The F Word (Not that One), Style, and 1 Corinthians 13
Thanks for coming back for Blog #2 of A Good Christian Woman ... Not that One! Here's a post explaining the blog in case you missed #1: http://agoodchristianwoman.blogspot.com/2017/07/a-good-christian-woman.html#more
I've been reading tons, writing devotionals, cleaning up pee-soaked sheets (my 4-year-old, Jacob, who said he was 'sweaty'), applying Aquaphor to injured foreheads (my 1-year-old, Josh, who specializes in crashing on flat concrete), considering church job opportunities, and trying to keep up with the world at large in the past week.
So much to say, to read ... and yet I am constantly battling a sweeping tide of nihilism - the sense that nothing matters, that nothing we say or do will change the unrelenting tide of history toward nothingness and death (Nietzche). Nihilism can be an easy escape in the midst of lots of bad news, and I haven't even mentioned the shooting that took place just blocks from my house, killing a 40-year-old white woman at the hands of a Somali-American police officer, reversing the racial narrative of police-involved shootings. It's been tearing our neighborhood apart, and also raising questions - and bringing some people together to talk. I'm praying for Minneapolis, for justice, and for change.
In an effort to battle against nihilism - and remember that we do our best when we reach out to others and think about things together, especially when we disagree - I want to share three things that keep rolling around in my mind this week. When that happens - it's usually God, reminding me of how interconnected things are that I once thought were disparate.
1. The F Word (Not that One)
3. 1 Corinthians 13
The F Word (Not that One)
I have a thing for titles with (not that one) on this blog. I like exceptions to rules! I hate rules.
The F Word I've been thinking about is "feminist." For lots of people, this word is nearly as forbidden as the other F word (the one I'm trying to keep my son Jacob from learning yet, despite my husband Ben and my love for 90s rap).
Even advocates for women and "girl power" singers Katy Perry and Lady Gaga have shied away from the term: Feminist.
For some reason, people jump immediately from "feminism" as supporting women to "feminism" as hating men.
So I've called myself a feminist. And I certainly don't hate men. I live with three of them. My brother is one of my best friends. I love my dad. I've worked surrounded by men in sportswriting and as a pastor, primarily with male mentors.
So why do people think that to support women automatically means bashing men?
I think it goes back to our culture's current ideal of a zero-sum game. For me to succeed means you have to lose. Except that's not what Jesus advocated for at all. The whole idea of grace is the idea of Jesus' parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20) - that there is enough for all to receive, even if that seems unfair at the time.
There is enough space in our culture for women to thrive as well as men. Maybe not in exactly the same way - and maybe there will always be inherent differences in our gender makeup. I'm starting to believe this more the older I get, though as a girl I was very much of the opinion that girls and boys were exactly the same. I demonstrated this by playing football at recess... even if I wasn't wanted!
One difference in genders I notice is in exhibition of self-love.
A short story from the weekend, which we spent with Ben's family in Missouri.
My 4-year-old son, Jacob, ran into the room during a family gathering buck naked.
The cousins had just gotten done swimming and were in the process of changing, but Jake decided to take a break from getting dressed and run into the living room: in front of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.
He raised his arms to the side: HERE I AM!!!!!
This is quintessential manhood. Here I am! Love me!!
I think it's awesome. I think what feminism does is say it's OK for women to have that attitude, too. Here I am! Love me!
Ever feel sheepish declaring you're good at something? Respond to a compliment by insulting yourself? Sure, these are Midwestern traits - but they're "Good Christian Women" traits as well. Sometimes I've done it: thinking that all the glory has to go to God.
But God's glory shines through individuals: men and women alike. My view of feminism is encouraging women that it's OK to be proud of God's glory in you. It's OK to love yourself unabashedly, like Jacob.
I think we need feminism because the general culture doesn't always encourage women to do this. We're supposed to demure compliments, not run into the room with our arms raised.
But Jesus says this - and I know he said it to his male and female disciples alike (female disciples being Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene and others: the woman at the well, etc.)
From the Sermon on the Mount: "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven."
Feminism: bra burning (or maybe just buying comfier ones), man loving (but not worshiping) light-shining, Jesus-approved.
I've been thinking about style a lot this week and last -- possibly because it's Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale season and I'm buying as many things as possible at 40 percent off for the whole family. I've become a bit obsessed with finding the best possible deals, and even doing price adjustments and online coupon codes.
In other words, I'm basically the 2017 version of my mother.
Sure all this time can seem frivolous. I could be studying Scripture instead of studying shopping carts online.
But - and I'll elaborate on this as the blog goes on - I think talking about and thinking about style are key parts of figuring out what it means to be a "good Christian woman" - or just a woman who wants to follow Jesus.
When I first started my chaplaincy work at the Veteran's Hospital in Minneapolis, my (female) supervising chaplain told me this - on the day I wore sandals and a sundress to work: "If you want a job where you can express yourself through your clothes, you'd better find a new job and get out of seminary."
I think she was wrong. I'm no style expert, but I do enjoy expressing myself through my clothes. I love a good theme: I even wore purple, yellow and green for Mardi Gras last year in California (to a worship team meeting at church). I think having style can help women - and men - relate to me as a human being, not an isolated "holy" pastor.
I've gone from never ever shopping all the way through high school - I did splurge on an $11 tank top at Abercrombie and Fitch my senior year - to becoming much more interested in putting outfits together. I still cringe when I have to "dress up," and my favorite outfit is a graphic tee and ripped jeans -- but now they're stylish jeans, with interesting shoes and a functional, cute purse -- instead of jamming everything into my pockets, a trend I carried through high school as well ...
Peacebang (Rev. Victoria Weinstein) over at Beauty Tips for Ministers inspires me in this area - so I'll try not to steal from her. But basically: style is an appreciation for beauty, and beauty - the beauty of a man or woman, the beauty of a waterfall, the beauty of the sky -- is rooted in God, who created the world to be beautiful. Jesus took time for beauty. He retreated to the wilderness to be in communion with nature and with God. Aesthetics are important. Inattention to aesthetics: whether it's a sloppily dressed preacher or a haphazard altar and stage - detracts from the message of the Gospel.
We live in a highly visual world. I've chosen to participate in a way that soothes my soul. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, and when you feel comfortable in your clothes and your style - it's empowering. It enables you to move on from self-doubt about your appearance and move into your God-given calling -- which is certainly not self-hatred.
So I'll try to share some outfit pictures on here every once in awhile for fun - but also to show that style isn't necessarily frivolous: it can be life-giving, empowering, and fraught with meaning.
1 Corinthians 13
As I thought about the above two topics this week, God kept pulling me back to this Bible text from 1 Corinthians 13, a few verses after the famous wedding verses.
v. 12: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
I think what Paul is saying here is that knowing and loving are forever inextricably connected: that we cannot experience the fullness of love without the fullness of knowledge. He's speaking here about our knowledge of Jesus and of God, but it's true also for our relationships with one another - and our relationships with ourselves.
One of the most beautiful things someone ever told me about God was this: "God doesn't just love you. God knows you AND God loves you."
It is a deep human desire to be known. Across the world, people long to tell their stories, to share with loved ones their deepest hopes and dreams. It's a desire that has spawned a million blogs, maybe even this one.
And yet we are promised that God knows us AND loves us.
I ended last week's blog with a hope that you would love yourself. It seems a throwaway phrase: love yourself! Blithe, easy ... but odd to contemplate out loud.
When I think about the F word, feminism - when I think about style - I think that these are only possible when we know ourselves. When we know that we are worthy of love and value - and that love and value does not have to devalue others, for God promises there is plenty of love for all.
When I think about style, I think that the most stylish among us are those who know and love themselves and their bodies.
My body was inarguably better before I had kids. I had a toned, flat stomach from hours on the beach playing volleyball. I lifted weights, swam, rode my bike, jogged. I didn't eat all that healthy but hey - I was 25 and it didn't matter.
Now, I've had two big boys by C-Section and bear the wounds to prove it. My eyes have fine lines on the sides, and I've even started using eye cream.
But I feel more beautiful today than I ever have because as deeply as I know my body and its "flaws," I love my body: its survival of two difficult births. Its ability to digest massive quantities of cheese, CheezIts, salt, coffee, wine and beer. Its patience with me as I randomly decide to do massive amounts of exercise after months of sitting on the couch. I love my body because my body is me: created and loved by a God who knows and loves me.
The promise of 1 Corinthians 13 is that one day we too will fully know in the way God knows us. Until that day, I pray - hope - and try to have fun dressing the only body I'll ever have, a body that with its wounds and beauty alike, with its womanhood -- shines God's light as bright as I can.
See you next week!