Sunday, December 31, 2000

A Look Back at 2000: The Dark Night of the Soul

Asking "why" may be human, but it doesn’t make much sense anymore. It doesn’t even matter why, even though I know the reasons. This has been one of the worst years of my life—-right up there with the years I thought I had committed the unforgivable sin—-well, ok, a bit below that, but you get the idea.

I don’t want to write about this year. It’s all too fresh in my mind. How could God do this to me? How could He let this happen? How could He engineer it with full knowledge of the pain that lay ahead for me? But these are merely disguised "why" questions, and as I previously stated, the whys don’t matter. What matters is where I find myself and what my reaction will be.

For a long time God has been asking me to deal with some problems in my life, and for that long, I’ve refused. Keeping God at arm’s length and pretending the problems weren’t there was much easier. But He never allows situations like that to last, especially when they hinder our growth.

The foundations were laid late last year with a "chance" meeting on the Internet. I put that in quotes because God knew full well what He was doing. Once I had befriended that lady, He knew she would set in motion a chain of events that would leave me no recourse but to seek counsel. And so in March, with no other alternative and backed into a corner, I did.

And I prayed, prayed like I never have before, for direction, for help. In fact, I think I’ve prayed more this year than all the previous years combined. And I felt Him telling me to get counseling, and so I sought counseling, and in time, found my current counselor. It’s hard to talk about these things with him, much less on paper, so I am remaining general intentionally.

I am working through the problems. It will take time. It will be painful. I do not understand why God allows us to struggle with problems not of our making, but I understand that that will be my lot and the lot of every person alive until He makes all things new once and for all. We live in a sin cursed creation.

This year has been a dark night of the soul for me, one reason why I will be very glad when it is over. Bid farewell to the pain and step into a new year. Last year I looked forward to 2000 with promise and hope—what new things would this year bring? I had no idea of the pain and hurt and depression I would have to go through, and I was unprepared for answers to prayer that were other than what I wanted.

This will be remembered in my memory as the year when I prayed for healing of my mental health, prayed to be made normal, prayed for removal of my problem, and, even though I told God He would get all the glory if such a healing occurred, He said "no." To one of the most important prayers I have ever prayed. "No."

I have long suspected that there may be something wrong with me. My counselor says it is just "Boundaries" issues, but it must go deeper than that. Boundaries can’t hurt this bad. I have been feeling depressed and anxious from the counseling, as well as having many suicidal thoughts, and have had to resort to St. John’s Wort to deal with those.

I hate it. I hate it all. And I resent the hell out of God for putting me through this. I am reminded of a quote by St. Teresa of Avila that I have used often this year in e-mail and bulletin board signatures—-"Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few."

I have freely admitted that likely nothing short of what He did would have moved me to action. He had tried everything else with no success. Though He is patient, He will chastise His children severely if other milder forms of correction don’t work. That’s what happened here.

Though Hebrews 12 says that discipline proves we are His children, let me tell you that is little consolation when the storm breaks fresh and heavy upon you and you are smothered under the weight. Let me tell you it’s little consolation even now, months later.

There is a part of me that is so angry and so scared that it wants to hurt Him, hurt Him as much as He has allowed me to be hurt. What kind of a Father stands idly by while His children suffer?

And yet, there are times when I can still believe God is good. As I write this first draft, it is Christmas Day, and I remember that today we celebrate a God who loved us so much that He became man to die the death that we deserve. He, the eternal God, put on a body—-a body He will always have, and that will bear the scars forever.

The dark night of the soul is still upon me. I see myself slowly descending into a valley. There is no moon, and I cannot see if this valley has an end. I know my Father led me here, but I am scared. The night is cold and dark and windy and just begun—-it is a long time until dawn.

Lord, keep me safe. This has been a hard year, and though I am angry at You and disappointed, I can see Your hand in this year—helping me to find a counselor, and answering my prayers, even if I didn’t like the answer. Please help 2001 to be better than this year has been. Please help me to grow closer to You through the difficulties that lie ahead. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

[Edit: This is no date on this, so I am just picking a date for it.]

Tuesday, October 31, 2000

What Is Our Role?

[Note: Not sure exactly when this was written, but my file says the last update was Oct. 31, 2000, so I'll go with that.]

I’ve often wondered, what is my role as a woman in the Seventh Day Baptist church? What is my role in my local congregation, and in the denomination as a whole? What role does God want women to play in their churches?

The controversy over the ordination of woman is one that has touched most every Christian denomination, Catholic and Protestant alike. Ours is no exception.

Some people argue that since the Bible says "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28), that therefore women can be ordained and hold any position in the church that they so choose or that they feel God is calling them to.
Other people say that since the Bible says "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet" (1 Timothy 2:12), that women should not be pastors or teachers, unless they are teaching other woman, or children.

How do we reconcile these seemingly contradictory verses to discover God’s will for us women?

First, let me say that there are many fine people on both sides of this issue, even right here in this denomination. I would not presume on any person’s salvation for not agreeing with my views because we are not saved by theology, but by faith. I do not wish to impugn or disparage those in our denomination who are woman pastors. I offer this article in Christian love, to give another perspective than that often espoused.

Certainly there are many times when woman have great privileges in the church. In the Old Testament Deborah was a prophetess and judge. She spoke for God to Israel, and showed great leadership qualities when it came to saving Israel from her oppressing Canaanite neighbors. Moses’ sister Miriam was a prophetess.

We also find prophetesses mentioned in the New Testament. In Acts 21:9 we find a Philip with "four virgin daughters who were prophetesses." And in Acts 2:36, as Jesus is being presented at the temple when He was eight days old, we find the prophetess Anna recognizing Him as the Messiah and proclaiming that in the temple. So woman obviously do have a role. The question exactly is, "What role?"

Let’s begin with Galatians 3:28. I contend that the meaning of this verse is not that woman can hold any office they want, but simply that all people can be forgiven in Christ, that there are no people that have more privileges than others before God. God does not play favorites.

The basic thrust is unity (1), that the Gospel is for all and all are saved on the same basis for the same purpose of service. We are one in Christ. The verse before this talks about how we are all baptized into Christ, and the verse after talks about how if we belong to Christ, we are Abraham’s descendants. It has nothing to do with women being pastors or teachers. To use this verse to prove that is nothing more than reading into the text what isn’t there.

Let’s move onto 1 Timothy 2:12. For the record it states, "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." First, this verse cannot mean that a woman is never to speak in church for 1 Corinthians 11:5 states that "every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved." We can see from this verse that woman were allowed to pray and prophecy in the churches, which certainly involved public speaking!

First Timothy 2:12 states very clearly, in language that cannot be mistaken, that women cannot be pastors and teachers in the church, since she is not to exercise authority over a man and any woman preaching to the congregation is de facto head over every man there. Moreover, vv. 13-14 gives the reasons she should not teach or preach: Adam was created first and then Eve. If Paul had meant his admonition to only be applicable to a certain city or a certain time, he would not have traced his reason back to creation.

So there is a division of roles between the sexes in the church. Some positions are better held my men, and some by woman. As we saw in Galatians, no person is more important than any other person, and no role is more important than any other role. God has set the boundaries of what roles can be played by who, and we should abide by those if we call ourselves Christians. This raises the question, "If women cannot be pastors or teachers, what roles can they play?"

First, while a woman cannot be head over a man, she can certainly teach Sabbath School to the children (as indeed a mother would do with her children, instilling the love of God in them from a young age).

Secondly, there are many acts of service that she can do for the church. Perhaps she can set up the church for the services, or help out with the potluck or clean up after the service and fellowship are over. Maybe the church bulletin needs to be made and photocopied each week. Perhaps she can collect used clothes for poorer members of the congregation (see Acts 9:39 for another idea along these lines). There are any number of jobs around the church that she can help out with.

Third, and more pertinent to the more active role that many women wish to play in the church today, she can be a deaconess. Scholar Samuele Bacchiocchi has this to say about deaconesses. "Female deacons were needed in the early centuries when the sexes could not mingle freely. According to the Didascalia they performed a great variety of services in the care of women, including assistance at the baptism and burial of women, the catechizing of women and caring for sick women at home. They never functioned, however, as heads of the community, but served in a role auxiliary to that of the pastors, elders and bishops." (2)

Fourth and last, they can exercise a prophetic ministry, if God has given them that spiritual gift. This has nothing to do with showy sign-gifts and everything to do with "edification, encouragement, counseling and consolation. The chapter most descriptive of the prophetic ministry is found in 1 Corinthians 14. Here Paul explains that the person ‘who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. . . . He who prophesies edifies the church’ (1 Cor 14:3-4; cf. Acts 15:21)." (3)

So while it might be hard sometimes for us women to grapple with the question of our role in the body of Christ, the Bible gives us everything we need to know about what God says our role should be. I know I am only beginning to explore this subject, and only beginning to define the role I should play. But that’s okay. As a popular bumper sticker proclaims, "God ain’t finished with me yet!"

We should all pray, asking God to show us where He wants us and what we should do. We should all speak with love toward one another, not criticizing others for their differing views, but discussing with them. Above all, we should remember that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of our feelings on this matter.

1 Text note on Gal. 3:28, New American Standard Study Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan), pg. 1711.
2 Samuele Bacchiocchi, Woman in the Church (Chap. 2)
3 Ibid., Chap. 2

Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Letter to ABC News about "The Search For Jesus"

Dear Mr. Westin [Note: David Westin, President, ABC News],

I was appalled by the recent TV "news" program The Search For Jesus. It was some of the most irresponsible journalism I have ever seen in my life. I was a journalism major in college and any amateur can tell you that a responsible journalist gets all sides of a story. Instead, Peter Jennings highlighted three leaders of the Jesus Seminar, as well as other liberal scholars, and presented them as if they were the majority consensus opinion. The Jesus Seminar is hardly representative of serious scholarship. One person, and only one, came forward with a conservative view, and he was given less airtime than anyone else. I also came away with the feeling that he was included almost as an afterthought, as if the producers said, "Well, we have to include one conservative in the program."

This was indeed a sad day for journalism. Peter Jennings said things such as "Scholars say..." instead of "Some scholars say..." and then gave some liberal interpretation of the text, leaving viewers with the clear impression that nobody really believes the account of Jesus in the Bible anymore. What was Peter Jennings trying to do here, serious journalism, or presenting only one, very biased point of view? From what I could see, he had no intention of getting both sides of the story. And that takes The Search For Jesus out of the realm of journalism, for no serious journalist gets only one side of a story and then presents it as the only side.

ABC did such a wonderful job with The Miracle Maker this past Easter. What happened?

Victoria Shephard

Thursday, January 13, 2000

poem: Mourning My Virginity

Mourning My Virginity
A Promise Ring,
With many promises besides,
That you loved me,
Thought I was beautiful, sexy.
You made me feel worthy, lovable,
That my pitiful life was worth something.
It was beautiful, what we shared.
A Camelot that lasted so many months -
And then was gone.

You weren't ready, you said,
And I wondered about all your promises of "us" -
You walked away, turned off your love,
And left me with a broken heart.
I will never trust another man again
When even those who talk marriage back off.
I will remain single forever,
Mourning my virginity.