Sunday, April 29, 2012

How We Do Life

In previous posts, I have described my views on the roles of men and women, as well as the story of how I ended up in a Ph.D. program.  So this is how it plays out for us...

I work part-time and go to school part... well, really full-time. But that time is flexible.  My husband works for his dad 3 days a week and stays home 2 days with the boys.  My sister watches the boys for one day a week, my mother-in-law for two days.  I usually can stay home 1 day a week.  Don't try to do the math... I gave you all the possibilities, not a typical week.  The point is, we can't afford day care, and we are privileged and blessed to have family who are eager to help.  So that's how we work it.  If we didn't have family, one of us would just stay home. 

Our life is a little bit more tricky because we share working outside the home, but we have learned to make it work.  My husband does most of the cooking, but I plan the meals and do most of the grocery shopping.  My husband is in charge of washing and folding the laundry, and we both put away.  We both do dishes.  I do most of the vacuuming.  You get the idea... we share the household responsibilities.

And things change.  For example, I don't have work over the summer, so my husband is going back to work full-time for a few months.  It will be a little bit of a mental shift for me, but I am excited to be with my boys and have a change of pace.  I don't know that my husband is as excited... he will miss the boys and his job is physically demanding.  I will try to have a meal waiting for him when he gets home... and then I will go upstairs and do homework.  More sharing.

I have struggled with various feelings of guilt because I have a variety of messages and worldviews being shoved at me.  The predominant view in the church is that the wife should stay home and take care of the kids.  My colleagues feel it is the norm to put kids in daycare and have both mom and dad work full-time.  We are doing neither, which means we have had to figure out what we believe and develop thicker skin.  Fast.

I'm not a real doctor

Not an M.D. anyway.  It is highly likely that I will have a Ph.D. at some point in the near future, as in, 3 years.  What does this have to do with urban restoration?  At first I felt that it didn't connect, but I am getting a little more clarity as to what this might look like.

First, I should explain how I even ended up in a Ph.D. program.  Over the past decade, I have had different people tell me that I should go on to get a doctorate.  I think I may have thought about the possibility of teaching at a university... but then again, at one point I was seriously contemplating going to law school.  I even got accepted to law school, but declined the offer.  In the end, I decided that I did not want tremendous student loans that would inhibit the possibility of having a family.  I did end up getting a master's degree so that I could do something with my B.A.  So for a few years, I taught English as Second Language (ESL) to university undergraduates from China.

My biggest objection to continuing my education, besides the cost, was the idea that I wanted to follow God in my life.  As of yet, God had not made it clear that I was supposed to get a doctoral degree, and I was adamant that I shouldn't just go to school just because it sounded like good idea.  My "deal" with God was that if he made it very, very obvious that I should go back to school AND it was paid for, I would do it.

I was teaching as an adjunct instructor of ESL when my boss came in and said to a few of us in the room that we should get into a Ph.D. program because there was a full-time position opening up and it would help us to be more competitive for the position.  I told her that I was waiting for a sign from God, to which she replied, "This IS your sign from God!"  I don't know that I fully believed that, but in any case, I applied and got in.  I might add that I somehow got in without taking the GRE.  Spooky. 

The next year, I was hired in the full-time position, which meant my tuition was paid by the university.  However, at the same time, I got married and within two months we were expecting our first son.  Needless to say, I was overwhelmed.  I concluded that probably this wasn't what God had intended and I went to drop out of my course I was enrolled in... but met my instructor on the way, who told me she wouldn't let me drop out.  I could take an incomplete and finish the course if it took me a year.  It actually took me a year to finish, but I did finish.  I also was barely convinced by a colleague to apply for a year medical leave in my program so I wouldn't be dropped while I wasn't enrolled.

A year later, I somehow was inspired to take a Spanish class, which kept me in good standing in the Ph.D. program.  My husband and I had been praying about whether to continue, and finally in the Spring of 2011 we felt that we heard clearly that I was to continue school and to quit my job, as well.  I applied for a graduate assistantship, which would provide funding for the program, and I was accepted.  I later found out that there were over 200 applicants for about 30 grad assistant positions.  Crazy.

This is currently the end of my first year as a full-time doctoral student and grad assistant.  I just found out that I have funding for another year... and we feel that we have grace to go another year.  Here's where it starts to connect...

Up until this point (like this week), I had thought I would continue to work in teaching ESL.  However, there is no faculty person who is in that area, which is a big problem.  Also, every time I thought about doing a dissertation on ESL students, I just felt bored.  Not a good way to start a dissertation.

I had an epiphany this week that really I am passionate about urban education and issues of racism.  This came at the time when I was helping with a parent night and a field trip with a local elementary school, which is the partnership school for a local university.  This is a huge shift for me, but I am really excited all of a sudden, which is a good thing!  God knows what this will bring in the future, but I am starting to see some of the pieces fall into place.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Redeemed Community Manifesto

This is something I wrote while living with a group of unrelated people in a two-family flat. I live with my husband and kids now, but this can still apply to a church community...

1. Community: Humankind was created to exist in community. God's intention from the beginning was that humans would live in community governed by love.

2. Sinful nature: Humankind is fallen. We have potential for all kinds of evil and we are in need of salvation.

3. Law: Humans chose to reject God's governance, therefore making community without law humanly impossible.

4. Individual Redemption: Jesus' atonement allows His Spirit to indwell every believer. Each believer can now be governed by God in everyday life and become a unit of a new community.

5. Corporate Redemption: This new community can be governed not by man, but by the Spirit of God. God is redeeming a people for Himself.

6. Free Will: Humans can choose to be led by the Spirit of God or to be led by base desires. If given reign, these base desires will destroy community.

7. Authority: God has ordained authority structures to keeps evil in check.

8. Conclusion: Christian community should hope for the best and prepare for the worst. If we follow God's Spirit we can live above the destruction of sin and death. We can live in the supernatural realm of love, joy and peace. However, at any given moment we can choose to give in to our selfish nature and muck the whole thing up. We need structure and authority in place to keep ourselves in check for the sake of the whole community.

I see the practical application of these principles as a community that looks like the early church in Acts, who shared all things in common and spent time eating together frequently.  At one time in my life, I compared this to Socialism.  This tended to make certain people angry, and probably with good reason.  As someone recently explained to me, Socialism is humankind's answer to our society's problems.  God's answer is sending His Son and then sending His Spirit to dwell in a redeemed community.  In some ways, this might look like a grass-roots type of movement because each individual now has the chance to live according to the Spirit and perform good deeds.  However, as outlined above, in the real world we don't always do that, and so the leadership models lined out in the Bible (eldership, government) are in place to keep us in check.  I maintain that church community in any form should look more bottom-up than top-down. 

A "Complegalitarian" Perspective on the Roles of Men and Women

My husband and I affirm that both complementarian and egalitarian views on the roles of men and women in marriage and in ministry in the church are valid in terms of sound Biblical exegesis. We do not "throw out" or try to "explain away" any verses of the Bible, but attempt to examine every line in a systematic way.   We maintain that this is an “open-handed” issue, meaning that a person can take either stance, or any stance in between the two, and still land within the realms of orthodox Christianity.  We do not judge or condemn other Christians for differing beliefs in this area.  It is the fruit of the marriage that will be judged in the end (Lk 6:44).

We do feel that the complementarian viewpoint has sufficient representation in many churches, and that the egalitarian viewpoint has been stigmatized for various reasons.  Therefore, this post is an attempt to give a more equal treatment for a view other than the complementarian one in the context of our own personal lives, which are transparent to those with whom we live in community.

Our view point is mostly egalitarian in terms of both marriage and ministry, although there are points where we differ.  We believe the following:

Ministry
·         Before God, in Jesus Christ, there is no distinction based on gender or race (Gal. 3:28, Acts 10:34).

·         Men and women can function in any and all roles in the church (See examples of Phoebe, Lydia, Prisca/Priscilla, Tabitha/Dorcas in the New Testament church).  

·         We believe in a plurality of leadership that involves both men and women (Titus 1:5).  Men and women need each other in ministry (1 Cor. 12:21). 

Marriage
·       We believe in oneness in marriage, a partnership of which Christ is the leader.  Eph. 5:23 is imagery of a united being; just as the head and the body are one being, so is the husband and wife. The wife (the body) is called to submit to her husband and the husband (the head) is told to love and sacrifice himself for his wife because they are one being.  The husband and wife are meant to be a representation of the unity between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32).  After humanity's fall into sin, man and woman were cursed with the desire to dominate each other in the marriage relationship (Gen. 3).  Christ has freed us from the curse of sin and death (Gal. 3:13).  
*Note: Our view of the "headship" verses as imagery/metaphor and not symbolism is where we differ from a strict egalitarian interpretation.

·         Following the imagery of one united being (a head connected to a body), both the husband and the wife have the responsibility to hear from God and discern direction for the family as they attempt to follow Christ and be transformed into His image (1 Cor. 11:1, 2 Cor. 3:8).  

·         Both the husband and the wife have the responsibility to provide for the family (See Prov. 31, Titus 2:5, 1 Tim. 5:8).  Eve was created as a partner corresponding to Adam, that is, she was the same species and was meant to work with him (Gen. 2:18).  This may look different for each family according to the historical and cultural context and other variables.  However, we do maintain that women and men can have flexible roles as far as responsibilities within the household and related to working outside the home.  

·         Children are a blessing from the Lord (Ps. 127:3). Both the husband and wife have the responsibility to raise the children (1 Tim. 3:4).  We affirm efforts to move against the spirit of this age, to have children as the Lord leads, to live simply, and spend more time with the children/family (Acts 2:46, Prov. 22:6).

This is not a comprehensive list of what we believe, nor does it encompass all the possible arguments that could be presented.  Nonetheless, our position is that these points are all valid interpretations of the Bible, when taken as a whole. We recommend the work of Dr. Sarah Sumner for further reading.