Five Minute Friday: Mom

Along the way @ mlsgregg.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

I went to bed at 7:45 p.m. last night.

Par-tay animal.

Linking up with Kate and The Gang.

Go.

It’s the most a-awkward day of the yeeeeaaaaarrrrrr…at church.

“Happy Mother’s Day!” comes flying out of well-meaning, enthusiastic mouths seconds before the look of horrified realization – “Oh, craaaaaaaaaaap. You never carried a baby in your womb-pouch thing that you don’t even have anymore and does that maybe make you less of a woman and you haven’t adopted anyone that doesn’t have fur and I shouldn’t have said that and now I feel weird and did I make you feel weird and how can I get out of this please put me out of my misery right now I’m going to back away slowly and go get a doughnut.”

I nod. I say “thanks” and wish him or her the same in return. (Yeah, weirdly, lots of men). I’m sure a smirk crosses my face because the entire exchange amuses me.

And, oh, the Mother’s Day sermons. No matter how hard I try, I tune out. Or read the footnotes in my study Bible. Jael’s brief story is particularly interesting. Not because I’m angry or hurt. I’m not. I just don’t know why there must be special Mother’s Day sermons and services. Or any recognition of any secular holiday – Father’s Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, President’s Day, May the Fourth be With You. Isn’t the point of our corporate gatherings to worship the Lord? To focus on Him? Can’t moms and dads and just people be encouraged and uplifted in the normal course of that worship? Must the spotlight be shifted?

This is an unpopular opinion, I’m sure, but I don’t want church to be about anything or anyone other than God. I don’t like it when groups of people are invited to stand so all can applaud. Save it for another time, another place.

Between the above period and the “b” that starts this sentence, I’ve been staring at a blinking cursor for a good few minutes. Time is long up. I want to end this with some bit of wit or wisdom, but I haven’t got any. Just go hug your mom or your mom-figure. Or call her if she’s not close by. Because of course I don’t hate Mother’s Day and I don’t want to tear down moms. I love my Mom. The older I get, the more I appreciate all the sacrifices she made for me.

What I want is space for suffering. Space for the lack of the American Dream fulfilled. Space for weak bodies and complicated situations and marriages that have taken a beating. Space for tears. Space to think that women are insane for not using any and all pain medications available during labor because I’ve had surgery and ain’t nobody got time for that. Space to roll my eyes over the fact that every little thing in Western Christianity is oriented around children, around the family, thereby leaving out significant portions of the Body. Space to be the cool auntie with the good fashion sense who lets kids eat the candy their parents don’t allow. Space for questions. Space for bruises and blood tests and surgical scars. Space to raise my hands in worship, in an unspoken message that my Creator hears: I am not what many think I should be. I do not have what many think I should have. But You – You are enough.

Stop.

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Eshet Chayil

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

I wrote this post for the Far East Broadcasting Company Gospel Blog, where it appeared on March 19, 2015. These words are for all women this Mother’s Day, whether you take the “mom” title through biology, a blended family, adoption or by being a comforting, strong presence in the life of a child.

Proverbs 31 haunts me. The gal in that chapter…she’s like an ever-smiling Superwoman. She makes all the crafts on Pinterest and she makes them well. All her food is locally sourced, organic, made from scratch. She exercises daily. She wields her smartphone calendar with precision, making sure her kids get to all their events on time (meaning fifteen minutes before they need to be there). She makes good business decisions. She has all the blanks of her Bible study workbook filled in. She’s always nice, always ready to listen, always ready to open her home.

Her hair is always perfect and she probably never gets a zit.

She is overwhelming.

She is irritating.

How can I possibly be her? How can I possibly live up to this impossible standard?

Honestly? I kind of want to hit her.

I know that this chapter of Scripture is supposed to be encouraging. It’s supposed to teach me something. God is never about hitting us across the face, making us feel like we can never get anything right. He didn’t give us His Word to make us feel like failures. He draws us to Him, wipes the tears from our eyes and speaks life to our souls.

So why does Proverbs 31 have to exist?

There are several different interpretations of this passage. Some commentators take the words at face-value, seeing them as genuine praise for a real, flesh-and-blood woman. Others see this as an idealized allegory, referring to the Shekinah glory of God that dwelt in the holiest place of the Temple, the Sabbath day, the teaching of the Torah, wisdom, or the soul of each person. I am not smart enough to plumb the depths of each of these views, though all certainly have value. Personally, I tend to side with those who see the passage as being a blend of Proverbs’ praise of wisdom and continual warnings to men against immoral women. Essentially, these words stand as a capstone; pursue God’s wisdom and, if you’re a man reading this, pursue a woman who’s pursuing God.

This point is where I begin to unravel the Superwoman image. This is where I begin to understand.

Across the spectrum, each commentator hones in on the fact that Proverbs 31:10-31 stands as an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

It starts with a question.

Who can find an eshet chayil?

Who can find a woman of valor?

Sisters, let that settle on you.

Proverbs 31 isn’t about throwing the perfect party with the perfect food with the perfect decorations with the perfectly clean house with the perfectly managed money with the perfect skin and the perfect hair and the perfect outfit.

This is about bravery. Capability. Triumph. Courage. Strength.

This is about a woman who lives life, wherever it takes her, fully reliant upon the Lord. She “laughs without fear of the future” (vs. 25) because she knows Who goes before her. She knows Who holds time itself in His hands. She vacuums the floor her little ones crawl on because she knows Who has placed her in that time, that place, that season. She works diligently in that cubicle because she knows Who has called her to that job, Who has called her to live out the Great Commission in that context. She strokes the brow of a loved one, deep in the throes of illness, with grace in her hands. She covers the night watches in prayer, her anxiety moving her to fall before the throne of Holy God.

She is the woman stricken with cancer who praises the Lord. She is the barren woman who stretches out her arms to embrace all the children who cross her path. She is the woman battling depression with the Word of truth. She is the woman who gave herself away to many men, redeemed in virtue, brought to wholeness by Christ. She is the woman caught in desperation who cries out, “Save me, God!”

She is the woman who faces each frightening, amazing, lopsided, overwhelming, joyful, deep, boring, unforeseen moment on her knees, groaning in prayer. Sword of the Spirit drawn. Eyes alight with holy fire. Determined to see this thing through.

Sisters, Proverbs 31 is not some unattainable vision of perfection.

Proverbs 31 is about battle. Is is about choosing to completely trust God, to do whatever the work of the moment is, knowing that He blesses both the small things and the large things. The tiny steps and the big steps. The leaps across puddles and the leaps across oceans.

She is a fierce woman because she is lost in a fierce God.

She is you, every time you trust. Every time you ask for wisdom, for faith, for love. Every time you obey.

Eshet chayil.

Woman of valor.

My journey to faith. (15)

They Call Me Auntie

Gentle Reader,

Mother’s Day can be at the very least awkward for Infertile Imeldas. There is a whole range of emotions and thoughts associated with the topic, as wide and varying as the women themselves. Many people aren’t quite sure how to approach a woman who deals with infertility on a regular day, let alone this holiday set aside for celebrating mothers. It can be a tense mess.

As one of those Infertile Imeldas, I want to offer up some encouragement to those of you who live in this circle with me. I don’t at all wish to diminish the hurt and confusion that many feel, but I do want you to know that:

1. Your value is not determined by your uterus.

I don’t know why God allows some women to conceive easily and others not at all. I can’t begin to solve this mystery. However, I do know that you are a complete, whole, worthy woman. Eve was not a woman because she had children. She was a woman because that’s who God made her to be. Children are awesome, but there is so much more to the feminine identity, existence and experience than being able to carry one for 9 months. We are prone to forget that Eve was tasked with caring for creation just as Adam was – there were things that she was meant to do, that only she could do. Adam was incomplete without her. She was the final, climactic piece of God’s creation. She was not made only to bear children. She was made to reflect something of God that Adam didn’t.

2. You are vital in the lives of children.

There are so many kids out there who are desperate for a stable, loving influence in their lives. Or who just need someone other than Mom and Dad to talk to. Be that person. Reach out to those kids, whether they’re in your neighborhood, your workplace or your church. If you don’t have any contact with kids, volunteer somewhere. This world is a messed-up place and there are so many kiddos aching for love. You can give that to them.

3. You need to focus on the good in your life.

It’s so easy to become bogged down in disappointment. We don’t have the eyes of God, the eyes that see the whole picture. We can spend so much of our time wondering, “Why?” Even though I have come to believe that dealing with difficult situations and emotions, getting it all out on the table, is a good thing, at some point you have to let the crying cease. You have to make the choice to look up to God and around at what He has given you. There is so much to be thankful for! He has blessed you in so many ways! You can keep picking at the scab and let yourself become bitter, or you can enjoy life.

4. You need to find an outlet.

I don’t want to stereotype the gentler sex, but we are, in general, creative sorts. We need to be involved in nurturing something or someone.There are innumerable ways in which to do this. What are you interested in? What have you always wanted to try? What project would you like to tackle in your workplace? Don’t let that energy and talent go unused and wasted.

5. You are part of a family.

If you are married, never forget that you and your husband constitute a family. If not, you are still someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s cousin. Moreover, you get to play a fabulous part in the family of God: the Auntie! You get to listen, hug, kiss, spoil and love all sorts of children – and you get to send them home with the get cranky.

6. You are loved.

God is not punishing you. Let me repeat that, loudly: GOD IS NOT PUNISHING YOU. You aren’t being denied children because of some sin. Read John 9 if you don’t believe me. God adores you and has so much wonder and good in store for your life!

Above all, dear sisters, we must remember that our plans can’t hold a candle to His. We must remember that every “no” that falls from His lips ensures a greater “yes” sometime in the future. Maybe the doors will open for you to adopt. Maybe they won’t. Maybe one day, miraculously, you will find yourself pregnant. Maybe you won’t. Whatever does or doesn’t happen, we need to walk this road with our eyes firmly fixed on the One who intimately knows the way we are traveling. Let us each take His hand and grasp it tightly. We do not know where this journey will take us, but we must rest in the love and wisdom of the God who knows all.

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