Why Sunday Matters, Union With Christ in the Wilderness, and Baking The World Better

I’m home again this Sunday. More sickness. Which means I’m writing down everything on my mind. Forgive the disparate nature of it all.

I’ve been trying to get to the nub of why missing church hurts so badly. Is it because I don’t get to hear the sermon? Or the Sunday school teaching? Well, yes. But no, because I can listen to those later in the week when the recordings become available. Is it because I feel cooped up and want to see people and have some social time? Well, yes. But no, because I get to see people and get out other days of the week.

What I miss most is hearing, receiving, and singing together. When we hear the Word preached together, it’s different than me downloading some killer sermon to listen to by myself. When we sing songs together, it’s different than when I find the latest or best hymn album to listen to in my kitchen. It’s valuable to do those things at home, but it’s not the same as being with God’s people on Sunday.

When we gather as God’s people and sing a song to the Lord and about the Lord from our heart, with other Christians singing the same song, and the same words, from their hearts, we are being united. Every Sunday morning God is answering Jesus’ prayer that we would be one as he and the Father are one. When we submit ourselves fully to the faithfully preached Word of God we are being made one as shoulder to shoulder our brothers and sisters put themselves under that same Word. That’s what I miss so much.

I’m never quite as aware of my frailty as on a Sunday when I’m engulfed in the singing of his people. My faith won’t survive without the faithful saints singing next to me. It’s true that “you can have all this world, give me Jesus..” as long as when we say “Jesus” we mean his body, too. I can’t live without his people. Sundays at home with sick kids are God’s good plan to remind me of this even more.

I’ve spent the better part of the past year thinking about our union with Christ. It has become to me the sweetest of all truth in the universe. I was reading through the sermon text for today, while at home, wanting to keep on the same page as everyone. I couldn’t get past the first two verses.

“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.” Mark 1:12-13 (ESV)

So much to take it. But I was strengthened by remembering that it’s God’s Spirit that puts Jesus (and us) in the wilderness, and that we can be in the wilderness and not fear, because Jesus already did it for us. He did it perfectly. He made a path through. The Israelites couldn’t do it, I can’t do it on my own. But because of him, we can walk through the wilderness and resist temptation. He did it for me and he leads me in paths of goodness and faithfulness right through the desert and dry land.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what goodness looks like. Is it a good attitude? Is it doing good things? Can the world engage in goodness? What is Christian goodness? If I get the laundry done, how is it distinctly Christian goodness–doesn’t everybody have to do that? This is another area where thinking about my union with Christ has made life all the sweeter.

There is a Christian way to do the laundry, and make supper, and tend the garden, and go to work, and clean the house. And that is to do them all in Christ and for Christ, with his garments of holiness round about us. It’s so easy to think that our Christian selves are the selves that do “ministry.” The Christian part of us is the part that goes to church, or does Bible study, or disciples a younger person, or helps in Sunday school, or has a quiet time. But because of Christ everything we do is a Christian thing. And I’ve been reveling in baking bread while united to Christ and seated in the heavenly places.

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There’s this cute hashtag: #baketheworldabetterplace. I love it. I love it because, in Christ, it can be true. In Christ, we can bake the world better. In Christ, baking really can be a way to befriend faithfulness. I can love my children with the love of Christ by baking. I can put my hands to do good works in and for Christ by baking. I can teach about him through baking; I can love Christ with baking; I can enjoy Christ in baking.

Baking in and of itself is a common good–it provides food, it is enjoyable. But baking while belonging to Christ is something else entirely. The metaphor (bread is food that sustains) and reality (Christ is the bread of life that sustains) meet spectacularly when baking as a Christian. Doing good works in Jesus’ name is transformative, both to the “good work” and to the person doing them and the person receiving them.

I mention all this baking hubbub, not to get you to start baking, which is completely unnecessary to your life as a Christian. But to ask you, what are you doing everyday that you can see in a new light because of your union with Christ. The laundry (making dirty things clean)? Making supper? Reading books? Accounting? Science experiments? You are doing those things in Christ. They belong to him and are for him. What metaphors are brought to fullness in your doing them?

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When we’re in Christ, nothing happens apart from him. Not our relationships with other Christians, or our relationships with non-Christians, or our interactions with the stuff in the world (like flour, clothing, tools, tv). We don’t invite Christ into those things. If we’re in him and he’s in us, it’s a reality that he’s there. But our awareness of him is what needs heightened. Which is part of why we need each other, Christ’s body. To keep each other remembering and reminded.

If you were at church today, I hope you know the gift you were given. And if you were at home or the hospital or somewhere else, I hope you know Christ as the one who blazed a trail through the wilderness for us.

Doing the Spiritual Splits

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I was looking at my calendar and realized my church attendance on Sunday morning is less than 50% for 2017. I’m sure I’m not alone. This has been a brutal winter for illness in MN and I’ve found myself rocking an ever-growing and under-the-weather boy on many a Sunday morning.

Rocking this morning is as calm as you’d hope, but my mind has been anything but. I’ve been pinned, all the while the laundry goes unfolded, the dishes unloaded, the supper un-prepped, the Bible study undone, the garden unplanned, the knitting un-knit, the lovely sunshine un-basked in. And on and on.

I was chatting with a fellow mom of five last week, brainstorming ways to bring structure and discipline to our mornings with so many variables in the form of small people and exponential relationships and possibilities for things to go awry. Change, thou art steadfast. It seems we never do live the same day twice.

I’ve always been a go-with-the-flow type. Probably a fourth child thing. Going with the flow ensures that I am GOING! And WITH others! Nothing worse than being left behind for a fourth child. This go-with-the-flow personality has served me well in many ways. I’m not opinionated about many decisions, as long as the people I love are around, which means I’m usually easy to get along with. But, it’s not a personality forged from virtue, it’s forged from my desire to have maximum enjoyment in life–and I tend to think that going with the flow will make me and those around me happiest.

But I’ve learned over the years that it’s easy to mistake this go-with-the-flow style for true flexibility–the kind of flexibility that’s learned to be content in any circumstance. All it takes to learn the truth is take away the ability to go with the flow. What happens when I’m forced to stop the movement, forced to be still, forced to make my own decisions without the comfort and enjoyment of the company I long for? And then what if even my best laid plans are thwarted? Like today with the laundry and the dishes and supper and actual work that I’m supposed to do?

There are probably many of you reading who aren’t go-with-the flow types. Maybe your type A or you like to run the show and make the decisions. Maybe the idea of being a passenger in the ride of life is a thousand slow deaths by pin prick. It’s probably more obvious for you that growth in Godly flexibility is necessary. You know your rigidity, your fight for control. And hopefully you know that it needs to be crucified in favor of trusting God.

But, if you’re more like me, your lack of flexibility might come as a surprise. So I’m hoping this reflection is helpful for you. Spiritual flexibility is just my way of saying that we trust God in every circumstance, without bitterness or bucking, that is to say, with real contentment. How flexible are we when we aren’t even allowed to be flexible? When we’re just stuck in the same place over and over, learning the discipline we want to run from?

So my hope today is not in getting up from the rocking chair where I currently type away with my little boy’s head resting on my arm. My hope is not in what I will accomplish or how easy I am to get along with on lunch choices. My hope is in God. I can trust that while I sit in this chair, he is accomplishing everything he wants to in and through me. And when the time sitting here is up, by faith I will flex to do what he’s put before me next. I’ll mess up, but I can trust him. He’s teaching me the spiritual splits, so that I can bend and flex and never break as I stretch out to love others in Jesus. Oh that our arms would reach out with Jesus’ as his were nailed to the cross. And they do, because we are united to him in life and death and life.

Reflections On A Year Of Writing

2016 has been a year of increased writing for me. Especially it’s been a year of increased writing away from this blog, mainly for Desiring God. I usually link up and excerpt the writing I do elsewhere, so most of it has shown up here even so.

Aside from online writing, I’ve also written two bible studies for the women of our church, written talks, and long (ish) off-the-cuff Facebook and Instagram posts. In many ways, I’ve given all I could to writing, reading, and learning. That is to say, I’ve given what time I could in light of my life and responsibilities, sometimes more than I should have, sometimes less. Learning to give appropriate time to these things, learning when to dive headlong in and when to hold back is more of an art than a science for a mom with varying jobs and unpredictable days and often seems a bit out of my control. One piece of writing advice I’ve taken to heart is: if you write it cold, don’t expect readers to feel the fire to keep reading.. or something like that–that’s my adaptation of the gist of the advice. This has led me to write when the zeal is there, which isn’t always on schedule.

The other thing I’ve learned, not through advice but through failure, is that zeal in our writing makes us hasty. And haste is often foolish. Write with zeal, but then give yourself time to read it cool, with clear eyes, before you put it out there. I’ve benefitted from many eyes on my writing and a good amount of time between writing and publishing.

One thing I’ve learned about myself over the last couple years is that reaching people through writing is exhilarating. As someone whose life has been changed through books– through other people’s writing–the idea that God could use my writing to encourage, point, and disciple others is thrilling and deeply satisfying. That thrill can lead to praising God and it can lead to sinful sickness in the soul.

But perhaps the more important thing I’ve learned is that the face-to-face interactions, the flesh and blood lives that I have the privilege of being apart of through discipling, teaching, writing for, and learning from, give my soul a much deeper, lasting joy. Writing for people in general is hollow compared to writing for my people. And so whenever I write, that’s what I aim for. I aim to love the real people around me, to encourage them, to help them. Then I pray that if God would be pleased to use it elsewhere, then he would, and if not, that my satisfaction in it would not lessen, but quite the opposite, that it would increase. There’s something very wonderful in leaving the results to God, in knowing that judging success by earthly standards isn’t just dangerous, it’s often flat out wrong.

The banner I want over my life and writing is: entrusted. So, I commit this coming year to him. I entrust it to him. And in doing so, I am asking him for the long view: that I will faithfully deposit any and all good works into his hands and into this world, entrusting their value and influence to him, that they would be shown for what they are on the final day. May he keep me from judging my own self and works, as I undoubtedly am too soft and too hard on myself in all the wrong ways, but rather entrust it all to him, the only righteous judge. If you have the inclination, would you pray that I would be a faithful steward, entrusting all to God?

“If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:14-19 ESV)

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:1-5 ESV)

When Submission Is Sin

New post up at Desiring God on women and submission to the world. If you’re weighed down by all the rules the world throws at you or if you’re a little proud because you manage to keep so many of them, then this is for you. Be free in Christ, friends!

I am convinced that many of us women have a submission problem. A giant submission problem. But it isn’t mainly that we won’t submit to our husbands — it’s that we won’t stop submitting to the world. The biggest problem with women and submission is too much of it in the wrong places. We willingly submit to the world’s rules.

In Colossians 3:18, Paul tells Christian wives to “submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Along with passages like Ephesians 5:22–24 and 1 Peter 3:1–6, this verse tends toward the infamous. But there is another perhaps less-known passage on “submission,” also from Colossians.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations — “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” . . . — according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom . . . but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20–23)

Women are awash in the teaching and dogma of the world. And the great tragedy is that they are voluntarily placing themselves under its authority. Some don’t even know they’re doing it.

Drowning in a Flood of Rules

Does any of this sound familiar? We compel ourselves to wear certain styles, even painful shoes, to keep up with what the stores have told us is fashionable. We clean our homes in a particular way with only particular products. We follow every rule and suggestion given to us by the ubiquitous “they” on how to parent our children and keep them safe from every wisp of risk. We stress and strain our muscles, three times a week minimum, because we believe it’s the “right” thing to do and maybe, just maybe, we’ll keep death at bay (or at least have a flat stomach until it comes for us). We’re religious about the kind of candle that can burn in our houses, and the smell of essential oils floats through the air whenever we’re around because we’re convinced they’re the “right” remedy to use.

Rules, rules, rules. Eat this; don’t eat that. “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch.” These are not God’s rules, but they are rules nevertheless. Who could ever keep up with the always-changing and ever-increasing rules the world (and our own self-made religion) throws at us?

Am I saying it’s wrong to follow a certain diet? Or work out? Or clean a particular way? Or use certain health remedies? No. Absolutely not. But it iswrong to believe that doing any of those things is “right.” It’s wrong to do them because you trust the world (or yourself) more than Christ.

Christ has given us plenty of work to do until he comes again. The last thing we need is to start working on the to-do list the world has assigned to us. We’re to “seek the things that are above” (Colossians 3:1). That means we’re to “put on . . . compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12); to bear with one another, forgive each other, and above all, to love (Colossians 3:13–14).

Read the rest.

Warding Off Darkness By Laughing At What’s To Come

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As I vote today, I’m remembering that the act of voting was secured for me by sacrifices I didn’t make. I’m giving thanks for those sacrifices as I vote. I’m also remembering that every single act of my life as a Christian was secured for me at an infinitely higher cost by my Savior Jesus. Every act of our life in Christ is of significance beyond our telling or voting. From eating and drinking to giving my kids a hug in the morning to making dinner. Every thing we do by faith as his children, we do in Christ and for Christ. It’s all blood bought and costly, because *we ourselves* are blood bought. We are redeemed, new people. 

So I vote and give thanks that this act of voting is an act I do belonging to Christ and for him. I vote by faith—faith in Jesus, not a party or a candidate. Then I hug my husband and teach my kids about the real cost of freedom in Christ—a freedom that can never be quenched. I stoke the flames of *that* fire—one whose light will never go out.

My worth as a woman doesn’t come from my ability to vote, although I’m thankful for it. We were made by him and for him; our names are written on his palms. Our influence is deeper and broader and realer than anything we find inside the ballot box. When I laugh at what’s to come with my kids in the Gospel-soaked air of our home by faith, I do as much to ward off the darkness as any vote.

So I vote, then I exercise the real guts of my freedom, a freedom bestowed by God through Jesus. The freedom to pass this faith on to others, which is unable to be contained by laws; the freedom to know YAHWEH, that is Christ the Lord; the freedom to be loved by God and to love others. We are free to be his, friends. Today is a day for thankfulness.

Unraveling Guilt With God’s Holiness

Anyone else out there get bogged down with guilt? Pretty sure moms (or maybe all women?) spend a lot of time on the guilt treadmill. Running on fumes and getting nowhere. I’ve thought a lot about how to solve the guilt problem and the usual Sunday school answers are my go-to: Jesus. The Bible.

Yet, I’m still more than stone’s throw from understanding the root causes and complex nuances of guilt. One thing recently pointed out to me is that mom guilt can’t merely be a matter of heavy responsibility. I think one of the reasons moms are so guilty is the weightiness of feeling responsible for sustaining life (physical) and being one of the means of awakening life (spiritual) for their children. I really do think this is where a lot of mom guilt comes in. But what can’t be true is that moms are the only ones under this pressure. Dads are too.

And I could make the case that good dads are under more pressure: the pressure to provide materially coupled with the weight of being the head of the house spiritually. Yet, I don’t see as many men fretting guiltily about every tiny thing they do or don’t do, whereas it’s like breathing for a lot of moms.

The gendered guilt component probably has a plus side for humanity. It seems that a woman’s guilt (“I should have called so and so and offered to carpool!”or “Let’s invite ALL the girls from your class to the party! We don’t want anyone to feel left out!”) is often relationally wired and tuned in to the needs of others. This does good things for society in promoting an interwoven community that makes sure everyone is looked after, even as it may make her a bit of basket case.

But constant low-level guilt isn’t God’s great plan for womanhood. And while I still think Jesus and The Bible are the answer to our guilt problem, I also think applying the Gospel balm without understanding holiness and sin won’t help us much.

Perhaps what’s missing in the battle against guilt is a grasp of God’s holiness. Maybe the real problem is that we don’t know God’s perfections. We don’t know his character. We forgot the Ten Commandments, all of which instruct us about God’s holy nature. If we don’t know the basics about what God is like, we won’t know when we’re wandering into sinfulness or preference. We won’t have an objective way to evaluate our guilt. And Jesus as God Incarnate is the standard bearer for holiness and the further revealing of God’s character.

Without knowing God’s holiness, we won’t know whether we’re supposed to be guilty about white bread sandwiches or yelling at the kids. We won’t know whether we’re supposed be guilty for taking too much “me-time” or not enough. We won’t know whether we’re supposed to be guilty for feeling too guilty or not feeling guilty enough. Oh the tangled webs.

God’s character, his holiness, unravels the knot. It doesn’t remove our guilt, but it names it rightly, it brings things into proper focus. He sent his Son and His Spirit to give us the way out of guilt. Listen to the conviction of His Spirit; look at the cross and the empty tomb in repentance and hope and be holy as God is holy. Don’t be holy the way the world is holy. Stop submitting to regulations of self-made religion. Stop following your puny dreams and start knowing God, yield to him and be free of guilt–false or real.

On Being a Good Mom

New (ish) DG article that I forgot to post on being a good mom. Good thing this is such an easy topic! Ha. 😉

One of a mother’s most difficult tasks — nay impossible, apart from God’s help — is weaning her children and transferring their source of life, comfort, and home to Another. In all her loving and comforting and making home, she is simply a pointer to a better one, a lasting one — a home where she already has one foot in the door, a home she testifies to by her own goodness.

But are we good mothers? Does even the question cause some chafing?

Christian mothers are supposed to be good mothers — happy in God, while loving and disciplining our children — because of Jesus. Yet often we’d rather celebrate our failures as a need for more grace than to rehearse, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3).

That goodness is a fruit of the Spirit seems forgotten among jokes about our mom fails and laments about how impossible it all is (Galatians 5:22). The pursuit of goodness is often quickly rebuffed as works-righteousness. But is it? Not if our goodness is the result of Another’s goodness. This imputed goodness is Christ’s, and through faith he increasingly imparts it to us, where it grows to decontaminate and purify our mothering hearts. His grace makes mothers good.

When God gives us children, he answers a lot of questions in our lives — even ones we may not have thought to ask. Questions like:

  • What should I do with my life?
  • What’s it like to give my body up for someone?
  • How attached am I to privacy?
  • How selfish am I when giving feels forced upon me?
  • Does my faith hold on during the third night or third week or third year of sleep deprivation, or is it a product of my ability to string together rational thoughts?
  • Do I trust my husband as a father?
  • How weird am I about food?
  • What strong opinions do I have about clothing? Sleepovers? Education? Extracurricular activities?

Being a mom brings it all to the surface. It reveals a more truthful version of ourselves, not because we were previously being untruthful, but because we now are shaping a life for someone else, not simply ourselves.

Mothers are making decisions every day that can and often will impact another person’s entire existence. This pressure to make sure we don’t mess up our child’s life is pretty intense. It creates some heat that tends to wear us down to the core of what we really believe about God, ourselves, and the world.

Read the rest.

An Interview with Pilgrim Radio on Every Woman’s Call to Work

Earlier this week Pilgrim Radio aired an interview I did regarding the Desiring God article, Every Woman’s Call to Work. Pilgrim Radio is a station broadcasting to 4 states out west (CA, NV, WY, MT) and live streaming online. Bill Feltner was my kind host on the show, His People. I’ve never done a radio interview, so this was a new experience. Very enjoyable, but also hard as there are always things that could have been said better or more clearly. With that disclaimer, I hope you find this helpful.

 

 

 

Women and Work

DG posted an article on women and work that I’d been working on (get that, working on?) for a while. It’s a tricky topic to talk about because of the pet ponies so many keep in the stall on this one. But how many of us are willing to really work the way God requires? Having totally crucified our selfish ambitions and laid down our lives? How many of us are hoping to be a living sacrifice? I think lots of us are hoping for something a little more affirming, a little easier, a little less exhausting, and a lot more, well, fun.

But there’s a paradox that IS the Christian life: death to life. A million deaths each day doesn’t end in the grave. It ends in JOY. So here’s my attempt at understanding our call to work as women.

The pertinent question for women entering the workforce or motherhood or setting up their home or any sphere of work is this: Am I faithfully obeying God as his child by meeting the genuine needs of others, or am I pursuing self-actualization, self-fulfillment, or selfish ambition apart from him?

Our faithfulness first requires a kind of death — death to self and selfish ambition. Yet death leads to life — life in Christ, through him, and for him. What exactly that death looks like will vary from person to person, but in every case, it will be a gospel act, a spectacle of crucifixion with Christ.

For a single mom who must earn an income, prioritizing Christ and the home may mean doing what it takes to provide for her kids’ needs and spending herself at work, then at home, at great cost to herself — to the glory of God and for the good of her children.

For a single woman without kids, it may mean considering cross-cultural missions or walking fearlessly into her job, while saving some reserves for the life of the church or investing in her neighborhood or opening her home — whether it’s an apartment or a house or a room — so she can share what she has, especially Christ in her.

For a married, stay-at-home mom of littles, it may mean seemingly endless physical tasks and training, laying down the pre-motherhood feelings of proficiency as she can no longer earn an “A” for her hard work or receive a promotion.

For the mom with a part-time job that helps financially but isn’t essential, it may mean laying that job down and the extra financial cushion so that she can intentionally sow seeds of the gospel in her children. Or it might mean keeping that job and using her gifts to serve others.

For the woman whose husband is facing long-term unemployment or disability, it may mean becoming the breadwinner or caretaker, shouldering a larger portion of responsibility than she had perhaps desired.

For a mom whose children are older and gaining independence, it may mean a shift in the type of work she does, bravely considering the options and doing things she hasn’t done in a long time, or trying something brand new.

Sometimes our circumstances aren’t ideal. Often they are not ideal. This isn’t heaven. And the call to lay down our lives will take different forms. But this is our calling, with its countless manifestations. Not because we’re the one who finally will save our kids or our family or our neighbors or ourselves. We’re not Christ. But we are Christians. We gladly follow the God-man who laid down his own life to meet our truest needs. We gladly echo his great sacrifice in our little deaths-to-self.

We seek to faithfully live the actual life God has given us, not the one we hoped for or wish we had. We take the principles God himself has given us — for work and dominion, the priority of the home, generosity and hospitality, caring for the children (and adults) God has given us (their bodies and souls) — and we apply them to the real life in front of us. Not the ideal. Not the fantasy. But the actual life God has given us.

Our work is not about us. It’s not about making a name for ourselves with a fabulous career or being superior because things went well for us and we’re doing it all “right” or trying to “have it all.” If we ache to make a name for ourselves — in self-glorification — we should remember that we serve the one whose name is above all names. He will not suffer us as competitors. And far better than making a name for ourselves, he’s written our names in his book, not because we have a great job, but because we’re his children.

So work really hard. Do amazingly good work. Excel in every single way that you can, in every single area that you can, with the self-forgetful happiness that can be found only when you’ve laid yourself down and are trusting in the name of a tireless, serving Savior. Trust the author of the Lamb’s book of life to guide you in every circumstance to every good work that he’s prepared for you.

Read the whole thing.

Embodied Women: God’s Call In Our Design

New post at DG. This one is near to my heart as we navigate life with a disabled son. The design of our bodies is telling us something, even in the lack.

“The devastating way our society treats the calling of women’s bodies is to cleverly uncover them and use them for power and money. How many daughters and sisters and mothers and friends believe their bodies to be valuable only as they are objectified or viewed with lust? Or only as they earn capital for them under the false banner of empowerment?

On the other hand, our society has shamelessly rejected modesty and purposeful functionality as practical enslavement. Instead of using a hammer to hammer, we polish and paint it and hang it on the wall to stare at. Instead of making music with a piano, we refuse to have it tuned and super glue the keys in place so they can’t strike a chord — but boy do they look like they could make music, were someone ever to try them out.

How much more is this the case in twenty-first-century America? With plastic surgery and an inordinate emphasis on appearance, our bodies have become something like a mausoleum that we dare not spend or use for any purposes other than the ones we decide will benefit us. So while a woman may be quite happy to test her body’s limits at the gym so that she looks cute and young in a new outfit, she wouldn’t dream of testing its limits in hard labor of any kind for a purpose with no personal benefit, solely for the sake of another.

God gave women wombs so that babies could grow in them. Does every woman’s womb grow a baby? No, and there is no lessening of womanhood in that. But that doesn’t mean we miss God’s calling in his larger design. Wombs to grow humanity — that’s his mindboggling plan. It was God’s idea to give wombs to women, just as he decided to give us arms to lift things.

And knowing that God gave arms for lifting and wombs for babies impacts our calling. If God designed our bodies to be a home to a tiny person for nine months, then that understanding will help us to make sense of the instructions in Titus 2:4 and 1 Timothy 5:14 to work and manage the home. Why? Because he actually made our bodies a home, and making a home for others is an extension of that.

I’m not saying that we all must be having as many babies as we can, or that our arms should be lifting in perpetuity, or that our legs should never stop walking. I’m simply pointing to God’s design and asking the question, Why did he make us like this?

Are we willing to accept the answer inherent in God’s design and inerrant in his word?

The truth, of course, about God’s clear design doesn’t leave us without complex pains and questions. What about women who have had mastectomies or hysterectomies, or have had a leg amputated, or are blind, or in any way have a body that doesn’t function properly?

We begin by acknowledging that’s all of us at some level. Not all of us are missing parts, but all of us have a level of body dysfunction. That’s what sin does: it corrupts the creation. And that doesn’t make us any less a woman, or our bodies any less relevant, or our calling any less important. A woman who cannot make a home inside her body for children can still make a home for them outside of it. She can make a place of safety and warmth for others, whether they’re her children or not.

Our youngest son is disabled. He has a body and mind that “don’t work the way they’re supposed to” — though we believe his body and mind work precisely the way God intends. So what does it mean for our son to live a full life as an embodied soul, whose body has something to say about his calling? It means that while his calling will remain the same — the call to live as a Christian man, God willing — how it works out will be different because he’ll be in his particular body, not someone else’s.

Likewise, God has given Christian women whose bodies have a womb, but can’t carry a baby, a harmonious outworking of the calling of a Christian woman. As women, we’re all singing the same song, with the same goal, with our varied parts, some on melody, some on harmony and descant, and some sounding the minor note. And while the song is beautiful, it is heartbreakingly so.

The painful ache for those who long to have the part of bearing children is agonizing. It is a grief worth grieving. It does not make you lesser as a woman; you are loved and oh how we need you. Your body is not irrelevant, nor is your womb. It still points to something; it is still valuable and made by God, and it still has a role to play.

Sometimes the glory God gets from our lack far exceeds what he gets from our fullness. Our wombs are God’s design and calling, but empty wombs still point to greater realities — not despite the sorrow that comes with them, but with the sorrow as part of the pointer.

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