Aletheia, part ten

(…continued from Aletheia, part nine…)

The truth is, we are called to bear fruit in our motherhood. To produce it and to carry it. Put your hands to the work before you, planting and tending and praying for the coming harvest. The truth of who we are as mothers is that we are the nourishers and nurturers of the bodies, minds, and souls of the children entrusted to us. But it is not by our own strength that we can accomplish these things. It is only through the enabling strength of Christ, and His work on our behalf, that we can strengthen the bodies, instill wisdom in the minds, and fatten the souls of our children. This takes repentance. This takes humility. This takes a posture of being a student alongside our children, even while we labor as teacher. This takes being a discipler of our children, even while being a disciple of Christ alongside them.

Truthfully, there is no more important work than that of discipling our kids. Bringing them along with us to the Lord. We do this by faith, by example and by leading. Do your kids see the primacy of Christ in your life? Do they know that Scripture and prayer and repentance and forgiveness are the backbone of life? Are they growing in their knowledge of God’s Word? Are the affections of your family’s hearts set on things above or things on the earth? Is your family being conformed to this world or transformed by Christ and His Word? Are you pursuing being noticeably different than the world around you? How do your kids stand out as undeniably God’s children? Only the Lord knows the heart, but a tree is known by its fruit. Act, speak, and dress like redeemed people, purchased at a price.

Give your children opportunities to fellowship with faithful Christians outside your own home. Faithfully take them to worship corporately every Sunday morning. Show them the loveliness of the Lord’s Day by setting it apart from six days of work. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Memorize Scripture in context. Teach through the practice of catechesis. Confess your sins against your children quickly and honestly. Forgive generously when your children sin against you. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Smile in the faces of your children, and show them the joy of the Lord. Rejoice when your children rejoice, and sorrow with them when they are sorrowful. Show your children the grace of hospitality in the every day sacrificial acts of feeding them, clothing them, laying down your life for them even as Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. Tell your kids what you love about them, and what makes you thankful to be their mama. Speak blessing over them. Make your home a haven to which they long to flee for refuge, comfort, rest, fellowship, feasting, and joy. Lace the Word of God and the fruit of the Spirit through everything, because it is in Him that we live and move and have our being.

Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.” Capture your children in the wonder of Christ. Proverbs 3 says, “Do not lose sight of these—keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble. If you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.”

Be encouraged, Mamas.

“But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or letter. Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who has loved us, and has given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17)

~~~

Heavenly Father, you are holy and you are good. You are the perfect husband and father. Please help us to rest in you, to bless Your name at all times, and to offer ourselves as willing vessels to be poured out for Your sake. Please mold us into godly wives who are complements to the specific husband you have given each of us, to be helpmeets that speak the truth in love, to grow in virtue, to be home centered home lovers. Please also mold us into godly mothers who love to nurture and nourish the children You have given us. Make us wise to the needs of our children’s bodies, souls, and minds. Cause us to be winsome examples for the sake of Christ, and enable us to lead our children in Your ways. Give us joy in the posture of humility as we repent of our ignorance and seek to grow in knowledge and wisdom even as we work to educate our children. Thank You for promising to be the God of our children, to those who love You and follow Your commandments, even unto a thousand generations. Enable us to mimic You in being kind, forgiving, generous, comforting, and truthful. Please return our minds and conversations to things which are worthy of meditation: honor, virtue, joy, and truth. Give renewed vision for who we are as Your people and how You have equipped us to work for Your kingdom. As we take dominion over the gardens allotted to us, please make us fruitful and bless the work of our hands. We offer ourselves to You in faith, knowing that You created and called us, and You will faithfully complete Your work in us. Please establish us in every good word and work, blinding us to falsehood and peeling the scales off our eyes to see Your truth. We thank You, and in the name of Jesus we boldly ask for blessing in all of these things. Amen.

Aletheia, part nine

(…continued from Aletheia, part eight…)

For a few years, I had an only child—and he took up all my time. Any extra time I had seemed to be spent researching how I could stop having miscarriages and give him siblings on earth. Motherhood was a very full time job, right from the get go. Now, a dozen years later, my five kids still take up all my time. I did not have more time then, I do not have more time now. Whether you have one child or ten children, motherhood is every day, around the clock. And I think this is never more true than for the homeschooling mama. I have some friends who don’t homeschool, and the things they accomplish during the hours when their children are away at school sounds absolutely fascinating to me. Floors get mopped and pianos get dusted? Hydrangeas get pruned and dental appointments happen on schedule? Who knew?! Their fruitfulness looks different than mine in many ways.

But mopping and dusting and pruning and planning aren’t paramount to me—nurturing and nourishing my children is. So I need to remember not to glance sideways at the fruit of others, but rather labor faithfully in the orchard where the Lord has placed me.

I would like to read you some wonderful words from a book called Building Her House, by a non-homeschooling mother:

“The wise woman understands that children are a source of joy and blessing entrusted to her by God, and she is to be a good steward of them, seeing that she takes care to dedicate her children to God and train them up as God’s own.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p61)

“Nothing we do in our homes is neutral; it will either feed and nourish or starve and impoverish.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p63)

“Life in our homes should be characterized by joy and thanksgiving so that children are taught and nourished in a way that takes their souls into account.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p17)

“Mothers must model forgiveness and repentance by seeking it themselves when they have been too hard on [their children].” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p71)

Here are some key words that I gleaned from those quotes: wisdom, understanding, joy, blessing, entrusted, steward, care, dedicated, training, feed and nourish, starve and impoverish, thanksgiving, souls, model, forgiveness, repentance.

When was the last time you sinned against one of your children? When was the last time you asked their forgiveness? Over the years, I have grown in my repentance and begging forgiveness, but I still have much room to grow. Is your home characterized by joy and thanksgiving? Does the ambience in your home take the souls of your children into account? What might look different about it if you really thought about pursuing that nuance? Do you ever think that you are doing something neutral? That how you act, the work you do, the discipline or training of the kids, even the way you do the laundry could be neutral? Does it make your brain do a somersault to consider the idea that every action you take and every sentence you say will either nourish or impoverish your child? Do you look at your children as treasures that have been entrusted to you by God? Do you steward them well? What kind of profit will He see when He looks at these children in your care? Do we see beyond the diapers and fitful nights and math troubles and sibling squabbles and teen angst and acne and gangly limbs… to daily remember and recognize that these are immortals in our presence? Do we constantly consider the fact that the souls of these children will live forever? How can we live circumspectly to keep that in view?

Starting with prayer and praise is always a good answer. Seeking the face of the Lord and asking for Him to give that perspective and circumspection.

I also find that there are things I can do to put myself in the posture of that perspective. For instance, in the morning when I first see my children, I endeavor to hug them and greet them with a smile—whether or not I slept well, feel well, or even have an emotion of kindness at that moment. Praying with them and for them throughout the day, at prescribed times as well as in the heat of various moments. Remembering that not only are they as deeply human and personal as I am but that they are image-bearers of God and beloved of Him, my brothers and sisters in the Lord as well as my offspring—and in remembering their frailty as humans, making a point of physically connecting with them through the day by kissing a forehead, squeezing a hand, rubbing a shoulder, scratching a back, snuggling on the couch. Not all of my children are as fed by physical touch as some of them, but it is a good practice to fill up their love tanks not only with tasty meals, hot chocolate, funny stories, and the occasional date night, but also with physical touch.

Another thing I think is important is to leave my children at night with a feeling of comfort and confidence and care. No matter how hurried the bedtime routine has to be even on our latest or craziest nights, it must include praying over the children, singing them Numbers 6:24-26 as a blessing, and saying “peace be with you” to each child. I think it is really important for them to go to sleep knowing that we are at peace with one another, that I am asking for God’s blessing on them, and that I care for them intimately. I also have one child who struggles a little more than the others with feeling loved or wanted or appreciated, so I try to make a point of often saying “I am really thankful for you. I am thankful to be your mama. I really love X about you.” Nurturing and nourishing the mind and soul of my children is just as important as feeding and providing for their physical bodies.

Of course one of the main passions I have as a Christian homeschooling mother is bringing my children with me to the feet of Christ. It is important to nourish and nurture their bodies, their physical and mental selves, of course. But the sacred work of discipling them for the Lord is where we really get to live out what we say we believe. And that is precisely because we bring them with us to the feet of Christ in everything else we do.

Mark Chanski wrote, “How does a married woman with children forge a noble reputation in God’s eyes? She hammers it out on the anvil of sacrificial mothering. She gives herself wholly to the sacred mission of nurturing God-fearing children, from a spiritually healthy home environment… My goal is not to raise low-maintenance children, but lion-hearted ones.” (Womanly Dominion, Mark Chanski, p102/p141)

My friend Mystie Winckler has a saying: Repent. Rejoice. Repeat.
This is such a good and easy reminder to constantly have running through my head as I go about my day at home—one sinner running a three ring circus starring five other sinners. My day should be a continual cycle of repentance. Repenting of apathy. Repenting of selfishness. Repenting of a snappy response. Repenting of an unkind tone. Repenting of wrong priorities. Even education itself is a kind of repentance: it is repenting of ignorance.
I ought to be the one practicing repentance most openly, as I seek to bring my children with me in the sanctifying journey of daily living with the cross of Christ ever before us. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… Where is the one who is wise?… Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?… We preach Christ crucified!… Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God… God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are… and because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Corinthians 1)

Amy Sloan writes, “God’s delight in us is due solely to the perfect obedience of His Son, not our amazing homeschooling.” Our daily living is to be one of repentance and rest in what Christ has done for us and for our children. Amy continues, “humility and repentance is an essential posture of the teacher and, in imitative turn, of the student.”

Like all children, mine ask constant questions. There is a continual seasoning in my homeschool days, constant peppering with How and Why. You might think, since my children are still fairly young and their grandest of questions are still relatively narrow in relative scope, that I would “have all the answers.” Or maybe you come from a background full of the classic responses of, “because I said so” or “it just is.” But my own ignorance is a reason for repentance, and the humility I long to see in my children needs to be exemplified in me as their example. George Grant says that “true education is a form of repentance. It is a humble admission that we’ve not read all that we need to read, we don’t know all that we need to know, and we’ve not yet become all that we are called to become. Education is that unique form of discipleship that brings us to the place of admitting our inadequacies.”

I have learned to love the posture of humility as I honestly reply to a question with, “I do not know.” And the real joy comes when I don’t leave it there. We repent of the ignorance by then saying, “Let’s find out together.”

C.S. Lewis said, “The surest sign of true intellectual acumen is a student’s comprehension of what it is he does not know; not what he does know. It is a spirit of humility that affords us with the best opportunity to grow, mature, and achieve in the life of the mind. It is knowing how much we do not know that enables us to fully embark on a lifetime of learning; to recover to any degree the beauty goodness and truth of Christendom.”

G.K. Chesterton encourages us that it is, “Far better to seek the wisdom of the common, the ordinary, and the humble—for God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Research with your kids, plumb of the depths of the unknown hand in hand, seek knowledge and instruction and wisdom together. Unhindered by arrogance. Leave pride and self-righteousness and laziness at the door. Actually, kick it right out into the back alley. Teach your children that you are walking with Solomon in the pursuit of wisdom. If you don’t know where to begin, begin with Proverbs 1. Continue through Proverbs 31. And then do it again! Read Proverbs with your children on repeat. Not because the act of simply doing it will add any jewels to your crown, but because bathing ourselves in the wisdom of God slowly saturates us with Himself. And that is ultimately what we ought to be pursuing in our motherhood, in our homeschooling, and in every other aspect of who we are.

(…continued in Aletheia, part ten…)

Aletheia, part eight

(…continued from Aletheia, part seven…)

My friend and mentor Cindy Rollins says that “Motherhood is a place of dreamy hopes and crushed fantasies and the hard, hard work of sinners in relationship with each other day by day.” It is the truth about sin that makes us genuinely Christian mothers: we are sinners raising sinners, and we learn together about the life God calls us to: at the forefront being a life of humility and repentance and forgiveness and grace. Bear that in mind as we move forward.

Scripture is absolutely dripping with verses about children, childrearing, parenthood, and familial living. Familial terminology is in every book of the Bible, one way or another. There is no escaping it. One of my favorite places to get wisdom and encouragement for my entire Christian walk, including motherhood, is in the Psalms. Psalms 127 and 128 were some of the first Psalms I committed to memory using song, and I can not count the moments where I have just repeated them over to myself, or aloud to my children, as a way to wash us and fill us with the truth of the gospel.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127) “Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 128)

Okay, now, two things right out of the gate: when it says “man” in these chapters, let’s just agree not to get our skirts all rumpled about it; and also, let us remember that it is not the number of arrows which brings victory, but the potency with which they fly. Our God never quibbles over quantity, but rather uses the weak to confound the strong, the small to bring down the mighty. Straight arrows with stout hearts are those which fly true when released from the bow. If you have weak, crooked, splintery arrows, it doesn’t matter how many are loosed from the bow—they will not fly true and hit the target.

Psalm 139 is another beautifully poetic look at motherhood, more from the child’s perspective. And Proverbs is written from a father to his son (with a bit at the end from the mother), so of course there is much to be gleaned about parenting throughout that entire book, as well as basic Christian living and the importance of following lady wisdom and turning away from lady folly. Particularly good Proverbs to note when it comes to motherhood might be the following:

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (22:6)
“My son, keep your father’s commandment and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” (6:20)
“Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old… Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.” (23:22, 25)
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” (1:8-9)

As mothers, we have countless duties and responsibilities, but I like boiling it down to a few broad categories for discussion. We are called to bear fruit, to nourish, and to disciple. There are any number of ways to accomplish these goals, and the Lord is gracious to give each mother special skills and particular creativity. I also find one of the main ways God speaks of a mother in Scripture is as a comforter: a refuge, a place of rest and warmth and haven.

“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you…” (Isaiah 66:13)
“But I have learned to feel safe and satisfied, like a young child in its mother’s arms.” (Psalm 131:2)

Bearing fruit is something God made us to do—and it doesn’t just mean that we are created to produce babies. It does include that, but it is not limited to that. We are to produce good fruit wherever our hands go to work. One of my favorite things I ever read was a section from Rachel Jankovic’s book Loving the Little Years, where she describes what a fruitful mother should look like. This was during a time when I was particularly struggling with not looking like a fresh, young sapling anymore—and reading her encouragement that I ought to look like someone who has borne fruit was somewhat mind-blowing to me. Such a simple thing, yet it stunned me. Of course I was like a fresh, young sapling at one time—and even after a couple of harvest seasons, I was still fairly flexible, trim, and aiming high. But once the apples began falling from my branches in subsequent years, it soon became undeniable that as my roots went deeper and my boughs got heavier, my bark got thicker and I became more stout. Also more rigid and brittle in places. But at that point, we have to realize that it becomes less about watering the tree and staking it up during winter storms, and more about faithfully gathering the apples up so they don’t rot on the ground or get eaten by critters. The tree gives up its own glory, and the attention is turned onto the glorious fruit. And this is good.

I have been called to be fruitful in sacrifice, and to sacrifice in my fruitfulness.
I am being physically and emotionally used up and spent in order to bear fruit—in the form of babies, yes, but then also in the longer work not just of bearing them from my body but bearing them through their childhoods. Now I bear their burdens alongside them. Some of the sacrifices I make are so easy they don’t even feel like sacrifices—other sacrifices are genuinely painful, but my job includes the joy & privilege of laying down my life in all the big & small ways to bear my children from year to year to year. Nurturing and nourishing them, in body and mind and soul.

(…continued in Aletheia, part nine…)

Aletheia, part seven

(…continued from Aletheia, part six…)

First we talked about who we are as each being a particular helpmeet given to our particular husband, and then we talked about the spiritual side of being a wife who is growing in virtue—and I think they spiral together beautifully, when we seek to bless and help our husbands through the work of our hands and prayers, which both require virtues abundant… and now we turn to a third aspect of who we are as wives.

We read in Proverbs that “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands.” (Prov 14:1) And again: “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” (Prov 15:6) So to begin with, let me say that as we are talk about wise domesticity, I think those two Proverbs are a really good foundation for the conversation. In Building Her House, Nancy Wilson asks, “What is it that makes our homes truly pleasant places? Without a doubt, it is godly wisdom. When wisdom is at home, home is a delight.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p99) Extrapolating the opposite, I think we can also infer that when there is folly at home, home is unlovely.

Again referencing Titus 2:3-5, we look to the Apostle Paul for wisdom. This is where we read that older women are to “be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things”—and then we can ask, what are the good things that need to be taught? Wisdom wants to know so that we can build our house! We want to understand so that our home can be established! We want to grow in knowledge so that the rooms of our domain will be full and pleasant. Well, we read on to see that the older women are to “admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands”—and why is this? Paul gives us the exact reason: “that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” (Titus 2:3-5)

It isn’t so that we will have the best house on the block, the most curated Instagram, the cutest family walking in to church on Sunday… It isn’t even so that we will be known as a fantastic wife or as a super godly Christian. Nope. The reason the older women are to teach the younger women these things is for God’s glory, and to uphold His holy Word.

When I was young, I always found it interesting that young women need to be taught to love their husbands and to love their children. At least those things seemed to be such natural things—even if we struggle with discretion or chastity, goodness or domesticity or submission. Loving my husband and children? Why would I need taught that?! As I have gotten older, I have realized that my understanding of love has grown, and I now know that loving my husband and loving my children actually takes practice and discipline! Learning how to love these particular people given particularly to me is a lifelong education as a wife and mother. And I do not want to grow weary or lazy in the pursuit of this good work. So having older, wiser women to remind me—admonish me—to love well and love specifically and love in truth is a real gift. And as I get older, I get to link arms with the younger women to remind them of these truths as well.

Love your husband. Love your children. By doing these things you will proclaim the purity and verity of God’s Word.

In 1 Peter we read that we are to “be of one mind, having compassion for one another, loving one another, be tenderhearted, be courteous, do not return evil for evil but rather blessing…” (and later), “be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4)

Who we are in our emotional, mental, and spiritual selves is who we are in our active, physical selves as well. We live our theology! It comes out in our thoughts, words, and actions. What you believe necessarily shapes how you live. So these passages from the New Testament are telling us as Christian wives how we are to live out our theology in wisdom. I am still in the mid-generation of womanhood: I have older women who teach me, and I have younger women who ask to learn from me. But right here are the most solid things I have both learned and now teach as a Christian wife: I am to be reverent, chaste, a teacher of good things; I am to love my husband and love my children; I am to be discreet, home centered, and obedient to my husband; I am to be compassionate, loving, tenderhearted, courteous, prayerful, forgiving, and hospitable. (And any of it, by God’s grace alone.)

A number of years ago, I started this blog, calling it Joyful Domesticity. I knew that those were two words that I needed to have constantly in front of me to remind me of my duties: I was called to be joyful and called to pursue the arts of domesticity. I would dare say that those many things I just listed off could boil down roughly to joy and domesticity. Those two things are indescribably broad, yet beautifully narrow.

Allow me to share with you an excerpt from an essay called, “The Emancipation of Domesticity”:

But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness. ~ G.K. Chesterton, from “The Emancipation of Domesticity”

I think the words “gigantic” and “hugeness” are lovely there. The height, depth, and breadth of our work as wives and keepers of homes is undoubtedly enormous. Nancy Wilson says that “It’s one thing to have strong views about the glorious calling of vocational domesticity; it is another thing altogether to live it out, day after day.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p39) Yes, it is exhausting. But it is not exhausting because it is small, unimportant, or boring. It is nothing short of the business of the entire world, bundled up into one home, over which we as wife are regent. It is our job as keeper of the home, or homemaker, to keep it and make it. Not as a place to constantly be heading away from, bustling hither and yon, but as the place to which everyone is magnetically pulled. A place to gather and feast, to celebrate and rejoice, to grieve and mourn, to study and learn. Home is not just where we rest at night: it is where we create community, foster fellowship, live life.

Domesticity is a broad field and encompasses all of life in and around the home. We could go back to Proverbs 31 again, and see the incredible skills and talents and capabilities exhibited in her creative, innovative industries… but let me simply say, we can not create a to-do list (or a to-learn list) from Proverbs 31. That is not what we are called to do with this passage of Scripture. Rather, it is a description meant to inspire us toward our own domestic joys! That woman is clearly enjoying herself, flourishing and prospering, and using what gifts, resources, and opportunities God has given her. So we ought not individually feel burdened to produce something comparable to the Proverbs 31 description (what a relief!), but exhorted to follow the lead of her attitude, her industrious nature. No two homes will be exactly alike, but it ought to be our goal to have homes which are well-managed and which well-represent the family living there. Nancy Wilson said, “if we want to change the world one home at a time, then we have to start by taking dominion of our own homes.” We must determine to become skilled at the tasks God has assigned us.

Psalm 128:3 says, “your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house.” The wife is central, at the heart of it all. What a privilege! What a responsibility.

So in the heart of our house, we are to imitate our God, the Maker. We are to be making our homes, taking dominion there, subduing the dust bunnies and laundry hampers and our own selfish ambition. We understand that without Christian homes, there can be no Christian culture: each one of our homes is a building block in the big project of Christendom. Keep the big picture in view. And be a woman who fills your home with good things, pleasant things, necessary and true and lovely things. Glorified things! Hot meals, cold drinks, the best stories, good music, birthday gifts, laughter, justly metered work, limitations and consequences, cleaned messes, songs and back scratches. A woman who fears the Lord provides stability, comfort, beauty, and order in her home. This is wisdom. And it is a tall order, requiring faith, hard work, and a vivid imagination.

What I can lose sight of so quickly is that it isn’t about me doing or being these things. It is about Christ in me, accomplishing good works He prepared for me, in order to further His kingdom. It is about the work He accomplished for me as my Redeemer, and now I get to live in submission to Him. We could list off all the things we do as wife and homemaker: but none of it matters if I am not given over to the Holy Spirit.

So the third truth about who we are as wives is that we are given the vast dominion of the home to subdue, cultivate, craft, fill, and share. How we each live that out will necessarily look different from home to home—but living it out in wisdom will build your home and bless your husband when you are focused more on the work Christ did for you than on the work you now do for Him.

As wives, we get to shine the truth of the gospel by seeking to be obedient, wise, virtuous, helpful, domestic artists ~ all for the furthering of God’s kingdom.

(…continued in Aletheia, part eight…)

Aletheia, part six

(…continued from Aletheia, part five…)

The second truth we will consider now relates to how we can help our husbands. This truth is that, as godly wives, we are called to both ponder and pursue virtue—and this, my friends, is a great help to a husband.

“Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:10-11

That is an extremely familiar passage for many Christian wives, but it is something which ought to be deeply pondered as well as broadly known. First of all, it says “a virtuous wife”—but what is virtue? In 2 Peter 1:5-8, we see the exhortation; “giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This tells us that if we are faithfully increasing in these things mentioned by Peter, the result is that we will be rooted and fruitful in the knowledge of Christ. What better endeavor could there be for Christian women? Our goal ought to be to grow in our faith and love for God, and through those avenues we will grow in good works. So back to the question of virtue: a virtuous woman is a woman who exhibits godly character traits, because virtues are qualities that God’s Word defines for us. Of course some virtues may fall out of favor with the world because unbelievers can call evil good and good evil. A modern dictionary simply defines virtue as “conformity to a right standard” or “moral excellence.” For us, God’s Word shines the light of truth! In Philippians 4:8, we read that “if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Virtue is obviously praiseworthy, and we are commanded to focus and fill our mind with it. So we can see that we are to think about virtue as well as pursue it.

And underlying all of this, we must remember to be keenly aware that without the grace of God, none of our labor is worth anything. Our pursuit of holiness, our quest for virtue, is all of grace or it is all for naught. It is of primary importance for us to know and remember that He is the One making us fruitful. 1 Corinthians 15:10 says, “but by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Indeed, I can see why a virtuous wife would be so invaluable. I can see why the heart of a husband could safely trust in a virtuous wife. I can see that her fruitfulness in virtue would overflow to keep him from lacking gain. A virtuous woman would purpose to do good to her husband and to avoid sinning against him.

So in the twenty verses which follow in Proverbs 31, while it does not list out virtues by name, it does describe the characteristics which a godly wife could seek in her quest toward growing in virtue.

What qualities come to mind when you think of the word “virtue”?
Fruits of the Spirit maybe, Purity, Holiness, Chastity, Obedience, Diligence, Contentment, Prudence, Wisdom, Humility, Courage, Kindness, Loyalty, Gratitude, Patience, Domesticity… this is clearly not an exhaustive list. But it is a starting point.

What qualities do you see in Proverbs 31 specifically as you read through 31:10-31? What words would you use to describe her? Going straight through the twenty-one verses in this passage, this is the progression I could see at a glance:
Valuable, Valued, Trustworthy, Productive, Good, Industrious, Resourceful, Diligent, Hospitable, Generous, Savvy, Practical, Strong, Fit, Thoughtful, Confident, Attentive, Creative, Compassionate, Courageous, Prepared, Artistic, Innovative, Respected, Respectful, Capable, Honored, Preparing, Organized, Rejoicing, Wise, Kind, Observant, Blessed, Admired, Godly, Fruitful, Rewarded.

I don’t know about you, but I am simultaneously humbled and have my sails filled by that list. And I think it is a good reminder about two things specifically. One, how broad my calling is—how I could never hit the apex in an entire lifetime—so I ought never have an excuse of growing bored or stagnant. And, two, how narrow my calling is, because I am not called to be all these things to all people everywhere—rather, I am called to be these things right here, at home, with my people, amidst my community.

So this second truth about who we are is that we are called to be virtue-seeking wives. We are called to ponder and pursue virtue, godly characteristics laid out for us throughout Scripture. This is an incredibly vast nuance, covered with a wide lens, not a zoom. Thankfully, we each have the rest of our lives to “add to our faith, virtue.”

(…continued in Aletheia, part seven…)

Aletheia, part five

(…continued from Aletheia, part four…)

Because we know who we are and Whose image we bear, what are the truths about how we now live? What are we called to do as Christian women? The demographic I am addressing today is a particular niche of Christian women: those who are wives and mothers. There are many other ways to walk out faithful Christian womanhood, and I don’t pretend that what I am about to say is anywhere near exhaustive. Just the tip of an iceberg. And since I was speaking to a small group of homeschooling Christian mamas when I first wrote this, that is the iceberg I chipped.

So while there is some philosophy here, and definitely distinct theology around it, this is simply basic encouragement for a narrow audience, encouraging specific work. This is nothing new or shiny, but age old common wisdom.

Having previously studied for truth in Scripture about Christian identity and woman, who are we then as Christian wives? How we do know the truth about this? How ought we live as godly wives so that the gospel shines here?

Nancy Wilson wrote that “Faithful Christian marriages are bright lights that defy the lies of a dark, dark world.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p43) We must not be blind to the barrage of lies about marriage which face us in this dark world, and ask God to open our eyes to His truth about Christian marriage.

First, the smallest, most basic truth we see right in the very beginning of Scripture is this: marriage is between one man and one woman. Marriage is a covenant made between the man and woman, and God—it is not just a legal contract, although in our culture it does include that. But a covenant is deeper, and has associated with it specific blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. I like to pull a bit of Paul in here by saying that it is a mystery: for marriage is meant to be a picture for us of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church. Ephesians 5:32 reminds us, then, that we are to be singleminded in marriage: pursuing the good of our one spouse, husband loving and wife respecting and both mutually serving one another—because this is the plainest way to show the mystery of Christ. His love and sacrifice for us. His singlemindedness toward His chosen people. Of course, Ephesians 5 is where we can learn about headship, leadership, responsibility—and the complements: submission, obedience, and shelter.

But something that seems less often described is perhaps one of the best verses on marriage in the entire Bible. Proverbs 12:4 “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.” A brief comment about rottenness in bones: this is where an ungodly wife literally tears down her home from the inside out. In the very marrow of her husband, the rotten fruit of an ungodly wife will fester and become putrid. But an excellent wife? An excellent wife is a crown, and she makes her husband kingly. Think about that: the godly wife is not described as a queen, but a crown. 1 Corinthians 11:7 puts it this way: “the woman is the glory of the man.” Crown! Glory! These are royally superior words, ladies. Here is what makes this such a fantastic verse, according to what one of my old pastors used to say: “God has so designed marriage that a husband can not outgive the wife. She is where his strengths are manifested, and come back to bless him.” The husband provides, the wife glorifies. Let me give you just a couple of examples:

The husband provides a house. The wife makes it home.
The husband assures it is livable. The wife assuredly makes it lovely.
The husband makes it secure. The wife makes it habitable.
The husband brings home the groceries. The wife makes a feast.
The husband gives the wife a seed. She gives him a baby.

Our husbands are responsible to love and provide, but we are responsible to respect and glorify. We take even the meager and make it into an abundance.

The first man and woman were given to one another after God said in the second chapter of Genesis, “it is not good that man should be alone.” He said that He would make a helper comparable to him. I know two of those words can tend toward stumbling blocks for some. “Helper” and “comparable.” Helper = someone who helps, aide, advisor, colleague, partner. Comparable = suited, fit, corresponding to. A wife is called to be a complement to her husband—his counterpart, a balance, one half of the pair. This is how God designed it from the very beginning, and this is what it means to be the helpmeet to your husband. Not that being a helper is lesser. Not that needing a helper is lesser. But that being his helpmeet means you are the counterpart, filling in your husband’s gaps, taking what he does and making it even grander.

1 Peter is one of my favorite epistles, and the exhortation to wives reads like poetry in many ways. We are told that “wives are to be submissive to your own husbands,” “not to let your adornment be merely outward, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” And what proof does Peter give us for these things? He says “in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.” So we are given a strong indication that we are to be submissive—to our own husband—and we are given the encouragement of being like Sarah in Scripture if we pursue goodness with courage. (1 Peter 3)

How does that word “submissive” make you feel? I think a lot of people in our modern age find it makes their skin crawl. It rather makes me feel safe, comforted, covered, provided for, lead. But ultimately, I don’t honestly care how it makes any of us “feel”—because here it is plainly in Scripture, and I am not allowed to construe the Word of God if it makes me uncomfortable. I am called to be conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29), and not to be conformed to this world—in fact, Romans 12:2 says that I am to be “transformed by the renewing of my mind, so that I may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Wow. I am to renew my mind and to be conformed to the image of Jesus. And it’s very plain in Scripture that it is good, acceptable, and God’s will that I would be submissive to my husband.

I did vow to be obedient to my husband when I married him, and I remain confident that this is biblical and right. In fact, in Titus 2:5, we specifically read that women are “to be obedient to their own husbands.” There is no question that as Christian wives, we are called to submit and to obey. We might as well embrace this reality with joy and gratitude. If you are married, thank God that you have a leader, someone to follow, somewhere to find comfort and shelter. And ask God to give your husband a wise and generous heart that longs to see his wife flourish, his family blessed, and God glorified. Now, if you do not have a godly husband, please seek counsel with older, wise, godly women, and with the elders of your local church. Ungodly and abusive husbands are all too common, and they ought not be the norm. We are all married to sinners—but godliness is shown by repentance and forgiveness and grace and kindness. The best way to be a godly wife to an ungodly man is by prayer and an excellent witness, according to Scripture. But you are not to be abused. Remember that you are an image-bearer of God AND a weaker vessel. Therefore, walk in wisdom and with circumspection. Do not be blind, but seek godliness with wisdom.

My dad has said that most often, when he has made a less-than-great decision in life it has been when he has not heeded the wisdom of his wife. I have also heard him lament that it is a fool who does not seek his wife’s counsel and respect her input. Mark Chanski, in his book titled Womanly Dominion, wrote, “I desperately need a wife who is well-educated, well-read, precise thinking, culturally aware, financially shrewd, and theologically mature. Such a wife is a potent force of inestimable value.” (Womanly Dominion, Mark Chanski, p149) He just flat-out admitted that he needed a wife. Not a mousey wife with no backbone, not a doormat to walk upon. A skilled helper.

And lest you think that it is demeaning to be considered even a skilled helper, consider this from G.K. Chesterton, for he said: “Feminism is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.”

So the first truth is that you were given to your own husband as his complement: a glorifying helpmeet, to obey and submit to his leadership. You are in the charge and care of your own husband—not men or husbands in general, but YOUR own husband. And you are called to be his particular helper—not to obey and submit to men or husbands in general, but your own particular husband. Nancy Wilson says, “A wife is to be a helper to her husband, not a blind follower.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p45)

You are comparable to your husband: not just physically created in such a way as to physically fit together, although that is a particular glory of marriage—and could have been discussed previously in regard to our female qualities—but God also tends to delight in putting marriages together where we balance one another out in a variety of ways. Our differences and similarities challenge, encourage, match, or make allowances for one another. And this is good. This is part of being comparable to your husband. This is part of being his helper.

This is part of meeting your description as your husband’s wife.

(…continued in Aletheia, part six…)

Aletheia, part four

(…continued from Aletheia, part three…)

The Bible doesn’t actually expand a whole lot on the idea or specific realities of our femaleness, but rather emphasizes the femininity which follows. I think at the very least, Scripture indicates that while males ought to be masculine, females ought to be feminine. In fact, we ought to be undeniably feminine: no question about it! Scripture speaks to women in our different roles: as wife, as mother, as servant, as disciple, as older women, as younger women. Women in the Bible are also described with a vast array of adjectives: beautiful, skillful, tender, refined, delicate, loved, worthy, discerning, wise, wealthy, gracious, receiving honor, precious, trustworthy, interested in doing good, pleasing her husband, prudent, strong, diligent, generous, kind, excellent, worthy of praise, faithful, fruitful, worshipful, sacrificial, worthy of remembrance, bearer of a faithful testimony, uncondemned, believer, worshiper, glory of man, quiet learner, submissive, weaker vessel.

As you peruse that list of descriptions, do you have a feminine picture in your mind? What words stick out to you? Are they good words?

There are also numerous negative ways the Bible describes certain women: drunken, perverse, rebellious, desolate, cursed, wicked, idolatrous, barren, forbidden, adulteress, evil, wily of heart, without discretion, quarrelsome, fretful, heart of snares and nets, deceived transgressor.

That really adds some weight to the conversation. May the Lord protect us from turning to the ways of those women. And wouldn’t you weep to have any of those words attached to one of your daughters? These are not lovely, godly, or remotely feminine words.

After just quickly running through those things relating to various women in the Bible, can we see what kind of women we ought to be? How would we pursue that kind of femininity in order to shine the light of gospel truth? Is there a way to proclaim the Gospel simply by living my life as a faithful Christian woman? By being undeniably feminine?

In general, we can see that a biblical woman should be discerning, gracious, generous, and kind. A biblical woman should be focused on serving the Lord and serving her neighbors—her closest neighbors being those with whom she shares her home. Godly women also pass on their faith through evangelism and discipleship. They sit at the feet of Jesus to learn from Him, to serve Him, to beg for His mercy, to praise His name.

Proverbs is one of the best places to learn about womanhood and femininity—and I’m not just talking about the beautiful portrait of queenly grace in Proverbs 31. Lady Wisdom is someone I long to emulate (read Proverbs chapters 1-9 to see why). We want to avoid being quarrelsome or worrisome. We do not seek to ensnare, capture, or deceive men. We ought not dress seductively or act thoughtlessly. We must work hard and work broadly. Our feminine touch ought to reach beyond our families and homes into our communities and industries.

We have touched on our gender and our feminine affect, but what about the cross-section of those two things, which would be the femininity of our physical bodies?

As female, we have the honor of bearing womanly bodies. What does this mean? And is it significant? Elisabeth Elliot asks, “Is there invisible meaning in its visible signs—the softness, the smoothness, the lighter bone and muscle structure, the breasts, the womb?” Let me ask you: have you read Song of Solomon lately? What does most of that poetry bring to mind? Most of it does not evoke images of a masculine body, for sure. Now, to be honest, I’m not quite certain I understand enough about Hebrew poetry and wisdom literature to really get a handle on things like gazelles and does—but at least clusters of grapes and a heap of wheat make some sense to me.

But having the body of a woman is not just romantic metaphor. It is also sacrificial and painful, even downright gory. I think as a small child, I would envision the woman with the flow of blood who touched Jesus’ hem as someone who simply had a wound that wouldn’t scab over. Of course I later learned that Scripture is full of stories including menstruation and social uncleanness, lots of sexuality, even menopause and barrenness. And until I understood how breastfeeding and milk ducts work, I don’t think I grasped why Pharaoh’s daughter would have given Moses back to Jochebed his mother. I now understand wet nurses and menstruation and endometriosis and polyps and childbirth and miscarriage.

I know something about having a woman’s body. But how do I treat this body as uniquely feminine? And how ought my body be used to proclaim the truth of the Gospel?

I would like to read a rather lengthy little quote from Mark Chanski’s book Womanly Dominion (which is not my favorite book on the subject, but has some good snippets):

“The false stereotype of a Christian woman being a helpless and frail mouse, who passively shades herself under the parasol of her soft femininity, and adoringly waits for her husband to do all the heavy lifting, is shattered by the Scriptures. Yes, the godly Christian woman wears beautiful ornaments that are precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:4), but her jewelry is not only the necklace of a gentle and quiet spirit, but also the bracelets of strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:17, 25).”
“It’s absolutely and wonderfully true that women are rightly designated in the Bible as the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7) who are to display a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:4). But such soft and tender qualities do not tell the whole story. There’s much more to the challenging mission assigned to the godly woman by her Maker, Redeemer, and Lord.”

Let us be reminded now that Eve, like Adam, was called to take dominion. To dominate over something. As women, we are called to imitate the God whose image we bear, by dominating the world over which God has placed us. (Genesis 1:28) We were given work to do with our physical bodies. If I may be so bold as to say it, I think God even assigned to us, women’s work. Let’s ponder the fact that in our womanhood we are given specific strength, specific limitations, and specific honor.

1 Peter 3:7 says that “husbands are to dwell with their wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel.” I know this isn’t necessarily speaking about the physical vessel of our bodies, but bear with me for a moment.

I remember the wife of my former pastor saying to be honored rather than flummoxed by being called the weaker vessel—after all, I would rather be a crystal goblet than a 5-gallon bucket. Both are worthy vessels, but they are made for different purposes. I would no sooner drink wine from a 5-gallon bucket than I would haul grain to the cows in a crystal goblet. Yet it makes sense for each vessel to hold water. Made differently for different purposes, but made of equal value for the Maker and His kingdom.

Perspective really makes all the difference, doesn’t it? Elisabeth Elliot writes, “The special gift and ability of each creature defines its special limitations. And as the bird easily comes to terms with the necessity of bearing wings when it finds that it is, in fact, the wings that bear the bird—up, away from the world, into the sky, into freedom—so the woman who accepts the limitations of womanhood finds in those very limitations her gifts, her special calling—wings, in fact, which bear her up into perfect freedom, into the will of God.”

We must be unequivocally fervent in our Christian womanhood. Fervent in being unabashedly female and undeniably feminine. What should Christlike fervency be for us, so that the Gospel shines through us as women?

I will confess to you that the physical, bodily aspect of womanhood has been surprisingly difficult for me. I have not always fervently embraced this. As someone who struggled deeply with body image for decades, and then as someone who struggled to bear children, I still struggle with emotional scars—at the same time, I also recognize others’ myriad struggles that come with size, weight, physical abilities or disabilities, hormonal imbalances, skin conditions from psoriasis to acne, surgical scars, menstrual complications, infertility, disease… it seems as though bearing the body of a woman can be an ever-changing and challenging task. But what I remind myself, and what I want to briefly say here, is that this is the body God knit in my mother’s womb; these are the hands and feet that serve Him; this is the voice I was given to raise for Him; this is the body He gave me to carry 14 babies and safely deliver and nurse 5 of them; this is the skin, the hair, the height He crafted just for me; this is the body He gave me to offer to my husband; this is the body He provides for my children to find cuddles and comfort; this is the body which will someday die, decay, and fertilize a bit of dirt; this is the body that will leap from the grave when my Savior returns to bring renewal to all of creation! This is the body that He will resurrect, restore, and remake.

One of the most potent things we can do to treat our bodies as Christian women is to offer them up in thankfulness to the Lord. To acknowledge His creation and creativity in each unique design. To remember that each part of my body is to be used for Him. To honor this body as a dwelling place of His Spirit. To joyfully give my body for my husband to enjoy and for my children to be nourished by.

Another surprisingly potent way we can treat our bodies as Christian women is to adorn them in a feminine way. Yes, of course, I know that we are to pursue and prize the adornments of a meek and quiet spirit—yes, amen, and absolutely. But if you revisit Proverbs 31, or think about Rebekah or Ruth or Esther—the Bible quite plainly and without apology talks about the beauties and adornments and cleanliness of lovely women. Dress yourself and your daughters in feminine beauty. There ought to be no question about it: yours is the body of a woman. Female and feminine and fervent.

As Elisabeth Elliot said, “You are, by the grace of God, a woman. This means you have responsibilities. You are fully a woman, and this means you have privileges. You are only a woman, which means you have limitations. Thank God for this, and… live it to the hilt!”

So I encourage you to remember who God made you to be. We find this right from the very first chapter of Genesis when God said He made man in His image—male and female. He made you female in every cell of your body. He made you feminine and womanly. You are called to fervently, boldly embrace your female reality and joyfully pursue femininity.

This is the truth we rest in as Christian women: we are to take dominion and bear fruit, for we are fearfully and wonderfully made, skillfully wrought by God who has a great sum of precious thoughts toward us—we rest in Him, for we belong to Him.

Father God, I ask for Your blessing upon each woman who reads this. Please bless each of us as we seek to honor You with our very selves. Help us to meditate on Your truth, and to rest in who You are as well as in who You created each one of us to be. Enable us to be creative in the pursuit of femininity so that we stand as light in an increasingly dark world. Make us more like Jesus, in whose name I pray, Amen.

(…continued in Aletheia, part five…)

Aletheia, part three

(…continued from Aletheia, part two…)

We have thus far considered truths in Scripture about our identity as Christians, and now we will ponder the reality of living as physical representations of God’s image.

So what does it mean to be a woman, a female?
Where do we find the truth about this in Scripture?
And how are we called to shine the light of Jesus in our womanhood, our femaleness?

In answer, I have three succinct categories. We are to be unabashedly female, undeniably feminine, and unequivocally fervent.
Female, feminine, and fervent.

The fact that I am a woman does not mean that I need to be a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does mean that I need to be a different kind of woman. A woman who is actually rather countercultural in our day. A woman who recognizes that God made me specifically who I am, right down to how He coded every miniscule detail of my DNA—the red hair, the blue eyes, the XX pattern on every single cell in my body.

Nancy Wilson writes, “Christian women, of all women on earth, ought to think and dress and act in a manner that is completely contrary to the world.” This is currently a hot-button topic in our culture, yet in reality it is biblically very straightlaced and plain.

In our so-called politically correct society, it is essential that we think biblically, speak the truth in love, and honestly laugh out loud at the modern absurdities regarding gender roles and the fluidity of sexual identity.

I find it incredibly ironic that gender reveal parties seem to be all the rage, in this era when our Mister Potato Heads are being stripped of their titles, and in a web search I could find as many as 22 genders listed. Yet the most basic gender science of all is on wild display every time a baby is born—the baby is either a boy or a girl. I have to laugh at National Geographic type discoveries of ancient remains where they isolate DNA, declaring the body male or female; or a recent Nova article where cremated remains were deemed identifiable as female. The inconsistency of progressive modernists is absurd.

I remember a tiny niece of mine watching me change my baby boy’s diaper, and she marveled at his physical difference from her. She looked up at me in awe: she both saw (pointing from my baby to herself) and spoke the difference: “boy, girl.” As Psalm 8 says, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, You have established strength because of Your foes.”

From the very moment of conception, we are created and then subsequently born either male or female. Now, I am a doctor’s daughter and I have had enough exposure to pregnancy and infancy complications that I do know there are genetic mutations and complications which are not simply XX or XY. But I don’t think we need to go into those rarities for this conversation—God’s typical way of creating healthy image-bearers for Himself is by creating them male or female. Beyond the scientific, genetic, built-into-our-very-DNA and observable with our own eyeballs… Scripture (which inerrancy and efficacy we established earlier) tells us that this is so. In Genesis 1:27 we read “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” And then after He gives them work to do and purposes to fulfill, we read in verse 31, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

God certainly was pleased with Himself over what He made, for it was only after He created the first humans in His image that He proclaimed His creation very good. Nancy Wilson says we ought to be “delighting in the way God has made us male and female and not blurring the distinctions.” God wants us to be unabashedly female.

We ought to revel in a humble awe over the divine creation of sex and gender. We are not just to acknowledge or accept our gender, and we are not to somehow seek to overcome our sexuality. We ought to go so far as to affirm it and rejoice in it. Elisabeth Elliot says, “We seek to be faithful to it as we seek to use it as a gift of God. Unfaithfulness to one’s sex is unfaithfulness to everybody… The husband who is not faithful to his masculinity defrauds his wife, and the reverse is equally true.” Elliot also says, “If you can understand your womanhood, you will know fullness of life. Hear the call of God to be a woman. Obey that call. Turn your energies to service. Whether your service is to a husband and through him and the family and home God gives you to serve the world, or whether you should remain, in the providence of God, single in order to serve the world without the solace of husband, home, and family, you will know the fullness of life, fullness of liberty, and fullness of joy.”

You are female. Rejoice in that. Unabashedly.

(…continued in Aletheia, part four…)

Aletheia, part two

(…continued from Aletheia, part one…)

As a Christian, then—as someone who belongs to Christ—what is it that I profess and proclaim?

If I say to my children, “children, what do we believe?” they will all answer with a loud, confident recitation of the Apostles’ Creed.

The Apostles Creed

Like my children, I was raised on Bible verses, Bible stories, sermons, and songs. As I have grown, I have learned catechisms alongside my children—which are essentially miniature creeds, broken down into question and answer format, to teach myself and anyone else who listens to me, what I do profess and proclaim. The New City Catechism is the third catechism I have memorized in tandem with my children, and I continue to learn and grow and deepen in my knowledge of Christ and Christlikeness and Christianity through this pious practice of catechesis.

But going back to Scripture, we see in 1 Corinthians 15:3, that the Apostle Paul begins writing what Alisa Childers (of Another Gospel?) called one of the earliest creeds. He says that the most important things are our beliefs that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas and then to the twelve—and then on to more and more witnesses. So the most basic tenets of the faith are right there: Christ truly died and Christ was truly resurrected.

If you do not have creeds or catechisms as part of your Christian practice, please allow me to highly commend them to you. The Apostles’ Creed and the New City Catechism are both approachable and Scriptural and truthful (but there are lots of other similar resources that could equally bless your family). The Apostles’ Creed is from the early church fathers themselves, and the New City Catechism is a modern tailoring of historic catechesis. I would be more than happy to share more with you about these things any time. Creeds and catechisms are a beautiful way to develop the heart of a disciple. And as someone who belongs to Christ, I am His disciple. And children—particularly the littlest ones—are hardwired for memorization and recitation. They thrive on it, they love the process, and it is good for their souls. The martyr William Tyndale in the early 16th century encouraged all Christians to memorize the entire book of Romans. Wow! But that is where the beauty of concise things like catechisms and creeds really shines. Work your way slowly into larger portions of Scripture. I was pretty pleased when my children and I memorized Psalm 103 together a couple of years ago… but the entire book of Romans would definitely require practice and perseverance.

(Check out Crossway and ChristianityToday for more information on the practice of catechesis.)

I know that I belong to Christ, and I know what I profess and proclaim… so how do I then live as a Christian, letting the light of the Gospel shine here?

Two of the things that should flow from our lives as Christians are evangelism and worship. We need to be evangelists—and there are many ways to share the Gospel with others, whether you deliver tracts to doorsteps, spend time on mission trips introducing indigenous tribes to Jesus, show hospitality to your neighbors through acts of mercy and generosity, or invite unbelieving family members to join you in services or events at church. Regardless of how this plays out in your individual life situation: you are called to share the love of Jesus, and tell others about Him, share Scripture with them, and give a defense for the faith and hope within you.

Paul writes wonderfully about these things in his first letter to the church in Corinth:

If anyone loves God, he is known by God (1 Corinthians 8:3). Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor (1 Corinthians 10:24). Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Do not be contentious (1 Corinthians 11:16). Suffer together and rejoice together (1 Corinthians 12:26). Pursue love (1 Corinthians 13), and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1). Be infants in evil, but think in maturity (1 Corinthians 14:20). Let all things be done for building up (1 Corinthians 14:26).

In 1 John chapter 4, we read more about Christian life being one called to love. This is where we really see the truth of who God is, who we are as His children, and how the Gospel light shines here:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him, and He in God. We love because He first loved us.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

And how do we know what the commandments of God are? Luke 10:27 teaches us that the law or commandments is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And 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.”

If these things inspire me to do anything, it is to worship Him. To reflect upon His massive mercy, and return praise to Him. As someone who belongs to Christ, I am called to be a worshiper. You are called to be a worshiper. Worship corporately, worship privately, worship alongside your children, worship in quiet, worship aloud. Worship by declaring the holiness of God and rendering due praise unto Him.

This is the truth we rest in as Christians: we belong to Him because He chose us in Him to be His people. We love Him because He first loved us, and now we are called to walk forward in love and good works for His glory and in His image. We are to be disciples learning from Him, evangelists sharing about Him, and worshipers giving honor and praise to Him. We can fully rest in the knowledge that we belong to Him, and that it is because of what He has done for us—not because of what we do for Him.

(…continued in Aletheia, part three…)

Aletheia, part one

I was really delighted to be asked to speak at a local retreat! When I was asked if I would speak on “truth that shines,” I simply began to pray that God would lead me to the topic that the women would need to hear. I had no idea who would be attending this event, the background or baggage, preconceived notions or presuppositions that would be coming along for the ride.

In the end, I decided to focus on a very high-flying, broad view of how to discern truth from Scripture about who we are as Christians, women, wives, and mothers—and how we ought to live in light of those realities of Truth. The Greek word for truth is a beautiful term: αλήθεια (aletheia). In ancient Greece, this was used in a lot of philosophy, to designate full disclosure and the reality of being unconcealed: truth.

The Truth of Who We Are

  • as Christians
  • as women
  • as wives
    (homemakers)
  • as mothers
    (homeschoolers)

and how the light of the Gospel shines here

In case you are new around here, I will briefly introduce myself. I’m Melissa Joy, and I have been married to my husband Steven for almost fourteen years. Ten years ago we built our house on a plot of land beside my parents’ property in the Pacific Northwest—there, my husband runs his Bible software company Olive Tree—there, I plan annual Paideia Northwest conferences to encourage moms in the Christian education & upbringing of their children—and, most importantly, there we seek to raise our five children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

I am a second generation homeschooling mama, and I love spending my days delving into stories, songs, histories, sciences, and messes of all kinds with my always-too-precocious children.

I am also a who-knows-how-many generations back Christian mama. I was raised with five generations of Christians alive at once, attending the same church (we regularly filled two long pews in the balcony) & having Sunday evening dinners together every week at Grandma’s house. The faithfulness of God to my great-great grandparents and beyond is astounding. Having such a long standing line of faithful Christians to stand on is a humbling thing, but a glorious heritage to follow. We take up our cross to follow Him, but His burden is easy.

As we look together now at the subject of discerning truths, those are just little pieces of truth about me as an individual. Telling the truth about me allows you to know me. The truths that we now turn to are what allow us to know God. He is truth, and so my hope is that by time we are done here, we will all know our Lord a little more intimately. These truths are not new—they are as old as creation. And they are graciously, generously both broad and simple.

We turn to Scripture in order to seek truth. I believe in (and love) 66 fully inspired and Spirit-breathed books in the canon of Scripture. When it comes to certain topics especially, I just don’t even see the need to try saying anything eloquently because the Word of God is right here at my fingertips! My desire is to thumb through the Scriptures now in search of Truth, beginning with this Psalm 139:

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thoughts afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!”

Something that really strikes me in this particular Psalm is the way David writes about both our spiritual selves and our physical selves. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and the glory of God is expounded when we contemplate His hand in both our spiritual and physical life. Those are the two things we will begin contemplating—who are we spiritually and physically?

The majority of people who would read my blog, probably including you, are Christian women. That is both a spiritual and a physical designation. Fearfully and wonderfully Christian. Fearfully and wonderfully female.

So what does it mean to be a Christian?
Where do we find the truth about this in Scripture?
And how are we called to shine the light of Jesus in our Christianity, corporate and personal?

I would like to suggest that three ways we ought to shine truthful light as Christians are by being disciples, evangelists, and worshipers. We are disciples when we seek the face of the Lord to learn at His feet, like Mary the sister of Martha, in Luke 10. You know the story, right? Martha was bustling about the house, and fretted because Mary was sitting at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He said. Jesus told Martha that she was worried about many things, but Mary was singleminded. In fact, Scripture says in Luke 10:42, “One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” She was taking the part of a disciple, and Jesus says that this is good. So we must begin with being disciples, eager to learn truth at the feet of Jesus, saturated in His Word.

Throughout the history of the church, true ideas and false ideas have grown together, and it’s up to faithful Christians to be watchful and diligent to compare every idea with the Word of God—we must prayerfully consider His Word as we discern everything else life and culture throws our way. Especially in this world of having a “31 flavors of ice cream” kind of Christianity smorgasbord, we must be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

On an average Sunday, my family drives almost an hour to reach our church. I have not tried to count all of the churches we pass directly on our way, but it is undoubtedly dozens—including my parents’ church, my brother’s church, and multiple churches where good friends of ours worship. And the point is this: there are countless houses of worship even right in our county. Many of them are definitely preaching Scripture, gospel truth, and pursuit of faithful living. (Amen! Praise the Lord!) But many of them likely are not. How are we to discern the truth of the Gospel? How do I even know what it means to be a Christian?

According to Scripture, the term “Christian” was first used in Antioch—Acts 11:26 is the first place where the Greek word Χριστιανός was used. It is a noun which literally means “one who is like Christ.” It is not a casual participle saying that those folks over there are kind of Christ-ish. It is its own designation. Christian. One who belongs to Christ. One who is part of His body. There are multiple ways this can be nuanced, probably according to which church tradition you study: and, often, it can be associated with the time of baptism or some kind of conversion experience.

So, the truth is, I might say to you that I became a Christian when I was baptized in 1996—I can tell you the jumper I was wearing (it had sunflowers on it) and some of the people who were in the room—because that is the time when I visibly joined the Church.
Or I might say to you that I became a Christian when I was a toddler—I don’t remember it, but my parents have told me that at bedtime one night while my daddy was playing guitar and singing to me, I said I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart—so that is probably the time where I prayed some semblance of “a sinner’s prayer.”
Or I could tell you that I was a Christian by the time I was born—I had faithful Christian parents, (some) faithful Christian grandparents & great grandparents—and I was raised in the church from the womb, not ever knowing a single day where I was not taught to sing and pray and read my Bible and repent and forgive and trust in Jesus.
But then again, the truth is, it was two millennia ago when Christ died at Calvary, thus atoning for my sins and sealing His promise of everlasting life to me… and it was long before even that when God chose me to be one of His children—in fact, Ephesians 1:4-5 says that He chose His people before the foundation of the world, predestining us for adoption as His children.

But what does this mean or why does it matter? How does this tell me anything about the truth of who I am as a Christian?

At its most basic level, to be a Christian is to belong to Christ.

I think a lot of times, we think that being a Christian means doing certain things, living a certain way, checking off certain boxes—like reading your Bible, believing in the dual nature of Jesus as both God and man, attending public worship on Sundays. Or maybe even legalistic things like dressing a certain way, avoiding certain substances, praying certain prayers.

But here is the thing: too often we focus on what we are doing as Christians. We need to focus on what Christ has done for us.

We don’t belong to Christ because of the things we do, the theology we believe, or the way we live our life.

Rather, we do the things we do, believe the things we believe, and live the way we do because we belong to Christ. Who we are is Christ’s! What we do flows out of that reality.

When we belong to Him, we walk in His ways, we seek to become more like Him, and His Spirit produces fruit in us. These things, like salvation itself, are by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Salvation is not procured by our good works, it is a gift of God. He gives us this salvation and eternal life as a gift to receive with humility, thanksgiving, and joy. We can not boast about it, except for boasting in Him (Galatians 6:14 and 1 Corinthians 1:31).

(…continued in Aletheia, part two…)