Josh and Ashley

Allow me to paint a picture for you.

There she is.  A woman, at her most vulnerable, sitting at the feet of Jesus.  There is a large crowd and the people just keep coming.  They are in the temple courts and the crowd is larger than normal.  She won’t look up at Him or make eye contact with anyone in the crowd.  Her family stands in the background, she cannot see them but she knows they are there.  The commotion is hard to overlook.  A woman, naked, in front of the savior of the world.  But this woman did not willingly take a seat at Jesus’ feet.  No, this woman, let’s call her Ashley Madison… this woman was dragged, against her will to the feet of Jesus. 

Minutes prior to this scene, Ashley was in bed.  Was it her bed?  We don’t know, but what we do know is that she was in a bed with a man who was not her husband.  She and this man were involved in something so intimate that God designed it to be shared between only a husband and a wife.  They were involved in something that has the power to heal and the power to destroy lives.  They were having sex.  The man, maybe his name was Joshua, and Ashley were not married to one another but were engaged in sexual intimacy and they’d been caught.  More notably, she’d been caught. 

So many theories as to how and why exactly Ashley got caught, but we know that she found herself at the feet of Jesus, naked, ashamed and prepared to be judged and condemned.  There was no turning back or denying her sin.

The only reason that makes sense in my mind is that God cared so much for Ashley’s heart that he had to sacrifice her reputation and comfort.  He could not allow her to continue walking in sin and away from Him.  He had been calling her name for quite some time.  It started off as just a soft voice, a small twinge of guilt in the quiet. She knew it was there though. She knew and she chose to ignore it.  Then the guilt started to weigh heavily, but Ashley did not listen.  God started calling her name louder.  Maybe there were some close calls prior to really getting caught.  Maybe Joshua wasn’t the only man and the indiscretions with the other man/men had already been made known to a small few.  It isn’t really clear the progression of her sin, but what I do know is that when we are choosing to walk in sin, God is not silent.  He calls out our name day in and day out.  He gives us so many opportunities to turn away from our flesh and walk back into his loving arms.  It is impossible to look back and not see the opportunities.  Ashley likely had been given those opportunities.  Joshua had been given those opportunities.  God was saying, I want you to repent and I want to be able to save you from the destruction that is coming.  I want to give YOU the opportunity to make this right before you are forced into it, because it will be made right.  Ashley didn’t listen.  She didn’t take her chance and that is why she was there in front of the crowd, naked and at the feet of Jesus.

She no longer had a choice in the matter.  Her sin was made public.  She could no longer go to her husband and tell him of her indiscretions and deal with the consequences privately.  It was unfair and the people who brought her in front of Jesus did not have her best interest in mind, but God did.  He allowed Ashley to be used by those men to teach them a lesson and to remind her of His love and grace.  God needed Ashley to understand that his desire is for a relationship with her.  He needed her to know his love and she was not going to be able to fully do that while she continued to sleep with men who were not her husband.  He was willing to sacrifice her reputation, her marriage, her everything in order to get the attention of her heart.
I can only imagine the shame Ashley would have felt while on the ground in front of Jesus.  On display and without any hope of recovering.  The men, attempting to catch Jesus, suggested the punishment Ashley was sure to have known was coming.  Death.  She would have known the consequences for being an adulteress.  She would have been anticipating it from the time the door to the tent flew open and she was caught.

The amazing thing, though, is that Jesus did not condemn her.  Jesus requested that the person in the crowd who had never sinned throw the first stone and not surprisingly, no one was able to throw a stone.  In the end, Ashley stood there alone.  Just her and Jesus and Jesus let her go free.  He rescued her from the punishment that she had surely earned.

That wasn’t the end of the story, either.  Yes, Ashley’s sin was made public and her life was spared, but Jesus sent her away with a command.  He added responsibility to the grace that she had received.  “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  His concern was not for her comfort, her peace of mind or anything else.  He was solely focused on her heart.  To leave a life of sin is not to live a perfect life.  It is to live a life focused on loving Jesus.  A life that reflects God’s love.  A life that has experienced and knows grace abundantly.  It is to know that there is responsibility with grace.  That we are not saved simply so that we can continue to sin but so that we can have eternal life, a relationship with Christ and point others to Him.

My heart aches at the news of Josh Dugger and his unfaithfulness to his wife Anna.  Based on what we have learned about Josh in the last couple of months, it is clear to me that he fell into sexual sin at a very young age and never fully dealt with it.  I’m not him, but I am willing to guess at what his life has been like, because I have lived it.  I still live it.  The guilt is overwhelming.  The safeguards work but are not foolproof.  Purity of heart and body is something that is easy to champion because it is something you want so badly for yourself, even in the midst of your own failure.  I can almost guarantee that he had chance after chance to repent and make things right.  He could have told Anna every single day and I doubt there was a day that went by that he was not prompted to do so.  There were probably days where the prompting was so strong that his body was physically rejecting the idea of coming clean.  I remember the last time I had to admit to one of my BIG lies.  For weeks, I was sick to my stomach.  My skin crawled.  I broke out into sweats.  I knew what I had to do, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I would bet money that Josh experienced these things too.  That he had set his mind to confessing several times, that he heard the cry of the Lord in his heart and then eventually backed down before actually telling his secrets.  The opportunities were there.  He didn’t take them.  And now, he is sitting at the feet of Jesus in the temple courts, naked and ashamed.  His wife and family are in the background, heartbroken, stunned and wondering how they could have been so blind.  Josh, like Ashley, knows what he deserves.  Also like Ashley, though, Jesus has offered him grace and the responsibility of “go now and leave your life of sin.”

So here is to you, my friends who are naked and ashamed.  My friends whose sin has been made public and you are terrified of what will happen next. Know that Jesus offers you the same grace he offered the adulteress woman, the same grace he has offered me and has offered Josh Dugger.  My friends who have been caught, know that it is not too late to go and leave your life of sin.  And to you, my friends who are ignoring the whisperings, or maybe the shouts, of the holy spirit, please follow His prompting before you end up naked in front of the crowd.  It will happen.  He loves you too much to let you settle in where you are.  You will not be able to keep up the charade.  Find someone you trust and begin the process of coming clean because that sweet, unending grace is for you too.  As someone who daily struggles with these exact things but has been redeemed and saved, my heart longs for the same for you.  Every day, I am critically aware of the fact that I am just one bad decision away from my own scandal. My friends, His grace is enough! 

The Struggle

“Worn”– Tenth Avenue North

I’m tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah, I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah, I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn

Though I’m worn
Yeah I’m worn

To caution all drivers on the road in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, if this song comes on when I am driving I simply cannot control my reaction, which I am sure causes me to be one of the most unsafe drivers on the north coast.  I can do nothing but cry, lift my hands in surrender and thank Jesus that someone else gets it; that someone put words to the state of my heart and therefore I can express my heart through my favorite art form.  I didn’t have the words before hearing this song to express the tiredness of my heart.  I bought the lie again that I was alone and that no one could possibly understand what is like to walk around feeling like the life has been sucked right out of you and feeling like you should be able to fix it.

Anyone who has ever dealt with addictive sin knows what I am talking about.  You know that feeling of hopelessness.  That feeling that you are the one to blame and that if only you were better at controlling yourself, life would be perfect.  You know how the cycle goes.  Things are great for a while; you are succeeding in your battle and life feels good.  Things begin to fall into place and you start to believe that maybe this is the time that you will completely overcome.  Then life happens.  You get arrogant or stressed or whatever is your trigger and you say, “just this once” except just this once turns into one more time and one more time and before you know it, you are completely out of control and right back where you said you would never be again.  For some people their addiction is obvious to those around them and the impact of the sin is not at all subtle.  For others like myself, addiction is easily hidden and the impact, while present and painful, isn’t quite as obvious.  It takes months and months for me to begin to connect the dots between just how out of control my sin is with my tired heart, tired relationships and general dissatisfaction with life.  Im-So-Tired

You would think that connecting the dots would be enough to stop, but it isn’t.  Justification, by this point is so deep in my veins that my heart is hardened to the idea of stopping.  I begin to ask God why He doesn’t just take it from me.  He knows how hard I’ve tried in the past.  He knows how tired I am.  He knows how much I desire to be used by Him but feel held back by my inability to stop.  One of my dreams is to speak on the Women of Faith stage someday, but I can’t even begin to fathom working toward that when I feel like a hypocrite and don’t have anything redeeming to share.  I hear the stories of other survivors, of people who have overcome their battle and they get to stand there and talk about the goodness of God and how there is this HUGE change in their life because of Jesus’ saving grace… that isn’t my life.  It is exhausting.  It hurts and is devastating to try and understand how God could put this desire in my heart and not free me from my addiction.  I want to know that what has died in me, because of my own choices, can be revived.  I want so desperately to be who God created me to be, yet I know that I’m holding myself back.  I don’t understand how the passions, gifts and dreams God has given me can be fulfilled when I keep giving into sin.  I want to see redemption win and I want others to see it in me, but it hasn’t happened and it doesn’t feel like it ever will.

This is typically when I begin to doubt my own salvation.  My heart is burdened with the idea of not being good enough, of not really repenting.  True repentance is followed by change.  That is what I’ve always known and believed.  I’ve heard it in a thousand sermons… in fact, I just heard it again a couple of weeks ago.  Godly sorrow doesn’t leave you in mourning but spurs you toward change.  If these things are true, then clearly I haven’t repented.  Clearly I’m not sorry and I probably never will be.  These are the lies that invade my heart and build even more walls between myself and my God.  I stop talking to Him at all because I am so ashamed, so frustrated and frankly, mad.  I’ve said I was sorry so many times and failed to change.  I’ve asked for help and begged Him to free me from it.  I’ve asked why and I’ve, at times, asked for help from other people.  It never works and it hurts.  I feel abandoned by a God that I profess to love and follow and at the same time, I desperately worry that I’ve allowed my heart to harden so far that even if He was trying to help, I’d wouldn’t know it.  Someone once told me that the fact that I question these things and fret about them are proof that my heart isn’t as hardened as I assume, but even this doesn’t take away my doubt.

There is another song on the radio right now that completely makes my heart ache.  If I didn’t already hate myself for not being able to overcome, even with the help of a God who, deep down, I know loves me, the first two lines just pour on the guilt even more.  The song says, “Who can stand apart from your presence? Once we have tasted, the goodness of Your love.”  My sin, my decision to partake in sin requires that I stand apart from the presence of God.  The more I give in, the further I get from Him.  According to this song, I wouldn’t be able to make that decision if I had truthfully tasted the goodness of God.  I HAVE tasted to goodness of His love.  I have experienced His love and lived sweetly in it.  But I’m still human and this thorn in my flesh has not come out despite my best efforts.  photolibrary_rf_photo_of_exhausted_man

I heard, on the radio, the lead singer from Tenth Avenue North explaining why he wrote this song and while his feelings of being worn are so far from my feelings of being worn, he said something that really resonated with me.  He said that “sometimes God redeems us from the struggle and sometimes God redeems us through the struggle.”  I’ve heard something like this before.  Someone I know who struggles with addiction as well once told a sanctuary full of people that once while she was begging God to take her struggle from her, He asked if she believed He could.  She said yes and His response was, “would you still trust me knowing I could take it, even if I didn’t take it from you?’  She had to really wrestle with this idea that maybe God’s plan for her life was for her to struggle and that he might not ever fully redeem her FROM the struggle.  As someone who is tired and worn, these are not encouraging words to me.  I want to be redeemed FROM the struggle.  I want to be able to share my redemption story and have it be meaningful and encouraging.  I am TIRED of being redeemed through the struggle; it doesn’t feel redeeming.

Accepting that God may redeem me THROUGH the struggle seems like a risky decision.  It feels like an open door to give up… to stop trying… to simply give into to every whim and desire associated with sex and justify it to myself.  If God is redeeming me through the struggle, do I really have a responsibility to fight against the addiction?  Does it matter whether or not I try to rid my life of this destructive and painful sin if I know I’m never going to overcome it?  Of course it matters; I know this (Romans 6:1).  However, my fear is that accepting that I, like Paul, must maintain the thorn in my flesh for a lifetime, feels like an easy justification when I am tired of the fight.  I don’t even want to begin to imagine what my life will be like if I stop fighting to get better… fighting to recover.

If you’ve read any of my other  blogs, you know that one of my favorite artists is JJ Heller.  Her music resonates with my heart in deep, powerful ways that I cannot put words to.  Her newest single, Who You Are, is no exception.  In this song, JJ sings about dreams not met.  She sings of a woman who has begged for a child of her own but has not been given a child.  She sings of a father who loses a child unexpectedly.  She sings of hurt and pain and unmet expectations.  JJ also sings of the Father’s love, though.  She sings of His love that is found in these unmet expectations.  She says, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know who you are.”  I actually was typing those words right as I was listening to them be sung and it brought tears to my eyes.  What an amazingly bold statement of faith.

I have spoken in the past about learning to be okay with living in the tension.  The idea of living in the tension deals with accepting the mystery of God as something that is beautiful and romantic, not something that turns us away from Him.  I think this is exactly what JJ’s new song is saying; just because I don’t know everything that is happening, everything about You, the one I love and follow, doesn’t mean that I don’t KNOW you or KNOW your character and what you have promised me.

I have absolutely NO idea what God is doing in my life when it comes to this struggle.  I don’t know how it will be used or if my dreams will ever be fulfilled.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to say “I used to struggle” instead of “I do struggle.”  I don’t know if a song will rise out of these ashes or if my tired heart will be restored.  What I do know is that my God loves me.  I know that He is love.  I know that there is purpose.  I know that He will not give me anything I cannot handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).  I know that redemption has ultimately won and that one day, this too shall pass.  I know that my God hears and cares for my aching heart and that He has not left my side.  I know WHO my God is and just because I don’t know what He is doing doesn’t make Him any less loving, compassionate or tender.  Because I know who my God is, I have hope.

It’s Over Already (Part 2)?

Kim Kardashian posted a note to her fans today on her website and it struck a chord with me.

… First and foremost I married for love. I can’t believe I even have to defend this…Everyone knows I am a hopeless romantic! I love with all of my heart and soul. I want a family and babies and a real life so badly that maybe I rushed into something too soon. I believe in love and the dream of what I wanted so badly. I felt like I was on a fast roller coaster and couldn’t get off when now I know I probably should have. I got caught up in the hoopla and the filming of the TV show that when I probably should have ended my relationship, I didn’t know how to and I didn’t want to disappoint a lot of people… I’m being honest here and I hope you respect my courage because this isn’t ready to go through. But I do know that I have to follow my heart. I never had the intention of hurting anybody and I accept full responsibility for my actions and decisions, and for taking everyone on this journey with me. It just didn’t turn out to be the fairy tale I had so badly hoped for… I’m sorry if I hurt anyone, but my dad always told me to follow my heart and I believe now that I really am.

I do not have first hand experience with what she said, but my husband does, so I wanted to share a little bit about his story.
Back in 2002, my husband thought he had found the girl of his dreams. Physically, she was everything he had ever wanted. Emotionally, they clicked. Spiritually, she was a beautiful reflection of Christ and His love. So, a couple months after entering into a relationship with her, my husband asked his dream girl to marry him. She said yes and they spent a little over a year planning an extravagant and fairy tale like wedding.

Just three months after pledging to spend their lives together, my husband was devastated by his bride’s decision to leave the marriage. He begged and pleaded, offered to go to counseling and even got desperate and dramatic, but her mind was made up. She had to “follow her heart.” She gave a lot of different reasons to my husband and her friends and acquaintances, but in the end, I believe it was just as Kim said. You get caught up and then can’t find a way to end it.

Almost all little girls dream about our wedding day. We think about the dress we will wear and the flowers we will hold. We imagine the perfect man waiting for us at the alter, but, in our imaginations, we rarely go beyond that special moment. We don’t dream about blending our life with the life of another human being. We don’t fantasize about morning breath or toe nail clippings. We love the idea of being swept off of our feet but do we love the idea of truly doing life with another person day in and day out?

My husband told me a thousand times while we were engaged, “plan for the marriage not just the wedding.” He had learned his lesson and was wiser for it. His heart ached for a long time. He felt duped by the girl of his dreams (who turned out to be anything but) and forsaken by the God that he served faithfully. However, when I met my husband in the summer of 2006 (two years after dream girl left), he was a strong man who had been refined by the fire and understood what it meant to pledge forever.

We have to slow things down. We have to be prayerful about all things; especially huge, life altering decisions like marriage. We can’t give up easily. We have to know what kind of commitment we are making and stick to it. Trust me, you will be blessed.

We live in a society that stresses fierce independence and dogged self absorption, but that won’t get us anywhere. Love cannot be displayed, given or received in a world full of people who only care about themselves. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Sometimes following our hearts, as much as we think it will make us feel better, is absolutely the wrong thing to do; especially when we have hardened our hearts to God’s loving regulations for our lives.

Divorce, in this situation, is sin. There are consequences for sin. Ask dream girl. I don’t know her personally, but we have mutual friends and I know that it was a long road toward restoration and wholeness for her. God loves his children and just as a human parent disciplines their own child, so does God. Revelation 3:19a says “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline.” Not everything that is good for us, whether it is being disciplined or sticking it out and working very hard to make a relationship work, is pain free, pleasent and enjoyable. In fact, I would go as far to say that the things in my life that have been the most painful, unpleasent and unenjoyable are the same things that have made me into all of the good things that I am today. (Check out Hebrews 12)

Just as I said in part one of this blog, my heart is broken over this news. Anytime a heart is broken and a marriage is ended, it is sad. It is hard to imagine that kind of pain. I believe, because I know so intimately a very similar situation that Kim K. is broken hearted. She should have ended things prior to going through with pledging her life to someone, but she didn’t and now she has to live with that and deal with the consequences.

But you know what? My God is a God of love, forgiveness and restoration. As the song from part one says, he “makes beautiful things out of dust/us.” God loves Kim K. and his heart is aching right along with hers. He loves you! In all of your sin and bad decisions and heartache. He longs for restoration. He wants a relationship with you. He wants to love you like you’ve never been loved before.
If you are struggling right now; if you feel like you have made a mistake and simply got caught up in the loveliness of an idea, know that if you follow Him, He can make it work. Read some of my other entries for proof. If you are currently on that roller coaster and feel like it is too late to get off (engaged and not yet married), know that it is not too late. Slow down and plan for your life together. Think about the devastation you will leave behind if you try to get off after it is too late.

In the end, it all boils down to love. You are loved by the creator of love. There is nothing you have done or can do that will ever change that. It is a matter of accepting that love and turning around and loving in return.

Kim K.
I am so sorry that you felt you were in too deep when you weren’t. I’m sorry that you have given up hope so quickly. Like I said yesterday, you are loved and know that all things can be restored though Him who loves you!

 

Scenes of you come rushing through
You are breaking me down
So break me into pieces
That will grow in the ground
I know that I deserve to die
For the murder in my heart
So be gentle with me Jesus
As you tear me apart
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/j/jj_heller/only_love_remains.html ]
Please kill the liar
Kill the thief in me
You know that I am tired of their cruelty
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains

You burn away the ropes that bind
And hold me to the earth
The fire only leaves behind whatever is of worth
I begin to see reality
For the first time in my life
I know that I’m a shadow
But I’m dancing in your light

Teach me to be humble
Call me from the grave
Show me how to walk with you upon the waves
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains

It’s Over Already?

My heart aches at the news of Kim Kardashian’s decision to file for divorce. After just 72 days of marriage the model/reality TV star made this statement to E! today: “After careful consideration, I have decided to end my marriage. I hope everyone understands this was not an easy decision. I had hoped this marriage was forever, but sometimes things don’t work out as planned. We remain friends and wish each other the best.”
Divorce is a HUGE deal! It devastates lives and people’s hearts. It is not at all what God intended when he instituted the gift of marriage (giving oneself fully to another person for the rest of your lives). God designed marriage at creation. Adam and Eve were married and lived as a married couple. After Eve was created in the Genesis account, God “brought her to the man” (Gen. 2.221). This is considered to be the first institution of marriage. Two verses later, it is written, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2.24). It is clear, by these verses, that God created and ordained marriage and therefore, had a plan for the institution. God designed marriage to be a lasting union between man and woman, in which both partners reveal characteristics of God to one another that were previously unknown to their partner.
With an understanding that marriage was intended to be a lasting union, it seems obvious to assume that divorce was not intended. This is evident when Jesus says, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning, it was not so” (Mat. 19.8). Jesus responded in this way in reply to the Pharisees asking Jesus about the law of divorce in order to trick him. Even at this very early time in Christian history, there were opposing views regarding divorce. There were two main schools of thought regarding divorce. These schools of thought were formed by two different Rabbinical teachings: a) Hillel and b) Shammai. The Hillel school of thought was that a divorce was permitted in any circumstance, but it needed to happen in a discrete manner. The Shammai school of thought, in contrast, was much more restrictive and greatly opposed divorce among married couples. By asking Jesus this question, the Pharisees were testing him to see which school of thought was correct and, also to question Jesus on whether or not divorce should be permitted at all. The Pharisees were probably attempting to provide an opportunity for Jesus to go against the Mosaic Law. Because Jesus spent the large majority of his ministry ratifying and changing views from laws to love, the Pharisees wanted to trick Jesus into saying that divorce was okay.
In the gospel accounts, Jesus continues his teachings on divorce and Paul, in First Corinthians, furthers the teaching. In teaching, both Jesus and Paul discuss exceptions and circumstances regarding the rules of divorce. Because sin entered into the world, God had to ratify his intentions for marriage. He did not intend for divorce, but because divorce became the reality of humanity, He set up guidelines in order to restrict and monitor it. One of the exceptions that is discussed in these passages is the fornication exception, found in Matthew, as stated by Jesus. In order to grasp the meaning of this exception, it is of utmost importance to come to a full understanding of the meaning of the word fornication and differentiate it from any other similar words.
The Greek text uses the word, “πορνεια” which is translated into “unchastity” in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. This is a very important word. Πορνεια is transliterated into prorneia and is from where the English word “porn” comes. Many other translations of the Bible translate πορνεια to “fornication” or “sexual immorality.” The word fornication, in American culture, is often mistakenly interchanged with the word adultery, which is the Greek word “μοιχαω.” These words, in the Bible, are not and should not be interchangeable. Fornication refers to a sexual sin of any and all sorts; adultery is unfaithfulness toward one’s marriage partner.”. While both sins are wrong and carry heavy consequences, they are not the same and they should not be viewed the same, specifically, in regards to marriage. Jesus says, “except for fornication,” not “except for adultery.” The exception clause in regards to divorce deals only with straying outside of the marriage in a sexual manner.
To set up the next exception, Paul goes into a lengthy discourse on the subject of marriage between a believer and an unbeliever. He commands that as long as the unbelieving spouse is willing to coexist, the marriage is not to be dissolved by the believing spouse. Paul even goes on to explain the benefits of such a situation, where he says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy” (7.14). The term “sanctified” is not referring to salvation, otherwise there would be no use in identifying a spouse as unbelieving. The term is used to describe the temporal blessing the unbelieving spouse will get because of the believing spouse. In this passage it seems as though Paul is eliminating reasons for the believing spouse to seek a divorce. If the believing spouse is worried about the effect of an unbelieving parent on their joint children, Paul assures them that the children will also experience blessing on behalf of the believing parent.
Paul continues to discuss the issue when he says, … “but if an unbeliever departs, let him depart.” The word “depart,” in Greek is “χωριζεται” which literally means “separates from.” This is the same word that was used in Jewish culture to mean divorce and was almost always used by Paul to refer to divorce. It seems that, under inspiration from God, Paul says that divorce, in the case of the unbeliever leaving the believer, is not to be stopped, if every attempt to salvage the marriage has failed. This is most likely the case when the unbelieving partner is so frantically opposed to Christianity that he or she refuses to continue the marriage.”
These two exceptions to God’s original intentions for marriage appear to be the only exceptions specifically expressed in the Bible. As I will point out in just a little while, this does not necessarily mean that these are the only valid reasons for divorce. With an understanding of what scripture says about the issue of divorce, I want to discuss how this affects us today, if at all. Even with a desire to fall within the confines of Biblical doctrine, it is often difficult to discern what information in the Bible should be taken word for word and without any liberty and what should be taken with more thought and with an understanding of cultural and societal differences. Frequently, in American Christianity, people are searching for black and white answers on any and every issue and in the case of divorce, there are not black and white answers for every circumstance. But how should society today deal with cases that are not discussed in the Bible?
I once read a book called “Christian Doctrine: Faith Once Discovered” and the author said, “the silence of the Scriptures should be respected as strongly as the clear statements.” While human instinct is to become frustrated with the silence, the author suggests that one should have respect and awe for what was purposely left out of the Bible. This, however, still does not answer the question of what to do with the silence. Author J. Vernon McGee discusses this question when he says, “I do not think one can put down a categorical rule either way for today.” He believes that each case should be judged on its own merit and to make black and white rules when there are no true black and white rules for every circumstance is simply unacceptable. It is hard to imagine that God would require a person to remain married when their life, or the life of their children are in danger. Each circumstance should be weighed and measured on their own, because there is no scriptural evidence leaning toward a right or wrong answer.
There is, however, a danger in this line of thinking. Some people seem to be taking far too much liberty in areas of silence. Where scripture is silent, a lot of people are making assumptions and not seeking wise counsel, studying the whole of the Word of God and/or seeking the will of the Lord. With couples finding it very difficult to combine their financial lives/views as well as their expectations for what a marriage should be at the top of the list for divorce and separation, it is extremely important to think, study and discuss thoroughly the Biblical view of divorce, as well as the character of God.
The issue of divorce will always be debated and discussed. Add to people’s opinions on the issues, the different perspectives that people get, along with the past experiences that they bring into the issue and the result is a muddled, confusing and frustrating set of issues that bear hugely on a large number of lives. But no matter how each person interprets God’s teachings on divorce, God’s word itself should be the basis from which we begin to take our stances. So to truly find answers to the issues that press us today, we will need to always, accurately use God’s word to help and guide the direction of our lives.
We have to look to our God for answers. As I have written about before, marriage is difficult. My first year of marriage was straight out of the drama category on Netflix. We both had dreadfully different expectations going into the marriage and adjusting to life together was tremendously difficult! The only reason we made it was because we (thankfully) both understood that we made a commitment to a LIFETIME together and did what we had to do to make things better.
Now, I don’t know Kim K.’s circumstances or if she has Biblical grounds for a divorce, but I do know that my God is bigger than any circumstance and he can change people’s hearts and lives. As I said in the beginning of this blog, my heart hurts to hear of divorce so soon after pledging to do life together forever. If I’m honest, my initial reaction was judgment, asking, “how can you know it isn’t going to work after just 72 days?” I mean, 72 days into my marriage, I had been ready to give up probably at least 70 times. I can only imagine the pain Kris Humphrys and Kim K. must be feeling. I think I know the disappointment, because I felt it; the disappointment of something not being as wonderful as you expected is a distinct disappointment that stings deep down at the core of your being.
Take care, you married people. Remember your commitment and know that God will bless you richly when you honor your commitment. Support, love and encourage your married friends, those who are struggling and those who are not.
Kim K.,
I am so sorry you are struggling through this. Marriage is sacred and it can be so beautiful. Know that God can restore everything that has been broken. Know that you are loved. Know that you are His!

-Rebecca

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new
You are making me new

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

Rainbows and Butterflies

It’s an ebb and flow kind of thing.  Marriage has its highs and lows.  It isn’t all butterflies and rainbows; in fact, sometimes, there are no butterflies and rainbows at all.

My first year of marriage was absolute hell.  I was expecting a honeymoon period.  You know that period of time all counselors and well intentioned friends talk about when you first realize that there are real problems in your marriage.  They say things like, “sounds like the honeymoon is over” and “welcome to the real world.”  I remember learning in my Marriage and Family Therapy class that the honeymoon period can last up to two years for some couples, which led my into complete denial of the fact that not even two weeks into my marriage, my husband and I would be having a screaming, throwing things, threatening to leave fight.  Now in all fairness, my teacher described his first year of marriage as pure hell as well, but for some reason that didn’t resonate with me the same way the two year blissful honeymoon period did.  Call me naive if you will, I choose to believe I’m just a girl who had a fairy tale dream that obviously wasn’t reality.

My husband and I spent our first year of marriage saying things like, “this may have been a mistake, but we made a commitment, so we better figure out a way to make it work.”  Shoes were thrown and walls were punched.  So many incredibly hurtful words were slung without hesitation or care for the long term impact they would have.  We became experts in regards to anger, bitterness and selfishness.  We knew that divorce wasn’t a real option for either of us so we often wondered if we were resigning to live our lives miserable.

That year, many friends and acquaintances got married.  I remember being sick with envy when they would talk about how amazing married life was.  Apparently they were still experiencing their honeymoon period and I secretly wished all of my pain and disappointment on them.  I couldn’t wait to hear them come crying to me down the road about how bad things had gotten and in my eternal optimism (which I do not actually contain), I HOPED with every fiber of my being that things would be better for my husband  and I by then.  I often told my husband that we just had to get through this really difficult period and then we would have a stronger and fulfilling marriage, but inside I was terrified that things would always stay the same.

Pink’s song Please Don’t Leave Me was played often in my heart that year.

I don’t know if I can yell any louder
How many times have I kicked you outta here?
Or said something insulting?

I can be so mean when I wanna be
I am capable of really anything
I can cut you into pieces
But my heart is… broken

Please don’t leave me
Please don’t leave me
I always say how I don’t need you
But it’s always gonna come right back to this
Please don’t leave me

How did I become so obnoxious?
What is it with you that makes me act like this?
I’ve never been this nasty

Can’t you tell that this is all just a contest?
The one that wins will be the one that hits the hardest
But baby I don’t mean it
I mean it, I promise

Please don’t leave me
Please don’t leave me
I always say how I don’t need you
But it’s always gonna come right back to this
Please don’t leave me

I forgot to say out loud how beautiful you really are to me
I can’t be without, you’re my perfect little punching bag
And I need you, I’m sorry.
Please, please don’t leave me

Baby, please don’t leave me
Please don’t leave me
I always say how I don’t need you
But it’s always gonna come right back to this
Please don’t leave me
Please don’t leave me
I always say how I don’t need you
But it’s always gonna come right back to this

Please, please don’t leave me
Please, please don’t leave me

Year one was absolute hell.  Year two was a roller coaster.

My husband and I started to find a groove during our second year of marriage.  While we still argued and said and did unhealthy and hurtful things to one another in the heat of anger, we had learned how to communicate calmly once things had settled down.  We went through periods of really good times and periods of really terrible times, but things were definitely looking up in my book.  Selfishness had began to fade, but was still ever present.  It was the roller coaster ride of my life and it reminded me of a quote from the movie Parenthood.

Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.

Gil: Oh?

Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!

Gil: What a great story.

Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.

I was hopeful, but still seething from the prior year.  Hurtful things had been said and forgiven, but certainly not forgotten.  All I knew was that marriage was not supposed to be this hard.  No one had ever told me that marriage could be so devastating.  My parents exemplified a strong, healthy and loving marriage all throughout my years at home and I thought that every marriage was just as easy as theirs (that their marriage was easy was an assumption and most likely a very wrong assumption).  Despite my hope for a better future, I didn’t understand why things were so bad.  I just wanted to have a happy and healthy marriage.

Being married to a pastor only made things worse.  It made all of our struggles and unhappiness stay EXTREMELY private and added guilt that should not have been there.  Only our counselor knew what was really happening with us (and I would venture to say that we were not completely honest with him).  We felt alone.  We felt that if we made ourselves vulnerable by telling the truth, we would be criticized and even worse, my husband would lose his job.  We felt guilty that we didn’t know what we were doing and that we couldn’t make our marriage work.  Even though it shouldn’t be this way, there is this code of silence among so many in ministry.  Vulnerability is feared above all else.

Year one was absolute hell.  Year two was a roller coaster.  Year three was amazing.

Our third year of marriage started out surrounded by people who loved and cared for us.  I was finally being honest with myself and with a trusted confidant and I believe my husband was finally being honest with himself as well.  Early into our third year of marriage, we found out that I was pregnant and we moved to a new state where my husband had accepted a new ministry position (talk about a new beginning).  This was the year of love, fun and surprises for us.

Being pregnant really forced my husband and I to grow up.  We knew that in just a few short months our lives would dramatically change and we wanted desperately to make the most of our last bit of time just the two of us.  We finally truthfully enjoyed being around each other and learned the true meaning of selflessness.  Our intimacy grew astronomically as we began to take an interest someone other than ourselves.

We started cuddling again.  You know how when you first start dating someone and there is something so incredibly satisfying about sitting on the couch all cuddled up next to each other for hours?  We had that back and it was amazing.  Communication ran ramped in our home and loving gestures were freely handed out.  It wasn’t about what I could get out of the marriage.  It was about what I could provide for my husband.

I tell you this story, my friends, for no other reason but to encourage.  I will attend the wedding of a dear friend tomorrow and while there will be well wishes and happy thoughts directed at her, I hope and pray that she has some idea of reality.  Not every marriage is the same.  Not every first year is pure hell.  I know that my marriage will not remain the same.  It is ever changing, ever evolving for better or for worse.  I once heard someone say (in a movie?  tv show?  who knows) that marriage is hard and that there are both good and bad times.  The person explained that there was a three year time period in which he and his wife hardly could stand each other, but they were committed to one another and made it work and are better for it.  That is how it has to be.  We, as married people, have to know that it can always be better.  Even when we are experiencing the best years of our lives together, know that there is still work to be done.  Marriage is difficult and it takes a lot of work.  You have to be willing to grow as an individual and as a couple.  You have to be willing to experience the difficult so that you can truly taste the sweet.

If you are a newlywed and are experiencing the difficult, please know that it does get better.  You CAN make things different.  You CAN have a fulfilling and loving marriage.  It takes vulnerability and trust and strength you didn’t know you had.  It takes hard work, but it is so worth it.  Don’t give up.  Don’t feel like there is something wrong with you because you just got married and are incredibly miserable.  It happens, my friend.  It happens.

If you haven’t yet experienced a rough couple of years, brace yourself.  I believe it is inevitable.  You cannot spend a lifetime with someone and never experience anything difficult.  Know that marriage goes is waves of good and bad.  Know that the size of the waves are different for everyone and that everyone reacts to each wave differently.

Be encouraged, though.  Marriage is a good thing.  It is the most incredible gift and experience.  To love and be loved.  It may be messy, but it is the most worthwhile mess in the world.

I leave you today with a recommendation for one of my FAVORITE movies about marriage.  The Story of Us.  If you can get your hands on it, WATCH IT!!!

http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi33227033/

Hierarchy of Sin

It hurts my heart to think of what we have become.  We have this amazing opportunity and we daily, weekly, almost every chance we get, just throw it away!  We are a disgrace.  We have let Him down.  You, I, have let Him down.

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them… 13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [b]    15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are… 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. 25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean… 33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?  -Matthew 23

When Jesus came to earth, he spent his ministry completely flipping the hierarchy of sin upside down.  He was a radical!  He was counter culture.  He taught love and acceptance and detested hypocrisy.  He continuously called attention to those who were more concerned with outward sin (theft, sexual immorality, lack of tithing, etc.) than the condition of their hearts.  Jesus ate with, hung out with and used the outcasts of society.  He came into a culture imprisoned by rules and regulations and offered freedom through extravagant love.

Jesus’ message was love.  He showed radical love and challenged his followers to do the same.  As his followers today, the challenge is the same; however, I see us, His followers, failing miserably!  We haven’t got it right.  We are right back where we started.  I really don’t think that the majority of us would look much different than the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.  Our hearts are a mess and in order to shield ourselves from any guilt, we have created outward rules and regulations.  We have created this list of acceptable sins and if your sin isn’t on that list, then you are out; we can’t possibly love you.

Jesus fought so hard to turn the hierarchy of sin right-side up and we have gone and flipped it right back upside down.  The “liberals” and non Christians are doing a better job of loving unconditionally and without bounds than we are.  We talk about our love endlessly, but we don’t practice it.  We ostracize the gays, the sexual deviants, the adulterers, the divorced, the murders, the liars, the child abusers and anybody else who rubs against our personal judgments, but we have absolutely no problem with the lustful, greedy, prideful, judgmental and bitter person who fund our church’s building campaigns and teach our Sunday school classes.  We have it all wrong!  We have stopped caring about matters of the heart and spend our time making sure that the world know just how “good” we can be on the outside.

Almost all of the most recent literature and studies point to the “world” feeling ostracized by Christians.  According to these studies, the people in the world that feel most judged and most unloved by Christians are homosexuals.  What a heartbreaking thing to hear.  How could we have gotten it so wrong?  Why are we, as Christians, being pinpointed by the world as the most unloving and the most ungracious towards a  group of people?  This should NEVER be the case!

“Hate the sin, love the sinner” sounds good in theory, but does simply allowing the person to sit in your congregation really constitute loving them?  I don’t think so.

I recently heard a story about a church that made a group of men, from a residential recovery program, who visited their church sit in a designated portion of the sanctuary armed with a paid body guard!  Talk about getting it wrong!  The Christian men and women who are holding onto their money with a stronger grip than that of a man falling off of a side of a cliff and those who walk around thinking about how much better off they are than the “sinners” around them weren’t asked to sit separately so that everyone was aware of their sin.  Why not?  Because their sin is a secret and we have learned to make those sins acceptable.  We preach against them, but do nothing to hold those struggling accountable!  Man have we messed things up; we have returned to the hierarchy of sin that was present when Jesus arrived on this earth.

I also heard someone who proclaims to be a Christian say, “you can tell what kind of people are here at church by the type of cars we have in the parking lot.”  This person was complaining that we, as a church body, are attracting the “wrong” kind of people.  Are you kidding me?  Jesus didn’t spend much time in the temple, and I think it is exactly because of people like us.  If Jesus was here, I think we would reject him simply based on the kind of people he hung around with.  We are rejecting Jesus when we reject another human being!  Is there even such a thing a “the wrong kind of person” in God’s eyes?  I don’t think so; that certainly isn’t what I know of my God.

So, to my fellow followers… we are all guilty.  We have all messed up and we all fall short of the extravagant love required of us.  We have forgotten about Christ’s sacrifice and we have held onto our own pain and resentments.  We have refused to fully surrender our lives, which, in turn, has allowed us to be okay with who we have become.  We are not who we were made to be and we are not loving the way we are called to love.  I am with you.  I am just as guilty as anyone else.  It breaks my heart to honestly look at the landfill of what is in my heart.  We are all in this together.  Please, let us start loving.  Let us begin to allow the world to experience Christ’s love through our own love.  Let us get it together and live lives worthy of the sacrifice.

To those of you who I have been judged or mistrusted or not loved appropriately, I am sorry.  For those of you who have not been accepted or loved by my fellow followers, I am sorry.  We are not perfect, but that is no excuse.  We have gotten it wrong.  I promise you that the God we serve, the God we proclaim to love, loves you and He loves you abundantly.  He does not reject you.  He does not hate you.  You are not too far gone to be loved by Him.  I promise!  If that were the case, I would be right there with you.  My sin, our sin, is all the same.  We are all sinners.  We have all messed up.  Yet, we are all loved.

 

My Jesus- Todd Agnew

Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Then why do you look so much like the world?

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand

Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?

Who is this that you follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus was here would you walk right by on the other side or fall down and worship at His holy feet

Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for Your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part
Sometimes I doubt we’d recognize Him

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?

Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
I think He’d prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud

I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!

Not a posterchild for American prosperity, but like my Jesus
You see I’m tired of living for success and popularity
I want to be like my Jesus but I’m not sure what that means to be like You Jesus
Cause You said to live like You, love like You but then You died for me
Can I be like You Jesus?
I want to be like you Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!


Stereotypes

Stereotypes are terrible.  I have lived my life knowing that I am NOT a stereotype, which has been liberating at times, but more often than not, it is an incredibly lonely place to be.  Not fitting into a stereotype inherently means that you are different.  A stereotype is a generalization based on what is thought to be true for most of people within a group.  If one does not fit that generalization, that means they are on the outside of the expected norm and it has been a very tumultuous experience to live on the outside of the stereotypes.

In junior high and high school, it became VERY clear to me that I was not a typical female (of course, I internalized this as not being “normal” and that there was something wrong with me).  Unfortunately, growing up in the church only intensified this feeling.  In youth group, all I ever heard was that girls had different struggles than girls in terms of sexuality and sex.  Girls, I was taught, wanted love.  Boys, wanted sex.  All sitcoms and movies also portrayed these stereotypes.  The men all griped about not getting enough sex and the women all griped about not getting enough love.  Don’t get me wrong, I do long to be love.  I have a deep, sometimes unhealthy, desire to know that I am “worth something” and to feel cherished.  My heart dances when someone finds me captivating because it makes me feel that they see depth in me and depth that can never be fully discovered.  Love is high on my list of needs.  However, I am NOT the girl who dreads sex, who isn’t visually stimulated or who has a lower sex drive than a typical man.  I have been this way for as far as I can remember and it has always haunted me.

This concept of being a female has been the most troublesome concept in my life.  I grew up feeling like God had made a mistake; he made me with girl parts, but everything else about me was boy.  I thought like a boy, I played like a boy, I was built like a boy and I even had the sex drive of a boy.  As I entered junior high and on into high school, I became VERY aware of just how different I was.  My girlfriends talked about how cute a boy was and how they hoped that one day they would get to hold hands or cuddle and I thought about how cute a boy was and how amazing it would be to enter into some kind of sexual relationship with him.

In the height of my questioning whether or not God had made a mistake, I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my dad.  I was sitting on the couch and said, “Dad, I hate my legs; they are so big!”  My dad said, “Don’t hate your legs; you have your dad’s legs sweetie!  You are muscular.”  This pretty much solidified it all for me; I was supposed to be a boy.

However, none of this ever prevented me from dating or getting into sexual relationships.  Before I met my husband at age 19, I had had eleven boyfriends and seven or eight sexual partners.  You would think that because I felt so much like a boy, I would have a hard time entering into these kinds of relationships, but I think that these kinds of relationships made me feel alive.  These relationships were the only reassurance I had that I was, in fact, a girl and that I was a ” normal” girl, because guys wanted me.  I lied to myself and made myself feel better by pointing out that what made me different also proved that I was in fact a female.

Growing up in the church made this all the more difficult for me.  Not only did I have this exaggerated awareness that I was not “normal” and that God had most likely made a mistake in creating me, but I also lived in the bondage of my sin because I didn’t understand the freedom that comes through Christ.  Church was not an ideal environment for me.  While I accepted Christ at a young age, I also accepted guilt and judgment at a young age.  The church taught me all about sin (murder, sex outside of marriage, cursing, etc) and taught me all about guilt.  Every time I learned of a new sin, I took on a new layer of guilt, as I was guilty of it all.  The church told me that God loved me, but I lived my life wondering if He would take that love back because I was REALLY bad!

As I mentioned, my core sin was sex.  As a VERY young child, I began dealing with this sin.  I specifically remember being as young as seven years old and masturbating (although I am sure I masturbated long before that, seven is just my earliest memory of it).  The sight of someone giving or receiving a kiss on television would send me into a frenzy and I would do whatever I could to get to a place by myself and relive that moment in my mind while releasing the tension that had risen within me like an all consuming fire.  My life revolved around when I could be alone in my room, the bathroom, or anywhere else in my house or a friend’s house so that I could masturbate.  I specifically remember thinking one time, “if watching someone kiss practically brings me to orgasm, what will I do when I am actually kissing someone?”

Assuredly, I do not have to explain in depth the amount of guilt with which this provided me as a child in the Christian church.  I prayed every night for forgiveness and prayed with fervor that God would make me stop “having sex with myself” (it wasn’t until seventh grade when I learned the term “masturbate” and that it was a fairly normal pubescent occurrence for boys).  Yet, the next day, it would be the same thing.

As I got older, masturbating stopped being enough for me.  My fantasies grew and grew and eventually started to become reality.  I entered into several sexual relationships, some of them at the same time, and became addicted to the high I got from such sexual pleasure (as well as the feeling of being wanted or desired by another human being).  I would participate in some sordid sexual act, which did not usually involve any reciprocation from the male counterpart and then go home and masturbate while reliving the experience in my head.  Kissing on television no longer got me excited, but the second someone discussed or alluded to sex, I was back to the little girl who could not contain her desire to be alone and release the tension.

In high school, I had a phenomenal Youth Pastor and mentor who both allowed me to be very honest about my struggle and constantly challenged my beliefs about what it meant to be a female.  Honesty helped a little bit, but after a while, it only added to my guilt.  I knew that admitting to another person that I had failed yet again would only make me feel worse, so I began lying about it, which as you can imagine added to the guilt.  There was no guilt free selection in my life.  Grace was discussed but for some reason, it never applied to me and I could never figure out why.

I knew that if people knew who I really was, they would be disgusted by me.  I knew this by the way sexual sin was discussed among my conservative friends and family.  I knew that I was a hypocrite.  I knew that every Sunday I got on stage and helped lead my fellow high school students in worship and that I would most likely go home and before falling asleep that night, fantasize about someone in that group while masturbating.

While all of this is something that I still struggle with, it is on a much smaller scale and often in very different forms.  Late in high school and early in college, I had incredible people (personal and professional) who allowed me to work through my thoughts and feelings on the issues and it was a very necessary step for me.  However, regardless of how much I worked through my issues, sometimes it feels like nothing will ever fully shake the loneliness that comes from not fitting into the stereotype of a female.

Another stereotype that I just do not fit is the stereotype of being a pastor’s wife.  I am not quiet and sweet and I do not want to get to know every person who walks through the door.  I have no desire to run the women’s ministry, or even be a part of it currently.  I am not soft spoken and standing at the door to greet people sounds like the most painful thing in the world to me.  And, to top it off, I am not a stereotypical female, which is one of the main components to being a wife.  Now, I know a few other pastor’s wives who do not fit into those stereotypes, but they are few and far between.

I have had countless people make some sort of comment to me about not being a “good” pastor’s wife, which is very hard on me.  I understand that I have been provided with a wonderful opportunity to grow and I am not backing down from that opportunity, but I also think that I have to learn to be okay with who I am, as hard as that it.  If I listened to every person who has an opinion on how I should be doing my job as a pastor’s wife, I would hate myself.  I would never get a break from stereotypes.  I know that I don’t fit the mold, which is hard, but I have to learn to be okay with it, because, yet again, this is a really lonely place in which to live.

I have a personality disorder, called Avoidant Personality Disorder.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoidant_personality_disorder (I know wikipedia isn’t always the most reliable, but this is accurate and in layman’s terms)  Living with this has been very difficult, but as a pastor’s wife, it seems impossible.  I think the loneliness that comes from not fitting into the stereotype is intensified by the fact that even when I want to change, it seems impossible to do so.  It isn’t simply a matter of getting over it and changing, which I think most people assume it is, which is hard.

Luckily, in this current place, God has been so faithful and has blessed my husband and I with a staff that doesn’t expect anything of me.  We can’t control what the congregation expects, but we can work together to help them to have realistic expectations.  I am who I am; I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  God has made me who I am and has put me in the positions and places that he has for a reason.  I am stronger because of all of the stereotypes that I do not fit.  There is freedom in Christ.  Having a relationship with Christ is what frees me to be me, regardless of stereotype.  I don’t have to worry (although, sometimes I do) about not fitting the mold.  I can take refuge in my God who loves me and made me perfectly.  He did not make a mistake and he is growing me through my flaws.  God’s grace applies to me every day.  The loneliness is not from God, it is a trick of the great deceiver who longs to keep me away from my loving Father.

So, this blog is to those of you who don’t fit the mold.  Be strong.  Be brave.  Be you.  Please know that there is a God who loves you, who created you and who longs to allow you to be the best you as possible.  Know that in Him, there is peace.  Know that in Him, there are no stereotypes; You ARE the mold.

True Things- JJ Heller
I’m not the clothes I’m wearing
I’m not a photograph
I’m not the car I driveI’m not the money I make
I’m not the things I lack
I’m not the songs that I writeI am I am who I am
I am who I am

There are true things inside of me
I have been afraid to see
I believe, help my unbelief
Would you say again what you said to me
I am loved and I am free
I believe, help my unbelief

I’m not the house I live in
I’m not the man I love
I’m not the mistakes that I carry

I’m not the food that I don’t eat
I’m not what I’m above
I’m not my scars and my history

There are true things inside of me
I have been afraid to see
I believe, help my unbelief
Would you say again what you said to me
I am loved and I am free
I believe, help my unbelief

To your love I’m waking up
In your love I’m waking up