Happy Rebirth-Day to Me!

A brightly-colored birthday card that reads

So I heard somewhere that we should celebrate our own Jubilee, the day when we learned that there is a way for all our debts to be forgiven and that Jesus makes everything new. The day we, personally, spiritually, returned to our ancestral home on earth, as one of God’s chosen. For me, that day was July 24, 2008. Seven years today. I am 41 years, six months and two days old, so that is just a smidge more than 1/6 of my life thus far. Maybe God really does make us new because some days, I don’t even remember that other 5/6, or the fact that I lived them without Jesus. Those are good days, the days when I live like there was no “Before”. But there was time before that, and that day I was kind of wallowing in the fallout of that life before. And there was a moment that ended that life before. Come back with me.

I was two months and four days out of a relationship that I had been in for 14 years. I had left, filed for divorce and was living with my three fairly young kids in a domestic violence shelter. It was the bottom of the bottom for me. I had realized that I was afraid of the man that I had really given up everything I possibly could to love. We had filed the first round of paperwork, I had said terrible things about him and he had said terrible things about me. I would like to say that I told the truth and he lied, but…who knows? And it really doesn’t matter. Either way, I was completely devastated. I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life, including, but not limited to, where we were going to live and what we would eat. I was immersed in the really ugly parts of my memories of my marriage and, yet, wondering if I should go back and, yet, knowing that it was too late for that. I won’t go into details but, I can say, it was dark up in here.

After walking out, I had gotten back in touch with a friend of mine from high school. He had just gone through a divorce as well and he had told me that the only thing that got him through his rough times was his faith in Jesus. His hope, if he had any at all, lay there. And I figured I could use a little hope (and a little distraction), so I started asking questions. And, in faith, he did his best to answer. Or, at least, point me in a good direction for the answers. =)

So we were doing sort of an impromptu “Bible introduction for the heathen.” And I comprehended it, but, it didn’t mean anything. It was mostly a literary exercise for me. I didn’t really know what Eli was getting out of it, if anything, but he kept coming back, so I did, too. Anyway, I knew what the Bible said. God created the Universe, man sinned, chaos ensued, Jesus came, more chaos. *shrug* I always believed that something created the Universe, I just wasn’t so sure about the Bible and the picture of God that it painted. I didn’t really get it, and what I did get, I wasn’t positive I liked. I kind of liked the idea of some of it and I wanted something to believe in, but I just wasn’t sure. I guess, like Tenth Avenue North, I wondered: “Could the Maker of the Stars hear the sound of my breaking heart?” Seemed unlikely.

Then, after about a month of this, Eli sent me an email with a link to a blog post.

This is something I believe, too, only have never said as well:

http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2008/07/psalm-8-the-common-epistemology-of-faith-and-science.html

“Science thrives on open questions. So does faith rightly understood. Both are journeys into the unknown with the lightest of equipment: a metanarrative or mathematical formula for a compass, and a few fixed reference points on a map that may, who knows, be turned upside down.”

Journeys into the unknown, with the lightest of equipment. Bravo!

And when I got there, I followed a link in the post to a beautiful translation of Psalm 8 that changed my life. (It’s still there. You can go read it, too, if you haven’t already. It’s really good. I’ll wait here while you do that.) God uses what he will to change and turn us. I am grateful for John Hobbins and his lifelong love of Biblical language because God used him to change me. Him, and a guy who kept me too late at a gas station more times than I can count.  =) Anyway, I don’t have to tell you about that moment in retrospect, I wrote about it while it was happening. I just had to. Happy email stimming, I guess.

What is man that you mind him; children of dust that you note them?
Psalm 8:4

Wow, all I have to say is “I.  Love.  Kung Fu.”  Seriously, though, that is beautiful.

Speaking of beauty, I went to the post and read it (you know, you are the only personal correspondent I have that I have to do research to reply to his emails…).  I’m reading it but it’s not making any sense cuz I’m like “what’s Psalm 8?” </end mongoloid voice>  so I go read the text and translation post.  I’m looking at the Hebrew and I don’t understand it but it just looks really cool (thanks, btw, I just barely started learning Latin and now I want to learn Hebrew) so I go to the English.

I kid you not, I’m reading it and I just start tearing up.  I’m trying not to cry because Mae’s right there and I don’t want to explain to her why I’m bawling over the computer but, honestly, if she weren’t here I’d just have been sitting here bawling.  I think it was that line – what did he call it? – the pivot: “what is man that you mind him; children of dust, that you note them?”   I was just overcome by this sense of awe and humility and the beauty of the language and I just can’t even express it.  Children of dust.  I suddenly got it.  How miniscule must a person be to God, just one more thing in a universe of beautiful things that He created and yet He has a plan for us, He actually gives a rip.  He actually loves us, Eli.  I can’t describe it, I don’t have the words.  I’m having an actual physical feeling in my heart.  From reading a Bible passage.  I mean, I have had physical reactions to literature and music and art but this is something entirely different.  I think I’m high on God’s love or something.  And I don’t know what to do with it.  But I know it’s gonna be okay.  Everything is gonna be okay because God loves us, Eli.  And, right now, that’s all that matters.

=)   (that’s not an indication of a joke, that’s actually me smiling),
o*

PS Thank you for being there because you are the only person that I could tell this to and I had to tell someone.

So, yeah, he could definitely hear my breaking heart. And he came here to break it. And then unbreak it. It boggled my mind then and it still does now, when I take the time to think about it. Which I don’t do enough. So I try to remember and celebrate those moments when I am really aware of God’s presence and the bigness of him. Remember those feelings so I can call them up  and live there more often. Maybe one day, I can live there all the time. In awe before the throne. Until then, I am blessed enough to know the exact day that God saved me (the exact hour really, since emails have time stamps on them), so I celebrate it. Thank you for joining me this year. And, speaking of Tenth Avenue North, in the soundtrack of my life, here is the song for today. And seven years ago today….

Rainbows and Crosses: Conservatives can support gay marriage?

rainbows and crossesI’ve been thinking about the whole same-sex marriage thing. It’s hard not to, it’s really been on people’s minds lately. To be honest, until now, I never thought that much about it. Before I was saved, it was a no-brainer. Of course, homosexuals should be able to marry! Everyone should be able to marry. Rights are good, everyone needs all the rights they can get. I was what I have lately heard called a Social Justice Warrior Woman. We didn’t have that phrase but I would have loved it when I was 18 years old (though, I think I would have preferred Girl. Or Girrrl). I just called myself a Radical. Radical What? you would say. I would cleverly retort, What have you got? Of course, I believed in civil rights for everyone, because what did I care what anyone wanted to do in their bedroom, anyway? All I cared about was that they were people and people need rights. And not to be oppressed. And not to be assaulted or murdered just because of who they are or what they look like.

But then I got saved. I have talked about this before, but just in case you missed it, I am pretty conservative. I am a fundamentalist. I believe that the Bible is 100% the Word Of God, every letter God breathed through the people that he chose to do his writing. I believe that God made them male and female and that he intended for a man to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. I am even complementarian. I believe in male headship of a marriage and family as a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church, as well as the hierarchy and authority in the Trinity. He is my servant leader and I am the helper suitable for him.

And, also, in addition to all that, I support the legalization of same-sex marriage. But let me tell you why.

A week ago, I probably wouldn’t have said that. I probably would have said I don’t really care, unless legalizing it makes everyone stop talking about it – both sides – then I’m all for it. (Oh, silly Past Olga! So innocent, so naive. Like that will ever happen!) But then I started reading all these articles about how it does affect me. America is going to hell in a handbasket and shortly our churches will be bankrupt and our pastors will be in jail for not performing same-sex marriages. Or it affects me because we need to love these people and tell them the truth. That means the truth of their sin and what they are doing to themselves and the country. Honestly, I don’t really like either of those options.

But I started thinking, maybe this does affect me. Or, at least, if it doesn’t affect me, I should have an opinion about it. Maybe the Bible gives some direction here. As far as I can tell, the Bible never says that we should go to sinners and just tell them that their sin is sending them to Hell. Jesus certainly never did that and he hung out with plenty of sinners.The only people he said were going to hell were Pharisees and legalists. And it wasn’t because they were in same-sex marriages. So that can’t really be how we’re supposed to love them. (Especially since that’s not even true. Sin doesn’t send us to Hell. Not accepting Jesus as our savior is what sends us to Hell. But that is probably for another post. Anyway…)

So, then I read this in Isaiah:

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong;and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

-Isaiah 58:6-11

And I realized that this is not about keeping marriage safe and making sure that our idea of marriage gets legislated or not. This should, like everything else, be about freeing the oppressed, removing yokes and alleviating people’s suffering. What we do to the least of these.

And it’s not just protecting them from others. This is the yoke that we put on them, the finger that we point, the wickedness that we speak in the form of hatred and prejudice and ignorance.
Who is our neighbor? The man who is beaten on the side of the road and we don’t get to ask if he is saved or who he goes home to at night before we bandage his wounds. And if we can prevent him from being beaten in the first place, that is our first priority.

History has shown us that as different groups get more civil rights and legal protections, they are treated better, on the whole. The vote for women and people of color, the repeal of Jim Crow laws, the removal of laws that prevent interracial marriage. These things came before better treatment for women and people of color. Is society perfect? No, but it’s getting better and we are moving in a good direction. Is same-sex marriage (or marriage regardless of gender like they have in Ireland, which would be my preference) the end-all and be-all of the sexuality and gender based civil rights movement? Not by a long shot, but respecting all relationships as “real” relationships is certainly a step in the right direction. Is this how we remove their yokes and alleviate their suffering? It has to be better than what we’ve done so far.

A photo of a Bible page from the ESV, with the text of Jeremiah 29:7 highlighted in orange. "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."
A photo of a Bible page from the ESV, with the text of Jeremiah 29:7 highlighted in orange. “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

In Jeremiah 29, the Lord tells us to seek the welfare of the city we live in. What does that mean? For years, I think Christians have tried to do this by legislating behavior which is in line with Christian ideals (e.g. sodomy laws, laws agains prostitution, etc.) But behavior without faith is not what God is after. Remember those Pharisees? Micah 6:8 says, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” So maybe seeking the welfare of the city has to do with seeking justice for it. And not just for ourselves but for everyone, even while they live Babylon. And it doesn’t mean telling them how to behave, maybe it means making sure that they are treated like human beings, protecting them when they can not protect themselves. I think this means physically and politically. Using our power, status, resources and love to help others get the justice and security they should have.

1 Peter 2:12 says, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evil-doers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” What if we did that? What if we did good for others and loved them, even when they spoke evil against us? What if they said, “Those Christians, they hate us. They want to beat us and kill us and they think we’re going to hell.” Then, what if we didn’t say, “No, we love you but you are going to hell and you need to stop sinning. We’re right!” What if, instead of that, we said, “No, we love you! We want to see you treated justly and fairly and we will fight to see that happen.” Full stop. No telling them what marriage should be or how they have rebelled against God, or how they are wrong, wrong, wrong and they should listen to us, because we are right. None of that. What if, while they are still sinners, we laid down our rights for them, laid down our opinions for them, laid down our self-righteousness for them, laid down our lives for them. What if we just said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” hoping that HE shows them what they do so HE can forgive them? And what if we showed them Jesus and his grace and his forgiveness and his mercy, first by our actions, then by our words – or, better, God’s Word? What if we just let God take care of their sin, since he already has?

That’s the option I like. And it doesn’t require us to compromise our values or beliefs. It only requires us to keep our mouths shut, when our beliefs are not relevant. Standing up for the truth doesn’t mean spouting it off all the time. And the fact that homosexuality isn’t in God’s plan is not the only truth there is. We can stand up for the truth that every single person is created in God’s image and, therefore, deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Not to be oppressed and dehumanized. I think legalizing same-sex marriage is a step in that direction for people in the LGBTQIA+ community. That’s why I support it. And I still consider myself a conservative Christian.

The funny thing is, when it really came down to it, I got right back to where I was when I was a Radical, Social Justice Warrior Girrrl. (I may still be that. A little.) When it comes to government, for the most part, people need all the rights they can get, all the protections they can get. All I care about is that they are people and people need rights. And not to be oppressed. And not to be assaulted or murdered just because of who they are or what they look like.