Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It's still a bad idea to vent

About a year ago, I posted this on my own blog. I think it's still a valid topic. I have a busy week, so I'm re-posting it here, slightly modified.

Can I vent?

Have you ever asked someone that? Or been asked that? I remember when I had small children, my girlfriends and I would do that: talk about how frustrating it was to repeat something over and over again to no avail; bemoan the always increasing pile of laundry; mourn over the never ending cycle of colds shared throughout the house. We weren't really looking for advice, we were just venting. Venting is not looking for counsel. It's mostly just complaining.

I knew from the beginning of my relationship with my husband that he is a private person. I learned very quickly not to vent to anyone about him. I have, however, sat among a group of women where that happened frequently. And I left those situations wishing I'd had the courage to say, "stop!" Venting about our husbands, (or anyone else for that matter), is a bad idea.

Please, please don't misunderstand me. I am not talking about women who have serious sin issues with a husband, like domestic abuse or addictions like pornography, gambling, or substance abuse. Domestic abuse and addiction are ugly realities that seep into even Christian marriages, and need to be exposed. When a woman wants to discuss serious situations like that, it isn't venting.

Venting isn't about asking for counsel. It is about complaining, and often about fairly insignificant things. Instead of taking these complaints into a conversation with our friends, we ought to discuss them with our husbands, not the world at large.

Venting about husbands is a disrespectful a violation of privacy.  I don't want to know the faults of my friend's husband. I just want her to have a good marriage, and I want to support her with my friendship. I want to like my friend's husband, not have my opinion coloured by her complaints.

One way we can show love to our husbands is to speak well of them everywhere. To regularly vent about my husband means I'm not speaking well of him. When a friend continually vents to me, I need to have the courage to suggest she not do it. She needs my support and love, not me nodding my head and agreeing. And if we are silent during such times, will our friend assume our agreement?

Venting in groups is especially problematic, because when one begins, it's often motivation for others to start. It begins to escalate out of control. You know what? I know other people's husbands have faults. Just like you know my husband does. But how is group venting about those faults glorifying God or encouraging anyone? When Paul exhorts women to "respect" their husbands (Eph. 5:33) does that include publicly tearing him down? Would we feel loved by our husbands if they sat among a group of men and tore us down, complaining that we needed to lose a few pounds or take a few cooking lessons?

If you have a friend who comes to you and vents about her husband, criticizing him, do you not think she would do the same about you? Maybe she vents to her husband about you.

We need to overlook petty differences, determine what is a serious issue, and prayerfully consider how to cope with them. When we have serious problems we should be careful about whom we allow into those situations and limit it to a very few trusted individuals. My suggestion would be a pastor, older woman, or relative.

Speak well of your husband in public. Be an example to other wives around you, and keep those petty complaints about your husband to yourself.  Before you share that story with your friends, ask yourself if it's a violation of your husband's privacy, and ask what the purpose is. If there is no good purpose, silence is better.

Monday, September 29, 2014

We Are Not Insignifcant

I've been thinking a lot about how the same fear can cause seemingly opposite responses in different individuals. Perfectionism, for instance, can cause some people to work themselves into a frenzy and others to procrastinate.

And though I do not recommend the book, one of the more interesting insights from the book Captivating was the observation that women who have been hurt in relationships often respond in one of two ways: by either becoming controlling or desolate.

The cure for these things is not a higher view of ourselves, but a higher view of God. I like how Hannah Anderson unpacks this in her book Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God's Image. In this section, Hannah is talking about feelings of insignificance. But isn't that the root of a lot of our negative emotions? I believe it is.

The fear that our lives lack significance, that we are merely specks of dust floating in the massive cosmos, can easily spark the search for identity. When you consider the enormity of the universe, when you realize that Earth itself comprises only an infinitesimal part of it, and when you recognize that you are only one out of the billions of people who have lived, it's easy to feel small. Add to this the fact that we must devote vast amounts of time on the basics of daily life (I once calculated that in my lifetime I will prepare nearly 50,000 meals for my family), and it's a wonder we all don't run off to exotic places in search of ourselves!

This fear that we simply trudge through our allotted days without ever making a difference drives some women on a never-ending pursuit of success and perfection. From the fast-paced executive always scrambling for the next deal to the tiger mom bent on shaping her child into a future Supreme Court justice, we are hounded by the thought that our existence will somehow e worthless unless we achieve quantifiable success. For others, this same fear causes them to retreat into their own zone of comfort and hide from the greater world, content to be a big fish in a small pond if it means avoiding the constant reminders of their limitations and irrelevance.

And yet the deeper magic is that no matter how small we may feel—no matter how small we actually may be—we are not insignificant. We are not lost in the grand cosmos. We do matter. But it's not because of anything we've done; it's because of something God did back at the beginning. Because back when God created all this beauty, all this life, all this splendor, He capped it off with one final masterpiece—one that He did not leave to words alone. No, for this final masterpiece, He stooped down and left His own fingerprints in the dust.

And that final masterpiece was us.[1]

[1]Hannah Anderson, Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image (Chicago: Moody, 2014), 31.

(In case you missed it, Kim reviewed this book a few months back.)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Now as always

In Philippians 1:20 Paul expresses his hope that "now as always Christ will be honored." This is the heartbeat of his life and ministry as seen throughout this letter and others. In fact, in the very next breath he asserts that for him to live is Christ and to die is gain. And just a few sentences prior he dismisses his jealous rivals with apparent unconcern because his one aim is "only that in every way...Christ is proclaimed and in that I rejoice."

Now. As always. Only that. In every way. Talk about single-mindedness!

Commenting on Phil. 1:20, J.A. Motyer writes in his book The Message of Philippians,
How that word 'now' needs to eat its way into our minds and hearts and wills! It is now that we must show how great Christ is. Never again will we have the chance to live for him through this moment, to please him in this circumstance, to gladden him by trusting in this ordeal.
I don't know what your "now" looks like. Just prior to me sitting down to type this post, my "now" consisted of laundry (always and forever). When I get up from the computer, my "now" will most likely include cleaning out the refrigerator and vacuuming my dog's crate. It's not exactly the glamorous life I lead here in my "now".

For some of us, our "now" entails risk and danger. Some of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world face persecution and peril in their "now". For some of you, your "now" may be full of pain or doubt or loneliness or struggle. Maybe your "now" means reading Goodnight, Moon for what is surely the millionth time, wondering if you will go crazy with that millionth-and-first reading.

Maybe you're exhausted in your "now." Maybe you're misunderstood. Maybe you feel invisible. Maybe you're like me and you're cleaning the bathrooms. Maybe you're doing the kind of ministry that takes everything you've got and then some and you think you haven't got anything else left to give.

Maybe your "now" is good, real good, so good you're tempted to grow comfortable and complacent. Or maybe you feel hopeless or helpless. Maybe you're wondering if God is there, if He hears, if He knows, if He will answer.

Take heart, sister. No matter where your "now" finds you, be encouraged by Paul's example. "I am sure of this," he tells the Philippians, "that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Paul writes with great confidence but he also writes from a place of great difficulty, from prison. Motyer observes,
Such sentiments elate the heart, but there can have been small elation for Paul as he looked at his chain and his flesh worn by its chafing. No elation--but a resolve: now as always!
Your "now"? It's part of that good work, it's part of what God is bringing to completion. Your today--no matter how hard, how easy, how blessed, how difficult--it's important, it's necessary, it's getting you ready for the day of Christ.

So let's praise Him now, wherever we are, whatever we are facing. Let's resolve to trust Him even in the hard places. Let's be fully confident that He is working it all out for His purpose and His glory. Let's show Christ as more precious, more wonderful. Now. Today. Tomorrow. As always.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Let All Things Their Creator Bless

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

The first chapter of Genesis is probably one of the most familiar passages in the Bible. It's read by many believers on January 1 to kick-off their Bible reading plans. These verses are also scrutinized when discussing the origin of the universe both inside and outside of Christendom. But after listening to a recent sermon on Genesis 1, I've looked at this chapter in a fresh way.

My pastor stated that our response to this text should be to look at our God as He is gloriously displayed. His words gave me reason to pause. I've focused so much on the details of what happened on which day and what it could possibly mean in terms of time, space, and science that I may have missed the forest for the trees. So I reread Genesis 1, and it brought me to worship.

Nouns such as intellect and genius seem woefully inadequate when it comes to describing the wisdom of God displayed in the act of creation. It's beyond my comprehension to imagine the power and authority that can create matter out of nothing with just a word. No wonder the psalmist writes:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1
Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3 
O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Psalm 104:24
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

And from Wayne Grudem:
As God created the universe, it was perfectly suited to bring him glory, both in the day-by-day processes and in the goals for which he created it. Even now, while we still see the effects of sin and the curse on the natural world, we should be amazed at how harmonious and intricate God's creation is.1

So let me bring it down to where you are today:

As you read this post, light is traveling from the screen to the lens behind your eye. Your retina converts the light into electrochemical signals which travel from the optic nerve to your brain. It then translates those impulses from symbols into words which you comprehend. Your brain may send another signal down your spinal column to nerves that stimulate the muscles in your arm and hand, causing you to grasp the mouse and scroll down the page or lift that mug of coffee to your lips. All the while, your heart is beating, pumping blood containing life-giving oxygen to the cells throughout your body. Each cell is made up of molecules which are made up of atoms which are made up of subatomic particles which scientists have yet to fully figure out. You are sitting and not flying up to the ceiling because of gravity. The earth is not an uninhabitable wasteland because forces keep our planet at exactly the right distance from the sun. So the cell, the solar system, and everything in between is a demonstration of God's handwork. But it gets even better.

The "God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 4:6.)  So now we can know our Creator as our Father, and the One who "upholds the universe by the Word of his power" (Heb. 1:3) is our Savior. 

I hope you didn't mind the science lesson, but isn't creation awesome? Isn't God awesome!? So go out tonight and look at the stars or examine a dew drop on a blade of grass tomorrow morning. Consider how fearfully and wonderfully you are made. And as His redeemed children, may we be the first to "their Creator bless and worship Him in humbleness."2

1. Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan, 1994, pg. 193.
2. From All Creatures of Our God and King, Francis of Assisi, translated by William Draper.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The EEEWWW! Factor

Besides being downright fun, teaching youth girls was eye-opening. Nearly every Sunday, I left with just as much to think about as they did. But there was one Sunday when I was able to startle them into near silence. Any of you who've had experience with youth girls know what a feat that is! We were discussing modesty. I asked each girl to picture her favorite swim suit. No problem there. Then I asked each girl to picture her mother wearing that exact suit.

EEEWWW! followed by peals of laughter and then quiet. They couldn't find the words.

The point was that if you would be ashamed to see your mother wearing it, why would you wear it yourself? (In case you're curious, I've pretty much covered the topic of modesty: here, here, and here.)

It's only been the past few months that my daughter has stopped wrinkling her nose and saying EEEWWW! when she sees her dad kiss me or hears him give me a cheesy compliment.  (We may or may not have tried to provoke her.)

I've had more than a few laughs at the EEEWWW! response, but some posts I've seen on social media lately have made me want to express myself in the same fashion. I can't think of a more appropriate word.

Letting us know how sexy you think your husband is? EEEWWW! I believe it goes without saying that wives generally think their husbands are handsome, sweet, and loving.  I agree there are times when it's acceptable to praise our husbands publicly, but I wonder how many husbands even read what their wives are saying. Oftentimes, such posts come across as bragging rather than showing appreciation. Call me prudish, but I like to compliment my husband privately. I don't want to call another woman's attention him.

A selfie with duck lips and cleavage? EEEWWW! I'll be honest. I don't understand the whole duck lips phenomenon. When I was a kid, we put two Pringles potato chips in our mouths to form duck lips. It was fun for about 2.4 seconds, and certainly wasn't considered cute or sexy. Duck lips aside, selfies with seductive poses are quite common even in Christian circles. I often find myself wondering if it's a symptom of the lack of attention at home.

Sharing too much personal information? EEEWWW! I'll never forget my first real diary. It had a lock on it and I guarded the key with my life. I didn't want ANYONE to know my most secret thoughts. Today it seems that many people not only want the world to know their secret thoughts, but that they demand the attention. Screens have desensitized us. We easily type and post things we might think twice about saying aloud. We believe we are safe hiding behind the barriers of our computers and phones.

There's no accountability on the internet; we have carte blanche. If anyone questions us...well, they're just being intolerant. Yet the Apostle Paul cautions us to use our freedoms wisely.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. (1 Cor. 6:12)

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1 Cor. 10:23-24)

Oh! how I want my social media presence to be helpful to me and to others! What's more, I am deliberately seeking to model social media discretion for my daughter. During a recent conversation I was telling her about some things I'd seen her friends post on Instagram. She replied, "I'm not on Instagram for a reason. I don't want to know everything that's going on." Don't think I take any credit for her resolve; it is purely the the Lord's grace.

In the eight years I've been blogging, I've had a continual inner dialogue regarding what I will and will not post. My guidelines have changed as my daughter has gotten older and as my focus has shifted to living quietly. I will continue to evaluate my participation in social media and the content of my posts. Before I hit publish, I'll ask myself these questions:

Would my grandmother  post this?

Would Abigail?

Would this post cause a teenage girl say EEEWWW!?