Tomorrow Chris and I will be going out to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary, the weekend being more conducive to such things than a Monday, when the actual date falls. We are inaugurating a “competitive anniversary” tradition by engaging in the sport of bowling. Say a few prayers for him, as he’ll surely need encouragement after getting pounded into the ground.
I can’t believe that it’s been 7 years. Some days it feels more like 70, but today I wonder where the time as gone. Probably flown away to the same place that missing socks go, I suppose. It seems like just yesterday that I was anxiously clutching my father’s arm as we made our way from the dressing room, out to the garden and past the motorcycle accident (I kid you not) up to the doors of the chapel. I’ll never forget how he patted my hand and told me that we could leave and go get a hamburger if that’s what I wanted to do. The offer was tempting, but I moved forward.
I’m glad I did.
We don’t have a perfect marriage. In our first week together we had a fierce argument and I hid in the bathroom, sobbing. Not too long after I asked my mom if I could come home. She said no. I didn’t think that was very fair.
There has been agony. Adjusting to living apart from my family for the first time. Learning how to make a new home with this big, gregarious guy in 450-square feet of harvest gold and pumpkin orange awesomeness. Both of us sick our first Thanksgiving. Waking up on Christmas morning to the awkwardness that is establishing new traditions. Extended family tension on all sides. Chris’ descent into depression. Buying a house we couldn’t quite afford. Losing close friends. Leaving a church. My own struggles in the area of mental health. Broken down cars, overdrawn checking accounts, surgeries.
There has been fun. Locking myself out of the house in a snowstorm and having to wait for Chris to come to my rescue. Watching him compete in a hula dancing contest at a work function – and winning! Thursday evenings with popcorn and the NBC comedy line-up. Our failed experiments with short hair. Chris running, full force, through the fence he’d just finished putting up. A family of birds building a nest in our kitchen vent. Our dogs: Bugsy’s “cookie dance.” Blue’s obsession with the ball. Benny’s need for perpetual petting. Regular trips to thrift stores.
There has been sweetness. Taking walks together at dusk, not saying much of anything. Discussing our days as we make dinner together. Flowers for no reason. Little notes of encouragement. Pondering Scripture together. Praying. Sitting on the porch listening to the crickets. Secret (or maybe not-so-secret) glances across crowded rooms.
This relationship, this togetherness, takes a lot of work. A LOT. We don’t agree about everything. Each of us is convinced that the other is wrong most of the time. If we ever buy another house, it has to have a larger bathroom. There’s some passive-aggressiveness on occasion. He snores. I steal blankets. But in the hustle and bustle that is life, I am thankful to have a husband who makes this marriage a priority, who inspires me to make it a priority. There are days when we both think, “Really? You’re still here?” but those moments pass. When they don’t pass quickly, we talk about it. And usually end up laughing.
I have a great deal of respect for Chris. He works hard. He has a genuine desire to live a godly life and to be a positive influence on everyone he meets. He has a fabulous sense of humor. No man I know dresses better. He likes to learn. He builds things. He cooks (major bonus) and he doesn’t complain too much about doing housework. The sadness that dogs his days moves him to choose joy. He takes my innate pessimism and spins it to the bright side. Encourages me to have fun when all I want to do is yell at someone. And he never eats the last of the chocolate.
Seven years of hope, sorrow, laughter, struggle and growth. We are not the same people who made that covenant before God on June 17, 2006. We are…better, I think. Stronger for having experienced some intensely difficult things early in our marriage. Gentler with each other, less expecting of perfection. Possessing a deeper understanding of the reality that love is often more a choice than a feeling. Blessed.
Grace and peace,
Scripture is deep. I wish I had a better way of saying that, but there you go. There is no end to the treasures to be found within the pages. Perhaps more importantly, there is no end to the ways that God will speak to us. One moment, one verse, one eye-opening lesson. The next moment, same verse, different lesson.
I have long loved Psalm 37:7-8 -
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.
As we use “worry” and “fret” interchangeably in the impreciseness that is English, I have assumed that these verses address worry. Don’t worry about what other people are getting. Give things up to God. Wait for Him to act; He’ll always take care of you. Let anger and worry go because they only hurt you.
All of that is true. Last week, however, I decided to look up the original word for “fret.” There are four different Hebrew words:
Charah: used in Psalm 37:7-8. To blaze up, of anger, zeal, jealousy; be angry, burn, be displeased; earnestly, fret self, grieve, be (wax) hot, be incensed, kindle; very, be wroth.
Pecthetheth: a boring or eating out, hole, hollow. (Refers to a leprous decay in a garment).
Qatsaph: to be displeased, be angry, fret oneself, be wroth; to be full of wrath, to be furious; to provoke to wrath or anger; to put oneself in a rage, anger oneself.
Ra’am: to thunder; to make the sound of thunder, thunder; to rage.
Along with several Greek equivalents:
Athymeo: to be disheartened, dispirited, broken in spirit.
Ekkaio: to burn out, to set on fire, to be kindled, to burn.
Lypeo: to make sorrowful; to affect with sadness, cause grief, to throw into sorrow; to grieve, offend.
Merimnao: to be anxious; to be troubled with cares; to care for, look out for (a thing); to seek to promote one’s interests; caring or providing for.
(This list of Greek equivalents is not exhaustive. For more information, check out StudyLight).
As I pondered these words, it occurred to me that fretting is the ugly offspring of worry. I have yet to meet someone who struggles with anxiety who doesn’t also struggle with anger. The two are logical bedmates. When you are worried that nobody else is looking out for you, it’s natural to get angry. It makes sense to blaze wit bitterness. You’re trying to protect yourself, trying to prepare for every possible outcome. As you are seeking to promote your own interests, you don’t really have energy to promote anyone else’s, and, if they ask you to, you resent that. They have added to your burdens.
Don’t fret – don’t lash out. Don’t thunder. Don’t let worry eat a hole in you. Don’t rage. Don’t be offended.
All this anger stems from anxiety, and that anxiety is rooted in a disheartened, broken spirit.
I know this in my bones. When my husband leaves his things lying around, I get irritated. I snap at him. I make it a bigger deal than it needs to be – because I am afraid that he doesn’t listen to me. I am afraid that he doesn’t think I matter. I apply to his actions a meaning that isn’t there, because of past hurts that have torn my heart to pieces.
Brokenness to anxiety to anger.
Look what Jesus said He came to do:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. – Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2
A disheartened, broken spirit results in the oppression of anxiety which leads to the fires of barely controlled anger. Jesus came to set us free from that! He came to mend all the broken places, patch the holes in our hearts, pour into us real love and hope. My friend, let’s allow Him to do that work, right now. This day. This moment.
Let’s allow Him to begin the process of transforming our lives. I don’t know about you, but I am weary of the past dictating the present. I don’t have energy to plan for every outcome. I don’t want to argue with everyone about stupid things. What I want is trust that God has my best interests at heart, that He will promote them and that I can rest in His continual care. Imagine the freedom! Imagine the peace! Whatever is happening with other people, whatever they might be getting, I want to be assured that it’s all good for me.
I want to live in the riches of His grace, reject going back to prison, live wide-eyed in the world, dance in freedom and embrace His favor. I want that for you, too!
Grace and peace,
One of my hobbies is perusing church websites, particularly the websites of churches in my area. I like to see what other members of the Body are doing in ministry. I like to check out different programs. And I really like to read statements of faith.
As I was scrolling through one of these statements recently, I found an interesting section dealing with the discipline of psychology and the use of counseling. I can’t recall this being addressed by any other church whose site I’ve visited. Here is the statement:
We believe that modern day psychology has had a detrimental effect on Biblical counseling. In fact, we believe that most “Biblical Counseling” has become little more than therapeutic, psychological counseling. Interestingly, there is not even a mention of modern day counseling practices in the Bible. The Bible has no gift of counseling, and the idea of a person or persons regularly going to another individual for repeated meetings is not a concept found in the Scriptures at all. We do see the occasional interaction between individuals with questions and an associated or corresponding response; but the idea of a believer resting on and finding support in a person holding the office of counselor is not named once.
My initial reaction was to laugh. The Bible doesn’t mention the gift of being good with money, but I don’t see any church telling its members to avoid accountants. There is no mention of iPads or Wal-Mart in the Bible, but plenty of Christians make use of both.
The amusement faded quickly, though. It is true that anyone who visits a counselor can become dependent on her, and that that’s not a good thing, but the counselor with a solid foundation of faith is going to do everything she can to point the patient to God. I attended therapy for a little over a year; every one of our sessions closed in prayer, I was encouraged repeatedly to memorize Scripture and all of the focus was on God and truth. My bill might be settled, but there is no way that I can ever repay my therapist. She cared about me, took the time to listen and prodded me to a deeper faith. I don’t have any words to explain how much I needed that.
The Church in general and this church in particular needs to come to a better understanding of mental illness and the nature of suffering. We are supposed to listen to, encourage and lift each other up, but there are times when that just flat out isn’t enough. Therapists are trained to understand things like the chemical make-up of the brain, how past trauma influences the present and how we can subconsciously block painful emotions. Sometimes life is just too big, too much, and we need the help of a professional. Sometimes marriages hit incredibly rocky patches and it takes a third party to help sort out the issues. Sometimes kids get really hurt and can’t talk to anyone else. What shame is there in this? Why can’t God work through these people who truly desire to help others?
I know the example has been used a million times, but go there with me: You wouldn’t tell a diabetic to cease seeing the doctor, to stop monitoring his diet or to throw out his medication. Why do we treat mental illness any differently?
Grace and peace,
On Tuesday evening, the city council of the town next door passed an ordinance expanding existing anti-discrimination statutes.
From the Coeur d’Alene Press:
The proposed ordinance is aimed at protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) in areas of employment and public accommodations, such as restaurants and housing, by preventing people from discriminating against them solely based on “sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.”
That means, for example, under the new ordinance an employer can’t fire someone solely because of the person’s sexuality. Or refuse them service in a restaurant for the same reason.
Needless to say, there’s quite the storm. The comments on the above quoted article range from silly to outright nasty. I overheard someone say that she had “the right to discriminate” while discussing the ordinance’s passing with another.
A few days before the vote took place, a local pastor voiced his concern that:
This ordinance imposes upon the rights of one party or group in order to provide rights to another group or person, and therefore does not protect the rights of all people groups in Cd’A.
The 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America protects religious freedom, and “…prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion,” or “impeding the free exercise of religion…”
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…” and in the “Due Process Clause,” the United States Supreme Court in Meyer vs. Nebraska declared that United States citizens are free “to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”
Applied to the Christian for example, I would point out that Christians are not to be “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14). This ordinance would force a violation of the Christian standard and conscience by forcing the Christian citizen to submit to a law requiring the employment of, or housing of persons of conflicting values. This is a violation of our Constitutional rights.
The proponents will suggest that the ordinance will protect “religious institutions”, however, I will point out that it does not protect the rights of individual “religious” citizens.
Over 400 people attended the council vote. Testimony, much of it against the ordinance, lasted for 4 hours.
I’m disgusted by all this.
The comment about having the “right” to discriminate seems to sum up the opposition’s point neatly. Unfortunately, there is no Scriptural support for that “right.” We’re not talking about the simple recognition of differences. We’re talking “unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, esp. on the grounds of race, age, or sex.” I fail to see anything in the Christian ethical system that allows for this kind of thinking and behavior. In fact, Jesus says:
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? – Matthew 5:46-47
Is a Christian person supposed to speak the truth? Yes. Does that truth come across in the message “we don’t serve your kind here”?
And really, does any Christian business owner honestly think that all of the straight people who come through his doors live lives that are 100% exemplary? Is sexual orientation the mark of perfection? The man you served lunch to could be a child molester. The woman who works the cash register could be a drug addict. The couple who bought some chintzy souvenirs could be cheating on their taxes. Is one supposed to just assume that the crosses around their necks and the marriage certificate means that these people are striving to follow Christ? You know what they say about assumptions, right?
I don’t work the front counter at the library very often anymore, but I can tell you that I’d be fired within two shakes if I refused to serve someone because I didn’t like how they dressed, or what books they wanted to check out, or that their hair was an unnatural shade of blue. I can’t get snippy with someone because they ask me to help them find The Joy of Sex or the Anarchist’s Cookbook. I definitely haven’t liked every person I’ve come into contact with and I haven’t agreed with every viewpoint that’s come my way across that 12 inches of fake marble, but that doesn’t matter. I am there to do a job and, within those boundaries, I hope to be able to share the love and truth of God as opportunities present themselves. Refusing service or turning away from someone is neither loving nor truthful, and it’s certainly not the mark of watching for open doors.
The pastor’s comments about being unequally yoked suggest to me a lack of interpretive skill. From the IVP Commentary on this passage:
Certainly not all contact with unbelievers is excluded. Paul corrects just such a misconstrual in 1 Corinthians, when he tells the church that to have nothing to do with immoral people would necessitate removing themselves entirely from the world (5:9-10). It is a particular kind of contact with unbelievers that is in view. What kind, though? Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 52:11, where Israel is commanded to come out from them and be separate suggests contact of a compromising nature (v. 17). But what would constitute a compromising liaison? Would working with an unbeliever be forbidden, as Phillips (“do not try to work with them”) and TEV (“do not work together as equals”) suggest?
The command is literally Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. The verb heterozygew is an agricultural term that refers to the practice of yoking to a plow too unequal kinds of animals such as an ox and a donkey. This would suggest that unequal associations between Christians and non-Christians are what Paul specifically has in mind. Five synonyms are employed to describe the kinds of associations that are forbidden. Metoche (“have in common”), found nowhere else in the Greek Bible, and koinonia (“fellowship”) mean to partner or share. Symphonesis (“harmony”) signifies to be in agreement with or of one accord. Meris (“in common”) denotes a shared lot or portion. Synkatathesis (“agreement”) is commonly used of a decision arrived at by a group. Paul is clearly thinking of associations that involve a partnership rather than a casual or occasional working relationship.
The command focuses on the relationship between the believer and the non-believer. The pastor makes the assumption that there is no such person as a homosexual Christian. Well, is there such a thing as an alcoholic Christian? A drug addicted Christian? A promiscuous Christian? A Christian who steals? A Christian who lies? At some point the one who claims to follow Christ will be forced to deal with her sins, but it is a bold thing indeed to insist that a particular kind of sin automatically places one outside the fellowship of the Body.
The First Amendment does establish the freedom of religion, but is it really an exercise of worship to refuse to serve a homosexual? Does it prove something if you will not allow him or her to have a job within your company?
That leads me to my fundamental question: How on earth do you even know that someone is homosexual unless he or she tells you? You can’t ask someone that kind of question in a job interview and I wouldn’t eat or shop at the sort of establishment that asked me about my private life before offering service.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I fall on the more conservative end when it comes to the interpretation and application of Scripture. I do believe that what God defines as wrong is always wrong. But I just don’t feel a need to go around sniffing out homosexual people so I can tell them that they’re sinners. I’m too busy trying to deal with my own sins (believe me, there are plenty of them). When I read the Great Commission:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. – Matthew 28:19-20a
it seems pretty clear to me that my job is to tell people what God has done for me, and how the offer of salvation is available to them. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people of sin and to draw them to Himself (John 16). Time and time again He attests to the fact that He does this with “unfailing kindness” (ex.- Jeremiah 31:3, Luke 15:1-32, Romans 5:6-8). We abuse His unfailing kindness when we use it as an excuse to indulge in bigotry and hatred.
Why have we made homosexuality the biggest sin of them all? Why do we think it’s okay to look down our pretty little noses at these people? That’s what they are, you know – people. Human beings. With names and stories and likes and dislikes and hopes and dreams.
There are laws protecting me from discrimination, and I’m sure that some business owners would love to throw me out if they knew this or that about my life. But they can’t. Why should a homosexual person be treated any differently?
Grace and peace,