Celebrity Pastors, Church, Ministry, Women

The Patterson Pandemonium: What He Got Wrong, What He Got Right, and What We Can Learn About Handling Spousal Abuse Biblically in the Church

Unless you’re a student of late twentieth century Southern Baptist history or you’re just an old enough Southern Baptist to remember him, you probably don’t know who Paige Patterson is. (I wasn’t very familiar with him until recently, myself.)

The short version: Dr. Paige Patterson has been the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) since 2003. Prior to that he spent eleven years as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, was instrumental in the Conservative Resurgence, and pastored several churches. (You can read the longer version here.)

So why are we talking about Dr. Patterson today?

One of the ripple effects of the #MeToo movement has been #ChurchToo. Ephesians 5:11, in the context of addressing sexual immorality, says:

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

The #ChurchToo movement has rightly exposed many shameful instances of sexual abuse in the church and forced a reckoning- of criminal charges, of church discipline, and, hopefully, of genuine repentance on the part of the victimizers.

But ripples don’t rein themselves in, they keep spreading farther and farther out. And that’s what’s happening with this social (media) phenomenon. We’ve moved from sexual assault victims comforting one another, to rightfully exposing the guilty, to fishing expeditions into the pasts of high profile individuals to see if any inappropriate behavior or remarks turn up.

In some cases this is a good thing because it brings a guilty individual to justice. And in some cases, innocent people get caught up in the too-wide dragnet that’s been tossed out.

Which, at some point along that spectrum, is how Dr. Patterson’s name arrived in the spotlight recently.

At the time I’m posting this article, to the best of my knowledge, Dr. Patterson has not been publicly accused of any sexual misconduct (nor am I anticipating that he will be). Apologies to those of you who actually read every word of an article and comprehend what you’ve read, but let me say this again loudly for those who don’t: Dr. Patterson has not been accused of any sexual misconduct.

However, as #MeToo and #ChurchToo ripples continue to reach farther out, and more and more past remarks and behaviors of those in leadership come to light, some troubling comments from Dr. Patterson on spousal abuse (not sexual abuse – physical spousal abuse) have been made public to the watching world, embroiling him, his family, and SWBTS in controversy.

Please click here and listen to an excerpt (less than five minutes in length) from an interview Dr. Patterson gave in 2000 on his thoughts on spousal abuse and how he counseled an abused wife who came to him for help.

Overall, though I’m sure well-intentioned, Dr. Patterson’s remarks seem shockingly ignorant, hurtful, and, at best, ill-advised, to our 21st century mindset on abuse. But he did actually say a few things that are correct, even biblical.

I have talked to enough abused women to know that being victimized by an abuser is an agonizing experience that can leave you with overwhelming emotions any time the subject of abuse is broached. May I say – with the utmost love and compassion – I know if you’ve been abused and you listened to Dr. Patterson’s comments it may be too painful to accept that anything he said was correct. I get that. So as we move on to examine his remarks, it might help to mentally separate what was said from who said it and just examine the statement at face value, as though the originator of the statement were unknown to you.

Let’s take a look at some of the things Dr. Patterson got wrong, a few things he got right, and what we can learn as we seek to minister biblically to victims of abuse.

“It depends on the level of abuse to some degree…”(:56)
These were the first words out of Dr. Patterson’s mouth in response to the interviewer’s question, “What do you recommend for women who are undergoing genuine physical abuse from their husbands and the husbands say they should be submitting?”

There are two issues in this question and answer that need to be addressed.

First is the issue of abuse and biblical submission. These two terms should never even be in the same sentence unless it’s to say that abuse should never, under any circumstances whatsoever, be part of the equation when it comes to biblical submission. The two are universes apart, and one has nothing to do with the other.

This is the first, and more important, issue that Dr. Patterson should have addressed. Any “man” who thinks abuse is a justified response to a wife who isn’t submitting is indulging his own self-centered, sinful anger, and has no clue what biblical submission is. In fact, he’s not even interested in biblical submission, he wants his wife to submit to his own personal, selfish will. He’s just twisting the Bible and turning it into one more weapon of abuse. Biblical submission is a gift a woman freely gives her husband out of love for him and love for Christ, not a cowering bowing-and-scraping he beats out of her.

Counseling women in abusive situations to “do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can, and to elevate [your husband]” (as Dr. Patterson says later: 4:24), is reckless and unloving. It leaves a woman with the impression that if her husband continues to abuse her, it’s her fault. She’s not being submissive enough. She’s not praying hard enough. She’s not elevating him enough. That’s not the biblical picture of submission in marriage.

The secondary issue in this statement is two tiered. Dr. Patterson is correct in saying that different levels of abuse exist. There is a vast difference between, say, a Christian husband who, in the heat of an argument, grabs his wife by the arm, immediately realizes what he’s just done and lets go, grieved over his sin against God and his wife, apologizes, repents, asks forgiveness, and never does such a thing again, and a pagan husband who, in drug-fueled rages, regularly beats his wife bloody and broken-boned with whatever weapon is handy and has no intention of ever repenting.

Do those differences in behavior mean that it was OK for the Christian husband to grab his wife’s arm in anger? Of course not. That’s a sin that requires repentance and proactive safeguards and accountability to make sure it never happens again. What those differences in behavior do mean is that you’re going to handle those two situations very differently. It would not be biblically appropriate to handle the arm-grabbing situation with the exact same level of intensity as you would handle the man who has put his wife in the hospital multiple times.

All abuse is sinful. All abuse needs to be addressed. All cases of abuse need to be handled on a case by case basis to determine the most biblical, legally appropriate, and safest response.

“I have never, in my ministry, counseled that anybody seek a divorce, and I do think that’s always wrong counsel.”(1:00)
Dr. Patterson may never have run across a situation in his own ministry in which it was biblically appropriate to counsel a divorce, but the Bible would disagree with him that it is always wrong counsel.

God’s design is for marriage to be for life and for a husband and wife to be reconciled to one another even when one sins egregiously against the other. God uses the picture of marriage multiple times in the Old Testament when addressing the issue of His “bride,” Israel, whoring after idols. God’s desire is not to “divorce” Israel, but that she should repent and be reconciled to Him. Jesus re-emphasizes that marriage is for life, and the New Testament uses marriage as a picture of Christ’s relationship to His church. Whenever possible, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation of husband and wife (who is living in a safe place during this process) should be a pastor’s counsel.

But even God made allowances for those impossible circumstances. And when physically separating from an abuser is insufficient to legally protect a woman and her children from harm, there may be no alternative but a divorce.

“I say to them, ‘You must not forget the power of prayer.’.”(2:06)
This is absolutely true (although it is not our prayers that are powerful but the God who answers them perfectly). It is not beyond God’s power to save and completely transform an abusive husband into a trophy of grace. And what an amazing testimony it is when God does that.

Behold, the Lord‘s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
Isaiah 59:1

We need to urge women in abusive situations to pray fervently for their husbands and for God’s help. But we should also urge them to remember that God can hear them wherever they pray and that they need to get to safety first. Indeed, they will probably be better able to focus and pray undistracted in a safe environment than in an abusive one.

“At some point, He will intervene.”(2:57)
God does hear and answer the abused Christian woman’s prayers, but this remark coupled with the subsequent anecdote leave the impression that God will always save the husband and restore the marriage. Though it’s a wonderful thing when that happens, that’s not always the case.

God may intervene by having her husband arrested and spending many years in jail. He may cause her husband’s life to end. He may move the wife and children across the country to safety. We don’t know how God will intervene in the situation, only that he will intervene, and that He will intervene for His glory and for the good of the Believer. The wife needs to take advantage of the safety nets God has placed in her life and prayerfully trust Him to do what He knows to be right and best.

“…she was being subject to some abuse…’get down by the bed, and when you think he’s just about asleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene…get ready, because he may get a little MORE violent’…”
My personal opinion is that this qualifies as pastoral malpractice. It was not the wife’s responsibility to handle this problem. It was her pastor’s responsibility to step in, protect her, and confront the husband. Titus 1:9 says that pastors are to “give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” This husband was contradicting sound doctrine regarding the treatment of his wife, and was sorely in need of a rebuke and instruction in sound doctrine – starting with the gospel – from Dr. Patterson. Yet Dr. Patterson not only chose to put the burden of handling the situation back on the woman’s shoulders, but gave her terrible advice.

This woman was already being abused and Dr. Patterson knew it. Even so, he sent her back into an abusive environment with instructions he knew could cause the husband to become – in his own words, mind you – “more violent.”

I realize Dr. Patterson is 75 years old and times were different during his formative years. That might help us to better understand the origin of his perspective, but it in no way excuses this horrific pastoral counsel.

Pastors, sisters – we should never counsel a woman to immediately return to a husband who has a history of abusing her and has not repented or made any attempt to change his ways. And we should certainly never instruct her to do something we know could cause more abuse. There is absolutely no biblical foundation or justification for counseling an abused woman this way, and if anybody should know that it should be an experienced pastor with a seminary Ph.D. like Dr. Patterson.

It is unfathomable to me that, not only would a pastor have counseled this woman this way in the first place, but that he cites the way he handled this incident as an example to pastors and anyone else listening of a proper way to handle an abusive situation.

“…and she was angry at me, and at God…and she said, ‘I hope you’re happy.’ And I said, ‘Yes, ma’am. I am.’.”(3:34)
An abused, vulnerable woman comes to her pastor for help. She wants to do what’s godly and she wants her husband to stop using her as a punching bag. Her pastor sends her back to the abuser, the duty of handling the situation resting on her shoulders, and instructs her to do something he knows will result in more abuse. When she returns to the pastor, having been further abused, he says he’s happy.

Does she have reason to be angry with her pastor? You’d better believe it. Good reason.

Dr. Patterson is also the one who has caused her to be angry with God. The fault for that anger, while her responsibility to deal with in a godly way, lies squarely at his feet. He is her pastor. He is supposed to protect her and give her biblical counsel. She trusted that what he told her to do was the godly thing to do, so she did it. He was telling her what God wanted her to do, so, in a sense, he was the voice of God to her. It is only natural that she would be angry with God when her pastor failed her.

And to reply, “Yes ma’am, I am,” to her “I hope you’re happy!” comment? Unconscionable. I’m at a loss for words as to how any pastor could think that was an appropriate, godly, compassionate rejoinder to an abused woman’s pain and hopelessness when he should have been brokenhearted over failing her, and begging her forgiveness.

 

God has been abundantly gracious in Scripture to show us people who serve as good examples to us as well as people who serve as poor examples to us. The same is true today. There are pastors and other brothers and sisters in Christ who show us good examples of how to live out the Christian faith and there are times when those pastors and brothers and sisters fail and serve as an example of what not to do.

Paige Patterson is a brother in Christ who has failed, just like we all do. It is the duty of those Christians who are closest to him to rebuke him and encourage him to repent. God can and will cause this situation to work for Dr. Patterson’s good, and for ours as well, if we take the opportunity to learn from it. Let us put this sorrowful situation to work for the good of the Kingdom and for victims who need our help by using it to help us see how to biblically handle instances of spousal abuse in the church.


Additional Resources

Press release from Paige Patterson 

SWBTS Statement on Abuse by Paige Patterson and Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees

CBMW Statement on Abuse at The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

What about divorce and abuse? by Denny Burk, President of CBMW

Paige Patterson and Doing the Right Thing for the SBC, Again by Ed Stetzer

Christian women, Church, Discernment, Sanctification, Women

Throwback Thursday ~ Sacrificing Truth on the Altar of Tone

Originally Published April 17, 2014

truth tone

Ladies, do you believe in woman’s intuition? Do you have it? I’m not talking about premonitions– having a feeling that some future event is going to take place- I mean intuition. Being able, for example, to sense from a friend’s tone of voice that she’s having a bad day, noticing from the body language of two people who are “just friends” that romance is brewing beneath the surface, or discerning the tension between two people who are seemingly cordial to one another.

wonder-woman-552109_1280Maybe men have this “super power” too, but I’ve noticed it more with women. I believe it might have something to do with the way God has hard wired us. Nothing against men here (y’all are awesome in your own masculine way), but we women generally tend to be more sensitive to and concerned about other people’s feelings, we listen “between the lines,” and we hear and analyze tone of voice more. It’s one of the great things about the way God has created us that helps us as we nurture, comfort, and care for others.

But lately, I’m noticing that this “super power” of ours can also be a super problem.

Our sensitivity to tone (of voice, of writing, someone’s demeanor, etc.) is a hindrance rather than a help to us when we refuse to evaluate the content of what someone is saying to us simply because their manner of speaking, writing, or behavior has offended our sensibilities. This is especially harmful when that content is biblical truth.

I have recently observed several instances of this, all involving women who, at best, found it difficult (with some outright refusing) to put aside their feelings of offense at the writer’s or speaker’s tone in order to compare the content of his speech or writing to Scripture to see if it might be true. (And, by the way, the speech and writing I’m referring to here are sermons, commentary, and articles, not someone writing or speaking to these women personally.) I can sympathize. It’s happened to me plenty of times.

Often, when we hear a fellow Christian put biblical truth bluntly in black and white and it rubs us the wrong way, our first reaction is to quote part of Ephesians 4:15 and chastise him for failing to “speak the truth in love.” But is that the only point of Ephesians 4? Let’s take a look at it in context:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16 (emphasis, mine)

When I was in elementary school, one of the reading comprehension tasks we were often assigned was to find the “main idea” of a piece of writing. So, what is the “main idea” of this passage in Ephesians 4? I’ll even make it multiple choice (my favorite!).

Is the main idea of the passage:

a) Teachers and preachers should speak the truth in love so that they will not offend anyone.

b) A discussion of the different types of leadership roles in the church.

c) Christian leaders are to equip church members to grow to spiritual maturity which builds spiritually healthy and unified churches.

While the passage touches on some of the ideas in a and b, the main point is c. We’re to grow up. We are to listen to preachers, teachers, and writers who rightly handle God’s word, even if we come across one every now and then who steps on our toes with his demeanor or tone. Look, I know it’s hard. There are people out there who offend me sometimes, too, but persevering through the offense will grow us into mature women of Christ and make our churches healthier.

Statistically speaking, more women regularly attend church these days than men. And when I say “more,” I mean 61% women to 39% men. Can you imagine the impact it would have on the health of our churches if all of those women were pursuing spiritual maturity through biblical truth and sound doctrine?

Instead, we are often like a little girl in a burning building. The fireman is vehemently insisting that the little girl come with him to escape, and she refuses to move because he hasn’t said it nicely enough.

Ladies, I say this to all of us (including me) in love, because true love is desiring what’s best for someone:

It’s time for us to grow up. It’s time to stop taking our dollies and stomping home from the playground in a huff every time somebody speaks or writes strenuously. It’s time to stop crying about our hurt feelings, put on our big girl panties and be women.

Discerning women. Berean women. Women of God’s word. Women who can handle having our feathers ruffled and come out on the other side stronger for it.

9283e86a7bd7185b880df318c7681846Too often, we make the mistake of equating a soft tone of voice and a sweet disposition with “love”.  But many of the people who speak with this kind of “love” are not speaking the truth. They are smooth talking, charismatic con men selling snake oil for our souls.

If we’re not careful, we can become people who “will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4), or “weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:6b-7), or even “children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say…“Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions,” (Isaiah 30:9-11).

We forget that our Master, the perfect embodiment of love, didn’t always speak softly and act politely when the gospel was at stake. Because there are things out there that are much more important than our feelings, and biblical truth is one of them.

Church, Parenting, Throwback Thursday, Women

Throwback Thursday ~ Yes Sir! That’s My Baby!

 Originally published April 17, 2013yes sir baby

*Ladies, I’m about to address one of the most volatile, polarizing issues in the church today. Everybody, it seems, has an opinion – a strong opinion—on this one. It has torn message boards apart, led to the giving and receiving of the evil eye across the pew, and caused rampant unfriending on Facebook. Dare I mention this topic that ignites such a flame within our collective bosom?

Well, after that build up, I guess I’d better.

Lemme brace myself.

And batten down the hatches.

And find something to take cover behind.

Um…it’s your baby.

funny_babies_faces_49

Well, maybe not yours in particular, but somebody’s. Somebody’s baby or small child is making a ruckus in church, and it’s distracting everybody within earshot, including the pastor, who is making a valiant attempt to continue his train of thought even though he’s not sure of his own name at the moment.

There. I said it, and I lived to tell the tale.  Whew.

Now before you fire off an angry e-mail, let me backtrack for just a sec.  Titus 2:3-5 says that “older women” are to “teach what is good and so train the young women.” So, as much as it Cute-Black-Babies_largepains me at the age of almost 44, I’m going to put on my “older woman” hat for just a minute, because I think there’s a teaching moment here for all of us. Yes, all of us, whether your best church dress (or capris) is freshly stained with strained peas or you’ve graduated to dry clean only.

If you’re a young mother, I’ve been where you are. I have six wonderful children in my family ranging in age from 25 all the way down to 9, and they have all been in church from day one. My husband has been a minister of music for most of our married life. We have served in churches with and without imagesnurseries, children’s church, cry rooms, and “piped in” sermons. (“With” was easier.) I know what it’s like to try to wrangle one or two or three or more infants and small children during a sermon and keep them quiet. There were years when I got nothing out of the sermon for weeks on end because I was so busy trying to keep Baby from squalling his guts out and Junior from scribbling in the hymnal. Believe me, I sympathize. I get it.

Your baby is adorable. I don’t even know what he looks like, but I know he’s adorable. If he’s within a ten foot radius of me, I will probably try to get my hands on him and cover him with kisses. I love babies and small children.

I love that you want to have your children worship with you in church. That’s where they belong! I’m excited that you’ve chosen to raise them in church, and, having done so myself, images (1)appreciate the time and work it takes just to get to church clean, in one piece, and not hating each other (or at least two out of three!). And it’s great to have them in “big church” where they can start getting their feet wet learning how to sit quietly through the service. I would never say that people shouldn’t bring their munchkins into church.

So, please don’t see me as some never-been-through-it-herself, baby-hating curmudgeon, but rather an older, wiser, been-there-done-that mommy when I say:

Sometimes your child makes noise. Too much noise.

And, as much as the people around you love your child, it bothers/annoys/irritates many of them when they’re trying to hear and participate in the worship service. And that doesn’t make them bad people.

And it’s distracting to the pastor/pray-er/speaker/musician who’s currently trying to carry out his part of the worship service. And that doesn’t make him inept or unprofessional.

And it is your job as a parent –just as it was mine—to alleviate that situation, not the job of the people around you to ignore it.

funny_baby_picture_150

Most people are reasonable when it comes to a little distraction. They understand that Baby is going to fuss for the few seconds it takes you to find the pacifier he just dropped, lick the dirt off of it, and cram it back into his mouth. No big whoop. And if it is, well, those folks need to get a grip and show some understanding, or the next time they cough during the sermon, you have my permission to aim Baby over your shoulder in their general direction when he’s of a mind to spit up. (Ok, ok. Not really. That’s not a very Christlike attitude. Sorry.)

What most people find unreasonable is continuous, unabated noise from your child. Five minutes. Fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes. The entire worship service. And that’s not limited to fussing and crying. Happy babbling and talking is cute, but it can be just as loud and distracting as crying. And for someone who’s trying to focus on worship or the sermon, that’s not cute.

You need to take Baby out until you can get him quiet, and then you can bring him back in.

Are you going to miss part of the service? Yes. But—and let me assure you, I say this to you in love –toughen up, Buttercup. That’s one of the things that happens when you become a parent—you miss out on things you want to do. You probably don’t get baby-meme-funnya full night’s sleep, trips to the bathroom by yourself, or uninterrupted conversations with other adults, either. Add this to the list. Yes, it can be discouraging, but cheer up! This, too, shall pass! You’re training your child, and it won’t be long before you will be able to sit through the whole service with him being quiet. Trust me, there are plenty of sermons on this side of Wailapalooza for you to enjoy with Junior coloring quietly at your side. You can make it!

One final aspect of this issue: church is not solely about you and your right to bring your children into the worship service (which, as I’ve said, no reasonable person who doesn’t want to get spit up on would dispute) and keep them there whether they distract people or not. I know the vast majority of moms don’t think this way, but for the tiny percentage that do, let me disabuse you of this idea right now.

Your role as a church member is not to demand your rights and have the rest of the congregation bend to them, whether you’re a young mother, a pastor, a deacon, the head of a committee, or just Joe Church Member. That is a narcissistic, selfish, unChristlike attitude. Jesus Himself said,

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

Your role as a church member is to serve your brothers and sisters in Christ. So is mine. That means, if you’re sitting near me, and I see you struggling with Baby or Junior during the service, I lean over and offer to help (Pleaseletmeholdyourbaby. Pleaseletmeholdyourbaby. Pleaseletmeholdyourbaby. :0) even iflittle_girl_with_Bible I end up missing part of the service. It also means that if your child is keeping the people around you from growing deeper in their walk with Christ because they can’t hear and apply the sermon, or if he’s throwing the pastor off from being able to deliver the sermon, you serve those people by taking your child out until he’s quieted down.

If we all practice what Galatians 5:13 says, and “serve one another in love,” we’ll have a phenomenal, loving, self-sacrificing church environment for Baby and Junior to grow up in. And that will benefit us all as the family of God.

*(NOTE: I want to reassure my friends at my own church who are young mothers that this article was NOT inspired by you! We baby-graphics-funny-445479hardly ever hear a peep out of the babies and children who sit in our worship service because we have some fantastic young parents who are in tune with their children’s and the rest of the congregation’s needs, and they serve us both beautifully. These parents and their children are a joy and a delight, and my hat is off to them!)

I just think this is a fun song :0)

Christian women, Idolatry, Sanctification, Throwback Thursday, Women

Throwback Thursday ~ Little Women

Originally published June 13, 2014PicsArt_1402623766791

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I’d rather be true to His holy name

We sang this lovely hymn in church the other day, and it was perfect timing. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about women I’ve known across the years, women I’ve known of (but not personally) across the years, and the woman I’ve known best across the years, me. And I’ve been thinking about how and where we find our worth, fulfillment, and contentment and where we should find it: in Christ.

I don’t know about you, but one of the sins I constantly struggle against is coveting. It’s a sin we don’t think about very much. A private one that, often, nobody knows about except God and me.

And you know what I covet? What I think we all covet? Men’s applause. Worldwide fame. Or, at least, fame in my little corner of the world.

When we were children in Sunday school, coveting was sometimes explained to us as “wanting for ourselves what someone else has.” Her new doll. His fancier bike. It’s a decent kid-level definition, but in the same way that Jesus reminded us that the root sin of murder is hate and the root sin of adultery is lust we need to mature in our understanding of coveting, and realize that it also has a root sin: discontentment. Sometimes, it’s discontentment with what we have (greed), and sometimes it’s discontentment with who we are.

And who are we?

As Believers, we are children of the God of the universe who, despite our sin and rebellion against Him, loved us enough to lay down His own life to rescue us. He listens to us. He accepts us. He provides for us. And don’t even get me started on Heaven.

And if contemplating all that isn’t enough, the Bible tells us to be content. So why aren’t we? Why woud we rather have Jesus and men’s applause, and worldwide fame?

Because, as John Calvin so aptly put it, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” Our sinful flesh is always looking to gratify itself rather than glorify God. Any time our hearts say, “God’s not enough. I want more,” we’re committing idolatry, because whatever the “more” is, it’s other than God and lesser than God, and we’re seeking it instead of seeking God. And, as women, one of the biggest “more” idols we seek is feeling good about ourselves, or feeling worthy of love and acceptance.

But instead of looking to Christ and letting Him define for us a right perspective of ourselves, we hit the crack pipe of the praise of men. It’s fast. It’s cheap. It’s easy. And the high is nearly instantaneous. How? Allow me to introduce you to some frenemies of mine:

Mother and Daughter HuggingMarla MegaMom- Marla lives for and through her kids. Their successes are her successes. Their failures, her failures. She subtly or overtly pressures her kids to achieve because if they fail she’s afraid others won’t see her as a good mom. And being a failure as a mom means being a failure in life.

Woman Singing

Dina Diva- Dina literally seeks the applause of others. She’s the top church soloist and the star of every Christmas production. She’s a public speaker or an instrumentalist or an actress, anything that can be done on a stage. Dina doesn’t feel good about herself unless people are clapping for her.

woman-164299_640-1978279293Veronica Victim- Poor Veronica. Everything in her life is always going wrong at home, at work, at church, with friends, with her health, with her car, with her dog. Nobody understands just how hard Veronica has it, so she makes it her life’s mission to let people know. In every story she tells, Veronica is the victim, and somebody else (or everybody else) is the bad guy. Please feel sorry for Veronica, because that’s the only way she can feel better about herself.

woman_angel_costume_kindlephoto-8131448Helen the Heroine- Helen is Veronica’s cousin. In every story Helen tells, she’s the heroine, the paragon of virtue, the one who did everything right short of severing a limb to make everything work out, and somebody else is the bad guy. Helen is divorced and the bad guy is usually her ex-husband, but she’s versataile enough to apply her story telling skills to situations at work, church, with friends, etc. Helen thinks if you don’t see her as a heroine, she’s worthless.

super-woman-halloween-adult-costume-aef98eb9
Photo courtesy of CostumeCollection.com.au

Sally Superwoman- Sally does everything, and she does it superbly. She’s employee of the year at work and world’s best wife and mom at home. She’s a gourmet cook, flawlessly recreates every cake and craft on Pinterest, and her house looks like a photo shoot for Better Homes and Gardens. Other women know she’s got it all together, so she keeps all her plates spinning at a furious pace, because if one of them fell where would she be?

MP900178801

Popular Polly- Polly is everybody’s friend. She’s one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet with never a cross word for, or about, anybody. She agrees with (or at least doesn’t obviously disagree with) whatever is being said by the person she’s talking to at the moment, so it can be hard to pin down what she really believes. When someone unfriends/unfollows Polly on social media, she takes it personally, wondering what she did wrong. She only likes herself if enough other people like her.

reading-216862_640Know It All Nettie- Maybe she’s got multiple degrees, or maybe she’s just well read, but Nettie is an expert. In everything. She sees it as her calling to educate people, starting a lot of sentences with, “Well, actually…” and rarely asking questions that would reveal her lack of knowledge on a subject. Ignorance is a weakness in Nettie’s mind, and she wants to be seen as strong.

MP900427741_kindlephoto-8317786 Maisy the Martyr- Whenever there’s a request for helpers at church, someone to pull overtime or fill in for a co-worker, volunteers at the soup kitchen, the fulfillment of the smallest need of her family, Maisy will be there, working tirelessly. She secretly gets angry when no one recognizes her for all her hard work or when people take advantage of her, but she’s afraid to say no because she’s afraid people will be upset with her, and what kind of person would she be then?

Woman Doing Sit-ups Let’s Get Physical Phyllis- Whether she’s one to wear revealing clothes so all the men stare or she’s an organic, vegan workout queen, or she’s a clotheshorse, Phyllis is all about one thing: her body and how it looks. Did a construction worker whilstle at her today? A co-worker compliment her outfit? If not, maybe Phyllis had better lose a few more pounds or get that plastic surgery she’s been considering. After all, if people stop looking, she’s nothing.

man-315069_640Man-datory Maude- Maude always has a man. Always. Preferably an awesome one, but even a mediocre or lousy man is better than no man at all. Why? It’s tangible proof somebody wants her. Otherwise, how will people be able to see she’s a worthwhile person?

MP900289528Take Charge Tallulah- Follow? You must be joking, darling. Tallulah was born to lead and plays second fiddle to no one. She’s the chair of every committee she’s on, and always the one to round up the worker bees and start doling out orders. No points for second place. If you’re not first, you’re last. Tallulah needs the submission of others to feel self confident.

Are you one of these women? Or, if you’re as Sybil as I am, maybe you’re all of these women. Little women, all. Little, because Maisy, Helen, Sally, and all the rest are coveting and settling for crumbs of approval from others when God is offering them the whole bakery of His delight in them. Little, because they’re zeroing in on one tiny aspect of their lives to earn the praise of men instead of lifting their eyes to the broad expanse of Heaven and focusing on the Christ who loves them and has set them free to rest in His acceptance of them through His shed blood.

There’s nothing wrong with eating right or being friendly, or serving, singing, or teaching. Those are all good things. But just as God can take the most evil things and use them for good, we, because of our sinful nature have a tendency to take good things and use them for evil. And evil isn’t too strong a word when we’re talking about taking the good gifts and talents God has given us and using them to pursue idolatry.

So what can we do? Romans 12:21 tells us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” When that evil coveting of praise and notoriety rears its ugly head:

  • Overcome it by confessing your coveting and idolatry and asking God to forgive you for it.
  • Overcome it by asking God to help you do everything for His glory, so that men will praise Him and make His name famous instead of yours.
  • Overcome it by letting go and saying no. If you’re Dina, it’s OK to let somebody else have the leading role. If you’re Maude, it’s OK to stay home on date night. If you’re Veronica and someone asks how you’re doing, it’s OK to smile and say, “Fine.”
  • Overcome it by preaching the gospel to yourself. Remember how big God is, how small and weak you are and the lengths of love that He went to to save you anyway. Not because of who you are, but because of who He is. Rest in that, and praise and thank God for it.

And let’s have no more of these little women.

Christian women, Women

6 Reasons Godly Women are Stronger Than Feminazis

feminazis

Gloria Steinem. Bra burning. The ERA. “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar.” Maybe you remember them, or have at least heard of them. That was the heyday of feminism. It was going to be a new era of strong, powerful women. And they’re still fighting the battle today. Never let a man get the upper hand. Sacrifice whatever you have to for a successful career. And Christian women who submit to their husbands or choose to stay home with their children are sneered at or dismissed as weak, barefoot and pregnant ignoramuses.

But as any woman brave enough to follow in the footsteps of Christ can tell you, it ain’t necessarily so. Secular feminists will never understand the kind of strength it takes to strive towards godly womanhood.

1. Only the strongest of women can voluntarily relinquish the right to be in control.

It’s easy (at least for decisive, type A control-freaks like me) to walk into a room assess a situation, lay down the law, and expect your instructions to be carried out. It’s much harder to step back and hand off the decision-making to your husband, or to offer your input and stand aside and watch when he decides not to follow it. But God expects us to follow in the footsteps of our Savior, who voluntarily surrendered control of His very life to the men who took it from Him.

2. It takes a strong woman to trust God enough to put her life and her children’s lives into her husband’s hands.

Let’s just get real here for a minute. It can be hard to trust God sometimes. Even though we know He is perfect and has our best interests at heart, we can’t see Him or touch Him. We can’t ask Him a question and get an audible yes or no answer.

It can be even harder to trust our husbands. Even though we can see, hear, touch, and talk to them, we know all too well that they’re fallible. Sometimes they have their own interests at heart. Sometimes they mean well and still make the wrong decisions.

But God tells us to trust Him. Even when it’s hard. Even when we don’t understand what’s going on. Even when we think we could lead better than our husbands. We trust God enough to obey His word even when.

3. It takes tremendous strength to control our mouths.

James tells us “no human being can tame the tongue,” and all who have tried know how true that statement is. Still, God expects godly women to control our speech. We’re not to nag and be quarrelsome. We’re to speak wisely and kindly. Sometimes, we’re not to speak at all, but let our actions do the talking. The strength to bite your tongue or think before you speak? It’s a daily trial by fire for Christian women.

4. Godly women have to be incredibly strong to deal with the heartaches that come our way.

John once said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4). While he was talking about his spiritual “children,” godly wives and mothers have that same joy when our husbands, children and loved ones are walking in the truth of the gospel. And unspeakable agony when they are not. We not only have to cope with the regular griefs of life that everyone experiences, we also must deal with the pain of those closest to us who rebel against Christ and His word, all the while trusting God and walking in His ways.

5. We must develop the godly strength it takes to stand against the culture.

It’s easy to do the godly thing when everybody’s rooting for you, but in a society that is openly hostile to biblical womanhood, we often (sadly, even in the church) find ourselves fighting our way upstream like so many spawning salmon. Many times, we are seen as – and called – doormats, uneducated, gullible, traitors to the cause of women’s rights. We must rely on the strength God has promised us to stand for godliness in the face of opposition.

6. Only strong, godly women can joyfully deny self and serve rather than being served.

In a “because you’re worth it” world, putting our own desires aside to serve our husbands, children, and others is utterly incomprehensible to many, and, often, even to ourselves. The flesh rears its ugly head again and again, demanding to have its every wish fulfilled by the very people God put us here to serve. It takes a mighty woman of God to do battle with that enemy, send it packing, humble herself, and tend to the needs of others. But we have been bought by the blood of a Savior who declared that He “came not to be served but to serve,” and we conform to His wishes, not our own.

 

They can push and nag and argue and boss and control. They can be soldiers, construction workers, CEOs, and President. They can wear the pants in their families and have cowed husbands. But the shrillest of feminazis will never know the strength it takes to be a godly woman, because what they’re attempting is miniscule compared to the high standard God calls His daughters to. And any fleshly strength they can conjure up couldn’t in a million eternities touch the supernatural, mighty, rushing force that is the power of the Holy Spirit which God promises to His own, enabling us to say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

God doesn’t call us to have dominance over men, He calls us to become like a man, the God-man, Jesus Christ. And in our feebleness and brokenness, He gives us the power to attempt that feat of greatness for His glory. That, my sisters, is where real strength lies.