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Doest complementarianism foster idolatry?

How's that for an argumentative question? If more people read this blog, I could be in trouble.

This is a question that has long simmered in my mind. Don't get me wrong; I love my husband. He is a good leader, and I trust him. He is my best friend. Contrary to those who say a husband can't be a woman's best friend, he is. There is no one I'd rather spend time with. We can talk, and we can be quiet. He is supportive, even if he isn't always as interested in what I'm learning. He has terrible taste in music, but I'd rather listen to Perry Como in that car with him than anyone else.

But he's not perfect. And he is not immortal. 

Recently, he had a travel fiasco whereby he had to make a connecting flight in Calgary when they were in the throes of a fall snow storm. Ultimately, he flew out of Vancouver instead of Victoria and was en route home for about 17 hours. Those kind of things make me anxious. I begin to envision the worst: what if he is hurt or the plane crashes? At one point, he was on a ferry from Victoria to Vancouver; what if it had an accident? I'm only too aware that I depend a great deal on my husband. There are so many things that he handles well. When the tail pipe on my car became disengaged from the muffler this week, he took care of it. When I have technical issues, he is the second set of eyes that helps me look carefully at things. What would I do without him?

And of course, the answer is that I would do without him. My neighbour two doors down lost her husband of over 50 years about six weeks ago. When we were both at the mailbox recently, her comment was, "It's a different life." 

My concern arises when every spritual and theological issue is served up to women couched in terms of the leadership of husbands. Recently, at my school, we had a day of special preaching lectures. There was a separate event for "ministry wives," obviously assuming that they wouldn't want to sit in on the preaching lectures. I understand that some wouldn't want to, but are there some who would rather listen in on the lectures? And if they do, do they feel pressured to go and sit with the other women to be encouraged in their marriages?

Of course we need encouragement in our marriages, but I sometimes wonder if all this talk about it builds up inflated expectations or leads to putting our husbands in the the place of God. Honestly, the way some women talk about their husbands, you would think God had not granted them any initiative, indepenence, or skill. That simply isn't true. I am content to let my husband be the one to climb up on the ladder to clean out the gunk from the eaves; but that doesn't mean I couldn't do it if I had to. I'm also pretty sure that if I was shown properly, I could change the oil on the car. I don't leave those things to him because I can't do them; I do it because I don't like doing them and he doesn't mind. Sometimes, expectation that we must all be meek, helpless women is a hard burden to shoulder. I haven't worked through all of these things, but it is a question rolling around in my mind.

If I was widowed, my life would be very different, indeed. But I would hate to think that I would be lost and flailing if that happened. If all women are ever instructed about is marriage, what does that do for a woman who is widowed, or finds herself abandoned by her husband, or finds herself never marrying? It's worth thinking about.


Turkey, wedding dresses, and power studying

This week was very intense. It started last weekend, actually, and was made worse by my own laziness. To be fair, the cold I had a couple of weeks ago did not leave quickly. I was very lethargic for quite a while after that razor-blades-in-the-back-of-the-throat feeling dissipated. In short, by this time last week, I was behind in my reading.

Last weekend was Thanksgiving here, and its business was increased by the project (albeit a joyful one!) I had on Saturday: buying a wedding dress for my daughter. With that accomplished, I was able to focus on  Thanksgsiving celebrations. All the kids were home, and it was wonderful.

However, by the end of the holiday Monday, I was only about 80 of 266 pages into the book Hard Sayings of Jesus. I needed to have it done by Tuesday so that I could meet with my fellow group members for an assigned project. When I arrived for the meeting, I still had about eight or nine pages to go, but in the end, it was okay. The book wasn't overly difficult, but it wasn't exactly a breeze. It required thought. After the meeting, I had a class from 6:30-9:15 pm. I arrived home by 10:30 that night, feeling a little fried. 

That left me with Wednesday to finish a Greek Exegesis assignment and study for a quiz. Some of the material, I had only given a cursory glance. I also had another group project meeting (another class, another group project) on Wednesday afternoon. As I drove the hour there and back, I was wishing there was a way to quiz myself on Greek vocabulary while driving. 

I basically spent all of Wednesday night working on Greek. I try to get to bed early on Wednesday nights because I leave here at 6:45 am on Thursdays, but it was 11:30 when I stopped. I was very thankful to hand in the assignment and do the quiz. Even though I wanted to stay for chapel, I went home and crashed.

The difference between an introvert and an extrovert is how they are energeized. My husband finds discussion and interaction with people very tiring. He gets energized by being alone. I am not on either extreme. I am an "on the fence-trovert." While I loved the discussion in the meetings I had with my group project members, and I thoroughly enjoyed my class on Tuesday, I was so exhausted by Thursday evening that I didn't mind one bit that my husband had decided to go watch a concert my sons' band was doing. I blissfully watched the Montreal Canadiens' home opener (clarification: I watched them lose their home opener) on my own.

I cannot imagine how seminary students with young children manage. One of my classmates, another woman, has four children; and they are at that stage where she's driving them around everywhere. One of the other students, a man, has five children. Perhaps the difference is that I'm not used to having a lot of activity anymore, and when I do, I find it tiring.

My game plan now is to avoid the situation where I'm doing five or six hours of Greek homework in one sitting rather than spreading it out over the week. 


Does Anne Shirley give us unreasonable expectations?

In Anne of Green Gables, Anne Shirley declares her intention to be Diana Barry's "bosom friend" forever. And in the context of all of the books, that happens. Even in the volume Anne's House of Dreams, we see Diana and Anne as adults chatting as Anne prepares to marry. Diana has called her newborn "small Anne Cordelia." Later, Anne calls her twin daughters "Anne and Diana." There is no record of a squabble or misunderstanding between the two women.

Even in all of Anne's other friendships with women, she is the perfect friend. Everyone loves Anne. In the book Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne has to win over a crusty colleague, and of course, she does. She is able to win the love of everyone she meets.

Growing up, I read those volumes over and over again. I expected that I, too, would find a "bosom friend." And of course, that has really never happened. Montgomery, herself, was well-liked. She was charming and winsome, and people liked to talk to her. But she did not have perfect relationships. The woman she was closest to, her cousin Frederica, died in 1919 of the flu. And her journals are filled with words expressing her feeling if isolation and loneliness.

Christian women are encouraged to have those "bosom friend" situations; to have close sisters in Christ. That has really not been the case for me. One of the most toxic friendships I have ever had was with a fellow Christian woman. There are women I've gone to church with for more than twent years who are good friends to everyone, but I share no close connection with any one woman in particular. I came into the church when many friendships had long been established, and I was a bit of an outsider.

To be completely honest, the only woman I feel like I can be completely myself with and trust with personal details is my daughter. And in recent months, I have come to see that I have not given my trust to many people. Instances when I have opened up a little only to have the individual freeze me out later have made me even more reluctant. One friend has become cool toward me since I began seminary. Asking what I have done wrong is met with a painfully polite, "Nothing at all." And yet the coolness remains. My mind thinks "You are not a safe person." And I let it go.

The reality is that friendships are not perfect. We are not perfect with one another. It takes forgiveness and a willingness to be offended. We have to overlook things. And we have to put an effort into the friendship. If I sense that I'm doing all of the initiating, I do ask myself if the friendships is actually what I believed it to be. And it's okay if we're not best friends with everyone. It's not necessary to have a "best friend." If we do, we should consider it a gift. God has his reasons for establishing us in his circumstances. Sometimes, we need reminders that our sufficiency is in Christ, not in human relationships. Even the best relationships are no substitute for what we have in Christ. He does not let us down, cool toward us, or betray us.

While the existence of perfect friendships is engaging in a book, the truth is that relationships are not easy, and if we are not Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, we're not the only ones.


Battling the Distraction Demon

Last fall, right when school started, I started to experience a worsening of my GERD symptoms. It was not anything major, but it was frustrating, because I was taking medication daily. In the midst of getting started in school, my mind had to start pondering food triggers. What was it now? I went through the rounds of herbal teas (which, I'm sorry to say, all begin to taste the same after a while: blech) and increased my water intake and basically eating bland foods. Nothing.

This was annoying because I wanted to focus on my first few weeks of school, not wonder whether or not I was going to have start eating differently. Eventually, however, I went to the doctor and had a chat with his physician's assistant (whom I love). She was not sure what was going on, but ordered a gastroscopy and took some blood. My blood results came back with being positive for the H.pylori bacterium. Easy peasy solution: take some antibiotics, which I did. Gastroscopy came back clear. Distraction over. My GERD is no longer an issue. In fact, I've been off the meds for almost a year now.

This fall, when school started, there was another distraction demon. This one came in the form of some family issues which have surfaced over the past four months. These involve my extended family, including my parents. These are issues which I see now have been one of the most significant contributions to many of my own struggles, especially as it relates to trusting other people.

I don't want to think about these things right now. I recognize that I can't change the past, and that in all likelihood, there is no solution except to lean on God, to find my strength in Christ. What better place to do that than in seminary, right? Nope. The distractions still come. They come on the hour long ride to and from school, as my mind wanders. They come when I'm feeling tired and it's harder to concentrate. They come because these are family issues, and you can't get away from who you are. 

One of my friends suggested to me once that such distractions in the midst of seminary is a spiritual attack. Satan does not want me to be in seminary. It's much better for me to be obsessing about the past and dealing with struggle in the here and now. Satan does not want any of us to succeed in knowing God more.

I know I am right where God wants me to be. Being in seminary is the one place I actually feel like I belong. Last Thursday, I had a wonderful conversation with a fellow student as he shared with me his thesis research on the atonement. He spoke to me like a colleague, not like a silly little woman who was only at seminary because she needed a hobby. Talking to people about the deep things of God is enjoyable, and when I'm doing that, the other problems are far from my mind.

So, I'm going to keep praying for the distractions to stay away, and I'm going to forge ahead. 


Bible teacher or biblical teacher?

I have been studying the Bible for over thirty years. I've taught the Bible to others for over twenty. I've read books by authors who are marketed as Bible teachers. There is a difference between someone is a teacher with a bibical mindset and someone who is there to help the student open the Word of God and learn from it. The two are not synonymous.

I can write a post on this blog about an issue from a biblical point of view; say one on parenting or vocation. I would refer to the Bible, but that's not the same thing as taking a passage of Scripture and teaching it. The latter means picking it apart, staying in context, focusing on the individual phrases, taking into consideration the background, the setting, and if it's a narrative, the characters, plot, and resolution. I think a good Bible teacher will show the student how to study and learn from the Bible. There is a lot we can learn about what the Bible teaches simply by reading a book written from a biblical point of view, but to know the Bible deeply requires really opening it up. It's work. 

In preparation for my Synoptic Gospels class this week, I've been reading from three different places: Mark 1:16-8:6; Matthew 3-10; and Luke 3-9:50. I've read each of those sections four times now. The last time through, I did some comparison between how the authors presented various accounts. I read carefully. And I'm not done. Because the sections are relatively large, I really could not stop to focus on one specific spot. Bible study means getting into the Bible. 

Books about the Bible won't do that for you. Reading a biblical perspective on an issue is good and such books help us to wrestle through our own ideas on issues. But unless it's a book about a specific doctrine or a commentary, a book on a topic is going to open up the author's interpretation of the biblical material more than the Bible itself. If I am looking for a book that will help me understand the Bible more, I need to look for authors who have clearly been in the Bible; a lot.

This whole area of how we read, interpret, and teach the Bible is one I'm very interested in. If there was ever going to be an area of dedicated research that I would pursue, that would be it.