Dating

I heard a guy ask recently why so many Christian girls don’t date or marry Christian guys. And I can tell you why: they’re not asking. At least, not most of them. And many that are, ask based on looks rather than compatibility, so they get shot down because women are discerning creatures and then those bros stop asking.

There’s a whole lot of amazing women spending a ton of time dropping hints, expressing interest, and investing in men that never make a move. And so finally, they begin to say yes to men who 1. See how amazing these women are and 2. Are bold enough to ask them out. And they tend to not be Christian.

There’s this weird trend I notice in a large percentage of Christian men and women. Some of the best married couples I know break these molds. Yet generally, guys (who as we all know are driven by the eyes more than the heart scientifically speaking) seem to think that God is going to hand them a woman much younger and more attractive than they are, and also with the purity of Mary. And women think that if they just sit and wait, these boys that lack cajones will suddenly be transformed into bold men, leaders of families, who are capable of pursuing not just in the beginning, but throughout the marriage.

And what that leaves us with is a whole lot of people not dating, not getting married, and not establishing Christian families. Awesome. Then I’ve got Christian men in my life telling me I need to do more to catch a guys attention. I should try harder, give more. And while I’ve loved living a lifetime full of men telling me how I’m not quite enough, I’m done. I’m truly done. Because I am enough, more than enough. And I’m confident that whoever I end up with will know a great many blessings because he chose me for a wife. (Side-note: rather than encourage women to be aggressive and make them feel unchosen, maybe just encourage your male friends to ask ladies out more; it’s just a date).

I’m a dope conversationalist and I’m hilarious. I’m considerate and when I’m with you, I’m present as heck. You don’t have to worry about my phone being more important than you. I’m more focused on our compatibility than the brand you wear or the gear you own. I know how to respect and honor a man and I know how to love WELL. Hospitality and generosity are gifts of mine, and I’m slow to anger and quick to forgive. It’s clear pretty quickly that relationships with the people I love rank just below God in my life. I have a wealth of patience and I love kids. I’m as happy outdoors as I am at a party, in the city, at a concert or out on a farm. I’m easygoing and laidback but I love diving deep into conversations. I’ve got great taste in music (IMO) and I can cook pretty well (I love hosting dinners for friends). In other words, if you spend a little time getting to know me, I think you’ll know my worth. And I think I am enough. But not for the average Christian guy.

And so, even though everyone says it’s a terrible idea, and even though I know that there will be issues down the road if our faiths don’t align, I begin to consider the non-Christian. Not because I want to, but because it appears as if I have no other choice. The only ones that seem to see my worth are men who may not know God, but see His light shine in me. And I pray a lot; I pray so much over this because my deepest desire is to have a family that honors God and that disciples young people so that they, too, can have a family that honors God. But even though I believe this desire was given to me by God, both parties have to opt into it. And the guys just aren’t there. So I begin to ask myself the same question so many others around me ask themselves: do I keep waiting?

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Jo Saxton: Life as an Uncommon Fellowship – The Early Church (Notes from Catalyst)

I adore Jo Saxton. She’s a Nigerian Londoner who, more recently, relocated to Minneapolis where she pastors at a church plant.  She also chairs the board of 3DM, is an author of a couple of books and is overall just an inspiration. She started her talk with a favorite verse of mine and what I believe captures the heart of the mission God has been calling me to the last year or so:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

When she thinks of those early church times, she said that she often thinks of the phrase from A Tale of Two Cities, where it says that “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” It was the time where there was tremendous persecution and suffering for Christians but it was also the time where the church was, likely, the most unified and mission focused in it’s history. Jo Saxton gave us a How To Guide for modeling ourselves like the early Church:

  1. Posture & Purpose: What kind of family are we? We need to ask ourselves how we live and lead. Are we leading from behind locked doors and “loving” from a distance? Or are we willing to get into the mess that is the Other’s life and sit with them. Jesus literally went to through walls to be with his disciples, they touched his scars, he was patient as they worked through their skepticism and doubt. Does our posture look like his and is our purpose shared? We should be operating in the understanding that all people are made in the image of God and we are commissioned to them. This is difficult and costly, just as it was for Jesus.
  2. Prayers & Practices: How do we live as a family? How do we share devotion, worship and fasting? What do those rhythms look like (or are they absent)? And are we praying with people unlike us? Doing life together included sharing meals, materials, their real live and brokenness. This is different than the way we are naturally inclined to operate, but God is doing something different through it. We need to remember that it doesn’t blow out our own candle to light another. Doing life this way requires generosity.
  3. Pressure & Pain: How are we moving forward together? The price of family life is that we move together. What skills are being developed? Are you resolving conflicts with Christ at the center? It’s hard to Band-Aid a deep wound; healing requires an acknowledgement of feelings (like how some marginalized persons feel with this last election.) We, as a church, need to light the way for how to deal with pain, injustice and inequality. This is HARD and PAINFUL work sometimes – grace is not cheap. Galatians 4:19 speaks to this: “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.”
  4. Power & Potential: Are you a family on a mission? God’s family is on a mission, and we have such power and potential!! In what ways is your family moving? How are you responding to the Word and the Spirit?

Vocation and the Laity, Works and Grace, Luther and De Sales

Luther’s foundational belief was that we are saved only by the grace of God, not by our works as the Church had come to emphasize in his time. This meant that the individual had a direct line to God through which God’s grace was extended, not via the ecclesiastical system but through Jesus himself. Additionally, Luther argued that almost all “callings” had equal value through faith before God (a few vocations are excluded from this). In other words, we are all Christians and there doesn’t need to be and shouldn’t be a division between the spiritual and temporal: that’s why he condemned the monastic vows and commended life outside the isolation of the monastery. It doesn’t matter what one does but how it is done: to love other’s within their calling.

Francis De Sales was a Catholic who affirmed many of the ideas of faith in the ordinary life instead of the monastic pursuit. He oriented around simple steps of devotion anyone could take and like Luther, it was based on the idea that the foundation of this was love. He explained that it wasn’t as hard to get to heaven as many were told, and that it was more a series of steps toward purification and growth than maintenance of that state. This deviates from Luther, I believe, in being more works based than grace based but still has much more grace in it than I think they were used to at this point. Francis was totally confident in the redeemable nature of humans and God’s overflowing love, that we have a natural drive towards this love. Francis saw nature and grace as a merged attribute. Finally, Francis De Sales does tend to come across as a path that seems more about the individual than Luther, with charity being more surface and compassion having less depth. This is a first impression. I think this would be difficult to really discern without further research.

As I read about Francis De Sales I can see why it appeared more people turned to monastic callings from his teachings than Luther’s. Francis seems less concerned about division from each other and God and more concerned about the journey toward God. Luther seemed much more concerned about the division he saw for some people between God and those people, because of the journey of other’s towards God (in other words, the monastic and ecclesiastic groups within the Catholic Church).

A God Who Suffers and Why the Crucifixtion Might Be the Least Important Part of Jesus’ Story

The Holocaust was a major obstacle for modern Christian theology. The body count was too high, the treatment too brutal, the target too specific, the apathy too apparent. What answer could possibly be given for a God that allows atrocities on the scale that occurred in concentration camps, often at the hands of Christians? This was not war. It was the murder of six million Jews and three million others who were from minority groups or were sympathizers. They were defenseless. The answers to the questions for why certain things happen to certain people were no longer adequate. Nobody could reason away that such abuse was God’s Will or was for the best; those regular platitudes Christians mistakenly offer so often as solace, not realizing the weight it places on the victim, become apparent in their inadequacies in this situation. It would have been impossible for the symbol of the cross to not raise questions and dilemmas about God for Christianity.

Traditional theology teaches that, “…God does not will suffering directly. Rather, having created a world with its own natural laws, a world, moreover, where human beings have free will, God allows or permits disaster to happen… Even when suffering is unjustly inflicted on the innocent, God allows it out of respect for human freedom. No matter what happens, God will bring good out of evil in the end.” (Johnson, 51) But this kind of modern theism almost takes God out of most of the story; placing the Trinity only at the beginning and the end. It reinforces this distant, uninvolved Creator that shook off the dust once the work of creation was complete. Furthermore, it creates the perception that if things aren’t fair now, it is okay because God will make it alright in the end. This can be dangerously manipulated to justify the act of doing nothing, of promising reward in the next life instead of seeking justice for God’s creations now.

That answer was, not surprisingly, inadequate to many. The inhumanity that occurred within the concentration camps (and the US unwillingness to be involved until forced, the Japanese internment, the brutality on all war fronts, the Rape of Nanking, nuclear bombs, etc.) made people all over the world question their understanding of Christians and their Trinity. Christian theology and the cross had to take into account the suffering of the people in a way that did not have God as a distant, top of the pyramid Lord indifferent to the suffering of man. Additionally, presenting God as someone who sacrifices His own undeserving Son would translate extremely poorly to those who lost loved ones in the War and in camps. It makes no sense without the context of the resurrection (which was often a theistic after thought). Atheism provides an unfortunately reasonable response to an indifferent God that creates Christians who are okay with torturing and murdering millions of men, women and children. Not surprisingly, faith in God is not at its all-time high in countries that went through the World Wars. And yet there is an even better answer to the issue of the crucifixion in ideas like Dorothee Solle.

Dorothee, a German Lutheran theologian who visited Auschwitz, is described in Quest for the Living God as coming “…to the realization that rather than being a dominating force or an ineffective form of love, divine power is a creative, noncompelling, life-giving good. This is power that flows through relationships bringing others to life, power as love.” (Johnson, 64) To her, God isn’t this omnipotent God, whose main attribute is power and whose primary concern is over who wields power and who submits. God also isn’t impotent love, dying helplessly on the cross, weaponless and without any power. God instead elects to sacrifice and suffer with humanity, and the full story of the cross is in the resurrection because it brings hope to those in the world who themselves are a member of the crucified. ”None of this Christian theologizing is meant to remove the terror of the Holocaust from the Jews… But the God who shared in the suffering and death of the cross and brought the power of life to bear in the resurrection of Jesus Christ was there, suffering in the death camps.” (Johnson, 64)

There were, as mentioned, other theological paths that could be taken following WWII; this is just one solution. However, if the idea isn’t the distance, absence, or indifference of God then another option is that God was present in the concentration camps, beside those who suffered or even suffering with them and hope rests not in endless suffering but in a God that resurrects those that suffer injustice. This is, right now, an aspect of God that resonates with me. A God that takes sides, whose power within his human story lies in his teachings, his life and in his power to be resurrected out of an unjust death and yet to be present with us always. In other words, the Trinity, who I’ve come to see most simplistically as The Giver, The Gift, and the Giving. But more on that later…