“So how’s married life?” one of them asked. “Well, I suppose you’re just busy frying pancakes now!” the other one said. (The one with the perpetual angelic smile.) I chuckle my polite, fake little laugh and tell them it’s great. And it is, but it’s not everything.
Someone else tells me I have it all now: loving and being loved, playing house, travelling with a man who holds my hand when we fly, and using this new era to hunt out jobs, do crafts and babysit hyper children. I suppose if you look at it like that, it’s not fair. But neither is where you’re at and what you’re doing right now.
Sure, it’s jolly. I know I’ve never talked or laughed or given more contented sighs than I do now. We read scary stories to each other and sing Old McDonald Had a Farm on the way to church, with one of us singing the lyrics and the other doing the appropriate, irreverent barking and quacking noises. I suppose we do the romantic things like jogging along the river and sipping chai lattes at Gloria Jeans, but sometimes there are tears that drip into the coffee. On any given day I feel all wifey–packing lunch for the husband and sending him off to work with a kiss, and other times I suppose we’re just two spoiled children living under the same room, letting all those new habits and traits of the other perturb us. He sees blue, I see pink, but we also get to sit up till midnight laughing and crying over ourselves, because the differences we let define us are pathetic and fantastic.
The first week we moved, we set up our handsome secondhand bookshelf, and couldn’t wait for the familiarity of our combined books in place on the shelves. David had them unpacked from their boxes within an hour, and when I came to investigate the progress, he called over his shoulder, “Don’t worry, I’m not finished yet!” Good, thought I, because it certainly didn’t appear that way. Tall books on one end of the shelf. Even taller books on the other end. And every other shape and height arranged in no particular order on the rest of the shelf. The next day is his first day at the hospital. Wife takes it upon herself to help him out by arranging the books nicely for him as a thoughtful surprise. She categorises the shelves: churchy, theological, storyish, music and arts, languages…and for the next 30 minutes there is clanging and banging as new stacks are made and everything is rearranged to look pretty to the eye–by height! Husband returns home and asks with a slightly-dismayed tone what happened to all his work the night before? Wife did not know that he had already arranged everything by much-more-detailed subjects within each shelf: nonresistance, biographies, fiction, history, creation, apologetics…through her glasses, she had only seen disarray.
We both sputtered, but we also burst out laughing at each other. I suppose that’s the nice thing about living with someone and knowing you better get along or else. Really, marriage isn’t always some glorified, extraterrestrial experience. It’s just one of the ways God chooses to mature selfish human beings. There is death: I lose my right to hibernation and hiding in my little dens. He chose to live with someone far less-educated than himself to whom he’d have to constantly be explaining medical and scientific terms. Sometimes we’re on a slippery bank, desperately trying to grab on to the remnants of individuality.
So to you, my inquiring friend, yes, marriage is great but it’s only something, and no, I’m not just cheesily frying pancakes. We love fiercely, giggle I’m sorrys, and get lonely if we ever think that the other can replace the need for Jesus’ fulfilling passion. I guess it’s the way God decided to make the two of us more like Himself, and we worship, because it’s doing the job.
that against all appearances, I haven’t actually rolled off the face of the earth. A dear friend of ours sarcastically told my sister the other day, “Be sure to tell Carolyn how much we’ve appreciated all the recent updates!”
And I know
- that spring does come, the sun does still work, and winters don’t last forever after all. I’ve never anticipated and celebrated it as much as I do now, coming here from the place where every day is a barefoot day! I made it a point to grin at a garden full of yellow pansies the other afternoon, and they smiled back.
- that it’s painful calling down kids in class when they’re so stinkin’ cute
- that the grim stares on the streets and conversations-that-stop-when-you-walk-past kind of looks don’t need to be taken personally if you don’t want them to be
- and that sometimes there are happy somethings on the dark streets, like a shuffling, toothy old lady who smiles in a grandmotherly way, a baby who pointed at me with an teensy finger and nearly spit out her pacifier because she was grinning so hard, and passing students who recognise you and grin & wave, and suddenly the world isn’t quite so hard after all
- that I get to squish my little sister in SIX days, and I almost don’t know what to do with myself
- that I can’t be everything to everyone, and that what one person sees as a strength is a huge weakness to another, and it’s ridiculous to fear & preoccupy myself with those facts
- that sometimes it’s a lot more fun to go to a private lesson just to talk with the mother beforehand than it is to sit with her wriggling boy who’s obviously preoccupied thinking about computer games and the weather outside. Because sometimes you can only take so much spelling out letters, reading Pooh stories, and talking about the opposites, of cold, stop & hard, and need to discuss feminism, mother-roles, and gay marriage instead
- that you can talk to God better & more efficiently under a full moon at the park than anywhere else.
- that knowledge-expansion of vocabulary usage can come in unlikely ways, like my hyper teenager who barely knows how to stumble through the answer to the question “What did you today?”, but said she was angry yesterday because, “My little brother debauched my homework.” Yay for non-native speakers!
- that sometimes the biggest encouragement comes in a simple thing like the envelope of fruit tea from a close friend every two weeks
- that maybe “Polish lessons” aren’t actually so much about learning as they are good talks, tears, hot tea with a tired mom, and crooning over pictures of her children, so it’s nothing to get frustrated at after all
And to close, a paragraph from Mike Mason, written to me I’m sure. I don’t have a clue how to live with grace & mercy sometimes instead of clinging to truth, and the self in myself is very alive.
” Our natural tendency is to treat people as if they were not “others” at all, but merely aspects of ourselves. We do not experience them as the overwhelming, comprehensive realities that we feel ourselves to be. Compared with us, they are not quite real. We see them as if through a haze, the haze of our own all-engulfing selfhood. We are constantly filtering others through the fine electronic mesh of our own private system of perception, so that what finally reaches our awareness and registers there is not usually a real person at all, but a sort of computer image, a reconstruction based on our own personal programming and biases. We live in a heavily screened, body-guarded reality. Not much gets through the barbed wire, not much gets by the great bulldog of the ego!”
Remember this post from over a year ago?
Let me take some of that back. It’s jolly fun making fun of high-heeled ideals, but that was then, and you know, sometimes those completely unrealistic, from-a-movie moments actually happen after all.
So here’s to my Valentine, to real life sometimes being just as perfect as I used to criticise, and to loving. Even today from a distance.
First, was the day when we were learning the names of relatives, sounding out the difference between “grandpa” and “grandma, talking about what a cousin is, and how a sister-in-law is different than a sister. Following the worksheets, was a family-tree game, with discussion questions on each block. One little girl took her question and described her favourite relative with enthusiasm. “She live in Amerrrica. She not work, she at home. And she has one small boy, my cousin. He two years old. And the other child….umm…is still…um….in woman body!”
In the same class the following week, we talked about countries, and each student wrote a few sentences or a paragraph about why they do or don’t like living in their home country. J, who doesn’t want to live anywhere else in the world said, “I loooove Poland because it’s super, and so fun, and so good, and sooo nice and lethal!” New vocabulary definition coming up.
Among the more advanced students is the boy who tries to be all macho, loves fighting, and wraps his world around computer games. On the aforementioned discussion game, was a question asking the students, “What makes a happy family?” K answered the normal things I was expecting—an Apple computer for everyone in the family, big screens, a new version of Minecraft…and then he smiled and said, “And I think a little baby sister.” There was an audible “awwww!” from me.
On another afternoon, one little girl followed me into the teachers room to wait on her mother after our class was finished. She stood beside me, grinning for all she was worth, and then- never mind that we had just been together for an hour- said loudly, “Hi! How are you today? Do you like cheese?”
On another note, FOUR people smiled at me on the street yesterday. Four! When the sun comes out in Poland, miracles happen.
- fitting my take-along life into 3 suitcases, and the rest onto a closet shelf full of tightly-taped boxes
- tight hugs
- unexpected tears
- frappes with Heidi in the Aldi parking lot, our favourite place to talk & watch people at the same time
- long naps, because sometimes sleeping is more effective than packing & getting everything done
- baby sister & the way she melted me with one adorable giggle just in time for me to hear it before leaving
- card after card slipped into my hand
- wondering why I left stuff like tax-return files, banking, and closing other accounts until the last few days
- seeing my favourite male face every day this last week-and enjoying the time, but feeling the pain already
- little brothers counting down the days and reminding me of it every morning
- realising that my high ambitions of sitting down for 2 hours every day to learn Polish were rather humorous. Someone asked tonight how language-study is going. Let’s just say, it’s not going at all.
- knowing that on the other side, are wonderful people who will make the transition enjoyable
- a daddy who sings sappy, nostalgic songs just to make me cry
- support. Beautiful verses with God’s promises given to me over & over. prayers behind me
- parents who struggle to let go, but send me off without questions, because they know the Father’s will.
- just sitting, relaxing, watching- because there’s no point in stressing about last-minute stuff or freaking out about forgetting something
- the sunshine & bare feet & ocean and wondering if I’ll really need that furry stuff in my suitcase
- wondering & praying about meeting the souls that God will ask me to touch
This is it! I entered into the idea of this experience, feeling wildly like Maria on The Sound of Music-running recklessly and belting out “I have confidence, confidence in me…” Now I’m at the gate, wondering what in the world I’ve gotten myself into, or what I think I’m doing. But I take the deep breath, put my head down, and go–because I’m under almighty care, and in the hand of the One who knows why He put me here in this place.
And mind me with each step I am more certain
Everything will turn out fine…
Today, I sensed in a small way, the stinging love of God’s unadulterated jealousy for me.
I am the Lord…I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor will I allow another to receive the honour that is due to me. Isaiah 42:8
In a paragraph from Calvin:
The Lord very frequently addresses us in the character of a husband; as He performs all the offices of a true and faithful husband, so He requires love and chastity from us; that is, that we do not prostitute our souls to Satan. As the purer and chaster a husband is, the more grievously he is offended when he sees his wife inclining to a rival; so the Lord who has betrothed us to Himself in truth, declares that He burns with the hottest jealousy, whenever, neglecting the purity of His holy marriage, we defile ourselves, and especially when the worship of His deity, which ought to have been most carefully kept unimpaired, is transferred to another, or adulterated with some superstition; since in this way we not only violate our plighted troth, but defile the nuptial couch, by giving access to adulterers. (Institutes, II viii,18)
Far too often this month, I’ve been involved in other affairs, distracted by things flashing for my attention, too busy to nurture spiritual connection with the Father. Feeling the guilt of forfeiting alone-time with Him, but shrugging off the seriousness of unfaithfulness.
Rivals: activities, busyness, spare time, work, stress, study, technology, even doing work for God. Not that they don’t have their appropriate places, but God’s been given the backseat in my life. His glory hasn’t been my driving motive, and that’s when His jealousy spilled over. Not out of anger, but out of a fierce love, because He knows that nothing else can even come close to satisfying me the way He can. I know that too, but I haven’t learned my lesson yet. How beautiful really-that He loves me enough to protect me from chasing wildly after the things that will only bring emptiness & destruction.
That’s His part. And this is mine:
Today I pray for restoration, discipline, relationship-maintenance, and the strength to renounce the things that have been a threat to our intimacy. I am His.
People have asked why I’ve been disappearing? Because the world is on my mind, that’s what.
There’s the thing of having my carefully-orchestrated life turned inside-out, when I was asked to go to Poland to help teach English, and said “yes”. The mixed feelings that continue to follow -dealing with random tears and happiness in the same 30 seconds. Figuring out how in the world I’m supposed to reorganise myself, and deciding what will eventually have to be sorted through, taken along, and left behind. Sitting in front of the screen with clunky headphones, listening in despair to the intimidating mixtures of letters and sounds that are far different than any language I’ve studied yet, and wondering how in the world it’s conquerable. Buying stacks of baby clothes, and feeling righteously justified in doing so, since I face the fact that I’ll be a stranger to my own sibling when I see him/her next. Looking at my family, church, and everything else that has made my life beautiful and comfortable so far, and knowing I’m not quite as confident about this whole thing as I want to think I am. I’m scared, but thankful anyhow. Because I meant it when I told God one night last month that it’s really stupid for me to have my life so organised, in control, and planned out. I had dreams for the future, which included possibly teaching English somewhere –in my words, “waaay down the road.” But when I asked God to make my plans happen only if he wanted them to take place, and to do it in His timing, not mine, He took it seriously–two mornings later I got that fateful e-mail.
Better yet is the gift of being in a relationship with an amazing man of God, the fresh beginning of a commitment that holds beauty, sacredness, and feelings (indigestion included) that I didn’t know I had inside of me. I am in awe at the way God works, the beautiful art He puts together when we let Him take control, and surrender our rights to love and be loved. The way I thought my storyline for the next while was already written, until God said, “Ta da!”, and popped up with this surprise ending, which is far more wonderful than anything I had already planned out. The way He started His work in two individuals’ lives who didn’t even know the other existed, and planted desires and a common vision in their hearts that allowed them to recognise each other as answers to prayer when they later met each other. It’s been a long, exciting, and faith-boosting story. Welcome, David. *
All this, conglomerated into what feels like a breath of time. I am grateful that God chooses not to measure prayers by wordiness or poetic exclamations. Because the best I’ve been able to spill out is, “Thank you, thank you” over and over again.
“For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
* If I would’ve written like I really felt in that paragraph, I would’ve put an exclamation mark or two after every sentence. You’re welcome for refraining.
**Annie J. Flint lyrics
There are times when words are distractions, when silence feels like a welcome fog, when nothing is defined, descriptive, or specific, when days fly by–leaving their marks in abstract scribbles. This month was one of those times-with one looming thing dominating the focus, while the rest of life was scrawled into a blur. I was a child with an adult-sized load. I felt the burden, but felt its disappearance even more, when I felt hope in so many beautiful ways.
Through Hope Himself, who promised to renew our strength and harness us up on eagles’ wings.
Through a friend who is oozing peace, Jesus, and encouragement–right after a difficult breakup.
Through my old German friend at the nursing home, who happily sings and holds my hand and waves it through the air like a conductor while she counts the beats, “Eins, Zwei, Drei, bang hand on table, Eins, Zwei, Drei bang…” She talks about her horrible childhood, how her children don’t come to visit, how there’s nothing to do but stare out of the window, and how one of the grouchy nurses there would love to tie her to the ceiling fan, just for the fun of seeing her helplessly fly around in circles. (Yeah, she’s graphic). Then she pulls my face down to hers, and says in a fascinating mixture of two languages, “Darling, if there’s any problem you ever have, just write it on a card, and I promise to think about you and pray. You can tell me anything; I’ll try to understand” She, who could have grounds for discouragement and despair, knows what it is to have the capacity to hope, and to rekindle it in others.
Through my little 4 y.o. friend. Last night on the trampoline, we ate our dessert- the sweet little wildcat and I. The one who attacks your midriff with a violent punch one minute, and smooches you loudly in church at the next. The one who throws wild tantrums one day but sings with all his heart and solemnly tells you all about God the next. His random observations are most enlightening
“Carolyn, you really need a Bible study man.” “A what?” “A Bible study man. A little thing that you can carry around with you everywhere, and push him to make you start singing. That’s called a Bible study man.”
“I love coming to your place, because we have to turn left to go into your driveway. I love when dad turns left”
“You have a really good church.” “What do you like about it?” “Mostly the really good seats.”
But last night, on the trampoline, he was quiet. We were at a birthday party, where he whooped and hollered, knocked a girl off a chair, grabbed my cake and ate the frosting off, and stuffed stolen balloons into his pocket. When the noise reached a certain decibel point, he and my introvert self grabbed our plates, walked past one room filled with loud laughter, past another where music was thumping from a sibling’s stereo, and out into the dark where all you could hear was the background hum of voices and the droning of cicadas. He squealed for a while as we tried to balance our plates while climbing up on our perches, and then he shivered, pushed into my jacket, and leaned his head on me with a big sigh.
“I like being out here,” he said, “we can just sit quietly, count the beautiful stars, and…and just be hidden from all the noise.“
He sat there, talking remorsefully about the remote-controlled helicopter he broke in pieces and threw in the bin, for the simple reason of not liking it anymore. About God’s rockets, babies, and chicken coops. How he wants to grow up and be a good man so he can go to heaven, but how he daren’t fly up to the stars too soon, because God snatches those people and doesn’t let them come back to earth again.
There is hope. I see his ungodly father and the things he’s exposed to, and hear the vulgar words he yells when he’s angry. But I see his sisters’ patience, and the rapt attention on his face during a Bible story. I hear his passionate, theological assumptions about God, and know that in him is a man that can turn the world upside down. He’s mature beyond his years, but no more than a sweet kid when he’s clothed and in his right mind.
I see myself, carrying a load, when God promised to be my burden-bearer. I shrug it off my shoulders. He takes it, and I feel the peace that comes with surrender, the reassuring strength, and the quiet in Him that comes only, when I too, am hidden from all the noise.
There is hope. Today, I see the spring rains coming, and I know with Robert Browning that
God’s in His heaven,
all’s right with the world.
A couple years ago, my mind started trekking down this trail, when a female acquaintance of ours asked my dad what career I was intending to pursue when I would leave home. He may have mentioned some of my interests for the future, I don’t remember- I just recall the surprised, completely taken-aback look she had when I told her some of the things I was interested in pursuing, but that I think being a mom would be the funnest & noblest of them all.
That was then. I’ve brushed against other incidents, articles, and conversations since. More recently, an intense debate in our front driveway pushed me to studying feminism and its entailments more in depth. (Case of a visiting pastor vs. a visiting woman who was trying to set him straight in his theology because “she had spirit-given authority, men are supposed to submit to women, there is no male or female in God’s eyes, etc. ” He asked her not to preach to him (most of the church was gathered around) so she left in a huff. Awwwkward…)
There’s the women I interact with each week- those who are out working and have no time for housecleaning and laundry, so we step in and do it all for them. In some ways, I’ve felt a tad guilty, not only because we’re doing what she should be in charge of, but because we make so the kids can be comfortable with zero responsibility. Seriously, teenagers. We’re supposed to go into their bedrooms, organize drawers, stack their papers, clean out closets, and fix their beds. The stacks of video games, movies, and McDonalds paper products strewn everywhere give testimony to what they do when they’re home. Why is that today’s typical picture?
I was impacted the most this week, when I finished reading most of John Knox’s The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, and watched a documentary with the same title while I was at it. He- the Scottish firebrand of the Reformation- wasn’t a man that was backwards about being forwards. In fact, towards the end of his life, he and and equally-feisty colleague “humbled themselves” and apologised for not using nicer choices of words in their descriptions of the queen and other women. Little wonder, after I read some of their amusing, creative adjectives. Tactful or not, he didn’t mince any of God’s truth or authority on this subject, and his sharp words still prick the contentious feminists today into hot arguments with his supporters. Measure his popularity by the fact that his casket sits under Parking Spot 23 behind the St. Giles Cathedral, with nothing marking his existence- except for some initials scrawled on a nearby window.
I’m not going to quote Knox or do a character sketch. This will just be a conglomeration of some of the thoughts I’ve put into a roughly hewed pile after reading his book and doing some other studies. This is primarily for my own self’s benefit so I can thoroughly answer why my personal position is the way it is when I meet those counter-attackers who question me out.
I tend to think, that in its beginning, feminism wasn’t so wacked. It was more of a societal “innocent rebellion”, much less antagonistic than it is today, and certainly not the current, militant movement of liberation. In the war for equality of rights, it rapidly went downhill when the ultimate idea of victimization was cultivated-where the women were made to believe they were victims of an authoritative, patriarchal society. Victimization–really? It enters the picture, yes, but they have it badly twisted around- they, by attacking God, leaving their roles at home, and searching for another, more “fulfilling” life, have become the victimizers. Now the women who have chosen to embrace the role of a God-ordained keeper at home, which He designed as protection, are the prey in their attacks. How?
-Making them believe they are suppressed by being who and what God made them to be.
-Applying egalitarianism to gender in hosts of cases. I don’t negate the fact that we have equality in worth and dignity. But not in authority or roles. That’s a beautiful-not suppressive- design.
-Screaming for free choice, free will, and free rights. She can do what she pleases with her career, power, body, intellect, and baby. How absurd is it that it is statistically proven that a mother’s womb is one of the most dangerous places on earth to be?
-Media. A very-twisted view of reality.
-Myths. Mutual submission. Fascination with self-definition and self-invention.
-Synonymity with immodesty and promiscuity. She is in control of her life with no governing philosophy-just a drive to assert herself and her will, to do as she pleases. You don’t have to look far to find her. Think ToyWorld. Barbie dolls. Those ridiculous Bratz babies.
It’s sad. It all seems so “out there”. But as I read, it was also sad to see some glimpses of some more subtle forms of feminism that I see in myself and other Christian young women sometimes:
-Striving to get to the point where we can do things “just as good as the guys” and don’t need their help or kindness. Maybe it’s a thing in which I could be equally capable- but there is nothing wrong with stepping back, and allowing yourself to be served or helped.
-Complaining about men not taking initiation or leadership responsibility. I’m not saying it isn’t a problem today, but in most cases, it is NOT their fault. When the feminists stepped out to get rid of their gender-specific restraints, they couldn’t be successful unless they also stripped the man of their gender-specific roles and attitudes. As William Raspberry said, “The success of feminism, in short, requires the creation of a ‘new man’.”
From Elizabeth Elliot- one of my favorite, most-respected authors ever.
Feminism has liberated the man from the responsibility to grow up and put away childish things. No longer inclined to do the thing he was made for—to be in charge, take responsibility and answer to God for it—the “new man” today seems to feel quite comfortable in going along with whatever the little lady (oops—woman—we’re no longer to be called ladies, I’m told) wants.”
-Manipulation. I see this over and over in people that have been hurt in the past-physically or emotionally-by a man, and therefore protect themselves by belittling males and dragging them around by their little fingers. I remember driving home one night in tears after witnessing a male being humiliated/downgraded with sassiness, and hearing the angry remarks he made later. A first-hand view of messed up authority was so wrong- and so ugly. Pain is valid, but God’s grace is a beautiful healer of those hurts and the pride that keeps us from blessing males as leaders, instead of buying into today’s spirit that only encourages passivity and fear in men.
- Selfishness. Overriding God’s superior design with personal agendas. The drive to have a fill of fun before the act of “settling down” (commitment to a ministry, marriage, having children, whatever.)
I am not stomping on the okay-ness of pursuing dreams, choosing adventurous paths that God is winding out in front of you, trying new things, or travelling to new places. It’s a beautiful thing when women branch out into the unknown, live to the fullest , and create loveliness in the place God’s called them to- even if it’s not marriage. In fact, I’d much rather have that than the other side of the spectrum I know- those who (almost) literally sit in the corner moaning and waiting and twiddling their thumbs until their prince comes to the rescue. I don’t believe that’s God’s design either- to just pace the halls- waiting and waiting. (Or to show desperateness through the silliest flirt-storms, for that matter.) But I have seen that people celebrate the way they are “living life to the hilt”- when it’s nothing more than a selfish way to advance their own personal agenda instead of God’s.
-Becoming “activists” through the quiet, unexpected means. Social networking, in some cases.
-Gagging at femininity. These discussions are always funny, because so many people hear feminine, and immediately get the image of a powdered woman-clad in pink silk, sitting in a corner with a China teacup, and daintily curving her pinkie in the air as she sips. I’m not exactly a fan of that stereotype either, but I think we’ve lost something, somewhere. I am not promoting the dreaded label “girly”, but I am a woman, and not embarrassed by it. I want to walk into a room- and communicate purity, loveliness, modesty, and femininity. I want to look like I respect God and His expectations.
-Being ashamed of mystique.
As usual, I’ve reached the end of my brain, and still haven’t figured out what point I’m trying to make.
Equality in worth has nothing to do with equality in the God-designed hierarchy, but that doesn’t diminish us one iota. We are valuable, created beautifully- not to lead or initiate, but to serve. We are distinctly different than men, and to believe the egotistic lies that society is screaming in our faces- that we deserve rights, equality, powerful careers, free choice, and the power to trample down men in order for our voice to be heard- is bondage. God knew what He was doing on Day 6 of Creation. Living with a Christocentric view in His order means joy, peace, fulfilment– not boredom, weakness, monotony, cowardliness, or naivety. His truth is incredible release and intense freedom. Freedom from the dark weight of rebelling against God and His authority, and freedom to just be a woman. Unashamedly.