Women

Guest Blog: When We Were On Fire

The following was written by my lovely wife, Megan Carr. Woot! We are officially a blogging family now. The girl gives me a run for my money. Check it out: synchroblog-photohome_uk

When We Were on Fire

Today’s blog is in support of Addie Zierman’s book When We Were on Fire. Though I haven’t yet had the privilege of reading it, I’ve been deeply encouraged by her blog for some time now. Addie has a knack for saying things my heart has always wanted to scream; yet my mouth (or fingers in this case) has somehow been unable to say. To put it simply: her words have helped me see my self and my past clearer. I encourage you to check out both her book and her blog.

Prior to this, I’ve blogged exactly three times in my life. Once on a dare, again as a class assignment and now. Grace for the rough edges is appreciated.

On Fire

I suppose the term On Fire for Jesus could be used to describe the entirety of my youth. Especially my Jr. High and early High School years. I grew up in an Evangelical Christian home, went to a private Christian school, and participated in nearly every Christian youth activity under the sun. In fact, both the school and the church I grew up in were in the same building. More often than not, I literally spent every day of the week at the church.

Back then, it felt as though being On Fire wasn’t an option. Everyone was burning, and I succumbed to the peer pressure.

My weeks were filled with the overwhelming frenzy of being On Fire:

Youth group, where I learned essential skills such as how to share my testimony and “save” someone in 5 easy steps.

Ministry where I devoted my Saturday’s to driving around in a giant blue and red bus making balloon animals and playing red-­‐rover with some of the disadvantaged youth of our area.

Bible quizzing where my “holiness” was quite literally put into direct competition with others.

Christian concerts and festivals where I joined other Jesus-­‐loving youth delirious with the high of perfectly programmed corporate worship.

Purity workshops where I learned Modest is Hottest and True Love Waits. While at the same time making lists of the essential qualities my future spouse was to have, and creating mod—podged collages built from pictures cut out of bridal magazines.

My youth was marked by many “mountain top experiences” with other Christian t­‐shirt clad youth. It certainly was intoxicating.

Flickering Out

In retrospect, I am both grateful for and disenchanted by my over-zealous Evangelical Christian youth. It provided a foundation and backbone for my faith. However, like other frenzies, constantly being On Fire simply wasn’t sustainable past a certain point.

There are a few definite experiences that caused the flame of my hyper-­Christian youth to flicker. Perhaps it was just a natural byproduct of the maturing process, but during my last years of high school I started taking an honest look at some of the professing Christian’s around me.

Some of what I saw was encouraging and faith affirming.
-­‐But-­‐
Some of it was hard to stomach and devastated the Christian bubble that had encased my life thus far.

Without going into specifics, I’ll just say that several encounters I had with other Christians at this time seemed nothing but trite, judgmental, and sometimes just plain illogical:

  • Tough questions oversimplified and met by clichés such as “Jesus is Truth” and “Just trust God”.
  • Pointed accusations from fellow Christians that my life was not bearing enough fruit.
  • Older peers making drastic and devastating mistakes even though they were once on fire too.

After a while, these experiences had worn my spirit; the cracks in my Christian foundation becoming more and more pronounced as time wore on.

Why is it that in times of struggle, we too often allow the seeds of doubt to overwhelm the seeds of hope? I don’t have an answer, but this is exactly what started to happen to me. Doubt and angst settled into my life at a frightening rate.

Burn Unit

Feeling both burned and burned-­out, the period of time directly after high school was difficult for me. I was in uncharted territory. Before, faith had come easily, Christianity felt natural. Now, I struggled with hurt, confusion, and doubt.

Not knowing what else to do, I distanced myself from the so-­called Christian lifestyle. I stopped participating in the ministries I played a role in; I fled from the Beth Moore Bible Studies often forced upon me by well-­meaning women of the Church.

I took a breather. Knowingly or not, I needed to create some space, some time to look back on my Evangelical Christianity-­saturated journey thus far. I needed to separate the good from the bad and to make amends with some of the experiences and people I’d been burned by.

Though difficult, I firmly believe taking time to leave and welcome the space was one of the healthiest things I could have done. If I had kept “pressing on”, I know the aftermath would have been far more devastating. I needed to question, to doubt, and to let the anger and hurt work itself out. I needed the burns to heal.

Salve for the Burns

Like burns often do, the ones in my life have left their mark. These scars come in the form of cynicism and distrust of many of the things most Christians eagerly embrace. But more than that, they also serve as a reminder of where I’ve been, and how far I’ve come. It would be too easy for me to have never moved on from the time of hurt and anger, to wallow in the injustices I’d experienced.

While I’d love to say I was able to move forward on my own strength, it would not be the truth. If it weren’t for a few dedicated people in my life guiding me through and out of the times of struggle, I would probably still be wallowing.

If I were to wrap the moral of my experiences up with a neat little bow, I would say this: fellowship is invaluable. And by fellowship, I mean the real (and often messy) kind where you’re free to question, doubt, and feel angry if necessary. Find someone to walk through your struggles with you. You are not alone in this. There are others who have been burned too. It many seem hard to do, but keep talking and questioning until someone recognizes what you’re saying and comes alongside you, if only just to listen. Simply being heard goes a long ways towards healing. Give someone the chance to listen.

Perhaps, eventually you’ll be able to do the same for another who’s been left with the smoldering aftermath of once being On Fire.

Adulthood: Embracing the Now & Forgetting the Why

One can’t help but get a little older. Wives are good for nothing if not for telling you how old you are. Megan reminds me of this all the time: “You’re two years older.”

“And wiser,” I respond.

Despite the rabid pace at which youth escapes my body, I expect some of the mannerisms and routines that accompanied my early years will always be with me.

The sample tables at Costco are primary. Shopping is second… at best. There’s others like me, too. Yesterday, I ran into the same sample shopper at every table. We nodded.

My attention span is weak, like coffee from the church foyer weak. At any given time, I’m usually half present and I apologize for this; I’m trying, really. This will probably be a lifelong struggle. Bare with me.

I say weird things at awkward moments. That is, the moment is fine until I make it awkward. Once, I worked at a hotel and checked in a guest. During the silence I asked if he met any ladies on his trip. He was a priest and promptly said, “no.”

You see what I mean. I’m sure you do weird things too. I know you do. The crazy little brain movements and body patterns are just part of the human experience. You probably rant in the bathroom with strange accents or something. I can only guess.

We are all just grown up kids. (No one has refuted me yet!) As adults we can choose when we want to be a child, that’s the coolest part. I mean, haven’t you seen Hook? (You’re doing it, Peter!)

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As we get older, we pretend this stuff doesn’t exist. The weird mannerisms. The strange facial expressions. The awkward moments. After all, we’re adults now and there’s bills to pay. We have kids and jobs and degrees. There’s no time to be ourselves anymore.

Don’t Start Eating Boogers Yet

It’s okay to have responsibilities; in fact, I rather like them. There’s men and women who meet the challenge of adulthood at every turn and I respect them.

I learned responsibilities from an early age; most older people around me were too busy beings kids so I had to step it up in their absence. Sometimes people never grow up, because of them I now struggle with letting my hair down on the weekends, or being myself.

I’m convinced, though, that every now and then we need to embrace the child within. We need to be ourselves. Not revert back, but just be ourselves. We need to allow who we are to shine and forget about the future for a change.

We need to embrace God’s greatest present—the present.

I’m sure we could all use a little more of that.

Road Trip

This weekend, Megan and I decided to be irresponsible. With two days notice, and a very inspiring episode of Parks and Rec to motivate us, we’ve decided to visit the Grand Canyon on a whim.

We have little money, a car that’s traveled too much this year already, and a severe lack of camping material; needless to say, we’re excited. My good friend Randall, who you may remember from Salmon Creek Trail, will be joining us.

It’s Friday. Go do something fun this weekend. Enjoy the present! Embrace the kid within you and report back to me. You may find adulthood to be a little more interesting when you do.

What are your thoughts on God’s gift of the present? Is it dangerous to focus too much on the past or the future? Any good stories of embracing the kid within? How about Grand Canyon advice? 

Is the Church a Boys Club?

This weekend we visited some friends in the Bay Area of California. Overlooking the Palace of Fine Arts, we sat in the park and talked faith, church, Star Wars… typical Christian stuff. Most important here, we discussed the roles of women in the church.

My wife, as well as my friend’s girlfriend, had some great wisdom to give. Their perspectives were shared with both frustration and grace. Women are battling issues in the church that men can’t even begin to understand.

(Hey boys!) Have you ever thought about the complexities of being a girl in the church? Do me a favor, next time you go, give every woman you see a high five.

They deserve it.

Since I am a man, I feel that I can solve this issue with a single blog post.

Girlie Stuff

My childhood church was definitely a boy’s club. Male senior pastors, male deacons, male elders. Women were allowed to be sunday school teachers, choir directors, or secretaries, but nothing more.

Paul’s words in 1 Timothy defined my views and 1 Corinthians confirmed them. I say this as if I knew scripture, but to be honest it was bleek. I listened and never questioned the general traditions of my church. Here’s what I knew (and assumed):

Women were not to teach men. Their life goals would consist of learning submission and quietness. Overcoming any resentment held towards men and any hostility held towards God would be their life’s work.

Eventually, I read the bible for myself. I read about Esther, Deborah, Mary, and Ruth. I read Luke. I read the words of Paul. I read context. I listened to wisdom and heard alternate, biblical views. I listened to my wife. I listened to my heart.

All this to say, I’m still sorting stuff out.

Your Mom was Stifled  

I recently read The Blue Parakeet by Scot McNight. In it he talks about the various ways people read the bible. He mentions that everyone picks and chooses scripture; he calls it discernment. The problem, says McNight, is when our discernments become canon and our canon becomes the lens through which we view scripture.

The modern church has done this—it has, we have, shaped our traditions into canon. The stifling of women, I believe, is a prime example Evangelicals need to repent for.

(For more on Scot McNight’s great book, check it out HERE).

I’m not an expert on the subject of women’s roles, but I do hope to continue to learn. So far, this is what I’ve got:

  • The traditional church may be a boy’s club, but the Kingdom of God is not. We all have a purpose and a reason to be here. Seek what’s inside you and let it out.  
  • We are all one in Christ—the curtain was torn, remember? There is no need for division anymore. Men need to teach women, and women need to teach men. 
  • Every faith generation experiences a change of tradition in one form or another (Thinking back to Paul and circumcision, or twenty years ago to the contemporary worship movement). Expect turmoil and kickback. Offer grace, always.

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What’s YOUR response? I encourage all with a perspective to participate. Please know, everyone’s view on the matter is welcome. Is the church a boy’s club? Have women been stifled, or am I making something out of nothing? 

Photo Credit: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/74576085@N00/6335630844/]