Dispelling Our Fear of Submission

Before I was married, I thought fulfilling biblical roles in marriage would look like a paint-by-number picture. My husband and I would both know exactly what to do, and our marriage would take off in the right direction on its own.

Now I see roles in marriage more like an inspired work of art: It takes time, thought, practice, some messy spills, and mental roadblocks. But with each brushstroke applied to the canvas, a picture of colorful beauty begins to take shape. Unlike the hard and clear-cut lines of a paint-by-number picture, the colors on this canvas bleed together in a way where distinction isn’t always obvious, but a glorious harmony emerges.

Before marriage, I also viewed the submissive wife as a shadow which loomed over me as Scrooge’s ghost of Christmas future. In my misconceptions, Ephesians 5 sounded like the rattling of Jacob Marley’s chains. Yet, three things helped me to dispel the fear of submission.

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Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image — Book Review

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Living in the broad brushstroke of a reformed and complementarian background, this book Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image, comes as a refreshing take on some controversial topics. As a young girl I grew up in a church with some rigid outlines for gender roles inside and outside of marriage (some even promoted extra-biblically in my local church culture.)

Much of the women’s ministry I grew up in was comprised of pink passage topics aimed specifically at women: Titus 2, Proverbs 31, being keepers of the home, the submissive wife, a quiet and gentle spirit, domesticity, and nurturing. All of these topics are still valuable and I strive to adopt them in my life, but it’s dangerous to isolate these “women passages” from the rest of scripture. And of course the rest of scripture still applies to women, because like men we are equally made in God’s image. Hannah Anderson refers to this as being made imago dei, which when literally translated means “in the image of God.”

Anderson uses Romans 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things“, as her general reference point in the larger purpose of the book. What is her larger purpose? I believe it is to unmask the greater purpose of being women made in the image of God — who strive to live in communion with God, communion with others, and be good stewards of creation. A woman’s prime identity is to share in the divine nature of her God. One day we will be complete in this union with our maker as he glorifies us in heaven, but until then our purpose is to become more like Christ here on earth.

According to Anderson we can’t just define and understand ourself by different categories — gender, race, calling — we must come back to the central focus of identity, which is God himself. Instead of making gender roles the starting place for discussion, Anderson believes we must make the starting place of discovery at imago dei. She says:

“When you understand this, when his identity becomes the foundation for your identity, the details will finally make sense.”

This book also makes an appeal to treat identity as a complex issue, not something that can be completely reduced to one or two things: namely, being a wife and mother. We can’t just be satisfied with haggling over roles, but we must come back to the foundation of the basic questions of identity: “Who am I and why am I here?” When we get this straight Anderson says,

You will finally be free to live beyond the roles and labels and expectations because you will finally be free to live in the fullness of God himself.”

I don’t think Anderson has deserted the traditional biblical womanhood that we see in scripture, she is just giving it a fuller and deeper treatment. She says,

“We make womanhood the central focus of our pursuit of knowledge instead of Christ.”

She does a tremendous job of bringing our focus to the perfect image bearer who lived, died, and rose for us, so our identities could heal from the brokenness around us and in us. It is through Christ alone that we can fulfill imago dei once again like in the Garden of Eden. Through Christ we can better image God through how we love, give, and learn.

This book deeply impacted me in how I view myself — as a person first and foremost — before God and others. It also showed me how great and glorious our God is in his goodness, wisdom, sovereignty, power, and love, and how he is all of his attributes unified at all times — God is a living paradox. We can’t dissect him into categories; he is much bigger than our human categories. I was also challenged to more fully “partake of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) in Christ; I was challenged to embrace his loving providence for my life. Like on page 139 when Anderson says:

“Providence is the intricate combination of God’s power and His love working together to bring about the best for his children — working together to make them exactly who they are meant to be.”

Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book and walked away wanting to worship God. I think Anderson has done that in this book, and that is why I highly recommend it to you. She does a powerful job of showing how we as humans are truly made for more.

“We have all forgotten what we really are.” — G.K. Chesterton

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” — C.S. Lewis

Helpers for Unfinished Husbands

My husband recently saw the spectacular Victoria Falls in Zambia. I said my husband because I was not there to witness the beauty and glory of such a sight, although he did text me a photo. I was grateful for the kind gesture, but it did nothing to keep me from longing to be there in person.

I could see sunrays beaming through the upper half of the falls, creating a rainbow in the watery mist. Yet I couldn’t hear the thunderous crashes of the water careening into the ocean below. I couldn’t experience the feelings that well up when our senses are bombarded with wonder like a massive waterfall. I saw a fraction of the majesty on my phone. I love that he sent me the photo, but it was a poor representation of the real thing.

In much the same way, my husband is called to represent the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ in our marriage. But I have to remember he’s just a photo — a representation, an image, a sketch of the real thing. Our husbands have a great and glorious calling to be like Christ for us.

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Book Review: Women of the Word

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When was the last time your face was shining? I don’t mean oily skin problems. I mean shining from beholding God. Seeing him for who he is in all of his attributes and holiness. Moses’ face shone when he came down from Mount Sinai and received the Ten Commandment ‘s from the Lord (Exodus 34:29-35.) The light emanating from his face was so intense he needed to wear a veil. Moses spent extended periods of time with the Lord and it showed, literally.

In Jen Wilkin’s book, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds, her goal is for women to have shining faces like Moses. She makes it clear the aim of bible study is to behold God, and in beholding him we will become like him. “We must be altered by the vision,” as she says. Before we can change upon seeing God for who he is, our heart and mind must be touched first.

Heart and Mind

The subtitle of the book, “How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds,” was what drew me in in the first place. I’m not a big fan of christian women writers who only appeal to women’s emotions, without stimulating their minds. Also, I was interested to see what a woman would have to say about a male dominated topic in the church. Most christian women writers I grew up with either wrote bad fiction or wrote non-fiction that was redundant about biblical gender issues and roles.

True beauty, Titus 2, modesty, purity, and being keepers of the home are mostly covered by women writers, while the men write about Bible doctrine, reformed theology, Bible studies, and commentaries. We shouldn’t leave behind the important Biblical truths aimed specifically at women, but it’s refreshing to start seeing women writing for women with new topics. What better way for women to truly understand and apply gender-specific Biblical truths, and more, than by learning a proper method for personal Bible study?

So, what exactly does Wilkin mean by studying with both our hearts and our minds? We must seek to know God with our minds and love him with our hearts. These are interrelated concepts. We can’t worship and adore an unknown god, (Acts 17:16-34) and seeking knowledge without growing in our love for God and others is akin to the clanging cymbal Paul takes about in 1 Corinthians 13. Love without knowledge is fluff, and knowledge without love is puffed up arrogance. As Wilkin says herself,

Our study of the Bible is only beneficial insofar as it increases our love for the God it proclaims. Bible study is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

The How of Bible Study

Not only does Wilkin tell us why we should study the Bible, but she tells us how to study it. She unleashes her five P’s of study: purpose, perspective, patience, process, and prayer. I love how she opens up the discussion in the first few chapters by sharing her story of becoming a woman of the word. She also brought my eyes back to the focus of the Bible — not me, not the characters in the Bible stories, but God. She clarifies this further by saying,

The Bible does tell us who we are and what we should do, but it does so through the lens of who God is. The knowledge of God and the knowledge of self always go hand in hand. In fact, there can be no true knowledge of self apart from the knowledge of God.

We don’t serve an unknown god; he has made himself known in his word. Through this book I was personally encouraged to become a student again and dig deeper into Biblical literacy. All through school I was tempted to take short cuts when it came to studying. Studying the long and hard way is counter-cultural in the church and in the world. God wants us to be his students so that we might know him, love him, and serve him better. Moses’ face was transformed by his vision of God; let it be said of his people today.