Quest for Faith – Part 4

In my struggle for faith, I’ve had to re-evaluate my beliefs on God and how he sees women. Being raised fundamentalist, I was taught that certain Biblical passages were proof for the fact that women were to be under the authority of men, and that women were lesser beings than men. I’ve been told that because I’m a woman, God had certain things that I had to do, certain ‘roles’ I was to fulfill. This has caused a huge struggle in faith considering that there are also so many verses in the Bible that would seem to indicate that women are equal to men and just as valuable to God. But recalling what I knew of the Old Testament, I started to think that maybe it was true, that God had created women as an inferior creation and that his design was for us to live under the authority of a man, obeying his every whim.

Gender has been one of my main struggles so far and it’s something that I have spent a lot of time looking into, and something that I am continuing to study because it seems that it’s more complex than it should be. In the Old Testament, in fact in the very first chapter of it, an amazing story is told about how God created human beings. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 NIV. Over time this made me realize that God is both male and female because both men and women are created in his image. This was a huge discovery for me. It’s actually extremely important that we realize that God is both male and female and that both genders are made in his image. 
As Michelle A. Gonzalez argues in her article Breaking the Habits of Machismo, that we need a complete overhaul of Christian theology, where we get rid of the notions of patriarchy and we realize and teach that men and women are both truly equal and both truly bearers of the image of God (Gonzales, 2014, p. 20). Holding women back from certain jobs within the church means that we are only getting the perspective of half of the image of God instead of all of it. In order for the church to be balanced in theology, it is important that both men and women are in leadership. For Christians to be able to worship God in spirit and in truth, it is important that both men and women are involved in every aspect of the church. 
I am not claiming that each church needs to have at least one male and one female pastor, but overall within the body of Christ we need to welcome the voices and leadership of women as much as those of men if we want a true reflection of God. With male and female both being created in God’s image, it’s important that we hear from both when we claim to be hearing from God. We all bear the image of God, we are all equally as important to God. For me this hasn’t even scratched the surface and it’s a topic that I need to dig into for further study, but for now, I’m glad that God has shown me this much.
Gonzales, M A, 2014, ‘Breaking the habits of machismo’, Sojourners, January 2014, pp. 16-20.

I am Not Alone (Even When it Feels Like It)

Back in October, after five years of caring for my severely disabled son, he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for several weeks and I had to make the difficult decision to allow him to be admitted to an institution for severely disabled children. It was a hard thing to do, and yet, it was the right thing to do. The decision was heartbreaking, there is not many things in life that are more difficult than taking your five year old son into an institution and then walk out without him.

At first I tried to comfort myself by saying “well, at least he’s not dead and I can go and see him”, but walking out of a psychiatric hospital and leaving your son there for three weeks knowing he will be admitted to an institution afterwards, just isn’t easy. Honestly, sometimes it almost feels like he has died, but unlike the parents who have gone through the heartbreaking experience of having a child die, at least I can see mine. He might not be in my home, but he is flourishing in his new environment, and he has the potential to be the little boy God created him to be. Even thinking like that, however, isn’t enough. 
The thing is, I had to cling to God and trust that he knew what was right and good. God had given me this wonderful little boy. When he made him and gave him to me, he knew he would have multiple disabilities. Still, I asked God to somehow comfort me. Going through this it seemed like I was all alone. A lot of days it still feels like that. Other people don’t understand why I would “give” my son to an institution, why I would “allow” him to be heavily medicated. It’s a lonely journey. Even his brothers and sister don’t really understand why he is not living here, but they try. We all love him very much. Which is why I did what was best for him rather than what I wanted to do and keep him at home.
Until this week, I still primarily felt that I was alone. This week my beautiful little boy was transferred to his new facility. I took him to his dorm, and they lead him to a room with three other boys. While my son was the youngest, this scene was somewhat comforting to me. For the first time, I looked around, I saw his three roommates, and thought “wow, these precious boys are some other woman’s sons, I’m not the only one who has a son living in an institution.” Which made me wonder if all these other women had gone through feelings similar to mine, that they were alone, the sorrow of not having their child live at home, the judgment from others. And, while I haven’t met these moms, God had honored my request to comfort me. I realized that even in the most heartbreaking of circumstances, I was not alone. Others have walked this path before me. 

Quest For Faith – Part 3

This Quest for Faith series is something that is hopefully going to be a recurring theme on this blog all year. The thing is that at times, all of us have doubts, all of us at times need to rely on the faith of others, we are weak and need the help of others to get through. Which is the reason I share my struggle with faith because if we are constantly growing, then there will be new doubts, new questions, new things that arise. This is simply my journey which I am pretty much “live blogging” as in, these are the thoughts on faith and life and how it relates to me as I am currently experiencing, the things that I am currently learning.

So a few days ago I bought a new Bible, it is in The Voice translation, which I was hoping would be so new and fresh to me that it would bring the Bible alive, and so far I haven’t been disappointed. Last year I read the New Testament through in The Message, which gave me a fresh look. I’m not doing a “read the Bible in a year” program or anything this year, I’m doing a “here is the Bible in fresh language: devour it” program. If I finish next month or in six months, it doesn’t matter to me. What my aim is is to see the big picture, the full story that the Bible tells.

Anyway, when it comes to the Bible, why do we call it a book? It’s a library really, a collection of 66 books. Each of those 66 books is written by a particular author with a particular literary style, and a particular culture. To me this makes the Bible more valuable, as God’s story is being told by a variety of people with a variety of life experiences. Some of it is poetry, some of it is letters, some of it is apocalyptic. These are stories of people who experienced God and who wrote about it in completely different ways. It’s a library of people’s interactions with God, and that is what is so fascinating about it.

I am hoping that in devouring the Bible, I will learn so many new things about the story of God, and that maybe some of my questions will be answered. One of the things that struck me when reading last night was in Genesis chapter 9.

“Whoever sheds the blood of a human, that person’s blood will be shed in return by another for God made humanity in His own image.” Genesis 9:6 ~ The Voice.

In the New Testament, Jesus tells us that hating someone in your heart is the same as murder, and for the first time last night, I saw why this was so. Genesis 9:6 tells us that murder is such a huge deal because of the fact that humans were created in the very image of God. That means that when I am having bitter and ugly thoughts against someone, if I have hatred in my heart towards someone, I am totally devaluing the image of God, which is the same thing that happens when a person murders another. Murder, hatred, and bitterness is such a big deal because it shows that we do not value God’s image and the people that he made to reflect him. We’re telling God that he isn’t good enough, or amazing enough. In other words, murder, hatred, bitterness is basically just dissing God. Wow.

That puts bitterness and hatred in a whole different light. Bitterness, hatred and murder all come from the same root and the fruits of them all will be poison.

A Gift

Yesterday, my friend gave me a gift.
A gift that I treasure.
It was the gift of three little words
my stomach was in nervous knots
I was dreading hearing from her.
And yet her reply,
so gracious,
so beautiful.
Her text message to me read simply:

“I forgive you.”

I cried.
It had taken me days
to work up the courage to tell her
what I needed to tell her,
and even then I was a coward
couldn’t tell her on the phone,
so instead I sent her a text message
confessing what I had done.
She got back to me about a minute later.

“I forgive you.”

It made me wonder
why I hadn’t just told her
when it was first on my heart to do so,
or why I hadn’t simply told her
when I had talked to her maybe thirty minutes prior on the phone.
The gut wrenching fear that I had screwed up too badly
and she wouldn’t even want to acknowledge that I had ever been her friend.
And yet when I said “I’m sorry”
the gracious words that came from her immediately were:

“I forgive you.”

She never told me
that she was angry,
disappointed, or upset,
even though she may have been all of those.
Instead, she chose to give me a gift
a gift that offers restoration.
I had tripped, and fallen
She knelt down and took my hand
lifting me back up to her.

“I forgive you.”

So then why is it
that I myself
have so much trouble
offering this wonderful gift to others?
It is more blessed
to give, than to receive
if it is so amazing to be a recipient of forgiveness
it must be even more amazing
to offer it to others.

“I forgive you.”

Realizing that I need
this gift from others
so often,
why is it so hard
to turn around and give the same gift to others?
The people in my life
are all so precious.
Which means that when they have hurt me or wronged me,
I want to be able to say:

“I forgive you.”