Doing Battle – Foreword

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I’ve started my next book. The Truth Swing  was an intimate narrative of learning to surrender, to accept suffering, to face death and bow. Now, I am a widow. In this book, I hope to figure out what that means and how I can still hunger to become like God and like me, whom he loves. Anyway, here’s my first go at it. Please Like and subscribe if you think I’m on to something.

Foreword

Scripture says the Creator started a conversation saying, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  We’re not sure why. Maybe he was making up stupid names for the animals, or eating all the wrong balances of plants, or wasn’t picking up after himself. But Adam was alone – and it was clearly not good.

Nobody asked that about what would be good for a woman. Everybody in the Garden of Eden assumed that what was best for man was best for woman. And they’ve been assuming that ever since.

Okay, I’m kidding.  Partly.

In a perfect world there is diversity and unity. Some are in families, some are alone. But all of us need others and aloneness causes death, as has been proven in both prisons and psyche experiments. We are creatures of community and, like our three-in-one creator, the model of living in partnership and sharing/switching roles of leader, follower, and facilitator works for humankind just like it does for the Godhead. Some think of it this way – God the almighty and omnipotent as Dad; Holy Spirit, the comforter, reminder, defender, communicator as Mother; Jesus the compassionate, the rule-breaker and redeemer as Son or Daughter. On the other hand, it sometimes works out that the Holy Spirit is the teacher, who knows our language and everyone else’s; Jesus is the creator and sustainer of the universe; and God is crying out for justice and mercy. It’s a mash-up.

If we could reflect those revolving and interchangeable roles in our relationships, it could be heaven – and maybe it is heaven. But instead, we sinners tend to think about it the other way around. We take our flawed and rigid roles and try to make the Godhead a reflection of us instead – Father ever-distant; Mother invisible; sons taking off; daughters afraid.

How ironic that the greatest, deepest sin and temptation from Lucifer to fallen angels to Eve and Adam to Herod, to Hitler is wanting to be like God, while the mission of the church is to get everyone on earth to want to be like Jesus.  And the Holy Spirit? Well, that’s just scary.

Clearly we’re missing something.

The entire distinction seems to rest on one little word. It’s good to want to be like God, but not want to be God. Scholars call it being made in the Imago Deiimage of God. Or, put another way, it’s okay for us to want to better our own nature, but not to devalue it and want to become something else. Wanting to be God is this messed up, impossible and paradoxical trap, whereas wanting to be the man or woman God created us to be in that image – like that –  is being created for eternity. Being redeemed for eternity. Being eternal. Eternal beings.

Figuring out the impact of that one little distinction may take, in fact, an eternity. But for now, I’m willing to figure out what it means in a lifetime. Mine.

And since my lifetime started in the 1950s when women were excused from the factories and relegated to the kitchen, the nursery, and one side of the bed, being like God was obscure in my early church experience. Churches and parachurch organizations in post WWII America were organized on military models;  a commander and his troops doing the heavy lifting and women in support roles like praying, quilting, singing and running the nursery.  Men led evangelistic “campaigns” while women joined “societies.”

The battle cry of boys resounded off the walls of Sunday School rooms.

Onward Christian soldiers

Marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus

Going on before.

Christ the royal master,

Leads against the foe,

Forward into battle,

See his banner go.

Onward Christian soldiers

Marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus

Going on before.

Little girls in those same classrooms were singing, “I’ll be a Sunbeam for Him,” which may have been as close to the Holy Spirit that any of us dared go.

Lots of Christian girls from that era didn’t question that there was a Biblical mandate to be satisfied with being sunbeams while their male were expected to became soldiers. Some never caught on to the reality that girls can be soldiers, too, in their quest to be like God, and boys could be as tender as sunbeams for the same reason. But some did. I did.

The evangelical, stereotypical definition of womanhood has grated on me my whole life. As a married woman, a divorced woman, a re-married woman “unequally yoked,” a mother and stepmother. The mantle of disapproval chafed and blistered and was experienced in contrast to the utter love and delight in me that God showed again and again.

“God made a Francine because he wanted a Francine,” my friend Alice reminded me and it changed my life and blew my mind. He didn’t want the Francine who might be gracious and perfect someday. He didn’t want the Francine with the right kind of income and the right kind of children. He wanted me, got got me, and I am his. And he doesn’t want me to be humble like Mother Teresa or fake like Tammy Faye or to teach like Joyce Meyer or to write like Jerry Jenkins.  He wants me to be like him. And he wants you to be like him, too. In a way that only you can.

Knowing this to be true, I find myself a widow.

At this stage in life the last thing that I feel God expects is for me to become a ward of the church, to be patted on the head like a pitiful child, or to be dependent on the benevolence of dutiful believers. God expects me to take up my cross, not have it carried by others. He is looking for me to be part of the battle, not to wave a lace handkerchief from the sidelines. He wants me to speak truth and not fear consequences. He wants me to obey him and not conventions.

If I look carefully – past the gender restrictions and societal expectations that I have grown up with – I can find sisters who have always known this truth and lived it. Women who have circumvented those in their lives who wanted them to be “like other women.” Women who choose “the better part” of listening to Jesus instead of acting the part other woman want them to play.

There are examples in scripture and in history, of women who want to be like him. Not trying to be like men. Trying to be like God — because he says that’s who we are.

Let me introduce you.

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3 thoughts on “Doing Battle – Foreword

  1. karencunagin says:

    Listening to the still, small voice, day by day. Glad for your companionship and insights along the narrow path.

  2. quirkyculture says:

    The truth is forever unfolding before us, isn’t it? What I thought I knew for sure yesterday may be up for debate today.

  3. Oh, Francine, your prose just sparkles! You are so full of wisdom and humor and a kind of serenity that only comes through suffering. I wish you all the best success on this project! I’m loving it.

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