Part Two: Redefining Family Structure, AKA, “Mawwiage, that Blessed Awwangement…”

.That Dweam Wifin a Dweam..…”

PeterCookPrincessBride

This is a series that started as a response to the troublesome umbrella graphic:Natural-Order-of-The-Family

I began with what I feel is the most important part: Jesus as the Song of Solomon bridegroom, as the One Who leads us to the banqueting table in celebration with a Banner over us…”His banner over me is love.” If you haven’t read it yet, take a second and go back to it.

Before I get too much farther into the husband/wife dynamic, though, let’s take a pause and talk about the “M” word:  Marriage.

As women (keep in mind that although this is a blog about family dynamics, I’m going to come at this from a woman’s perspective without apology, because guess what???  I’M A WOMAN.), we are taught from birth that our goal in life, particularly if we’re raised in the church, is to get married and have dem babies!  Opting to stay single is not portrayed as an option at all in the church, and we’re all pushed toward marriage pretty early on. And it kinda makes sense–I mean, we’re not supposed to have sex until we’re married, and celibacy isn’t really an option for most of us. “Taking care of business” isn’t discussed and if it is, it’s never in a favorable light, so in order to meet sexual needs, we get married. In order to have children, we get married. In order to be considered as grown-ups and valid members of society (it seems), we get married. Staying single isn’t an option, and if you DO stay single (either by choice or by just, life), it’s looked down on. You really do feel ostracized in the church as a single person. Singles groups tend to be college-age driven, so for the over-30 group, being single is like being the Loch Ness Monster. I’ve never lived that life (I got married at 27–waaaaay after all of my college friends, I believe), but I’ve had friends that weren’t married until they were in their 30’s, and it’s a common complaint. Now, I’m not saying that we get married primarily out of duty and then out of love–don’t twist this. I’m saying that IF we aren’t following the textbook path of marriage and babies, there can be a curtain of condescension that comes over us in the eyes of the church, and it can push us towards making hasty decisions.

It almost feels like there’s an age-related checklist of our duties:

  1. Get saved by ____years old (the younger, the better!)
  2. Get water baptized by ____years old.
  3. Get your Scriptures memorized (and get your prize) by ____years old.
  4. Get involved in your youth group, and eventually get promoted to being a leader, by ____years old.
  5. Go to college, find a member of the opposite sex (but don’t have sex) by _____.
  6. Get married by _____. For women, focus on that magic age more than your education. After all, that MRS degree is FAR more important than investing in your career or your future, right?!?!? “If you have your college degree before your MRS degree, well, that’s okay, honey. It’s just how it worked out for you.”
  7. Start having dem babies, okay?  OKAY?!?!  “NO, of course there won’t be any problems! Breastfeeding will be a dream, your sex life will bounce back, and your babies will sleep through the night, no problems! After all, you’re doing God’s will!!!!!!!!!!!”

People, this is a lie (especially #7, LOL, but that’s another blog). Learn these three words:  MARRIAGE. IS. HARD.

It’s hard.

But not being married is difficult, too, and I don’t think we should discount the issues singles face. People assume that we all want to be in a relationship. Maybe not–why is that wrong? Some people truly are happy on their own, and no one has any right to assume there’s anything negative about that.  The single life is difficult particularly in the Church, because you have to take an all-out stand to be valued independently of a married couple. You’re just as important of a church member as the next person, because guess what? When we all stand before God, we stand ALONE. I stand independently of my husband (I’m sure he’s thankful for that, because I’m not kidding when I call myself a hot mess!). Churches have to stop singling out the singles, because they’re so foundational to a successful ministry. People assume that being single means you’re much more available and flexible than married couples which can be true, but not necessarily, so the church also has to realize that being single does NOT equal Free Help. 🙂

There are huge blessings in being single; Paul talks about it in 1 Corinthians 7 (Message Translation):

Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me—a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others.

8-9 I do, though, tell the unmarried and widows that singleness might well be the best thing for them, as it has been for me. But if they can’t manage their desires and emotions, they should by all means go ahead and get married. The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single.

I have to laugh at the phrase, “sexually tortured life as a single.” It’s The Message translation, and I think it might be stretching it a tad, here….but maybe not? In today’s hypersexualized world, a celibate life probably IS tortuous, particularly if you’re not guarding your heart, your eyes, and your mind–that’s a key issue. Purity is difficult to keep, whether married or single; I would imagine that it would be more difficult as a single person, but with the easy access to explicit materials? We all struggle. I know I do.

Before I sidetrack on THAT discussion, back to being single:  My mother, God love her, divorced my biological father when I was 2. She had her reasons; he was not a good person. The best thing my biological father ever did, was to give me an amazing stepbrother and stepsister. I wouldn’t trade them for the world, and I’m so grateful to have them in my lives.

Anyways, Mom decided for some crazy reason, to put me in a Christian school for K-12. I went to a VERY small school where my mother was the only divorcee that I knew of. I didn’t realize there was anything “wrong” with our family until the 3rd or 4th grade, when the snide comments began to be made from others with so-called nuclear families. I will never forget the shame I felt when I was asked to do a family tree around that time.

Hey, guess what?!?  NOT EVERYONE CAN DO A FAMILY TREE. Maybe you should stop and consider the ramifications of that assignment before you send it out? My mother is adopted. My family is a combination of adoption, steps, surprise babies, and more. I finally invested in an AncestryDNA kit to find out what the heck I am, and I was so surprised that this stupid family tree assignment kept coming up in my thoughts to pester me. Finding out our actual family history (I traced my mom back to the Quakers. QUAKERS, PEOPLE!!!) closed a gap I didn’t realize was quite so deep. I mean, I know WHO I am; why should knowing WHAT I am be such an important thing?!?!?

It became important because of years of being made to feel “less than”…like there was some kind of great honor in having that so-called nuclear family…years of being made to feel like MY family wasn’t the “ideal” of the Church. I didn’t have 1 Mom and 1 Dad. I had a single mom, and eventually, an awesome stepdad, and then at one point, I had 2 Moms, 2 Dads, and more grandparents than I could shake a stick at. My friends at school didn’t get it; my best friend understood my issues the most, because she was the child of a single mom who was being raised by that mom and her grandparents. Since her family dynamic didn’t match the other families around us, we had a special bond. We also didn’t fit in with most of the other families in the school. My mom didn’t do the PTA (did I mention my mom was in the minority, as a working mother? GASP.). We didn’t do weekend “play dates” (and she wore makeup, darn it, so take THAT). My mother worked her rear off as a single mother, and she didn’t have time to care whether or not the other mothers approved. I don’t know how she did it. . As a married, working mother of one, I have to lean so much on my husband and on my parents; how did Mom survive with 2 kids?!?!?!?  Grace of God, I tell ya. As a child, I couldn’t see the incredible honor in the sacrifices she made. As an adult, I’m amazed by her more and more.

But as an impressionable girl growing up in a Mid-western Christian school, I was more impressed by the sneers and snobbery of the girls I was in class with, and even by some of the teachers.  My household shouldn’t have determined how my classmates or teachers perceived me, but it did, and that became more evident the older I became.

I firmly believe that a household is defined as a place where a nuclear group loves Jesus, serves God, and if kids are involved, commits to raising them in a Godly way. I say we love all households and all families, and we don’t treat kids any differently if they come from a 1-parent household, a 2-parent household, or a carnival. I didn’t have that luxury as a kid, so I longed for that “Mayberry” life it looked like my classmates had.

I wanted that MRS degree, so I could make my very own cookie-cutter, Leave-It-To-Beaver life.

Leave-It-to-Beaver

I knew I could be “good enough,” if I could just mark a few things off of that checklist….

Being single was NOT on that checklist.

When you’re rushed out of the time you need…the time God plans for…to be single, you find yourself making regrettable choices. DON’T RUSH BEING SINGLE, just because you want to check your list off. TAKE YOUR TIME.

I almost screwed it all up by marrying a guy my sophomore year of college. The relationship was toxic and abusive, and left me desolate for at least 3 years….but I felt guilty and broken, like I didn’t deserve anything else or better. Had he not dumped me, I would have stayed with him out of a perverse sense of Christian obligation–doesn’t that sound like a loving marriage?!? How many women have done the same thing?!? How many people have done the same thing?

Marriage is supposed to be a union that is based on the love of Jesus, not on some crappy sense of duty or obligation. Marriage is a step we take onto the battlefield of this earth under a banner that shouts the love of Jesus, not under an umbrella of oppression and duty!!!!!!!  If you feel like you’re about to get married and you don’t feel a sense of freedom and joy, DON’T DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!  Stay single! Really, and I know it’s cliche, but if it’s meant to be, it will be. I firmly believe that if God gives us a vision, a “heart’s desire,” He is FAITHFUL to complete it. If you have a heart’s desire to be a husband, a wife, a mom, a dad, whatever, HE WILL COMPLETE THAT WORK IN YOU. If you don’t, THERE IS NO SHAME IN THAT. Don’t try to make something happen if it’s not in your heart to do so. If you don’t want to be married, DON’T GET MARRIED. If you don’t want kids, DON’T HAVE THEM. Why do we feel like we have to be something God didn’t necessarily create us to be? I Corinthians 7 mentioned “the gift” of the single life. Why can’t Christians accept it, if they don’t have that burning desire to be a spouse?!?

Say it with me: IT IS OKAY TO BE SINGLE. IT IS GOOD TO BE SINGLE. It’s better to be single and happy than in a relationship that is bound up in oppression!! And if you are in a marriage that is bound up in oppression, GET FREE (easier said than done–that’s another blog).

Being single is not to be burdened in loneliness and sadness, and I recommend running from any Church that treats it like it is. There is no timeline for single-ness (is that  word?). And when I say, “single,” I mean “single for any reason:” Never married, divorced, single with kids, whatever. Single is SINGLE, regardless of why or how, and you can love your life without judgement. There is joy in being single, believe me.

Before I met my husband (I was like, 24), I remember sitting in my bedroom at my parents’ house (I had to move back in with them after college. Harsh.), thinking about what life would be like if I were never to be married. Keep in mind, I’ve wanted to be a wife and a mother since I could talk, so this was a major moment. I realized that in that moment, I was honestly HAPPY. I had peace and joy. I felt like the world was about to shift, and I was okay with it. I was HAPPY with it. I didn’t know what was going to happen next, but whatever happened, I had peace in my walk with God, on my own, by myself. I had absolutely no burdens; I was ready for whatever came next. I learned to be happy with who I was, and I WAS.  It was a huge moment of clarity and of self-acceptance, and I’ve gone back to that moment many times in my mind.  I was truly, truly happy being single, and it was a revalation that I never knew I could come to.

As women, as soon as we get into a relationship, we field questions about marriage. As soon as we’re married, we field questions about having kids. We are never given the time to JUST BE IN THE MOMENT of our lives, and we never get those moments back again. As a church, WHY ARE WE ALWAYS RUSHING PEOPLE?! Why are we so eager to check those marks off of  lists? Why can we not just enjoy our lives without the pressure to be something we’re not, or to move faster onto something we’re not ready for? That’s not a Godly way to live, and it’s not fair to subject kids to. We have to learn to redefine families and homes in a way that BREATHES, because the church is SUFFOCATING people and families RIGHT OUT THE DOORS.

Family = Single people.

Family = Married people.

Family = People with kids.

Family = People without kids.

Family = Divorced people.

Family = Remarried people.

Family = A home where people within its walls want to love and serve Christ.

Jesus goes out before us as His children, and His banner over us is love. Who walks under that banner? Holy, perfect people? Or people who are marked and battle-scarred, who have fought in the trenches and lived to tell the tales? People who are TRYING to serve, trying to show His love, and are trying to live their best life in the Kingdom? He takes our broken pieces and He puts them together under His banner, to make a picture of a family that defies the portrait studios in our minds…He calls us all to the table, married, single, whatever, and He celebrates us where we are.

Why can’t the Church do the same?

 

 

 

Former Friends, Forty, & Feet…

My brain has been in a whirlwind for the past 2 weeks.  There’s a multitude of things going on…Shall I outline it all, in the hopes that writing it all down, makes it all make sense?

  • The dissolution of a long-term friendship  has led to difficulties maintaining a positive attitude.  As a fairly outspoken person, it’s increasingly difficult to not confront said “friend” regarding their demeanor. I have to trust God that truth will out…That being said, “truth” occasionally means that you piss people off, and I guess that’s what I’ve officially done.  Have I been a “good Christian” in how I’ve handled this mess? Nope (does the Silent Treatment count for or against me?!?). I’m hurt, I’m angry, and my eyes hurt from rolling them so hard. I’m almost 40, and this “act like you’re 17” crap is for the birds. And no, I’m not going to tell her about it—what good would it do? To pour out my heart to someone who thinks they’re never wrong? I don’t have that amount of time to waste.
  • Working with women is DIFFICULT (see #1). They’re catty, they’re mean, and they’re so, SO petty. I’ve been in a female-dominated industry for 18 years, and I’ve been both the Catty-B, and the victim of the Catty B. I’d like to think I’ve been on the receiving end of said BS more times than I’ve dealt it (because I generally dislike the confrontation involved—what good does it do? If someone hates you, telling them off about it isn’t going to make them like you any more), but that’s an easy thought to think. I can’t be objective in that thought, but I sure as heck can say that I’m in the thick of it right now, and OMG, I AM OVER IT. IF women would be kinder to each other on the job, men would have more respect for our work performance and authority. Instead, we shoot ourselves in the foot because we can’t keep our feet out of our mouths and our bitchery out of the office. Women need to build each other up, and cram this sanctimonious garbage where the sun doesn’t shine. Be nice, girls. Maybe someday, we can actually work together in PEACE.
  • The onslaught of stories of sexual harassment is a weight around my heart. Every. Single. Woman. Has a story to tell. Reading them is heavy…exposing our children to them is HEAVY. Hearing it all on the news is HEAVY. Since Mr. Clinton was in office, we have been subject to greater and greater exposure to sexual impropriety in the media. I have to wonder if purity is dead? “How shall a young man keep his way pure?” I don’t know anymore. How do I raise my little boy to respect women when even at 4, he is using words that by their very definition, sexualize? Thanks to a children’s movie that decided to use the word “booty,” I can’t get my son to quit saying “booty butt.” Sure, it’s funny…but what if he doesn’t stop? That’s a problem we have to quell NOW. As mothers, we are responsible for raising our sons to end the #MeToo in this world. We have to. We are the ones who can end it. Fathers, you are the other ones that can end it. Start with you. Start with respecting sex, with turning your eyes away when it’s inappropriate (women need to do that, too). Fathers, set the example of romantic love with your wife. Set the example of respect for her body. Mothers, set the example of respect for your husband. Turn off “The Bachelor” and shows that glamorize sexual behavior (I don’t mean to single out any show in particular, and in fact, I’ve never watched “The Bachelor.” I’m just gathering that from previews). Listen to the lyrics in songs—turn them off when they’re inappropriate. It’s a struggle for ALL of us, but it’s worth it. Sex is to be appreciated, bodies are to be respected, and WE need to restore purity by the grace of God, in our households. These are stands we have to take. I have to remember that IT’S WORTH IT, to turn off questionable lyrics when my Mini is in the car. Sure, I’m a grown-up, I can handle it, right? Maybe I’m jaded…but he’s not. My son is not. Let’s not callous our kids before their time (and maybe let’s collectively rethink what we’re so callous to, ourselves?).
  • Sometimes, we have to stand up for what’s right, even when it’s uncomfortable and in my case, leaves me paranoid for a solid month. That’s where I am right now. Yes, I am praying about it. I’m still paranoid. When you regularly deal with anxiety and something comes up to tip that cart just a little more in that direction, a small thing becomes a very BIG thing, and it’s an effort to not obsess about it.
  • I turn 40 next month. Why I’m having some kind of existential crisis over it, I’m not sure. The fact that I’ve made it this far is flippin’ amazing. While I’d like to celebrate by face-planting into some kind of elaborate pastry, I’m actually going to celebrate by getting stoned out of my mind. I’m kidding. Kind of. It’ll be the legal kind. 🙂 The day before my 40th birthday, I’m having the first of two foot surgeries, in an effort to finally end the years-worth of pain that’s really affected my life. I have tarsal tunnel/plantar fasciitis in both feet, so it will be nice to see that level of pain be taken care of. My goal is to be off of the pain meds as quickly as possible, so that I don’t ruin both Thanksgiving, AND Christmas (surgery #2 is the Friday before Christmas) for my family. Scheduling the surgeries in this way makes sure I don’t miss as much work as I would be, had I scheduled them any other time; I have to look at the financial impact over the social impact. I have to say, though, I’m a bit bummed about spending 40 so completely laid up, especially after I’ve seen (and been to) some amazing 40th birthday celebrations. I’m super-thankful my hubby and my parents are helping…and I’m thinking I can just snag JD with my cane if he gets terribly out of line, LOL.
  • As is wont to happen this time of the year, my anxiety/depression is a bit peaky. I’m in a (lengthy) season of feeling like the Lord is blocked off…like I can’t get to Him, and when I try, I’m too tired. He feels a million miles away, but I think it’s me that’s so far from Him. He never leaves, and I know that, even when I don’t feel His Presence. I feel like my heart is just crying out for some kind of Word, some kind of direction from Him, but I feel shiftless. Our church is getting ready to dive into the Song of Solomon study, and I’m ready for it. I need that revelation of the endless love of God, at a much deeper level. I find Him so much closer during worship, but when I’m in my 9-5 (or 6-3), I am so empty…It’s not like He’s hiding while I’m in my office or anything…I’m never insulated away from Him, but I feel like it.
  • One friend unceremoniously dumps me, and it sends me into a tailspin…whether that’s the definition of crazy or not, I’m not sure, but I know it’s had a huge impact on my life. It’s a Milestone Moment. I’ve questioned a lot of things over the past few weeks, and I’ve been reminded of several positives. I’ve also been taught/reminded of a few lessons:
    • My best friend in the universe has been my best friend since the 3rd grade. If I were horrible, Vinita would not be by my side through every good/bad/ridiculous stage of my life. I’ve several other friends that have been in my life for 10 years or longer. I rarely think about the longevity of a friendship as a proving ground for my moral compass, but it was recently brought to mind, and I’m grateful for those women that have loved me as I am.
    • This isn’t the first time I’ve ever had someone tell me I’m not good enough for them. I’ve been rejected before, for jobs, parts, etc., but never from a “friend.” When I got dumped by a guy (for the first and only time in my life), I spent 2 years in a death-spiral of depression. It’s been 20 years since that happened, and I would hope I would bounce back more quickly from rejection. Yet here I am, about a month after my dismissal, and I was so broken over it all that I’m  just now able to really write about it. I don’t anticipate a 2-year “death spiral” LOL, but I’m certainly impacted.
    • I don’t ever want to make another human being feel the way this person made me feel. I’m rethinking every aspect of how I treat people (including my husband who, let’s face it, gets the best AND worst of me). It’s a work in progress, but maybe someday, I will get it down pat. I just want to show the love of Jesus. That’s hard to do when you’re a jerk.
    • It’s also hard to show the love of Jesus when you’re stuck in the internal monologues of what you’d like to do to the person you’re angry with. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I haven’t imagined a million scenarios ending with me slapping the living daylights out of her or telling her off….but what good would it do? What would it do in the eyes of Eternity? It bears NO WITNESS to the love of Jesus. I’m struggling, I’m not going to lie—I can’t even look her in the eye right now (it’s mutual, don’t hang me), and God knows she won’t speak to me. I did try to engage, but all it took was one perceived slight and she was back to being a….Well, you get it. There comes a point at which you stop casting your pearls before swine…but you still have to show the love of Jesus…and I’m not sure how you do both. I’m figuring it out.  It’s selfishly worth it to put the work in, to figuring out how to show Jesus in a perceived no-win situation. I’ll get there.
  • Guys don’t do this. They don’t unfriend each other, and they don’t wax loquacious in the psychology of failed relationships (okay, at least not that I know of). Things like this make my husband crazy with me. They also confirm that yes, I’m occasionally nutso-pants, but he married me, so what does that make him?!?? I know it’s sexist, but I think guys get the easier part of mental health and of relationships. Women are waaaaaaaaaaaay too OCD in negative thought patterns (and maybe I’m a sexist troglodyte. I’m basing this solely on my husband and his miraculous/enviable ability to compartmentalize).
  • I want to ask for prayer, but I feel like I’m “that person” who is always surrounded by some kind of drama, and ALWAYS asks for prayer…like asking for prayer is just another way of saying that I’m broken, yet again. News flash, Cassidy—EVERYONE IS BROKEN in one way or another. We are all broken, and the beauty of life is watching Jesus take those pieces and make them into something/someone beautiful in His time. The process of waiting for His time? That’s the hard part…So in the waiting, I’m asking for prayer…Having 2 surgeries and basically being immobile for 2 weeks during the holidays, while trying to care for a 4yo (and having to rely heavily on hubby/family) is difficult. The situation with my former friend is difficult. This time of the year is—you guessed it—difficult, and my heart is tender. Please keep my doctor, Dr. Arnold, and her team in your prayers, so that my surgeries and recovery go smoothly. I am blessed to work a desk job that allows me to return to work 1 week after each procedure, so I am grateful for my job (I am!! SAY IT WITH ME!!!!!!!!!! I AM GRATEFUL FOR MY JOB!!!!!!!!). Please pray for David, Rico-Bean, and my parents, who are in their 60’s, and are willing to tackle caring for a pre-K boy that is VERY active. Pray that they have the energy they need!
  • Finally, never underestimate the beauty of worship, when it comes to focusing the mind and calming the heart, and in warming the spirit. I rediscovered Bethel Music on Spotify this week, and when my brain is a jumbled mess…when my heart is overwhelmed…I am grateful for people that make worship their life, and that share it with the world. We need it, desperately….I need it.

I realize that writing a bulleted outline for a blog is a bit excessive. At some point, I need/want to become disciplined enough to write on a daily basis…if I want to make this work, I have to pour into it consistently. Besides, when I wait too long to write, I wind up with a 2500-word tome that no one has time to read, right?!?!?!?!?

Thank you for your patience with my writing and my rants…and most of all, thank you for your prayers. Life is hard, but when there is fellowship…when Christians come together and lift each other up, life is a joy. I am so grateful to share that joy with you. You’re a blessing in my life, and a reminder that God’s people are GOOD. ❤

*When you’re friends or family members of a writer, and you KNOW they’re a writer, you have to know that at some point, they’re going to write about you, good or bad. Names have not been named, no slander has occurred, and no one may be held responsible for the contents of this piece. It’s ridiculous that I actually have to say this, but this world is looking for any reason to be a victim. You don’t get that from me.