Does God love women?

“Sometimes, I’m scared that God doesn’t love me because I’m a woman.”

As soon as I say it, I want to cry. Maybe because I really do feel it sometimes. Maybe because I know it’s a lie. But I still struggle with doubts that the sum and the total of all God’s promises are for me directly–for me, a woman.

She voices the same fear to me one day. It’s almost harder to know I’m not alone.

Suddenly, I’m waking up at 6 AM every morning, devouring the pages of the Bible like I haven’t seen food in years. “Please Lord, show me your love for women.”

What I find is that the sum and total of all God’s promises are not only for women, but often delivered through women.

Like Rahab whose faith grips me, the way she waited hopefully for an enemy nation to rescue her from her own people, they way her faith delivered her family from death. And how God brings the Messiah through her line.

Or Esther, a woman who dared to challenge the powerful, evil men of her time, who God used to save her people from genocide so His promises to Israel could be fulfilled.

And Abigail, a powerful, smart woman who stood before King David and negotiated for her husband’s life.

To say nothing of Sarah, the birth mother of a nation; Deborah, the prophetess of Israel; Abigail, Hannah, Elizabeth, Mary, Anna and Lydia.

Even the R-rated passages that show the mistreatment of women, the one in Judges that makes me nauseous. Doesn’t it show that the mistreatment and oppression of women is a sign of the darkest times in a nation’s history?

And then there’s Jesus. Our example. A man who treated women as equals. A man who defied cultural expectations, who talked theology with the Samaritan woman at the well and broke the taboos. A man who befriended women. Who revealed his risen self to women first.

In a world that has crushed women, the cross has made them whole.

Has freed them from sin, has empowered them to defy shame. Women are called to come boldly before the throne of God.

To live whole, fulfilled lives, despite our relationship status or our job title.

All because God loves women and gave Himself up for them.

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The audacity to be vulnerable

“It’s been a week of vulnerability,” I tell her as we walk beside the frozen river.

We’re the same. Me and her. We struggle to be honest with the people we love–and even with ourselves.

Like how I struggled to tell him how I really felt about those things he said, those subtle comments that sink deep in the soul. Two hours of back-and-forth at the kitchen island in my parent’s farmhouse, where we’d talked about my frenemies during high school and my professors during university. “I think we’re on the same page, Kate.”

Why do I wait so long to tell the truth?

Or with the three of us. It had always been us three. Until they got married the same year, and then the baby showers and the journey of motherhood. And it only took a year to tell them that, hey, sometimes it’s hard not sharing the journey. “It’s not the same without you, Kate.”

Oversharing is my greatest fear.

But undersharing is my biggest loss.

“You’re even keel, aren’t you Kate. Things don’t seem to faze you,” she said to me often. And at first, I took pride in that.

Until my Dad tells me he has to read my blog to know what I’m thinking.

And my Mom tells me she can’t tell where I’m at.

Sometimes it’s worth doing the work to dig out your own true thoughts.

And putting them out there to be challenged by that person who’s loved you since you were an idea.

Joy springs from the discomfort of letting yourself be heard and listening to the things you hate to hear about yourself from the people you love.

Strength is built with vulnerability.

Like He put Himself in the position of the condemned and took the full force of rejection.

Exposed. Naked. Rejected.

All my greatest fears.

Because He faced them, I can have the strength to be vulnerable, the audacity to claim purity before the throne of God. To stand before Holiness and know I am accepted.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

I can say no to fear

I lie there, paralyzed with fear. He’s there in front of me, in the corner by the closet. Smiling.

My pajamas stick to my shoulder blades. The darkness is so thick, it’s hard to breathe.

Slowly, I start to notice the glow of the streetlight coming through the slats in my blind.

Breathe.

There is a choice I can make.

Breathe.

I jump out of bed and flick on the light switch. Fear dissipates as I pray and pace in the light.

It’s been five years since terror ruled my dreams.

But fear still rules my thoughts.

Like when I leave the grocery store and walk toward my car, gripping my keys between my knuckles in case I need to throw a punch. Isn’t this where girls get pushed into vans?

Or when I wake up on a Tuesday with a heaviness in my stomach because I know he’s read my text by now.

She leans forward on the couch to look me in the eye. “Someone once told me, when you have a terrible dream, to go through it again but with Jesus there.”

I think of the endless nights when darkness lived by my closet. And how, if He was there, He’d make the darkness tremble.

I think of the feeling of dread when he still hasn’t responded to my heart laid bare. And how, if He was there, He’d rest in the confidence of Himself.

Like I rest in the confidence of Him.

Because He is there.

I tell her over the phone how I’ve realized that I don’t have to be afraid. The disturber of my peace is not the creep in the parking lot or the dread in my gut, it’s fear itself.

And I can’t control the creep in the parking lot or the bad response to a text, but I can say no to fear.

Because He is there.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

Truth-inspired creativity

“To write is to die to self,” I tell her over the phone.

She knows what I mean; she’s done it too, only her cross is the keys of the piano.

I still remember the feeling of passing around 30 copies of the story I’d written, how the room went silent as they looked down to read it.

Die to self, Kate.

That is the gospel–the guidebook for creativity.

Christ demonstrated His love, exposed and rejected by humans.

Christ humbled himself.

That is the path of a Christian creative.

To put aside your fears and desires, to step aside and let God shine through.

I read and re-read the email he sent me on my 25th birthday. “I’m thankful for you today that God put you in His world and made you to be exactly you so that the light of His Spirit can shine through you as it can through no one else in exactly the same way.”

And how, when she plays the Chopin, you forget about her entirely because she is not playing for her or you or Chopin or the audience. She is letting the light of His Spirit shine through her prayerful, humble performance as it can in no one else in exactly the same way.

She is putting it in the hands of the Great Composer, who gives the loon its song on quiet misty mornings.

The Artist, who filled out the canvas of the skies at night.

The Author of human history, written before the world began.

Creativity is an expression of the Creator.

Like it’s an expression from the created soul. And when the soul knows its Creator, it is not tied to the narrow channels of the human mind.

It is anchored to the source of Truth.

And there is limitless inspiration.

“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band.” Job 38:8

Quietness in control

My white-haired professor sets up a meeting with me. “Why don’t you talk more?” he asks.

My response is to go home to my roommates and complain about the guy at the front of my English class who puts his hand up to ask a question every five to seven minutes.

At least I’m not like him.

At least I’m not like the fool in Proverbs who has no control of his tongue.

Or am I the same kind of different?

I know my criticism is a mask for my fear when my professor assigns me to give a presentation. I’m quiet because I’m afraid. Afraid to be exposed. The more you talk, the more you set yourself up for error.

I was six years old when I dropped a note in her mailbox. She must have wondered why a little kid bothered to write. It’s because I was intrigued by the way she paused when she talked. Before giving advice, asking a question, she paused.

I’m sure people thought she was too quiet. I thought she was wise.

It’s where I learned quietness is a crutch unless you let the Lord control the pauses.

I remember the night she told me what meekness means. Strength controlled.

I find myself praying to live up to the definition.

Is strength really strong if it’s clumsy?

Is quietness really wisdom if it’s just a fearful reaction?

Moses, whose faltering speech was the excuse he brought before God, was later called the meekest man on earth.

When his siblings spoke against him, God defended him. “With [Moses] I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord” (Number 12:8).

So, I surrender silence. Sign up for Toastmasters. Speak up in small group.

And sometimes I don’t.

Mostly, I read what He Says. I find out what matters to say and what doesn’t. Like Moses, I speak to the One who can show me.

Lord of personality.

Lord of speech and the spaces between.

“Then the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’” (Exodus 4:11)

 

Joy is not a soft word

“That’s what did it for me,” he turns the car north toward the mountains.

His words marinate. The fact that you want to change shows the Lord is working in you.

Repent-sin-repent-sin-repent-sin. The cycle defines my Christian life.

It’s March and I’m at the point where I can barely come up for air before temptation grabs me by the hair and shoves me underwater again.

It feels like years since I’ve felt the joy of a gentler Master.

Sin is a tyrant.

“I needed to hear that,” I say. “Because I was beginning to wonder…”

When was the last time I got on my knees without shame?

“I was beginning to wonder if, you know, sometimes I wasn’t even sure that I am saved.”

And I know there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, but how could I go to God with joy and pretend I hadn’t done anything to offend Him.

“I wish you were happier,” she had told me earlier.

But I’d let my joy die. Like penance. Offend God, yes. But at least I will not allow myself to enjoy Him.

Because it’s easier to feel nothing than to feel conviction.

We talk about it one evening in late December, how joy is gospel delight.

Then isn’t it ironic how I thought I could conquer sin without joy?

Without delighting in the Truth of deliverance? Of victory?

My best defense against sin was perseverance.

But there’s a stronger strategy. The way of warriors.

Joy.

Bold, fierce, storm-the-gates, decisive joy.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

How to have a truly happy new year

For the first time in years, I don’t remember my New Year’s resolution from January. Usually, I write it down in my journal or on a note I stick to my mirror.

There’s been many of those dog-eared sticky notes from years past.

The year of contentment. Speaking life.

We passed pancakes across the breakfast table on January 1st this year. “What do you want from 2018?”

I can’t remember my answer.

I know what I didn’t want though.

I didn’t want to walk into her office and share the parts of my life I’m inclined to hide. I didn’t want to Facetime her the day after she delivered her baby that never breathed. I didn’t want to spend four months wondering how I’d walk into her house on Christmas day and see her empty chair. I didn’t want to go on another first date that led nowhere.

We sit across from each other in a little coffee shop in Colorado, picking at a charcuterie board.

“When I think about all of the things I have left to go through,” her voice cracks.

We lock eyes. Years upon years of unknown.

But if I had to go back to January 1st with them cutting pancake diagonals and waiting for my answer, I know what I’d say.

The year of Christ.

Because if there’s anything I learned this year, it’s that the best resolution is to not do anything without Him.

He’s the author of the story. He sharpened my heart with conviction, prepared it for grief.

He writes the character development.

And He’s already shown me the script for the happy ending.

I make plans to ring in the new year with them. And I realize I’m already ready to say it.

“Happy new year.”

Not because it’s a chance for a fresh start, a re-do.

But because every new year is written by the same Author.

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” Is. 54:10