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Month: September 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Should Following Christ Look The Same Regardless of Gender?

**If this blog post feels long and a bit formal to you, there’s an explanation!  This was a freelance piece I wrote for a magazine this spring, but it never made it to publication.  Instead of letting it continue to collect dust in my hard drive, I thought I’d share it here.  As always, thank you for reading!

I have concerns about raising my son in the church.

I fret over the Bible lessons he hears. Are they watered down? Or, conversely, will they be too intense for a preschooler? I wonder if familiarity with Christianity will end up being a hindrance to his faith, instead of bolstering it. I question how to raise him with an ecumenical faith, but still teach the positions that matter dearly to my husband and me.

But mostly, I worry about what he’ll learn about gender roles.

When we talk about gender roles in the church, the conversation often begins and ends with what women can do in churches. Denominations have split and churches have divided over whether women can be pastors or elders or deacons or whether they should have any leadership roles at all.

While that’s an important issue, and one that I’m glad is being discussed more broadly, I see a greater failure regarding gender in our churches. Namely, I see a gender divide that is based, not on Scripture, but on traditional cultural norms. There are books, retreats, and conferences all reinforcing the idea that men and women are radically different and, thus, that we follow Christ differently. The result has been to divvy up the list of Christian virtues as either masculine or feminine, allowing little overlap.

Here’s one example of that division. Gentleness has been relegated as a feminine virtue throughout history and, unfortunately, within modern churches. But the Scriptures have a different message about gentleness: it’s for all Christians, regardless of gender. We see gentleness commanded throughout the New Testament. It is in Paul’s instructions to both Titus and Timothy – male leaders in the early church. It’s one of the virtues that make up the fruit of the Spirit. And in Matthew 11:28, Jesus calls himself gentle. These passages clearly show that Christians, regardless of their sex, are called to be gentle. Yet when was the last time Christian men were instructed to be gentler?

This bifurcation of the sexes has an unfortunate byproduct: When we narrow the view of what it means to be a biblical man or woman, we unintentionally shame and exclude individuals who don’t fit our criteria. Rather than praising the Christ-likeness of men who are humble and kind, many churches say that they should “man up” and “be a leader.” Similarly, women who are bold leaders often have a hard time finding a place within churches that expect Christian women to have a “gentle and quiet spirit.” I fear that too many Christians, those who don’t fit squarely into the box prescribed for their gender, are either squelching their natural gifts or leaving to find a place where they will be accepted.

Instead of dissecting what it means to follow Christ as a woman or as a man, we must acknowledge that most of the time following Christ looks the same regardless of sex. While there are passages like Ephesians 5:22-33 and Titus 2:2-8 that address men and women separately, these verses are simply emphasizing commands that were given elsewhere to both genders.

When we view Scripture as a whole, we see the gender divide falling away.

Men and women are both called to humility (Eph 4:2, Phil 2:3, Col 3:12) and to submission (Eph 5:21, James 4:7, Heb 13:17, Rom 13:1, Titus 3:1). Both genders are called to exhort and edify each other (I Thess 5:11, I Cor 14:3). Teaching and prophesying are also mentioned for men and for women (I Cor 11:5, Rom 12:6-7, James 3:1-2). All Christians are told to admonish others (Col 3:16) and to pray unceasingly (I Thess 5:17). Passages we consider to be core teachings of our faith, like the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5) were given to both genders as well. But the clearest sign is that the crux of our faith, Jesus Christ and his resurrection, is the same for both men and for women.

When my fears about raising my son in a highly gendered Christian culture start to surface again, I find comfort by looking to Christ. He was the God-man, perfectly embodying both grace and truth. He preached to the crowds, but also knelt down to talk to the little children. He subverted his culture’s standards for men by initiating interaction with the woman at the well (John 4) and praised Mary for doing the same when she sat at his feet, instead of helping her sister (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus crossed the gender boundaries of his time to give us the perfect model of godliness and he is calling us to do the same.

That’s the message I hope my son hears at church this week.

Following Christ and Gender Roles

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Four Years

 

I’ve been down with a migraine all week so the blog has been quieter than I would have liked!  But I couldn’t miss a special post for this special day in our lives! 

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ONE baby.

TWO of us.

THREE states.

FOUR happy years.

Happy fourth anniversary, my love!

Cheers to beginning year five where love looks like letting the other one snooze for a few extra minutes, “date nights” to Target, and a toddler splayed between us in bed.   I appreciate you more with each passing day.

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Four Things I’ve Learned in Four Years as a MilSpouse

Four years ago this week Caleb took an oath to serve our country as a United States Air Force Officer.  Since we were  married just a week and a half before that, I’ve been along since the beginning of his active duty career.

Four years is the first crossroads for many officers, including Caleb.  His initial commitment was completed so this month he could have left the military for civilian life.  Instead he (we) chose to stay so he could earn the promotion to Captain.  It was an easy decision for Caleb to stay in since we’ve been planning to stay in the military long term, but in January when we found out he was assigned to AFIT, we understood that accepting that assignment meant that he was also accepting a longer commitment.  We feel like our military journey is just beginning so we didn’t mind dedicating a few more years.

Here’s a little bit about our military journey: In the past four years we’ve lived in three states.  Caleb completed tech school, deployed for six months, and promoted twice.  I served as Key Spouse for one squadron and am working to get involved in at WPAFB.  And we know we’ll be moving again in 17 months when he’s finished here at AFIT.

We’ve had highs and lows with the military.  There are lots of days when I think we could stay in “for life” (20+ years) and when I’m smitten with the possibility of all the places we could live.  Then there are times when I just want to have a “normal” life, when I bemoan the fact that we don’t own a house or that we can’t live closer to my family.

Today I thought I’d share four things that I’ve learned in four years of military life.

4 Things I've Learned in 4 Years as a MilSpouse

1. Think Seasonally

Civilians often talk about the seasons of life (e.g. your kids are only young for a season).  But in the military you know that there are many more kinds of seasons.  There’s the season of deployment, the season of TDY’s, and seasons of training or special duty.

When Caleb was a tech school there were days when he was gone 12 hours a day.  We were newly married.  We had one car, which he took to base.  I had exactly one friend in that town.  I was home alone with dangerously severe morning sickness.  And lots of days he was in a SCIF which meant that I had no way to contact him.  It was a really, really awful and lonely season.  But it was just that: a season.

If you’re in a season that really stinks, remember that this deployment, this assignment, this duty isn’t going to last forever.

2. Make Yourself A Priority

As a new MilSpouse I was excited about military life.  But I was also keenly aware of the things I was giving up at that time.  Because of several personal reasons it didn’t make sense for me to start grad school or look for a job in those beginning years so we made the decision together that I would stay home with our son.  But that didn’t mean that it was always easy for me.  Blogging (and eventually freelancing) has given me an outlet to develop new skills, challenge myself and carve out time for my own interests.  It’s something that can travel with me to each new home we make.

Writing might not be your outlet.  But find something that makes you happy.  Whether it’s working outside the home, running, painting or weight-lifting, make it a priority.  There might be times when it goes on the back-burner if you’re in a difficult season and that’s okay too.  Just make sure that you get back to doing something that you love (and something that travels with you) to make you feel steady and sure in the topsy-turvy world of the military.

3. Find Your People

It’s really hard to do military life alone.  And it’s also really hard to do with the wrong people.

Look for YOUR people at each base.  At times I’ve fallen into the completely unfair trap of narrowing down military spouses in a caricature.  I cynically think that they are all the same and that I don’t fit in with them.  Not only is that silly, it’s absolutely wrong.  The more MilSpouses I meet, the more I realize how much variety there is in this group.

If you can’t easily find your people, consider starting a group that might attract them.  When we moved here to WPAFB I wanted to meet other MilSpouses who liked to think and discuss things so I started a TED Talk group where we get together once a month to watch and discuss a TED Talk.  At first I was a little nervous that no one would be interested, but I had a great response to that idea.  Think of what kind of people you want to meet and then figure out how to find them!

4.  Rank Doesn’t Matter (But It Kinda Does)

As a spouse, issues of rank rarely affect me.  I will neither befriend you nor snub you based on your spouse’s rank.  I’m friends with who I want to be friends with and that’s it.   

But rank does matter when it comes to my husband.  Per the rules of the military, he can’t spend much time outside of work with people either above or below him in his chain of command.  This fraternization rule is there to keep commanders from acting based on favoritism.

All that this means in our family is that if I’m friends with someone in Caleb’s squadron, we probably won’t be able to do things together as families.  As spouses we’re free to get together as often as we’d like though.

Whether you’ve been a MilSpouse for 10 months or 10 years, I would LOVE to hear what you’ve learned!   Share in the comments below or connect with me on Facebook and comment there!

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