#MeToo

#MeToo is bringing up all sorts of stuff for women, myself included. I’m remembering my 20 something self and the harassment I received, thinking it was just part of life. Everyone gets grabbed at the club right? One of those awful moments was when I was in seminary, looking for an urban youth ministry job. During the interview process I was hit on by the guy I was looking to replace. I was young and he was very good looking and older with the job that I wanted. The double punch of power and sex.

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But, like most women, I pressed on because that was not enough to stop me from my call. Now, as a single woman in often straight, married, male dominant spaces, I find myself overlooked, dismissed, or a threat of some sort to some. This comes with intersections of race, gender, marital status and a healthy dose of patriarchal theology. I say this because it is related to whether or not we see each other as equals or objects.

Thankfully I am tremendously blessed with a dad, brother, and uncles who raised me to reach beyond what I thought were limits. I have a healthy network of married and single male friends who support me and for whom I am grateful for every single day. My prayer is that we all have a good, healthy support base of both men and women.

For my nieces and the young women I have had the honor of mentoring or journeying with over the years: yes you are beautiful AND intelligent AND strong AND your worth goes far beyond how others treat you. May the #MeToo’s end so that your generation doesn’t have to experience the humiliating, violating, and unsafe spaces that the hashtag has uncovered. And to my nephews and the young men I have had the honor of mentoring or journeying with over the years: You are also beautiful AND strong AND intelligent and your worth goes far beyond whatever toxic ways we have taught you about what it means to “be a man”. We need to treat each other as more than objects to our personal means.

 

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The Ache of Advent

Now that the Christmas season is over and we are on the eve of a new year, I have some time to reflect on what I can only call “The Ache of Advent”.  The word advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning a coming, approach, or arrival. For Christians, the weeks leading up to Christmas have been a waiting for the Messiah to come.

I generally love the Christmas season, but some years are tougher then others. As a slightly impatient person, my struggles often come in the form of waiting. Many us are waiting for something. Maybe we are waiting for a better job or a promotion. Maybe we are waiting for a relationship to get better or reconciled. Maybe we are waiting for the pain to end from unmet expectations or tragic loss. Whatever the case, the season is a season of waiting. The new year is on the horizon and the advent season allows us not only to wait for the coming of Christ, but also wait on new experiences and relationships in the coming year.

In pentecostal churches I often hear pastors speak of the coming of a “breakthrough”.  I take that to mean the breakthrough of whatever is holding us back from becoming or pursuing all that God has for us. The promise of breakthrough is powerful and hopeful for those of us who are waiting on change to happen. The Holy Spirit brings freedom as we breakthrough that which holds us captive.

The Hebrew definition of salvation is freedom from captivity. Advent is the waiting for the arrival of the Messiah who will free us from our captivity. We can be held captive by any number of things. Captivity can come from our insecurities and fears, our doubts, external oppressors, internal demons, social expectations and a number of other constraints. Advent is the season where we wait and hope on the Messiah to free us here on earth as it is in heaven. This is the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

However, while we Christians believe that Christ is our freedom, it does not preclude us from the experience of the ache of advent. There is pain in the waiting and often we try to answer the ache ourselves. The stores lure us into thinking that joy and happiness will come from giving or getting that perfect gift. Facebook can deceive us into thinking everyone else in the world is happy as we scroll through the newsfeed of people getting engaged or having babies or other happy events. Buying things to make us feel better, dating someone to fill temporary voids, watching Bridget Jone’s Diary over and over are some ways to deal with the ache. But this year, instead of numbing the ache, I have decided that the ache is actually a good thing. The ache of advent is a season of lament and a recognition that we are in need of so much more then the world can offer us. This year, I chose to embrace the ache.

I am grateful for the churches who hold “Longest night” services. This practice of lament is a welcome space to be embraced by the church as a recognition that Emmanuel, God is truly with us. God is with us in our pain and darkness just as God is with us in our joy.

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For the single person, the ache of advent can come in the the form of longing for intimacy with another person. Whether physical or emotional, this ache can make someone (okay…me) want to jump out of their skin. Married friends are quick to remind me that marriage can be lonely as well. Our insatiable hearts desire to be known and to be loved regardless of whether or not we have a spouse or an abundance of family and friends. The Triune God created us in relationship and for relationship with God and with one another. As I’ve talked with some lonely married friends, we can agree that it is only Jesus Christ that can truly fill our insatiable hearts.

As we turn our calendars to 2016 my prayer for you is to embrace the seasons of ache as a reminder that only God is enough.  With this embrace, God welcomes us with open arms. As my friend, Joshua Beckett has reminded me, there is beauty in the ache. The ache points us to the One who knows us intimately and loves us like no other can.

The ache of Advent comes with a promise. The One whom we wait for has come and will come again. Even if our aches come in the form of desired relationships or new life outcomes, the Messiah has come to realign our hearts to God who loved us first and actively loves us deeply in this season.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Learning to Dance

I’m not a fan of partner dancing. Salsa, tango, waltz, jitterbug…it’s all lost on me. I like watching people dance, but when it comes to my own rug cutting, I’m a mess. Living in California, salsa can be part of ones social life. It’s an expression of joy, a release of the day’s worries and a way to connect face to face with someone. For me it’s a pressure cooker I try to avoid. Once, for my friend’s birthday, we went to a dance club. I took the lesson they offered at the beginning and fared fine (I didn’t say I couldn’t dance), but once the open dancing started I lasted all of two songs before I found myself hiding in the car.

On another occasion, an older gentlemen asked me to dance. It was clear he enjoyed the dance itself. Over and over this grandfatherly voice would encourage me, “Relax.  Let me lead.  Relax.”

I realized that I struggle with partner dancing because I don’t know how to be lead.  In salsa, your partner nudges you in one direction and you go with that suggestions. Sometimes they suggest going to the left or right in a subtle way and sometimes they take a firmer grip as they raise your arm to twirl you around. What was a fun night out becomes a theological struggle for me as I immediately realize that my inability to let the guy lead the dance is in direct correlation to my difficultly letting God lead my dance. How many times did I fight back when I knew God was nudging me in a certain direction? How many times did I question the leading? How many times did I question my own ability to follow?

In my Esther Salon year I decided to pray over this. I prayed and asked God to help me follow better. In the stillness of my prayers I saw images of dancing. I felt God calling me to enjoy the dance. Each morning I would ask “What kind of dance shall we do today?” And each morning God would answer with a different kind of dance.

The first day I pictured a waltz. It was fast paced and orchestrated. I could picture letting God lead me through the steps and around the room, spinning us both and gliding through the crowd. My partner in the dance was in charge of the direction and my only responsibility was to relax and let God lead. That same day someone offered me suite seats to a Warriors NBA game with a few good friends. I can barely afford to buy cheap tickets to a game, let alone sit in box seats. It was an opportunity I didn’t see coming, but one that I truly enjoyed. There are fun surprises in the dance.

Another day I would picture salsa dancing. The dance changed everyday. My favorite days would be when I felt the freedom to “free style”.  This season of prayer was an exercise in relaxing and enjoying the day as I let God lead.

Exercise:  Pray and ask God what the dance of the day will be. Sometimes it may be a fast paced dance and sometimes a slow and intimate one, but allow the space to listen and hear. Use your imagination. Listen to the silence. Allow the first dance thought to dictate your day.  Relax and let God lead.

Are My Wings Showing?

“Your wings are too big,” he said on their date. Her heart sank because she knew she couldn’t operate as anything less. This winged warrior is beautiful, dynamic and intelligent. Her zest for life and compassion for others is what drew him to her. It’s ironic isn’t it? The very thing that makes us attractive can sometimes be held against us.

This has been one of the tensions I have wrestled with in my single life. How do we fully live out our belovedness when that means it alienates men who have been socialized and theologically conditioned to think they have the monopoly on accomplishments and ambition?

For instance, I recently connected with a man on a dating website. He’s a pastor with children. His first question to me was “How ambitious are you?”  I replied, “In terms of worldly desires to reach some sort of self significance, I am not ambitious. However, in terms of following the call I feel God has given me, yes I will obey God to the end.”  I never heard from him again.

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My parents raised me with an unrestricted, fully supportive understanding that I can do and be whatever I want. Couple that with a strong and clear call from God to serve others and well…I guess I now have wings too big for some. This all relates to complimentarianism. I’m going to have to blog about gender equality on a new post, but for now I’m just calling out the issue Christian women face in relationships. Our wings can be too big for some men. Not all men, but some.

I can’t imagine stifling my gifts or setting aside my passions so my partner can feel more significant. I want a relationship where we can both pursue our calls. I know that in relationships comprimise has to happen and that there are instances where both people can’t pursue conflicting goals at the same time, but that’s something that can be worked on together.

During my Esther Salon year, I saw images of how God would use a husband in my life. I won’t go into those personal details, but I will say that we were a team. His strengths and weaknesses complemented my strengths and weaknesses. It wasn’t about gender roles, it was about what we both brought to the table and how we could both encourage and uphold one another. From that time on, I have prayed for the husband God showed me in my prayers. Anything other than that would not be enough. This image and understanding has allowed me a peace in my singleness.

I am making a distinction here about what I have asked for in a partner and what God has shown me. When I ask for certain qualities in a partner, it tends to center around filling my needs and desires.  But when I prayed with God’s desires in mind, I was able to see a completely different vision for relationship then I had ever dreamed of. For the first time, I was able to see a relationship that didn’t compete with the call God has given me, but a relationship that actually strengthened that call for both my partner and myself. It was such a beautiful picture. Instead of picturing a relationship that fixed my insecurities and needs and desires, it was a picture of a relationship that thrived in living out God’s call in both of our lives. In this picture, the husband wasn’t the end vision, the husband was a part of the greater vision.  A PART! Suddenly longing for a husband wasn’t the greatest idol in my heart. The bigger picture for how and where God is moving and my part in the divine narrative became much more important.

Exercise:  Ask God to show you God’s desires for your life and ministry.  Ask God what desires you should hold on to and what, if any, you may need to let go of.  Sometimes, when we’re ready to let go of something we think we need, God comes in with something greater than we could have imagined for ourselves.

Wasting Away, Wanting and Waiting Part 3

Waiting.  Today felt like the perfect day to write this blog.  Today is the day in between Good Friday and Easter.  It is the day of waiting.  It is the day commemorating the day Jesus’ body lay in the tomb.  It is the day when the disciples probably felt all hope was lost.  They mourned the loss of Jesus, convinced that he was gone for good.

It is also the day of rest.  Sabbath.  Some have called this day the Great Sabbath.  It was the day when Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of Jesus had to wait before they could tend to the body as they intended to on Sunday.  I can only imagine how anxious they must have felt.  My own mother has a terrible time of staying still…especially when mourning. When my grandmother passed away last year, my mother went full force into preparation mode for funeral arrangements, out of town family hosting, and then taking care of my grandmother’s belongings and affairs.  It was her way of honoring and taking care of her mother one last time and also a way to deal with such a painful experience.  I can imagine that the Great Sabbath was not restful for Mary, mother of Jesus.  As many mothers would feel, I can see how she might have wanted to take care of him even if for one last time.  She probably wanted make sure his body was prepared for burial properly. Except on Saturday she had to wait.  She could not do anything about Friday and didn’t know what was about to happen on Sunday.  But, as Tony Campolo quotes from his pastor at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.”

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The gist of that message is that even though the hour looks bleak, we can have hope that Jesus is alive. Saturday is a day of waiting, but Sunday’s coming.

What does that mean for us singles and those that pray with unmet expectations?  Sunday’s coming. My 20’s and 30’s were wrecked with forced Sabbaths.  Sabbaths are difficult when all we want to do is DO.  I’m a do-er.  I’m the Martha versus Mary.  I’m the one who needs to make things happen or I’ll implode.

I remember 3 days before I graduated seminary, my roommate found me on my computer on both Monster.com and Match.com trying to get a job and a husband before we graduated.  More recently, in my need to “do” I’ve found myself on  Eharmony, shopping on a mission, ready to add someone to my cart and pay for express delivery.  This, mind you, is different from my more laid back friends who can take it as a way to date which is just a way to meet new people that could possibly lead to something else.  My need to “do” causes me to find a husband the way I find grain-free, dairy-free, gluten-free coconut tortilla wraps.  But today I must wait.

Praying year after year and hanging on to hope that God will answer favorably can be incredibly difficult. One of the greatest reasons, I think, is because many of us no longer know what it means to wait.  Here in Silicon Valley, I can order office supplies from Google Express to be delivered that day, subscribe to a meal service where they bring me food I can prepare in 10 minutes (and still feel like it’s homemade because well, technically…), and stream videos instantly.  Not only do I not have to wait, I don’t even have to move!  This is the culture many of us live in.

There are women in Africa who walk long distances and then stand in line and wait to draw water for their homes each day.  There are people who fish and hunt, not just for sport but because that’s how they sustain their families.  They wait for water and food because that’s what they need to do.  Waiting brings life.

And so it is on the Great Sabbath.  Where Friday brought death, waiting for Sunday can bring life.  It’s painful at times and slow and anxiety producing yes, but it’s also a discipline in hope and patience.  While we may want to “getter dun” and act on the things we want and desire, we need to also learn to wait.  I know some of you may be thinking, “Okay, I have enough character built by this point.”  Or “Haven’t I waited faithfully long enough?”  But those are not questions we get to answer and so we wait.

What I have found most helpful in this waiting period is working on my peace and trust in the Lord.  I know it sounds super cliche Christian, but that’s all I’ve got.  I’m not talking compartmentalized peace in Jesus, where you can have full trust in him in every aspect of your life…except singleness.  Or where we lie to ourselves and say “I trust the Lord” and yet remain anxious and impatient.  I mean deep, raw trust and commitment to the Lord where  you can sacrifice the very desire you want most.  Can you give up what may have become an idol?

One night I was driving home on the freeway and I was struck by the decision of choosing my desire for a husband and Jesus.  I was in tears as I realized what God was asking of me.  If I died that night, would I end up in heaven bitter that I didn’t get what I wanted most out of life?  The question I heard in the car by myself was “Am I really enough?”  That night I prayed, “I choose you God.”  And for the years following I have had to remind myself and pray that prayer over and over again.  I choose you God.

Waiting is terrible when we don’t have a peace about what will happen next. I know the idea of giving up this desire may seem insane and scary.  You may be thinking, “If I give up this desire then God may take me up on that.”  I’m not saying give up on your desires altogether, because clearly I haven’t.  But there is something about checking in with our hearts about the order of importance our desires have in our lives.  Is God’s grace truly sufficient for you?

When I was able to grasp His love for me wholly (or at least as much as I can), I was able to take a deep breath and step back.  I can wait today because I know Sunday is coming.

Part 2: Wanting

Last week’s post was a little brutal I know.  But sometimes it takes a little kick to wake up to patterns we have inadvertently created in our singleness.  And then there are times where it just plain stinks.  Today we’re talking about “wanting”.  In the Esther Salon I describe wanting as praying for a spouse, but struggling with hope and trust that God will answer favorably.

This is the emotional space where one is taking care of themselves, serving others, and living life as close to Christ-like as one can think of living.  This is the place where everything I do feels like it’s not enough.  If it was enough, God would answer my prayers right?  If I did A + B it should = C right?  If I live righteously, give generously, serve humbly and pray faithfully then God should hear my heart and answer right? What more does God want from me?

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This is a painful place to be. I know this too well.  It’s the place where the Lies live. Wanting is the emotional place where the Enemy whispers into our ear as we survey our present status and think, “I’m not pretty enough.”  or “I’m getting too old.  It’s too late.”  It is the place where we replace the reality of our awesomeness with the lies of our inadequacies.  It is a place similar to when Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit and became ashamed of her Imago Dei.  Eve was created in the image of God, wonderfully and fearfully made as the Psalms says, but once the Lies crept in, she, along with Adam, found shame in their nakedness.

Wanting is painful because once we do everything we can think to do to honor God, we have run out of answers as to why we’re still single.  It doesn’t make sense.  Your friends, your favorite aunt, and heck even people you just meet say it, “I don’t get why you’re still single.”  And so the Lies take this opportune moment to tell us why we’re single “you’re body needs work”, “you’re too much”, “you’re too little”, “you messed up too many times”.  And there we stand, like on the Bachelor, without a rose and a promise for the future.

One night I was having a very difficult time with wanting.  It hurt to my physical heart.  I was lying in bed, curled up in the emotional and the (self diagnosed) psycho-physiological pain of wanting.  In the midst of my tears and cries out to the Lord I heard very distinctly, “Do you trust me?”  I immediately stopped crying, wiped my tears and thought about my answer.  My first thought to God was, “That’s not what I wanted to hear.  I wanted to hear you say, he’s coming.”  But I knew I had to answer the question.  Do I trust God?  The question wasn’t “Do you trust me to provide a husband for you?”  or “Do you trust me if I keep you single?”  The question was simply “Do you trust me?”  The great I Am was calling me to be still and know the he is God.  Jesus Christ was reaching his hand to me, his bride asking, “Do you trust me?”

It was then that I realized if I want to know marital intimacy, maybe I should start with the One who loved me first.  Maybe I should work on replacing the Lies that have paralyzed my heart with the sweet nothings from the One that loves me.  Popular idioms tell us we should “love ourselves”, but I gotta say that’s easier to say then do.  But what I can do is embrace the sweet nothings of the One who calls me by name. I can meditate on the One who knows me and loves me in my darkest hours and celebrates with me in my victorious moments.  Let’s start there.

I don’ know the answers to my wanting or to yours.  The question is simply, “Do you trust me?”  The only way I could answer that authentically was to embrace God’s love for me more fully.  If I can better understand God’s deep and vast love for me, then maybe I can trust that much more.

Exercise:  Read this excerpt from Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved out loud and to yourself.  Allow Nouwen’s use of scriptures to replace the lies with the truth.  Say it as many times as needed until it begins to be the voice you carry.  *I wrote this on my mirror because I needed to be reminded daily.

I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests, I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb.  I have carved you in the palm of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all  your thirst.  I will not hide my face from you.  You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover, and your spouse…and even your child…wherever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us, We are one,

Wasting Away, Waiting and Wanting Part 1

“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” is a phrase no single gal likes to hear, but has probably said to herself.  My friends had all gotten married in waves. One set got married right after college, another set tied the knot about 7 years after college and then the waves of home buying and baby making proceeded.  With each major life change, my friends planted their flags along the way toward adulthood.  Me?  I was running to catch up, but moving nowhere fast.  No husband, no home, no baby.  It took me a little longer to feel like an adult without these major markers to indicate my adulthood.

Soon the next wave of marriages happened; my youth group kids.  That was fun. I had moved from being a bridesmaid to actually officiating weddings and while I was truly happy for the couple, it was sometimes difficult to walk them through vows I had yet to make myself.  I have gone through what feels like ALL of the emotions and phases a single gal can go through.  I have summed them up into three categories:  Wasting Away, Waiting, and Wanting.  Today we’re talking about Wasting Away.

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In short I describe “Wasting Away” as when I gave up on God hearing me. I had prayed every prayer and said every word I could think to say.  I had my team of prayer warriors praying with me and for me.  I fasted.  I journaled.  I cried. I cried with friends and I cried alone. After a while I was tired of crying so I simply gave up. I knew I couldn’t force God’s timing or God’s will. I didn’t feel called to being single, but I also didn’t see my romantic life going anywhere either.

I had succumbed to singleness against my will and it wasn’t pretty.  It showed in the way I dressed, in the way I took care of myself and in the way I carried myself. I focused all my energy in serving others and dismissed the need put myself in any sort of priority.  While I could love others, I had no idea how to receive love back. I didn’t ask for help.  I took the single narrative so far that it turned into “I don’t need anyone.  I can do everything all by myself.” This narrative seeped into my theological understanding.  Without realizing it, my independence became an independence from God.  I stopped needing God’s movement in my life because God didn’t seem to be moving the way I wanted or as fast as I wanted.

For some of my friends, this distrust manifested in other ways.  Some settled for the good-for-now guys.  These are the guys who aren’t exactly who you’re ready to marry, but they are good for now. We can even convince ourselves that we love them at times, but in our deepest hearts we know we’re forcing the relationship because it seems better then being alone.  Others became very controlling of their environments.  Independence has an interesting way of making us feel in control and self righteous, but it can also be a way of masking the pain of disappointment.

I know, Wasting Away sounds harsh.  But when we choose our will over God’s we truly are just wasting away what could otherwise be a life of adventure and abundance.  When we take matters in our own hands because we don’t really trust that God will come through with what we want, we waste away our divine purpose. Maybe we decide to put off moving to another city or taking that job because we don’t want to make another major decision without a spouse to share it with. Maybe we have focused so much on waiting for a spouse or filling our own need for one that we have ceased to pursue any other purpose in life.  Maybe we have avoided taking care of ourselves with the noble excuse of helping others (they don’t have to be mutually exclusive).  I call it Wasting Away because as long as getting married is the only purpose we have in life, we miss out on life itself.

Here’s the harsh reality:  marriage is not guaranteed.Does that shatter your understanding of God? If it does, we’ve got some work to do.  I’m pretty sure there are more single Christian women then single Christian men. I don’t have any statistics on hand, but look around your church and tell me if I’m wrong.  I’m going to take bets that I’m mostly right on this one.  Silicon Valley, where I live, has one of the highest percentages of single men in the nation (along with Alaska) and the single women outweigh single men in every church I’ve visited.  We all want to believe that we’re the exception, but what if we’re not?

Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely believe God knows the desires of our hearts.  I absolutely believe God is a Father that gives good gifts.  I absolutely believe that if I stay in line with God’s will, God will answer my prayers. BUT I also believe that we can aim too low with our requests. What if we’ve been staring at a cup of water, when God’s got a whole ocean for us to explore?

So what if you don’t get married?  Will you have still lived an abundant life in Christ? Will you have found your calling or purpose? Will you have lived out your calling?  What if your husband is just a part of a greater calling? This may offend some of you, but I’m beginning to think that focusing all my prayers on a husband is aiming too low in the grand scheme of all that God has for us.  A husband cannot be the answer to all of our needs. A husband cannot be the only thing we want out of life.  Why?  Because they will fail us.  Because we are human and finite and sinners. Even the best husbands will fail us at some point. So whether we do get married or not, I encourage you to shift your focus a little further back and ask God if there’s more to your life then what you’ve been thinking. This doesn’t mean we have to give up our desires entirely, but it does allow us to shift our prayer requests for a moment and allow for the possibility that God may be trying to share a much bigger vision then we could have ever imagined for ourselves.

Exercise:   Spend 10 minutes journaling and ask God “What do you want for my life?” Allow your hand to move and write the first things that come into your mind. Don’t try to analyze or control what you’re writing, just let it flow on the paper as it comes.  After your done writing, take a moment to pray over what you wrote.

Three Voices Part 3 “The Voice of God”

Finally!  The last two posts were a depressing I know.  But this is the post I’ve been leading up to for the past couple weeks.  For me this is where Speech-Recognition-Imagethings get juicy.

The third voice we hear is the voice of God.  We can hear God’s voice in a variety of ways.  The Bible itself is one way God speaks to us.  In the Bible, God communicated to people through angels, dreams, directly (remember Adam and Eve?) and of course in the person of Jesus Christ himself.  For us, God may speak through our community, through our prayer times, through music and art or nature.  For further reading, I like Dallas Willard’s book called “Hearing God, developing a conversational relationship with God”.  I say this because Dr. Willard does a better job at encompassing this journey in general.  For the purposes of this blog, I’m merely sharing my own experience in developing that conversational relationship and how it affected me as a single person.

Before the Esther Salon year I had heard God’s voice directly a few, brief but powerful times.  The first time was when I was in college. I had not been intimately walking with the Lord at that time, but I was still attending church and helping out here and there.  I was chaperoning our church youth at a weekend retreat when out of no where I heard what I can only describe as silent yelling.  It was not audible to the ear, but it was as strongly imprinted in my thoughts as if someone was actually yelling in my ear. It wasn’t an angry yell.  It was an urgent, “Listen to me I’m serious” yell.  I heard, “I don’t want to be part of your life anymore.  I want to be the Lord of your life.  I want all of you.”  I also received the distinct impression that being in youth ministry was a large part of that. Twenty plus years later I’ve been doing just that.

These moments were far and few between, but after developing a more intimate relationship with God, I feel like hearing God’s voice is much more natural and frequent as with any other relationship I have cultivated with time and intention.

I’m not special to hear God’s voice.  I truly believe hearing God is available to anyone seeking (and sometimes when they’re not).  One of my favorite passages is in Jeremiah 29:12-13.  God is speaking through the prophet Jeremiah to the exiles, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”  This particular promise was to the people of Israel, but Jesus reiterates a similar promise to all of us in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks find; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” The more we seek God’s voice, the more we find God.

The reason I had to distinguish between our voice, the lies and God’s voice is because this is what my year’s journey was all about.  As a single women it is easy to hear our voice say “I’m not lovable” or the lies say “choose your way, God hasn’t been answering your prayers fast enough”.  What we really need to hear whetherqueen-spades single or not is God’s gentle and firm voice reminding us, “I love you my child.  I always have and always will.  You are my beloved.”

From here on out I’ll be sharing how God reminded me (and now hopefully you) of this for a whole year, the year I call the Esther Salon.  Esther spent a year to prepare for the opportunity to be a queen.  If you’re single, whether you hope to be married, are content with your singleness or both, we will be journeying together in pursuit of the One who already loves us.

Exercise:  Spend  3 minutes in silent prayer.  Just listen.  Try not to “say” anything.  Who’s voice do you hear in those short moments?  If you hear your voice or the lies try answering this; If God were to speak to you directly what do you think you God would say?  Write that down and save it for later to compare what you hear as you develop and cultivate your conversations with God.

Three Voices Part 2 “The Lies”

Birdmankeaton

A couple weekends ago, the world watched Birdman win the best picture award at the Oscars. The movie is about a blockbuster movie actor, named Riggan, looking to revive his career on Broadway. Birdman was a character he played in the movies, where he gained fame and riches. Birdman was also the voice in his mind that taunted him with doubts while he searched for significance on Broadway.

Emma Stone plays Michael Keaton’s daughter.  She punches our guts as she names the lies he had been struggling with all along, “You’re doing this because you’re scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter and, you know what, you’re right. You don’t! It’s not important, okay? You’re not important! Get used to it.”

Gah!  If that’s not gonna make you wince I don’t know what will. The movie Birdman hit on a universal truth that many of us are searching for significance. For us single people though, the lies can dig even further into our psyches.

Last week I wrote about our own Voice.  This week let’s talk about the Voice of Lies.  I’m gonna say it right now, I hate this Voice.  I hate this Voice because I have fallen for it many times. I have hooked my whole sense of self around this voice.  It can start innocently and subtly, “If you get rid of that belly you’d be happier.” I was 110 pounds in high school thinking that my life would be better at 100.  Lies.

As I got older the lies continued. “Your friends are all getting married.  There must be something wrong with you.”  “You’re the kind of person guys like to be friends with, but that’s about it.”  “No guy (that you’d be interested in), will ever commit to you.”  “You are not attractive.”  “You are not lovable.” “Love is a myth.”

And then the Voice of Lies starts to convince us to settle for the “Right Now” or “Good Enough” guy.  The Lies tell us:  “This guy doesn’t have the same faith as I was hoping to share, but he’s open to it.”  “I don’t see myself getting married to him, but I need intimacy/sex or I’ll implode.”  “He calls only when he wants something, but it’s better than not being needed at all.”  “He’s not perfect and we fight a lot and he doesn’t always treat me well, but who’s perfect?”  “He needs help and I can fix him.”  The Voice of Lies can be so powerful a person will even take abuse.

I hate this Voice.  This, my friends. is the Voice of the Enemy.  It is the voice of Satan. This Voice is sly and powerful, but it can also be handled.  How?  First we must be able to pick it out of a line up.  Police-Line-Up-final1-e1370629708600When a thought comes in we need to be able to differentiate between the voices.  Why?  Because otherwise we’ll believe all of them and only one of these voices is 100% right 100% of the time.

Once we are able to tell who the author of the thought is, we can hold and keep it or trash it.  When we hold it and keep it, it becomes a part of us.  It becomes our world view.  It becomes our self view.  When we trash it, the thought has no power over us.  It has no place in our life.

How to trash a lie:  confession.  For those of us in most Protestant traditions we are missing out on one of the greatest tools in our faith, confession.  Confession allows us to identify the lie and then release it so that it no longer has a hold on us. Confession is our way of putting a spot light on the things hiding in the darkness of our thoughts and saying, “Hey, I see you and you need to go.”

The first time I prayed with a group of trusted people I confessed that I did not think anyone would want to marry me.  I confessed how I saw myself, which was not positive.  After the prayer my friend said, “When you prayed, I felt something actually leave you.”  I believe her. Something did leave me that day. My confessions left a void where the lies resided and my friends prayed into me truth from the scriptures.  They replaced lies for the truth of God.  They told me that I am beloved.  They told me that I am valuable.  They told me that Jesus loves me.

Confession is a powerful tool in dealing with the lies.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a firm believer that being in true community meant that we confess to God before another person. He said in Life Together:

So long as Christians are in such a community of confession of sins to one another, they are no longer alone anywhere…Confession in the presence of another believer is the most profound kind of humiliation. It hurts, makes one feel small; it deals a terrible blow to one’s pride…By confessing actual sins the old self dies a painful, humiliating death before the eyes of another Christian.  Because this humiliation is so difficult, we keep thinking we can avoid confessing to one another…It is none other than Jesus Christ who openly suffered the shameful death of a sinner in our place, who was not ashamed to be crucified for us as an evildoer. And it is nothing else but our community with Jesus Christ that leads us to the disgraceful dying that comes in confession, so that we may truly share in this cross. The cross of Jesus Christ shatters all pride…In confession there occurs a breakthrough to new life. The break with the past is made when sin is hated, confessed, and forgiven. “Everything has become new” (2 Cor 5:17). Christ has made a new beginning with us. 

The lies that we live with will reek havoc in a relationship.  The lies can build strongholds of insecurity that your future spouse cannot break.  To prepare for marriage and more importantly our relationship with Jesus, we must confess the lies we have been holding, receive Christ’s forgiveness and then repent so as not to take ownership of that lie again. Repentance is turning back to Jesus and allowing him to replace the lies with the truth of who we really are.  Who better to tell us who we are than the One who designed and created us from the very beginning?

Exercise: Find someone you trust to pray with and confess.  Dig deeper than checking off the 10 Commandments.  What voices have you been listening to?  Confess what is not God’s voice.  Then have the trusted friend read and pray scripture over you to replace the lies with Truth.

Some Truths about who we are in Christ:  John 1:12,13, John 15:12-17,  1Corinthians 6:19,20, 1 Corinthians 12:27, Colossians 1:13, 24

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