Reflection on a Death (Class Assignment)

Although it is not my most recent loss, it is a loss I have been thinking about lately because my sister just lost a student of hers and the heartbreak I hear in her voice and tears is an echo of mine 15 years ago. Shortly after my class graduated high school, someone I cared for hung himself. I don’t have any answers for why. He had a beautiful smile and a personality that drew people to him and I liked him in spite of his knack for getting my boyfriend at the time in trouble. I certainly wasn’t perfect; I wrote papers for money in high school for a while and he had been a great customer. However, it had ended with him getting moved up into a higher level class (perhaps because they couldn’t prove he was cheating). Then they failed him through the class tests and he couldn’t graduate. He didn’t blame me but he also didn’t get to walk with the rest of us; he would have to go to summer school. He was also in love with his girlfriend but, as teens tend to do, he did something stupid and so his relationship was on the rocks. Despite all that, there had been optimism in his voice when we had talked earlier.

I had just pulled up to his house and was walking in. His old black truck, which seemed to be a part of him, had its hood up in the garage and the shiny front part of the truck was on the kitchen counter because he was in the middle of fixing something. I don’t remember exactly what transpired except that my boyfriend and I were the last two people at his house and we had a disagreement in the street next to my Explorer about leaving him. My boyfriend insisted he knew him better than I did, that his friend just needed some time to cool off. I had a bad feeling and wanted to go back in. I acquiesced to my boyfriends’ wishes and we promised ourselves we’d come back later that night to check on him. We didn’t; I was running late for my curfew. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. We found out later from his father that he was likely dead within minutes of us walking out of his garage door.

I didn’t believe in God at the time and I had been struggling with the fragility of life. This phase of my life leads me to disagree with Sigmund Freud’s perspective that we each believe in our own immortality on an unconscious level. In our reading it said “So we not only have the desire to deny the fact of our own death, but may be unable to do otherwise.”[1] While I desired desperately the ability to deny my own death or the death of those I love, I was incapable of doing so. Additionally, there was a tremendous amount of guilt that weighed on myself and my boyfriend, who began pulling away from me and started doing drugs more heavily after that night. I drank when I could to numb what I was feeling for a while. I remember his visitation was open casket and I kept looking at him because I believed all of him was summed up in that body and yet it didn’t even look like him. There were more people than they expected to attend and I kept realizing as the months went by the huge ripple his death sent through my community. I still wonder if we’ve not lost anyone else in our class to suicide because we saw how painful it was for everyone during those months. I got a tattoo a year later, still feeling deep down that I was a murderer. I wanted to remind myself to never again ignore the call to a person in pain. My family and friends weren’t allowed to talk to me about death for a long time because it upset me so much. The belief that these people I loved so dearly would one day die and cease to exist, that their essence was lost and that at the end of the universe there would be nothingness… it was unbearable to me. I was envious of people who could believe in a God.

Looking back now as a Christian, this event still brings me great sadness but I am comforted by the fact that I believe in a God that is good. I am reminded that “…it is of the utmost importance that the minister involved have sorted out his or her views with regard to a Christian conception of existence… the careful pastor will not confuse Christian criteria with whatever social norms may have characterized his or her own upbringing or, on the other hand, the latest avant-garde views of what is proper or “liberated” behavior.”[2] Building on the belief that God is good I know that I have to trust God with my loved ones and it may not work out the way I would want it to but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t beside me mourning the loss with me.

Three questions were brought to the surface in Worth’s chapter, “Do we make too much or too little of death? Is awareness of our own death even possible? Is awareness even useful?”[3] I went through times where death was such a large part of my brain space that it caused anxiety attacks, and I would say in those spans, it was too much. Now the only time I put thought into it is when I mourn with my friends and family, notice the graying hairs on a relative, or hold my dog tighter as I get ready to find out if he has cancer. I don’t know if I make too little of death now, but I certainly treasure the time I have with life and mourn the loss of being able to spend it with people I love. Awareness of death is a sure thing for me, and while it may not be in its fullness, it certainly feels ample enough. I would not assume this is an experience that is common to all people though. Lastly, the usefulness of this awareness depends entirely on how it is used. For me, it was useful because I moved from a state of debilitation to a state of appreciation for life and relationship. If people stay in a state where death is debilitating is would never gain its usefulness. That being said, it should not be a thing to be avoided. I am of the philosophy that sometimes in life we must suffer to grow and I would say that exposure to and contemplation of death is part of that.

[1] Worth, Jennifer. In the Midst of Life, pg. 14

[2] Gerkin, Charles. Crisis Experience in Modern Life, pg. 47

[3] Worth, Jennifer. In the Midst of Life, pg. 22

Romans 8:22-30 (My Exegesis Attempt)

Text: Romans 8:22-8:30 [NIV]

  1. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (8:22 [NIV])
  2. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” (8:23)
  3. “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” (8:24)
  4. “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (8:25)
  5. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (8:26)
  6. “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (8:27)
  7. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (8:28)
  8. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (8:29)
  9. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (8:30)

Theme/Paragraph Analysis

The theme of these verses is the story of God’s faithfulness and mercy to an unfaithful people and the response of patience and love from those who receive mercy from Him through their faith.

  1. All creation, with mankind, is experiencing a period of strife as we enter a new age.
  2. Although believers groan inwardly, God gave us the Spirit which represents the firstfruits of things to come.
  3. Christians are saved by faith in Jesus’ resurrection; they hope in a future promised in the Spirit’s firstfruits.
  4. We wait patiently through our suffering, trusting in God’s timing because of our hope.
  5. The Spirit helps our weakness and intercedes for us in prayer.
  6. God searches our hearts and understands the mind of the Spirit, who he sent to advocate for God’s people.
  7. Those who love God are called to the things God loves; God is good and so His work is for good.
  8. God knows His people from their creation. God planned their salvation through his Son’s relationship with them: that Jesus’ sacrifice would create a community of people who love God.
  9. The path to glorification with Christ is righteousness through the blood of Christ and repentance.

Historical Analysis

“Romans is arguably the most influential letter ever written. It is certainly the most significant letter in the history of Christianity. Romans has spawned conversions, doctrines, disputations, and even a few reformations, and it has done so quite ecumenically and with a kind of domino effect.”[1] One of the things that makes Romans so significant is that it has remained impactful throughout the centuries, from modern theologians like Karl Barth back to those such as Augustine and Martin Luther. This is in part because it addresses the struggle of faith in most seasons. “It narrates the grace of God toward sinful humanity, both Jews and Gentiles, that creates a multicultural cruciform community of obedient faith issuing in generous love and expectant hope.”[2]

Although Paul clearly knew quite a few of the Romans based on the names of those he listed, it is also clear that he is not the Church Father. This leads to substantial debate as to the purpose of Paul writing them. There is one thing of which we can be sure: all was not well in Rome. “In 49 an edict of Claudius expelled the Jews (or at least many of them) from Rome because of their fighting about one “Chrestus” -in all likelihood an allusion to intra-Jewish debate over the identity and role of the Jewish Messiah and, perhaps, whether Jesus was the expected one.”[3] In addition, Gentiles made up the majority if not the whole of the Roman Church which would likely have led to a marginalization of the Jews. Indications lead us to believe that this plus the differences in their practices led to issues of judgment over practices.[4] These historical tensions elicited the powerful response we see from Paul: “…the theme of Romans is God’s grace – God’s impartial faithfulness and mercy – for Jews and Gentiles that creates the eschatological, or new covenant, community through the “obedience of faith” (1:5;16:26).”[5]

 

Verse Analysis

1. Romans 8:22 [NIV] tells us “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”[6] We see evidence of this in frontiers possibly never even considered by Paul: deforestation, global warming, factory farming, unethical global supply chains that destroy developing regions, trafficking of over 20 million persons[7] etc. Fitzmyer writes that this comparison of struggle to childbirth was very common in Paul’s time for Greek philosophers. “Paul adopts this image to express the tortuous convulsions of frustrated material creation, as he sees it. It groans in hope and expectation, but also in pain. The compound verb (synodinei) expresses the concerted agony of the universe in all its parts.”[8]

One matter debated is whether mankind is included in the “whole creation.” Whereas Fitzmyer sees it unlikely because mankind is not brought up until the next verse, I believe it more likely that Paul meant to include us with the rest of creation; it further humbles us and reminds us that God is the Creator and we are the created. We groan in the pains with the rest of creation and are not set apart in this way; we on our own cannot distinguish ourselves from the rest of creation; only the grace of God can do that. For this reason, I prefer the perspective offered through the Hebrew Bible lens: “Although confident that God will be victorious, believers live in the present age, which is characterized by suffering and decay… Paul draws on a convention of the Hebrew Bible in which birth pains serve as a metaphor for the period of strife and travail that ushers in a new age…”[9]

2. Paul goes on to clarify that although we groan inwardly, we are in possession of the firstfruits. To make such a statement was no small gesture, as seen in Leviticus 23:14 (NAB) “Until this day, when you bring your God this offering, you shall not eat any bread or roasted grain or fresh kernels. This shall be a perpetual statute for you and your descendants wherever you dwell.”[10] In remembrance of their time in Egypt, the Jewish people would offer their firstfruits to God before preparing or eating any of their crop. The firstfruit was set aside for God. Yet now there is a reversal and God’s people are receiving God’s firstfruit in them. Paul writes, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:23 [NIV][11] So although we groan with the rest of creation, we have also received a great gift from God.

The resurrection being such an important part of Paul’s theology, it is to be expected that he would mention not only sonship but redemption of our bodies, alluding to the resurrection of Christ and the belief that the same experience was in store for his followers in the future. Paul’s striving for love in the shape of a cross is not intellectual; it is literal. We have been saved but we are not yet remade in the image of Jesus. “Summing up the whole train of thought, Paul can declare, here and in vv. 26-27, that the present “groaning,” though at one level a sign of the present not fully redeemed state, is at the same time a sign of the Christian’s sure and certain hope… The body is intended to be a glorious, splendid, fashioned after the model of Jesus’ own resurrection body, no longer subject to weakness, humiliation, sickness, sin, and death (cf. 1 Cor 15:54; 2 Cor 5:1-5; Phil 3:21). The Christian in the present time is but a pale shadow of his or her future self.”[12]

3. Romans 8:24 [NIV] translates as “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”[13] There are some issues with this translation, primarily with the writing of the last verse which makes it sound as if Christians may be putting their hope in something other than the resurrection of Jesus Christ, on which salvation hinges. It may be better translated as, “’For we were saved in hope.’ …Paul’s concern is to stress that, while salvation is already a reality for the Christian (“we were saved”: the tense is aorist, denoting a one-off event), it carries an inevitable future component.”[14] Remember, Paul first has emphasized our need to be humble through our equal struggle with the rest of creation, then reminded us of the undeserved grace God shows in offering salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This question of hope focuses the Romans on the hope offered in the generous gift of the Spirit given by God.

“Hope is built in to Christian experience from the start, and remains one of its central characteristics (see 5:2-5; 15:13).  But if this is so, Paul is stressing, one cannot expect present Christian living to be anything other than a matter of straining forward for what is yet to come, for what is yet unseen… One does not anxiously scan the horizon for a boat already in port.”[15] It is a state of being for the Christian rather than a means to an end. Hope is not our means of justification. “Justified through faith, man still looks to the future eschatological term of salvation and this is the sphere of hope.”[16] It is clear within the context of these verses why it is so important to differentiate between faith and hope so Christian’s build upon the proper foundation. “The replacement of faith by hope is understandable in this context, but they are not synonymous. In view of Paul’s understanding of faith, we cannot translate, “saved by hope” (KJV and even Luther). The full meaning is that we were saved-i.e. by Christ’s achievement, regard as complete, hence the past tense-so as to live now in…hope.”[17]

4. After clarifying we exist in a state where our spirit has been saved but our body not redeemed and that redemption is what we hope for but what remains unseen, Paul addresses how that hope should manifest itself within the community: “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:25 [NIV])[18] This is not hoping with anxious anticipation, like a child waiting eagerly for the moment they get to open their presents, it is trusting in the timing of God. Never, in the case of Paul, does this mean inaction. “It is hope that enables the Christian to bear with “the sufferings of the present,” (8:18) but that also makes him a witness to the world of a lively faith in the resurrection (cf. I Cor 2:9; 2 Cor 5:7; Heb 11:1).”[19] In summary, Paul is saying that the Christ follower who has hope is patient and obedient in this life because the Spirit helps us to trust in the promise of the future, having received the firstfruits (the Spirit itself).

5. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26 [NIV])[20] “The Spirit, he says, helps us in our weakness-or literally, “The Spirit helps our weakness.”[21] While Wright interprets that to mean the state prior to “full redemption,” I would rather take into consideration Paul’s first several lines referencing all of creation groaning in pain, and our groaning with it. While this is technically the state prior to redemption, Paul appears to be addressing issues of daily life with this verse. Mankind, by his very nature selfish, weak and prone to turn away from God now has within him an intercessor by means of the Spirit who speaks for us in our prayers when we have no words. “…the Spirit adds to them his intercession that transcends that weakness (hyperentygchanei,” intercedes over and above”) the result is that the Christian utters what would otherwise be ineffable. Even to pray “Abba, Father,” the Spirit must dynamically assist the Christian (8:15, Gal 4:6). But the Christian who so prays is aware that the Spirit is manifesting his presence to him.”[22]

When thinking of times of great struggle, turmoil or mourning there is often great comfort and relationship that can be found when we weep, cry and call out the name of our God and beg for His presence. Paul’s familiarity with this experience becomes clear to us through these last couple verses. “Rather, he is speaking of an agonizing in prayer, a mixture of lament and longing in which, like a great swell of tide at sea, “too full for sound or foam,” the weight of what is taking place has nothing to do with the waves and ripples on the surface…”[23] To be told that God in the form of the Spirit laments with us as we lament, mourns with us as we mourn, and gives voice to our prayers when we have no words provides great comfort to those who might feel like their experience is isolating, unbearable or unknowable.

6. Furthermore, whatever the Spirit gives voice to the Father comprehends. While Paul was certainly a monotheist, this is where we see some of the Trinitarian beliefs manifested. “That the Spirit intercedes for us distinguishes the Spirit from God. In vs. 34 intercession is the work of Christ…”[24] but when Christ leaves he said that he would send another for us, an “advocate” in some translations, and this is what we see now in Paul’s writing: “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:27 [NIV])[25] It is this distinction between that of the Spirit who inhabits us and that of the Father who can search our heart but also knows the mind of the Spirit. We see this distinction because we know that the phrase, “he who searches the hearts,” originates within the Old Testament. Examples include Proverbs 20:27 which the World English Bible translates as “The spirit of man is Yahweh’s lamp, searching all his innermost parts.”[26] Or the CEV version of Psalm 139:1 that says, “You have looked deep into my heart, Lord, and you know all about me.”[27] A searcher of hearts and man’s innermost parts is a clear part of God’s ongoing relationship with mankind. Additionally, “It was part of God’s loving plan of salvation that the Spirit should play such a dynamic role in the aspirations and prayers of Christians.”[28]

7. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 [NIV])[29] The use (or lack) of ho theos (God) in relationship to the verb synergei and the emphasis it puts on panta has ended up with three different ways of understanding this verse. First, if ho theos is included and synergei, “…is understood intransitively with an indirect object (“works together with”) …It stresses God’s co-operation “in all things” (panta, adv. Acc.) with those who love, and this is seen as the realization of his living plan of salvation…”[30] The second interpretation still includes ho theos but makes synergei transitive, making the subject panta so that the phrasing becomes, “all things work together for good for those who love God.”[31] While this might seem to fundamentally say the same thing as the third interpretation, taken in isolation, this translation or the first (similar to the NIV used) could be misinterpreted in isolation to say that God does good for those who love Him, not what is made more clear in the third and my preferred translation: “If ho theos is omitted…and panta is taken as the subject of the verb, then “all things work together for good for those who love God.”[32] Likewise, we see similar thinking echoed earlier in the Aramaic in Plain English translation of Romans 2:7 “To those who in the patience of good works are seeking glory, honor and indestructibility, he gives eternal life.”[33]

Thus, in understanding the intention to be that uses all things for good in the lives of those who love him, we can now rightly examine the second part of Paul’s sentence, “who have been called according to his purpose.” Another variation of this which we find in translations like the NAB is “who are called according to his purpose.”[34] Some interpretations draw on this to mean predestination but others believe it is a compliment. As we consider Paul’s overall theology, I believe the intention was more to accent the response God elicits in those who love Him; in other words, when one deeply loves God, you cannot help but feel called towards those things that God pursues. It is a natural response of love to support the ones you love in their purpose. Since it is a foundational belief that God is good, it would only make sense that those who love God would work towards good through all things in their life.

8. Paul goes on to clarify this path of the Christ follower even further: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28 [NIV])[35] I believe that Paul is speaking in a very general sense here, about an entire people and not an implication that God has sorted all people before the beginning of time. Paul tells the story of God and man in one broad stroke. We start with the phrase “God foreknew” which draws us back to the imagery of the Old Testament in Psalm 139:1-13 (NAB), “Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar… You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.”[36] Then we move into the phrase “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” To be reminded that it was God’s plan to provide for us a Savior that looked exactly like Jesus Christ all along, back from Isaiah:1-12 (NAB), “…To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? …There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, no appearance that would attract us to him… He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering… But he was pierced for our offenses; crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, and by his stripes we are healed… But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all…Though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood…Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear…Because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.”[37] And it wasn’t only that God planned to send us his Son to us but that those who are God’s people would conform to the image of his Son.  As it is written in 1 John 2:5-6 (NAB), “But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. This is the way that we may know that we are in union with him; whoever claims to abide in him ought to live [just] as he lived.”[38] In other words, those who love God as mentioned in Romans 8:28 should be conformed to the image of his Son, and by doing so a growing community, or brothers and sisters, who love God and have Jesus Christ as their Savior are created.

9. Paul carries on the line of reasoning by explaining: And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30 [NIV])[39] This articulates the fact that if you have received Jesus as your Savior, you are in fact predestined by God to be in relationship with Jesus and the community of followers. It follows that anyone who is saved is also called; God isn’t passive and neither are followers, according to Paul. If you are called, you will also be justified, which is another term for being made righteous (again, although this is not named explicitly as an action, it would likely involve repentance from old ways and turning towards God), and lastly glorified. “All God’s plan (involving call, election, predestination, justification) is aimed only at the final destiny of glory for all men who will put faith in Christ. It is important to realize that in this passage Paul is not speaking of the predestination of individuals; he is describing God’s design apropos of Christians as a group.”[40]

In summary, although we struggle with the rest of creation God, because of His faithfulness and mercy, provides for us the firstfruits in the form of the Spirit. Only because of God’s grace are saved by faith, and it is tin that which we find hope and patience through the Spirit, who gives sound to our wordless cries. An intercessor that God has placed within us, God can understand our hearts and the mind of the Spirit who helps our weakness and intercedes in prayer. This relationship and the love of God calls followers to the things God loves; the result of this is that all things are directed for the goodness of God for those whose hearts are like God’s. God has known his people from the start and planned their salvation through the relationship with his Son; the Son’s sacrifice and example create a community who love God and put them on a path to glory with Christ through His blood, repentance and relationship.

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

Blackman, Edwin C. “The Letter of Paul to the Romans.” Ed. Charles M. Laymon. The Interpreters One-Volume Commentary on the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 1971. 768-94. Print.

 

Fitzmyer, Joseph A., S.J. “The Letter to the Romans.” The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Vol. 2. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1968. 291-331. Print.

 

Gaventa, Beverly R. The Women’s Bible Commentary. Ed. Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe. London: SPCK, 1992. 313-20. Print.

 

Gorman, M. J. (2004). Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul & His Letters. United States of America: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Print.

 

ILO. New ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labour: 20.9 million victims. (2012, June 1). Retrieved August 19, 2016, from http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_182109/lang–en/index.htm

 

Isaiah 53:1-12 Who has believed what he has heard from us? (n.d.). Retrieved August 22, 2016, from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+53%3A1-12&version=ESV

 

Proverbs 20:27 World English Translation. (n.d.). [Reference] Retrieved August 22, 2016, from http://biblehub.com/proverbs/20-27.htm

 

Psalm 139:13 CEV (n.d.). [Reference] Retrieved August 22, 2016, from http://biblehub.com/psalms/139-13.htm

 

Romans 2:7 Aramaic in Plain English (n.d.) [Reference]. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/romans/2-7.htm

 

Romans 8 (NIV) (n.d.). [Reference] Retrieved August 19, 2016, from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans 8&version=NIV

 

St. Mary’s Press: College Study Bible (NAB). (2007). Winona, MN: Christian Brothers Publications. Wright, N. T. (1994).

 

Wright, N. T. “The Letter to Romans.” The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Nashville: Abingdon, 1994. 395-770. Print.

[1] Gorman, M. J. (2004). Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul & His Letters. Pg. 338

[2] Gorman, 339

[3] Gorman, 340

[4] Gorman, 342

[5] Gorman, 343

[6] Romans NIV Bible Gateway. [Reference]. Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans 8&version=NIV.

[7] ILO. (2012, June 1). Retrieved from http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_182109/lang–en/index.htm.

[8] Fitzmyer, J. A. S. J. (1968). The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Vol. 2). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall. Pg. 317

[9] Gaventa, B. R. (1992). The Women’s Bible Commentary. London: SPCK. Pg. 318

[10] St. Mary’s Press: College Study Bible (NAB). (2007). Winona, MN: Christian Brothers Publications. Pg. 163

[11] Romans NIV Bible Gateway. [Reference]. Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans 8&version=NIV.

[12] Wright, N. T. (1994). The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes (Vols. X). Nashville: Abingdon. Pg. 597

[13] Romans NIV Bible Gateway. [Reference]. Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans 8&version=NIV.

[14] Wright, 597.

[15] Wright, 597.

[16] Fitzmyer, 317.

[17] Blackman, E. C. (1971). The Interpreters One-Volume Commentary on the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon. Pg. 784

[18] Romans NIV Bible Gateway. [Reference]. Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans 8&version=NIV.

[19] Fitzmyer, 317

[20] Romans NIV Bible Gateway. [Reference]. Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans 8&version=NIV.

[21] Wright, 598

[22] Fitzmyer, 317

[23] Wright, 599

[24] Blackman, 784

[25] Romans NIV Bible Gateway. [Reference]. Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans 8&version=NIV.

[26] Proverbs 20:27 World English Translation. (n.d.). Bible Hub [Reference]. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/proverbs/20-27.htm

[27] Psalm 139:13 CEV. (n.d.). [Reference]. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/psalms/139-13.htm

[28] Fitzmyer, 317

[29] Romans NIV Bible Gateway. [Reference]. Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans 8&version=NIV.

[30] Fitzmyer, 317

[31] Fitzmyer, 317

[32] Fitzmyer, 317

[33] Romans 2:7 Aramaic in Plain English. (n.d.). [Reference]. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/romans/2-7.htm

[34] St. Mary’s Press: College Study Bible (NAB), 1700

[35] Romans NIV Bible Gateway. [Reference]. Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans 8&version=NIV

[36] St. Mary’s Press: College Study Bible (NAB), 356-7

[37] St. Mary’s Press: College Study Bible (NAB), 1090-1

[38] St. Mary’s Press: College Study Bible (NAB), 1923

[39] Romans NIV Bible Gateway. [Reference]. Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans 8&version=NIV

[40] Fitzmyer, 317

Things to Communicate on for a Serious Relationship

This was a checklist that I just found tucked into my Bible from a group I attend sometimes that covers a variety of topics. This was obviously on relationships and I can see how this would be worth holding onto.

  1. Who are they?
    1. Health Status
      1. Can be a big deal knowing what you’re dealing with time-wise and financially
    2. Assessment of Personal Attributes
      1. Best and worst traits about yourself, defining experiences, etc.
    3. Dating History
      1. With others and the person you are marrying
      2. Also includes relationship roles and expectations
    4. Sex (Boundaries: will they wait?)
      1. Any history here with other person or anyone else? Abuse? Physical reasons this might not function normally for you?
    5. Friends/Recreation
      1. Types friends, from where (church/work/sports/neighbors), expectations on time spent, prioritizing making new friends vs. current friends, which friends of partner do you get along with/not get along
  2. Where are they going?
    1. List of Goals and Values
      1. Individually and for your relationship/future family
    2. Employment/Career Plans
      1. Natural gifts/expectations for salary/longevity (including if either would stay at home with kids), future schooling
    3. Financial Goals/Priorities
      1. Current savings, month spending debt, giving, bank account status (shared vs. separate), level of insurance, goals for size/expense of house, car, etc.
      2. Full page itemized annual budget sheet
    4. Description of Parents and their Relationships
      1. Like it or not, definitely trend toward emulating roles of your parents
      2. Helps establish your baseline view of “normal” relationship, including responsibilities (e.g. who takes out the trash?)
    5. In-Laws
      1. Similar questions to questions about parents
      2. Also how you saw similarities in partner’s character/personality relative to that of their mom and dad
    6. Kids
      1. Number, in how long, birth vs. adoption, spread out or in a row
      2. Parenting roles
    7. Residence
      1. Location, environment (city/neighborhood/suburbs/country)
      2. Size (short and long term)
  3. How do you see God in them? (Throughlines of JUSTICE and COMPASSION)
    1. Types of Things you Communicate About
      1. Conflict styles, how you convey excitement/anger/worry, how you communicate your stress, etc.
    2. Motivation/Reasoning Behind Decisions
      1. Good indicator of priorities
    3. How They Treat People/How People View Them
      1. Can seer humor, how consistent their behavior is around different kind of people
      2. Can learn about qualities that they have in environment you haven’t had a chance to interact with them in yet
    4. Faith
      1. Frequency for church/devotions/discipleship/service/community?
      2. Why is this valuable to you?
      3. Spiritual gifts/testimony?

The Dating Game and God

I had been through some challenging things in my previous relationships and so I had taken some time off to heal, and I was also trusting God in the space of dating. I’d never dated in the Christian world. For me dating in my early 20’s involved parties with (sometimes) too much alcohol, friendships with blurred lines, drama, etc. So the IDEA of dating a man who was after God’s heart sounded fantastic.

I focused on God, healing and continuing to try to grow more into the kind of woman God calls us to be. At first I found this confusing but I think the Bible speaks pretty clearly into this and a lot of it actually comes fairly naturally as you enter into relationship (thinking of biblical examples and also Proverbs 31). So I just chased after those things and figured the guys would eventually come. That’s how it used to work. I’ve never really had a problem getting into relationships before.

But they didn’t. That is to say, the Christian guys didn’t show up. 30+ months and not a single Christian guy was interested in me. I have gone on two prayer retreats regarding husbands the last two years, and I felt like the first was more about getting myself aligned with God and where he was calling me, preparing me if you will. But this second one felt full of promise and hope. And maybe I’m expecting too much too soon.

Then there’s this guy. He’s not like most guys I’ve experienced in that I… I can’t say exactly HOW I feel for him but I know I deeply value his thoughts on things and find much to admire and not much with which to find fault. I never considered dating him but people started mentioning his name to me as someone I should consider… I shut them down but as I examined the list of attributes I had discerned from the prayer retreat, he seems to possess most of them. Rather than being helpful I find this even more confusing in that now I realize these traits rest in individuals to whom I remain mostly unnoticed.

Then there’s the guy I met when, out of frustration, I went online. My profile was super God heavy and filtering through the weirdness I get even with that, there’s this guy that matches up in all the worldly ways. He can say some of the church stuff, he says he’s cool with sex waiting until marriage and thinks the fact that I’m selling my house and downsizing to take a lower paying job to better serve the community is cool (even though money is super important to him). But… he didn’t know what a tithe was and it doesn’t appear he goes to church or has any spiritual community. He’s open to the idea of kids but afraid because he doesn’t want to be locked into anything.

So one guy is interested and the other I’m… not a blip on the radar. All the ladies know what I’m talking about, right? But then again, how many times have I been here… entering into relationships that are less that what I need because I think that maybe they’ll get there? But then I ask, who do I think I am? Aren’t I being too picky? I want to have the faith. So I pray. I ask for God to convict hearts or give me a dream, a vision, send a message or a sign. Lead me, Father.

The next day my roommate, who doesn’t know about this saga I’ve created, comes home after traveling for work all week with a bouquet of flowers for me (because she’s a beautiful person) with a verse that came to her for me:

“If God clothes the grass of the field in splendor, will he not much more clothe you? He knows your needs.” Matthew 6:30

And in my heart, I feel myself wanting to be less like Sara who doubted that in her old age God would give her a child (I’m not that old, I’m relating to the doubt, not the age). He knows my needs. I can trust Him. And as soon as the doubt creeps in I will repent, and if I struggle with disbelief I will pray that God help me with my disbelief. God knows my needs, and I want my family to serve Him.

Psalm 30: A Different Reading

Imagine that for a long time you believed that after you died, you ceased to exist. The only value you had was those who remembered you but someday the earth would die. The sun would burn out. The universe would collapse. And all life would cease. And this terrified you. So you worked too much, drank too much, smoked too much and got into the wrong relationships (if you didn’t love them, who would?).  And it left you feeling empty and hollow and broken… and then you found God. You actually learned that Jesus came not just for a special group of pious people but for you. And Jesus loved your fallen, broken, empty, dark shell so much He filled it up with the Spirit. That’s kind of my story. And if you read Psalm 30, you can kind of feel how much I love God.

Psalm 30

I will exalt you, O Lord,

for you lifted me out of the depths

and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

O Lord my God, I called to you for help

and you healed me.

O Lord, you brought me up from the grave,

you spared me from going down into the pit.

 

Sing to the Lord, you saints of his;

praise his holy name.

For his anger lasts only a moment,

but his favor lasts a lifetime;

weeping may remain for a night,

but rejoicing comes in the morning.

 

When I felt secure, I said,

“I will never be shaken.”

O Lord, when you favor me,

you made my mountain stand firm;

but when you hid your face,

I was dismayed.

 

To you, O Lord, I called;

to the Lord I cried for mercy;

“What gain is there in my destruction,

in my going down into the pit?

Will the dust praise you?

Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me;

Oh Lord, be my help.

 

You turned my wailing into dancing;

you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.

O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.

I Wrote a Prayer Before My “Interview”

I really feel like lately God’s been emphasizing a few things in my life right now:

  1. Be vulnerable. (Ouch… this is a hard one. I know how that used to end for me…)
  2. Trust in me. (It’s not a testimony to God’s power if I do all the work, right?)
  3. Go to your community. (What does that even mean?)

So I’m doing my best to do only what I really feel I should do right now and leave space for God to show up. I’m attempting to be more open and vulnerable with my close community, and invested in those around me. The depression that had settled over me lately (for the first time in years) has lifted and I am very relieved. It is not surprising with EVERYTHING in my life changing that I would have such a reaction, but I did find it comforting. Up until a couple years ago I was medicated regularly, and the antidepressants were adjusted for everyday things. Now I can undergo major life changes all at the same time without medication thanks to the support of my community and being deeply rooted in my faith as it says in the verse below (although this is not to say this would be everyone’s experience, just where God is showing up in mine).

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

Much of this deep rooting comes from a deepening in my prayer life. I was heading into a pre-interview or interview type of meeting and planned extra time and so I prayed beforehand. Occasionally I write them down, as I did this one:

7.27.16

Abba, I praise Your name because it is good. You made me without mistake and pursue me when I abandon You. Your faithfulness is without measure, Lord. You took me halfway around the world to show me you were always there and are always good. My love for You overflows from my heart but it doesn’t compare to Your love for me. My life is a testimony to the power You have to not just restore broken things but transform them. I’m following You to where You call me. Lead me, Father. Your Will be done. Amen.

And I didn’t hear back about a follow-up, but I did hear back about sharing my story with my church. In reflection, my prayer does seemed to be very focused on sharing God’s testimony and less about procuring me a job… haha… The good news is God knows what I need and so even if I missed the mark on my prayer, I’m sure God has this covered.

And when you pray, do not babble on like pagans, for they think that by their many words they will be heard. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matthew 6:6-7

God is Countercultural

These topics are hotly debated, but perhaps it is because they should be. I’m a millenial who grew up with mass shootings, I’ve lived as a Christian and non-Christian, and I do own a gun. But as a Christian, I have to consider what I am defending and protecting with my words online and in conversations. First, because God asks things of us as a follower and second, because we have the ability to bring people closer or further to God through our actions.

Sandy Hook. Orlando. Are we more apt to defend the rights of our guns or to demand some change? To say the status quo is no longer good enough? God, Jesus, calls us to the widow, the immigrant and the orphan, to mourn with those who mourn. Yet I see many who claim they are Christians first jumping to protect our rights instead of our people, and in the mean time we are creating more people who are mourning.

I love our rights. As a history major, I understand the danger of giving up rights out of fear or the desire for protection or security. I’m not saying the answer is simple or easy but we must look at our choices and as Christians, we should be caring for the victims more than our weapons. That doesn’t mean I’m saying hand them all over and melt them down; but we believe in improvement in our personal, spiritual and business life. It would be startling to think that some improvements can’t be made.

This, surprisingly or not, ties in to things like the death penalty. I don’t support the death penalty in cases where someone can be safely kept. This wasn’t always the case but my time with some Catholic nuns has shown me that everyone should be afforded every opportunity to repent and change their path; are we not all guilty in some way and worthy of being prisoners (if not of worldly law then certainly of God’s)?

I think if we examine other controversial issues like immigration, abortion, etc. we can start to see that leading with love and empathy might be the better foundation to build upon.