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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Five Minute Friday: Surrender

Ezer

Gentle Reader,

This whole “stories” feature that’s part of social media now? Drives me nuts.

For the confused: Facebook and Instagram (Zuckerberg is master of both, so Facegram? Instabook?) attempt to compete with Snapchat and so allow users to upload photos that will disappear within a certain number of hours. These photos are shuffled off into a separate feed called a “story.” These “stories” usually have some kind of brightly-colored notification circle around them, which indicates that the user has uploaded a new photo or video.

How irritating this is to someone who feels a constant, unending compulsion to clear all notifications ever from any online thing in which she participates.

But maybe today I’m just cranky about the existence of the mighty internet in general. The noise. The constant noise. Yes, I realize that I’m using the internet to complain about the internet. The Luddite and the Futurist parts of myself, at war, as usual. Throw the laptop out the window while streaming music on the smartphone.

Kate says: surrender.

Go.

I am tired.

Not the physical sort of tired (I’m always that) but the mentally and emotionally sort of tired that arises out of being a woman.

Yeah, men have problems, too. Sure. No denying that.

But, oh, this world, this time, its closet doors flung open and the skeletons of sexual assault tumbling all about the place. Except they aren’t skeletons. They are real, live, breathing people, forced to walk around bearing wounds that should never have been inflicted.

The effects of your actions are far reaching. Abuse goes way beyond the moment, often haunting survivors for the rest of their lives, making it difficult to trust and impacting their relationships. … I am here to face you, Larry, so you can see I’ve regained my strength, that I am no longer a victim, I am a survivor.

Aly Raisman Testimony

This world where some honestly wonder whether or not women should be “allowed” to teach in seminary. We’re not unintelligent or lacking in skill, but Piper says we shouldn’t, because…well, who really knows what his reason is. Certainly not a Scriptural one.

Women in seminary shouldn’t have to be the smartest people in the room. If a male student is both respected as an individual and expected to become an effective minister of the gospel despite a C average, then a female student should be offered the same respect and hope for her future.

 The Post‘s Most Important Contribution Isn’t about Freedom of the Press

This world in which, statistically speaking, it’s always more dangerous to be a woman.

It’s tempting to give up.

To surrender.

But we can’t.

I can’t.

Because while it’s dangerous to be a woman, while we have to fight off things our brothers never have to deal with, we are also the ezer kenegdo. Made by God. The equal strength and power of man. Like Thor’s brother Loki, burdened with glorious purpose. We are the Daughters of the Living God, the Princess Warriors, the Steel Magnolias.

We do not quit.

We do not surrender.

Women in general, including evangelical women, are in no mood to be marginalized in society, church, or seminary. The issue is far more serious than women simply wanting a place at the table. The current cost of marginalizing women is proving to be calamitous.

– Why John Piper Needs Help from Female Seminary Professors

Stop.

Related to the opening, here’s a fascinating article about Facebook.

Related to the main post, here’s this screed from a Missouri Senate candidate.

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