{A Miscarriage of a Life – a post Mother’s Day Lament}

Yesterday I told myself over and over — I have had a miscarriage of a life.

The day before, I spent all day celebrating my older sister as she received a doctorate of ministry in preaching from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.  Yes, I was happy for her but I could not enjoy the day fully because I was so disappointed with my own life.

After the very long ceremony (those Lutherans know how to “party”) I asked her what was next on her list for world domination? It was a backhanded compliment, which had a risk of offending her, but luckily she was gracious. (I get snarky and sarcastic when I’m feeling bad about myself.)

These sisters of mine are capable of doing anything.

Harrison’s seem to have the brains and talent, ability to work extremely hard, a yearning for justice to prevail and the certainty that injustice is, in part, our life’s call, challenge and responsibility.  We are strong, capable, and powerful women. Some days I actually believe that about myself.

I have come to believe that much of the spiritual journey is one of being stripped of all that we would put our trust in, other than God.

Life is found in losing it for Christ’s sake.  The life that God has for each of us, if received–changes us.  There is not one sacred path for all.

My journey over the last twenty years has been a stripping, for I never knew Jesus, before.

I never knew I was beloved. I didn’t believe there was a purpose for my life outside of what I could accomplish, a life purpose that is all about Jesus.

Until my father died nine years ago, I was in many ways “asleep.”  Because of the severe damage to my psyche from his anger, I did not know myself.  I did not know the Trinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in any real way.

I did not know it, but I was bankrupt in spirit.

But even in that absence of belief, God planted questions, passions and strong desires inside me, a prompting that has never left me to know the Word of God and interpret it. I know that I am to receive that– and submit to the unique journey God has laid out, even when I cannot see clearly the road ahead.

Trusting is painful — the stripping away of sin, of selfishness and in many ways of aspects of my humanity, my character, that I thought were who I was.  But there is grace, protection, comfort, provision and shalom in submitting to the Holy One’s purposes.

It is the only safe place. And yet it hurts so much when I feel I do not understand clearly.

In my 20s and 30s I lived for my job, it was my identity and all that I knew.  Strangely, I believed it was all I was good at and I thought that I was choosing to walk away from that work, because the environment was unhealthy, but I see now that God led me away, took everything that made me feel good and strong and powerful.  I thought I knew.

I could have lost my marriage and family because of my addiction to alcohol.  I thought I knew, thought I was strong enough to beat it with will power, but the addiction beat me and I found that I was nothing without the Holy One.  Even if I gave up the drink, without the Holy One filling me, healing, and strengthening me I was nothing. I thought I knew.

I sat Sunday scrutinizing people who had given many years of their lives to learning, thinking, writing, believing, enough to sacrifice time with their own children and partners, to achieve this incredible goal of a masters or doctorate. Some were restrained, some were giddy, and many were just slightly stunned to survive it, it seemed to me as a bystander.

I was so incredibly jealous and sad for myself, even mad at myself.  Though the day wasn’t about me, inside my head everything was about me and my feelings of not exactly failure, but a strange bedfellow to it, a miscarriage of a life.   In that moment, how dearly I regretted leaving my career in my early thirties and staying at home with my kids. Deep down a part of me still believed that I would not have succumbed to alcoholism or depression in the end if I had continue to work fulltime.  I’d still have a great career, I’d be able to leverage it toward other work, and I would be respected by others.   Pretty much bullshit and lies, but I almost believed it again as I sat there fuming internally.

I said all that and more to my mother as we drove back home.  I don’t know if I really believed it.  I do know that who I am, the real me, the person I never knew until I had no job, suffered from major depression and became a drunk – that woman needs Jesus! She believes in the Creator in a way that she never did before she lost it all.

I remembered that my boss, while I was trying to decide about leaving InterVarsity told me to go have babies and come back in five years to continue my part of world domination.  Only, I never went back I was too busy having a breakdown and drinking myself stupid.  That’s what I mean by a miscarriage of a life.

I was debriefing the day with Tom, who is extremely smart and has an almost PhD from the University of Chicago.  As his head hit the pillow he exhaled, he said something like:

Higher degrees have their purpose, and there is a sense of personal achievement if it is important to you, but being a parent is three times harder than getting that PhD.

“Yeah,” I said, “but the world doesn’t esteem parents.  Parenting won’t get you a job.  Parenting won’t bring you any real regard or admiration from others.  Parenting is something everyone does.  (Not to mention you don’t get paid and the hours are terrible.)  It’s not enough.” 

My eyes filled with tears so many times on Sunday, I felt like I was choking most of the day.  I was happy for my sister, genuinely — for I know only in part the many sacrifices she and her loved ones have made for her to accomplish this incredible goal.  I know my father was doing a happy dance, wherever he is.  My mother was beaming.

I spent my mother’s day celebrating my sister in part because I believe in doing things even when they are hard.  I want my children to grow up knowing that doing the right thing isn’t always what’s easy, nor is it usually about you. That there will be many opportunities in life to choose yourself over others, but when given the chance to celebrate someone you love, you should take it.

All day I had moments of deep self-pity and self-loathing for my choices and beating myself up about the last fifteen years.  Hindsight is 20/20 and all, still this is what I have come to know.

I know I would be different and horrible person if I had continued on the path of a workaholic and constant striving for external approval. My character has been changed through these experiences.

Through the mistakes I have made I have found a true understanding of God’s mercy and grace in my life. I know that I am loved by Jesus – I didn’t know or believe it two decades ago.

Through the mistakes I have made I have found a daily dependence on God for my health – my mood, my purpose and meaning.

For even as humbling and hard as each day is and how much it feels like a sacrifice to not have a viable lauded career at this time, I’m on my knees ever more.

Most of what I am learning is yet to be understood or written I suppose.  Clearly, I am still broken, still too easily overcome by the wrong motives. I continue to be frustrated and discontented and I am frustrated with myself because of this.

In studying the book of Proverbs (because that is where we are in Eat This Book reading the entire Bible in a year at church) I am being drawn to Proverbs 31.  I look forward to learning what a 21st century feminist wife and mother, a homemaker, budding writer has to learn about being a Proverbs 31 woman.

I am open, and fearful. I am angry and aching inside, deep where no one understands me except God.

I know I should be grateful but everything about me is wired to work hard, to please other people, to get the acclaim of others, to be esteemed and admired; it is the entire human condition without God.

I pray for spiritual understanding and an ability to lay all that down — to trust and obey.

Deep down I know that as long as I keep longing for all the wrong things, I can’t grasp what is good, whether that is understanding of what I already have or whether it is receiving what God has for me next.  I cannot grasp it because I am still so filled with discontent.

I thought I knew.  There is very little that I do know.  But my story isn’t fully written.


Why “For Women” is not “For Me”

Matthew 25 (1) of The Holy Bible, King James v...
Image via Wikipedia

Why I don’t like “women’s” ministry, seminars & conferences specifically for women, or special Bibles and studies written only for women.

It  is not that I’m against women (or men) gathering together as a tribe, but I have other, deeper concerns.

  • First of all, fundamentally it comes out of this notion that men and women are so different that you must make categories of resources just for each group.   We certainly have our differences, but that sort of thinking divides us.  It’s unproductive. It hurts us more than helps as we try to work out our faith with one another.
  • Secondly, I don’t like them because I don’t think ideas in scripture are necessarily “for women” or “for men.”
  • Thirdly, and possibly most important to me, because scripture was translated by men, and it was done a long time ago, by committees, and there were no women involved, therefore I think that the language just might possibly be patriarchal and misleading.

Before you burn me at the stake, look at Proverbs 31:10 to see what I mean.  It is the classic verses of a virtuous feminine woman.  Yes, it is a description of a woman though I never saw until I looked at the original meaning, that it is a description of a spiritually powerful and strong woman!

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (a group I’ll say up front I don’t totally agree with) describes a “worthy woman” fairly well as “virtuous, trustworthy, energetic, physically fit, economical, unselfish, honorable, lovable, prepared, prudent, and God-fearing.”  That’s all good.

Look at the word virtuous in 31:10 “Who can find a virtuous woman for her price is far above rubies?” (KJV)

The Hebrew word chayil is translated as virtuous or excellent, strength and influence.; a force, an army, able activity in might and power, valiant, full of valor and virtue, and worthy in war.

I’m not making that up.  It’s there for anyone to know – to learn.  But don’t you think it’s interesting that no one talks about a virtuous woman like that?

I know I have never heard a woman at church described as a warrior — not in all my life and that ‘s a long time of church attending among several denominations.  And I had to find it for myself.

Original Word: חָ֫יִל
Transliteration: chayil Phonetic Spelling: (khah’-yil)
Short Definition: army
Definition: strength, efficiency, wealth, army
NASB Word Usage: able (5), armies (3), army (82), army* (1), capability (1), capable (3), elite army (1), excellence (1), excellent (2), forces (12), full (1), goods (1), great (1), might (1), mighty (1), nobly (1), power (2), retinue (2), riches (9), strength (10), strong (2), substance (1), troops (2), valiant (41), valiant* (4), valiantly (6), valor (18), very powerful (1), warriors (1), wealth (25), wealthy (1), worthy (1).

A Proverbs 31 Woman:

  • She is a mighty woman of God.
  • She is a woman of strength and influence.
  • She is a woman of force who is able and effective in spiritual warfare, she is full of valor (acts of bravery) and virtue.

Who can find a virtuous woman for her price is far above rubies.” (KJV)

The Hebrew word for find transliterated matsa, not only means find or acquire‚  but also has the meaning of  to come forth, to appear or exist.

Imagine that.

Perhaps these verses are saying:

God is calling mighty and courageous women to come forth, spiritual warriors and champions, who at His command will be a great spiritual force in Jesus name.

Would people be so uncomfortable with this if you inserted “God is calling mighty and courageous MEN, spiritual warriors, champions, forceful and mighty, be a great spiritual force?

So, if as I believe God communicates to us all — straight up, irregardless of our gender — why are we always separating ourselves as women? It just makes me uncomfortable.  I think we each benefit as we mix the generations, genders, hipsters and bikers and soccer moms and dads, with boomers, silent gen, under 18 kids, teens or whatever.  Single and married, higher education or not, race or ethnicity.  The church is the worst at coming across those cultural barriers to worship together.  But we are strengthened as people and as a community when we do.  Why do we do that?  Especially in the church?  We lose out.  There is so much that we don’t learn.  I love that my life is incredibly diverse and I’ll do everything I can to keep it that way.

Tribes. On the other hand, we are all in a tribe, or two or three.  We feel connection and solidarity, even strength when we connect from time to time to our tribe.  So, I suppose one must find a balance. One of my husband Tom’s Tribes is Musical Geeks and they cross believers and not, women or men, young or old, it matters not at all.  They just get together to “geek out” about all sorts of really boring musical minutia.  Not my tribe.  Not my need.  But man does he need and love to be with those folk!

So finding the balance is key.

But, I detest groups “for women.”  Bible studies and events just for women.  I guess they always will represent to me that women are not yet equal with men in the body of Christ. It’s not an obvious equation, but still that math goes there in my mind and heart.

Sure I’m not your typical evangelical Christian woman.   I regularly question every idea in theology.  I don’t believe “male headship.”  I don’t believe the idea that God’s divine order of things is for me to follow a man.  I do believe in order.  I do believe in submitting to one another mutually.  But right now it feels like there are a million obstacles to women experiencing  true equity within the Christian evangelical church.

There’s no way that your typical male is ready for the woman spiritual warrior who is mighty in strength and influence.  Uh uh.  They’re squirming now in discomfort and ready to thump me over the head with their  B I B L E.  Oh well.

I can read it for myself.  I translated it.  I know it is different from some things being taught.

I believe that men and women when utilizing their skills and abilities and spiritual gifts — all given to us by a real and loving God by the way, who chose those skills, abilities and spiritual gifts for usthat creator God is the one that called us. If He made me this way, I should be serving, using my gifts that He gave me.

Because sitting back, watching many capable men do many things in the church is wrong.  And only leading in the midst of women is also wrong.

It gets complicated when you don’t know, when you haven’t had your abilities affirmed in the church.  But some day, women will come to know themselves capable of being that woman described in Proverbs 31.

God is calling mighty and courageous women to come forth, spiritual warriors and champions, who at His command will be a great spiritual force in Jesus name.

Amen.


——————————

Some things I am reading my way through:

Women’s Bible Commentary by Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe, Editors.  “… the writers focus on “portions . . . that deal explicitly with female characters and symbols . . . and sections that bear upon the condition of women generally.” Although the contributors share this goal, they take different paths. In addition to the commentary itself, there are helpful essays on feminist hermeneutics and daily life in biblical times. This commentary will raise eyebrows, and it will raise consciousness as well. It will not be well received in all quarters, but it is essential for those who are seriously interested in biblical and feminist studies. Recommended for seminary, university, and public libraries.”  – Craig W. Beard, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib.

“No one will go away from the volume with her or his old assumptions about biblical texts intact…The challenge and pleasure of this work is its tendency to upset expectations about familiar books”. Theology Today

Christians for Biblical Equality

Equality Central

Gifted to Lead: The ARt of Leading as a Woman in the Church by Nancy Beach, Willow Creek Church.

“No mistake was made in heaven when God gave you the gift of leadership or teaching. Every gift you have came from the hand of a loving Father who crafted you.”— Nancy Beach

Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family by Gilbert Bilezikian. A first-rate biblical and theological study that affirms full equality of the sexes in church and family.

How I Changed my Mind about Women in Leadership. Compelling stories from Prominent Evangelicals including Stuart and Jill Briscoe, Tony Campolo, Bill and Lynn Hybels, I. Howard Marshall, John and Nancy Ortberg, Cornelius Pantinga.

[I find this website Biblos to be a great resource in my Bible study.  It has many commentaries, original translation, many versions of text, and concordance.  SO many things that I’ve never used including  dictionary, atlas, even bible studies.]