Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Fear and Feminism: A better answer to our fears

Yesterday we looked at how feminism was in part a response to very real fears women faced. Today we will look at how the Bible speaks to those fears and gives us a better answer.

Sarah knew fear, right? She was taken from her homeland and family with no hope of seeing them again (Gen. 11:31). She was barren with no hope of a child (Gen. 11:30). Twice she was given over to a pagan king because her husband feared for his life (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-18). And that’s just what the Scriptures tell us. You could say that fear was probably an ever present reality in her life.

What marked Sarah ultimately, and maybe not always in the moment, is her hope in God. Her unwavering belief that God would do what he said, that God would deliver on his promises to her, and that God would never disappoint her. This is why Peter, in 1 Peter 3:1-6 uses her as an example for us to follow, not because she did it perfectly, but because ultimately her hope rested in God alone. We know that she didn't actually do it perfectly. In fact, like us, she gave into her fears on more than one occasion that we know of (Gen. 16; Gen. 18:9-15).

But the context of 1 Peter 3 is a rather fearful one isn’t it? Peter starts by telling women who live with a disobedient or unbelieving husband how they should conduct themselves. He exhorts them to live their lives in such a way that their husbands see the conduct of their character and are won to Christ. A disobedient or unbelieving husband would make any woman feel a little fearful over the future, or even the moment by moment complexities of her day. That is why Peter provides us with an example to follow. He presents his hearers with a woman clearly understood what it meant to live with a husband who was not always obedient to the word, and his hearers would have known that. Then he gives us the punchline, the moment of truth for Christian women threatened by our fears:

And you are her [Sarah’s] children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Pet. 3:6).

This can encourage us even today. We, too, live in a frightening world. Our sin alone can scare us to the core. But there are countless other earthly realities that threaten our faith daily. I have had two miscarriages, which I’ve talked about before on the blog. One happened while I was writing the book and it was more complicated than we anticipated. It was so difficult that it caused my husband and me to wonder if we would ever try for another baby again. It rocked us and terrified us. I’ve also never had a pregnancy without some type of complication. This one carried minimal risk for a while (it’s resolved now), but it’s still not a normal one. Pregnancy brings out all sorts of fears for me. Will I ever hold Seth? Even as we get everything ready for his arrival, I battle a lingering fear in the back of my mind, will this all be in vain? Will I be stricken with grief again? Maybe your fears are similar, maybe they are different. But the reality of living in a sin-cursed world means there is a lot to be afraid of.

I don’t know what brings out your fears. Maybe it is a husband who doesn’t lead you like he should. Maybe it is the prospect of a life of singleness. Maybe it’s infertility. Maybe it’s a move that is on the horizon. Maybe it is family member who doesn’t know Christ. Maybe you have a difficult child or a difficult job. Maybe your bank account never seems to have enough money in it. Does the thought of your children leaving for college or driving a car for the first time bring you to your knees in fear? Are you fearful over school loans you feel like you will have forever?

The list could go on.

The answer for us all is still the same: We are Sarah’s children, if we hope in God and do not fear anything that is frightening. Feminism can’t remove our fears anymore than it can give us the power and autonomy we crave. It’s all an illusion. What we really need, what stands the test of time, is hoping in the God who knows the end of our circumstances, who is over every detail of our painful, broken lives, and who has promised to always do what is good for us.

It can be frightening to submit to your husband. It can be frightening to give your life to raising children. It can be frightening to face a life of singleness or barrenness. It can be frightening to embrace your season and give up a beloved career, rather than trying to have it all. It can be frightening to go to your job every day when you are regularly left wondering if the job will be there tomorrow. It can be frightening to pour your life into your local church with the gifts God has given you. It can be frightening to love your neighbors and enter their lives. It can be frightening to open your life up to friends, roommates, and family members. Life in a broken world is fraught with risk and fear.

In all of these areas, we are giving ourselves over for the good of another, not us. That is always frightening.

Left to ourselves we should be afraid. Hedged in, protected by our loving creator, we have nothing to fear. Feminism is not the answer to our fears or our deepest longings. Hoping in the God who created us, loves us, and promises us a brighter future is.

We are Sarah's children if we trust in our all powerful, all loving, all wise, and always good God and do not fear anything that is frightening, even the fearful reality of living in a fallen world. 

*If you want more information about how feminism has influenced us as women, you can order The Accidental Feminist on Amazon. 



Monday, May 4, 2015

Fear and Feminism: There is a lot to be afraid of

At the end of this month my first book, The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design, releases. As I anticipate its release, I want to spend some time talking about what we fear. It might seem a little strange to talk about fear in the context of feminism, but I think it has everything to do with feminism’s influence in our lives and the root of feminism itself.

Feminists are strong, right? Feminists are in control of their lives? Feminists believe in girl power?

But I also think feminists (and all women) can be quite fearful.

As I say in my book, God in his good providence has given us our identity as women. He has created us. But in his wisdom he has put us in positions and places in life that can give us cause to fear. In a lot of ways he has made us physically weaker than men. Who hasn’t walked to their car in a dark parking lot with their keys out ready to jump in their car as fast as possible? We live in a scary world. He has put us in positions of submission that are designed for our good, but also make us vulnerable. I’m not saying it’s easy to submit to your husband all of the time. It’s not. Sometimes husbands don’t lead like they should. Sometimes husbands sin against us. I’m also not saying it’s easy being a woman in a sin-cursed world. It’s not. Throughout much of the world women are in very difficult, and terrifying, positions of vulnerability—and often at the hands of men. This is not a new occurrence. Women have been in fearful situations since sin entered the world.

But what feminism tried to do was empower women to rise above their circumstances in their own strength, in many ways owing to these very fears of vulnerability. We are met with similar fears today, aren’t we? We all have something to fear, and God knows that. So did countless women who have gone before us.


And in a lot of ways, fear is the great leveler isn’t it? The early feminists, had a lot to fear didn’t they? They had no real ability to protect themselves from unfaithful husbands, a government that provided them with no safety net, or their children being sent into factories. They had no real voice in society. The second wave feminists had their own set of fears, right? Left to the boredom of their house, children, and husbands, they feared losing themselves and their identity. We all fear something and we all look for answers to our fears in a number of ways. Feminism answered the fears that women faced by putting women in control of their own destiny, by making women the final authority in their lives. And it’s easy to do isn’t it? We feel like if we have some semblance of control than we can’t be hurt, we can’t be disappointed, or we can’t be given over to our fears. But, friends, this is never the answer. The answer to our fears isn’t in women’s empowerment or even in good leadership. In our sinful self-reliance, we want to believe that we can protect ourselves from our fears. But there is a better answer to our fears than feminism, self-protection, or even a society that believes in the dignity and value of women (which is a good thing!). We will look at that in my next post.

*If you are interested in learning more about how feminism has influenced us, you can order my book on Amazon.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

What I'm Looking Forward To

I don't know when you will arrive, sweet son. But I do know that I can't wait to meet you. You have been constantly on my mind and heart these last nine months. We've gone everywhere together, you and me. I've felt you kick. I've felt you squirm. I've felt you hiccup. I've seen your sweet face on ultrasound more times than I expected, which was a treat.

While I have gone through this whole delivering a baby thing before, this time is a completely different experience, though there are some familiar things. I do know what to expect from babies. I had your brothers at the same time, you know. But what I don't know is what to expect from a baby who comes when he's supposed to be born. Here are just a few of the things I'm looking forward to with you.

  • I can't wait to hear you cry for the first time. I've never heard a baby cry upon delivery. Your brothers were born too early to cry much. They grunted and struggled to breathe as the NICU team worked on their immature lungs. My only reassurance was the nurse anesthetist telling me that he could hear Luke trying to cry in the room next to us. I hope your screams fill the delivery room. It will be the sweetest sound.
  • I can't wait to hold you right away. I didn't hold your brothers until they were 36 hours old. I barely saw them when they were born before the NICU whisked them away for a few hours to stabilize them. Your daddy didn't get to hold them until they were five days old. I can't wait to hold you close and study your face. Daddy can't wait to hold you either. 
  • I can't wait to go home with you at the same time. We left your brothers at the hospital for five long weeks. It was so sad and so hard. We missed them terribly. I can't wait to pack you in our van all snug in your car seat and take you to our home, where you will be loved, cared for, and so very welcomed.
  • I can't wait to see who you look like. Will you look like your brothers, who are identical? Or will you look like daddy? Or someone else in our family? Or will you have your own look, a mixture of your parents who love you dearly?

I could go on in the ways I'm looking forward to getting to know you outside of my womb, my son. But we are excited to meet you in the coming days. You are our dearly loved, prayed for, and longed for son. Our bright spot after our loss. Life formed in an empty womb that for so long knew more death and barrenness than new life. And now we simply wait for your arrival.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Control is An Illusion


I'm now a little over two weeks away from my due date, which is really hard to believe. I've never been this far along in a pregnancy before, so in a lot of ways it's all very new to me. We've never gotten a nursery ready before. The twins came so unexpectedly that my mom and sister-in-law set everything up for us while we were in the hospital. I've never bought diapers before delivery before. I've never had to count contractions or pay attention to my body because I was already in the hospital when I went into labor with the twins (and I didn't even know I was in labor anyway!). 

In a lot of ways the extra time has been nice. It's allowed for more rest and time to reflect on the changes coming our way. It's given me time with the boys before baby brother makes his grand entrance. It's given me time with Daniel before we are sleep-deprived and delirious. And while I am anxious to meet this sweet boy, I'm thankful that he's stayed put this long. 

But in another way the extra time has been hard for me. It's revealed to an even greater degree my ever present struggle with wanting to control every outcome of my life. The twins shattered that illusion pretty quickly when they arrived eight weeks early. Our lives were turned upside down by premature infants and twice daily NICU visits. It was good for us, me especially. Now that I am in a more normal pregnancy situation I can start to believe that I am in control of this whole having a baby thing. Having some form of readiness for his arrival (a room ready, food in the freezer, bags packed) can make me think that I've got this--or that I have time to spare. So when I have a night of contractions I start to panic, not because I might have a baby born before his due date, but because he's not coming according to my plan. 

You would think I've learned by now that babies come when the feel like it.

There is a spiritual parallel to my illusion of control about the day and hour that Seth will be born. The New Testament is full of warnings to be ready for the second coming of Christ, because none of us knows the day or the hour that he will come back to bring his children home and judge sin once and for all (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). All we are told is to be ready. Ready to leave. Ready to follow him to eternity. Ready to give up our fleeting lives on earth for a better one with him. We are simply told to "keep watch" (Matt. 24:42). Like a mother waiting for the arrival of her unborn baby, we do not know when the true labor will begin, bringing forth the final consummation of the redemption of our bodies--our rebirth (Rom. 8:22-25). We can believe the lie that we have all the time in the world to get ready for that glorious day, but the reality is we don't know when that day will come anymore than I know when my Braxton-Hicks contractions will give way to the real thing. But in both of these blessed events, I do know one thing, it will come eventually. I will not be pregnant forever and this earth will not be here forever either.

So as I finish up these last days of pregnancy, I want to be ready. Readiness is a good thing for both a new baby and our final redemption. But I'm learning to let go of the illusion that I can control the day or the hour, that I can be so ready that it doesn't take me by surprise when it finally comes. Only God knows that day. And what a day it will be. 




Thursday, April 23, 2015

What I Learned About Marriage From Gilbert Blythe

I don't remember exactly how old I was when I first watched Anne of Green Gables, but I know I've now seen it more times than I can count. For the longest time it was my go-to movie whenever I was sick. Who doesn't love the comfort of Avonlea when your fever is rising and your nose won't quit running? Because I am the only girl in my family, I even convinced one of my brothers to appreciate the story of Anne, Gilbert, Diana, Marilla, and Matthew (his wife can thank me for his enjoyment in classics like these).

With the many other fans of Anne of Green Gables I have been reminiscing about all that Anne of Green Gables meant to me as we learned of the sudden death of Jonathan Crombie, the man who played Gilbert Blythe. Like many women my age, I can count Gil as one of my first fictional crushes. I remember watching his often tense and teasing interactions with Anne and hoping that one day I could marry someone who loved me as passionately as Gil did.

A lot of my expectations of my future husband were fueled by unrealistic expectations at best, and a man in my own image at worst. But there is one thing about Gil and Anne's relationship that I'm thankful I have in my own.

Unwavering support.

I'm pretty sure the writing bug bit me in part because of Anne of Green Gables. As a young girl, I enjoyed pretending and telling a story, but seeing Anne publish, teach, and work at her craft really gave me a vision for writing that stayed with me over the years. I wanted to do the same thing. She wasn't like the other girls, and Gil loved that about her. But he also loved her enough to help her get better at her vocation--her writing.

Writers don't like being critiqued. At least I don't often appreciate it at first. It's painful. It feels like someone is tearing at part of your soul. A writer feels like her work is part of her and to tell her it's not good, or doesn't make sense, can feel like you are saying she doesn't make sense. When Gil told Anne to write about Avonlea, the place they both loved, it hurt her at first. But he was right. He knew the story that was inside of her and he was pushing her to allow it to come out. He believed in her writing.

I'm thankful that Daniel does the same for me, even though I might resent his criticism at first. At the end of the day no one believes in my writing more. No one believes in the words that are inside of me more than him. When I'm sloppy or unclear, he knows I can do better. When I'm tempted to compromise or cut corners out of fear of man, he knows I know the truth and challenges me to hold fast to it. He is my toughest critic and my greatest fan--which makes the often bitter pill of criticism easier to swallow.

I didn't marry a man who fights with me passionately like Gil did with Anne, although I thought that is what I needed when I was a young, passionate, and romantic girl. But I did marry a man who supports me as a writer and encourages me to write for God's glory and true to who I am. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Four Feminist Myths



The last couple of months have been filled with trying to get ready for the release of my first book, The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God's Good Design. It's hard to believe it's almost here (it officially releases May 31)! I had the opportunity to speak both at Southern Seminary and my church (Midtown Baptist Church) on how feminism has influenced us as women and how God provides us with a better answer than feminism. Instead of trying to retell the entire book, I focused on four feminist myths and provided their biblical counter-examples.

1. I define myself
2. I can have it all
3. A husband and children can wait
4. The teaching gifts are ultimate

If you want to hear the messages in their entirety (and know the biblical counter-examples) you can listen here and here. I also spend some time talking about how feminism in a lot of ways is a response to real fears that women face. I hope to come back to that on the blog as we get closer to the release of the book. In the meantime, if you are interested, you can pre-order the book now on Amazon or directly from Crossway.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Long Goodbye

I’ve always been pretty sentimental about things. My earliest memory of my sentimentality is crying outside my elementary school on the last day of fifth grade. I hate goodbyes. I hate when good things end. I don’t even really like change. So much so that I’m content to eat the same thing for lunch every day for weeks on end. I like the way things are to stay that way, for a very long time.

This is why motherhood is often so hard for me. Nothing stays the same for very long. In fact, the only constant about parenting children is that it’s constantly changing. A newborn baby quickly becomes an infant. An infant moves into toddlerhood before you have time to catch your breath from just having had an infant. Toddlerhood leads to school age. Elementary school leads to teenagers. Teenage years lead to college, which means they are gone. And now I’m already crying over something that’s at least sixteen years away.

I’ve been feeling this coming change acutely as we prepare for the arrival of our third son in just a matter of weeks. I never had a chance to really prepare for anything with the twins since they came so early, so this time around I’ve been a lot more introspective (with all the extra time to prepare). With each passing week I’m more aware of how the new normal of our life these last two years is about to give way to a whole new normal, one I’ve never done before. I’ve never had three kids. I’ve never had one baby at a time (THAT I hope is easier!). I’ve never been pregnant past 32 weeks.

But I’ve also been aware of how this life I’ve had with the twins (just us three a lot of the time) will now include one new precious person. My time will now be divided three ways, instead of two. And I can already feel the pressure of splitting my time between all of them, knowing that in a lot of ways I’m going to miss more opportunities with them than I would like simply because I’m one person limited by the constraints of time, energy, and quite frankly, only two hands.

As I’ve grown into this motherhood thing I’ve started seeing motherhood as sort of a long goodbye. While we all are on a journey of this long goodbye from the moment we take our first breath, parenting has a way of making you feel like everything is the beginning of the end in such profound ways. Motherhood is a temporary vocation. It won’t last forever. While I will always be their mom, I won’t always mother them in this way. One day, a long (but all too short) day from now, I will let them go. Everything I have taught them will not be practice any longer, it will be reality.

And I feel an ache in my soul about it all.

Most moms have had it said to them “the days are long, but the years are short.” And oh, how short they are, aren’t they? With each step we take on this long goodbye, we are reminded that each passing day is one that we won’t get back. They will never be two year olds playing in the snow for the first time again. Next year, they will be one year older, and allowing us to see the world from their eyes in a whole new way. But it will be one step closer on this long goodbye.

Understanding the reality of the long goodbye is more than just coming to terms with the ache of motherhood. It has theological undertones that find their hope in something greater than simply treasuring every moment of each passing day (though that is certainly a good and right thing). If my hope is in holding on to the moments that I know won’t last forever, then my joy will be determined by the limited nature of these days. But if my hope is in the fact that all of my days are guiding me towards a greater joy in the presence of my Savior, then I can trust that even the tears shed over fleeting moments aren’t in vain. They mean something. The answer is not holding on to my sentimentality anymore than it is in pretending like my heart isn’t experiencing the reality of living in a world that is passing away. Neither of these will bring me lasting comfort. But in the times of my greatest sadness over the temporal nature of motherhood, and this life in general, I must run not to my circumstances, but to the precious reality that one day Christ will return, make all things right, and wipe away every tear from my eyes—even the tears I shed on this long goodbye.

Motherhood, like all of life, is cursed by the fall—meaning it’s not what God intended it to be. It’s painful and it ends. So as we walk the road of this long goodbye called motherhood let us hold in tension the reality of enjoying this life, one day at a time, and longing for the perfect one to come.