The Marriage Counseling System

When people are flabbergasted and frustrated, they often say, “I have no words!”

I experience the opposite… swirling, conflicting emotions provide me with LOTS of words.

I’ll attempt to catch some of them here.


When I had postpartum depression in 2013, I barely functioned. I sought biblical counseling, to explore ways I could bring glory to God, despite feeling completely out of control.

My grandma also recounts a time she worked with a biblical counselor, as she was struggling with questions related to God and truth.

In both of those cases, it was personal.

Our problems were spiritual.

And both of us found the counselor’s perspective helpful.

But I can’t say the same about my experiences with the Marriage Counseling System, which seems to be lob-sided. 

I’m afraid The System has cultivated a very popular brand of “counseling,” which is wife-centric and exists mainly to help women recruit allies as we nag our husbands…even when our husband’s biggest failure is something like leaving dishes in the sink.   (No, seriously, click that underlined link to read later. It outlines the emotional abuse being perpetuated against husbands, with full consent of our culture. I call the phenomenon “Battered Man Syndrome.”)

Anyway, I’ve read books, aimed at women because we’re the ones who spend the $$$$.

I’ve read blogs written by the “experts,” which are also aimed at women because we’re the ones sharing those articles passive-aggressively on social media.

I’ve watched the video lectures (*cough* Joel and Kathy Davisson *cough*)–aimed at telling husbands they’re responsible for their wives’ sinful behavior.

And all of these resources made my marriage worse. 

In fact, the first few years of marriage I worried something was actually, physically wrong with me, because the more I followed the “biblical” advice I was given, the more intensely I despised my husband… for no discernable reason.

 

Let me be clear: my goals were noble.   I wanted to have a strong, stable marriage.  And, since I had grown up in church and was attending a Christian college, I had the Marriage Counseling System engrained in my head.

“Seek wise counsel” was Step #1.

Unfortunately, as a young wife, I simply didn’t realize how much UN-wise counsel is available in the Christian Counseling System.

So I started reading everything a good wife should.

I read “Wild at Heart” and “Captivating”  (by the Eldredge’s).  I read “For Men Only” and “For Women Only” (by the Feldhans).  I read “When God Writes your Love Story” by Eric and Leslie Ludy.

Seriously, I can’t even remember all the names of all the Christian Couples who were trying to help me lead my husband toward better leadership.

And my inexplicable dissatisfaction grew more and more…

I thought it was because Luke didn’t digest all of this relationship material with me. After all, the more I learned, the less Luke was interested in learning with me. He literally wouldn’t read any of those books! He wouldn’t come and attend Chapel with me, three days a week, like I had humbly requested. He wouldn’t listen to my stream-of-conscious worrying about our marriage for hours.

I got more and more frustrated, because I felt like I was carrying all the weight, and he wasn’t doing anything. He always had more important things to do!

Of course, I understood when he needed to work or study for school.  But, sometimes, he played video games or watched football! (Can you believe it?!)  He watched football even though I told him to show me he cared more.

So, after thinking and praying for a while, I would insist that Luke and I have “conversations” (because the Christian Marriage Counselors who were part of the Christian Marriage System told me that’s what I was supposed to do). But those “conversations” quickly became arguments, and I would yell or cry or storm out of the house and drive away dramatically. Often I did all of the above.

And then Luke would go to sleep, and I would be even sadder and angrier, because he didn’t even care about our marriage enough to stay up with me! (What a jerk!)

Most of the time, he would be completely over it the next morning, which was just more proof that I was the spiritual one.

So, in my hurt and frustration, I would spend the next few days dropping hints that he still had a problem to solve. You know?  Like slamming things around and making dinner for myself without offering him any. And if he didn’t respond, then I would have to escalate to making short, snippy remarks, because he was still failing to acknowledge how wrong he was…for….something…

I kept up this pattern for about two years, until both of us were miserable.

I wanted him to talk with me, but not out of obligation. I wanted him to WANT to have conversations with me, and I would keep him up late at night begging him to want me more.  But, weirdly, Luke didn’t want to share space when I was behaving that way. He didn’t seem to enjoy being told to fix vauge stuff that was outside of his control anyway.

He didn’t like being responsible for my emotions.

If I had kept reading the same advice from the Marriage Counseling System, who knows where we would be?

But luckily, in 2010, a friend gave me something to read that actually helped.  It started with a blog post in which the author wrote this:

“Modern Christians have radically reframed marriage from the way the Bible does.  Where the Bible shows the husband in headship and the wife as submissive, modern Christians have turned this upside down.  The re-framing is so pervasive that most Christians have no idea that it has even occurred…

Husbands loving their wives has been transformed into a command that he make his wife feel loved.  This subtle transformation turns a straightforward biblical command into an impossible task.  After all, the wife herself is the only one who can pronounce whether she feels sufficiently loved.  Only she can define the very meaning of the word love, in this context.  As a result, Christian husbands are now held hostage.  For example, if he watches a football game instead of doing what she wants him to do he isn’t making her feel sufficiently loved and is in violation of the biblical command.” 

It hit me like a ton of bricks because I was unintentionally doing that! (Also, because football was one of the things that used to trigger me.)

I had great intentions, and I was only trying to tell Luke what the Christian Counseling System had told me. But, it turned out I was expecting Luke to get behind me, whenever I FELT something unpleasant, which is not what the Bible says at all.

Thank God he sent a few wise counselors my direction, to calmly explain there’s a difference between loving me and jumping through my hoops until I FEEL loved.  

If “leadership” means being kept awake all night until I allow him to sleep–then Luke is no longer leading.

I am.

Or, more specifically, my shifting emotions are leading.

We understand the problem more clearly when we relate it to parenting. I can recognize my children’s emotions, but I cannot let them control me. 

Why?  Because it destroys the entire family when those little balls-of-passion take over.

Can you imagine the damage we would be doing to children, if we started giving their parents the same terrible counseling given by Dr. Richard L. Strauss?

“The God who created these tremendous emotional needs in women intends that husbands should meet them…Headship is not some masculine doctrine cleverly designed to bolster the husband’s sagging ego. Headship involves the husband’s solemn obligation to establish an atmosphere of love in which the basic needs of his wife are fulfilled—an environment in which she is free to grow and develop into all that God wants her to be. Her submission will then be the voluntary response to his loving leadership.”

Parents, do you determine whether you’re loving and leading your children properly by watching to see if they volunteer to follow you?

When a child refuses to submit, is that MOM AND DAD’S fault?

I would answer a firm “no” to both questions…  There are much better ways to measure effective leadership than to ask the kids to vote on it.

Therefore, if you’re seeing a counselor who tells you “leadership is when you allow the emotions of your wife and children to lead,” find a different one.

That itty bitty little twist of Scripture made me miserable for years, until I realized the Marriage Counseling System was wrong.

———-

For more “words” about the terrible marriage advice being given in church settings, please click here:   your wife’s affair is your fault.

 

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It Starts At Home

Parents know they are responsible for educating their children. But the question of how often leads to debates…

Well, maybe “debates” isn’t the best word. Debates go back-and-forth, with structure and substance.  What often happens with the topic of education is a homeschool mom writes a testimony about how happy she is with her decision to education her kids at home, and unless she includes a number of disclaimers, then a public-school mother shows up to get defensive about it.

But I digress.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is NOT about how all families should keep their kids home all day.

Actually, it’s about how stable families already do a version of “homeschool,” to a certain extent (even if their kids go to public school during the day).

And, building on that, we need to have an “It-Starts-At-Home” attitude about other institutions as well.  

Thirty or forty years ago, the homeschool movement was in its infancy.  Pretty much the only families drawn to the idea were hippies and hyper-conservative religious fanatics with 170 kids.

As time has marched on, however, this has changed. Enrollment of students in a home-based school has grown steadily since 1999, even as enrollment in private schools has fallen.

Homeschoolers now make up approximately 3.4% of school-aged children, which is 1,770,000 students from all sorts of backgrounds, being taught by their relatives or close friends for a whole host of different reasons.

I asked a poll-question on Facebook about why my friends have chosen to homeschool, and I got many of the standard answers:

-Freedom to go at the child’s pace (whether slower or faster than public classrooms)

-Special needs, such as a social disorder or learning disability

-Freedom to travel

-Ability to pursue a sport or other special-interest

-Closer family ties

Again, I am not saying anyone who sends a child to public school worships the Devil. Many homeschool families work closely with public schools, including choosing full-time public education for one or two of their kids, while keeping the others home full-time.

I’m only reporting what those who are homeschooling have said about the benefits.

These families tend to be self-starters with a love of independence.  They tend to have a perspective that “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” and they’re offended by the idea that Big Government can handle individual issues.

In fact, go ahead and try suggesting to a homeschooler that a teaching degree is necessary to be an effective educator. Just try.  🙂

Most completely reject the idea that educating can only be done by a degree-carrying “professional.”

Homeschool parents see themselves as the experts on their own kids. Period. Full stop.

That’s why I plan to lean on the homeschool community, as I start criticizing other institutions that need to remember “it starts at home.”

Namely the Institutionalized Church and Institutionalized Social Work and Institutionalized Counseling all need to be re-examined for their effectiveness, the same way homeschoolers have examined the Institutionalized School, and found it lacking.

Personally, I’m tired of being told that “professionals” are those who have spent thousands of dollars obtaining a degree in Divinity or Social Work or Psychology/Counseling.

I’m tired of the assumption that THOSE near-strangers are the “experts” about things happening in my own family.


If I try to unpack all of my thoughts on this subject in a single blog post, it will get way, way, too long.   But if you want to read a few things I’ve already written in a similar vein, here are some links:

-My criticism of “Professional Ministries” (click these blue words to read it).  I argue that ALL OF US have been called to teach and help the poor and counsel. Which means deferring to the “professionals” becomes an excuse.

-Problems with racism in the public education system. 

-Problems with lowering standards in public education systems.

-And a list of things Christians expect their pastor to do for all of us, instead of asking whether we’re supposed to handle it ourselves…

I want to hear your feedback in the comments!  I’m especially interested in the perspective of you self-starting, tradition-bucking homeschoolers!

What goes through your mind when I say things like “Homechurch” or “Home-Counseling?”  Would the phrase “It Starts At Home” apply to those industries, too?

I am sure I will write about this again…

To My But-People

I said something to a friend the other day that I wanted to expand.

Thank you to every single one of you who listen to my theories and opinions–and still feel comfortable adding a “but” to balance me out.

Thanks for disagreeing respectfully.  Thanks for understanding me and showing me new perspectives.

Thanks for smoothing my rough edges and pulling me back toward the center, when my passion threatens to allow my pendulum to swing too far in any one direction.

I’ve met plenty of “yes-men,” and their support feels good for a moment. But the real growth happens when I do life with you “But-People.”

I certainly don’t feel like thanking you all the time.  (Sometimes disagreement feels like being misunderstood. Sometimes I just FEEL like being told I’m right, with no “buts”.)

I don’t take time to reflect every day, on how valuable you are to my life.

But I reflected this week, so I wanted to speak up.

Thank you for being thoughtful and careful and honest with me!  

Bethany, Sarah, Jasmine, Tabby, April, Amanda, Allison, Grandma Nancy…I can’t even name all of you who occassionally say something like, “Uh, I think you’re a little off there, Dude.”

Yours are the voices I hear when I’m thinking through a new idea.  I try to guess how you’re going to respond, as I’m writing my newest, controversial, probably-overstated blog posts. And it makes my writing better.

It makes ME better.

“Yes-Men” are a dime a dozen.  But, my “But-People” are priceless.

Seriously! I’m thanking God for you today.

With affection,

Amanda

 

A Letter To My Brothers (in Response to Beth Moore)

Dear Brothers in Christ,

By now, perhaps you’ve read the letter that was written by Beth Moore a couple of days ago, on the subject of misogyny in the church. But, if not, please click the hyperlink above, and then come back to me.

I’ll wait…

Did you read it?

Ugh. I hope you’re not ignoring my request just because I’m a woman!

(No, seriously, please read Beth’s letter, because mine is in response… and, I tend to think response letters make the most sense if you’ve read what they’re responding to.)

—–

I know there are many women who would agree with Beth that disrespect for women is a big problem among churches. And there are very few men willing to stick their necks out to disagree with those women…even if they honestly think their sisters are misdiagnosing the root of the issue.

Many of you, brothers, would rather stay quiet than risk being “disrespectful.” Plus, no one wants to be accused of making “fried chicken” out of a female leader. (That’s a reference to Beth Moore’s letter, which you recognized because you clicked on the link above, I’m sure.)

Hopefully Beth didn’t start her letter with the “fried chicken” statement as a preemptive move, in an attempt to insulate herself from necessary criticism, because I’m going to criticize her anyway.

I think Beth Moore is misdiagnosing the root of the problem.

Please don’t misunderstand. I believe she truly has encountered many disrespectful men. And although half the examples she gave seemed merely “awkward” rather than “sinful,” I have absolutely no doubt that men have quoted Scripture about female leaders in order to shut Beth Moore down.

I simply mean to agree with Beth’s statement that objections on biblical grounds are “just an excuse,” and that the root of the issue is something more complicated than dismissiveness toward women, specifically.

I believe her critics would look for other ways to shut her down, even if she weren’t a woman, because her womanhood is inconsequential. Most irrational critics are wrestling against anyone who speaks the Truth…not against a certain identity group.

Like Beth, I’ve been dismissed for a whole host of ridiculous “reasons”–ranging from age to income level to the tone of my writing. I’ve been dismissed for being white and dismissed for being married to a man (as opposed to another woman), and I’ve been dismissed repeatedly just for calling myself a Christian.

That’s how I’ve come to realize it’s not my age or eye-color or marital status which causes certain people to block me. NOR IS IT THE FACT OF MY WOMANHOOD.

The problem runs much deeper than that.

My experience with irrational, truth-adverse, dismissive jerks (many of whom are female themselves) has forced me to come up with a more-likely explanation than simple “misogyny.”

And this is what I’ve discovered:

It’s not WHO’S speaking that bothers most people. It’s WHAT they’re saying.

I’m willing to bet–even if Beth’s name was “Bart”–she would be surprised and frustrated to discover those men she thought were misogynists were still dismissing “Bart” for any lame reason they could muster.

They’re not miso-gynists. (Haters of Women.) They’re miso-alethinos. (Haters of Truth.)

MEE-Soh-Al-e-THEE-Nohs. I just made it up, after Googling “Greek word for Truth.” But I like it!

Being dismissive of TRUTH is the real root of the problem.

So that’s why I’m writing to you, brothers, to insist that you’re not more responsible than we sisters are, for the bad behavior of the misoalethinos.

You shouldn’t feel any more guilty than women do, about the fact that Churches have a festering problem with Truth-Denialism.

People are building walls and cutting each other off, to be sure! Sometimes men are cutting off women! And if you were as well-known as Beth Moore, you would be unfairly dismissed, too. (Go ahead and drop a “pro-life” comment on Planned Parenthood’s social media page some time. See how quickly you get dismissed for your gender!) 🙂

But the point I’m making is that even when women say men can’t have opinions about abortion, it doesn’t come from a hatred for men specifically. Not really. They have husbands and fathers and brothers and sons they are very respectful toward.

Most of them probably supported Bernie Sanders wholed-heartedly! (Ha!)

The problem with the Pro-Choice crowd isn’t really Mis-Andry (Hatred for Men). It’s a case of Miso-alethinos. (Hatred for Truth.)

Brothers, you don’t need to spend time apologizing to me and other females because you “don’t know what it’s like” to be a woman dealing with this special plight. You understand just fine.

You, as a Truth-Seeker, already have the ability to understand what it’s like to stand with me against those who want to dismiss all of us.

Misoalethinos come in all sorts of identity groups, and they will attack you no matter which one you belong to! You and I are in this together.

I wish Beth Moore would think a little deeper about the war we’re waging, instead of giving into the simplified explanation. I’m saddened that every cultural issue gets reduced to black vs. white, liberal vs. conservative, or male vs. female. (It smells of intellectual laziness to me.)

Misoalethinos are becoming a huge, culture-wide problem! But letters like Beth Moore’s are causing us to get distracted, hacking at tree leaves, instead of focusing on what really matters at the base. It would be equally misguided if my children got into a disagreement on the playground with a bunch of kids who happened to be wearing green shoes, so they wrote a letter to green-shoe wearers, asking them to help tackle the problem of green-shoe meanies.

The shoes are inconsequential. In fact, even if the meanies on the playground were MAKING FUN OF MY KIDS’ SHOES, the problem still has nothing to do with the footwear of any of the kids involved. Am I making sense, brothers?

If you only remember one thing from this post, just please stop apologizing on behalf of other people who happen to be wearing green shoes, like yours.

Meanwhile, I hope I haven’t made “fried chicken” out of Beth Moore. But she really is tackling the wrong problem right now. We should be focused on seeking Truth together–not focusing on the gender of those who are tearing us down.

With Sisterly Love,

Amanda

—–

Update: my dad and I discussed this further toward the middle of this podcast… http://branyancomedy.libsyn.com/incels-girl-scout-cookies-and-beth-moore?tdest_id=458261

Boundaries: Shallow and Frequently Abused

Lots of people have recommended the book “Boundaries” to me.

Most of them are not people who know me very well.  🙂

My regular readers might have seen this review coming a mile away.  But, let it be known that I tried.  I really tried to read Boundaries with an open mind…


Boundaries offers approximately one chapter’s worth of material, stretched into 300 pages of repetition, repetition, repetition.

The book doesn’t give the impression that its author carefully considered other perspectives. If Dr. Henry Cloud had spent some time wrestling with his main thesis, then perhaps he would have predicted what was inevitible:

His message was published in 1992 with the intention of helping victims, but it has become a weapon weilded by the abusers in 2018.

(I wrote about the increasingly “blurry line” between victims and abusers in the post found at this link.)

Within the pages of Boundaries, over-simplified scenarios only serve to confirm what most readers already want to believe:  that he or she (probably “she”) has worked too hard and given too much to a bunch of ungrateful relatives who don’t deserve it.

In the very first chapter, the opening example reports all the many ways the heroine (“Sherrie”) is under-appreciated by the people closest to her. One of those people taking advantage of Sherrie is her mother, who is described as having “elevated her widowhood to the status of martyrdom.”

Martyr Mom is pushy.

Martyr Mom feels sorry for herself.

Martyr Mom has a way of making the world revolve around her…

Bluntly, Martyr Mom is the character type predominantly reading and recommending the book “Boundaries“–but she thinks she is the poor, put-upon “Sherrie” who needs to speak up for herself.

Boundaries, then, amounts to 300 pages worth of opportunities for The Martyr to build herself up and validate everything she already believes about how her only flaw is loving herself too little.

Now, I don’t blame Dr. Cloud entirely for the mismanagement of his book.  After all, God’s Book also gets twisted when a self-centered abuser uses it to control other people instead of allowing him/herself to be humbled.

But, where I do take up issue with Dr. Cloud is when he’s the one doing the twisting, in an attempt to support his idea of self-protection.   Cloud writes:

“Don’t confuse self-absorption with a God-given sense of taking responsibility for one’s own needs first so that you’re able to love others. (Phil. 2:4)

…God wants us to take care of ourselves so that we can help others…”

Yes, he used Phil. 2:4 to demonstrate a supposedly biblical mandate of putting ourselves first. Do you know what Philippians 2:4 says?  “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also to the interests of others.”

I take that to mean DON’T just look at your own interests (as humans do naturally), but ALSO consider others (which takes more intention and practice).

The verse right before it says “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, value others above yourselves.”  And the verse AFTER the one Dr. Cloud referenced says:

“Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…”

WHAT PART OF ANY OF THESE VERSES GIVES YOU THE IDEA THAT GOD WANTS YOU TO CARE FOR YOURSELF FIRST?!

That’s an almost unbelievable misuse of Scripture.

Suddenly it’s not difficult to see why Dr. Cloud’s book has been elevated above the Bible in certain circles.  He does a masterful job of making American Pop Psych beliefs sound like they came from God…even when they didn’t.

Now, I want to make it clear, I didn’t disagree with everything written in the book.  In fact, 90% of Boundaries is simple fluff that was so basic and vague there’s nothing to disagree with at all.

Take the advice on page 60 of my eBook copy:

“The husband isn’t responsible FOR [the wife’s] emotional well-being. But he is responsible TO her. His inability to respond to her needs is a neglect of his responsibility.”

Anybody who thinks that passage is helpful ought to clarify it for the rest of us. I suspect it’s psychobabble. This type of pretty wordplay makes up at least half the book, appealing to the masses by sounding similar to whatever worldview the reader already holds.

Dr. Cloud didn’t convey a solid concept with his “emotional responsibility” jibberish. He only put words on a page.  But sentences bordering on nonsense might sound great to anyone with some sort of belief about “husbands” and “emotions,” because word salads appeal to poor readers.

Thus, the vast majority of the book is shallow and boring.

Most of it isn’t “wrong,” so much as it’s useless. There is absolutely no acknowledgement that interpersonal relationships are complicated and difficult. There’s no admission that concepts such as sacrifice and suffering are mentioned in the Bible waaaaaay more than “personal boundaries.” (Way. More.)

And that’s why my overall conclusion is that Boundaries is silly at best, veering into downright dangerous when adopted by The Martyr.

If you want to have an interesting conversation, go ahead and read Boundaries and then read A Fierce Love by Shauna Shanks. 

This woman kept treating her husband with grace and patience, even when he told her he wanted a divorce and started dating other women.  No joke–she tells the story of making dinner in the kitchen while her husband was in the bathroom getting ready to go out with someone else! And what did she hear God telling her during that season?  To keep loving him fiercely.

Are your eyes bugging out of your head right now, Reader?!  Does that sound crazy to you? I think everyone who has read Boundaries should pick up Shanks’ book as well, and THEN we’ll be ready to wrestle with the concept of unconditional love in a meaningful way…


 

In the meantime, I’m getting pretty tired of immature, controlling, martyr-minded folks putting their hands in my face and shouting, “BOUNDARIES!”

Everytime I’m blocked on social media, it’s done by someone who cites the need for “boundaries” to be placed on “toxic people” (like me).

Reader, someone close to me actually said, “I’m setting boundaries for my own health, and you just don’t like them” within seconds after referring to me as a jackass and a bitch. I was told I’m not parenting properly and my children are rotten. Later, she warned me to call the cops because “I’m coming to your house!” and called my husband while en route to announce, “I’m going to slap your wife for what she said!”

….this woman thinks she needs boundaries.

On the other hand, I’m still drawn to the “Fierce Love” approach myself.  I will keep my promise to this loved one, to continue with as much grace and patience as I can manage, even as I’m being threatened with physical assault.

Jesus loved people who spit on him.

What I’m saying is, relationships are complicated–and they are certainly more nuanced than Dr. Cloud’s book would suggest.  In the wrong hands, Boundaries becomes a hundred times more spiritually damaging than “caring too much” ever was.  That’s why I just can’t recommend it.

Here’s the link again to the post about victims and abusers having a role-reversal in the last couple decades.  Click here to read it.

And, if you’re someone who loved Boundaries, I just want you to do something for me. Imagine the person you were thinking of when you read it. (You know the one I’m talking about!)  Your husband or kids or boss or whoever you were thinking of when you were trying to learn how to stand up to narcisstic, manipulative, boundary-less people. Now imagine that person buys a copy of Boundaries and starts quoting Dr. Cloud back to you instead. Would that be a healthy thing?

No?

Okay, I rest my case.

 

When the Bad Guys Lose

My 4-year-old son, Collin, gets really into movies…  He peeks between his fingers or gets up and hides around the corner during scary parts.   He kicks and karate chops alongside the hero, during spectacular fight scenes. And he furrows his eyebrows in genuine concern when it looks like all hope is lost.  (That is, until he reminds himself what his daddy and I have said many times: “The good guys always win…eventually. Just be patient.”)

We introduced our three “big kids” to the movie Matilda the other day.  Our newborn wasn’t very impressed. But Collin and 7-year-old Cami were deeply impacted by the story of adults treating a little girl so badly.  I mean, really, the entire movie is one shocking display of child abuse after another…until Matilda discovers her powers.

Hopefully I’m not spoiling it for anyone, but by the end of the movie, Matilda has figured out how to undo many of the wrongs that were committed–including returning a doll and chocolates that had been stolen from her beloved teacher.  The climax of the story happens in a moment of poetic justice, when the principal known for throwing children out the window gets tossed out the window herself!

…My Collin literally jumped up on the back of the couch, pumped his fist in the air, and cheered.   “YEAAAAAAAH!!”

The good guys won.  Matilda had owned Miss Trunchbull.

And my little boy celebrated the justice.


Today I read an opinion piece by Daniel Darling, which was brought to my attention by Peter Heck. Both men write to remind Christians that their job on earth isn’t to pound God’s enemies into sand.

I think all serious apologists need to examine their hearts from time to time and make sure their priorities are in order.  As Heck writes:

“…our efforts must be focused around and pointed towards building the Kingdom through the proclamation of truth, not building our own following through the humiliation of another person.”

He’ll get no argument from me on that point.

It’s about God–not about us.

But what concerns me is whether Christians have begun feeling shame over their natural love of justice. 

Are we losing touch with our childlike desire to see the Good Guys win? Is it a problem to enjoy the simple pleasure of watching the Truth make a Truth-denier look like an idiot?

See, my goal isn’t to tear down people.   But, when a person stupidly, voluntarily aligns himself with the Father of Lies, then he’s in a position to go down with the ship.

I would love the chance to snatch an enemy from the wreckage before the big explosion and the rolling credits.  If there are any former Bad Guys who are ready to switch allegiance and join the Good Guys, they will be welcomed with tears of joy! (Think of Scrooge or The Grinch.)

But, if an Atheist insists on being Miss Trunchbull, abusing children of God, then Miss Trunchbull is going to get tossed out a window.

…and I’m going to love it.

Can I help loving when the Bad Guys lose?   More importantly:  should I curb that response?

A few years ago, after Osama Bin Laden was found and killed, many American Christians tried to talk their brothers and sisters out of the celebration.  (I wrote “Don’t Stop my Party” in response.)   Essentially, I concluded that it’s very good to feel satisfaction in seeing justice done.

It’s good to be drawn to battles where Truth goes against Falsehood–and to feel that surge of relief and pleasure when Truth (inevitibly) dominates in a total knockout.

Sure, mere humans need to be careful not to take credit for their amazing powers. We didn’t event Truth, so it’s a mistake to feed our egos as if WE are the superheroes…

But we are in a war here.

There are serious injustices and abuses going on.

If you walk into the average church and asked a random attendee to defend a basic belief, he or she probably won’t have an answer ready.  Christians largely are fearful and uncertain, and, what’s more, there are non-believers willingly doing the work of evil who are tossing these fearful children out windows.

It’s looking pretty hopeless in those corners!

That’s why our spirits rise and we want to cheer, when a competent Culture Warrior shows up, clothed in Christ, and absolutely smashes the foolishness.

It reminds us that we have chosen Power and Light and Truth over the poor alternative.

It encourages us to keep fighting the good fight–because truth and justice will prevail, when we’re patient.

I don’t think Darling and Heck would disagree with any of the things I’m saying here. But I’m open to some balance on my persepctive, if anyone wants to debate me.  (And get OWNED!!!)

(Ha. Just kidding.)

Seriously, whenever I read quotes or watch debates involving great theologians, I want to jump up on the back of my couch, pump a fist in the air, and shout “YEAH!!!!”

Is that so wrong?

Advice the World Won’t Give You (Part 7)

Dear Children,

It’s your mother again!   And this time, instead of giving YOU advice, I want to give advice to my future-self about how to relate with you when you are adults.  (If you are reading this as an adult, you have my current-self’s permission to remind future-me that I said all of this.)

My opinions may change, of course.  But,  I NEVER WANT TO GUILT TRIP YOU INTO SPENDING TIME WITH ME!!!

All the time I see empty-nesters posting warnings about how “one day you will miss your parents”  and “your mom won’t be around forever, you know?!”

And it’s fine if they’re just posting a reminder for themselves that they want to call their own mom in the near future…

…but most of the time, their own mothers are gone…

…and they sit around thinking guilty thoughts about how they “woulda shoulda coulda” done more…

…and they worry they messed up…

…and they feel down on themselves…

…so they decide to share some of that guilt with their kids by saying in no uncertain terms, “YOU’RE GOING TO BE SORRY ONCE I’M DEAD!”

Spend Time with Your Parents

My darlings, let me tell you what I really, really hope I’m able to do instead.   I hope someday, when you’re too busy to call me, I’ll realize it is because you’re taking care of my grandchildren and changing the world, and I hope I think triumphantly, “I’ve done it!”

I’ve accomplished my mission!

Your success will be my success, and I hope I’m able to cheer (from a distance, if necessary), with the proper perspective.

I hope my flexibility and my love for you will make it so that you WANT to call or visit home as much as possible.   But, even if “as much as possible” is pretty rarely, I hope I can remember just how difficult it is to be a young adult balancing work and child-rearing and home projects.

I hope I remember it’s actually a GOOD thing you aren’t sitting in my basement, with nothing to do and nowhere to go.  (If you spent all your time still eating and playing and sleeping right next to me, we would have a problem.)

I hope I’m able to celebrate with you because smart and successful people are looked up to and depended upon and needed for many, many things…and it only adds stress if they have an insecure Mama sitting idly in the background.

Call Your mother

And I hope all of these things keep me from doing the Mom Guilt Thing.

I’m sure I’ll mess up.  And I’m sure it won’t be easy to express how much I miss you and love you, without turning it into a personal pity party…  (Because I DO love you, and I already get a little sad thinking how bittersweet it will be when all of you fly your separate ways.)

But, goodness, I don’t want you to get home at the end of a long work day and think, “Aw, crap, I didn’t call Mom again, and she always gets annoyed and complains when I don’t do enough.”

Your successes will be my successes.  If you’re doing your best and following the heart of God, then you will have no reason to feel guilty. 

You will have no reason to beat yourself up after I’m dead and buried, because having kids who follow the heart of God has always been my ultimate goal…

As always, I love you!

-Mom