Thursday, June 18, 2015

Reality: I am not Black, but I am Christian and a Person

I am not black.  I am not a white person who identifies as black (apparently you can do that these days).  I AM a white woman married to a white man who has been the pastor of a black church for three years.  We are also the white parents of a black child.  We are also all Christians.

Last night, our church was hosting a summer reading program for community youth followed by our regular Wednesday night Bible study and service.  We were gathered around God's Word just like any other Wednesday around here.  Meanwhile, our brothers and sisters in Christ just south of us were gathered around that same Word.  My church family thankfully went home refreshed and filled with the Gospel; while our extended church family was dealing with the aftermath of a horrible crime against them as people, as black people, and as Christians.  I praise God from whom all blessings flow that those who were murdered in such a fashion are now with Christ, but I mourn for the rest of their earthly families and their extended church families across the country.

Given our unique situation in a southern black church, I just felt the need to talk to all of you for a few minutes - to open my heart and mind in an honest fashion.  I can't say that what I am about to write will be beautiful, but I can say that it will be real.  I pray that these words are accepted as they are meant to be - the mournful thoughts of a Christian woman who has learned so much in the past three years in this black church and community and the past five years with our black son.

For the past three years, I would venture to guess that not a single week has gone by that I didn't have a passing thought and fear about my husband being shot.  Now, this may seem pretty common for a policemen's wife or a military spouse, but for a pastor's wife in the U.S.?  How ridiculous are my emotions that stem from my lack of trust in God?

I fear a racist white person who can't believe the ignorance of that white man who hangs out with black people.

I fear a racist black person who can't believe the audacity of a white man to think he can lord it over black people like that.

I fear anyone who can't believe those idiots think they can raise a black child.

I fear.
I don't trust.
I look at the world around us, one so filled with hatred, and I collapse a little inside.

And you know what?  I may not be black or even identify as black, but I can identify with a little of that life fear.  I can't know what it is like to grow up black.  I can't know what it is like to hear about yet another one of my race's members being shot - by someone of my race or another, with just causes or not.

I can't know.
After three years, I can tell you that I know it so much more than I ever did before; and yet the more that I know it, the more I understand I will never know it.  In so many ways, the black community has many reasons to fear this world and be angry at the injustices.

So, where can black Christians turn for solace from such hate?
Where we all need to turn - Jesus Christ alone.
And that is what makes this current crime so unimaginable to my weak and beaten heart.  For when a group of black Christians joined for the healing of God's Word, they were attacked.  Their color was attacked and their Christianity was attacked.  A doubly horrible hate crime.

Many have questioned why we need "black churches" in our country.  Explaining the history of such a deep rooted issue is not the scope of my thoughts today, but I will say that black churches are not different from many other churches.  We are a community of people who are related, live close, and invite those we have connections with in our lives.  In general for our church members, that involves being part of the larger black community.  So, members are black.  And there is great comfort in knowing those around you can understand your life and fears in a deep way.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that unless it is an exclusive black-only or white-only or whatever-only group that wouldn't allow someone of a different race.  Christianity is for all races and peoples, and our church welcomes all (by seen in the color of their pastor and family).

However, as a regular attender of a black church, I can tell you that the sight of white people is rare and noticeable.  There is an unsaid (and sometimes said) feeling of, "White people don't come back."  This usually holds true, and I don't mean to judge white people for this, either, because as I stated before, there is comfort in fitting in where you worship.  And although I am not privy to any information in the murder of our fellow Christians in South Carolina, and I have no idea if the man who committed this crime had attended before or if he was a stranger, I can tell you that some black Christians throughout the country will be feeling the tinge of fear associated with white strangers for awhile.  Church loses some of its comfort in fear.

But while we can't assure anyone of even a church without racist people, because racism exists in places where you find sinners (in church and not in church), it is the place we find Christ, the One who died for all races.

So, to you, frightened black Christian, know that I may not be the same color as you on the outside, but I do recognize and acknowledge your fears.  They are real on this earth.
Amazingly, what is even more real is Christ's death and resurrection for all sinners, of which I am the chief.

The Church is where you find the forgiveness of sins, the Word, Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the joy of fellowship of believers.  The Church is where you find those who pray for their enemies - even those who murder us for our beliefs or our skin tone.  The Church is where you find your brothers and sisters in Christ.

And only there, you can still find His solace - a peace which passes all understanding.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Reality: Wait on the Lord

In reading an article written about God making us wait for our prayers to be answered, I found myself hoping and anticipating for so much more than what was given.  Feel free to read it to give yourself some context as to what I am referring to, but do not take that as my endorsement of the whole article.

The author begins with this:

"Jesus could have come and healed Lazarus when he was still alive.
Instead, He waited to raise him from the dead when he was already in his grave.

God could have made David become king the day after he was anointed.
Instead, He waited 15 years to rise to the throne, many of those years spent fearing for his life, hiding out and running away from his own father-in-law.

God could have spoken to Moses in the desert about sending him to help free His people from slavery 40 days after he ran away from Egypt.
Instead, He made him wait for 40 long years.

God could have gotten Joseph out of prison one year after he was sentenced there.
Instead, he was stuck in that dungeon for 10 years before he was finally set free.
God could have given Abraham the son He promised him when he was still a young man.
Instead, He waited until he was 100 years old and because of physical reasons would have a more difficult time conceiving at that age.

God could have answered prayers and met the needs of these men of God much quicker, but He didn’t."

While all this is true, the author goes on to use these people as examples of why God is making us wait in our prayer life.  The connotation being that the thing in which we are praying for will eventually come if we keep praying for it.

In fact, what these events from the Bible do is exactly what our prayers should do - point us to Christ.

Everything in human history leading up to Christ's death and resurrection was leading toward and pointing to the Messiah.
When Christ lived on earth prior to His crucifixion, all the moments of His life were leading toward and pointing to Him as true God and Man, the eventual sacrifice in our place.
After His ascension into heaven, the rest of human history still points toward Him.
That is the way we must read the Bible - Christ as the center and direction of all of history.

Are these true stories from the Bible good illustrations of waiting?  Yes.

But they are not illustrations of waiting on our prayers to be answered; they are signs that our prayers have been answered in Christ - the Messiah who came, is coming, and will come again.

When we start to say things like the author of this article does -

"If He is telling you 'no' today, maybe it's because He has a better 'yes' waiting for you tomorrow.
If He is keeping you in the same place you've always been today, maybe it's because He's helping build your faith before you enter your Promised Land tomorrow.
If He is not healing you or bringing you victory today, maybe it's because you will have a greater testimony when He waits to help you be an overcomer tomorrow...
Don't give up just because you don't see anything happening today."

- we make ourselves like God (or like Job's friends), making our will what we are actually waiting for instead of His will, and we turn away from Biblical truths and instead to motivational speeches.

The fact is He may not give us what we desire.  The hard truth is we may feel like we are waiting in anguish for our entire lives.  The earthly answers given to those men in the Bible are signs of Christ and God's promises.  As Christians, we are thankful for their fulfillment as they lead us to Him, but we are not God, and many times our will is not His.

Does this mean we stop praying for our desires?  By no means!

God hears the prayers of those who call on His Name.
God tells us to cry out to Him.
Christ stands as our Mediator, perfecting our prayers as they reach His ears.

We indeed know this to be true; and therefore, we keep dropping to our knees and pleading for mercy.  Not because we know tomorrow may be brighter, but because we know what has already been accomplished for us through Him and who He is for us now.

But I have to admit tomorrow will be better - when He appears and we shall see Him as He is.
Tomorrow will be better - as He may not change the outward circumstance, but does promise to change our inward anxiety into a peace that passes all understanding.
Tomorrow will be better - as we pray for Him to continually reform our will to line up with His good and gracious will. 

These men of the Bible point us to Christ and to the truth that God is faithful to His promises.
That is the faith of those great men.

A faith given by God and sustained by those sinful men and in sinful me who hates waiting.
A faith He sustains until the final day when all the pain and suffering of this life will be gone, and I won't have to wait anymore.
A faith that crumbles inside my sinful body in times of great despair, and yet stands firm with Christ, who didn't wait on me, but died for me while I was yet His enemy.
A faith that brings us to sing as we wait,

"Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Helper of the helpless, Lord, abide with me."
            - Abide with Me, Henry F. Lyte, 1847

A faith that knows that He indeed does abide with me as I wait.
A faith that keeps pointing me and leading me back to Christ so that I know who I am waiting for.

A faith that recognizes these present truths and the ones I await -

I am raised from the dead just like Lazarus,
I will be crowned just like David,
I have been lead out of slavery and will be brought into the Promised Land just like Moses, who did receive his eternal Promised Land,
I am set me free just like Joseph,

AND all this because I have been given the Son He promised just like Abraham.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Reality: I don't enjoy every minute.

"You will never have this day with your children again.  Tomorrow they'll be a little older than they were today.  This day is a gift.  Just breathe, notice, study their faces and little feet.  Pay Attention.  Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today, it will be over before you know it."
~Unrealistic platitude with unknown author

Many wiser (and older) women seem to share phrases, quotes, or memes with similar contexts - your children are only little for a short while, and this time will never come again, so enjoy every minute.

I think there are some really great points about this type of thinking that should be taken to heart as a younger and less wise mother, such as myself.  The fact is I don't often remember to just enjoy my children's curiosity.  I don't relax and breathe through the tough moments.  I actually choose to completely ignore my children more often than I should and more often than I want to.  I don't look at my days as gifts when I haven't showered or left the house...or maybe even more when I haven't showered and yet been forced to leave the house.  I already see my oldest (4) as a grown child, and I have no idea how he got there - his little feet aren't so little anymore.  The time has been over before I even knew it.

There is wisdom in those thoughts.  I need to remember them as I trudge through the monotonous trenches that are raising all littles all the time.


It is unwise to give such advice, comments, and statements without a recognition of the obvious -
Some days and some moments all we want as moms is for it to be over before we know it.
All we want is for them to be a little older than they are today.
Some days feel like the gifts you receive from someone who doesn't actually know you or your desires at all.
Some days are UNenjoyable.

And when we are in those moments, platitudes about how wonderful our lives are now and how much we will miss it someday don't give us hope or encourage us.  In fact, they do the opposite.

Although, even though all my children are young, I am beginning to forget some of the worst days.  Some battles you face as a parent are better off forgotten, and somehow that happens.  You begin to remember those days as a quick passing and remember the good moments - the moments where you were able to relax and breathe and just study their little features and their little minds.  And I truly believe that the older and wiser moms and grandmas who share such quotes are at a place where they have forgotten those trenches and realize that they pass quickly from your mind once they are over.

Those trenches of motherhood were real to them in the moment, too.  We all have them.  And I, for one, am glad to know that even through the trenches, these women remember the joy.  I want to remember all the joyous moments, because they are plentiful.  I want to relish in the moment, and when I have my worst ones, I want to know that someday I won't remember that part.

But I also want to be the older and wiser grandma who looks at my daughter(s) and daughters-in-law and says,

" is HARD, isn't it, honey?  I know.  I remember.
AND isn't it wonderful?  I know.  I remember.  You will, too.
Now, you go get some coffee by yourself while I relax, pay attention, examine their little feet, and relish in the charms of the present."

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Reality: Sex is Better than a Smartphone

At my regular OB appointment for this pregnancy, I was perusing the provided Parents magazine in the waiting room.  This is what I saw in big, bold letters in a box meant to grab everyone's attention:

4 in 10 moms would rather go without sex for a month than give up their smartphone.

This statistic was backed by a Parents magazine survey and article titled, "Millenials Amplified: The Mom Factor."  I didn't look it up or read more into it.  I really didn't need to.

I won't even begin to go into how reputable I believe this type of survey to be, because frankly, it doesn't matter.  The point is that there is a prevalent thinking in our culture that sex isn't really for women and more of a prize to be given to men when they are good.  

This is a harmful and incorrect view of sex.  It harms marriages.  It harms men. It harms women. It harms families.  It harms single people.  It harms society.

So, what do we do?  Well, some pastors write provocative sermons about "40 Days of Sex" or some other eye and ear-catching title, where they tell married couples to have sex everyday for 40 days.  And while I certainly think pretty good things could come from a married couple having sex everyday for 40 days, the point about sex is really lost when we make it a law to be fulfilled everyday.  

Does God tell us to have sex with our spouses?  Yes.  

"The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.  For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.  Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."  1 Corinthians 7:3-5

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."  Genesis 2:24

"And God blessed them.  And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth..."  Genesis 1:28

But does God give us sex with our spouses as a gift?  Yes.

"Let your fountain be blessed, 
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, 
a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love."
Proverbs 5:18-19

Or just read all of Song of Solomon and try not to blush.  A few examples - 

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine."
Song of Solomon 1:2

"Awake, O north wind,
and come, O south wind!
Blow upon my garden, 
let its spices flow.
Let my beloved come to his garden,
and eat its choicest fruits."
Song of Solomon 4:16

The fact is that in this world, we try to make what God gives us as gifts into laws and we try to make God's laws into something that we can pick and choose.  Both of these hurt us and our relationships.  God's laws and God's gifts are equally good, and sometimes one in the same - His laws are gifts.

God doesn't say to us that sex in marriage is for when we feel passionate for one another.  He doesn't tell us it is for only when we haven't sinned against each other.  He doesn't say it is for the days when you aren't annoyed about something to do with your spouse.  

He says you are one flesh.  That one flesh being a law and a gift.  So, the desires of your husband's or wife's heart and body are, in fact, your desires.  

So, if those 4 in 10 women who would prefer to give up sex over their smartphone are single, more power to them.  Thanks for choosing the right path.

But if you are married, I encourage you to put the smartphone down for a little while, maybe even everyday, to be "intoxicated always" (Proverbs 5:19) in your husband or wife.