Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Praising Our Weaknesses?

Here is another old "note" that I posted on Facebook a while back.  This note came about because I was watching a lot of "House Hunters" episodes at the time and had noticed a trend with the women on the program.  I was struck by how many of them were looking for a large closet to fill with shoes and clothes.  At the same time, they really didn't care about the kitchen, as they had no plans to use it anyway.  It just bothered me, and I said so in a status update on my page, which quickly turned into a debate on gender roles.  So, I attempted to explain my frustrations better in this note.

I don't believe that the woman must always cook.  My husband is a wonderful cook, and I thoroughly enjoy the times he prepares our meals!  I don't believe it is wrong to indulge yourself occasionally.  I certainly do from time to time.  What bothers me is the attitude that is so prevalent in today's culture...the message we are being fed as women: 

"It is all about you.  You need more things.  You should pamper yourself as much as possible.  Don't waste your life at home taking care of your husband and children...there are more important things, more exciting things you could be doing, you should be doing.  Cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning your house, teaching your children...these things are beneath you.  These things aren't your strong-suit.  You would be wasting your talents and your life if you spent your time doing these.  If you don't enjoy it, don't do it!  Pay someone else to do it.  Get a job.  Climb that corporate ladder.  Then you will have the money to buy all the stuff you want.  Because that's what matters in life.  The more you have, the happier you will be!"


Is that why we continue to see the news reports of people who seem to "have it all" committing suicide?  What about the normalcy of being on antidepressants or antianxiety medication?  An article on CNNhealth from July of 2007 states, "The use of antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs -- those that affect brain chemistry -- has skyrocketed over the last decade.  Adult use of antidepressants almost tripled between the periods 1988-1994 and 1999-2000.  Between 1995 and 2002, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the use of these drugs rose 48 percent, the CDC reported."  Today, we have way more "stuff" than our grandparents had.  As women, we have more "opportunities" than ever before. 

So why are we so miserable? 

I would have to agree with Dr. Ronald Dworkin, a Maryland anesthesiologist and senior fellow at Washington's Hudson Institute who was quoted in this article, "Doctors are now medicating unhappiness," said Dworkin. "Too many people take drugs when they really need to be making changes in their lives."  And what changes do they need to make?  I would suggest eliminating the materialism, to start.   The message of 'more is better' is a lie.  When you try to fill the emptiness with more "accomplishments" and material possessions, all you find is more emptiness.

So, what will fill that void?  The answer is God

"O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you." Psalm 84:12 

"Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway." Proverbs 8:34 

The books of Psalms and Proverbs are filled with statements like these.  God fills our emptiness with Himself, His ways and His blessings.  Children are included in that: "Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him...Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." Psalm 127:3,5  Our children are a blessing from God...not a burden.  Jesus shows us how He views children in Mark chapters 9 and 10.  Mark 9:37 goes so far as to say, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me." 

Are we valuing our children this much?  Do we see them in this light?  When we serve our children and give our lives for them, we are serving and giving our lives for Jesus!  That is NOT a waste of our lives!  That is the most meaningful and wonderful thing we could possibly do!

Matthew 20:26 shows us that Jesus identifies greatness with serving: "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant."  But it is not just the act of serving one another that is important.  In Ephesians 6:7, Paul addresses the issue of our attitudes, telling us to "serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men."   Again, Paul says in Galatians 5:13 to "serve one another in love."  Don't serve begrudgingly.  Don't cook and clean and care for your family because that's what you're "supposed" to do.  Do it because you value them.  Do it because you love them.  Do it because you love God and trust that He knows what is best for you!

God didn't just put us here and say, "Good luck!"  He has given us guidelines to follow for a good life.  Titus 2:3-5  says "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."  This is God's Word to us women, which is considerably different than the world's message to us. 

Who are we listening to, God or society?  Whose voice guides our daily choices?

All that being said, do I enjoy an occasional pedicure, Starbucks coffee, and shopping trip?  Yes, I do.  Do I feel that indulging in these on a regular, frequent basis is a good use of my time and money?  Absolutely not.  Am I always a good steward of my time and money?  Definately not.  Do I always enjoy cooking and cleaning?  Certainly not.  Do I think doing the laundry is fun?  HA! That's funny.  Is my house a fine specimen of housekeeping abilities?  If you think so, you obviously have never stepped foot in my home!  Am I always excited and happy to spend every waking hour with my perfectly well-behaved children?  Ummm, no.  My children are certainly not always well-behaved, and neither am I!  (Have you ever spent 24/7 with someone?  It gets ugly sometimes!  Am I right?!) 

But shouldn't we be making a constant effort to improve ourselves, our choices and our attitudes?  Why have we become content as a society to accept our weaknesses?  Shouldn't we be trying to turn those into strengths?   When did our flaws become accepted, expected, and even promoted?

Let me take a minute to emphasize here that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works. (Eph. 2:8-9)  It is not through our "traditional gender roles" that we are saved.  It is God's grace.  We are not bound by a long list of "rules" that we must follow.  But God also tells us in Titus 2:12 that the grace of God "teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." 

Again, are we living our lives according to worldly passions?  Galatians 5:13 says, "You...were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love."   Verse 20 lists "selfish ambition" as an act of the sinful nature.  Don't use your freedom to persue selfish ambition...use it to serve!  That is how we find fulfillment in this life.

But, serving can be a very difficult, overwhelming, and sometimes all-consuming task, right?  Do it anyway.   Romans 5:4 tells us that perseverance produces character.  The word used here for perseverance is the Greek word "hypomone", which means "steadfastness, constancy, endurance".   When you are doing a task you don't want to do, do it with perseveranceWhen you feel like you are being stretched beyond your abilities, don't give up!  When the days are long and difficult, persevere! 

God is improving you, refining you.  The Greek word for character here is "dokime", meaning "approved, tried character".  Through our obedience in serving with love, even when it is difficult and/or unappealing, God is shaping our character. 

"For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver."  Psalm 66:10  

I want to be refined.  I NEED to be refined.  I am a very different person than I was 10 years ago, and, LORD willing, 10 years from now I will be a much different person than I am now!

Louisa May Alcott said it well:

"I do not ask for any crown
     But that which all may win;
 Nor try to conquer any world
     Except the one within."  

May we see our materialism and selfishness for what they are:  flaws.  And may we not be content to let them flourish.

Refine us, LORD!

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