#95 Read the Bible

Additionally, because of its contribution to the culture at large, it helps us to comprehend embedded nuances. The bible is filled with lots of practicality about life.  

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#95

Read the Bible

If you are a Christian, you’ve probably already done this. If not, scholars around the globe have spoken about the rich value of the bible as literature and it may be a book you want to read. It is rich in history and parables. It is full of life advice and insight about the human condition.

For No Other Reason

Perhaps for no other reason, the objective of reading the bible is to understand the call and drive of the Christian community; a significant percentage of the world. Additionally, because of its contribution to the culture at large, it helps us to comprehend embedded nuances. The bible is filled with lots of practicality about life.  For example:

In the New Testament, James writes… “my dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

At the end of the day, that’s just good advice – believer or not.

Sacred Text

The bible is the world’s most recognized sacred text. It’s a historical document. If you remove any emotion one may feel about it’s ‘religious’ attachment – there is great value in seeing it as a great antique; responsible for much of the governing history across time. It may help in understanding the development of other cultures. It is the foundation of Western Art.

Christians

Of course, if you are a Christian – then you may see the bible as a literal interpretation of the Word of God and for that reason, the bible is a textbook for living life as a Christian. Years ago, someone recommended that we may find value in reading the bible ourselves – from cover to cover and then… attend a bible study group to dive more deeply into various chapters and stories.

If you are seeking a new book – a historical account that covers thousands of years and proves to be a sociological overview of cultural development and idiosyncrasies, then there is only one option…

Read the Bible.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

The Status Quo

Unfortunately, under all of the positive, there ran a constant current of sexual discourse that had been present since the beginning.

“One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything’s fine today, that is our illusion” ― Voltaire

Francis started seventh grade and we enrolled Sara in a preschool program close to home. The teachers were warm and loving and she treasured going there two mornings a week. It was my first experience with the traditional ‘suburban mom’ protocol. Someone organized a coffee morning for the moms, allowing us to become more familiar with one another. As may be typical of this kind of gathering, a few of us generated an immediate connection. One woman in particular – I will call her Dee – was super friendly; we seemed to have a lot in common.

Dee and I quickly established a rapport as we recognized how many common interests we shared. We would stand outside of the school in the mornings chatting away as long as the kiddos we still had in the car either napped or played nicely. We each had three children although our oldest and youngest were very different ages. We loved to cook. We loved to sew. As weeks went by we drew closer and the friendship deepened. I was still talking with Michele almost daily but Dee filled another gap in my life, offering local comradery. We developed the habit of spending those two mornings a week together, either running errands or sitting with our coffee and planning our family dinners. Her husband travelled most weeks for work and since my marriage was either hot or cold, we seemed to fill a companionship need for one another.

One evening in the late fall as it was just beginning to turn really cold, Dee’s heater went on the blink. I was talking with her by phone as I prepared to leave for a cake decorating class I was taking weekly and suggested that she come to our house for the evening. Hubby had heard me talk about Dee and the children incessantly and as our home was large, there was plenty of space in the basement rec room for Dee and her kids to bunker down for an evening. I let him know she may be coming before I got home and left for class.

Later that night as I pulled into the driveway, I saw her car and was really glad to know that my friend had taken me up on the offer. At least she would be warm until the furnace was repaired the following day. I hurried into the house and found them – Hubby and Dee – drinking a beer and having a grand time laughing, stating that they were sharing stories of one thing or another – getting introduced. I joined them. We were up fairly late but it was the best kind of ‘sleep over’ and I was just a little sorry to know that she would be going home in the morning. As it turned out, she had to stay one more night before the heat was completely repaired. It was time that cemented our bond. Our friendship grew.

We began spending time together as families. Her husband was generally home on the weekends and so at least bi-monthly we would take turns hosting one another (and family) for dinner and movies or cards. Generally, the kids got the movies and we intended on cards but rarely completed a game. We laughed, told stories, and talked about children. The men shared common interests as well, even if most of them centered around cigars and beer. We spent a lot of time together. It wasn’t long before Dee would call our house if she needed help with something midweek while Tom was out of town. Hubby would run over and fix whatever needed addressing; sometimes we would do it together. Tom was always grateful. The ‘helpfulness’ was reciprocated. If I got sick, Dee would show up with a complete meal – kid friendly – and include a six-pack of Hubby’s favorite beer. One winter evening the four of us had attended a comedy show in town but had driven separately I think. I specifically recall that on the way home, we discovered them on the side of the road with a blown out tire. Hubby stayed with Tom to address the problem and I took Dee and her babysitter – home. Being friends with them was easy and comfortable.

Also notable in this time period is our change in Church affiliation. Our pastor was deepening his fundamentalist perspectives and many of them fervently contrasted with some of our individual core beliefs. Although we definitely enjoyed the community and the musical elements of the worship services, the sermons (and expectations) were developing further than our spirits were comfortable with. We instinctively knew it was time for a change. Fortunately for us, a new Lutheran church was being started in our area and we were introduced to the founding Pastor by way of a family friend who had been part of his old congregation. He was seeking charter members and with our ‘spiritual pioneering’ expertise, we were easily recruited. Once again, we were insanely involved in the operations of a young faith community.

This time around, the tradition of the Lutheran service / doctrine was more pronounced. In actuality, we were challenged to introduce any contemporary components mostly due to the aging demographic of the people who were showing up on Sunday. We held services in a school cafeteria but everything else reeked of old customs. It was comfortable for me although it dampened my spiritual growth temporarily as it wasn’t tested –  openly at least. We were both participating in several areas as neither one of us felt as if we could say no to God.

For the most part, our lives were full. We had a new house, a new church, a new baby on the way and we had just branched out on our own professionally. For the first time ever, we were not affiliated with any other ‘entity’ or group. Hubby became a ‘sole practitioner’ and I was his associate. My role was administrative and extra support when the occasional need occurred for my area of expertise. Most of the time I worked from home at night – after everyone was in bed. I didn’t earn an income from working as we already paid the full Monty of self-employment tax. Had I taken an income from our business, we would have paid double. (P.S. – Don’t ever do this!! Each person should be contributing to Social Security so that you have a genuine earning history.)

Our financial situation was pretty rough during these days. Starting a business takes a fair amount of capital and financial risk and we worked in a commission only based business. We struggled to make ends meet and got really creative with when to pay Peter and put off Paul or vice versa. I made a pound of hamburger stretch for two meals and repurposed everything WAY before it was cool to do so. One of my favorite things to do was go ‘yard sale’-ing. In fact, I looked at it as an adventure! At least, that’s what I told the girls. On Friday mornings I would put them in the car (with a properly packed diaper bag) and grab my map that had been routed and planned based on how much gas money I had that week.  I bought clothes, toys, household items, and Christmas presents at yard sales and auctions whenever possible. Actually, I had a reputation for doing so too. People eventually would ask me to be on the lookout for an item on their own wish list. Essentially, I learned how to make a little go a long way. It was my contribution to our goals of building the business as most of the money we made, went right back into it.

Unfortunately, under all of the positive, there ran a constant current of sexual discourse that had been present since the beginning. It never went away, just ebbed and flowed from day to day or month to month. Sometimes it was okay, others it was unbearable; it was never just good.

*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy

All About Trust

Slowly, I began to trust. I trusted that this was my destiny; that all of the events leading to this point were divinely driven and therefore, worthy of my commitment.

“Being a family means you are a part of something very wonderful. It means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life.” ~Lisa Weedn

I woke each morning to the sound of children. It was either an infant cry or a toddler’s chatter, or a young boy’s question. Francis would leave for school each morning with an energy that I coveted while I began a day of caring for baby girls only sixteen months apart. The joy they brought into my life cannot be exaggerated. Sara loved her baby sister and was gentle and caring, as if infant Erin was a thin piece of glass. She attempted to share everything she loved with this new sibling and would express frustration from time to time as baby just sat and smiled. Sara wanted to play.

Francis was the most amazing big brother and completely cherished by his little sisters. Sara would sit at the window and wait for him to appear on the sidewalk as he returned from school. I was also anxiously awaiting his return but for a completely different reason – I needed the help. By four in the afternoon I was in serious need of a break. As unfair as it may have been, Francis was my relief. Day after day, he accepted the responsibility of helping to care for his sisters, and ultimately, his mom. I always said he would grow up to be the most amazing father ever or a monk – having emptied all of his paternalistic caring resources before the age of twelve.

Our life was tremendously full. Each hour of the day was filled to the brim either working, raising children, little league, household responsibilities, or another of the seemingly million things that make a family function. I felt overwhelmed with a lack of time and emotional resources on a fairly regular basis. Hubby was a good provider and we had enough. Although he was a loving father, he had little patience for the chaos that existed in our evenings. Rarely was I able to get a break. My emotional tolerance was generally low by that time of night. Most of the time, by evenings end, my energy reserves were depleted completely; not Hubby’s.

During this time in our lives, conflicts were generally around the subject of how much vitality and vigor I had failed to reserve for him. It’s true that I was not educated, versed, or practiced in balancing my emotional stamina. I gave everything I had to give to my children and family life from six a.m. to eight p.m. and then, what I needed was sleep. I instinctively knew that I had an obligation, a responsibility to my relationship, to offer myself – not just sexually – but intellectually and emotionally, to my husband. I did the best I could. I would say yes to sex and try to appear motivated. It wasn’t honest. In fact, it was during this time that I trusted Meg Ryan’s famous example in the movie Harry Met Sally and just portrayed my best version of an orgasmic apex. I just didn’t have any more of myself to share. As it would in any relationship, my inability to divide my personal resources more effectively left my husband feeling unloved and unappreciated. I was unable to understand. In my mind, I needed him to be supportive, helpful, and understanding. I didn’t experience any of those things and quite the contrary, I just felt as though one more person was making demands on my day. I did what I had to do in order to have peace at the end of the night.

Stress was taking a toll on our relationship. Hubby dealt with it by drinking and smoking, I just got mad and ugly. Since he was unable (or unwilling) to stop smoking, I became passive aggressive and stopped telling him I loved him. He would say it to me and my reply was mostly “thank you”. It wasn’t one of my best decisions. The distance between us grew until we decided to try marriage counseling.

Faith was still very dominant in our life and so we opted for a Christian therapist. I recall the church, the room, and vaguely, the man. He held a bible on his lap and let us know that God believed in our union. He heard each of our perspectives and offered some bible passages that spoke to the sanctity of marriage. I felt shame. There, in that church office, a Christian environment, without substantial feedback, all I remember feeling is how much at fault I was for withholding love from the man I committed to cherish. I didn’t wait until we got to the car before I turned to Hubby with tears and extreme humility to say how sorry I was. I was sorry for not being a better wife, for withholding words of affection, for not being stronger. I pledged to try harder and to find a way to bring more balance into my life so that I could be there for him. I’m not sure if we ever went back.

Slowly, I began to trust. I trusted that this was my destiny; that all of the events leading to this point were divinely driven and therefore, worthy of my commitment. I looked at my family each evening and saw that I was blessed; that life was full. I was beginning to understand the concept of submission in a way that I had been unable to this point. I was submitting not to Hubby directly, but to life, to God’s will. I was embracing where I was and the people with whom I was sharing life.

In the summer of 1994 Hubby went out west with his brothers to participate in a Scouting event near and dear to their hearts. He arranged to make a couple of side trips to the Colorado mountains and was excited about them. I arranged to make a hearty road trip with my mother and three children through the New England area. We were going to be camping at KOA camps (in cabins) for most of the journey and being as organized and particular as I was – it was mapped out in detail as if I was preparing to perform a surgical procedure on a mass of spider veins. We drove the highway all the way up to Skowhegan, Maine but never again – over the course of two weeks – hit a main freeway. Without going into explicit detail of each day, let’s just say that it was an amazing journey with people I love. It offered my children and me an opportunity to spend marvelous time with my mother. Not only did we see beautiful and amazing parts of our country, but we had the opportunity to have quality time together that has yet to be replicated.

During this time away, I took the opportunity to write to Hubby each night, sharing our day’s journey and the highlights along the way. My intention was to embody the spirit of participation in our experiences similar to the letters I wrote Rocky when he was overseas when Francis was an infant. I also used those letters to express my love and support for our family, for our marriage. It was an excellent time of reflection and it offered me time to seriously evaluate the life I wanted to live; the life I wanted for our family; the dreams we hoped to manifest.

Both Hubby and I had rolls and rolls of photographs to develop (back in the day we actually had to turn in film) and we turned them in for processing together. After picking them up, it was fun for us to sit down and share our travels, to swap stories about our time apart. One by one, we flipped through the photographs and laughed or ohh’ed and ahh’ed over the incredible scenery each of us had seen. One photo in particular caught my attention. It was of him, alone – in a time WAY before selfies were possible or a ‘thing’ – it was a full body photograph of Hubby against a backdrop of mountains. He explained how he had gone back to that trail without his brothers for a couple of days, to fully experience the intensity of nature in that part of the world. He continued to tell me that his time there on the first part of the trip hadn’t been complete and here was this photo, taken by another traveler on the trail. He looked happy.

Something about his picture disturbed me.

 

Loving Contradiction

Night by Night I felt a contradiction tugging at my soul.

“What women rightly long for is spiritual and moral initiative from a man, not spiritual and moral domination.”  ~ John Piper

We were members of a Lutheran church not far from our home that was undergoing a major transition, moving toward a more spiritually inclusive, contemporary practice. The pastor had returned from some mission work in Central America where he had experienced a transformative epiphany. He formed a men’s group and invited Hubby to join him. In addition, small home groups were established to encourage the personal development of the Holy Spirit within our congregation. We were traditional Lutherans – I was a traditional Catholic, practicing to become a Lutheran – and we were transforming into contemporary Christians. We were becoming comfortable with waving our arms in the air during melodic praise, vocalizing a random ‘amen’ when something poignant was spoken, and dictating prayers beyond those that had been written for us by saints.

*no disrespect intended here, simply pointing out that this behavior was ‘non-traditional’ for both of us.

Something inside of me was stirring. Occasionally, I experienced a deeply intrinsic ‘knowing’- a sensation that I was encountering a sublimate and perfect truth. It was as if I was looking intently into the eyes of love and acknowledging its abyssal source. Those moments were few and far between but they were intense and they pierced me. I was hungry for more and began searching for ways to satisfy my appetite.

Something was happening in Hubby as well. I can’t speak as to what it actually was but I saw an awakening in him too. I’m not sure what actually woke up but I know he was experiencing challenges. In many ways, it appeared he was having a spiritual revolution, a burgeoning emotional war, but it seemed to be drawing him closer to family, to me. I was not complaining. In my mind, the closer he was to God, the closer he would be to me, to his commitment of marriage, and of our home.

It was, that the Pastor responsible for this metamorphosis evolved a bit too much for the comfort of more traditional congregants and he was encouraged to find another flock to lead. He gathered those of us who had made the deep water dive with him and we formed a new entity; a church attuned to Scripture and spiritual growth more fundamentally than any other religious experience I’d yet had. I loved much about this church. I really enjoyed the fellowship, the music, the intimacy within our community. Hubby and I were both on the new board, leading home groups, and on different worship/leadership committees. We were busy. It felt great to be a part of something new and growing, in many ways, as we were giving birth to our daughter, we were also giving birth to a renewed faith and commitment.

Consequently, my prayers – frankly, all of my spiritual energy was being directed into making my marriage reverent. The Pastor’s wife guided us ladies in the art of submission. “It was God’s will”, she said, “that we submit our desires to our man. That we trust him to provide for us, not only in the material dimension, but also in the emotional. She explained that submission was about TRUST”. I was already suspicious about trusting my man. He had lied to me about smoking, he had let me down about quitting, he was suspect about why things had changed so dramatically… I was not very open to the concept of trusting. In fact, I was downright stubborn about it. In every single prayer I prayed, I sought guidance to find, honor, and embody submissiveness in the way that we were being taught. I struggled and developed impatience, frustration, and ultimately anger that I was being led to trust someone that didn’t feel ‘trust worthy’. I felt as though I was failing.

In the interim, I was reading the bible. Peter, Colossians, Ephesians, Corinthians, Timothy, and Matthew. They all reinforced the idea that if I was Holy, my husband would follow suit. I ‘heard’ that it was my job – in my submissiveness – to honor my husband and my God, regardless. There was an incredible conflict in my heart over this proposition. I was experiencing God in a way that felt comforting and beautiful yet the idea that I was to submit myself completely to my man in all of the things he asked of me was contradicting my heart. Our pastor tried in vain to help me settle this internal dispute but it just wasn’t to be reconciled. Ultimately, the banter in my mind was too much and I resigned myself to how I understood the concept of submission – just do what he asks.

Frankly, I wasn’t very good at it. I have control issues and the concept of total surrender was unable to take root in my psyche at large. Instead, I opted to surrender in the bedroom. His desires became the focus of my attention. If he asked me to wear high heels, I wore high heels. If he wanted to watch porn, we watched porn. If he wanted to talk dirty, I talked dirty. (Well, actually that part I had to practice… I bought Forum magazines to learn the proper vocabulary.)

What became the most problematic for me was the discrepancy in my own mind about what constituted ‘sin’ in terms of sexual behavior. On one hand I recalled the Catholic teaching that Rocky and I had participated in that taught whatever happened between a husband and wife and was consensual, was honoring your love for one another and therefore, honoring God. Then there were the thoughts about respecting women and the line that separated disrespectful behavior. Where was that line? And more thoughts about what was inherently authentic for me – as a woman. I didn’t have a broad repertoire of sexual interests necessarily although I enjoyed physical pleasure to be sure. I was curious about many things but experienced a very blurred line between the limits of my personal desire and the need for me to submit to desires of my husband which encompassed a much larger, comprehensive, and broad set of variables.

I experienced a rather continuous flow of antagonistic chatter in my mind. Internal criticism and chiding coupled with self-talk that pushed for conformity and compliance so that my marriage could be free of conflict. In the end, I consciously moved myself into compliance via the least resistant avenue. I convinced myself that I was working to be a better wife even if it meant that I was not listening to my inner voice. I found myself focusing on meeting the needs of others over my own once again and persuaded my heart that it was in the name of my faith.

Day by day I was actively engaged in promoting the vision of myself, of us, and of our family as blooming Christians, moving closer to God in our tithing, being prayerful, and committed to building the Church. Night by Night I felt a contradiction tugging at my soul.