Archive for August, 2011

“Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope” Seminar Outline

Note: This post is the “table of contents” for the seminar “Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope” which will be presented at The Summit Church.

This event is free of charge and open to the public. Please invite anyone you believe would benefit from learning how the God of all comfort speaks to the various losses of life through the gospel.

Hour One

Chapter 1. “Preparing for Your Grief Journey”
PREPARE yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually to face your suffering

Chapter 2 “Identifying the Pieces of My Story”
ACKNOWLEDGE the specific history and realness of my suffering

 Hour Two

Chapter 3. “How Has My Life / Story Changed?”
UNDERSTAND the impact of my suffering 

Chapter 4. “The Darkest Part of My Journey”
LEARN MY SUFFERING STORY which I used to make sense of my experience

Chapter 5. “The Journey Is About More Than the Destination”
MOURN the wrongness of what happened and receive God’s comfort

Hour Three

Chapter 6. “My Loss Story in His Story”
LEARN MY GOSPEL STORY by which God gives meaning to my experience

Chapter 7. “Where is ‘Better’ on This Journey?”
IDENTIFY GOALS that allow me to combat the impact of my suffering

Chapter 8. “Beginning to Live the Rest of My Story”
PERSEVERE in the new life and identity to which God has called me

Chapter 9. “Living the Rest of Your Story”
STEWARD all of my life for God’s glory

Appendices

  1. Memorial Ceremony for an Unborn Child
  2. Applying the Grief Seminar to Losses Not Caused by Death
  3. Small Group Care Plan for the Whole Journey
  4. Healthy Ways to Capture Memories
  5. Bible Readings on Grief
  6. Recommended Books
  7. Freedom Group Study Plans
  8. Parenting Tips and Family Devotions for Each Chapter
  9. What Do I Do Now?

Would Have Been the Best Sex Ever

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“The old Christian teachers said that if man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, instead of being less than it is now, would actually have been greater (p. 98).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

If you had to fill in the blank on, “If [blank], then it would have been the best sex ever,” how would you fill in the blank? It’s an important question, because whether you’ve ever articulated the answer, chances are you are rating your sex life by the answer and in some way trying to make it a reality.

If only I were 20 pounds lighter or 10 years younger. If only my spouse were 20 pounds lighter or 10 years younger. If only sex were not such a big deal, and there wasn’t so much pressure. If only we could get that spark back or have a spontaneous moment like on “those” commercials. If only we dated more. If only we took more romantic get-aways.

Honestly, any of those things might improve your sex life in some sense of the word improve. But if we made a list of the biggest sex killers it would not include weight, figure, anatomy, culture, lack of romance, age, lack of creativity, or lack of spontaneity.

The list of top sex life killers would include shame, fear, selfishness, laziness, insecurity, infidelity, promiscuity, comparison, and lust. What kills our sex life is not outside of us (our body, our spouse, or our culture). What kills our sex life is inside of us (sin).

Imagine the opportunity to express yourself sexually with one person in a context of complete commitment without any sense of self-preoccupation or shame. You were solely devoted to enjoying their pleasure, and they were solely devoted to enjoying your pleasure. Neither of you were comparing each other to another partner, and discontentment was not present to make the relationship feel mundane. That was the design of sex before the Fall.

That would have been the best sex ever.

What’s the point of fantasizing about such an ideal? The point is that we are already fantasizing about an ideal, but it is not one that leads us towards God’s design. Because we do not truly believe that God’s ideal would be the most satisfying sex possible, we try to improve upon it.

But all our improvements on God’s design destroy us. It would be easy to rail against our pride and rebellion at this point. But let me make an appeal based upon our foolishness and short-sightedness. We have been so wrong about what we were looking for (a misguided definition of good sex), for so long that we are now getting upset when we find it.

So let me propose that we daydream about great sex (as God defines it). What would this change? Us. What we daydream about has a powerful influence upon our entire person. It would change the things that had influence over us.

What would it require? Jesus. Admittedly, this entire reflection is highly idealistic without a radical change in human nature. Apart from the intervention of God’s grace in our life we do not want what is best for us. We need the new heart that God offers through Christ. But until we begin to fantasize about the kind of life that would be actually satisfying, we will continue to chase a multitude of “if only’s” that lead us to false gods and crushed souls.

Personality Traits & Fruit of the Spirit

What is the difference between the personality (i.e., disposition, temperament, natural drives, unique innate pleasures, instinctive responses to relationships or conflict, etc…) that God gives every person at birth and the fruit of the Spirit which begins to express
itself in the life of a believer only after conversion?

Before we try to answer that question, let us first acknowledge that God is the author of both personality and the fruit of the Spirit. One is not carnal and the other sacred. One is not random and the other intentional.

We begin to understand the difference when we see God’s passion for unity in the midst of diversity. In Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 we see very diverse people gathered for a completely unified purpose—praising God.

There is no universal Christian personality. There is a universal Christian character portrait (the fruit of the Spirit). God does not have a preference for extroverts over introverts; nether does God like thinking people more than feeling people. God longs to see His character (i.e., image) reflected in the full breadth of human personality.

This is one of the implications of Genesis 2:15 we often miss. It was not good for man to be alone, because the purpose of man was to reflect the image of God in a unique way and no individual could accomplish this. Marriage was as much to humble the individual
human as it was to solve loneliness. We can only image God (our purpose and the only ultimately satisfying pursuit) in community.

With that said, we still ask, “What’s the difference?” I believe we can now say that personalities are imbalanced, but the fruit of the Spirit is necessarily balanced. Personalities are a portrait of the qualities we have in greater or lesser amounts. It is their uniqueness that makes them interesting, beautiful, and hard to understand.

The fruit (singular) of the Spirit is balanced. The fruit of the Spirit is not a virtue on a grocery list; as if we could pick up some and leave others. It is grammatically and inherently contradictory to say that we are stronger in some fruit of the Spirit than others. When we say this we are evaluating personality not the fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is the mark of how much God’s character has taken root and found expression in our personality. For this reason we can accurately say our weakest point in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is the indicator of the fruit of God’s Spirit in our lives.

If we take this as a demoralizing guilt bomb, we have missed the point completely. It means we were trying to get moral bonus credits for our personality (which was also a gift from God and over which we got no vote).

The fruit of the Spirit does not call us to do more good stuff (works) in or to be a different kind (personality) of person, but to surrender more (gospel response) of who we are (personality) to God. It is as we are won by God’s character (love, joy, peace, etc…) that we imitate it ourselves and rejoice when we see glimpses of it in other believers. As this takes root, guilt gives way to worship, and effort is motivated by something that makes it feel increasingly less like work.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Personality” post which address other facets of this subject.

Memorial Ceremony for an Unborn Child

Note: This post is an excerpt from the seminar notebook that accompanies the “Take the Journey of Grief with Hope” seminar.

Appendix A

 Memorial Ceremony for an Unborn Child

 Grieving the loss of an unborn child can be particularly difficult. No one else had the privilege of knowing your baby and, therefore, many of the rituals of grief (i.e., sharing pictures or stories of how the lost loved one touched other’s lives) cannot be engaged. Because no one else knew their baby, parents often try to take this journey of grief alone.

What follows are suggestions for how to honor your lost child and facilitate your own grieving process. Do not consider this appendix to be a recipe to be followed directly, but as a collection of ideas to take what best applies to your situation. Some families who lose their baby may chose not to utilize a service like this one. A small group or church family should be considerate of the family’s wishes when offering to help in this way.

The suggestions recommended below will be incorporated in the memorial service outlined at the end of this appendix.

Name Your Baby: This will be important for not only the memorial, but for the on-going grief process. This will allow you to reference your child in future conversations (which is healthy). Without a name, you and others will be more likely to begin to live as if the loss never happened within a matter of weeks. Parents may change the name they intended to call their child without feeling as they are
dishonoring their baby. The goal in naming the baby is to accept the loss as real, not to say that nothing has or can change.

Write a Good-Bye Letter: With many losses we see death coming and get to say good-bye. With miscarriage there is both surprise and your child would not have been able to hear your words. A letter allows you to put your initial grief into words which can be heard by family and friends at the memorial. It allows you to process these early experiences of your grief and to feel more understood.

Memorial Box: This is not a casket, but a place to keep some precious things (i.e., blanket, small toys, birth/death certificates, ultra sound pictures, good-bye letter, notes from friends, your grief journal, etc…). A memorial box can allow your child to always have a place of remembrance in your home without the “enshrinement effect” that comes with having a room devoted to your lost child.

Get a Grief Journal: You will have many thoughts and experience many emotions in the coming months. You may fear forgetting what you are thinking and feeling, because it is all you have left of your baby. A journal is a healthy place to capture those thoughts and emotions. One option many mothers have found helpful is Mommy, Please Don’t Cry by Linda DeYmaz. This journal also serves as a place to gather your thoughts so that you have an answer when friends, family, or small group members ask, “How are you doing?”

Don’t Rush the Memorial: Planning and conducting the memorial is an important part of the grieving process. It confirms that this is a real loss, one to be acknowledged by those who love you, and that there is a journey of grief ahead. It is during the planning and conducting of a memorial that denial can wear off and a network of friends be established to support you in the weeks and months ahead.

Plant a Tree / Garden: Often with a miscarriage one of the difficulties in the grief process is that there is nowhere to go and grieve or to place flowers on your child’s birthday and other special occasions. Planting a tree can provide you a place to go and remember. It also provides a visual reminder of the passing of time and personal growth as you see the tree mature. If a family chooses to plant a tree or garden, this would determine the location of the ceremony and would need to be in a place where the property would not be sold or outside a home from which the family planned to move.

Create a Time Capsule: It can make the memorial seem more real funeral if there is something to bury. With the planting of a tree, you might also bury a time capsule with a copy of your good-bye letter, toys you had purchased, medical bracelets/papers from the
DNC visit, a list of the dreams for this child you are surrendering to God, or other memorable items.

 Planning the Memorial

 As you plan the memorial, remember this is not a means to an end, but a part of the grief process. Taking the time to plan a memorial
confirms the reality of your grief. You did not just have a medical procedure. You lost a child, and it is right to grieve.

Planning the ceremony is a time of very beneficial conversation with your spouse and children. Often families are not sure how to talk to one another, what is acceptable to say or feel, or when to bring up the subject. If this ice is not broken, grief becomes stifled for everyone. Planning a ceremony is a good way to open the lines of communication. The outline below should help facilitate these conversations. Each member of the family can feel free to say what he/she likes and dislikes without fearing they may be insulting another family member’s idea.

The guest list is also important. It is wise to invite more people than you think will come. The memorial is a way to announce your loss so
that you do not have to face as many excited “how’s the baby?” questions in the weeks ahead. Also, by inviting people to the memorial, you will feel less pressure to “act normal.” Having a ceremony declares that normal has been disrupted in a significant way and that it will be a while before normal returns.

 A Memorial Ceremony

 Note: Use this section as a suggestion and not a template. Make it your own. The material below is merely meant to give you something to build from at a time when it is hard to concentrate and there are so many other things on your mind.

Officiate: Ask a pastor or small group leader to conduct the memorial. Your role should be to participate in the memorial; not to try to
lead it.

Preparation: Depending on what elements of the service you use, some preparation may be needed. It is fine to ask friends and family to help with digging the hole for the time capsule, preparing food for a follow up meal, or handling childcare.

Opening Scripture & Prayer:

Psalm 139:13-18 (ESV), “For you formed my [may choose to use the child’s name throughout the Psalm reading] inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts O God! How vast is the sum of them! If you count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.”

Lord, we come to you with broken hearts because Your Word it true. [Name] was fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful and we longed to know them in [name’s] life. You knew [name] intimately from conception and know him/her even now. We come because we will not get the privilege of knowing [name] this side of heaven and that hurts us.

  • Words of prayer for family
  • Words of prayer for mother
  • Words of prayer for father
  • Words of prayer for siblings
  • Words of prayer for grandparents and extended family present

Lord, we do hold your thoughts as precious even when we do not understand them. We admit we cannot understand this and it pains us. We ask that You would comfort us with the knowledge that when we are awake thinking about [name], that [name] is awake with You. Amen.

Reading of Parent’s Good-Bye Letter:

This can be done by the family standing together, one member of the family, or by the memorial officiate on behalf of the family. After reading the letter the family can place the letter (and any items of significance referenced in the letter) in the time capsule to be buried.

Reading of Words from Others:

The family might ask certain other people to write their thoughts and reflections to be read at this time. If so, it would be wise to have these pieces written out to ensure they are fitting for a memorial service. At the conclusion of reading each of these the individual would have two copies of his/her statement. First, the individual would walk to the parents/siblings and give them a copy for the memory box. Second, the individual would go to the time capsule and place a copy there.

Planting of Tree and Time Capsule:

Officiate: Throughout Scripture we find that God encourages His people to make places of remembrance for burial of loved ones. We find in this the tenderness and mercy of our God. God was not content to merely bring [name] to Himself in heaven, but He also is concerned to care for [mom’s name, dad’s name, sibling by name] until they are reunited with [name] in the presence of Jesus.

When we lose an unborn child families often do not receive the grace of God that comes from a place of remembrance. As those who love and care for [mom’s name, dad’s name, sibling by name] we wanted to make sure that was not the case for them. We will be planting a tree in memory of [name] (say a few words about the type of tree or location where tree is planted if either has particular meaning).

[Looking at family] God wants you to have a place to remember. He cares for you. And we, as your family and friends, want to be an extension of his care for you in the weeks and months ahead. Having a place to grieve is not all that you will need. You will need to know that you do not have to grieve alone or in silence. We want to be the Body of Christ to you on this journey and sharing your tears will be our privilege.

[Looking at attendees] The [last name] family will be keeping a memory box of precious items from [name’s] life. I would encourage you in the days and weeks ahead to write out how God has used [name], the shared experience of joy over pregnancy and grief over miscarriage, and how the [last name] family’s example has strengthened your walk with the Lord. These letters will be precious reminders of the impact [name] had and a confirmation that he/she was as real as their pain testifies. As they are stored in their memory box, these letters will become the fond stories they re-visit like the stories you retell with your family about lost loved ones.

Plant tree and time capsule. [For this time having a song selected – whether played/sung live or on CD – to allow for a worshipful
meditation and prevent silence from making an awkward distraction before the end of the service.]

Closing Scripture & Prayers:

Mark 10:13-16 (ESV), “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.”

Lord, we are grateful for this picture of what [name] is experiencing as we gather. Our loss and grief is made bearable and has hope because of Your love for children. We also come to you as children. In moments like these our world seems bigger than we can handle and we strongly sense our need for our Father’s protection. There are things we cannot explain to our children and we ask them to trust us. This is an experience we cannot understand and so we express a child-like faith that is full of questions and emotions.

We pray a special protection over the hearts and minds of [mom’s name, dad’s name, sibling by name]. Give them a special awareness of your presence and care in the coming days. Amen

[Officiate: Give instructions of how the memorial will conclude.]

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Grief” post which address other facets of this subject.

A Bacon Strip-Tease

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease – that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you come to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that is contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us (p. 96)?” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

As an avid fan of the Food Network, I am not sure whether I should be convicted by this quote. Yet Lewis is making his point in a very provocative way. We treat the young male and female body in ways that would seem peculiar to an outsider of the human race.

There are plenty of things that are beautiful which we do not mass-obsess over like we mass-obsess over a naked human body: sunsets, the ocean, lightning, a stream in the woods, an eagle soaring in the sky, or the stars at night. We usually enjoy these things, but we don’t sacrifice our budgets, families, and dignity for a glimpse at them.

Those things that we mass-obsess over tend to be either the human body or the creation of human beings: music, sports, fame, food (yes, bacon), cars, or houses. We constantly place ourselves in physical, financial, relational, or moral jeopardy to have these things.

Can there be any doubt that we are a race obsessed with ourselves? We even make movies based upon the premise that other beings are as obsessed with themselves as we are (i.e., Plant of the Apes or countless movies of computers taking over the world).

Maybe instead of trying so hard to see a naked body, we need to wake up and see ourselves. Maybe we need to look in the mirror as intently as we look at a screen, stage, or through a window. Maybe our common experience is not as common sense as we’d like to pretend.

What does this mean? I cannot mean that we become non-sexual beings who forsake passion, attraction, or the recognition of beauty. It does mean that we have to stop making excuses for these features of our humanity to drive our lives.

We have become such willing slaves to self and sin that we have begun to call slavery, freedom. We have begun to call death, life. We have begun to define our life dreams in terms of a nightmare. And in keeping with our folly we seem surprised and offended when our dream comes true.

The solution cannot be elimination of these desires. We would cease to be human. The solution can be a new Master and obsession. Actually, this is the only answer for the human condition. It is the only thing that brings balance, life, hope, love, and health. Living for our Eternal Creator rather than His temporal creation is our hope.

The solution is not to try harder to avoid the bacon strip tease. We must recognize what our bacon-addiction reveals about our personal human condition and cry out to a Savior who is larger than our absurdity. Allow this illustration from C.S. Lewis to alert you to the parts of creation that have begun to make your soul salivate as only God should.

Four Ways to Read the Bible

Many vibrant devotional lives have died in seminary. People are often surprised to learn this. Students come to seminary because of their love for God and His Word. But when the Bible becomes a textbook, it can lose its vitality. As with everything else, when you dissect it, it dies.

I remember being a seminary student who was enthralled with hermeneutics (the fancy word, along with exegesis, for principles of interpreting the Bible). As much as I enjoyed the subject and gleaned from it, the classes and books taught me to come to the Bible with dozens of questions that had little to do with God or me. I was excited about the original author, the author’s intent, the original audience, the original language, syntax, lexicon (not the little green people at the end of rainbows), and other ways to find the meaning of the text.

I still value hermeneutics, but that is not the focus of this post. This post is meant to cultivate questions for Bible study that focus primarily upon God and me (or you). The outline of the post comes from a recent video post by David Powlison on the prayer life of Martin Luther. In the video Powlison discusses four ways Luther responded to Scripture in his prayer life.

Dr. David Powlison – Martin Luther’s Prayers from CCEF on Vimeo.

Bible as Text Book

When we come to the Bible as a text book we are seeking to learn what and how to think. We want to know what is right, good, wise, and worthwhile. We come to it as innocent children eager to learn from trusted parents.

We recognize the world as a complicated and large place. We know that we are not capable of mastering it on our own. So we ask questions to fill our mind with the relevant facts and needed perspective to respond to the challenges we will face.

Bible as Hymn Book

When we come to the Bible as a hymn book we are seeking to find the majesty of God. We come to the Bible like children asking questions of their parents’ “glory days.” We want to be awed, inspired, and made to feel safe because of what we learn.

We recognize that we will never be satisfied with our own achievements. As creatures made to worship, we crave a thrill that we cannot produce. We were made with imaginations that require the presence, mission, and power of God to swim in.

Bible as Confession Book

When we come to the Bible as a confessional book we find everything we want to be (or would want to be if our perspective was right) and are not. Yet we do not find shame. We come as children who have failed and are seeking the comfort of a loving parent.

We recognize that light reveals dirt that was hidden in the shadows of our lives. But the inspiration and motivation developed in worship causes us to find value in the hard work of cleaning (okay, the children metaphor might be breaking down here). We ask questions that reveal our desire to get our character from where we are to what we see in our Father.

Bible as Prayer Book

When we come to the Bible as a prayer book we are seeking help in the journey from what we saw in the Bible as confession book to the Bible as hymn book. We come with the innocent faith of children who believe if we have seen in His Word, God can get us there.

We talk like children with their Father, when they know their request pleases the Father. As we ask God to make us more like what we’ve read and adored, we are like the child asking his/her parent to teach them the parent’s favorite hobby.

To summarize this post, as you read the Bible, never forget how God says we get into His kingdom and (my inference) come to understand His Word, “Truly I say to you whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter it (Mark 10:15).” Let your Bible reading echo the heart of a child peppering his/her parent with questions of admiration.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Spiritual Disciplines” post which address other facets of this subject.

The Pursuit of More: Addictions Conference

Though there are many startling statistics, one usually only has to take an honest look at his or her own family to realize that there is a big problem. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest challenges facing the present day church is the issue of addiction.

Ask yourself, “Am I prepared to speak with confidant compassion about addiction?” When your spouse, child, friend, or co-worker admits to feeling in bondage to alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, pornography, or sex do you know where to take the conversation next? Do you know the resources in your community? Does your church know how to play its role in the recovery process?

In a world that is in “The Pursuit of More” we must be able to answer these questions if we are going to talk about the freedom of Christ we have in the gospel. It is for this reason that I would like to make you aware of an important conference coming to our area. But first let me introduce you to the story of the man to leads the ministry that is hosting this conference.

A good example concerning the dangers of seeking fulfillment apart from God is the family story of a local addiction’s ministry director named Shawn Saunders.  (The story below is written by Shawn.)

When I was 17, my 42 year old mother informed him that she was ready to leave my dad after 20 years of marriage and basically live for herself.  Attending bars and dance clubs, seeing other men, and abusing drugs and alcohol replaced teaching the 4 & 5 year old class on Wednesday nights at church, serving meals to help other people, and living selflessly for her family.

What were the consequences of her actions?

My two younger brothers began taking prescription narcotics and became addicted at ages 14 and 17 which led to my middle brother serving 41 months in prison, and my mother passed away at age 49.  This is not to mention the horrific pain that my father endured for approximately 8 years until his passing at age 55. He paid thousands of dollars on my brothers in court fines and lawyer fees and watched the love of his life kill herself due to chasing a euphoria.  Or better put, she was pursing more out of life–she wanted to transcend the monotony of marriage and motherhood.  She was searching for meaning, significance, purpose, and acceptance in the midst of the challenges that relationships bring.

One of the toughest elements of this saga was my dad going to our church for help, but the church not knowing how to respond.  He was left with no answers and no hope other than life is filled with pain but we have heaven to look forward to as an escape.

Converting Hearts Ministries (www.convertinghearts.com) is hosting “The Pursuit of More: Addictions Conference” on Friday, September 16th from 6:00pm to 9:00pm and Saturday, September 17th from 9:00am to 1:30pm at Open Door Baptist Church in Raleigh.

Join The Pursuit of More in September to hear from incredible speakers including Danny Akin, Stephen Davey, Sam Williams, Dwayne Millioni, Robert Jones, Brad Hambrick and others as they engage this growing and concerning issue, and discuss how the church can offer solutions.

The Pursuit of More is for church leaders, laymen, counselors, and anyone interested in how to combat addictions in their church and community.

The Pursuit of More Speakers will share biblical concepts about addictions and practical help to enable individual churches to reach both the addict and those who suffer the consequences of the addicts’ destructive behavior.

Learn more information about the cause, conference, speakers, and schedule by visiting pursuitofmore.com  where you will also find a two minute conference video..

All ticket purchases will go to Converting Hearts Ministries (www.convertinghearts.com) to advance their mission to addicts and their families.

CHM looks forward to co-laboring with RDU churches as they minister to the flocks that God has entrusted to their care.

Michelle Bachmann and Submission

This is not a political blog. It is neither for nor against any party or candidate. But in the midst of the recent Republican debate a question was raised of Michelle Bachmann about how her beliefs in the biblical teaching on wives submitting to their own husbands (Eph. 5:22) would affect her service to our country if she were elected president.

I believe this is a unique context in which evangelicals can define our beliefs on this issue. Most often we are the one’s initiating this topic of conversation or defending against an attack. In this context, however, we have the opportunity to join an existing cultural conversation.

I do not pretend that what I have to say will represent all evangelicalism on this subject. But I do hope that these reflections can be a constructive part of the conversation. While I will discuss two areas in which I disagree with the Bachmann family and one where I would articulate their point differently, I do not intend for this post to question the genuineness of their faith.

I fully recognize that I am limited to responding to a sound bite (which may not accurately represent the Bachmann family), but since that is what is in the cultural dialogue, I believe it is appropriate to do so provided one speaks with humility and about the issue rather than against the person.

I merely think this is an important time for evangelicals to enter the cultural dialogue in a positive, edifying way. I greatly appreciate the fact that the Bachmann family is willing to express their beliefs and invite our country to a discussion of marriage where the husband and wife love one another and seek to honor each other. I believe that alone is a significant, positive change in most conversations we have about marriage and family in the political realm.

Disagree About Career Choice

I would disagree with the application of submission that Michelle Bachmann made about submission to her husband and the choice to study tax law in her 2006 statement. In my opinion this over extends the jurisdiction of submission. Choosing the field of work for one’s wife is not what it means for a husband to lead his family.

My wife has been a full time teacher, full time mother, part time financial coach, and considered taking up refinishing antique furniture. The only role that submission has played in those decisions is in determining whether our family was in a position whether those transitions were wise and feasible for our family given our season of life and financial status at that time.

Our initial conversations were about the priorities by which we wanted to guide our family and those things my wife would find most fulfilling. With agreement on priorities (without which marriage is generally messy; not just with reference to submission), the points at which submission becomes relevant would be feasibility and timing.

Irrelevant to White House

While I don’t know how it would have come across in a political debate or if it would have fit in her allotted 60 second response time, I believe the question about submission and the presidency should have been responded to as a bad question. Submission is a relational dynamic that applies to the home and not the work place.

When my wife was a teacher, her responding to me in a submissive way did not mean that she should have felt compelled to utilize each of my classroom management suggestions. Once we made a family decision that her teaching was a good choice for our family during that season of our lives, my role as her husband to her as a teacher became one of love and support, not leadership over her educational responsibilities.

The question she was asked framed submission in a way which implied submission removed the voice of women (both in and outside the home). Any articulation of submission which does this is one that I believe misapplies biblical teaching.

More Than Respect

With that said, I would have to disagree with Michelle Bachmann’s assertion that submission merely means respecting her husband. While Ephesians 5:33 says that a wife should respect her husband, Ephesians 5:22 calls wives to submit to their own husbands. If they were the same, both would not need to be said.

In a relationship that is life long and requires the sharing of so many precious assets (not just money, time, and house, but children, interests, and faith), someone must have a final say. I cannot fathom how any relationship between fallen people would function otherwise.

However, let me state this just as clearly and with equal confidence: any marriage that is relying upon submission regularly in its decision making is an unhealthy marriage that has much bigger problems than gender roles. If I asked my wife to submit to me in a decision and she resisted, then I would either assume I had failed to lovingly understand and display sincere value for her position or that we had problems in other areas of our personal-marital life that I was unaware of or neglecting. Either way, my next response as a husband called to love my wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25) is to listen better as I examine my own heart.

 

What Do We Do First with God?

I remember about three years ago walking out of service having heard an excellent sermon on the character of God. I forget now which attribute was being discussed. The portrayal was vivid and compelling. The biblical support was solid. But I was discouraged.

It was not a condemning sermon. I just had enough other pieces of God’s character I was trying to emulate. I didn’t need something else added to my plate; no matter how beautiful. If I’m honest, I was more than discouraged; I was little irritated. It was starting to feel like “one more thing” I couldn’t do.

What struck me that afternoon was this was not the right way to respond to God. I began to be more concerned about my reaction to a clear presentation of God’s character than I was about the fact that I fell short of that aspect of God’s character. I got the sense that I was missing something about the big picture that would never allow me to get this piece right.

From the reflection that began that Sunday afternoon, I have become convinced of a principle that has changed my approach to the Christian life – we will not consistently emulate a particular aspect of God’s character until we have first come to find rest and security in that aspect of God’s character.

Until I rest in God’s grace, I will only see His kindness as a standard I can’t reach. Until I find peace in God’s wisdom, I will only use it as the standard against which I measure my ignorance. Until I take refuge in who God is, then I will view his excellence as being against me.

Where might this be support in Scripture? I believe the emphasis upon change as imitation and the model for this imitation being children toward their parents supports the principle that rest is the best motivator for emulation.

Consider Ephesians 5:1, “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.” We are called to imitate God as children who know that they are well loved by their father.

Let me offer one of my favorite stories. When my oldest son was in pre-school, he had a classmate who was upset. Being a compassionate boy, he tried to ask his friend questions and console him. After several unreturned questions, he patted his friend on the shoulder and said, “I have a good book on anger you should read.”

He was in pre-school and barely knew his letters! But he had seen me interact with people who were upset in the halls of our church frequently. These conversations, being brief interventions, often ended with a word of encouragement and the recommendation of a resource. So not knowing how to read, he was offering a “good book on anger.”

I take this as a high, high compliment. My son felt loved and secure with his Papa (that’s what my boys call me). This drew his heart to want to be like me. Rest produced emulation. I am not proposing this as an alternative model for repentance and discipline. But those models of change are rooted in moral crisis.

That Sunday afternoon I was not having a moral crisis. I was viewing God as my standard (imposed authority) more than my loving Abba Father (my rescuing hero standard). For day-to-day change, I think the latter is essential and often neglected.

When I am resting in God’s character, then every time I see how He responds to people, then I can’t wait for my chance to do the same. No longer do shame and failure drive me; a child-like affection compels me. I long to have more of that sense each time I see a glimpse of God’s character.

All 9 Overcoming Anger Videos Posted

Below is the material needed to complete the “Overcoming Anger” program at The Summit Church (Durham, NC). If you are interested in studying this material as a part of a recovery program, which we call Freedom Groups, please click here for more information and to get connected.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

STEP 1.
ADMIT I have a struggle I cannot overcome without God.

Equip Seminar – Anger Pt1 from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

The PDF anger self-assessment from chapter 1 — ANGER EVALUATION

STEP 2.
ACKNOWLEDGE the breadth and impact of my sin.

 

Equip Seminar – Anger Pt2 from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

 

STEP 3.
UNDERSTAND the origin, motive, and history of my sin.

Equip Seminar – Anger Pt3 from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

The PDF anger journal from chapter 3 — Overcoming Anger Journal

STEP 4.
REPENT TO GOD for how my sin replaced and misrepresented Him.

Equip Seminars – Anger Pt4 from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

 

STEP 5.
CONFESS TO THOSE AFFECTED for harm done and seek to make amends.

Equip Seminar – Anger Pt5 from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

The PDF anger confession guide from chapter 5 — Confession Guide

STEP 6.
RESTRUCTURE MY LIFE to rely on God’s grace and Word to transform my life.

Equip Seminars – Anger Pt6 from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

The PDF life restructuring tool from chapter 6 — Life Restructuring Plan

STEP 7.
IMPLEMENT the new structure pervasively with humility and flexibility.

Equip Seminars – Anger Pt7 from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

The PDF implementation evaluation tool from chapter 7 — Plan Eval Form

STEP 8.
PERSEVERE in the new life and identity to which God has called me.

Equip Seminars – Anger Pt8 from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

 

STEP 9.
STEWARD all of my life for God’s glory.

Equip Seminars -Anger Pt9 from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

 

If you live in the Raleigh-Durham area and would like to participate a men’s or women’s Freedom Group at The Summit Church, please click here for more information and the contact form.