Saturday, February 27, 2016

Lessons from Sapphira (Advice for Wives)

I recently made a few observations about Sapphira in Acts 5.

Sapphira was married to Ananias.
Together, they owned  a possession. (Some Bible versions identify the possession later.)
They sold that possession.
However, Ananias held back part of the profit, Sapphira being fully aware of it.
Ananias presented the gift as though it was all the profit.
Upon presenting his portion, Ananias was caught in his lie and immediately died.
Young men wrapped him up and took him out and buried him.
Three hours later, his wife, Sapphira, came to where her husband had been.
She did not know what had happened to her husband.
The possession was identified as land.
Peter asked her about the profits from the sale of their land.
She lied.
She died suddenly.
She was carried off and buried.
All the people feared.

What strikes me as I read this again and again is that Sapphira was responsible for her own decision to deceive. She, herself, was asked to give an account of the profit from the sale of their land. She could have told the truth. She could have told them the plot her husband had planned and said that she knew about it but wasn't going to go along with it. Apparently, she had her own separate portion of the profits.

This goes against all the teachings that a husband is spiritually responsible for his wife. Ananias was clearly not responsible for Sapphira's decision in this. She was responsible and she paid the price. Scripture noted that she was fully aware of the plan, indicating that she made a separate, conscience decision of her own. She was part of the planning and part of the lie. I wonder how it would have ended if Sapphira had not agreed to the plan.

If Ananias was responsible for his wife, she would have died, too, even though she wasn't there, or they would have never asked her, letting it slide because her husband had already paid the price.

Sapphira's voice mattered. 
Her answer mattered. 
She got to give her own answer. 
She answered for herself.

Some could argue that by the time she was questioned, Ananias was already dead, thus freeing her from his  supposed headship. But, Sapphira didn't know he was dead. As far as she knew, she was still married to him and he was alive and well in another location. She acted independently. She was treated independently, expected to answer for her own actions and not able to hide behind her husband's choices for her.

Message to wives:
Gals, make your own choices.
Take responsibility for your own choices.
Married? You're allowed to disagree with your husband.

Recently, I watched Bringing Up Bates, a TV show on the UP Network which features Gus and Kelly Jo Bates and their 19 children. Their daughter, Michaela, had gotten married and some of the family traveled to Chicago to visit her and her new husband and deliver wedding presents. While there, they were rearranging the furniture in her small apartment and one of her sisters asked her if she liked the new arrangement. She said to ask her husband. The sister persisted in asking her what SHE liked. Her reply disturbed me. She said, "We're married now, so I like what he likes."

No. No, no, no, no, no. That is not what marriage means. That is not acceptable. That is not Biblical.
Look at Sapphira. She had the opportunity to make a choice that was different from what her husband chose. Had she made that choice....the right choice....the choice to tell the truth....she would not have died that day for that sin.

While there's no sin in how the furniture is arranged so it's not an even comparison, Michaela's response effectively took away her option to be herself. What her husband likes is what she'll like now. If it's hideous? If it's wrong? If it's stupid? If it's impractical? If she really, really hates it? Oh, my. I fear for their marriage because that will get old real fast, but when it does get old, Michaela will likely chide herself, feel guilty and effectively become a martyr in her own marriage.

How can her husband tolerate that? If I said that about my husband (I like what he likes because we're married), he'd tell me to grow an opinion and stick to it. Her husband would be wise to encourage her to keep her personality and not allow it to be buried under the marriage heading. Getting married does not negate one person's preferences. It does not raise one person's opinion or preferences over the other. Maybe Michaela thinks she's being submissive, but that is not what submission means and her mom should have told her that on the spot. I want to tell Michaela that she's allowed to hate it even if her husband likes it.

The saddest part of that last paragraph is thinking that her husband would have to encourage her to keep her personality. This is indicative of how harmful the patriarchal teachings of western evangelical churches is. I see this all the time....the wife in these marriages becomes a secondary person in the marriage, unable to answer for herself, think for herself or have confidence when she does make a decision. The evangelical men in these marriages are being the opposite of Jesus Christ. They are not sacrificing anything; they are using their wives as a tool for their own advancement. I find this sickening.

Parents, teach your daughters to be strong, independent thinkers who can make good decisions with or without a husband or father to lend approval or disapproval. Sapphira had the opportunity to think for herself and make a better choice. While she still made the wrong choice, it was hers, all hers. She, unfortunately, made the same bad choice her husband had made a few hours earlier.

A woman who is an independent thinker will make a better wife than one who is not.
A woman who can think for herself is better suited to raise a family than a woman who can't or won't.

A few snippets of advice for new brides:

Don't be afraid to have and voice an opinion that differs from your husband's.
Don't feel guilty if you disagree with your husband. You're allowed to disagree with him.
Always be you, not a shadow of him.
Don't allow your husband's opinions, family and personal preferences become the preferred by default. The default ditch is very hard to climb out of once you allow yourself to go there. (And I guarantee you will want to climb out of it one day, even if you're in it now and think it's just fine. It will not remain fine; it really isn't fine at all.)

~Tricia













Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Don't Believe this Lie

I've seen a disturbing picture circulating among some Christian evangelicals and I have to address it.



This picture is disturbing on so many levels, I hardly know where to start. The placement of these umbrellas is suggestive of Sharia Law to me and has no place in the Christian world. 

One observation is that it claims the husband is to be the provider for the family. If this is true, then the Proverbs 31 woman was totally out of God's will because she provided for her family by making deals with merchants, buying real estate and allowing her family enough wealth to be clothed with purple. There is no mention that her husband provided these things and she just managed them. She provided them! She was a family provider.

Maybe that should be taught.

Another observation is that the husband is set up to be the protector of the family. How is that supposed to work while he's out earning all those provisions? How is he supposed to protect the family when he's not there? I have been a stay-at-home-mom, by choice, for 34 years. I have protected myself, my children and my home all those years in a very pro-active way. I did not sit back and expect my husband to protect me or our kids. That was both our jobs and I was right in there doing all I could to make sure my family was safe. The idea that the husband is to be the sole protector of the family is erroneous. 

Another problem with this erroneous teaching is that it sets the husband up for sure failure. If he travels for business or does not work from home and something happens to his family while he's out of town or at his place of employment, he will feel guilty because he was not there to protect them. But, his guilt would have no place to go because, at the same time, he knows he has to be out there being the sole provider, so he can't win. He either has to stop working, work from home, or leave his family vulnerable to all the evils he's supposed to be protecting them from.

This erroneous teaching has to stop.

A third observation is that the wife is under the husband's umbrella, effectively putting him between her and Christ. What evangelical would support this teaching? There is nothing between a woman and her Savior. Nothing. Not a husband. Not a child. Not one thing. I would never think I have to communicate with my Savior through my husband. Jesus is mine. There is no mediator between God and man except Jesus. 

Erroneous. 

My fourth observation is that the children are placed under the wife's umbrella. This suggests that husbands don't have to be as involved in the rearing of the children; that it's primarily the wife's responsibility. What God-fearing husband would want or support that? What God-fearing man does not think he has a responsibility to his children? 

What happens to the couple who has no children for one reason or another? This leaves no room for a couple to choose to have no children. However, that's a perfectly legitimate choice. There are also many couples who aren't able to have children. 

My fifth observation is that the wife is tasked with managing the home. That could stem from Titus 2:5 where Paul instructs Titus to have the older women teach the younger women to be, among other things, "keepers at home, "(working at home, managing their home). This does not mean this is an exclusive activity, that women can't work elsewhere. If that were true, then those of us who do not have slaves better be getting some because later in the chapter, it tells slaves how to respond to their masters. Surely, Paul did not condone slavery.

There are some who believe this passage teaches that women are not to have careers at all, but to just be home, managing their home. This is erroneous. This sets young wives up to be vulnerable to financial ruin if anything should happen to their husband. If women are to never have careers, then the Proverbs 31 woman was way out of line because she was a real estate investor, a tradeswoman, an astute business woman and a farmer, among other things. How do people justify teaching about her in the context of women not working? 

There are so many women in the Bible who had careers, it's not possible to list them all in one blog post. Rachel was a shepherd; Lydia was a seller of purple; Priscilla was a tentmaker; Sapphira was a real estate investor; Deborah was a judge; Miriam was a co-leader of Israel with her brothers....the list goes on and on. When people take Titus 2:5 out of context and apply it like a blanket, it spells disaster for women. Spelling disaster for women is the only way some men can feel in control. I have news for men like that: They were never meant to be in control of another human being. They need to get over that. God is in control, not men.

My last observation for this blog post is the phrase at the bottom of the picture: "Natural Order of the Household." Says who? That is not the natural order of anything. The natural order was Eden, where Adam and Eve were equal amd were equally charged with dominion over everything on the planet. God did not give them roles to fill. Eve was created as part of God's original, natural plan; she was not an afterthought. She was created as a "suitable companion" who, from the start, equally co-existed with Adam in complete harmony. THAT is the "natural order" of things. Equal co-existence. Equal access to the Savior. Equal responsibility for the dominion of the earth and all that that entails.

Young wives, do not be fooled or taken in by the erroneous teaching portrayed in this graphic. 
Do not fall for this idea because it is man-made. It is a form of spiritual abuse that people use to try to subdue other people....people who are equal to them.

Young women, let nothing......not a pastor.....not a child.....and certainly not a husband.....get between you and your Savior. Like Mary, sit at His feet and learn from Him....let no one tell you to get up and do the dishes, clean up the house or make the coffee. You stay with your Savior without apology. You can still take care of all your responsibilities, along with a husband who should help carry the load of raising a family, and not compromise your relationship with your Savior.

A Biblical graphic would have the wife and husband in the same umbrella, equally sharing the responsibilities of a family while equally respecting each other's relationship with the Savior, neither one dominating in any way.

I am deeply disturbed and burdened that this graphic is being so positively promoted among evangelical leadership. I will have no part in this evil and I will speak out against it whenever I can. 

~Tricia








Monday, February 1, 2016

Just Shut up and Weep

Today, a Facebook friend posted this article How not to Say the Wrong Thing  and I think it's an excellent article. This friend is going through the unthinkable; her husband is dying of cancer....in a hospital bed....in their dining room. I am committed to daily prayer for them.

 I've seen the circle theory in this article before and thought it was excellent the first time and I still think it is. I first saw this article before my husband had cancer.

After his diagnosis, we lived what this article speaks against.

I've hesitated to write about this aspect of his cancer experience because I thought it made me sound ungrateful. I'm not ungrateful for the people who reached out during his illness, even those who said the wrong things (because they did reach out). I decided to blog about this in hopes that even one person might stop and listen to someone in a high time of need.

Just listen. Really listen.

The people who said the wrong things to us weren't listening....and that's why they said the wrong things. To truly listen, we have to realize it's not about us. Several different people took the news of David's illness as an opportunity to audibly list all the people in their lives who had died from cancer. Suddenly, we found ourselves having to comfort them, which we did, but it was so emotionally draining that instead of being encouraged by their visits and phone calls, we found ourselves hoping they didn't come back or call again. Then we felt guilty for feeling that way! The last thing we needed was guilt. Cancer takes a person's entire focus and all their energy. It's like a battle takes a Marine's entire focus. If he looks away, he stands to lose ground.

If those people had really listened, they could have learned how deeply fearful we were, how bewildering cancer can be and also how to love us through it. Instead, those people became "fringe" people in our lives because we didn't have what it took to constantly comfort them at the deepest point of David's battle for his life. Not only were their words hurtful and scary, their timing was the worst.


When reaching out to someone who is sick, listen with the intent to understand and show compassion. 

Someone's illness or hardship is not your opportunity to recount your own losses, 
fears or blessings.

Because we are all narcissists, this takes intent and practice. You can practice this today, with a friend or family member. Stop thinking about how you'll respond and simply listen with your full attention. You will be utterly amazed at what you learn about that other person. You will be utterly amazed at how you survived it not being about you.

Recently on social media, a friend posted a lament about his father who had died young. Soon after, someone replied with their gratitude that they still have both their parents and how blessed they are. That person wasn't "listening" to my friend's lament. If they really listened, they would have recognized it for what it was and expressed sympathy or empathy. Instead, they effectively minimized my friend's grief by expounding their personal blessings in the face of his grief. She used his grief as a platform to count her blessings. It's not wrong to count our blessings, but it's insensitive to do it in the face of someone suffering. This shows a lack of compassion. An appropriate response would simply be "I'm sorry." Nothing more needs to be said. 

Would you tell a starving child how well you eat on a daily basis? I hope not! If you did, that child would not have what it takes to rejoice with you or for you because all that child is thinking about is whether or not they will get any meal in the near future. Save your praise for another time. Count your blessings in a closet with the door shut rather than in front of someone suffering. God hears you in either place and that's what matters anyway.

Also, recounting your blessings in the face of someone else's loss gives the indication that you believe you are more richly blessed than they are. Recounting your blessings in the face of someone suffering is nothing more than you displaying your narcissism with a wide-angled lens. The truth is, the person suffering is far more blessed than you because they are getting the opportunity to see the grace of God up close and personal. That is something very few get to view and it's oh, so precious that you might want to wish some horrible thing upon yourself in hopes of experiencing grace at that level. (Not really, I'm just saying that to show a point. Don't go thinking I believe anyone should wish or cause hardship upon themselves. Besides, God does not work that way.)

Grace that is greater, that's God's grace. We should all be so blessed to experience that.

As the authors of the article said, "You'll get your chance You can count on that."

Click here to read the article that prompted this blog post....then go forget about yourself and be a real comfort to someone who's suffering.

Jesus, when His friend Lazarus died, wept. He didn't tell Mary and Martha that other people had lost loved ones. He didn't tell them that He, Himself, was going to die a worse death (but He was). He did not chide them for their grief or even the frustration they had both expressed at Him ("If you had been here, our brother would not have died!"). He simply wept. (John 11)

Be like Jesus. Weep with those who weep. Just shut up and weep.
~Tricia