Coffee, Theology and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Tag: relationships

CTJ #22: Keeping a Christ Centered Marriage

We have all said the words about our relationships “oh yes, we have a very Christ centered marriage” or relationship or friendship – whatever the case.  However, how true are those statements?

Paul Tripp once said, “either Jesus lives in the 10,000 little moments of your life or he does not live in your life at all.”  We discuss what it means to have a Christ centered marriage – in that it starts with a Christ centered life.  This topic is even more relevant in today’s world that is drifting further and further from God.  Our lives should speak of Christ – and our marriages should be telling others the gospel.  Join us as we discuss this vast topic – that we don’t even begin to feel that we’ve somehow mastered or accomplished.

Especially on this podcast – we would love to have your input and experiences!

As always.

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CTJ #12: The Christian Dating Discussion: Part 2

For the first time, CTJ has ladies on the podcast!  Tim and Rob are joined by Sarah and Julia (their fiancee and wife, respectively).  This episode we continue the discussion from the last episode and dig into dating with a purpose, marriage and unrealistic expectations.

Join us this week, and as always:

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CTJ #11: The Christian Dating Discussion: Part 1

Tim, Jordan, and Rob begin a series of podcasts on Christian Dating, Relationships, and Singleness.  This week, they address the concerns they have about the Christian Dating Scene that is prominent right now.  Are Christians going into dating with the right motives and with the proper maturity?  What is the purpose of dating?  How should parents and the local church community be better preparing the youth for dating properly and effectively?  Do guys properly pursue relationships and are girls straight forward enough?  So many topics to cover!

The guys share their thoughts but please share your own thoughts on the podcast!

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Popping the Christian Dating Bubble.

Well the unthinkable in my life happened; I started dating someone.  Yes pick yourself up off that chair, brush your dusty knees off, no you’re not dreaming.  It’s true.

 

 

About two months ago I started seeing a wonderful person.  It was kind of sudden, very unexpected but truth be told it’s been a great journey thus far.   Yes, I’m well aware it’s only been two months, but already I have learned a great deal about myself and mindsets I had that I didn’t even know I had.  This post really is for you single people out there.  Especially the Christian ones because I have news for you…you probably have mindsets and disney fairy tale views that you don’t even know you have.  Trust me when I tell you the past few months have been a complete rewiring of everything I thought I knew about romance, ‘healthy’ relationships, and expectations.

Here are a few things i learned.

 

1. You’re dating a human, not a fantasy – “oh Tim” you say, “of course I know that”.  Only you really don’t until you start dating someone and realize that this person can’t read your mind.  That this person doesn’t fit into you’re nice, neat view of that special someone.  Do you know why? Because they are a human being with their own thoughts, desires, habits, attitudes, preferences, and views.  You’re dating another human being, not the person you made up in your head.  Seriously, stop wondering what it’s going to be like because you’ll be pretty much wrong.  I mean you can day dream about being with someone all you want, just understand that you’re mostly wrong about the actual person you’ll be dating because the person you’re thinking of isn’t a person..it’s a daydream.

 

2. No matter how much I knew that hollywood gives a false view of romance I still bought it – I mean can you blame me? We are bombarded with it everywhere.  Yes Yes I know that we Christians think we see through it…..but we don’t. Instead we combine Jesus with Disney and the result is crap like this. We are saturated with culture’s view of love and romance and no matter how much we tell ourselves we don’t buyit but secretly we do. Yes of course I knew that no woman will be my answer in life but it wasn’t until i actually experienced it that I understood it.   You might think that you see through hollywood’s smoke but you’ve still inhaled it.

3. He/She Won’t be your ultimate fulfillment – Understanding that this girl will never fully answer all my questions, never calm every nerve, and never be perfect is at first terrifying and then completely relieving because you realize that you’re not her end all be all either.  My relationship with Jesus is my center, but she is with me on this journey, not my journey.  Of course I couldn’t be more thrilled to be pursuing this person and yes, it’s great to be with her and I love to spend time with her.  But I don’t have to see her every single second of every single day. This person isn’t my answer.  Jesus is and because of that we have healthy space in our relationship.

4. No butterflies does not equal I’m falling out of love – I imagine anyone in a serious relationship or marriage is laughing at me right now.  Truth be told it sounds ridiculous.  But one day when I woke up and didn’t have raging feelings for the person I’m dating I thought to myself “well this must be it, for some reason I don’t like her anymore” which of course is complete poop.  Once again I bought the lie that feelings = relationship. This another great mirage of our culture and especially our media.  From movies alone we are left to assume that to like someone, or to love someone means to have strong, constant, crazy feelings for them 24/7/365.  What a shock it was to me when that didn’t happen. Once again I knew it wasn’t true, but I didn’t understand until I experienced it.

5. Friendship is just as important as the romantic – Another mind blowing revelation that I’ve learned in these past few months.  My friendship with this girl is just as important as the romance.  I’ve had fun just being with her not having to hold her hand every second of every day.  We’ve had moments where we’ve laughed so hard we both started crying, these moments that our often overlooked in our culture’s view of dating have often been the most intimate and important in our relationship.  Sure I take her out , we go on dates, but most of that time is spent as great friends enjoying the company of each other and usually ends up with us laughing till our heads explode…or binging on a few Office episodes.

Look, I don’t claim to be some relationship guru because I’m two months into a relationship after 5 years of being single. That isn’t the point of this post.  The point of this post to wake Christian singles up.  Dating Sarah is so much better than dating the person I made up in my head because Sarah is a real human being made in the image of God and the person I made up was made in the image of me.

 

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-TW

 

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On Resolving Conflict

Resolving relationship issues is tough work. It’s so tough in fact, that most people don’t even bother resolving issues they have with other people.  They either sweep them under the rug, or cut the relationship off completely.  But this is contrary to Jesus and His way of living.  When we hold grudges and let problems get in the way of our relationships with people, we are letting brokenness reign instead of Jesus and his restorative nature.

 

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a strong local community these past 7 years where I’ve had to resolve issues I’ve had with people, or people have had to resolve issues they’ve had with me.  These conversations have not been always easy, but they have always been necessary.  Why?  Because we knew that for us to really live in relationships together we had to be honest and willing to ‘go there’ even when it was difficult. 

 

Because of that, the relationships formed are of the strongest bond.  When you confront someone with the love and humility of Jesus, you open yourself and the other person involved to healing and restoration.  Is it easy? Of course not, it’s often awkward, and painful.  BUT, as the conversation progresses you see a light at the end of the tunnel.  

 

Why am I blogging about this? Because we don’t know how to confront people and resolve problems between each other in our culture.  No, we’d much rather run to twitter and rant, we’d much rather call our other friend about the problem and spread gossip like wildfire, we’d much rather tear the other person down to make ourselves look better.  When we don’t confront, when we don’t know how to humbly approach each other we lose out on deeper relationships.  

 

I’ve been on both sides of the confrontation.  I’ve been the person who has initiated and brought the conversation up, told the person how I felt when he/she said this, or did that, and then heard their side and worked to common ground. I’ve also been the person who has been told that what I did or said was not ok and he/she was deeply hurt.  At that point, I had no choice but to eat a big helping of humble pie, ask for their forgiveness (which they so graciously extended), and then moved on.  This is a lost art even in the Christian culture.  we’d much rather go to our pastor, we’d much rather talk to someone else about our problem, not the person directly involved.

The Bible talks over and over about this.  Jesus tells us that before we even go to Him, if we remember that we have an issue with someone to immediately to that person to resolve our problem.  We are told not to let the sun go down on our anger, and Paul tells us to love one another, forgiving one another just as Christ forgave us.

 

Do not be afraid to talk to someone about the offense they committed against you.  Be gracious, be humble and willing to hear them out. Humans do dumb things and that includes you.  No one is above reproach.  We love to think that we are above being confronted.  People will vehemently defend their actions even if they are completely in the wrong.  Ultimately, this comes down to a pride issue that is for another post, but to Christians I will say this: Kill that pride and be teachable.  If you have an issue you need to resolve with another human being (wife, husband, son, daughter, friend, brother, sister, mom, dad, the guy at the grocery story etc), then go to that person and talk those things out.  Don’t give sin a foothold to start spreading, the longer you wait the harder it is to resolve the issue and the easier it is to keep going down that path. 

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-TW

Importance of Christians Engaging not Excluding the World

Warning: This post is a little longer than usual.
In this post we really wanted to address how we (as Christians) are to approach people with different beliefs. It’s a hot button issue inside the Church with an array of different methods to either interact or share Christ with people of different beliefs. This post was written mainly by Rob with Tim writing a little bit here and there to polish off the edges. How we interact with people outside the Christian faith is of utmost importance and we see Christ be an amazing example, as well as the disciples, apostles, and other people in the Bible. In a world of talking points, political rhetoric, and more talking points, it is important that Christians stand out not just in the things they say, but how well they love with their lives. People are watching and waiting to see how followers of Christ are going to handle a lot of the hot button issues of our time. Here are our thoughts.

Interactions with Non-Christians

Interaction with those of a different religion, theory, or idea is something that can’t be avoided in the world today.  Nor should it.  However, this should be prefaced with a few things.  There is no “one-size-fit-all formula” and we should not expect a certain number of converts in a certain time period.  Evangelism is not Christians persuading non-Christians to join their theology.  We aren’t to be watching numbers and setting time based goals.  These are humans we are talking about, not our personal projects.  God wants to save every single person (1 Timothy 2:4) to be saved from their sins for His glory and their blessing.  Evangelism is really Christians following the leading of the Spirit of God who works sovereignly with people  in His time and purpose.  We are reaching real people with real needs in real circumstances.  But how do we do that?

In Love: Without Condescending The Individual
Spreading the gospel is something that every Christian has the responsibility of doing.  If not for the direct command of Christ “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15) we could rely on our inherent love for other humans to dictate this commission.  As Christians, we cannot avoid that anyone who does not accept Christ as their personal Savior will spend eternity in Hell.  This should touch the heart of every Christian reading this blog.  Our mission is to reach people with a message that can save them for all eternity.  Therefore, everything we do should be out of love not condescension and care not inferiority.  Paul was such an effective evangelist because he never lost sight of the fact “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).  Had it not been for the grace of God in my life I would be in Hell for all eternity.  We, as Christians, are only looking to share how God’s grace has changed us and offer that same hope to others in Christ Jesus.

I’ll tell you what love isn’t.  Love is not using every opportunity to tell every person you met how terrible of a sinner they are and how they only deserve Hell.  Probably not a good conversation/relationship starter.  The best evangelist we have is Jesus himself.  Now, we don’t have God’s omniscience but we do have His example.  In each situation where Christ would evangelize He first developed trust and a relationship.  Think about the woman at the well (John 4:4-42).  First, it was unbelievable to that woman that a Jewish man was even speaking to her (+1 right there).  She was a Samaritan and a woman.  However, He took the initiative and went to where she was.  Ever wonder why she was coming to the well at that time of the day?  It wasn’t the typical time.  She most likely wanted to avoid the other women because of the life she was living.  Christ came to her where she was.  He then tells her what He can do for her; He can give her living water!  There is no doubt that the kindness of this man spoke greatly to this woman.  She already sensed that she was valued in the eyes of the man before her.  Our relationships with others won’t be built in a specified amount of time.  I don’t believe we have the full story of the conversation between Jesus and this woman.  Perhaps it will be days/weeks/months/years of friendship before the proper door opens to share the gospel.  The point is that we should be displaying the attributes of Christ’s love long before we share the message of the gospel.  I heard a saying that goes “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  There is a reason that Christ sat and ate with sinners.  Because it is sinners He is trying to reach.  No better way to build a relationship then over some food and/or coffee.  That is what sitting and eating with sinners is all about.  Want to build a new relationship with an unbeliever?  Grab some food/coffee and listen.  Ask what is going on with their life and actually listen to the answer.  Don’t worry about telling them their sins are taking them to Hell.  Remember this is all about God’s timing; not ours.  If we are sensitive to the leading of the Spirit we won’t miss a good opportunity to speak the gospel but when we try to force it down their throats it does nothing but look bad on Christians.  Care about the person because I can assure you that God loves them regardless of their belief.

But what about when the opportunity finally comes up and perhaps our friend here asks us about the Gospel?  How do we share it?

In Truth: Without Compromising His Message
This one can be a little more difficult.  This is one of the major reasons that Peter says “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).  Gentleness and respect is what we are talking about when we say “in love.”  The first half of that verse says “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.”  Interesting.  What I am reminded of is that this gospel is unchanging.  The gospel deals with the holiness of our Savior and therefore we should not alter it in any way.  We don’t need to change the message to make it more acceptable or to take an edge off it.  We need to present the truth.  Let’s go back to the woman at the well.  She and Christ have a relationship now and Christ in His omniscience sees the opportunity to face this woman with the truth of the message.  Her sin.  He asks her to go get her husband.  He confronts her with the issue she was looking to avoid by going to the well at that time of day.  But because He already established the relationship she didn’t throw the bucket of water on him and run back to her home.  Christ didn’t cover up the “ugly” part of the gospel to make it easier to swallow.  When our friends ask us about the gospel the issue of sin must be addressed.  Now, I wouldn’t suggest calling out the wrong you see in everyone else.  That would be the wrong way to go about it.  Christ had the lady confront her own sin before he spoke about it.  If it looks like someone is getting uncomfortable and upset about the topic and no longer wants to discuss it that would be a good time to let it go and talk about something else.  Too often Christians get the “Gospel Mode” going and can’t get out of it.  Just because someone asked you about an attribute of God doesn’t mean you have to point out the fact that pre-marital sex is wrong.  God is the one who is working with hearts/souls/minds and we are just “clay vessels” carrying the message of salvation.  Let God do His work and we must be faithful to present the uncompromised message of salvation.  Not this “feel good gospel” because that won’t save anyone from Hell.  But the reality that Christ died on the cross for sins and only a sinner can be saved.  Christ said “I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).  Sinners are the ones who need Christ (thankfully I am definitely one of those which makes me eligible for forgiveness).

So the question then arises:  Well, if I am supposed to witness to nonbelievers and Jesus sat and ate with sinners, shouldn’t I go to the strip clubs, bars, and night clubs so I can relate to them?  We should go to where they are right?  How do I do that?

In Life: Without Contradicting My Testimony
As a messenger of the gospel my life is the greatest message being given.  If my life doesn’t display the love of Christ then no one will care what my lips are speaking.  This is why we stress the attitude of Christians so much on this blog.  The world around us is watching us to see if we practice what we preach and all too often Christians are coming up way too short.  I was once told “we represent a giving God so when we go to others we better go giving.”  Whether that is money, food, time, or whatever I think there is a lot of truth in it.  So first, our lives must reflect our Savior; not deny Him.  I will defer to the words said before an old DC Talk song “What If I Stumble.”

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyle.  That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Tim & Rob

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Youth Group: Who’s Idea Was This? (Part 1)

I have many good friends who are youth pastors. This post is not about bashing them, or anyone else who has been called to work with youth. This post is about looking at what’s happening in our youth groups in churches and how we need to adjust quickly to save the next generation coming up behind me. I want to make this clear because we should be looking for solutions, not pointing fingers. But before we get to solutions, we need to address the problems. So, here we go.

Most (not all) youth groups are run the same way. Usually, the youth group meets once a week outside of the Sunday morning service. They meet in a room that is designed to be visually attractive to youth. Video games, tv’s, ping pong, music, couches, posters, things like this usually adorn the room in an attempt to make the youth feel like the Church understands them, that the Church is reaching out to them on their terms. For the first half hour to hour, everyone just hangs out. Sometimes music is blaring in the background and the place takes on more of a party atmosphere. After that, the worship band usually comes on and plays a bunch of high energy songs (sometimes accompanied by a full blown light show), with kids jumping around and singing as loud as they can. The band will end with a slower song, one that is more emotionally gripping while the speaker makes his way to the stage, after a half hour sermon about something “relevant to them” (Usually a topical, watered down message), the pastor dismisses the group and it’s back to loud music and video games, occasionally they throw in pizza. Parents then come by and pick up their kids, and repeat the process the following week.

Clearly, there are more aspects to a youth group than just the once a week meeting. Missions trips, events to theme parks or big Christian youth rallies are also part of the youth group. But for the sake of this post I’ll be focusing my energy on the youth group service. Also, I most definitely generalized my take on what happens in youth groups. Not all youth groups run this way, but most do. Most run with a format similar to what I just described.

I bring this up because we are doing something wrong. How do I know this? Because according to the Voddie Bauchman author of Family Driven Faith, 80% of youth walk away from the church by the second year of college. Here are some other statistics courtesy of the Barna Group

A Barna survey focused on finding out how teens beliefs differ from their parents found that:

63% don’t believe Jesus is the Son of the one true God
58% believe all faiths teach equally valid truths.
51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead.
65% don’t believe Satan is a real entity.

Let those numbers sink in. They should be cold water on your face (especially if you work with youth in the Church). What we are doing, is not working.

And why would it? Let’s face it, a lot of times our youth groups look like glorified baby sitting clubs. Devoid of parents (in fact a lot of times parents are encouraged to let their teens participate in church functions separately), devoid of solid Biblical training, devoid of intimate discipleship and mentorship. It’s no wonder our youth groups are failing.

Look, I’ll be blunt. The Church in this regard decided to compete with the world for the hearts of the youth. We decided to make our youth meetings full of fluff, emotional feelings, and games. We traded that for sound teaching, discipleship, mentorship, and training on how to defend their faith. So many youth really don’t even understand what they believe (See above statistics) and it’s a major problem.

We must rethink how we approach youth ministry. Because we are missing them. They are coming out mostly unchanged, and no different from the culture around them. And how can we expect them to be different when we take cultures approach to youth and apply it in our churches? I think we really misunderstand teenagers. We think that they want to be fed light hearted things. We assume that they don’t have questions that are tough, and we think that if we get too theological that we will lose their ear. This can’t be further from the truth, if done in a relational way. We live in a culture where many, many teens are growing up without a mom or a dad. Teens are hurting, they are looking for someone older to reach out to them and just listen to them. Contrary to popular belief, teens do look up to their parents, and teens do desire mentorship from not only their piers but also from people older than them (I’m talking to you people in your mid 20’s).

So what’s the solution? Well there is no one solution, depending on your local church it will look different. I do have one particular example in mind for a solution however, and I’ll share it with you.

I had a great opportunity to work with an amazing youth group last year. Contrary to the popular way of doing youth group, this youth pastor was much more interested in getting his teenagers to open up and discuss hard things that they are going through. Essentially, he wanted them to feel safe during youth group. So he ditched the typical youth format. Instead of meeting in a youth room they met in his apartment, instead of leading the youth by himself, he recruited 10 people in their 20’s and early 30’s, instead of flashy services, they met in a small living room with some snacks. Instead of video games there was conversation. Instead of people pairing off, there was one group, functioning together. I think we were all a little worried about how the teens would react to this change. I’m happy to say that not only were the youth more than thrilled, often begging us to not end the discussion time, our youth group exploded in a matter of weeks. Soon they were bringing their friends and we were cramming 50 people in to a tiny living room. What was our secret? Relational mentorship. You know, how Jesus modeled His life for us. I was blown away at how open these teens were, and how honest they were. They had genuine questions that often lead us in to deep water. The trinity, how to love their friends who lived lifestyles they disagreed with, how to love people who were bullying them, how to respect their parents, how do we know the Bible is true. These weren’t things that the leaders were bringing up, these were things the teens were bringing up! By the way, let me also mention that the ratio to leaders and students was roughly 1 leader to every 3 students. This was key in building solid relationships with the youth. One guy can’t handle an entire youth group, it takes a team that devotes their time to relationally engaging them.

Ravi Zacharias said “In our modern day philosophies of church growth we are unhealthily preoccupied with programs and I suggest to you programs are always a secondary to people. God prepared a person before he implemented a program, we create a program and then find a person”. We have done this to youth groups and we are reaping the consequences. We have taken reaching youth and turned it in to a formula, we have turned it in to a program, and we missed the youth in the process. We are sometimes so concerned with making sure that our program runs smooth that we haven’t taken the time to even examine if the program works! It doesn’t.

I can’t tell you how many people I know that I’ve met recently or that I’ve grown up with that were at one time, active youth group participants and have walked away from the faith. Our common way of having youth group is mostly not working, and anyone who I have met that loved their youth group always tells me that it was because of a deep relationship that got them through. I have yet to hear someone tell me that because of the youth group program, their life was changed. I hear instead, that because of someone reaching out to them, being their friend and mentor on a personal level, that they came to know Jesus in a more relational and intimate way.

Jesus discipled not by going through a curriculum, or by teaching his disciples the 3 steps to a better life. But by living life with them, and teaching them in life, having discussions with them, eating a meal with them, and physically teaching them the ways of the Kingdom. If we want to reclaim the next generation we have to take the time to invest in to them. One hour, once a week, with a static format, is not going to cut it.

In part 2, I’m going to be addressing the parents role in this. Thanks for reading!
-TW

Femininity: A Glimpse into the Living Nature of Beauty (Part 1) – Mary Barba

Welcome to a part one of a two part series dealing with masculinity and femininity.  This post was written by my dear friend Mary Barba, and she hit it out of the park.  Enjoy! – Tim Whitaker.

The air was buzzing with sound waves and our friends were all hysterically laughing. A large group of my friends and I were on a winter retreat and one of the weekend’s sessions had just ended. We all enjoyed each others cheerfulness and exuberance while talking, playing games, and relaxing in each other’s presence. While everyone was involved in their own thing, a good friend of mine caught me floating between various groups of people and said, out of the blue, “Oh hey Mary, how are you doing with that thing you told me about at Starbuck’s a little while ago?” I was thrown off, but nonetheless happy, that someone had remembered and cared about a short conversation from a month prior. I began to explain what had happened in the past month with the two situations I had mentioned, being open enough to show I was not fake and cold-shouldered, but not vulnerable enough to express what was actually in my heart.

Originally, I thought this would be just another casual discourse I could easily glide through. Because, let’s get real, as a woman fending for her heart in a world gladly willing to pummel women with rejection (sadly–Christians and non Christians alike at times), I have become skilled in sharing about my heart, but not actually opening it. As the conversation progressed, he, without knowing it, prodded into what I was going through to a depth I am not usually secure going to with men because of wounds from my childhood. He showed me over the next half hour with body language and eye contact that he was not afraid of me, but was there to help. He probed, listened, and gave two pieces of advice, and then… I completely broke down. Water was gushing out of my eyes, and my whole frame shook… literally. I know it seems sudden, it was, but I couldn’t even help myself. The advice, I believe, was God-inspired and spoke to my insecurities with reassurance that I should be me and no one else, that I should not be afraid of releasing who I truly am, that my family and friends want the real Mary Barba, that I am not too much, nor too little. I had nothing to say in response. He prayed for me, and as he did, he began to cry for me. He could barely speak. We both sobbed as he fought and prayed for me.

I went back to the room I was staying in that evening, locked myself in the bathroom for about an hour, and just cried my heart out to God. I was in shock and felt exposed before God. But, yet again in my life, I realized, with God present, the depth of how lonely I truly felt, even though I was on a weekend retreat with most of the people I dearly cherish in life.

I have realized that that conversation has nothing to do with who I was talking to that evening. In fact, when I think back to that evening, I only really think of how God and I connected that evening and how much he showed me he knew my heart and had been listening to me. I was nonetheless frightened at how quickly the Lord was able to touch a tender part of my heart that evening. The roots of why I could not contain myself after I had gotten that advice have made themselves evident:

Woman are wired with an unending hunger to be beautiful, positively impact others with beauty, and relate deeply with others.

I know, this is nothing new. I’m sure if you’re reading this post right now, you’ve been around long enough to realize the generationally consistent desire that women have to be and do what I just wrote above. I’ve realized this, too; however, I’ve recently read the book Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge, which is for women and about women. Below is a vital passage from the book that has made this truth about women hit home:

Think about it: God created you as a woman. ‘God created man in his own image…male and female he created them’ (Gen. 1:27). Whatever it means to bear God’s image, you do so as a woman. Female. That’s how and where you bear his image. Your feminine heart has been created with the greatest of all possible dignities–as a reflection of God’s own heart. You are a woman to your soul, to the very core of your being. And so the journey to discover what God meant when he crated woman in his image–when he created you as his woman–that journey begins with desire. The desires that God has placed into our hearts are clues as to who we really are and the role that we are meant to play. Many of us have come to despise our desires or at least try to bury them. They have become a source of pain or shame. We are embarrassed of them. But we don’t need to be. The desires of our heart bear a great glory because… they are precisely where we bear the image of God. We long for certain things because he does!” (8)

I’ve been questioning what about my feminine heart reflects God’s image as told in Genesis 1:27. After much questioning, researching, and pondering, I came to Revelations 4 and 5 <http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Rev&c=4&v=1&t=ESV#1> (This is the part where you go read those two chapters and then continue reading!).

God, even in light of all his immeasurably fierce brawn and B.A.-ness (see Psalm 18 <http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Psa&c=18&v=1&t=ESV#conc/17>), is absolutely, drop dead gorgeous. God has the appearance of jasper and carnelian (Jasper <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/301531/jasper> & Carnelian <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/96329/carnelian>). A rainbow resembling emerald circumvallates his throne. Now, I don’t know what exactly that would look like, but all I know is that rainbows, emeralds, and thrones are all pretty amazing! God created elders clothed in pure white (not rags), adorned with golden crowns, to worship him. He also created unique and captivating creatures to worship him (see Rev. 4:6-8). They weren’t mundane little nothings, atypical of God’s creative nature. God is entrancing; he surrounds himself with such unmatchable beauty that John, the writer of Revelations, had to use similes to say what God is like… nothing can quite describe him! Prior to reading Captivating, I looked at this desire to be beautiful, entrancing, and undeniably inviting as something which originates in the minds and hearts of women themselves. Clearly I was wrong. Women desire to be beautiful, dress and adorn themselves with beautiful attire and/or objects, and, most importantly, express the essence of undiluted beauty, because God himself does. We reflect his desire to be beautiful and radiate beauty, not the other way around.

As we all know, this world many times offers beauty that is empty. Men: Instead of the appearance of beauty offering you the fullness of what it promises–rest, empathy, and empowerment, you are many times given a mere, unsubstantial appearance of it and not much more. That must be really hard for you to decipher between what is real and what is fake in regards to women. Women, instead of beauty that attracts all of those around you like a magnet, giving them hope for a better tomorrow and being an authentic and uncontaminated source of bliss, joy, and life, we strive to take the appearance of beauty in light of what we think others are looking for, because we feel like this “true beauty” could “certainly not be found in me,” leaving us feeling ashamedly alone, “maybe” pretty looking at imes, but “surely” not enough to be needed and hungered for by others (ohhhh how I know this feeling…).

What blows me away, though, is that God’s beauty is not just in appearance, but in a presence that immediately puts one’s mind and heart to rest. The beauty itself is a radically compassionate and soothing power. We must unbrainwash our brains. “Beauty” nowadays is so hard to find because we see the appearance of beauty, hoping that it has to offer what it should, but often returns void. God created women with a body fully unique from all other life forms that we know of thus far as a sign of the almost indescribable, inner expression of the intoxicating beauty that we have. I remember at one point while reading Captivating, I thought that maybe I had been the one “mutant” God had missed while busy creating everything else… that I somehow did not reflect that “beauty” he somehow instilled in women, because, common… it’s me. But then it hit me: I can not escape the fact that I was made in God’s image. I am not here to explain to you why I am convinced God is real (do feel free to ask me though), but I say what I say here based on the fact that I know that God is real: I can not erase nor alter the image of God reflected in me. I did make myself this way; he did. So, I AM a life-giving, life-altering, beauty no matter what anyone says of me.. INCLUDING MYSELF. Even as I type this, I find my mind being like, “What? Mary you don’t really believe that.” But what I’ve found is that sometimes I don’t feel like truth is truth, even when it is. Sometimes, I emotionally fall for the trick that “old truth, is not truth at all.” SO FALSE! Rationale and emotions don’t always mix how I would like them to. But the fact still stands, regardless of how I feel and act– We are beautiful and captivating, Ladies; it’s inevitable.

So…

Women: When the desire to be unmatchably beautiful and deeply loved while also giving love seems overpowering and almost disabling (trust me, I know WELL how that is), remember that these desires were given to you; they are not inherently your own. So, feel free to talk to God about them openly; he’ll help you understand the desires more! Question him on it, thank him for what he’s done thus far, hold him to what he says. He’s not afraid of you :).

Men: When you see women who’s desires to be beautiful, to relate, and to be inspiring are coming out through their emotions (or even are being “emotional” to any extent), offer your incredible and awe-inspiring strength to them by being compassionate towards them, offering a hand either directly or indirectly, knowing these desires they have are from God. As fascinating and wonderful as these desires are, they can be immensely difficult to grapple. The emotions of God that he has shared with women can be so strong that they can feel crippling at times. You are being compassionate towards God when you do so, because he loves women.