The older I get the more I don’t understand. I see more brokenness and complications and questions of why in the world, in people I care about, and in my own life.
But I know that God is good. I sometimes fight him on that. But I always come back to knowing He is good.
A friend who is like a dad figure to me told me a few months ago when asking for marriage advice… “how do you know?” kinda questions. “The shit will hit the fan.. and when it does.. do you want to be with this person?”
Wise. Blunt. Wise. I laughed. I have seen some friends who are married suffer much in the past, and much even this year. I have resonated more and more with that quote. Life will be unpredictable and hard.
We cannot control it.
Bad, painful things happen.
In marriage.. the commitment to one another when those things happen, not if is crucial. (Says the single girl.. hey I think preparing yourself for things mentally early is healthy and wise!)
What is even more significant (and I would say along with Lindsay who I will soon let you read..) is an anchor in knowing God’s goodness even in the midst of the worst of the worst.
Lindsey and I went to university together. She was two years older than me. So we were more acquaintance friends than close. I was better friends with her brother who was in my year. Lindsey and her husband are newly married. They got pregnant with their first child, a little girl they have named Sophie about 8 months ago. Unless God interrupts the natural order and does a miracle.. it is likely their little girl will not live much past her birth. Lindsey has been blogging through their journey and she posted this about why they decided to carry Sophie to term. It will melt your heart and bring tears to your eyes… Pray for them with me. I recommend you read her other posts. Raw. Honest. Real.
And just when I think I have successfully convinced Americans that England is not all fairy tales, high tea in castles and cutesy old fashioned tea parties all the time…
My house group ie. church small group Bible study (we meet in a house, we’re a group…. lol) had one of the vicars (ministers, preachers one might also call them) come speak to us last night about a Bible study that happened in house groups a few months ago that caused a bit of a stir and controversy around the church. I thought.. we could wrestle and grumble on our own or we can grab someone to discuss. Thankfully Jonathan was more than happy to entertain our questions.
Most of us who could come early had dinner together and then the few late people arrived as well as the vicar and we settled into a three hour discussion. Jonathan went around and got everyone to share their personal questions about the said issue and any pertinent background information that would be helpful for us to know about one another as we approached the issue. He asked lots of questions of all of us before we began to wrestle through some answers and him address some of our personal theological questions and pastoral questions (pastoral meaning.. what does this mean practically in looking after people in and outside of the church in relation to this topic).
I was struck by several things from last night as I pondered them over in my mind today:
1. Our agreed foundation was not “our opinions or experiences” but set squarely on what God says in the Bible.
Jonathan started addressing the questions by separating out the two issues at hand: “What Scripture teaches” and then “what do we do with this, that and this situation.” If we start by looking at the situations without having a clear picture of what God says in his Word and are firm in that.. we will waver and come to conclusions based on our own fancies and experiences and not grounded in what God says about it.
2. I want my continued goal in life to be to set my convictions squarely on what God says in his word.
This is sometimes complicated. Some things are as clear as day in the Bible. “Jesus is the only way to get to God and experience forgiveness of sins.” Not even a question in scripture. Predicted in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the New Testament, proclaimed clearly by Jesus and all of his followers. Other things, are harder, including some nuances with last night’s text we were looking at. Some things in the doctrine we were discussing were clear as day even in them being difficult teachings. Other scriptures we needed to wrestle with a little more and seek to interpret them looking at what God says across scripture in the issue. Even if it is difficult I want to be a woman of the Bible who looks to God’s word as my foundation for everything.
3. Disagreements should push us to see what God says in the Bible MORE.
I don’t know what everyone thought of last nights discussion other than it was really good and helpful. I don’t know how thought out everyone’s conviction was on the matter at hand before they arrived. Some were honest in saying they had not thought about it much. Some people nodded and seemed to agree with how Jonathan explained the grayer areas of the text in question. Not to ever be a dissenter or anything (darn that dialectic spirit!) but I wasn’t quite convinced. I was however pricked and very challenged. I walked away challenged by Jonathan that I need to really dig into that passage more, read it, understand it, get its context (even maybe look up a few Greek words). I didn’t disagree because of my experiences. I disagreed because of what I was understanding the text to mean. The way forward is to look at that particular text of Bible more. A way forward would be to pray and ask God for humility and understanding and do a bit more homework. It would not be to walk away and disagree because I don’t like something or it’s hard teaching.
We live in a time where many things God says are true are being outright ignored, disagreed with or manipulated to suit our own fancies. This is gravely dangerous.
4. I find it an honour that I have fellow Christians along side of me I can wrestle with and pray and look at the Bible with.
Last night was a great example of Christian unity, of coming together to be planted on what God says is true. It was a great example that though we did not all agree, we were looking to God’s word to teach us and we wanted to know what it said as we wrestled through the mess of life, sin, brokenness, and relationships together.
I venture off to weird parts of the world all the time and often spend my summers some place other than I live.
I know I live a weird life to a lot of my friends who have more 9-5 jobs back in my city. Working for a non profit was not the plan I had when I left university but it has taken me on so many adventures I am grateful for.
The last month I was able to do 4 sprint masters level bible college classes for my “work.” Some of you might think a bunch of bible classes would be boring (it’s not) others realize it is such a privilege I can do that for a little job break. I am grateful for the time and the support to be able to do it. Professors dropped in from RTS and Southern and Talbot and Trinity as well as a few in house lecturers.
The theme of this year has been learning to pause. Stop doing. Rest. Meditate on the Lord. I am good at going 100 miles per hour and not good at stopping and resting. Being in a new place with the classes I had the last month just gave me the breather and discipline to pause a bit. It was still very full mind you. I had assignments, and sermons to give, essays to write and a lot of reading due most days. But I am learning that I don’t need to fill my time. I don’t need to self justify myself by being “busy.” (We are so bad at that in the US particularly, and the UK too). What does it mean to work well and then stop? Jesus is my justification. It is salvation and has implications into the mundane as well.
The biggest part of the summer was probably spending time in my Biblical interpretation and communication classes looking at the fallen condition of a passage of scripture. We are so not like the heroes in the Bible.. we are most likely like the unfaithful, the broken ones, the ones who sin the most and disobey God the most. What does it mean to see my own brokenness and need of a Saviour in the pages of the Bible? What does it mean then to see my fallen condition and the redemptive solution that is to be found in Jesus.
Jesus has been made so much sweeter by the last month.
I’ll probably write some more about that soon.
Last weekend I was able to attend a cousins’ wedding by grace while I was in the US because someone gave an anonymous gift to help fly me there. I got a save-the-date in an email today for a good friend when I return back to the UK.
I have been to 5-10 weddings a year for about 12 years now. I also went to a few family and church weddings as a kid. I am pretty sure without doing all the effort of counting that at this point I have been to close to a hundred weddings. I am past the wedding boom of my mid twenties where I was going to 10-12 a year and I have 5 this year alone and one I had to sadly miss.
All of that has got me reflecting on some of my thoughts about weddings and a nagging thought that I am behind on my 30-30 series and I had a blog post on marriage coming.. I will try to get to that eventually! Until that comes, here is the wisdom I have gathered in all of my days of wedding attendance.
1.) Preparing for your marriage is more important than preparing for your wedding
2.) On that note, preparing for what kind of a wife or husband you will become makes growing in your character and facing sin issues head on as a single person really crucial.
3.) Weddings are often stressful. Attitude, demands, expectations, “I deserve” … etc factors can make a wedding more stressful or even serene depending which way they swing.
4.) All the must have’s are optional. Actually. I have seen expensive weddings, cheap weddings (Yep! They exist!), complicated weddings, simple weddings, fast engagements (my brother with the record 2.5 months) and long engagements. Ask: What can we afford? What is most important? And let those things determine how you plan and not what everyone or you think you need*
5.) The longer I have been to weddings the more I am reminded that it is a marriage I will be preparing for with my best friend if I have the privilege of marrying… everything has become optional in my world except “let’s somehow get our immediate families there.” In my cross cultural life it is funny how everything else has whittled away. If we had a lot of money we could think bigger, if we had pennies, let’s just see how to get the families there. Perspective I didn’t have at 22 and I think my dad will be grateful I have now.
6.) The wedding is a day. Marriage is for life. Marriage is hard work. I have enough married couples who let me into their lives to not have any blinders on in that regard. Don’t build your expectations around a fantasy day but build your prayers, efforts, and devotion around making your marriage work. It is more than pretty lights and fancy dresses and the right centerpieces. It is two sinful people learning to give grace to one another for the rest of their lives. I love my no nonsense cousin in law who was the maid of honour last week and gave one of the toasts. She started with something to the effect of “You guys are embarking on the most impossible journey ever. Marriage is hard.” She is great at saying it like it is… but then she reminded them of grace. Don’t let images of a perfect day ruin the reality that marriage is hard work.. but it is good and worth fighting for and worth the effort.