Her. The one with the summer-ready bikini wearing body.
I’m doing good if I buy a new bathing suit that fits.
Her. The one who has meal plans and carefully prepares the healthiest choices for her family and grocery shops within budget.
We travel so much and honestly, Stephen and I both agree that he is a better cook.
Her. The one who never complains no matter the struggles in her life.
Hello! Is she plastic?! Does she not ever bang her funny bone and scream?
Her. Who rises early every day to work out and pray.
Cheers to you lady, my time with Jesus is often midnight, not 5 am. Unless of course I’m in another time zone and it’s 5 am back home ;-)
Her. The one who stays calm and only speaks kind things.
You, my friend, are a CHAMPION! Maybe it’s my red hair, but sometimes the passion I feel about life is, well,…not so calm.
I basically just described the modern-day Pinterest Christian woman and can I just say upfront that I am NOT her.
We all have at least one person who comes to mind when you think of someone who has it all together. There can even be aspects of several women that make up an ideal person in your mind. I know I have names that come to mind.
I believe one of the greatest distractions of our generation is rooted not just in comparison, but by not appreciating who we are.
When we don’t appreciate what we have, we appreciate and idealize what others have.
This causes confusion and unhealthy relationships on so many levels.
I’ve seen many social media posts of friends who I think are incredible say things that ultimately convey that they don’t feel like they’re doing enough or that they’re caught in this comparison trap.
While I don’t think there is wisdom in broadcasting these type of comments to the greater social media world, I haven’t been surprised when I’ve read them. The truth is many of us feel that way even if we aren’t posting about it.
I’ve even had some people comment on my social media posts and assume my life it altogether lovely when they’re only seeing small glimpses into what I refer to as #MyKuertLife.
Without going into the crazy details of what is wrong with my life at times to spare sounding like I’m complaining (because the ideal “her” wouldn’t do that ;-) ), these people don’t really want my life because there’s only grace for me to be me. And I don’t really want to be “her“, whoever she is because I’m not graced to be her.
When I’m trying to be someone else, I can never fully be myself.
Last fall marked four years of marriage for Stephen and I and it was an exciting little milestone in our little journey together. However, along with that fourth year, it marked four years of not being in good health as it correlated to a car accident and prevailing issues. I honestly fell into a funk for a few weeks.
We were traveling a lot, Kibibi Design was taking off and succeeding, and even though I felt like I was able to truly dream again, I felt discouraged by physical limitations. I was weighed down by negative comments from others and I desired some routine and familiarity in my world.
One morning I decided to have a pity party. I was complaining internally and telling myself how unfair things were and how alone I felt in my physical pain. I wished how I could sleep through just one night without waking with urinary pain and struggling through days with other complications. I was doing a pretty good job at feeling awful for myself in my self-absorbed world.
Then I heard the louder than loud voice of God speak and say, “Bailey, don’t I give you grace for every day?”. And as He often does by asking me rhetorical questions, I was silenced by His question.
Yes, there was a real pain I faced most days and He was not invalidating that.
Yes, there has been some real injustice at times and He was in no way ignoring that.
He was just bringing to my attention a much-needed reminder that He was giving me fresh grace to face every day for the ups and downs that my life encountered.
My struggle was because I wasn’t aware and thankful that there was grace extended for me to be who God created me to be even in difficult situations. God gives me grace for my shortcomings and to deal with the health issues I’ve faced. He also gives me the grace I need to use my strengths of administration, creativity, and connecting with people.
This realization caused me to have joy, TRUE joy whenever I faced these trials. One might think that because I know the words that James, the brother of Jesus opens his book of the Bible with that I’d have already walked in this profound joy. However, just because I have scripture memorized and have taught on it, doesn’t mean I truly KNOW it or apply it to my life.
James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
I wasn’t facing every trial or pain with sorrow and discouragement, but some days are definitely harder than others. I wasn’t even struggling with comparing myself to others so much, but I often assumed that I “should” be doing this thing or that thing. Others told me I “should” be “her” and I let myself believe them and the lies I was telling myself.
In short, I was “shoulding” on myself.
I know that “shoulding” is not a real word and I’m fighting the red underline marks as I type, but it’s definitely a Bailey word. Whenever I think that I “SHOULD” know better, “SHOULD” do better, I am “SHOULD-ING” on myself. And you, lovely one, “should” on yourself and you “should” on others too.
When we envy others or wish we had aspects of their lives, we don’t factor in the grace that God gives to them to live those lives. We automatically assume we would have the grace to be them and by aiming to be someone else, we negate the grace we have to be ourselves.
Sometimes I can’t do things that I could even just a few years ago because of new physical limits or the changes our job has brought our way. While that’s frustrating at times, it’s unfair to expect that I “should” be able to do the things I did before. I did those things before a lot of injuries to my body or when I lived in a consistent location with minimal travel.
Often these thoughts have originated with someone else’s opinions and their “shoulding” over my life and they have never originated with God.
We have to be close to what He is saying in any given season so we don’t get close to someone else’s plans for our life.
When I see others who have their well thought out meal plans and host dinners, I can’t assume I “should” do that. I’m rarely ever home in my pre-furnished apartment. When people see me traveling and think they’d like to have that, they’re not factoring in the sacrifices we’ve had to make.
Sure there are aspects of someone else’s life that from a distance we think we would want, but we never can truly operate in their lives with the individual unique grace given to us.
I stopped viewing “I’m not her” as a negative statement that projects a longing to be someone else. Instead, I say, “I’m not her” and I mean it as a positive statement because by not being “her”, I’m allowed to be fully me.
I’m not her because I’m me.
I’m not her because I want to be me.
I’m not her because only she can be her.
I’m not her because I am not graced for her life.
I’m not her because I’m only graced to be me.
You aren’t “her” either because you’re only graced to be you. And what a lovely “you” you are!
Kari Jobe’s potentially awkward moment turned into a beautiful moment for healing hearts.
When an awkward lull happened at the Designed for Life women’s conference I attended a couple of weeks ago, I immediately knew what was going on.
I’ve not been pregnant yet, but with all of my kidney issues, I can relate to those frequently visiting the bathroom as their baby(ies) press(es) on their bladder.
The host, Pastor Debbie Lindell took the platform for an unplanned speech to help transition the evening service. There was a band already set up on the stage and I knew Kari Jobe was scheduled to sing some during the conference. I also knew she was in later stages of pregnancy and I laughed as I realized that she was probably in the bathroom.
I had just slipped back into my seat from the bathroom right as a video ended and Kari was scheduled to lead worship. Debbie jokingly asked if any women remembered being pregnant and their frequent potty breaks as Kari took the stage. Debbie then explained to Kari in front of about 9,000 women that she’d just told us that she was peeing! Kari confirmed this report into the microphone much to the amusement of all those attending.
When Debbie left the stage Kari shared how she wasn’t just using the bathroom, but she’d been cleaning off her smeared make up as well. She told of how her sister who was pregnant at the same time as her just lost her baby two weeks earlier. She was 7 months along and had a still birth. There was such a sweet presence of God in the auditorium that evening as we worshiped together which was healing her heart. At one point she looked up and a woman with her little baby girl came and sat in front of her and more tears fell.
What began as laughter quickly turned into tears as we all listened to her story through her choked up words and rawness. She went on to say how through this experience she’s realized that religious clichés don’t help-they actually shut someone down.And I lost it. I could relate with her now far more than just our frequenting the bathroom.
She’s right. When you’re in the midst of pain, loss, or suffering you don’t simply need to hear, “God will turn this around for good”, “God will come through!”, or “Just have faith”.
Nothing against anyone who thinks like that or has said those statements to someone as we’ve all been there.
It can be awkward when we are confronted with the pain and suffering of another person.
It often is a strange interaction, so when we as believers don’t know what to say we often say something we think sounds spiritual.
Maybe the thought process is,”if I say a scripture then I’ll be helping”.
Or maybe we’ve never felt the pain or faced the difficult scenario they’re in so we think there’s an easy answer, “just have more faith”.
Yet none of those things help. In all I’ve faced particularly in this season of life, I know that God is good and I know that He is going to work things out in my life for the good…”because I love him and I’m called unto His purpose” (Romans 8:28). It isn’t that I don’t believe in His goodness or that I’m not focused on the truth of God’s word. It’s just that walking through some situations are difficult and they demand more depth than a surface response.
When you’re walking through the questions and suffering the heartache of your circumstances, it isn’t helpful to find yourself shut down by others’ replies or by their silence.
When you feel confused about God or you’re trying to see truth through the sometimes murky and violent water of trials, you don’t want to be simply told that God is good. When faced with that doctor’s report you weren’t prepare to hear, having someone exclusively say, “God’s got this” as you wrestle the fears and make difficult decisions isn’t helpful. You need to experience His goodness THROUGH others. You need to experience His love encompassing every area of your life, including your questions and perceived failures.
You need to be ALLOWED to cry and really feel what you’re walking through and invite Jesus into that place of pain.
Sometimes our words can shut down someone’s heart from allowing real healing to take place.
I realize that facts about a doctor’s report or situation are subject to change. I know that we have all power and all authority through Jesus. I’m not denying that focusing on the TRUTH of the word of God isn’t applicable. It ALWAYS is and that’s exactly what needs to be focused on, but not at the cost of invalidating what someone is walking through and not being willing to walk WITH them through their pain. We must be willing to look to the example of Jesus and how He walks with us in this life.
Jesus came to take on our flesh so that He would relate to our flesh both in victory and in sorrow.
One of the most impactful things that has ministered to my heart happened two years ago during a really challenging time in my life. I had been really sick for almost a year with various tropical illnesses, small seizures, and I was dealing with constant pain from misaligned ribs and hips from a car accident that caused great pain even with walking. Stephen and I decided to get away for a few days and our trip happened to fall around the anniversary of my cousin’s death. My cousin was my best friend and we’d grown up together as she was four months older than me. She battled cancer for 7 & 1/2 years before dying when we were 14 years old. Due to the difficult season I was in and our constant travel schedule, I was really lonely. Some people had said awkward things to me concerning my faith while others just pulled away. Other friends simply weren’t able to encourage me face to face as we were traveling so frequently. This caused me to grieve my cousin’s loss in a new way that year. One morning on our trip, Stephen took me outside and shared how he felt like he had a word to share with me. He sat me down and said that while he was praying that morning that he felt like Jesus said, “Tell Bailey that I know what it’s like to lose my cousin and I’m crying with her”. The words hit me like a load of bricks upon my chest and as I began to cry I felt something break off of my life. I felt the nearness of Jesus more in that moment than I had in any other moment of my life. Not because this was a happy moment that He was meeting me in, but because in my pain and sorrow, He met me and was crying with me. That made me want to pour my heart out in adoration and worship like never before.
I want you to know that no matter what you’re walking through or how lonely that you’ve felt in your heartache, Jesus is with you. He has experienced pain, suffering, sorrow, and sadness. He did this all the while being filled with the Spirit, in complete surrender and obedience to God’s will and fully knowing that His Father was good. Just because He was the Son of God who died for our sins doesn’t mean that he didn’t feel the pain and weight of our sin or the sorrows of this life. He can relate to you and speak to you more than any human ever can.
As religious Christianese circulates around you and questions stir within you, I encourage you to press past those voices and listen for the voice of Jesus. Hear what He is saying and let His love draw near in your time of hurting. Don’t allow your painful circumstances to steal your praise of the One who is worthy and wants to pour out His love. He hurts for you and He hurts with you. Worship Him and let the disappointment, offense, mistakes, and fears fall off. Lean on Jesus and get back up again–you were made to live victorious!
Well said Kari–thanks for sharing your heart and bringing others to the place of healing in Jesus.
Recently Stephen and I spoke at one of our supporting churches in Winter Park, Colorado. Clearly it is one of the most beautiful places to connect and minister ;-) It makes me miss living in Colorado so much!
The Pastor asked us to share a little bit from our experiences in this season and on the topic of how to overcome disappointment. We have faced a lot of trials, mainly in physical health in the short time we’ve been married. We’ve walked through a lot of disappointment in this season in plain view of others, but some of the darkest moments we’ve been alone and have learned a lot to help others through their challenges. We want you to know that you’re not alone!
Here’s the main passage that we used in Luke Chapter 24 to illustrate a few points on how one can overcome disappointment.
Read for reference LUKE 24:13-35
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven mile from Jerusalem.14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast.18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther.29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
This is one of the most powerful chapters in the whole New Testament. It was the resurrection, the premise of the Christian faith! It should have been an exciting day.
Jesus has been preparing his disciples: “And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” Luke 18:31-34 ESV
It was almost like these two men had their fingers in their ears saying “la la la… I can’t hear you.”
They don’t understand what Jesus is saying. They had their own ideas of how things are supposed to happen. Not too unlike any of us, they wanted God to do things in a certain way at a certain time.
Their expectations of what they thought Jesus meant were disappointed by what actually transpired.
“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”Luke 24:21
Maybe they thought that He was setting up a kingdom, that He was going to drive out the romans, eliminate the heavy taxes, and that Jesus would be the president of a new empire and they would all have cabinet positions. It would be payback time!
That’s not what Jesus did. He hung on a cross for the redemption of sin.
Was Jesus the one to redeem? Yes, but there are two different definitions of what “redemption” looks like.
When their experience didn’t match their expectation, they experienced disappointment and extreme disillusionment. When we experience disappointment, we can fall into the same mindset.
Here’s a look at a 3 things we’ve learned to do to overcome the ongoing residual effect of disappointment.
1- We must overcome the tendency towards cynicism and unbelief:
Faith is the central premise of Christianity.
“…the just shall live by FAITH”
Romans 1, Galatians 3, Hebrews 11, Habakkuk 2 are all clear teachings on faith.
We often look at faith in the primary area of acceptance and adherence to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet there needs to be an ongoing continual walk in our daily lives.
The two towns, Jerusalem and Emmaus are only 7 miles apart. This shows us they’re walking not by faith, but by sight.
They had lost faith in what Jesus had said.
It was Resurrection day. The women had found a rolled away stone. Jesus’ body wasn’t in the tomb. They had a vision of angels with a message that he was alive. It’s the third day. Peter only found the grave-clothes.
These two men would’ve known these things, yet they were walking AWAY from Jerusalem because they didn’t believe.
There was a lingering effect from being wounded by disappointment. God didn’t live up to their expectations of what they thought He would do or HOW they thought He would do things.
Recently I (Bailey) cut my tendon on my right index finger while scooping out coconut milk from a can. I had surgery to permanently stitch the tendon and the scar on the surface has healed really well. The surgeon and my therapists aren’t as concerned about the tendon rupturing again or the finger being permanently damaged. They’re concerned that the scar tissue would form too much and entrap the tendon and nerves around the repair causing a greater injury than the initial cut.
I thought about how wounds in our lives can be like this. Maybe we are removed from the situation that caused the initial hurt, but the residual effects of the wound can keep growing.
Scar tissue is a great reminder that you can’t always see someone’s pain. On the surface you or someone else might look alright, but you never know what’s going on in someone’s heart.
God wants us to come to Him with our questions and our pain. He is not your problem, He is your provision for healing.
“Come, and let us return to the LORD; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.”- Hosea 6:1
“For I will restore health to you And heal you of your wounds,’ says the LORD.”-Jeremiah 30:17
2-We must overcome a tendency to isolate ourselves from healthy relationships and from God:
When people get wounded and hurt the tendency is to pull back and retreat.
We see this with these two guys left the larger body of believers that they were connected to. We know from the book of Acts, that there were 120 gathered together on the day of Pentecost. That means that there were at least 118 other disciples that could have encouraged them and ministered to them. Yet we read that they are by themselves on a road to Emmaus and apparently lonely enough to talk with a stranger about their woes.
With every step they’re walking further and further away from people who could encourage their faith.
The problem with isolation is that you make yourself more vulnerable to the enemy.
Instead of isolating ourselves, we need to stay connected to the body of Christ.
Luke 5:17-26 tells the story of the paralytic man being lowered to the ground.
There were 4 friends who did whatever it took to get their friend to Jesus’ feet.
The weight of carrying another person is not easy.
That stretcher required 4 people.
We need to be willing to go beyond our own comforts to help people in their trials.
Set in place some healthy relationships in your life now so that when storms come there are some people strong enough around you who will carry you back to Jesus.
We need to ask ourselves: what kind of friend are we to others?
Are we the kind who when people are isolating themselves that we pursue them anyway?
Are we moved in compassion to help those hurting around us?
Are we willing to tear through roofs and do whatever it takes to get them to the feet of Jesus?
It’s a lot easier to point our fingers and start blabbing our mouths instead of carrying someone’s weight as they face disappointment and isolation. We can speak words of life and encouragement to prevent them from discrediting Jesus’ love for them.
You need to know that even if you feel no one is there to “carry” you, that you’re not alone.
What is so beautiful about this story on the road to Emmaus is that even though other friends and disciples aren’t with these two guys, Jesus is. He comes at a critical time and intercepts their unbelief with truth. He reveals Himself to them even when they’ve cut themselves off.
Cleopas’ name is never mentioned anywhere else in the Bible and it’s a unique point that Jesus knows your name and where you’re at with your faith and will always be pursuing you to remind you that He is faithful.
HE IS NOT TURNED OFF BY OUR QUESTIONS OR BY OUR WEAKNESS. He instead meets us in our weakness and reveals Himself to us.
You also have to know who He is and who He says you are in seasons of abundance so that when storms come, you know the truth.
In a season of disappointment, everyone will give their opinion on who God is and what is happening to you. The first person who will knock at your door is the enemy. If we don’t learn to press in and learn the voice of God in seasons where we aren’t encountering as much resistance, we won’t clearly recognize the lies that the enemy throws at us when we’re being shaken. Others will speak to you about who Jesus is from their wounding and from their offenses so you have to know who He says He is and who you are in Him. Don’t allow distractions to keep you from building a firm foundation of hope and truth that keeps you from building upon the lies of self-hatred, condemnation and doubt.
You’ve got to as I like to say “bulk up” in the word during seasons where there aren’t as many storms. As athletes train for their sporting events in off seasons, we must bulk up and study God’s word and listen for His voice so we aren’t shaken when difficulty hits.
3- We must overcome the tendency to rush God’s purpose and timing:
In a day where our microwave can deliver our food to us in a matter of seconds, it is easy to find ourselves resistant to and inpatient with the timing of God.
We can’t impose our time-table over Gods sovereign purposes.
We see with these two guys that they rushed the promise Jesus made.
Jesus has made clear promises that on the third day that he would rise from the dead. It was the third day. They waited as long as they thought prudent. The roads would’ve been dangerous at night. It was 7 miles to Jerusalem to Emmaus. If they walked at a brisk pace of 15 minutes a mile or 4 mph, then it would take 1 hour 45 minutes to complete their journey. Jewish sunset is around 7 pm. So let’s say it was 5:15 pm when they started their journey. It’s clear that these men waited until what was likely the last possible minute that they would’ve waited before walking to Emmaus to arrive before dark.
Jesus is going to appear to the disciples later that night.
In a very real sense these guys were just hours away from their breakthrough!
Instead of waiting and holding onto promises, they forsake it all and walked away right before the moment of breakthrough.
To encourage you, His timing is always perfect.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,”-1 Peter5:6
“At the proper time…”
When is that?
We may not know, but we can rest assure that He does.
When I (Stephen) was a senior in college, I was walking into the chapel on campus one day and clearly heard God say to me,” you’re going to meet you wife here”. I have honestly only heard something that clear a handful of times in my life. I walked into the chapel service that day thinking I’d “find her”. I looked for the pretty girls raising their hands in worship. I graduated that Spring and there was no wife. I moved back to Kenya and again there was no wife. I ended up moving to Burundi in the middle of a civil war and again, there was no wife. I pastored a church in Tanzania and by this point I’d long forgotten the word God spoke to me some ten years prior. I returned to the United States in the summer of 2010 and the next Spring I was asked to return to my alma mater to share a message with some college mission students. We met in that exact chapel building and there on the front row was this beautiful red-head sobbing while I shared stories of Kenya. I came to find out she has loved Kenya since she was a little girl and God moved on her heart that evening. We hit if off, began dating, and it wasn’t until we were engaged that I even remembered God’s word to me that day 11 years earlier.
His timing is always perfect and when we take the timing into our own hands, we can miss what He has for us.
We can see how we can relate to and learn from these two travelers. But why would Luke choose to conclude his book this way?
Well, here’s the rest of the story: resurrection was just warm up for Pentecost.
In other words Jesus wasn’t setting up a monument to His suffering; He was mobilizing a movement to reach the world.
The message of the resurrection wasn’t for the disciples alone; it was for the world.
That movement was going to be birthed in Jerusalem NOT Emmaus.
The Holy Spirit was going to fall in the upper room NOT in their supper room.
The crucial problem is that they were headed the wrong direction and were about to miss God’s purpose!
They needed to be reconnected to other believers.
They needed the spark of faith to be reignited.
They needed a new awareness of Gods timing and purpose.
In order for that to happen they needed a burning heart.
“They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”-Luke24:32
Here’s the thought for us to take away from this story: Our hearts can continually burn even during times of great sorrow and suffering.
The lie of the enemy is this: if you are going through tough times then your heart will invariably go cold or at least lukewarm.
Jesus shows us that’s not the case.
Jesus warns us that in the last days hearts would grow cold.
“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”Matthew24:12
We are seeing it left and right in this hour. This isn’t the hour to be apathetic and slow of heart. This isn’t the hour of fear and indifference with double minded allegiance.
Jesus continually revels Himself to us so that our hearts might burn within even in hardships.
He’s doing this to bring about full healing in our lives so that we can then become His witnesses to the world.
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”-Revelation12:11
In order to live this scripture out and overcome disappointment, we must accept Jesus’ full work on the cross, share our testimony with others of what He’s done in us, and have a burning heart so that our lives are not our own.
Jesus’ evidence that He had died and rose again on the cross was His scars. The scar on my(Bailey) finger won’t ever go away. It’ll always serve as a reminder that I cut my hand in the kitchen. Yet once I walk through the necessary steps of physical therapy and regain function, it’ll serve as a testimony of healing for others. Likewise when we allow full healing, our scars will serve as a sign we’ve overcome disappointment and be a source of healing for those struggling to find Jesus through their pain.
If you’re interested in hearing the message, you can click HERE.
The problem with these lovely things is that we’re always living for the next one. We’re rarely content with the here and now. Or let me say that I am rarely content!
For years I kept jobs where I had enough flexibility to travel and do mission trips or occasional weekend trips. If I stayed still for 6 weeks, I’d get a traveler’s “itch”. Now in the past 3 &1/2 years I haven’t stayed still for 6 weeks and not longer have an itch to scratch. The thrill of travel and the desire to travel is more draining to me now as opposed to it holding thrilling adventures. I’d rather STAY PUT. I look forward to being rooted somewhere someday.
We always want what is NEXT.
What someone else has.
What we THINK we need.
I’ve been living in this mindset of what’s next for far too long now.
Today as I sit in Tulsa, Oklahoma desperately needing to load up my car in the 90 plus degree heat, I’m putting off my drive back to Missouri.
I woke up wanting to be in Africa today. Wanting to NOT have to go to yet another doctor’s office, but that’s what my day has for me. A quick stop at the doctor’s office and then 3-hour drive by myself.
There have been too many hindrances to what SK and I WANT to be doing. What we feel like we NEED to be doing. The things we know are in our future that we assume SHOULD be happening RIGHT NOW. (woah Bailey—calm down the all caps!).
Waiting is one of the hardest places to trust the Lord.
It’s easy to trust when things are going the way you planned for, expected and agree they should be going. It’s really difficult when it’s everything opposite to your timing and desires.
For most of us, we’re in seasons where we’d readily welcome the right spouse to come into the picture, that beautiful baby we are carrying to just hurry up and “be born”, or our boss to give us “that” promotion we’ve been dreaming of and working towards.
What if in our dreaming and hoping, we are missing the here and now?
What if we are single and our spouse is about to walk into our lives and we’ll forever be in a relationship and we are missing out on the independence and experiences of being single?
What if that baby (who can’t stay in there much over 40 weeks without exiting anyway) is about to come and we’ll have sleepless nights and a child to be responsible for and we’re missing out on enjoying the days of carrying the child inside of us?
What if the hard work we’re putting into our jobs is producing deep character and skills that wouldn’t be forming if it weren’t for being “under authority”. Once we get a promotion, our role will change and new challenges will come, but the things we’re learning here today could end.
I saw these 3 beautiful roses my husband gave to me yesterday across the room this morning and instead of rushing out the door and leaving them behind to die, I sat down to let their beauty inspire me to write.
How does a rose bloom? One petal at a time.
It doesn’t unfold every single layer all at once or you’d miss the beauty of a rose. It has layers and layers that continue to one by one peel back and reveal more beauty.
When you first see a rose all curled up and small, it’s not that attractive. Its appeal isn’t in the beginning form; it’s in the unraveling, the slow process of seeing the layers comes together to bring forth its splendor.
Our lives are like that.
Each layer, each unraveling piece helps make the beautiful story of our lives.
Some days I am in pain. Other days I feel great sorrow. Not every day feels pleasant, but no matter how dark any given day is, that doesn’t mean tomorrow doesn’t hold promises of beauty within it. Each petal itself isn’t perfect and pretty, but the overall unfolding of the rose is splendid.
I need the stretching of being opened up. I need life to force my dependency on Christ and not on my own. It’s good for me to admit my own frailty and draw near to Him.
SO it is with a deep breath inhale… exhale … that I can step back and choose to be content today.
I’m letting these gorgeous roses remind me of the delicate magnificence of life.
Enjoy today. Enjoy tomorrow.
Realize that each day and phase of life while it might not be the most enjoyable is pulling back another petal to make a way for more beauty to come forth.
Rejoice in the One who causes the unraveling beauty in our lives.
**Thanks honey for my lavender roses—they’re my most favorite as are you ;-)
I climbed into a ditch yesterday to get eye level with a woman who had been looking my way. I was the only white female around and with my ultra white skin and this long auburn hair, I’m sure that I stood out more than I realized.
It had been a dream of mine for about 2 years to stand where I was standing. There are factories nearby my house and many Malagasy people work there and eat out on the streets on their very short meal breaks.
There is a harvest in my backyard basically and I wanted to go and love on them.
I had just shared with the people on the love of God and the way that it has changed my life. There were tears as I saw glimpses of God’s heart over each one who listened to me.
I spoke with and prayed for several at the end of my sharing time and I kept my eyes open for anyone else whom God might want me to pray with.
My translator stuck by my side and thankfully he is a bold young man who loves Jesus so he went along with my leading him person to person.
After many smiles and warm prayers had been offered, I knew it was time to go and greet this one who was continually looking my way. I climbed down onto her level and smiled.
I began to ask her name and if there was anything that she needed prayer for.
There was indeed, so I asked her like the others I had prayed for if I could hold her hand.
Her eyes widened as she heard my translation come through in her mother tongue. She looked back at me and covered up her smile.
This white girl wanted to hold her hand.
Then I said what a beautiful smile she had. To which she shook her head like any woman who’s insecure and being complimented would do.
The only difference between her insecurities and maybe a friend back home is that she is missing most of her teeth.
Not only that, but the remaining teeth were rotting.
I meant what I said though—that she had a beautiful smile.
She was beautiful. Far more than the so referred to ideals of beauty that only masks what real beauty is.
Here she was not hiding who she really was. There was no escaping that she’s grown up less fortunate than anyone I know from the USA. There’s no hiding the fact that she’s not had access to proper dental care or hygiene. Her wrinkles on her young face reveal many harsh days in the sunlight working and the physical stress her body has endured.
We prayed for her specific needs and I also encouraged her that she is a daughter of God just like me. That there might be differences in our lives naturally, but we are the same value with Him and we are loved by Him.
We continued to talk and I watched as her countenance changed. How her eyes softened more and received more love like sunlight to her heart.
I repeatedly told her how beautiful her smile was and each time it grew broader and brighter.
Her sister came along, not missing any visible teeth and was equally as beautiful. We talked and prayed and then they thanked me and walked away.
I thought about this dear smile.
This toothless face and the precious sight it is to my Father in Heaven.
I thought of the joy that Jesus has over this one who to the best of her knowledge loves Him and worships Him.
This one who He paid the price for in dying on the cross.
Then I thought about the social media world and it’s view on beauty.
I’ve never seen a popular post of a picture of a woman with no make-up and saying many comments of “Wow you’re so beautiful!”, “GORGEOUS!”, “Ow Ow super-model friend”.
I know I’ve often remarked on my friend’s posts of wearing no make-up, but it’s not the normal and pictures of women without make-up is by large, rare.
I’ve never seen people get all excited over some woman’s outfit that is just “plain Jane” or one that is mismatched, has holes, and is tattered like my toothless friend.
The reality is that we don’t see beauty like God sees it.
We look for the no wrinkles, flawless, put together, something we can all desire type of beauty.
We post about the latest trends, style the latest haircuts and colors, and keep one another in a constant comparison trap. All the while the true beauties of the world get pushed out of sight.
Back to my original question, would you find a toothless woman beautiful?
You might answer yes particularly if you can picture this Malagasy woman I have described and have a sense of compassion. BUT is your “yes” based on sympathy and feeling sorry for her? Is your scale of beauty adjusted to fit someone who’s life is lived in the dust and dirt of Africa? Or can you confidently saw yes because no matter if you are looking at this precious one or the woman next to you at work, you see true beauty. You see it in the ones that others would call “ugly”. You see beauty in the faces of those who would never grace a magazine about beauty and style. You see it because you’ve seen the one whom “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him”. (Isaiah 53:2)
There was nothing in Jesus’ nature that marked beauty or denoted an attractiveness like a King, yet the beauty of His love and life is far greater than any person will ever have.
When we see His beauty and gain His heart, we see the beauty in others, even if there is ugliness in their hearts that makes them unkind.
Beauty isn’t in a perfectly set of straight teeth or in a perfectly arched eyebrow. It certainly isn’t in an expensive dress or in the shade of hair dye.
Beauty is in the heart of God who created everything and said that “It is good”. He created you. He created me. He created the sunsets, the rainbows and the stars. And he calls things beautiful like my toothless friend.
Don’t be afraid to climb down into the ditches of life and to search out beauty where few are brave enough to explore. You’ll find great treasures of beauty there hidden just to reveal themselves to you.
Disclaimer: this is a vulnerable post but I share this in hopes that if you find yourself even remotely in my shoes, that you’ll find humility to repent and ask for forgiveness.
My husband has the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen. They’re so deep and I always tell him that they remind me of horse’s eyes which he doesn’t take as a compliment, but I mean it as one–ha ;)
He picked out his latest pair of glasses last year all by himself and I think they’re handsome on him and frame his eyes well.
The sweet man has struggled with his eyesight since he was a little boy.
Meanwhile Miss 20/20 vision over here has never struggled with my sight…even though I faked my eye exam at school in the 3rd grade. I wanted attention, ahem, I mean glasses…clearly another story for another day.
Sometimes when Stephen and I are in deep conversation and I want to see his eyes, I’ll notice smudges on his glasses.
While he’s talking, I gently remove them, wipe them clean and place them back on his head.
I likewise often find myself pushing his glasses back up on the bridge of his nose ;-) they often slide down.
I am always pleased to do this because it allows me to see him well.
Tonight, we were discussing a passage of scripture and really diving into some depths.
The reflection of a lamp and his smudges were annoying me because I couldn’t make full eye contact.
I grabbed them as usual and it was then that God spoke to me.
“Why don’t you view every act of service to your husband like this one?”
In other words,”why do you gripe, complain, and nag at him instead of joyfully serving him in other areas?”.
I lost what Stephen was saying.
I gulped down the pride I felt coming up in my own heart.
I now saw his soft eyes again.
Eyes full of love.
Full of passion for Jesus.
Full of incredible compassion for me.
I knew I needed forgiveness.
I quickly searched the areas I hate serving him in.
Things like reminding him that toothpaste is on his mouth.
Why he can’t wear a particular shirt because it’s wrinkled.
((Hello I could have it ironed anyways))
The list goes on (my point is not to expose a list of annoyances), but they’re all small simple things like wiping his glasses.
Yet wiping his glasses I do from a place of compassion.
He can’t see the way I can see.
Why is any other area I could serve him in any different?
Maybe because I’m the big sister of two brothers, the reactions I have at times felt justified as I was used to being “helpful” ;-)
Maybe I felt like I was helping him with his appearance or other areas I saw his need for my input.
Instead of quietly serving with a heart of love like he does with me day in and day out, I’ve honestly nagged.
I’ve often viewed serving my husband as a chore.
I’ve not looked at helping him with his wardrobe as a joy.
Sweet man is 6’3 with a 29″ waist on his pants…Being an American who was born in Kenya and having a thin frame, he’s a natural runner and let’s just say this presents challenges with his clothes.
He grew up on the missions field in Africa and spent his single years on the field where he literally gave shirts off of his back (still does). Instead of caring what people think about his outward appearance, he focuses on what truly matters internally and eternally, while I’ve found fault with outward things.
I’ve not looked at the areas that I have the ability to help him with as joys.
I’ve sometimes seen them as obligations and annoyances.
Not all of them, but enough that the conviction was strong.
I looked back through his clear glasses into my favorite pair of eyes and I was overcome with joy and love.
I asked for forgiveness for being so cruel at times and not serving Him in love. I cried.
I read a Facebook post a few days ago of a father of 4 kids sharing updates on his children.
I’m particularly engaged in this family’s posts because of their beautiful story and service in ministry, which is too long to go into.
Their eldest son has had some rather extreme physical challenges. I remember praying when Stephen and I were newly married as this young man’s life hung in the balance.
Today he’s doing much better, but is still fully dependent on his parents.
The father wrote about this particular son, “He’s been fairly happy. My main selfish concern is that I want to go on a vacation with my wife. But, if he is happy, I’m happy. Years ago I had a breakthrough when changing his nasty 12-year-old diaper. I told him “it’s an honor to serve you son,” and broke down crying. I’ve said it ever since when changing a diaper or showering poo off of him. I wonder how the Father thinks about us?”
This post planted a significant seed in my spirit.
One that only 3 days later would blossom to show me how selfish I am.
How very little of a joyful servant I’ve been at times.
I’m so thankful that my Heavenly Father gets down in the dirt in my life. He sent His glorious Son into my mess to serve me joyfully with love.
He sacrificially laid down His life for me.
He’s given me a husband who beyond my wildest imaginations is a wonderful picture of His servant hood and love.
Stephen has stood by me in some of the most crazy scenarios you wouldn’t even believe.
Only 2 and a half years of marriage have presented us with major health challenges and chaos of our often far too adventurous life ;-). Yet through it all, he has faithfully served and faithfully loved.
I am thankful.
I am thankful to have him.
Thankful to love him, to be his wife.
And I’m incredibly thankful that I can serve him with joy realizing God wants to move through me to love on him.
I’m sure I will continue to annoy Stephen and I’m positive some days especially when he famously has toothpaste smeared on his beard that I’ll be frustrated.
But I pray the revelation of knowing there is One who has gone before me in perfect love stays etched in my mind and spirit.
I pray that beyond “in sickness and in health”, that I can serve my husband with joy, seeing him as the gift he really is. Not diminishing it in my own selfish ways.
I pray that you too would love those whom God has placed in your life and serve them like Jesus would.
That you would wash the “poo” off of them and wipe the smudges off of their glasses so that they too can see His Perfect Love.
When I read this blog recently titled “Stop Singing Oceans”, I honestly was bothered a bit by it. While I understand what the author (who clearly loves Jesus) intended to say by indicating we sing songs in worship that we don’t fully act upon, I must say that I have to disagree largely with her thoughts overall.
This blog is not a rebuttal necessarily, but merely a composed testimony of my experiences with worship songs. I wasn’t raised going to church, therefore I am coming at this from both sides of being unchurched and being a church attending gal ;-) .
When I truly met and encountered Jesus, I was wild for Him. In my wildness, I wasn’t mature and said and did things that reflected I was definitely a baby Christian. When I began my walk with the Lord, I didn’t know anything other than that I was so in love with Him. I would attend every possible church service that I could and I absolutely LOVED worship nights! I didn’t know that I could/couldn’t should/shouldn’t do this or that. And I certainly didn’t filter my songs to Him. I sang about surrendering my life when I was selfish and not very surrendered. I sang about only loving Him when really I had many other “loves”. My heart was in the right place though and I kept singing.
I still remember the first time I heard the song, “You Said”, while watching a mission’s video of Haiti at the church I got saved at. The lyrics gripped my heart as Rita Springer’s version of this song filled the footage of many broken lives in Haiti.
I cried and that was the first moment I felt called to the nations as a missionary
I became obsessed with the song and constantly sang with tears in my eyes, “You said “Ask and I’ll give the nations to you…” Oh Lord, that’s the cry of my heart…distant shores and the islands will see Your light…Oh Lord I ask for the nations”.
The truth is I had NO idea what I was praying or singing out literally, but I felt it so deep within my spirit. I didn’t know that in fact my first full-time missions assignment would be to live on the distant island of Madagascar some 12 years later.
Fast forward to 2007 when I wrote these lyrics on my mirror (in hot pink lipstick of course) “Heal my heart and make it clean. Open up my eyes to the things unseen. Show me how to love like you have loved me. Break my heart for what breaks yours. Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause. As I walk from earth into eternity”. These lyrics are from a song called, “Hosanna”, by Hillsong.
I felt those lyrics so passionately in my spirit as I sang them out, but again how could I know the fullness of what I was praying? I’d cry as I prayed and meditated on those lyrics because the truth was, I wanted a healed heart that could understand His heart. I didn’t want to be hardened by the world around me and not be moved in compassion and love for others. I did not know what singing those lyrics would produce in me. When you sing words like that, you can expect opportunity to grow and mature.
Those words ended up launching me into a season of discovering the love of God like never before.
When Stephen and I were getting married, our church wedding coordinator was against us having live worship music for some reason. It was a battle I fought for because we wanted to set the tone of worship for our marriage. We weren’t merely pledging our love to one another, but we were doing so in commitment to the God we love and serve and we wanted to sing about it.
The opening song we sang was by John Thurlow and we sang, “The love that You (Father) have for Jesus. Put it inside of me. Burn it on my heart like a seal, like a seal. That in the famines of Your presence or in the floods of persecution, or in the comfort of the culture, it’s still real…I just want a heart that is fully in love.”
When I had first heard that song, I wrote the lyrics down and knew I wanted to sing it on my wedding day. Stephen and I chose to declare in front of God and all of the witnesses celebrating us that we would stand for Jesus no matter what comforts or what trials we would walk through in our marriage. We had said, “Yes” to Him as singles and we now committing to saying, “Yes” to Him as a married couple.
Little did we know the events that would follow just days after when I got incredibly ill on our honeymoon and then we got into a serious car wreck shortly thereafter. We didn’t know that our “yes” would be tested and tried and that we would spend the majority of our first two years of marriage in doctor’s offices and walking out many physically trying situations.
However even in the darkest and most trying times, our hearts still sing, “I just want a heart that is fully in love”. That song has comforted me more today than when I sung it on the happiest day of my life.
THEN came the time that I first heard the song, “Oceans” by Hillsong at a supporting church of ours that my husband was speaking at. I almost didn’t show up to the services that morning because I was so weak physically. The anointed worship leader and his wife sang this song out with the rest of the band and I let out an ugly cry (kind of like I did the night I met Stephen when he preached about missions ;-)). My spirit came alive and I was infused with this glorious empowerment in my spirit that revived my faith. I knew God was calling me out of comfort. I knew I couldn’t control what was happening to my physical body or anything else in my life, but I could trust in Him. I knew I was being asked to surrender it all. I sang out loudly and boldly. Second service came around and more ugly cries came forth. This song carried me in the following months of our move to Madagascar and it stands as a reminder to many to pray for us whenever they hear that song.
As challenges in life have come, I’ve stood on these lyrics I’ve mentioned above. I believe that God has met me in my places of singing to Him. I believe some lyrics open my heart to cry out to Him and depend on Him to grow and perfect my faith as I seek Him.
I realize that any worship song could be just “lip service” to God and that some people sing “Oceans” and don’t mean a lyric of it.
But what if one person means it? What if one person receives a call into missions because they sing it? What if one person gets freed from an addiction because of it? What if one couple decide to hold onto the covenant they made with one another because of hearing it? What if a brother or sister in Christ sings this to steady their faith in the midst of persecution? Is it worth singing it then??
Worship leaders, I’ll address you and say to you—PLEASE keep singing “Oceans”. You may have a redheaded girl who just needs to remember He’s never failed her and won’t now.
To the worshippers out there, I say to you– sing “Oceans” LOUDLY even if it’s off key ;-)
Maybe the problem is that you aren’t signing it enough! Maybe you just need to sing it more until it becomes so redundant in your head that it finally becomes a conscious thought. As you sing, realize God will honor your words and He will nudge you to step outside of the borders that you’ve erected for your faith. The song says, “there I find You in the mystery in oceans deep, my faith will stand.” You might just be surprised at where you’ll find Him in your everyday life and let’s be honest–everyone’s faith needs to be encouraged. EVERYONE certainly needs to know “I am Yours and You are mine”.
God NEVER says “Stop singing” anywhere in His word.
He loves for us to be free to worship Him and to live lives that reflect His glory and not our man-made statues and limitations. He doesn’t want us to be intimidated by singing songs because somehow we think that we’ll never be able to live extraordinary lives for Him.
If I had not prayed challenging prayers, I wouldn’t have grown in my faith. If I had not dreamed dreams that only God have placed within me, I would be living confined in my own comfort and plans. I certainly wouldn’t be a missionary or writing this blog.
There you have it…My opinion on singing bold and crazy lyrics. Lyrics that our minds may never fully comprehend, but ones that speak life to our spirits and dare us to move beyond our natural lives and into the supernatural ones that depend on a BIG God.
Oh and if you’ve never heard the song “Oceans”, do yourself a favor. Give it a listen.
In coming across a well spread article on modesty, I began to have some red flags go off in me while reading it. While I’m sure the author is a Jesus-loving lady, I disagreed largely with her thoughts and I wanted to share some thoughts of my own taken from my journey regarding modesty.
While I didn’t grow up attending church and being taught on biblical modesty, I was taught self-value. I may not have entered a church at 2 years old, but I did enter the dance studio. Which means that as I grew, I took on my parent’s tall lean build and my “Dance Team” cheer skits were often shorter than others. My identity was formed in a typical MTV generation culture where women were viewed as sexual objects. Being raised in a time where media showed unfaithfulness, fornication, pornography, and impossible standards of beauty for women, what else was I to think? I didn’t know any better and I longed to be found beautiful by the opposite sex. This caused a long hard road of heartache, but out of it came great redemption from the love of God and his beautiful plan for my life to be pure and pleasing to Him. It is because of my experience in the freedom of Christ that I share these questions with you.
#1 Is There a Clear Line Regarding Christian Modesty?
Don’t worry! I’m not going to tell you that a way to measure modesty is by the “hallelujah” test where you raise your arms to see if your shirt is too short (an embarrassing and ridiculous test if you ask me—just wear long layers underneath your top). Nor am I going to give you a list of dos and don’ts. Instead I want to challenge us to think, ask questions, and seek to be those who fully love God.
The short answer to this question is no, there isn’t a clear line which is why there are so many views on this topic. I’m not saying that I have all the answers, but I feel it’s important to start by looking at what Scripture has to say about this topic.
1 Peter 3:3-5 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.”
1 Timothy 2:9-10 says, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”
It appears that both Peter and Paul were on the same page and I agree with them. I believe that all scripture is from God and that woman should dress as to reflect Jesus properly. I believe these scriptures equally mean that we shouldn’t be materialistic or obsessed with our outward appearance and our wardrobe. I also believe that there are some absolutes when it comes to modesty such as not having your breasts and other private parts hanging out (in a Western context, more on this later). Beyond the absolutes though in regards to manner of dress AND disposition of personality, I personally believe that daughters of God must listen to the Bible and to the conviction of the Holy Spirit themselves.
The reality is that someone could submit pictures to me of a woman wearing a particular outfit and I could give my personal opinion or even submit it before a panel of Christian men and get their opinion. If we all deemed the outfit inappropriate, one might be motivated not to wear it. However, until a person desires to please the Lord for himself or herself and listen to Him, they won’t have the personal conviction and proper motivation to please Him by what they wear and how they act.This is in my opinion where legalism can come into play and why many rebel against the “standards” that are set by others. It is one thing to comply with a dress code for a job or for a church service, but unless someone comes to a mature place to understand what pleases Jesus, they’ll often view these dress codes as legalistic and thus miss an opportunity to see His views.
The place modesty should start is in serving Jesus, not ourselves. When we get our focus on serving Jesus, we will seek to be pleasing to Him in all that we do. In so doing this we can eliminate the mentality of, “How close can I get to the line without crossing it?” and the attitude of flaunting our wardrobe and accessories. We can then be empowered to be as abandoned to the will of God as possible and become what God has always desired, a heart that is fully His. A heart that chooses Him, honors Him, and one that is quick to repent of sin and be near to Him. It’s important to know that Jesus doesn’t condemn us and shame us into submitting to His ways, BUT He will correct us and lead us into righteousness for His name’s sake as we choose to do His will. (Psalm 23:3) I say this to clarify that Jesus delights in us doing His will and doesn’t beat us up when we sin. He loves and takes pleasure in helping us mature in righteousness and become more like Him.
I’d like to say too that modesty is more than just our outward appearance. Modest clothing doesn’t always equal modest behavior. Any woman or man can be fully clothed and still be operating in a seductive and lustful spirit. By contrast, someone else may not be modestly dressed, but they might have a genuine heart to seek God and aren’t aware of how to dress. As believers we can teach and share with others, but it is not our place to judge based on non-absolutes that aren’t clearly defined in Scripture. Which brings me to my next point…
#2 Are We Teaching on Modesty in the Right Spirit?
I stated earlier that my “cheer skirts” were short. School dress code prohibited shorts or other skirts to be any shorter than fingertip length with arms fully extended by your side. Therefore due to my genetically long monkey arms, my fingertip length for shorts/skirts was considered “dorky” back then and I would’ve been made fun of mercilessly. When summer time came with no school restrictions on my outfits, I typically wore “short shorts” and tank tops where my midriff showed some. Where I’m from in Tulsa, Oklahoma, it gets into the 100s and the less you wore, the more comfortable you were. That was all I knew.
When I made Jesus the Lord of my life my junior year of High School at 16 years old, much changed in my life. I was so hungry for God, I attended church a few times a week, read my bible everyday, but I was still a baby in Christ and had plenty to learn (and I still do!).
Often after youth group, some of us would go for Tex-Mex and I’d get free food like chips and pop from the waiters. I’ve always had a strong personality, a deep love for people that caused me to talk to everyone, and then there’s my vibrant red hair. This combination definitely caused me to be noticed more than I realized. At this stage in life I didn’t have a strong identity in Christ, nor did I realize that I was drawing impure attention from men. I knew I wasn’t sleeping around and wearing super revealing clothes so I thought that in comparison with other girls, I was doing great! I just couldn’t see my blind spot.
One day during my senior year of High School, I had a talk with some of my male youth leaders that changed my life forever. They spoke with me about my strong personality and how that combined with how I dressed, men were turning their heads and giving me attention that wasn’t pure. These leaders shared the struggles men have with sexual sin and it helped me understand the realities of lust. They celebrated my leadership “command the room” type personality, my desire to connect with people, and they helped me find a righteous balance. They spoke in such a tender Spirit led way that I didn’t walk away feeling ashamed. Instead I left the conversation feeling beautiful and I desired to protect the beauty that God had placed within me. Their talk left me realizing that my personality gave me an opportunity to point people to Jesus and that put a joyous responsibility on me and it is partially why I’m secure in who I am today.
There were other love centered rebukes in the years that followed and I appreciated the insight and the correction that came with being held to a righteous standard. However, there were a few other instances where I was told in rather harsh ways that what I was wearing wasn’t proper and even that the way that I swayed my hips in worship could be distracting for men. Those moments always left me feeling embarrassed and degraded rather than corrected in love. For a short while I became more focused on how I moved while worshipping Jesus, than focused on actually worshipping Jesus.
The point in sharing these two examples is to emphasize the contrast of confrontations. One group sought to turn what God had given me, a people loving outgoing personality, into a pure hearted and modest awareness that displayed Christ; whereas the other sought to correct an outward appearance based on personal opinion without welcoming the love of God into the situation.
I think that as believers we MUST meet people where they are and speak in love. We can’t assume that they’ve had the best examples growing up or that they understand their new identity in Christ. I believe there is a way to teach modesty to women and men in a way that helps them fall more in love with Jesus and who He’s created them to be. I often think of how Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery in John chapter 8 with tenderness and empowerment to walk away from a place of sin with renewed hope. This approach can cultivate a desire for one to yield themselves to Him not only in their outward appearance, but also in a manner of heart.
#3 Have We Become Victims to Culture and Society?
There are common mentalities in the world today that provide opportunities for people to not own responsibility for their actions or to be held accountable to a moral compass that sets boundaries. Simply put, people don’t like to be told what to do. These ideologies have crept into the church and have given believers an excuse to do as they please instead of being accountable to God. If we profess to follow Christ, the Bible should be our final word of authority, not the society around us. I believe that when our desire is to please the Lord in every area of our lives, He will help us. As believers, we must all become responsible for our actions and our attitudes. When we stand before God one day He isn’t going to ask how many people made us stumble. He will ask if we partnered with His word to overcome the temptations we found ourselves in and if we turned away from sin.
I had plenty of excuses with my MTV background and my flirty skirts to play victim to circumstance. I faced plenty of temptations in the area of sexual sin as well as being involved in impure relationships in my teen years. Instead of remaining in a place of hurt and insecurity, I sought the Lord, read His word, and invited His loving correction into my life. I’m grateful as this turn of heart caused me to experience freedom and I ended up marrying a holy, Jesus-loving man, whose heart towards me is pure.
My husband grew up as a missionary in East Africa and as a single man, he was a missionary in Burundi. This offered him unique insight into modesty as it relates to cultural differences. Almost every time he would preach in a church in Burundi, women would begin to openly breastfeed their babies. I understand that this varies from the typical American church service where women would never do this, but in Africa and many parts of the world this is completely normal. Hello—hungry babies + moms hungry for word of God=breastfeeding in service and anywhere for that matter. So here was my husband having prayed and prepared a word, continually faced with the onslaught of up close and personal breasts as he preached. He said to me, “It wasn’t their fault that their babies are hungry and that they chose to feed them during service. It was my responsibility to have my flesh crucified so that I was only looking to Jesus and focused on what He wanted to say to the people. There was no excuse to entertain lust just because there was an opportunity for it, for I’m accountable to God’s Word.” I realize most men aren’t going to be preaching in a cultural context like Burundi, but the same principle applies if they see a woman dressed improperly or if presented with pornography.
There are natural chemical responses in our bodies that manifest physically when faced with a sexual temptation. Particularly for men being more visual than women, they can get an adrenaline rush just from seeing a woman’s body. I agree that it’s not their fault that their bodies are made to respond like that because in the context of marriage it is wonderful and holy. HOWEVER, it is the man’s responsibility to deal with their response to culture and society in a way that glorifies God just as much as it is for a woman to dress and behave in a way that glorifies God. This means glorifying God both inwardly in their thought life as well as outwardly by turning away their eyes. The influence of the world doesn’t give believers the right to play victim to unrighteousness. We are held to the same Biblical standards regardless of others actions.
#4 Are We Protecting the Hearts of Others?
When people dress or act inappropriately it is often rooted in insecurity from a lack of identity in Christ. This insecurity produces selfishness that can lead to pressures to compete and compare with others, which can ultimately lead to compromise. If we honor the opposite sex selflessly as brothers and sisters in Christ, then we have an opportunity to mature in our identity in Him. This produces a pure heart that wants to protect others.
Proper identity in Christ as a son or daughter teaches us to honor, love, and protect those around us by treating them as we would the Lord Himself.
When a person reaches a place where they love the opposite sex purely and serve them with the heart of Christ instead of operating out of insecurity, God releases maturity into their hearts that can carry them into a healthy marriage. My single years taught me to be a sister to other men and to keep my heart guarded for the man I’d marry someday. Holding to this posture as a married or single person can help us create safe environments for godly relationships to flourish so that we can purely partner together for His kingdom.
#5 Have We Truly Experienced the Freedom in Christ that Sets Us Apart from this World?
Unrighteousness living presents “freedom” as being whoever we want to be and doing whatever feels good. The freedom in Christ produces what others could view as “restrictions”, but it ultimately gives us authentic liberty. Modesty isn’t limiting who we are; rather it’s releasing us into who God made us to be. Let me say to all the ladies reading this; there is incredible beauty in being a daughter of God. There is likewise a heavy burden in being a daughter of this world enslaved to what others define as beautiful.
When I read the blog that I mentioned in my intro, I was sitting in an Islamic context with women physically covered up all around me. This could be why the blog struck me as so bizarre as it conveyed that the more covered up a woman was; then the less men would lust, which I disagree with. I don’t know if that author is familiar with Islamic culture, nor do I pretend to be an expert, but I do know how oppressive that religion can be for women in various ways. In the manner of dress, they are typically covered up from head to toe, often in strict culture having only their eyes visible. The rationale behind this is because women’s bodies elicit lust and men simply can’t control themselves. Islam teaches that it’s the woman’s fault that men lust and that she must cover up her entire body. The Bible on the other hand teaches us to deny OURSELVES, crucify OUR FLESH and put to death the lusts of OUR SOUL. Herein lies my problem with Christians who teach that it’s not the man’s fault when he lusts after a woman. I wasn’t there, but from what I read, Bathsheba was only taking a bath! I’m not sure how it was her fault that David lusted after her. We must remember what Jesus said, “if anyone even looks at a woman with lust, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). If we say that it’s exclusively the woman’s fault that a man looks and then lusts after her, how then is that any different than Islam? If we suggest that women should only be covered in large baggy garments, how is that releasing freedom to the daughters of God?
I share this because the freedom that we have in Jesus Christ is not bound in legalism and oppression that the world offers. There is HOPE in Jesus that liberates us from sin and separates us into righteous living (right standing with Him). He calls us out from serving our flesh and into finding our beauty in who He has created us to be. This freedom doesn’t permit us to make others stumble. Rather, our modesty becomes worship to the one true living God.
*If you’d like to encourage someone with this blog, share it! If you’d like to comment on this, I’d love to hear from you. :)
I’m working on expanding this into a short book and would love your feedback! (Jan 2014)