Confessions of a Recovering Complementarian (Sort of – part 1)

He had broad shoulders and piercing blue eyes. My heart skipped a beat when I looked into those eyes, gazing gently from the landing above. From his wavy hair to his fur lined boots, he radiated warmth as he smiled and nodded in my direction.

I did meet him again, and yet again – and then one Valentine’s Day we stood before a Justice of the Peace and said “I do.”

We were best friends, even more so because we had started our lives together with a dose of reality. I was in the process of a divorce, and had a two and a half year old wee one. The wee one wasn’t a problem for Dave, whose love was large enough for both of us, easily. There was a kindness about him – a gentleness.

levi and dave sleeping (2)

Our family quickly enlarged to three children, and we were blissfully happy in a relationship that was based upon gender equality. It never entered our minds it could be wrong, or should be different. Desiring a new start from our pre-marriage crowd, we moved to New England.

We met Jesus there – at least the version of Jesus that was provided to us. That was when the problems began.

It didn’t take long before our happy marriage, our mutual respect, and our friendship was put to the test. We were both young – still early twenties. I was really easy going, and head-over-heals in love. Dave was incredibly caring, fun, and full of confidence, when we met and married. (Throw in a touch of male, twenty-something arrogance and ego for the full picture, a healthy dose of insecurity for me.)

We believed there was nothing that we couldn’t face together, nothing we couldn’t agree upon. But, within weeks of being introduced to Jesus, and claiming Him as our own, we were told we were in an unscriptural marriage. Marriage was for life and I had divorced and broken that covenant. Done deal. No turning back.  Not only that, but I was the “guilty party” according to the naysayers.

We made it through that sticky mess; my level headed husband, combined with a lot of God’s grace, prevented my frantic suggestions of divorce to spare us all from hell, from becoming a reality.  We found a new church home – still in the same group – but this one accepted divorce, if it happened before conversion.

Phew, I was safe.

We needed a new car and Dave and I had been shopping around. That was when the first mini-vans had just been introduced and we enjoyed test driving them together. We discussed car options for our growing family as we laughed, plotted, and ultimately just grabbed a burger knowing that the burger, not the car was in our price range.  It was something we had done when we were dating – looked at cars, homes, furniture, and other Sunday afternoon fantasies.

So, we shared with others a bit of our love story at church one night – we talked about looking at cars together. It was a fun memory, a test drive of a brand new car, when the car broke down just a few blocks from the dealer!  But the memory didn’t matter to law-makers, only the law did. The joy of the moment was robbed when we were quickly told that our relationship was out of order. I shouldn’t be part of making decisions about cars, it was Dave’s responsibility to make decisions. 

It wasn’t long before the strong Patriarchal views were chipping away at our love and mutual respect.

My strong husband no longer appeared quite so strong in my eyes. He wasn’t a biblical leader – a spiritual head.  I was no longer easy going or “submissive” as I tried to push him into a role that he didn’t want, or agree with. His happiness waned as he witnessed me tormented because who I was, wasn’t biblically right. The more I tried to be someone I wasn’t, the more I failed, the more miserable I became, and the more I blamed him for not being the spiritual head. If he would take over, I could step down. If he would only lead in prayer… if he would only lead in devotions… if he would only lead in child discipline…if he would only lead in discipleship…if he would only lead in budgeting, if he would only lead

Our once happy marriage was a cycle of blame and regret. Isn’t that what happened in the garden? Didn’t Jesus redeem us from that?

The joy of leading bible studies for my children became a burden as I became convinced it was his job to train them up, not mine. Discipline became law, because it was his responsibility as the leader. When we lost a child and when constant difficulties prevailed, it was because our home was “out of order.” We were cursed.

 I was too much, and he wasn’t enough. Who we were, who we were created to be, was simply wrong. 

We tried to lose ourselves, our personalities, our God given gifts and talents – who we are, into a theological jumble of hierarchy.  He got angrier, I got more frustrated. He retreated, I pursued.

I wish I could say this was just the story of our marriage, but it wasn’t. We know it to be true in so many marriages from our past, and into our present. Struggling, pain filled, and confused couples, hurting to be restored. Often, they don’t even know where to begin. 

Then grace happened; the music of our marriage slowly began to be heard. I am the high notes and Dave is the low notes. Low notes are usually not played as often, but when they are, they are rich, and full, and command a presence.

Lenten Longins Sam cello

What was once a burden to lead or be led has become the symphony of our lives, as we again harmonize decisions, ideas, passions, viewpoints – all with the same respect that Jesus revealed to us when He walked this earth –  loving on women, slaves, men, tax collectors – everyone equally.

 The gospels reveal the intrinsic worth of all people, and you can’t really believe that all people have value if you deem one gender more valuable in thoughts, knowledge, gifts, or leadership abilities, than you do the other. You can’t have balance if one gender is considered too emotional, weak, or good only for the services that are below the capabilities of the other.

The life of Jesus reflected things differently.

Some say it’s a gray area, and yet others have scriptural proofs for both egalitarian and complementarian views. I have been passionate about both sides – seeing both sides as black and white – at that time.

One came from a place of have to, and one springs new from a place of want to. 

Now I see Jesus in all His passions, and with that sight comes the freedom to focus on how He treated women, how he radically tossed aside the cultural musts and must nots of His time to teach women, heal women, hang out with women, and above all, love women.

He set the example of submitting one to another as he washed his betrayer’s feet. 

He set the example of lifting up the lowliest when he chatted to the Samaritan woman, alone, at the well, drawing her into a place of safety and comfort.

He set the example when he told Martha that Mary was doing the best thing when she sat at his feet – a place reserved previously only for students – only for men.

He set the example when he wrote in the sand the words that set an adulterous woman free, and threw male hypocrisy back at her accusers. 

Dave always set that example too. 

Now I am free to love and be loved. I am free to use my gifts. I am free to lead, and free to relinquish leadership to our mutual decisions and benefits as we play to the music of our lives.  Dave is pretty happy over the changes that brought us back to who we were created to be. He knows he’s enough. I know I’m not too much.

The women he fell in love with – he’s the man with the piercing blue eyes. Back to love; back to two individuals seeking our God as one.

Boy-Girl-Cute-Couple-Holding-Hands-Wallpapers

The new and improved, image bearing, spirit filled, Jesus living, version of our symphony, is being played beautifully again – richer, deeper, and fuller than ever before. 

I hope your symphony will find it’s voice again too.

Jamie

Valentine Hope; Broken Hearts Made Whole

The other day I was actively listening in a conversation with a woman who referred to a happily married couple as, “… so deeply in love, they never fought…” As I was offering support at the time, I tucked the comment away in the back of my mind.

Valentine’s Day is all about happy, romantic, perfect love, right?

valentine 2Dave and I celebrated thirty-two years of marriage yesterday, February 14, 2015, “Valentine’s Day.” This past New Year’s Eve, we celebrated thirty-four years of being together. Thirty-four years is a pretty long time. We are both in our mid-fifties – I have officially spent more of my life with Dave, than without him. I know my life with him, and can’t imagine it without him.

Not because we have had a peaceful, perfect, never fought kind of life, but because we are so intertwined; it is actually quite the opposite. We have been to hell and back several times – often pulling the other along behind us, and at times pushing each other up front.

More often than not, we have regained our directional compass and attempted to shield each other from the flames.

We have fought our way through our share of tough times. Always in love, always friends, and always holding onto our faith in God and each other, we have walked through dark and painful years, loving each other fiercely, and fighting each other passionately. We have momentarily questioned if we had what it takes to make it through to the other side of the chasm of pain and find lasting joy in each other again. We wavered in our faith that God was enough; that our love was enough.

When we first met, I was a young, single, mom, in the middle of a divorce. He was just one of those truly kind guys that represented the Law of the Prophets he had been raised with, even though he wasn’t embracing his Christian heritage at that time.

valentine 3He was moved with compassion for my daughter and me. He helped us when we needed it, and I feel madly in love. (He will also say, “there was something about your dark hair, big brown eyes, big smile and your  personality that made me fall in love with you.”)

I thought he was a god, my knight in shining armor come to save me from a loveless life. For the first seven years we were married, we never fought. I adored him and did everyone in my power to make him happy. We were best friends and he took care of me and our children with everything he had.

During those first seven years we became Christians, in an extremely legalistic cult, and life began to change. There was no shortage of people to point out what the bible said about submission for wives, and spiritual leadership for men. Simply put – I was not submissive enough, and he was too respectful and kind. We started to feel the strain on our marriage as I struggled to become someone and something I was not, and my knight in shining armor wasn’t living up to the Patriarchal mold that was expected.

valentine 1Then we lost our son – not only did we face the loss of a child, but the traumatic death of a child. Anyone with knowledge of traumatic loss would understand the statistics for divorce surrounding the death of a child are extremely high. Add in a spiritually abusive cult, lack of support, PTSD, repressed grief, feelings of shame, guilt, and performance based spirituality…

It was a recipe for disaster in all of our relationships.

Yet, here we are thirty-four years later, more deeply in love than we have ever been, not in spite of the dark and broken times, but because of them. Holding hands in victory over the darkness. ValentineThe scriptures are filled with the sufferings of Christ as the means to make us more like Him. Human relationships are the very place where we are the most challenged to be conformed to His image. They are also the place we witness the unconditional love of Christ in a tangible human; in the places of touch, speak, smell, feel, be.

Relationships are where grace takes form, not just as a theological concept, but as a spiritual reality. God became flesh and dwelt among us to reveal the reality of grace. Marriage is the place we express unmerited favor towards a human as God daily expresses it towards us. Marriage is where we attach, and work out our own rejection, past wounds, and human frailties, by reflecting on who we are in the mirror of the one who owns half of our soul.

And before God who owns it all.

cropped-fall-views-saranac.jpgYesterday Dave and talked about the many sufferings we have endured together and if we regretted having experienced them. Though both of us acknowledge we wish that our children had not been hurt by our difficulties, we embrace the work of grace that God has performed in our lives and our marriage as a result. We no longer fight, we love more, we understand forgiveness.

We can say like Paul,

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”  Phil.3:8

Light always shines the most brightly in the darkness. We have witnessed the light of God in each other as we struggled through dark caverns; we have affirmed the light as we joined hands to navigate the tunnels. We have carried each other when the journey was too much for either of us to bear.IMG_1590 (3)The dark times are just a fading glimmer in comparison to the knowledge of Christ we have gained. Our marriage is a testimony of strength, enduring love, and the power of Christ. We come alongside others who are struggling not because we can say that we have always had a wonderful marriage, or had it all together, but because we can say, We feel your pain, we’ve been where you are. Don’t let go.”

Wounded healers wearing Valentine colors.

St. Valentine was a Catholic priest who disobeyed Roman law to marry couples in secret. Rome liked to have single soldiers or polygamists at that time believing they made better soldiers if they were not worried about a young wife at home. St. Valentine was eventually executed in a horrific three-part torture and execution.

Love that is forged in the fires of life becomes unbreakable iron. Two separate hearts can be attached together by string, or wood, or simple metal strapping and it will hold together as long as it is not tested – as long as it is not put under too much pressure; but intensity, burning, searing, crushing, breaking  – fuses us.

bio both black and whiteYes, we have fought – we have fought the fight of faith and we have won the battle. We are stronger. We are unbreakable. We are friends. We are lovers. We are soul mates.

We are one.

We are a chord of three strands.

We have discovered the depths of God’s love manifested in our lives.

Everything good in my life is because God gave me a soul mate to reflect His ways, to stand with me and be conformed, to love with my whole being.

“… for better for worse, for richer for poorer, till death we do part.”

Loves Journey to Hell and Back

463af-fall09063Thirty one years ago today,  David Grubb and I had an appointment with the Justice of the Peace in Manassas, VA to say, “I Do.” We had been together for two years – love, laughter, common interests, future hope, and security, fed our relationship – and laughter, lots, and lots, of laughter. We love to laugh. Our children love to laugh. We even have a family favorite book, “They Loved to Laugh.” Sometimes its a way to avoid the tough stuff, but it’s also a great stress reliever (proven) and you can’t hate, you can’t fight, you can’t be miserable over the tough stuff when your having fun together.

We thought we were invincible back then. I thought Dave was perfect. Nothing but happiness would ever visit us.  It was impossible for us to argue or disagree. I had landed my knight in shining armor, the kind of love dreams are made of. I had a reason to believe so – he was the kindest, most selfless, generous, and caring man I had ever known.  I have always told people Dave is the most Christlike man I have ever known.

On Feb. 13th, 1983, an unusual snow storm similar to what just hit the northeast the last few days, dumped enough snow to leave us stranded in our home, wondering if we would miss our own wedding day.  It was our before Jesus days, very much in love, but very lost. I was already divorced at the age of 22, and expecting our first (my second) child, Kacey. With a sense of urgency stemming from shame, I didn’t want to miss that appointment. Neither of us did. However, there aren’t many people who are prepared with snow plows in Virginia, and I wasn’t finding anyone who could get us out.  Fortunately, my Matron of Honor sent her brother in his four-wheel drive truck to the rescue. He ran a path back and forth down our 1/3 mile long driveway packing the snow down enough to get us out.

Dressed in maternity clothes, there I stood at the JoP with my two and half year old daughter, Kristen, by my side, my handsome, kind, soon to be husband facing me. Living in a prison of shame, I spoke my vows with my head bowed to Kristen, feeling too uncomfortable before the older, southern judge, to lift my eyes to Dave’s. The judge’s countenance, and his curt words and stern demeanor, confirmed the kind of young woman I believed I was.

Thirty-three years later, with a total of eleven children, eight living, three with Jesus, one who was adopted, one tomb stone to be placed when the ground thaws – representing twenty-three years of healing and deliverance from a cult, financial losses, loss of a home, end of life care, a stillborn, two job-losses, thirteen moves with four relocation’s, too many life threatening, or painful situations to name, three church splits, four buried horses, a farm, a townhouse, five dogs buried, and… and… and… (The statistics for married couples to divorce over the death of a child is huge/ the stats of those coming from cults is huge.)

There were times that the pain of living was so great and our grieving styles (and PTSD) so different, that for a moment, just a moment, we wondered if we would make it. There were times in that pain when we did so much damage to each other – me with my cutting words, and he with his lack of words, that we wondered if those places could heal. But through it all, we never stopped laughing. We never stopped loving. We never stopped having fun, or making up, or finding our way back to each other.

We never gave up on Jesus, even though we fought like hell for years to find Him – He who had been so misrepresented, hidden in a cruel, legalistic, cult. Thankfully, He never, ever, gave up on us.

I often tell others how my  Knight received many chinks in his armor over the years, and – and how much better his armor now looks for the wear. Battle weary at times, he shows the scars of battles well fought for his life, his family, and his love. He calls me “Fairest,” I call him, “Beloved,” and  I wear the name permanently as a sign of my commitment that no matter what possibilities the future may have – for better or worse – he is my Beloved. When you weather the tough times, to hell and back, all you have left is “for better.” You learn to live in “the better” because the worse can always be worse.

We raised eight wonderful, talented, smart, fun-loving, and responsible children together, we’ve camped, and had bonfires; we went to more hockey games with seven in hockey than I would know how to count; we went to fencing matches, Taekwondo practices, and horse shows. Camping in Maine is our Tropical Island. Dave has always driven beater cars (usually under $1,000) commuting 30 to 60 miles, working fifty to sixty hours a week, just so our kids could have a little bit of fun, and a country home – and so I could have a reliable vehicle. We homeschooled, homebirthed, and homesteaded. We’ve done missions together, disasters, marriage counseling, and spiritual mentoring. We have helped the homeless, the widows and the orphans. We laughed, and laughed, and we’ve wept, and wept.

I didn’t occur to me until I began this blog entry, that Dave was also the first young man I had ever dated, maybe ever met, that had been raised by a Christian father. Despite his own struggles as a complete introvert, a marriage to a sick wife who died at thirty-eight and left him with three teenage children, Clarence Grubb loved Jesus. He modeled that love and kindness to his son David, who modeled that love and kindness to me. No wonder I began seeking, reading the bible, searching for Truth less than two years after marrying Dave. I was living with a lost Christ-follower, who just needed to find his way back.

Marriage is commitment – a commitment to each other, based on a commitment to Christ. It’s a friendship. It’s co-dependency – you can’t and don’t want to live without your “co.”   It’s hope when it’s hopeless, strength when there’s weakness, light when there’s darkness, comfort when there’s pain. It’s Jesus – dying and rising again, so we may also.

Real love lives in the reality that all of life is grace. 

If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing – not the death, or dying, the pain or loss – for it only through the taste of bitter, you truly recognize sweet, and only through sadness, that you reach the heights of joy.

Happy Anniversary Beloved. Thank you for 33 years of real life with you. In the words of the song,

“You were there when I shook my fist at the sky. You were there when I fell to the earth and cried. Do you remember how it felt just like we died and rose again? And the storm inside was raging.
It was howling like the wind at the Pentecost, and his love was teaching us a language we thought was lost. I have felt the holy fire of love, been burned by the holy fire of love. Made clean by the holy fire of love.
I walked beside you in the canyon flames, deep as an ocean and hot as a thousand suns. We barely survived. Now I wake up in a golden dream: angel voices in the rooms where the children run, all covered in light.
Don’t give up on me. I won’t give up on you.”

Always,  Fairest