Finding True Justice and True Grace in a #MeToo #ChurchToo Culture

As we enter into this new climate of finding freedom from abuse that happened to us, let us not use this freedom as an opportunity to cause harm to others in the name of seeking justice.

Several times over the last ten years, I found myself in the city where the man who sexually abused me as a child lived. Most of the time I was terrified to accidentally run into him. Sometimes I became full of rage and fantasized seeing him at a gas station and attacking him. And other times I would get caught off guard by my grief and sit in my car weeping outside the hotel where I was staying.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, the myriad of emotions I experienced changed as naturally as the Texas sky in springtime. Sometimes I’d feel guilty about the complexity. Other times I wouldn’t.

I learned that each emotion had its place.

In March of this year, when I found out the man who abused me was never reported to law enforcement, a strong desire for justice gave me the extra courage I needed to walk forward. I felt validated knowing the criminal justice system would handle what the Southern Baptist Convention would not–and could not–handle. I felt a sweeping loss as my mental health suffered. I burned with indignation as this man, who already has taken so much of my life by his actions, consumed more: I lost sleep, I lost time with my daughter and my husband, and lost the easy joy I generally danced in.

There were parts of me that wanted to destroy him. There were parts of me that wanted to destroy myself.

And again, each emotion had its place.

As I worked with law enforcement, my detective encouraged me to not share the name of the man who abused me publicly until they had everything in order for the criminal case they’re working on. They understood this man’s current role and his access to vulnerable people, including children. Yet the benefits of not coming out with his name publicly outweighed the risks in regard to the integrity of the criminal investigation. I respected their wishes then and I respect them now.

Somehow this felt right and good and okay. Even though the only thing that remained between me exposing the man who did this to me was a “publish” button, I never had a total peace about sharing my story in such a public way, most likely because of the condition of my heart. Some people have gone public and done it in a way that glorifies God while respecting the criminal process. I would have shared out of a place of vengeance.

I’m glad I had a little extra space to reconsider going public because, for me, it was not the right choice to make.

have courage and be kind

Since I’ve been offline for most of the last two years, I guess I forgot how ruthless the voices on social media are…myself included. In the last month, since I shared my story online (without identifying my abuser), I’ve clicked on enough hashtags and read enough fodder to lose a little bit of faith in the world (and in myself).

Don’t mishear: there are some pretty awful people who have done some pretty awful things. Many well-respected men and women, especially within the SBC, have had their skeletons come out and be displayed for all the world to see.

In the court of public opinion, most are starting to pay a hefty price for their sins and for their crimes. I want to reiterate that the people who commit these horrid acts–and the ones who cover them up–are ultimately responsible for whatever consequences come their way.

But in all of this, there is something I just can’t get my spirit to shake off:

This court of public opinion–social media, newspapers, blogs–is not and should not be the final destination of justice. However, it seems as if most of us treat it as the highest court of all, damning those who have lied, cheated, stolen, raped, abused, and covered up to a man-made hell of Twitter firestorms, petty insults, unnecessary commentary, and misplaced desires to have the final word.

I understand as survivors of abuse we feel like we have no voice and now we can say whatever we want, when we want, to whomever we want. There is power in rediscovering our voice.

We cannot neglect our responsibility to be like Christ and we cannot evade the call to exercise wisdom with how we discuss these things, especially in public forums.

Justice and grace are not mutually exclusive.

Does the man who abused me, who stole so much of my life from me as a sixteen-year-old and over the last 22 years deserve the justice coming his way? Yes.

Does he deserve grace? No.

But here’s the thing: I don’t deserve that grace either.

I don’t write this in a self-deprecating manner.

I don’t intend to minimize what has happened to me or to the countless number of women and men, boys and girls, who have been abused in the worst possible ways, and in the name of Jesus.

The humbling reality we are faced with in this and in every part of our life is the very basic tenet of the Gospel: God so loved the world that He gave his only son to die for my sins, for your sins, and for the sins of the man who abused me.

This includes his sin of abusing me.

It is a grace none of us deserve but all of us can freely receive.

I’m afraid that the beauty of this grace is being buried alive by the permission we now have to speak freely. Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and in our attempt to bring the light into darkness, we are inadvertently suffocating out the Life the world needs to survive.

As we enter into this new climate of finding freedom from abuse that happened to us, let us not use this freedom as an opportunity to cause harm to others in the name of seeking justice.

Let us recognize the same God who sought us out and asked us, “Where are you?” seeks out all of us, even the criminals hanging on the cross.

When reconciliation plays out here on earth, may we remember the love of God that has reconciled us is also available to those who have hurt us.

May we give thanks that all of our brokenness is healed through the same holy man on the same holy cross. This man is near to us when we are brokenhearted and he is near to those who have hurt us when they are brokenhearted. He grieves for us when we are far from Him and he grieves for the world when they are far from him.

As justice begins to shine like the noon-day sun, may our hearts also shine with hope and grace for ourselves, for others, and for the world to come.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

 

A Letter to My Daughter on My Darkest, Brightest Night

Mama and Charlotte

(Would you consider helping me pay for my hospital stay? You can do that here.)

Dear Baby Girl,

First, you’re not really much of a baby now, are you? I can’t believe you’re almost two years old. So big, yet so small. So fiercely loving even though you don’t even know how big of a heart you have or how much this world needs it.

Even though we’ll talk about it when you’re older, I wanted to write a few things down while I was living them live, in real time.

Last night when I put you down in your bed, prayed our prayer, and stepped out of the room, I started weeping because it was the last time I will get to see your face for the next month. Those closest to me know the heartbreak that comes in saying goodbye, even when it’s for a good thing. I’m afraid my absence will damage your heart or your mind. I’m afraid you will think I am gone forever. Or that I left you and don’t love you. Or that you did something wrong to make me leave.

My girl, none of those things are true.

Ever since the moment I knew you existed inside me, since the day when your dad and I saw your jumping tadpole body on the ultrasound, I have loved you with a love that only grows stronger with each day. The amount of gratitude I have for you feels like taking a deep breath of the purest oxygen and I feel my chest rise with gladness, the molecules of thankfulness penetrating each one of my cells.

It seems you grow up every night we put you to bed and you’re impossibly more beautiful, more lovely, more smart, more curious, and more surprising than the day you were born. I don’t know how this is possible, but with close to 22 months under our belt, it’s safe to say the research has been consistent.

Fear consumes me when I think about what could happen to you out in the world, whether by accident or on purpose. Part of me (most of me) dreams of a world where you do not fight the mental demons your father and I fight. That you trust fully but wisely. That no harm falls on you. That your heart never breaks.

Even if, baby, even if…

  • If your brain tells you lies, you’ll know the truth.
  • If someone breaks your trust, it won’t break you.
  • If harm falls on you, it won’t bury you deep.
  • If your heart breaks, it won’t always bleed.

And should you feel like the lies, the breaking, the burying, and the bleeding become too much, look all around you because you are so loved. Ask for help when you need it and you’ll have an army already by your side.

So, my sweetest girl, I want you to know that it’s all worth fighting for.

That’s why I’m gone for now.

I’m out fighting for me, for you, and in a way, for others so that maybe I can be hope to them too.

  • My brain tells me lies, so I’m fighting for the truth.
  • Someone broke my trust I’m fighting to be made new.
  • Harm fell on me so I’m fighting out of the heap.
  • My heart is broken and I’m fighting to be free.

I love you, baby. I love you.

Mama

(Would you consider helping me pay for my hospital stay? You can do that here.)

Statement on Abuse in the Church

I only break my social media silence for very important things. With the spotlight on the SBC and abuses of all kinds, I can’t stay silent. People within the church and within the SBC have sexually and emotionally abused me and many I love. The cover-ups by the church and the SBC specifically further perpetuate this abuse.

If you have been abused by anyone, report it to authorities in law enforcement. Do NOT go to your church to report abuse in an effort to “keep the peace.” Go to the authorities. It is not the church’s job to investigate and penalize criminals. It is not man’s duty to protect the church. God can do that just fine on his own. He has his work cut out for him and it could only take God to bring good out of the egocentric tarnishing that continues to happen as people use his name for their own advances and to cover up their fears of being found out for what we all are—human—and for what some are—criminal. Being human is not a mistake.

Being a criminal is and criminals need to be held accountable for their crimes.

How Do You Begin the End?

This is my final post.

It’s been a year or so since I took a break from the Interwebs–away from writing online, from traveling and speaking, from Tweeting and Facebooking and Snapchatting and the like. Pregnancy was such a lovely season, and truly a miracle. Our baby girl was born perfectly happy and healthy in July 2016. She’s almost 10 months old now, trying to scoot around the house on her bottom (unsuccessfully), with 8 teeth she definitely earned the right to show off. She’s coming into her own, a little drama queen human who I can’t believe just a year ago was the size of a cantaloupe, tucked away in utero, kicking my bladder, my kidneys, and everything in between.

When I was in high school, I wanted to get a Ph.D. in psychology and become a doctor of sorts, a clinical psychologist. Life didn’t head down that road like I expected, and instead, I ended up working at churches, writing a few books, and traveling all over the world to share stories. In 2010, after my divorce, I considered going to medical school but knew I would likely have to sacrifice having a family to start a career in medicine at the age of 30. Three years later, I met and married my dear husband Tim. Medicine as a career was still ever on my mind, but there were books to write and events to speak at. Then sweet baby girl came along.

When my most recent book released a year ago, I had a feeling it would be the last. I was still under contract to write another one with Baker, but nothing surfaced in my heart that I had to write about. I waited, they waited, and still, nothing came.

Why put more words out into the world that’s overwhelmed by words, when nothing needs to be said?

I graciously asked if I could exit my contract and they graciously agreed.

The season of life when I am an author, a speaker, a blogger–the season when I knew something needed to be said and I was sure I was the one to say it–is over. There have been moments of grief, of saying goodbye, but overall, it has been the most peaceful, sure, and easiest transition I’ve ever made.

I’m heading into a new season now, and have been for a while. I’m back in school working toward a B.S. degree in Health Sciences, either to become a Registered Dietitian or Diabetes Educator. I hope to focus on pediatric nutrition and family education. I realize that’s pretty far off from where I started ten years ago, but I think I needed to learn more about God, about people, and about myself to end up here. We’re back in Dallas, surrounded by family. Tim’s working in videography and I split my time between school and serving in patient care at a hospital as a technician, and as a nutrition consultant/Associate Certified Diabetes Educator.

I’m thrilled. It’s not perfect, but it’s bliss. And I have to say: there is a freedom in ending a career in professional Christendom.

Thank you.

Thank you for allowing me to speak into your life over the last twelve (!!) years of blogging. Thank you for encouraging me, supporting me, buying books, giving literally millions of dollars to very worthy organizations. Thank you for sponsoring Compassion kids, for praying for me, for us, and sharing your stories.

There’s a commonly asked question: If you had to say one thing, to leave people with one thought, what would it be? 

I’d have to say this:

  • It’s okay to not be okay.
  • It’s okay to be different, to not fit in.
  • It’s okay to quit and begin again (and again and again and again).
  • You are worth so much more than you could ever imagine in your wildest dreams.
  • Sometimes the quietest lives love the loudest.

I guess that’s five things, so I’ll ask for your forgiveness and thank you for humoring me one last time.

It’s been a gift. You’ve been a gift. You are a gift.

With love,
Anne Marie Miller

The Miracle of Patience: A Letter to Our First Child

Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington

Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington

Dearest One,

Your conception was a miracle. Ten months after our first miscarriage, six months after our second, and one week after I was simultaneously searching for a surgeon to perform a radical hysterectomy while being prayed over by friends and strangers because of a debilitating condition that affected my fertility, you were conceived.

It shouldn’t have even happened then. I ovulated a week early from an ovary that had no fallopian tube connecting it to my womb. But somehow, in some way, the other tube found you floating around, swept you up, and planted you into my innermost part.

Five weeks later, I was so tired, exhausted by an unmistakable fatigue I have only experienced twice in my life–once ten months before and once four months after that. Could it be? Could I be?

My cycle was a week late, so the next time I was at the market, I picked up a box of two tests. It was on sale and cheaper than the single. I followed the instructions. Waited two minutes. Only one line appeared. I wasn’t pregnant.

The tiredness continued throughout the week, but I chalked it up to Thanksgiving festivities and the new cold weather and grey skies. I woke up on Black Friday with the sun, and made my way to the guest bath, as not to disturb my sleeping husband (or the two dogs, who would start howling for the breakfast).

In a basket next to the sink, I saw the second test. Would five days make a difference? I gave in to the white, plastic temptation. Followed the instructions. Waited two minutes.

Two. Lines.

Immediately, two bold lines.

Just five days beforehand, I told Tim that I wasn’t pregnant, and our lives went on as normal. But now?

I went back into the bedroom and quietly sat by him with the test. I showed him. We held each other, dogs vying for our attention, unaware of the angels who were undoubtedly rejoicing with us.

A blood test and ultrasound first showed you–well, the small, almond-sized sac you were living in. We couldn’t see you just yet. A few weeks went by, and we first saw your plump head and your flickering heartbeat.

Now, here we are a third of the way in our journey to meeting you. I wish I could say the miracle of you was enough to remind me to be joyful and grateful at all times (as it should be), but I have not been the perfect carrier of life. I’ve been angry when I’m sick, or tired, or in pain. I’ve been upset at the way all the changing hormones in my body cause strange things to happen. Now that my old pants don’t fit and my body is slowly growing into something I don’t recognize, it’s been hard for my broken mind to adjust.

It’s almost like you know when I need a reminder. Just the other night after poking on my unfamiliar rounding belly, you leapt in my womb. It was such a strange and lovely feeling; a feeling I know will become normal over time. And soon, you’ll enter the world, and you will yawn and cry and pee and poop and spit up all over everything. And you will wrap your tiny fingers around one of mine or one of Tim’s. And you’ll change before our eyes and we won’t be able to remember every headache, cramp, or sleepless night.

Your presence is teaching me a patience far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. In a world where I can get almost anything I need or want almost instantly, nine months seems like a terribly long time to wait for something. At times, it seems like July is an eternity away. But with each slow moment that passes, my mind is as equally slow to change to cherish every moment with you now–every non-repeated, hard, holy moment. It is a rhythm of grace I am happy to relinquish my fast, predictable pace to.

As a Christian for almost 36 years, I’ve been well versed in the miracle of the birth of Jesus. How a small, humble baby came to change the world; how he came to change me.

Sweet child, you are a miracle to me. You are changing me, silently now. As your fingernails form and your legs lengthen, my heart is reforming and my hope lengthens.

Sweet child, yes, I can’t wait to meet you. But I’m perfectly thankful for where you are now.

 

When God Gives You a Miracle

Even if God has given me a miracle only for today, it is a miracle nonetheless.

Image Credit: Godaya Komen

I’ve always struggled with faith.

Not my belief in God (though sometimes, I have).

But my belief in what God can do.

And more specifically, what God can do in and through me.

I’m a pragmatist, even as emotional as I can be. I’m rational. I’m realistic.

In regard to healing, I’ve seen God heal others of much, and me of much.

I’ve also seen Him not heal, at least in the way people prayed. (True, they were “healed the other side of heaven,” but sometimes things just don’t make sense on this side.)

For twenty years, I’ve battled a painful fight with endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. It sounds weird, but essentially once a month, this tissue causes much inflammation, lesions, bleeding, and curl-up-in-a-ball-and-cry kinds of pain. It affects fertility and when it’s happening, I’m essentially useless for two or three days. It hurts to walk. To eat. To watch TV.

I’ve had surgery to have it removed, but as long as there are hormones in my body, it will always come back. The only true “cure” is a radical hysterectomy, removing all reproductive parts, and staying off estrogen therapy, which causes early, surgical menopause – a much faster, more intense process than the normal “change of life.”

It would also mean ending any chance Tim and I have of biologically conceiving our own baby, without going to extreme measures.

Sunday night and into Monday, it felt like a fire was ripping through my abdomen, down my legs, up to my shoulders, into my knees. Tim and I were supposed to go to a movie premiere for a movie about healing, Holy Ghost Reborn​, but thought it would be best if I stayed home instead and he went.

I started looking for an OBGYN in Iowa to discuss options, including a radical hysterectomy. I fell asleep. I woke up and asked Tim if they had started praying after the movie yet, and if not, if he could go up there to pray with someone about this.

As my text made it through to him, he was already on his way for prayer.

A woman named Anne (yep), met him in the front and asked what she could pray for. He explained our situation.

The other Anne also suffered from endometriosis.

The other Anne said my faith has made me well (important to note: this was also the passage we studied at church on Sunday, which I shouldn’t have heard because I was supposed to work in the nursery, but someone else really wanted to work in there instead, so I was able to be in the service).

The other Anne said we’d have many kids (I’m hoping not any more fur babies; two dogs are enough, thanks).

And when I received the texts from Tim telling me this, I began weeping in bed, still grieving the miscarriages from this year, afraid that it could be true, that I could be healed, afraid that it wasn’t true, that I could not be healed.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 11.48.17 AM

Because God doesn’t always heal people like we think.

Tim got home, told me to put my jeans back on and believe the T-shirt I was wearing. “What t-shirt?” I had dressed for bed in the dark. I looked down and was wearing the “Jesus Loves You” t-shirt Tim’s friend made. We were going to go back to the movie theatre and get more prayer.

A few minutes later, we pulled in.

Nobody was there.

My Doubting Thomas said, “See? see? This healing isn’t for you!”

Tim calls our pastor, Dan.

“Can you guys pray over Anne?”

Ten minutes later, late at night, we arrived at Dan’s house. I waddled in, hunched over in pain, still crying, still confused, still angry, still grieving, and still hopeful. I was honest. I said I don’t believe God always heals, so I should have no right to expect it. I don’t want to get my hopes up and be let down. My faith is already so small.

Dan and his wife Sarah prayed over us. My body felt numb and I didn’t know why. Pain meds? All the crying and emotions and it was late? An hour later we walked out, exhausted. I went straight to bed when we got home, my eyes swollen and painful from crying.

I slept through the night, only rising when a dog kicked me in the ribs. My eyes were still sore, but I wandered into the kitchen for some water. Looking out the window, over the bluffs and allowing my eyes adjust to the new light of day, I realized something.

I felt…different.

I wasn’t in pain.

If you know anything about endometriosis, the pain doesn’t just suddenly stop, especially in the middle of an episode. It may lessen or come and go, but it doesn’t stop.

But more than the lack of pain, something in my heart–that hole that was left by knowing how broken my insides are–the grief that has been weighing on me for most of this year…it was gone.

It was removed.

I tiptoed around the apartment getting ready to run to the grocery store, afraid if I made too much noise, somehow the pain, both the physical and emotional pain, would wake up and come back.

But it didn’t.

I told friends who were praying for me, fighting for me, waging war in the heavens for me, what happened. I confessed to Sarah my fear that it was surreal, and reality would set in soon. She wrote back:

“There was an old African village lady God healed in the movie, a witch doctor, but she did not smile. The guy explained that the older generation always had a saying…’don’t smile today because tomorrow you will cry.’

The pastor that healed her (who had a crazy story) said, ‘I smile today because I don’t care about tomorrow!’ Meaning he was thankful for the miracles today held, and he fully trusted God for whatever tomorrow held. Eventually they got this old lady who had been healed to smile and even dance. It was precious. Enjoy your miracle today!”

Do I know what will happen tomorrow? At this time next month? In a year? Will I have a baby, or a radical hysterectomy? Will I be sidelined with pain or dancing in new healing?

I don’t.

But as my friend Sarah says, I will enjoy my miracle today.

After I returned from the grocery store, Tim asked how I felt. Being a non-verbal processor, I wasn’t quite sure how to put into words what happened. Honestly? A part of me was afraid to say, “I think I’m healed.” But the words slowly made it out of my mouth.

He sat in the orange chair across from the sectional, ADD getting the best of him, and while celebrating with me, noticed a weird reflection on our ceiling.

“What’s that reflection coming from?” I looked up and saw some red.

“Oh, it’s probably that red bottle on the window sill.”

He moved it, the reflection didn’t change.

“Are you kidding me? Look how big it is!” A full array of colors, a rainbow, displayed over me on the ceiling. Tim looked out the window and noticed the sunrise was shining on a No Parking sign down on the street, five floors down.

The sign was reflecting that rainbow all the way into our apartment window, directly over me, at that very moment.

“It’s God’s promise to you.” Tim said.

This does not feel normal to me. It does not feel comfortable. The devil and the angel on my shoulders are still playing a game of tug-of-war. But I have been surrounded by prayer, covered in promises, and so I will walk in faith. I will take up my mat and tell, I will sing, I will dance, and I will smile about what God has done.

Even if God has given me a miracle only for today, it is a miracle nonetheless.

And to Him be the glory for the things He has done.

To All The Mothers Who Will Never Hold Their Babies on Mother’s Day

mothers-day-for-childless-anne-marie-miller

mothers-day-for-childless-anne-marie-miller

It’s really quite odd and blessed, the duality of joy and grief.

A few weeks ago, Tim and I experienced a new type of happiness for us…a new kind of joy. I woke up early on a Wednesday morning with the strong urge to take a pregnancy test, even though I wasn’t late for my cycle.

Five pregnancy tests later (I may be a little compulsive), we learned we were going to be parents.

Everything seemed complete and right. We fell in love with the poppy-seed-sized clump of baby whose DNA was being written with each passing day. We celebrated with our friends, our family, our students.

We met with our fertility doctor and some test results came back uncertain, but not concerning. I needed to start incorporating hormone therapy and that would increase my progesterone, giving the poppy seed a nice home in which to start growing. Within a few days, those levels went up to exactly what they needed to be. My HCG, however, wasn’t climbing as quickly as it should. We were told to watch for pain or symptoms that would indicate we needed to pay closer attention during these very sensitive first months.

The following Friday night around midnight, I awoke to pain. The pain that says, “Something isn’t right.” Being a classic hypochondriac (and at this moment, by the grace of God, a fairly reasonable one), I forced myself back to sleep telling myself, “It’s probably indigestion. Don’t worry. If you still feel this way in the morning, you can always get it checked out then.” I fell back asleep.

Saturday morning, the pain was worse. Tim said we needed to go to the hospital, and at this point, I knew something was wrong. However, I procrastinated. I told him, “The longer I just lie here in bed, everything is normal. The moment we get to the hospital, it could all be over.”

I wasn’t willing to accept this.

We arrived to the emergency room and said exactly what our fertility doctor said to say. A few blood tests later and the ER doctor walks in, sits down next to me, holds my hand and says, “At this point, it’s clear you have an ectopic pregnancy and you’re starting to miscarry. I’m sorry.”

He left, and Tim came over and reached around the bed rail, holding me. We both wept at the life inside me that was on its way to being born inside of heaven. We would not get to hold this baby in our arms or put this child to sleep in his or her crib. There would be no diaper blow outs, no baby showers, no ringing in the new year as a family of three.

The faith that came so easily was hard to grasp hold of as it floated away with our dream.

We went home, exhausted, making tearful calls to family and a few friends as we were unsure of the next steps. Hours later, our fertility doctor calls and says we need to meet her at the hospital at 7 pm. She needed to remove my left fallopian tube and the 200ccs of blood that drained into my abdomen from my tube’s slow rupture.

Returning to the emergency room, we saw familiar faces dressed in blue scrubs from that morning, each knowing what happened. With hugs and condolences from strangers, I was given some pain medication and wheeled back to the surgical holding area. Nobody else was having surgery Saturday night (they were probably eating and drinking and being merry), so it was only a matter of minutes before the anesthesiologists and nurses prepared me for my second reproductive surgery in the last year.

I drifted off into an hour-long sleep, waking up to kind words from a smiling nurse. Tim came in shortly after speaking to our doctor, confirming everything she suspected: the baby implanted in my left fallopian tube, caused it to start rupturing, and our doctor was able to safely remove my tube, and the blood, and I would be fine.

But define the word, “fine”… would you?

I stayed in the hospital overnight with Tim next to me. A first-rate medical team insured I was physically comfortable, and messages from friends and family helped ease the emotional pain.

In some drug-induced blur, I recalled how strange it was that I even took a pregnancy test that Wednesday morning. I had no reason to. I wasn’t late and I didn’t feel “pregnant” (whatever that means). However, if I wouldn’t have taken those tests and seen our fertility doctor, I likely would have written off the cramps I felt as normal cramps and the bleeding I had as a normal cycle.

I didn’t realize the severity of my symptoms and likely wouldn’t have until I lost so much blood I passed out. But because of that urge to take that first pregnancy test and the relationship we established with our fertility doctor, I was safe and healthy.

Even though our baby passed away and woke up on the other side of eternity, that doesn’t change the fact that Tim and I are still parents. Before the world was made, God knew this baby would exist. Somehow everything worked together perfectly and this baby formed.

We were able to be a mom and a dad to this little human for only a few weeks, and life is life, even when it finds itself removed from this earth.

The peace that wrapped us up before we knew anything was wrong still holds us, in spite of the grief we feel from the loss. Knowing that God knew this child since the beginning of time and knows each of us and has gone before us and sees the plan He has created for us gives us great cause to rejoice as we mourn.

It’s natural to feel as if two seemingly opposing forces can’t co-exist, like joyfulness and grief. But because they can, and they do, we know it is only because of His grace that miracles like this happen and we experience both joy and grief in their entirety, in chorus.

I never realized the tension of Mother’s Day when you’ve lost a child; I always heard it, but I didn’t understand. Now, in a poppy-seed-sized way, I do. So, if you are missing your own child, regardless of how or when he or she departed, know you are not alone, and I wish you the most honest of Mother’s Days. Nothing will ever change the fact that you are a mother.

Why All The “Modesty Conversations” Miss The Point

Last summer, the feeds in my various social media channels blew up with articles on modesty.

How low is too low when it comes to necklines? One piece or two piece swimsuits (or, the generally-church-camp-approved tankini?) Spaghetti straps, tanks, or sleeveless? AND THE PLIGHT OF THE YOGA PANTS (oh, but it’s okay if your butt is covered!)

And then articles followed on what Paul meant when he spoke of modesty (more of a financial context), how men (and women) are responsible for their thoughts and actions (pluck out your eye, sinner! it’s not my fault you can’t look at me without seeing me as an object!) and how culture plays into what we consider “modest” even means.

The summer heat is upon us once again, as are all these conversations on modesty. In a mindless and brief skimming down my Facebook feed Sunday night, I’m fairly certain I saw more posts on modesty (and satirical ones at that) than I did the World Cup.

(What has this country come to? Come on, y’all. It’s the World Cup!)

The arguments were all the same, men and women pitted against the other team, one side crying “FREEDOM” and the other crying “RESPONSIBILITY!”

…as if these two are mutually exclusive?

This is not a post on whether or not your bikini will make Jesus mad or cause a man to lust after you. This is not a cultural dissection of contextual modesty. I’ve been to almost every continent and have seen completely covered and completely bare, depending on the culture. I understand how it works.

This is a post on why most of the conversations I’ve read on modesty – regardless of the point someone is trying to make – are, in fact, well…missing the point.

There is something more at stake than your clothing choices. 

And that thing is community.

It is another person, another flesh-on-spirit, imago dei.

It is your family, your brother or sister given with a Holy being, intertwined with your own.

***

BUT FREEDOM!

Paul talks about freedom in Christ. A death on a cross gives us freedom to live. I hear cries of “I am not responsible if someone sins because of the way I am dressed!” And you are not. To a point. You do have freedom. And I think the greatest freedom is to choose to say no to your freedom for the sake of another person.

We hear “Don’t dress to make a man like you. Don’t dress to make a woman like you. Dress to make you like you.”

That, my friend, is not freedom.

Let’s call it for what it is: entitlement. Many of us feel entitled to do what we want, to wear what we want, and to behave how we want to behave. Loving another is not about how we feel or even embracing our freedom.

True freedom is laying down your life for another.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:3)

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BUT REALLY, PEOPLE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN THOUGHTS! I COULD WEAR A MUMU AND BE A “STUMBLING BLOCK!”

Yes. People are accountable for their own actions. You could wear a mumu and someone may undress that mumu right off you. I am not minimizing the responsibility we all have for our decisions to act against what we know is true and right and lovely.

“Well, if I walked into a McDonald’s and ate 70 Big Macs, I’m responsible for that, not McDonald’s.”

You’re right. But McDonald’s was not created in the image of God.

You were. And so is your neighbor.

We say someone else should take responsibility to not sin & we have freedom to do as we please. True. But let’s take this a step further. 

Maybe we should take responsibility for another so they can have freedom instead of struggle.

The truth is we are responsible for one another. We are not to judge or criticize people for thinking or acting differently than we do where there is freedom, but we are also to encourage others to be holy, not condemn them to it.

There is not love in telling a man or woman to suck it up and deal with their lust problem so we can dress how we please.

***

There is a picture here larger than the conversation of modesty. We are believers warring against each other under the name of freedom and waving the flags of entitlement. This idea can be copied and pasted over so many areas – alcohol, food, fill-in-the-blank.

My fear is we get so wrapped up in our freedom that we can’t show love – true, sacrificial love – for each other.

And when the world reads our passionate war words, they don’t see the love of Christ we are to love each other with, which is what our ultimate charge is.

“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law” (Romans 13:8)