Short-Cuts or Straight Paths?

July 9, 2010 at 5:21 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Family, Friends & Ministry, Godly Living, Submission, Vignettes) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A guest post by Abigail’s dear mother, Marcia

Our caravan consisted of the largest U-Haul available, a pick up pulling a trailer, three other well-packed vehicles, and 7 people.  Estimated loading, departure, arrival times—every detail—had been carefully, thoughtfully planned by my orderly husband. Included in the glove compartment of each vehicle were printed directions to the final destination of that vehicle in case of accidental separation.  The plan:  upon arrival at the new town, the moving van and pick up would take their cargo to the new house.  As leader of the other three vehicles, I was to proceed to a friends’ house where we would all spend the night.  We all understood the plan.

Six hours later, as we neared the exit where the caravan was to separate, I remembered another way I had been taken by the realtor.  A brief wrestling with my thoughts and I decided, “Yes, I’ll take it!  It’s a better way- a short cut!”  Brushing off noble attempts by others in the caravan to convince me to turn right, I confidently turned left.  After all, I knew the short cut.  Obediently, the two other vehicles slowly followed their confident leader.  Within minutes my confidence began to falter. “Surely I should have come to the short cut by now,” I thought.  As I passed the city limit sign for the upcoming town the truth began to haunt me.  In the darkness I had clearly missed my turn. My only choice now was a third road… the long way.  Eight miles of very dark, unfamiliar, and dangerously windy blacktop for one foolish leader and her trusting followers.  A shameful and repentant wife awaited her husband’s return that night.

What was I thinking?  Why did I second guess the plan?  How could my way have been better than the well-planned and communicated, previously tested one of my husband?

The spiritual lesson is so obvious and simple: Follow the directions carefully laid out for me by my loving heavenly Father in His Word.  I cannot simple hit the rewind button and re-tape my daily decisions.  Trusting Him means following His plan the first time…without question, without regret.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5,6

Tonight, two and a half years later, I took my husband for a drive…back to the place where I made that rash and prideful decision.  This time I turned the right way and properly followed his old plan to the original destination.  Of course, it wasn’t quite the same, yet in a small way it eased my aching conscience.  My husband, along for a nice ride, had long since forgiven and forgotten my offense.

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Identity Crisis

October 5, 2009 at 9:42 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Submission) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Identity crisisI knew that coming home from Nathaniel and Lauren’s house might be difficult. I’d been away for two weeks, basically managing another home while poor Lauren struggled to survive gestational pemphigoid. So I’d steeled myself. The truth is that God created people to leave and cleave—not to leave and come back and leave and come back. But sometimes we must stretch ourselves to serve others. Mentally I’d reminded myself that my home ran on a different schedule—not just whatever schedule I wanted to create. Like an expert pilot, I glided into the landing without a bump.

But what I hadn’t prepared for was my Mom’s homecoming. See, we’d traded places, and while she took care of my sister-in-law and nephew for a week, I ascended to the throne of Scottsburrow as Queen by proxy. When she returned a week later, it was as if Richard the Lionhearted had come home and I, the pretender, was back to the millstone. Or so it felt. Suddenly tasks I’d been successfully completing for the past three weeks were being scrutinized and redesigned. One morning, two days after her return, I broke down and started crying. “Seriously, can’t you even trust me to make a salad? I’ve been running this house for a week and you come home and act like…” Like what? Like you own the place?

I felt like a newlywed daughter when her Mom comes to visit and takes over the kitchen. Except for one problem: it was Mom’s kitchen. Not mine.

It’s a sad fact that, the older I grow, the more difficult it seems to share working space with my Mom. People who quiz me about being a grown daughter in the home or press me about being single ask all the wrong questions. Actually, I have plenty to keep me busy. And I’m not in a hurry to find a man. But sometimes, I sure would like some elbow room. And I’d like to put things where I would put them to find them, instead of having to think like someone else to find them. When my biological clock starts ticking, it almost invariably sounds like an egg-timer.

The truth is, ladies, I don’t believe it was God’s perfect intention for adult daughters to be at home. Judging from the science of the matter, I suspect His original intent was for us to marry much earlier than is the current mode. However, I know for certain that He works through our circumstances and in my case, I am quite sure that I am exactly where I should be, in obedience to Him, when I’m standing in the middle of my mother’s kitchen.

The difficulty facing me is actually not that I need my own kitchen, but that I need to be reminded of the laws of ownership.

Throughout my entire life I have struggled against the “bonds”, trying to snatch the pen to rewrite both the story and the byline. In my early teens this identity crisis took a different form as I wrestled with God over an unalterable fact: I am a woman. That might seem obvious to you, but to me it seemed an obvious mistake. What in the world was I supposed to do as a woman? Have my own cutesy little kitchen with gingham curtains? If I’d simply been given that elusive Y chromosome, I’d have been a man, able to decide my own destiny, chart a path for my own life and serve God! In fact, I knew exactly what I wanted to be! I’d have gone to the dirtiest, lowest, poorest, most violent streets and neighborhoods and poured out God’s love and truth. I would be able to give myself entirely to God!

Then one day I had the rare enlightenment that scripture and the Holy Spirit conspire to bring. “Shall the clay say to the Potter, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” In that misty, moisty morning, staring into the cool, blue sky I had an epiphany. I rephrased my wish to express the true tones behind my sentiments. “If only God had made me a man, I could really be what He wants me to be!” Actually, I could do what I want to do. A simple truth arrived home on the whisper of a fall breeze. Serving God means submission to His will.

He made me a woman. I must be the most obedient woman I can be. For now, at least, that doesn’t include street-preaching in the ghetto.

That was my identity crisis. Well, my first one. My most recent one came when my Mom arrived home to invade the cozy little nest I’d been maintaining. I’d been enjoying managing “my” home and suddenly I felt as if I’d been cast out on my ear. I didn’t fit into my own house. And just as suddenly I wanted to get out and have my own kitchen. My own laundry room. To do things my own way. And then came the despairing reminder that marriage simply transferred my allegiance. Instead of being stuck in my Mom’s kitchen, I would still be subject to some man telling me what to do and when to do it. I’d almost thought the old thought of complaint, the “I’ll never get to do things my way” thought, when the horror of my attitude bombarded me like a stampede of overweight elephants.

I despised God’s order of authority, forgetting that even Jesus was under authority. He’d praised the centurion for understanding this elusive truth. Jesus didn’t please Himself. He pleased the Father. And with that realization came the reminder of God’s authority, laid out by the pen of Paul. “Children, obey your parents.” And then, “I want you to understand that the head of every woman is a man, and the head of the man is Christ and the head of Christ is God.” Children are subject to their God-ordained authority. Women are subject to their God-ordained authority. Men are subject to their God-ordained authority. Even Christ learned obedience through the things He suffered. All things are subject to God.

I shame-facedly admit that, but for the grace of God, I’d have been a feminist. Thank You, Lord, for Your great mercy. But the fact of the matter is that when we reject any tiny part of God’s authority system or God’s creation or what God has done, we reject God’s authority over us. We deny God’s ownership of us and of all creation. Because it’s not my life that could have been so wonderful if I’d been a man—it’s God’s life that He created in a way far different than I would have. Wonderfully different. With a divine purpose that will likely keep me forever wondering. And it’s not my Mom’s kitchen—or my kitchen. It’s His. And He has put my Mom in charge of it, for now, and He has placed me under her. And someday when I have “my own” kitchen, it will still belong to Him. I will still be under His authority structure. I will still be His creation.

And in the same ponderous truth of nature that proves that life is not a totem pole but a circle, I will belong to God. And He will belong to me. In a personal way, God has promised to be my God. He will be my Creator, my Master, my King—and my authority. In my longing to have something to call “my own”, He is the only thing I can claim, and all creation belongs to Him. I just need to understand where my identity lies.

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One Man Against a Lion

June 21, 2009 at 7:20 am (Poetry, Submission) (, , , , , , , , )

man-against-a-lion

Between the spheres of heaven and hell,
Each man must climb the staircase.
And if he has a family
He must guide them in the right.
Prowling in the streets of time,
Seeking wand’ring little ones
There slinks the stealthy lion
Who’d devour in the night.

A wall between that fiend and they
The husband and the father stands
For his treasured family
He must wage a war and win.
And for the souls of every one
That’s given in his care
He’ll render an account to God
If they be lost to sin.

Ah, what a task for any man
To stand between a beast and prey
But if his precious family
Resists, what crushing blow
Might overthrow the very heart
That sought to keep them safe
And tried to teach their tender minds
The way which they should go.

Wives and children, let us gather
Round behind the man we love
As a faithful family
Submitting to his care.
That, when the raging beast attacks
And seeks to drive our guardian back
He’ll find we press him
Forward on the stair.

Copyright 2006 by Abigail

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She who has ears, let her plug them!

August 12, 2008 at 10:40 am (A Slice of Life, Attitudes, Godly Living, Marriage, Submission) (, , , , )

It was a hot morning in early summer. I planned to mow the lawn that day and my dear husband, before he left for work, reminded me that I should wear earplugs to protect my hearing.

Grumble…”Why is it such a big deal to wear earplugs? I mowed my parents’ lawn for years without wearing earplugs! My dad never made me wear them.” This was not the first time we’d discussed this issue. Nathaniel had told me before that I should wear them, but I’d forgotten to do it the last time I’d worked in the yard. He patiently reminded me of the statistics, how a lawnmower was loud enough to damage your eardrum and potentially cause hearing loss as you grow older. He even showed me a chart on the internet based on scientific research. He was right! And still I grumbled on the inside.

So, an hour or so later, after Nathaniel had left for work and I had gone out to the garage to get the mower ready, I remembered that I should wear earplugs. I am a submissive wife, after all, I thought. So, with a sigh of resentful resignation, I obediently went back inside to get them.

As I mowed the lawn that day, I began to realize that I hadn’t been submissive at all. I asked myself the same question that I’d asked Nathaniel earlier: “Why is it such a big deal to wear earplugs?” I had made it a big deal by refusing to respond with joyful obedience. And when I finally did “obey”, it was only out of duty and not out of love for God or my husband. But, as is true in many cases, when we choose to obey even when our heart isn’t in it, God works in our hearts to change our attitudes. And He sure did in this situation. I had allowed my stubborn heart to rob me of joy–I’d been resentful and complaining in my heart all morning, leaving no room for rejoicing. When I let go of my foolish resentment, I began to see that my husband loved me and was looking out for me by insisting that I protect my ears. And he was patient with me when I was so mule-headed about it all! And I realized that my heavenly Father loved me enough to give me a husband as my head (and a quite wonderful one at that!) to lead me and protect me.

So what had been a spot of contention became a cause for joy and gratitude. I was humbled to realize that I am not nearly so submissive as I had imagined. I’ve taught others about what the Bible says concerning the relationship between husband and wife, and parents and children, and I thought somehow I had “mastered” submission. But none of us has truly “arrived”. I’m sure I will be growing in this area for the rest of my life!

I’m thankful to have come away from this experience with a better grasp of what it really looks like to honor the Lord by honoring my man: True submission is an attitude of the heart which results in outward respect and obedience. To think I do well by “dutifully” obeying is to miss the joy of true obedience and surrender to my God. And I will always have room for growth in this area–I’ve come to enjoy wearing earplugs to the glory of God, but who knows what other little issue will come up next to test me? It’s only a matter of time. By God’s grace, I hope to learn more quickly in the future! 🙂

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Lessons from Wisdom: The Art of Appeal

July 4, 2008 at 7:26 pm (Articles, Godly Living, Submission, W.O.W.) (, , , , , )

The contrast between the fates of Esther and Vashti is as wide as the chasm between their respective upbringings. Tradition tells us Vashti was born into royalty. Scripture tells us she fell in disgrace from the highest position a woman of her time could have held. Her crown was bestowed on one “more worthy”—little Esther the orphan Jewess.

One thing they held in common: beauty. It could not have been her beauty that bought Esther the favor Vashti had lost. It was her attitude—a deep desire to please the King. Summarized: submission.

Esther’s submission did not equal allowing herself to be trampled on. She recognized who her authorities were, and offered submission to them, receiving their protection in return. Submission didn’t mean she had to keep her mouth shut and never express her concerns or doubts or fears—or seek to save her life. The story of Esther showcases her submission in a sticky situation, one requiring her action in making an appeal to the King: an art we would do well to learn.

I have not been summoned (Esther 4:11)

When Mordecai’s urgent command came to the Queen, she answered with an explanation of the situation—she understood the King’s rules, his demands and the protocol that surrounded him. She had taken time, made the effort to study and understand his work, his schedule and even his own preferences. She understood a man who was known to swing to extremes. She understood that to go before him would be to threaten his authority. Go before him she must. Present unpleasant facts, she must. And, she must do it in a manner that would be pleasing to the King.

Esther put on her royal robes (Esther 5:1)

Instead of immediately flying to the King, tearing her hair, wailing, distressed, Esther took time to compose her thoughts, her heart and to prepare herself to be a lady. The King had been proud of Vashti’s beauty. He was proud of Esther’s. She would come to him in such a way as to make him glad and proud to see her. She would seek to be pleasing to him.

When the King saw Esther (Esther 5:2)

Even robed as Queen, Esther did not waltz in and demand an audience. She didn’t shout, “We need to talk!” Instead, she stood quietly, waiting for the King’s pleasure, outside his rooms. Clothed with care, her face earnest, yet not downcast in his presence, she obtained the favor she craved, and accepted it graciously.

If it pleases the King (Esther 5:4)

The first words out of her mouth betrayed her heart—“If it pleases you.” Submission. Humility. Vashti had been banished for disregarding the King’s pleasure, for denying his authority. Esther’s attitude made it obvious that her matter was urgent and her heart humble.

I’ve prepared a banquet (Esther 5:4)

The King had shown her grace, spared her life and now asked her petition, but Esther would not put him on the spot or shame him by making her demand in front of a court of attendants. Her appeal would be put to the King in privacy. She employed another pleasure—the King loved banquets—to set a tone of relaxation and ease in which to make her request.

I would not have troubled the King (Esther 7:4)

At last Esther could make her request. Quickly and concisely, she stated the issue. No accusations against the King for allowing such a monstrosity. No reprimands for having never asked who were her people. No anger at his having not consulted her. Then her addition, “if it had been anything less, I would not have troubled you.” A demonstration of her understanding of his busyness, her appreciation of his interest and time in listening to her plea. Even at this point, Esther did not tell the King what he should do. She only made her request for her life and those of her people.

The success of Esther’s appeal was almost nauseating. She gained favor, not because she was manipulative, like Haman, or demanded her own way, like Vashti, but because she understood her King and made her appeal in such a way that it appealed to him. She sought to please him, and in her desire he recognized submission. Her interests became his.

Friends seem aghast when they hear that I frequently e-mail my father—particularly requests or appeals. It sounds odd to us to think of Esther throwing two banquets just to ask the King for her life. Submission doesn’t mean you can never express something contrary to the plans of your husband or father—your man. It simply means you seek to please him. You seek his goals. You understand his desires, his pleasures, his rules. You work to achieve these to the best of your ability. When you come with a request, you come in a way that he can appreciate. I e-mail my father because he is very visual. He likes to have everything laid out logically in front of him where he can come back to it and consider it. He likes to have time to think it over, without an expectant face waiting for an answer, without extra people listening in on his reply. He likes to know why it’s important, what will be the effects, what will be the constraints. Esther threw banquets because the King loved banquets. He needed time to relax, time to calm down.

Your man may not be a King with weighty matters of state, but you can crown him with your devotion. He may not be my father, who likes a written proposal, but you can learn his preferences and seek to honor them. Esther’s wisdom was in understanding her man—his goals, desires, pleasures and even what he took pride in. Her discretion was in seeking a private audience to explain her dilemma, restraining from offering accusations or counsel. Her beauty was in humbly imploring the King’s favor and quietly awaiting his verdict.

Vashti had refused a summons to King Ahasuerus court, mocking him, and brought disaster upon herself. Esther appeared uncalled, risking her life—yet found favor because she’d learned the art of appeal.

Read the story: Queen Esther: If It Pleases the King

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