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Entries in Sanctification (116)


The reality behind "opposites attract."

There is a saying that "opposites attract." I don't necessarily believe that. When it comes to meeting someone with whom we will spend our lives, true opposites likely don't come together. While there may be some different personality traits, at their core, there is something foundational which binds them. I could never have married someone who didn't believe in God. It was too important to me. It was what drew me to my husband. 

In many ways, my husband and I are very unlike. He is scattered and forgetful; I am scheduled and organized. He doesn't not speak, but rather things first; I speak before I should. He is spontaneous; I like to have my ducks in a row. He likes science fiction shows; I run the other way when they're on the television. But are we opposites? No. Instead, what drew us to one another was the reality that the other brought something to the relationship we needed, but lacked ourselves. Even in friendships, we are often drawn to others who have what we lack ourselves.

I read this today in Bavinck's Dogmatics, Volume 2:

The pinnacle of beauty, the beauty toward which all creatures point, is god. he is supreme being, supreme truth, supreme goodness, and also the apex of unchanging beauty. "Who is is that made these changeale things beautiful if not the unchangeably beautiful One?" God is the highest beauty, because in his being is absolulte oneness, measure, and order. He is lacking in nothing, nor is there anything superfluous in him (emphasis mine).

As human beings, created in God's image, just as we are aware of the existence of God, we are aware of our own shortcomings. We are fully aware that we lack. We lack a great deal. If we didn't think we lacked something, the world wouldl not be full of people who are so miserably discontent. There would be no attempts to draw attention to ourselves, to prove ourselves, to show that we are "good enough." It's an aspect of pride. We want to think we are lacking nothing; that we are God. But we do lack much. God doesn't. 

What draws me to God at my lowest points is the reminder that while I lack the strength I need, he lacks nothing. When I lack the will to do something, God lacks nothing and meets me in my need and fulfills what I lack. Just like I'm drawn to my husband because of the way he provides what I lack myself, I am drawn to God daily because of the reality that he lacks nothing. Let's face it: it's scary to realize that we are weak and dependent. It's like a badge of honour to say that we don't need anything or anyone. Deep down, we know we do need. We get sick, we suffer, we can die. Our frailty is all too evident. But God lacks nothing. That truth is a great comfort.


Is laoch mé

"I am a warrior."

That is Irish Gaelic, I believe. I think there may be another word for "warrior," but this is the one that Professor Google presented me with most frequently in my search to find an accurate translation.

Recently, I purchased a necklace of a Celtic Warrior shield. If books are my greatest weakness, jewlery is my next greatest weakness. I especially love jewelry that has etching on it. My favourite place to buy such jewelry is a wonderful place in Dublin. That guy knows how to run a business, and ever since I used birthday money from my mother-in-law to buy a silver ring, he's had my loyalty. 

I often reflect on the reality that I grew up in a combative home. It was not a bad home, and we were loved and my parents provided for us. I have good relationships with my parents and two of my brothers, but it was a home of combat. I grew up feeling defensive. Perhaps it was just my own sinful heart, but as I heard stories of how my mother grew up, I realized that my mother grew up in a very combative home. My grandmother was critical, unmerciful, self-centred, and didn't know when to keep her opinions to herself. I see bits of her in myself, even as I cringe to think it. She was not kind to my mother, and her unkindness made my mother defensive. These things have a way of carrying on throughout the generations. I am sure I made my own children feel defensive.

I was the only girl in the family, and that often meant fighting. I can remember wanting to be taken seriously, but feeling like I would always be looked upon as a silly, weak little girl. I was not a girly girl, and I knew how to talk to boys so that left me on the outside of all things girl. I felt like I had to fight to gain any sort of place among girls, and it was usually a losing battle. It is clear to me now that my defensiveness likely carried over into my friendships. And who wants to be friends with someone who is defensive all the time?

Ultimately, my greatest battle is against myself. I am a sinner by birth, by nature, by practice. I, like everyone else in the world, must do battle with my pride, selfishness, pettiness, and lack of faith. I completely sympathize with the apostle Paul when he talks about his desire to do what is right, but having his members rage war against him (Rom. 7:21-25). Ultimately, any sense of victory comes through Christ. I don't feel defenseless before Christ. I feel relieved that through him, and the power of the Spirit, I'm not a lost cause.

I find conflict exhausting. I don't like arguing. I am definitely no Boudica. But I find it a battle to keep my own tendences at bay. Just when I think I've overcome, something else comes along. It is true that Satan loves to creep up on us when we are feeling pretty satisfied.

I'm pretty much a wimp when it comes right down to it. But I wear my bright and shiny trinket to remind myself that I am the war I fight.


Look beneath the floorboards

In Christian circles, the principle that we need mentors is one that is promoted frequently. It is promoted so much that at times, I have felt like I must be living a very marginal Christian life because I don't have that one person to whom I look for guidance. I sometimes think that is a good thing, because I have a tendency to make people more important than they should be.

People will let you down. Even the ones you think never will. 

This past year, I learned something very disturbing about someone who has been a huge influence in my life. My reaction and my feelings are nothing compared to what that person's immediate family has dealt with for many years, so I remind myself that this isn't about me. But it gnawed at me most of the summer. I began to question everything I knew about this person. At one time, I wanted to be like that person. I loved that person. I looked up to that person. I don't know how to feel about it all, even now, almost a year later.

People are skilled at hiding things. If they were't, then there wouldn't be stories of pastors and priests who were revered until they were discovered to have been sexually abusing some poor child or woman; the vulnerable people. No one wants to believe that the person could do such a thing; despite the fact that Scripture tells us that no one is righteous. After we are redeemed, our natures remain the same. We have the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit, but that does not mean we will never hurt another person or let another person down. It is guaranteed that we will. 

Sufjan Stevens sings a song called "John Wayne Gacy Jr" that disturbed me when I first heard it more than ten years ago. I have only listened to it a handful of times. But I remember well the last four lines:

And in my best behavior 
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floor boards 
For the secrets I have hid

Having a mentor is a true gift if you find one. But in our rush to direct everyone to a mentor, we should proceed with cautuion. For the one doing the mentoring, it can become a heady experience. Being a mentor is a huge responsibility. There is a fine line between control and influence.

I am unnerved when I see people on social media gushing over their admiration for another person, especiallly if they don't know the person face-to-face; "fan girling," I think they call it. Don't do it. Be careful about people you allow into your heart and mind. It can be so easy to give one man or one woman our loyalty at the expense of our loyalty to Christ. If people we know for years can hide their true selves from us, how much more can someone we see only on a screen?

Don't seek to be a protegé; seek to be a disciple.


I Am the War I Fight

My husband sometimes wears socks with sandals; it's usually when I'm not around to raise my eyebrows at him. He frequently leaves for work looking like a blind tailor dressed him that morning. He is hopelessly out of fashion. And he doesn't care. I admire my husband more than any person I know.

When I was in high school, a girl named Nanci came to school dressed in a green garbage bag. She cut a hole in the bottom and on the sides, put it over her head and belted it. She was short and could get away with it. People talked about it for weeks. They talked about her often; when she wore a safety pin in her ear instead of an earring, and when she dyed her hair pink. This was back in the 80's when such things were not common place. She didn't care about what people thought. I thought she was totally weird, but I did admire her daring.

I have always cared what people thought; to a fault; to the point where fear of what people think has kept me from doing many things I wanted to do. Perhaps some of us are hardwired that way. Perhaps I'm too proud; definitely a possibility. Maybe I'm an ego maniac; another possibility. Maybe it's because I was always the new kid and never seemed to fit in anywhere. At this point in my life, it should not be such an issue. One would think, anyway.

Blogging can easily lead us to care very much what other people think of us. And they are people with whom we have absolutely no personal connection. It is a very noble thing to say "I blog for myself." If that is the case, why put it out there for people to read? Why link my posts to social media?  If I want to write for myself, I don't need to put it online. Don't writers (even unprofessional ones) write to be read? I am pretty sure there are writers out there, instead of having a cache of blog posts online have boxes of notebooks somewhere in a closet. It is unfortunate that blogging puts me regularly at risk to care too much what people think.

As always, "I am the war I fight."

This semester, I must write two papers, one 10-12 pages and the other 12-15 pages. One of them is due in a little over two weeks. I care very much about what the profs think, but it's a different kind of concern. I asked them to evaluate my work, and it's their job. Thankfully, I feel a lot less preessure in this situation than I do writing a blog post. 


The things we believe when we're young . . . 

When I was converted at the age of 20, I wanted to know the truth. I wanted to know everything; now! I didn't know much about what to read, and the Bible wasn't always easy to understand. I relied a lot on the people from whom I'd heard the gospel. That makes sense.

The trouble is that in my haste to know, there was also the urgent feeling that I needed to fit in. The background of the people who shared the gospel with me was decidedly fundamentalist and there was little encouragement for intellectual pursuit. Yes, there was the encouragement to read the Bible, but I was to rely on the pastor and the Holy Spirit to instruct me. 

There are some things which I embraced without question:

  • All people who practice infant baptism are wrong, and likely not real Christians
  • All people from an Anglican, Presbyterian, or Lutheran background may be truly saved, but probably most of them aren't.
  • Roman Catholics were people to generally be avoided, because they were heretics and had nothing of value to say.
  • Nothing of value can come from someone in a mainline denomination.
  • Anyone who doesn't believe that there is a rapture denies the Bible (that one is actively promoted in my own church by some).

I am far from those days. It was a huge shock to me when I discovered that some people denied the rapture. It was a pleasant surprise when the woman who taught my children piano lessons was obviously a Christian, despite attending the Lutheran Church. The first year she taught them, she gave them a tract at Christmas with a candy cane.

I started reading a book by Fleming Rutledge, who is not only Episcopalian, but is a woman priest. She's also a brilliant writer. I bought her book on advent, because I was curious about the subject. I've read a few articles by her lately, and a friend of mine is reading her book on the crucifixion.

Rutledge, in the introduction to her advent book does not sound like a heretic. In fact, she sounds quite orthodox. And she sounds more informed than some of my evangelical friends and some evangelical leaders. Her book has also alerted me to the possibility that some evangelicals who are promoting advent don't actually completely understand it.

It's tempting to look back and wish I had not been so quick to believe without question everything people told me. Sometimes, that is just part of the process of learning. When one is saved later in life, she wants to abandon everything about her former life. I wanted to ally myself with a particular group, and sometimes, I simply agreed because I wanted to feel like I belonged. It's not their fault I did it; it's my own.

Some people may think that my attending seminary has brought out much of my re-evaluation of some things. Those who think women should not attend seminary may cluck their tongues and think, "This is what comes from giving women a tool they're not meant to use." In truth, this awakening began when I started homeschooling, and specifically when I began participating on The Well Trained Mind message boards. It was there that I learned that other denominations weren't all wrong. It was there that I realized that my pre-suppositions were not always right.

Our lives of faith progress. We come to understand more. We go through struggles where we see God's faithfulness and our hearts are more tightly knit to him. We re-evaluate and see things through a changed view. It's a good thing. It doesn't mean we're losing our faith. It may mean, though, that we're losing the tendency to come to poorly informed conclusions. It may mean we are not so quick to believe something; that we recognize the need to work through things. If I believe something and I'm willing to tell others, I want to know why.