To Honor

To Honor

 

“…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” – Ephesians 5:21

Before we dive into this post, I wanted to provide some frame of reference on the structure of Ephesians. Ephesians was a letter to a church, written for the purpose of it being read aloud to the entire congregation. The first three chapters in Ephesians deal with our vertical relationship with the Lord – who we were before Christ, who we now are in Christ, and the beauty of the Gospel. The last three chapters in Ephesians deal with our horizontal relationships – within the body of Christ (the Church), with the world, and within the context of family and work.

In reading Ephesians lately, the Lord has really been instructing and challenging my heart on what it looks like to honor and submit in relationships. We are quick to quote and recognize verses on submission in the context of marriage and parenting, but in reading Ephesians in its entirety in one sitting, I realized that maybe we’re missing the broader message Paul is trying to convey – where honor is sown into any relationship, life is reaped.

Before he encourages us to submit in specific relational contexts, Paul encourages the church to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. In other letters like Philippians, Paul encourages the church to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit” and to “look not only to your own interests but also to the interest of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4). Before he gets into the weeds of gender roles, Paul sets the framework for how we are to function in relationships across the board:  In light of how God sees this person – created in the image of God Himself and dearly loved by the Living God – walk in honor towards them.

*Let me be clear – before we are called to submit to one another, we are called to follow Jesus. We are not called to submit to someone who is leading us away from Christ. Neither is it in the character of God to want someone to be “submissive” in an abusive relationship. You are worth the death of Christ, you are created in the image of God, and if you are in an abusive relationship my heart and strong encouragement for you would be to tell someone safe so that they can help you get out of your current situation. Friend, you are worth far more than you could ever dream and there is hope.*

Marriage

For this feminist heart, hearing words like “obey,” “submit,” and “respect,” are often met with a feisty spirit. I want to demand another person be worthy of my obedience, submission and respect – ultimately, my trust and vulnerability – beforehand. I reject the notion that because I am a woman, I am somehow inferior to a man. In as much Ephesians 5:22 has been thrown around and manipulated, it doesn’t change the reality that it is in Scripture and cannot be ignored. So how do I walk it out in my own life?

Submission and respect do not equal inferiority, incompetence, or discrimination. Rather, in light of who God is we are to honor that which He has created and assigned.

My obedience to the Lord cannot be determined by how well another person is obeying Him. More specifically, my obedience as a wife is not determined by how well my husband is obeying the Lord in that moment. Just because Ray may not love me like Christ loves the church in a particular scenario, does not give me license to treat him with disrespect, disdain or dishonor in that encounter. Just because I treat Ray with disrespect, does not give him license to stop pursuing me in love like Christ loves the church in that moment. My obedience ought to always be a response to God, full of faith expressed in worship. I am called to honor and submit to my husband, not because he deserves it, but because God has commanded it – and if I am to believe that God is a good Father who has my best interest at heart, I cannot pick and choose to follow only the commands I like. Ultimately, I am accountable for my choices and I can choose to obey the Lord and trust Him even in hard moments.

This does not mean that we don’t lovingly address the wrongs we experience in our marriage. You are not a helpless doormat. You are, however, empowered to honor your spouse because you know where God is glorified, therein lies your best interest, your good.  Part of honoring one another is setting up healthy boundaries in our relationships that enable us to love and respect one another well. Part of honoring one another is lovingly and truthfully calling one another up into who they are in Christ.

Walking in respect, honor, and submission does not mean you walk silently as an inferior victim and let someone repeatedly mistreat, dishonor, or devalue you.

Parenting

Paul goes onto encourage children to honor their parents, reminding them that this is the first commandment with a promise that they would live long in the land. Paul encourages fathers not to exasperate or provoke their children – a verse I was quick share with my dad during my teenage years. Now that we have little man, my Momma’s heart wants to know, “How do I instill the value of honoring others into my child’s heart?”

I don’t have this parenting thing down at all, but in reading Ephesians, I have found tremendous comfort in Paul’s wisdom.

How do we encourage our children to walk in honor?

  • When we follow God’s model in Ephesians 4-5 for relationships and marriage.
  • When we choose to honor our children and dignify their spirits, feelings, and experiences rather than provoking and exasperating them.
  • When we operate in relationships from the knowledge that our battle is not against flesh and blood. You can have conflict and disagreements without sacrificing honor and dignity.
  • When we model honor from a sincere heart “as to Christ.”

Beyond the act of obedience, the root of obedience is just as important (if not more important) to the Lord.

  • When we honor without distinction, knowing that the Lord shows no partiality.
  • When we teach our children who they are in Christ and how to stand firm in their identity.

When we know who we are in Christ and how He sees us, it can change the way we see others, the ways that the Enemy seeks to destroy and divide, and the tools of the Holy Spirit that will foil his plans each time.

In sum, when we choose to walk in honor rooted in position, regardless of performance, life follows suit – and where there is life, death cannot dwell. If we want to experience life in our relationships – in our friendships, in our marriages, in our families, we must sow seeds of honor from a sincere heart.

Wishing you life, peace and joy this holiday weekend,

-a

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More Than Enough

design (1)My alarm sounded much too early on Tuesday morning and yet not soon enough. Weighed down with fatigue, my body struggled to keep up with my very alert mind. I can hear Moe-puppy begin to stir, stretching and yawning as she pads softly to the bedroom door, waiting to great the morning and the squirrels. My bleary gaze shifted down to behold bright eyes and chubby hands reaching up to be held. It is officially time to get out of my cozy bed and I cannot think of a better way to start my morning.

And then the reality of motherhood sets in.

Breathing like a little piglet, sweet baby’s nostrils are crusted with stubborn mucus while his lungs work their hardest to clear themselves through a persistent cough. He lets out a big sneeze followed by the sweetest coo you have ever heard. As his red-rimmed blue eyes look up to meet mine, a gummy grin spreads across his face. We go about our morning laughing and giggling. He shows off his acrobatic moves during his diaper change.  I show off my ninja mom skills in getting the diaper on anyways and then one thing stands in between us and breakfast…the dreaded NoseFrida.

Oh. The. Drama.

I went from being the best to worst mom ever the second those saline drops hit his nose. Screams that could rival those in a horror flick fill my home. I am convinced the entire neighborhood can hear me torturing my near-perfect baby. Eternity seems to pass before every stubborn booger in sight is collected, only to find they reproduce at a rate faster than rabbits. I snuggle my little man, who continues to cry and wail in protest, making sure I am fully aware of how he feels about our twice daily date. I know that I am doing the most loving thing in helping him breathe, but does he understand? Does he know that I love him? He seems remarkably quick to forgive as he latches on to eat breakfast…finally.

I sit at my desk, tears welling up in my eyes, as I vent to my poor “assistant” (let’s be real, she runs the place) Tyra about how sucky it is to torture the poor baby and then hand him off to everyone else to love on and play with him. How comments like, “It sounds like your traumatizing him” reverberate within the broken pieces of my mother’s heart, joining the voice of the accuser in my mind, “You’re a nurse and you can’t even help your son who has been congested for nearly two months.”

True to form, Tyra offers a listening ear and loving encouragement.  I compose myself and then head into worship (yes, we get to worship sometimes at work!), entering the throne room weighed down and suffocating. I stand, my arms out, palms open, and in the deepest part of my soul confess, Father, I feel so inadequate and insecure.

I mean, why play games? I am in over my head and I know it. I can hear the Enemy whisper, “Fraud.” And there on my knees, tears sliding down my cheeks, my ears are filled with the most precious reminders of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and gracious love towards me. A deep sense of shalom washes over me, and I am instantly aware that in Christ – that here, kneeling at His feet, crawling up into Abba’s lap, there is nothing missing, nothing broken, and nothing lacking. That my naked soul is not just observed but seen by God Himself and all of my shortcomings, weaknesses, and frailties are avenues of His grace, strength, and faithfulness to flow into the world. And with that, every excuse on my lips falls mute, the music ends, and I find my footing.

I am finding my footing.

The reality is that we can limp through life weighed down by inadequacies and insecurities, our lungs laboring in a hypoxic state, worn and ragged from breathing in polluted thoughts. We can cripple our potential, diminish our beauty, and exhaust our very souls by pretending that we’ve got this life-thing down without a problem or care in the world.

Or

We can call a spade a spade in the throne room. We can find our footing on the foundation of grace. We can walk forward in shalom, in complete wholeness. We can accept that like any good family-style dinner served around the Father’s table, you can only pass what you first receive. Friends, you are not required to bring a side dish to this potluck, only the uniqueness of your presence.

At this table, there is more than enough to go around.

-a

Yes & Amen

design (1)

We are moving.

I watch the stationary cursor blink on my screen as I trace the letters on the keyboard and my lips mouth the line.

We are moving.

I sat across the table from one of my dearest friends this afternoon and spoke those three ordinary yet life-altering words. Even as they rolled off of my tongue and slapped her across the face, they felt surreal. The whole conversation felt surreal. Every conversation has felt surreal. Turning in my letter of resignation for a job that I so deeply love, telling my coworkers and our small group, men and women who have become more like family than merely friends… all of it has felt surreal until I find myself alone.

Alone. Listening to Christmas music in my office, thinking of how this will be the last Christmas we have in our first home.

Alone. Driving Samuel to school in the mornings, thinking of how blessed we are to have caregivers who love him and cherish him while we are at work.

Alone. Surveying the landscape of my home, trying to soak up every detail – from the pile of dirty laundry, to those boots I keep forgetting to pick up in the living room, to Sam’s toys scattered on a baby blanket that Moe mistakenly thinks was laid out for her to sleep on; evidence of the glorious life that happens within these 4 brick walls.

Sadness, excitement, anxiety, and gratitude overwhelm me. It is incredibly bittersweet to say goodbye to this season of our lives. This beautiful season in which we have come into our own as individuals, met, dated, married, entered home ownership and parenthood, completed educations, changed careers, planted roots deep into making this city our home. It is an awesome thing to sit back and consider the faithfulness of God as He has preserved, sustained, blessed and lead us to this point in our lives when we choose to say “Yes” and “Amen” to Him, believing the best truly is yet to come.

The best is yet to come?

My soul musters the question, “Lord how are you going to top this?” Not in a lack of faith, because there is no doubt in my mind that Jesus can do much more than I can ask or imagine, but the reality of His goodness towards our undeserving selves brings me to my knees.

So how do we reflect on all that this city has meant to us while remaining present? How do we finish well while looking ahead with great anticipation of all that God has in store for us? If I am honest, I have no idea. I do know that there is a call from the Father to come, questions and all, and find rest in the midst of the craziness.

For those of you who have loved us so unbelievably well here, investing into our lives, marriage and family, we are forever indebted to you. Words are inadequate to describe how thankful we are for you.

And so it begins… clearly nothing is off the table.

-a

Come to the Table

IMG_3340Write.

I stare at the blinking cursor on my screen and listen to the quiet whisper that beckons me to type. Ray and Sam are tucked in bed. Moe is sitting patiently outside of Elizabeth’s room hoping to be invited in for a belly rub. I sit curled up on our couch, admiring the Christmas tree and avoiding the mess of toys, decorations, and laundry that litter my living room floor.

This is a rare moment. An invitation to come to the table.

Often times I feel as though I talk way to much and say very little in the process. I talk when I am anxious, angry, excited, confused, and insecure…spewing words that make me nervous when I read verses about controlling your tongue and being held accountable for every word spoken. I fear Jesus and I are going to spend eternity just reviewing the transcript of my life. While I am learning to walk in wisdom and keep a guard over my tongue (a lifelong venture I am sure), Jesus continues to call me to write my story.

Only He knows why.

You will not find Pinterest here (no offense to Pinterest).

I am not going to pretend that I have it all together. As a recovering perfectionist, I find increasing freedom in letting others into the beautiful mess that can be my life at times.

You will not find politically correct material here.

I am not going to claim that I have all the right answers. I am not a bible scholar, politician, or authority on any subject. The content of this blog is nothing more than my attempt to be faithful to share the lessons Jesus is teaching me as He writes my story.

What I hope you do find is a refreshing honesty, a few laughs, and beautiful glimpses of the Gospel being lived only through the conduit of grace.

Nothing is off the table.

-a