The Anatomy of Hope

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“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Thessalonians+4%3A13-18&version=ESV)

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. 17 These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever! 18 So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.”  – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Corinthians+4:16-18)

Our world is full of troubles.  It is full of heartbreak, disease, and loss.  In our world Christians are not immune to social exclusion, mental illness, or addictions simply because they have a certain belief system.  Yet, there is something which the Bible offers us even though we may continue to struggle in this world and that message is one of hope.

Many psychological and clinical journals allude to the fact that if someone keeps a positive outlook while struggling with a critical illness that their chances of survival become far greater.  It has been proven time and again that when people who are on the brink of death pray to a Higher Being (regardless of which god it is) that they often have a higher recovery rate.  Even in the very famous 12 step movements after acknowledging the problem, one of the next first steps is in placing one’s faith in a Higher Being.

Recently at a church small group Bible study, my pastor talked about a psychological textbook called the Anatomy of Hope.  We discussed this title together as a group.  To me, there is definitely an anatomy of hope, that is, a certain way that hope is built and retains itself.

The Bible speaks of the fact that in this world we WILL have many troubles, yet we can also take heart because Christ has overcome the world. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+16:33).  To be a Christian does not imply turning a blind eye to the injustices, hurts, and pains around us, but it does point to the fact that when we are lost and confused we can place our trust completely in Christ who is the great High Priest who intercedes on our behalf.  (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=hebrews+4:14-16)

What is this anatomy of hope built of?  The anatomy of hope is formed through a lifelong commitment and relationship with Christ.  It is a relationship which completely entrusts one’s life to God believing that He WILL work all situations out for the good of those who love Him. – Romans 8:28 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+8%3A28&version=ESV)

In the anatomy of hope we are reminded that as upsetting as life can be for us at times that there is always someone worse off than we are.  It is a reminder to be humble and to accept the help of others.  It is a reminder that it is okay to be broken and through our brokenness that we can minister to others.

That’s not to say that we should compare our frustrations with others.  It’s not about who is better or worse off, but it is a reminder that even when we face trials rather than having a Job complex we can choose to focus on the many ways that Christ has blessed us.  Although Job was imperfect one of the most important things that is said about him is that in all of this Job did not sin or curse God (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+1:22&version=ESV).  How great our testimony would be if the same could be said of us!  That even when we go through the most trying times in our lives rather than abandon our faith, we cling fast to the words of truth.

Lately, I have been re-reading the Bible from cover to cover and over and over again I find how all the stories tie in with one another.  Sometimes God may seem to act in cruel ways, however, when you really look at the situation and the culture you see how even in those situations God was acting for the benefit and protection of His children.  It may sound cliché, but the Bible is truly a love letter written to us from God.  It is God’s way of reminding us that He is always with us no matter what.  Just like Miester Eckhart once said, “God has never left home.  It is we who have gone out for a walk.”

So, next time you are tempted to despair or to drink the bitter poison of angst, remember Christ’s love and redemption.  Understand that in this world there definitely will be many injustices and wrongs.  We live in a fallen world where the effects of sin are death (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+6%3A23&version=ESV).  It breaks God’s heart when others hurt us.  It literally rips His heart in half.  BUT He has promised that this is not the end.  He has promised that as hard as life is at times for us, that there is a future coming that is filled with hope.  In the future there will be no crying, tears, or shame (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelations+21%3A4&version=ESV).  And because of this promise of a future glorious eternity, we don’t grieve like those who have no hope.  We don’t give up even though our present life is wasting away.  We do not give into an attitude of defeatism and underdogism.  Rather, we accept trouble as a growing edge and are inspired to use our difficulties for the good of others.  We begin to craft an anatomy of hope.  We begin to place our trust in a Higher Power and in doing so we are reminded that our sufferings on this earth are only trivial and fleeting, but what lies beyond after our character is formed lasts for an eternity!

Missional Living and Evangelism – Is There a Difference?

For the last few years the phrase missional living has been tossed around in my mind and in my congregation.  Not carelessly tossed around, mind you.  But rather well thought out.  An invitation into a discussion evolving around how one can incarnationally live out the truth of Christ and His desire to see a reign of justice, mercy, and peace take place in this world.

I’ve notice that there seems to be a bit of a disconnect, though, between the more “evangelical” churches and the so-called “liberal” churches.  I’ve been a part of both camps as an observer, a participant, a member, and a university placement student.  I spent a large portion of my young, formative years in more conservative and evangelical camps where you had to remember the day that you became a Christian or you weren’t really one.  If you had doubts, you would look at the cover of your Bible to reassure yourself that you truly did belong to Christ.  I’ve also belonged to the more liberal churches – believe what you will as long as you live out a life of love, peace, and joy.  Churches which said it wasn’t my place to tell someone who was not a Christian they were wrong.  It wasn’t my place to try to convert anyone, but rather I should help that individual to live out their lives and their spirituality in the fullest way that is possible to them.

So, who’s right and who’s wrong?  The answer: both camps have things going for them and both camps have things going against them.

Let’s dissect the more conservative churches first.  Growing up, I was part of a culture which taught children “you should accept Jesus today because you never know if you will be alive tomorrow.  Anything could happen.  You could die in a car accident tonight.”  Looking at this type of theological position at my age, however, is a bit more than simply unnerving.  For one, I disagree with this type of preaching because it is so heavy on scare tactics.  We would shake our heads if someone made a decision for what school to attend, what major to pursue, or which geographical house to buy on the whim without thinking it out.  So, I tell you today that Queen’s University (just for an example) is prestigious and that my brother went there and you automatically sign up for the same program he was in without doing your research, without knowing anything else about Queens, and without even knowing the options for courses that are offered there.  Perhaps it will work out for you.  Perhaps not.  So, if we cringe and think decisions made on the fly are foolish for things in this life, why should we not apply that same mindset for the most important decision of our lives.  One in which not only our present life but also our eternity will be built?

What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t just make a decision to follow Jesus on the fly because we are scared of what COULD happen.  YES, you could die at any time.  Yes, none of us knows the future.  However, it is highly improbable that that will happen to you.  The average person needs to hear the Gospel 6 times before they will accept it as truth.  So, why should we make all those times full of doom and gloom?  We should focus instead on making it a positive thing.  Not feeding into this mindset that God is an angry God who is willing to banish someone to hell just because they didn’t make a split second decision.  To me, a God like that would be rather fickle.  I’m just not interested in serving that type of God.

Another thing that I rebel against from my childhood experience is the concept of evangelism without discipleship.  I definitely believe there is a place for sharing the Gospel, however, I would argue that discipleship is a far more important piece than simply sharing the Gospel.  You see, when we just go out into the world to convert others and then we leave them a week or two later what have you really done?  Did not Jesus Himself warn against this type of conversion tactic when He said,  You Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses are in for trouble! You’re nothing but show-offs. You travel over land and sea to win one follower. And when you have done so, you make that person twice as fit for hell as you are.” (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+23:1-15)

Lastly, I am not sure where I stand on altar calls.  I believe that there are good ways to do them as well as not so good ways.  I’ve witnessed churches which do altar calls in such a non-evasive way and then churches which use them for show.  Perhaps, some people do need an invitation to truly come forward and surrender their lives to Christ.  For others, perhaps this is seen as too forward.  I believe God can use altar calls, but I would strongly disagree that this needs to be the case for every conversion.  In fact, I would say that it probably needs to be the case in less than 10% of all conversions.

Now let’s turn to the more “liberal” churches.  I think, perhaps unfortunately, that the more liberal churches DO tend to emphasis acts of social justice and justice more than the conservative churches do.  At least in my experience, though there are certainly evangelical churches which do care about creation care and social inclusion.  I say, unfortunately, not because I think that the liberal churches are doing anything wrong by espousing this type of theology, but rather because I wish ALL churches would actively pursue a reign of justice and peace in this world.

However, the downside of the more liberal churches is that some of them tend to lean more to the side that everyone is right and because everyone is right we should not offend anyone.  This does not make logical sense because it is impossible for every single person to be right since when it comes down to it many ideas contradict themselves.  Having a personal moral ethic may work in some cases, but it does not always work when it comes to global and political affairs.

I have been shut down from teaching the Gospel in liberal churches before even though I have never used scare tactics.  To me, my life and my walk with Jesus Christ is the most precious and powerful thing going.  I cannot imagine life without Him and that is the reason I want to share about His love and forgiveness with everyone I come into contact with.

My personal ethic of evangelism is not about shaming someone or telling them that they are wrong.  It is my belief that we should respect and honour everyone regardless of their spiritual preferences or religious leanings.  At the same time, I am aware that the Bible espouses Jesus (not Ghandi or Buddha) as being the ultimate choice.  That’s not to say that I can’t also get to know other religions because I truly believe that each religion has much to offer and in reading their holy books I often stand back amazed at the similarities we share.  But in the end of the day, my personal understanding of the Bible is that we are called to follow the Great Commission.  To go out into the world preaching the Gospel AND disciplining.[1]

So, let me pose the question again: who is right and who is wrong?  The truth is, it’s not an either/or dichotomy, it’s a both/and dichotomy.  It’s about unashamedly sharing the Gospel, BUT also caring about social justice and peace advocacy rather than only caring about the number of converts.  Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is God’s powerful method of bringing all who believe it to heaven. This message was preached first to the Jews alone, but now everyone is invited to come to God in this same way.”[2]  If we are followers of Jehovah God, there is no reason to be ashamed to unabashedly share our faith because it is Gospel – Good News.  It is the saving message of Christ.  If we had the cure for cancer we wouldn’t keep it to ourselves, we would give it to everyone we know who is sick and dying of cancer.  How much greater is the Gospel which has the power to save EVERYONE from death and the grave?  From the very effects of their sin and to offer them hope and peace.

Ultimately, I have found that what I understand from studies and much personal research to be the Anabaptist vision of missional living greatly articulates my already held belief that we are to incarnate Christ.  In missional living we serve the least of these and offer them a cup of cold water.  We do not simply preach the Gospel without living the Gospel.  We choose to be faithful followers of God going into places of darkness, despair, and hardship.  We live in neighbourhoods that are rough or we live in intentional communities that reach out to people who are otherwise shunned by society.  In missional living we don’t just preach the Gospel, but we empower others to live the Gospel just as we are living the Gospel.  Sometimes we empower them to live the Gospel out even before they know the vocabulary of evangelism.  The Christianese. 

Intentionally living missionally requires a commitment and a dedication to walk alongside others not just for a short time, but for the long haul.  It’s easy to preach the Gospel once.  Even twice.  It’s a lot harder to form an ongoing relationship, an ongoing mentorship, where community is fostered and grows.  It’s hard to not see progress overnight.  It may be hard to patiently toil and pray for YEARS before a person accepts Christ, but once the decision is made we will know that is was not made in vain but with careful consideration.  Living missionally strips away the altar call and transforms us into Christ’s living altar calling each individual into a deeper awareness and fulfillment of themselves.

That’s why I want to encourage each one of us who considers ourselves a Christian to choose this lifestyle.  A lifestyle not of scare tactics and rushed decisions, but one of careful observation and fellowship.  When we do this we will gain many friends and pilgrims along the way.

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Towards an Ethic of Evangelism

The word “ethic” has become a buzz word in our society.  People speak of business ethics, bioethics, and work ethic.  People talk about ethics in relationship to interpersonal relationships, professional standings, and global affairs.  Many university and master’s degrees require courses in ethics.   Being called an ethical worker is a compliment representing integrity and a level of trust, and having a solid work ethic shows dedication and commitment to an organization or project.  Yet, it was not until a few days ago that I really started thinking about ethics in a different way.  The ethics of evangelism.

You see, I went to Tyndale University, a very staunch evangelical school where people did street evangelism and went on mission’s trips with no other agenda than saving souls.  I took courses on evangelism and global Christianity and began to become aware of how many countries around the world did not have a Bible in their own language.  At the same time, I was wrestling with my beliefs about not forcing the Bible on anyone else, not using scare tactics to win souls, and being respectful of myriad different expressions of spirituality and religious practices.

ImageI remember a few years back when the Make Poverty History bracelets were the rage.  I had a white one myself acquired either at university or in high school (I don’t remember which).  I also remember getting really into truly making poverty history believing that although each individual is just ONE person they ARE one person and they CAN make a difference.  For sure, I believe that becoming aware of and trying to abolish global poverty is something every Christian is called to.  As followers of Christ we MUST take a stand again systemic injustices and the false beliefs that certain individuals are better than others because of their socio-economic status, their gender, or their ethnicity.  We must work for a future which enables all children to have a future and to have equal opportunities regardless of their level of ability or scholastic achievement.

Yet, as important as ending economic poverty is, I would also suggest that there is something else which is missing in our world.  We also need to end Bible poverty!  Before I went to IHOPKC (International House of Prayer in Kansas City) I didn’t even know that there was a name for the amount of people worldwide who did not have the Bible in their language.  During one of the worship services we had a speaker who was a worldwide leader and he told us that “Bible poverty was the greatest injustice.”

I’m thinking of my own life.  I’m thinking of the fact that I live in a country which has freedom of religion.  I have never truly had to hide my faith for fear that something majorly detrimental would happen.  Sure, I’ve met people along the way who are hardened atheists or simply indifferent to any form of religiosity, but to think that I had to hide away somewhere to avoid them is an absurdity and an untruth.  Not only that, but I personally own Bibles in at least 6 or 7 translations, can easily access a host of other translations online through Bible Gateway and own the Bible in English, French, Spanish, and German.  I have paraphrases of the Bible such as The Message as well as old school editions such as The King James Version.  I have no shortage of Bibles or Biblical material and meanwhile someone around the world doesn’t even have a PORTION (not even ONE chapter of it) in their own heart language. 

Image  I remember once when I was in university and attended the Lutheran church.  The speaker told us that we have both a heart and a head language.  He was from the Congo.  He could speak fluent English.  He could have an intelligent and meaningful conversation with us in English, but at the core of who he was, Lingala was still his heart language.  He could express himself in his tribal dialect in Lingala in a way that English only touched the surface of.  When he prayed in Lingala his prayers flowed with intense emotion and passion compared to when he prayed in English which seemed foreign and strange to him.  Lingala is the language which he used to emit phrases describing his deepest hopes, fears, happiness, and sadness.  And so this pastor told us that EVERY person should have the Bible available to them in their heart language because that is the language in which they can commune with God in the fullest and deepest way possible.

ImageWe have a core member (resident) at L’Arche who loves to use the phrase, “not telling…secret!”  I may ask her, “Mary-Anne what are you doing this weekend?” Her response? Not telling.  SECRET.  I may ask her, “What did you do at work today?”  Her response?  Not telling.  SECRET.  Finally, I may ask her “how old are you turning?”  Her response? Not telling.  SECRET.  In Mary-Anne’s case she actually happens to not be all that good at holding secrets in and it is only a matter of time before she caves and tells us whatever the answer to the question is.  She says it merely as a joke.  As a way of asserting the fact that she knows a truth which we don’t know and that this in some profound way gives her an authority or power that until we know the answer to it she holds a treasure which we are unaware of.  Yet, in my own life, I have adopted this attitude even during times when I had no intention of sharing the Gospel with another.

In my second year at Tyndale I did an internship at a multi-faith nursing home with the chaplain.  I was asked by residents on several occasions what I personally believed and even a few times if I thought Jesus was truly the Son of God.  Since I was perhaps a bit shy or embarrassed about my faith instead of giving them the Good News of the Gospels I responded with a NOT TELLING, SECRET type of attitude.  Sometimes I’m hanging out with non-Christian peers or co-workers and they’ll ask me something about the Scriptures.  Even though I went to Bible college and seminary I become flustered with their questions and because I don’t want my status to diminish among them I respond with Not telling…. Secret.  Sometimes I’m even in church and a theological disagreement arises.  One would think that church is the one place where I should feel free to share my thoughts and opinions about what I have studied, but instead because everyone else seems to take the other side of the debate I simply go into myself and when asked my opinion respond with not telling, secret.

Recently at a church Bible study, my “second father” (mentor) was reading from a paraphrase of the Bible.  I believe it was the CGV but I could be wrong.  The verse from 1 Corinthians 15 states, “you should be embarrassed that some don’t know about Christ.” (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+15&version=CEV)  That hit me like a ton of bricks.  Paul is saying it’s a downright embarrassment, a real shame that some don’t know the truth of the Scriptures and that in many countries the truths aren’t even available to them.

I think back to the verses in the Bible which say: 14 But how shall they ask him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them unless someone sends him? That is what the Scriptures are talking about when they say, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of peace with God and bring glad tidings of good things.”[b] In other words, how welcome are those who come preaching God’s Good News! (Romans 10:14-15 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+10&version=TLB)

It all reminds me of when I was in seminary and for one of my classes on different worship styles we attended an African Methodist Episcopal church.  In fiery African American style Rev. Tinsel boldly proclaimed, “It’s a DOWNRIGHT shame that some are going to bed hungry tonight.  It’s a DOWNRIGHT shame that people have to steal in order to have food on the table.  It’s a DOWNRIGHT shame that men were brought up in a culture that teaches they are allowed to commodify women.   It’s a DOWNRIGHT shame…”

I think she is right.  It definitely is a downright shame that there are people who live in poverty, who feel they aren’t good enough and who feel they aren’t capable of ever being loved.  It’s a downright shame that people lie and are dishonest.  It’s also a downright shame that we who know the truth of the Gospel remain smugly indifferent to the millions who have no possible way of knowing who Christ is.  Instead of getting dirty we remain on the sidelines of our faith watching from a distance.  God calls us to be active participants with the Scriptures not just passive observers and to be an active participant means to love and serve others and to work towards justice and a reign of peace on this earth!  To make the Kingdom of God happen in our day and age rather than just in the age to come. Image

What Community Transformation Looks Like at L’Arche

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I have always been interested in community transformation.  Perhaps my interest came as a result of being an Anabaptist (more specifically Mennonite).  Perhaps it came as a result of the family I grew up in which made visiting those in nursing homes a priority.  Perhaps my interest really started to peak when I was a first year student at Tyndale University College and at the end of the winter semester noticed that I had over $200 left on my meal card and didn’t want to waste it all on chocolate (since at that time I was on the verge of becoming diabetic anyways) so instead I gathered a group of other students together and we all did a homeless food run.  Regardless of when this passion first started, there were definitely people who helped contribute to my growing interest, there were experiences given to me that really enhanced my vision (such as seeing the slums in Brazil), and there were books recommended to me to read (can anyone say “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne?).  My sense of community transformation soon stretched from my understanding of what it meant to be kind to those within my church, to honestly wrestling with the question “Who is my neighbour?”[1], to trying to get a sense of global community through looking at the types of clothing I wore and the kind of food choices I’ve made.

I definitely think that when it comes to community development there is much room for freedom as to how we will approach it.  One of my dear friends from my high school days is very involved with an organization called Move-In as are several of my colleagues from my Tyndale days.  Move-In is a Christian organization which tries to reach out to individuals living in rougher neighourhoods (called “patches”) where there may be high rates of immigration, poverty, or other factors which may alienate others.  Through literally “moving into” those patches, people who have committed to the Move-In lifestyle show the love of Christ by being an example of a shining light.  My sense of Move-In gathered from talking to my friend and Tyndale students (although I admit I have never lived in a patch and I have only visited one of the many patches) is that it is less about “doing” than it is about “being”.  It is about being a constant presence, a sign of hope rather than an organization that tries to eradicate poverty.  People who are affiliated with Move-In may assist in ways such as helping new neighbours to move into their homes or hanging out with families, but it also is simply about being a prayer presence.  Gathering weekly to pray over the communities they live in and in their own devotional lives lifting up requests for neighbours to God constantly.  I am really proud of my friend for choosing such a devoted way of being part of an organization which seeks to transform communities both internally and externally.  I am also really proud of her for reaching out in other ways outside of just her own patch by praying through Operation World which is a prayer book highlighting the different prayer requests of different countries.  Although I know that she devotes so much of her time, energy, and prayer power to her ministry with this organization I also see her transforming the community in many other ways such as through being a positive role model to young children, through the friendships she has fostered with others, and through never being too busy to pray for me.

When I was asked to reflect on community development by the Mennonerds I also started thinking of what this topic means in my own life.  As those of you who follow my blog are well aware, I live in an intentional community for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities just North of Toronto.  L’Arche was founded by Jean Vanier, a devout Catholic man and the son of the former Governor General of Canada, Georges Vanier.  Encouraged by his Spiritual director and priest, Vanier decided to take a stand during an era when the general public knew very little about the needs of adults who had disabilities and where oftentimes families of individuals with the disability felt that there was no way to raise the child so the child was simply sent to an institution.  A few years later, Henri Nouwen, a Roman Catholic Priest, scholar and professor, and acclaimed author heard of this movement and after coming to a place of brokenness and lack of fulfillment in his own life despite his academic achievements, decided to leave the world he knew and the fame he had acquired to become the first pastor of L’Arche Daybreak in Toronto.  Nouwen gave up a life of high standing and ovation in order to descend into servitude serving the least of these.  Although Nouwen passed away several years ago, if you ask any of the old timers at L’Arche about him they are sure to put on a great big smile and talk to you for several minutes if not hours about the impact that he had.

Nouwen was not perfect.  He made plenty of mistakes.  When he came to Daybreak he was a lousy housekeeper and often became impatient with the core members (residents) who were not as articulate as his colleagues in the university.  He often rushed them, only to have one of them have a seizure which indicated to him that he needed to “slow down.”  Yet despite the fact that Nouwen’s early years at L’Arche were somewhat rocky, he grew into his role steadily but surely and became a great pastor, mentor, and teacher to several of the assistants and a great spiritual director and most importantly a friend to the majority of the core members.  Even today when I join a core member on the floor to look at their life story book (a scrapbook containing pictures, letters, and memorabilia of their time at L’Arche) I oftentimes notice a special letter handwritten to them by Henri Nouwen.  I stare amazed and ask them something like, “you have a letter from HENRI NOUWEN???”  Thinking nothing of it they smile back at me and say, “yeah.  He’s my friend.”   Unaware of the books, lectures, and sermons Nouwen produced during his life the core members are simply able to love him as Henri.  What he did outside of L’Arche, the status he held, holds very little interest to them.  They love him because he is simply Henri.  They love him because he is imperfect.  They love him because he transformed our community.

By this point you may be wondering how my initial thoughts about Move-In connect with the life I live at L’Arche and how all of this connects with community transformation.  The thing is, Move-In and L’Arche are two separate organizations.  One is more evangelical, the other is devoutly Catholic (although L’Arche certainly has become very interdenominational and in many cases interfaith over the past several years).  One is more about serving immigrant populations, the other is about focusing all of our attention on living among adults with developmental disabilities.  Yet, even amidst their differences I see that in the end of the day both organizations really have the same core values and that is what enables both of them to transform communities.

Both L’Arche and Move-In serve “the least of these.”  People who choose to live in patches and assistants who choose to devote 4 months, a year, or the rest of their lives to L’Arche have both chosen to live intentionally among a population that is oftentimes ignored, shunned, and spurned by the general populace.  In either case it takes a tremendous amount of energy, passion, and love.  In either case it is a ministry.  From what I know about Move-In the corner stone is on Christ.  It is on prayer and from this prayer and devotion to Christ acts of service naturally flow out of it.  You don’t have to think about serving because it comes naturally since you’re following the direction of Christ.  And it’s the same with L’Arche.  Prayer is the cornerstone of every L’Arche house.  Spirituality is written on everything we do – whether it’s doing a reading before a meeting, praying after dinner, or the spirituality of grieving with a core member who has just heard the traumatic news that they have lost a loved one, we pray, we laugh together, sometimes we cry together.  And when we choose to cry together my tears become the tears of the core member and while they are mingled together we see God’s presence – as if Christ is giving us a great big hug and telling us it’s all going to be okay.

When I first came to L’Arche I struggled.  I was an academic.  I was the type of person who read Bonhoeffer for fun.  I enjoyed a good debate about predestination and eschatology.  Yet coming to L’Arche has shown me how little those things really matter to community transformation.  I’m not saying they aren’t important.  There’s definitely a place for scholarly pursuits and we need individuals who are able to provide adequate theological instruction to pastors.  But when I came to L’Arche I realized none of those things mattered at all to our core members.  What matters to them is NOT what I am capable of knowing, it’s whether I am able to enter into my own woundedness and how I can use my brokenness to serve them.  It’s not about what I do FOR them – it’s about what I assist them in doing so that they can have the fullest sense of independence that is possible.  And in the end of the day, when I have arrived back from a day away and a core member runs up to me with a huge smile giving me a hug and saying, “Deborah I missed you!  Where have you been?”  I know I am home.

I transform community every day, but community also transforms me every day.  It’s not an either/or dichotomy.  It’s a both/and dichotomy.  I have received far more from L’Arche and from the core members than I can ever dream of giving.  I may assist core members in preparing dinner, in bathing, or in personal hygiene.  BUT they have given me confidence, a sense of purpose, and the patience to follow through on long term commitments.  I’m not saying L’Arche is a perfect or an easy life because it isn’t.  There’s many days when I may feel exhausted or question my decision to live in community, but there are far more days when having a core member give me a homemade card, a high five, or treating me to a lunch at McDonald’s reminds me of why I am really here.  I’m not here to be a “hero” or a “saint”.  I’m here to build community and to let community build me.

See people sometimes make community transformation seem overwhelming or difficult because of all the various options that one can take in order to make it come about.  It’s actually really simple.  It’s about offering a stranger a cup of cold water and through that cup of water transforming that relationship into a friendship.  It’s about loving the least of these.  As I told my L’Arche coach (mentor) the other day in our session, “L’Arche is about living out the Gospels.  It’s about loving the least of these.  If you don’t have that, you haven’t understood the Scriptures.  I could be a pastor, a professor, or a teacher, but if I’m not loving the least of these I may as well not be doing my job because I haven’t understood the point of what Christ said.”

Whether you are in a Move-In patch, at L’Arche, or transforming your community in some other way know that your ministry is not any more or less profound than anyone else’s.  If you love the least of these you are truly a successful person.  You are truly following the commandments of Christ.  And at the end of the day you can rest assured that you will hear the words of Christ, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful with a few things, now I will give you a chance to show your faithfulness with many things.”[2]

**** If you want to check out the rest of the Mennonerds Spirituality series please check out: http://mennonerds.com/special-blog-series/mennonerds-on-anabaptist-missional-spirituality/.  Mennonerds has got some great posts here which you won’t want to miss!

International Development Awareness Week

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Probably all of us have heard the startling international development facts at one time or another throughout our educational and social careers.  These statistics disturb us.  They should trouble us, shake us, and make us question the way that we do treat the resources we are given. 

Did you know that today 22,000 children will die?  Are you aware that over 1 million people die of malaria each year (a disease that is treatable with Western medicine), and that many women around the globe are affected by fistula (a condition that causes incontinence after a woman has a stillbirth that is unheard of in the West because of our use of Caesarian sections?).  Women with Fistula in the global south often become abandoned by their partners, left to wander alone in the fields, and are occasionally eaten by hyenas during the night. In addition to the physical consequences, Fistula carries a lot of social stigma and emotional distancing to the individual.[1]

Many of us are aware of the discrepancy of wealth – how 5% of the world holds the majority of the world’s resources.  Many of us recognize that millions of people live with less than $10 a day, and that in many countries young girls and boys are still not able to attend school because they lack the resources to do so.  We know of the injustices of the sex trade and the modern slavery that still happens around the globe. These facts and figures are often unsettling and overwhelming.  It can become an easy response to think that because we are not personally affected (or so we think) that the problems are too myriad to tackle.  We may even question ourselves, “what’s the big deal?  Why spend time trying to combat global poverty?  After all, Jesus Himself said that we will always have the poor among us.[2]  Why not spend time instead trying to cure cancer or trying to land on Mars?”[3]

Today is International Development Day at Tyndale.  Professor and advisor of the Tyndale International Development program, Dr. Leah McMillian along with guest lecturer, Linda Tripp (a prominent figure in World Vision as well as a member of several philanthropic boards including Tyndale University College and Seminary’s Board of Directors and a board addressing Fistula) addressed the Tyndale student body today with these very questions and concerns.  They challenged us as young adults to step outside of our comfort zone, to really make a difference, and to become globally aware of what is taking place in our world.  Dr. McMillian also shared with us that this whole week is International Development Week in Canada.  It is recognized as such by the Canadian Government and we, at Tyndale, are very pleased that we can get the word out for the second year in a row on these topics.

Many of you are aware that I have a passion for International Development.  This passion began when I was a 15 year old and attended a Peace It Together Conference at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  While there I attended a special lecture by Ray Vanderzag.  Vanderzag shared with us how many children around the world ate mud because mud provided some of the nutrition that they needed and filled them up.  Along with this phenomenon, he also showed several graphs and charts depicting the global reality of disparity of wealth.  Although at 15 I lacked the maturity to fully grasp the concepts he was referring to, it began to stir in me a certain passion to engage with the Global World.  As I got older and finished by high school studies a budding interest in political science and peace advocacy began to take place.  When I went to Tyndale University, I began to be involved with a number of projects including serving with Meal Exchange as a Campus Food Strategist (Meal Exchange is a non-governmental organization that addressed issues of local and global sustainability).[4]  My interest also brought me into contact with my very first roommate who had written on her residence form that her interests were international development.  Her and I have since become very close friends sharing in a mutual passion for InDev and business administration as well as a close connection as Spiritual sisters.  My roommate has since graduated with her BA in Business Administration: International Development from Tyndale and has gone on to serve in a variety of non-profit organizational roles including in some key leadership positions in her field.   Upon graduating from Tyndale myself, I ultimately landed myself at a Mennonite seminary where I began to take courses in Peace Studies including a course on Economic Justice and through my field of study began to understand some of the changing needs in this field.  So when I speak on this topic, I am speaking through the lens of someone who is not only interested from a professional angle about what happens, but also as someone who believes that ALL Christians are called to be informed as to what is taking place. 

So, please do not get overwhelmed with the troubling statistics, although they are meant to overwhelm at some level, but rather, I would like to offer you a few suggestions as to how EACH ONE of us can make a difference whether or not we are professionally or scholastically in the field of International Development:

1)  Become InformedIt is easy to be overwhelmed just by a few key statistics, however, I would really encourage you to read and understand the reality that is happening around the world.  Not only are classic books such as those written by Mother Theresa, Ghandi, or Nelson Mandela helpful in understanding some of the issues outside of our own countries, but there are also many non-Christian books which I feel would benefit anyone to read.  Some of my favourites are A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Baeh and Banker to the Poor by Muhammed Yunus.  Additionally, I would recommend a host of movies including Blood Diamond, and many seminars and lectures which also address these topics.  If you are a Mennonite or go to a Mennonite university you may especially be interested in the Intercollegiate Peace Fellowship held at Bluffton, University in Ohio.  I attended this conference last year and it was not only a great opportunity to fellowship and network with likeminded individuals (which was very refreshing), but it was also very eye opening on some of the issues that are taking place in our world.  Additionally, general reading on topics of micro-finance, micro and macro-economics, and political science will add a broad basis for your knowledge and background in the field.  If you’re looking for a great place to start, consider, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

2) Make Smart Voting Choices Read the newspaper, watch TV, or listen to the radio to catch the news OFTEN.  Approach your politicians and ask them hard questions about international relations.  If you choose to vote, understand who you are voting for and why (don’t just make it about party allegiance but get to know their platform).  If you choose to abstain from voting be prepared to defend your reasons for why you aren’t voting this year.

3)  Make Smart Food Choices and Care for Creation– Start researching and becoming aware of issues of local and global sustainability and of how the food that we eat directly and indirectly  ravishes or replenishes our earth.  Cookbooks such as Simply in Season or The More With Less Cookbook are great additions to any kitchen.  Depending on where you live you may even consider starting a Community Garden as a more sustainable way of receiving food.

Consider investing in books such as the Green Bible or Sam Hamilton-Poore’s Earth Gospel as excellent additions to your devotional life or try intentionally praying some of the Psalms related to creation care and sustainability.

4)   Pray and Fast You may think, “how much can I accomplish just by praying?”  The Answer? A LOT!  Prayer changes things, prayer changes people, and prayer intertwines your heart with God’s making you more aware of how His heartbreaks for the injustices of this world.  When we pray and fast we are actively participating in bringing an end to injustice and asking God to make His reign of justice and peace come into this world just like it is in heaven.

5)   Actively ParticipateAlong with prayer, consider getting your youth group, college/seminary, or church involved with projects such as the 30 Hour Famine, Vow of Silence, or a service trip/project of some sort.  These experiences are great ways to open your eyes to the difficulties many globally face.  You may also try a discrepancy of wealth night where people are giving cue cards at random – one may receive a full dinner another only a small bowl of rich another nothing at all.   This is a great experiment that I discovered when I was in college.  It really brings things into perspective for you.  After all, we do not choose the life situations we are placed under. 

6)  Recognize that Disparity of Wealth is Not Just Overseas – Finally, recognize that disparity of wealth is not just a problem that is far from the Western mind but that is happening even in the world’s richest countries.  Even in Canada there are many people living on the streets or going to bed tonight hungry.  In Canada we still face issues of modern-day slavery, sex trafficking, and prostitution whether or not we want to acknowledge it.  There is still (unfortunately) a general mindset among many in Western nations that somehow women deserve abuse or that men should still make more money than a woman for doing the same job.  Thankfully overtime these unfortunate myths have begun breaking down and people are being educated on the truth that although different, men and women are equal.  Still, it stands that a white, middle-aged, heterosexual, married man with two children will have more privilege even in North America than a bi-racial African-Canadian, elderly, bi-sexual woman who although she lives with a partner is not married to her and is childless.  This is the unfortunate reality of our world even after all of these years.  In order to begin to understand the disparity of wealth that takes place in our world become familiar with words and phrases such as “white privilege”, volunteer among the homeless population, and do not just look on the ground when you are walking in a big city such as Chicago or Toronto. 

For sure, if you have the resources available to you checking out slums in other countries can indeed be very eye opening and helpful.  Witnessing the poverty in Brazil has forever shaped the way I approach my life.  However, we are also called to be missionaries right here in our hometowns and communities. 

The whole Gospel is about offering a cup of cold water to the stranger, validating the worth of each individual, and loving the least of these.  As I told my L’Arche mentor the other week in our coaching session, “For me, L’Arche is living out the Gospel.  That’s why I cringe when people tell me, ‘You are doing nothing related to what you studied.’  I say to them, ‘You need to come for dinner at L’Arche sometime or for a [religious] service and then you will see that that’s not the case at all!’  L’Arche is about caring for the least of these and that’s exactly what Jesus taught.  If we don’t care for the least of these it doesn’t matter.  We could have a PhD, we could be a pastor or a professor, but we haven’t understood the Gospel.  We are not living in the way that Christ intended.”


[1] Statistics provided at the February 4, 2014 chapel hosted by Dr. Leah McMillian and Linda Tripp

[3] A question posed in chapel by Linda Tripp

A Former Feminist Looks at the Concept of Biblical Submission Part 2 of a 2 Part Series

For the First part of this series check out: https://debdebbarak.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/a-former-feminist-looks-at-the-concept-of-biblical-submission-part-1-of-a-2-part-series/

WHAT ABOUT WHEN MY SPOUSE DOESN’T BELIEVE?

Key Verse: 1 Corinthians 7:14  For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+7%3A14&version=ESVUK)

Occasionally a man (or woman) may be married to a spouse who does not share their spiritual or theological convictions.  Oftentimes this becomes the case when a partner accepts Christ after their wedding.  To be clear, the Bible states that if this is the case, we are not to seek a divorce from our spouse just because we are now on unequal footing, but rather we should continue to love him or her and to seek harmonious marital relationships with one another.[1]

I have no doubt that being married to an unbeliever would make a marriage quite tricky, especially if the husband or wife does not approve of raising the children in the church or of you attending religious services.  In this case, as a personal opinion, I would say that if a husband requests his wife not to attend to her religious or spiritual needs that she seriously needs to consider the outcome if she were to submit to him in this way.  Although submission is a God given decree, a woman’s first allegiance must be to Christ and she must choose Him even over her spouse.[2]  If a spouse is not even willing to dialogue on this point and to come to a mutual agreement, it may be important to get a third party involved.  Likewise, if a husband is asking a woman to submit in a way that is inappropriate, that does not regard her feelings, or that violates or humiliates her I would say that the command to submit to him does not apply in her case.  He is misusing his authority and a third party may need to become involved.

DISCUSS, DISCUSS, DISCUSS

Key Verse: Ephesians 5:21  Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.    (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+5%3A21&version=ESVUK)

The key to any healthy relationship is to continually discuss matters of importance with one another.  Any decision that is made should be addressed with both partners before a final decision is reached.  A woman should not feel that her voice is not heard just because the Bible tells her to submit to her man.

You see, oftentimes proponents of male dominated theology are quick to skip over the Biblical verse which says that submission is mutual and to jump right into the idea that the man gets to be the boss and run the show.  But that’s simply not what God intended!  Yes, one person will always be stronger than the other and have the final word in a marriage (and God intended this person to be the husband), BUT both the husband AND the wife are called to mutually lead one another deeper into Christ.  Sometimes submission is seen as a result of sin, and it is certainly true that if sin had not entered the world we wouldn’t have misrepresentations of God’s plan for a man to lead.[3]  There are arguments that since submission is a result of sin that as Christians we should have no involvement in this and simply make men and women equal.  However, for a man to lead a family does NOT imply that a woman’s value or worth is lessened or that she now becomes second place, her opinions seen as just a back-up idea.  If a man truly is a GOOD leader he will consult his wife and take both their viewpoints into consideration before making the decision that he deems right for the entire family and that will benefit them both.

When a man truly LOVES his wife in the way God intended he will make submitting to him a joy and a blessing rather than simply an obligation.  When this happens, you can be sure that he is LOVING his wife just like Christ loves the church and that she is RESPECTING him in the way that he needs to feel validated.

WHEN SUBMISSION IS TAKEN TOO FAR

Key Verse: Matthew 23:11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+23%3A11&version=ESVUK)

If it were not for the unique contributions that men and women could bring into a marriage, there would be no point to the marriage.  Instead, the covenant between two people is an incredibly delightful one that brings many blessings into both of their lives in a way that they could not have imagined when they were still single.  As Christians, we are called to delight in these differences and to value our individuality and uniqueness.

When we love one another for our differences rather than become exasperated and frustrated with each other, we will begin to take responsibility for our mistakes and faults.  We will admit that sometimes we are right and other times we are wrong.  Occasionally, whether male or female we may be called to let go of a certain sense of being right or trying to prove a point in order to maintain the unity and stability of the family.

Unfortunately because of the sin in our world, there have been many instances where men have abused their right to rule over a family.  When submission leads to unrealistic demands or expectations it is easy for both husband and wife to become bitter and resentful.  Instead, we need to model an example for our kids to look up to.  We should not shame or dishonor our spouse in their presence.  When children witness harassing, violence, or intimidation tactics they unconsciously absorb these behaviours which may then lead them to fear commitment or to have unhealthy marriage resolution tactics themselves.

It’s very important that husbands and wives do not triangle their kids.  This is a term from family systems where a mother may say something to her kid like “your father is so annoying” or a dad may say something like “I hate when your mother does ___”.  When dads and moms triangle their kids they have unknowingly forced their kids to be active participants in the problem rather than passive bystanders.  They are forcing their kids to take sides and beginning to form an unhealthy image in their young child’s mind about how to properly treat their spouse in the future.  Kids are then forced with the decision to choose mom over dad (or vice versa).  They may begin to feel that in order to gain their father’s approval they must agree with him about their mother’s behavior or vice versa.  That’s why I would say as much as possible KEEP YOUR KIDS OUT OF IT!  It’s not their problem.  It’s a problem between you and your spouse.  You are adults.  Act like adults and solve your problems without bringing a child into the mix.

If you’re a Dad, teach your son how to properly treat a woman with dignity and respect.  Teach your daughter what qualities to look for in a man by exemplifying your hard work, diligence, and desire to lead.  If you’re a Mom, show your daughter that submission is not painful and a burden and help her to develop the delicateness she needs to one day find a man who will lead her.  Teach your son to fight for what’s right and give him the opportunities he needs to learn how to lead.

Submission should always be for the betterment of the family, not simply as an excuse to take advantage of one another.  Unfortunately, the term AUTHORITY has kind of gotten a bad rap over the years.  People view authority to mean AUTHORITARIAN (that is mean, strict, rigid, discipline, even abusive).  However, what God intended when He said that a man has AUTHORITY over a woman is simply this: that a husband should be AUTHORITATIVE (that is showing loving leadership, warmth, acceptance, and caring). 

CONCLUSION

We have all heard variations of the following quote, “The husband can be the head, but the woman is the neck.  She can turn the head whichever way she wants him to go.”

The Western society has often corroded the values of Godly male leadership.  Television shows and movies portray men as wimps, dummies, or people who are allowed to lack responsibility.  Meanwhile, women are increasingly rising to positions of influence and power.  There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING wrong with a woman gaining prestige and status in her field of study.  YET, we cannot neglect the woman’s important role of showing leadership through nurturing her children, a man’s responsibility of leading a household, and a couple’s commitment to fostering intimacy between each other.

Who leads what is individual and depends on the family.  In one family a husband may be better at handling the finances, a wife at overseeing homework, and both equally good at completing household chores.  In another family it may be quite the opposite.  BUT submission ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT IMPLY that the wife become the maid or a slave and that the husband simply be a taskmaster with a whip (metaphorically, hopefully not literally) in his hand.  BOTH have the responsibility of discipiling their children, encouraging one another to foster spiritual disciplines, and of mutually dividing and carrying out mundane housekeeping tasks.

Even if a spouse becomes ill, injured, or has a disability, they can still contribute in very positive ways to the lifecycle of the family and can still lead courageously the way that God intended them to.  As we fix our eyes on Jesus, earthly concerns of looking good and being right will vanish away and we will begin to LOVE and RESPSECT our spouses in the exact way that God intended marriage to look.

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A Former Feminist Looks at the Concept of Biblical Submission – Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

Image Given the sheer length of this blog on Submission and male headship I have divided it into two sections.  Here is the first part: 

Submission.  The word sounded to me just like a filthy rag.  I battled the thoughts in my mind.  I was DEFINITELY willing to love my (future) husband to the fullest extent I could, I looked forward to the day when we would be able to complete each other drawing us deeper into God’s truths for us and pursuing Him in order to better pursue one another… but submission… that was an entirely different story.  You see, I had the wrong understanding of what submission was.  Entirely.  I thought that submission gave men an excuse to “run the show”, “to be the boss”, and to allow “what [he] says go.”  I thought it meant a loss of my independence, the unique skills and personality I would bring into the relationship, and my leadership capabilities.   And I was certainly NOT willing to allow that to happen.  I wasn’t about to give up my lifestyle choices of what career to pursue, what hairstyle to wear, or what car to drive just so he could “boss” me around.  That’s because I had a COMPLETELY wrong view about what Biblical submission and male headship really meant.  Lately, though, as I have been reading the Scriptures, praying over them, and also reading some very well known literature on the difference between how men and women think (Men and From Mars Women are From Venus and Men are Like Waffles and Women are Like Spaghetti being my top two reads) I have begun to formulate a different opinion.  I’m not asking you to agree with everything I state below.  I believe marriage is a highly personal decision and that each case could be somewhat different.  Also, I come at this as a single person who has never been married, engaged, or had a child with a man.  Yet, I hope that you will explore these thoughts with me and that maybe, just maybe, if you are a single woman afraid of making the commitment to enter into a deep relationship with a man because you are a fighter and you feel a man will take away your vivaciousness that what I share here will inspire you to think differently about how you view marriage, your man, and your future. 

WOMEN UNDERSTAND LOVE, MEN “GET” RESPECT

Key Verses: Ephesians 5:23-27 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy,cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ephesians+5%3A23-27&version=NIV

If every marriage were to follow the instructions that these verses point out not only do I believe we would be doing the Will of God, but I believe He would richly bless us for it!  You see, the Bible is clear that women are to submit their husbands.  This means they are to respect his rightful place as leader of the house and they are to respect the authority invested to him under God.  BUT God doesn’t just let men off the hook.  No, He says that they are to LOVE their wives.  Their love is to be so far reaching that they are willing to GIVE THEMSELVES UP for the sake of her.  This means that they don’t just shower her with flowers or chocolates on Valentine’s day or write her cute cards on their anniversary, but it goes a whole lot deeper than that.  To give yourself up for someone means that you are willing to lay down your life for them just like Christ did for the church. [1]  Few of us will ever be called to physically intervene for the life of a spouse (though we should definitely be prepared to do that if the need arises), but all of us are called to lay down our individual preferences for one another.  This may mean that sometimes we have to admit our faults or allow our woman an opportunity to truly thrive even if that means we have to sacrifice a football game or an outing with the guys.

So, why does Paul (under the instruction of God) write these thoughts to the church of Ephesus?  For too long Paul has been bashed by feminists who believe him to be nothing but a chauvinistic man who wants to oppress women.  However, it is NOT fair for us to judge the Biblical society by our society today.  We MUST understand it was a completely different time period and what Paul wrote in his day and age was SIGNIFICANTLY RADICAL.  He was beginning to give women (who were otherwise oppressed) a voice. 

Men and women both have different core needs.  If there is one thing a woman truly understands it is LOVE.  Her entire life from the time she is a small child is based off of relationships.  When women have GIRL TALK it means they are talking about their deepest feelings.  A woman considers her BEST FRIENDS the people she is able to be the most intimate with and who will support her through anything.  LOVE to her means romance.  In fact, romance even takes center stage over sex.  If she LOVES a man it means she is considering marriage to him and that she wants to build her life with him.  Of course she still has natural human urges, but if a woman doesn’t feel completely safe and able to vulnerable with a man she will not have the urge to have a relationship with him.  God knew this when He created us.  He knew that in order for a woman to thrive in a marriage she would need her husband to LOVE her.  To listen and validate her emotions, to give her gentle physical touch, and to allow her to discover who she is.  She needs to know that regardless of her past struggles, he will always accept her.  She needs to know that he will encourage her to continue to hang out with her girl friends and that just because she is dating or married to him that it will not mean that she will not be able to continue her hobbies and interests, but that instead he will give her the chances she needs to blossom in those areas.

Men have a need for RESPECT.  Think about it.  A man’s life is often based off of achievements, scores, and acknowledgement.  Men love to be appreciated and to know that their problem solving ideas are helping.  This is the way he has been conditioned from the time he was a small boy.  A man will stop trying if he feels his ideas aren’t working or is getting him no where.  He wants to know above all that a woman will RESPECT his desire to lead the family and to be the best father he can be.  For many men career is a huge deal.  I’m not saying that career aspirations aren’t important to women.  Many women have much to offer in volunteer or professional sectors and have made great gains in their employment.  BUT many women are also willing to lay down their professions for their children.  Many women voluntarily choose to be an at home mom or to homeschool their children.  Some men are also willing to give up their career in order to raise a family, but for many giving up a career means giving up a certain sense of independence and identity.  To RESPECT a man, a woman needs to acknowledge the positive contributions he has made in their marriage and family, to cheer him on in his career advances, and to allow him to lead the family rather than to undermine his authority.

EARNING THE TITLE

Key Verse  1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Peter+3%3A7&version=ESVUK

In a feministic society many women would be appalled with the understanding that they are WEAKER than a guy… but let’s be clear about one thing.  When the Bible talks about us as being a weaker vessel it’s not implied that we lack strength or emotional or spiritual courage.  Many women throughout time have proven that they are anything BUT weak.  To raise a Godly family takes tremendous endurance.  But rather, when the Bible talks about us being a weaker vessel, it’s suggesting that we are delicate.  Women may be able to spring into action and show leadership, BUT physically we are delicate and in society we also tend to be less rough then men in our approach.  That doesn’t mean a woman CAN’T fight for her family or for what’s right (as evidenced through the women who fought for the right to vote, etc), but it does show that women are unfortunately more likely to be taken advantage of by men (at least physically) because men are typically bigger and stronger than we are.

Yet, putting that argument aside, this verse actually sheds a lot of insight into how God intended a marriage and a family to look.  Both men and women have key roles in a family.  A woman is called primarily to be a nurturer, a patient listener, and to be motherly.  That’s in her very nature and it has been conditioned in her that way from childhood where she instinctively went to the dolls and teddy bears.  Men on the other hand are called primarily to be leaders, guardians of the house, and teachers.  They are called to be the problem solvers and it’s been conditioned in them that way since they were children and instinctively went for the Legos and building blocks.  That doesn’t mean that one of them is better or worse than the other.  In a healthy functional family we need both roles.  We need both someone to nurture and to bandage bruises and someone who can solve crises.  There are some tough women and some sensitive men and this is also completely okay!  I’m just talking in generalities here.  Therefore, because we are created differently we should seek to play off of each other’s inherent strengths and to intervene in each other’s inherent weaknesses.  Both the mother and the father, the husband and the wife, are leaders in their own right in the family.  But both of them are called and wired to lead in different ways and for different purposes.