I was sent a book in the mail called, "Fully Alive." (sounds compelling enough, right?!) It's always fun getting mail from "Ellen's Picks" (a tremendous initiative equipping and connecting Canadian women!)
But the subtitle put me off a bit..."A Biblical Vision of Gender that Frees Men & Women to Live Beyond Sterotypes." Ug. Heavy.
My mind immediately went to the wearying conversations that are circling the Church right now about gender, sexuality, marriage and leadership.
And I'm tired of those conversations because to me, they are so laden with emotion, unconscious bias, divisive - and in my estimation, they seem to often miss the point entirely.
These conversations constantly seem to create dividing lines - parsing out our varying interpretations of scripture, forcing us into "either-or" camps, and prescribing the type of freedom that God intends for men and women, gay and straight, egalitarian leader or complimentarian.
But to me, ironically, freedom comes from radical dependance on God. Period - regardless of your gender, sexuality or leadership role.
The type of leader I want to follow is dependant on Christ. Full Stop.
But this book by Dr. Larry Crabb has moments of surprise. He tries to break through the typical gender stereotypes & barriers to help the reader get to this type of dependant freedom. You can sense his heart in this quote:
Did you get that? We reflect God more clearly as we relate together as persons. And FREEDOM that comes from radical dependance on God helps us to be secure in who we are so we can relate well to others.
We become fully alive when we are open to receive God.
It all reminds me of my own journey - struggling to feel feminine and lovely and how God is transforming my heart.
"For many years I thought I was single because I was somehow defective. I wondered if something was inherently wrong with me because no one had chosen me. I was trapped in thoughts that had me struggling. I was drowning in insecurity, and doubted my beauty, femininity and loveliness.
There was nothing freeing about these thoughts and feelings—the chains had me locked up tight. After years and years of struggling, I started to surrender. I started to get brutally honest with how sad I was feeling. I began to acknowledge how lonely I felt instead of keeping busy with distractions. I began to ask God to help me when I felt unlovable. And perhaps the biggest surrender, the biggest vulnerability, the biggest death came when I faced the prospect of never marrying at all.
It’s here that I have had to ask myself some very tough questions: Do I actually believe God is good, has my best interests at heart and can be trusted? Seriously, can I actually trust him with my relationships or should I take matters into my own hands?
As I first began processing these questions, the thought of never getting married or having children felt like I would be shackled in the death zone for life. There had never been a time in my life when I thought I wouldn’t be married or have children. Surrendering to these questions was new territory and left me feeling unsettled, uncomfortable and even afraid.
Over the years, though, God has been transforming me. I’ve learned to embrace the vulnerability of my greatest fears. As I write this, I can see how God is slowly helping me change the old patterns of insecurity and self-sufficiency and inviting me to rely on him in new ways. Something new has been born in me because I have allowed something I’ve held on to so tightly to die. In truth, something new continues to be born and it’s growing into something unexpectedly beautiful.
God is giving me a calm confidence to keep walking this way. My desire to get married isn’t gone, but it’s changed. It’s not like I’ve turned into a marriage-hater and have gone all bitter. I’ve not sworn off marriage and I don’t feel like I’ve been given the specific desire to be single for my whole life. I still feel all the vulnerability as I stay open to what God would have for me (marriage or not) and what path he wants me to follow him on.
But God is transforming my heart. The image of what my future will be like is less about the specifics (a husband, 2.5 kids, a dog and white picket fence), and more about the adventure of what God will do when I rest completely in him. I’m becoming less concerned about being “normal” (by being married) and more interested in embracing the courage and creativity that’s required to live the life I have been given today. Don’t get me wrong: I still have restless moments of doubt and longing, wondering if God actually knows what he’s doing. I’m still a work in progress and wrestle to find where my needs for intimacy and companionship can be met.
But as time passes, I’m finding more freedom in this area of my life. It’s not making me more independent—it is pushing me closer and closer to my Father who knows my needs. I’m less concerned about the details of how I’ll be cared for and more enamored with the journey.
Ironically, radical dependence on God feels like beautiful freedom."
Might it be possible to live out of who we truly are, our "image-of-God-ness", freely dependant on God has The Source and The Ground in which we operate out of?
Wouldn't that make us fully alive as women and men, just exactly as we were created?
I'm counting on it.
Always grateful to Ellen Graf-Martin who so generously sends me these books. Check out what she's up too.