A Video Interview with John-Marc Ormechea

I don’t like being in front of a camera; I avoid it in fact. (Yes, I know the irony of saying that and being the woman who sent half-naked photos of herself through the Twitterverse earlier this year.) So, when my friend John-Marc Ormechea (otherwise known as @EpicTillich on Twitter), asked me to talk with him via Zoom my response was: hell no! Nah-ah. No way. Hard pass. But what I said was: “uh, sure.” And I mustered up all the courage in my 140 pound frame and sat with John-Marc and talked about my journey in Christ, Martin Luther (#swoon), and Liturgy as a beautiful feature of The Episcopal Communion. It was fun. I talk with my hands *a lot*. I choked up at one point (now you’ll know what I look like when I’m about to cry).  I’m *VERY* animated; everything is right there on my face to see (good news: I’m a bad liar because of this animation).

 

Anyway, here is that video. And, all my gratitude to John-Marc Ormechea for asking me to talk to him about things that I’m passionate about. I’m beyond honored.

 

 

You can find John-Marc Ormechea here: https://epictillich.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter: @EpicTillich. You’ll blessed as I have been.

Prepare the Cabin for Landing

In little over a month, I’ll step in to a new role: religious educator. To be honest, it’s not a particularly new role for me, considering my participation in the church–the very reason I’m am being ordained to the priesthood is based on my calling and gifting to teach, which I’ve demonstrated. So, the newness of the role is more about it being an official, paid, vocation/occupation. I’m excited about this new role and this opportunity to use my gifts in a professional way and, well, receive some perks apart from internal satisfaction.

But in the midst of this excitement and affirmation (for truly I see to have received a call as an affirmation), there lies a hiccup. Every part of me wants to embrace, arms open wide, the level of excitement I want to have, but I wrestle with the ever persistent shadow of the accusation: selfish. To take the call, I’ve asked (demanded?) my family to uproot and move to another state, to another job, to another school, to another life. And this request is contrary to how I’ve lived my life for the past little-more-than-a-decade as a stay-at-home-parent. For these people, my family, I’ve pushed myself aside giving them spots one through four. Even when I was working so hard on the very training that allowed me this very opportunity, they came first; I wove my education and exercise of my gifts into the cracks of my days as not to disturb the ebb and flow of our family life.

It doesn’t help that the mama bear in me is active; I’d do anything to protect my kids from pain and discomfort. However, the very pain and discomfort I wish to always protect them from and that they are currently experiencing comes from me.  This is the internal war being waged in my mind. No matter how hard I shake, no matter how fast I run, I can’t seem to escape the accusation: you’re selfish. Yet, I can neither shake nor run from the reality that this new job is a real good, a good I need to (and want to) grasp with both hands, a good I’ve been training for for over a decade.

It’s here, in the midst of this struggle in my mind, I need to rest fully on the grace of God. And I don’t mean the trite: let go and let God. (Though, I’ll admit that probably colloquialism does apply to some degree here.) What I means is the grace of God that is the rod and staff of comfort that walks us through the shadow of the valley of death (Ps 23:4). The type of grace of God that holds us up as we descend into the darkness that is faith. As I navigate this delicate walk between accusations of selfish and affirmations of good, I am reminded that just as my life has been (for both good and for bad) in God’s hands, my children’s lives are there, too. God’s providence is not for me alone, but also for them and my fear shouldn’t cause such shortsightedness: (once again) this isn’t solely about me.

The accusation is silenced in this grace of God that as I am lead by the hand through this dark valley because it is God leading me into this new phase of my life so are my children being lead; it is God who is the author of this new chapter in my life and in theirs.  I am reminded that this opportunity benefits my children and does not take from them in the ways that I imagine it does/will. I will be stepping out of one way of providing comfort into a whole different version of providing comfort. This job allows my children a new way of viewing their mother and thus women in general. This job allows me to take steps to the side, giving them a clearer view of their own path. This job allows me to start to untie these apron-strings and assure them that I’m fine and that, when the time comes for them to leave–and it will and quick–they not only will but can.

In this job rests the beginning of what I’ve truly been training for this past decade-plus: landing this plan.  Taking this job and making these requests that I have, is me beginning the initial descent. And while this flight has been great–not without  major turbulence–a plane can’t stay in the air forever. So, I flip the switch that illuminates the directive: “fasten your seat-belt.” And my voice sounds out in breaks and crackles over the loudspeaker: Please prepare the cabin for landing.

 

Some Thoughts on the Billy Graham Rule

A couple of weeks ago I had a bit of a rant on Twitter about the foundations for the Billy Graham Rule. (If you are (lucky enough to be) unaware of such a rule, I’ll send you out in to the inter-webs to read more: BGR.) I turned the rant into a “Moment” at the advice from one wiser than I about these things (h/t Travis McMaken*). In order to make the Moment available to a non-twitter audience, I have embedded the tweets below. Enjoy!

 

*You are encouraged to visit his blog: http://derevth.blogspot.com/p/about-die-evangelischen-theologen.html

Whatever You Do, Don’t Ask “Why?”

(The following is my personal inquiry about suffering and questioning God’s Will in that suffering. None of it suffices for a proper treatment of doctrine surrounding the question. Take it as is: personal musings)

A few months after I graduated from seminary with my MDiv, I found myself back in class at the same school. I had noticed there was a night class being offered on reading through John Calvin, so I jumped at the opportunity. After having been solely a stay-at-home-mom for only 3 months, I needed–NEEDED–an adult, intellectual, theological outlet, and a reading class on Calvin would do nicely. Plus, I’m that obnoxious person who loves being in class and learning; I’m also that obnoxious person who rewrites B papers, so auditing a class post graduation for no reason than just because is well within my standard range of activity.

One night the discussion revolved around God’s will, a topic most of us find somewhat frustrating and intriguing. Specifically, the discussion revolved around a certain aspect of God’s  will: does God will or allow bad things to happen to us? I’ll be honest, I don’t care for the question, so when the discussion proceeded I checked out; plus, I was a graduate and an auditor, this wasn’t my battle. It was the question posed by the professor that jerked me back into the real-time of the class: if you’re the victim of the violence does willing or allowing feel any different?

The question hung in the air; the classroom had gone terribly silent.

“No.” I said. “It doesn’t feel any different.”

There’s a reason I hate the question about whether or not God wills or allows bad things to happen to us: because I’ve suffered.  I’ve suffered both physically and emotionally, by hands and by words. I hate the question because the questions I end up asking and their corresponding answers are bad news. If God willed my suffering, then I’m left asking was I created to suffer? to be a receptacle for violence?  is this what I am good for? If God allowed my suffering, then I’m left asking why? why didn’t God intervene? is this suffering pleasing to God?

The discussion about God willing or allowing suffering in a person’s life always launches me directly to the question of “Why?” and that’s the one question, the absolutely and positively one question I can’t ever let myself ask. Whatever you do, don’t ask why. The why question and the multitude of possible answers is a veritable mental, emotional, and spiritual vortex that sucks the mind and the heart into the utter recesses of the dark night of the soul, and that place is a crushing place that will make life and existence actually painful. And that’s a scary place to be, because when we’re in that amount of pain we can become desperate to ease that pain and to silence the evil narrative to which we’ve fallen prey.

So, the “why?” question is off limits. That doesn’t mean I don’t find myself there periodically. It just means that when I am there, I’ve to do active self-willing and mental gymnastics to get my mind and my heart to ask a different question and to focus on that question’s answer. The only thing that I want to know in light of my suffering, the only question that actually has an answer of comfort (for me) is a “What” question: what now? What happens now? I’ve suffered, yes, but tell me that that suffering is not the final word. Tell me that Jesus wept. Tell me that God has delivered his divine verdict to that suffering. Tell me that my heavenly Father’s righteous indignation was set aflame and burned brightly. Tell me that God can restore what the locusts have taken, that even out of that evil, God can call forth something good, something beautiful, something divine. Tell me that I’m not the sum of my deeds or the deeds done to me. Tell me of God’s radical activity toward me on my behalf in Jesus Christ and His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

The “Why?” causes a disruption in the flow of the story that is my life; it places that part of my story outside of the story-line and out of reach. And if that part of my story is out of reach I can’t do anything with it, it moves from past to the present and into the future unanchored. The “Why?” and it’s corresponding (possible) answers will never substantially ease the burden of the suffering. But the “What now?” question puts that story into my own hands and gives me the opportunity to put it where it belongs in my story-line: chronologically in the past as an historical event. I can admit it and confess it, and thus there’s a spiritual placement: at the foot of the Cross; this is the only way to lift the burden of the suffering. Whatever you do, don’t try to answer the “Why?”, just tell me about the what and the who that is the very good news now.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-9)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.” (Mt 5:3-4)

Not Self-Righteous Pricks: In Defense of the Runner

My husband and I have a joke: when I get back from a long run, he asks, “So, how much more righteous are you than me because of your run?” And I laugh, “Honey, I was completely more righteous than you when I got up at 6 am!”    We laugh;  both being Law/Gospel theologians, we know righteousness is only imputed to us by Christ and faith in Him. Nonetheless, truth lingers in the joke: runners have a bad rap; we’re often viewed as self-righteous pricks.

Yes, I’m sure there’s been that runner somewhere who rightfully earned said title of self-righteous prick, but I’ve never met him…or her and I know a lot of runners. Unicorn! So, I’ve no choice but believe that most of us (maybe even all?) are mislabeled and radically misunderstood. We are just runners out running and rarely are we running and thinking, Man, I’m so damn awesome..too bad that sucker over there isn’t more like me.  I mean, seriously, I’ve never had that thought and those whom I know–who are also runners, even competitively so–don’t think that way either. We’re just running, minding our own business, our footsteps, and oncoming traffic. “Other People” and any comparison to said “other people”–in terms of awesomeness and righteousness–falls in to the very distant background, especially when we’re facing mile 3 of a 14 mile long run. Oh, Good Lord, do I really have 11 more?…i think I may die…let’s burn this candle!

Too many times I’ve either heard in casual conversation or read in blog-posts that all of us runners are out to achieve our righteousness, that we give head nods to each other as we pass each other because we both know what we are really doing out on the road at 6am. And the later part of that statement is true, we do know what we are out doing but it’s FAR FROM trying to run to achieve righteousness. Runners know how fleeting (like sand through your fingers fleeting) trying to hold on to a sense of righteousness from running is.  So, we’re not running toward righteousness; rather, what is more likely is that we’re running from our unrighteousness, from our failures, from our emotional and spiritual turmoil and pain. We’re running at all times of the day and in degrees varying from 0-95 because that small scope of time while we’re out running is a reprieve from the things that haunt us present, past, and future. The head nod to another runner at 6am is the head nod of camaraderie, camaraderie of brokenness.  You, too? Yeah, me too. 

More often than not, when I get to know another runner, there is something in their past that jump started the running, something bad, something painful, something that altered their lives in a radical way. For me, running blossomed as a way to deal with the pain and suffering from being sexually assaulted. When I initially tried to self-destruct, I was eventually turned toward running, and running gave me that break from my pain that I needed. As my foot hit the ground and pulled my body forward, I felt the strength of the body God gave me, a body that is good, that is loved and not horrible and only fit for abuse. In that moment where I defied gravity and both feet flew through the air, I was weightless and I was flying, not burdened and weighed down. For those few moments, through those  many movements of my body, I did feel God’s pleasure…not because I was running, but because everything else in my cacophonous head was silenced long enough for me to sense it and feel it. Many of us runners have stories: stories of pain, abandonment, sorrow, grief, and loss  (in all their varying forms), and the backbone of our addiction and love of running stems from the very respite from those stories and current ones by getting picked up and carried away…even if  for only 30 minutes.

Far from being self-righteous pricks, most of us runners (all of the runners I know) are compassionate people who understand on a visceral level the limitations and brokenness and failure of the human body and mind. Running is our lover, yet we are more than aware that she is a very fickle one.  Just a few days of not running and our mile times drop. Too many  miles too fast will cause our joints to remind us the next day that we’re all too human. We’ll train for a race and bomb it…damn. We lose toe nails and gain blisters, neither one deterring nor hindering our running…because we’re addicts, and we know it. We understand the importance of community; we carry each other with words of encouragement and cheers and celebration for a long run well done…ah, heck, even if it’s just 3 miles…Way to go!!  Plus, no one else fully gets a runner like another runner (insert head nod here), so we runners kind of need each other, that’s why we can be clique-ish and why we speak a language that seems foreign to so many others, and if we need to apologize for anything it’s probably that. So: we’re sorry. (But here’s a website to help you translate our running lingo; you’ve now been sufficiently informed.)

We also love you, our non-running friend. There’s very little if any judgment towards you for not running because we are–if we’re honest–saving all of our judgment for ourselves and our slack-ass mile times. And, at least for me, sometimes I envy you my non-running friend, because you don’t look crazy at 5 in the morning running with 18,000 blinking lights and bedecked in safety green reflective material like some sort of whacked out neon Christmas tree. You’re sleeping like any sane person should at 5 in the morning; but as a runner, I’m not that sane so sometimes I’m jealous of your slumber and sanity.

So now you know. Now you know that we’re not self-righteous pricks, but fellow broken human beings, taking one step at a time just like you…albeit sometimes our steps are just quicker and well lit.

 

 

 

 

On this day…: An Open Letter to My Son

(the following is an altered version of the letter to my son last year; i’m reposting it because today is his birthday and, once again, it’s one of the ways I can say “I do love you so much” and I really want to shout it to the world!)

To My Dearest Son,

On this day, 8 years ago, you were born. You were not the first child and, as time would demonstrate, you were not the last one either. You hold the middle, sandwiched between an older brother who is always doing everything first and a younger sister who is doing everything last. Without a doubt, I’m sure you’ve felt ignored or bypassed or skipped, assuming that our attention is too split between first and last to be observant of you, the steadfast middle.

But we see you. see you.

And, today, I celebrate you.  Because you need to know you are celebrated. And we’re going big! Like mountain peak big…Like Get Air big!

You are my strong vibrant young man that burst into our lives on an hot August evening.  Though, you tried your best to come earlier that day, my body failed to bring you forth naturally. I remember walking to the OR, so that we could finally have you in our arms. I remember that the feeling of my body’s failure was eclipsed by the love I had for you. My failure faded to the background, and my love for you–my then pterodactyl sounding ball of flesh– came surging forward, sending failure and weakness, and fear for the hills. You, my dear son, showed me that love trumps failure, strengthens the weak, and silences fear.

You still teach me those things every day these past eight wonderful years.

I see the way you get up again: whether it’s physically falling off of your bike or pogo-stick or failing to do something right for school; love trumps failure. I see the way you boldly go beyond your comfort level being confident when you’d rather slink away: telling the truth when you’d rather lie; love strengthens the weak. I see the way you face head on things that you are terrified of: speaking in front of your class when you’d rather just sit in the back, entering a new class room with new students when you’d rather just have your old friends back; love silences fear.

You are my compassionate little guy who has shed tears over not only his own sorrow and loss, but over others’. You are that brave little guy who boldly marched over to our neighbor’s house and gave her one of the heart Valentines’ day magnets you had made in preschool; the heart read: love your neighbor, and on that day, Jackson, you did. I love the way your eyes light up when I suggest bringing cookies to neighbors or meals to people who need one; and I love how your brow furrows when we talk about injustice in the world; and how your eyes tear up when we talk about Christ’s resurrection as surety of our resurrection, that death isn’t the final word. I love the way you care for younger kids and stand by some amazing there-since-the-day-you-were-born principle that you won’t stand for someone being picked on or bullied. I love the way nearly everything around you has untapped possibility.

Everyday you’ve occupied my life, you’ve encourage me to be more compassionate and loving.

You amaze me by your thoughts and statements. You are my wandering and wondering sage. Bouncing on the couch a couple of years ago, you had a thought; you stopped bouncing, sat down, and looked at me with all seriousness, “Mama, everything about war is just wrong.” You burst with questions and brim with ideas and hypotheses even if it means you get out of bed way past your bedtime to ask, “What was before God was?” You love the abstract and the absurd. You, at the young age of 8, are not afraid of being in metaphorical darkness. You are in touch with the brokenness and sadness of humanity’s plight, you are unafraid to be with those who are sad.  You question the rules and grab the law by it’s horns; you are my budding rebel and radical but not as an end for yourself but for others. You are skeptical of the “flow” Why are we all going in the same direction here? You challenge existing structures and the status quo; you have no room for “the box.” What box?

Everyday since you were born you’ve shown me that life is breathtaking, brilliant, and beyond anything that we can comprehend. You remind me that the status quo is often unacceptable and you rekindle my own rebel affinities when I’ve become too complacent with the way things are.

You, my dearest child, are adored, are loved, and are celebrated today this day of your birth. You are seen and not just on this day, but every day…every day that has gone before and everyday that will come.

Happy Birthday, Jackson.

A View of the Image of God from Motherhood (musings) Part II

This past Sunday was Mother’s day. I love Mother’s day. I love it even though I know how much of a “Hallmark” holiday it is. I just love it. I love the way my children bounce into our bed, bearing their school-made gifts. I (expletive + ing) LOVE gifts, especially from my boys. I love seeing what they have to say, and at 8 and 6, they say crazy awesome stuff. This year I got a Pokemon card from my 8 year old, and from my 6 year old, a laminated picture and written paragraph about the things he loves about me.

My 6 year old writes some pretty amazing and fairly deep statements; no surprise really, since he’s always been that deep thinker. By 2, we dubbed him the “Wandering Sage” because he would randomly spout off wise advice or deep thoughts. One day he woke up and while rubbing his eyes, said, “No one should run with scissors.” One day he was doing his gymnastic stunts off a big, over-stuffed chair, stopped mid tumble, sat upright, and said, “Mama, everything about war is wrong.” One day he explained to me how the seed and the egg formed the baby I was carrying in my womb; he was eerily close and only 4.  Last year he wrote me this: I love you because you love me! It’s like he was reading 1 John 4 the night before.

This year, written at the tail end of the list of things that he loves about me, he wrote, “Your smile makes me loved and feel happy.”

My eyes have reread those words everyday since I taped that laminated picture and paragraph up in my “office” (aka: The Kitchen).  In my skeptical adult wounded state, I would’ve said, “Your smile makes me feel loved…” Leaving room for the doubt that you don’t really love me, because I know smiles can sometimes be fake. So, there’s a difference between feeling loved and belovedness. To this child, though, my smile declares to him: beloved.

The power of a mother’s smile.

My smile…the smile that comes across my face when they come in from being at school all day; the smile that cuts through the tension filled bedroom because someone was being a total grumpy pants; the smile that can’t contain itself when they do ridiculous things during a tantrum; the smile that–often–ushers them off to dreamland and awaits for the dawn to greet them again; the smile that assures them that even right in the midst of their crap, they are loved, they are the beloved.

And this leads me to discuss what conclusion I’m drawing about the image of God from the view of motherhood.  It’s the power of the mother’s smile–from the moment that baby is born to the moment that mother stops walking upon the earth–that declares belovedness to the child. And I believe that the power is there, in the mother’s smile, because it’s she who has been most intimate with the child (she knows him), the one who has provided comfort from day one (she is the voice and the smell that brings her comfort). It’s her smile that conveys not just “I am happy with you” or “I have learned you and find you amusing” but sustains the original love, the state of belovedness.  The very one who bore you, who handed herself over for you, who stared death in the face to get you here smiles upon you  and you are loved.

Am I still the beloved? Yes, dear child, you are.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26).

God has smiled upon us; and it’s a smile that will never stop. Through His son, our saviour Jesus Christ, he has declared to the entire world that He loves us so much and that He desires us so much to know that we are the beloved. His face, through His son, is shining upon us and is gracious to us; His countenance is upon us and gives us peace because of Jesus. And while my smile stops many times a day, His never stops. Because His smile upon you and upon me is based on His perfect love for us apart from our deeds (both good and bad) because of the totality of the work of Christ. God’s smile is forever upon you, right here, right now, right where you are–clean or dirty, put together or falling apart, sober or drunk, pure or defiled.  The very One who created you, the very One who handed himself over for you, the very One who reckoned with death and won to silence death once and for all and to bring you to Himself, smiles upon you and you are loved.

Am I still the beloved?  Yes, dear child you are and always will be.

A View of the Image of God from Motherhood (musings) Part I

I’m a mom. I think about being a mom a lot. It makes sense. I’m also a theologian (budding). Thus, I think about God a lot. And, that makes a lot of sense, too. Often, these two realms overlap and I find myself holding my toddler, nursing her, and thinking about aspects of God and His work toward us, specifically (as of late) the image of God as it is manifested by both man and woman in unity. And I often find my thoughts wondering in this direction: what unique thing does woman bring to the image of God (keeping in mind that there’s a reason for making humanity in the image of God both male and female)? And–as radical as it may sound, as liberal as it may sound–what can I know about God by being a mother? What about motherhood uniquely represents the image of God? For part of my woman-ness is the ability to carry life within me, to birth that life, to sustain that life, so I wonder, what of those experiences points me to a unique aspect of the image of God?

And this is what I want to ponder over a few posts: The view of the image of God from motherhood.

Before I begin, I want to stress that the image of God is fully represented by the man and the woman (neither one carries more of the image than the other, both, together, carry the image of God uniquely and generally). And, I also want to stress that the image is fully represented by a man and a woman who do not have children. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something in motherhood and in fatherhood (though, I’m only speaking of motherhood here because I’m not a father) that can be the environment where the image gets pushed to the surface, visibly so; like, the difference between being 8 weeks pregnant and 38 weeks pregnant. This doesn’t make motherhood and fatherhood the end all and be all of Christian/Human achievements in life; they’re not. I am not a better Christian woman because I am a wife and a mother. I’m merely a Christian woman who is a wife and a mother and that’s the platform from which I’m speaking, that’s the lens I’m using now to peer into, to understand more of the image of God.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s begin…

Something occurred to me recently, when I was dealing with my daughter. She was screaming at me. I mean, screaming and shoving me (she’s very strong for 18 mos) and it was pure anger on her part because she was not getting something she wanted. Now, if I were screaming at you and shoving you you’re reaction, rightly, would be to walk away. Now, sometimes I do walk away, catch my breath, check my rage. But, oddly, I come back. I come back to her, mid tantrum and I bend low and pick her up in my arms and hold her (still full tantrum).  Vocal chords at full impact and limbs flailing wildly, I go to her and bring her closer to me. Not farther, but closer. This is what most mothers do in many circumstances. They go toward the child that is hating them.

I can’t help it. Even when it’s bad–and my toddler can get bad, we’ve nicknamed her “The Fury”–even when I do have to walk away, I can’t walk away completely. My heart is still turned toward her, desires her, loves her, craves her. And I will return to her within minutes.  There’s an actual chemical change that occurs in the woman’s brain the moment she becomes pregnant that forever changes her brain chemistry (she’ll never be the same again) that causes her to go toward her screaming child. This is something naturally unique to women, though men can experience the same change but only by “practice”, by being proactive in childcare, hands on with baby and their brains will begin to change too. But ours change the moment (or the moments before) we see that + on the pregnancy test. We are, from that moment on, hard wired to go toward our children. (Not all women have this chemical change, but it is very common.)

[Like] a mother comforts her child, so will I [God] comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem (Isa. 66:13).

This movement towards my child who is hating me is something I marvel at because it so much a part of God’s character. God, unyielding, moves toward those who hate him, toward his enemies. Like a mother, hard wired to move toward his children, the ones he loves, the ones he desires, the ones he craves even when they are yelling at him and thrusting angry fists into the sky. Like a mother, he pulls us in close to him, holds us, comforts us, and soothes us with His tender voice–the voice we’ve known since conception–and his warm words: I love you, I love you, I love you.

Just Plain Ol’ Lauren

I’m not mommy Lauren and theologian Lauren.

Just plain ol’ Lauren.

A mom who reads theology; a theologian who is a mom. The two shes are just the one me; I don’t wear a lot of different hats, I wear one hat with a lot of different names/relations on it: daughter, sister, wife, mother, theologian etc. And these names and these relations impact me but not in an isolated compartmentalized way–as if mom never impacts sister or theologian; I’m impacted as me as a whole.

I know I can be heady…but I don’t live there, I live here, on earth, with everyone else. My goal is to always take the heady “stuff” and bring it low, to my eye level, see if it “plays well with others”…I read something and then ask–and dwell on for long periods of time–does this work here in my motherhood? Here, in my wifery? Here, as a daughter and sister? How ’bout here, as a friend?

So, anytime I hear someone make a distinction between mommy Lauren over theologian Lauren my mind is blown because I can’t tell the difference between those two persons. Theologian Lauren is deeply impacted by mommy Lauren and mommy Lauren by theologian Lauren. In fact, all of my preaching/teaching/writing examples about justification and absolution, the distinction between Law and Gospel, Command and Promise, Life and Death will come from my life as a mom and a wife, as a daughter and a sister. I’m one– albeit messy–integration of all my different names and relations. I’m just Lauren; and it’s me–the messy heap of me–you get every time on paper, in a blog post, in a sermon, and  a teaching.

I can’t write about mothering to the extent that the theologian is deprived her voice; I won’t write about theology to the extent that my others names/roles are deprived their voice. I won’t forgo my inclination toward the head just to make you cry; nor will I forget about your heart by only speaking to your head. I will just write as just plain ol’ Lauren–as unpopular as that may be.

Random Thoughts on Egalitarianism and Justification

A while back, I received an email from a Twend (Twitter+Friend=Twend) about egalitarianism within the marriage and male/female relationships. My husband and I are “egalitarian” in our approach to our marriage and relationship with each other, and I passionately welcomed this email. I don’t make a huge deal about our “egalitarianism” because I find it more divisive than helpful in social media contexts. I love talking about it; i don’t love tweeting about it because, in my opinion 140 characters in an environment that is consistently devoid of the I/Thou relationship is a recipe for disaster.
While this email exchange took place a few months ago, I’m posting it now because I find myself in the midst of a pretty radical and awesome and huge project on gender and the gospel. So, why not just put this email in to a post and put it on my blog. I’m passionate (VERY) about gender and gender relations; this isn’t some fleeting fancy. The bulk of my research is aimed in the direction of gender and gender relations. I think about this topic daily, examining all the different facets for all the different angles.
So here is my response (slightly cleaned up) to my twend about “egalitarianism” and all the “rights and privledges therein” 😉

I’ve done a lot of study on the creation of woman and through all of it I just don’t see any reason for an emphasis on one gender having authority over another–it’s pointless and causes more turmoil than it’s worth. My husband agrees and he finds it ludicrous. you should hear how he talks to our daughter about being equal with men: she’s not “eye-candy” or, his favorite phrase, she’s not to be “subjected to the male gaze and can wear whatever she wants!” (She often has pants tucked into socks and strips going all different directions from head to toe!) He’s even on me when I wear make up. I tell him: IT’S FUN! And he says: you wear it because you’ve been raised to do it by our culture. I typically just roll my eyes… my shoes and makeup are fun to wear/put-on…i love me some sexy boots and smokey eyes! #ohhedoestoo 😉

This is how we view our relationship: in light of the two great commandments. These commandments are: Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor as yourself. In my opinion, my husband and my children are my CLOSEST neighbors. I don’t then need a another commandment or “law” to come in and tell me that my role as a woman is to be at home and in submission to my husband. If the gospel is the thing by which order or, what I prefer to say, orientation occurs between me and God and me and my neighbor, then the gospel rightly orients me toward my husband because it rightly orients me toward God through the Son by the power of the Spirit. My husband and I think “roles” are pointless, and that, truly, we in merely loving each other serve and mutually submit to each other. If i love you, then why wouldn’t I put you first? For all intents and purposes, if you were to look at my life and how we run our family, we look very traditional: I stay home, he goes to work (etc). But it’s less because I should or because he can’t and more because we wanted to run our family in this way (again, laying down our lives for our neighbors, our spouse, our children, putting our desires on hold until later)–it also helped that he made enough to see that it happened.

Some have argued (and have said this too me) that egalitarianism (again, a pointless word) leads directly to androgyny–as in you can’t avoid it. This is stupid. This is like me saying that “complimentarianism” (another pointless word) always leads to domestic violence. It doesn’t. Do i find it a dangerous concept? YES; in the hands of the wrong man, yes, it will lead to violence and oppression.  I’ll always err on the side of more liberty than less because I know the law is impotent to do what it desires (orient rightly). Androgyny only occurs if we begin to think that men and women are equal AND interchangeable (rather than: equal BUT NOT interchangeable). But if we adhere to equality and difference then it opens up a beautiful relationshiop between the two. Now, the accusation that egalitarianism leads to androgyny came to me from a student in a class who is a  confirmed “complimentarian”: the husband has authority over the wife. Now his accusation came after a discussion that one gender doesn’t have authority over another. So his point: without some authority over the woman the man’s role is now no longer defined and out of the window goes masculinity. Thus, masculinity and “decision making” and “authority” are inherently linked and femininity linked with it’s compliimentary features: “non-decision making” and “subjection.” Here’s the problem I see in that line of logic: 1) he is linking masculinity to a “work” which is a huge problem considering that in heaven while there will be no marriage or giving of marriage there will still be “gender” and “masculinity” (keeping in mind that the image of God isn’t erased in heaven but made glorified by his creation man and woman) and 2) what happens to said man when he loses his mind? Does he ALSO lose his masculinity? No, that’s stupid. He’s STILL masculine, he’s still a man even when she has to decide on his behalf.

The problem lies in the inability to go into the abstract and the deep desire of limited humanity to always want to figure out everything down to the tiniest molecule and have an answer: if a then b! But I love the abstract. What if, Twend, what if masculinity and femininity are defined by each other…what if just my presence as a woman (i.e. not man) is enough to emphasize, draw out, point to my husband’s masculinity. Boobs and hips aside: I’m NOT him; if we allow this to be true, and if we allow our nakedness with each other to be the deciding factor about who is feminine and who is masculine, then a whole new world opens up to us. Things that are classically “masculine” and “feminine” are now more appropriately considered human. My husband can cry and I can be a hard-ass, neither one acting like the other gender. In this light, we see how the doctrine of justification penetrates even the most intimate human relationships: no longer defined by works but by God’s declaration to us: forgiven sinners, forgiven men AND women. In how I understand the totality of the event of justification, i believe that works can no longer define me WHATSOEVER. And thus I’m free to be fully woman in right relationship to my husband, a man.

So, while there are things on this earth that still define me as a woman–things that I feel obligated to do or chose to do because I’m a woman–these works do not define me as a woman in Christ (not even birth or the act of sex, because women who don’t have either are still fully women).

Let’s also consider Ephesians 5. In v. 21 we have the verb translated as “submitting” and I know that this is the verb that is pulled into the subsequent verse (v.22) when Paul turns his attention to wives: submit to your husbands. Then, after only three short thoughts, he turns to the husbands and addresses them in a rather lengthy discourse starting with an exhortation to lay down their lives for their wives. Now, what I’ve heard from a number of people (both professors and lay people alike) is this: women only have to submit, but men have to lay down their lives! I find this statement ridiculous and irritating. I find submission to be a form of laying down yourself for another (it’s not subjection considering that the verb is a deponent with an active meaning: submit yourselves); in order for me to submit, let’s say, to the will of my husband, I have to put myself aside, sort of like an act of oblation; this, to me, thematically jives with 5.21: “Submitting therefore one to the other.” Submission is loving your neighbor as yourself and incorporates laying yourself (‘your life’) down (‘dying’). In this light, submission/submitting yourself = laying down your life.  Thus, Paul isn’t totally saying something new as in “subject” to the husbands, but rather explaining in clearer language what it means to live out “submitting therefore one to the other” (toward their wives). And if he is using different language to say something similar to the husbands as he did to the wives, then my next question is why? Why change the language?

The thought I’ve been having lately about the “why” is this: Paul speaks to the women in terminology they would’ve existentially understood–the language they would’ve been familiar with but also because of the woman’s ability (and in the case of Paul’s age) one of her primary functions in bringing forth life into the world: a woman, having gone through the experience of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and caring for a helpless child, would have been well acquainted with the event of submission as a laying down of their life, of loving something/someone form the inside out that can give nothing back in return (agape). I’m not saying that Paul had this later aspect on the forefront of his mind, but it’s intriguing to me that he speaks nearly in shorthand to the wives. Thus, what he says to the women, is not radical: it’s nearly status quo; they would’ve nodded ” oh yes, we understand.” But what’s radical is what follows with his discussion to the men. The feeling in the transition from talking to the wives to the husbands is as if he paused and said to the husbands: all y’all best sit down for this; i’m about to blow your minds. And thus enters into a longer explanation of how the husbands are to love (agape) their wives and live out the “submitting one to another” aspect of 5.21. Both the act and the concept would have been so radical to the husbands, that Paul essentially has to spell it out for them and even then Paul loses his own mind and gets caught up–nearly raptured–in the mysteries he can’t even explain well enough. So, in short, my thoughts have been that Paul had to explain in detail (agape worked out in submission to another (the wife)) to the husbands because it was radical and foreign, and he could speak plainly and briefly to the women, because they would’ve understood (per the reasons mentioned above).

another thing to think about (and I’ll end with this) is: whenever Paul seems to be correcting the women in his churches it’s nearly always because their pendulum has swung too far. Thus, while they are trying to flaunt their freedom, they are really just a law to themselves and others. Don’t dominate men, women, because that’s not freedom nor is it the proper correction to Gen 3. No gender is to dominate the other gender; don’t abandon your children and husband because now you’re “free”; that’s not freedom. Freedom is being able to say: this might suck and i might want to be devoting my life to the Lord (PhD, Career, etc), but I can’t because I have these lives, these others that need me. That’s freedom. That’s Gal 3. The law has been abrogated, the prison warden has been silenced and unemployed, and I am no longer defined by my deeds (“there is therefore no…”) but I am still here and there are things I must still do. Paul is always hyper concerned to protect the gospel from slander: if having a woman publicly teaching men was considered offensive to OUTSIDERS in his day and age, then he would encourage abstaining from the practice. From the commentaries I’ve read, it seems that Paul is not universally making a claim about women but, rather, talking about how things should proceed in order to move the gospel forward. (Cf. 1 and 2 Tim, Titus, Ephesians, Corinthians…etc).