Most days, this is what my daughter’s room looks like. And the living room. And my office. And our guest room.
When he was in his early 20s, my husband woke up at a party to find a woman he did not know having un-consented sex with him. He was passed out drunk in a back bedroom alone when it happened. The next morning, he woke up to find her still in bed with him, brazen and shameless as if she had done him a great favor.
Recently millions of women – strong, beautiful, brave women – came together in cities across the country to march for equality and empowerment. They were passionate, unified, and got a lot of things right. And they were loud.
And yesterday morning as I laid there watching you sleep peacefully, I was wondering exactly what kind of world you’re going to grow up in. I was thinking about the full set of values that these women were marching for, and I was wondering how they ended up grouped together so firmly. Many of them are values I hope you have, goals I hope you march for – many, but not all. But it can get so loud in the world sometimes that suddenly it can be hard to even make sense of who you are through all the clamor. And it struck me that I’m going to really have to get my act together if I’m going to teach you to stand apart from it. Because if not me, then who?
If not me, then who is going to teach you to discern between truth and noise? To think carefully through every cause and every value that you sign your name to if it doesn’t come directly from the word of God?
The world is going to teach you about all the ways that women are still not equal to men. And it’s true. So go ahead and get loud about the things that matter. Fight for equal pay and equal opportunities, and work towards ending all types of sexual violence. I’ll be so proud of you if you use your voice for these things.
But if not me, then who is going to tell you that you can fight for gender equality without sacrificing your God-given femininity?
Who is going to teach you that God made women to be different from men? And who will help you understand that this is good news for you?
Who will help you see that you were designed to fill a role? Who will teach you that different does not necessarily mean less than?
The world is going to teach you that you can express your gender in whatever way you feel like expressing it, and to some degree I say YES. Hate pink if you want, never wear make-up if you’d rather not, love sports and guns and video games if those are the things that make you smile. Those are boundaries that the world created and is now, in a great show of irony, making a huge scene about destroying. To hell with those boundaries – they were never real. When it comes to hobbies and style and imagination, you do you, Peanut.
But boundaries from God are for your good. And if not me, then who will teach you, precious girl, to know your place at home and in the church? I know that the world will call this oppression. But the Lord calls it freedom.
If not me, then who will teach you how to be a woman of God? How will you learn how to flourish inside his boundary lines?
Whose example will you look to when you’re wondering how to honor your husband? If I don’t respect and love your dad, who will you trust to teach you respect? If I don’t find joy in obeying him, how quickly will you rebel from God’s commands? If I don’t serve him in our home, stand by him in ministry, laugh with him on long car rides, and dance with him in the kitchen – whose marriage are you going to use as your model?
The world will teach you how to fight. It will teach you to be offended and victimized, and it will teach you that it’s important to always win.
But if not me, then who will teach you to fight fair? To walk away? To apologize? To let go? To forgive?
If not me, then who will teach you that silence is not a sign of weakness, and that weakness is not a reflection of poor character?
Who will teach you to be vulnerable? Who will help you learn to understand your emotions? And who will teach you that the word of God is always more important and more trustworthy than how you feel?
The world will teach you how to be sexy. You’ll learn what you should wear, what you should say, and how you should act.
But if not me, then who will teach you that the best way to command respect from men is to act in a manner worthy of respect? Who will help you learn to dress and behave with modesty?
The world might teach you that a man worth having opens your car door, buys you thoughtful gifts, and plans romantic dates.
But if not me, who is going to teach you that a man worth having calls out your bad attitude? He has high expectations of you. Darling, who will teach you that a man worth having tells you “no?”
The world will teach you the importance of friendship and romance. You will learn to be open and outgoing, and I hope that you are rich with good relationships.
But if not me, then who will teach you to guard your heart in friendships and romance? To warn you that intimacy of any kind should not be given carelessly?
The world will want you to believe that you deserve good things, and that you’re being personally wronged when you don’t get them – that you shouldn’t waste time on people who don’t give them to you.
So if not me, then who will teach you hard work and self-sacrifice? Who will teach you generosity and compassion and empathy? Who will teach you to be kind?
If not me, then who is going to strip you of your entitlement?
Who is going to teach you that you’re not always perfect the way you are? That sometimes you need to change?
The world will teach you that every choice you make for your own body is a great one, and that nobody else should ever get to weigh in. Your body, your choice. Period.
And so if not me, then who is going to teach you that your body is a temple that exists for the glory of God? Who is going to teach you the importance of being healthy – and that it isn’t beautiful to choose an unhealthy lifestyle?
If not me, then who will teach you that all life is God-breathed and sacred, even before it is fully formed?
Who will tell you that your life was respected and loved from the moment of your conception? That you were always more than a set of cells – that you were wanted and cherished and longed for? That while you were so incredibly a part of me, you were also wholly and distinctly separate from me?
“My Body, My Choice” is a phrase that I hope I hear you say in your lifetime. I hope you say it to men who try to go further with you than you are ready for. I hope you say it to friends who pressure you to dress or act in ways that you are uncomfortable with. I hope you say it to anyone who seeks to force your hand in matters regarding your health or medical treatment.
I hope that you demand respect for yourself and bring glory to God with those four words, baby girl. Your body, YOUR choice.
Except when it’s not just your body.
Who will teach you that true female empowerment is found in your ability to form life inside of you – and never in your freedom to destroy it?
The world will teach you that your happiness is the most important thing, and that if anything is making you unhappy then it is worth quitting or giving up on. Even if it’s a pregnancy, a difficult relationship, a marriage.
And so if not me, then who will teach you to be prepared for the consequences of your choices, even when they are difficult or scary or inconvenient? Who will teach you that your happiness is not what matters most to God?
Who will teach you to nurture your children? Who will show you how to love them unconditionally?
Who is going to show you that discipline is a form of kindness?
The world will teach you that you are special and unique and that you should never have to endure hurt feelings or embarrassment. The world will teach you that your self esteem depends on people treating you correctly.
But if not me, then who is going to teach you that life is hard and unfair, and that’s okay?
The world will tell you all of the ways that you can be victimized; but if not me, then who will point you to the only true source of redemption and joy and identity?
If not me, then who will teach you that you don’t belong to the world, and that you are not ruled by the things it says about you? It will not teach you to be the woman you were created to be. You will never experience true femininity apart from Christ – and without him there is no amount of victory, no marches or protests or movements, that will satisfy you. If you are looking for your feminine identity anywhere other than in the one who made you, you will always feel like there is another fight to be won.
The world will be loud, Baby, but the voice of your Lord will cut through the noise and land a gentle whisper in your ear.
If not me, then who will teach you to listen?
It was the gown that finally broke me.
That ugly, faded, worn so many times before me, hospital gown. After 45 hours of labor, I stepped into a sterile hospital room and looked around at everything I hated about that place. I took a deep breath and tolerated the machines, the curtains, the cold bassinet they intended to put my baby in, the harsh lighting, the vinyl floors, the IV drip I’d soon be hooked up to, the mechanical bed with scratchy sheets. But when my eyes fell upon that gown – that hideous cotton drape that was going to turn me into a patient – my heart gave one final plunge into despair.
For me, the hospital gown was the final step to making my birth medical and I feared that it would strip away everything primal that had risen up inside of me. It symbolized everything I was losing. I was never supposed to be in this room, never supposed to be told what to wear. I was supposed to give birth naked in my bedroom, in a pool in my husband’s arms. No needles. No machines. No nurses. No vaginal exams. No cold bassinet and no harsh lighting. No freaking rules. I was supposed to be at home where it was safe and peaceful – where I was in control. However, after two days at home my baby was getting weak and my plan needed to change. I walked into that hospital terrified, my body quaking with contractions and grief. But half an hour earlier I was told that my daughter’s heart tones were no longer varying, and I became a mom. So with tears pouring from my eyes, I sat down on that horrible bed and put on the stupid gown.
I sat here and tried to think of a catchy introduction to this post. I searched my brain for a well-written lead in that would sugar coat the subject – but I don’t have one. We are in the middle of a global terrorism crisis. It’s bad, and it’s getting worse. And you already know that. It’s not occasional attacks, but daily massacres, both foreign and domestic. Whether by a lone gunman on a college campus, a planted bomb on a passenger jet, an organized attack across a major city, or the systematic overtaking of village after village—the threat is constant and it is worldwide. It hangs in the air all around us, and we can feel the thick darkness as it grows, a swirling, raging mass above our heads, begging us to ask: WHAT NOW?
When you take the time and energy to consider “What Jesus would say to [person A, B, or C]” please also take the time and energy to consider the circumstances and context under which he would say those things. Based on the way the Bible shows Jesus dealing with sinful people, I shy away from thinking that he would be using social media to call them out.
I was leading a youth event this weekend (post on that to come as soon as my brain wakes up enough to write it) and as we were sitting in worship on Saturday night i picked up my journal and started to write. The speaker was talking about Paul, and focusing in particular on this really awesome passage in Acts where Paul and Silas are going around preaching the gospel when this slave girl who works as a fortune teller starts following them around shouting that they were servants of God. After days of this, Paul gets so annoyed with her that he turns around and casts out the spirit of divination that’s in her. I love this picture so much. Paul gets ANNOYED and casts out a DEMON! I get annoyed and flip someone off or lash out at my husband or, at my very best, go in my room and scream into a pillow. But not Paul. He gets annoyed and uses his anger to bring glory to God. As if that’s not cool enough on its own, He gets thrown into prison for it so that even cooler things can happen.
So he’s just chilling there, in prison, “praying and singing hymns to God,” when suddenly an earthquake comes along and causes the doors to open and all of the prisoners to become unshackled. When the jail keeper woke up and realized what had happened, he draws his sword to kill himself because the prisoners escaped on his watch. But Paul’s voice stops him short. “Do not harm yourself,” he says, “for we are all here.”
ARE YOU GETTING THIS?! They were ALL there. It’s insane already that Paul and Silas didn’t escape, but what’s absolutely crazy is that ALL THE OTHER PRISONERS stayed with them. They were so captivated by Paul’s message, so captivated by JESUS, that they would rather stay in his presence even if it meant staying in prison. When the guard sees this, he too comes to a saving knowledge of Christ. (I imagine God dropping the mic and walking off the stage at this point.) Continue reading