Monday, October 27, 2014

More precious than rubies

I love to snuggle up with my husband in the evenings and watch a good show on Netflix.  It’s just so nice to curl up with him and relax after a day of running around the house doing whatever needs doing, running the kids wherever they need to go, making sure homework gets done, dinner is fixed and cleaned up, etc.  It’s comforting.  It’s safe.  It’s my happy place.  We sit together and unwind while watching comedies and crime, love stories and life stories.  

Most of the things we watch involve couples of various ages and stages.  Most of the time, my husband and I look at each other and say, wow, I’m so glad we aren’t like that as a couple!  So many of the couples portrayed on television these days are a less than stellar example of what a loving, committed couple should look like.  We as wives need to be careful of who we look up to in this fallen world.    Often, the couples on TV are disrespectful of each other, quick to anger and defense, and selfishness prevails rather than love and compassion.  The “virtuous wife” spoken of in Proverbs 31:10 is indeed hard to find if you’re looking at the television.  Our society glorifies their definition of “strong women.”  The definition of a strong woman according to today’s society seems to be this: a woman who leads her man around by his nose, telling him what to do and how to do it, doing what she wants when she wants to do it, and generally living life on her own terms.  Television characters like Laura on the Walking Dead, Lily on How I Met Your Mother, Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones, Temperance Brennen on Bones, and Alison on Medium are examples of society’s definition and ideal as far as strong women are concerned.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with watching these shows, but I do think that we need to be very careful about idealizing these characters and emulating them.  It should be our daily prayer as wives for the Lord to shape us into the biblical version of a strong woman. 

If you read through Proverbs 31:10-31, you will see exactly how God defines a strong woman.  His Word tells us that this kind of woman is so valuable that she can’t even be compared to one of the most precious gemstones known to man!  I don’t know about you, but I would far rather be this valuable to my husband than to try and emulate society’s standards and fall despairingly short of God’s.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Teaching modesty, minus the shame

How many times have we as women thought about modesty in relation to what we wear every day?  Modesty is a concept that a lot of us have had drilled into us from early childhood.  In and of itself, it isn't necessarily a bad thing.  I want to portray class.  I want my daughter to be classy.  I don't want people to look at either of us and think that we are intentionally showing off our assets!  However, I do think that there is a middle ground somewhere between covering every part of our body and showing it all off.  There are detriments to teaching girls that they need to hide their bodies.

God designed the female body.  He designed it to be beautiful and attractive and that beauty and attraction shouldn't be viewed as a negative thing.  Women have curves and shape and we like to be, feel, and look pretty.  There isn't anything wrong with that!  The problem arises when society (largely the Christian society) makes women feel as though their bodies are something to be ashamed of.  We're made to feel like our natural beauty puts us at fault for making men stumble in their faith by lusting after us, whether or not we're conscious of our appearance.  Now, if we're trying to catch men's eyes by wearing skimpy clothing then we do have some responsibility there.  But if we're wearing jeans that fit well and a t-shirt and a man looks and lusts, that isn't our fault.  We cannot control the thoughts and actions of another person and we certainly aren't responsible for their sin.  In teaching modesty to our girls we are telling them that men can't control themselves so we are responsible for modifying how we dress in order that they don't have to control themselves.  What kind of logic is that?  It sets our girls up to grow into women who are ashamed of their bodies and uncomfortable around men; even their own husbands.  This goes back to my first post a couple of weeks ago about sexuality and being open about it and talking about sex.  We can't be comfortable talking about sex with anyone, much less our spouses, if we are made to feel ashamed of our bodies.  Read that post here: A Bold Beginning

Teaching women that their bodies are a source of sin for men has produced a culture which believes that rape is the fault of the woman.  I cannot stress enough how wrong this view is.  Ladies, you are not at fault if a man makes the conscious choice to commit rape.  He chose, based on his own lust and sinful nature, to commit an atrocious act against your will.  You did not choose for him by wearing clothing he found attractive.  He had the choice to act or to refrain from acting.  I am a rape victim and it was not my fault.  I did not choose it; he did.  It wasn't because I had a lack of modesty.  I wasn't wearing a mini skirt; I wasn't wearing a shirt showing cleavage or tight-fitting pants; it would not have mattered if I had been.  In fact, it had nothing to do with me personally and everything to do with the man's sinful nature and his willingness to give in to that sinful nature.  Teaching girls/women to cover up their bodies and hide behind loose-fitting, frumpy clothing just teaches us that it is our own fault.  We should no more be ashamed of our bodies, which were designed by God Himself, than we should be ashamed of the beauty of a sunrise.

My daughter is 11 years old.  I want to teach her modesty.  But I don't want to teach her to cover up her beauty or to take on responsibility for a sin which isn't her own.  I believe we can find a middle ground here.  I believe we can teach our girls healthy sexuality without compromising their wholesomeness.

If you'd like to read more, Sheila Wray Gregoire has written a wonderful blog entry about modesty here: Is the Christian Modesty Message Causing Women To Be Ashamed of Their Bodies?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dealing with anger

"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires."  James 1:19-20 NLT

I had an incident this afternoon where someone close to me said something hurtful on social media and I got angry.  If you're like me, your first instinct is to respond in some way.  I wanted to defend against the remarks and point out how wrong this person was to say such a hurtful thing in a public way.  I had even convinced myself that maybe my anger was righteous anger.  And then I read James 1:19-20.  The anger slowly started to recede in the face of what God says about it.  

My New Living Testament Bible has a note next to the word "righteousness" in verse 20.  It says that the word righteousness here can also be translated as justice.  I read the verse again, substituting justice for righteousness, and wow!  It spoke to me in a new and vivid way.  My anger over the situation this afternoon could have led to something completely different than what God had in mind if I had chosen to act on it.  God's sense of justice is just not even close to ours!  He sees the big picture.  He understands why the person who hurt me today said what they said and He knows what to do about it even if I don't, and even when I think I know what ought to be done about it.  His Word says I need to be "slow to get angry."  So instead of being hurt and offended and then angry, I need to be "quick to listen" and try to understand the position of the person who has angered me and then let go of that anger.  God will deal with the person justly, and it isn't up to me to determine how that should be.  

Before I read verse 20 with justice inserted instead of righteousness, I used to think that being angry in itself was a bad thing because it made me unrighteous.  Well who wants to be unrighteous??  Not this girl!  So I was berating myself for being angry and that really isn't the point here.  The point is that the fruits of our anger produce consequences that the Lord does not desire.  When we respond to someone in anger, we choose to take God's justice into our own hands.  I don't know about you, but I sure didn't think about it that way before.  I want to be slow to get angry.  I don't like being angry; who does??  Perhaps if we're all quicker to listen (with the intent to hear the speaker, and without thinking about our reply while they're speaking) then we'll be slower to get angry and less likely to take God's justice into our own less-than-capable hands.  I would so much rather He be responsible for the justice than me anyway, because He's perfect in his decisions and I am so not!