Are we undermining the witness of the church if we participate in Halloween activities? Carl, Todd, and I discuss costumes, Ouija Boards, contextualization, Christian liberty, wisdom issues, and which rock stars that Carl thinks we resemble. Take a listen here.
So my daughter was playing a song in the car this week that made me think. It’s called, “Beneath Your Beautiful,” by UK artist Labrinth, featuring Emeli Sande. He is singing to a girl who seems to have it all together and opens with:
You tell all the boys no Makes you feel good yeah I know you’re out of my league But that won’t scare me away oh no You’ve carried on so long You couldn’t stop if you tried it You’ve built your wall so high That no one could climb it But I’m gonna try
The chorus is about how he wants to see beneath her beautiful, beneath her perfect. And there’s a line that is a bit provocative, “take it off now girl, take it off now girl.”
Of course, I’m sure my daughter thinks it’s so romantic that this observant singer is singing about wanting to see the real deal. He wants to see the girl behind all the walls, behind all the show, and know what is really inside. This is certainly a commendable message. Don’t mask the person you are, don’t get so caught up in the image of yourself.
Coincidentally, the two Housewife Theologian small groups that I am leading are on Chapter Two this month, which is about beauty. It is called “In the Eye of the Beholder.” So the phrase “beneath your beautiful” isn’t quite sitting right with me. Is the show we are putting on really our beauty? No, it is an exploitation of beauty. In my book I share how the definition of beauty shows that it is connected with truth, originality, and harmony. What we so often try to portray as beauty is really a cheap knock off. We end up pursuing the opposite of beauty, something that denies our own uniqueness, manipulates the truth, and conforms to one way, the world’s way. Not very harmonious.
So what is beneath our contrived beauty? Jesus addresses something similar in Matt. 23:27, ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” The real us can be downright ugly. That’s why we work so hard to contrive beauty.
Sometimes we focus so much on the outside of the cup (Matt:23:25). We use all the right products, eat the right food, and follow the social codes. We pay close attention to our image and “what’s out there,” forgetting that our biggest problem isn’t what’s outside of us, but rather what’s inside of us. It’s important to remember that we are made in the image of God. And yet, due to the fall we are totally depraved; therefore sin has tainted our beauty in all areas. Jesus Christ is the beatific vision that his bride, the church, waits to behold. Beauty isn’t cheap. And thanks to the One who is beautiful, we are even now being beautified for that great day. Amazingly, peeling away that exploited beauty is essential to true beauty. Our beauty is actually enhanced through the storm of conflict.
Have you ever really looked up to someone in every way, and then they did something that exposed how broken and dreadful they really are? I have. And let me tell you, in some of those experiences I have been privileged to see the most beautiful thing ever. I am so grateful that I got to see past the perfect image, beneath contrived beauty. Beholding a flawed image unveiled and transformed by grace is so much more beautiful.
I’m pleased to have a guest post today written by Persis Lorenti. She has some helpful thoughts from the Mortification of Spin episode of the ‘not so subtle’ forms of domestic abuse. She also provides some helpful resources. My hope with that episode is to get a helpful conversation going in the church. I am thankful for Persis’s contribution.
On last week’s episode of Mortification of Spin, Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, and Aimee Byrd discussed the subtle forms of domestic abuse within the church. During the podcast, Todd Pruitt asked, “What is the dynamic that would prevent her [the wife in an abusive marriage] from going to an elder or going to a pastor and saying, ‘Please, please help’?”
This is a question that needs to be asked. We also need to be willing to hear answers that may make us uncomfortable. I am not a counselor or psychologist, but here is my feeble attempt to answer this question and offer a few ways we can help.
Why doesn’t she ask for help?
1. Fear of retribution – She is scared out of her wits that exposing her husband will cause him to leave or escalate the abuse. She is constantly walking on eggshells to maintain some sort of equilibrium, so she is hesitant to upset the balance. Living in fear has become the norm.
2. Shame – Like Job’s friends, many believe blessing is directly proportional to obedience. Thus, the victim may be hearing, “You must have sinned for your marriage to be in the state it is.“
3. She believes that submission and the love of a good woman will cure everything – “If I submit more and love my husband more, then he will change.” She is carrying a Pelagian burden that it is her responsibility alone to change her husband’s heart by her behavior.
4. Respect means giving cover – Out of fear and perhaps incorrect teaching, respect morphs into blind, unquestioning obedience.
5. She has been manipulated to doubt her own sanity and to think everything is her fault. These are typical abuse tactics known as “gaslighting” or “crazy making.”
6. Denial, for the moment, may be easier than the pain of reality.
7. Despair and resignation – She may feel completely alone. She may believe she has no value before God as an individual.
8. Fear that she won’t be believed—So, the alternative is to suffer in silence.
How can we help?
1. Safety and sanity are the first priority. This may require contacting civil authorities. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline is open 24/7 and has tips for developing a safety plan: 1-800-799-7233 or www.thehotline.org
2. Believe her. Stand with her. Pray for her. Tell her she is loved and valued by God.
3. Learn more about domestic abuse. The better informed we are, the better we can help and not hurt. Here are a few excellent resources:
A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church, by Jeff Crippen and Anna
Wood (Calvary Press Publications, 2012).
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, by Leslie Vernick (WaterBrook Press, 2013).
And Diane Landburg on the Forum of Christian Leaders, Counseling Victims of Domestic Abuse.
Many thanks to Aimee for posting this. Also thanks to Mortification of Spin for tackling this difficult and often misunderstood topic. God is the father of the fatherless and judge of the widow (Psalm 68:5). May we be His hands and feet as we care for our sisters in Christ.
“Fit to burst” may actually be a description you would give to any mom of six children, right? I know that with three, I feel like every day can be a challenge to my sanity. Tony Reinke gave this book an interesting endorsement. Although he certainly isn’t a mom, he strangely said it was one of his favorite books of the year. It is for women, after all, and even more specifically, moms with young children. My children are now getting older, so I didn’t know what I was going to take from this book. But as someone who does reviews, I thought it would be worth a read to see if I could recommend it to young moms. And I’m willing to check out anything written by someone who named one of their kids Shadrach (that would be kidlet #6). That’s just cool.
Rachel Jankovic has written a book that encourages mom’s to persevere in the trenches. She isn’t soft-spoken and sweet. She has six kids; she needs to get to the point! And that she does. This book has the tone of the sermon-letter to the Hebrews. Have you been knocked down? Well, raise your weary hands, strengthen your feeble knees, and get back in there!
I believe the pilots gave us the phrase, “suck it up.” If you vomit in your air mask, you have to do just that or else you will inhale it and choke to death. Moms sometimes find themselves in similar dilemmas. But there’s more to it than just being able to suck it up and move on. We should be thankful that we have a plane and know how to fly. What I’m trying to say with my gross analogy is something that Jankovic demonstrates well in her book. God sanctifies us in our mothering. In the very practical moments of the mayhem that can be motherhood, we are in training for holiness. This is the very vocation God has graciously placed many of us in to love our neighbor. Fit To Burst is a motivating and practical book. It also addresses sin areas that can be unique to mothers. The whole book serves as a sort of attitude adjustment that every mom can use. Jankovic reminds us of the great blessing and responsibility of motherhood.
One chapter that I particularly appreciated was “Well Eating.” There’s a lot of pressure on moms these days not only to make amazing, Pinterest-worthy meals, but also to be a grain expert, know what farm your meat came from, or to just switch to plant-based altogether, learn how to make cookies and brownies without sugar, and burgers out of beans. We are now being told that our shampoo is killing us. But Jankovic brings us back to theological reality, “If Christ has touched us, we are clean. There is no food that can change that” (70). She highlights the unnecessary fear that this mentality conjures up so that, “we could get so consumed with the healthy food that we are no longer healthy people” (71). When we use food as identity markers, we begin to separate ourselves from others. Jankovic reminds us that while moms certainly need to be mindful of our family’s health, it doesn’t save any of us from the fall. “[Jesus] did not come with a juice fast” (72). We are reminded that the table should be a place of gratitude, not anxiety. And the author brings up a mom’s propensity to be too controlling of the family diet. Sometimes we undermine our husband’s intentions to lavish love on the children in the form of a special treat with our food-police mentality.
There are 18 chapters in this small, 120 book. That is 18 small opportunities for a mommy-adjustment by reminding us of who we are in Christ. Jankovic puts things in perspective for moms in short, powerful punches of exhortation and encouragement. She calls us to gratitude and faithfulness with the great blessings we have been given. “Gratitude enables us to do our daily work as unto the Lord. It makes the little things that we do everyday an offering to God” (119).
My only foible with the book is that I needed to hear just a little bit more about Christ’s gratitude in my place. Jankovic is absolutely right, but let’s face it. I am not thankful enough. Sometimes I am very selfish. If my parenting and marriage depended on my gratitude, we’d all be in despair. And, to be clear, the author does not say that it does. The gospel is certainly presented in the book. But I just would have liked her to spell that out a little better. Some moms could read this and maybe begin measuring their parenting success by their level of gratitude, and that would be to Jankovic’s horror I’m sure. Only Christ was truly grateful, and he was grateful enough for all his people. This is what truly motivates my grateful response. Even in my complete motherhood and wife failures, Christ is faithful to work his grace. God uses everything, our accomplishments and our sin, to make his people more like his Son. This motivates us to love the way that we are loved, and to get back up and run to the cross when we fail.
Well, perhaps one other small mention. There were several errors in the book. This happens, I get it. After many rounds of editing, we were still finding errors in my book in the last stages. However, for the brevity of Fit To Burst, it seems like they could have been caught. But a bit of Jankovic’s own advice applies here as well: “Real life is messy because it is going somewhere” (40). I certainly don’t hold a few simple errors against recommendation for reading, and I know that many moms will benefit from Jankovic’s words.
So, thank you to Canon Press for my copy in exchange for an honest review, and for offering a copy to give away! Enter below for you, a friend, or your church library!
I love moving through a book that makes me stop and think. K. Scott Oliphint’s Covenantal Apologetics has been that way for me. I’ve had some other projects going on, so I have been returning to this book in between. Reading through it is kind of like taking a course. There are so many papers and assignments that I could envision coming from it.
Oliphint covers the theology of persuasion quite thoroughly in Chapter 4. His demonstration of Paul’s covenantal apologetics in his address to the Areopagus (Acts 17:22-34 ) gave me much to think about. Even so, one might feel overwhelmed with the trivium of education, the theological trivium, and the trivium of persuasion, no matter how well he teaches them. My responsibility to defend the faith was weighing pretty heavy. I have my own character to consider (ethos), a good understanding of where my conversation partner or audience is coming from (pathos), as well as the content that I am trying to communicate (logos).
And yet, Oliphint makes an important and relieving point in his conclusion of the chapter. Apologetics isn’t an intellectual battle, it is a spiritual one. So, how do we measure our success when defending our faith to others, and trying to persuade them of its truth? Was Paul successful on Mars Hill? The results of his speech show a mixed response. Several believed, some wanted to hear more, and others continued to mock him. How would a modern-day evangelist feel about these results? It’s hardly news worthy.
Oliphint encourages us:
But Paul was successful in that he communicated the truth of God. In our defense of Christianity, we are successful to the extent that what we say comports with what God has said in his Word. Our goal in a covenantal apologetic cannot be the conversion of those to whom we speak. That is a goal that we cannot accomplish. It is our prayer, but should not be our goal. Rather, our goal is to communicate, as persuasively as we are able, the truth of God himself, as that truth finds its focus in the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us… We are not in an intellectual contest when we do apologetics. We are in a spiritual battle in which only the Spirit of Christ can conquer the true enemy. (159)
This reminder is so liberating, isn’t it? With this in mind, I am even more compelled to present the gospel to others in the best way I can. I want to know God’s Word well enough to apply it to those whom I am speaking. I want to have character that demonstrates the power of Christ in my life. I want to put forth the effort to know and understand the thoughts and concerns of others. But I also understand that I’m not working with a blank slate, as Oliphint puts it. God has already been communicating to them by natural revelation. His creation is continuously proclaiming his existence and his goodness. I am speaking with covenantal beings who are “at war with [their] true identity” (45). Unbelievers suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18 ), and we are to expose this truth of their rebellion against the living God.
I am unsuccessful if I do not communicate God’s truth. But God is always successful in bringing about the results that he has purposed. I am so thankful that he has given me eyes to see and ears to hear his mighty holiness and his wonderful message of salvation.