The Name

There’s such power in a name. When you first meet someone, repeating their name can make them feel a real connection to you right off the bat. In serious or intimate conversations, when someone uses your name it immediately creates a moment of being seen or heard. When we pick out a name for a child, it’s a momentous and weighty thing — defining who a person is for the rest of their life by a name. Changing one’s name in marriage makes the union feel all the more real. It’s a visible sign of the unity that has taken place. Which makes signing your name after divorce all the more painful.

I was thrilled to change my name when I got married. I was excited to be his bride and to be known by his name to all I met. I think one of my greatest failings in my marriage was how much I loved being in it. I hated being alone and single, marriage was the antidote to my loneliness. I often fell into the trap of worshiping my marriage. Of being discontent when it didn’t meet all my needs and putting a lot of pressure to find myself by losing myself in my husband. So when my marriage was ripped from me, I was forced to face my idol. And I was reminded of that loss with every piece of mail, every form I had to fill out, and with every signature. My very name felt like a betrayal.

It hit the hardest during worship. I remember bawling during “Ever Be” as it hit me who’s name I bore and who was the only one I should worship. I was reminded time and time again that I was still united in marriage to someone — to someone who was effortlessly faithful. I was his bride, called by his name, and loved desperately by him. These lyrics still choke me up a year later:

“Your love is devoted like a ring of solid gold
Like a vow that is tested like a covenant of old
Your love is enduring through the winter rain
And beyond the horizon with mercy for today
Faithful You have been and faithful you will be
You pledge yourself to me and it’s why I sing

Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips

You Father the orphan
Your kindness makes us whole
And you shoulder our weakness
And your strength becomes our own
Now you’re making me like you
Clothing me in white
Bringing beauty from ashes
For You will have Your bride
Free of all her guilt and rid of all her shame
And known by her true name and it’s why I sing

Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips”

Now as a bride, the second time around, I have another new name. A name that reflects the new union I share with my new husband. The temptation is there to bury myself in this new identity. But I know it cannot be my everything this time around. There is only ONE true name that I am known by and it is Christ. I am his and he is mine, the only one who can ever fully satisfy, heal, and cure all my needs. And that name, the one that I’m united to, is powerful. It is a strong tower, my refuge in time of need (Prov. 18:10). It is a name that always abundantly provides (Gen. 22:14). It is a name that brings salvation (Rom. 10:9-13). It’s a name that will cause the entire earth to bow in submission (Phil. 2:10-11). It is a name that was at the beginning of all things and will still stand at the end of time (Rev. 1:8). And let’s not forget, it is a name that is jealous (Ex. 34:14). He will not abide by idol worship. And why should he? He alone is God. Any other worship is false and utterly repugnant to him.

His name is both a hopeful promise and a stern warning. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num. 23:19) That means he’s both forever faithful, despite our faithlessness, and also that he will bring judgment on those who don’t give him the honor he is due. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Deut. 5:11). This name is both the rock to cling to in the storm and the rock that will crush anyone who opposes it. May I ever be known by His name, til death makes our union complete.

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Alone

There is something so powerful about community. You’ve seen it all over the internet this past week with #metoo and sharing about infant loss and miscarriage. The pain, stigma, and loneliness that accompanies a lot of the human existence is mitigated by the reality that these are shared experiences. Not only do we feel less alone when we share with others, the power of the hard thing is diminished too. I think Satan loves when we keep silent. When we stay isolated and lost in our own shame, believing that we’re the only one who has it this hard, has experienced this much pain, or that we really aren’t worth anyone’s time.

This isn’t the first time I’ve used a Harry Potter analogy (and I’m sure it isn’t the last!), but this whole theme of sharing our heavy burdens with others makes me think of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry is struggling a lot in this book with feelings of isolation. He begins to feel like his burden is just a liability to his friends and maybe he’s better off tackling them on his own. He fears the darkness inside him might taint his friends and decides it’s better to keep it to himself. He thinks no one else believes in him and that he’s better off alone. But then lovely (quirky) Luna comes to him. And she says, “I don’t think that’s true. But I suppose that’s how he wants you to feel . . . if I were You-Know-Who, I’d want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it’s just you alone you’re not as much of a threat.”

The power in loneliness is palpable. And the relief, freedom, and warmth found in community is even more so. I had a rough week recently. I was feeling overwhelmed by a lot of life’s circumstances and began to doubt God’s care for me. I finally decided to text a few friends and be honest about some of the pain I was experiencing. And you know what? Literally every single one of them was having a hard week too. They all felt lonely and isolated. Many of them were discouraged. I went to community group and opened up my heart again. I was all apologetic about crying, but quickly found that at least half the ladies had their own tears about the pain in their lives. Not a single one of us is immune to the pain of this world. And every single one of us can benefit from that load being shared.

Of course, Harry Potter didn’t have the benefit of having Jesus’ help. Not only do we benefit from the body of Christ, we have communion with the great high priest himself. And not some far off, holier-than-thou priest, no! We have Jesus, who humbled himself by coming in human form, living on this earth, and being tempted and suffering in every single way we are. Our darkness, our temptations, our weaknesses — they are no surprise to him. He knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust. He has compassion on our pain and will right all wrongs. As we draw near to him, he draws near to us — what an amazingly, glorious promise.

We have the Holy Spirit ready and waiting to intercede for us every minute of the day. We are never truly alone because we are united with him. Jesus is always with us, but we also can’t do this whole Christian walk thing alone. God has also provided the church to help bear our burdens in tangible ways. We were created as social beings and the need for the Body of Christ cannot be minimized. We are so forgetful and our hearts are deceitful– oh how we need each other! We need each other to speak the truth to us in love: to warn us when are lazy, to encourage us when we are disheartened, help us when we are weak, and be patient with us at all times (1 Thess. 5:14).

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Nuance (a follow-up post)

I’ve wanted to do a follow up post to my blog from a month ago. I’m sure you know the one. It received way more attention than I’d ever imagined. I’ve been surprised by the response and haven’t really known how to comment on it. I wrote it with a very specific purpose: to answer a question people I know have been asking me. Whenever we put out a very narrowly focused statement, there are a ton of things that we don’t say. That’s the nature of nuance, right? It’s easy to have such a vision of what we are trying to accomplish in a moment that we aren’t looking at the whole picture. That was true of my post, as well as the Nashville Statement as a whole. Just because I believe the Nashville Statement is something we need, doesn’t mean it’s the only thing we need.

I have been incredibly grateful for the gracious comments from many and honestly challenged by others. In light of those responses, I’d like to provide some clarity. I don’t particularly see myself as an authority on any of these issues and would rather just keep my thoughts to myself most of the time. But I also know that Jesus has given me this story and somewhat unique perspective, so I am trying my best to use it for his glory. I’ve never wanted my life to be used as a template for how anyone else should live. In my previous marriage we were always very clear to say that we didn’t think marriage was a prescriptive solution for every gay individual. Honestly, in the majority of cases I don’t think it’s advisable. But now even more so in my divorce, I don’t mean to imply that “if you follow any of the same path Brian did, you’ll eventually walk away from faith.” I don’t mean to imply that at all. I realize what happened to me was a specific situation and doesn’t mean that everyone who takes similar steps will end up at the same destination. But I do think we serve as a warning. And I do mean “we.” As Brian changed his views, I reluctantly came along. It got to a place where I found myself in sin and didn’t feel a wit of guilt over it because I was so busy emphasizing grace over truth. The warning is this (and is there for everyone): our hearts are desperately wicked and are insatiable in their desire to justify our sin.

I’d also like to address the fact that some of the dearest people in my life came from that time. I think like Jonah, we can still do ministry in the midst of running from God’s calling. And for me, that ministry was hospitality, even as my heart was often hard towards God. Those people who came into my home became family and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I don’t mean to say that looking back I regret everything that came from that time. I don’t. I just regret the fact that I allowed my heart to drift and wander in that time. I absolutely was doing the best I could with the information I had, but in hindsight feel that maybe the steps we took weren’t the wisest. I think we made a lot of choices in the guise of “becoming healthier.” While Jesus absolutely longs for our flourishing and to conquer unhealthy patterns and self-conceptions, there is a danger to define “healthy” however we darn well please. Looking back, I believe we would have done well to seek health and wholeness through oneness with Christ rather than in pursuing it however we saw fit. Brian progressively felt like he was getting healthier the farther he walked away from Jesus. There’s something very wrong with that definition of healthy.

I’d also like to address the language issue concerning identity. I referenced in my post the fault in embracing being a gay Christian. Let me clarify what I meant. I think language is tricky and people have to use the language they are comfortable with. I don’t think it’s wrong necessarily to describe one’s self as gay. It’s the emphasis on the word preceding “Christian” that I find dangerous. It’s the weight and prioritization of one’s sexuality over identity in Christ that I find particularly dangerous. But in my mind gay simply means being attracted to the same sex. If people would rather use same sex attracted, fine. Doesn’t make a difference to me. As long as all our sexuality — gay or straight — is under submission to Christ.

I’d also like to make a few remarks on what I feel was left out of the Nashville statement. I really wish divorce was mentioned or that a similar statement gave clarification on it. There are a ton of grey to not-so-grey-but-often-ignored areas in divorce and remarriage that I think would have fit well into this discussion on sexual ethics. I also wish there had been a mention of the hurts the church has inflicted on the LGBT community. Or a strong statement against bullying or mention of the high suicide rate in these communities. I believe they had a really narrow goal in writing the statement — addressing very specific questions that are being asked across the national stage at the moment. So, I give the writers and signers of the statement room and time to respond to some of those omissions. Likewise, I have not stopped thinking about all the things I wanted to add to my blog post since I hit publish. My narrow focus was to clear the air about some of my previously held views and to express my gratefulness for a clear, Bible-based theology on some of these issues. But, that is not all I want to say. There are so many other questions that circle my head and churn in my stomach. Questions that the church still needs to find an answer for. I hope to address some of those issues here.

Does the church regularly injure people in the name of good theology? Yes. It is a very sad thing that this statement, as biblically based as it is, will be used to commit all kinds of atrocities. We have yet figured out how to mingle truth and grace in a way that uplifts, offers hope, and removes the stigma of particular sins. I am no more or no less of a sinner than anyone else. I desperately need God’s grace to cover over my sins, sexual and otherwise, just like every other person on earth. We might all need nuanced help depending on our proclivities, but we all need Jesus and we are all needed parts of the Body.

Has the church failed in many cases, providing condemnation instead of hope to those who struggle with sexual issues? Yes. I have personally been a victim of gossip, misunderstanding, and ostracization just by my association to my former husband. I cannot imagine how much deeper the wounds go for others. The statistics don’t lie about the amount of LGBT individuals coming from a church background who attempt suicide or other self-harm. It is astounding. It should break our hearts as much as sin does. There may be no “third way” when it comes to our theology but there HAS to be another way when it comes to our practice. I think the church has been immobilized by fear and confusion, not knowing how to interact with people instead of just debating issues. We need to do better.

Do we have a long way to go when it comes to offering hope and a sustainable, godly alternative to intimacy when it comes to those who are pursuing celibacy? Yes. I know a lot of people who struggle with same sex attraction. Many who over the years have moved towards affirming positions, some in the midst of trying to figure out what their future holds, and very few who are finding support in their churches for remaining single. Marriage and the family are often worshiped in the church. It is the holy grail, isolating those who cannot marry for various reasons, are not married for a period of time, or find themselves with their marriages ending. LGBT do a lot of things incredibly well, never more so than in creating community. No, in creating family. The church would do well to follow their example

So, those are just a few of my thoughts that have stemmed from conversations over the past month. There are so many nooks and crannies in this issue and in my story, they cannot be outlined in one or two blog posts. But hopefully this provides some clarity. And as always, I’m happy to talk with anyone in person about any of these things. Thank you again for the response to my original post and for showing me grace. I am truly grateful.

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A Letter to the Brokenhearted

I’ve been asked several times, “what would you say to someone who you just found out is going through a divorce?” I’ve thought about it a lot. Of course every situation is so unique, but there are some universal experiences in heartbreak. So, I’ve put together this letter. Feel free to share it with the hurting people in your life.

Dear brokenhearted one,
Today is painful. Unspeakably so. Your heart is in shreds. Your life feels hopelessly broken. You can’t see your way through the next ten minutes, much less imagine anything beyond that. I know. Because I was you. One year ago, I was you. Everyone kept telling me it’ll get better. Hearing songs on the radio won’t always hurt. Sitting down as a family of four, instead of five, won’t always feel like daggers. Things will eventually settle in and you will be okay. Since everyone else is telling you that, I won’t. Because it doesn’t help with right now. Right now sucks.
Today, just breathe. I don’t know that anything will help ease your pain, but I know your lungs keep steadily working and your heart pounds in your broken chest. Let your body go on for you, for now, it will keep taking the next breath when you feel like you can’t. Everyone will also tell you to let yourself feel the pain. That sounded idiotic to me at the time. How can I not feel it? It is shouting at me and drowning every other thought in my head! These are the days to just let the pain be. There will be days when you want to figure out a purpose, a way forward. This is not that day. Today, let your grief be loud.
I don’t know the circumstances of your heartbreak, but I know the only one who can give you comfort. It isn’t a piece of chocolate cake or in drowning yourself in a bottle of pinot noir, though give yourself grace dear one. I know Jesus feels far away. I know it feels like the empty space next to you in bed will swallow you whole. I remember begging Jesus for some tangible comfort, to feel his arms around my tear wracked body. But he wasn’t there in that way. But he was there. He never left my side. I didn’t feel like I could pray or read Scripture when I was at my lowest, and I want you to know there is grace for that. Ask people to pray for you if you cannot do it yourself. He will listen to your angry cries, he will take whatever you throw at him. Just lean into him, whether in pain or anger.
I want you to know that there’s a reason you feel like violence has been done to your soul. It absolutely has. You were once one flesh with another human being, and that union has been ripped asunder. God describes his relationship to us in the terms of marriage. He also describes the unfaithfulness of his people in terms of adultery, and goes so far as to divorce his people. God, your God, is divorced. You are not alone. You are not hopelessly irredeemable. Your God wears the same label that you do; do not let this title become a weight around your heart that sinks you into shame.
I can promise you that in one year things will not be the same. You may not have had a choice in your divorce. It could have come unexpectedly or with years of warning, but either way, you do have choices now. You have a choice to survive. To allow the pain to make you bitter or better. But today is not for making choices. Today is a day to survive. To cry. To wail. To find comfort in friends. To sleep, feed your weary body, and to care for yourself as you can. The best thing anyone said to me during that time was this: “you cannot possibly give yourself too much grace right now.” Be patient with your wounded soul, dear one. Don’t expect anything from yourself but to keep moving forward.
Expect to cry a lot. Expect to need a lot of help. Expect to feel insane at times. But as the days go on you will find a way. Write your feelings — it really does help. Take care of the needs of the day, and you will be overwhelmed at the number of them, and then fall into the arms of your Savior. He can and will sustain you. Entrust your fears and anxieties and pains to him, you can rest because He never stops interceding for you. And know that this promise is for you: “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Tomorrow will be better, eventually.

Sincerely,
A previously brokenhearted woman

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