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I’m getting married in 2 months. Actually, 69 days to be exact. On May 24, 2014, I will make the most solemn vows of my entire life, and officially become Mrs. Clay Selway. I will commit to not only share, but entirely give my money, my possessions, my future, my body, my soul to one man. Forever. No way out.

And he’s not “The One.”

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I love Clay with everything I have. He makes me laugh. He makes the bad days good and the good days better. He challenges me to be a better person, and comforts me when I’ve failed that challenge. He’s the kindest, gentlest, sweetest person I know. He’s my best friend, my hero, and the only man I’d ever want to be my husband.

But he’s still not my soul mate, and definitely not “The One.”

Not that I didn’t spend the first 18 years of my life longing to meet my “One.” Growing up, like any good midwestern girl, I was fed a steady diet of the idealized American romance. One boy, one girl – two star-crossed lovers who fight across space and time to fulfill their destiny of being together. From Disney movies to romance novels, I ate it all up. I had my own copy of “Romeo and Juliet,” that I read until the pages started to fall out. I literally watched “The Princess Bride” so many times I could have recited it in my sleep. I loved it. And I wanted it.

But no matter how I tried, I just couldn’t seem to find it. Even the best boyfriend I had failed my weighty list of expectations. No man in the world seemed like they would ever fulfill the ideal I’d built up. I sat around and lamented to my girlfriends ruefully, “I think God made me a man, but somewhere along the way he got hit by bus.” The humor was a thin veneer for some very thick disappointment.

After wading through the smoking rubble from a broken relationship with someone I thought was “The One”,  I met my now fiance, Clay, through some mutual friends. After a year of friendship, we began a careful dating relationship. 2 years after that, he asked me to be his wife. And in just 2 months, we will become one. But he isn’t “The One.”

You see, Clay will never be “The One.” In fact, I don’t even think there is a “One,” not on this earth at least. The very concept of a “One” implies that there is one, singular person out there that will fulfill every single desire of my heart, meet every single need, and heal every single hurt.

What an incredible burden! Actually, what a crushing burden. No man, not even Clay (and I admit I think he’s the best man out there) could do that. Think of who many needs, wants, desires, and hurts you have – could just one person ever take care of all that?

As a Christian, I believe that human beings have eternal souls. Souls that are filled with an immense, infinite amount of desires and wants. We need to be loved perfectly, to be known perfectly, to be cherished perfectly. But, as the they say “no one’s perfect.” And thus, no one, not even your spouse, no matter how well matched, will ever be able to fulfill you fully.

But our culture has told us this lie, and we’ve ate it up. And so we date, and break up, marry and divorce, all the while searching, searching, searching for someone, anyone to fill this aching hole inside of us. But they can’t. And they don’t. And they never will.

I think C.S. Lewis got it right when he famously said, ““If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

You see, I think we were made for another world. A world with no longing, no sighing, no searching, no pain. No disappointment, no unmet expectations, no broken relationships, no emptiness. A world with a perfect relationship with a perfect God; an Infinite being to fill an infinite need. And though we haven’t lived in that perfect world since Genesis 2, I believe that through Jesus, we can still have that relationship with God. And through Him, even while I struggle through this broken world, I have an infinite source to fill my never-ending need.

This is something Clay and I came to realize before we dated each other, and something we realize a little more every day. Because we both have a relationship with Jesus, we have all of our infinite needs, wants, and desires fulfilled. We don’t have to turn to each other for them.

This means that while I still receive things like love, affection, friendship, and affirmation from Clay, I don’t have to. I don’t demand them, but rather can receive them as a gift. On the bad days (or weeks, or months, or years), I don’t have to receive anything from Clay. Fulfilled in my relationship with God, I can choose to serve Clay when he’s not serving me, give when he’s only taking, and love when he’s nothing but unloveable. And on the good days (which, by God’s grace, will outnumber the bad) I will receive his gentle service, gifts, and love with a sense of undeserving joy and gratitude.

He’s not “The One.” The unchangable, unshakeable, never-failing God is “The One.” And Clay is a wonderful, beautiful, completely undeserved gift given to me by The One.

On May 24, 2014, I will become one with someone I love more than my own body. I will happily join with the one God has given me, and together, as one, we will serve The One.

I’m getting married, and he’s not “The One.” And I’m grateful for that.

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    “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
(Matthew 13:44-46 ESV)

Graduation fast approaches, and I’ve been confronted with the choices that follow.  Where will I go? What will I do?

Most days, I wish very badly that I could give the standard answer.  Contrary to popular belief, I am neither brave nor immune to the opinions of others. I wish I could say that I’d taken a job worth bragging rights. I wish I could say that I was moving into an apartment in a trendy part of town.

But I can’t, and I’m not.  As of now, the answers are all in the category of, “I don’t know.”

But I do know.

I’ve found the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great value.

Now I’m confronted with what’s next.  Will I sell all that I have to buy it?

Will I trade it in? The approval of my parents, my sisters, my family, my community. The respect of my professors and peers. The comfortable life I was raised to know. The certainty of a husband, children, a career. Everything.

Will I sell all that I have?  The price is high. It is very costly, and very painful, and very hard. Do I believe the pearl, the field, to be worth that much?

I think that I do.

“Do you ever feel alone inside your head?”

Those lyrics from a song I like have been ringing in my head lately, probably because they are very true. As of late, I’ve felt trapped inside my own head much of the time. Senior year has been wonderful in many ways, but hard in many ways as well.

One specific thing that has been particularly tough is my feeling of unimportance, or, for lack of better words, “being left behind.” Most of the people in my life that I’m close to have moved on to a different stage of life. Graduated, gotten jobs, gotten engaged/married, moved into permanent residences (at least more permanent than a college house).

And it sounds silly and stupid, but it’s hard for me not to look at my friends and compare myself. To their houses, which have beds not supported by cinder blocks, and their kitchens, which have appliances that probably actually work. To their jobs, which actually pay salaries and aren’t titled something like “Student Employee.” To their lives which just somehow seem more concrete and in synch with each other’s than my own.

When we talk about our lives, my problems seem so small, so much less important. My accomplishments seem likewise, small and less important. I feel myself wanting to fade into the background with the problems and feelings that seem like no one would care about or understand.

But that’s stupid. And I know that. I know that I’m right where God would have me. He’s already been working in so many ways this year exactly where I am.

It’s just incredibly hard to be separated from those you love, not only by distance but also by stage of life.

I’ve been asking the Lord about this, about why He would make this so hard for me, and what He would have me do in the middle of this, and His response over and over has revolved around Psalm 103.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:1-5 ESV)

Bless the Lord, O my soul. Thank Him, even for this, even for these hard things, even for these tears. He satisfies you with good, renews and redeems. Bless the Lord, o my soul. All that is within me (even the parts of me that are unhappy) bless his holy name.

FORGET NOT His benefits. How he loves me. How He cherishes me. How He has saved me and put my feet on solid ground. The joy, the strength, the wonder He has put in my heart. The indescribable beauty that is my life, and the unshakeable confidence I can have in Him. Forget not!

When I’m tempted to compare myself to my friends, and feel like my life is not where it’s supposed to be, God is reminding me, “Bless me, Emily, and forget not what I have already given you!”

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord bestows favor and honor. NO good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

The past few days, it seems that the world has focused all it’s evil and brokenness on me and the ones I love. Tragedy and trial have become the theme of my life in recent days. It’s been really, really hard – but through it all the Savior has been sweet to me, and I’ve found comfort in His promises, and in the assurance of His Sovereign will. In light of that, I thought I’d share a few things that have been encouraging to me in the past few weeks.

“Reader, if God has given you His only begotten Son, beware of doubting His kindness and love, in any painful providence of your daily life! Never allow yourself to think hard thoughts of God. Never suppose that He can give you anything which is not really for your good. Remember the words of Paul: ‘He who spared not His own Son—but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things’ (Romans 8:32)

See in every sorrow and trouble of your earthly pilgrimage the hand of Him who gave Christ to die for your sins! That hand can never smite you except in love! He who gave His only begotten Son for you, will never withhold anything from you which is really for your good. Lean back on this thought and be content. Say to yourself in the darkest hour of trial, ‘This also is ordered by Him who gave Christ to die for my sins. It cannot be wrong. It is done in love. It must be well.’” – JC Ryle

I have also been encouraged by the following passage, excerpted from a Elisabeth Elliot’s book, “Secure in the Everlasting Arms”.

“We must learn how to be faithful people in this new assignment, on we certainly never would have asked for, but one which can still serve us, bless us, our Creator, and others.
Yes, there is fear; there is sadness, there is a whole new vocabulary we are coming to know, one we never would have wanted to know anything about.  There are lots of tears. But there have been extraordinary blessings amid the darkness.
We don’t believe this is an accident, and we don’t believe this is not “of God.” We live in a fallen world, where all of us – and creation in general – fall short, because of sin, of what God intended for us and illness and crime and cruelty are just reminders of that “fallenness.” We trust in God’s sovereignty over the world and for our lives…”

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
(Romans 8:18 ESV)

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…”
(2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV)

I’ve been debating this post for some time now, unable to decide whether it would be appropriate and beneficial to publish it.  Of course, I mean all that I say within it, and it’s all true.  However, as a sister in Christ, I do care about my brothers – and I think too often, we resort to bashing them as they learn how to be men, instead of encouraging them.  I pray that this post will not be of that sort. I pray that this post is written in humility, love, and sincerity, and that it is read in a similar manner.

That being said, I’m going to attempt to move on to say what is burdening my heart, however clumsily I express it. And it is this – it never gets any less painful to see women that I love broken and defeated by men. It never pains me any less to hear stories of women bruised and hurting from mistreatment. And I will never cease to get tears in my eyes to see a woman of God in tears over a man in her life who isn’t treating her like the daughter of the King that she is.

All of this might be a tad bit easier if the men involved were not believers. If this were so, what they did would still be wrong, but at least understandable.  How can you expect a man who is blind and lame to lead a woman without damaging her?  But these men are Christians, or at least claim to be.

And lest I misconstrue anything, I want to say that I realize that I am absolutely blessed to be surrounded by the men that I know.  You are godly, and growing, and encouraging, and I appreciate you. That being said, much of the damage being done to these women that I love is unintentional.  Hurt caused by men who had no intent of doing so.  Pain inflicted by men who, in all honesty, were probably desperately trying to discern God’s will in their lives.

I get that. I really do. We’re all young. We’re all growing. We need patience and grace.  But here is what I think many men fail to understand –

Women. Are. Fragile.

I’ll say it again. We’re fragile. Delicate. Fine. Fragile.

Sure, sometimes we have backs of steel (or at least we pretend we do). But we have limbs of porcelain and hearts of much finer material.

Understand this, please. We are much, much more breakable than you, or your guy friends. Don’t break us any more than this world already has, enmeshed in sin as it is.

Don’t flirt with us if you aren’t going to pursue us. Don’t even start. If you want to pursue a relationship, pursue it. Don’t leave us hanging.

Don’t begin to pursue us, and then back out. Be serious. Good intentions aren’t enough.  Many Christian men with good intentions still hurt their sisters because they rush into pursuing her before they really think about it, and then have to back out and leave a crushed woman in their wake.

Don’t date us if you aren’t ready. And by all means, don’t marry us if you aren’t ready to love us like Christ loves the Church!

Please, in all your dealings with women, remember – we are far more fragile and easily hurt than you can even imagine.

“live… in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. ”
(1 Peter 3:7 ESV)

“Anywhere you want me to go, Lord, I’ll go. Send me, I’ll go! Anywhere!”

I’ve said these words more than once.  For much of winter and fall quarter, they have been the cry of my heart.  I meant them.

Well, sort of.

When I said “anywhere”, the anywhere I envisioned was some far flung country, or maybe the inner city.  The oceans. Or the mountains.

The “anywhere” that God picked was my hometown.

I didn’t mean THAT anywhere…

And now, just a few days from heading home, I find myself bewildered and upset, like a child that volunteered to help her dad with an important task and was told to go back inside and quit being a bother.

I am upset.  I ache as I see the start date for the summer project that I was supposed to go on grow closer. I don’t see any good in this plan.  I can’t understand what could possibly be good in separating me from my friends, from my spiritual support network.

I feel overlooked by God and utterly unimportant.

Fortunately, I know that it’s not about what I feel, but what Scripture tells me is true.  And I know (in my head at least) that there is a plan in this, though it may not be revealed in this life.  I know that I’m not overlooked, nor unimportant.

It’s gonna be a long summer.  But I’m gonna take it a day at a time. God provides, sometimes only enough for a day at a time.  But that’s all I need.

If you’re going on a project or any sort of summer thing, let me know – I would love to pray for you. If I can’t go, I’ll at least pray 🙂

The concept of forgiveness is a tricky one.

Certainly, it is one mandated by the Bible and a step in experiencing the joy of God’s forgiveness for us more fully.   But, like I’m realizing with a lot of Biblical concepts, the tough part is figuring out how to apply it to daily life.

Right now, I’m wrestling with forgiveness.  Forgiving people who have hurt me in the past used to be a struggle I could barely overcome.  It was too painful, too stinging.  I was hardened by 17 years without Christ.  I’d like to think that I’m making pretty good progress in that avenue, through prayer and some good old fashioned surrender.

The question for me now, though, is this – what does forgiveness look like when the person you have to forgive continues to hurt you, again and again?  When you’ve done all you can – loving confrontation, changes in your own behavior, prayer, and forgiveness for the past – and the hurt continues to come, what do you do?

Of course, I agree that you need to prayerfully and thoughtfully extend forgiveness with each new transgression.  But what about that person’s rejection?

Do you continue extending invitations for interaction and relation, even when 9 times out of 10, it is going to be met with a rejection that will sting?

Or do you withdraw, and avoid contact unless that person initiates?

Part of me keeps telling me to withdraw, to run.  And the other part keeps reminding me that Jesus continually extended invitations for interaction and relation, even as I not only rejected Him, but acted in rebellion against Him.

What would you do? I really am at a loss here.

Forgiveness is hard.

Photo used from http://www.saintdunstanschurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/reaching-hands.jpg

Just another untitled poem from my journal.  I hope it resonates with you.

So this is life….

Trying to count all my gains as losses,
I keep picking up different crosses,
trying on every single one
but my own.

Is this all I’ll ever be?
Bruised shoulders, calloused hands, blistered feet,
rising
rising
rising
from imagined defeat.

Wanting so badly to be
the first of the last.
Beautiful, quiet, gentle,
the model of humility.
A desire born of pride and greed.
Oh, is this all I’ll ever be?

This is not what you meant me to be.
I struggle so deeply with wounds
both real and imagined,
it’s hard to think back
to how it all happened.

Do I really want to be what they call “godly”?
Part of me says “No” and part says “yes”.
Oh, this is a civil war between
spirit and flesh.

Each day, each hour, each minute,
I have to choose,
and I pray to God that it won’t be the one
I’m bound to lose.

For we all agree
death is certain.
I see my body decay
day by day.
Oh, dear lord, how the years get away!

This is what I’m meant to be,
yearning this side of eternity
for my Jesus,
and the world as it should be.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self control.

The Fruits of the Spirit. Out of all of those, only two have ever come naturally me – love and joy. As long as I can remember, I’ve been gifted to be (for the most part) naturally joyful. Some might call it “easily entertained”, but I prefer to think of it as taking delight in the smallest of things. Even when things are hard, or even downright awful – it doesn’t take much to inspire at least a small moment of joy in me.

Lately, though, this hasn’t been as easy for me. In the midst of spring quarter, joy hasn’t been the easiest emotion to come by.  I’ve had to work for it.  Struggle for it.  Fight for it.

But in doing so, I’ve realized all of the things that I really do have that are reasons for joy. I have more reasons for joy than I deserve. So, here they are. Why I am fighting for joy;

  • a wonderful group of friends who know me intimately (and love me anyway)
  • a beautiful campus to call home
  • a great Bible study to bring encouragement to my Tuesday nights
  • a dorm filled with friends
  • the opportunity to join with 400 other college kids on praise God on my Thursday nights
  • a great job with hilarious co-workers
  • the wealth of opportunities for growth, friendship, and fellowship that Campus Crusade for Christ has provided me
  • plenty of laughter
  • deep discussions
  • books!
  • flowers
  • coloring books and 152-count crayons
  • picnics by the Hocking
  • bright green ESV pocket Bibles
  • laughter. laughter. laughter. – Never hard to come by

This is worth fighting for.

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” – Is 55:12

I really wrestled with whether or not to post this, simply because it is so personal and vulnerable. After sleeping on it and getting it proof-read, I finally decided that it would be worth it to post it, because of this – in the past few days, I have noticed a trend among my friends in our conversationsAs women, we have a few similar desires. We want to be loved. We long to feel beautiful. We ache to know that we are worth it. But everything in this world is fighting against us, trying to distract us from what will ultimately fulfill those desires. It’s good to be reminded of the truth. So, here it goes.

Sometimes, life is really hard.

Maybe it’s being in a secular college setting, or maybe it’s taking a tough double-major course-load, or maybe it’s just life. But sometimes, it’s really hard – I feel lonely. I long for love. I battle with myself as I fight the temptation to attract inappropriate attention to myself with the way I dress. I want to be beautiful.

But, in times like this, it is wonderful to come to the Lord and be in His presence.

To come to him and remember first knowing Jesus as my savior, and recalling how his perfect love finally filled that hole in my heart.  Remembering how, for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel alone.  When my longing to love and be loved finally had a place in which to be fulfilled.

To counter the lies with the Truth, and realize that I am so desirable and so worthwhile that Jesus suffered and died and bore the wrath of God’s sin for me – even as my rebellious soul hated him and wandered.

To read his Word and realize that I am already wanted. I am already being pursued.  And nothing I can wear or do will ever change that.

To come to the Scriptures, and hear the words “You are beautiful, because I am beautiful,” whispered between the lines on every page.  The message ingrained in between every word in a book that describes a God so mighty that he could create the vibrant cosmos out of nothing, move the mountains with his hands, tell the sea to calm with his voice. A book that describes the same God working every moment of history to bring his people to him, to save them. To know them personally. To love them intimately.

To come to realize that in Jesus, I have everything that I long for – A man who stands in front of me, with more love in his eyes than every man in all the world – past, present, and future combined – could ever muster, and thinks more than “Wow,”.  He thinks, “Yes. This one is mine. I formed her before she was born.  I watched her as she grew.  I predestined her to know and love me.  And on the day that she came into my arms, I and all of heaven lept with joy.  Yes.  This one is mine.  Forever.”

On days like this, I am speechless. What words can describe a love like this? He is good.

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Past Musings