Know Better, Do Better

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The principal called me into the office to “talk.” No, I wasn’t a student in trouble. I was one of the teachers. She folded her hands across the desk, looked at me and informed me that I had a “couple” in my homeroom that I needed to do something about. They were displaying “poor judgment.”

Couples in high school and poor judgment are rarely mutually exclusive, but I didn’t see how that was something requiring my intervention. As delicately as possible, she informed me that the girl in my junior homeroom and her senior boyfriend would struggle because they came from different backgrounds. Their minds and future plans were unequal. Their family expectations completely at odds. It wouldn’t be healthy. I needed to talk to the young lady and explain to her why this relationship could not be pursued.

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Photo by Shea Rouda on Unsplash

I may have recently graduated with honors from one of the nation’s best universities, but it took several minutes for young, naive me to grasp the clear subtext hanging above both our heads. My student was white. Her boyfriend was black.

I played innocent and wondered aloud why the students should be broken up and not allowed to come to this conclusion themselves. I defended the young man as a very nice boy that could be good for a scattered, confused, and conflicted girl. I explained that surely this job fell to her parents if they felt concern, not to me.

I did not confront what I knew I heard. I hoped that if it appeared I couldn’t imagine race as a consideration for the relationship’s demise, maybe she would realize that it shouldn’t be.

A few months later, when choosing ideas for argument in the debate class I taught, the topic of mixed race marriages came up. I let them debate it. I didn’t get called in again, but the grapevine told me of her deep displeasure. I still did not understand. It was a Christian school, right? So everyone would be considered equal in a Christian school, right? Isn’t that what Jesus taught?

I had no clue, at 22, the depths of what I was dealing with.

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Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

When the Ferguson protests erupted several years ago, I couldn’t make sense of all the things I heard. I had taught school right in the middle of the Ferguson-Florissant area. It wasn’t like that. Our black and white students got along fine. Everyone was happy. Had things changed so much in the ensuing decades?

In the last few months, I’ve revisited those days. I have thought about those black students. I’ve put on new lenses and discovered a few things I missed.

One thing I missed was that there were exactly two black students in each high school class. I’m pretty sure this is accurate, looking back. I didn’t notice it at the time. Did we have a quota? Did we have a number of students “like that” we allowed in each year to show how benevolent we were?

Now, I remember they were usually the students with the lowest grades. The young man in the dating scenario above could barely read and write above a grade school level, though he was a senior in high school. At the time, it angered me that he had come so far and no one had done anything about that. How was I supposed to catch that up as his senior English teacher? I assumed, though, it was part of his background, not part of his education.

In fact, I went along with all the assumptions about our black students—that these were underprivileged children from whom not much more could be expected and, though no one ever said it, wasn’t it good of the school to provide them with a place to be for six hours that was Christian? God knew what happened when they went home.

How is it that no one ever said these things yet no one questioned them, either? How is it that kids I remember as smart, capable students still got marked down for their “attitude” while their white peers’ equal attitude got indulgent smiles and assumptions that they would someday make good leaders?

I wonder now what happened to that very gentle, kind young man whom we failed. It never occurred to me that teaching the token students wasn’t really a priority.

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Photo by kyo azuma on Unsplash

The black students were also often the ones most in trouble. Not in my classes. My most troublesome students were generally sons of the church elders. Yet several black students whom I found engaging and lively in my classes told me tales of detention and punishment because they mouthed off or talked too much class. Those detentions happened a lot. They interfered a lot with my speech and theater groups. It didn’t occur to me that my white talkative, sassy students—whom I also enjoyed—didn’t view the inside of those detention rooms with such regularity.

I never noticed.

One of those church elder’s sons vandalized my car his senior year. The same principle asked me to forgive and forget. She didn’t want the boy to have a record. She didn’t want his future to be in jeopardy. Bringing in police would harm our reputation. More to the point, she didn’t want his parents to stop contributing. I conceded, not because I agreed but because his co-conspirator was already 18, and I didn’t want that young man to have a permanent police record.

I wonder now what would’ve happened if one of the black students had vandalized my car.

I wonder now if the black and white students really did get along so well. I wonder how many black students were invited to the white students’ parties or on a Friday night drive around town. I wonder what the lunch room looked like that I don’t remember ever visiting. I never heard or saw racial intimidation between students. I never noted any animosity between them. Yet I rarely saw intentional inclusion, either. I wonder now how much code-switching those kids had to endure at a young age in order to fit in.

I just never noticed.

I didn’t see that I was teaching in a refuge of whiteness more than a refuge of faith.

I’ve learned a few other things since then as well. I’ve learned how many Christian schools were founded not so that students could be kept safe in a Christian bubble but so that they could be kept safe in a white bubble. Given the location of the school, I feel certain of this heritage. Ferguson-Florissant has changed in the ensuing decades, but not that much. I simply didn’t see what was around the edges of the bubble. I didn’t see that I was teaching in a refuge of whiteness more than a refuge of faith. Or that some there conflated the two.

I couldn’t have known any of that, commuting as I did from a surprisingly more diverse area a half an hour south of it. I didn’t know it fresh out of my own university bubble where the only minority students I ever really interacted with were the Jewish ones, because at Wash U, they weren’t a minority.

I am processing all of this now. Realizing much of it just now. I haven’t thought about those years in a long time. I’m processing that the curriculum we taught has long been considered an extremely white-centered curriculum. It’s also extremely popular among Christian home and private schoolers. I knew none of this, because I knew nothing about racism other than that it was something that happened on the south side of Chicago and the north side of St. Louis. I didn’t grow up around it, so it didn’t exist.

Our school books contained such gems as a poem about Robert E Lee being a kind and gentle person who would never hurt a bunny, much less a slave. At least, that last was the implication. Our history books taught my students that most slaves were happy, cared for, and lucky that they came to America so they could hear about Jesus.

I wonder what our eight black students thought about that. I bet they never said.

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I kept those books for decades, because I enjoy having anthologies of literature around. Now that I’d like to look at them again, to examine the specificities of what I taught and whether I ever saw the bias inherent in them, I finally tossed them into the recycling last fall. One of those few times decluttering has bitten me in the butt.

I taught those things. I thought them to impressionable teenagers. I want to say that my material couldn’t have covered such dubious revisionist history since I was their literature teacher. But literature has power. Words build up or tear down. Ideas in literature have fomented revolutions, brokered peace, and empowered abolitionists. Words matter, and when we choose which words and whose words to include in our children’s education, we choose the ideas they will believe. I suspect I know what words I would find in those old books.

Words matter, and when we choose which words and whose words to include in our children's education, we choose the ideas they will believe.

I think about all these things now because I must. I didn’t think about any of them then because I didn’t have to. This, I suppose, is my point. As a young English teacher, grateful to have a job, any job, teaching I never saw what I didn’t see. I never knew what I didn’t know. Yet, I did participate in racism.

I rebelled at it when I saw it in school administration. I embraced the challenge of debating racial issues in class, thus knowingly thumbing my nose at said administration.

But I didn’t question the underlying assumptions of the entire school philosophy. I believed in the subtle superiority they taught me. Because of that, I know now that whatever racism those eight students in the high school experienced, I played a part in it. It wasn’t intentional. It didn’t have to be.

One of the things I’ve learned in my dive into racial inequity is the chasm between intent and effect. White people like myself usually focus on intent. Since we “don’t have a racist bone in our bodies”—since we can’t imagine intentionally inflicting racism on someone—we assume we’ve built up a kind of immunity when it comes to causing racial harm.

I had the best of intentions.

If I didn’t mean it, it didn’t happen.

Problem is, what people of color experience are the effects, not the intentions. If I didn’t mean to leave the cabinet door open and my husband cracks his head on it, he’s still got a throbbing bruise.

Good intentions regarding racism don't help. When the ambulance gets called, no one cares if the injury was intentional. They care if the patient will live.

It’s helped me a lot to realize that the excuse of “good intentions” feels good to me because it lets me off the hook, but it doesn’t feel good at all to the person who has been hurt. When the ambulance gets called, no one cares if the injury was intentional. They care if the patient will live.

Another thing I’ve learned is that it does me no injury to say I’m sorry. I lose no ground. I lose no face. I lose nothing in the act of apologizing for harm that has been inflicted, intentional or not. It is purely pride that refuses such humility, and pride has no place in the kingdom of Jesus.

So students, wherever you are, I am sorry. I didn’t know. But now I know better.

Looking for a Mind at Work

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I admit to being born in the era when teaching history was pretty much a gloss over of the major American wars and little else. (We entirely missed WWI, too. No idea.) World history? What was that? Who cared about the rest of the world? And don’t even get me started on grammar. We learned none of that. I have no idea what went on in the 70s. Pretty sure I spent that decade in the corner reading books.

All this to say, while I quickly became one of Hamilton‘s many adoring fans last weekend, I know virtually nothing of the actual man or of the history surrounding our earliest politics. But I know what I saw. So, so much to digest. I could write blog posts all year.

Yeah, We Got Trouble

One of the most troublesome things I saw is also not uncommon. in fact, it’s becoming more and more popular in the American church.

No, not duels. We haven’t gotten that bad. Unless you count Facebook.

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Photo by British Library on Unsplash

The thing that led up to those duels, however, runs rampant in modern Christianity. Bravado. Macho posturing disguised as a new wave of “muscular Christianity.” Hamilton is well known as a man who could not back down, and it led to his death. (Or worse—expelled! From politics.)

Spend a little time with me on Christian Twitter, and you will see this in all it’s inglorious glory. Christian men who insist that Jesus was a masculine manly man and anyone less is questionable. They define the terms of masculinity quite narrowly, and the terms always consist of some sort of physical prowess but not necessarily mental. God wants them to be protectors, they insist, and somehow this always entails standing in front of the camera and showing us their rifles. I’m not clear why.

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Christian men who strut and preen (yes, I’m pretty sure they do that in front of their computer screens even though we can’t see it) and proclaim how right they are about everything based solely on their possession of certain anatomy. Men who actually use #ToxicMasculinity as a badge go honor. Men who insult other brothers who prefer quieter pursuits and less brandishing as “soft” and “weak.”

We’re Manly Men

Honestly, I have met the nicest and best of Christian men on Twitter but also have encountered the most toxic, self-centered persons who call themselves Christian you can imagine. Yes, I know they’re on Facebook, too. Those I actually know and might be related to. So I stay on Twitter. Fortunately, I enjoy the interaction with the kind people very much and I limit it with the others. It makes me realize, though, that these things are out there, and they aren’t that uncommon.

I’m not talking about Christian men who go hunting and enjoy the outdoors and also enjoy being good citizens and family members. I know some of those men, and they are also awesome people, but they do not insist that every man be like them in order to be Christian. They are multi-faceted men who know you can’t pin someone down based on their extracurricular activities or the breadth of their shoulders.

They are fantastic men capable of admitting that they are sometimes wrong. There are fine men in the Christian church and I know a lot of them personally. They are men whose integrity and humility I trust implicitly. Yet they are not the loud ones.

And No One Knows How Far It Goes

(Why yes, I am having fun with the. musical subtitles. thank you.)

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Needless to say, this sense of required bravado has leaked onto the national stage as well. It stains our politics, our families, our communities, and our churches. We have become an entire culture that values puffed out chests and clenched fists far more than bowed heads and bent knees.

Bravado: “A show of boldness intended to impress or intimidate.” 

By its nature it’s not real. It’s a shell, with an agenda to bully but not to offer substance. We’re told “bravado” comes from French and Italian words that mean bragging and boasting – words that the apostle Paul pleads with Christians never to use in association with themselves. (“If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.” 2 Corinthians 11.30). Yet the church is in serious danger of putting on that show without substance, and it’s purpose is not to boast about Christ.

Bravado is toxic.

We have become an entire culture that values puffed out chests and clenched fists far more than bowed heads and bent knees.

I Am not Throwin’ Away My . . .

Let’s just stay with Hamilton for the moment and take a look at how this played out. Bravado killed Alexander Hamilton and his son in the show and in real life. What might have happened if, instead of teaching his son how to duel, Hamilton taught his son how to back down from a conflict? What if, instead of telling him how to save face, he asked him “Hey, did the man say anything about me that wasn’t true? Then what do we need to fight for?” What lives and futures might have been spared?

That is not the way we teach our men to do things. We teach them, even in our doctrine, that concession and compromise are weak. We toss such words around in our church dialogue with a sneer, as if daring to compromise on anything equals giving up the faith and turning to satan worship.

If this is our default, when others with differing viewpoints come before us, what’s the the natural response? “I can’t hear or consider what you’re saying. If I do, I am compromising. And compromise is of the devil.” We eventually come to equate that person with satan himself, tempting us toward the demon trap of compromise or concession.

This is why so many Christians cannot participate in a healthy debate on difficult issues. We’re too afraid to lose and what that might mean. We’ve been taught that any slight deviation or concession is failure and a fall into the unknown.

And if I Heard You, Which I Don’t

We can’t listen because our requisite bravado is screaming in our ears—“Never stand down!” As if that’s a quality Jesus ever espoused.

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What if we chose the way of humility instead? What if our national conversation was steeped in the kind of selfless giving we see in Jesus rather than the “me first” mentality that bravado requires?

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges. (Philippians 2.3-6)

What if the church led the way?

Brene Brown, in Braving the Wilderness, says that in order to have the difficult healing conversations, we have to be willing to look our fears in the eye and be vulnerable. Bravado cannot do this. Bravado by its nature and definition cannot be real.

Do we want a church that is not real?

Humans need to be real in order to have a future together.

Bravado killed Hamilton. It is killing the church today.

Shame, Blame, and What Should Have Been

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Photo by Luma Pimentel on Unsplash

Early Days

My parents married when I was already on the way. This was supposed to be information we never figured out, I guess. Both had come out of unsuccessful first marriages. Dad had four kids; mom had two. Both had full custody. You could have called us the Brady Bunch, but that would not have been an appropriate comparison for how we made it work, which, apparently, wasn’t that well.

I thought we did. I was the youngest of seven—what did I know except that our happy world centered on me, the baby? I had no idea until later it wasn’t so happy for the others.

I was the product of the marriage that should have been, I think. The only child of the one that worked. Neither ever spoke of their first marriages. I suspect my parents wanted to forget, to forge ahead into the family that “should have been” had their “mistakes” never happened. But that’s impossible when the evidence of those relationships surrounded us daily in the form of six siblings whom I considered absolute sisters and brothers but time has proved not so much.

That focus on what should or could have been cost us all dearly.

This Sounds Familiar

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Photo by Foto Pettine on Unsplash

This is where we are in the Bible story. Rebekah and Isaac married and had two children who struggled, literally: Jacob and Essau. Their issues were nothing compared to the drama of Jacob’s not-so-blended family hot mess.

if you’re not familiar with the story, read it here.

TL;DR: Jacob wanted to marry Rachel. Through some extreme (fairly deserved) trickery, he got Leah instead. He eventually got both, and after ten sons he finally had a son by Rachel—Joseph. Instead of making everything all better, though, this turn of events made it all worse.

Joseph represented to Jacob all that should have been. He was the son who should have been first. The son from the marriage that should have been the only marriage. Joseph should have had the firstborn fatherly blessing if life had played fair with Jacob (a pot calling the kettle black scenario if ever there was one).

So foolishly, Jacob makes happen what his dreams and regrets believe should have happened. Even though the evidence of his other relationships in the form of ten children surrounded him. Joseph, as the youngest before Ben came along, probably looked at his ten big brothers and thought they hung the moon and stars. He probably considered them his best friends, adored and wanted to be just like them.

I know how this story goes.

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Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

Share the Love

His sibs were not on board with all that. Jacob so absorbed himself in his alternate universe where all the should’ve would’ve could’ve’s in his head had finally come true, that he neglected to consider how it might affect the other ten real people. He played them like extras in the chorus and expected somehow that they would love the star of the show as much as he did.

The fact that they sold Joseph into slavery instead must have come as something of a shock to dad much later when that little tidbit came to light.

It’s a big mistake to live in dreams rather than reality.

It’s the breeding place for resentment, blame, and shame. Three solid curses that come straight out of the Fall.

Shame.

You know those brothers first convinced themselves that had they been better sons, Dad would have loved them more. They didn’t understand the dynamics of his life before them anymore than I did my parents. Assuming they were to blame for his lack of attention makes sense. Most kids do that. The deep shame they must have felt for being “inadequate” sons fueled the smoldering fire of anger at little brother more than anything else, I’m sure.

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We see it as a story of jealousy. I believe shame came first.

Do We Do This?

For a long time, I’ve condemned myself for not being further along in my career. Why aren’t I where I want to be/should be? Why didn’t I work harder? Why didn’t I put in more time/effort/networking etc to be living a different professional life?

I’ve finally looked those lies straight on and realized the terrible attacks they are.

There are a number of reasons for where my career is, and lack of a will to work is not one of them. It’s easy to look at all the should have beens and blame yourself for them. Rarely do we look at all the other factors we had no choice in. Focusing on the fantasy world of where I should be shames me into not being what I could be now.

The brothers focused on what they should have been to be loved, but the lie was in the one who didn’t love, not in the ones waiting for it. They were never deficient. They had no choice. The fantasy world lie shamed them and kept both brothers and father from being the parent and siblings they could have been in the now.

If I had chosen a different career . . .

If I had gotten better grades . . .

If the pandemic hadn’t hit when it did . . .

All of these are birthed in the same lie.

I should be at a place in life that I’m not. Shame on me.

Blame and Resentment.

So the brothers shift their anger at themselves to another target. Little Bro. Little Joe. It’s all his fault. He’s daddy’s favorite. He’s full of himself. The truth they’re not admitting that makes them so resentful though is this—He’s got what they want. All of daddy’s love.

It’s not Joseph’s fault, and they know it. He makes a good scapegoat though, and blame and resentment don’t care about collateral damage. They only want someone to hurt the way they’re hurting.

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Photo by Jaime Spaniol on Unsplash

Yes, We Do This

As a teen and young adult, I was very good at resentment. I disliked everyone who had what I wanted, and I wanted a whole list of things, primarily acceptance. Acceptance looks like so many things that we don’t think we have, from good hair to a good job.

I’m still good at it if I let it happen.

If I had married someone else . . .

If my parents had done a better job . . .

If my boss saw how valuable I am . . .

All of these are birthed in the same lie.

I should be at a place in life that I’m not. Shame on them.

Good Shame Versus bad Shame

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t fight for good, valuable things that should be. Never stop making God’s good kingdom a reality on earth as it is in heaven! It also isn’t to say, “Hey, if you had lousy circumstances just accept it and move on.” God’s people are called to right wrongs and bring justice forward. Especially in this time, do not confuse unhelpful blame and shame with helpful calling out of societal shame and brokenness. Living in a communal world of “what ought to be” is a very good thing.

What I am saying is this. Living in a personal world of should’ve would’ve could’ve’s destroys the life we have right now. It ruins relationships. It paralyzes us in the present. It blinds us to opportunities in our abundant present life.

It does no favors for the future, either.

Lies of a fantasy world we could be in but aren’t help no one in living the life we are in. If only’s only convince us a better option would be easier than working to hold on to the one we have. Let Jacob be a warning echo. Fighting for and appreciating the good in what is brings far more joy than imagining, pretending, or resenting what isn’t.

A Simple Life

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I’m a Baby Boomer. I raised three Millennials. Not one person in our house is a Gen Xer, although my husband and my son-in-law both missed it by merely a year on either side.

We do not know what it’s like to be the overlooked middle child.

Both of our generations have been marketed to, catered to, had all our whims analyzed and fulfilled, as a giant generation would. Other than the job market after college for both, we’ve had it pretty good.

Poor Gen X

Gen X, on the other hand, gets ignored. I guess that can be OK. As the youngest child of seven, I found getting ignored pretty useful when I wished to fly under the radar. Still do.

The generation between let’s-begin-God’s-people-patriarch Abraham and had-way-too-many-kids-and-wives Jacob feels a lot like the Gen X of Genesis.

Isaac and Rebekah don’t get much press.

You’ll find the story in Genesis 24. Abraham wants his son to marry in his family and to a woman who worships his God, not one nearby. So his servant saddles up the camels and travels 500 miles to find Isaac a wife.

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To be clear, this is the camel. Not the wife. Photo by Andre Iv on Unsplash

Enter Rebekah. TL;DR version: he meets her and her family, tells them she’s the one to marry Isaac, they all agree it seems right, and then he tosses a curveball—they all must decide this NOW because he’s leaving tomorrow.

Her mother objects. What mother wouldn’t? She knows she will never see her child again. How can she say a forever good-bye with less than 24-hours notice? Then they do something remarkable for the time—they ask Rebekah.

“We’ll call Rebekah and ask her what she thinks.” So they called Rebekah. “Are you willing to go with this man?” they asked her. And she replied, “Yes, I will go.”

Wife Material

Clearly, this is an adventurous, curious, faith-filled, daring young woman who has a streak of independence. Maybe they knew they would have to ask her or she wouldn’t have it. Maybe she’s been waiting for a chance like this. The text seems to indicate that perhaps she has stayed single for longer than usual, and since she’s beautiful and her family has money, this was surely her choice.

I already like Rebekah.

She gives up so much—her entire family—to travel a great distance to a strange place and a strange man. Is Isaac old? Ugly? Missing teeth and oozing something? Does he already have four wives? Does he (shudder) write “your” when he means “you’re”? She has no clue. The servant’s kind nature and honest, earnest appearance are all she has to go on.

Yet without hesitation, she answers. God is in it. Yes, I will go.

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Photo by Jack Anstey on Unsplash

Short story—she goes. They marry. They love til death do them part. They have two sons, who create their whole ‘nother drama. But for the most part, Rebekah, after her giant leap unto the unknown (yes, you may sing a Frozen song here), lives a quiet, ordinary, unremarkable life.

  • She isn’t sold into slavery in Egypt.
  • She doesn’t bear a child at 90.
  • She doesn’t mother the entire nation of Israel.
  • She doesn’t build an ark.
  • She doesn’t lead an army or slay a giant or save her nation from a despot king and his henchman.

She never even goes far from home (again).

She raises two kids and teaches one to cook.

They are the original Gen X.

Wasn’t this all anti-climatic?
Wasn’t Rebekah disappointed?

Did the giant leap fall flat?

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Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Where was the grand adventure?

I think Rebekah would say—it was in obedience.

The leap of faith never promised great fame. It didn’t assure her sword fights and dizzying escapades. She wasn’t asked to do something amazing. She was asked to obey. So she did.

The adventure was not having a clue what was ahead and saying “yes” anyway. That takes more guts than a sword fight any day.

One of my favorite fictional characters is Eowyn, the maiden of Rohan who is certain she was born for adventure and renown (and she was) but who desperately fears she will never be allowed to reach her destiny because she is a woman. Women don’t gain valor. (Well, she has a point.)

Eowyn learns, by the end, what the hobbits always knew—it is no bad thing to celebrate an ordinary life. Sometimes, the most ordinary of people do the most extraordinary things—even if they’re living their normal lives.

Rebekah seems to know this. She faithfully lives out her days, knowing her obedience brought her exactly where she was meant to be.

I could learn a few things from Rebekah.

  • Maybe the life we’re living is our adventure.
  • Maybe where we are right now is our calling.
  • Maybe obedience is the greatest thing no matter where it leads us.
  • Maybe we need to find gratitude and joy in ordinary life.
  • Maybe it’s the next generation who will matter more than I, and that seemed OK to Rebekah.

Ordinary is its own definition—normal. Most of us are by definition.

Ordinary lives are the backbone of most of the world. The ark-builders and giant-slayers wouldn’t survive without the ordinary ones.

And here’s what I want to remember from Rebekah—

God celebrates ordinary lives of extraordinary obedience. (1)

God celebrates ordinary lives of extraordinary obedience.

Seems right. Average people are what he made the most of. He must truly delight in it.

Learning from Cain we talked about competition and how unholy and unhelpful it can get. If we take a page from Rebekah, we see something else. Competing makes zero sense when God delights in our obedience, period. There’s no competition to obey. In fact, I’d say the field is pretty open. So a heart and mind concentrating on obeying hasn’t much space to look around at how others are doing and ramp up the resume.

I know. I’m lousy at this, too.

Some folks do make it a reason to sit out their life and allow their fear of failure to keep them out of their calling. That’s not what I’m suggesting. Radical obedience, though, will always lead us toward our calling. It simply might not be what we expected.

Rebekah is OK with that. Are we?

More than Enough

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Photo by Yujia Tang on Unsplash

There’s a story that Captain Cook met aborigine people when he came to Australia and asked what that odd, large grey jumping animal was. He’d never seen anything like it. The story goes that they replied—”kangaroo.” The translator on board ship told them this meant “I don’t know,” and a legend was born. Generations of people have been told that “kangaroo” means “I don’t know.”

This is not, in fact true. But it’s a fun story, and we use it at our house whenever we want to mess with one another, which is fairly often.

There’s a similar Bible story that, unlike this one, is true.

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Photo by Helena Yankovska on Unsplash

What is It?

God and Moses lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and toward the promised land. The process is slow. The story itself is fascinating—far more interesting and nuanced than I have been led to believe by Bible teaching I’ve heard—and it will be a blog post for another day. (Meantime, there’s a five-minute conversation on it here.)

When the people complain that Moses is leading them into starvation and they will all die there in the terrible wilds (the Israelites knew how to do drama), God does something amazing.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

The next morning the area around the camp was wet with dew. When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground. The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. “What is it?” they asked each other. And Moses told them, “It is the food the Lord has given you to eat. These are the Lord’s instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs.

So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Each family had just what it needed.

Then Moses told them, “Do not keep any of it until morning.” But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them.

After this the people gathered the food morning by morning, each family according to its need. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much as usual—four quarts for each person instead of two.

(On the Sabbath) They put some aside until morning, just as Moses had commanded. And in the morning the leftover food was wholesome and good, without maggots or odor. 

The Israelites called the food manna. It was white like coriander seed, and it tasted like honey wafers. Exodus 16.4-31

They called it manna—roughly translated—“What is it?”

The thing we need to see right now is something God makes sure we see several times.

Enough Is Enough

Each family had exactly enough.

When they tried to gather more than they needed, it got stinky. When they didn’t believe God would give them all they needed, they chose to gather more, to hoard the manna for themselves, and the results were a mess.

Not only are flies and mold gross, but they could spread disease in the camp. Taking more than one needed was dangerous for everyone.

Look at how beautifully God exceeded their expectations—

  • Food “rained down”
  • There was enough“bread to satisfy,” not just enough
  • He gave “all the bread you want”
  • He “blanketed” the ground with food

These aren’t words of scarcity. They’re words of abundant, gracious, abandoned love that gives for the fun of it, more than we actually need. Yet, I know I distrust, too.

I know I hoard things, Maybe not bread, but certainly other things. Knowledge. Career goals. Time. Plans. As a certified enneagram 5, I believe in my soul that there will never be enough for me to do and try and know all that I want. So I, too, gather more and more, unaware or unbelieving that God has rained goodness down on me, and all I need is to take what I need.

Taking too much leads to an inability to filter, sort, and make use of it all anyway. I feel paralyzed by the choices and can’t see a clear path forward. The things I want get moldy, old, tired, and icky.

This feels particularly relevant at a time when we can’t even find toilet paper on our grocery shelves because some people were certain they wouldn’t have enough if they didn’t take all they could pick up.

Fear and Distrust

What drove the Israelites to gather more than they were told? To not trust God when he said he had enough for all?

Fear. Fear from their days as slaves. Fear that “enough” had never been true and never would be true, unless they looked out for themselves. Fear that couldn’t believe the God who created them and parted the Red Sea but somehow could trust in their own ability to stock the shelves with all the things they didn’t really need in the moment but wanted to make sure no one else had more of.

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God sent enough manna for everyone to have what they needed-but some believed they had to have more than they needed, and thus, other had to have less.

God wanted to establish a community of his people who would care more for the community than for themselves. If not, he knew they wouldn’t make it in the difficult challenge of settling the promised land. If they did create a community where each looked out for the other, nothing could stop them.

God Created Community on/for Purpose

That old Garden mandate—forge relationships, be your brother and sister’s keeper—comes back again. It’s almost as if God really meant that.

It’s what God has wanted from the beginning. A people who look at the needs of others as everyone’s needs.

This season of pandemic is proving what happens when fear talks louder than the Word of God. We hoard. We take from others. We choose ourselves and our rights over the vulnerable. Unfortunately, we see people who bear the name of Jesus doing these very things.

We’re all human. We all bear the marks of trauma, especially in this time of rampant fear. God knows that. Yet God offers to rain down on us what we need. Not more than that—but why should we want more than that?

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Take what we need. Leave the extra for another. Give up rights for the sake of a sister in need of protection. These are the building blocks of God’s kingdom people. We might be a people who fear at times—but we are not a people ruled by fear. We are a people beloved by a generous God. And it is enough.

Trusting the Driver

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Photo by William Bout on Unsplash

I’d just successfully navigated spaghetti junction on I35 through Minneapolis and pointed the minivan north. Heavy snow blew on the roadside, two feet deep. The highway, however, had been plowed well from the previous night’s storm, so I cruised home from church doing 60mph, still slow in the right lane compared to everyone else, with our two little babies in the backseat, one fast asleep.

We cruised until, without warning, the right lane wasn’t plowed. Our Caravan hit the hard snow full speed and began a terrifying, uncontrollable dance. We careened across all five lanes of the road, seesawing back and forth from right to left shoulder a half dozen times. Each time we veered toward the ditch I was certain the van was going to hit it and roll. Then we shot back onto the road, and I had equal certainty we would be hit by three or four other cars. It was I35 in the city, and it was always busy.

I remember hearing myself shriek “Jesus” over and over. It wasn’t a cuss—it was a prayer from that place of panic where you know no one else can help you. It was a plea to save my babies.

Eventually, the car stopped on the right shoulder, pointing a 180 degree turn from the direction I had been driving. I looked up, and a wall of cars drove toward me—cars that had not been there when we’d been sashaying across the lanes. I sat, shaking, muttering “Thank you, Jesus,” unable to move.

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Photo by Filip Bunkens on Unsplash

Then I heard a call from the back seat. “Mommy?”

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“Can we do that again?”

I looked back. The baby still slept, oblivious to her near miss with disaster. Becca, two, looked at me from her car seat with her crooked grin. “That was fun! Can we do it again?”

It Means No Worries

I’ve pondered her reaction so many times since, when the road I’ve been on seemed slippery or dangerous, if not physically, at least emotionally.

Not for one moment did Becca feel frightened or even concerned. She went along for the ride, letting it take her wherever it would. She never thought her mama wouldn’t do what her mama had always done—get her home safely. The roller coaster ride was just a perq.

She didn’t worry because she trusted the driver completely.

I wish I had the faith in my Father that my child had in her mama.

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Photo by David Charles Schuett on Unsplash

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’” (Romans 8:15, The Message)

Resurrection Life

Or perhaps it greets God with a childlike, “Can we do that again?” This resurrection life recognizes that the forecast for our days can dump serious snow and ice. Yet our resurrection response remains expectant—“What do you have for me next? Where are we going from here?” We do this even on the days when we fear what might, in fact, be next.

“Fear not” is the most common command in the Bible, but fear is also perhaps the most common human emotion. It began in the Garden when we ran from our Maker. It wraps us in its unyielding cords when we dare to hope for change. It drives much of our individual relationships and our national conversation, too.

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I don’t know why it feels sometimes like my life hits hard-packed snow, or hydroplanes out of control, or (yes) rolls over a skunk that makes everything stink all the way home. I do know that when those things terrify me, it means I’ve grabbed the wheel and accepted the illusion that I’m driving the car, I’m in control, and it all depends on me.

The strange thing is, while control makes us feel like we should be less afraid, it really makes us more so. We know that if we’re in control, the only option is to grip the wheel harder and power through. We naturally grasps for more control when it starts to slip and fear begins to whisper in our ear.

Yet we’re more afraid when we think we’re in control because we know—if it all depends on us, we’re sunk! Grabbing for more isn’t the answer. Giving over control is the only way we can embrace the peace that it is not all up to us. In a paradox only Jesus could initiate, giving over control gives us peace while grabbing the wheel offers nothing but more fear.

What if I chose the expectation that God knew what he was doing and I could, if not enjoy the ride, at least buckle up in trust that he would bring it to a stop at the right place and the right time?

  • When anxiety hits over hurtful relatives: “I can’t control a thing they say or do. God, please control the things I say and do as a result. I expect you will guard  my heart from any darts aimed at it.”
  • When a child leaves home, for an evening, a week, or a lifetime: “God, I can’t control what happens to her today. Please control my imagination over it. I expect your love that is greater than mine to cover her.”
  • When money doesn’t look like it will last until the next paycheck: “God, I can’t control taxes or wages. Please control my dissatisfaction. I expect you will carry me through as you always have.”

A lot has happened in my life that I know I will never ask God, “Can we do it again?” about. Yet the good he has created out of those circumstances also compels me to say—“What’s next, Papa? I’m buckled in.”

This post originally appeared at The Glorious Table.

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Mother’s Day

He was the first black teacher I had ever had–the first the seminary had ever hired. In his class, we read about various groups of people often misunderstood– and tried to formulate a Christian response to their experiences.

The Black Experience?

I read first all the material on the black experience. I didn’t get it. Anger jumped off the pages, and I couldn’t understand why. What made these people so angry? Why couldn’t they address their own issues? Why could they not address them in a kind, thoughtful, appropriate way?

The way I would address them. The way a white, middle class, mother of two felt things should be done.

The Experience of Women

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Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

Then we began the section on women. I read of abuse, rape, assault, and oppression. Lack of job opportunities and lack of respect. And I got angry, Real, real angry. I knew sexual abuse. I knew cat calling and male “ownership,” demeaning social expectations, and even Christian pressure to shove myself into a mold I didn’t fit. I knew all this personally, not statistically.

I knew the fear of going out too early or staying out too late simply because of my gender. I knew the worry about looking in my back seat and carrying my keys to hurt an assailant. I knew about women who were blamed for their own assault because of what they were wearing–I knew some of them personally. I knew these things, and I knew men did not have any idea of them.

I did not feel kind or thoughtful about it all. I felt angry. Angry that I had to live with the background noise of fear because I was born a woman, and no other reason.

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And then, as God does, He lit the 500 watt lightbulb above my head that I had completely missed. Was this the way those black men and women felt? That was my first moment of grasping the tiniest bit of what my sisters and brothers of color feel. I will never forget it.

I have not watched the video. You know the one I mean. The one where a black man, on a jog, is murdered by vigilante men who still believe, apparently, that they live in the wild west and they are required to enforce laws themselves, with shotguns, or we will all devolve into some lawless dystopia.

Side Note: We live in one of the safest countries in the world. We have precious little need to be the good guy with the gun. Statistically speaking, the odds of a robbery in your home are approximately twice as likely as getting struck by lightning in your lifetime. “So proportionally speaking, you should prepare for a home invasion twice as much as you prepare for being hit by lightning.” 

Further, more than half of all armed robberies are drug related. So, steer clear of doing or dealing drugs, and your lifetime need for concern is miniscule. Good news, right?

But Ahmaud Arbery wasn’t breaking into anyone’s home. He was running. He was guilty of running while black. And that earned him the death penalty.

Happy Mother’s Day

Today, as I write this, his mama is having to live through Mother’s Day without her child. This is not a thing we would ever, ever wish on anyone. Yet this is both the common nightmare and experience of black mamas around our country.

I know some of them. I also know a number of white mamas with black sons. They know this fear in ways that we can never know. Ways that I can understand, because I’m the mother of three daughters. I have taught them from an early age that this world is not safe for them, either. It makes me angry that I have to do so. No one has ever had to explain to a white son that this world is not made for or safe for them. So I do understand these mamas fear and anger.

No one has ever had to explain to a straight, white son that this world is not made for or safe for them.

The deep need for a certain segment of men in this country to play vigilante self-appointed sheriff, living out their fantasy of chasing down the bad guys and making the collar, a mixture of all the John Wayne and Die Hard movies and cop shows they’ve digested, collides with something even more insidious to create the state we find ourselves in.

The belief, still, among some of those men that black bodies are theirs to do with what they like. The need to fly giant confederate flags is a symptom of this deeply embedded national sickness—some white men believe they should still have the right to be the masters over black men. They have not let this go. This is uncomfortable truth.

White Women–Listen Up, Please

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Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash

White women, I’m going to talk to you. You are a large portion of my audience. And you are powerful. Demographically, you are said to be one of the most potentially strong groups to swing elections. Here is what I need to say to you.

  • It should not be deadly to run.
  • It should not be deadly to sit in your living room.
  • It should not be deadly to drive down a residential street.
  • It should not be deadly to fit any description that only includes “black.”
  • Existing while black is not a crime. It does not deserve death.
  • No mama should have celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday without her child because he was born black and that got him killed. None.
  • We can change this.
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Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

 

White women:

  • We cannot continue to vote for candidates who mouth the words “pro life” yet remain unconcerned about the death, demeaning, and destruction of people of color.
  • We cannot continue to rationalize and excuse and say “but not all” anyone. We need to see the truth that some, not all, need desperately to be talked about and dealt with.
  • We cannot continue to be silent. We cannot continue to not know. We cannot continue to offer thoughts and prayers alone.We have to show up.

Go deep into your experience and tell me you don’t know what it’s like to fear simply because of your genetics, and then look at your black and Latinx brothers and sisters. Look, and listen. We are more alike than you believe.

It is the opposite of pro life to accept them as collateral damage in order to gain some semblance of “rights” we think we need. This will not end in gaining our rights but in losing our integrity and our humanity. What does it mean to gain the world and lose your soul, women? This is that intersection.

This will not end in gaining our rights but in losing our integrity and our humanity.

Here are some resources I’m learning from. Please offer some you know of. We can lean in, learn, and act together.

I’m Still Here: Austin Channing Brown

Just Mercy: Bryan Stevenson

White Fragility: Robin Diangelo

Does God Send Judgment?

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I’ve started a new thing over on my author Facebook page, and maybe you’ve seen it. It’s called Theology Thursdays, and in it, I’m taking tricky theology questions and talking about them for five minutes (or less). Usually less. As I said this morning, I won’t always have answers, but I’ll always have an opinion.

Today, I’m sharing one of those here, in written form, but if you want to see the videos, check out my Facebook page, and be there on Thursdays at 11am!

So this morning, this question, not surprisingly, ended up being asked:

Is COVID19 a judgment from God?

Yes, some people are saying this thing. OK, so they’re probably the same people who’ve said that lots of things were judgments from God, like AIDS, earthquakes, tsunamis, Pierce Brosnan and Russell Crowe’s singing voices . . .

I’m not, as you know, into conspiracy theories, nor do I like to speak for God and decide when he is or isn’t raining down judgment on people. Particularly since those people who do enjoy doing so always manage to decide judgment is coming down on those with whom they disagree or find fault.

So there’s that.

But let’s look at this seriously, because it is serious, and it is worldwide, so that’s God’s territory.

Problems with the Logic Thing

A couple problems emerge with the idea that COID19 is a judgment from God. One, look at who is hardest hit by this virus. Statistics are telling us that some folks are getting sick and dying in numbers disproportionate to their percent of the population—and who are these people? The poor, urban African Americans, the elderly, the already sick.

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Photo by Astemir Almov on Unsplash

Those getting sicker faster are the ones who can’t stay home because they’re working in service industries and getting paid minimum wage to serve you and me or to clean our hospitals and grocery stores. They’re the ones who have to ride crowded public transit and live in crowded apartment buildings. The ones who have zero say in who comes home from work potentially infected.

To say, then, that this is a judgment from God is to devalue those people. It’s to say that God is somehow against or angry at our most vulnerable humans, and that is unequivocally, absolutely wrong.

In fact, God has special concern for the poor and the oppressed—the Bible says so many, many times. (Deuteronomy 10.18, for instance.) So calling this God’s judgment is not only a dumb thing to say, it’s damaging and dangerous for the most vulnerable people in our society, and it’s an insult to God. It’s actu\ally using his name in vain.

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Photo by Corey Agopian on Unsplash

When God commands that we not use his name in vain, he doesn’t mean no swearing. What the words in Exodus mean is that his people are not to ascribe to God things that are not at all in his character. Don’t claim that God is in or behind something that clearly defies his holy lovingkindness. If we do, we’re taking God’s name in vain. For real.

Saying this is to defy those two things Jesus made a pretty big deal of: love your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

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The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God. (Hebrews 1.3) Photo by Virgil Cayasa on unsplash.com

Here’s the deal—God says in 1 John he is love. He says in virtually all the prophets he cares for the vulnerable. Jesus goes around healing, not striking down people, and Jesus is the exact copy of God the Father, according to Hebrews. Here’s a good rule of thumb—if you can’t imagine Jesus doing it, based on what you see of his actions and words, then God he Father wouldn’t do it, either.

So no, COVID19 is not a judgment from God. I can’t speak for God on whether he ever does the judgment from heaven thing. I’m not God—I don’t get a yeah or nay vote on what he can or can’t do. If he chooses, he certainly can. I’m just saying that this isn’t what it looks like if he does.

This is also not to say he cannot and will not work good things from it.

And we know 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

He can, he will, and he does promise that for those who love him, he is going to work good from even the hardest things. So maybe let’s concentrate on loving him, not figuring out whom he might be judging. That, as maybe we’ll talk about another time, is a dangerous game anyway.

If you have a question you’d like to see, comment below or on my facebook page. Thanks! I can’t wait to hear from you!

Resurrection: It’s Going to Stink

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I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NLT)

In this month of resurrection celebration, I often return to the beautiful story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus and Jesus’ love for them, especially in the sisters’ time of devastating loss.

I wonder at times-if he asked me, “I am resurrection and life. Do you believe this?” What would I  say on the average day? How about today? I think we often agree that Jesus can resurrect our pain and grief. We know he can bring life from death. We’ve seen it. But we falter when it comes to letting him bring out what we’ve buried.

To read the rest of this Easter devotional, click here for The Glorious Table blog.

Missing the Blessing

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“Jesus leads the way to a new vocation. Instead of the frantic pressure to defend the identity of people, land, and the temple, Jesus followers are, to the renewal of hearts and lives, to recover the initial vision of being a royal priesthood for the whole world, which is the Messiah’s inheritance and now will become theirs as well.”       NT Wright

That initial vision is what we’ve been talking about so far–from creation up until now. The “new vocation” is really an old vocation, as old as the garden of Eden. It really comes down to one word, that vocation. God called it going out and working the earth, creating community and beauty throughout the new world.

But basically, it’s one word. BLESS.

And I do not mean that the way a good Southern woman means it

Make me a BLESSING

 

The vision comes in the beginning, and it comes again clearer in God’s plan to create a people of his own when he speaks to Abraham. Because, by this time, humans needed it clearer. They had already lost touch with what God said in the garden and required a little Creation 101. So God speaks clearly:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12.1-3 

Abraham’s call—his work and meaningful purpose in life (remember that fundamental blessing of Genesis 1?) is to bless the nations.

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Photo by Andrew Stutesman on Unsplash

The Nations Are Right Here, Abram

Yet when given the chance, he fails. repeatedly, before he succeeds. Nowhere more clearly than in the story of Hagar, one of my favorites. Hagar is a slave, a foreigner, and a woman. Talk about a triple whammy. She “belongs” to Abraham, more specifically to his wife. In some transaction, they took her with them when they left Egypt. Given those circumstances, he has a perfect opportunity to bless her—and thus fulfill his call.

Spoiler: He doesn’t.

Spoilers

Instead, when his wife Sarah says, “Hey, here’s my slave Hagar. Sleep with her so I can have a child through her,” he does.

I think we can assume consent was not part of the deal.

Hagar had no agency. No ability to choose. The power differential was completely on his side, and it was his call to choose blessing or harm. Abraham chose harm.

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Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Later, when Sarah again complains, this time that a pregnant Hagar is triumphing over her mistress, Abraham again has the choice to bless or to harm. He could choose to protect this woman and her son, to treat them as family, to apologize, to tell his wife that her jealousy has reached unhealthy epic proportions and she needs counseling, stat.

Spoiler: He doesn’t.

He allows her, the mother of his son, to be treated so terribly that she runs into the desert, preferring its certain death to her current situation.

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God’s Magic Is the Best

And that is when the magic happens. God’s magic, that is.

‘The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” (No, this is not the appropriate time to break into “Cotton Eyed Joe!)

“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied. . . .

Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). (Genesis16)

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Photo by Anastasia Taioglou on Unsplash

God meets Hagar on the road. He sees her. She sees him. She, the foreign slave who one would suppose doesn’t even know Abraham’s God, is so overwhelmed by this that she worships and calls God by a new name. El roi. The God who sees.

Hagar—the foreign female slave—is the first person in Scripture to give God a name. Sit with that for a while.

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The God Who Sees

And what a name. She recognizes God as personal, invested, caring and compassionate toward her. Not simply in general but toward her, personally. She never expected that. She comprehends what it means. She does the only reasonable thing—bows in worship, speaks the truth, and allows that personal love toward her to strengthen her as she returns to whatever will come.

In the desert, Hagar is blessed beyond belief by feeling and knowing herself seen.

But notice who does the blessing and who does not.

God comes to her and blesses her.

Abraham, the one whose job it is to bless, does not.

As a result, he also doesn’t take part in God’s great action toward Hagar here in her desert struggle. Abraham never experiences this great blessing that God gives to his slave.

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Fear is counterproductive to blessing others.

Abraham has been so busy being afraid. He fears his wife and his neighbors. He fears rocking the boat of his marriage so much that he allows his own in utero son to be sent out to die. He is so afraid of disturbing the peace that he loses his peace.

Hagar finds it.

The one he refused to bless finds his blessing.

Isn’t God funny?

It makes me wonder about myself.

Wonderings

It makes me wonder about myself.

How often do I fail to bless others, and that backfires on me?

How many times is the person I failed to bless still seen by God, but I miss the whole thing?

Why would I ever risk missing such a great wonder of God?

It makes me wonder about our society.

It makes me wonder if God will bless those we refuse to bless, as a nation. If the foreigner, the abused women, the enslaved or encaged around us will see God while we stare uneasily at our clumsily manufactured peace and wonder why he seems distant.

It makes me wonder if we as a society are missing the very great blessing we could receive if we chose to fulfill our job to bless the nations. It makes me wonder if being great really means that greatness should give out the most blessings the most freely.

Hagar would say so. She knows what it is to be seen.

The Freedom of Blessing

While we wallow in fear, fear of the other, fear of the unknown, and now fear of everything (we truly all finally have pantophobia, Charlie Brown!), I wonder if it’s a mud pit of our own creation.

I wonder if we could be free of it if we chose the simple act of blessing.

As we allow this season of remembering sacrifice to envelop us, be flooded with the meaning of the body and the blood. See it before you, and remember.

  • Remember the slavery—Hagar’s. Yours.
  • Remember the unquenchable image of God. Hagar’s. Yours.
  • Remember the new and abundant life his death purchased. Hagar’s. Yours. Your neighbor’s. The foreigner’s. Everyone’s.

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It makes me wonder if God will bless those we refuse to bless, as a nation. If the foreigner, the abused women, the enslaved or encaged around us will see God while we stare uneasily at our clumsily manufactured peace and wonder why he seems distant.

It makes me wonder if we as a society are missing the very great blessing we could receive if we chose to fulfill our job to bless the nations. It makes me wonder if being great really means being the one to bless the most.

Hagar would say so. She knows what it is to be seen.

The Freedom of Blessing

While we wallow in fear, fear of the other, fear of the unknown, and now fear of everything (we truly all finally have pantophobia, Charlie Brown!), I wonder if it’s a mud pit of our own creation.

I wonder if we could be free of it if we chose the simple act of blessing.

As we allow this season of remembering sacrifice to envelop us, be flooded with the meaning of the body and the blood. See it before you, and remember.

  • Remember the slavery—Hagar’s. Yours.
  • Remember the unquenchable image of God. Hagar’s. Yours.
  • Remember the new and abundant life his death purchased. Hagar’s. Yours. Your neighbor’s. The foreigner’s. Everyone’s.

“The Good News of the kingdom of God directly counters the Empire mentality by saying two important truths: 1. Every human has intrinsic value imprinted by God; 2. There is enough. The Eucharist shows us there is overflow at the banqueting table while simultaneously reminding us that the intrinsic value of human beings is worth dying for.”– Gena Thomas

Bless. Receive the blessing. And do not allow fear to rob you of it.