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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Lights over the Mediterranean Sea

You can tell the state of my mind by the state of my room. When I'm worried and have too much to think about, it appears as if a tornado has deposited its belongings on my floor. When my mind is at peace, I can see the colour of the carpet again.

For the past week or so, my carpet has been a swirl of every colour but tan. I am in one of those valleys of decision, or perhaps indecision would be a better word. Stuck between fear and terror. Fear of the unknown; terror of committing to living here til I die. Is this a TCK thing? Is it God gently nudging me to flop over the edge of the nest and realize, as I plummet to the stern ground, that as I tentatively spread my wings, His wind will carry me to soaring heights?

I do not know. Hence the room reflective of my troubled mind. Late nights escaping thought. I talk, I listen, I read, I write. Nothing becomes crystal clear. God may give you many options I hear. Do whatever your hand finds to do with all your might and God will bless they say. Make the decision that brings you peace resonates yet still confuses.

I make lists and crunch numbers. Rational logic tells me I can go either way. I counsel with family and trusted friends. They help me see the positive in each choice and remind me of the potential challenges. I reflect on how God spoke in the past and remember that while each choice stretched me, some of them were more painful than grace-filled.

In all honesty, I want to be selfish. I want to leave, explore what is beyond these few acres, and at least know I tried to live life as deeply as I knew how. Yet simultaneously I don't know how to leave. This is all I've known for 10 years. I can get on a plane and travel across oceans yet I don't have the life skills to apply for a job in the real world. This must be the TCK in me. Add a touch of perfection from an ultra conservative environment and it doubles the frozen fear factor. I cannot leave if I do not have a job, a place to live, and the knowledge that it will be okay.

It's been more than 16 years of living in limbo. My liminal place was not between cultures--it was between versions of me. I remember my life before with fondness. I know this has never felt like home. Time alone cannot evoke the feeling of home. Yet with maturity, I know it was never perfect. We created our own popularity, we did not speak the language or understand the culture fully, we learned to portray expected perfection even as we struggled with our brokenness. This is what keeps me questioning even now. Should I be content with well-enough or should I reach out for elusive dreams? I do not know.

I promised them an answer by Monday. In four days I decide my fate.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Singleness. . .A Gift or a Curse?

I am reading a rather difficult chapter in 1 Corinthians that I'm still trying to understand. Paul, in chapter 7, attempts to address marriage and its challenges and benefits. While he clearly says those who get married are not doing something that is wrong, his emphasis is heavy on singleness. (all references taken from NLT)

7: I wish everyone could get along without marrying, just as I do. But we are not all the same. God gives some the gift of marriage, and to others He gives the gift of singleness.
8: Now I say to those who aren't married and to widows--it's better to stay unmarried, just as I am.
25,26: Now, about the young women who are not yet married. . .Because of the present crisis, I think it is best to remain just as you are.
28: However, I am trying to spare you the extra problems that come with marriage.
34: In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be more devoted to the Lord in body and spirit, while the married woman must be concerned about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband.
35: I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.
38: So the person who marries does well, and the person who doesn't marry does even better. [prefaced by verse 36 to marry based on inability to control sexual passion]
40: But in my opinion it will be better for her if she doesn't marry again [in reference to a woman whose husband dies]

First, I am troubled because the reasons given for marriage appear to be linked only to sexual desire, as described in verses 9 and 36, or to convert an unbelieving spouse as seen in verses 12 through 16. Paul says in verse 39 that he does not want husbands to let marriage be their major concern and continues in verse 32 to say he wants people to be free from the concerns of this life.

I will stop here to note that Paul prefaces all but verse 7 and 8 by saying his words are not a direct command from God, but that he is sharing his trusted wisdom (verse 25) and what he believes is counsel from God's Spirit (verse 40). I also compared the verses with the KJV (often confusing, using words like flower of her age), NKJV, NIV, NASB, and ESV. One thing that isn't as clear in verse 7 is whether Paul was indeed single, but in verse 8 it appears to be so because he speaks to the unmarried and widows. Verse 26 uses the masculine gender in all but the NLT versions when referring to staying married or staying single.

While I agree having someone intimately a part of your life in every manner of speaking can be challenging, I believe the value of marriage outweighs its disadvantages. First, marriage was instituted before sin and intended to reflect the beauty of the relationship God desires with His people. Marriage is the only Biblically-sanctioned realm within which to create children. Marriage provides support which is particularly necessary in today's increasingly disconnected world. In Paul's day, extended family systems were still the norm; today this is unusual in Western society. Marriage gives financial stability to women, provides structure to raise children, broadens our worldview by bringing together two different people, and gives opportunity to mentor in spiritual growth.

I will conclude by telling you why this chapter rattles me so, a single mid-30's multicultural woman, causing me to dedicate a blog post to sharing my thoughts. Paul appears to imply that singleness is a gift from God. I believe a gift is something you desire and appreciate. I am single by necessity and because I value my self-worth as a daughter of God too much to allow myself to be in an unhealthy abusive relationship. I believe singleness for women who did not choose it, other than in self-protection, is a result of the sinful world we live in. In other words, I am not single because God wants me to be miserable and therefore has given me the "gift" of singleness that I haven't learned to appreciate yet. I'm single because this world has more evil in it than good, so it is hard to find a true man of God who can commit to honouring me.

In a similar note, I also find this chapter unsettling because the men who speak out clearly against women's ordination do so based on another chapter by the same author, 1 Timothy 2, where Paul says Women should listen and learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. . .But women will be saved through childbearing (verses 11,12,15). I do not find a clear verse where Paul indicates if these are his words or direction from God. Perhaps you could argue his use of I want and I do not let in verses 9 and 12 indicate he is speaking of his own accord. The passage has been argued to death to be culturally-contextual and so on. Regardless, these are some tricky passages I need to consider more in depth.

What do we do when principles seem to clash with illustrations? God created marriage but Paul recommends people remain single. Salvation is found in Jesus but women must have children to be saved. Do we toss out the Bible because of seeming discrepancies? Do we ignore the principle and cling to the illustrations? Do we attempt to wrestle the illustrations into some form of obeisance to the principle? These are questions I wonder as I continue the exploratory process of understanding my worldview and reconciling it with Biblical truth.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

London Fog

I was in Ross this afternoon, trying to choose a pair of sunglasses. It was a most frustrating process but after searching in vain through random stores in the mall (why does a pair of plastic frames cost $20? seriously!) and realizing I wasn't going to find anything there, I resigned myself to choosing something, anything, if I could find a pair under $10.

After balancing about 50 pairs on my nose whilst bending my knees so I could peer into the mirror meant for midgets, trying to imagine how the glasses would look without an enormous anti-theft weight dangling off the bridge, I narrowed them down to my favourites. I'd tried on every single style, no matter how ludicrous they appeared with reflective lenses, oversized ovals, or neon frames. A little girl, bored of shopping as she sat in a cart being pushed about the store by her dad, turned and looked at me while I tried on pair after pair. She grinned when I put on a funny looking pair and made a face at her. As she was wheeled away to the checkout counter, she peered around him to watch me.

I finally selected my top 3. Each fit my face; each was under $10. One was chunky and dark brown, one was more demure and light brown, and one was large and purple. I knew which one I wanted, but I didn't know if I could choose it. So I spent the next hour browsing the store, trying on dresses, and posing in front of a mirror, eyes closed as I switched from frame to frame, in hopes I would have an epiphanal moment.

It did not come. Instead, I found myself increasingly frustrated I could not do something as simple as select a pair of sunglasses. Even after narrowing it down to two pairs, I found myself torn between the two. The demure brown ones looked more apropos, like the type of glasses you wear when you're going to a job interview on a sunny day, frames dangling casually from your fingers while you toss your hair back. The purple ones continued to scream Pick me! with their bold demand for attention, convinced they were high fashion even as I questioned whether it was too much to have all things purple. I already had a purple Nalgene water bottle and a purple Colombia fleece. I did not want to be known as the eggplant lady.

But I knew why it was so hard to decide between the $6.99 purple glasses and the $9.99 brown ones. It really made no difference which one I picked; they both suited me but just in different ways. The purple familiar in their colour yet adventurous in their size. The brown familiar in their style yet adventurous in their difference from my norm. The problem wasn't with the glasses. It was with my life.

I'm currently considering enrolling in a doctoral degree program. While most life decisions I've made before have been confident and solid, this is one which terrifies the living daylights out of me. I know I can do it; I'm not afraid of hard work. I'm just questioning whether this is the right time, the right direction, and the right thing to do. Am I committing to becoming a career woman? Am I relinquishing opportunities to travel, experience life, and step outside of my comfort zone? I cannot make a mistake. If I choose one road, that means the other is not. Purple glasses or brown? Adventure or familiarity? 

After requesting the anti-theft tag be taken off so I could give both pairs an equal chance, I decided one pair sat slightly askew which would likely irritate me in the near future. Still hesitant, I grabbed the other pair and marched to the checkout. I'd like to buy these, please.

Purple London Fog sunglasses.