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Archive for June 17th, 2008

Casting Away Fear

Originally published on my personal blog, August 2007:

“Sound theology is the cure for fear.”

~Nancy Wilson, THE FRUIT OF HER HANDS

This is a life-changing concept for me. I am a fearful person. I’ve suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for most of my life. Basically, during times of extreme stress, I am prone to obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors which interfere with my ability to live a normal life. Most of the time, I am just fine. My compulsive behaviors are kept at bay and I am able to function normally.

I had a nervous breakdown a few years ago. Our first baby, my first daughter, had Triploid Syndrome and died before she was born. Talk about extreme stress! A few months after she was born, I went nuts. Literally. On my way to a counseling appointment, I had a thought that I had hit a cyclist with my car, not known it, and then drove away. I thought about it throughout my entire appointment. I thought about it on the way home. And all night long. I checked for blood on the road. I assumed that if I had hit the cyclist, there would be evidence- an ambulance, a news report of a hit-and-run… anything. Of course, there was nothing, but that didn’t matter.

I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t work. I had to quit my job as a leasing consultant because I was absolutely terrified of violating the Fair Housing Act and get sued. I don’t have a racist bone in my body, but that didn’t matter. If I forgot to offer the Asian prospective resident a cookie, but offered the white guy a cookie, I could be sued. That’s the truth. You can get sued for anything these days.

The stress of normal life took its toll. It wasn’t long before my amazing, long-suffering husband called our pastor to our home to save my life. I was pretty much wanting to die. I would never commit suicide- ever- but there is something called “a passive wish to die” where the person wants to die, but isn’t willing or able to do anything about it. That would’ve been me. Greg counseled me out of bed and onto the couch where we prayed and talked and cried. It was intense.

My husband made the decision that we would return home from Colorado. That meant that he would have to leave his dream behind… but he did it to take care of me. He knew that I needed to be near my family and that I needed serious help.

We came home. I started back at my old job. I lasted exactly one month. For those four weeks, someone had to drive me to work and pick me up each day. I got into therapy right away with my incredible doctor. As I was pregnant with Nicky, I didn’t want to go on medication. We decided to overcome the OCD with cognitive-behavioral therapy. Unfortunately, before we made any headway, I had to go on state disability because I couldn’t work. My breakdown was complete. I had to walk everywhere and I couldn’t work.

I knew I had to get better before my son was born. That’s all there was to it. He couldn’t have a crazy mom.

He was born in December. I don’t think that I was any more paranoid than any other first time mom. I had all the major worries- was he eating enough? Growing enough? He doesn’t like tummy time- does that mean he’ll be a late crawler? I still couldn’t drive, but at least I could care for my son.

And then my dad told us he had pancreatic cancer. Just seven days short of the one year anniversary of my daughter’s death, my world came crashing in again. The Chief and I had been to Disneyland on our new passes that day. I remarked as we walked back to our car that I finally felt normal again. I called my dad to thank him for the passes and tell him that I was on my way to healing from all this terrible sadness and fear. He asked us to come over. I knew it couldn’t be good.

He told us the diagnosis, and I knew. I knew right away what was going to happen. Surgery wasn’t an option. It was chemo or nothing. The doctors wouldn’t tell him how long he might have. I knew it couldn’t be long. A year, maybe… Pancreatic cancer is aggressive and painful. By the time it is diagnosed, metastasis has almost always already occurred. If the cancer has metastasized, there is nothing they can do really. He didn’t tell us that night, but it had already spread to his liver.

Well, that was it. I couldn’t screw around anymore. I had to be better. I had to drive. I couldn’t be afraid anymore. I had to be with my dad as much as possible. He had to hold his grandchild and love him and kiss him and talk to him as much as possible before the end. OCD just wasn’t an option. I know that its not something that people can switch on or off, but in this instance, I can honestly say that I turned it off.

Now, back to the quote- sound theology is the cure for fear. Why am I so afraid? What am I afraid of?

I think that sometimes my fears are rather infantile. I seem to be very preoccupied with what people think of me. I’m definitely too concerned with my job performance. I seem to gather a lot of self-worth from my job, from what other people think of me, from how clean my house is or how well-behaved my children are. I throw the grownup equivalent to a toddler’s tantrum when things don’t go my way or if the ridiculous level of self-imposed stress that I carry overwhelms me.

Really, the bottom line for me is that I think I need to grow up. I need to store up treasures in Heaven, not on earth. I need to remember that the God of the universe stands behind me and goes before me. I need to find my refuge in HIM, not in myself. I need to hide in the shadow of His wings. “Consider that God is in complete control of His creation.” Do I believe that or not? In the end, the petty stuff I worry about doesn’t matter in light of the relationships that are being negatively affected by my fear.

I am an introspective person and I’m afraid that it has not served me well. Don’t get me wrong- I definitely think its a good idea to take stock of your life and your heart and make changes if necessary. However, the “sin of introspection”, as Mrs. Wilson calls it, occurs when we allow that introspection to keep us up at night. Its when those little things we forget to do are blown out of proportion and suddenly mean that we are bad mommies or wives.

“It only breeds self-pity, condemnation, hopelessness, and ungodly sorrow. This is an unwise and dangerous mindset to indulge. One sin always leads to a host of others. Introspection leads to anxiety and depression. It is an unfruitful and misleading mindset, for the real sin is… the act of engaging in this self-condemning activity. ‘Set your mind on things above.’ The real sin being committed is this mindset, this morbid introspection. This is what you are likely to repent of, for your failures of the day distract you away from the real sin. And this is what needs to be confessed. A godly sorrow produces repentance; a worldly sorrow produces death (2Cor. 7:10)… God is not the author of accusation and condemnation of His children. He chastises and forgives. He delights to show mercy. he is the Father of all comfort. He does not pile on accusations in the night.” (pgs. 70-71, The Fruit of Her Hands)

I read The Fruit of Her Hands a number of years ago. I liked it and recommended it to friends. I picked it up again a few days ago and I have been overwhelmed by the wisdom contained in this book. It puts biblical womanhood blogs to SHAME. It is intensely practical and it has nothing whatsoever to do with budgeting or meal planning or modesty. Mrs. Wilson is talking about GASP! respect for one’s husband. Paying attention to the “principles” and minding our own business when it comes to “methods.” Being content in all things and NOT being fearful. Loving our lives as homemakers because the work that we do in the home is sanctified by God:

“As I reflected on this (doing the dishes and doing them cheerfully), I realized that I had known all along. God had called me to be a wife, mother, and homemaker. Because of this, all the mundane things I did were sanctified, holy, purposeful, and honoring to God, and I should offer them all to Him. ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service’ (rom. 12:1). Not only that, I should also find contentment and satisfaction in knowing I was doing these things unto the Lord… Work, hard work, no matter how humble the task, is our service to God.” (pg. 75-76).

Obviously, I am all about this book right now. I encourage any Christian wife reading this blog post to read this book. Its a great one, and not at all “hyper-patriarchal”. Believe me, my radar screen is up HIGH for crap like that.

I read in Matthew the other day this amazing verse- one of my favorites in fact- Jesus says to Peter, after saving him from drowning on the Sea of Galilee- “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?”

Those words are also revolutionary in my life. When the anxiety creeps up and seeks to capture my mind, my actions, my heart, I MUST remind myself that He is holding my hand and saving me from drowning. And he, again, asks me why I doubted Him.

How Firm a Foundation

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
to you that for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed!
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.”

What is the solution to fear? It is in His Word. What more can He say than what He has already said to those who have sought refuge in Jesus?

Addendum (June 17, 2008):

It seems to me that so much of hyper-patriarchy is based on fear- fear of the culture, fear of feminism, fear of government, fear of pants, fear of public schools.  I can’t miss the irony because so much emphasis is placed on raising up warriors for Christ to take over the culture, but they are so afraid of the culture that I just can’t see that their warriors will be very effective.  What a difference it would make if their rules were based on sound theology rather than a reaction to all that is wrong in the world!  The cure for patriocentrism is sound theology!

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“Christian” Street Paving?

From Scott Clark’s Heidelblog:

“Why does it matter [if something is called ‘Christian’]? It matters because the repeated claim that there’s a Christian way of doing p or q has several unhappy consequences. 1) It tends to give license to mediocrity: “It doesn’t have to be good because it’s Christian baking, it’s a ministry….” 2) It cheapens the adjective “Christian.” By describing activity p or q as “Christian” we water down (by inflation) its force of meaning in the concrete. What is Christian in this world is what Christ has instituted: the church, the ministry of Word, sacrament, and discipline. The Christian life is Christian. The Christian faith is Christian. What else? 3) It gives Christians the idea that they have some secret insight into p or q –which claim is very powerful and hard to resist– but it borders on gnosticism. It’s a sort of secret knowledge gained mystically that can’t be described. It tends to make us look like a cult. “I’m a Christian baker.” Oh really how’s that? “I bake to the glory of the Lord.” Great.  “Do you make bread?” “Sure I do.” “Is does it rise like ‘pagan’ bread?” “Yes.” “Does it taste like ‘pagan’ bread?” “Yes.” “Well, then, how exactly is it ‘Christian’ bread?” “It’s consecrated to the Lord?” “I thought only the bread of the Lord’s Supper was consecrated to the Lord?” “Uh, the world is sacramental.” “

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I was introduced by a friend to a Christian matchmaking service. My friend was rightfully agitated by the following statement on their homepage:

Bettie and I have looked around, and we have found a sad situation. It seems that one of the main reasons for going to college is to find a husband or wife. That is a poor reason for that kind of expenditure in time and money. I know there are many young men who are looking forward to and preparing for marriage, but have no calling of God to go to college. There are many young women who have been trained by their parents to be godly helpmeets and homemakers who have no calling to go to college and be a “career woman”. In fact, why would a woman go to college except to find a husband?
I will go further, and say, a woman in college is in violation of Titus 2, unless her goal is to be a better helpmeet and homemaker. A woman does need to be well educated in order to home educate her own children when the time comes; but going to college to prepare for a career outside of her home violates Titus 2.
(bolding mine)

Source

I was incredibly frustrated by this statement as well as the idea that the only appropriate place for a woman is in the home.

Titus 2, after all, isn’t really a model of biblical womanhood. The passage in Titus that pertains to women is the following:

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

This passage doesn’t preclude women from receiving education outside of that given by older women. In fact, I think the hyper-patriarchal Christians who promote the idea are unaware that if they use the passage to mean that women can only learn from older women to the exclusion of other educational venues, they then cut out the ability for women to learn from their husbands and fathers. That hardly works with the Patriarchal model they espouse. I have always loved Proverbs 31 as a biblical model of womanhood:

10 [c] A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.

11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.

12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.

14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.

15 She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.

16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.

18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.

19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:

29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

31 Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

The Proverbs woman provides her family with food. She has earnings (not an allowance, but earnings), she buys land and plants a vineyard. That sounds like she’s working outside of the home to me. And she’s considered the model of womanhood. In this day and age, meeting that model may require higher education.

I didn’t go to a four year college, so I’m not sitting here trying to defend my own life choices. I took a different path. I am by nature, an autodidact. I prefer learning on my own to classroom settings and always have. That said, there are many reasons for a higher education that have nothing to do with finding a husband or even becoming a career woman for that matter.

One can go to college just to expand one’s understanding and one’s mind. One can go to college to become educated in a way that will prepare them for a future if they are not blessed to have a husband. One can go to college to receive learning that will help them be a better intellectual partner to their spouse.

There are many reasons for college, and I have a deep distrust for anyone who, in the name of God, seeks to limit the options for women. Women traveled with Jesus, supporting his ministry financially. The early church met in the homes of women. Jesus first appeared resurrected to women. Women were an integral and important part of Christ’s ministry and the early church. I am frustrated by anyone who would seek to make women less than what they were in the presence of Our Lord. Especially if they want to say that they’re doing it at the command of scripture. I don’t like it when people twist the word of God to oppress.

Originally published to Our Homeschool on June 15th, 2007

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