Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Where I Disagree Openly and Loudly With Elisabeth Elliot

I'm sorry people but I just flipped a biscuit (and one I didn't bake, either, as I'm so not the Queen of Domesticity). I read this quote by the ever revered within our circles Elisabeth Elliot.
“The way you keep your house, the way you organize your time, the care you take in your personal appearance, the things you spend your money on all speak loudly about what you believe.'The beauty of Thy peace’ shines forth in an ordered life. A disordered life speaks loudly of disorder in the soul.” - Elisabeth Elliot
You've got to be kidding me. Where on earth does she get off on equating a tidy house with tidy soul....and does one even want a tidy soul?

A disordered life may have absolutely nothing to do with a disordered soul. It may have much more to do with circumstances, free time, finances, skills and gifts, temperaments, wiring of the brain, cultural emphasis, and priorities. A messy room is supposedly the sign of a creative person. A messy desk, a genius. People with ADD have a real struggle with organization, an issue totally outside of their spiritual condition. Some people have the inclination, the time, the motivation to be super tidy and put together. Others place other priorities ahead of housekeeping and personal appearance and others may just be struggling to keep their head above water.

My concern with this quote is what it is telling young women. Does how you keep your house really a reflection of who you are on the inside?

In one of Elisabeth Elliot's essays, "Little Things," she emphasizes this idea again, telling us how important the little things like neatly made beds and flat toothpaste tubes and swept corners are. She was taught this herself by a woman who chided, "Don't go around with a Bible under your arm if you didn't sweep under your bed." And to that I want to ask what the **** she is talking about.

And she goes on with "So many lives seem honeycombed with small failures, neglectful of the little things that make the difference between order and chaos." Holy crap! I'm the freaking Swiss cheese of failure here.

Since when....SINCE WHEN...was the measure of a woman how tidy her house is or how neat her appearance? I know that may have been a thing in the 1950s but DANG! It sure ain't biblical.

Yes, Jesus tells us to be faithful in the small things and we should. But should those small things not be matters of eternal value? If indeed we are given the answer to what God requires of us and if indeed that answer is to "do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with our God," then I think the little things we do should be about that kinds of business.

Now I'm not saying that you have no business cleaning your house or making sure your hair is brushed. Some people can't function otherwise. But to make the assessment that the state of a woman's house or her appearance or her organization is indicative in some way of the state of her soul is ignorant at best and ultimately cruel. You are putting on a woman a burden God never asked her to bear.

Did Jesus not call the tidy, goody-two-shoes Pharisees "whitewashed tombs"? I bet they sure looked great on the outside, and had smooth sheets, too. And Mary, she shirked her domestic duties and plopped herself down at the feet of Jesus to listen. Yes, making a meal was a good thing but spending time learning and listening to Jesus was the better thing and he said so.
I truly believe that to be faithful in the little things may have quite the opposite outcome than Eliisabeth Elliot was shooting for. If I am really faithful to what God is calling me to do, it might mean spending more time listening to a heartbroken friend, caring for a curious and lively granddaughter, reading books about experiences I've never had so that I can understand my friends better. It might mean rubbing my daughter's back after she's had a tough day at her very strenuous job or listening to my husband hash out a difficult thought or spend hours combing back through the real estate listings trying to find the best property for a client. It might even mean taking a long walk to keep my mind clear and my body healthy. And if in all of this there is a dust bunny population explosion, then so be it.
I know people who are doing wonderful good in this world and just don't have it in them to include a tidy house in the mix. I am not saying that organized and neat is wrong but I am saying that to equate a disordered house with a disordered soul, that is just plain wrong. And to publish it for women all around to read, well that is even worse.
I know Elisabeth Elliot has written down a great amount of wisdom through the years but this time I think she gave her preferences and her cultural upbringing with spiritual coating that God never intended.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Panic Responsibly

It has been a heck of a year. Lots of bad stuff has happened with the typical forecasts of more to come. Some people are able to handle the bad stuff with a clearness of head and a calmness of demeanor and a reliance on accurate information and critical thinking skills. Others go into widespread panic mode, freaking themselves out and spreading their existential angst over everybody near them, like a cold, wet blanket of doom.

One of the first things I remember learning about emergencies is that you are supposed to stay calm. I now see why. Panic does you no good. Think about all the collateral damage done by panic. Wikipedia has an entire entry, and a quite long one at that, for human stampedes. Take a spin through these disasters and you'll see that, even when there is a tragic event, a fire or shooting or collapse of a stage, that triggers the stampede, it is the stampede that does by far the most damage. In fact, there have been situations such as in 1913 when in the Italian Hall in Calumet, MI, somebody yelled "fire" and 73 people, including 59 children, were trampled to death in the panic to exit the building. This situation is particularly horrifying because there was, in fact, no fire.

Perhaps because I am genetically wired to anxiety, I pick up on each message of coming oppression or inevitable disaster. The nice thing about having been on the planet over 5 decades is that I have seen these prognostications come and go with almost ludicrous frequency.

I remember hearing in 1976 that Jimmy Carter, our newly elected president, was the antichrist because his name, James Carter, started with J.C. like Jesus Christ and that James and Carter had the same number of letters as Jesus Christ. Then it was Gorbachev was the antichrist because his birthmark was the sign of the beast. Then Bill and Hilary Clinton's posse of government officials were going to come take the children away from Christian parents, to be raised by the state. Then Obama was the antichrist or Hitler reincarnated, with a plan to put all of us Christians in prison, a la Holocaust. And throughout all of this there have been the ever present predictions for the end of the world, one as recently as for this past September 23, though that dude changed his mind the day before, so as not to embarrass himself, I presume.

And through all of this, much of this panic has been spread by those who claim to have put their faith in a sovereign, loving God. I don't get it. I don't get the paranoia. The distrust. The hand wringing. The fear. And the spreading of fear. To be honest, it just isn't helpful. It isn't encouraging. And it isn't even true.

What is true is that none of us...NONE OF US know what will happen today or tomorrow or next week or next year. I don't think we are supposed to. Henri Nouwen in his book Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life says this:

The Christian Community mediates between the suffering of the world and our individual responses to this suffering. Since the Christian community is the living presence of the mediating Christ, it enables us to e fully aware of the painful condition of the human family without being paralyzed by this awareness. In the Christian community, we can keep our eyes and ears open to all that happens without being numbed by technological overstimulation or angered by the experience of powerlessness. In the Christian Community, we can know hunger, oppression, torture, and the nuclear threat without giving into a fatalistic resignation and withdrawing into a preoccupation with personal survival. In the Christian community, we can fully recognize the condition of our society without panicking. 

Paranoia, conspiracy theories, and Chicken Little's mantra of "the sky is falling" really do nobody any good and oftentimes do nothing more than spread gloom and doom to an anxious world that needs, more than anything, compassion and encouragement. It is irresponsible to cry "fire" into social media and stand back as people stampede each other to death in an emotional frenzy. Can we be what Nouwen says we can? Can we recognize the brokenness in our world without panicking?

Whether it is North Korea or mass shootings or earthquakes or hurricanes or the moral demise of society, there are wise and helpful ways to respond. Panicking isn't one of them. So in the midst of all of these tragedies, stay calm, trust God, and reach out in compassion to your neighbor. And if you must panic, panic responsibly and keep it to yourself.