On Chronological Snobbery

From Chronological Snobbery (And The Sin Of Pride) at Upland Gardener:

“My parents grew up here in rural Middle TN during the Depression. To some extent, the lyrics from Alabama’s song, “Song of the South,” applied: “Somebody told us Wall Street fell, but we were so poor, we couldn’t tell!” Since 1865, much of the South has known poverty, so that hadn’t changed much, but at least folks mostly still owned their own farms, had gardens, and livestock, and as a result, had enough to eat.

Now, I look at my family’s little hometown, and like much of rural America, it went from a bustling center of commerce, where the local farm economy supported the shops in town, and the shops and services in town, in turn, supported the local farm family. Sadly, especially since the takeover by government/Big Agra post-WWII of much of the farm economy, the little town now struggles.
Most folks choose to forget the past, and, as a variation on what C.S. Lewis termed “chronological snobbery,” every generation deep down considers itself a little more enlightened, a little smarter and progressive than the preceding ones.

However, just like the young man who, thinking of his ol’ man as a pretty dim bulb when he’s 18 or 19, grows to understand his dad gets a lot smarter as time goes on and life and Reality “happens” to him; this pattern does fortunately serve as a correcting influence. Sadly, though, starting with us Baby Boomers, successive generations seem increasingly self-satisfied in their arrogant folly, not understanding that the artificial prosperity we have enjoyed for a long time now, is not the norm, but is in fact a mere blip in history.

If we’re going to have Depression 2.0, there’s a part of me that would like to go ahead, hold my nose, and get it over with. Break this damnable crony-capitalist system along with the arrogance of the pampered elites. I then realize that when that occurs, it won’t be just the arrogant who suffer; it’ll be good people as well!

I pray we in the church especially will awaken to Reality, and not stay caught up in this corrupt system. We need to be there to be reflections of God’s mercy and wisdom in those times, and not mere victims, addicted to the goodies from the corrupt, collapsing system.”

 

On Depression 2.0 and crony capitalism: even if you are (unlike me) a believer in democracy (I am a monarchist),  you surely must be able to see at this point that both the Democrats and the Republicans serve the interests of the same people. There’s no difference.

I am pro-life and generally pretty socially conservative. You might think I would be a big supporter of Republicans, but I am not. Republicans serve the interest of crony capitalists as opposed to the well-being of communities;  just look at their support for free trade. Look at their support for switching over from pensions to 401(k)s. These kinds of things  impoverish the vast majority of people and enrich a very small elite. And despite what Bernie Sanders supporters may think, the Democrats support the same things. Recall that it was Bill Clinton who brought us NAFTA, allowing us to hemorrhage manufacturing jobs to Mexico. Who benefited from that? Wealthy elites at the expense of the working class.

It is the same with environmentalism. Republicans support the Ann Coulter-esque form of rape and pillage of the earth to benefit Big Business, whereas Democrats are controlled by a bunch of uber left-wing idiots who usually want to enact policies that do more harm than good (mercury vapor light bulbs, anyone?).

On chronological snobbery: I’ve been guilty of it, and probably you have too.  In reality, with industrialization and urbanization to fuel our wealth, we’ve given away something very precious in exchange for material well-being. We have given away community and family, and it has gotten worse with every generation. I think millennials have pretty much reached peak chronological snobbery with their all-consuming focus on persona and lifestyle striving.

Repenting of (turning away from) materialism, pride and liberalism (of both the left and right variety) is the solution.

 

Is the problem a lack of listening or a lack of submitting?

In She Only Acted Crazy To Get Her Own Way, Dalrock asserted:

There is another point worth bringing up in this episode, and that is the meaning of the complementarian expression “listen to your wife”.  This is another case where the complementarian expression means something quite different than what the words would suggest on their face.  Just like “servant leader” doesn’t mean headship, and “submission” means rebellion, “listen to your wife” doesn’t mean simply listen to her.   When spoken by a complementarian, “listen to your wife” means do as she says”

In Just Shut Up and Listen, I tested the validity of Dalrock’s assertion by examining one of the most popular Christian marriage curricula of the present day, The Art of Marriage, and found that Dalrock’s assertion was confirmed.  I then reiterated how this listen to your wife=obey your wife teaching directly contradicts the Bible by inverting the Christian marital hierarchy of headship and submission.

Insanitybytes took exception and asserted that the problem isn’t wives throwing tantrums to get their own way but rather husbands who abuse their wives by not listening to them. She commented (highlighting mine):

Sometimes men don’t understand the seriousness of the situation and women need a way to get their attention. Men like Dalrock have no idea WTH they are talking about and “never listen to your wife” is so anti biblical it makes my blood boil. Men are to love their wives like Christ loves the church. Does God not hear our prayers? Does God not listen to us? Does God not preserve our mental health?

I’ve addressed this several times. Not listening to your wife is psychological abuse. Not being heard sent this woman into an emotional crisis, one in which she was destroying her wedding china.

So, we all agree that examples of wives wildly acting out are highlighted by the Christian media as worthy of emulation.  What we obviously don’t all agree on is what is causing this acting out.  Thus the question we need to answer is this: Are these out-of-control behaviors caused by (as Dalrock asserts) wives who want to get their own way or by (as IB asserts) husbands who won’t listen to their wives at all?

In other words, is this a lack of listening or a lack of submitting?

Let us find another example of a wife exhibiting multiple instances of acting out in a rather unhinged manner.  My example for this post comes from As For Me and My House: Crafting Your Marriage to Last by Pastor Walter Wangerin (you can click the title above to read the parts I quote from in this post via google books):

The first thing to note is that Pastor Wangerin is not part of the evangelical marriage industry.  He has been a Lutheran pastor for many years, serving for a number of years in an inner-city congregation.  He is also a fantasy author, well known for The Book of the Dun Cow, among others.  I’m very fond of Pastor Wangerin’s writings, and about five years ago I read his book on marriage.  There is some very good teaching in it, but one of the things that stood out to me even then, before I had really thought these things through, was a series of anecdotes about a troubled time in his marriage.

At the beginning of the story, Pastor Wangerin and his wife have been married for some years when he wakes one night to find his wife not in bed. He gets up to look for her and find her crying alone in the dark in the living room.  He is terribly worried and begs her to tell him what is wrong but she refuses even to speak to him. She gets up, runs to the bathroom, slams the door, still refusing to speak to him, and bursts into fresh, angry tears.  He continues the story on page 75:

How long can a silence last? Long. How long could Thanne continue not talking to me – not talking, at least, of matters crucial to our spirits and our relationship? Long. Thanne had a gift for silences. And after the night when I found her awake I suffered a bewildered misery.

Oh, I was such a fool in those days. But I was working blind. What could I do, if she wouldn’t talk to me?

No: I was a fool in those days. I did not see that even my efforts at healing hurt her. Well, I wasn’t looking at these present efforts, only at past actions to find the fault; but, in fact, the fault was consistently there, in me, in all that I was doing. Therefore, I kept making things worse for all my good intentions. I was a walking fault!

At night she always went to bed before I did. When I came to the bedroom, carefully shading the light from her eyes, doing everything possible to care for her, I always found her turned away, curled tightly on her side, at the very edge of the bed. Her cheek was the only flash I saw, and the corner of her eye – closed. Was she sleeping? I didn’t know.  I was scared to ask, scared to wake her if she was, and scared she wouldn’t answer if she wasn’t. I got under covers cursing creaky bed springs. And my heart broke to see the cheek I could not touch. Her skin was no longer mine.

“Did you sleep well?” I asked in the morning, as casually as I could.

Thanne was growing pale, gaunt in her thinness, drawn around the mouth parentheses (from so long, so pinched a silence).  Her hair broke at the ends, dry. She fixed breakfast for the children in her house coat. Her poor ankles were flour-white.

“Did you sleep well?”

Thanne flashed me a glance as sharp as a scalpel. “I didn’t sleep,” she said and slapped eggs on plates. Her tone said volumes, but left the interpretation to me: because of you.  Or, what’s it to you? Or, you asked me just to rub it in. Or why don’t you just go to work? I could take my pick. I left for work.

But I was not a bad man, was I? I didn’t fool around with women – that’s worth something in this world, isn’t it? I didn’t fritter away our money, or beat her, or even talk back to her. I wasn’t a drunkard. What I was, was a pastor! I had given even my professional life to God. I was a good man! Then where was the problem between us?

All day I argued my defense in my own mind. All day I truly suffered a stomach pain which felt very much like homesickness and intolerable loneliness. It prickled my back to think how much I loved Thanne; but it drew my gut into a knot to remember that we were not talking. And the knot was guilt; but the knot was self-pity, too. For God’s sake, what did I do?

In the evening I planned to prove my goodness to her. I vacuumed the living room. With mighty snaps, I shook out all the rugs in our house. When the children had gone to bed (so quietly, so quietly, like mice sneaking beneath their parents’ silences) I noticed that Thanne hadn’t yet done the dishes. Good! I thought. My opportunity! And I rolled up my sleeves to help her out.

But when I was halfway through the pans I felt the hairs on my neck stand up – as though the Lantern had haunted our kitchen. I paused in the greasy water. I turned and saw Thanne standing in the doorway, glaring at me in silent fury, her thin arms folded at her chest.

She hissed, “You are just trying to make me feel guilty.”  She disappeared from the doorway and went to bed.

No – but I thought I was trying to help. The dirty pans beside me made me sad.

He continues on to describe several more stories in which his wife acted out crazily, including leaving home on a Sunday afternoon without telling her husband where she was going, or when/if she would return.  Because they had guests coming over for dinner and he did not know if she would return, he cancelled the get-together, only to have her return a few minutes before the dinner party was to begin and throw a massive tantrum about his having canceled it. Disturbingly, he writes of this event:

I knew for sure that Thanne was right.  I had sinned terribly against her, sins which I will name before this chapter is done so you will understand that it wasn’t a single act or a number of acts: it was I myself. I was sin.

 Finally it is revealed that she was upset about him being gone so much for work, attending to his pastoral duties, and not prioritizing her enough (this should look very familiar to you; it was also the reason for the tantrums of Mrs. Bright, Mrs. Keller, and Mrs.Wilson).  Furthermore, as a pastor’s wife she felt like she was losing her own identity. Part of the resolution involved Pastor Wangerin watching the children more often so she could pursue her desire to get a degree in computer programming.

Pastor Wangerin had repeatedly pleaded with his wife to talk to him and tell him what was wrong; not only was he NOT “abusing” her by refusing to listen to her, he was actually begging her to tell him the problem. yet she would not.  She not only threw tantrum after tantrum to get her own way – having her husband home more so she could pursue personal fulfillment – but she wouldn’t even tell him what was wrong.  She faulted him for not being observant enough to read the situation without her having to say anything.

Pastor Wangerin goes on to explain some of the little ways he treated his wife unkindly; he was not blameless.  Yet the overarching reason for Mrs. Wangerin’s tantrums clearly was not that he did not listen to her but rather that she wanted to have her own way and thus continued escalating her behavior until he finally got the message (and leaving without telling your spouse when or if you ever plan to return is clearly a message with an implicit threat to it).

Let us answer the question I posed at the beginning – is this a lack of listening or a lack of submitting?  We can see that listening was not the problem in the Wangerin home, which means the problem was primarily a lack of wifely submission.  And once again, a Christian pastor has held his wife’s lack of submission up as good and sound teaching for other Christian women.

Edit: I misidentified Mrs. Bright as Mrs. Rainey originally.

Just shut up and listen.

In Unhinged, Dalrock writes about an incident highlighted in Tim and Kathy Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage:

“In the section titled The Godly Tantrum, Tim explains that Kathy wanted Tim to work fewer hours, but he was focused on the goals of his ministry.  Tim offers this story as encouragement to readers “not to shrink from really telling the truth to one another.”

One day I came home from work.  It was a nice day outside and I noticed that the door to our apartment’s balcony was open.  Just as I was taking off my jacket I heard a smashing noise coming from the balcony.  In another couple of seconds I heard another one.  I walked out on to the balcony and to my surprise saw Kathy sitting on the floor.  She had a hammer, and next to her was a stack of our wedding china.  On the ground were the shards of two smashed saucers.

“What are you doing?  I asked.”

She looked up and said, “You aren’t listening to me.  You don’t realize that if you keep working these hours you are going to destroy this family.  I don’t know how to get through to you.  You aren’t seeing how serious this is.  This is what you are doing.”  And she brought the hammer down on the third saucer.  It splintered into pieces.

Tim explains that this was the wakeup call that he needed to decide to work fewer hours.”

In She Only Acted Crazy To Get Her Own Way, Dalrock continues discussing this incident (highlighting in the first paragraph is mine):

“There is another point worth bringing up in this episode, and that is the meaning of the complementarian expression “listen to your wife”.  This is another case where the complementarian expression means something quite different than what the words would suggest on their face.  Just like “servant leader” doesn’t mean headship, and “submission” means rebellion, “listen to your wife” doesn’t mean simply listen to her.   When spoken by a complementarian, “listen to your wife” means do as she says (emphasis mine):

I sat down trembling. I thought she had snapped. “I’m listening. I’m listening,” I said. As we talked it became clear that she was intense and laser focused, but she was not in a rage or out of control emotionally.  She spoke calmly but forcefully.  Her arguments were the same as they had been for months, but I realized how deluded I had been.  There would never be a convenient time to cut back.  I was addicted to the level of productivity I had achieved.  I had to do something.  She saw me listening for the first time and we hugged.

Note that they had been discussing this for months.  He had heard her arguments but didn’t agree with her on the correct decision.  This is what complementarians call “not listening”.  “Listening” means agreeing with her.”

 

Is it true that what complementarians mean by “listening to your wife” is agreeing with your wife and doing what she says?  This is actually a very serious accusation, and therefore all of us who take biblical marriage seriously should be concerned about this charge because if it is true, what complementarians are teaching is directly counter to what the Bible says about the marital hierarchy of headship and submission:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24)

The Bible says the husband is to be the head of the wife.  He should listen to her and then make a decision about what course of action is best to pursue.  However, if what complementarians mean by “listening” is agreeing with your wife and doing what she says, then this is teaching that the wife is to be the head of the husband, a direct inversion of what is taught in the Bible.

Is Dalrock’s charge true?  After all, it is seemingly based only on Pastor Tim Keller’s story.

A couple years ago, my husband and I participated in a couple’s Bible study, The Art of Marriage, at our church.  The featured pastors for this series are like a Who’s Who of the complementarian evangelical world−Voddie Baucham, Bryan L. Carter, Michael Easley, Dr. Wayne Grudem (President of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), Dave Harvey, Mary Kassian, Albert Mohler, Russell D. Moore, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Paul Tripp, Dave and Ann Wilson, and others.  The Art of Marriage is essentially evangelical complementarianism in its pure, distilled form and thus can serve to either prove or refute Dalrock’s charge.

During one of the video teaching segments, Pastor Dave Wilson and his wife Ann discussed a difficult time in their marriage.  He was growing a new church while also serving as team chaplain for the Detroit Lions, and he was very busy and away from home more than his wife wanted him to be.

She had tried discussing her unhappiness with him, she said, but he was not cutting back enough in her estimation.  On their tenth wedding anniversary, he planned a nice date and took her out to dinner.  He arranged for individual roses to be delivered periodically to their table while he lovingly reminisced about each year of their marriage.  She grew increasingly angry with him, and later when they left and went to park at the site where their new church would be built, he leaned over to kiss her and she turned away.

When he asked her what was wrong, she told him that she had lost her feelings for him (i.e. no longer loved him) because he was gone too much for work.  He was devastated and started to disagree with her, reaching for his calendar to show her all the times he’d been home when, he says, he suddenly felt the Holy Spirit telling him,

Don’t say a word. Listen.  Just shut up and listen.

So he listened to her and then prayed and repented and asked God to help him be a better father and husband who was home more, as his wife wanted him to be.  He said their marriage improved after that.

You can watch the video segments here:

At the time we viewed this, it really bothered me.  Although I can’t fault her for missing her husband and wanting more of his time and attention, it seemed to me that Mrs. Wilson had behaved very ungraciously on their anniversary evening out.  Surely, I thought, she could have continued to discuss her feelings with him in a more respectful way and then committed to praying about the situation while abiding by his decision, whatever it was.  After all, he was very busy with work, not only building a ministry he was (presumably) called by God to start, but also providing for his family.  And many women in the world have to take care of matters at home on their own more than they would like because their husbands are gone long hours for work – just ask a military wife about deployment.  Or ask my sister, whose husband’s work schedule since leaving the army is six weeks on an oil rig in the ocean and then one week home, followed by six weeks away again, maybe in the oil fields in Wyoming this time.

Viewed from that lens, Mrs. Wilson’s story begins to look a bit self-centered, frankly.

But even if he was truly in error in how he was dividing his time, it seemed to me that it would have been best to speak with him respectfully about it and then pray often, asking God to handle the situation.  Delivering an I no longer love you because you are gone for work too much type of speech on their tenth anniversary doesn’t really square with what the Bible says in Ephesians 5.  As we sat in church that evening in 2014 watching this video, I felt a strong sense of unease about what we wives were being taught.

Looking at their story now, two years later, it clearly seems to support Dalrock’s charge.  The Wilsons’ story is eerily similar to the Kellers’ except that Mrs. Wilson doesn’t violently smash anything.  But there is still a veiled threat implicit in telling your husband that you no longer love him on your tenth anniversary date night.  Pastor Wilson even talks about getting the sense that he was supposed to “just shut up and listen” to his wife, as Pastor Keller had with Mrs. Keller, while she told him what she had told him repeatedly before,.

Again, Pastor Wilson may very well have been in error in how he was choosing to use his time.  But whose job is it to make that decision – his wife’s or God’s?

The creators of The Art of Marriage included this anecdote as an example of the correct way to solve what may have been an error in Pastor Wilson’s decision-making.  The only way he could demonstrate that he was finally really “listening” to his wife was by agreeing with her and doing what she said.

In other words, she became the head of the marriage and his spiritual leader, and he submitted to her as unto the Lord.

And all the complementarian evangelicals said, “Amen!”

This is profoundly disturbing.

 

 

Thankful for the blood.

I’m in a flurry of cleaning, baking, and cooking, but I did want to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.  And this will sound…oh I don’t know, trite?  cliche?…but bear with me please.  What I want to tell you is to stop and just let your heart be filled with gratitude for the family you have, your blood relatives and your in-laws, however imperfect they may be. Yes, everyone says that, but the thing is to truly do it.  And then tell them how much you love them.

On Halloween, a young man at my daughter’s high school, a senior, died in a catastrophic car crash not far from school.  This is a small town and everybody pretty much knows everyone else, so not only the family but the whole community was pretty much devastated.

His obituary read, “[He] lived in Chelsea his entire life.”

My daughter told me that at the candlelight vigil, his sobbing older sister addressed everyone, saying:

“If you guys would do one thing for me: take stock of your life and tell everyone you love them. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Apparently she and her brother had had the typical sort of sibling relationship and didn’t exactly spend much time expressing their love for each other.  She had gone off to college in August and not seen her brother for some time.

And I know how she now feels.

On the evening of December 4, 2006 my mother called me.  I was irritated with her about something and when we hung up, I didn’t say, “I love you, mom.”

Ask me what the one thing is from life that I would change if I could.

No matter how irritated I am with my children, I try to tell them every day before they leave that I love them.

You may find yourself irritated, annoyed or offended by some family member or another tomorrow at Thanksgiving dinner.  Let go of the offense.  Tell them you love them before you leave.  The lie of modernity is that blood is no thicker than water, but that is utter horseshit.

Consumerism, politics, “careers”…it is all meaningless.  What I am truly thankful for is the family that I have by blood and by marriage and for the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for the remission of my – and your – sins.

Kith and kin and Christ – the blood you share with your people and the Blood of the Lamb – are the only things that mean anything.  Do you have these things?

If not, instead of heading out to that door-buster sale for another piece of crap, I entreat you to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.  And then call your mom or your dad  or your kid from whom you’ve been estranged, or whatever relative you have, and tell them you love them.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

When you’re dying inside, remember you’re not actually dying.

Having reached the age of six months, it was time for that dreaded day, the Day of Neutering and Spaying for the pups.

image

If Professor Diggers could talk, he would assure you that he is, in fact, dying inside…this cone.

image

All he NEEDS in order to be happy, he would explain, is for his humans to listen when he says:

“Humans, I’m not happy in this cone. Here’s why. Let’s change it.”

image

Alas, Professor Diggers is not alone.  After her spaying surgery, Miss Ruby developed a hernia and had to have a second surgery a few days later to repair it.  She has to spend 10-14 days in her kennel except for when we walk her outside to go to the bathroom:image

She lets us know by doing her high-pitched Shiba Inu scream at top volume that she is lit-er-al-ly dying inside her kennel while the Professor is out of his.

And truly, I believe the pups are unhappy and feel like they are dying.  What they don’t understand is that we placed that cone on Professor Diggers not to harm him – despite how truly miserable it makes him – but to help him.  His persistent licking and biting at his stitches was preventing healing that needed to occur; if he will obey us – stop trying to tear off his cone, stop biting at his stitches – he will be freed in due time.  And we placed Miss Ruby in her kennel because she was tearing around the house at top speed, jumping over furniture, and ripping open the suture site.  Eventually she will be freed, but when is not her decision to make because she lacks the wisdom that we possess.

For someone who is in a marriage where there is little emotional intimacy or perhaps little physical intimacy, the suffering is real.  It feels terrible, and a lack of intimacy in marriage does not reflect the one-flesh union God designed marriage to be.

However.

Let me address the sisters here, and leave the brothers to someone else.

Sisters –

You are not literally dying if your marriage lacks intimacy.  A woman does not NEED emotional intimacy in order to honor her wedding vows.  Never – not even once – does the Bible say that if there is no emotional intimacy, it is permissible to divorce your spouse.  Rather, this is what the Bible says:

And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband (1 Cor 7:10)

Does that mean a woman without marital intimacy is not suffering?  Of course it doesn’t.  She IS suffering.  Just like Christ suffered upon the cross of Calvary, the same Christ who said:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

What does following Him entail?  It involves obeying him even when we are suffering emotionally.  Do you think Jesus cannot understand what it is to obey God while suffering?

And being found in human form, [Christ] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)

You are not being asked to die physically (and if you are in physical danger, then physical separation is probably reasonable), as Christ was, but you are being asked to be obedient to Him while suffering emotionally.

Sometimes life involves suffering.  If women are so strong, can we not then endure the heartache of an emotionally-unsatisfying marriage and obey God’s direct command not to divorce or even to threaten to divorce?

We can.  And here is one reason why we should:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

The words “light and momentary troubles” were penned by St. Paul, a man whose troubles included being beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, going hungry, and eventually being martyred.  A lack of emotional intimacy in marriage is very painful, but under direction from God, St. Paul penned the letters to the Corinthians explaining that the sufferings in this world are light and momentary compared to the eternal glory we receive for obeying God even when it’s hard as hell.

Sisters, I don’t write this as someone who cannot empathize.  Trust me, I can.

If your husband rejects you or ignores you, it’s okay to feel hurt.  It’s okay to tell him how you feel.  You might also try asking him if there is some particular reason why he doesn’t want to connect with you emotionally.  But there may not be any reason other that his own sin.  So be it.

You don’t have to (threaten to) divorce him.  Fix your gaze on God instead and understand that while a marriage that lacks intimacy does not please Him, your obedience to Him despite feeling so alone DOES please Him.  Obeying God means not divorcing, not threatening to divorce, and treating your husband with respect regardless of how you feel.

Instead of griping at a hard-hearted husband, pray for him instead. God can and will do miraculous things when we ask Him, and things may change.  But even if your husband stays hard-hearted toward you, pray for him anyway, every day for years if need be, and ask God to fill your emotional needs, just like a widow asks God to meet her physical needs.  He can and He will:

And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. (1 John 3:22)

You may not understand why God commands you to remain in a marriage that does not reflect how He designed marriage to be.  But just like I have wisdom my dogs lack, God has wisdom that we lack, and He uses our obedience to transform us more and more into His Son’s likeness.  He can bring good for us out of an unhappy situation:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

We women can honor our wedding vows and treat our husbands with respect out of obedience to God, regardless of what our husbands may or may not be doing.  And if we want to please God, we must obey Him.

If you’re lost and wrecked again.

Rembrandt’s famous painting of the Prodigal Son illustrates the joy of returning to God and finding that He truly is faithful to forgive our sins – yet again.

The Prodigal Son c. 1669 Rembrandt van Rijn

The story of the prodigal son seems to be directed not at the first-time repenter who is turning to Christ for initial forgiveness, but rather toward we who, though already in the Father’s house, are still “prone to wander…prone to leave the God I love,” as the old hymn goes.  It speaks to those who already know the Father but have walked away from Him – again – for a time.  And this is all of us who are Christians; we all rebel and sin, but the story of the Prodigal Son gives us to know that no matter how far we have wandered, the Father will still be merciful when we return to Him.

It’s easy to look at the story of the Prodigal Son from the vantage point of the happy ending, but what we may forget is that there was also this part of the story, the part when the son was still lost and wandering in rebellion, wrecked by sin and knowing that he should return to the Father but not yet having made the hard decision to leave the pigs:

The Prodigal Son 1872 by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes

After turning away from God to pursue some particular sin, there is always a moment when the sinner realizes his pursuit of what had seemed so tantalizing has landed him in a pigsty.  That is the worst moment, in my experience, because you feel utterly lost, permanently separated, and hopelessly mired down.  How can you ever go back when you’ve thrown away the riches you had?  Better just to sit here in the mud, which is all I deserve!  But:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

It is so hard in that moment to see that we are free to stand up and leave the pigsty; we really believe the illusion that we are chained there, but as the painting depicts, nothing is truly holding us back, other than a deep sense of shame at having walked away from the Father and having disappointed our family.  It is with hesitation and fear of rejection, as I know full well and perhaps you do too, that the prodigal approaches the Father again, head bowed with shame and regret, but how indescribable is the joyful relief when we find that He is actually celebrating our return!

Those who are still in the Father’s house when the prodigals – who we all will be at some point or another – return need to accept them with joy, not with bitterness and unforgiveness.  Hallelujah, what was lost is now found again!  This may be particularly hard if the prodigal son’s actions affected you personally, as they did the older brother in the story, but the Father tells us to forgive and come celebrate anyway.  The World, of course, cannot understand this kind of forgiveness and will mock us, but that is because Satan, the god of this Worldalways condemns, whereas Christ always forgives.  When you are yet in the Father’s house, you will need to decide whether you will be the bride of Christ or of Satan and then follow your spiritual husband’s lead.

To those who are in the pigsty – come home!

To those who are home – run out to greet them with joy and celebration!

Lift your head weary sinner, the river’s just ahead
Down the path of forgiveness, salvation’s waiting there
You built a mighty fortress 10,000 burdens high
Love is here to lift you up, here to lift you high

If you’re lost and wandering
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide

All who’ve strayed and walked away, unspeakable things you’ve done
Fix your eyes on the mountain, let the past be dead and gone
Come all saints and sinners, you can’t outrun God
Whatever you’ve done can’t overcome the power of the blood

If you’re lost and wandering
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide

If you’re lost and wrecked again
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory be open wide

The plus side of “the decline” and hopeful signs in local agrarianism.

I am noticing more small family and cooperative farms in this area which rely on organic production methods, permaculture, and pastured livestock. Interestingly, a number of these farms in this area are explicitly Christian, which is remarkable given the liberal and secular bent of this part of the state (things tend to get more conservative and religious in Michigan as you head north and west).

I don’t know financially how they make it work; maybe they can live really frugally and earn a living from these little farms or (more likely) one or both spouses work outside the home.  In our case, even if we started turning our little homestead into a business, we’d still need outside income.  My husband would still have to keep his job although we could probably replace my job with the fruits of my home labor; my husband is strongly encouraging me to move in that direction, but I am a worrier who lacks confidence in this area, so I’l probably keep my paid job for now.

Here are three little farms not far from where I live that have caught my attention; two of the three are run by Christian families.

C & C Micro-Farm in Gregory doesn’t have a website yet, but you can find them on Facebook.

Growing By Faith Farm in Stockbridge offers classes in the sorts of skills that farm folks might have had 100 years or so ago.  Examples include things like butter-making, how to start a fire with a bow drill, raising and processesing (i.e. killing and prepping) pastured poultry, how to weave a basket out of cattails and the like.

Robin Hills Farm here in Chelsea offers classes, farm tours, and CSA shares of organic produce.

The reason I find these little farms to be a hopeful sign is because even in places like Greece that have been experiencing a fairly length financial collapse, we don’t see total mayhem. People still have basic sustenance and it is not total anarchy.  I think, barring unforseen catastrophe (EMPs, for example, or having Iran someday drop nuclear bombs on us courtesy of the Obama administration’s foolishness), what we’re really in for here is a long, protracted, economic decline in which our collective standard of living is significantly reduced over a period of time.  As that happens, people will naturally return to older methods of food production, with each family finding ways to keep small livestock (chickens, rabbits) and eke out a small garden.  It sounds scary to moderns but it was only three generations ago that this was the normal state of affairs, and it is nice to know that there are already a number of people, a small but growing minority, who are rediscovering old skills and melding them with new ideas from permaculture.

This kind of small-scale agrarianism is a hopeful sign for the immediate future.  When I look at this, I don’t mind the idea of “the decline”; in fact, I rather welcome it.  Why?  Because it is as Herrick Kimball wrote in Light in Our Dwellings ten years ago:

The plain truth, like it or not, is that, in order to succeed in this modern world, on its terms, you must sacrifice your family on the altar of Industrialism.

Yes, I know that is a harsh thing to say. Many people will disagree with me because the industrial model of family life is seen by the masses as normal and, therefore, good. But it is neither normal nor good. It is the spawn of 19th century Industrialism and a historical aberration. It weakens and destroys families. That is the truth and the truth can hurt. Believe me, I know.

The saddest aspect of this situation is that so many professing Christian families willingly buy into the materialistic hubris of our industrial culture.

…I’m convinced that if God’s people are going to be an effective witness to those in the dying industrial culture around us, we must do more than believe in a personal savior, and we must do more than proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. It is imperative that we also live our lives set apart to God. That does not mean that we can simply Christianize the ungodly industrial model and, in so doing, somehow become immune to its pernicious evils. It means we must separate ourselves and our families from the ungodly culture of industrialism.

The only way I know for Christians to effectively separate from the culture of industrialism is to embrace Christian-Agrarian life and culture. Christian-Agrarianism (sometimes called Biblical-Agrarianism) is Christianity lived within an agrarian paradigm. It is trusting God, His word, and His promises more than the false promises of materialistic industrialism in all its manifestations.

Let the decline of materialistic industrialism come, then.