Around 8 months into my pregnancy, I was struck with the reality of child birth – my lifelong worst fear. I began waking up in the middle of the night dreading what lied ahead – fighting to focus on what came after and not the pain involved to get there. I was so afraid I wouldn’t know when to go to the hospital, or I somehow wouldn’t notice or have contractions. I feared the physical exposure and vulnerability of the situation. I feared my anxiety would take hold and I’d labor for hours, fighting against the tension in my body. Then if that happened, my baby would get stuck or hurt and they might have to do a C-section (which I almost elected for just to spare myself the “what ifs”). I was terrified of the pain and how I would react – what if I said something hurtful? What if I broke down or became angry? I didn’t want to be like women on TV who scream in agony and hit their husbands!
All this fear began siphoning the joy of being pregnant. I wrote about this in detail in my last post, so in short: childbirth was my biggest fear since I was a little girl. Nothing sounded more horrifying than it and it was the number one reason I used to think I didn’t want children until God himself reshaped my heart on the matter in August of 2017.
The fear was so extreme, but I knew God had started me on this path and I knew I had to trust Him. I began laying these fears at His feet and making my requests known. I asked Him to let my water break so I would see the sign that my baby was ready, whether or not I had contractions. I hoped He would do this in the morning, after I had slept so I could have as much energy as possible. Most importantly, I asked Him to surround me with His presence, lend me His strength, and empower me with His joy when it was time. I wanted so badly to be a witness to everyone around me. I wanted to go through my worst fear with such grace they wondered where it came from so I could point back to the One who brought me there.
At 7 AM on January 22nd, I was not surprised to wake up feeling like I had wet my pants. I had this constant feeling the day before that my water was going to break the next day – which I assume was the Holy Spirit’s whisper. A surge of joy hit me as I realized what this meant: I was about to meet my baby! The slightest hint of fear tickled me for a fraction of a second before a deep sense of peace washed it away. The Lord had heard my prayers and concerns. I knew He would take care of me.
I decided to shower then woke my husband up declaring that it was finally time! I double checked with the OB-GYN, then off to the hospital we were.
Oddly enough, I hadn’t felt a single contraction.
They took me into triage where we were met with little urgency. Without any contractions, they probably figured I had just wet my pants after all. Fortunately, after two different tests of the fluid, the nurse came in to tell me my water had definitely broken and we would get to stay and have our baby!
Tears swelled in my eyes – joyful tears. Still no fear. God’s arms were around me in spite of my lifelong fear being before me. They took us to the labor and delivery room which would be my home for the next several hours, hooked me up to an IV, and induced me with oxytocin.
The nurse – who had jabbed me three times, broken two of my veins, and used immense sarcasm to “hide” her irritation about her day – informed me that now that the hormone was pumping into my veins, it was just a matter of time before contractions started and grew stronger.
This is about when I should have been afraid.
But God smiled on me instead and I felt excited. Whatever pain awaited me – God was with me, fulfilling His promise, and I would finally meet my baby girl.
I lost track of time, but eventually the contractions did start. They grew and grew, becoming increasingly more painful. I had elected for an epidural, but had to wait for them to finish pumping fluids into me before they could issue it. The contractions reached the point where it was hard to talk through them or think about much besides them. But as they truly began peaking, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
I began repeating that silently to myself as I endured powerful contractions, doing my best to stay positive and smile (after all, smiling releases endorphins, a natural painkiller!) Then finally, before it got out of hand, they issued the epidural on a drip system, handed me a button, and told me I could up my epidural with it at any point I needed. WHAT? I was so relieved!
A warm sensation started in my toes and crept up to my naval as my body numbed. The contractions increased in power, but I felt them less and less. Not long later, I began trembling uncontrollably. The labor nurse (a new nurse and my hero during delivery) told me that the trembling usually means that it’s nearly time for delivery, but at this point I had not even seen a midwife or OB-GYN, nor had anyone checked me for dilation.
The Lord’s peace continued to cover me in spite.
Finally, my midwife came in to check on me. She found a little pocket of amniotic fluid which she popped and then told me things would start moving a lot quicker now. She also informed me that most likely a different OB-GYN would be taking over by the time I was ready to deliver, since it would still be a bit longer.
Again, we waited. The labor nurse came and turned me on my side, propping some weird peanut shaped ball between my legs. She switched me to the other side 15 minutes later, then came back to switch me after another 15 minutes, but decided to check my dilation first.
She stood back up, paging someone on her device to tell them I was “complete.” Then she told me I could start pushing.
Start pushing? After all that, it still seemed alarming to me. This was it! It was time to put forth all the effort I had, face this fear, and have my baby – and oh, the fear finally started to creep in.
The joy of the Lord is my strength, I repeated the verse to myself. I put my smile back on and focused on that. The Lord was delivering me of my fear. I was delivering my baby – a child of God, a daughter of the King of the Universe. This was no time to recoil.
I had no idea how to “push”. I had decided against watching or attending classes because I was concerned it would worsen my fear. But I knew the Lord had made me and chosen me to do this – which meant educated or not, He would be sure I could do it. I clung to that and imagined the best case scenario where it was not difficult and she came right out. I remember saying something silly to my husband and mom about how the baby was going to “slip out like a fish” which became my new vision and prayer request. It made me laugh to think about it that way, and that joy was precisely what I needed to stay calm.
The labor nurse set me up and instructed me on what to do. We did a trial, which to all of our surprise since this is my first baby, I managed to get it right and immediately started pushing my baby down. I praised God and continued to pray and meditate on the Word He’d given me.
The joy of the Lord is my strength.
The nurse called for the OB-GYN, which began a whole mess. The OB-GYN decided that since I was “prime” (a first timer) that I had a long road ahead and she had no need to hurry. The nurse and at least two others outside the room fought to convince the OB to get in there since now, the midwife was gone.
Luckily, my nurse stayed with me, reassuring me she could and would deliver the baby if she had to, but she wanted the OB to show up. She had me stop pushing, hoping to delay the delivery until someone else came in, but at that point, my baby had already begun to crown so she knew she didn’t have long. Word came in that the OB was “on her way” and the nurse had me start pushing again. At that point, I didn’t really care who delivered the baby, I just wanted to get it done!
As the pushing went on, and my nurse prepared herself for the real deal, word finally came in that my amazing midwife was in the building and had come back to deliver my baby, even though her shift was done.
The OB was still nowhere in sight.
When my midwife arrived, she was equally surprised with rest of us to discover that, somehow, I was about to deliver this baby in a matter of minutes.
I knew it was God’s strength in me. He was dealing graciously with me and had heard every request and wish in my heart. I had no idea what I was doing or how I was doing so well otherwise!
About when my baby fully crowned is when the OB-GYN walked in. She was probably there for no more than 5 minutes before the nurse and midwife were cheering for me to, “GO GO GO! She’s right there! Biggest push of your life!!” And then even through the epidural I felt this sharp sting and pressure and I prayed one last time, “GOD GIVE ME STRENGTH!” and just like that my baby slipped out.
Like a fish.
All the pain I had in that moment subsided. Just like everyone had always said, you don’t even notice your hurting once you see your baby. I watched another nurse take her and begin wiping her clean. She was beautiful! She looked just like a little baby doll – not misshapen or grey or wrinkly. Absolute, God-breathed beauty. Her eyes were already open and looking around the room. Her cry was soft and brief, just enough to say she was alright.
My eyes flooded with tears. I looked up to my husband who was crying more than me already (love you). He faithfully stood beside me until I told him to go see her. Little Rhea looked right into his eyes and they gazed at each other – another absolute anomaly. The nurses gawked at her beauty and alertness.
Finally, they brought her over to me and I held my little girl. She even looked at me for a moment! It was the most beautiful scene. I thanked God, cradling my promised child, feeling absolutely awestruck that this baby and this story was mine. The Lord completely showered me with blessings that I know, in my human err, I don’t deserve. But His love overcomes my weakness and frailty. His love pours into me every time I look at Rhea.
Looking back, I keep thinking about the verse the Holy Spirit brought to me. The joy of the Lord is my strength. It is such a simple concept and yet so easily overthought, but in my experience I realized that when you truly trust God and you delight in Him and delight in knowing He is in control, you are filled with victory. My lifelong fear is now a story of praise for me to reflect on and remember God’s presence and faithfulness. The Lord is so very close to us. He knows every single concern we have and He will take care of us!
“And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10b
Special Shout-out to my Husband, Rob, and my Mom:
One of the most amazing ways God blessed me in this experience was through the love, encouragement, and support I received from both of you.
Mom, you have this incredible way of knowing just the right moment to step in and lift me up – with exactly the right words. I am so happy you were able to be there with me and that they let you do the honors of cutting the umbilical cord! I am so blessed to have you as my example as I begin my role of mother!
Rob, you are undoubtedly the most remarkable man I’ve ever known. Your heart is pure love and I am so overjoyed that we are on this journey together. Thank you for staying at my side as I delivered Rhea and taking care of me through pregnancy and recovery. I love you!
If anyone were to ask me what my greatest flaw or weakness was, I would not hesitate to say it is fear. As much as I hate to admit it, because with every fiber of my being I want to be brave, fear has always had a funny way of controlling my life. The worst part is that when fear truly gets its way with me, I feel like I become someone else. Instead of walking in God’s grace and light, I begin to shut down and hide.
Lately, fear has been heavily on my mind as I am about to face what I consider my greatest fear – childbirth. I can think back to when I first learned the truth about where babies come from and what my body was expected to do to prepare for that and all I’d have to endure while pregnant and then on top of that, the worst part, actually birth a human out of a very private area. I immediately decided that I would never have kids. Everything about it seemed invasive, embarrassing, uncomfortable, painful, and like something I just couldn’t do.
That fear only grew as I got older. I actually would beg God to allow me to not go through having a menstrual cycle just so it would be impossible for me to have a baby. When it started anyway, I celebrated that it was irregular, only happing maybe twice a year. For many years, I felt blessed by that. I thought God had answered my prayer to protect me from the horrifying experience of childbirth.
This fear was also part of what kept me away from dating, because I figured if I dated someone and that turned into a relationship, one day I might get married – and oh no, what if that person expected me to have a baby? Of course, deep down I longed for God to bring me someone to marry, but as I prayed for Him to do so, the fear in me hoped that he would be someone who was not interested in having children.
In adulthood, especially once I got involved in children’s ministry, my heart began to soften like crazy toward kids. God worked very steadily on me until I wanted a baby more than anything in the world. He’d given me an amazing husband who I could tell would be a wonderful father, and I started longing to see him in that role. I wanted to see us have a family of our own and create life with him.
However, not terribly long after becoming pregnant, my old fears started to rise. Every week that passes, every kick I feel, every time I can’t fit into another piece of clothing – I find myself fretting delivering this baby. There were several instances where the doctor’s mentioned situations that could lead to a C-section, and honestly, a part of me cries, “PLEASE!”. I want to be put to sleep. I don’t want to know what’s happening. I just want a scheduled day and time and to be unconscious and not know I’m in pain until the baby is in my arms to distract me.
But another part of me knows that is wrong. I know what lies on the other side of this fear – deliverance. Not just the baby’s! But mine. I know that once I do this, I will have conquered a near lifelong fear that has grossly affected my attitude and actions for as long as I can remember. I will have faced all the pain, humiliation, violation, and uncertainty that has kept me up at night for the last 8 months.
And here’s the thing –
The Enemy knows this. The Enemy is the breeder of fear. Our minds do all the work, but all he has to do is drop the right thoughts around us and when we pick them up, we fall into his snare. Our lives are riddled with fears that are meant to pull us away from God’s plans and purposes. My last two posts were both about purpose and how to discern what God’s plans are for you. It isn’t until now that I’m seeing with stark clarity that one of the easiest ways to spot God’s plans, is how afraid we are of it.
God specifically promised this baby to me. She means the entire world to me already and has from the moment God declared this promise. I know that having her is God’s will for my life and that all His other plans for me are somehow entwined with this sweet girl. I know the dreams and hopes God has breathed into my soul are lying on the other side of this event – and maybe just because this event is what will teach me how to conquer fear. But one way or another, I know this is God’s plan.
So, when I look at the years of fear behind it, I see the Enemy. He has been trying to keep me away from bringing this little girl into the world for years – practically my whole life! That tells me she’s a big deal to him. And thattells me she’s a big deal to God. If the Enemy is trying that hard to keep me from having a child, then he must know something I don’t about what this child’s God-given purpose is and what will become of me and my husband as a result of this child.
Why else would he torment me for years over it?
Now, I’m not writing this as a pep-talk for myself (though it is helping!). I’m writing this to demonstrate a way that Satan tries to take us from our purposes. The Bible declares, arguably over 300 times, not to be afraid. God tells us not to fear more times than He tells us anything else. I could restate a thousand sermons on this, but I’ll leave it at this: if God repeated it that many times, it probably means it’s the chief way the Enemy seeks to throw us off course and lead us away from God.
Satan doesn’t want us to fulfill our purposes. He wants us to choose the safe route and to cower before man, circumstances, and our insecurities. He wants us to believe that the things in this world are bigger than us and the God we believe in. If we cower, we can’t be the light of the world. If we cower, our voices are muted. Our witness is cloaked. Our testimonies become dust. We don’t fulfill our callings, we don’t lead people to Christ, and honestly, fear can separate us from God. The way we draw closer to Him is through obedience and trust – we can’t do that if we are too afraid to do anything He tells us to do!
So, what’s the answer? How can we be brave and overcome fear and the Enemy? How do we discern and fulfill our purposes in Christ?
The answer is ironic.
God tells us not to be afraid, do not fear, fear not, etc. all throughout the Bible, but then He says to fear Him.
I’ve written on this before, so I’ll keep the definition short: fearing God is to be reverent of Him. This means we are so in awe of God and who He is that we don’t have time to worry about earthly fears. This doesn’t mean we won’t feel fear, because we are human, but we don’t give in to it. We don’t allow it to control us. We know that our God is so high above our humanly fears that we don’t need to surrender to them. We know that if God said to do it, He will make a way for it to happen.
Imagine if you were more afraid to disobey God (out of respect and love of Him, not fear of punishment) than you were afraid to face the things He’s led you to? Think about it. If you dwelled on His character and power, thought about His track record, thought about His love and sacrifice for you – doesn’t it belittle the obstacles you are afraid of? What if we started to question our fears and pray God would reveal to us the purposes in them? What if each time we had to make a big choice in life we considered which one we are hesitant about due to fear and actually took the time to question why the Enemy might try to keep us from it?
The Lord’s plans for us often seem too big for us. They might be appealing, you might even consider them your dreams, but often times we shut them down out of fear. Fear is nothing but a tool of the Enemy – a way to paralyze us or run us off. Fear is not of God nor is it from Him. Remember 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” God gives us tools to overcome fear! Power. Love. Self-discipline. And most importantly, Himself.
So, what are you afraid of?
Maybe it’s the very thing you were created to do.
Push against the wind
Running to the storm
Where you lead
Though my feet are worn
Dirt may fill my eyes
Fear might steal my breath
Let my faith arise
In the face of death
Take me where
You want to go
Will shake me
Even in the unknown
Teach me how
To let it flow
Compass of my soul
(Show me where to go compass of my soul)
Thunder in the skies
Worry in my chest
Still my troubled heart
Help me feel your rest
As the flood surrounds
You will make a way
For me to walk ahead
Or stand in the rain
Spirit, I’ll follow
No fear will shake me
Teach me how
To let it flow
Compass of my soul
Compass of my soul
(Tell me where to go compass of my soul)
(Show me where to go compass of my soul)
When the storm shall break
And reveal the night
In the dark, I’ll walk
And await your light
With my faith renewed
And my heart refined
I will seek the One
Who gave His life for mine
Take me where
You want to go
Will shake me
Even in the unknown
Copyright 2018 “Compass” by Rylan Rivers
I was roughly ten years old when I first met a witch. She wasn’t much of witch yet, could not do anything magical or fascinating, but she believed in magic very much. And not just the fun fairytale magic we get in Disney movies. No, this young friend was aspiring to be a witch, just like her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. I never witnessed anything special, but they had tarot cards that supposedly could tell the future and if they could just tap into their spirit, just worship the gods and goddesses enough, maybe they would obtain power.
They called themselves Wiccans.
At about ten, raised Christian, I was not very familiar with the idea that people existed that didn’t believe in Jesus. It felt evil to talk about their being other gods – and didn’t the bible say to avoid fortune tellers?
Yet, I was a very unpopular and shy child, extremely troubled by social anxiety. I knew what my friend was into was dangerous to my faith, but yet, I didn’t want to lose my bestfriend. Plus, I trusted her. Maybe Iwas wrong? So, I let my curiosity wander.
Luckily, this friend moved away and the decision was made for me that I would return to my faith and not chase after magic. I mostly let it go, though I continued to be amazed at the thought of – what if?
When I was 13, my family and I had just moved – in the middle of the school year – back to our hometown from Texas. I still was riddled with anxiety and let’s just say – people loved to pick on me. I was not popular. I had no idea how to handle my frizzed out curly hair. My wire glasses were always a bit crooked since I never stopped trying to adjust them myself. For some reason, in spite of my mother and sister’s keen sense of fashion and makeup expertise, I always found a way to wear the least flattering clothing I had and bright green eyeshadow (I thought it would make my brown eyes look hazel…).
So, in short, I was a nerd and the new kid.
I made a friend who helped me make a lot of friends. She was Christian – or said she was, at least. And while I wasn’t suddenly a popular kid, I at least had some really wonderful friends for once and felt like I belonged somewhere. I became very close to the one friend in particular. She became my new best friend for many years. I don’t want to go into tons of detail for her privacy, but I will say after that first year she had traded her Christian title for agnostic. She was very interested in paranormal things – ghosts, psychics, and supernatural abilities. I had never totally lost my interest in it, and so together we spawned a bit of an obsession. It got to the point where I was not just studying psychic powers and ghosts, but trying to obtainpsychic powers and talkto ghosts. I thought that, somehow, I was going to help the ghosts get to Heaven. I also thought that God had gifted me with an ability to “discern spirits” – which in my interpretation meant, see, hear, and talk to them.
It was here that my life began to flood with darkness. Again, I’ll spare most of the details, but I often wondered if I was losing my mind. I started seeing figures, reflections, and strange lights. I would hear voices and other peculiar noises, like melodies. I even felt like someone had laid their hand on my shoulder, head, or arms on several occasions. This was also the same time I began writing dark music about death, suicide, the end of the world, and other depressing subjects.
I was a mess!
I remember my dad calling me and talking to me when I would go visit him. He knew something was deeply wrong – the Holy Spirit had told him. He prayed for me many times, and almost every time the scary things would go away for awhile… then I’d start to miss them. Then it would come back, and usually worse.
Now eventually, I became scared enough and strong enough in my very contorted faith to choose to let all these things go. I decided I would avoid paranormal things and try my best to stay focused on God. I told my friend I couldn’t be around those things and that they were evil. I straight up called it all demonic and prayed God would protect me. My friend was good about it. She always was very good at respecting my desire to return to God, even if she didn’t believe in Him.
Well, I finally get a few years out of the deep depth, with only a few occasional slips back into my love of the paranormal. I mostly spend my time writing books that I’ll never publish and talking to that friend about her own writing projects as well as mine. Yet again, once I got to my senior year in high school, I ran into someone new.
While I had mostly upgraded out of complete nerd classification, I was now just one of those people that went mostly unnoticed. I had a couple of great friends and I finally knew a little bit more about how to dress nice and wear my makeup correctly. But something in me just longed to be noticed.
This new person I met was a gorgeous and brilliant aspiring film director. She somehow chose to befriend me of all people and with her at my side, I suddenly was bursting forth my creativity. I started to show people my music, art, writing, and was directing films in our Filmmaking course. Everything was going up! People recognized me. People actually would talk to me, and not just to get answers on the homework! And then this new friend began to slowly unravel her beliefs. Her abilities of “foresight” and a vast knowledge about the psychic and witchcraft subjects that had finally forsaken. For a short time, I fell under the spell of curiosity again. But by graduation, I had remembered how much evil it provoked and we both went separate ways.
But even after school, I became close to a girl at work. She was very invested in psychics and tarot cards. Unfortunately, I had just taken a nose-dive with my faith and didn’t even know what to believe anymore so I thought that maybe this was what I was supposed to be following the whole time. I let her do tarot readings. We went and paid a psychic over $100 a visit for her to tell me what my future held and what I was to do. The psychic told me her power came from God and I believed it. Then I watched as the tarot readings and psychic predictions began to prove themselvestrue.
That’s about when I got into using crystal pendants for guidance and trying to open up my chakras to balance my energies and unlock my psychic power. But the worst part of this mess, is that even though my Christian faith was rocky, I still believed in God Himself. So, I prayed to Him and asked Him to answer me using the crystals and tarot cards. I asked Him to help me balance my energies. But I distinctly remember one day when I started feeling some conviction and I asked Him if it was okay to use these methods to communicate with Him – after all, the things seemed to work until I asked Him to respond.
Lo and behold, the Lord said NO!
Praise God, I began to filter those practices out of my life. Meanwhile, my friends got deeper into it until they were proclaiming themselves witches, praying to Wiccan gods and goddesses, and mocking my faith in God (though stating they supported me).
I wish I could say I cut off from everything and fully turned back to God right then, but it still took me a few years to stop desiring their ways. God actually had me separate from those friends completely in order to protect me, because I struggled too much to keep my faith. I’m grateful and still sad for the loss of all these friends, especially the later ones. I think about them every day. I have dreams about them and pray for them. But I know that God has drawn boundary lines for me, and thanks to those, I now can see that all that I got into before was evil, offensive to God, and made me a child of the devil.
I’m sharing this story, though I feel much shame over these things, because it is through all of this mayhem, God revealed to me my purpose and calling. He shared with me recently that I experienced all of those odd (and sometimes frightening) situations so that He could use me as a voice in spiritual warfare. God took my greatest mistakes and sins, and is now using them to draw me closer to Him and to use me to help others see the truth in those areas of darkness. I am embarrassed to say I essentially practiced witchcraft (while calling myself a Christian) but I am so honored and humbled that God would use me in spite of it, and use those experiences.
There is no sin in our past that God can’t still turn around for good. Nothing goes to waste, nothing is an accident. Our perfect God knows what He is doing by letting us stumble and get lost. And I cannot express how beautiful it is or how much purpose is instilled when you ask God to show you why He let you do the things you are most ashamed of, and He answers.
I also shared this story to raise awareness of a growing belief system. The New Age and Wiccan cultures have been increasing over the years. The belief systems focus on self-empowerment and self-reliance which I know are not all bad. There is also a very heavy emphasis on looking into the future, which God warns us against. The issue is that the power they try to obtain is real in a way. The future they see is often relatively accurate. But the power comes from the Enemy and while it might make you feel better about yourself, more independent even, it also corrupts you the longer you chase after it. Though I was more confident than I had ever been, I became a very selfish and angry person. I did a lot of things that I regret now! Seeing the future is also dangerous because it changes the way we act and can actually cause great damage when you try to obtain those things early or avoid them.
But there is good power. There is a good Spirit we can communicate with. There is a good God we can worship and rely on. When we follow Him, we are filled with Hispower and His wisdom. God can do far more incredible things within us and through us than we could ever do through the Enemy’s means (witchcraft, sorcery, etc). And His power in us makes us better. When God is our source of strength, energy, understanding, wisdom, and power He enables us to produce good fruits that will help us and other people. There is nothing more incredible than being used by God! So, if for any reason, you find yourself in the shoes I once was in, remember that you can tread into the darkness and use the power of evil, or you can walk in the light and be filled with the power of the Creator of the universe – who spoke the world into being, who breathed in you life, who conquered death, and sustains everything you see, hear, touch, feel, taste, and beyond. His power is greater than the Enemy’s. His power is cleansing, pure, and holy. His power is founded in love and breeds love. If you aren’t convinced, ask Him to open your spiritual eyes. Ask Him to let you see His supernatural side. You will be amazed and all the “power” that this world and below has to offer will look like a speck of dirt in the grandness of His magnificence!
In this new series, I am going to tackle some of the toughest subjects I have encountered – subjects that have shattered people’s faith. I’m started with a major faith killer in today’s society, which is the Bible’s take on the role of women. I’ve watched my female friends bow out of Christianity because they believe the Bible makes women out to be weak, helpless, and inferior to men. They thought the Bible oppressed women and glorified men.
So, let’s clear things up! What does the Bible really say about women and how does that apply to us today?
First of all, Genesis 1:27 tells us that both men and women are created in God’s image. This means that God views us as equals. He didn’t create Adam like Himself and then make something up for Eve. Both are made to be like God in character. It is very important to remember that when the Bible is dishing out the roles of man vs. woman, there is no difference in value or importance. God designed each gender for the roles defined.
Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him,’” and in verse 22-23, “and the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of man.”
God made Adam, but realized that he shouldn’t be alone. God had given him authority over the Earth and animals, but without a companion, without someone he could share it with – it wasn’t enough. He then begins creating all different animals and creatures as Adam’s “helpers” but no one is “fit for him.” This means that nothing else is going to cut it until God creates Eve. When God crafts Eve, he literally takes part of Adam away in order to make her – this makes them one flesh. In other words, God specifically designed Eve for Adam and Adam for Eve. They complement each other. It does not imply that women are less than or even reliant on men. It is also important to note that the Bible is specifically showing a husband-wife relationship here, not just a man-woman relationship.
Things start getting more confusing in Genesis 3. Here Eve has given in to the temptation. She ate the fruit and now God is revealing the consequences: she must suffer childbearing pains (as the “mother of all living,” originally a blessed title), she will be ruled over by her husband, and now Adam is going to suffer and toil all the days of his life for joining her in eating the fruit. The key thing I want to focus on is in Gen. 3:16 when it says, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
Assuming Eve is representing all women to follow, this would suggest that wives will be ruled by their husbands. As a woman, that’s a bit frustrating to hear. Why should all women have to pay for what Eve did? I thought God was just?
I’m just going to let that sit for a moment. In fact, I’m probably going to make you feel worse.
1 Timothy 2 has a lot to say about women’s roles after The Fall. Paul first stresses that women should be modest in how they dress – that seems reasonable. Tempting others to sin is sin (even unintentionally), even if they don’t follow through with the sin, they’ve thought it, and just thinking it is also a sin! Obviously, if we want to be clear of sin, choosing to dress respectfully to ourselves with the body God made for us is a good place to start.
But then, it goes on in verses 12-14, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”
NOOO! If you read this out of context, it sounds like God’s decided no woman can ever have authority in any situation. She must be quiet and cannot teach anyone anything. Furthermore, man came first so man is superior and a woman messed up, so it’s all her fault the world is fallen.
Yikes. This is how I would have taken it in the past. Context is so important to understanding the true meaning of passages in the Bible. What is happening in 1 Timothy is that Apostle Paul is writing to the church of Ephesus, telling them how the church is supposed to be, in accordance to what God has revealed to him. When it says, “I do not permit,” that is Paul speaking in his authority as the one God called to raise the churches after Christ. When it says women cannot teach or exercise authority over a man, he is referring to women serving as Elders in a church. The Bible is very clear that men should be the leaders/overseers/elders of a church. Women are allowed to teach children and other women, but should be “quiet” as in not leading over a congregation.
I want to pause and point out that many theologians debate that the only reason things were laid out this way for the church in Ephesus and several other churches, is that in that culture, women were generally not educated. Most women, based on the laws (which we are told to follow the laws of our lands), could not even read. This means that those women could not study the Bible on their own and had to learn from their husbands, who were educated. It is a widely accepted theory that in today’s world, this means women with education and an ability to read the Bible and learn from it themselves are now fully “allowed” to teach and lead congregations (hence Joyce Meyer). Additionally, in Acts 18:24-26, two women are shown pulling aside a well-educated elder and teaching him the way of God. Obviously, this is not over the congregation, but it shows that women are allowed to teach and guide men.
Back to the verses, when Paul mentions Adam and Eve, he is showing us that the roles of men and women were part of God’s design and not necessarily just a result of the original sin. God intended for men to lead and women to support. This created a balanced relationship. If both tried to lead, there would be conflict. If both only supported, there would be no direction. Again, remember this is meant for married couples. Marriage was designed to symbolize the relationship between Christ (the groom) and the Church/Us (the bride).
This is best described in Ephesians 5:22-24:
“Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”
Here Paul is saying wives submit to their husband just like they submit to Christ. Still sounds a bit frustrating, but submission does not make us slaves to our husbands. God wants wives to listen to their husbands, respect them, run ideas past them, be agreeable, and trust them. Obviously, this doesn’t mean husbands should get to walk all over their wives and treat them like slaves and property. It doesn’t mean get in the kitchen and make dinner because he said so. It means God’s dream – if you will – is that wives will be eager to help, support, and please their husband. Also, notice it doesn’t say, “Women submit to men, as to the Lord.” It’s only to her own husband. He is illustrating the best way for a woman to be a godly wife – the way that will lead to the most happiness! Remember, God has our good in mind!
Ready for the flipside?
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself… Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:25-31, ESV)
The husband is supposed to put his wife before himself – to be willing to die for her, give up all that he has for her. This means that if he’s striving to be like Christ, he’s going to be leading in a way that is not best for himself, but best for his wife. The husband is supposed to be self-sacrificial. In God’s perfect dream for marriage, the wife is helping the husband and the husband is leading them toward her best interest. They take care of each other. Neither is more important. They are devoting themselves to each other’s happiness and fulfillment.
Let’s take on another difficult verse!
1 Peter 3:7 says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
I like how when I first read this, I was all about it until I got to “weaker vessel,” then that was the only thing I originally took out of it. It’s easy to read that and think, “oh so now women are weak?!” There’s a couple ways to take it. Personally, I take it as cultural status. Women were viewed as lesser than men in that culture, so husbands were supposed to treat them as equal heirs because in God’s eyes, that’s what they are. Notice also, it says that the husbands’ prayers can be hindered by how he treats his wife! So, if a man is abusing his authority, mistreating her, hurting her, God’s going to look down and stamp a big fat “NO” on his prayers because he is disobeying His command. This can even be taken as a warning against physical abuse, since yes, generally speaking, most men are physically stronger than women and have a greater potential of hurting their wives. (Of course, it can go the other way too, and I’m sure God won’t answer the prayers of an abusive wife either.)
Most of the “trouble” verses are about wives and husbands, some of it applies to churches, but none of it applies to the workplace, school, or any other situation. Women are not inferior to men according to the Bible. In fact, if I had more time, I’d write all the examples of how much God loves his daughters and how big of an impact they have had! The bottom line is that God has a vision for the dynamic between a man and woman, but because it is so easy to misunderstand what is really being said, take things out of context, and misuse the Word, it was perceived and taught in the light of women being lesser than men.
As a final note, here’s some “Verses to Remember” about the type of women God actually hopes his daughters will be!
- V. 17: “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.”
- V. 20: “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches her hands to the needy.”
- V. 25: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the times to come.”
- V. 26: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
- V. 30-31: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
As I wrote in my last post, losing my faith destroyed me on the inside. Regaining it, brought an incredible healing and ripped me from depression and a destructive path.
But what changed? What happened to shift my perspective and raise me from my ashes?
It started many years before. My dad, a fairly new pastor, mailed me a book called The Reason by Lacey Sturm, a Christian rock singer. At this time of my life, I was not close to my dad. I didn’t understand him. I didn’t like the decisions he made. I thought he had gone off the deep end with his religion and I just was not willing to go with him. So, I thanked him for the book, promised to read it, and tucked it away.
Well, if you read the last post, you know there came a point when I just couldn’t take my depression and anxiety anymore. I was miserable and probably miserable to be around. I did what every one does when they reach such a breaking point – I called my mom. She stayed on the phone with me for hours, listening to me cry and try to explain the depths of my pain and worry. She comforted me and related to me and gave me some really great advice about how to cope and heal. The best thing she told me was a subtle reminder that God was with me.
After I hung up, I felt this incredible need to pick up that book my dad sent me. I felt something stirring inside me as I read it. I could practically hear Lacey sitting there telling it to me with this light in her eyes as she talked about her very similar struggles to mine. At some point, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I set the book aside and started praying. And God was with me. I felt him there, guiding the words as they fell out of my mouth. I felt the tension of regret, anger, and hurt leaving my body. I just gave myself to God. Trusting him with all. It was incredible and I wept tears of gratitude and joy for the first time in a very long time.
But then, I woke up the next day feeling incredible conviction about my relationship. My boyfriend in many ways had replaced God in my life. It wasn’t anything he’d done on purpose or that I consciously done, but I had placed him high above everything in life, even God. That morning God reminded me of something I had realized long before but it never sunk in.
When I was a child, my dad had also urged me to start praying for whoever I would be with someday – that God would prepare us for one another and bring us together at the right time. Of course, being a little punk, I told him I wouldn’t be with anyone ever so why would I do that. But, actually, I prayed this most everyday of my life. Ironically, the same time I started praying was the same time my boyfriend had picked up his guitar and started learning to play. Then years of mirroring situations go by and here I am with this man. Music had brought us together and was the thing we believed we were called to do together. And, our lives had so well prepared us for each other that we can understand one another in ways a lot of others can’t.
So God reminds me of this. He reminds me that he made us for one another, prepared us through our lives, and that when the time came to be together it was a promise to me fulfilled by him and I had taken this beautiful blessing and used it to replace God.
This hurt. Faith is not a walk under the stars. There’s a lot of pain in growing and becoming someone better, and when God gets involved, he definiately pushes you to become more that you even meant to be.
I prayed for forgiveness and asked God to take control of my relationship. This honestly was the most terrifying prayer I’d ever prayed. I basically said to God, “You are in control and I am letting go, even if I lose this man so I can be closer to you.” The struggle really came when I told my boyfriend this. I was crying so much I could barely speak. I thought for sure if I told him that we had trampled on God’s blessing and were living in sin by living together and placing each other above God that he’d leave me. I knew his love was strong, but I didn’t expect him to stick around while I chased after something as “uncool” as a relationship with God.
Long story short, that’s not what happened. My boyfriend instead became my husband within the month. We started doing bible studies together, then found a church where the sermons actually directly tied into the Bible studies we had done (the Holy Spirit is so intricate and dedicated to each of us!). We pray together and have given our whole lives to God.
So this is how I know God is real. He healed me from my soul; something medications and counseling could never do. He prepared my husband and I for each other and for our destiny together since we were children. He used my dad to give me that book years before I needed it and used my mom to pull me back into His presence. He spared my relationship and turned it into something so much more beautiful than before. I hear his Holy Spirit guiding me, prompting and teaching me. I have strength when I don’t have strength. I have peace when I don’t have peace.
The more you give to God, the more blessing he pours over you. If God wasn’t real, the more you give away, the less you would have. But he provides. He is more than enough. And he is real.
A change in directions
A shift in the sea
What does it matter
If it led you to me?
You wanted stable ground,
I offered you the Earth
But instead you sailed around
And forgot all that your worth
You slipped and you fell
You slid across the deck
You cried out until
You became the shipwreck
But hear me when I’m calling
Can’t you hear the gentle wind?
My strength can catch your falling
I am anchoring you in
With cast iron arms,
I will hold you down
Protect you from all harms
And never let you drown
Stop running to the sides
Checking if I’m there
Can’t you see the tides?
And taste them in the air?
They want to swallow you whole
Make you wonder where I went
But trust me and you’ll know
With you is where my time is spent
I will not forsake you
I’m anchoring you in
For that is who I am
And who I’ve always been
Just let me hold you still
And remember who I am
Just have faith in my will
And I will help you stand
You do not have to waver
You do not have to slip
You are in my favor
I have you in my grip
With cast iron arms,
I will hold you down
Protect you from all harms
And never let you drown
I will not forsake you
I’m anchoring you in
For that is who I am
And who I’ve always been