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Abusing Abuse? | Guest Post, Part 1

Recently Darcy left some excellent thoughts in a comment and I asked her if she would expand on them in a post. I'm honored that she agreed. 

I cannot tell you how many times someone has told me, "Well, I know plenty of patriarchal families who are wonderful people to be around. Their kids are happy, they have great relationships within the family, they all follow Christ and their love for one another is evident in their lives." Then I am chastised for "lumping" people all together in a group and calling it an "abusive system". Laying aside the doctrinal errors for a moment (those are beyond the scope of this post), I would like to address the two most common critical questions when speaking of spiritual abuse and Patriarchy. One, whether or not speaking against a group/teaching is harmful to those within that group who are getting it right. and, two, is this something we should even concern ourselves about? Or are we "abusing abuse", making a big deal about something that isn't, when there are others out there who are REALLY abused? In essence, does it really matter that much?

Fruits

To the first question I say, good is good and evil is evil. It matters not what "title" or face or movement good and evil are found in. It also matters not that within a group of people who teach and practice the same things there is good and there is evil. Do we stop speaking out against the evil for fear we will make the good look bad? I am sure there were good Pharisees and leaders in Israel in Jesus' time. Yet He still spoke against the evil among them and inherent in their belief system without any disclaimers. Why? Because there was much evil in that group, causing God's children pain and it needed to be rooted out. I highly doubt Jesus was worried about whether or not he would "tarnish" the reputations of those Pharisees who were truly serving God. Truth and goodness speaks for itself.

It is not a strength to deny pain. Nor is it a strength to ignore inner wounds and say "well, my parents had good motives so I won't worry about the outcome and actions caused by those motives." I'm fairly certain the Puritans who killed hundreds of innocent women, the Jesuits who tortured natives "to convert them", the Mormons who practiced blood atonement to save people's souls, and others who have used God's name for horrible things had "good motives". What makes a teaching good or bad? The motives of those who teach it?

Jesus said of false teachers "by their FRUITS you shall know them." Within this movement known as "Patriarchy", the fruits are becoming evident in this generation: broken hearts, severed relationships, children rejecting Jesus, parents rejecting their kids because of differences in beliefs, girls wondering if they're worth anything more than the work they do and the babies they have, God being usurped in the lives of women by men, and the list goes on. But, you say, there is much good also. I ask you, is the good you see a result of the teachings of this movement, or is it a result of following Christ and easily evident in other Christian families who do not ascribe to these teachings? You say you see parents and children with great relationships. I see this too, in every family I know who loves Jesus. I am sure that those who are getting it right will not be harmed by me or anyone else speaking out on the evils in their movement. I do not feel like my Christianity is in jeopardy when people speak out on the ills among Christians. I don't care what name the evil is hiding under, even if it is using the same name I do, it is still evil. My goodness is not threatened by this. Truth cannot be threatened by exposing lies. Righteousness is not hurt by exposing sin. Godliness is only made stronger when the ungodliness is rooted out.

Picture Perfect

People who are critical of my position seem to forget one important thing: in these circles, as well as most circles, things are not always as they seem. A family can look perfect, godly, and wholesome on the outside and still be festering and rotting away on the inside. I remember as a girl wishing I could stand up in church and yell "We're NOT perfect!!!" Everyone thought we were. They thought we had it all together, that we were the epitome of a Godly family. They often asked my parents to teach them how to have a family like ours. My parents loved each other and we children were obedient and respectful. But inside our four walls and behind our closed doors we were as dysfunctional as any family. Not terrible, mind you, but far, far from perfect. My parents fought, I suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts, my siblings and I fought constantly, there was much emotional and verbal abuse, fear of not measuring up to standards, pressure to conform, a controlling mother and an emotionally absent father. Acceptance was based on performance and living up to the right standards. Fear, hatred, rebellion, depression, manipulation...these all had strongholds in our "perfect" family. But you'd never know by looking at us. Or even knowing us. Those closest to us never knew. We were very, very good at playing a part. At hiding the ugliness, even from ourselves. And the pressure built in my heart and the hearts of my siblings until we exploded (or imploded), each in our own ways. So do not look at those families you say are "getting it right" and judge them by what you see. I can guarantee there is much pain where you cannot see, for they are human too.

If any of us get anything right in this life, it is because of the grace of Jesus Christ. It is because God is making us into the image of His Son. There is nothing we can do, no formula or teaching we can follow that will ensure we "get it right". There is only the Person and example of Jesus. As the scripture says "Let him who boast, boast in the Lord". Whoever you are, whatever you believe, any good in your life comes only from living Jesus. And the evil? The evil comes from trying to follow and find life in anything else. So I will continue, as the Lord gives me breath, to speak and act against the evils and injustices I see in Christendom, for they are against the heart of Christ.

__________________

Darcy is wife to a good man and mother to three beautiful children. Her passions include music, organic living, coffee, homeschooling, and Truth in the Person of Jesus Christ. Due to being raised in a spiritually abusive church, extreme fundamentalism, and other ills of the Dark Side of the homeschool culture, she is also passionate about freedom, finding healing in Jesus' grace, and leading others to the Healer of hearts and the Restorer of souls. She blogs at Darcy's Heart Stirrings.

Dear Anonymous

A recent exchange (see comments in this post for background) culminated in the following concerns from an anonymous poster. I know that many share this person's views and I wanted to address them in a visible format so others can follow and add thoughts of their own.

"Anonymous" writes,
I guess my question is still very much unanswered. I understand the desire to help those who have been truly abused.
    However, I get the sickening feeling reading these posts that the definition for "abuse" has gotten really out of hand and has turned into a self-indulged victim mentality.
    The distinctions are not clear enough. There are terms being used interchangeably with "abuse and cultish" that are not, in and of themselves, such.
    To try to illustrate my point:
    Because there are abusive parents in EVERY kind of family, denomination, "camp", etc., imagine a family where the father is a pedophile. This father chose to homeschool his children to make it easier to abuse them without being found out.
    It would be ludicrous then, in an attempt to "speak for the abused", to write things like, "Abusive men homeschool to try to hide their activities". While that statement is true in some instances, it is far to overreaching. Now the undiscerning reader has had a shadow cast across every homeschooler he encounters because he read that "abusive men homeschool".
    What I see happening here I've seen over and over. A knee-jerk reaction that "throws the baby out with the bath water".
    You insinuate that a family who uses terms like "guarding a daughter's heart" is a cultish family. It could be true, but you've just cast that shadow across every family who has a genuine desire to do so.
    That cannot be a blanket statement. This is a gross misrepresentation of many, many loving homes who do in fact use such terms and actually mean it and carry it out in a loving, healthy way.
    It matters little "who your audience is" when you hurt these healthy families in the process.
    What of the many families (I know them well) who would agree to being called "patriarchal types" who are gentle, sacrificial, listen to their children and have flourishing, sweet relationships with them, who like Vision Forum AND hold their daughters close, telling them, "You are unique in the sight of God, I'm so blessed to be your Mom/Dad and God has great things in store for you"?
    Who eat whole wheat bread and don't believe it's a sin to wear make-up.
    Who attend the Father/Daughter Retreats and have joyful, healthy daughters anyway?
    Who believe in the authority of parents in the home AND who teach their children that they can DO NOTHING to earn the favor of God because they have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus?
    Who teach a balanced view of repentance and grace?
    Whose daughters may enjoy wearing skirts because they like the feminine way they feel, but wear pants sometimes too?
    What of those families who have instilled a healthy, balanced sense of work and whose children understand that helping with siblings is not abuse, but just a normal part of life, just as it has been for centuries?
    I see some dangerous Psychology being used here. I could bait anyone and get them to *feel* abused. We all had flesh-covered, sinful parents who didn't love us perfectly and we could conjure up "abusive moments" all day if we wanted to. We could even say our whole lifestyles were abusive (my parents sent me to public school. I could easily call this abuse, though they loved me dearly.)
    (The feminists baited their proselytes and instilled in them a hatred of home using a similar tactic.)
    My question is, if grace is so much a part of what we are trying to extend to these daughters, where is the grace for parents who, despite not being perfect are doing the best they know? Instead, I'm seeing a whole generation of ungrateful children rise up against their well-meaning parents. (Hmmm...I seem to recall that in a prophecy of Scripture.)
    It's a disgrace that I have a friend who was so grossly abused (chased with a gun on a regular basis, anyone?? Told how ugly she was...) who demonstrated honor and respect for that wicked father up until his death, having never even received an apology, and still continues to give him honor due a parent to this day. She is healthy because she refused to be a victim. Her children are healthy because she refused to be a victim. She didn't need counseling because she really understood grace and in extending grace to her abusive father, she was healed.
    Address abuse, yes! But address it in the only way it will bring healing (by teaching forgiveness of the abuser, despite their deserving of it). And distinguish, for mercy's sake, the difference in real abuse and a selfish, sin nature that wants to blame and be coddled.
    All the good that is being done here is being negated by the healthy families being torn apart and labeled as a "cult", and by the happy girls who will come here and fall victim to "being a victim" by the baiting of feelings.
    God can not be pleased when His people--faithful, loving parents, are falsely represented.
    All in grace, and pleading, and praying you have ears to hear.
Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for taking time to address what many others believe as well. In mulling a response, I've been a little uncertain how to structure my statements. Anything I say could be considered defensive or knee-jerk or, as others have suggested, influenced by humanistic or feministic thinking. This puts me in a tight place and I can only pray that the One who calls me will give me the words I need to speak. I know that nothing I say will sufficiently squelch concerns because the topics themselves are controversial by nature. But I believe that everyone, whether or not we all agree on issues, is created in God's image. If you are a Christian, then we are a brother or sister in Christ. Both of these things makes what you think important to me and I take your words seriously, even if after prayer and reflection my own convictions remain unaltered. 

I will make every effort to address the issues you've raised.
1) Regarding definitions of abuse, I've identified spiritual abuse here, and emotional abuse here. Yes there are abusive parents in every kind of family (and every religion) you can imagine. Unfortunately I can't focus on all of them, nor am I called to ~ although I can pray and try to reach out to the ones the Lord brings across my path. Thankfully He has established many who minister to various hurting families and who address different kinds of abuses. 

2) I'm not sure how to address these things in a manner that doesn't come across as "knee-jerk," although I realize that my saying "it's not" has no meaning or credibility to any who question. It has been well over ten years since I've experienced this environment on a daily basis, and my personal journey with the Lord has undergone a thorough revamping. I've approached not only this blog but my book and the people I've met with buckets of tears and prayers and much agony of heart and soul. If it weren't for the Lord's clear leading I would have given up long ago. These subjects are very serious; the only reason I'm able to keep going is because I am truly convinced this is God's path for me. I do hope He continues to refine, teach, and guide me. I want this to not be about me, or to glorify pain and abuse, but through exposing pain, heartache, and other issues point to the ultimate Healer and bring Him glory.

3) I don't know how much of my blog you've read, but there are many places where I've encouraged forgiveness and / or acknowledged the good intentions of our parents. (For examples, try here, here, here, and here.) I haven't once indicated that we are not sinners. But often daughters from patriarchal environments are so aware of their own sin that it becomes hard to even address the effects of others' sin  ~ they feel they deserve it. They feel unworthy to seek healing. My job isn't to be the Holy Spirit to these girls or anyone; it is His job to bring conviction. My prayer is that what I write exudes the fragrance of Christ. Sadly it hasn't always, and when it's brought to my attention I try to acknowledge it and make it right. I've left up some comments I'm ashamed of because it would be easy for me to delete them and brush away my insensitivies, but I'm not trying to paint a flawless picture of myself. 

4) Regarding grace for parents, I am sad that trying to address the hurtful effects of sin is automatically associated with a lack of grace. Here is something from my FAQ (written on behalf of myself and any contributors) and the position I take within my book:
What do you think about parents, pastors,Vision Forum, the Botkins, and the other ministries and organizations who promote reformed, Quiverfull or the patriocentric family?
Because only the Lord can see the heart, we do not feel it appropriate for us to assume critical attitudes towards the real people behind movements, ministries, organizations, churches, or within families. We acknowledge that many of these people are sincere in their efforts to do as they feel God has indicated, which includes taking a stand for or against specific religious or familial practices. We trust and pray that wherever they, and we, are in error, God will reveal it and lead us along a path of righteousness and humility. We trust and pray that He will reveal truth and healing to those affected, and endeavor to make restitution where we are responsible. We are all fallen, and yet all created in the image of God. Judgment belongs to Him.
You've said that you do not want to "assume critical attitudes towards people behind the movements, families, etc". But there are some very public faces promoting unbiblical teaching! How can you not point someone out and truly support the women they are hurting, directly or indirectly?
We try to address the teaching itself, and may on occasion use specific names to illustrate ideology in question. But our goal is to remain focused on aching souls and feel that for us, it would be a distraction to 'go after' those with whom we disagree or who perpetuate errant philosophy. In other words, it's nothing personal. To have a merciful heart towards those who promote hurtful teaching is not mutually exclusive to bringing awareness to said teaching and addressing the effects and wounds they cause. Again, it is try. There may be exceptions.
If there is anywhere that I've seemed ungrateful either to my own parents or promoted an environment of ungratefulness, please bring it to my attention. However I don't believe that adult children examining the fruits of sin, dysfunction, or the mistakes of others is equal to ungratefulness. I also don't believe it is appropriate to include a disclaimer to this effect within every article, for I respect my audience who are adults and if not all, most are Christians. I can't judge them on where they might be on their journey; true forgiveness takes time and many who have not been shown grace don't understand it. I hope, I pray, that perhaps through cultivating an environment of grace, others might begin to understand God's ~ and in His timing ,will begin to heal, blossom and grow. I will continue to examine what I write in this blog and try to be more sensitive to parents, although they are not the ones whom the Lord has directly called me to address. (If other parents are reading, please give me your feedback on this as well.)

5) The only place that I recall specifically discussing guarding a daughter's heart as it relates to patriarchy and emotional purity is in this post where I quoted a young woman and asked readers how this teaching affected them. So I'm not sure where I've insinuated or made "a blanket statement that those who do this are cultish."

6) You've mentioned cultish several times. Other than the three-part series I completed recently ~ out of  over a hundred other posts written in almost a year and a half ~ I have not dwelt on cultishness at all. I've mentioned that sometimes healing is similar to the recovery of those who exit cultic groups. So I guess I am a little confused why this is emphasized so heavily in your responses to me because while I stand by and wholeheartedly maintain that many families (and organizations) are cultic in nature and structure, this has not even been close to a primary focus.

7) Regarding the "self-indulged victim mentality": these are common terms that many use to disregard and dismiss real pain. Even if someone else's pain is not understood, is not valid in your eyes, or perhaps not even important to you, I beseech those who feel tempted to use them ~ please refrain. This isn't conducive to Christ-likeness or healing. Only the Lord knows the heart of each one involved. (Parents, children, readers alike.) But let's say that someone reading is perhaps self-indulgent, milking their pain for attention. How does an accusation of this draw them to the Lord? If you believe someone isn't sincere, please pray for them. The Holy Spirit can convict them and lead them into truth and wholeness.

8) You are right that there are many godly, gracious, balanced families who are quiverfull, patriarchal, etc. But they are not my audience. I will endeavor to use the term "patriocentric" more often to help distinguish. I'm not sure how to differentiate some of the others; I use "authoritarian" quite frequently in my book. However, it can also go the other way; some might hear "quiverfull" and automatically think "godly" when it is not always so. I will pray about what other terms I can use in my writing. I think the context is most important however, and those who read will understand, write for clarification, or perhaps the Lord will lead them to write something of their own. Regardless, the Lord knows the heart and if someone who has not been abused is "baited" to feel as though they have ~ which I hope never happens through anything I've written ~ the Lord knows the truth. He loves that person and can restore them. However I can't let fear be a reason to disobey Him. Even if I, hypothetically, were the Apostle Paul and my letters to churches were included in the Holy Scriptures, people would dispute, misread, misjudge, misinterpret, and attack what I write for thousands of years. As me, I must continue laying this before the Father and seek His wisdom.

9) You wrote: "It matters little "who your audience is" when you hurt these healthy families in the process." While I certainly don't want to hurt anyone, and think that perhaps this concern might not be  well-founded, Jesus said “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Mark 2:17 Although I realize I am far from being Christ, my service to Him is to try to portray, even if with broken hands and broken language, His heart. And who is reaching out to these precious girls whom He loves? Whom He wants to make well and reveal His love and grace? I wish there were a thousand others who could take up this cause, who would definitely be better equipped than I. I don't say this with false humility, but because everyday I see my own short-comings and sin and frailty. I see my weaknesses and limitations. I don't know why He called me to this, but I love Him and pray that He can somehow use my feeble words. I am nobody, and have no desire to change that. To be honest, I never even expected the audience I do have. He said "write" and I sat down in my pajamas and bed-head and puffy eyes and started typing. I would be absolutely disobedient to my Lord if I were to streamline my focus elsewhere. I certainly don't do this because it's easy or fun, although the Lord has sustained me and blessed me through it in many ways. The only thing I'd do differently is use a pseudonym from the beginning, but it's a little late for that and I trust that the Lord will continue taking care of me and those I love.

I've consistently requested that any readers don't take my words alone but to weigh them according to Scripture and seek the Holy Spirit for guidance. He will reveal truth to you. 

I will continue to try addressing concerns; please be patient with me as I am wrapping up my book. It goes into greater detail what I wish I could put here.

Edited to add: Here is the beginning of part one of the Cultic Family series in which I used the term "authoritarian" not "patriarchal." I bring up this difference because while some patriarchal families may be cultic, my own context in writing was authoritarian. There is a major difference, I believe. 
Life in an authoritarian environment causes many  women to experience severe emotional and spiritual stumbling blocks. Some of these include shame, fear, self-condemnation, difficulty trusting those in authority, knowing God, and understanding truth. Issues of the heart and spirit have been addressed at length, but of less renown are some of the physical effects caused by prolonged periods of extreme control. And in the context of a deeply religious family, when one is born and raised in such a milieu, the ramifications on flesh can be especially destructive.

Within high-demand groups, like cults, for instance, members often have what's known as a "pre-cult identity". Recovery requires  that one reconnects with the person they were prior to group involvement. In other words, remembering life before the cult enables ex-members to reestablish life on their own and heal from cultic abuse. SGAs ~ Second Generation Adults ~ are those from totalitarian groups who do not have a pre-cult identity to fall back on to aid recovery. Because those from cultic groups and adult children from authoritarian families have such similar living environments ~ physically, psychologically, and emotionally ~ we will look at both in this article.

When You Love a Daughter of Patriarchy

R ecently Lewis left this comment on Irony and a Broken Heart:
There is much I could say.
My former bride-to-be was heavily indoctrinated into the notion of "I don't give my heart away" and her father being her protector. She was/is in her mid 20s. The result was  a woman morbidly afraid of her own shadow emotionally, a woman who was continually laden with guilt about expressions of affection for me.


Her father is a very troubled man. What's he done with her, and her siblings, hasn't been done to look out for their best interests (as I believe it is done, perhaps misguidedly, in the case of many Christian parents). It was done to make up for his own personal deficiencies by exercising power over them.


That's the problem with this type of formulaic belief. There are no contingencies for situations where no father is availed or the father is lacking as a man of moral character. As one commenter noted, when faced with this kind of formula flaw, most who follow these formulas turn to the people who teach them so heartily to find their answers and don't rely on a personal understanding of the scriptures as revealed by the Holy Spirit, making the formula and those teaching it into idols.


I write from what is still very deep pain, so I apologize if it comes across as raw. My encounter with this belief has been the most hurtful and bizarre experience of my life.
I've received many notes from those who love the daughters of patriarchy ~ hopeful young men, heartbroken new husbands, aunts, mothers-in-law, concerned friends.* "How can I help my wife heal and grow?" writes Jeff. "We've been married seven months and I am just beginning to see how deep are the roots of her upbringing." Barbara worries about her niece: "She loves the Lord but every time He speaks to her, her father overrules it. She feels called to work in an orphanage but her dad says she shouldn't "abandon" her family. She is 25. How can I encourage her?" 

For those of you with loved ones entrenched within the Christian patriarchy movement, understand that this is particularly challenging because to God-fearing Christians, many elements of patriarchy look and sound biblically correct. And for those raised with these teachings, being "transformed by the renewing of your mind" is a difficult and lengthy process. So how can you help? Here are some practical suggestions for friends, family, husbands, and hopeful husbands-to-be of quivering daughters.

Pray.
I know that you continue to pray faithfully for the one you love. Don't give up. It's important to remember that as much as you love her, your heavenly Father loves her infinitely more. Trust Him with her, and do not lose heart. You are not in her life by accident, and while I don't know His exact purposes, this is your ministry.  This is true even if you are prevented from seeing her, talking to her, or sharing her life. Remember that "...if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God." (Acts 5)

There is a time to be silent.
Remember that your friend or beloved likely grew up, for all practical purposes, with her parents' voices louder in her life than God's. To heal, she needs to learn to hear the still small voice of the Lord. She needs to understand the Holy Spirit's guidance in her life. You can help. Every chance you get, point her to the Lord. He wants His voice known by her. Sometimes this might mean withholding your own, letting her hear from Him what is true. You are supporting her as she builds, or rebuilds, direct intimacy with her Maker. With love for Him and love for her, don't stand between her and Christ but be the one who hands her to Him, day after day.

Be safe.
Quivering daughters need at least one person in their life whom they can implicitly trust. Be a safe haven where she can finally, maybe for the first time in her life, figure out who she is, what she likes, what she needs. She needs to trust that you won't criticize her feelings, her thoughts, her ideas. Or blackmail her emotionally. Or love her only when she behaves, when she does what you want. She needs to know that even when she makes mistakes and sins against you, that you will love her and offer her the grace of Christ, all while helping her grow strong and become more like Him.

Trust God.
Don't be alarmed if your loved one questions her faith and what, if anything, she wants to do with Christianity. Some women feel as though God (or the Bible) is the bat used to beat them all their lives, and it can be very hard to trust Him after that ~ or to even like Him for that matter. Trust that God wants to be known by her. Healing takes time and patience. Let your wife or friend see your own faith, and don't push her towards religion. Let Him woo her in His timing, and in the meantime, be His hands, His heart.

Let her say no.
Many of our very first conversations revolve around no. Toddlers shriek "NO!" and parents sternly reply, "Don't tell me no!" But "no" is a necessary part of life. It helps establish limits that are healthy and this requires practice. Be a safe place to practice. Within patriarchy, most daughters learn that they are there for the psychological and emotional and physical use of others. Quiverfull daughters can feel like they are here only for religious reasons. When families abuse Jesus' teachings of service and run rampant with another's entire personhood, sometimes this requires us to go back to the basics. And this can mean a very firm, appropriate no. Let her have opinions, likes and dislikes, tastes, and preferences. Maybe she doesn't know what she likes. It might take trial and error to reach a healthy place, but if you are like our Rock, our Jesus who is steady, forgiving, and faithful, she will blossom.

Listen.
If she needs to tell you the same story 150 times, listen patiently 150 times.  Repetition is a vital part of healing. Respond to her with kindness. Let her know that she is valuable to you by being interested in what she says. This teaches her that she is important to you. It's likely that she has a lot of pain crammed away in  her heart, and if she gives you a little peek, even the same one over and over, view this as an honor. In time she will give you more and more. If she comes from a family where her thoughts and feelings were discouraged or many people clamored for attention, she needs to feel important to you, because in this way she will begin to see how important she is to God. And you can do this by being there for her and listening ~ ear to ear, heart to heart.

There is a time to speak.
Just as listening and repetition are important, so is knowing what and when to speak. If she says "Can you believe we did that in my family!" two hundred times, then two hundred times shake your head in disbelief and give your  version of, "Oh my goodness, sweetheart! That is terrible. I am so sorry that happened to you." This is validation which enables others take huge leaps in recovery. 
     Knowing when to speak "a word in season to him who is weary" helps breathe life to the soul. However, it's a delicate balance  knowing what and when to share what is on your heart.  Let the Spirit lead you. It can sometimes push others away to hear that what they believe is wrong. Let God stir in their hearts, and if they ask you, share what you believe. But to repeatedly tell a daughter that she is captive, that her family is wrong  and that she needs to do _____ can sometimes backfire. Many are conditioned to defend their families at all costs and to expect "persecution" from those who aren't likeminded. This is why it's so important to be a safe person. Let the Holy Spirit do His work in her life, and reflect His work in your own.

Let her be free.
Cultivate a Christ-like environment, whether it is as a friend, as a relative, or in your own home as husband to her, your wife. Show her the freedom that Christ has shown to you by giving her room to breathe. Many don't understand what this means and object, thinking it gives license to sin. But Jesus came to set the captives free. What about those who are captive emotionally? Mentally? It's not just about shackles of steel but shackles of heart and mind and soul. Encourage her to discover, perhaps for the first time, who He made her to be.

Don't rush her.
Many factors go into the healing process. It can be a hard, long road, but you are privileged to walk on it  with her in whatever capacity God has allowed. I can't promise that things will turn out the way you hope, but the love you have for your friend is given by God. Honor Him with your love by demonstrating the fruits of love. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Because of this love, don't tell her to "move on" or accuse her of not forgiving. She may be trying to sort through many things. Perhaps she has yet to forgive. Perhaps she needs to make things right. But be a safe person so that as she works through the pain, she can come to you for encouragement and for a shoulder to cry on.
_______________________

Please pray for Lewis and others like him. This is a challenging journey of faith for all involved, and sometimes when we feel desperate on behalf of others we try to hurry the process the only ways we know how. But try to let God do what He came to do: to redeem, to heal, and to restore. Like the child's song says, "He's got the whole world in His hands." And this includes the heart of the one you love.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
      So are My ways higher than your ways,
      And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

If you are a quivering daughter, how have others in your life helped you? Or how have they hurt? You can be anonymous if you like.

*Identifying details have been changed for privacy.

Gentle Wisdom for Daughters from Jocelyn Anderson

I n response to my recent post, Daughters in Waiting: Adult Daughters at Home,  I received this comment from Jocelyn Anderson. It's too good to keep buried away and I wanted to share it here. Thank you, Jocelyn, for stopping by and leaving words of wisdom  painfully gleaned from your own experience.
May I offer a brief perspective from one who recently lost a father to death? My father was a national hero, and he was my hero for a brief period when I was young. But by the last year of his life, we were very distanced from one another, both geographically and emotionally.
     I did not consider my father a good parent, but now that he is gone, the anguish of my heart is that I was not a good daughter. I had to admit, that when it came to my father, I did not acknowledge the Lord in all my ways so that He could direct my paths. And that was a painful fact for me to face. Dad was gone; there was no going back. I couldn't change a thing, and oh how I wanted to!
     I may be a bit emotional because the timing of your blog is just a few weeks short of the first anniversary of my father's death, and I still deal with my failures. His really don’t matter anymore. I had no idea how much I loved him until he was gone.
     Hind-sight is 20/20. And I know it is easier to think about what we should and could have done after our parents are gone than it is to deal with difficult parents while they are still alive.
     I don't know if I will ever see my father again. I have no idea where he was at with Christ. During his final days, the onset of dementia prevented any meaningful communication. "...it may seem like the "meantime" draws on for eternity," .... But trust me, in regards to our family relationship, eternity, unless they belong to Christ, only begins after they are gone.
~ Jocelyn Anderson

Daughters-in-Waiting: Adult Daughters at Home

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:28-31

Facing the truth about spiritual abuse and emotional abuse is hard, especially for daughters ~ even years after the fact. Years after we are safe, loved, and growing in the Lord. But what about when it isn't years after? When it's right now? Today?

An adult daughter's "role" at home

Once I assisted an instructor with an important project. He repeatedly criticized my work in front of other students, belittled me, and treated me with condescension to the point that others asked, often, "Why are you still helping him? Why do you put yourself under that?" Although the situation made me sick inside, I could only reply, "Because I am trying to be a good student. It's about who I am, not about who he is." 

When we try to do all things as unto the Lord, we aren't bound by the behavior of others. We can still treat them with integrity, respect, and honor because we are respectful. We are women with integrity. We are women of honor. We are women who love the Lord, and want to walk worthy of the calling with which He calls us. This includes our positions as friends, employees, students, wives, mothers, teachers, writers,  missionaries, doctors, hairstylists, chefs, and daughters.

If you are an adult daughter still living at home, you probably hear from "outsiders" that you need to move out, get a job, or go to school. But from those "likeminded", you hear that such ideas are worldly, unnecessary,  unbiblical, and that you need to remain under your father's headship until he transfers this authority to another man ~ specifically, your husband. In a future article I will address this issue in light of courtship and marriage, but today I want to talk about "the meantime."

For the adult daughter at home,  in the meantime . . .

"In the meantime" really does feel mean sometimes. For many adult daughters, it's the 'in-between' ~ your home education is complete, and normal family life continues to bustle around you, while you wonder what God has planned for your life. For some, it seems to stretch without end, without hope. The purpose of this article is not to devalue family life or to suggest that one way is better than the other, for truly, I can't say what you should do. Move out? Stay home?  Start a home business? Get a job? Take a class? Will a young man enter the picture? The options are overwhelming, especially in light of mixed messages and your own emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical struggles. I realize that many of you do these things already, but as you seek the Lord's will, may I humbly offer some encouragement?
  • Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:17-19)
While you wait upon the Lord, do everything within your power to be at peace with your family. Not to defend sinful actions, but to understand ~ it's hard for many parents to see their little girls grow up. They often react out of fear, pride, and other issues that they themselves might not realize. For some families, this might be a love of power and control. Or they may truly believe that you are going to hell and yearn to stop you. Ask God to give you compassion for your parents, brothers, and sisters, even when they react in an unChristian manner to your walking in obedience to the Lord's calling . 
  • But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:15-17)
Accusations, when unfounded, are violent words that break peace and sever relationships. Do everything you can to ensure that before the Lord, you live righteously and in love. Notice that even angels do not accuse the ultimate Accuser: Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9) Live your life in such a way that when others blame, scapegoat, revile, and accuse, their words are meaningless. The Lord knows the truth. Trust Him and rest in this.
  • but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Eph. 4:15-16)
As a Christian family, your parents are your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Sometimes we need to speak truth and exhortation unto them. However, we must do this with the goal of edification in love. This means that we must speak to them in ways that show kindness, gentleness, longsuffering, and humility ~ even when we are right. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;  for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19, 20) Unfortunately, you may not always be heard. Your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs might be ridiculed, criticized, and you might be cast aside. But hang onto the Lord, and Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Col. 4:6) Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Eph. 4:29) Perhaps you will help bring grace unto the graceless, and in so doing, so fulfill the law of Christ.
  • Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:5-7)
It is important to be clothed with humility, for like an old saying goes: "Make your words sweet, because someday you may have to eat them." But even more importantly, when we are humble we make ourselves like Christ. We need to understand that humility doesn't equal allowing your personhood to be maligned, but rather states the truth of who we are in Christ ~ both to yourself and to others. 
  • “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise:  “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Eph. 6:2-4)
Much literature is devoted to children obeying parents, and for adult children to honor parents. Unfortunately, not so much is written to parents who exasperate, provoke, discourage, or defraud their  children. However: the fact that one does not do their part does not excuse the other. Colossians 4:6 suggests how and why: And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. So for adult daughters, what does this look like? How can an adult daughter honor a parent who discourages her? Who exasperates her? Who perpetuates a lifestyle that quenches the work of the Holy Spirit in her life? Who provokes, defrauds, and stands between her and her Lord?

Honoring the dishonorable

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17,18)

Adult daughters who walk in obedience to God and who seek the Lord's will inevitably become faced with choices. Sometimes they can be confusing, especially in an authoritarian environment. The core of authoritarianism is self-seeking, and James says, But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (James 3:13-16) Coming into adulthood can be convoluted enough without adding authoritarianism, spiritual abuse, emotional abuse, and other stumbling blocks to the dynamic. Whether or not you are called to leave the home is between you and Father God, but choosing to respect the non-sinful wishes of another  person is an important fruit of wisdom, even when you are disrespected and mistreated in return.

Regardless of your living situation, remember that a parent is honored when you obey the Lord, even if it isn't in a manner they wish. A parent is honored when you love the Lord and stand up for righteousness. A parent is honored when you seek truth. When you put the Lord first in your life, your parents are honored, which means that when you take your eyes off your parents and place them on Jesus, this brings them honor.

I want to humbly offer a difficult but important reminder for adult daughters still living at home, who struggle with oppressiveness or depression, with trying to hear the still small voice of the Lord and to follow His commandments. Just as we respect the home of anyone we visit, even in things we think are unimportant, certain things must be honored while living under your parents' roof. A parent's sinfulness doesn't release us from God's commands to love others, to put others first, or to be kind ~ and these are things we can do wherever we are. But its another matter when your home is unsafe. If certain things make you contemplate death or destructive behaviors, please find someone safe, some place safe, and take steps to seek the healing life offered by Jesus. You can love others from a distance, if necessary. Even Paul knew when boundaries and separation were needed. (Acts 15:38-40) 

But if, for the moment, you are called to remain at home, rest knowing that He who sees a sparrow fall does not forget you ~ and is even now making "intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8)

Take heart; it may seem like the "meantime" draws on for eternity, but  trust God that He sees you and cares for you. Keep listening to His voice ~ whether He calls you to leave, or calls you to stay. He will make known His will for you. As you spend your time seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, seeking His will, purpose, and plan, He says "All these things will be added unto you." In the meantime, take care to remain above reproach;  "be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless." (2 Peter 3:14) Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13)
_____________________

In a recent sermon (view "God the Father" from 5/16, starting at 28:30), Pastor Ira Hall expounds upon Eph. 6:4 NASB: And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. He reminds us that "bring them up" means to rear them, to cherish, to train. Rearing, training, and cherishing as bringing up teaches others that they are valuable.  In Greek, discipline means "education, training, and correction." Instruction means "mild rebuke or warning." Col. 3:21  states, Fathers do not exasperate your children, so they will not lose heart. To exasperate is to provoke. The Greek word for "lose heart" means broken spirits. Essentially Paul is saying, "Don't break your child's spirit. Don't crush them." Fathers provoke by not providing cherishing training, mild rebuke, education or correction. "This is not the same as making your child mad," Hall says. "But they should never not feel cherished."

Irony and the Broken Heart

S ome friends and I discussed recently how often the patriarchy movement emphasizes emotional purity.  "Give us your hearts," parents urge. Courtship is better than dating, they affirm; one reason is so that a daughter's heart is kept safe and pure and whole. A young woman writes, 
"I love how my parents said to give them my heart so it would not end up broken, as it would if I gave it to a boy. However, my parents are so guilty of breaking my heart, they hold the record for the most times!!!"
I'd love to hear your thoughts. How has this teaching affected you ~ for good, for bad, or other? I hope to address this subject with more depth in the upcoming weeks.

For Quiverfull or Homeschooling Moms

When the Lord first placed Quivering Daughters on my heart, it troubled me that Quiverfull, homeschooling, or other conservative mothers might take offense to the idea that a dearly held lifestyle or belief system might be considered hurtful, in any way, to their daughters. While these beloved girls are not exclusively my audience (see: FAQ), I recognize that when mothers genuinely desire to live in a manner pleasing to the Lord and which glorifies Him in their homes, anytime someone addresses issues that implicate them, it's hard. 

For this reason, I am deeply thankful for Christian women who heed the Lord's call to minister to these dear mothers. While He has laid my path before me, tailoring my steps primarily to struggling, weary, hurting daughters of patriarchy, He's also provided similar paths to others who passionately encourage and minister to moms along the way. I'd love to introduce some of them, and if you know of others who bless, gently challenge, and inspire you, please leave them in the comments!

First, meet Karen Campbell of That Mom ~ Real Encouragement for Real Homeschool Moms. Her series Grace in Parenting is an excellent place to begin getting to know her and her heart for mothers.

Next, Taunya Henderson from Grace-full Living shares her journey from legalism to grace. As a homeschooling mom, she is passionate about truth and Jesus. 

Speaking of grace, one of my favorite writers, Ann Voskamp, shares her life as a gentle homeschooling mama of six.  She is a gift who gives gifts, abundantly, through inspirational whisperings and offerings on her site A Holy Experience.   Quite poignant for Mother's Day, please view A 10 Point Manifesto for Joyful Mothering.

Are you tired, weary, and frustrated? Mom of many ~ 10, to be precise ~ Virginia Knowles shares encouragement on her blog, Come, Weary Moms!

I hope that these lovely women bless you as you seek to follow Jesus in your parenting. As I continue to embrace the work that God has laid before me, you are cherished in my heart ~ especially because of the deep love I have for my own mom. May our heavenly Father shower you with wisdom and grace as you continue seeking Him within your family.

In honor of Mother's Day, please enjoy these lovely articles  . . .

For the childful and the childless by Tammy . . .
Spiritual Mothering ~ Nothing is Barren in the Spirit

A refreshing twist on the Proverbs 31 woman by Eric Pazdziora . . .
In Search of the Ideal Proverbs 31 Single Man

Reflecting on the mother of all living by Holley Gerth . . .
Eve's Daughters

How Does Jesus Love You? | Guest Post

How Does Jesus Love You? (Let me count the ways.)

by Eric M. Pazdziora 

The story goes that somebody once asked a great theologian—nobody’s quite sure which theologian, but so the story goes—what was the most profound doctrinal statement he had ever heard. The theologian thought for a moment and replied:
“Jesus loves me; this I know
For the Bible tells me so.”
We smile at the irony of a distinguished scholar singing a ditty for children. But I think he knew his stuff. Unless you become like a little child, after all, you won’t get into the kingdom of God. Out of the mouths of infants and babes, God has perfected praise. In those three little words we all sang as children is everything we really need to know: “Jesus loves me.”

Is the statement too simple? It might seem that way, especially if (like me) you learned those words just as soon as you were old enough to sing them. Like most simple truths, it’s easy to overlook it, to neglect it, to assume we know it and move along. But some things shouldn’t be overlooked—at least, not according to the Bible that tells us so. “This is My commandment,” said Jesus, “that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). “The life which I now live in the flesh,” wrote Paul, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). It’s even in the Bible’s most-quoted passage on marriage: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 2:25).

Jesus’ love for us is not just a simple truth for children, though it is that. It’s not just a comforting thought for when we’re feeling lonely, though it is that. It’s not even just a doctrinal proposition, though you can make it that if you like. If these verses are anything to go by, it’s nothing less than the foundation of everything to do with the Christian faith and the Christian life.

This leads to an obvious question, a question so obvious that I’m not surprised so few people think to ask it. How, exactly, does Christ love the church? What does the Bible mean when it says Jesus loves me?

It may be an obvious question to ask, but it’s not a trivial one to answer. The answer you give to it will do more to shape your life than anything else will. Or perhaps it’s that the shape of your life reveals the answer you’ve given to this question.

Maybe that’s part of the reason Jesus was so furiously opposed to spiritual abuse. When a Christian husband is domineering, harsh, or controlling toward his wife, it sends the message that that’s how Jesus treats the people He loves. When a pastor is legalistic, arrogant, browbeating, or manipulative toward his congregation, it sends the message that that’s how Jesus treats the people He leads. When a church leader withholds his approval until you’ve met his arbitrary standard, it sends the message that that’s how Jesus dispenses His love.

Is Jesus manipulative? Can Jesus’ love be earned? Does Jesus micromanage? Does Jesus demand perfection? Does Jesus use “love” as a tool to compel our servitude? Does Jesus withhold His love from those who aren’t good enough? Does Jesus force submission? Is Jesus harsh and authoritarian? Does Jesus reject those who don’t love Him enough?

I admit that if we looked for the answer to those questions in the way we’ve been treated by some people who called themselves Jesus’ followers, we might come up with an unflattering picture. (Trying to calculate from Christians in my own experience, I’d estimate two negative for every positive, evening out more lately.)

But that’s where the second line of the song comes in. It doesn’t say “Jesus loves me; this I know / for my pastor treats me so.” Or my parents, or my friends, or my employers, or anybody else. To see what Jesus’ love is like, we have to start with Jesus Himself, and the most reliable representation we have of Jesus is in the Bible. Once we know what Jesus’ love is really like, then (and only then) we can determine whether something else shows Jesus’ love correctly.

The minor difficulty here is that trying to find the parts of the Bible that talk about God’s love is a bit like trying to find the parts of Moby Dick that talk about whales. What parts don’t? And I can’t just go slapping all 1,189 chapters into one article or we’ll be here all month. It might be worth mentioning, though, that Jesus Himself advocated reading the whole Bible in just that way—looking for the truth about Him in every part. “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). You could do a lot worse than, whenever you read a passage of Scripture, asking yourself, “How can I see the love of Jesus here?”

There are some verses, though, where it’s especially easy to see.

Jesus’ love is real and knowable.
He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. (John 14:21)
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)
To people with a skeptical nature, this whole notion of the love of Jesus can seem to border on absurdity. I get that. It’s easy enough to appreciate where the skeptics and atheists are coming from on this one. There’s a person you can’t see, yet you’re certain He loves you? Isn’t that just having an imaginary friend?

I respect an honest skeptic. So does Jesus. He doesn’t propose what would surely turn off any doubting inquirer, a glib assertion that “you’ve just gotta have faith.” Instead, He asks us to observe a particular commandment: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12. This also explains the verse that trips up some readers: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” The commandment in question is not to practice legalism but to love others.)

If you try this, Jesus says, “I will manifest myself to [you].” In other words, if you want to see whether Jesus’ love is real, find out how His love is described and try loving other people that way. Then you’ll know—although, as Paul says in Ephesians, you will “know this love that surpasses knowledge.” There’s a lot more to it than knowing: it’s like the difference between knowing someone’s name and having them as a friend. Or, if you like, the difference between having an imaginary friend and having a real friend.

Jesus’ love is like the Father’s.
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. (John 15:9)
Some people give the impression that God the Father was itching to smite us with His wrath until Jesus stepped in and showed us some love instead. Those people are wrong. Jesus said He does nothing but what He sees the Father do (John 5:19). So anything that’s true of the love of Jesus for us is true of the love of His Father for us.

However, this declaration moves it to another dimension: Jesus said His love for His disciples—and therefore, the Father’s love for His disciples—was just like the Father’s love for Him. The Father’s love for His Son is eternal and unchangeable, a greater constant than the universe itself. It’s a part of His essential nature: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Jesus loves you exactly the same way.

Jesus’ love takes the form of a sacrifice.
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Ephesians 5:2)

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16)
Loving someone means wanting what’s best for them. Truly loving someone means giving up something voluntarily so they can get what’s best for them. It can’t be forced or manipulated by anyone else—real love makes sacrifice come naturally. The more someone truly loves, the more they freely sacrifice.

R. A. Torrey put it directly: “The love of Jesus Christ manifested itself in His giving Himself, laying down His life for us. His was a self-sacrificing love. The death of Christ was not the only sacrifice He made, but the crowning one. His whole life was a sacrifice, from the manger to the cross. His becoming man at all was a sacrifice of immeasurable greatness and meaning. (See Philippians 2:6-7.)” (What the Bible Teaches, ch. 4).

This shows that Jesus’ love won’t demand, compel, or manipulate. Jesus never says, “Well, now that I’ve given so much, it’s time for you to do something for me.” He follows His own commandment to “give, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35).

He just gives. He gives everything.

He gives Himself.

Jesus loves people when they don’t deserve it.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)
The greatest kind of love we can imagine (as Jesus said) is someone giving up their life for someone they love. We could probably picture ourselves trading our lives for somebody we love who loves us back—our child, our spouse, our best friend. But how about taking a bullet to save an enemy? Drowning to rescue somebody who hates you? Consider your mind staggered.

Sin, by definition, is an action that goes against God’s nature. Lies are sinful because God is the truth; adultery is sinful because God is faithful; resentment is sinful because God is forgiving, and so on. God hates sin because it puts us at odds with Him: our choice to sin makes us God’s enemies (compare Colossians 1:21, James 4:4). But God didn’t wait for us to turn our lives around, to become “good enough” to earn His love and approval.

Jesus died for us while we were His enemies.

If you have ever thought that you had to be good enough for Jesus to love you, or that Jesus would stop loving you if you did something bad, or that the better you were the more Jesus would love you, now would be an appropriate time for you to crumple that thought up and toss it in a wastebasket to hell.

Jesus’ love makes people pure and beautiful.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
Why did Jesus sacrifice Himself for us? We all know the Sunday School answer: “To take away our sins.” However, that doesn’t fully answer the question of “why”—it tells the result but not the motive.

What was His motive? He wants to make us pure and beautiful, like a bride in white. He wants to make us glorious, flawless, and spotless. He wants to show that He considers us beautiful and unique and special. He wants to take away anything that might make someone think otherwise. He wants us to be whole, and complete, and cleansed, and made new and lovely. He wants to celebrate us, delight in us, rejoice over us.

And that’s exactly what His sacrificial love for us accomplished.

By the way, that verse is written to tell Christian husbands how to treat their wives. So if you ever wanted to see one verse that singlehandedly demolishes the false teaching of Patriarchy—well, there you go. To Jesus, to love and lead means to serve and sacrifice.

Jesus’ love nourishes and cherishes.
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. (Ephesians 5:29)
This verse continues the previous thought, part of the same admonition to husbands. A godly husband applies the Golden Rule to his wife—he loves her as he loves himself. He nourishes her—he makes sure she has everything she needs to be healthy and grow. He cherishes her—he lets her know how special he thinks she is. He shows her every day that he’s thankful for the blessing of having her in his life. He encourages her and builds her up. He makes room for her to be vibrant and to flourish.

He got that idea from the way Jesus treats the church.

Jesus’ love lifts the lowly.
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
with the princes of their people. (Psalm 113:7-8)

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
God’s love for us is not from the top down but from the bottom up. Jesus didn’t wait for us to get our acts together; He got His hands dirty. The story of the Incarnation is the story of a king who laid aside His crown for the love of a beggar. Then, a beggar Himself, He gave the beggar He loved His crown and all His kingdom.

Jesus loves the neglected, the poor, the lowly, the outcasts, the overlooked, the untouchable. Jesus loves the disenfranchised, the misfits, the minorities, the friendless, the victims. He loves them so much that He came to earth and became one of them Himself.

Jesus was not ashamed of your lowliness; He made it His own. Jesus does not wait for you or anyone else to lift yourself up; He lifts you up. Jesus’ love doesn’t put us down in our places. It lifts us up to His place.

Jesus’ love is friendship.
No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
Jesus doesn’t just love you in a vacuous general sense, like a recorded message that says, “Your call is very important to us.” Jesus doesn’t just love you because He’s somehow obligated to. Jesus doesn’t just love you because He loves everybody as a collective group. Jesus loves you as an individual. More than that—Jesus likes you.

Jesus isn’t interested in having mindless servants who blindly obey. Jesus wants friends who will hang out with Him. Jesus wants friends He can talk with (His favorite topic, again, is His Father). Jesus thinks you’re the kind of person He’d like to get together with over coffee. Or, if you’re in England, tea.

Jesus’ love is constructive.
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19).
This verse may rub us the wrong way if we’ve been abused by authoritarian leaders. In reality, it shows us how Jesus finds a middle path between two extreme misunderstandings of discipline. A parent who destructively abuses and controls their child does not love that child as Jesus does, but neither does a parent who carelessly lets their child do whatever they please. Jesus instead gives us constructive training and guidance to help us develop into free and healthy individuals. As Paul put it, “The kindness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4, emphasis mine).

The fact that Jesus loves us does not guarantee that our life will be all flowers and sunshine and rainbows—often, quite the opposite. Jesus allows suffering and hardship in our lives to teach us and (sometimes) to correct us. It’s not that suffering always means we’ve done something wrong—though our actions do have consequences—but that it often gives us an opportunity to see our faults with a bit more clarity. (For instance, having to wait in a long line at the bank reveals to me that I’m woefully impatient.) That in turn gives us an opportunity to change and to become more enthusiastic about our walk with God.

Jesus’ discipline and training is not about controlling us but about helping us to grow. When Jesus points out our faults, weaknesses, or sins, it’s never to make us feel guilty or inferior but to get us to turn away from them and turn instead to His grace and the transforming love and power of His Spirit.

Jesus’ love is compassionate.
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice… (Isaiah 42:3)
If you’re bruised, or wounded, or hurting, it may seem like people want to cast you aside, throw you away, or (worst) make you think it was all your fault. What good is a bruised reed except to break and throw away? What good is a smoldering candle except to blow out? What good is a broken person except as a cautionary tale to avoid?

Not to Jesus. Jesus isn’t in the business of discarding things other people have broken. Jesus is in the business of finishing the good work He started. Jesus treats the bruised and broken things of the world with the tenderness they need to recover and return to life.

Jesus is all about resurrections.

Jesus’ love identifies with our suffering.
For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” (Romans 15:3)

In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 63:9)
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace for their convictions, the king who put them there was astonished to see a fourth man in the flames with them—one who looked like “the son of a god” (Daniel 3:25). Jesus does something infinitely better than keeping us from ever going through suffering and hardship. He experiences our suffering and hardship right along with us. He’s not just with us in our suffering, or even just “carrying us” like in the old “Footprints” poem, but actually experiencing our suffering as much as we are.

In His life on earth, Jesus experienced what it was to be hurt, abandoned, beaten up, misunderstood, mocked, laughed at, scorned, slapped, betrayed, tempted, and even seemingly forsaken by God. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus’ suffering absolved not only our sins but also our griefs and our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4). When someone insults you, hurts you, or abuses you, Jesus feels it too. He’s been there before, and He’s there with you now.

Jesus’ love is unilateral.
“We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Once in a while, it helps your interpretation if you look very closely at what the Bible doesn’t say. For instance, this verse doesn’t say, “We have to strive to love Him if we want Him to love us back.” It doesn’t say, “He loves us when we love Him and do our best to be well-behaved and attractive.” It definitely doesn’t say, “He won’t love us until we’re good enough.” You get the idea.

Lots of people like to use the phrase “unconditional love,” which is accurate as far as it goes—Jesus’ love comes with no strings attached. But the Bible goes even further than that phrase does. A friend of mine, a theologically minded woman, once suggested the phrase “unilateral love”: as far as Jesus is concerned, His love for us is entirely His idea and exclusively His initiative. I like the phrase.

Jesus’ love for us is the cause, and our love for Him is the effect. If you want to love Jesus more, don’t waste your time trying to strive or to do good things or to work up your passion and emotions. Just think about Jesus’ love for you, and how much He had to do with it, and how little (nothing) you had to do with it.

A little girl in London once asked her Sunday School teacher—his name was Mark Guy Pearse—how she could learn to love Jesus, since she didn’t. Pearse thought for a moment and replied, “Little girl, as you go away from here today, keep saying to yourself, ‘Jesus loves me,’ ‘Jesus loves me,’ and I believe you will come back next Sunday saying, ‘I love Jesus.’”

It worked.

Jesus’ love is invincible.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
(To be followed by the “Sevenfold Amen.”)

Conclusion: Abiding

Well then. In the words of a scholar who taught me many of the principles of applied hermeneutics and exegesis—“So what?” Was this all a pointless intellectual exercise, or does it make a difference to the life we’ll face on a Monday morning?

If you were expecting a list of things to do here, I’m going to have to disappoint you. The first thing Jesus tells us to do about His love is to stop doing things about it. His word of choice is “Abide”: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9). “Abide” means “Make yourself at home.” Stay, relax, hang out, take a load off, pull up a seat, put down roots; you can stay forever. Jesus wants us to live in His love.

What does it mean to live in Jesus’ love? It means you can know you will always have someone who loves you. As the psalmist sang, “Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up” (Psalm 27:10).

It means that you never have to worry about being good enough for Him to love you. Jesus loved you first. Your behavior had nothing to do with it either way. You don’t have anything to live up to. You’re already good enough.

It means you don’t have to worry whether you will be loved or not. You just have to know that you are loved, and that therefore you are worth loving. You can lose the worries of legalism, perfectionism, and authoritarianism. You can feel the freedom to love yourself. You can feel the security of being unconditionally loved.

If you still insist on doing something, there is one thing you can do: You can love other people the same way Jesus does. Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Of course, that’s impossible, except for one thing: abiding in Jesus’ love changes us and makes us more like Him. The more we see what Jesus’ love is, the more we become able to love that way ourselves. It’s not the kind of commandment you have to struggle to live up to; it’s the kind of commandment you grow into and live out.

One other thing. Don’t accept substitutes. Don’t believe the lies. Once you see what Jesus’ love is like, stay there. Don’t put any other person or place or idea in that place, especially not one that’s a lie. Nothing can separate you from Jesus’ love for you. Nothing can stop you from being loved forever.

Anything that says otherwise isn’t Jesus.
____________

Eric M. Pazdziora is a freelance composer, pianist, worship leader, author, and editor who works for a variety of publications and venues. He is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute with aB.Mus. in sacred music composition. Eric lives in Chicago with his beautiful wife Carrie and their spoiled cat Eloise. His writing and music can be found online at http://www.ericpazdziora.com.

Hope

Please visit Elizabeth Esther's blog for her monthly blog carnival! She invites you to leave a link to your most provocative or inspirational post from April . . . and also from March, so this means, yes, TWO links! Today, I revisit This Holy Wanting and The Cultic Family, part 1. 
 
While digging through Scripture  recently, I stumbled upon this passage and wanted to share it with you.
 And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I was not known to them.  I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers.  And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant.  Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.  And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the LORD.’”  So Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Go in, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the children of Israel go out of his land.” (Exodus 6:2-10)
We are even more blessed than the ancient forefathers of Israel, who did not know God as Lord! And this Lord had mercy upon those who were anguished and in bondage, who couldn't hear messages of hope, freedom, and redemption even when it was proclaimed to them ~ yet in His great lovingkindness, He still moved and acted on their behalf.  And in this manner He also foreshadowed the beautiful calling of our Lord Jesus who stood in the temple and revealed His mission:
. . . To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed . . .

He does this because of who He is. This is why there is hope, not only for us and our own struggles, burdens and brokenness . . . but there is hope also for the ones we love. He who brought the captives out of Egypt still sets captives free. "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." (John 8:36)