By the Grace of God, Never Again

Gentle Reader,

Oh yes, You shaped me first inside, then out;
    You formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    You know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, You watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before You,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do.

If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.


– Psalm 139:13-16, Ephesians 2:10, Galatians 1:10c (MSG, Phillips, CSB)

James tells us that not many should become teachers, for teachers will be held to a higher standard. Today I wonder if that doesn’t begin here and now, with the heaviness of the Spirit’s kind conviction, when you realize that there’s a part of you that still doesn’t believe. That still doubts.

I love to teach. I can’t help but teach. Maybe that’s why I feel such soaring joy when I’m around the teenagers; they have the most bizarre questions about the Bible and I love that. I love watching them begin to learn how to grapple with the text themselves. I love passing along the hermenutical skills I learned in college because that degree was dang expensive and needs to be put to use somehow. I love their steps of faith, large and small. I love encouraging them to live boldly, to be courageous in God and who He made them to be.

Ah, teacher. Teach yourself.

Born once, on a hot summer afternoon. A body that’s never quite worked properly. Living out John 9:3 long before I understood what that meant. Born again, on another afternoon when the sun burned so brightly through the bedroom window that my crayons melted a little. Right away in love with Jesus, content to sit on the swings at recess and talk to Him.

Flesh and spirit have wandered there and back again in the intervening years.

I read the words of the Psalmist and the Apostle and my heart twists. I know that it is the Holy Hand touching the tender place. I want to run, as I often do, but this time…this time I stay. I sit with the pain. Yes, Lord. I haven’t believed. I have declared Your goodness to others but have wondered if You are good to me. I have despised myself. Not the sin that You call me to hate, but the person, the woman You made. Father, forgive me. Help my unbelief.

Wretched companions, doubt and loathing. When we hold their hands, we are unable to grasp the scarred hand of our Savior. This doesn’t mean He’s left us – praise Him for His faithful patience! – but it does mean that we can’t move forward. Can’t live as He wants us to. Can’t keep our heads up and our eyes focused on what matters.

And me, I have to do that. I have to fix my gaze on Him.

Because teaching, the thing that He has called and gifted me to do, is not a fast-track to popularity. Or at least it’s not when the message that burns inside your chest isn’t one that people want to hear.

By the grace of God, never again. No more do I wish to walk around afraid of other people. It is impossible for me to serve the Lord wholeheartedly when I’m bound up in that. No more do I wish to apologize when no apology is needed. Just as there is room for you, dear reader, there is room for me. And no more will I reach for the “delete” button, consumed by terror and moved to compromise where no compromise should exist.

No more do I wish to be anyone other than who God made me to be.

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Five Minute Friday: Where

Gentle Reader,

I am not energetic. I know I am not energetic. I’d like to be. The spirit is there. The flesh is stupid.

But sometimes, I get excited and let myself run around.

Inevitably, the crash.

It hit last night.

Kate says: where.

Go.

“Woman,” Jesus said to her, “why are you crying? Who is it that you’re seeking?” Supposing He was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve carried Him away, tell me where you’ve put Him, and I will take Him away.”

– John 20:15 (CSB)

This is one of my favorite scenes in the Gospels. All of Jesus’ friends were devastated by His death. It was not the end they were expecting. In a darkened room, doors locked, Peter sat, his betrayal playing on a tortuous loop in his mind. John, the youngest, probably tapped his foot incessantly, full of nervous energy. Everyone else in various states of contemplation and distress. The air thick with the heaviness of mourning.

The women?

They go out.

They didn’t scatter when Jesus was arrested. They didn’t run from the foot of the Cross. Now, they moved toward the epicenter of their grief.

Then Mary, who had been tormented by demons for years before a commanding word from Jesus set her free, stayed. After the other women had left. After Peter and John, shocked by her announcement that the tomb was empty, had been to investigate. Her mind couldn’t comprehend what her eyes saw.

She doesn’t immediately recognize her Savior and Best Friend. She just wants to know what happened to His body. She’ll take it. She’ll care for it. One last act of love and devotion for the Man who saw beyond her agony, who lifted her out of the pit.

How was Mary going to handle the dead weight of a man in his early 30s? Where would she take the body? What would she do with it?

Then He says her name. Gently, I imagine, but with all the authority of the One who fashioned her in the secret places.

It wasn’t about where she could take Jesus.

It was about where He would take her.

Stop.

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The Words Don’t Reach

Gentle Reader,

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name

The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down

If you see [her] in the street, walking by
[Her]self…have pity

You knock me out, I fall apart

We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable

– “It’s Quiet Uptown,” Lin-Manuel Miranda

Someone died.

I’ve been staring at the blinking cursor for a good few minutes, unsure how to go on. Or if to go on. But, blast it all, this is how it works. How I work. Something happens and I am compelled to put words to it. The words that I can’t speak, the ones that get caught somewhere between my mind and my throat, the ones that are released only through my often ink-stained fingers. The psalmist tells us that his bones grew old when he kept silent. I feel that.

A weekend of euphoria. Flying high.

Practically perfectly paced for a crash-landing as the reality of brokenness rears its ugly head once more.

And it’s a moment that the words don’t reach, even as I strain for them. Even as I grapple to make sense of what I logically, rationally know I will never understand.

What do you do with that? When you know you’ll never understand, when the opportunity for restoration has passed? When you’ll never have the important conversation or hear the acknowledgement? When you’re still dealing with the destruction, the ripples of which have spread far and wide?

I sit at Jesus’ feet and I tell Him that I don’t know. I don’t have the answers to these questions. I’m not even sure that I want Him to answer them right now. I just want to lean against Him, wrapped in holy silence and a love that requires no speech in its expression. He doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, He welcomes women like me to just this place, just this position, for it is here that we best learn.

Triggered. It’s a word I despise. It’s been abused and misused. People use it to silence constructive, valid opposition.

But here I am, the switch flipped, flashing back in my mind to every scene. Every interaction. Wondering what I should have done, could have done, differently. A deep, gnawing anguish in the pit of my stomach. The fear that every woman has, no matter how much healing she has experienced, that maybe, just maybe, she really did bring it on herself. Ask for it. By being too beautiful or too smart or too different.

Too…womanly, with the curves and the softness and the hair and the smile.

Frightened by what God designed and delights in.

Because you have been treated wrongly.

I suppose I should just get over it.

I wish it was so easy. I long for it to be so easy.

God, You were there. You saw it all. You know what’s true and what’s false. Please, reveal that to me. Help me, Father. I feel stupid and selfish for asking. I don’t even know why I’ve written this vague thing on this public platform. But maybe somebody else feels the same way. Maybe somebody else had the wind knocked clean out of her lungs in the space of a few seconds. Maybe he knows what I mean here. I know You do. Help me. Help them. Help us.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.

– Matthew 5:4, 7 & 9 (CSB)

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Go Ahead, be the Smart One

Gentle Reader,

She was an intelligent and beautiful woman…

– 1 Samuel 25:3b (NIV)

This little character comment is tucked into a story of foolish stubbornness and near disaster. David, not yet king and on the run from Saul, decides to kill a man and his entire household after this man refuses him the hospitality so prized in that culture. An extreme reaction on David’s part, yes, but the situation could have been avoided if Nabal hadn’t lived up to his name.

Enter Abigail.

She stands in stark contrast to the man she married. Her quick thinking preserved many lives. 

It is remarkable how many Abigails get married to Nabals. God-fearing women, tender and gentle in the sensibilities, high-minded and noble in their ideals, become tied in an indissoluble union with men for whom they can have no true affinity, even if they have not an unconquerable repugnance.

David Guzik, quoting F.B. Meyer

It is both natural and logical to look at the marriage of Abigail and Nabal as a central element of the narrative; very much a, “Be careful who you marry, ladies,” conclusion drawn. (Of course, Abigail probably had very little say in the matter). This, though not incorrect, is quite a narrow view, however. There is something more to learn.

The first word used to describe Abigail is “intelligent.” She was smart. A thinker. Wise. The author goes on to mention her beauty, but this is not his primary concern. Abigail is not praised for having a pretty face or wearing nice clothes. Her honor is found in how she uses her mind.

Before you mistake me: There’s nothing wrong with beauty. It’s God-designed and given. No woman needs to feel bad about wearing make-up or going shopping. All too often we are belittled for such enjoyments. You are not reading that here.

What you are reading is a call to cease being ashamed of being smart.If Abigail hadn’t stepped out that day, the arc of history might look different, for who knows what roles the people of her household had to play? If she had chosen to keep quiet, to stay hidden, the story would have ended on a jarring note. People would have died, David would have detracted from his own reputation for justice and fairness, and she would not be remembered as a hero.

But she didn’t do that.

She took the brave path.

I can’t remember the first time someone communicated to me that my intelligence was bothersome. I do know that I was competing with a few boys for top grades when I was in fourth grade. They constantly told me that I’d never be able to beat them, because girls just weren’t as smart as boys. All those comments did was make me angry and strengthened my resolve to win. But then I got to middle school, the worst years in the life of every person, and my sense of identity began to falter. People didn’t like the smart girl.

So began a decades-long and not-yet-complete wrestling with myself. This is why I’ve deleted all of my social media posts more than once. This plays into the temptation to quit writing. I don’t want to stand out. I don’t want to be center stage. I don’t want to ace the tests. I don’t want to be the one who sees things differently, who tries to synthesize what she knows of life and theology into a complete and consistent worldview.

And yet, here we are.

Here I am.

Because this is who God made me to be.

I’ve never shared the exact number of people who subscribe to these words (and I never will), but it’s grown to an amount far beyond anything I ever imagined. There are hundreds of you opening up your inbox just to see what I have to say. People of all ages and experiences. Truly, a frightening reality, but one which I wish to steward well.

So, hear me: Go ahead, be the smart one.

Ladies, your mind is there for a reason. 

Men, her mind doesn’t make your mind lesser.

I have lost too many days and wasted too much energy in worrying over and feeling bad about being the smart girl. No more.

The world needs Abigails. Not to squash or dominate, but to speak truth and act in grace. Your Creator made you for this. Exercising your intelligence brings Him glory.  No, others aren’t always going to like it. Yes, you may find yourself on a lonely path from time to time. Keep on. Do as the Holy Spirit leads.

May you be blessed in your obedience.

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