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In which it snows in the morning

Every day do something that won't compute :: Sarah Bessey

Wake up to a brighter bedroom, the snow has been falling outside all night. Take a lazy look around the room, look at the life it is reflecting back to you: a sturdy homemade bed; tangled and worn white sheets; a man with a beard is sleeping, his hand still resting on your spine; bright yellow baby rainboots tossed in a corner; piles of books. Stretch the length of your life.

The tinies will come clumping down the hall soon, their voices filled with wonder: “Mum! It snowed!” That man you kissed last night will roll out of the bed because Sundays are your day to sleep in, a deal’s a deal, you do Saturdays. But you both know you won’t go back to sleep – you never do. Watch him head upstairs to the ministry of coffee and Bubble Guppies on Netflix.

Get out of the bed and go to the window, look out into the forest. The snow is still falling, thick and lazy, almost predictably. Open the window for a few moments, just to smell it. Crawl back into your bed, pull up the covers, and grab a book. Once a week, you get to read first thing when you wake up and so here is a stack of Wendell Berry and Flannery O’Connor and Luci Shaw, practice the resistance of reading of good books.

When you go upstairs in an hour, make a pot of tea. No solitary mugs will do for a snowy Sunday, get out the big sturdy brown pot and your mother’s discarded delicate white teacups, the ones with blue and silver flowers on the rim. Hug your babies, good morning, good morning, yes, I see you. Listen to the dishwasher chug, everything is brighter and slower when it snows.

Church is cancelled, you’re pretty sure everyone is relieved for a day off anyway, an excuse to stay in their jammies, watch movies, work puzzles, roll in the snow, read novels. The more judicious might catch up on housework, pay the bills online, answer emails: the kindred spirits will make a bit of room for delicious indolence.

Decide to do something real today, then bake a loaf of bread. Yeast, flour, water, salt – simple is good for the soul and the belly. Guide small hands into kneading properly, let everything rise in its time.

Scratch a few lines into a journal. Write a bit but try not get frustrated because you are interrupted seven times in fifteen minutes. Read a psalm. Pray in the shower. Listen as you go through your day. Clean the kitchen. Bath a baby. Make the beds. Use the good dishes for a lunch of plain soup. Scatter children’s books around the house like bait. Put on lipstick. Flirt in the kitchen in quiet saucy voices. Comfort tired children, prescribe naps and quilts with seriousness. Promise a movie later on. Later when the snow settles, you’ll go for a walk in the dim, into the in-between for a conversation with yourself, you’ll be so relieved to be away from them all for a few moments but yearning to return to them all by the end of the block.

Watch the snow fall in the ordinary beauty of a Sabbath spent practicing what makes you feel most fully human.

 

Continue Reading · abundant life, enough, family, gratitude, love, marriage · 15

In which I disagree with Candace Cameron Bure about “biblical marriage”

Candace Cameron Bure recently stirred up a bit of controversy when, in her new book, she wrote about her “submission” to her husband:

“My husband is a natural-born leader. I quickly learned that I had to find a way of honoring his take-charge personality and not get frustrated about his desire to have the final decision on just about everything. I am not a passive person, but I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work.” – (excerpted from “Balancing It All”)

Later, because of the resulting pushback to her words, she sought to clarify her position in an interview at HuffPost Live:

“The definition that I’m using with the word submissive is the biblical definition of that….I love that my man is a leader. I want him to lead and be the head of our family. And those major decisions do fall on him. It doesn’t mean I don’t voice my opinion. It doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. I absolutely do. But it is very difficult to have two heads of authority….When you’re competing with two heads, that can pose a lot of problems or issues.”

I believe that Candace Cameron Bure is wrong here. Of course, even simply scientifically, we know that there are millions of egalitarian marriages that “work” very well. But also, biblically, there are problems with her words.

This method or strategy may well be how her marriage works – and if so, lovely – but it’s not necessarily biblical: in fact. The idea that a Man is the Head of the Home has its roots in secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God or the created order of humanity.

And the idea that, as a wife, I would need to “become passive” or smaller or somehow less in order to make my marriage work is damaging and wrong.

Jesus Feminist_Surprise Party 78

My marriage has instead brought out the best in me. I am stronger and more courageous. I am bolder. I am more loving. I am more of who I was meant to be because of the way that tall Nebraskan has loved me well. And I believe that I have done the same for him. It’s been fifteen years since we fell in love, thirteen since we were married: our marriage and our family works because we submit to one another. And because we make each other better at being ourselves, in all the fullness and glory and mess and truth.

But don’t get me wrong: I believe in submission.

I just don’t believe that our call to submission in marriage is restricted to me.

I submit to my husband. And he submits to me, too. And together, we submit to Jesus.

Like many Christians down through the centuries, we practice mutual submission. Patriarchy and hierarchy within marriage were consequences of the Fall (see Genesis 3:16).

In the church, people of Candace Cameron Bure’s doctrinal slant tend to point towards a few passages of Scripture (particularly Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18-19, and 1 Peter 3:1-2) as justification for the the idea of a husband as absolute head of the home with his wife in submission to his leadership. She is not alone in adopting this as the standard of “biblical marriage.” (As an aside, I’ve never liked the phrase “biblical” as a descriptor. There are a lot of marriages in the Bible and I wouldn’t necessary identify most of them as the ideal or example to emulate.)

But those passages of Scripture are, in fact, a subversion of  the Greco Roman household codes in effect at the time. The maintaining of total authority in the home was critical to the functioning of a society that relied on the total authority of the government and/or religion. At the time of these writings on marriage, the Greco-Roman Household Codes were part of Pax Romana, the laws keeping the peace of Roman.  Peter and Paul worked within imperfect systems because any outright challenge to the law of the land would bring persecution down upon the Church in great number. In fact, the Apostles “advocated this system, not because God had revealed it as the divine will for Christian homes, but because it was the only stable and respectable system anyone knew about” at the time, according to Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe of the Women’s Bible Commentary.

Paul and Peter used the codes, not because they were perspective or ideal, but because they were familiar and they were showing the church how to move within the world while not being of the world. In fact, incredibly, they placed demands on the assumed power of men by teaching them to be kind to their slaves, to be gentle with their children, to love their wives; they addressed the powerless within a patriarchal society.

There is a redemptive movement happening here in Scripture. “Here is what is, here is what I want for you, move closer to My purposes” and so we find God out ahead of us, always moving us further into his purposes.

(For instance, just because there are references and instructions about how to treat slaves in our Bibles does not meant that slavery is right and good. In fact, it’s precisely because of our great love for Scriture and respect for God’s created order that we know that slavery is evil and wrong, an absolute perversion of our humanity. Yet the writers of Scripture often tried to find a way to subvert the current culture and to move us further ahead on God’s arc of justice even within unjust systems. Eventually the Church moved to the forefront of abolition because we understood this truth: Just because the Bible contained instructions about how to treat slaves in a context and culture where it was acceptable to hold slaves does not mean slavery is a godly practice or part of God’s intended purpose for creation.)

The Greco Roman household codes were an unjust system: these teachings show us how to work within them as people committed to the ways of Jesus.

As I wrote in Jesus Feminist, “life in Christ is not meant to mirror life in a Greco-Roman culture. An ancient Middle Eastern culture is not our standard. We were not meant to adopt the world of Luther’s Reformation or the culture of the Great Awakening or even 1950s America as our standard for righteousness. The culture, past or present, isnt the point: Jesus and His Kingdom come, his will done, right now – that is the point.” (p. 77)

Not only is the idea that wives alone are to submit to their husbands poor exegesis, it is damaging.

It is damaging to the image of God carried in women and in men. A woman who is held back, minimized, or downplayed is not walking in the fullness God intended for her as an image bearer (for instance, take a look at Carolyn Custis James’ excellent discussion about being an “ezer kenegdo” in her book, “Half the Church.”) A man is  most truly “helped” when women are walking in the fullness of her anointing and gifts and intelligence and strength, not when she reduces herself out of a misguided attempt at righteousness. This kind of doctrine has the potential to stifle and suffocate women, even resulting in abuse at times. And it doesn’t do men any favours either, often giving place to pride and individualism.

This is the danger of black and white thinking. We think that we only have two options when it comes to our marriages:

  1. Women submit to men, like in ancient secular patriarchal culture or,
  2. Nobody submits to anyone and we’re out for Number One, like in our modern individualist secular culture.

But instead here is the third way:

 3. Submit to one another, mutually, as in the Kingdom of God.

This is a Kingdom of Love. Anyone who wants to be first must be last, and the greatest is the servant of all, said our Jesus (Mark 10:44). In the upside down Kingdom ushered in by Jesus, the least is the most honoured and the one who gives everything gains it all.

The marriage relationship isn’t exempt from the words of Jesus – and the teachings of the Church – about how we are to interact with one another and love one another.

We are all called to meekness. We are all called to love others. We are all called to bear with one another. We are all called to love, to care for one another, to forgive, to minister, and so on.

When Paul likened marriage to the relationship between Christ and the Church, it was an exhortation to crazy love and sacrificial giving, not power grabbing. Paul’s words remind us that Christ gave himself up for the Church, loved her.

“And so we discover the great paradox hidden within these hotly debated passages of Scripture, tragically misused to subject and berate and hold back, to demand and give place to pride – however benevolent the intention. If wives submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ, and if husbands love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, and if both husbands and wives submit to one another as commanded, we enter a never-ending, life-giving circle of mutual submission and love.” (excerpted from Jesus Feminist)

There is a vast difference between mutual submission to one another out of an overflow of love and having submission demanded of you, one-sided, out of a misguided attempt at biblical marriage.

In a Christian marriage, Christ is meant to be the head of our homes, and within marriage, we are meant to submit to one another - even as Candace Cameron Bure rightly defines it, “so, it is meekness, it is not weakness. It is strength under control, it is bridled strength.”

Yes, yes, it is. For both men and women.

My husband and I submit to one another as we both submit to Christ. We learned that from our Bibles.

Photo courtesy of Tina Francis

Some portions of this post are quoted from my book, Jesus Feminist.

Continue Reading · Jesus Feminist, marriage · 237

In which romance shows up in the interruptions

I think that someday, when I am old, I will be glad that I wrote this down. (These are the days we will have to remember someday.) Isn’t that the way it is with these moments? The small moments, the small decisions, make up a life worth remembering and I want to make more room in my life (and so my writing) to remember them. Even if it’s just for me. Simple stories still matter to me.

The girls were playing dress-up while Joe was downstairs playing Legos after supper. I left Brian to the dishes to pretty up their hair and apply my bright lipstick to their small mouths as a special treat. We sprayed perfume into the air and moved through the mist. They paraded up and down the house, grandly greeting each other turn after turn: “Why hello, Miss Evelynn, pleasure to see you.” They decided to have a ball and so I opened iTunes on the computer. The laptop keys are sticky and there are smears on the screen: family computer, it seems.

Brian and I switched spots and he scooped them up in his arms, a dish towel flung over his shoulder. The girls danced with their dad, and I cleaned the kitchen, humming along, watching them all. The girls drifted off to another game and we settled back to our work, we always do. There’s a lot to do: a lot of work, a lot of bills, a lot of commitments, go go go.

On these nights, romance smells like butter and garlic, dish soap and clean skin. On a whim, I turned on Andrew Peterson’s song “Dancing in the Minefields” and, without words, we turned to each other, held on and danced. Romance shows up in the interruptions.

Even when we are tired or we aren’t speaking the same language or we are out of step, we still know enough to turn towards each other when the music starts.

Evelynn came barrelling in to the room (she barrels into every room) and charged at us: me too! me too! me too! We picked her up and we danced, and Anne wormed her way in, then Joe wandered upstairs and we were dancing like a messy rugby scrum, shuffling and swaying and out of step, five people crammed into one embrace.

I laid my head on his chest like I haven’t done in a while, he kissed my hair, I knew he was smiling, and Evelynn laid her face right next to mine, nose to nose. Anne was hanging on to me at the south, Joe to the north.

I make a lot of mistakes in this marriage, I’m sure he’d say the same, but we always find our way back to this. I found myself singing along: at the end of all my fear, to the end of all my days, when I forget my name, remind me. 

Continue Reading · brian, family, love, love looks like, marriage · 28

In which {love looks like} your own story, a guest post for RHE

I love when Rachel Held Evans puts on her Teaching Hat. This week, she’s writing through what Mutual Submission (sometimes called Mutuality) – the theology, the Scriptures, how it translates to our real lives and marriages, all of it. It’s a necessary and much-needed conversation within the Church and Rachel has done serious research, called in the experts, and is highlighting posts on Twitter from other writers. Most of you know that Rachel and I have become friends (she even wrote the Foreword for my book) and I respect her more than I could express properly. She’s everything she appears – generous, kind, wise, funny, self-deprecating and usually the smartest person in the room – and so I’m flat-out honoured to contribute to her series on marriages of mutuality. You can follow all activity relating to this series on Twitter with the hashtag #OneToAnother.

I know that principles are useful and helpful, I do, but for some reason, they just don’t sum up what it means to love Jesus, do they? When I try to describe the spirit-filled life of living loved, I resort to metaphors and stories: I’ll stumble through the words of John 15 about life in the vine or say phrases like “live and move and have our being” and sometimes I talk about Isaiah or maybe shepherds and sheep who know His voice, but usually  I am left saying “it’s like this…” and then I am only bearing witness to the Spirit’s movement in my own life and the Love who transforms me.  I have a hard time to explaining it because it’s so inherent to my life: this is the way, and I walk in it.

Maybe that is the difference between religious performance and relaxing into a relationship. My faith is now a dance between the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures and my community, it’s alive. I’m being changed from the inside out, and I want to prophetically live the ways of Jesus into every corner of my small existence. I know where I belong and I know my true identity at last.

Against my usually-better-than-this judgement, I began to write online about my marriage a few years ago. I never write about how to have a good marriage – there is nary a principle or seven-step plan to be found. Instead, I write about what love looks like for us.

In the same way that the longer I know and love our Jesus, then the less I want to write or pontificate about Being a Good Christian, it seems that the longer I’m married, the less I want to write or pontificate about Having A Good Marriage. Now I just want to read dog-eared poetry books and cook his meals, argue with him about theology and then kiss him on the kitchen floor.

Please click here to read the rest of this post at Rachel Held Evans’ blog….

Continue Reading · Guest Post, love, love looks like, marriage · 1