ simply because it’s difficult for you to be direct?

So, next steps?  Get excited!  As women we are designed to be affirming.  That means God is working in you to produce that.

I’ve recently met a gal who is so great at this and her friendship has been one of the biggest blessings and challenges of my life.  She is amazing at seeing the Godly potential in every person she meets.  She believes that God can change hearts and she believes the most loving thing she can do is speak truth in love.

And I’ve watched her have conversations with women that should be awful and awkward and impossible, but they’re just not.  They’re affirming.  Women walk away from her feeling encouraged.  Because they can see the truth.  They can see that if she loved them any less she’d stay silent.  If her need to feel approved, if her love for self, was greater than her love for them, she’d walk away without a word. But she speaks honestly, sincerely and directly because she loves.

After all – this is what God does with us.  He communicates directly.  He gives us His word, which cuts to the core, but everyone who has ever been convicted knows how different conviction feels from condemnation. It’s evidence of God’s love.  Conviction is how I know I’m His kid.

What do women have to do with biblical manhood?

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Sin, Uncategorized on February 18, 2010 at 4:01 am

Great sermon Sunday at the Austin Stone.  If you haven’t heard it, I recommend going here.  Loved hearing Matt challenge men and love the elevation of biblical manhood that’s happening in our body.

Coming out of the sermon, I weirdly had women on my mind.  We have so many great and amazing women in our body, but whenever I hear Matt bring the heat on men, it is so crazy how I find myself and other women responding.  I feel the self-righteous ‘you get ’em Matt’ in my heart, and I hear the same thing in surround sound from the women around me. I hear complaints about how ‘immature’ the men around us are, and I hear claims that our sins and our issues would be fixed if men would just be men, and I hate that.  Cause I’m pretty sure that the root of my sin is in my heart not in circumstance.

I think the best way for women to encourage men to be biblical men might just be to embrace what it means to be biblical women.

I say this with all the love in my heart: ladies, we have not arrived.

We don’t have a platform to stand on and nag men about how they’re failing.  We’ve got plenty of work to do in our own hearts. In fact – the very way I am hearing women respond (myself included) confirms that we women have a couple of dangerous sin tendencies of our own.

Instead of thinking through the list of men I know and trying to peg their weaknesses, I thought it might be more productive to think through what this looks like in my own heart.  I’ve been wrestling for sometime what it might look like for me to press more into how God has wired me as a woman.

So, (with the help of John Piper, Wayne Grudem and Ronda Chervin), I tried to think through some of our tendencies as women and what those tendencies might look like when redeemed.

Over the next couple of days I’m going to flesh out FOUR different sin tendencies that I see in myself and other women.  Check out the preview below and stay tuned!!

1. Sin of Passivity

2. Sin of Covetousness

3. Sin of Manipulation

4. Sin of Over Emotionalism