Archive for September, 2002

Downs and Ups

Friday, September 27th, 2002

Over the last week I’ve confronted some stuff and wobbled, and felt better, and worried about that, etc…

C.S.Lewis talked about the “Law of Undulation”* by which he meant that human beings just don’t notice that their feelings about everything go up and down no matter what they do. I’ve had a bit of that this week.

* in his book, “The Screwtape Letters” which I would recommend to everyone everywhere.

About a week ago I was talking to my wife (Pia) about how we felt about things and about our relationships with God and so on. We realised that in many ways we were feeling very far from him and afraid to go near.

I’ve always had to force myself to go to church – sometimes I enjoy it when I get there (sometimes not) – but the thought of it always makes me negative. Often too I don’t like the thought of praying.

We tend to pray together just before we go to sleep, and we realised that we had become quite slack at this, still doing it but not putting in any effort and just getting it over with.

Meanwhile, I’d pretty much stopped doing any other praying or Bible reading on my own and we hadn’t read the Bible together for ages.

We thought about why this had happened, and I really felt that for me it was because the thought of praying or spending time with God (i.e. remembering he exists) made me terrified. So I’d been squeezing it out because it was unpleasant.

Now, we could spend ages talking about why I feel like this, and perhaps we should, but anyway I’m going to tell you what we did about it instead.

So, in a monumental effort, we admitted all this to each other, and decided we should do something about it, so we agreed to read the Bible and pray together every day when we got back from work, and also to spend time apart doing this, and prepare stuff to say when we were together.

The next day, we sat down on the sofa and tried to do this. To be honest, I was expecting it to be a lot easier than I expected (as it were) because God often does stuff like that. But it wasn’t. It was just as bad as I thought. We didn’t know what to read (so we started with Revelation in the Bible), we didn’t get anything out of what we read, we didn’t have anything to say to each other and we didn’t want to pray. I asked for forgiveness for our neglect of God, and nothing happened. We tried, and I thought God would surely reward us for all this effort by making it easier next time.

But the next day was just as bad, and by the end I felt pretty despairing. I sat there and said to God, “Look we’re really trying – you know how hard we’ve found it to confront this, and how hard it has been to act on it, and now we need your help to make it work.” But nothing happened.

After this we had a conversation about what to do and we decided that the next day Pia would choose a Psalm she liked (she’s got into Psalms recently) and we’d read that. I thought I’d choose a song out of a Christian song book (aaaaaaargh!) and use that as a prayer to help us pray.

So we had something to do the next day; we weren’t completely lost, and actually it felt like God was there. because I had this crutch of reading out something someone else had written I felt freer to pray myself, and I was able to thank God for stuff and ask him for forgiveness and help. The song even allowed me to “worship” a bit I think.

Since then we’ve missed more days than we’ve done, but through forgetfulness and busy-ness rather than fear I think. I’ve found that when we pray I’ve just got more words to say and I don’t feel so terrible. Basically I’m more comfortable with the concept of being “in God’s presence,” whatever that means.

So what’s the moral of the story? Well really it’s that I was a bit silly to be in despair. I was dead right that God would want to take 10 steps towards us when we took half of one faltering step, but it actually took 3 days for me to be able to feel I had made progress, but 2 days for me to give up on him.

Never forget how short-sighted you are.

(Unless you’re not me and therefore not so short-sighted.)

Another moral of the story is that it could be helpful to use “crutches” like reading from a book if you’re finding praying difficult. Check out the wiki – there’s a discussion there on how to get closer to God that is about that kind of idea.

Get creative and learn to Wiki

Thursday, September 19th, 2002

I’ve introduced a new feature to the site – it’s called a Wiki Wiki Web and it’s a section of the site that anyone can alter in any way.

The idea is that this should be a really good way to express ourselves freely and learn from each other by working together.

Check it out at:

www.guiltyexpression.org/wiki.

Have fun!

Women in leadership roles

Thursday, September 12th, 2002

Ok. I’ve thought about it and having said there’s no way I’d write an article…

Have been reading stuff that people have posted and there are occasional comments kind of bordering on this but I’d like to hear what you all have to say. I don’t mean women as vicars/priests/etc but more general: in leadership in any capacity.

Is something which suddenly has more meaning in my life and not sure what I think about it. Have heard a lot of people say that women shouldn’t take on responsibility and leadership and most of the people I remember as leaders are male.

So ok, that isn’t a brilliant article but it’s what I think. Expecting my opal fruit now…

Egalitarian Marriages

Wednesday, September 4th, 2002

Andy suggested that I write an article about what constitutes an equal, or egalitarian marriage, so here goes:

Introduction

Before I went to university I was surrounded by people (Christian and non-Christian alike) who believed in (and, if they were actually married, lived out) an egalitarian relationship. Of course, I was aware that there were some Christians in the world who disagreed with the idea of gender equality, but it wasn’t until I began to attend my university’s Christian Union that I actually came across them.

Their attitudes towards women and their supposed inferiority frustrated and annoyed me exceedingly, and continue to do so.

While it might be possible to justify their arguments with a prejudiced, erroneous interpretation of the Bible (unfortunately one which still holds sway in many circles), it is not only impossible to justify their views by common sense, but also extremely difficult equate their notions with the teachings and character of Jesus Christ (who always treated women and men as equals).

What is an egalitarian marriage?

Well, I believe that marriage is basically an extension of a really good friendship. People don’t usually marry one another unless they’ve been very good friends first. This might seem obvious, but I think that the ‘friendship’ element is a very important feature of a marriage. A friendship is just about always regarded as an egalitarian relationship, so this egalitarianism should be brought into and maintained in marriage.

But what exactly do I mean by an equal relationship, or marriage?

An egalitarian marriage is one that is founded on mutual love and respect. In a marriage of equals, each spouse desires to see the other grow in their gifts and improve in their abilities; each spouse helps and encourages the other to realise their potential. The couple enjoy spending time together, talking, laughing and listening to one another. Each spouse provides comfort and support to the other when they are disheartened, and the couple remains honest with and faithful to each other. Neither spouse automatically assumes responsibility for anything, whether it be decision-making or child-rearing, because both members of the couple understand the value of the other’s opinions and thoughts.

If there is an important decision to be made and the couple disagree, then the opinion of (1) the spouse who will be more affected by the outcome of the decision and/or (2) the spouse who is more knowledgeable about the particular area of the decision should carry more weight. They should also pray about it (if they are Christians/believe in God).

So that is my definition of an egalitarian marriage. One in which the couple love, respect and submit to one another. Of course, things can go wrong – in any relationship there are going to be arguments and disgreements – but – I believe that if a couple truly love and respect one another, they will be able to work through these conflicts that arise.

Of course, in most relationships each spouse has their different talents and abilities. For example, let us say that in a certain relationship, the wife is considerably better at handling the finances. If the couple agree that she should therefore take control of handling the finances because of her obvious expertise in this area, then I see no problem in this. I do, however, see a problem and much injustice in someone imposing his will on his wife and family simply because he is a man (this is what characterises an unequal marriage). A man who does this does not really have any respect for his wife.

I also believe that even if one spouse is clearly more dominant and the other clearly more passive, although the dominant one will inevitably take more of a lead in the marriage, I think that they should attempt to make their relationship more evenly matched, because this will give the more passive spouse a chance to stand on their own feet. ‘Christians’ who maintain that the husband should always make the decisions and take control of the family are (1) placing an unneccessary burden on the husband and (2) by absolving the wife of responsibilities, they are denying her the opportunity to develop and grow in wisdom.

Conclusion

I believe that if two mature adults (whether they are Christian or not) who sincerely love and respect one another get married, neither spouse WILL WANT to dominate over the other. Each spouse WILL DESIRE to listen to the other. Egalitarian relationships are not only Biblical, but they also make perfect sense. It remains of great importance to understand the damage that can be caused by forcing people to assume roles based on gender rather than recognising each person as individual. For, as Sue Bridehead declares in ‘Jude the Obscure’

‘…the social moulds civilisation fits us into have no more relation to our actual shapes than the conventional shapes of the constellations have to the real star-patterns.’

Well, hopefully it is understandable what I have been trying to say! If you wish to read more about gender equality in marriage and in the church (and written better and more clearly than I have done) then I recommend the website www.cbeinternational.org. In the Free Articles section there are some articles on equality in marriage.