Staying Power (Jeanne Murray Walker)

phone

Staying Power

In appreciation of Maxim Gorky at the International Convention of Atheists, 1929

Like Gorky, I sometimes follow my doubts   
outside to the yard and question the sky,   
longing to have the fight settled, thinking   
I can’t go on like this, and finally I say   
all right, it is improbable, all right, there   
is no God. And then as if I’m focusing   
a magnifying glass on dry leaves, God blazes up.   
It’s the attention, maybe, to what isn’t there   
that makes the emptiness flare like a forest fire   
until I have to spend the afternoon dragging   
the hose to put the smoldering thing out.   
Even on an ordinary day when a friend calls,   
tells me they’ve found melanoma,   
complains that the hospital is cold, I say God.   
God, I say as my heart turns inside out.   
Pick up any language by the scruff of its neck,   
wipe its face, set it down on the lawn,   
and I bet it will toddle right into the godfire   
again, which—though they say it doesn’t   
exist—can send you straight to the burn unit.   
Oh, we have only so many words to think with.   
Say God’s not fire, say anything, say God’s   
a phone, maybe. You know you didn’t order a phone,   
but there it is. It rings. You don’t know who it could be.   
You don’t want to talk, so you pull out   
the plug. It rings. You smash it with a hammer   
till it bleeds springs and coils and clobbery   
metal bits. It rings again. You pick it up   
and a voice you love whispers hello.
by Jeanne Murray Walker, Source: Poetry (May 2004)
illustration by Corrie Haffly

**************

My friend Aleah sent me this poem. It took her breath away when she first heard it, and it it did mine when I read it.

The Fierce, Strong, Wild Heart of God

If my memory was good enough to write a memoir: a story of spiritual significance and coming-of-age, this is the story I would want to write. It has moved me to tears more often than I can think of. I had heard many people say that having children was a blessing… but what I didn’t know was that for me, the greatest blessing of having children would be learning what it meant to be a most beloved child of God myself. 

When my friend Adriel Booker asked me to write for her series on the Motherheart of God, I knew instantly what I wanted to write. I know God as my Father, but Oh! It’s just amazing how becoming a mother has revealed God’s tender heart to me in a way I couldn’t have imagined. Here’s the beginning, and then head over to Adriel’s to read the rest. (And while you’re there, look around. I love Adriel’s blog.)

Exploring-the-Motherheart-of-God-

I went into motherhood with carefully weighed expectations:  I knew there would be fierce joy, thousands of photos too cute to delete, sleep deprivation, tantrum-taming, and way more contact with bodily fluids than I’d ever had before.  I also expected a few years spiritual lethargy.  With less time and energy for church, bible study and ministry, I expected to change gears for a couple of years: from spiritual ‘drive’ to a humming ‘neutral’.

I could not have been more wrong.

Friends, nothing has revealed God’s heart to me like becoming a mother. Nothing.

***

In the early days, there was the taking of pre-natal vitamins, and watching what I ate, of giving up skiing and wine without complaint as I marveled at the tiny being utterly dependent on my welcome. In the minutes of the first ultrasound, tears spilled down my cheeks as I saw a heartbeat flutter on the screen: life within my life, a soul of another already contained within mine. Oh, how I loved! And I shivered when, in that moment, I felt the words settle in deep: If this is how you love the little one dependent on you and completely unaware of it, how much more do I not love you, dependent and unaware and so utterly precious to me? 

(Click over to read the rest, won’t you?)

What God Teaches Us About Broken Vows

I was grateful to have this piece published by Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics yesterday. You can find the original post here.

divorce

Many divorced Christians have felt they step into church wearing a scarlet “D”. Author Elisabeth Corcoran was one of these. After her marriage of almost 19 years unraveled, Corcoran grappled with pain, confusion, and shame. Those feelings compounded when she was politely asked to step down from speaking at a church women’s Christmas event soon after her divorce. Hush-hush, of course.

Following the recent release of her book Unraveling: The End of a Christian Marriage, she moderates an online Facebook group for divorcees. She has heard hundreds of similar stories. Divorcees often hear the words “God hates divorce” from others. “I know,” one woman wrote, “I’m not such a fan myself.”

While research shows that marriages between actively practicing believers fare significantly better than others, the divorce rate within the church is still alarmingly high. Sadly, rather than experiencing the church as a place of comfort and restoration, divorcees often face a guilt-tripping response.

Differences in interpretation about when the Bible allows divorce (if ever) leaves some Christians feeling our hands are tied when we long to extend them in compassion. Plus, our deeply held belief that “it takes two” to make a marriage work mistakenly translates into a belief that “it takes two” to break a marriage up. We subconsciously assign blame accordingly.

However, the truth is that it only takes one to wreck a covenant, as we can learn from God’s own relationship with the northern kingdom of Israel.

Our own understanding of marriage is modeled on the very covenant God made with his people. As David Instone-Brewer explains in Divorce and Remarriage in the Church, God was Israel’s husband (Isa. 54:5), who took her to be his own and vowed to feed, clothe, cherish, and be faithful to her (Ezek. 16). In stark contrast to God’s faithfulness and care, Israel and Judah shamelessly disregarded the covenant: neglecting, abusing and betraying him. The prophets repeatedly called their behavior out as the violation of the covenant it was: adultery (Ezek. 23:37, Jer. 5:7).

God’s marital covenant with the northern kingdom of Israel had been wrecked by her hard-hearted behavior, and in Jeremiah 3:8 we hear these words: “for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce.” In Isaiah 50:1, he asks, “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce, with which I sent her away?”

God warns adulterous and apostate Judah to learn a lesson from Israel’s example. Both sister states had been unfaithful and broken their covenants with God, but while God had divorced Israel, he offered Judah a second (and third, and fourth) chance at mercy. His offer of restoration was beautifully enacted by Hosea in his marriage to unfaithful Gomer, and ultimately realized in the unbreakable marriage covenant between Christ and the church.

I had often noted God’s patient forgiveness and covenant renewal in Hosea, but God’s description of his own divorce with the northern kingdom of Israel was shocking to me. I had unquestioningly internalized the phrase “the sin of divorce.” Regardless of how I interpreted the debate about Jesus’ words on the topic, if God himself had experienced this unfaithfulness, I needed to re-think my understanding of sin and divorce.

Let me be clear: marriage covenants are meant to be permanent, and sin is always to blame when a marriage ends in divorce. We commit sin when we break our vows, and marriage requires the regular practice of confession and forgiveness for the failures and oversights between spouses. There is a difference, though, between minor, unintentional mistakes and willful violations of covenant vows. In the former, we are to forgive and “bear with one another in love.” In the latter, God allowed the victim a choice: to remain and forgive as he did with Judah, or to divorce where a covenant has been broken by “hardness of heart,” as happened with Israel.

The sin in divorce lies in the breaking of marriage vows, not necessarily in the divorce itself. God’s own divorce was entirely due to Israel’s hard-hearted sin. God was the blameless victim of divorce. When God says “I hate divorce” (Mal. 2:16), he says so not with the furious pointed finger of a judge, but with the broken-heartedness of One who has experienced the devastation of rejection and betrayal at the hands of his beloved.

Divorce is not God’s will or desire for us. Even where divorce is allowed, it is not commanded, and then it is still a tragedy. Divorce leaves behind devastation and victims in its wake.

That God himself is a divorcee, despite his faultless covenant faithfulness, calls us to a more nuanced understanding of marriage and divorce. In our own marriages, God calls us to follow his example of covenant faithfulness, and has demonstrated how much grace and forgiveness is needed to maintain a relationship in the face of human sinfulness. God’s example give us a framework to talk meaningfully about commitment and grace, and yet also to say that in situations of hard-hearted and deliberate covenant violation, divorce was allowed as God’s way of officially declaring a broken covenant “broken”.

We find wisdom when we view hot topics within the larger framework of Scripture. A discussion on purity should not just be about whether a person is a virgin when they marry (even if they’ve done “everything but”), but about how they steward their sexuality throughout their lives. Similarly, the litmus test for covenant faithfulness in marriage should not just be about whether or not someone got divorced (even if they did “everything but”), but about how we steward our marriages and make daily attempts to model God’s faithfulness to our spouses.

God calls us to covenant faithfulness. We need to mourn the sins we commit when we fail to keep our vows to our spouses before we lament the “sin of divorce.” Upholding and honoring marriage is not going to be accomplished by shaming and opposing divorce as much as it is by our gracious and firm commitment to upholding wedding-day vows of love, nurture, care and faithfulness. We are called to consider covenant faithfulness long before we consider divorce, and we are called to grace in the tragic event that divorce does happen.

Help, I’m newly married and pregnant

Yes, this is a photo of a stick with pee on it.

Yes, this is a photo of a stick with pee on it.

Dear Bronwyn,

I just found out that I am pregnant and have only been married 5 months! We were diligently taking birth control, I am in the middle of my graduate program & my husband makes very little money. How are we to handle such a big change that we did NOT plan on having for another 4 or 5 years?                                   – Not Ready

Dear Not Ready,

I well remember feeling so broke and afraid of getting pregnant when we first moved to the US. We were newly married, had no money and very little support and I couldn’t afford any health care at all. I think I would have collapsed on the floor weeping at first if that pregnancy test had two positive little lines.

It is a BIG surprise. And it means BIG changes for you. But this is one of those classic examples where we have to say that while man makes plans, The Lord ultimately directs our steps. And the things we know to be true about Him is that He is good. He loves you. And He calls us, just like Jesus said to the disciples in the boat in mark 6 when the waves were threatening to engulf them, to not be afraid, but to have faith.

Jesus will lead you through this.

I remember a few years into our marriage doing some reading and being convicted that I had had some very wrong thinking about marriage and kids. I realized I had been making pro and con lists about whether and when we should have kids. And then at some point it was as if God said to me: “Bronwyn, I have said that children are a BLESSING. By definition that means they are a PRO. why are you making pro and con lists when I already told you which it is?” It was hard to hear at first, but actually greatly freeing for me.

God has obviously decided that right now you get to be blessed with this pregnancy. He intends it for good. You are definitely old enough. You are married enough.

You are ten years older than Mary was when God chose her to be the mother of Jesus.
And you have more marital experience than she.
And you have better health care.
And you have the spirit of the living God jnside you.
You are going to do GREAT. Have faith: if God has called you to this, He will equip and provide!

As far as feeling ready or prepared for parenting…. Well, let me just say that I don’t think we are ever really READY to be parents. It’s a huge big surprising adventure in grace. God gives us pregnancy months not just to grow a baby, but also to grow us. By the time baby comes, we are as ready as we will ever be – and in God’s grace, it will be enough. We don’t get a second shot at anything in parenting: we are never ready for babies, or for the first time our kids sass us, or the first time they really hurt themselves, or for them to be teenagers. Parenting is all about living in the moment by Gods grace.

On a practical note: your ob-gyn may not see you for several weeks. A doctor may consider your home test sufficient proof and only schedule a first visit and ultrasound at around 10-12 weeks, so it is possible you will have a few weeks to wait. If so, here’s my advice:

  • Take pre natal vitamins. Start this TODAY and don’t delay. The big thing with prenatals is the folic acid which, in the first weeks of baby’s life, eradicate the possibility of spina biffida. If you get nauseous taking them, try taking them with food or at different times of the day. But do take them.
  • Even if you’re planning to keep this a secret for a while, tell a handful of people. The first trimester is sometimes easy going, but sometimes rough. It is exhausting physically, especially around weeks 8-11, and you may need help and grace from friends. Also, if something does happen with the baby, you will need support. Trust me on this: we had one miscarriage and I was glad I had told just a few people. I needed them.
  • Finally, look into state sponsored prenatal care, which may cover many (if not all) your prenatal costs, and possibly also your baby’s healthcare for the first year of their life. If you already have health care, state health care will pick up the co-pay/deductibles etc. In our case, we were only be able to apply after the first ultrasound as we had to take in the picture to prove your pregnancy, but it was totally worth the red tape and the wait. We were SO THANKFUL for it. The state support for young families made us all the more willing to pay tax dollars in the years that followed.

You are going to be okay! There is a community of older, godly women which God has prepared JUST FOR YOU to give you all the advice, help, nurture and encouragement you need. He will give you more mothers to bear you up as you set out on this new journey of being a mother yourself.

I hope this helps. You and your husband are starting out on a grand adventure. You may not be ready to hear this yet, but CONGRATULATIONS!

This one mamas tips on flying with kids

On our last big trip abroad, The Daddy of the family flew back 2 weeks before me – which meant that the final trip home was just me and my two littles aged 1 and 3. This was no joke of a trip: from door to door it was more than 40 hours: 1 hr check in, 2 hr flight, 3 hr international layover (and baggage change and passport control), 16 hour flight, 2 hr international layover (and baggage change and security/passport control), then RUN to make final connection for a 5 hour final flight…. but we missed it… so add another 2 hour delay, 3 hours flight, 2 hour layover, 3 hour flight. With the 1-year old on my lap. And THEN we got home.

And yet, apart from an all-three-of-us disappointment-meltdown when we missed our connection – the kids did not cry on this trip. They were happy, go-with-the-flow dream kids. They even did some sleeping! On the 16 hour flight, a number of the air hostesses complimented my kids on how well they were doing, and suggested jokingly “you should run seminars on traveling with kids!”. I was flattered and encouraged – but for what it’s worth – I also know that the smoothness of the trip did not happen because of my perfectly adjusted, never-whining kids. Ha! The trip went smoothly for two reasons: Firstly – because I had been stressing about it for months before and had asked every praying person I knew to pray for our trip. I fully believe God answered their prayers. But secondly – the trip went smoothly because I had been stressing about it for months before and had planned planned planned and planned some more.

I hope that by writing some of that planning planning planning down, perhaps some of you who may have to travel with littles in the future can save yourselves the months of stressing, and just do the smooth-travel part 🙂

So without further ado, here are some of the globe-trotting tips we put into practice:

littleboy-airport“Let’s pretend“:
In the weeks before the trip, the 3-year old and I played “let’s go on an airplane” trip. We pretended to stand in a long line, we played hopping games to pass the time, we pretended to go through security (climb under a table after removing your backpack), we carried our own backpacks, we got “on board” (the couch) and buckled our pretend buckles. We listened for the “ping” of the fasten seatbelts sign. We talked about how long a trip it would be and we practiced getting out her bear and blanket and taking naps. And waking up. and taking more naps. And having a snack. and taking more naps. (Lather rinse repeat). This may not sound like a fun game for us grownups, but believe me – my preschooler was ALL OVER IT.

“A big kid gets their own suitcase“:
I let my daugher pick out a $7 backpack with rolling wheels at Walmart (forgive me), which she called her “suitcase” for the trip. Together – we packed her bear and blanket, her headphones (more on that later), and her water bottle. She felt very grown-up, and she also had all her security items on her. The rolling backpack also turned out to be a total hit with the 15 month old, who rolled it around every departure lounge we stopped in!

“Mommy’s yummy take-off (and landing) snacks”:
My kids are too little to chew gum or know how to ‘pop’ their ears for pressure changes, so I packed little snacks specifically for take-off and landing so that they would chew/sip throughout the ascent and descent. Think mini bags of goldfish, fruit snacks, raisins, animal crackers etc. Little things with not too much sugar or salt. We had eight ascents and descents on our trip, so I tried to pack a variety. I also asked for a bottle of milk on the plane for my youngest to drink during take-off.

“Mommy’s amazing bag of tricks”
This was, for sure, the piece de resistance of my planning. I put together about 20 small, novel things in one gallon-sized ziploc bag. Each item was wrapped in tissue paper (unwrapping it is a novel activity in itself), and a few were produced on each leg of the trip. I wrote what the item was on the outside of the wrapping – my kids couldn’t read it anyway, and it helped me decide what ‘trick’ to dish out next. My bag of tricks included:
2 small dinosaurs for imaginative play
a little slinky
a truck
a travel sized aquadoodle – a brilliant toy for kids which uses a pen filled with WATER (no mess!) to draw!
a ‘slinky pop tube‘ – this $1-bin toy was definitely my best buy – it made fun sounds, fun shapes, could be used as a microphone or telephone system, a telescope etc…
sticker books
two small new reading books (on trucks and princesses respectively)
a new pack of crayons and coloring book
a mini etch-a-sketch
a cheap wind-up squirrel that spun on the tray table
a hand puppet (this was particularly helpful before take-off when we had about 45 mins to wait as people boarded around us. I sat on the floor under my daughter’s quilt (more about that later too) and played peek-a-boo with a polar bear puppet the whole time.
A squishy ball.
Party-favor sized bubbles (these were marvelous at the airport. I felt like the pied piper as I blew bubbles in the Atlanta airport departure lounge and had about 15 kids joining mine to chase and pop the bubbles)
a small tub of play-doh (in a small zip loc bag)
A $1 pack of “gel stickers” in the shape of airplanes. The kids had great fun sticking them on the airplane windows and “flying” them around.
An “I spy” book- fabulous for take-off and landing too!
There were a couple more things I can’t remember… but I promise, it all fit in a gallon-sized bag! I borrowed a few items, had a few items at home which I hid about a month before the time so they would be “new” again for the trip, and then bought a few. I did not spend more than $25…. dollar store items mostly.

Other nice-to-haves:
* I had one “emergency melt-down” little bag for my 3-year old – for the “extreme situation” when she could not handle the waiting anymore. It was a little silk purse and contained 5 shiny stickers, two chocolate coins, a ring for her finger, and a special ‘color-me-wonder’ painting book with dora-the-explorer. I pulled it out when we missed our flight and I had to stand in the re-booking line for an hour as my kids nearly lost it. Thanks to the emergency melt-down bag, there was no melt-down in that emergency 🙂
* we decided some time ago to invest in kids headphones: they are small and have volume control and fit over their ears (the airline ear buds don’t work for kids – they are too big to fit in their little ears). We use these headphones at home or in the car sometimes with our portable dvd player, and decided to take one pair on the plane. it was a great call – on the long haul of the flight, the 3-yr old could watch in-flight movies with comfortable headphones that she already knew how to control the volume on. I highly recommend it!

Hands-free kit:
What to check? What to carry-on? My rule of thumb was all about having free hands. So I chose NOT to take our car seats, but to borrow/rent at destination – because I didn’t have a free hand to deal with getting a car seat on and off the plane. I chose not to take a stroller for the same reason: I cannot push a stroller and handle our bags simultaneously. So all I took with me on the plane was:
– a back-pack style diaper bag containing 4 changes of clothes for the little, 2 for the big. For some reason, poop blow-outs are almost guaranteed when you fly – so go prepared. I bought compression bags at target and squished the clothes in there to save space.

– diapers, wipes, butt paste, tissues, kids ibuprofen, kids benadryl (I tried drugging them on the way there – it didn’t really work)

– 2 bottles for baby’s milk, assorted snacks, sippy cups.

-my Ergo baby carrier (so I could carry the baby in the front, with the backpack on the back)

-One carry-on suitcase with wheels which contained:

  •  a change of clothes for me,
  •  my amazing bag of tricks,
  • a small ziploc bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb and travel size moisturizer for me,
  • my camera, my cell phone, another small folder with itinerary, passports and pens,
  • and then the other half of the suitcase was filled with my daughter’s quilt. She sleeps with it every night, and it doubles as a tent/puppet show veil, comfort blanket, tug-o-war tool etc. we debated whether it was worth packing such a bulky item – but it was totally worth it.

– the preschooler’s toy rolling suitcase (which was her job to carry).

EVERYTHING else went in one large rolling suitcase which I put in checked baggage, and could attach to my small-carry on suitcase during layovers (so I only had one thing to pull instead of two).

Yep – so go ahead and picture it – tired woman with a backpack on back, a toddler on front, two suitcases being towed in one hand, a tired three-year old held by the other hand who in turn is dragging a bright pink rolling suitcase… RUNNING down the Atlanta concourse trying to make that plane…. and as tears ran down my cheeks my sweet kid was shouting “you can do it mommy! good running! we’ll make it!” Talk about overwhelming…

And yet we made it – and we did more than survive! We had fun 🙂 With a bit of preparation and a lot-of-prayer, this scared-and-usually-unprepared mama traveled 35,000kms with 2 kids 3 and under… with almost no tears. And friends, if I can do it – you SURELY can!

I hope your travels, even with little ones, will be smooth and tear-free this summer.

the pair at the door

Last week I had an encounter that just about broke my heart.

It was around dinner-time and the pots were boiling, counters were cluttered, kids were clamoring. You know, the regular 6pm drill. A knock on the door announced the arrival of two fresh-faced Mormon missionaries. (Aside: The older I get the stranger it seems to greet these youngsters as they ask to be called: “Elder Smith” and “Elder Mason”, but anyway….)

So there were two Mormons at the door, wanting to chat.

In years past, I have sent them away: courteous but dismissive (No thanks, I already have faith in Jesus. Good bye)

In years past I have invited them in and been passionate but argumentative (No! That’s not what the Bible says. Where do you find that?)

In years past I have invited them in and tried to be courteous but still landed up feeling argumentative (I’m sorry, that’s not what the Bible says).

In all these interactions, I have always had my ‘defensive guard’ on, seeing myself as defending the gospel that God freely GIVES us His favor through Jesus, contrary to their message that you have to WORK to attain God’s favor.. I have viewed them as Pharisees: self-righteous and preaching a burdensome message that you have to attain your own righteousness before God. And like the Pharisees in the gospels, I have seen them opponents Jesus silenced, rebuked, corrected.

Until last night.

Last night our kids were around and Jeremy was talking with them at the door, and on a whim I invited them to our dinner table. I warned them that there would be no arguing at our dinner table in front of the kids and that they had to “play nice”. And I asked questions: how did you come to be a missionary? where are you from? how long are you into your stint? how long have you been in Davis? How are you doing being so far away from home? And friends, i discovered some heartbreaking things.

These young guys, full of sincerity and zeal, take a 2 year commitment believing they are earning God’s favor by doing so. They are not allowed to call home except on Christmas and Mothers day. But they are allowed to write once a week, they hastily assured me.

I asked the more argumentative of the two about his reasons for deciding to go on a mission. He told us that his parents’ marriage hadn’t been doing well and that he hoped that, by going on the mission, Heavenly Father would bless his family and perhaps spare his parents’ marriage.

Friends, I nearly burst into tears on the spot. For years, I have seen these travelers as young Pharisees. But last week I saw them in a completely new way. I saw the Rich Young Ruler, coming to Jesus full of earnest desire to do right.

“Teacher,” he said, “What must I do to possess eternal life?”

“You know the commandments” said Jesus.

He heard Jesus, but didn’t hear him. “Teacher, all of these I have kept since I was a boy.”

And Mark 10 says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. For all his misguided zeal. For all his sincerity.

Sitting at our dinner table, I looked at these young guys and loved them. How lonely they must be! How hard to be away from your family for 18 months – hoping every day your parents will stay together and finding out 7 months later when you are finally allowed to call that dad has moved to Texas and they split up anyway. How lonely to have no-one call you by your first name for TWO YEARS. I bet no-one has hugged them in as long either.

Our dinner was cut short as they had another appointment to go to. But as they left, the one young ‘Elder’ thanked us warmly. Tearing up, he said that no one had ever invited him in in the 18 months he had been door to door, and we had no idea what this meant to him.

I was so stunned. And so ashamed. After they left I prayed for them and wept for them. I asked God to forgive me for the many, many times I bludgeoned young visitors like them with the Bible instead of loving them as the Lord does. All those years I was hoping I would be able to show them what real Christianity looked like, but I had failed to listen to what Jesus had said: “they will know we are christians by our love.”

I write this as a confession. And I write this because Hebrews says we should consider how we can spur one another on to love and good deeds. Believing friends: next time two young guys knock on your door, invite them in. Love them. They don’t need answers as much as they need grace, and we have access to storehouses of it.

A mom’s momentary insight on God and sex

what does God think about

In my years of campus ministry, I was often asked questions about sex:

What does God think of sex?

What’s the big deal about premarital sex?

How far is too far?

And why are Christians so UPTIGHT about this issue?

If sex is supposed to be a good thing, why does it seem like God is a prude about it?

I struggled my way through those questions as best I could as a single person, and then later as a married person… but now as a parent, it makes sense to me in a new way, and I write this in the hope that it might shed a little light for you too.

I confess that for most of my life, if asked “What does God think of sex?”, my answer would have been that His attitude was somewhere between “disapproving” and “indifferent”. Disapproving if you weren’t married. Indifferent if you were.

I remember what a shock it was when we did pre-marital counseling and we were reading things about God’s approval of and delight in sex: He created it and he was “present in the bedroom with us”. After years of imagining God as either disapproving or indifferent, this was a shocking and shameful thought…. but on the other side of marriage I realized it was no longer shameful. But I didn’t really ever give the matter of “God’s view of sex” much thought again.

However, one night during a bout of insomnia when my mind was pondering all sorts of things: why do we call it a ‘monkey’s wedding’ when the sun shines and it rains at the same time? why does asparagus make your pee smell? how could I have answered that question about sex better?…

… Suddenly, it dawned on me that I have a new paradigm through which to think about this issue: the lens of parenthood. There are MANY (wonderful, life-saving, grace-filled and comforting) things about God-as-parent I have learned from being a parent, and this one was new and so very helpful to me.

You see, God is our PARENT. As loving parents, we do not view our children with something between “disapproval or indifference”. The spectrum of emotion of a loving parent ranges between wild and joyous delight on the one hand, and and utter horror and fear for their safety on the other! Either way, you are emotionally involved. And either way, you are filled with love and goodwill towards your child. And because you love them, what makes the difference between wild delight and utter horror is context.

Allow me to illustrate (with thanks to google images):

 

A parent is filled with heart-filled, grab-the-camera, gushing sentimentality when their child discovers the joy of snuggling with pets:

 

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Unless that pet is a bone-crushing snake:

 

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A parent is overwhelmed with the cuteness of a kid’s first sweet kisses of affection:

 

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… unless you think your kids’ object of affection is a pig.

 

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A parent loves watching their kids’ joy as they lick the cake-batter:

 

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Unless there’s an electrocution hazard involved:

 

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A parent laughs out loud at the joy of watching their kid discover new tastes and textures:

 

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… depending on the ick-factor of the said tastes and textures:

 

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A parent takes cutesy pictures of their kids learning to use tools around the house:

 

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… Unless the outlets aren’t covered and it would be unwise to delay intervention:

 

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In each of these instances, the kid is doing something ‘natural’ and ‘innocuous’: playing, exploring, interacting, learning; and in each of these cases the kid is happy, curious, and blissfully unaware.

What makes the difference between a parents’ “aw sweeeeet!” response and “NOOOOOOOOO! Stooooooopppppp!!!!!” response is not necessarily the activity involved (snuggling, using tools, eating etc), which are not dangerous activities in themselves. It’s the CONTEXT in which it is done, since the parent with their wisdom and experience is able to assess a danger which the kid cannot. To offer another example, there’s nothing wrong with drinking green liquid from a cup… as long as it’s juice and not household cleaning chemical! (True story from my own life: 6-year-old-me was in hospital for 2 days with a burnt out mouth because I made that mistake)

So here’s this one mom’s momentary insight on God and sex:

It is simply not true that God is ever “indifferent” or “disapproving” on the subject of sex.

God is emotionally involved and invested and passionate about his CHILDREN and he’s emotionally invested in SEX: he made it after all and he cares how it gets treated…. and seeing Him as a PARENT in this issue helps me ‘get it’.

God is not indifferent towards sex in marriage. The book of Song of Songs in the Bible is proof enough that God is VERY pro-sex-in-marriage. Song of Songs is so erotic and racy and vivid at times it made me wonder at its place in the bible. And of course I would wonder, if I thought God was indifferent or disapproving. But neither of those is true. When sex is an activity of His children done in a safe way (and he says that’s marriage), God is joyfully, aw-sweet, parental-pride-and-vicariously-joyful about it. Think proud, joyful, delighted Daddy.

But when that same behavior happens in a context which He, as the wiser older experienced Parent, sees as dangerous and destructive (a road to Death, Proverbs calls it)… He as a parent cries the protective “noooo! don’t do it!!!!!” God is not so much disapproving of sex outside of marriage, as he is deathly afraid for the welfare of his kids.

Think of a kiddo scaling a 40 foot ladder: The kid grins and shouts “look Dad! I’m fine! I can do it!”, proud of the height they have climbed, but Dad sees the crack in the rungs and the deathly drop of the fall.

So our Heavenly Father says: no sex outside of marriage.

Not because He’s a prude, but because He’s a Dad.

And I think that makes all the difference.