Category: My Thoughts

No Bad People

In church today, I heard a challenging message about honoring authority. By nature, I have a tendency to dislike authority. Outwardly, I have been raised to be respectful toward authority figures. But in my heart, I am often resentful and rebellious. I’ve been exposed to too many authority figures who have abused their power, and it has made me distrustful.

In church, we started with reading a Bible verse, Romans 13:1-2, which says: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

Already, I started pumping the brakes. Wait, does this mean that God put Hitler in power? Osama Bin Laden? The Pharoah who enslaved the Israelites? What about the president of North Korea? These rulers have done evil things. Most people would call them evil people. Yet God put them in power?

Apparently, not only did God establish their positions of authority, but I am called to honor them. Honoring evil dictators is not something I can easily do, in my heart, or outwardly. I didn’t even know where to begin.

As a less dramatic example, I struggle with honoring President Trump. I didn’t vote for him, I would not have chosen him as the President, and I disagree with the attitudes he portrays, the words he says, and the actions he takes. I believe his actions are immortal, unloving, and against God. How am I to honor such a person?

Well, as usual, I started by researching. I read article after article about honoring the dishonorable, honoring authority while participating in civil disobedience, and the practical meaning of honoring people in general.

The best explanation I found goes something like this. Yes, God puts authority figures in power. No, God does not desire for those authority figures to do evil things, and he does not accept those evil actions. However, he has purposes and plans that we can’t always see or understand.

For whatever reason beyond me, God chose to put Hitler, and Bin Laden, and yes, Trump (sorry for the extreme juxtaposition), in power. We know that his plans are for the good, and that even when evil things are done, he has an eternal perspective and a plan for the good. All we can do is trust him in these situations.

So fine. I can accept that God arranged (not just allowed) President Trump to be elected, despite the immoral things he has said and done both before becoming president and during his presidency. But still, I struggle with honoring him.

Honoring means to hold in high esteem or to have great respect for someone. Respect means to feel a deep admiration for someone. Am I honestly being commanded to deeply admire and esteem President Trump? (Trump supporters can substitute President Obama).

Yes! And it’s not as impossible as it might sound.

We can do this by finding the fine line between our feelings and our choices. We can distinguish between honor and obedience, friendship, agreement, or enabling.

Let’s break this down.

I can honor a person’s position without submitting to their immorality. If the government passes a law that is contrary to God, I can still respect the government without obeying that immoral law. In fact, I am commanded to disobey that law and instead submit to God’s authority.

I can honor a person without enjoying their personality, or supporting the evil things they do.

I can honor a person without agreeing with them.

I can honor a person without enabling them to continue to do evil. I can honor an authority figure while still working respectfully and calmly to remove them from authority, or pursue justice for their evil actions, or affect change in how their authority is used.

So if I don’t have to blindly obey, enjoy, support, agree with, or enable a person to honor them, what do I have to do?

What does it actually mean, in practical terms, to honor somebody?

We can honor people by looking for things to respect. Even if 99% of the things a person says or does are not worthy of respect, we can look for the 1%. There is good in everybody, because we are all made in God’s image.

Which brings me to the next point. We are all made in God’s image, and we are all his creation. We can honor people by recognizing that they are God’s masterpiece.

We can honor people by remembering that God loves them. God loves them so much that he died for them. And if they have accepted Jesus, whether that shows on the outside or not, then they are also children of God, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family. We are all loved by God.

We can honor people by viewing them through a lens of compassion. We are all imperfect and flawed. Yet God extends his grace to us, and we can also extend it to others.

We can honor the likelihood that most people are just doing their best. Sometimes, a person’s best falls far, far short of what we expect at a minimum. But still, most people want to be good people and do what they think is right. They are trying. Sometimes, what a person thinks is right is completely distorted and evil, but they don’t see it. They are blind. Whether they deserve it or not (and none of us do, really), we can honor them nonetheless.

My favorite way is this: we can honor people for their potential. Everybody has potential to be used by God. He has taken the dirtiest sinners and turned them around to do great things for his Kingdom. Nobody is too far gone for God to use for good. We can honor that potential in other people, no matter how much we despise the things they have done in the past and perhaps the things they are still doing.

When it comes to authority figures, from our parents to our bosses to police officers to our President, we can also simply honor the position. We may not know the person well (or like, or agree with them), but we do know that God put them in their position of authority, and we are called to honor that. (Of course, we are also called to use our influence to help bring godly people into positions of authority, and remove ungodly ones. We can still do that respectfully. And whether or not we succeed, we are called to pray for those in power, that God would use them for good.)

I think when we fully absorb this attitude of honor, we will reflect that in our hearts and in our words and actions.

Instead of saying that somebody is a bad person, I can say that they have done bad things. I can honor them as a person who God created, loves, and sees potential in. When I label a person as “bad” it leaves no room for change. When I label attitudes, words, and actions as bad, but still honor the person, I leave room for God to work.

I think that is the key to this command to honor those in authority, and those around us. We do our best to see God in each person, and in doing so, we leave room for him to work.

The Freedom to Change My Mind

Lately, I’ve been discovering that I have the freedom to change my mind. Maybe this sounds weird to you. Of course I can change my mind, why wouldn’t I be able to?

Well, for me, I guess I have always felt that changing my mind was almost a form of lying. I’ve felt that when I make a decision, I should stick to it. I don’t want to be known as a person who just says things, and then doesn’t follow through. That’s a pet peeve of mine, in fact.

But lately, I’ve realized that sometimes, changing my mind is okay. It doesn’t mean I’m an unreliable person, it means I’m a changing person. I evolve, and grow, my situation changes, and so on. I am now embracing my freedom to change my mind!

It feels good.

I’ve changed my mind about two things, recently. One is kind of small, and the other is pretty big.

The small one was adopting a kitten. I have said many times that I didn’t want more than one cat. I have also said that I don’t need any more pets right now. And, I have said that I don’t ever want to adopt a kitten, because grown cats are better for several reasons. Well, I changed my mind. And it was a great decision!

I love my new kitten, Leo. He’s very outgoing, friendly, and affectionate. Every time I get a new pet, I feel that our family is more complete. Many people may not understand why I would want four dogs and two cats, especially when I already have two young children to look after. But I love pets! I find joy in taking care of them and providing them a good home. I love knowing that my children will grow up being comfortable around animals, including dogs of all sizes.

For now, we have to stop adding to our pets, simply because we cannot legally own any more dogs. The limit is four in our city. As for cats, we don’t have room in this house for a third litter box, so two is our maximum. And I am not comfortable housing small animals without providing them their own secure room, after what happened to the guinea pigs. So as long as we live where we do, we are at capacity.

But I am not going to say that there won’t be any more additions once we eventually move to a bigger home. We have a dream of moving to a ranch house and owning some livestock, and adding several more small animals to our family. Until then, I’m quite content with things as they are.

The bigger decision I recently changed my mind about is having more children. I said that after Abigail, I was done with pregnancy. But I still want at least one more baby, and something doesn’t feel right to me about adopting a newborn when I know that I am able to have children biologically. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with it, but I just don’t feel like it’s what we’re supposed to do. I still want to adopt older children later on, but right now, I’m not done with raising babies.

And truthfully, even though pregnancy is really hard for me, and birth is also challenging, it’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I’m not ready to be done with it. I want to do it again!

The one thing I want to do different for baby #3 is to wait until Abigail is done nursing before getting pregnant. I had to wean Cody before I was really ready (even though he was over two years old), because it was too painful to nurse when I became pregnant with Abigail. I convinced myself that I would nurse him again when the baby was born, but by that time, it didn’t feel right to go back and of course I never did nurse him again.

Also, being pregnant when he was that age, just barely done being a baby, was hard. I was detached from him because of my discomfort, and I feel like I missed that stage of his life. I feel like weaning and then my pregnancy really changed our relationship in a way I wasn’t ready for.

So, I want to avoid that this time around. As such, we are planning to wait until Abigail is about three years old to start trying to conceive. If she hasn’t weaned herself by then, I am comfortable weaning her when I get pregnant. Cody will also be six years old by the time I’m pregnant with baby #3, and that will make things a lot easier.

Right now, Cory is on board with having another baby, but he isn’t convinced about having a fourth. I will be 29 during my next pregnancy if all goes according to plan. I’d want a similar age gap between #3 and #4, and I don’t really care to have another baby past age 35, so that gives us a lot of time to decide what we want to do. Personally, I am hoping for four babies, but who knows what will happen. Only God, of course. 🙂

The future looks bright! I feel energized by looking ahead, planning, and dreaming. I’m discovering that giving myself the freedom to change my mind makes it even more fun. I am still on the adventure of life, discovering what God has for me.

I Do… Or Do I?

i-do-or-do-i

What do cold feet, long engagements, and runaway brides have in common? They all stem from the myth and the fear that marriage changes everything.

I’ve seen it countless times in real life, on TV, and in movies. A couple gets engaged, but starts to waver when it comes to actually making it to that alter. Or, in a similar situation, a couple stays together for years and years, supposedly committed to getting married one day, but postpones engagement for all of those years, or even goes through breakup scares or “on again, off again” cycles. It always makes me wonder, why do people make marriage so intimidating and complicated? Or more accurately, why do people have such trouble with commitment?

The way I see it, marriage is simple. It is a commitment to be with another person for the rest of your lives, to love and care for each other, and to be partners in life. To agree to such a commitment would be a scary thing if you weren’t sure about yourself, or the person you were committing to. But what does it really take to be sure?

I’ve heard many answers to this question. Some seem to think you need to know everything about your significant other to be ready for marriage. Some believe you need to resolve all of your issues as a couple first. Others think that a certain age, or educational, financial or career goal must be reached before marriage. My own marriage counselors seemed to believe that in order to be ready for marriage, a certain level of spiritual maturity, assessed by them using some arbitrary process I wasn’t aware of at the time, was necessary. But all of these answers are really just excuses.

I’ve been married for five years now, and I still don’t know everything about my spouse, nor does he know everything about me. We still have issues we need to work through, and we find new ones sometimes too. We were married young, before finishing college, and without having established careers or even the financial strength to support ourselves; yet none of those factors had a negative effect on our marriage. We have enjoyed these last five years growing together spiritually and in maturity, and building our lives together, despite the fact that many people said we “weren’t ready.” We were sure, and we were 100% committed to our marriage, and we had Jesus at the center. That was all that mattered.

So, I ask again, how can one be sure? I think the truth is, it’s simpler than it seems. As cliche as it sounds, when you know, you know. But also, it takes time to build a relationship to that level (but not that much time). What I mean is that it’s a process–you meet, you date, you get to know each other, you fall in love, you create memories together, you experience conflicts and struggles and learn to resolve them, you test your compatibility, you choose to love each other… and somewhere along the way, you discover that you know. Even when the newness and excitement wears off, and you start doing real-life together, you still feel that knowing. You find that you are not afraid of committing to this person. You find that you are already there.

When somebody is ready, engagement is a promise to demonstrate your commitment, and marriage is the final seal to that promise. Engagement and marriage are the proof that you are committed, but they aren’t the commitment itself–that comes before. In other words, the commitment should already be solidly and firmly in place when you decide to take those vows. It’s not a decision you can make on the spot after you’ve already walked down the aisle! It’s not even a decision you can make on the spot when your significant other is down on one knee. It’s something that you already know in those moments, because it has grown naturally and is ready to blossom confidently into marriage.

Marriage doesn’t change everything. It just declares what is already there. A wedding isn’t the beginning of a life together, it’s just one of the many steps along the way. A wedding won’t solidify a commitment that’s weak to begin with, but it can very easily expose that weakness. On the other hand, when it’s right, weddings can be a beautiful way to celebrate your love and commitment as a couple. But it has to be right, first. (And, sidenote, a marriage can start before a wedding happens, if financing the wedding is the hurdle holding a couple back. Personally, if I could go back in time, I would have gone and gotten married at the courthouse a year before I had my wedding, because we were ready then!)

So if you’re in line to get engaged or married, ask yourself: is it there, or is it not? Are you compatible, or are you not? Are you sure, or are you not? If the answer is “not,” then maybe the knot is not something you should tie. If you’ve been together for many years and you’re not sure (or they’re not sure), it’s likely you never will be. The truth is, marriage doesn’t make a relationship easier or harder. Time is the only thing that changes things, and those changes are out of our control. We can only control ourselves, and decide in our hearts and minds that we will stay the course. Are you ready to do that, or are you not? The answer should be simple.