Saturday, January 28, 2012

Achilles' Heel

(From Black Ships before Troy): “Then Achilles raised his great war cry, and thrust onward, all the Greek war host behind him. Soon they were close before the city, and the Scaean Gate was choked with men and chariots, hunted and hunters. In that hour the Greeks might indeed have forced their way into Troy, and the long siege might have been ended. But Paris stood in the gate tower, fitting a new string to his bow, for the old one was frayed with much use. He chose an arrow from his quiver, leaned far out, and took aim at Achilles in the crush that surged below.

The arrow flew on its way, and Apollo guided it so that it pitched deep into the battle mass and, among all the trampling feet, found the target it was meant for. It struck into Achilles’ ankle in the unprotected place below the leg guard, the place where his mother Thetis had held him when she dipped her babe in the river Styx, the one spot that the water had not touched, and so could let death in.”

Achilles' heel. It’s an expression that comes from the ancient Greek myth of Achilles, about the one spot on his body where he was vulnerable. It modern times it is often used to refer to a character weakness in an individual.

But in the original myth it was through no fault of his own that Achilles was forever vulnerable in one obscure place on his body. It was because of something that had happened to him through the actions of another. He knew where his weak place was, and that it would be the cause of his premature death, and yet he chose to go into battle anyway.

It’s good when we become self-aware enough to know where our vulnerable places are. Often it takes many years of life for us to figure out, “Oh, this is something I always over-react to,” or, “When someone says that it upsets me unduly,” or, “When such and such happens it throws me into days of deep depression.”

The first step is consciously noticing it, versus just reacting. Then, we can take the next step and figure out what triggers it. If we are brave, we dig a little deeper, and ask ourselves, “why.” That, my friends, can be a painful journey.

And we have to go on living in the meantime. We can’t just stay in bed because some random fiery dart might hit our weak spot and hurt us. And they do hit and hurt, when we least expect it.

Sometimes it feels as if we are powerless to stop the pain, even after we gain a measure of understand about what is happening.
But because I don’t buy into the Greek fatalistic world-view, I do believe we have the ability to change the outcome. Once we know where our weak points are, we can ask for God’s protection and healing of those areas of our lives.

I’m in this process myself.

I’ve taken a few hits lately; in areas I know all too well that I am vulnerable. (No, I am not going to publish them on the Internet. I’m transparent, not stupid.) Most of them came from people I really, really love and who love me. I hate it when that happens. But it does help to see who the real enemy is.

You see, Satan has everyone’s blueprint. He knows about those weaknesses too. And he delights in finding creative ways to get at us in the most painful twisted ways possible. Like Apollo, the god who guided the arrow from the mortal man Paris, Satan puts words into people’s mouths that he knows will hurt us, even when they have no idea that what they are saying is piercing our hearts.
(Okay, sometimes they do. But that’s not the point.)

Just want to encourage all of you who are in this process, as I am, to remember: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness. And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Above all, taking the shield of faith wherewith you shall be able to QUENCH ALL the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:11-17)

And this, my friends, is no myth. There is hope for us in the truth of God’s Word that all our fiery darts can be quenched.

I find that often as I get closer to a mission trip that darts start flying faster and heavier. Since I’m leaving in three weeks for Liberia, I’m not surprised that I have some fires to put out: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” (I Peter 4:12)

The darts are real. But so is my God. And He’s got my back.

Along with my Achilles heel.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Single Sister Satisfaction

I love this article. (See link after this paragraph.) I know there are things in it that might offend my Christian friends- a couple of bits of profanity, and passing references to alcohol and sex. But that’s not the theme at all. The theme is women and friendship.

Beyond that, it’s a picture of unmarried women, who are good with that. Super good with that. And this is something that is near and dear to my heart. And a theme I want to present to my fellow unmarried Christian sisters.

We need to do better.

There is such a tendency in the church to assume that eventually all women will get married. Or remarried. That it is wonderful to be content to be single, but, (knowing look), “I wasn’t planning on getting married (or married again) either dear, wasn’t looking at all, didn’t even want to get married, and then God brought this wonderful man into my life and he was exactly what I really needed all along.” Amazing testimony follows. And there is an implication that it is noble to be content with singleness, and yet the ultimate reward for that noble contentment and “not looking for someone” will ultimately be…someone.

Not necessarily. Whether or not you are secretly hoping you will eventually meet that special someone, it doesn’t always happen. And that’s okay. No really. You have to believe me. You can have an emotionally satisfied life without being married.

I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m a misandrist, gals, but I promise you, you can lead a complete and well rounded life by surrounding yourself with healthy platonic female relationships. I may be biased, but I’ll stand by my opinion ‘til the day I die: Women make the best friends.
Particularly if you are one.

Some may think that I feel this way because I had a difficult marriage. I don’t think so. I think my perspective is pretty well rounded. I was single until I was 26. And enjoyed it very much. And now that I’m 43 and have gotten over the shock and pain of losing the marriage I gave my heart to, I enjoy being single all over again.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate that I got divorced. But I love being single. (It’s my own personal dichotomy.)

And at my age, almost 43 with much less to prove, being single is really fantastic. I wish I could impart that to my younger single sisters, when I see them struggling.

Consider this quote from the article linked above describing the author’s older single friends: “They weren’t spinsters or old maids and they were not ‘failures’ in any way. They were free. It was I who failed to see them, until later, for who they really were: educated, hugely intelligent, fascinating, financially independent. Women who led rich lives full of meaningful work, deep and lasting friendships… time with the beloved children of their family and friends, conversations about politics and art and literature, culture, travel to remarkable destinations where they did not journey as unconscious tourists but as guests in people’s homes and hearts. Despite these full lives they owned their own time, they owned their days. I did not. I was too busy trying to find someone who would spend the days with me, as if this would validate my presence in the world.”

Even my single Christian female friends who aren’t “trying to find someone” often live as if they are still waiting for that big moment. And while they may be confident and busy, deep in their eyes there is an underlying longing. Or depending on their age, regret.


Don’t wait. Don’t long. Don’t regret. Live. Live fully. Embrace life.

I hate to play the religious card, but, honestly, if we have God’s Spirit and His love inside of us like we claim too, we should be able to pull this off at least as well as the women in this article.
Maybe it's easier for me to write my own article because I’ve been blessed with more than an average number of loyal and fantastic girl friends. But I hold it is a general truth: Life-long friendships with other women are an essential part of a female single life worth living.

And not just worth it.
Wonderfully, deliciously, good to the last drop worth it.

Philippians 4:11- Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Communion Cogitations

I generally avoid theological type musings on my blog, mostly because I’m not a theologian. So don’t be confused because actually this is just Roxanne type musing that may sound vaguely theological. Furthermore these are personal reflections and do not necessarily represent the views of my church or ministry.
It came to me during communion this morning in church. I’m sitting there by myself holding my little cup of grape juice and my tiny cracker. And suddenly, deeper symbolism notwithstanding, it seemed kind of lonely.
I’m well aware of all the practical and sanitary reasons for 300 people drinking from individual cups instead of a common one. And yet…
My little personal cup at that moment seemed to me to represent the isolationism of our modern culture. A culture where we aren’t that personal with the individual next to us, whether it’s next to us in the pew or in our neighborhood. We want our own space. Our privacy. Our own food. Our own germs and our own problems, thank you very much.
But (and here is where my mind went off down the path) in this process have we gotten more spiritually sterile and isolated as well?
There seems to be a dearth of Americans sharing real life, real problems, over real food together. “Community” has turned into visiting with each other superficially on the fly at church meetings, events, soccer games, our kids’ school activities, or on the job. And then we get back in our own cars, and drive to our own home, and go in and shut the door, where we eat, work, pray and cry alone.
Like a tiny communion cup for one. Like a little personal cracker that is unbroken and unshared.
The original concept of breaking one piece of bread and sharing one cup is a picture of a completely different lifestyle. It shows believers sharing the living Bread of Life that is Jesus, but also, simply eating and being together in ordinary life. It’s not a picture of the once-a-year-I-cleaned-the-house-all-week-and-cooked-expensive-food-all-day-for-a-company-meal-that-leaves-me-exhausted kind of eating together, but more of the spur-of-the-moment-come-on-over-and-eat-leftovers-off-paper-plates-with-me-cause-we-just-want-to-be-together kind of meal.
Jesus was broken for us. We can be broken with each other too.
I’ve had more organic versions of the Lord’s Supper, some of them in other countries, and some of them my own living room here in America with friends. We break a single piece of bread and pass it around. We all drink out of the same cup. And something happens. I’m not talking about transubstantiation (you know I had to look that up). It’s the same kind of thing that happens when people eat a meal together. Walls come down.
I think Jesus was onto this concept, way before the Last Supper example. He ate with lots of folks. Friends, prostitutes, tax collectors, huge crowds. And the religious people didn’t like it. Because Jesus was sharing more than food. He was sharing lives with those He ate with. He was demonstrating acceptance and commonality. He was breaking down walls. Sharing germs with sinners.
Way friendlier than Him eating all by Himself. I kind of have trouble picturing him passing out the little plastic communion cups to the disciples too.
So what’s my conclusion? Not sure if I have one.
Except that you just never know what that reverently bowing missionary in the chair behind you is thinking during the communion service.