Sweating Like A Single in a Marriage Series

When my church announced they would be kicking off the fall with a sermon series on marriage, yes, I rolled my eyes.

Because “Don’t we talk about marriage enough?” and “Isn’t the Church idolizing marriage?” And perhaps the answer to these questions is yes, but I was opporating out of a blind spot in my judgment. And isn’t that always the case with our sin?

One of our pastors who has been a long suffering mentor of mine told me he would be using a recent blog post of mine in his first sermon in the series, which was touching and humbling and blah, blah, blah.

Yeah, I was more concerned that my writing was being shared for the sake of showing all those married people that we’re here too! Singleness is just as relevant! (Hear the bitter demand for retribution?)

We’re living in a very devisive landscape these days. You can’t get on any social media site without reading something that demands you pick a side (preferably their own).

We stand on our soapboxes trying to out-yell one another into submitting to our own brand of justice. The noise is so loud and our justification so blinding that we don’t see the man on the soapbox across from us as human any longer. We just see him as wrong.

But scripture (not Abraham Lincoln!) tells us that a house divided cannot stand.

Here I was last Sunday waiting to hear that I as a single was a valued and necessary part of my community and I was annoyed when there was no application that applied to me specifically. I was too caught up in the us-and-them mentality that permeates my weekdays that I brought that into Sunday. I was operating out of defensiveness after not getting my way rather than thinking of my neighbor.

Jesus’ ministry was about laying down his right for the sake of the other and that is what he calls us to. Yes, the Church may idolize marriage, but trying to swing the pendulum to singleness helps no one.

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (If Paul was writing not to Galatia, but to the church in in America, I think he’d include “married or single, right or left”.)

Perhaps I need to get off my soapbox and interact with those I disagree with out of compassion rather than judgement. Perhaps I should seek unity and love before I seek being right only. This is the freedom my salvation bought.

We mourn division in the church, but what are we actually doing to heal it? Because if we think just screaming what we’re right about until those who disagree change their minds, that gap just continues to widen. What does it look like for us to climb down from being justified and give up my right in order to love my neighbor well?

The Metaphor and Blood-and-Guts Reality

 

For the last nine months I’ve been wrestling over the question, “If marriage never happens for me, will I be okay?

And the answer varies day-to-day, I’ll be honest. But it struck me the other morning in a big way. I was lamenting the fact that I may never experience that kind of intimacy and then a new thought emerged. Maybe I was very wrong.

We seem forget that marriage is just the metaphor, reflecting a larger, universal reality.

Marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and his Church. But somewhere along the line, marriage became the reality—the concrete realness of things.

But marriage has become less permanent and the pretty picture seems to be fading, and here’s the problem with that:

Marriage is just the picture. It was never intended to be what Christ and his bride reflect. It is instead the reflection, the lesser figuration of something greater—something blood-and-guts real.

I experience a beautiful relationship daily, if I agree to enter into the fray and the messiness. I experience the heartache of surrender—of not getting my way, of discovering I’m wrong, of giving up my own dreams for the dreams of another. I experience that other giving himself up for my sake—sometimes with intensity, sometimes with a distance I try to manifest.

I walk the tension of trying to do an unbroken thing despite my unavoidable brokenness. I know the pain of having the one who claims to love me most let me walk through more darkness than I thought possible. I experience the shame and yet overwhelming joy of sitting beside the one I’ve hurt so deeply and having him still look me in the eye and not look away—to extend mercy.

There has been an undying commitment made to me—one with no escape hatch. And despite the temptations to fulfill my needs elsewhere, I have committed to staying.

For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. As long as I live until death do we finally meet face-to-face.

I have never been married, yet I have experienced all of this.

Because marriage is only the metaphor. The real, ironically concrete, flesh-and-bone, blood-and-guts, no-way-out kind of relationship so many of us crave—within marriage or without— is that between Christ and his Church.

I don’t need a husband to experience the challenge and growth of intimate, lock-the-door-and-throw-away-the-key kind of commitment. That was given to me upon the cross just as it has been extended to you.

So we can rest assured that what hasn’t been granted us in marriage—or what we perhaps feel our marriage is lacking—is still ours. It’s ours in relationship with Christ.

A Prayer for Now

I work in social media, so I’ve seen how this goes, but I can’t not say something. My heart is too broken not to.

See, I don’t like getting political on the internet because I have watched time and time again as people forget that there is a very real human being at the other end of their rage-ladened comments. But this weekend, the rage went beyond the internet and out into the streets in a manner I cannot abide. As this reached far beyond political, I can also no longer abide being silent.

To see scripture references scrawled on signs in the name of hate toward fellow image-bearers in such an ugly, appalling, and shameless way makes me sick. And angry. And so homesick it hurts.

Because what happened this weekend was evil.

There was nothing justified in the action of those white supremacists—because we call ugly hateful things what they are.

I’ve watched a lot of broking things go down because the church remained silent and right now I can’t be silent.

But I have no words, just a heavy feeling of lament. My sphere of influence is small, but I’m committed not to just shed a tear, shrug a shoulder, and move on. So I sit with the tension here.

In doing some work over the weekend, I ran across some beautiful words from Martin Luther King, Jr. I think we all need:

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.
If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause men everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will.
But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of men, imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace.
—Martin Luther King Jr., “A Knock at Midnight”

I am praying today that our imaginations are realigned with God’s. I’m praying that we remember that courage comes after obedience. I’m praying we remember that no matter a person’s race, religion, or political bent, we are image-bearers—and that is so beautiful.

Perfect love casts out fear. May this stir us closer toward perfect love.

If you want to take a next step with me, pick up a copy of Ken Wytsma’s latest release The Myth of Equality. His thoughts are so relevant and needed in these dark times.

We are never without hope. We are the salt of the earth and a light on a hill. Truth can never be drowned out and love never fails—even in the face of such blatant despicable hate. I stand for my fellow image-bearers.

 

 

The Rule and Currency of Grace

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My post is late this week mostly because I have not been in the head-space to write a post I would be comfortable with by the time it hit your eyes. I’ve been keyed up all day and it only just hit me tonight why. (I’m coming at you live from Monday night.)

See, I collaborate with a few friends on a project that brings me a lot of energy and joy. A situation has recently come up where I have felt one way and a couple of my friends have felt very differently. I’m quite passionate about my stance, but a kind friend pointed out gently that for the sake of the group, this is probably a battle not worth fighting.
It wasn’t until my drive home that I realized how demanding I was of justice rather than mercy for some of the people involved in this project.

And then it all came together.

I’ve been feeling rather anxious for a while. I think you may be feeling some of this as well.

Watching my social media channels spiral farther and farther in to pits of cruel statements, thoughtless insults, guilt-laden tirades, I have been appalled by the behavior of so many friends and leaders. Disgusted is actually the word.

Many in my world I have highly respected have been spouting nasty sentiments across the internet for the sake of “biblical politics” and I am very ashamed of what I’ve witnessed.

And before anyone points fingers, let me set the record straight and say that this is from both sides. And my Christian friends—in general—have been much less forgiving than my friends who are not.

I have felt very disillusioned by the body of Christ as we have approached election day and I know I am part of the problem as much as anyone. For months, I think we’ve been asking where is the kindness and the reason? Where is the compassion and the decisions informed by love. These are all things that have been absent, yes, but it hit me on my drive this evening like lightening. Like God whapping me in the back of the head with a ruler (because that is sometimes what it takes.):

Grace.

Grace was what I wasn’t calculating in with the work I do with my friends.

Grace is what we have been missing this election. The laying down of what I deserve for the sake of blessing my neighbor. The understanding that I may not be right, but God is in control and will make all right in his time no matter if my neighbor agrees with me or not. No matter if my country agrees with me or not. No matter if I trust my president or not.

It is by grace we are ruled. Grace is the currency in which we deal. So why has this been so absent from our discourse?

There are good people in every spot on the political spectrum. Image bearers with strong, passionate, and informed beliefs—beliefs that may be different from yours, but are just as important to them as yours are to you.

My sweet and wise friend sent me words I needed when I confessed how anxious I was feeling in my indecision over tomorrow:

“What needs to happen is repentance and people coming to the conclusion that our nation isn’t the church. You just have to do the best at what God has given you to do.”

Can we repent our lack of grace together? Can we walk into the polls tomorrow knowing that all we can do is vote in a way that demonstrates how we feel our country can best care for our neighbors given the choices before us? Can we respect that others in our body are just trying to do the same, even if it is not the choice we ourselves would make?

We do not have to answer for the decisions made by leaders above our station. They will. God will care for his people no matter what happens. There is no vote a child of God will cast tomorrow that is less “Christian” than any other.

Walk in grace. Show grace to a world that so desperately needs that. That’s what we have been supposed to be doing.

I think tomorrow is as good a chance as any to start.

Postcards from Camichines Part II: The Week’s Plumb Line

So what are we doing here?

I am not asking the existential question I was yesterday. I am actually trying to answer this question.

I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me in the last couple weeks, “so what are you going to be doing down there?” The problem lies in that the answer was, “I don’t really know. A little construction. Working with kids. Something about corn… yeah…”

Alright, so here’s the biz:

Made some AWESOME orange juice after writing this post on the rooftop.
Seriously, this is the best way to start the morning.


There are eleven of us down here in a village outside Guadalajara. We are working at an orphanage and plan to complete whatever tasks they can throw at us. Right now, there is a monster pile of corn to be husked, a chicken coop in need of constructing and a school roof top that will eventually be transformed in to a second story. It seems like a lot and this is our first workday. 


It’s hard to call this place an orphanage, just because it seems so much like a home. One with a rather large family and a school on site, but seriously, a home. There are around fifteen kids here, each so precious and energetic. They are surrounded by a staff that loves them and is really looking out for each of the children’s interests. My first twenty-four hours here have been a huge blessing already.

Part of the corn action. After hand-picking off the kernels for
a while, they brought in a machine to do it much faster. This
is some of the team sifting that corn. SOOO much corn!


Yesterday, we went in to Guadalajara for church and I was given a beautiful picture of what is going on here.

We sat in the back of the sanctuary. The home director, his wife, the children, the interns, the teachers, and our team filled three rows. I spent most of the service lost, holding white knuckled to the bi-lingual bible I had been handed for understanding.

In front of me, the home director sat beside a chair holding two of the younger guys. The one closest two him has only been at the home a few weeks and–like most of the kids–has had a rough background, despite being only a toddler.

I found myself moved to tears in the middle of the service as this little guy nuzzled into his new father’s side. The director of the home smiled down, embracing the child close. 

This little guy is the one who touched my
heart that morning in church. Gah! those
eyes!


This simple picture was so beautiful to me that even thinking about it makes me cry writing this–I’m a crier. I’ll admit it. This little boy arrived here under dire circumstances and now gets to be loved and cherished and held close by a father. 

This beautiful picture of being adopted–taken in and accepted–has captured the purpose of what I think this week will hold. We are not lost. We will never be lost again. We are like this little child–a little beat-up, broken, not quite getting the language or righteousness, but God pulls us close to his side and welcomes us into his home to be loved and to be guided by him.

This is the tone with which this week has been set. I am so excited to see what is next. It was wonderful getting to know the kids a little bit last night as we walked around the village together and played with them in the plaza.

More tomorrow!

xo,
         –Lex

The Bachellorette: Love, Porn, and Reality

The thing about guilty pleasures is that they tend to be embarrassing. For example, I am not a big reality TV fan. I’m still waiting for someone to explain the charm of Here Comes Honey Boo boo. And why exactly would anyone sign up to be on Naked and Afraid? Why watch people be stupid when I can watch Sherlock or Suits and be a better human for it? (Yes, my snobbery extends past tea…)

But here’s the rub: I love watching stupid people… and sappy stuff is not so bad either.

As such, it is with great embarrassment and chagrin that I confess that I have watched the entire ninth season of The Bachelorette

In many ways, it is like watching a car crash. You don’t want to see it, but you just can’t look away. Whoever thought of the concept of the show was either high or brilliant. Let’s take one woman and have her date twenty-five men. At once. And they live together. There is seriously no way things could get more troubling. Every Monday, I have been given a chance to kick back and watch everything go wrong. Tons of drama, not a ton of common sense.

So as I have been watching Desiree fall in love with Brooks (oof!) and be used by Ben and… that really muscly guy who’s name escapes me, and at last fall for Chris this past season, I have begun to notice some things about the show and some concerns it’s spurned. If you’re a fan of the show, understand that I can respect your interest (Notice I am in no place to judge. At all. Ever.) and also that I am sorting through what the show stirs up in me.

So, The Bachelorette: here is a woman with 25 men doing everything they can to get her attention. (Including showing up in a heinous homemade suit, or a suit of armor.) They travel to exotic locations. The men fight over her and for her. They will make fools of themselves in strange challenges in order to earn a date with her. They stab each other in the back and kiss up to her all to get a rose and stay there another week. She must do nothing but sit back and let them tear each other down to be with her. And the entire time, she is in complete control.

The show follows her through this journey and America is privy to the entire thing. I have seen more of this woman’s love life than I have anyone else’s. That’s a little weird to me, now that I think of it.

This is not reality. This is not how deep, intimate, lasting relationships work. And yet there is something attractive to me about this system. See, what I truly want is security and love; to be told I am lovely. There is a seed of honest goodness to this desire, but it has been twisted into something fearful. I want to control. I want men to just love me for no other reason than that I’m there. I want them to fight for me, if not over me. It is my sin nature that twists this in to a game of manipulation and control.

If there is anything each of the successful marriages I admire have in common, it is that they are real. There is give and take. There is struggle and sacrifice. There is respect and love. Real love. Not just sex and fire. Very little glamour and very minor drama. Manipulation and control have no place in them. And porn and the expectations it creates destroys the beauty of true love.
Despite all of this, I found myself envying Des’s position a bit. What would it be like to be desired by that many handsome men? To have them fight over you? To where beautiful dresses and travel to so many fantastic places? What would I do in her shoes? There was a longing stirred up. A need to lose myself in this fantasy because my reality was less pleasing.
So I guess I should get around to explaining the title a bit… It’s alright, you can put your eyebrows down.

Many who know me, know the phrase “emotional porn.” In short, it is porn for women. In long, it gets a little more complicated to explain. In general, we as women are driven more strongly by emotional rather than physical intimacy. (Like the old adage ‘men give love to get sex. Women give sex to get love’.) Emotional porn comes in many forms, but almost always through narrative. Romance novels are the most common, but also chick flicks. And reality TV. It is ultimately a story we can lose ourselves in. And yes, you can do that with any form of entertainment, but this is a little different. It is when you use the character as a thin veil for yourself. You are experiencing the narrative in a deeper way than just enjoying the story. You are experiencing the emotions for yourself. Not just in empathizing with the character, but involving yourself in what is happening in this fantasy world. It is a more desirable and romantic place to be. It is a preferred reality where we become more desirable, flirtatious, and loved in this fantasy. And then we return to reality as, well, us. We feel undesirable, unlovely, and unwanted on our return to the real world. And we will not be satisfied until we return to that fantasy once again.

It’s hard to explain, but I’m sure you’ve experienced it. These sorts of narratives are trending heavily in our media. Twilight is what I consider a prime example. Fifty Shades is a very overtly sexual example. The exponential growth in the erotica genre demonstrates the popularity of this type of porn.

If you’re not understanding, let me explain it this way. In these examples, the heroine has the adore of men. Usually multiple men. She has done nothing to earn their desire besides be present. She may not even be attractive or feel like she is anything special, but these men are crazy about her for absolutely no reason besides the fact that she is herself. (And that’s all fine and dandy! You have to be yourself in a relationship.) But not once does she have to sacrifice or face consequences of any lasting variety. The man makes the sacrifices. He moves heaven and hell to give the woman all she desires including himself. She gives up nothing. He gives up everything. There is very little real life involved.
True relationships require give and take for both parties. The man is not simply there to serve the woman and make her feel desirable at all turns. That is not even something a man can do. Sure he can tell you you are beautiful and make you feel special, but that affirmation will only be temporary. The longing we feel for relationships and desire can only come from one source. And I promise you, it is not a more perfect boyfriend… It is certainly not Edward Cullen.
You see, our question of “am I desirable?” cannot be answered fully through relationships, or books, TV, or other media. If we take our question to these sources, we will be deeply disappointed, or be fed a twisted lie that distorts our self-image. (This is essentially what porn does.) That question can only be answered completely by the creator. He is the only one who knows the answer to that question. The only one who’s answer will truly satisfy.

Now, I wish Desiree and Chris the best of luck in what could be a marriage, or a very public divorce. Only time will tell. For myself, I wish for a real relationship. One not driven by manipulation and control, but out of love and trust. 

I probably should also wish for less emotional porn in the world. But they announced during the season finale that Juan Pablo is returning as the next bachelor. I think this may be a tougher addiction to fight than initially believed…


Please feel free to comment! Ask questions, state your thoughts concerns, or disagreements. I would love to get some dialogue flowing here!