Asking questions about sticky issues: is the man more responsible for the family?

One task I want to (continue) do this year is help us grapple with some of these issues and questions surrounding women and the Bible. I know, technically, it’s what we believe about women and men, but practically, it turns into rules for women. The burdens these decisions place on men are more invisible.

One of the best ways to approach these topics is to ask a lot of questions. Often we repeat statements we’ve heard and the statements become so familiar we don’t how to analyze them. This won’t be me telling you what to believe (though that will probably be obvious; I’m not pretending to be a blank slate), but instead providing questions to help you evaluate the story of Scripture.

It may make some of you uncomfortable to even question these statements. Sit in the discomfort. Truth is not challenged by questions. Your faith and your ability to interact with people who don’t share your positions is strengthened when you don’t run from discomfort.

The creation of humanity: how we read the Bible

Not long ago, I sat down and did a slow reading of Genesis 1 and 2. Despite how well I would have said I knew the creation story, only as an adult did I realize that the entire order of creation is different in chapter 2 than it is in chapter 1. (Seriously, that’s not a joke. Go look.) My guess would be that this is because as a child I memorized the days of creation from chapter 1 and no one ever talked about that part of chapter 2.

Despite gaining that knowledge over the recent years, I would have still claimed to know the story well. And yet, when I sat down only a week ago, reading slowly, I noticed two things that I hadn’t before. I think I need to stop claiming that I know anything well.

I have heard people teach about the theme of separation in Genesis 1: day and night, light and darkness, earth and water, etc. It’s a story of binaries, opposites. Then frequently, man and woman are included in that list. The idea would be that as earth and water are different, so man and woman are different too. The problem is that the text presents man and woman as similar, corresponding. The separation is between animals and humans. In Genesis 1, God made all the animals and then shifted gears to make another type of creature in God’s own image. Being made in God’s image both separates humanity from the animals and joins women and men. In fact, after making humanity, God commissioned them to “be fruitful and multiple and fill” just as God commissioned the animals (compare Genesis 1:22 with the opening of 1:28). But then, he gives humanity a separate calling as well: rule creation. Humanity was to steward God’s project; they were created to be God’s partners (see also Genesis 2:15). Humanity is to represent God; the animals are not. There is no separation made between woman and man in this story.

Dismissing My Own Disdain: when words ruin witness

I promise not to become a person who constantly critiques how we use social media simply because I’m pausing my own use of it. However, I think most social media users will admit some parts of it do deserve critique. Screens make it easy to treat people who do not share our positions with disdain. Memes reduce solid positions to straw-man arguments. Biting captions chew up and spit out those who may be wrong, but need our compassion. Disdain, treating people with contempt and as unworthy of respect, never wins people to our side or to the truth. It is more likely to gain applause from people who agree with us than to start conversations with those who don’t.

It is far more helpful to consider our words on social media or the internet in general, (this is my goal here as well) not as shouting from a stage in front of a cheering crowd, but as words across a dinner table with a person we love who holds a different viewpoint. Those are radically different conversations and tones and intentions. The goal of a dinner conversation isn’t to win or to convert, but to fellowship and know each other. You want to leave the table understanding something that you didn’t before even if you still don’t agree. These are the people who come to your house in the middle of the night during a medical emergency to sit with your kids or drop off coffee when you’re sick. Some of those people are hopefully not just like us. Yet we can learn to live well with them.

Risk, masks, and an unveiling of our hearts

When Micah was seven days old, the resident at UK Children’s Hospital told us she was transferring him to Cincinnati Children’s. In UK’s PICU (pediatric intensive care), they operated in-house. They shut down the entire unit to visitors, including parents, and performed surgeries right in the child’s room. When they were prepping Micah for transfer, we were told that they were breaking the rules to sneak us in the back to see him before transport despite an operation being in progress. You might be tempted to think that was considerate of them, but really they were concerned that he might die during the trip. Tears trickled down my face as I looked at my infant covered with tubes and wires, but the resident in the corner sobbed as she watched.

Later that same evening at CCHMC, a team of specialists wanted to put Micah on dialysis. His ammonia levels were so high that nothing else would clean his blood. The problem was that he was technically too small for their smallest dialysis machine. It would remove too much blood from his body. They had a plan to add extra blood to minimize the risk, but the risk was great. We signed the papers anyway. The other option was to watch him die without trying anything.

Risk is something that has gone hand-in-hand with Micah’s life. I’ve watched him with bated breath for eleven years. His runny nose affects his behavior. A low fever starts a sick day protocol and murmured prayers as I stress clean. A simple stomach bug lands him in the ER for fluids. Risk is inherent in him being alive. Not just him, but all of us, though often to a lesser degree.

Faithful, but not Fast

One of my goals for this year is to write publicly every week. Most often that is here, excepting the week I send out the monthly newsletter. I need both the encouragement to write consistently and the discipline of writing longer form pieces. Last week I hadn’t written much, mostly because I was discouraged. I feel discouraged about raising my kids. We’ve been at this for a while and it still feels like we are doing the same work. I feel discouraged about the conversations about women and the church because sometimes it seems like we’re still having the same conversations. I feel discouraged about my own sense of vocation because I can’t see a path forward. I’m still living these same days.

After some thought, I’ve realized that much of this discouragement is because I can’t see an end line. There’s no banner stretched out over the finish that I’m straining toward in any of these areas. The boys will weigh on my heart as long as I’m alive, even after my work of raising them is complete. There will always be those people who are happy to subjugate women and slap the name of Jesus on it. My own path forward may always feel like a mystery. I’m slowly practicing obedience and faithfulness in the everyday and not analyzing other metrics like success or notoriety or feelings.

Last week, I started reading Keep Going by Austin Kleon. In the introduction he says “the question is always the same: How to keep going?” To frame it that way helps me. This is what life is. Life is beautiful and difficult, joyful and terrible, boring and ecstatic. These days can be both excruciating and strengthening. But the call is always onward because I am actually going somewhere, even if it’s not a somewhere I was taught to look for.

Patience on the Path to Maturity

This week the woman I’m discipling and I laughed hysterically over a story in Rich Villodas’ book, A Deeply Formed Life. He tells about a temp job that he had shortly after he became a Christ in which he prominently displayed Romans 3:23 on his computer screensaver and wore t-shirts with Bible verses on them in an attempt to evangelize his coworkers. Before quitting the job, he sent an email to the entire company explaining how they could go to heaven. He walked out feeling triumphant.

We laughed and laughed and then we shared stories of when we have been just as aggressive and obnoxious and thought we were doing God a favor. We considered the work we were doing as vital to the kingdom, even if it meant knocking on a stranger’s door and accosting them with a question about hell.

I must admit that my perspective on evangelism has changed drastically. (Here’s a short podcast by NT Wright you might like if you’re curious about less aggressive evangelism.) But I need to remember those embarrassing stories so that I will remember God’s endless patience.

Resources for a Discussion on 1 Timothy 2

After a conversation during a Q+R on Instagram, I agreed to discuss 1 Timothy 2. As soon as I agreed to do this, I also told my Instagram friends in a story that they had homework too. They might have asked me to talk through the passage but no one gains anything by someone else doing the work alone or telling them what to think. I asked them to read all of 1 Timothy, noting any themes they saw. Then to walk through Paul’s train of thought in all of 1 Timothy 2, making a very brief “outline” of sorts. Finally I asked them to write down any questions they had and any other passages of Scripture they thought of during the reading.

If you missed that part, feel free to participate in the homework before watching the video or checking out these resources. The whole point of this is studying Scripture so Scripture is where we start. Is that a decent amount of work? Sure. But if we are going to have opinions that we insist are biblical we need to thoroughly evaluate them.

My goal with this conversation is to point out some of the difficulties of this passages and then focus on things the passage does not say. You can find the conversation on Instagram right here!