Please don’t tell me I’m incomplete because I’m not married

I have a tendency to be flippant when I heavily disagree with the way an argument is handled. It’s gotten me into trouble in the past and it had me headed for trouble last night. I guess I’ll go with less flippant and more lengthy to get my point across because this is serious to me.

There is a kind of pressure I’ve been noticing, an invalidation of sorts toward people who have not been called to marriage and I want to stop it before it does any more damage to people I care about. It’s this concept that puts marriage up as the highest achievable relationship of all time because of the example given in Scripture of Christ and his Bride. Marrieds: I believe you when you tell me that marriage is wonderful and I’m not trying to discount you in any way, but you forget that you are discounting us when you say this. You are discounting Jesus’ time on earth. You are discounting the apostle Paul.

Yes, Scripture gives the example of Christ and his Church and a bridegroom and bride. It also gives the example of God the father and we, the sons and daughters of God, both through rebirth and adoption. It gives the example of us being counted among Jesus’ brothers, his friends, and it gives the example of God being a mother hen and we her chicks.

Can a single person know God as well as a married person? Are we even asking this question? Can a single person understand intimacy with God as well as a married person can? (I’m working very hard not to be flippant here.) These questions are suggested when you insist that marriage is the only true picture of our relationship with God:

Jesus describes eternal life as Knowing God and Jesus Christ whom he sent. Knowing God is the free gift offered to all. Nowhere in the Bible is marriage listed as a prerequisite for this gift. Knowing God is the highest achievable relationship of all time. Knowing God does not come through marriage or church or religion. Scripture teaches that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man anymore. Not a pastor, not the pope, not some Bill Gothard type, not even a husband. Knowing God is about you and Jesus. No other human being can complete that relationship.

So, if you’re married and you’re telling some unattached single friend or family member that marriage is where it’s at, be careful. You may not only be causing a weaker brother or sister to stumble, you might also be putting marriage up on a pedestal that’s a little too high for God’s tastes.

I hear from all of you that marriage is a wonderful thing, but if you care to hear, being single is also pretty wonderful. The main thing I’m hearing from God right now is that I am where I’m supposed to be, and I can keep calm and work on until it’s time to make a change. You know what else? I’m feeling the love of God poured out on me day and night, cutting down my fears, fighting against the darkness of this world, lifting me up, strengthening me, supporting me, and never abandoning me but staying patient, staying to teach, staying to forgive and to love me when I’m my ugliest.

I’m pro single. I say that if you’re single and you’re not finding joy in it, you’re doing something wrong. I also say that if you’re married and you’re convinced single people can’t be fully happy, you’re also doing something wrong.

It would break my heart to see anybody get married to somebody they weren’t madly in love with just because they were made to feel like they were less than complete as a single person. And that’s why I write this today:  To the marrieds who need to calm down and allow that a person is still whole and real, even if they don’t have a spouse so that they can fit into your couples’ club. And to the singles who are dealing with the pressure and deceit from their married friends and relations who need to take a step back and confirm with themselves that Yes, I don’t really need a spouse to fit in and I certainly don’t need a spouse so that I can know Jesus.

Why not encourage those in a different season than you to find wholeness and fulfillment where they are?  Why not seek to find true joy in whatever season you are in?  It’s been said before and it can probably be said a million times before it ever makes a dent in our culture, so I’ll go ahead and say it again: If you can’t find joy where you are, you won’t find it where you’re going. In other words, if you don’t settle down and thrive in your season, you’ll never thrive anywhere. In other words, bloom where you’re planted. In other words, if you can’t figure out how to be happy as a single person, you won’t be happy in your marriage.

 

Disclaimer:  I DO believe in the God ordained order of a household. I am also as pro-marriage as I am pro-single. I believe that there is fulfillment to be found in every season of life, but it seems more important at this time to stress that it can be good, rich in joy, and fulfilling to stay single all your life.
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My Response To: “My Big Sister, The Porn Star…”

I just read an article titled, “My Big Sister, the Porn Star: How her career destroyed her life and our family”.  The title sparked my interest. It was the part that said “and our family” that I really wanted to know about.  We live in a culture that says, “Your decisions do not affect anyone else and therefore are up to you.” And we have people who fight that idea, and we have a lot of people who say, “It’s my life. Leave me alone.” So I really wanted to read what this person had to say who was so bold as to claim that her sister’s decisions destroyed her family.

I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed. It wasn’t the strongest writing I had encountered; it wasn’t even above average. The writer blamed the porn industry for her sister’s choices, her own broken marriage, and her parents’ premature aging.  Since I’m one of those people who claim that victimizing yourself to anyone or anything is to your own detriment: we are all responsible for our actions as much as we are responsible for our response to our own circumstances, I wasn’t overly impressed.  But there was one thing that came across in the article which could not be discounted regardless of the writer’s abilities, and it was this: when you love someone—truly care about their well-being—then you will be directly affected by that person’s choices. This would include anybody and everybody who you care about. Your parents, grandparents, siblings, spouse, children, grandchildren best friend, good friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, any friend.

The girl in the article had two options. She could have disowned her sister and moved on with her life, and then she wouldn’t have been affected, or she could continue to love her sister and therefore, have to walk right through the mud next to her. She chose love, and this included helping in the raising of her two nephews, countless mental hospital visits, dealing with the emotional trauma and other trauma of multiple incidents of attempted suicide, being a moral support to her broken-hearted parents as they personally took on the care of their two grandsons, etc… Overall, she went through hell simply because she made the choice to not stop loving her sister.

In a way, I admire that. I am at a place in my life where I have to watch my siblings and friends make decisions. Some decisions I fear will have only negative effects on them and, as a result, on me as well. As a sister or friend, I still daily question my right to intervene, to say, “STOP! Don’t you see what you’re doing? Don’t you see how much I care?”  Because they are their own person, and they have that personal right to do whatever they want with their own life, I do the more cowardly thing instead, I back off. I tell myself I can either care too much or not at all…so I guess I’ll just not care.   So I read this article and I thought, Isn’t this what is wrong with our world today? We never stop to think about how our decisions will affect those who love us. Instead we challenge their love daily. We say, “If you say you love me, prove it while I stab your heart out.” Not literally—we don’t say that literally, but our actions do. Is this why girls change best friends every other weekend? Is this why families live so far away from each other? Is this why we are afraid to have arguments anymore?

I admit, I began writing this with the sole intention of saying to all of us: Stop! Look around you. Look at who loves you truly and consider them. Consider how they bleed for you, listen to them before you jump into that choice that you’re about to make. Because as they keep on loving you, they will be included in your pain and your depression and your heartbreak. You never hurt alone while you have people who love you. They hurt too.  But while that is an important thing to remember, I can’t discount the lesson on the other side. The one that says, if you truly love this person who is making these decisions, you will not run when it comes time to walk through hell next to them. I need to remember not just the second half of this lesson, but the first as well. Life is not all about me, it IS about others. I need to think of others when I am about to make a decision that will personally affect me. But I also need to woman up, and keep loving the friends and family who do not stop to consider others when they make their decisions. Because even though the woman who wrote that article says that her family has been destroyed, all I saw as I read was a family that had become stronger in love for each other, a family that had learned to sacrifice self (time, money, emotion, energy) for the sake of their loved one, a family that had gained two “beautiful” new members who will be raised lovingly by their own flesh and blood.  Yes, there had to be, and still is much pain! I don’t think I need to point out that there is no need to willfully put ourselves in this kind of situation just so that we can grow, but given the same circumstances, I would be awfully pleased if I had responded that way.

The Story of How I Came to Know Jesus

My testimony starts like many others. It is not an incredible one to anyone other than me. It’s probably really boring. It ends very differently than most however. You may get part way through and stop as soon as it starts to change for what I believe is the better half. I don’t know what my writing it will accomplish yet, but somehow, I hope it will reach you anyway.

I was raised in a Christian home. Raising their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord was a job my parents took seriously. This means that obedience was important and a lack of obedience was always dealt with very firmly. Dad and Mom never failed to explain to us how our disobedience made God sad. He did not want us to injure ourselves by behaving in such a way. The spanking was to help us to remember the lesson next time we were tempted. It worked most of the time.

I remember though, when I was five years old, being in trouble for lying. I knew I would get a paddle but the talk always came first. During the talk Mom told me about Jesus dying on a cross so that liars and other sinners would not have to face the punishment for their sins. That was the day I verbally asked Jesus to be a part of my life.

I didn’t feel different. My life was the same. Jesus had always been there since the time I was born. But now I was called a Christian. I was told this meant I was going to heaven when I died. That was fine with me. I certainly didn’t want to go to hell. I had heard things about hell. It was a place you went to after you died and you just burned and burned and burned but never burned up. And Satan was there. Satan hated me. I knew that. He wanted to steal me, kill me, and destroy me. So I didn’t want to go to hell. In fact, I didn’t want anybody to go to hell. So I quickly told my friends about Jesus and got them to say the little prayer I said so that they could go to heaven when they died.

Church was also a part of my life from the beginning. Church was cool. There was music – I liked music. Pastor Sam was like a grandpa to me. The other older people there were also really nice. Plus, it was about God… and I wasn’t allowed to NOT go, so it must have been a sin…to not go to church. I quickly tried to bring my friends to church with me.

Learning to obey and serve God was saturated into my daily life. My life as a child, my boundaries, my homeschooling, my church, my whole universe was centered around God’s existence and his law. It wasn’t something I resented. It wasn’t something I even thought about. It just was.

I was 4 years old when I was given my first Bible. That was a big deal. You got a Bible when you learned to read, it was a Christmas present. I was so excited about my Bible. It had my name engraved in it, and I knew I was supposed to read that thing every day. It was the biggest book I owned. I had no clue how I was gonna get through it. First I started in Genesis, then I decided I would start in Matthew and just read the New Testament, but it was probably 2-3 years before I even finished Genesis. I remember treasuring my Bible like it was a precious jewel. Not reading it so much as holding it and looking at the gold edged pages.

I was probably eleven or twelve before I started pursing a relationship with Jesus for myself. I remember doubting if I was really saved. So I would say the sinner’s prayer again, just in case. I love to read and had read a lot of stories about people who “got saved”. They always felt so different after. Like it was some life changing experience. I always prayed the prayer again after reading those, hoping I would feel the difference they described. I was afraid that since I didn’t feel the difference it didn’t work. But I was too embarrassed to admit that to anybody. Everybody knew you didn’t just lose your salvation. I had prayed when I was five. I had the ticket. I was good to go!

My older siblings were very diligent in their pursuit of a godly life and they encouraged me to do the same. I read my bible more and more as I got older, partly because I knew that was what I was supposed to do, partly because all my friends did, and partly because it felt good when an older brother or sister would commend me if they caught me reading my Bible. The day I turned twelve I challenged myself to read all the way through the Bible. I wanted to complete it in a year but if I remember correctly, it took me much longer. There was so much boring stuff in there!

I couldn’t really say much of what my prayer life was like. I know I prayed more often by then. I was a talkative kid but I was terrified of letting out my deepest secrets so I probably prayed about those things. But honestly, it was all just part of the natural flow of life for me. God was always part of my life. Praying. Reading my Bible. Going to Church. It was just part of life.

I had seen kids who I thought were Christians denounce God. I began to fear that for myself. There was a husband who said that his wife was getting in the way of his ministry, so he divorced her. I knew that was evil. I could never imagine such a thing like that actually happening to a true Christian. And then I had these friends. They were so perfect! They always obeyed and respected their mom. They were kind and polite to all their friends. They would have Bible Studies as a family before they made big decisions. I was so in awe of them! I remember suggesting to them that they never got spanked and being shocked to learn that in-fact, they did. No way! They were so good. If David was a man after God’s own heart, this family was right next to David. They even prayed before they drove anywhere, and they memorized the biggest portions of Scripture.

The year I turned twelve was the same year that this family denounced God in their lives. I was young and I didn’t know better, so I never reached out, I only watched from a distance as their efforts to follow every letter of Scripture led them to believe that God had little concern for them here on earth and then eventually to believe that God didn’t exist at all.

I knew they were wrong. But I had to wonder. Were they ever really Christians in the first place? They couldn’t have been if you can’t lose your salvation and I believed you couldn’t. I mourned the loss of their friendship for a while, but when I came to conclusion that they never were saved in the first place, I wrote them off. Oh well. They couldn’t be now. They hated God. Oh well.

Puberty was hitting me pretty hard by age 12. I had fits of jealousy, anger, bouts of self-pity, and had myself swimming in a pool of insecurities. If my anger actually affected anyone it was wrong, but otherwise I just let it all go. I damaged a lot of friendships that year. I was so possessive and needy that I made myself unpleasant to be around and not a very likely person to approach. At the same time, my desire to “be one of the bigger kids” was so strong that I took myself for an adult by age 13 and promptly threw out the joys of being young. I couldn’t get rid of all the immaturity as easily though, especially since I was in denial about the majority of its existence.

During this time I struggled with wanting to be a better person but not really knowing how to change. I was controlled by my selfishness and selfish desires but I didn’t know that. I spent a lot of time spilling out my pent up frustrations to God. By this time I would say I had a pretty definite relationship with him. Almost like that of a brat, insolent kid and a mentor who just wont stop being there for her.

Our church had changed dramatically over the years. When I was little, it was all old people. Now it was filled with old people and a bunch of homeschool families who were our friends. I never imagined I would see the day when our church was so full. Sundays became something I looked forward to. It was possibly my biggest social event of the week. Dad was doing a lot of the preaching by then as our pastor had retired. We were also living on the church property now, because it had been the target of vandalism and needed a resident.

Life was alright. Or so I thought. I was still selfish and needy and extremely insecure. I didn’t have any good solid friendships with anyone and I had little to no relationships with my Mom’s side of the family, but life was certainly not bad.

And then the bomb dropped.

I could not name the day or the time. I couldn’t even tell you the particulars. All I know is he had been sitting on it for twenty years. For twenty years my Dad had been pondering a thought presented to him. It had something to do with the word “forever” in the Bible not actually meaning forever. You see, the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew and the New Testament was translated from Greek. It’s rather difficult to deny that things get lost in translation…unless you’re a Christian and we’re talking about the King James Bible.

Anyway, after 20 years of pondering it my had Dad decided to really dig in and see what this was all about. What he found was beginning to transform his life, and it was about to change his and our world.

 

There’s a lot to be considered when you want to challenge the King James Bible. And even then, it might not be worth it. I’d just like to say though that humans will always be humans and therefore prone to error, King James not excepted.

When you’ve been standing on a surface for all of your life, your parents and grandparents stood on it too, in fact, for centuries this surface has been the foundation on which you and your ancestors have stood, and then all of a sudden this surface begins to crack and pull apart and make room for the one underneath that has been there all the time. Well, even if you DID know the one underneath was the real foundation holding you up, you might be tempted to state right off the bat that it isn’t. You might say that yours is the real one because it has been for centuries. You might say that.

What my Dad discovered was that the Greek word for “forever” didn’t actually mean without end, but that it pertained to an age. In fact, he found other scriptures that used the same Greek word, but in context with a time that came to an end. You may wonder what all of this has to do with the rest of the story and if you haven’t caught on yet, I’ll tell you. According to this find, the word used to describe hell as a never ending torment now actually describes hell as an ending torment.

If you’re a Christian, you can imagine what would happen if the pastor shared such a thing from the pulpit. If you go to a mega church or one that has people who hire and fire the pastor, well, the pastor would probably just be fired. But if you go to our church where the pastor runs a construction company that provides for his family and a lot of times the church too, well…the people might all just leave.

And leave they did. Some immediately. Some labeling us as heretics on their way. Some never to be seen again. Some without even saying why. A few did stay for a couple of years. Pretty soon the church was down to about 3 families.

I was angry. I was angry at my dad. Didn’t he see what this did? It was obviously not of God because it caused so much division! I was so angry, I failed to see how hurt Dad was. This had caused division even in our own family. My older siblings argued against it. My Grandpa called my dad a heretic and said he was going to hell for believing it. But Dad held firm to his belief.

Dad never told anybody they had to believe it. In fact, all of my life Dad encouraged me to find out for myself what was true. I remember him telling the church, “You can’t believe this just because I say it’s true. You’ve got to find out for yourself.” In my anger I said it was impossible. I read my Bible and I didn’t see it. And I wasn’t about to start learning Greek. Dad suggested books that talked about it but I said no. If I couldn’t find it in the Bible, I wasn’t going to read books to find it.

I hated all the arguing. I hated that my friends could just walk away so easily. I hated the loneliness. It was easy to blame Dad. He started it all.

I still read my Bible though. And I still went to church and listened. I had no reason to stop. Dad still preached from the Bible. He still preached that Jesus came to save us. Only now he preached that Jesus came to save all of us. I started to learn the history behind the belief of a never ending hell. Not on purpose. It couldn’t be helped. And then I started to see it. All throughout my Bible it was there. I already believed God was real, that he was love and that he was all powerful. And so I believed it when he said that his will was that none should perish but that all should come to everlasting life. And I believed it when he said that Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but came so that through him the world would be saved. I believed it when he said that Jesus came to do the will of the Father. And I believed it when Jesus hung on the cross and stated, “It is finished.”

My anger toward Dad didn’t go away immediately however. I had lost my friends because of him. And I still hated the arguing in the family. It took me a while to realize that Dad never sent anyone away. They walked away. And as for all the arguing, Dad was so excited to learn that God’s love was something that ended well for everybody that he would try to share it with anyone who would bring it up. Even if they only brought it up to prove him wrong. You see, very few of the people who left our church were willing to even discuss with him the possibility that he could be right.

It’s amazing how quickly news travels. It was not long before people on the other side of the country had heard about it and were avoiding us in their travels. The saddest part was, a lot of them misunderstood. There were rumors that Dad was throwing out the whole Bible and other false rumors. I hid behind my dad as I began to embrace the belief of God’s universal reconciliation. I began to refer to it as “My Dad’s belief” because I was afraid to admit that I believed it too. I had seen what that did.

Some of the friends who left our church still came around, along with others who could only know the rumors, but our relationships became very stilted and distant. Nobody was willing to talk about it, so except for an occasional alluding to it we pretended like nothing happened. Some friends acted very strangely when they were around us now. It was almost like they were afraid to be alone with us and afraid to be seen with us. It felt like they had to go to confession every time they were around us. We couldn’t tell for sure, so we acted like nothing was wrong.

I began to soak up what I was learning. Dad was excited because he saw strangers through a whole new perspective. He said that knowing they were going to be in heaven with him made them appear in a whole new light. I thought that was cool, but I didn’t totally embrace it. I spent a lot of time praying that if I was so wrong, God would convince me otherwise.

Our family actually grew closer through all of this. We had very few close friends anymore so we made the most of our time with each other. Speaking about our EUR beliefs became taboo except among those of us who believed it, so we kept it all under wraps. My comfort zone slowly shrunk as what God was doing became a bigger and bigger part of my life and I got more and more tired of discussing empty and shallow subjects.

It’s very difficult for me to hide what I really feel and so every once in a while I would attempt to talk about “my Dad’s beliefs”. Except for a very few times, I would be immediately shut down either by mockery or the biggest lack of consideration I had ever experienced in my young life. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

I worked a children’s conference shortly after I had begun to think differently where I had the opportunity to lead a small team of children as we learned about the principles of God’s law. The leaders over me would teach during assemblies and then the teams would break up and do a more direct focus on the lesson. I cringed as the leaders, in a poor attempt to get as many “sinner’s prayers” out of the group as possible, literally attempted to scare the hell out of the kids through darkness and frightening stories. In my small group I wanted –no, needed so badly to comfort these frightened children with the love of God. I remember having to be very careful so that my assistant didn’t rat on me and get me kicked out. It was a horrible week and I never wanted to go back. I’ve been reluctant to participate in such ministries ever since. My beliefs were absolutely against promoting fear.

By this time I knew that the sinner’s prayer was practically pointless. It did not mean a free ticket to heaven. All I knew was that there was a whole lot more to this heaven business than just a prayer. I was pretty confused but I was becoming more and more firm about what I did NOT believe.

My Dad told me once that we study our Bibles so that we can learn more about the character of God. In all my growing up, I didn’t really understand that. Sure, parts of the Bible talked about God’s character, but I knew we were supposed to get more out of it. It wasn’t until this time that I began to learn about God’s character through the historical accounting of Scripture. I learned that he was grieved over sin. That the hardships he sent people through were for learning. That his mercy always comes. Sure, I still don’t understand all of it. There are lots of times I pour over my Bible and ask, “Why God?? Were you truly honored by this? It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Something I was beginning to know for sure was that while the fear of God is certainly the beginning of wisdom, He is never pleased by those who serve him simply because they’re scared of him. To pledge your life to him because you’re terrified of hell, to obey him because you’re terrified of his wrath. That cannot honor him. He desires us, our hearts, our love. He says that perfect love CASTS OUT fear. He wants us to WANT to serve him, to WANT to love him, because he loves us and he is so good! I was getting just the tip of the iceberg, but I was so excited to learn about this. It freed me! The law — Paul said we were no longer under the law. What did that mean? Well, I do know this, I don’t keep the law out of fear anymore. I keep the law because it’s based off of love and I do love God. I love God and so I don’t want to break the law. To break it would mean to hurt my neighbor and therefore hurt God.

And heaven? Eternity? If Eternity didn’t mean never ending, what DID it mean? Well, here’s an idea: John 17:3 puts it pretty plainly, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” The word eternity comes from the word Aion or Aionios which means “age” or “age -pertaining to”. I can’t remember where I read it, but someone once laid it out pretty well, eternity is life pertaining to God. It is an essence of life. Some might say they’re living the poor life or the rich life, in the same way I would say that I am living the eternal life. It’s a life that truly doesn’t make sense if you don’t know God and Jesus Christ whom He sent. It’s something you enter into TODAY and TOMORROW and every day! It’s a life that brings joy when the world is telling you to be sad. It brings peace when it feels like the world is falling apart. It’s a life that trusts in God’s plan enough to run into what should hurt me and instead of feeling hurt, I experience Him upholding me with his strong hand. And it’s a life that brings love for people who we otherwise could not love.

I never had the desire to evangelize before. It was always distasteful to me for some reason and I felt guilty that it was so. Now I wanted to share like never before. But not because I felt God would be displeased if I didn’t, and not because I was worried that people would go to hell if I didn’t. I just really wanted everyone to know the wonderful God I knew! And I still do. I see so many hurting people every day and I have what can heal their hurt; can comfort them; can give them the same eternal life! But there has been so much damage done. So many false reports painting my God as a treacherous tyrant. I hoped that my actions alone would show a difference. What can you say to the unbeliever who has heard “everything”? The beauty to the answer is, nothing. I can say nothing, but I can sure as heck BE Jesus to them, and that means love them, care about them, show compassion toward them, do not condemn them. I know my Jesus. And when others know my Jesus, they will not reject him. No, they will embrace him! They will worship him! Just like it says in his word.

I did question it once. Someone told me that I would have no chance of marrying unless I renounced my belief and my Dad. Others showed me that we could not be friends unless I believed otherwise. I thought, what if I did renounce it. What if we all renounced it and got all that back? Would it be worth it?

My answer: Never. If I didn’t have any friends, if I never marry, if I am lonely all my life, I will cling to his love. I have never had my heart change so positively for the better, I have never been so filled with love for others, and I have never been so close to Jesus as I am since I entered into eternal life. I want to enter every single day, and I want to help others to enter and be saved from their present darkness today.

This is who I am now. This is my belief. This is my Jesus. I will not hide any longer. I will not shrink from those who have treated me strangely. I will love. I will love those who have persecuted me for it and I will love those who will mock me for it. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love is the foundation on which the law hangs. Love is the greatest over faith and hope. Love never fails. And Love is God.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

This is my testimony. This is where my faith lies. This is the story of how I came to know Jesus. It was not with a simple prayer. It was not out of fear of hell. It was because he loved me and drew me to him. He surrounded me by those who sought him, he encouraged me through the examples of others. And in the end, he dragged me to his feet and opened my eyes until I finally saw Him.

Internet abuse. It’s real.

One evening a few years ago I came home from a ministry I was working to hear from my brother that my family had been featured on a form that discussed the Duggar family. My brother showed me the thread and…well, let’s just say that it made me sick to my stomach. And really angry. Because my family had agreed to be in a major spotlight one time, we were being torn apart, ripped up, judged, and in general, hated on. These people didn’t even know us! They didn’t know my dad’s heart to give life and love to as many as God would allow him to. They didn’t know my mom’s daily sacrifice to her family, her joy and her servant’s heart. They didn’t know how much us kids loved life, each other, our parents–the freedom we felt within our family to pursue great things, and to find out for ourselves what was true. They really had no clue, and yet they were ready to pronounce us worth sterilization among other horrible things.

This evening I came across another thread in which our family was brought up again. Remembering the last time, I knew I ought not to look, but I’m a glutton for punishment, so I looked anyway. I found myself hugely grateful of a few things: one being that we are no longer interesting enough to talk about beyond a mention, and the other being that despite how easy it would be to find us and our lives all over the internet today, they haven’t in all this time found anything besides our old, outdated, family website. As much as I love my life and my family, as proud as I am of each one of them and what they are doing with their lives, I have no desire for the information to fall into the hands of such careless, ignorant people.

I realize tonight that my family is just a minor case in the middle of millions of cases of internet abuse. I have seen sad, horrid, and heartbreaking displays of hatred on innocent people through the internet. It makes me hurt more than anything. It makes me hate the internet. It makes me think poorly of the human race.

When did it become acceptable to regularly attack a fellow human being with the sharpest weapon of all: the tongue? When did picking apart somebody else’s life become reasonable conduct? I shudder to think of the rioting that would happen if half of these conversations happened face to face. When did hurling an insult become a common, careless act? I thought insults were supposed to be handled carefully, and even then, came with direct consequences. Who told the world that this was not only okay, but necessary? The only thing it’s necessary for is our demise.

The internet has made a monster out of the human race. What are we going to do to stop it?

I have a list of suggestions for us, please feel free to add any other ideas you may have.

1. Give the benefit of the doubt to anyone and everyone. They may have been misunderstood or they may have a really personal reason behind their statement. I shouldn’t have to give more examples. Everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt.

2. Answer everyone respectfully. You may wish for them to hear what you say on a topic. If you treat them poorly, they will tune you out.

3. Allow others to have a different opinion than you have. Think how awfully mundane this world would be if everyone thought alike. God created each one of us so uniquely. Appreciate the diversity and find a good quality in that person that you can benefit from learning.

4. Give a person room to grow. Their opinion could have changed. They may have learned from mistakes. Let that be a huge possibility. You too have made mistakes before. Don’t drag others down with their pasts.

5. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. Give the compassion you would wish to have in your turn. A time of rejoicing does not need a wet blanket thrown on, and a time of mourning does not need your “I told you so”.

6. People say stupid things. These things do not deserve an answer. At least not online. A careful confrontation face to face or a gentle rebuke in private could be profitable for helping the person, but keep it private and personal.

7. If you feel personally attacked, it is probably wise to step away, knowing that the person attacking is a human being who has obviously forgotten that you are the same. If it is a person you know, again you might consider discussing it personally with them, but keep it offline. If it is someone you don’t know, either ignore it or answer it with kind humility. “A soft answer turns away wrath.”

8. If a friend shows poor taste in their humor and you are disgusted by it, remove it from your view. There are plenty of ways to censor what you see on the internet. If you feel the display ought to be addressed, refer to number 6.

I could add some major ones such as, keep your political and religious opinions off the internet. It would solve a lot of drama, but that would also be promoting the culture of shut-up. That is the last thing I want to do. My goal here is to raise awareness of internet abuse, and to encourage an overall cleanse. If you can’t say it to a face, don’t say it at all. Let’s each one of us work to make our own personal surroundings a positive circle that promotes good will toward men.

 

 

Reminiscing

I miss blogging. I miss relating amusing conversations and awkward moments.

Thanks to my uncle and little Annie Lystrup I now spend a large portion of my spare time trying to beat my own score on Temple Run 2. Embarrassing, right? Embarrassing to admit it anyway.

Tonight I’m thinking about old times. Times us kids spent together back when the idea of marriage and stuff like that was just a figment of our imaginations. Camping trips, family holidays, family outings: these were the things we lived for. We shared one world. It would have been common to see us out in the street on a night like this, playing basketball, baseball, kickball, or capture the flag. When it got late, we headed to our bedroom to lie in the dark and my older siblings would discuss all kinds of stuff. Sometimes Dad and Mom came in and sat on the floor to join the discussion. I still remember some of the random stuff they talked about.

Those were special days. Special nights.

Tonight is much different. There are less of us here. I hardly left the kitchen after dinner was cleaned up. Everyone is in their own world now. We are developing who we are, expanding our personal interests, all the while connected to each other via whatsapp and real conversation. Some of us spend a big portion of our evenings trying to finish up our daily responsibilities and other personal projects. But work is made sweeter with the fellowship of siblings.

These are special days. Special nights.

Through our childhood we have grown secure in our love for each other. Now that we are older there lies a deep bond of siblinghood (I made that up.). We are here and we are here to stay. No matter how far one may travel or how much one may change, the bond of siblinghood remains. And that is what makes it special.

P.S. We still get excited (possibly more than before) about camping trips, family holidays and family outings.

Not just for the girls.

I’m pondering the appalling lack of physical self acceptance in our world today. In myself. In my friends. In society.

We talk about how everyone needs to work together to change the definition of beauty. About how super models are computer generated and about how “YOU are beautiful just the way you are”. How many songs are there about this subject anyway??

But what if we’re not truly beautiful. And what if deep inside, we know just how ugly we are. If this is true, nothing you say can change what we actually believe.

Because what if our true beauty really does lie within us? What if our true beauty depends on our character? On how we treat others? On how we love and how we live our daily lives?

What if we already know that our faces and our bodies are beautiful? What if it’s our hearts that are ugly?

Only we see our true selves. And when we mix our inward with our outward in order to see our complete selves, our flaws are extremely visible to us. We assume everyone else can see too, so we dye our hair, we change our make up, we buy new clothes, we work out, we diet.

But it doesn’t change what’s inside of us.

So we are never satisfied.

What if the changes we need to make include forgiving more, loving more, caring more about others, serving more?

I wonder how that would affect the way we view ourselves. How it would affect our security. How it would affect our eyes and our smiles. How it would affect the way others see us.

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For the hurting and alone

I’m not really a writer. This may come as a surprise to you…but then again, it may not.  It’s easy to write about something cool I’ve come across. Or if I become really passionate about a subject it’s pretty easy to write about that too. But when it comes to being raw and ugly…well, I guess you could say I’m like Laura Ingalls Wilder. I don’t really want to talk about it.

Who wants to admit that they moped around the house all day feeling sorry for herself?  Or who wants to admit that they sometimes struggle with temptation and depression?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t much like to volunteer that information. In-fact, until tonight you would have had to be pretty darn close to me to hear the slightest peep about it.

The beauty of it all is that I am most certainly not alone here. And the reason I’m admitting this to you now is because I want you to know that you are most certainly not alone either. Even I, Joanna Dortignac, preacher’s daughter, ATI born and bred and born again believer struggle with temptation and depression.  Even I, with 13 siblings, 2 parents, 3 grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends, get lonely and feel like nobody cares.

It’s such a lie. The nobody cares thing. I know. Because God proved me wrong tonight (He always does).  And you might say, well I wanted more than God and my mom to care. Yeah, I know. I say all the time that I want more than God and my dad to care. Parents love us because…well….we are a part of them. Sometimes we think that we need more than that. Here are two truths to replace the lies.

Truth #1: More people care than we are allowing ourselves to realize.

Truth #2: We actually don’t need more than God’s love and care. Parents are a cool bonus.

So yeah, I spent all of today moping around, waiting for someone to care, wishing someone would care, berating myself for being so ridiculous, hating myself, wishing myself far away, wasting away, sleeping, indulging myself in the world’s biggest pity party, convinced that nobody cared (except for of course, God –but I was too mad at myself to talk to God). It was after I fell asleep at dinner time wishing that everyone downstairs would leave before I woke up. It was after I woke up to realize that everyone downstairs was still there. It was after I went downstairs to find myself some dinner. It was after I sat down with my back to the world so that I could eat in misery and solitude. It was after all of that when she came.

Long gray hair, skinny and petite little woman. She is allergic to certain light bulbs and has a soft voice that is sometimes hard to follow.

“What did you do today, Joanna?” she asked as she sat down and settled in.

Of all the questions she could have asked, that was not the one I wanted to answer. I scrounged around in my mind and all I could come up with was that I went running. Seriously. That was all.

It didn’t deter her, this messenger of Jesus. She was on a mission. Humble and open, spirit of love shining through, she tells me of her walk with the Lord, what she struggles with and how she is finding victory over such struggles. Willing to admit to defeat and frightening temptations she tells me the story of my own life, with such changes as to make the story personal to herself.

Incredulous, I almost gaped at her! How could she know? How could she have any idea of what I constantly fight? There was only one explanation: God.

I was so eager to learn from her. I sat and asked questions. I soaked up her secrets which she was only too willing to give away. It will be a long time before I will forget the message she gave me. The wise words, the encouragement, the inspiration. It was solid and sound and exactly what I needed to hear. The most important part for me was learning that I was not alone and that others are fighting and winning the same battles.

Which comes back to the reason I’m writing today. I’m writing because I also want to encourage those who are hurting. I want you to know that I too am fighting battles. Picture of godly righteousness I may appear to be (at least, to those of you who don’t really know me), I too get defeated. But I also want you to know that I am not staying defeated. I am getting back up again.

I’m getting back up because of Jesus and his faithfulness. I’m getting back up because of this little lady, and her willingness to admit her own defeats. I’m getting back up because of the love that I am now again able to recognize in my family and my friends. And I’m getting back up for you, so that you can know that it’s possible to get up too.

I love you. And I pray that every day you will be filled with the assurance and the fullness of God’s love for you.

On forgiveness: an excerpt from my journal

I was thinking today about forgiveness, and how I have a really hard time grasping that I am forgiven. I tend to think that all of my trials are some sort of punishment since I know I deserve them…

But then I got to thinking about David. Sometimes when I read the Psalms I get annoyed, thinking, Man, David is awfully proud! He claims he’s righteous and is always complaining about his trials. And what about Job? What made him so righteous? It isn’t that I doubt their godly character, but they were human. They couldn’t have been perfect. And then I realized that both David and Job grasped the concept of forgiveness. They believed God when He said, “I will forgive you.” When God forgave them they believed that they were clean and new and righteous.

Scripture says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” meaning, if I confess my sins I become forgiven, I become cleansed, I am free from guilt, and free from unrighteousness.

I don’t think I ever really understood forgiveness before. I thought that forgiveness meant that you would be tolerated as long as you made a change for the good. I mean, even after hearing the words I still felt the guilt and could not stop the feeling that I would have to become a perfect person to make up for the offense. But God knew that such a payment was impossible, which is why He provided a way out. So that I might live. So that I might be free. So that I might be holy, as He is holy.

I would like to live a life that feels free from bondage, and I’m grateful to learn that I can. Praise God who cleanses me continually!

*Scripture quotation from 1John 1:9 (KJV)

Relationships – They’re all the buzz.

I feel like relationships are the main topic of conversation these days. Everywhere I go I hear people discussing; blogs all over the internet are buzzing with information.

Lies we believe about the opposite sex. Lies we believe about ourselves. Lies we believe about women. Lies we believe about men. Modesty: is it right? Is it wrong? What the heck IS modesty anyway? Lust: who’s fault is it? Singleness. I’m happily single -Really I am. I’m happy single, but not really. I’m very attached to my independence -HOW COME NO GUY WANTS TO BE MY HELPMEET??? Step up to the plate, guys, we girls think you’re slacking. And we’re totally right about it. All guys are created perverts. All girls are unconsciously evil. There’s a fault on both sides.

Yeah….that pretty much sums up what 99.9% of the articles are about. I’m not gonna lie, I enjoy a lot of them, but now I’m starting to wonder. What’s the purpose behind all of these discussions? What are we trying to accomplish? And why is it such a hot topic today? I’m almost inclined to think that the people writing these articles believe that by writing on this subject they are somehow going to overcome the obstacle that leaves them single and find their happily ever after. It’s a nice idea, but I don’t see it being all that successful. Instead I see it breeding a lot of discontentment and a lot of awareness that we unmarried people are..well…single and alone. And it’s totally not our faults either, because depending on what article you read you can find the blame placed on either side. Lovely.

I can’t help thinking on 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul talks about how he prefers that the single remain single, so that their minds would be filled with how they might better serve the Lord, rather than how they might better serve their spouse.  Instead of embracing where God has placed us at this current time and seeking how we might better serve Him, we’re seeking how to get unsingle, filling our minds with the idea that the more we think on this subject the better off we’ll be. I don’t know if it’s just me, but isn’t there a disconnect somewhere here??

Why do you write?

Little slips of paper covered in illegible scrawl crammed in-between the pages of a Bible, books with little locks to hold them shut, a blog, a tweet, an envelope with the verse of a new song proclaimed across it’s back: We are expressing ourselves -whether it’s to ourselves or to others depends on the time and person.  A notebook half filled with doodles, half filled with scripture; a message written on one’s arm. A forum, a poster, a newspaper.

What do you use?

The authors all have inspiration from somewhere: whether a sweet memory, a lesson learned, a need to vent, an observation…

What inspires you?

The gift of writing can be a very powerful tool.  It can be used to relate an event, to spread a message, maybe to give a warning. There are plenty of good uses for writing as well as harmful ones.  Writing can be used to slander a person, damage a relationship, or to create a false-front. Some people write so that they will remember, and some write so that they can forget. Some write purely for money while others write for a cause. Many write in-order to encourage others, and many write to spread their pessimistic views. Humor and wit is often displayed through writing, as well as doom and gloom predictions.

Why do you write?