Glitter, Fluff and Pink Pages

Heavy

Gentle Reader,

Someone recently asked me what I want my “brand” to be.

Yeah, I’m not in marketing. I don’t know. Maybe “lovable curmudgeon”? Or “tough outer shell hides big gooey center”? Perhaps “read the Bible, people, before I flip this table over”? Or “holy moly, she’s intense and I’d better back away slowly”?

Everything and everyone is a commodity, it seems. Figure out your audience, who you want to reach, and mold yourself to that.

And if you don’t fit any mold?

This is not the first time I’ve written about this topic, so clearly it’s under my skin. I saw something on Twitter the other day – really wish I had taken a screenshot of who said this, but I didn’t, so please direct me to the source if you’ve got it – a few little lines that pointed out that we assume that a man’s perspective is neutral. A man can, and should, write to and for both men and women. If, however, a woman writes, we assume that she’s writing for women only.

That bugged me.

Made me think, too.

How many men have studied the book of Ruth? The book of Esther? Have gone through and carefully picked out the stories of the heroines of the faith, cherishing them as they do the tales of David and the Apostles?

I don’t have answers to those questions. I do wonder, though, how many men subconsciously shrug their shoulders and think, “Nah. Those are chick stories. Nothing there for me.”

Except it’s the word of God.

Of course I’m not claiming that I or any other female writer is on the same level as Holy Scripture. You’d probably find charred ground where my body used to occupy space if I did that. What I am claiming is that this weird divide in the Church runs deep. It’s more than squabbling over whether or not a woman can preach, which solid, orthodox Christians can reasonably disagree on. (For the record, I think complementarians are wrong, but they think I’m wrong, so it’s all good). It’s this bone-deep belief that women don’t have anything of substance to say. That a man can’t possibly learn anything from a woman because “she doesn’t get it.”

But I, a woman, am automatically expected to adjust pronouns and situations in my head when a man preaches or writes. I am expected to “get” what he’s talking about when he relates a theological concept to, I don’t know, a football game or working on a car. (Yes, super broad and stereotypical).

What is that? Why do we do this?

See, my mind is full of more than glitter and fluff. I want to write about, learn about, teach about concepts and stories that are found in other places than the “pink pages” of Scripture. Not that glitter, fluff or pink pages are bad. I’m a fan of glittery shoes and pins, I love me a fluffy blanket and nobody is ever going to convince me that Ruth and Esther are boring or “light.” But I can also discuss theories of the kenosis. I can tell you about the times the Holy Spirit speaks to me when I’m folding laundry. I wrote a book exploring the intersection of suffering and theology. (Shameless plug. Girl’s gotta pay those bills, you know).

In no way do I wish to diminish my brothers. I want to see men functioning in the full freedom and gifting that God has blessed them with. That shouldn’t come at the expense of the sisters, though. I want us to step up and embrace who and what God has made us to be as well (and that really does extend beyond nursery duty).

There’s this chapter in Scripture, Hebrews 11. We call it the “Hall of Faith.” And it is. But it’s also the “Hall of Freaks and Weirdos.” You think Noah let the fact that nobody had ever seen rain keep him from building the boat? You think Joseph was concerned about his branding, how it looked when he told his people to take his bones back to the Promised Land? You think Rahab was worried about losing her clientele when she hid the spies and threw herself into the mercy of God?

We thrill to these stories because they are of people, just like you and me, who dared to follow where God led them. While none of them were perfect (Abraham gets some serious side-eye from me), the overall pattern of their lives was one of focusing on Him. They weren’t worried about an audience, about metrics, about statistics, about who should and shouldn’t be doing what. He said “go,” and they went. As simple as that.

This is what I long for in the Church. How I would love for us to shed the language of “tribe” and “role.” How I ache for us to be still and seek His will. How I wish we would stop trying to put a Jesus veneer on what the world around us is doing and just be what He wants us to be – committed, obedient, loving.

Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be great if we stopped erecting artificial barriers? If we stopped believing, “He/she can’t speak into my life because I only let this type of person do that?” If we stopped crafting articles and sermons based on what we know people want to hear and instead speak and write as God commands?

Sounds wonderful to me.

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The LORD Your God in Your Midst: A Meek and Humble People (3:12-13)

The LORD, the Mighty One

Gentle Reader,

Sometimes we are forced to grapple with words and concepts that conflict with what we know to be true of God. Such is the case today. We are going to dig into words that will help us make sense of these beautiful, hope-filled verses. (Note: All original words and definitions can be found at StudyLight, using “Original Language Tools”).

“I will leave in your midst
A meek and humble people,
And they shall trust in the name of the Lord.
The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness
And speak no lies,
Nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth;
For they shall feed their flocks and lie down,
And no one shall make them afraid.”

– Zephaniah 3:12-13 (NKJV)

Meek

The Hebrew for “meek” here is dal, meaning “low, poor, weak, thin.” Webster’s defines “meek” as “having or showing a quiet and gentle nature,” but adds confusion when it goes onto include the phrase “easily imposed on.” Does God want His people to be beaten down? Does He want to break their spirits?

The holy habitation of God (“holy hill”) is in the midst of the meek and humble (vs. 12). He will not dwell with the arrogant but must first humble and purify the people of all that is contrary to his nature. (1)

I have heard meekness defined as “strength under control.” To be meek is to choose to submit oneself to another. It is to actively avoid oppressing or harming other people. It is a refusal to allow the passions and temptations of the moment to have mastery.

Meekness is directly related to trust.

…the one who is guided by God’s spirit accepts God’s ability to direct events. … Meekness is therefore an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are wisely seen by the individual as only part of a larger picture. Meekness is not a resignation to fate, a passive and reluctant submission to events, for there is little virtue in such a response. …. The patient and hopeful endurance of undesirable circumstances identifies the person as externally vulnerable and weak but inwardly resilient and strong. Meekness does not identify the weak but more precisely the strong who have been placed in a position of weakness where they persevere without giving up. (2)

Judah was a small nation. Population numbers shrank during Nebhuchadnezzar’s campaign of terror. Then the years of exile, which for some caused the sting of memory to fade and the comfort of the familiar to settle in. When Cyrus the Great set the people free, Ezra and Nehemiah led a much-diminished company, for some chose to stay behind. While attempting to avoid casting too wide a net, for God clearly used those who did not return to Judah for the prospering and protection of His people (see the book of Esther), we might think of these as having a general attitude of “unmeekness.”

You see, the meek learn the lesson. Their bodies may be broken, but their spirits aren’t. They may have lost every outer sign of position and favor, but they come to know that none of that matter. They come to understand that self-rule is a disaster. They see that God alone knows what is best. They lay themselves at His feet in the middle of the exile and the difficulty and the longing and beg forgiveness. They offer themselves to Him as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).

God does not break us for the sake of breaking us. He doesn’t desire we be defeated or function as automotons. Meekness is all about placing ourselves in His hands. Placing ourselves under His authority. When we learn to trust God and bring all of our gifts, talents and strengths to Him as an offering of obedience and worship, that is meekness.

Humble

Here we have the Hebrew ‛âniy, derived from ânâh, meaning “to afflict, oppress, humble, be afflicted, be bowed down.” We could easily misinterpret this, as with meek, to mean that God wants to destroy people and then hold them in some sort of autamotonic servititude. This could not be further from the truth.

Biblical humility is grounded in the character of God. The Father stoops down to help the poor and needy (Psalm 113:4-9; 138:6-7); the incarnate Son exhibits humility from the manger to the cross (Matthew 11:29; Acts 8:32-33; Philippians 2:5-8). (3)

Just pause for a bit and dwell on the fact that God humbles Himself to help and save you and me.

He doesn’t have to do that.

What does it look like for us to be humble in return?

As the absence of self (Matthew 10:38-39; Luke 9:23-25), it is a bankruptcy of spirit (Matthew 5:3) that accrues no merit but depends solely on God’s righteousness for salvation (Luke 18:9-14; Luke 18:15-17). … Intimately associated with the fear of the Lord (Psalms 25:9; Psalms 25:12-14; Proverbs 15:33) … A person must not claim honor for self (Proverbs 25:6-7; Luke 14:7-11) but have an unassuming attitude (Romans 12:3). Jesus’ teaching and life illustrate this perfectly. He humbled himself as a servant (John 13:1-16), even unto death ( Isaiah 53:7-8; Acts 8:32-33) in obedience to the Father ( Philippians 2:5-8), who highly exalted him (vv. 9-11). … The Lord rewards the humble with wisdom (Proverbs 11:2). He does not ignore the plight of the humble and contrite (Isaiah 66:2;Isaiah 66:5) but encourages the lowly and afflicted of heart (Isaiah 57:15 ; 2 Corinthians 7:6). (4)

Humility is found in realizing that the world does not revolve around one’s belly button. It is both the exact opposite of arrogance and the exact opposite of self-flagellation. Humility is a correct understanding and estimation of self in relation to others and, more importantly, to God. It is neither overestimation or underestimation.

A proud person will not bow her head or bend her knees. She sees the world either as something to be conquered by her in her exceptionalness or as an entity that “owes” her something, again because of her exceptionalness. She is her own god. She can save herself.

God opposes the proud through one simple yet profound statement, a revelation of His character: “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). His existence flies in the face of everything the proud believes about himself and the world. He demands recognition, not because He needs an ego-stroking but because worship is what we are made for. Harmonious relationship with God, which naturally extends to harmonious relationships with others, is the original design.

It has been said before but it bears repeating: We all worship something. We’re all slaves to something. Some piece of our souls, perhaps a piece buried way down deep, yearns for connection with the Divine. Only the humble person will find it.

Unafraid

Finally, chârad, “to tremble, quake, move about, be afraid, be startled, be terrified.”

At the end of this phase of existence, peace will cover the earth like the warmest of blankets. No longer will there be any cause to tremble. Because everyone who will live in the presence of God will be meek and humble, there will be no bullies. No intimidation. No jumping at things that go bump in the night. No shaking hands. No chill up the spine at the sound of a wild animal.

These words of Zephaniah’s cannot apply to the present moment for either God’s people the Jews or God’s people the Christians. There is much that can cause trembling, especially for those living in Israel today. Unease, unrest, bullets, bombs. Peace does not cover the earth.

Once More

And yet it can cover our hearts.

How we long for the day when we will be unafraid! I know I do. Desperately. I call to mind the words of Paul, words I love and hate all at once:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

– Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV, emphasis mine)

That little word, let? That’s meekness. That’s humility. That’s taking all the things that make us tremble and throwing them at God’s feet, then crawling up into His lap and trusting that He will keep us safe – even if that safety looks nothing like we expect it to.

Once more, it is the “already” and the “not yet.” A siren blares down the street and I know that there is no complete peace on earth. Someday. It will come.

Until then, there can be peace in you and me.

Reflection

  1. Read Psalm 37. What do you learn about meekness? Humility? Peace?
  2. Read Proverbs 16:1-9. What do you learn about meekness? Humility? Peace?
  3. Read Matthew 5:1-12. What do you learn about meekness? Humility? Peace?
  4. Read Colossians 3. What do you learn about meekness? Humility? Peace?
  5. Are you meek? Humble? Full of peace? What do you need to do to cooperate with God in developing these qualities in you? (Don’t condemn yourself. We’re all works in progress. I sure am).

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Sources

(1) Asbury Bible Commentary (under the “study this” tab)

(2) Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology

(3) Ibid.

(4) Ibid.

For all entries in The LORD Your God in Your Midst series, go here.