Saltiness: Limits of Love

Often, very often, I feel like I am not making a difference.  Despite doing or being what I believe I ought to be, results aren’t always obvious or existing.  Yet something recently has me wondering about “results”.

My husband and I use to live close my parents, and I’d make frequent visits. Yet after 5 years, it didn’t seem to make much difference one way or another. I didn’t see us as building a relationship. I noticed my dad couldn’t tell an observational difference between me and my siblings. My parents would confuse my husband’s saying or traits with the other men of the family. Despite our best efforts, and many not-so-best efforts, my parents didn’t seem to notice much in particular, and this became a wear on my husband and I. We’ve moved. Not the big move that I wanted, but a small couple hours drive time. It’s been near a half and year, and I’m starting to see the difference now. Although it’s not the difference I want to see.

My parents show signs of not having us an influence in their lives. I see things like fear becoming more normal for them. Slowly, but much too quickly. I see a shift from my influence of more natural approaches (which they barely considered before) to a more store bought, doctor induced philosophy.  It’s not that they didn’t have some signs before, but now it seems to have quickly built steam in my absence of pointing out how absurd it is.

Is that it? Is that all I do with my life? I block out some bad. Perhaps I don’t even particularly bring good into people’s lives, but maybe I just block out some of the bad. It seems so little. It seems so ineffectual.
I turn my thoughts from  my parents to my husband. His parents are negative people. I’ve always been displeased to see that displayed over and over again in our short history together. The effects their negativity has had on his life were infuriating. But as of lately I’ve seen my man becoming something greater. It’s taken a long time, a lot of work, and continuing to challenge him in healthy ways, but it becomes more and more obvious. He’s stronger in many ways. Still becoming strong in a few ways. We’re good together.

Is it because I’ve blocked some the poison in his life and challenged him towards good? Perhaps I’ve become the large influence in his life, the influence where his parents once had their vice grips. Is that all that I do? Block negative with my influence?  I suppose it’s a useful thing to be, however lacking in gloriousness. Then I wonder…
Is this (in part) what it’s like to be salt?

Jesus talks about being “the salt of the earth” and many pastors and theologians have puzzled over this simple parable. What does it mean? Indeed there is some flexibility to what all it could encompass, but perhaps simple is best in this case.
My man and I watch some of the Food Network “game shows”. If the judges detect too much salt it’s considered bad to have a salty flavor, or too little salt is considered unseasoned.  Salt is mostly to showcase whatever else is happening with the combined food. It’s not meant to be prominent but it necessary to the dish.

Salt is also considered to have trace minerals, things that your body needs but it doesn’t need a lot of it. These little “trace minerals” make a big difference when they’re out of sync with what your body needs, too much or too little. Subtleties set the standard.

In relationships (of all kinds) its hard to wait for the subtleties to draw forth into the standard. It’s hard to see it add up into something. When my husband and I were dating, I thought for sure that I was going to get my heart broken. I didn’t see him taking it as seriously as I did. I knew I was risking beyond what seemed reasonable or safe, but I felt compelled to keep going until I actually did break. It wasn’t until he confessed that he wanted to marry me (and therein we got engaged) that I felt sure that he was in this too, and not just for convenience sake.

Subtleties, small things, they add up. Probably never as fast and securely as I want them to, but they do add up.

If my greatest gift is merely blocking out some of the negative of other people’s live, that means its still their choice to choose the positives. I can’t choices or add that for them. I suppose I was hoping that I could also do that, but I do not think my life has given my evidence of that. I suppose there are many things which we are grateful that they mere neutralize a situation, such as our immune system.
However it’s up to each person whether to work that immune system hard or to give it help, and then what kind of help from there. This is complication of working together, yet our lives were made to touch one another and interlock.  I can only do and be that which I am.  I can only make my choices. Other people must make their own choices. I wish I could help, but this is as far as I can go in touching their lives.

I am just a little salt in gourmet dish.

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What Does Relating Have to Do with Relationships?

I listened to an interesting video of an orthodox Jewish woman talking about the concept of “Judaism is not a Religion, It’s a Relationship”. What a familiar phrase. Yet there’s good evidence in the roots of Judaism for such a concept. I watched to see what she’d say.  Not much, I’m afraid.

We don’t understand relationship. We don’t practice relating. We are a must-do-these, must-be-this, must-be-seen-as such&such. We don’t know about relating, and therefore our best concepts of relationship suffer.

We bend our language to make things fit. We don’t consider what is being said and what needs to be said. Sometime we only know that something should look like this, it should cover that, it should fit across here… but don’t consider the limits of a word or the benefits of that limit.

In the previously mentioned video I heard the woman give different examples of relationship and how we can compare our interacting with God to something similar. The problem came in when some examples were of a relationship, yes, but a tip-toe relationship.

Appeasing isn’t relating.
It maybe done in love, but it still isn’t relating. It isn’t dealing with root issues. It isn’t connecting to how someone other than ourselves might feel and why. If we take enough time to fix the problem, but not enough to consider why the problem arose in the first place, we are just managing one another. It’s not relating.

My husband maybe one unlucky man. He married a woman who wasn’t planning on marrying. He married a woman who straight-face told him she not a believer in “woman submit!” theology.  When he married me, his life began to change, and he didn’t know what he was in for.
Everyday I work with my man on life. Sometimes I feel sorry for him. Many christians marry and their wives are these humble-meek creatures the live to serve and honor their man. I teach him. I don’t mean to do it. It’s not my intention, but yet it’s my goal that he realize who God has created him to be.

He came from a reasonable family, but not one that was going help him become into greatness. In fact they expected him to fail because a few doctors and teachers had critical words to say,  and for some reason I cannot conceive his parents believed those “professionals”.  Yet I meet him as a young man, and something in my spirit recognized his spirit, and fate was sealed.

I think probably everyday in our marriage I ask my man questions. Simple questions, hard questions, rhetorical questions, long-term-thought questions, intraspective questions. I cause for him to work, to search, to rise up. …and he has.
I think a reason that I do this, isn’t because I don’t already love who he, but because I don’t think he has seen who he really is.

We all believe lies about ourselves at different points in our life.
Sometimes we allow those lies to define us. Sometimes we get tired of fighting them when they’re repeated over & over again. Sometimes it’s all we’ve known and we are not aware that they are lies.  And yet, they form us into something we are not. They keep us from being who are meant to be. The stifle beauty that means to gently unfold. Yet we don’t always see them within ourselves. Sometimes it takes someone else who can relate and therein reveal a problem that hasn’t yet been dealt with or considered.

I propose that sometimes, as loved ones, we perpetuate the lies that one we love wears. We mean to treat them with honor and therefore we allow them to continue to cover their shame or hurt (ect.).  But a wound that is covered can still get an infection. It must be treated underneath a clean cloth. …But in relationships… that a hard place to be. It’s a fragile company to keep. It’s deep.

Sometimes it’s easier to allow it to be “their problem” and let them deal with it in their own way. Sometimes others’ wounds remind us of our own, and we too would like to keep that hidden.  But that’s not relating, it’s just managing.

I might also point out, that to dig up wounds for the sake of “healing” them and being a hero or rescuer, can be manipulation or using one another, and that’s not healthy either. There’s no healthy substitute for relating.

It takes learning what it’s like to be in our own skin, or to feel our own bones before we can actual relate to another. And yet…we have this thing called “relationships” were sometimes we just get lost and hide in one another. We don’t always consider what’s it like to be who I am, and what does that have to do with being connected to this person here, who I am in a relationship with. Instead we’re hiding in feelings, schedules, raising a family, making then spending money, plans for the future …and we take very, very little time to consider our soul or the one whom we love, their soul. We just keep passing the days, and we do fine.

I don’t want fine. I don’t want a good life. I don’t want average. …and I don’t want that for my man.  He’s more than that, I know. I’m not sure he knows. Despite my struggles of worth & importance, my spirit knows that my life was made for adventures. I know I could be something that helps others cue into their importance, and I know that it could be world changing. But I have to be able to touch something that’s alive. I have to have life within myself that I believe is unique and intentional for my surroundings.

For me I have to believe in God who believes in me. A God who created be to be some specific in this time and in this generation. For me this is my bases for being able to relate to other people despite any internal struggles, or even because I have those specific internal struggles.  I know I’m not the only one who struggles, and reality has allowed me to connect to something gives me strength to bear the load and shuck the shame.

Relationships were meant to have more relating in them, than what we give credit to them in our modern society. To be able to relate is world changing, life-touching, and life giving. Consider… what does relating have to do with (my) relationships?

Selfish Obedience

There’s something devastatingly beautiful about being outside in the autumn. Even with the threat of winter being just around the corner, it’s simple irreplaceable. It must be taken into the depths of your soul. The autumn air is short and perfect. I do what I can to enjoy it. The other day I was raking leaves at my parents, they are blessed with some great shade trees which transform into beauty carpet-makers this time of year. As I was piling the leaves in the chilly air, a UPS truck passed by and I felt inclined to hum Christmas songs. I wondered if it’s a bit early for that?

This week I started reading the book of Luke (from the Bible) and it’s impossible not to think of Christmas while reading those first couple of chapter.  It always seems so suspenseful to me, and knowing what happens next doesn’t always help. There’s these crazy little details about Mary’s life that are just put out there for the reader without any background, and they make me wonder about the situations at hand. Mary is engaged (in modern terms) but God tells her she’s going to be raising a baby boy in 9 months, by the miraculous working of God and not by man’s donation. And she just agrees to whatever God wills …which is probably what we’d call crazy. But Mary was also greeted by the angel (who brought this news) “as favored on of the Lord” or “blessed of all woman” depending on your reading translation. So I guess if you’re already favored of the LORD than you probably shouldn’t become non-favored by questioning at this point, but… What about would her fiancé say?

Maybe Mary thought about that afterwards, because she went immediately to her cousin Elizabeth (who is a whole another amazing story), until Elizabeth delivered her baby. Then a few months later…. Mary’s fiancé gets the surprise of his life, a pregnant Mary comes back home. The story goes on with God stepping in for Mary’s sake and speaking with her fiancé  about these curious circumstances. Yet I get stuck at is place in between the words. Or as I heard someone else phrase it, I get stuck mesmerized in the space between the period and the first letter of the next word of the new sentence.

What’s it like to agree to raising a baby boy before you’re married, then before you tell anyone about this news your cousin personally greets you with tidings of joy, initiativly knowing your secret, and this a situation which by all other means looks bad. I imagine Mary staying with Elizabeth her cousin and Zercheriah (Elizabeth’s husband) and talking daily about what God is doing and has done for each of them. I imagine them all encouraging one another. I imagine Elizabeth and Mary helping each other as much as possible like best friends would do, and each helping the other to prepare for their soon coming travail.

But when Mary left that place to return home… things were surely different for Mary, socially at the very least. Mary would have been gone just long enough that when she came back home a little baby bump would be emerging. Mary would have come back just in time to no longer keep the secret to herself. What an agonizing situation it must have been to go from encouragement, importance, helpful, and joy into a place where your distraught fiancé is trying to figure out a tackful way to say he’s not going to marry a pregant woman.

Of course God intervened and spoke with Joseph, which kept all things on track, but what must it have been like for the next 6months between Mary and Joseph? Was Joseph just as able to accept God’s words and let things be? Did he have a “anything else I need to know” attitude? We’re they leary of one another? Was a time to rebuild trust? Were they able to have joy knowing God was doing something big and they we’re in the midst of it?

Did Mary often wonder if she should have gone about telling her fiancé in a different way? Did Mary realize that she could no longer just keep her spiritual realities to herself, but now need to merge her insight with Joseph’s tender heart and keep him in the loop?  I’m not sure I could imagine what happened, but being married myself, I wonder a lot of questions about this time. It seems like as the story goes on Mary, Joseph, and God start working together as a great team.

Too much of Christianity today believes that the man is the “head” or “leader” or “dictator” of the marriage relationship, but apparently God isn’t concerned about what man believes. When God sent his anointed Messiah, he told Mary first and for most. Then God told Elizabeth who probably told her husband Zechariah, and then Joseph later down the line. And don’t get me wrong, God loved and chose Joseph just as much as Mary, that is made evident throughout the rest of the “Christmas” story.  These are some very Godly people, everyone of them.

So what happens when God comes into a couple’s life to do some extraordinary things, but only tells one of them?  And what if that one agrees for both them in that moment it’s revealed, before consulting the other? Is this a selfish obedience?

What about when it gets bigger? What if believe that God is calling my husband and I to some very little but important work, and from that belief we’ve taken some big (or little, imo) steps of faith, which might make it so this Christmas there is no money for gifts… for anyone?  Was that selfish of me to not look down the road no have a backup plan or cutoff date? I mean how long can a person or a couple live on faith? 6months? A year? 14months? I don’t know. They’re just questions that I imagine exist all around us.

I ask myself often, how much are we living by faith in obedience? Or how much are we being foolish with a God who’s having mercy on our childishness?  If we thought more of others would we have chosen a different path? Is our “obedience” selfish? Is believing in something that’s not yet seen as important, or more important, than dealing well with what’s given now?   What happens when you believe in a Living God who doesn’t do things in the same order as man nor by the same tactics? Is there sufficient grace for those who want to live by faith, even unto the adventure which brings man’s ways/order/tactics to death?

Any which way it happens, I believe that God is Just enough to get us on and keep us in the right track, however that needs to been done. We maybe facing failure, but we don’t flinch. God is our judge. There’s nothing as reassuring as God’s glory, and this glory only comes after the LORD has judged the hearts of his people.  So whether God finds us worthy and blesses to His entrusted mission, or whether God finally lets everything crash down, we will be set free by God’s righteous judgement.

Pray for us, and remember a God who has plans so much greater than our own imaginations.

Come up to Zion. Come out from Babylon

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.  She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.

She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.  She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.

She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.  She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.  Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.  Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”

-Proverbs 31:10-31

“The perfect woman, who can find?”
If you read this whole excerpt you might think that’s what it says at the beginning, but it’s does not actually use the word perfect… nor woman, in this one, come to think of it. It says “excellent wife” or “virtuous wife” or “virtuous woman” all are acceptable.  Many of the translations I’ve read say “wife” instead of woman, because that’s the implied context of this “lady” it’s referring to.

Unfortunately this often gets taken more literal than most of the other Proverbs which have great literal advice. After all, if it says woman or wife surely it means exactly that. What other context could it be in?

This scripture is often used to explain what the standard is for women who are thinking about getting married in a Christian marriage context. Yet that’s really sub-par to the bigger picture. Two big things should be noted really quickly:
1. This is the last chapter in Proverbs a book of wisdom, which teaches anyone who’s willing to learn about the greater, smarter truths that need to prevail in the midst of each of our lives.

  1. When Proverbs refers to a “woman” it is more often a parallel for a greater concept, possibly the imaginary of a reproductive entity with charisma and attractiveness, and then from there, the words that follow really tell you what exactly (good or bad) that particular Proverb is talking about.

One day as I read this passage of Proverbs 31, I realized that it is talking about the church. Not the buildings, gatherings, systems, programs, events, or other things claiming to be “the real McCoy” but the beautiful, loving, welcoming church also known as the Bride of Christ. I started tearing up and crying without realizing it. She’s so beautiful, and somehow I never say her right there in the midst of the poetry! I loved her instantly.

St Augustine is quoted as saying,
“the church is whore, but she’s my mother and I love her”
I am quoted as saying, “I love the church, she’s my mother! …and that’s not her.”

Let’s set this record straight!
The church who is the Bride of Christ is not a whore.
She’s a blameless, stainless, pure. She’s beautiful. She’s welcoming (Revelations 22:17). She’s loving. She works through the night (times of darkness), she still cares for the poor and needy, and yet never neglects her own household. She works hard because she cares. She is not afraid and she even laughs, knowing what is to come. She’s strong, dignified, perceptive, diligent, and loved, so very loved and honored by her husband (who is Christ Jesus). Who would dare call Christ’s Bride a whore? Not this woman!

I recognize her. I recognize her voice, her smell, her smile… that’s my mother. That is the church, or maybe you know her as Zion. I love her! She makes me proud. I love the way Jesus smiles at her. I love her song in the midst of the worst times. She’s fearless and ever loving. She never stops loving. I know her so well, and yet I wish I knew her more.

No one can step into these shoes and call itself church. I know my mother too well to believe that. No one can be “the church” and neglect the fact that she is also Zion. She doesn’t “replace” Zion, she was known as Zion before I called her my momma, before you called her the church. She’s one in the same, the radiant Bride of Christ.

Jesus said, “my sheep know my voice”. He said this because sheep are known for scurrying away from anyone who approaches them, but whom they do not recognize the voice, and rightfully so. Sheep are animals who are commonly attacked & eaten as prey of other creatures, they have to remain on their guard. But OH, the voice of the shepherd can be trusted!  However, I simply propose that it’s not just Jesus’ voice that we must recognize for our own safety, but also the voice of his Bride. We must also hear the call of Zion to come up!

Things we’re not talking about

One of the most normal questions to ask someone whom you’re getting to know is, what’s their favorite movies. I love throwing out a strange diversity and which people to struggle to relate to one of them. When I’m talking to other ladies I do tend to mention Pride and Prejudice as one of my favorite movies. I have no idea ho many times I’ve seen this or if I can quote the whole movie yet or not.  I admit, I do watch some chick flick, and I would consider this one quality.

Being married, I am compassionate enough to no watch chick flicks with my husband (he doesn’t know how good he has it!). It’s easier to watch it by myself or with some girl friends on a movie night, then to receive my hunsband’s looks of are-you-kidding-me?!

My  husband is not a romantic. I could plead with him to try to be… but he’s just clueless to the imagination it would take to come up with something heartfelt and sweet all at the same time. He’s a good man, but this just doesn’t appeal to his inner man.

To be fair, I try to consider why husbands hate chick flicks, and more importantly why do women tend to love em so? What is about the ideas of being so cherished and treasured that some crazy-in-love man would chase after us with little to no self-regard? What is about the ideas that a man would come unraveled because he faces the ultimate reality that this woman has changed his existence merely in their meeting together?  Is it a sexes power-struggle in rose-colored lighting where we win be charm?

What is that thing that is happening in the chick flicks, which something in women particularly meet with affirmation?  What is it imagine ourselves to be so desired? To be victorious in the end… What is that happily-ever-after syndrome  which is so universal with woman?

More importantly, can I be happy without chick flicks in my life?  Or is something deep down yearning  for them?  Is it a curse!?

….wait, is it a curse?

In the beginning portion of the Bible it talks about a curse which comes from disobedience (giving birth to sin) and all culprits involved get a curse. …women included. 😦    The curse end like is: “You shall desire your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16)

This is imperfect relationship.

The result of a curse is that we as women would desire our husbands (or a husband!) but then instead of a perfect cycling of this with matched desire, bringing happily-ever-after, the result is the husband rules over the wife..? What a terrible deal!

Even worse, it gets promoted under ridiculous conditions, and women are told that this is the way in which God set things up. No. God setup something much more perfect, and these standards are set for those who live under the curse. But we don’t have to live according to that curse! If we live according to Christ Jesus, then we are able to seek God’s good and perfect plan, and we do not have to be under the curse.

As a matter of fact, I think there’s still something within us that cries out to NOT be under the curse, but to be in God’s perfect plan. I think there’s something in us that isn’t crying out about “woman get paid less” or such politics off-centered topics, but cries out for unity as God intended. Something that cries out to be cherished and not scorned or subdued. It’s not even romance that we want as much as connection, equality of spirit to spirit, forgiveness instead of the blame-game.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Could it be that truth is also more perfect than fantasy?

 

(Romans 8:1-2 = not under curse; Romans 12: 1-2 = free to live in God’s perfect plan)