Something stronger than pain engulfed me. Not just loss of happiness, but the loss of any sense of purpose. I had been Mrs. Interfaith Marriage for so long, I had no idea who I was or who I might be without that in my life. I had dreamed of getting an MDiv and becoming a chaplain, or getting a PhD and becoming an academic, but my post-abandonment dreams swirled around survival alone.
And then there was crushing loneliness. Few people will ever be able to contemplate the despair I felt on those mornings when I woke to an empty bed along with the realization that my husband had spent another night out with his female co-worker. My marital distress waned into post-marital melancholy, and from the mire of my grief, I could see no end in sight.
And then, the unexpected happened.
God was there, and he breathed new life into me. Out of the ashes of my marriage rose something fiery and determined and stronger than ever.
I’ve never understood how belief in traditional gender roles survives an actual reading of the Gospels. Case in point: when I thought about what the Bible specifically says about mothers (as distinct entities from fathers), this verse immediately came to mind:
“As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’
“He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.'” Luke 11:27-28 (NIV)
If God’s divine design for women is, primarily, for them to serve the world through the rearing of children, this would have been the place for Jesus to have taught that by affirming what the woman said. Instead, he corrects her: women are blessed not explicitly by mothering, but by discipleship.
The previous chapter saw a rebuff of other traditional “women’s work”:
“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” – Luke 10:39-42 (NIV)
Again, Jesus insists that discipleship is a woman’s true path. His rebuke of Martha makes little sense if, for women, housework and true discipleship are one and the same.
There’s nothing wrong with childrearing (love my kids) or housework (also love a clean home), and I don’t doubt that, for many women, true discipleship regularly involves both.
The wrong is in insisting on those as the paths that all or most women must follow.
Joy is a Christian virtue that I find especially difficult. When life is going well, you don’t need to be told to have it. When life isn’t going well, having it is nearly impossible.
The Bible tells us otherwise. It tells us to be joyful, even in tribulation (James 1:2-4). Gotta admit, still getting there.
What I do know is that, when I look back over my life at the times when I have been most filled with joy, I see that those moments occurred after painful trials. Moments like:
When I was accepted to my undergraduate school, having been rejected the first time I applied and having spent the previous six months trying to improve my high school résumé for the re-application.
When my son was born after an emotionally difficult pregnancy, and after 8 hours of laboring without pain medication.
When I finished my master’s degree in spite of my ex-husband’s abandonment.
I may not have always had joy while these things were going on, but once I overcame them, the joy I experienced was nearly overwhelming. I’m not sure this would have been the case without the preceding experience of pain.
The victory and promise of Jesus is that his people can and will, someday, overcome all things. Even death.
I’m old-fashioned about many things. I didn’t own a smart phone until 2014. I still believe in saving sex for marriage (and frankly, all of you “very serious” Christians announcing on your OKCupid profiles that you’ll have sex “within 3-5 dates” need to read 1 Thess. 4:3-8 and repent). And I love me a good, paper-and-glue book. I’m a proud member of Book of the Month Club (est. 1926) and they deliver me a hardcover copy of a 2017 new release every month.
I was also pretty stubborn about sticking to a paper copy of the Bible for daily readings. Until recently.
I was attending a small church in Tacoma in 2008. It was so small, it met in a yoga studio. There was an area for childcare, but my 2-year-old daughter had a lot of separation anxiety and could be difficult for the workers to manage, so I sometimes kept her in the main service with me. She would entertain herself by running from one end of the back of the room to the other.
One day, I mentioned to someone from church that I thought it was adorable when she did this. He frowned and replied, “Some people would find it distracting.”
I didn’t say anything, but my heart froze. Distracting. My disabled toddler was being distracting.
It’s been 9 years since that day. I now have two disabled children, and accusations that my children are difficult or distracting during church still periodically crop up. (more…)
I’ve honestly never understood people who take this position given that the Bible contains a very specific example of a woman preaching in public:
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to [Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus] at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38 NIV)
Some notes on this passage:
– The temple was both public and holy.
– Anna is noted as holding an authoritative calling (prophet). Paul said that the church was “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20) and that prophets were second in authority after apostles but before teachers and those with gifts of leadership (1 Corinthians 12:28).
– The text takes pains to establish Anna’s holiness. The wife of one husband (1 Timothy 5:9) then widowed, one who frequently fasted and prayed, and one who never left the temple.
– Most notably, Anna spoke about Jesus Christ not just to Mary and Joseph, but “to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” In other words, this was not some doting grandmother figure uttering a private prayer over a sweet little newborn. Her meeting with the infant Christ prompted her to turn and preach Jesus Christ to all those gathered there who were expecting a Messiah.
I honestly have no idea how complementarians and other hierarchists try to conform this passage to their anti-woman theology, but I’ll hazard some guesses:
These were the books that I read (or re-read) in 2016, and how I rated them. I set a GoodReads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books (2 per month) and exceeded that with a total of 27 books. 24 of those books were read between August and December. What I have found is that, since completing my master’s degree and Harper classes, I have a lot more free time for reading—and I am loving it.
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life  by Henry Cloud & John Townsend (Religion / Self-Help) – 5/5 stars
Essential Car Care for Women  by Jamie Little (Automotive) – 3/5 stars
Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life: The Chump Lady’s Survival Guide  by Tracy Schorn (Relationships / Self-Help) – 5/5 stars
Shadows of Self  by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 5/5 stars
The Bands of Mourning  by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 4/5 stars
Secret History  by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 3/5 stars
Road Rage: Two Novellas  by Richard Matheson, Stephen King, & Joe Hill (Horror / Suspense) – 3/5 stars
After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters  by N. T. Wright (Religion / Theology) – 5/5 stars
The Turn of the Screw  by Henry James (Horror / Suspense) – 5/5 stars
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  by Robert Louis Stevenson (Horror / Mystery) – 4/5 stars
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency  by Douglas Adams (Science Fiction) – 2/5 stars
Everyone has been saying that 2016 has been “the worst.” For me, it’s actually been a really good year. These were the ups and downs of my year:
Completed and Defended Master’s Thesis – I turned in my master’s thesis for defense on March 16th, successfully defended it on April 15th, and submitted the final copy for ProQuest publication in early May. The thesis was called, As God is, Woman May Become?: Women and the Mormon Doctrine of Exaltation, and I was very blessed to have LDS feminist scholar Maxine Hanks serving as an outside reader on my defense committee. I had been working on my thesis off and on for years, so it was a amazing to finally get it done.
Septorhinoplasty – Yup, that’s right, I got a nose job. (more…)
I had thought that by my current age, I would have a husband, three healthy children, a PhD, a house, a growing list of publications, and a career that I was proud of.
I don’t. I have a divorce decree, two disabled children, a master’s degree that took me 7 years to finish, a tiny apartment I can barely afford, a small list of publications, and a job that could be much better.
I was scheduled for a job interview for a promotion last week. I was practically walking on air all week prior. I did not have the job, but I had the hope of having the job in the very near future. Hope is a powerful thing.
The interview was scheduled for tomorrow. They called me late on Wednesday afternoon, just before the holiday, and cancelled it. (It wasn’t anything that I did, it appears they decided not to create the position after all.)
I’m still a lucky woman. I had a great weekend. I went shopping with my kids, ate out several times, went bowling, and saw an amazing movie (Arrival—no seriously, it’s amazing, go see it). I had Thanksgiving with my kids, decorated the tree, and got to hear my autistic son yell, “Look at that!” for the first time ever. It wasn’t so long ago that I never would have spent a weekend like this.
It was only 3.5 years ago that I had no job, my then-husband was spending all of his time with another woman, I was pregnant and had no idea how I was ever going to take care of two kids alone, and my credit wasn’t good enough to get even a tiny apartment by myself. I wasn’t thinking of publications and didn’t believe I was ever going to finish my master’s degree. Hope found a way.
And while I mourn for my children’s struggles, I know it could be worse. I thank God they are a least physically healthy. They are beautiful and loving and like to run up to me and yell “CUDDLE PARTY!” I have great kids.
The first Sunday of Advent is the time to reflect on hope. I have a lot of it.