I have tried to post something here a few times in the last week… obviously it hasn’t happened.  My days have been filled with responsibilities as mommy, student, wife, preacher, neighbor, worship leader, friend, daughter, sister… I actually feel privileged that my life holds so much variety and refuses to let me get stuck in one or two roles alone. I’m blessed in all these things, and I hope that what I learn from each one, informs the others– that I don’t just get stuck with my head in books or my hands in dishwater or in conversations that are not informed by serious study and reflection.

I was talking with some of my seminary cohort friends about how much I will miss my Tuesday nights at class, once we graduate this spring. I said something like this: “But think about it, guys, this is the only night when my identity is not defined by my relationship to someone else… I’m not someone’s mom or someone’s wife here, I’m just me. I need that!”  To which one of them wisely replied, “That’s not a very Christian way to think about it, Kris Anne… what about your relationship to all of us?”  It’s always good to be reminded of our self-centeredness (Lord knows I need that from time to time… no snarky comments, please). He was absolutely correct to gently reprimand me! How could I forget that I am their sister and friend? I have responsibilities toward them, as well, not the least of which is love! I’m not there primarily to have my needs met.

However (and this is a big however)… I have seen too many young wives and mothers define themselves completely by their roles which center around the home and family, to the detriment of their full identity and calling in Christ. I have seen some of these women wither inside, suffocate, suffer depression, fail to thrive as gifted and called Christ-followers who are, in reality, set free in the Spirit to explore and play on the playground of life! Equally so, I have seen husbands and fathers trapped in their role as bread-winner, cut off from the playground of family and neighborhood and church, wrapped up completely in demanding careers, unable to have room to breathe and explore their whole identity as Christ-followers.

Please hear what I’m NOT saying, which is that it is wrong for a woman to CHOOSE her home as her only sphere of life. It is entirely possible that that is where some women find their playground of life. I wish more young Christian women would give themselves permission to explore their full personhood, though– to listen to their spirits and not “should” themselves into a quiet death (“but I SHOULD be fully committed to this, it SHOULD bring me life and fulfillment, I SHOULDN’T need more than my husband and children and church friends”). There is more than one right answer to the question, “What does the life of a godly woman look like?” Too often, evangelical Christianity is uncomfortable with multiple right answers to questions such as these.

So, yes, I’ll be very sad come graduation time in May. I am so thankful for the opportunities I have had these past three years. Among my biggest cheerleaders and strongest supporters has been my loving husband.  He is dedicated to seeing me thrive as woman of God.  I hope I communicate just as loudly that I am dedicated to seeing him thrive, too. We’re here to serve each other!

I also hope I find ways to encourage other young women to explore opportunities and roles on the playground of life. So many people have made these years possible for me (from finances to child care!), and as my seminary brother reminded me, I am not an individual. I am always in relationship with others! If there is one should I want to live by, it is that I SHOULD pass on the blessings passed on to me!


Love and Difference

I’ve been talking with a number of people recently about the nature of relationships and how we, in churches and in families and with our friends (or fellow cohort members!), navigate our differences. How do we talk about them? How do we express love when we not only disagree, but passionately and deeply disagree– when we feel anger toward those on the “other side” of issues (gun control, taxes, women in leadership, capital punishment, pacifist Christianity, etc.).  How do we react when we simply cannot comprehend that a follower of Jesus would stand on the “other side”? How well do I love these people? And how do I experience love from them?

These questions caused me to think about the past, times when I have struggled to love and be loved by people close to me who have not shared my views on important issues… times when I was surprised to find that those I thought were kindred spirits with whom I could find common ground and common passion, where actually not “on my side” at all when it came to some of things I cared deeply about. (even my choice of language here illustrates the sense of battle lines being drawn and sides being taken in a war… images that I do not believe are helpful or healthy when we’re talking about relationships within Christ’s Body, but they reveal the very real emotions we’re confronted with situations such as these)

When we meet someone, how long does it take for us to peg them? “Oh, she’s a flaming liberal with no morals! Oh, he’s a rigid, arrogant conservative! There’s an extrovert for ya! He’s so shy you never know what he’s thinking. She’s a loud mouth! He’s just a dumb jock. She’s an airhead. That one’s got an eating disorder of some kind, I know it. It’s obvious he hates himself or he wouldn’t do that!”  There are all kinds of labels out there; we make all kinds of judgments within seconds of seeing someone or meeting someone. How flexible are these boxes we’ve put people in? Do we allow for growth, for change, or even for misunderstanding (our boxes could be completely wrong!)?  We all know the suffocating feeling of having been “boxed” by someone and struggling to get out and let our genuine self shine through.

Why is it that we long for same-ness in others? And why do we find difference so threatening? Is it that love of truth eclipses love of people in our very weak, human hearts? Is it self-preservation that makes us want to flee from those who are different? I wish I understood my own attitudes and behaviors in this mess. I know I haven’t always loved well… my boxes have not always been flexible enough to let someone out to shine. I know I have drawn battle lines in self-preservation, rather than giving myself away in love.

Though I seek to be a woman of peace, I know I have enemies. Jesus’ call to me is clear, though. Love my enemies– turn the other cheek, walk with them, carry their load, welcome them in with hospitality. Love considers the other before the self, love is merciful and patient and kind and enduring. Jesus absorbed the violence of his enemies on the cross, and he calls us to bear our own cross as well, dying to self. Ugh. How miserably I fail at this when it comes to those with whom I’d rather argue the point! And I’ve known the alienation and loneliness of being labeled and boxed and un-loved. It’s terribly painful.

May our boxes be more flexible, God… and may we learn love.

The text bugs me!

I could make a pretty long list of the scripture passages that make me uncomfortable, that my spirit does not resonate with, that I just plain don’t get. One of them is in Matthew 15, the story entitled “The Canaanite Woman’s Faith.”  This story does not depict the Jesus I know. The Jesus I know is extravagant with his grace, lavishing it on all those who humbly place themselves before him. He is harsh at times, with the proud, the unrepentant, the stubborn ones who refuse to see or hear him. But those who seek mercy from him find it. Always. Until this story. It grates me. There are many explanations offered for Jesus’ attitude and words in this story… some think he’s being sarcastic; some think he’s simply illustrating a point to his disciples and knows this woman can “handle it.” To be blunt, I think he sounds like a jerk, and I don’t like it. I know that sounds disrespectful and irreverent, but that is partly my point in this post.

My point here is NOT to (try to!) explain the meaning of this passage. My point is this: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Bible and its purpose and its form and its nature; and I have come to believe that it is not supposed to be a clear and concise, linear message. It’s supposed to bug us! It’s supposed to irritate and grate and keep us off balance. When we think we’ve got it figured out, it throws us off again. When we’ve got our systematic theology neatly packaged in our textbooks, scripture explodes the formula once again.

I’m a committed Christian pacifist, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I will die before I will kill another human being– I believe that is the way of Jesus. But here comes the Old Testament, with all its blood and gore (some of it even God sanctioned!). It keeps me off-balance, keeps me from becoming too comfortable in my theology. Keeps me asking questions and wrestling with my faith and theology. I feel like Jacob, wrestling with God, “Give me what I’m asking for!”

So God’s Word makes us uncomfortable and keeps us wrestling with God and God’s Truth… the same, I believe, is true of the Church. We have each other to keep us from becoming too comfortable. We argue and rehash the text. We argue systems and theologies and doctrines. We make each other mad, make each other uncomfortable, tick each other off. And I believe it’s supossed to be that way. Sometimes I wish it weren’t. Why does it have to be such hard work? Wouldn’t we get more done in this world if we didn’t spend so much time on “the issues?” Instead of arguing Jesus, we could shut up and BE Jesus.

I don’t know, though. If we had it all figured out, if we lost this sense of confusion and struggle, if it was all cut-and-dry, figured out and published… would we really get more done? …or would we sit in our comfortable chairs, waiting for the world to come to us? One author I’m reading right now, Timothy Johnson, says we learn Jesus in praxis. We have to practice His life in order to learn the depth and breadth of who he is. He defies explanations and busts out of any boxes we try to put him in. The only way to know Him is to put one foot in front of the other in daily life.

Maybe it’s good to be irritated, then. It keeps me walking.

An Update…

I thought it only fair to dedicate a whole new post to James Dobson and Focus on the Family. I am glad to see that conservative Christians are taking a stand against those who would stoop to immaturity and smears and racism.

My sister did, in fact, find a link where an official from Focus on the Family apologized for having the organization’s name in any way associated with “Obama Waffles.” Thank you, Focus on the Family… and thanks to my sister, Jennifer, for finding the link.  Here it is, in case you didn’t see her final comment on my post “Values & Errors.”