Sunday, October 21, 2018

We are His Plan

I can't remember a time that I wasn't curious about people and the stories they've lived. Because of this, I've had heard many stories, some exciting and fun to hear and some painful and hard to hear. Because I listened to stories, I have had the privilege of knowing women who moved past extremely painful things to become loving, kind, and compassionate. It is a sacred privilege to hear these stories and to see the impact pain things have had and watch as people choose to forgive things that most would deemed unforgiveable. It is also exciting when survivors take responsibility to change their maladaptive ways of dealing with pain, life, and relationships so they can become the women that God designed them to be.

One surprising thing I've discovered over the years, is that the circumstances surrounding one's conception can have a huge impact on how a person sees themselves. Some knew without a doubt that they had been planned, wanted, and celebrated. Knowing that helped them navigate the hard things that came against them. On the other hand, some were told or discovered on their own that they were accidently conceived. Those whose parents embraced the pregnancy and celebrated them believed they were wanted even though an accident. They, too, drew on their parent's love and acceptance to get through the hard.

Those who weren't celebrated have believed they were simply tolerated and others believed they were unwanted and they carried shame. Some knew their conceptions was the reason their parents got married. Those who handled that news well were those who had healthy families who openly discussed their questions and who were reassured they were wanted, loved, and a source of joy. But, those who found out on their own and who lived in families that refuse to talk about these things struggled and took on the shame of their parents.

Some have said they knew through either their parents actions or their words that they were neither planned or wanted. These often struggled with the belief that something was innately wrong with them to cause their parents to reject them physically and/or emotionally. They couldn't identify what it was in them that caused their parents rejection, but they were sure it was their fault. I have even known a few that found out they were the product of one night stands. They struggled because they weren't the product of a relationship, just sin. Some had been told that their dads wanted their moms to abort them and some were survivors of attempted abortions. Most felt grateful to be alive, but grieved at how easy it is for some to end a life.

There are ladies who were the product of rape. They knew they were treated with less warmth than their siblings and some even suffered physical abuse at the hands of mothers and believed it was because they served as a reminder of  perpetrator who harmed them. These often bear great shame, wondering if the evil of a rapist father could be residing in them or passed down to their children.

Some shared that they believed their moms got pregnant to hold on to a boyfriend or a husband who wanted to leave. Some felt loved because the parents worked hard at making the marriage work and in the process of that they became good parents. Others ached because theirs dads acted as if they felt trapped or their moms projected frustration on them as they were a reminder of the failures in the marriage and their manipulating ways.

We can't change the facts surrounding our conception and our birth. But, the Word of God can change how we view these events. Psalm 139 tells us that in God's eyes we are not mistakes, accidents, interruptions to plans made, or manipulative actions to be reckoned with for a life time. "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them." Our God was there in the womb with us, lovingly forming us according to His will and His plans.

Our God is a creative God! He designs and created us with intentionality and purpose. He values us enough to send a Savior to redeem us. He is loving and never avoids us. He never abuses us and never treats us with disdain because we interrupted His plans. We are His plan--beautiful and unique, fearfully and wonderfully knitted in the womb. We are not an embarrassment that He would rather not acknowledge, He called us by name. We are not a source of shame or a reminder of a careless, shameful mistake made. He delights in us and has purposed every single one of our days before they came to be.

In addition, the Bible tells believers that we are born again by His will. John 1:12-13 says, "But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." Not only was it God's design for us to be born physically, it was also His will that we be born again spiritually and with that spiritual birth we are also adopted as His sons (Ephesians 1:5). We are no longer outsiders wishing we could feel at home in a family. By faith, we know He has given us a heritage with the saints of old and we are treasured members of His family. No one can ever take that away from us. The Lord is faithful and He will never abandon us.

When Satan reminds us of our fleshly roots, we want to remember that in God's eyes, there was never a time we weren't loved, never a time we weren't wanted, and never a time we weren't a central part of His plan. When this truth takes a hold of our hearts, the lies the Enemy whispers to try to shame us lose their power over us. We are His plan and His plan is always perfect.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Have we Failed in our Responsibilities

The Kavanaugh hearings has been hard on our country, especially those who have experienced sexual trauma. The hearings showed us just how ill equipped our nation is to handle the impact of the "Me, too, movement. Many of us were glued to our televisions as Dr. Blasey Ford and Bret Kavanaugh testified before a Judicial committee. Many had already made up their minds and few opinions were swayed by what we heard.

As someone who serves survivors, I found her testimony and demeanor in line with those who are in the early stages of facing past trauma. At the same time, I found myself wanting to believe him, too. Some felt that the gaps in her memories proved she was lying. Yet, our minds are not video cameras, documenting every detail in our lives. Memories are fluid and impacted by our interpretations of the events we experience. They are also impacted by what others tell us, by what we tell ourselves,by how we process those events, and even by our belief systems. When we feel powerless and experience an event as traumatic, some details are seared into the brain and others are forgotten.

Right after 9/11 some people were asked to write down what they experienced. Years later some of them were asked to write down what they remembered about those days and they found that two accounts written by the same person could be different. One might write in their first account that they were on the street with a friend watching as the towers fell and in the second account write they were home, watching the event on TV and called their friend. When some were shown what they originally wrote, they said they didn't know why they would have written what they did in the first account. Maybe their memories changed so they could feel safer or could have a sense of distance from the horrific event they experienced. 

As I watched Kavanaugh testify, I saw the hurt written on his face as well as the pain on the face of his wife and I ached for them as much as I ached for Christine. None of them should have become pawns in our sick political system. I have been processing this and have come to the conclusion that maybe we as a nation are partly responsible for what happened on that day. We have failed to teach our kids to handle themselves appropriately and failed to call for change earlier. Most of all, I think we, as believers, have failed to teach our children God's design. 

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, relationships between men and women have been complicated and teens who begin to date and socialize just as their hormones start raging have little skills to navigate these new relationships. We haven't done a good job of equipping them or protecting them from themselves. Their brains are not fully developed and alcohol and drugs diminishes their impulse control and the ability to make godly, loving decisions and sometimes we are complicit in their use of substances that do that. Out of that comes situations in which an encounter can feel consensual to one and like an assault to another. We can't keep pretending that underage substance use and boyish behaviors are big problems. Some of us have simply been too trusting of our teens, leaving them unsupervised, trying to navigate the messiness of relationships without needed skills.    

At the time I was dating I knew guys who behaved the way Ford described Kavanaugh and his friends and I was warned by guys that there were guys who got girls drunk just to add notches to their headboards. I used that info to keep myself safe. Yet, gals were groped in the cafeteria line, guys let their junk hang out as they sunbathed in front of girl's dorms. And walks back to the dorm after late classes were scary, leaving us vulnerable to inappropriate names being shouted by a pack of men who congregated in front of the cafeteria. And dating more often than not turned into nights of guys constantly trying to push past  "No's!" 

Our culture has become even more sexualized and telling someone to stop or say, "No!" hasn't been enough for a very long time. We have strayed so far from God's design. God created Adam and Eve in His own image and they were naked and unashamed and related with the Him and each other with joy. They were unafraid and vulnerable and their sexuality was closely tied to their spirituality. But, Satan tempted them, promising they would become like the Creator and that hooked Eve. As Eve listened to his beguiling voice, she forgot she was a woman delicately created in the image of her God and she bit. Then Adam bit and they were instantly filled with shame and tried to cover it with leaves. As the Creator approached the leaves were inadequate to cover their shame and they hid. God confronted them, inviting them to repent. But Eve blamed the Serpent. Adam blamed Eve. And, then Adam blamed God. 

Their choice that day killed them spiritually and eventually physically. It also marred their ability to trust God and each other and put a chasm between their sexuality and spirituality as shown by the core of shame that had developed. Graciously, the  Creator reached out and clothed them in animal skins, picturing the Messiah who would save.    

As we fast forward past sad stories of jealousy, murder, sin, violence, and ugly dysfunctions, we find a barren couple, old in age, living in a culture that worshipped gods of fertility. The sacrifices given to appease these gods were virgin daughters taken by temple priests and babies who were burned as offerings. Sexuality was no longer used in its intended context became so perverted it ceased to be marked with love or integrity. The Creator told the old couple to separate themselves and go to a new land and He promised them a child. After a few lapses in trust and judgement God reaffirmed His covenant with them. At just the right time He gave them a child and they named him Laughter! Through the covenant the Creator revealed that He was God of life and He sought to heal the fracture between human sexuality and spirituality.

From the beginning sex has been a gift designed to take place in the covenant of marriage, which pictures the relationship Christ has with His church. God's plan called for sexual integrity as sex was designed to seal the covenant marriage. The Creator designed us with bodies that were different, his to be aroused by sight to insure pursuit and hers to be aroused by emotional intimacy to insure commitment. The Creator designed us to enjoy pleasure followed by a release of hormones that cause two people to be bonded into one, giving them a safe place to be vulnerable and real.

Our sexualized culture continues to drive wedges between sexuality and spirituality. Rampant porn is selfish, addicting, and doesn't reflect the Lord at all. Kids are growing up in fractured homes broken by sin, selfishness, violence, and perversion. Some are being sacrificed through sexual abuse. "Free sex" is destroying the part of us that is to bond with another. This is because to survive serial sex we disassociate from the bonding process that is take to place between spouses.

As believers we must teach our sons to be sexually pure and to date in Godly ways, challenging any sense of entitlement they might have. We must teach them that mistreating dates who say, "No," is abusive and challenge the bragging that follows sinful conquests. We must teach our sons to look at young women as creations of God, as daughters of the King, as sisters in Christ, and as potential spouses to be protected. We must teach them to hold virginity (theirs and another's) in high regard and treat it as something to be preserved, not robbed. We must teach them not to ask a girl for sex outside of marriage. We must stop saying, "Boys will be boys and men will be men!" Guys are not victims to their bodies. We must tell them that one out of three girls they date has been abused and to not treat them honorably can forever put him in the same class as her abusers. They need to understand their actions have consequences and can haunt them later and that what they do now has the potential to bless or harm their future spouse.   

We need to teach our daughters to walk with dignity and God-confidence that commands respect and proper treatment. We must love them so well that they are willing to walk away from ungodly relationships. We must teach them to walk with God in such a way they would not entice a young man to lust or enter a sexual relationship for a false sense of acceptance. We must teach our daughters their bodies were bought with the blood of Christ and are not theirs to give away outside of marriage. We must teach them their identity comes in being the daughter of the King, fully loved and accepted, not in losing their virtue to a guy she wants to hold on to.

We are responsible for what happened on that committee when we fail to model and teach these things to our children. We can't assume they learn them by osmosis. We need to model godly behaviors. Men to assume responsibility for their personal godliness and teach their sons to bounce their eyes instead of ogling girls they pass. Women need to model respect for men and teach their daughters to let God fill them, so they are not looking for love where it can't be found. We need to teach our children-the right of ownership over one's body, the importance of consent for every level of a relationship, and the beauty of covenant marriage and the role of sex within it. We also need to teach children to date in ways that honors God and each other. There is nothing wrong with desire, but they can either learn to let the desire grow into destructive lust that will result in anger and entitlement or they can use the desire to remind them to draw near to God who can enable to them to walk in a manner to which He has called them. 

We are also responsible for what happened in that committee when we have seen inappropriate things and stayed silent and didn't try to help. Some of the deepest wounds are felt when a survivor believes someone saw something turned away. Some were hurt when they tried to tell and were silenced. I think most of us can recall something we saw that caused us to feel uncomfortable and we chose in the moment to not make waves by confronting it or maybe we talked ourselves into believing what we saw wasn't really what we saw or we worried we saw it wrong. We need to pay attention and not be complicit through silence. The following is a link to a blog that describes what I mean in detail. (https://acestoohigh.com/2018/10/10/i-was-a-witness-to-serial-silence/)  

Some want this highly sexualized culture to advance. But, it has already has left us with an epidemic of depression, anxiety, high suicide rates, STD's, and babies being savagely sucked from wombs. We also have higher numbers of sexual abuse cases being reported along with kidnappings and people being trafficked against their will. And even in the midst of the sexual revolution we are still lonely, disconnected, and discontent, looking for something to fill our empty hearts. I believe what each of us really wants is the sacrificial love symbolized by a blood stained cross and the nail-scared hands of the Savior. Intimacy with Him feeds the deepest parts of our hearts and teaches us to love one another with a love that is long-lasting, committed, sacrificial, and binding. With that love we would have less situations like Judge Kavanaugh's to face. I hope we learn to be gracious to both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh no matter what we believe about them. I hope we rise to the call for needed change by accepting the fact that we can do better if we don't assume our sons and our daughters know how to navigate the messiness of their first relationships.     

Don't we want our young people to feel safe enough and strong enough and loved enough that they could choose to love another with all that they are, not just the fractured parts of themselves left by sinful choices. What would happen if we refused to let children be prematurely awakened sexually so that obedience to the Creator's plan felt right and was doable and offered deep soul connections that satisfied. Maybe if we took personal responsibility seriously we could turn this painful way we have had of developing relationships into one that is God honoring and leaves no room for accusations. I know...it is an idealist wish, but sitting by and doing nothing has done nothing to help. 

Introduction

Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!