Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lettin' it all hang out

I've got nothing of import to share these days so I thought an update and dose of mundane stuff might be fun.

First, my kids have convinced me there's nothing really all that wrong with my forehead and that I shouldn't wear bangs or a hat every waking moment of my life. Besides that, I've determined to own my wrinkles. I've earned them after all, and wouldn't trade the wisdom that's come with them for the world. So, I'm letting my forehead out of the closet. And here's a picture. Oh yeah. I wear glasses too, except on Sundays and when I want to look pretty.

I don't think I've mentioned it here but since it's public knowledge (in the most legal sense of the word, and the most literal - it's been published in the local paper) I can state here that I'm serving on my county's Grand Jury this year. It is taking up a lot of my time, and, with my cleaning business flourishing as it is, I'm left with precious little time for things like, well, things. My writing here will likely be sparser than ever. Grand Jury proceedings are highly confidential, so no matter how interesting it might turn out to be I cannot discuss it. Our findings and recommendations will be made public at the end of our term in our published Final Report and no further comment by any of us is permitted beyond that - ever.

So, what's left? As I said, my business is flourishing. If such a thing was possible, with the number of referrals I've had to turn down I could be working 24/7. But such a thing is not possible or wise. My work is strenuous and I also have a home and family of my own to consider. My husband is very fond of me and likes to spend as much time with me as he can. I try to accommodate him. He also is an intellectual and likes me to read a lot - not that he gets any argument from me! I love to read and find just about everything interesting - except financial stuff - yack! I can understand it, but I don't like it one bit.
I'm also not a poetry fan - a fact my husband is doing everything in his power to change. And he's made some progress. I actually wrote a poem on my blog the other day, the first one of my life. I can't say it's any good, but it's definitely mine.

So along with my random musings I've included some pictures of my random life. Lately I've posted nice pictures of the re-decorating we've been doing. What I've left out of those pictures are the corners of my home where I actually live - where I sit down and think, and talk, and write. Those places are not so tidy or orderly. They represent all my incomplete thoughts, the things I'm struggling to understand and make sense of piled right alongside some of my very favorite things. In that sense these corners are an apt microcosm of my soul. (In case you're wondering where the Bible fits in - I've been judgmental enough in my own Christian life to know there will be someone asking themselves that question - there's a MacArthur Study Bible on top of my desk, a Hebrew/English Tanakh behind where I'm standing in the picture above, and my big fat ESV Study Bible is on the coffee table where both Paul and I can get to it.) Some of these books have been read cover to cover, underlined and dog-eared. Others I'm only part-way through. A few I've stalled on and may have to start over from the beginning if too much more time elapses. Some I've been meaning to read for a really long time and am afraid that if I put them back on the shelf I'll forget them forever. A couple, like Black Beauty for instance, just need to be put away. (Gina borrowed that book and I have no intention of torturing my soul with it.)

We live in an adorable house, which I'm fond of posting pictures of. But what I don't advertise much is that we live in a questionable neighborhood and get a lot of questionable foot and vehicle traffic. The binoculars on the nightstand in that last picture are so we can tell if we need to call the cops or not. We've learned over the last few years to limit that to clear evidence of drug dealing, to camping, to physical abuse, to terrorist threats, to vandalism, and to unconsciousness. As it is we call the cops at least once a month. The flashlight is for power outages which for various reason we experience several times a year. No matter where I keep a flashlight, I've never been able to remember where I keep a flashlight. So it will likely sit there unused during the next outage. And so, as my mind wanders off I'll end my ramblings here, hoping someday soon I'll happen upon something worthwhile to share with my friends.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Just whose wife am I anyway?

In the first place, I wish I could take credit for coming to that critical question on my own, but really it was a slow train coming, and on the caboose was a friend who during her own womanly journey snagged this obscure little bit of Scripture: "If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home." (1 Cor. 14: 35) I admittedly have no intention of diving into the minefield of context on this one. I've honestly seldom been able to notice these words through the din of those that surround it, but my friend drew them out for me and gave me a timeless, culture-spanning use for them.
"I think one of the learn from our own husbands at home (in a good marriage) is because that's the one person who loves us most and is most willing to protect us."
On came the lights. "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." (Eph. 5:22, all emphasis mine.)

Now, let me put on the brakes for a moment, for the sake of anyone who may happen across these words who is either not a Christian, or else one not from a fundamentalist background, who will no doubt think this is nutty, turn-of-the-twentieth-century, backwoods talk, and clarify that I am speaking as a Christian person who has spent many years within the world of fundamentalism and is these days, for a number of reasons, taking a fresh look at what Christianity really does and does not require of its women. If you don't mind bearing with me, perhaps you can gain some understanding into our little world. As you are likely aware, our book of Scripture was written in a different time, in a different culture with different mores: a middle-eastern, tribal, patriarchal culture. As a result, it is important for us to understand what principles underlie the instructions given all those years ago, what they would have represented to the original recipients, and how to appropriately apply them in our own cultural context. For example, what is the first thing you think of when you see a woman with a head scarf: 'Oh look, there goes a married, chaste, devout woman?' Likely not. In fact, such a head covering represents something vastly different to westerners these days. Here and now, what used to be represented by a headscarf is conveyed by a wedding ring on a woman who is modestly attired - meaning: not in an ostentatious, or sexually provocative manner.

Now, when we come to the word "submit", if your knee jerks, it's okay. Mine does, too. I understand. That word has been so abused for so long that it's to be expected. And here is where we can begin to loop back around to my point. (Yes, I do have one.) Let me begin with a wildly popular verse that never did exist in the Bible: "Husbands, make your wives submit." That's right, I said that is NOT Scripture. Men are never given that command, or that responsibility. In fact, according to Jesus, no Christian with any degree of authority is to use it to lord over anyone.
"But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mt. 20:25-28)
And the same, we are told, clearly applies in the husband/wife relationship: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." (see Eph. 5:25-29) And, just in case that is too heady a concept, husbands are further told to love their wives as much as their own bodies, which, I assure you, is a LOT. (Go ahead, take a minute to think about the devotion men have to their bodies....That's a whole lotta love! And a lot of nurturing and respect.) So, while the Christian man is living that love out on his wife, the wife is told, by the Scripture, to respect that man and submit to his care.

That man. Not some other man. Not some woman. Not some "Bible teacher" - man or woman.

When the lights came on, I realized that I've been taking my cues on what it means to be a "good" wife, a Christian wife, just about everywhere but from my husband. I've read books, and listened to sermons, lectures, and the advice of fellow Christians. I've taken it all in and, over the years, internalized it, along with all my other cultural idealizations of "the perfect wife".

A word about "complementarianism"

To the right is a diagram of complementary angles.

"The adjective complementary is from Latin complementum, associated with the verb complere, "to fill up". An acute angle is 'filled up' by its complement to form a right angle."

"Why are Complementary Colors Important in Color Theory?

When placed next to each other, complementary colors make each other appear brighter, more intense. The shadow of an object will also contain its complementary color, for example the shadow of a green apple will contain some red."

The dictionary defines the word "complementary" this way: 

1.  Forming or serving as a complement; completing.
2.  Supplying mutual needs or offsetting mutual lacks.

If we're truthful we have to admit that the Scripture gives precious little practical advice about being a "perfect wife". All it gives are a few over-arching principles. And suddenly this makes perfect sense to me. I am to be subject to my own husband, and to learn what it means to be his wife from him. After all, every man is different. Every woman is different. Every marriage is different. That's the way God intended it. We are not clones but uniquely gifted individuals. Not only that, but every culture is different and so is every age. The Scripture is meant to be versatile and timeless, valuable to every person in every era. In the old days, and I mean very old days, God created man and announced, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." (Gen. 2:18) And the man was delighted with her. She was just what he needed. She was his "help" - his support in weakness. Together they were one. That's were this idea of "complementarianism" we hear so much about these days comes from, and, based upon the definitions and illustrations above, I think that is a perfect description of what the marriage relationship is meant to be. But here's where I see that the idea has taken a wrong turn. Instead of treating each man and each wife as individuals complementing each others' own strengths and weaknesses, encouraging them to fill in and support each other as needed, whatever that may look like, many influential church leaders have chosen one single example from from the host of possible complementary relationship styles and set it up as a pre-fab model for all Christian men and women, expecting them all, no matter how different they may be, to conform to it. So, by way of example, instead of having a wide range of pairs of complementary angles, we are all required to be 60 and 30 degrees. Instead of a spectrum of colors, we are only allowed violet and yellow. Not only is that boring, it's wrong. God created the spectrum. We are all different. When we try to be what we are not, we cannot be what God created us to be. We spend all our energies trying to make ourselves into someone else's image, squeeze ourselves into someone else's ideal.

My husband is an intellectual and very creative man. As it happens, he would rather I write poems than clean the house. He'd prefer I paint canvasses than do laundry - really. My husband would like to cook meals once in a while. My husband would rather I sit and talk with him on the unmade bed than get up and make it. He would rather I giggle, dance, and cry than be the picture of cool, staid contentment. There are dozens of things just like this that would delight Paul which, until a couple of days ago, I would not do. Why? Because cooking, cleaning, organizing, and maintaining decorum were all the things "good wives" do, and they took up all my time. In this and so many other, deeper ways I would not submit to my husband. I would read articles for Christian wives and feel so wrong. When I would tell Paul how I felt, he'd say, in no uncertain terms, "I don't want that kind of wife! I married you!" Then I would secretly think, well, this person, this Bible teacher is so godly - perhaps Paul is wrong... and I'd go ahead and follow or fret over the advice anyway. That, my friends, is NOT submission.

So, whose wife am I anyway? Paul's wife, that's who. He's yellow-orange and he fell in love with  my blue-violet, because something in his soul told him that was just what was needed to complete him, to make him shine brighter and with more intensity. I agreed to be his wife because I felt the same way. So why am I not writing poems? Why am I not painting? Why am I not dancing, laughing, and letting Paul cook dinner? I'm done taking my cues on what kind of wife I should be from anyone but him. I'm determined to honor the unique man that he is. From here on out I submit myself to my own husband. When it comes to what it means to be a good wife to him, beyond the Scripture, no one but he has a right to inform me.  I will learn from him at home.

[You will find a follow-up to this post here.]

Monday, July 5, 2010

Who is this Jesus?

Who is he?

This one I speak to
upon waking each morning,
full of fear....
This one I've never laid eyes on,
yet trust
with my dread and my life?

Who are you, Jesus?
Why do I trust you?
Why do I wish it was me,
washing your feet with my tears
Touching your skin
fear of your disciples, their taunts
washed away by hope of your acceptance?

How do I know you will not agree with them
and turn me away?
I don't.
I never have.
And yet I come,
day after day
hearing the whispers.
The way I approach is all wrong,
offerings foolish and wasteful.
A woman,
I belong in the kitchen, quietly working, useful.

But I need you.
Oh, how I wish I could touch you, hear your voice
drowning out the voice of your men. 
Then I would ask you
Who are you?
Why do I trust you?