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|Posted by Susan McGeown on January 4, 2018 at 4:20 PM||comments (0)|
Do you know what “complementarian” vs. “egalitarianism” means within the faith based community?
You can search the Internet and find all manner of articles and opinions about both of these – and depending on which way you might ‘lean’ (I’m talking the “L” for liberal or “C” for conservative) the definition that you might settle on for both of these words might be significantly different than what I’ve come up with. As I do, however, I’ve done my own research and come up with my own personal definition of each of these words and I thought I’d share my findings with you.
My Faith Background
First, need to know some of my faith background. I was raised in a conservative Baptist church and made a profession of faith and experienced full immersion baptism at the age of eight. (Hi, First Baptist Church of Union, NJ!) Until my mid-30’s I was a Baptist girl through and through attending either conservative or southern Baptist churches. My husband came to know the Lord in a southern Baptist church and even once we began attending a Dutch Reformed church (Hi, North Branch Reformed Church of Bridgewater, NJ!), our children were all baptized the “Baptist” way being allowed to make a personal profession of faith rather than undergoing infant baptism. But that’s just data facts, really. What you really need to know about me (and what is The Most Important Influence in my life) was The Christian Women Who Were My Role Models.
I grew up in a 50’s kind of June Cleaver household with a Mom who stayed home and did all the traditional things you’d imagine an “old-style” housewife to do. Dad went off to work each morning, came home to a prepared dinner and sat and read the paper while watching the evening news. We attended church Sunday mornings and evenings and prayer meeting on Wednesdays. I did pot luck suppers, sung in the choir, participated in youth group, and loved summer Vacation Bible School. Are you getting the whole picture?
I remember asking Mom when I was reading the Bible one time (King James, of course), “How come it almost always says ‘he’?” Her immediate answer, which is the essence of who I am today was, “Oh, it really means ‘he and she’. It was just easier to write just ‘he’.” To my young, preteen mind, it was a perfect, obvious explanation. Aside from Mom, who was a role model of strength, faith, and love at home, there was the (very formidable) Mrs. Walter, the pastor’s wife, who ruled youth group and Sunday school and Vacation Bible School (she wrote her own curriculum!!!) at the Baptist church we attended during my teens. Between Mom’s and Mrs. Walter’s example of commitment, determination, faith and their insistence that we listen to our call and use our gifts to God’s greater glory, this insecure, shy, anxiety-ridden girl into the formidable force I am today.
Despite the culture of the times, despite the stand of the Baptist faith at the time, both of these phenomenal Christian women never uttered the word “can’t” or “don’t” or “forbidden” or “submit”. I grew up thinking I should be whatever God called me to be and there were no boundaries or limitations to this call.
My Faith Walk
God called me to be a teacher first and then a writer and I thrived in both of those arenas. Almost nothing is a greater blessing than being able to do the things you love to do and make a living at it. But notice I said ‘almost nothing’ in that preceding sentence. That’s because once you begin your faith journey, there’s never an end or a stopping point. God keeps pushing you and, if you’re obedient, He pushes you higher and farther than you ever dreamed (or wanted) – and that’s where the greatest blessings show up. While I was content teaching nine and ten year olds, I had no wish to ever speak in public. Once the babies began to come along, I was content to live my insular life in my cuddly house with my children and my computer banging out stories as they came to me in the wee hours of the morning.
But then I started to get requests to speak: as a church deacon, at local book clubs that had read one of my stories, conducting an in-home Bible study, to say the prayer at the annual Christmas breakfast, to lead the upcoming women’s conference, to become Vice President of Consistory and preach an honest to goodness sermon, to fly to California and be the keynote speaker in their four-day long women’s retreat… Each one of these requests was greeted with abject terror and the overwhelming urge to go into witness protection. God must have chuckled over my fleeting hope to break a leg, catch laryngitis, or come down with the flu. Yet each time, there I stood in front of those groups of people and something amazing happened: I LOVED IT. Not so much the nerve-racking, gut-clenching, insomnia causing fear that preceded each of these events, but the unbelievable rush, the empowerment, the high, afterwards having felt the Spirit (I call him Ruach) work in and through me. It was so great each time, that I actually wanted that wonderful feeling again. God’s tricky like that.
Surprisingly, it was in the midst of a particularly difficult period at one of my past churches, that my opinion on egalitarian vs. complementarianism first began to gel (but no way did I call it that). It is important for you to know that I did not seek positions of authority at any time in my early spiritual path. I had no agenda to rewrite, no wrong to correct; I didn’t even have a particular awareness of the concept of equality vs. submission. I was just a faithful person who happened to be (I want to put, in jest, ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’ but I won’t) the one God chose to work with. It was during that difficult time as Chair of the Deacons, that I was repeatedly put in a position of authority over men (GASP! E-GAD!). Whether I was conducting a deacon’s meeting, reporting at a church business meeting, overseeing a review with staff, or meeting with Southern Baptist authorities, each situation caused the same gut-wrenching fear and the same feeling of joy and empowerment afterwards. I remember sitting in my car after a particularly difficult meeting in tears; I was crying with overwhelming joy because I could not believe what I had managed to do, say, advise, and admonish as the Spirit worked in and through me. Who was this woman?!
The spiritual growth, empowerment, confidence, and clarity I received as a result of this difficult time is one of my greatest periods of spiritual transformation. Leaving that church, I became adamant that I could never attend a church that would have prevented me from that experience due to gender bias. Furthermore, I never wanted my daughter or my sons to attend a church that would prevent them from that opportunity as well. I so desperately wanted to become a woman after God’s own heart (or a WAGOH as my kids liked to call it).(I Samuel 13:14)
On Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism
I’m a conundrum I suppose. Quiet, shy, and anxious by nature, I’m incredibly outspoken, opinionated, and passionate on issues close to my heart. Raised religiously conservative for a majority of my formative life, many would classify me as surprisingly liberal in my spiritual stand. My favorite time spent is alone, quiet, lost in my private writings yet I regular search out opportunities for public speaking engagements – in fact I crave them. But isn’t that the whole Christian agenda? “…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person… ” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Why, I most certainly better be different after over five decades of walking this spiritual path with Jesus Christ! I like to describe the core tenets of the Christian faith as the necessary ingredients to make The Christian Cake; all the rest is just flavor and decoration.
Complementarianism, to me, says that male and female are different and, consequently called to and purposed for specific roles within God’s plan. Some of these things can be shared by both genders but some of these things most definitely cannot. Complementarianism:
• has hard and fast Rules that must be reinforced by humans who have been given authority to do so.
• can stop a person from becoming something they may feel called by God to do if it is against the hard and fast Rules.
• gives one imperfect individual authority over another imperfect individual based wholly on gender and no other qualification can override that.
• gives authority to humanity over the interpretation of whether someone is God-sent or God-called.
• would (apparently) have issue with some of the actions, behaviors, and admonitions made by Jesus Christ (John 4) , the Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 3:17) , Timothy (Acts 16:1-2), the biblical Judge Deborah (Judges 4-5) , Huldah the Prophet 2 Kings 22 , (to name just a few…
Egalitarianism, to me, says that male and female while different, can each be called to any purpose or role in God’s plan. Egalitarianism:
• is reflective of God’s style of consistently going outside the lines of worldly borders and rules.
• places the onus of a call or not a call on the individual and his/her spiritual relationship with God.
• equalizes all humanity creating an atmosphere of like-minded believers who are all responsible for encouragement and admonition of each other.
• gives authority specifically to God as to who He calls and who He sends.
• is exemplified in God’s original plan in the Garden (Genesis 5:2) , by Old Testament examples such as Abigail, the Wise Woman of Abel, and Judah’s Tamar etc (I Samuel 25, 2 Samuel 20:14-22, Genesis 38:26). , by Jesus’ repeated examples and actions towards Mary Magdalene, the woman at the well, women disciples, the women he healed, (John 4, Luke 13:16, Luke 13:12, John 8:3-11, Matthew 12:46-50, Luke 8:1-3) etc. to name but a few.
A Final, Important Thought
The smile of God is the goal of my life. My theme Bible verse is Philippians 1:20-21 which says, “I earnestly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed but will have sufficient courage so that now, as always, Christ will be exalted in my life. For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I have sisters and brothers in Christ who are both egalitarian as well as complementarian. I can learn and grow from both and would be so much lesser for not having them in my life. God doesn’t need like minded individuals to accomplish His purpose; we need to remember that. He can work with and bless us through anyone regardless of where they are on their faith journey! I think the greatest failure in this life is the divisive, superior, combative attitude that believers sometimes adopt toward others of different opinions. God can use us and bless others regardless of our opinion on spiritual equality. Conversation, sharing, and prayer are always the best ways to share the truth.
Wonderful Articles To Help Add To Your Knowledge On This Subject
|Posted by Susan McGeown on January 1, 2018 at 2:30 PM||comments (0)|
In 2007, I published one of my first nonfiction attempts, BIBLICAL WOMEN AND WHO THEY HOOKED UP WITH. It's a great way to start a new year, so I thought I'd post it, chapter by chapter over the next few weeks for anyone who is interested in reading it. I'd love to hear your thoughts!! Enjoy.
If she couldn’t get it right, what hope is there for the rest of us?
A Heart of Perfection
You know Eve. The girl with the apple. The one Adam pointed to when God said, “Hey! Whose idea was it to eat the forbidden fruit?!” The person who consistently bears the brunt of the blame for the whole Garden of Eden debacle. Most famously remembered as the woman who caved when Satan decided to tempt, Eve’s punishment has affected womanhood to this day: to forever bear children with intense pain and suffering, and perpetually submit to men as their masters.
Salimbene, a 13th century Franciscan monk, compiled a collection of popular views of his day on women. Eve was definitely not thought of positively: “Woman was evil from the beginnings, a gate of death, a disciple of the servant, the devil’s accomplice, a fount of deception, a dogstart to godly labours, rust corrupting the saints; whose perilous face hath overgrown such as had already become almost angels. Lo, woman is the head of sin, a weapon of the devil, expulsion from Paradise, mother of guilt, corruption of the ancient law.” Whoa. How’s that for a thorough insult?
Personally, I think Eve got a bum rap. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to offer excuses or place blame in another location. I simply wish that the whole person of Eve, wasn’t defined by her famous moment of succumbing to temptation. (Look at it this way: How would you like to be remembered for your greatest personal disaster?)
The bottom line is that Eve was an ancestress of Christ. You and I can’t claim that. Nor can a lot of other women. She was unique, special, and chosen. At the time when God was recounting the consequences of both Eve and Adam’s poor choice, He also gave her a promise of redemption. She was the first person to be given the promise of the savior. It was her seed that was going to crush the head of the serpent, Satan. (Genesis 3:15)
Spend some time with me examining Eve, the person she was, and the guy she hooked up with. Take a peek into what it means to be perfect. Maybe, if we try, we’ll learn something new about her and ourselves in the process. After all, haven’t you always wanted to achieve perfection?
First Things First
- Scripture references you should check out: Genesis 1:26-31, Genesis 2-5
- Question to ask yourself before you read any further: What one thing would you like to change in your life that would ensure better circumstances for yourself?
- What her name means: God-given: “Adam” means “mankind” or “taken out of the earth” or “human being”
- Adam given (while in The Garden): “Woman” means “man-ess” or “taken out of man”
- Adam given (once they are thrown out of The Garden):“Eve” means “The Mother of All Who Have Life” or “Life-giving”
- Connections: Even though Eve was perfect, lived in paradise, and was hooked up with a heaven-made match, she had doubts about herself. Her lack of self-confidence in herself and her God-given abilities left her open for Satan’s treachery, causing disaster and misery for all.
- What the Bible says about being perfect: Regarding God and His Promises: Psalm 18:29-31
- Regarding Perfection: Psalm 119:96
- On Waiting For Perfection: Ecclesiastes 11:4
- On Our Own Personal Level of Perfection and What We Should Strive For: Matthew 5:46-48
- On Why We Cannot Judge What Is Perfect: 1 Corinthians 13:11-12
- Advice On How To Achieve It: Philippians 3:12-14
- Perfection On Earth: Hebrews 9:13-15
- What It’s All About: James 1:16-18
Questions We’ll Never Know The Answers To:
- How long were Adam and Eve in The Garden before The Fall?
- What was the perfect relationship like between man and woman?
- What was the earth like before God cursed it?
Did You Know? Interesting Biblical Facts About Eve
Equal: God did not name Eve “Eve.” Adam did that after God cast them out of The Garden. (Genesis 3:20) God named both human beings “Adam” (or, the translation, “Mankind”;). (Genesis 5:2) God made no distinction between the male and female (Genesis 1:27) in His perfectly created paradise.
First: Eve experienced everything for the very first time all on her own: childbirth (Genesis 4:1), temptation (Genesis 3:1), disobedience (Genesis 3:6), true love (Genesis 2:23-24), murder/loss of a child (Genesis 4:8), God’s fury (Genesis 3:16), homelessness (Genesis 3:23) … and those are just the one’s recorded in the Bible!
God’s Punishment: Genesis 3:14-19 records God’s “consequences” for Adam and Eve’s disobedience. The serpent was cursed, forever, destined to grovel in the dust, with its ultimate punishment being defeat by the woman’s offspring (Christ foretold for the first time in Genesis 3:15). For the woman, she was to have pain in childbirth and forever to be mastered by the man. (Genesis 3:16) Adam was punished to spend his entire life struggling to scratch a living from the ground to survive. And the ground itself was cursed. (Genesis 3:17-19)
Creation: Do you find the creation story hard to swallow? Is that whole “done in six days” concept too much for you? First, you must understand that a miracle is “an event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature.” The fact that it goes beyond our comprehension is the whole purpose of a miracle. In addition we must remember two other things. First, the biblical account was not intended to be a scientific journal. Natural phenomenon’s only purpose in the biblical account was for the greater glory of God’s power and might. Second, “the indefinite meaning of day” (Lockyer, Illustrated Dictionary) causes literal objections to lose their validity. 2 Peter 3:8 states, “A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” Translation: God doesn’t operate within our known timeframe. Creation was a miracle we cannot explain with our scientific know-how or our limited human intellect.
The Core Story
Paradise … Can we even begin to imagine it?
As beautiful and majestic as our world is today it cannot compare to the paradise of The Garden of Eden.
Physically, “water came up out of the ground and watered all the land … the Lord God planted all sorts of trees in the garden – beautiful trees that produced delicious fruit … a river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden … gold was found, exceptionally pure; aromatic resin and onyx stone are also found there … the Lord God formed from the soil every kind of animal and bird … livestock, birds, and wild animals …” (Genesis 2:6-20, pieces) The Garden was peaceful and lovely, filled with delicious fruit. It even smelled nice! No hurricanes or blizzards, perfect temperatures all year round. There were no thorns, no stinging bugs, no sickness or disease. Every item mankind needed to live and every condition required to make life comfortable was readily and easily available.
Man and woman did not spend their days playing and lazing in the sun. God gave them responsibilities: to multiply and fill the earth, to subdue the earth, and to be masters over the fish, birds and all animals. (Genesis 1:28) God allowed Adam to name all the animals, bringing them to him one by one. (Genesis 2:20) In doing so, Adam assumed a proprietary ownership over the creatures of The Garden just as we do when we name our pets. Mankind wasn’t simply the hired help. God gave us a significant position of authority - “masters over all life.” (Genesis 1:26) The required work was extensive enough that “a suitable companion” (Genesis 2:20) was required to help Adam fulfill all of the duties. These tasks required a dedicated effort to get things accomplished, otherwise the world would have gotten out of control. Mankind was originally created to be caretaker and gatherer, not farmer and hunter. Man and woman were created to work side by side, equally, sharing the load and responsibilities. Mankind would have felt a level of satisfaction of a job well done, a level of purpose for a profession tailor made for only them, and a constant level of accomplishment living within the “fruits of their labor.”
But there was more to paradise than just the physical aspect. It was a world of innocence in that there was no knowledge of pain, suffering, fear, anger, neglect, betrayal, hardship, sorrow, or hatred. Not only did these emotions not exist, but Adam and Eve had no concept of them. While I have never felt the pangs of starvation or the terror of rape, I am aware of the horror of such situations and live a life that is shaped by that knowledge. Adam and Eve were well and truly free. They worked for the joy of it, not because they feared homelessness and poverty. They spent time with each other, not because they feared loneliness but because the companionship was so perfect. They loved God not because they feared the consequences should they not, but because His presence was real, personal and vibrant. And they were obedient to the rules God had laid down before them, not because God had preprogrammed them to do so, but simply because they wanted to do so.
Paradise was not a life of idleness, sipping pina coladas and eating bon-bons. Paradise was a life perfectly aligned with all the things that God intended for us to have, be, and do. There were no doubts, no insecurities, and no fears. It was God’s place, filled with God’s creations, fulfilling God’s purpose in life: His pleasure.
I’m Perfect … What is the difference between Man and beast?
Eve was the only woman who could truly say, “I wouldn’t be with you if you were the only man on the planet” and really paint herself into a corner. Of course, after Eve was created, I don’t think she looked at Adam and thought, “Hmmm, maybe someone nicer lives in another part of The Garden.” As they were both God’s first creations “in His own image” both Adam and Eve were probably the most beautiful man and woman to set foot on this planet, and were absolutely and completely delighted with each other. Think about it, for a period of time the two of them were well and truly perfect. And when you think about it that way, you realize that even though Adam was the only man on the planet, he was exactly what Eve needed. He was her personally designed, one-of-a-kind match made in heaven.
Even though Eve and Adam for a period of time were absolutely perfect, you must understand something. Adam and Eve’s perfection had nothing to do with their external attributes and everything to do with whom they had allowed in the center of their hearts. For the period of time in which they allowed God and God alone to own that space they walked, talked, and communed with God, and in doing so enjoyed perfection. Being “perfect” means ‘lacking nothing essential to the whole; complete of its nature or kind.’ (www.freeonlinedictionary.com) Being perfect in the eyes of God meant fulfilling the ultimate purpose for which they were created.
What was mankind’s ultimate purpose? How would you answer that question if someone posed it to you? Why did God go to all that trouble to create everything in the first place? Revelations 4:11b says, “For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.” How cool is that? God created us because it made Him happy to do so. Equate it to that bursting joy of giving birth to your child. But look closely at that verse; God created all things because it pleased him. So all living things on the earth were part of God’s joy and design. He’s the ultimate artist.
What makes human beings so exceptional, above and beyond all the other parts of God’s creation, is that we’re in God’s image and likeness. (Genesis 1:27) We have the ability to know God: love Him, worship Him, serve Him, and fellowship with Him. We above all the rest of creation have more responsibility in that we were designed to get closer and more personal with God than anything else on this planet. While Adam and Eve walked and talked and communed with God in The Garden with no other focus than to be obedient and godly centered, they were absolutly perfect.
What’s important about this level of perfection is that it was not something that God forced on Adam and Eve. God not only gave us the capability of getting to know Him, He gave Adam and Eve the ability to choose to do so. All living beings in The Garden received the preprogrammed chip that instinctually made them automatically recognize and honor God. Only mankind alone was given the ability to decide.
On the surface, Eve’s relationship with Adam speaks to all those people who either a) think they themselves are perfect, or b) think the person they are interested in is absolutely perfect. In addition, Adam and Eve completely dispel any wish that many of us have that starts with, “If only …” because their entire world was without flaw and still stuff went really, really bad. Which begs the question, “Why?” How could one perfect world plus two perfect people equal such disaster?
On first blush, of all the biblical characters, it is Eve that I have the most trouble associating with. I have no concept of what it feels like to be literally perfect, having never lived in a world towards which I was in total harmony, and having never felt I was the absolutely perfect mate for anyone. But (and this is one powerful ‘but’;), what I can associate with is the depths of her despair, the struggle with her self-doubt, and the magnitude of her failure. Talk about a reason to be depressed! When was the last time your big mistake doomed the entire future of the known world?
What a waste … Why did God even bother with all this?
It really bothers me when people (once they find out I’m interested in studying the Bible) ask me the question, “Why did God bother creating Adam and Eve? If He knows everything, then He knew they were going to mess everything up, right? Why did He go to all the trouble?” Now, don’t get me wrong: it’s a great question. The problem is that people who ask that question have a hard time understanding what I believe to be the answer. What would you say if someone posed that question to you?
God created mankind on day six of creation (Genesis 1:26). As day seven was God’s day of rest, mankind was His last and final creation. By the time God got around to creating human beings He had created all the beauty of the heavenly galaxies, all the mysteries of the ocean depths, all the magnificence of the animal kingdom, and all the glories of the world we live in. Then He got around to us, the epitome of all He wanted to do. The creation that would please Him the most. Only human beings were given God’s likeness. The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (1985) notes that “… the creation story makes it clear that the likeness-image is not of physical form: material for man’s creation was taken from the earth. It is the inner nature of human beings that reflects something vital in the nature of God. Thus theologians generally agree that the likeness is rooted in all that is required to make a human being a person: in our intellectual, emotional, and moral resemblance to God, who has revealed Himself to us as a personal being. It is this likeness-image that sets human beings apart from the rest of the animal creation, and it is transmitted through the process of reproduction to succeeding generations (Genesis 5:1-3). It is this likeness-image of God that makes each human life so precious that nothing of however great value can possibly be offered in compensation for the taking of another’s life (Genesis 9:5-6).”
We were the crowning glory of His creation! The only creature God created that had the ability to choose whether it was going to obey, love and honor the Creator. He gave us the capacity to give Him the greatest of all joys: unconditional love. And in so doing, He gave us the privilege of causing Him the greatest of sorrows: rejection and disobedience.
So why did God go to all the trouble? L-O-V-E. For God’s crowning achievement of all He created here on earth, He wanted our love for Him to be freely given, just as His is to us, not instinctual or preprogrammed. Did He know that Adam and Eve were going to blow it big time in The Garden? Of course. I must conclude that the importance of our unconditional love and, consequently our obedience, will be worth it all to Him in the end.
Hi, I’m Eve … If I’m so perfect, why did I mess up?
Take a moment to think about the person that Eve was and the life that she lived. She was the most gorgeous female on earth, she’d hooked up with the perfect man, and she lived in paradise. Yet when Satan began to tempt her according to the Biblical account, she barely hesitated before doing what had been specifically forbidden: “But the Lord God gave him this warning: ‘You may freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die.’” (Genesis 2:16-17)
Hmmm. Seems pretty clear to me. Except … that warning was given to Adam. It’s not until four verses later in the biblical journal that God even creates Adam’s companion. (Genesis 2:21) Would that have been a good enough excuse? “Well, God told Adam, but He didn’t specifically tell me!” Eve said with an indignant huff. “How was I supposed to know?” It is to Eve’s credit that, after the fact, she does not use this argument. And it is, perhaps, the most powerful argument as to why Adam bears equal blame when everything bad goes down. The facts are when Satan tempted, both Adam and Eve were standing side-by-side listening to the sales pitch. Eve by her actions was wrong and Adam in his silence was equally culpable.
Did Eve, in her ‘clone-like’ creation from Adam’s rib, possess all the innate knowledge and skill that Adam was created with? Did the two of them cut a wide berth around The Tree because they both knew it was a big no-no? I suppose they could have been morbidly fascinated with the forbidden tree, always walking by it and thinking about it (just like little kids when you say, “Now don’t touch this, it’s breakable”;). Or did they not even think twice about the only forbidden plant in their magnificent paradise? Were they too busy having fun with all they had been blessed with to give it a second thought? Maybe Satan got frustrated with the two of them and their obedience, and that’s why he decided to make his famous serpentine appearance. Whatever the scenario, I am fairly certain that Eve knew not to touch or to eat from the tree. It is inconceivable to me that Adam, in his delight over the God’s final creation that was “bone of [Adam’s] bone and flesh of [Adam’s] flesh” (Genesis 2:23), neglected to warn Eve against eating the only thing in The Garden that could cause her death.
And while we’re asking questions, I’m compelled to wonder why God would warn Adam about the tree of knowledge and not about Satan? Hello? Doesn’t that seem like a really big omission? “Don’t go out in the open field … Oh, did I forget to mention the big, angry bull?”
My teenager has a rule that he can’t go in to other people’s homes unless an adult is present. Good rule, right? I haven’t elaborated on all of the possible scenarios that could happen should he disobey me. Why? Well, first, I’m the boss of him. I don’t really have to justify myself to a thirteen year old, now do I? Second, I’m more knowledgeable and know what’s wise and what’s not. I’ve got all kinds of experience that makes me better equipped to decide what’s safe and what’s not. Third, some of the scenarios are above and beyond his current level of understanding of the world and what … evilness is out there. To explain in detail what could happen would ratchet my son and his knowledge up to a level that I’m not ready for him to have.
But there’s a last piece to the whole “here’s the rule but I don’t need to explain myself concept.” There’s a level of trust I need to establish with my son so I know what I can trust him with in the future. With bigger and more important things. And my son needs to establish a complementary relationship where he knows I’m consistent, fair, wise, and trustworthy. (I know I’m these things, but my son needs to have some experiences so he comes to know it, too.) He goes out into the big, bad world and he watches, listens, learns, and experiences what is out there. He and I grow a relationship that is rooted in trust, love, and respect. He understands that I am who I say I am and worthy of his faith. I witness his obedience and give him greater responsibilities. And in the process, he proves to himself what his strengths are, what his weaknesses are, and whom he should and shouldn’t put his reliance in. Some lessons are easy and some lessons … are not.
God was doing the same thing with Adam and Eve. He put the Tree of Knowledge in The Garden and said, “Don’t touch or eat from it.” And while God knew how the whole thing was going to play out, Adam and Eve had to learn a really tough lesson.
The name “Satan” translated literally from the Hebrew means “adversary.” (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry) Given a variety of names in the Bible such as Lucifer, The Prince of Darkness, and Beelzebub, he is most commonly referred to as the devil.
Satan was at one point in his career an angel of heaven who through his own greed fell from grace with God. Some scholars attribute Ezekiel’s message to the evil king of Tyre to Satan himself: “You were the perfection of wisdom and beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God. Your clothing was adorned with every precious stone – red carnelian, chrysolite, white moonstone, beryl, onyx, jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald – all beautifully crafted for you and set in the finest gold. They were given to you on the day you were created. I ordained and anointed you as the mighty angelic guardian. You had access to the holy mountain of God and walked among the stones of fire. You were blameless in all you did from the day you were created until the day evil was found in you. Your great wealth filled you with violence, and you sinned. So I banished you from the mountain of God, I expelled you, O mighty guardian, from your place among the stones of fire. Your heart was filled with pride because of all your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth and exposed you to the curious gaze of kings. You defiled your sanctuaries with your many sins and your dishonest trade. So I brought fire from within you, and it consumed you. I let it burn you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All who knew you are appalled at your fate. You have come to a terrible end, and you are no more.” (Ezekiel 28:12-19)
Interesting, huh? We must assume, as God does not create anything but good, Satan must have originally been created good but, just as mankind was allowed a choice, so too were the angels. How many times have you thought to yourself, “If only I could see with my own two eyes … (fill in the blank) … then I would believe”? For me it is mind boggling that Satan, in the presence of God and seeing all of His majesty, still chose to reject Him. It vividly illustrates to me the level of malevolence that we are up against in our daily lives.
Satan, at this point in the biblical journal, chooses to possess a serpent “the shrewdest of all creatures the Lord God had made.” (Genesis 3:1) Shrewd means ‘characterized by keen awareness, sharp intelligence, and often a sense of the practical. Disposed to artful and cunning practices; tricky.’ (www.freeonlinedictionary.com) We must remember that the snakes we know today are not as the snake was in The Garden. After the fall, God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you will be punished. You are singled out from all the domestic and wild animals of the whole earth to be cursed. You will grovel in the dust as long as you live, crawling along on your belly.” (Genesis 3:14) Now that’s the way I picture a snake! But during the time in The Garden, the snake would have been the antithesis of what we know today.
Eve does not seem surprised that it speaks to her, does she? Is it conceivable that they had had conversations before? Was the serpent so clever that the ability to communicate through speech was part of its design? Had both Adam and Eve had conversations in the past with the serpent, perhaps philosophical discussions and an occasional prank now and then? When the conversation commenced between Eve and the serpent it didn’t seem like anyone was surprised at the exchange.
Just what exactly was Satan’s lure? What could he have said to Eve that was enough to make her risk everything? What was Satan’s sales pitch that kept Adam silent and willing to risk all they currently had? Satan said to Eve, “You won't die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you'll see what's really going on. You'll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5, MSG) Had the possible previous philosophical discussions between Eve and the serpent caused her to have a level of trust of the serpent’s observations and conclusions? Was Satan all that more clever to entice Eve (and silent, observing Adam) with a venue that was comfortable and reliable from past experiences? Had the man and woman been careful to obey God’s instructions in every way until Satan used the one area where they were the weakest: a trusted source? The Bible records Eve’s thoughts as, “When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it - she'd know everything! - she took and ate the fruit.” (Genesis 3:6, MSG)
Seems like Eve, even though she was well and truly perfect, had a few doubts about herself. Because isn’t that what wanting something that you don’t have is all about? Things you don’t have but dream about or covet. But let’s not use that word as it gets us into the whole Ten Commandments thing. Temptation – ‘the desire to have or do something that you know you should avoid; the feeling that accompanies an unsatisfied state.’ (www.freeonlinedictionary.com)
These desires can be as big as another job, a better home, a fancier car, more cooperative children, an attentive husband … or as insignificant as the $100 gel tip manicure your girlfriend gets but you can’t afford … Even worse are those nonmaterial things that reflect what we perceive as lacking within ourselves and often desperately crave: beauty, intelligence, talents, or strengths. Wanting something at all costs. Needing something badly enough that you’re willing to bend the rules ‘just this once.’ Craving things that we cannot or do not have leads us open to temptations for things we don’t have and don’t need – at God’s design. The reality is anything that steers you away from God’s purpose and plan is wrong.
So the perfect woman wanted more. Can you believe it? She wanted to be even better than she already was. Think about it. Eve rejected the person that God had made her to be. She decided that she would take it upon herself to improve that which was already whole and good. Whoa. She corrected God. That’s pretty serious when you think of it that way.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where each and every one of us is identical to Eve. We’re her twin sisters in self-doubt and low self-esteem. Because the reality is, we are just as perfect or just as imperfect as we choose to be, just as Eve was. God, you see, does not make mistakes. He is the Rock; His deeds are perfect. Everything He does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright He is! (Deuteronomy 32:4) The person that you are, right now, is exactly the person God needs you to be to fulfill the mission that only you can complete. You see, what you must understand is that aside from the goal of your heart, you are already perfect in God’s eyes.
Things We Do For … What made Adam & Eve so special?
Why do you think that Eve turned to Adam with the forbidden fruit once she’d eaten it? I don’t think a lot of people realize that during Eve’s entire conversation with the serpent, Adam was standing right next to her. “She also gave some to her husband, who was with her.” (Genesis 3:6) Was it because Eve suddenly realized she’d screwed up big time and wanted the two of them to go down together? Maybe Adam had silently shaken his head ‘no’ during the entire episode, but Eve, stubborn and inherently the more evil of the two, refused his good advice? Is it possible that the two most precious examples of God’s creation fell hook, line, and sinker for Satan’s twisted logic? If Adam truly loved Eve (and I believe he did) and he thought she was doing something bad or dangerous, wouldn’t he have stopped her? How could Adam have stood there as silently as a stone if he believed that Eve was making such a horrible, life altering decision?
No, when Eve ate the fruit and then turned to give some to Adam, I think it was something more. Was Eve eager to share something with her lover, friend, and partner? Were they so close that one rarely did something without the other? What would it be like to be completely committed to someone with no knowledge of heartache, betrayal or sorrow? “Adam! It’s delicious! It’s terrific! You’ve got to have some, too!” That Adam ate the fruit without hesitation tells me that he had no concern over the right or wrong of it. He’d heard the serpent speak to Eve. Why should he question or doubt her? These two human beings were completely equal. There was no mistrust or deception, no calculated manipulation or unhealthy jealousy. Their heads and hearts, up to this time, had been simultaneously focused on godly pursuits. The concept of doubt or fear just didn’t exist.
I have a hard time factoring in disharmony with Adam and Eve. I suppose there was the awkward “getting to know you stage” and the “first misunderstanding” and, perhaps, the occasional “I thought you were going to do that …?” moment. But, in general, I think this was a true love match – from start to finish. They depended on each other for companionship, support, help, advice, and pleasure. Quite frankly, God joined this couple. It had to have been a true love match because God is love. Love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (I John 4:7-8)
Don’t all of us on our wedding days, have (or dream of) similar reactions of joy with each other as Adam had for Eve when he cried, “Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! Name her Woman for she was made from Man." (Genesis 2:23-24 MSG). Or, the Sue Translation (ST), “At last! Someone who knows me inside and out! Someone who is absolutely perfect for me.” Don’t we all search for a love just like that? Happiness in a relationship is a perfect complement. I believe that Adam and Eve had that.
I also believe as Eve handed that fruit to Adam she genuinely wished to give him something wonderful. What about God’s decree? What about her obvious blatant disobedience? The great deceiver (AKA Satan) played all the cards right. He was so clever, so insidious, that Eve never realized how he’d played her. Adam, trusting and loving, never even questioned what Eve thrust into his hand and simply ate it as instructed. Having stood beside his mate for the whole conversation with the serpent, Adam obviously was as convinced as Eve. Their resulting newfound knowledge, real and terrible and amazing, caused them to realize things about themselves and their life and their situation that must have terrified them. By the time God appeared for His daily walk in The Garden with His two most amazing creations, Adam and Eve were hiding in the bushes.
Do you think God asked all His questions of Adam and Eve because He didn’t know the answers? “Where are you? … Who told you you were naked? … Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from? … What is this that you’ve done?” (Genesis 3:9-12 MSG) Doesn’t He sound like a disappointed parent dealing with a pair of disobedient children? Maybe God asked His questions not to find out what happened, but to hear how the two would answer.
Knowledge can be a terrible thing. It involves the loss of innocence and the understanding of the harsh realities of life. We protect our children from sexual predators, violence in the media, and drugs. And yet, when the unthinkable occurs and the knowledge breeches all of our carefully established boundaries, we cannot go back in time and replace the innocence lost. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. We know that today and God knew it back then. The event that He knew was coming - the loss of companionship with His precious creation - had happened. Now the damage control needed to be done. Stipulations and new rules needed to be written. New policies and accommodations made. Childhood innocence was forever vanished.
Despite all that love and perfection.
The Defining Moment … How can we survive tragedy?
Have you ever made a choice that resulted in joblessness, homelessness, and the complete destruction of everything you considered familiar? That is what Adam and Eve faced as they were forced by God to leave The Garden. Standing outside The Garden’s entrance, wearing clothes of animal skins, the realization of the consequences of their choice would have been crushing. Turning back to look at the entrance to The Garden they would have seen “mighty angelic beings” stationed as guards to keep them from ever returning. (Genesis 3:24) No second chances here.
I guess, had all this happened today and the choices a partner made in a relationship caused disasters such as homelessness, joblessness and unbelievable pain and suffering, the two could divorce citing “irreconcilable differences.” As it was, Adam and Eve had to stick together or die out in the harsh realities of the big, bad world, because they literally had no one to lean on but each other.
Which could lead to a second scenario where Adam spent their remaining years together making comments (blatant or subtle) about “how things used to be …,” and “remember how nice it was …,” and “before you got us in trouble ….” As a result Eve would have become angry, bitter, and resentful of his behavior: “Adam, are you ever going to let this go and just move on?” In addition, as life has a tendency to do, the life of Adam and Eve had a significant amount of additional sorrow and disaster ahead. Things were pretty bad, but they weren’t really going to get too much better. At least not like it had been when they were perfect and lived in paradise. This union, so wonderful and full of promise at the start, had the makings of one enormous train wreck.
But even though Adam and Eve sinned, got thrown out of paradise and faced innumerable additional hardships over the course of their lives, they were and always remained a couple expressly designed for each other by God. God did not design Eve from the dust of the earth as He did Adam, but from Adam himself. God intended for them to be as one. The creative work of the creation of mankind were not complete until there was both a male and female counterpart. (Genesis 2:18) Marriage is synonymous with the term oneness.
Adam and Eve showed all of us that even with the quality of being perfect, the ability to exercise free will does not guarantee a happily-ever-after ending. After their first big mistake, Adam and Eve had to decide to make their life together work. They could sit down in the dust and cry, waiting for death to claim them. And it would have. The consequences of our actions rarely disappear even once we clue in and get on the right path: prison sentences still must be served, children conceived out of wedlock do not disappear, sexually transmitted diseases don’t fade away, and reputations often live longer than we do. While God does forgive and completely forget, we must learn to live with the results of our actions.
And that is where new opportunities to shine arise. You see, at any point along the path we can change our hearts and renew our goals and begin to make God smile by our choices. At any point.
I particularly hold dear the part of the story in which Adam named Eve. You see, up until the point where the two exit The Garden they are both known to God simply as “Adam” – human. (Genesis 5:2) Adam, up until this point, had simply referred to Eve as “Woman.” (Genesis 2:23) But standing outside paradise, chastised and alone, facing absolute and complete uncertainty, Adam felt compelled to rename his woman.
What would you have named the person who caused your career to end, your house to burn to the ground, and the most precious relationship you could ever hope to have to be permanently altered? “Disaster?” “She Who Listens to Snakes?” “I Told You So?” No, Adam looked at his partner, the woman God had made expressly for him and him alone, and recommitted to her amidst the smoking rubble they were standing in. He called her Eve, “The Mother of All Living.” (Genesis 3:20) He recognized that they were in this together, this partnership was until death parted them, and that either one without the other was worthless. Adam loved Eve, he did not blame her, he was committed to her, and he acknowledged this with the name he gave her.
Consequences … Awww, do I have to?
Let’s take a look at the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in The Garden. God took each aspect of The Fall and dealt with it precisely and matter–of–factly.
Eve pointed a finger at the serpent when God inquired as to how she could have so blatantly disobeyed Him. “The serpent tricked me,” she said, “that’s why I ate it.” (Genesis 3:13)
To the serpent, God said, "Because you've done this, you're cursed, cursed beyond all cattle and wild animals, cursed to slink on your belly and eat dirt all your life.” (Genesis 3:14 MSG) What do you take from this? Since God is completely fair, I’m forced to conclude that the serpent, “shrewdest of all the creatures the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1) had some fault in all this. It was not an innocent creature, possessed by Satan, unable to withstand being used. However, it was in paradise that consequences for its involvement with Satan’s deception resulted in its absolute reversal of fortunes. No longer shrewd, no longer above cattle and wild animals, no longer superior in appearance or style of living, the punishment for the serpent removed all traces of its ability for an advanced state. If God did that to an animal of limited intellectual knowledge, we can begin to understand how He feels with wicked and disobedient human beings gifted with His very own image.
To the woman, God said, “You will suffer terribly when you give birth. But you will still desire your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 CEV) Pain and pleasure: that desire to be unified and one with your mate will result in pain and possible death giving birth to the children you conceive. Still charged with the responsibility to “be fruitful and multiply” and ingrained with all the physical and emotional qualities that go along with those desires, the final difficult result of childbirth will rest only with the woman. How could it have been in paradise before the fall if this is the revision after the fall? Man, wouldn’t I just love to know!
Additionally, the equality initiated in paradise between man and woman will shift. No longer will male and female work easily in a unified, identical position, but forever there will be the concept of one being better, stronger, more superior and powerful. Women will always seem to get the short end of the stick and man will always seem to be control the rules. Remember the next time someone implies a woman shouldn’t teach a man or become a minister … this was not God’s plan for us. (Christ, during His ministry here on earth was an outspoken supporter of women and their importance in His plan.)
For Adam, God said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate the fruit I told you not to eat, I have placed a curse on the ground. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day. Then you will return to the ground from which you came. For you were made from dust, and to the dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19) No longer will work be a joyful, fulfilling experience. Now it will become a difficult job and absolutely necessary for survival. Besides life-sustaining fruits and vegetables, weeds and thorns will infiltrate your harvest causing complications and disasters. The pressures of providing, the fear of starvation, the specter of failure will haunt you right up until the moment of your death. Welcome to the school of hard knocks.
What cannot be overlooked, however, amid the smoking ruins of paradise lost, is the first glimpse of a way out. Yes, yes the path is much longer, dangerous, and tortuous now. Yes, had we been obedient and remained God-focused we would have achieved this glorious end with much more joy and efficiency. But, hey, Adam and Eve were given the ability to pick Door Number One or Door Number Two and they chose … the wrong door. To the serpent, God says, “I'm declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers. He'll wound your head, you'll wound his heel." (Genesis 3:15 MSG)
Did you catch that? God issued a formal declaration of war on Satan in The Garden. Satan may have thrown down his gauntlet, he may have succeeded in successfully tempting God’s precious creations, but God was not willing to concede anything. “You may cause pain and discomfort to Eve and her descendants, but Eve’s offspring will deliver a death blow to you.” (ST) Did Satan’s fall begin when he moved to encourage Eve to disobey? Was Satan’s fall sometime before all this, but was the instance in The Garden Satan’s first blatant adversarial confrontation with God? Had the battle between Satan and God begun long before the creation of The Garden with Satan taking one third of the angels of heaven with him? (Revelations 12:3-4) More questions we’ll never know the answers to, probably.
Always remember this: no matter how bad things seem to be (and for Adam and Eve you’ve got to admit things were just about as horrible as they could get), God is in charge.
Relax, everyone. It’s all under control.
The End … Or is it the beginning?
And how did Eve react? I suppose she could have gotten righteously indignant once the dust settled and Adam and she stared at each other outside The Garden’s gates. Hand on hip and finger pointed in accusation, Eve could have shouted, “Why didn’t you stop me?” “Why didn’t you remind me not to touch the fruit?” “Why did you tell God I gave you the fruit?” In addition, Eve could have whined, “Why couldn’t He have given us a second chance?” “All the hard work, all the obedience, all we’ve faithfully done for Him and we mess up once and this is what we get?” “The punishment is too harsh! I was only trying to better myself!” “I hate God.” “I’m done with God.” Eve could have done the blame game and spent countless years refusing to face reality. She made a choice despite clear instructions to the contrary, and now she must deal with the consequences.
I don’t think Eve did that. I believe that Adam and Eve, no longer perfect but still a team, trudged off into the sunset determined to recommit and determined to refocus. Let’s face it, they knew exactly what they had lost. Faced with the inevitability of their situation they began to work towards survival and obedience, and with all their newly acquired knowledge, nothing would be as easy as it once had been before. Innocence lost means guilt acquired. The consequences were that they now bore the responsibility for their choices, their situation, and their future. All now rested on their shoulders. Welcome to … hell.
Both Adam and Eve faded pretty quickly from the scene once they were banned from The Garden. But there was one last glimpse of them as a couple, and so I’m led to believe that this must have been the most important thing we, as readers of this journal entry, must take away from this story. The Bible recorded them making love and conceiving a child. Actually, it’s a little less romantically stated. “Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant.” (Genesis 4:1) But then Moses wasn’t competing for Top Romance Author of the Year award. What was it like for Adam and Eve to discover that they were going to have a child? I’m sure they had all the wonder and fear that comes with that discovery. Did both Adam and Eve remember the consequences of God’s anger over their disobedience? Did Adam think, “How am I going to provide for a baby when I’m having enough trouble making ends meet for just Eve and me?” Did Eve think, “What is pain? Will I suffer long? Surely the child will be born healthy and strong? Can I do this?” Once again it was an experience that they went through together.
Together, Adam and Eve would weather the first murder between their sons Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:8) and would deal with God’s punishment of Cain when he was banished to exist as a homeless fugitive for the remaining days of his life. (Genesis 4:11-12) They would follow God’s directive and be fruitful and multipl, giving birth to countless male and female children.
At Cain’s birth was the last biblically recorded thing that Eve said: “With the LORD’s help, I have produced a man!” (Genesis 4:1b) Or, “God has given me another Adam!” (ST) Obviously, the circumstances of Eve’s life had not taken God out of the equation. She attributed the wonderful occurrence of the birth of her child to God’s help. Eve’s life was radically different from when she first started out, but she had chosen to not exclude God when things had become less than perfect. She still knew that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them (Romans 8:28) because she had seen both sides of that coin. And because of this, Eve kept God as a part of her life and of her relationship with the guy she loved.
For all you Eves out there …
So, what lessons can you apply to your life from the account of Eve and whom she hooked up with? First and foremost you must remember what Adam and Eve’s perfection was based on. Nothing external. It was all internal. Their perfection was gone in the blink of an eye the moment they both chose not to allow God to rule their hearts and minds.
Eve started out hooked up with God, but then fell away from that perfect relationship. Blessed with her soul mate, Adam, she was able to get back on track and work towards getting back to the right relationship she needed to have with The One True God. We, as descendants of Adam and Eve, are creatures with an identical capacity for personal thought and childlike understanding. We also have the same God-given ability to choose to seek perfection … or not.
I like the way the apostle Paul talked about perfection. “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
Forgetting the past …
Looking forward to what is ahead …
Pressing on to reach … the heavenly prize …
Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?
Good Choices and Bad: Remember, Eve was wrong for her initial actions, but Adam was just as wrong for saying nothing to stop her. Doing nothing is doing something. Not speaking up and voicing The Truth or not correcting a wrong when it is being committed makes you culpable. Culpable as in “deserving of blame or censure, as being wrong, evil, improper, or injurious.” (www.freeonlinedictionary.com)
Exemption: Being superior in appearance, position, or ability does not excuse our guilt. Just as God created the serpent to be cleverer than any of the other creatures He had made, He also sentenced that same creature to eat dirt and die. Never, ever should any of us become complacent about our place within God’s plan. We are necessary for what we can do for His greater glory and design, and nothing more. As soon as we pursue our own agenda we are spectacularly and frighteningly alone and undefended.
Focus: Being perfect does not guarantee that you won’t make mistakes. In fact, it might actually blind you into a false sense of complacency, so that when disaster sneaks up on you you don’t even recognize it until after it’s too late. Psalm 57:1-3 gives a good standard for how you should approach every step of your life:
Recognize You Can’t Do It On Your Own:
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I look to you for protection.
Know Where To Go In Times Of Trouble:
I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by.
Know Whom To Ask For Advice:
I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill His purpose for me.
Recognize Where True Power Lies:
He will send help from heaven to rescue me, disgracing those who hound me.
Understand The Reasons Behind It All:
My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.
Believe: The person that you are is exactly the person God needs you to be. You must believe that for what God needs you to do right this very minute: You. Are. Just. Perfect. For. God. Right. Now. Your only flaws are the ones you perceive in yourself that keep you from following through with what God wants you to do. Rick Warren in his book A Purpose Driven Life says, “God never does anything accidentally, and He never makes mistakes.” Stop focusing on what you’re missing and concentrate on all you’ve got to offer.
Forgive: Don’t. Keep. Score. Dwelling on past mistakes prevents you from forging ahead positively into the future. You must learn to let go of your past failures as well as your mate’s. God forgot your disasters as soon as you asked His forgiveness. Why can’t you? King David, an abject failure as a husband and father but also known as “the man after God’s own heart,” sang about forgiveness in Psalm 32 (vs. 1-3 MSG):
Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be - you get a fresh start, your slate's wiped clean.
Count yourself lucky - GOD holds nothing against you when you're holding nothing back from Him.
Trust: Just as Adam and Eve were provided with the perfect mate, you too have one out there somewhere in the world. And no, before you ask, I don’t believe you can find him or her on your own. That’s where faith comes in: believing in something that you can’t see or touch. Commit to pray for this person, commit to wait for this person, commit to believe that this person is doing the same for you, and commit to not settling for anyone less than the very best. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.
Commit: Be determined to find the perfect heavenly-fashioned companion for yourself or work to create that sort of relationship with the person you are already with. He or she may not be as easily acquired as Adam found Eve, and yet you have every reason to believe that God’s plan and desire for you is nothing less than “a perfect match.” Remember what Adam and Eve had in common that promoted their success: a like-minded spiritual focus, a similar passion for the environment in which they chose to live, a joint attitude of commitment, love and forgiveness, and a relationship rooted in innocence and purity.
Remain Vigilant: Even the most perfect relationships must be nurtured and prized. Kind words never go out of fashion, loving expressions are always appreciated, and thoughtful signs of appreciation are never wasted. Even if your mate is not yet suitable for the “perfect” category, what areas are pretty close? Have you shared that with him or her lately? Temptation to become complacent is a danger we cannot afford. Temptation in and of itself is not wrong. Giving in to temptation is the problem.
Stay Faithful: Oswald Chambers says that, “Faith is the heroic effort of your life.” It’s pretty easy to be pleased with God when things are going well in your life and just as easy to blame God when things go down the tubes. You cannot be casual about your faith-walk in the day-to-day existence of your life only to become intensely spiritual when things start to get rocky. Your relationship with God is either a committed, loving relationship or it is a casual acquaintance. You and only you must set the standards.
Love: Remember that the dominating emotion that was the force behind the creation of this world was love. Operating within that emotion towards yourself first and foremost, and then towards all others, redefines the world you live in.
How well do you know yourself?
If you are unsure of what you want out of your life then you are on shaky ground trying to hook up with someone. Spend a few moments and work on the next few pages, which will make you think about yourself spiritually, emotionally, socially, and physically. Once you complete this list concerning yourself, you need to think about who will complement you best. What about your mate or the mate of your dreams? Do you know what you need? What you should be looking for? What qualities would ensure your success as a couple? Prayerfully and seriously consider these things. Don’t just reach into the dating basket, randomly choose someone, and settle. Your choice of a mate should be based on what God has given you and whom He would choose to be the best mate for you.
Homework … What makes you a uniquely perfect person?
Think about the person that you are, the person that God has specially designed. What makes you unique? Note that I did not ask what makes you perfect or superior or particularly wonderful in the world’s eyes. I don’t want comparisons. I’m simply asking what makes you you? What makes you precious? What makes you one of a kind?
You must begin to value and appreciate the person you are, the person God has created that is you. Embracing the uniqueness of yourself and delighting in the differences you have from everyone else is the first step towards being a vital person in any relationship, with mates, friends, colleagues, strangers, and most importantly, God.
Becoming perfect is like eating an elephant – seemingly impossible. But have you ever heard that joke? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The steps to becoming perfect in God’s eyes begin by looking at yourself as God sees you and recognizing the things God has given you to enable you to do your job here on earth. Once you begin to value what you have and what you are capable of, then God begins to use you in marvelous and wonderful ways. Being really, truly perfect involves being focused solely on God and using all of your God-given strengths and weaknesses to His greater glory. That’s a perfect life.
Oswald Chamber said, “God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you know already.” Eve’s disobedience was based on her desire to be more than God had made her to be.
Take a few moments and do the next couple of pages on your own or with a trusted friend. Let me introduce you to a potentially perfect person … you.
THE SOCIAL ME
What are the qualities that define you to the world? What strengths, passions, and abilities has God-given you to direct you to the place where He can use you best?
The social person you are determines where God plans to use you in the world.
Socially – WHERE You Belong
What do the people you consider friends say about the person that you are?
What words would others use to describe you?
What do colleagues think of you? Friends?
Circle words below that describe the social person you are.
There are no right or wrong answers. There are only words that describe. Feel free to add some additional words!!
Outgoing Reserved Flirty Loyal
Good listener Sound Advisor Loner Social butterfly
Silly Wise Advisor Advice seeker
Extrovert Introvert Confidante Gossip
Reliable Unreliable Life of the office Obedient
Dependable Flighty Funny Serious
Organized Disorganized Innovative Staid
Honest Exaggerator Friendly Confrontational
Dreamer Planner Listener Talker
Problem solver Problem maker Available Avoider
Optimistic Worrier Quiet Loud
Opinionated Unopinionated Friendly Colleague
Focused Confused Driven Relaxed
Dependent Independent Maverick Obedient
THE EMOTIONAL ME
What is your unique emotional make up? What do you have to offer that no one else has? What words describe the type of emotional individual you are? Remember that you have the God-given ability to reach certain people that no one else can.
The emotional person you are determines whom you can best connect with as God uses you over the course of your life.
Emotionally – WHOM You Can Reach
How do you react emotionally toward yourself and others?
What words describe your emotional state at the very best of times?
What words describe your emotional state at the very worst of times?
Emotional Cool Compassionate Hardened
Quick to laugh Quick to cry Carries a grudge Forgiving
Angry Calm Withdrawn Brave
Serious Funny Happy Depressed
Good in stress Bad in stress Let it go Talk it out
Listener Talker Sympathetic Unfeeling
Impatient Patient Articulate Inarticulate
Thoughtful Delusional Cool headed Cool hearted
Use the words above, or some of your own, to describe what you are like in the …
Best of Times?
Worst of Times?
THE PHYSICAL ME
What God-given skills or talents do you have that distinguish you from others? How do you enjoy yourself? What do you define as fun? God wants to use these times of your greatest enjoyment for His purposes.
The person you are physically determines how God plans to use you to His greatest glory.
Physically – HOW You Perform
What do your free time activities say about how “young you feel”?
Do you have a goal or desire physically that you feel you could attain if you simply put more effort into it?
Circle the words that describe both the physical person that you currently are as well as the physical person you would like to be.
Feel free to add some additional word
|Posted by Susan McGeown on January 1, 2018 at 2:15 PM||comments (0)|
I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions; they’ve always seemed so false, so forced, so … typical. That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t appreciate the whole concept of starting fresh or resetting the clock. That mental decision, to put old things away and only focus towards the new not only is healthy emotionally, I believe it is biblically based. Paul knew all about past mistakes and poor decisions when he wrote, “… I focus on one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling.” (Philippians 3:14, New Living Translation) Pressing on; that’s what we’re called to do.
Resetting doesn’t mean forgetting though. Recalling past circumstances, remembering past decisions (good and bad), applying learned lessons, and utilizing acquired wisdom are the steps that help us grow – and growth is always good. My greatest spiritual progress is always anchored in the retrospective wonder of God’s care for me and mine in the midst of worldly horrors. Faith, after all, is the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1) and nothing is more powerful, more validating, more joyful than the recognition of God’s love, grace, and mercy to me throughout my daily walk; especially when things are hard.
For me, the biggest blessing of 2017 has been the growth of my knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the Holy Spirit. Ruach (the Hebrew word for God’s Spirit) has become a vital, exciting, delightful companion in my daily walk. I have enjoyed this constant presence whether whispering encouragement and insights in my ear, identifying important things that should not be missed, strengthening my head and my heart when the world would do otherwise, or introducing a peace and joy in places too dark for words. Jesus promised His followers, “I will ask the Father and He will give you an Advocate who will never leave you.” (John 14:6, NLT) For me, this Advocate is more than an understanding, more than a belief, it is an actual physical presence. 2017 is the year in which I finally understood that I have an honest to goodness Super Power inside me.
So, what does all this mean for my 2018? Reality has taught me that life is not going to get any easier, that disappointments and tragedies are only a conversation away. But it has also taught me that there is no darkness this world can throw at me that is too great for Ruach’s light of hope, grace, mercy and love to be extinguished. NO. DARKNESS. Ruach has admonished me to be confidently hopeful for this upcoming year, to end my habit of worrying. I’ve entrusted my life, my eternity to Christ Jesus since I was eight years old; how ridiculous is it that I don’t have confident hope regarding today or tomorrow? Just what exactly is worth worrying about, anyway?! “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27, NLT) Thank you, Jesus. I’ve decided to accept this precious Gift.
And here’s my prayer for you this coming year: “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NLT) May Ruach become a close companion to you, too, this 2018.
|Posted by Susan McGeown on December 31, 2017 at 4:45 PM||comments (0)|
In 2007, I published one of my first nonfiction attempts, BIBLICAL WOMEN AND WHO THEY HOOKED UP WITH. It's a great way to start a new year, so I thought I'd post it, chapter by chapter over the next few weeks for anyone who is interested in reading it. I'd love to hear your thoughts!! Enjoy.
A Heartfelt Introduction
Your Heart’s Condition
Every relationship in your life past, present, and future is directly related to the state of your heart. That means whom you love and whom you hate, whom you are repulsed by and whom you are drawn to, whom you befriend and whom you choose to call enemy is all wrapped up with the internal, invisible, mysterious part of you. There is no exception to this rule. We call this “core” of ourselves our heart.
The state of your heart is the very essence of who you are as an individual. That means the reason people love you or hate you, seek you out or avoid you, trust or mistrust you is totally reliant on the person you project to the world. While other people’s hearts and the image they project to the world are also viable factors in any relationship, if you are almost always the one who is wronged, abandoned, angered, unloved, avoided, fired, accused, or left out, then that is a pretty big personal message about you and the condition of your heart. Life is not about lousy coincidences or bad luck. There is no such thing.
Who you are as an individual is matchless, one of a kind. That means you’re priceless. Irreplaceable. It means that all the qualities that you have inside you are all part of the precious person that you are. Do you remember the exact words to every top forties song that’s ever been sung? Is it impossible for you to understand even the rudimentary concepts of basic algebra? Believe it or not: it’s all necessary.
The unique person that you are is precisely designed and carefully and specifically created by God. Which means that the way you are is the way God wants you to be. More than that, God planned for your existence and the very person you were born to be with more precision than a rocket scientist puts into his or her life’s work. Not only are all your talents and foibles accurate, they were desired and planned for to make you the person God needed you to be today.
God does not make mistakes. The very person you are as you sit and read this is exactly the person God needs you to be:
- The person who gets pure enjoyment from spending hours upon hours being lost in the magic of painting a picture.
- The person who is poetry in motion, cooking up a spur of the moment meal using just the leftovers in the family fridge.
- The person who can listen to a car engine and know exactly what is making that funny rattle.
- The person who needs only to hear a person’s name once and never forgets it.
In addition, your weaknesses are the very areas in which God intends to show His greatest strengths. Your talents are the very tools with which God intends to show you your greatest joy. Your passions and loves are the directions in which God intends to lead you on this journey called life. You’ve got everything you need to succeed.
First Things First
Question to ask yourself before you read any further: If everything in your life is keyed into your heart’s condition, what do your life and your relationships reveal about you? What kind of shape is your heart in?
Connections: Do any of these words apply to you: faithful, believer, self-confident, strong, trusting, honorable, reliable, joyful, or wise? Would you like them to? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of aspiring to be like someone else, you liked everything about the woman that you are and wouldn’t change a thing?
What the Bible says about you:
- Womb time: Job 10:10-12, Psalm 139:13
- When your education started: Psalm 51:5-6
- God’s awareness of you: Jeremiah 1:5a
- God’s protection of you: Psalm 139:14-16
- Who designed you: Isaiah 64:8
The Core Story: The Facts vs. The Reality
So if all of the above is true, why are people so unhappy? While we spend precious parts of our life dreaming of what we wish we could be, we miss out on the greatness of what we already are. Why do so many people feel lost? It’s all about the state of our hearts. Our hearts lack faith, self-confidence, belief, trust, strength, commitment … We might talk the talk but we don’t always walk the walk. “I believe, it’s just …” “I know we’re supposed to have faith, but …” “I’m never good at …” “I have trouble sticking to …” More often than not we are more steadfast in our excuses as to why we can’t, than why we can.
Our heart, when spoken of in the Bible, is the special thing that makes us unique and precious from all of God’s other creations. It is from “deep in your heart” where “true knowledge exists.” (Joshua 23:14) According to Job, instinct comes from the mind but intuition comes from the heart. (Job 38:36) The animal world is loaded with instinctual behaviors while we human beings are pretty helpless right from the start. But this ability to be intuitive – knowing or sensing or understanding something without being able to rationally explain it all - ratchets us right up there to the top of the earthly living population. Only we have the ability to function according to our own free will. In giving us the ability to choose how we live, God gave only us the ability to please or disappoint Him.
Biblical author Amos said, “For the Lord is the one who shaped the mountains, stirs up the winds, and reveals His thoughts to mankind.” (Amos 4:13a) We’re the only creatures God talks to and reveals His thoughts to. Whispers His desires and plans. Gives His instructions and commands. He does this through the inside being that we are – our hearts.
The Inside Vs. The Outside
It’s your inside person that God looks at and values. He couldn’t care less about your job title, your bank account balance, or the number of wrinkles you have on your face. The Bible talks about this inside and outside concept a lot. Samuel as he searched for Israel’s new king was told specifically not to judge by appearance alone. Isaiah states clearly that Christ will “not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay.” (Isaiah 11:3) The truth of who you are inside is all He cares about, and it’s where all of the most important things that He has given you come from. Not only does God delight in your uniqueness, He specifically desires for you to be one of a kind. He doesn’t want you to be like anyone else because He already thinks you have everything you need to become the person He wants you to be.
This life we live is one gigantic testing ground where we fumble and grope to succeed. And whether we are born rich, handicapped, talented, intelligent, or disadvantaged, I firmly believe that the course of a lifetime pretty much levels the playing field for all of us. For you see, the measure of a person’s true success is not determined by the world’s standards but by God’s. The promise of salvation through Christ is the great equalizer. Our success is not dependent on anything but the choice we make or don’t make to have Him at the center of … you guessed it … our heart.
Once we choose the correct spiritual path, the different tools we have in our spiritual toolbox helps us refine the person God needs us to be. Are we using our God-given talents for Him? Are we utilizing those things that we enjoy doing towards godly pursuits? Does the primary way that we spend our time have a God-related tone to it? Are we making God smile?
Sigh. The human race hasn’t done a very good job in the listening and pleasing department. Right off the bat when the evilness of mankind got so bad “that every inclination of the thoughts of mankind’s heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5) God regretted ever making mankind, saying specifically, “it broke His heart.” (Genesis 6:6)
On the flip side, “heart’s desires” (Job 17:11) are the most precious things we could imagine having or achieving. Only those whose hearts are “true and right” are the ones whom God shields and protects. (Psalm 7:10) Finally, a person “after God’s own heart” (I Samuel 13:14) is the epitome of mankind’s God directed goals.
Obviously, from the biblical perspective the heart is the definitive way to measure a person’s credibility and worthiness. So, I’ll ask you: How’re your insides? Or, more specifically, are you a person “after God’s own heart”?
The World vs. The Promise
Unfortunately, the way of this world draws us in the opposite direction from God’s own heart.
In fact, despite the apparent value of our heart, we seem to spend a significant part of our life trying to mask, ignore, or downright disobey it, don’t we? We are repeatedly embarrassed by personal qualities that make us unique from others. “I wish I wasn’t so outspoken …” We regularly don’t value our own worth and let others redefine it to their standards. “I thought it was a good idea, but everyone else …” We allow ourselves to become involved in situations that do not afford us the respect we deserve. “I knew it was a mistake when he invited me back to his apartment, but …” We doubt ourselves and what we know to be right. “I know it wasn’t the best thing to do, but …”
- We ignore our heart, and in doing so we distance ourselves from God.
- We ignore our heart, and in doing so we accumulate mistakes, failures, and missed opportunities that keep us from forging positively ahead into the future.
- We ignore our heart, and in doing so we lose sight of the person God wants us to be.
- We ignore our heart and miss joyful experiences that we are meant to have.
- We ignore our heart, and in doing so do not fulfill the job that only we are capable of doing.
- We ignore our heart, and end up in a place that is sad, dark, lonely, and hopeless.
Our job here on earth is to continually ‘shore up’ our heart: get it right, make it strong, start anew, and become improved … GROW. The Bible addresses that, too. “Becoming a new person” affords those of us with a past as bleak as a burned out forest the opportunity to get away from the smoke and ash. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states clearly, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
We human beings just don’t appreciate the magnitude of this promise. We repeatedly don’t believe it, nor do we take advantage of it. “My whole life is and always will be a disaster.” “I’ve got things in my past that are too big to forget.” “I’ve got bad luck.” “I don’t believe in fairy tales.” “I’ve got issues.” The first step to a changed heart is to step out on faith and believe. Eliminate “but” from your vocabulary. Give God the opportunity to show you what your life can be.
Rationalize this for me: if God is willing to forgive and forget everything bad about you and your past, why can’t you? Usually it’s because forgiving and forgetting involves making conscious decisions to change for the better. It means becoming proactive towards your future and taking the necessary steps to ensure your success. What you must come to understand at some point is that your refusal to let go of past disasters, making the same mistakes over and over, and failure to accept the responsibility for your life becomes your very own … tombstone. (Sorry, but someone’s got to tell you.) Aside from prayer, reading, studying and applying the Word of God is the single most influential way towards becoming a person after “God’s own heart.”
The Bible and You
Except for the dates, the Bible is chock full of the most private personal details of people who were just like us except for the lack of electricity and indoor plumbing. They’ve gone through it all and left behind a rather amazing account of how often and how gloriously they blew it. And, every now and then, how they got it right. All of their most private and personal mistakes, failures, sorrows, and bad deeds are spelled out for us in glorious black and white text to read, chuckle over, pompously shake our heads in disbelief, and … hopefully … learn from. Rick Warren said, “While it is wise to learn from experience, it is even wiser to learn from the experience of others.” Here’s a question for you: “How wise are you?”
Reading the Bible is like looking into our sister’s journal. It gives the opportunity to live vicariously through another person’s life that is perhaps more exciting or appealing than our own. It allows us to see, up close and personal, what secrets some people have deep inside that they would never ever share with anyone. It permits us to see just how bad and just how good things can really be. It teaches us what should be important in our God-given life and what should be ignored.
For you see, the men and women of the Bible experienced the same things we do today: stupidity, lust, jealousy, hatred, fear, loneliness, worthlessness, sorrow and true love. They also battled with the same internal and external pressures that we struggle with: money troubles, poor self-confidence, illness, doubt, bad people who wanted to do mean things to them … There is not one situation that we face today that someone hasn’t had to deal with already in the biblical journal account. Why not take the opportunity and learn from someone else’s mistakes as well as successes?
Which brings us full circle. All your relationships – good or bad – are a direct window into you and your heart. What do you think about that comment?
The collection of people that surround you shout loudly and clearly the condition of your heart. People are often quick to give excuses as to why that statement isn’t accurate. But let’s face it: the people that you are attracted to (romantically and just as friends) are specifically linked to your own individual make-up. Some people appeal, some do not, and what you are internally is the deciding factor.
How about this quote from the website Despair.com: “The only consistent feature of all your dissatisfying relationships is you.” How terrifying is that quote? The first time I read it, it struck me as quite funny. But then, after its brutal frankness began to sink in, I took a big gulp and rather hesitantly began to reflect back on my rather dismal personal track record of relationships over the years.
What do people see when they look into your personality window? What do you say to others about yourself in the way you live your life? These are hard questions, whether you choose to face them or not, that in the end will be the reality of what people think of you. You can ignore these questions, but the impact of the answers will not go away.
The purpose of this book is to give you the opportunity to peek into some very personal diary entries and read about all the disasters that would never have been spoken about, and maybe learn something in the process. Give your heart a thorough examination and …
- Apply some of the lessons.
- Do a little thoughtful introspection.
- Examine the quality of your heart.
- Realign your priorities.
- Fix what’s broken.
- Strengthen what’s weak.
- Find what’s lost.
- Make God smile a bit.
For all of you out there …
Each chapter of this book is going to take one biblical woman and study her heart and her resulting relationships. In addition to giving you information to help you understand the culture of the times and appreciate the story, I’ll encourage you to look up some pertinent scripture about the chapter’s topic and, hopefully, make you think long and hard about the person that you are versus the person you’d like to be. Maybe you will see flashes of yourself at times? Perhaps the Lord will speak to your heart as you do this study? I even give a bit of homework. The purpose of the homework is to encourage you to really pinpoint specific areas of your life that are good, bad, and perhaps ugly so you can know where you need to focus your growth and improvement.
Let’s start with some questions I don’t ask you to write down the answers, but I would hope you could easily respond to them. And perhaps, if you can’t answer these questions easily now, by the end of this study you will be able to.
- Can you pinpoint a moment in your life, upon making a decision to commit to Christ, that you felt new?
- Who is the ultimate authority in your life? Stripped down to the bare bones, whom would you risk your life with and for?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What are your interests, God-given talents and abilities?
- What is more important to you: God’s will or your will?
- Are good things really worth the wait?
- Are many of the difficulties in your life end results of choices you wish you hadn’t made in the first place?
Homework … How’s your heart doing?
The life that you lead is unique to you and only you. It is as good and as bad as you choose to let it be.
It begins with your heart and is directed by your strengths and your weaknesses, which are both God-given. You must acknowledge them and believe that they are what make you uniquely special to God.
Depending on the strength of your heart, life stresses can give you opportunities for success or failure. Are you constantly dragged down? Do you find yourself repeatedly in situations that are disastrous?
Depending on the strength of your heart and how you utilize your strengths and your weaknesses, you either have great joys or great sorrows. Can you delight in the wonder of your individuality? Have you made the most of who you are and embraced the things you can do and released the things you can’t? Have your weaknesses become your greatest strengths?
COMING UP: BIBLICAL WOMAN PART TWO: EVE AND THE ONLY GUY ON THE PLANET
|Posted by Susan McGeown on December 23, 2017 at 9:25 PM||comments (0)|
I’d been given the privilege of a private room in the hospital. It was a big room – easily meant for two beds – but there was only mine in the vast space. Was this the official “Miscarriage Room?” I wondered. The locale where all failed mothers spent their initial first moments of cruel reality. How many defeated, broken women had bided their time in this room in this very bed waiting until the doctors determined they were “strong enough” to be launched back into their lives? Now it was my turn. I lay there and thought about things I didn’t want to think of but couldn’t escape. Noisy, buzzing thoughts battered my head and my heart. How would I have the strength to inform my fourth grade students that there would not be a baby after all? How could I tell church friends that our big announcement just the week before was incredibly, foolishly, premature? How did we announce to the family that the joyous first grandchild was … not. How would I tolerate the looks of sorrow and pity and compassion from the numerous people we had so stupidly told in our excitement? How did a man cope with retracting his proud announcements to his coworkers? Worries bombarded me. Would this happen again? Did I do something wrong? Was I flawed? Should I have done something different? Tears trickled down my face and collected in my ears. I didn’t want to see anyone: not my husband, not my family, not even the damn doctors. I just want to be left alone in my ultimate defeat as a woman. Forever.
A nurse came in. I don’t remember her name or what she looked like. I don’t remember if she checked my IV or took my blood pressure or my temperature. She sat down in the chair my husband had recently vacated and took my hand. I couldn’t look at her. I wanted her gone. “You can’t believe it now,” she said quietly, “but I promise you it will get better. You will go home and take the time to heal and then you’ll try again. One day you’ll have a laughing child in your arms and all this pain and sorrow will be put away because the joy won’t leave it any space to exist.”
Her words made me furious. Who was she to speak to me about laughing and joy?! How dare she imply that I would one day forget?! I turned to tell her clearly to get out of my room and that’s when I saw the tears. Unable to remember her hair color or her eye color, I never forgot the tears coursing down her face. “My little boy is two years old now. I cannot possibly imagine life without him now…,” she said intensely, “but there was another child before him that I lost.”
That wasn’t my phoenix moment; it was that nurse’s. I clung to that reassurance she had given me, though. I so desperately wanted to get as far as she had in her healing. She’d shown me that the pain and sorrow would still be there but she had also shown me that it would get better.
I would eventually go on to have three beautiful children … and suffer another miscarriage as well. When I finally reached a stage in my healing where I knew exactly what she had been trying to explain to me about love and joy and laughter – oh, what a victory! I would eventually have the opportunity ‘pay it forward’ and to speak a woman who had also suffered a miscarriage. As I shared with her my story and offered her words of hope and reassurance I realized that my healing had taken another forward step: it had become a strength for me. I had a unique capacity to comfort others who had experienced the same pain of loss. Sharing validated that worst moment; making it valuable and pertinent. It changed it from a hopeless hole to a point of victory.
The encounter with the nurse happened to me on November 30th, 1992 at St. Peter's Hosptial in New Brunswick, NJ.
|Posted by Susan McGeown on December 23, 2017 at 9:25 PM||comments (0)|
I don’t know what the right choice is, Lord. I don’t know what direction you want me to take. I am so confused and uncertain. I am always afraid I am going to make the wrong choice. Help me, Lord. I’ll do anything You need me to do and go anywhere You want me to go. Please, just paint big, black arrows on the ground and I’ll follow them.
Over the course of my life, since I’ve been asking for them, I’ve had many big, black arrows. I’ve prayed to God for them, trusted God to guide me through them, and thanked God (sometimes through gritted teeth) in the midst of. Here are some of them (in no special order). All are true. Some, to my shame, took me a long time to acknowledge and respond to. Some were harder to obey than others. I can honestly say I eventually could be thankful to God for all of them. With many of my big, black arrows, God has blessed me by revealing a greater purpose for myself and others. I’ve now reached a point in my walk of faith that I realize that in claiming and sharing these I can then count them as a victory. I am willing to talk and share about any one of these. No more secrets for me. Just ask.
· My engagement ended.
· The career I wanted to pursue had an exceptionally difficult job market.
· I didn’t get hired.
· The doctor said I must have surgery.
· I had two miscarriages.
· The house sale fell through.
· My sister is moving far away.
· We can’t afford to do that.
· I did get hired.
· My child’s heart is broken because all of his friends have abandoned him.
· I’m so depressed. I need professional help.
· My mother has a brain tumor.
· My middle sister died from a terminal illness.
· My youngest sister was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkinslymphoma.
· They’ve asked me to be a church elder for the fourth time.
· I got two flat tires.
· My husband got laid off. I had to go back to work.
· They said no.
· I have stories in my head that I enjoy writing down.
· I love to teach.
· I want to be married and have children.
· They said yes.
· I just got rejection letter from agent #358.
· I won the contest!
· I need to ask a lot of questions so I can understand things.
· I didn’t win the contest. And I had the lowest scores of all the entered manuscripts.
· I received a wonderful thank you note from a reader about my story.
· The kids are sick. I can’t go.
· My girlfriend doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.
· I’m messed up. I need a therapist.
· My boyfriend drank too much.
· My boyfriend didn’t value my faith.
· My boyfriend told me he was married.
· I slapped my child in anger.
Hmmm, this list is a lot longer than I thought it would be … But,do you get the point?
|Posted by Susan McGeown on December 23, 2017 at 9:20 PM||comments (0)|
I was raised in a Christian home: Sunday school every Sunday, church service on Sunday night, prayer meeting on Wednesday evenings. I made a profession of faith at the age ofe ight and still at my current age of fifty-two it stands out as the defining moment for me spiritually.
By my early twenties, I had an education, a career, a job, and had even published a book … but God had not let me achieve the one thing in life that I really, truly wanted: a husband and a family. Although I was fortunate to have my parent’s marriage to use as a standard, it set the bar very high. In addition, I struggled mightily with my self worth. In fact, were it not for my faith, I would have probably had zero self esteem, zero self confidence, and zero direction in my life.
I had long term relationships with all my boyfriends – four years, three years, six years – and each one ended with me feeling used, foolish, and heartbroken. Why couldn’t I find a man who loved me as much as I loved him?! Why was God holding this back from me? During one of those difficult times, my mother brought me up short with this statement: “You know you are supposed to be thankful in all things.” I remember being furious with her pious comment. Was she nuts?! I was supposed to be thrilled that I was alone? Appreciative that I had just wasted another three years of my life with the wrong man?
God was so very tolerant of me. In my angry, lonely, miserable state I started sarcastically thanking Him for ridiculous things. “Thanks that I’m an elementary school teacher, God. I’ll never meet a man there.” “Thanks that I’m still single.” “Thanks that the guy I dated last night was such a loser.” “Thanks that I’m twenty-six and still living home with my parents.” You get the picture. It became a bitter, endless litany in my head.
And then it happened. One day, I caught myself thinking, “Oh, that’s why that had to happen…” I found myself thinking that again and again. Gradually, I started to say, “Thanks for that, Lord,” with a hesitant, intrigued attitude that maybe, just maybe, I would actually be truly thankful in the future.
My walk of faith has progressed to the point that now, when things are really, really bad I gasp out – sometimes through my tears – “Thanks, Lord!” I now mean it with all my heart because I know without a shadow of a doubt that no matter how bad things appear that my Lord has gone ahead of me and prepared my path. The change of attitude has helped me find opportunities to thank God in the midst of my mother’s brain tumor surgery and my youngest sister’s battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. (Outstanding doctors, kind nurses, health insurance, supportive friends, life saving medicines … At the risk of sounding a bit … odd … I actually feel a bit invincible now.
Why did God make me wait? Well, in retrospect, it was obvious I needed a severe attitude adjustment regarding being thankful in all things, that’s for sure. During the remaining single years, I came to appreciate exactly what the Lord had already blessed me with. ‘If you’re not thankful for what you’ve got, you not likely to be thankful for what you’re going to get.’[i] Is that ever a true statement! By the time that I began to date the man that I would eventually marry, I was seriously content with the concept of never marrying. I’d gone back to school for my doctorate and aspired to teach college courses to future teachers. When I finally began to appreciate at all that God had helped me accomplished in my twenties, I couldn’t wait to see what He had in store for my thirties. Who knew what He could help me do over the course of my whole life?
One last thing. Never forget that God has a sense of humor and can accomplish anything He sees fit to do. Remember that list of sarcastic, bitter things I listed earlier? It is important for you to know that I was introduced to my husband (we just celebrated twenty years married this year) by one of my fourth grade students. We married just three months shy of my thirty-first birthday and he was absolutely worth the wait.
[i]Frank A. Clark
|Posted by Susan McGeown on December 23, 2017 at 9:15 PM||comments (0)|
Queen Elizabeth used the phrase ‘annus horribilis’ in reference to her “year of horrors” in 1992. For me it was 1998. In February of that year my twenty-eight year old sister Amy was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and began the process of chemo therapy and radiation. In March, I miscarried for the second time. And in August as we celebrated the end of my sister’s radiation regime my mother collapsed and was diagnosed with a brain tumor and immediately underwent brain surgery. Although the tumor turned out to be benign, due to extreme brain swelling from the surgery the top of my mother’s skull could not be replaced and for six months my mother existed “topless”. New Year’s Eve found me at the hospital, six months pregnant, for my mother’s second brain surgery in which a titanium plate was finally inserted.
Being home with two small childr enduring that year, the duty fell to me to be the “point person” who provided updates, requested needed assistance, and was generally the person ‘in the know’. Calling to inform people of my mother’s first brain surgery results I actually had one person say to me, “How can you still be asking for prayer?! First your sister Faith dies from Cystic Fibrosis, then your other sister Amy has cancer, and now your mother’s got a brain tumor. How could God be letting this happen to your family! You’re good, faithful, church going people! Don’t you think you deserve a break? Aren’t you mad at God?”
I don’t recall how I responded but the comment shook me more than anything else thus far that year. My faith was strong but I honestly didn’tunderstand why our family was going through all this. Had we done something wrong? Was God unhappy with us? What were we supposed to do? Standing at the foot of my mother’s hospital bed days later, I said honestly, “I didn’t know what to say, Mom.”
“Oh, Susan,” my mother said to me,“this is not a perfect world and we do not have perfect bodies. There is no doubt in my mind that God is sorrowing and grieving right along with us as we struggle through all this. Nor is there any doubt that He is right here with us to see us through. Look at all He has given us.” Sitting in her hospital bed with her head completely swathed in bandages she began to list the endless stream of godly care that could not be denied:
· How my sister, Amy, having recently moved and started a new job, had health insurance that had only gone into affect thirteen days prior to her diagnosis of cancer.
· How my sister’s new school district had unequivocally supported her through her entire regime of chemo and radiation, allowing her time off, hiring capable substitutes, and paying her in full regardless of her number of sick days.
· How the hospital that treated my sister, when we researched cancer specialists, had one of the top five in the nation currently on staff.
· How my sister, despite undergoing debilitating chemotherapy, managed to meet all her requirements to secure her black belt in tai kwon do (some at her gym thought she shaved her head by choice) and got married in May (her wig got hot while she danced and she eventually took it off and danced bald headed in her wedding gown).
· How when my mother was admitted with her initial seizure in August, the premier neurosurgeon was on staff and present at the hospital that very day.
· How the skill of the doctor had enabled the removal of the brain tumor with little negative results. The doctor, with dry humor, had informed her, “Something else will kill you long before this brain tumor ever will.”
· How she had every expectation to make a full recovery because in two months she was planning on welcoming her third grandchild.
We were both crying by the time she finished her list. “The Lord goes before us and remains with us through everything, Susan. That is the only thing I’m sure of in this life.”
It was a phoenix moment for me. The precious realization that even in the midst of bad times, God was there in control paving the way for me. I suspect that life will bring me more difficult years; that is the nature of life. But I won’t every have to face anything on my own.
|Posted by Susan McGeown on December 23, 2017 at 9:15 PM||comments (0)|
Almost everyone living in the real world knows that the concept of “the worst moment of my life” is a lie. More accurately, we accumulate worst moments over the course of our existence like a collection of nasty pearls on a necklace that is permanently strung around our necks. By their very definition, ‘worst moments’ get bigger and badder as life progresses eclipsing the one before it until we find ourselves walking around with a horrid collection of memories weighing us down like a ton of bricks. And fearing the next inevitable replacement.
In fact, identifying something as ‘the worst moment’ puts us on a path destined for disaster and misery. It is a morbid challenge in the face of life here on earth: Can you top this? And real life guarantees us that it will eventually accommodate.
How do you cope with worst moments? Are you the fierce but battered warrior standing guard ready for the next, inevitable blow? Are you the huddled, trembling victim desperately hoping for rescue or escape? Or are you the clueless young woman walking hesitantly down the long, dark stairway while everyone around you is screaming, “Don’t go down there you idiot!!”
Personal coping mechanisms come in all shapes and sizes: chemical dependencies, mental and emotional breakdowns, intellectual rationalizations, spiritual explanations, and lucky charms to name a few. For many people, their entire life revolves around jumping from one coping technique to another in the earnest desire to … survive … the worst moments of their lives. Oh, if we could only make them disappear!
God offers another option for coping with life’s worst moments: victory. That’s what God’s Phoenix Woman is all about. It is about recognizing that the same miraculous power documented in the Old and New Testament is available – now, today – to us. And the only thing that has changed to prevent such things from happening is us. Over and over again, the promiseof “strength in weakness”[ii],“mighty power”[iii],“godly peace”[iv], and “perfect life plans”[v] are assured to all believers yet we regularly live as if we don’t believe them to be true. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could reach a point in your life where your worst moments became absolutely critical components to incredible victory? What if you reached a point in your life where you no longer wished that your worst moments would disappear but in fact recognized their critical necessity in creating the dynamic woman that you are today? How incredible would it be that at some point over the course of your life you would be able to look back at those worst moments and find their positive force?
God earnestly desires this for you. He wants you to rise from the ashes of your life as a strong, vital, victorious participant in His Plan. And yet, in His great love He will not force us; it is our choice to obey … or not.
God’s instructions on how to achieve all this are simple enough that even a child can understand it. (In fact, they often get it quicker than we adults.) There is no luck involve, nor is there favoritism. The only qualification is willingness. Additionally, the cost is affordable (free) and success guarantee has a proven track record of positive results which span centuries.
It is a personal decision of living by random coincidence or saving faith. Which would you want to risk your life on?
No matter how different, no matter how separated by language, culture or time, there is one specific thing that every single one of God’s Phoenix Women have in common: a saving faith. You either have it or you don’t - there are no grey areas.
Simple Steps to Saving Faith:
1. Death. (If you don’t want to die, go to #2.)
2. Believe in God. (If you don’t want to believe this go back to #1. If you do want to believe this, go to #3.)
3. Believe in God’s Word – AKA the Bible. (If you don’t want to believe this go back to #1. If you do want to do this, go to #4.)
4. Believethat Jesus is God’s Son. (If you don’twant to believe this go back to #1. Ifyou do want to do this, go to #5.)
5. Believe that you are not perfect and do not, on your own good looks and scintillating personality, get deserve to get into heaven. (If you don’t want to believe this go back to #1. If you do want to do this, go to #6.)
6. Believethat whether you’re willing to admit it or not or whether anyone knows about itor not, you have done things that would make God severely unhappy with you –AKA confess you are a sinner. (If you don’t want to believe this go backto #1. If you do want to do this, go to#7.)
7. Believe that Jesus, out of His great love and care for you, endured every punishment you specifically deserved so that you could become blameless before God. (If you don’t want to believe this go back to #1. If you do want to do this, go to #8.)
8. Ask Jesus to become The Center of your life. (If you don’t want to do this go back to #1. If you do want to do this, go to #9.)
9. Recognize that you are now God’s Own, signed and sealed by Jesus’ great love and sacrifice, comforted and cared for 24-7 by God’s Spirit on earth. (If you don’t want to believe this go back to #1. If you do want to do this, go to #10.)
10. Get busy becoming God’s Phoenix Woman. (Instructions to follow.)
The Bible is full of men and women whose entire faith journeys – the good, the bad, and the ugly – are documented in black and white for us to read. Some were great examples and some were … horrible warnings. In the book of Hebrews, chapter eleven details the ‘Heroes of Faith’ from the Old Testament. It starts out by answering the question, “What is faith?” Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.[vi] The chapter is a Who’s Who of people who got a gold star from God for their faithful performance of life on earth. The whole book of Hebrews talks a lot about faith. The author (maybe Paul, maybe not– scholars are still debating that) wrote to Jews - God’s chosen people - and went to a lot of time and trouble to explain some of the key points of saving faith and how it needed to be distinguished from the Hebrew faith. If you have never read Hebrews chapter eleven, you should.
In the entire chapter only two women are specifically mentioned: Rahab and Sarah. Two other women are alluded to: Jochebed (Moses’ mom) and an unnamed woman during the Prophet Elisha’s time known as the Shunammite Woman (she was from the town of Shunem). These diverse women were a perfect cross section of the women that existed during Old Testament times: believers and nonbelievers, rich and poor, slave and free, whore and socialite, princess and commoner.
And like most biblical personalities, a direct correlation can be made between them and us.
Rahab was a whore, Sarah was a princess, Jochebed was a slave, and the Shunammite Woman was the town socialite. Each one of them heard God’s call and made the personal choice to follow. As a result, the lessons of their life were documented for us to read and learn from.
Are you curious as to which one you will connect to? It might surprise you, but I pray that you bond with all of them. Through their stories we will learn of the power of God’s transformation, the superiority of God’s plan, the perfection of God’s peace, and the magnitude ofGod’s blessings. Available to each and every one of us, we often fail to make the most of these precious gifts from God. Becoming God’s Phoenix Woman seeks to change all that.
Come and be a part of this blessed community of believing women.
[i] Dante Gabriel Rossettiquotes
[ii]2 Corinthians 12:9
[iv]I Corinthians 14:33
[v]I Corinthians 1:25
[vi]Hebrews 11:1 NLT
|Posted by Susan McGeown on December 23, 2017 at 9:00 PM||comments (0)|
My childhood memories are riddled with worry, sewn together with panic, and painted with dread: about school, about gettingt things wrong, about getting in trouble, about being alone … None of my fears were rationale in case you were wondering. I was raised in a loving, middle-class family that included close extended family. My mom stayed home with the kids, my dad went off to work every day, and if the weather was good all the neighborhood kids played kickball in the street every day after school. With slight variations I had a very similar up bringing to those typical television families we all remember: Donna Reed could have been my mom, Andy Griffith my dad, I lived in a house like the one in My Three Sons, and I even had a friend like Eddie Haskell from Leave It To Beaver (although her name was Janet and she was a girl).
I was a“nervous, shy” child and my mother still jokes (I’m almost sixty now) about the permanent wrinkle marks in the hem of her dress from me clinging desperately to her wherever we went. I hated birthday parties and sunny days because they required me to leave the safety and security of my life. Aside from being home with mom, there were very, very few places where I wanted to be.
I always had the most fun playing at home in my house. Friend’s houses had scary big brothers or sisters, terrifying food (surprise, surprise I was also a picky eater), and unfamiliar rules. I refused to take swim lessons so I never learned to swim, I quit Brownies after only one painful year, I never joined a sports team or a school club, and when encouraged to learn an instrument chose the solitary piano.
My first memories of kindergarten were of big hands holding my shoulders while my mother left through the door and I screamed. I threw up before class trips terrified to be traveling farther away from home than school had already required me to be. This continued right through high school. (I cried every night before the first day of school up and through sixth grade.) You’d think that I would have enjoyed weekends and vacations but they were shadowed by dreary clouds of misery due to the inevitable, eventual required return to school on Monday.
Church wasn’t much better. Although I was forced to attend Sunday school, I eschewed attending as many youth oriented activities as possible; happy to sit quietly and contentedly next to mom in the big pew throughout the sermon. My terrors grew to include being up in front of people which eliminated playing piano on talent Sunday and participating in children’s choir. I vividly remember my mother offering me a whole dollar (big money back in 1967) if I’d participate in the church’s children’s choir and sing the song I had rehearsed. As much as I wanted that dollar, I refused.
There was nothing that could induce me to leave home. Ever.
Amazingly, God was at work in my life early on, even in the midst of my anxieties. Prayers brought me security in the deep dark night as I huddled in bed fearing the end of the world, the monster in theattic, or the death of my parents. (Yes,those were some of many things I stressed over.) I clung desperately to the Bible stories I was taught about Joseph being separated from his family and sold into slavery only to triumph, David who faced a giant with only five small stones and a sling and succeeded, and Daniel who faced a den of lions and lived to tell about it. Surely if God helped these faithful young men He would help me, too. My belief was rooted not only in the essence of who God is but in the deeds I knew He had done and would continue to do.
At the age of eight I made a public profession of faith stunning everyone not the least my parents. I walked to the front of the large congregation - by myself - and asked the Lord to come into my heart and take over my life. To this day, after almost sixty years of living, my memory of that day is vivid. For weeks I had felt as if someone was literally pushing me out of the pew and urging me to go forward. I certainly didn’t want to go. But the urge became so all-consuming that it finally could not be ignored. I remember everyone towering over me, the choir in their robes, the smiling faces of the congregation and Pastor Griffith’s shock of red hair and kindly voice. But what is the most powerful aspect of that memory is the fact that I remember the three of us standing in front of the smiling congregation. That third presence, invisible to all and yet fully felt by me, was strong enough to make me do something totally outside of my confidence or ability with no memory of fear . That memory is as powerful to me today as it was then and that push out into the church aisle was the first of many steps of faith for me that continue to this day. Timid little, frightened little, shy little me went on to meet and be questioned - on my own - with the Board of Deacons (oh,okay, Daddy was a deacon but I didn’t even get to sit next to him). On my own I responded to questions about my profession of faith and my desire to be baptized. When I participated in full immersion baptism it was at a point in my life when I still refused to put my face under water in the shower. Talk about transformation through Christ!
My life is not a happily-ever-after story from then on. But neither is it a tragedy. Through His great love He has allowed me to flourish rather than fade. His strong presence helps me stay focused on what is right and produces a blaring siren on what is wrong. And when I fail or flounder, His stunning grace encourages me to dust myself off and start again. I have learned to link my ever present anxiety to my faith. I try daily to take my every step with prayer and I keep a daily journal about what worries me and what delights me. If I feel a peace about a choice I’m about to make or a direction I’m about to take then I know that God is walking right beside me. If anxiety becomes all-consuming then I stop, and wait, and pray, and listen for His still small voice (or loud thundering shout) to redirect me.
As much as I hated school (up and through college) I also, passionately, wanted to become a teacher. In a tough economy when teaching was a dead-end career I secured a job in a thriving community and taught happily and successfully for over thirteen years. Despite endless poor choices in relationships He guided me to meet the perfect man at the perfect time in my life allowing me to have the always dreamed of wish of a husband and children.
Yet,adulthood brought to light another issue that needed to be dealt with in my life: depression. Anxiety regularly chips away at self-confidence, as does daily life. Simple disasters and numerous failures (large and small) are hard to ignore and even harder to forget no matter what you are told. Marriage and children brought about endless challenges that I so desperately wanted (needed?) to get right - an impossibility for anyone. In a strange,odd way my faith masked my depression; I had no fear of death, in fact I quite looked forward to my promised next life. At the worst of times, my skewed reality knew for a fact that my husband and children would be so much better off without the over-emotional, incompetent, worthless wreck that I was.
Medication and therapy help. I thank God every day for the wonders of modern science and the skill and caring of well-trained therapists. I still, passionately, look forward to my next life that promises no tears, no worry, and no hurt. But I know that we are each given a purpose and I was called very early to do mine. Even at my saddest times, I cannot forget that presence that was so palpably beside me when I was eight years old. I also cannot ignore the numerous, never-ending blessings that fill my life.
Just in case you’re wondering, my favorite place in the whole world is still my home. Isn’t God wonderful that He’s allowed me to become a writer? Just in case you’re curious, I still prefer to have friends come to me. Isn’t it incredible that God has given me numerous opportunities to open my home and use my teaching skills to conduct Bible studies? And just in case you haven’t noticed, God’s still pushing me out of my comfort zone. I’m standing in front of you conducting this seminar, aren’t I?
My faith has transformed me. The struggles that make up my life and the multitude of failures in my past that could easily be a bag of awful rocks around my neck are now precious gems I gladly display. Look what God has done in my life! Look what God has blessed me with! Look what God thinks I am capable of and has called me to do! I feel God’s patient,persistent, hand gently pushing me out of my comfort zone almost every single day. I have chosen to continue to belike the trusting eight year old I was so many years ago and follow that unforgettable presence.