Benjamin Nolot, A Forerunner for Purity in a Pornified World

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Benjamin Nolot

“Women are intellectual, emotional, spiritual…creative, athletic, familial, political, caring, compassionate, relational, strong; they may desire autonomy and independence, or family and children; they long for commitment and fidelity; they are searching for deeper meaning and purpose; they long to have an impact in the world.  Simply put, women are not a sexual buffet for the gratuitous appetites of men; they are image bearers of God and the crown of His creation.” 

photoThese words were spoken by Benjamin Nolot (founder of Exodus Cry and award-winning director of Nefarious, a film exploring the nature and manifestation of human trafficking in the world today), at the One Thing conference in Kansas City, which wrapped up on the last day of 2013.  Blake and I drove the six hours to KC this past weekend mainly to hear him speak, but also enjoyed hanging with some friends, a teaching by Mike Bickle, worship with Matt Redman, Laura Hackett, and Jon Thurlow, lunch at Cosentino’s (a downtown market with a plethora of different fresh food), and an early birthday treat for Blake which started with our favorite KC BBQ at Jack Stack’s and wrapped up with some coffee, cookies, and chai at a local coffee house called Crossroads (Blake even wore his Crossroads hoody that day.  How did he know?).

Early Birthday Goodness

Early Birthday Goodness

The One Thing Conference is an annual gathering of around 30,000 people, hosted by the International House of Prayer (IHOP), which focuses on drawing people into a deep encounter with Jesus so that they might make Him and His call the One Thing in their life which takes all preeminence.  It takes place after Christmas each year and wraps up with an extended worship set to ring in the New Year.  Unfortunately, Blake and I couldn’t stay the whole time (we missed the beginning and the end and were only there for about a day and a half), but I was adamant that we hear Benjamin Nolot speak, as he is one of my living heroes.  

One Thing 2013

One Thing 2013

At this time, I feel I must explain what I mean by “living hero” because it is a term I use quite often and you will most likely read it again in future posts.  A living hero is NOT someone I idolize. They are simply someone I greatly respect and who inspires me. They are NOT someone I try to emulate, but rather, are someone I submit to learn from.  They are someone whose life I follow and am interested in observing.   I say all this because I feel it’s important that there be only one I exalt and emulate: Christ Jesus. But there are many people who are forerunners worthy of my notice and Benji Nolot is amongst those at the top of that list. 

His message at the conference was profound and was birthed out of the research and filming of the sequel to Nefarious.  While the first film revealed the problem of human trafficking, it did not explore many of the causes.  With over 30 million people enslaved today (more than ever in human history), the majority of whom are enslaved for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the enormity of the problem begs the question: why?  In other words, how has humanity reached such a deep level of global depravity that this many people are being commodified?  As Nolot puts it, “What type of society is producing so many men willing to buy a woman or child for sex?”  Nefarious-HTML1

The second film promises answer this central dramatic question by exposing the pornified nature of multiple aspects of our culture which work collectively to do two things: to groom women and girls to conform to the idealized hyper-sexualized image of femininity while simultaneously grooming men and boys to consume women’s sexuality.  This duality working in tandem is so inherently problematic for both sexes, especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy sexuality, resulting in what Nolot refers to as a “toxic sexuality.” The end result of such toxic sexuality is the dehumanization of both women and men.  Women’s sexuality become their only value and they are reduced to “nymphomaniacs with no sexual discretion or preference.”  Furthermore, they must always be available for sex in order to achieve visibility.  Men are also dehumanized as they are reduced to “unfeeling, amoral, life-support systems for [feminine arousal]” and find value through the domination and degradation of women.  

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This is just the tip of the iceberg concerning how our culture is affecting our view of gender roles, our sexuality, and ourselves as individuals.  His message was so dynamic and so multi-faceted that I couldn’t possibly address all of the points in this post. But it was so powerful that I wouldn’t want you to miss out! So check out the teachings below:

Contending for Purity in a Pornified World Part 1 (Benjamin Nolot: One Thing 2013)

Contending for Purity in a Pornified World Part 2 (Benjamin Nolot: One Thing 2013)

There is, however, one topic, the idea of the “female double bind,” which I would like to highlight here because I believe it is an aspect of the problem which has infiltrated the Church and is therefore keeping us from fully engaging with God’s heart toward this issue.  This is yet another case of the Church trying to NOT be “in the world” and in effect becoming “of the world” (with our own Christian brand of course).  Hint: it’s supposed to be the other way around.  We’re supposed to be in the world but not of it!

The Female Double Bind

The female double bind is an “impossible dilemma that women and girls face in [our] sexist culture.”  It’s based on the premise of culture-grooming mentioned earlier. The double standard is that men who are groomed to be consumers of sex are celebrated when they reach this ideal, while women who are groomed to objectify their own sexuality are shamed when they reach the ideal.  It’s the irony of a mentality which calls a promiscuous male a stud, pimp, or player (a celebratory term) and calls a promiscuous female a slut or whore (a term of derision).  

Human-Trafficking-1024x688Basically, the female double bind means that a woman can’t win.  Only men are the winners (if it can even be called winning) in this type of culture and they win by wielding the invincible double bind to completely degrade and oppress women.

This is perfectly exemplified by a quote Nolot shared from a woman he interviewed who had formerly been prostituted.  She said, “We are very close to death.  All women are.  And we are very close to rape and we are very close to beating.  And we are inside a system of humiliation from which there is no escape for us.”  

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Isaiah 61

Now, I don’t know about you, but when she says, “there is no escape for us,” it completely breaks my heart.  Why?  Because I know the man who was anointed to set the captives free and proclaim release to the prisoners (Isaiah 61/Luke 4).  And His word says that the same Spirit is upon me and upon every believer.  My heart breaks because I know that it’s the will of God that the Bride of Christ, His church, have the same broken heart for humanity that Jesus has, a heart moved to action with compassion by the sufferings of humanity who are under the burden of the exploitative nature of sin. 

So why then, if the Church has the authority to set captives free, would this woman feel she had no escape? 

strippersnIt’s the same reason that a woman I met who was working in a strip club took one look at our Bibles which say, “Jesus Loves Strippers” and boldly and sincerely asked our team, “Does He really?  Am I less than to Him because of what I do?”  Because, up until that point, she had only been met with condemnation from Christians who had chosen to degrade her character right along side the men in the clubs who exploited her.  She didn’t yet know about the Savior who sets us free.  The Savior who convicts but never condemns.  The Savior who loves her so immensely.  She didn’t yet know the Father who created her and saw her as lovely.  The Father who longs to be in relationship with her.  The Father who longs to bless her.  The Father who gave up and sacrificed His own son so that He could have her as His own daughter.  She didn’t know because no one had ever told her or shown her.  She didn’t know because all the Christians she had encountered had joined right along with the World in participating in what Nolot refers to as “slut shaming.”  She was expecting God to do the same. 

Church, we must guard against throwing the baby out with the bathwater!  In rejecting sexual immorality, we have a tendency to also rejected people who are enslaved by the spirit of lust and perversion, especially women!  Women who are simply trying to survive in a pornified culture.  Women who don’t know the freedom found in Christ because we’ve not offered it to them.  Women who look at the Church and see the same double bind found in the strip club.  They feel degraded and vilified for conforming to culture no matter where they turn.  It’s completely understandable that they would choose, therefore, to stay within the context of culture rather than seek refuge in the Church.  Popular culture is familiar and the Church doesn’t feel at all like a refuge.  

isaiah61We have to have a better answer than that!  And I believe we do!  To quote Sarah Bessey, author of the book, Jesus Feminist, “The world is failing women, and we, the people of God, know the solution: our beloved Jesus and His Kingdom ways are good news, in every sense of the words!”  And I must tell you that I am beginning to see a huge shift in the way the Body of Christ is responding to women and I’m so encouraged by it!  Ministries such as Exodus Cry, BeLoved, Strip Church, and several others are breaking the female double bind both in the sex industry and within the Church.  Christ is stirring His Bride to go after the lost daughters and shower them with His love and honor.  And from what I’ve seen, it works.  Lo and behold, His Word stands true:  His goodness really does lead us to repentance.  And His light really does shine in the darkness.  And His mercies really are endless.  He really does set captives free, heal the broken-hearted, and bring dead things to life.  He really is the one who so loved the World!  

To bring this to a close, I want to invite and urge each of us as individuals to take a sincere inventory of his or her own heart.  How do I really feel about the so-called “soiled” woman?  Do I have God’s attitude toward her?  Or have I bought into the culture’s double bind?  

These are questions you must answer, because she’s asking you another question.  She’s asking you, “Does He really love me?”  

Here’s a hint:  God loves her as much as He loves you.  Why not go show and tell her?  Don’t know where to start?  Why not take your cue from Benjamin Nolot?  Begin by telling her: She is the “crown of God’s creation.”

Because, she is.  

 

 

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All I Wanted Was To Take Her Shame Away

This is a very embarrassing post.

 But part of overcoming your fears means laying aside your pride and being able to laugh at yourself.  Besides, even though what I’m about to share with you and the rest of the internet (i.e. the whole world) is one of my most embarrassing moments, it also happens to be one of my most profound encounters with the Holy Spirit and, for that reason, is worth sharing. It never ceases to amaze me how God speaks to me when I least expect Him to and how He can redeem every moment of our lives (even the embarrassing ones) and turn it around for our good and His glory. gbhouse2

It all started around this time last year.  It was a few weeks before Christmas and, upon the suggestion of a friend, I had driven to Evansville to check out the annual Aurora Gingerbread House Competition.  Being a cake designer, I’m intrigued by any pastry-based competition and was particularly interested in the hefty cash prize that was awarded to the winner.  It didn’t hurt either that the proceeds benefited Evansville’s homeless (spectators need only bring a canned good or perishable item as cover).  The only hitch was that beyond assembling a store-bought gingerbread kit, I had never worked with the medium, therefore I felt it necessary and wise to do some reconnaissance before actually entering such a competition.  I concluded I may enter the following year, but first I wanted to scope out the level of competition and ask the designers as many technical questions as I could about working with gingerbread without revealing my agenda.  Sneaky… 

The day was fantastic!  I highly recommend this event to anyone, whether you’re a seasoned pastry chef, a kid who likes to play with icing, or just a looky-loo in the Christmas spirit.  They have a few different competitions for people of various skill levels including a kid’s track, each with its own prize.  It was so much fun to meander from table to table with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the artists assemble their creations with a Christmas choir signing in the background. gbhouse I saw every type of gingerbread house imaginable, from the very traditional to Santa’s summer retreat to a working gingerbread cuckoo clock to a haunted gingerbread house.  This intricate gingerbread bird house was my favorite and ended up winning first place in the professional division. 

Side Note:  Aurora, Inc. is a really great organization!  You should check out their website and their blog, http://aurorahelpshomeless.wordpress.com/

When I left the event, I still had plenty of time to kill before my husband, Blake, got home.  I think he was at a speech tournament otherwise we would have most definitely been together.   We really are best friends and would prefer any activity together rather than solo and thus usually find a way to accompany one another even on our individual adventures.  This aspect of our relationship is great, but it makes Christmas shopping for one another nearly impossible.  We usually just buy each other’s gifts together, wrap them together, and then act surprised on Christmas morning.  But, since I was actually out alone for once, I decided to take advantage of the situation and stop by Eastland Mall to pick him up a few secret presents. 

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As I drove across town, it dawned on me that I must have drank one too many hot chocolates at the competition.  And by the time I got to the mall, I was under a full-fledged code yellow.  I had to go…BAD!

 Have you ever tried to find a quick parking place, close to the door, and close to a bathroom at a busy mall on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of the holiday shopping season all while nervously squirming in your seat so as not to endure a wet trip home?  I had traded one near impossibility for another.  Finally, after driving around for what seemed an eternity, the heavens opened and the hallelujah choir began singing as a car pulled out near the back side of JCPenny.  I couldn’t have been more relieved (well, that’s not actually true, I was in desperate need of greater relief); I knew that there was a small bathroom located at the back of the store just inside the closest door.  I thought to myself, “This is perfect!  Surely there won’t be anyone in this bathroom.  Most people don’t even know it’s here.” 

frequenturination Wrong!  After running awkwardly into the store with my knees together, I swung open the bathroom door to see that the line of perturbed, exhausted women ended just beyond it.  I squeezed my way in, desperately praying that I could hold it until my turn.  The good news is that I made it to the stall.  

The band news?  Well, this is going to take some explaining.  Bear with me.  This was the holidays and I was sporting the obligatory few extra holiday pounds but I still wanted to look nice in my skinny jeans and sweater, which is why I decided to wear my secret weapon and trusted ally: Spanx! (Don’t hate.) These weren’t just simple Spanx either.  Oh no!  These were full-body, over-the-shoulder Spanx; the kind you have to take off all of your clothes in order to remove.  Well, there was simply no time for any of that nonsense (finally getting into the stall had actually increased the urgency of the situation, if you know what I mean.)  If you’re unfamiliar with the design of this type of Spanx, this is the part of the story in which it’s unfortunately pertinent I explain to you that they have an opening which, in the case of an emergency (of which this was one), allows the wearer to utilize the bathing suit pullover method.  Ladies, you get me.  Fellas, ask your wives because that’s all the details I’m willing to give. 

Let’s just say, it did not go well.  I had waited so long to go and was so close to my goal that I lost control. There was nothing I could do, but try my best to get as much fabric as possible out of the line of fire and pray the damage was minimal.  By the end, I was wet, my hand was wet, the Spanx were wet.  To top it off, I felt a lot of pressure to hurry knowing that there were only two stalls and a slew of irritable women waiting on me to exit just outside the door.  I cleaned up as best I could with tissue paper and thought I had all but taken care of the problem.  I zipped up,  thoroughly washed my hands, and made my way out into the busy mall.  That’s when I learned a hard lesson:  spandex is like a sponge.  It feels dry to the touch, but actually retains a ton of moisture.  In other words, spandex lies.  My trusted friend had betrayed me. 

Slowly, I could feel my jeans getting wetter and wetter.  I tried to find a mirror so that I could do that move where you check yourself out all while pretending not to check yourself out.  But it was impossible!  People were everywhere!  The mall was packed with frantic holiday shoppers. I knew my pants were wet, but I didn’t know for sure if it was noticeable.  So I pulled my sweater down as far as I could and decided to make my way to the next nearest bathroom to assess the damages.  There was no way I was going back to the cramped and crowded restroom from which I had just escaped and face the same angry line of women.  The only problem?  The only other bathroom I knew of was all the way across the entire mall in the food court.  What could I do?  I had to go for it.  Surely my pants weren’t that bad.  But as I made my way there, every pack of laughing teenagers walking behind me made me as paranoid as a turkey on Thanksgiving. 

images (1)I finally made it, only to see a sign reading “Under Maintenance” and a janitor directing me and other traffic to a different bathroom upstairs.  Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Eastland Mall, but “upstairs” means walking up a completely open stairwell directly above the dining area of the food court.  And at that moment, the last place I wanted to be positioned was above a huge crowd of people who were eating.  But what choice did I have? I made my way upstairs and joined a long line of women waiting along a wall in a hallway to enter a tiny bathroom.  Finally.  I could rest and hide my shame for a while.  I took refuge by placing my back against the wall and pretended to look at my phone.  Nervous thoughts raced through my head as fast as I was aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed.  I was so ashamed.  I kept wondering how bad it was and how many people had noticed and what did they think and how was I going to get out of here and how could I be such a screw up!  I was so caught up in my own spiral of shame and self-loathing that I almost didn’t notice the family behind me.

A mom with four little girls ranging in age from nine to four were clumped together along the wall.  The mom was visibly and verbally annoyed with the eldest girl who was talking in a very high-pitched winy voice.  My attention was divided between them, the slowly moving line, snippets of Facebook posts, and my own self-defeating thoughts so it took me a while to realize that this girl wasn’t just being a brat.  She had a legitimate complaint, a complaint with which I could empathize.  She had to GO!

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As she hopped back and forth on one foot, bent over with her hands between her knees, bemoaning to her mother, “I gotta go bad! I can’t hold it,” my current quest faded from the forefront of my thoughts and I became increasingly worried for this little girl.  I tried to act nonchalant as I began paying closer attention to this family.  The mother was not in the mood to handle the girl’s current crisis and reprimanded her for making a scene.  It’s understandable.  She was powerless to help her little girl.  She couldn’t make the line move any faster and no one was offering her their place.  I’m sure this mother had been shopping all day, fighting the crowd, with four unruly kids in tow, spending money she could have used on bills or food, and was more than a little frazzled.  All she probably wanted was to get these kids to the bathroom and get out of there.

women-line-bathroom-400x400But, I felt so bad for this little girl and I was genuinely worried that she was going to have an accident right there in the hallway.  It didn’t seem like anybody else cared, so I vowed that when we finally got into the bathroom, I would let her go in my place.  As the line inched closer and closer to the bathroom doors, the girl’s cries became more and more frantic, “I really, really can’t hold it!  I’m gonna go!” and I became increasingly nervous for her.  I was so relieved when we finally made it into the actual bathroom.  Eventually, there was only one woman in line in front of me, but she was completely oblivious and seemed to be lost in her own world.  

As the girl’s voice reach a frenzied climax behind me, a stall opened up, and I practically pushed the lady in front of me into it.  I pressed forward on her shoulder shocking her back into the present moment, pointed at the open stall, and commanded, “Go!  Go!”  She let our a sudden, “Oh!” and slowly sauntered into the stall as if she had all the time in the world.  

We had almost made it.  All that needed to happen was for one more glorious door to swing open.  I watched those doors like a hawk waiting for even the slightly movement.  And that’s when it happened.

The room went silent.  There girl’s urgent pleas had suddenly ceased.  I turned around only to see the saddest sight:  a little girl peeing her pants in the middle of a crowded room.  It all seemed to happen in slow motion.  Shock settled on the room.  Everyone just stared at her.  She just stood there, frozen, as her pants became more and more saturated and the liquid slowly pooled on the floor.  You could have heard a pin drop.  No one knew what to say or do.  And that’s when the mother did something I will never forget.

Without acknowledging the little girl besides directing an extremely aggravated huff and a very conspicuous eye roll in her direction, she turned to the next eldest in her brood,  handed her charge of the two younger girls, and said quite loudly and quite hatefully, “You take your sisters to the bathroom.  I’ve got to go tell your father.” 

Then…she walked out.  She. Walked. Out.

She left this precious baby standing in a puddle of her own urine.

I was stunned.  The little girl was stunned.  Her sisters were stunned.  The whole room was stunned.  

headinhandsThe little girl still just stood there in the middle of all of us, too frightened and ashamed to even step out of the puddle on the floor.  Her sisters were huddled together and inching back away from the liquid as it spread out along the bathroom floor.  The devastated little girl looked up at me with shame-filled eyes from the midst of her mistake.  My heart just broke.

Just then, a stall door opened.  I told the sisters to go ahead and use that stall.  They dutifully obeyed, relieved someone was finally telling them what to do.  I looked the little girl in the eyes and asked, “Do you want to come stand over here by me?”  She nodded her head, and sheepishly muttered, “yeah…”  That first step out of the puddle was all it took to release the tears.  She sobbed and sobbed as she took her place in the corner of the room with me.  I wrapped my arm around her shoulder.

In that moment, I didn’t know what to say.  All I wanted was to take her shame away.  I loved her in that moment.  I wanted her to know that it was going to be okay.  I wanted her to know that it could’ve happened to anyone.  I wanted her to know that it didn’t matter what anyone thought about what she had done.  I just wanted to give her her dignity back. 

We stood there, side by side, me hugging her shoulder against my hip, her quietly sobbing, me praying, her whimpering, me directing traffic to go ahead and cut in line.  Finally, I felt the Holy Spirit release me to talk to her.  I bent down, looked her in the eye, and just started asking questions I prayed would take her mind off of what had happened.  

“What’s your name?”  Ruth*

“How old are you?”  Nine

“Where are you from?”  Mt. Vernon*

“What grade are you in?”  Third

“What’s your favorite subject in school?”  Reading

“Really!  That’s awesome!  I used to be an English teacher.  What’s your favorite book?”  Some YA title I didn’t know. 

“I’ve never read it.  What’s it about?”  

She began relaying to me the plot of her favorite book.  And as she told me all about who she was and shared with me something she was interested in, the shame melted from her face and I saw her true countenance.  Her face was so bright and beautiful; it was practically glowing through the tears.  She remembered, even if for a moment, her true identity, which wasn’t defined by this one mistake.  She wasn’t the girl who peed her pants.  She was Ruth from Mt. Vernon who likes to read!  She had a name.  She had interests.  She had a personality.  She had a heart.  She had a soul.  She had dignity.  She had worth.  (The Holy Spirit is a genius.  He knows just how to handle every situation.  Just ask Him.  He’ll give you the words to say.)

It was a glorious moment.  And I just wanted to stay in that moment with her and talk about how wonderful she was.

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But, in an instance, the spell was broken.  Her mother burst back into the room.  She said nothing to Ruth.  She walked right past us, disgustedly glared at Ruth from the corner of her eyes, and momentarily stared daggers at me.  I stood up.  I had no desire to interfere with this woman’s parenting.  She was probably embarrassed too.  Maybe she didn’t know what to do or say.  Maybe she was trying really hard not to be angry.  Maybe she was keeping quiet so as not to reveal how much her anger had gotten the best of her.  We’ve all been there before, trying to keep it together because we know we should, even though we’re on the verge of a breakdown.  

Ruth and I watched as she yanked handfuls of paper towels out of the dispensers and commenced to silently mop up the urine on the floor.  She then forcefully slammed the wet towels in the trash.  

Just then, the sisters came out of the stall.  The mother growled at them, “Come on!  We’ve got to go buy your sister some pants.”  She still  hadn’t said anything to Ruth.  The mother, once again, stormed out of the restroom.  The sisters followed and Ruth hung her head as she joined them.  And just like that, she was gone.  

The woman who was next in line offered for me to go ahead.  When I got in the stall, I just stood there for what seemed an eternity trying to process what had just happened.  In that moment, I was so mad!  I thought, “I just know that woman is going to march her through the mall and everyone is going to see!   How could she do that to her?!”  Then I regretted not offering to go buy the pants for her or at least stay with her until the family bought the pants.  But no, I had done exactly what the Spirit led me to do.  I was okay.   “But why didn’t she stay with her while the dad bought the pants?  Why didn’t she protect her dignity?”  I was mad again.

I was so shaken, I didn’t know what to do.  So, I just did what comes naturally when you’re standing in a bathroom stall, I unzipped and sat down.  It wasn’t until then that I even remembered why I was there in the first place.  I looked down at my own soiled pants.  They were noticeably soaked through in the back.  Then, I finally made the connection between Ruth’s shame and my own.  I hadn’t thought about it until that very moment.  And I felt Jesus say within my heart, “I am your High Priest.”  And the Holy Spirit immediately brought to my remembrance Hebrews 4:15-16 which says, “Our High Priest is able to sympathize with our weakness, because He was tempted in every way that we are tempted but didn’t sin.  That’s why we can come boldly before His throne of grace and receive mercy for our sins and find grace to help in the time of  need.”  

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I just wept and wept.  I wept to know this High Priest who was tempted in every way I am tempted.  I wept to know this King who understands me.  I wept to know this intercessor who forgives my sins and erases my mistakes.  I wept to know this God who stooped down and became a man because He cares for me.  I wept to know this Lover whose heart breaks for me, who wraps His arms around me, who talks to me about who I really am and what interests me.  I wept to know this Savior who just wants to take my shame away and restore my dignity.  I wept to know this Warrior whose anger is kindled when I am abused and misused.  I wept and wept to know my Jesus who loves me.  

I wept to know that He had let me glimpse His heart and had done it by allowing me to feel for Ruth what He feels for me. Who was I to deserve such divine favor?  Who was I to deserve such grace and mercy?  It didn’t matter.  I was His.  He saw my true countenance, my true identity.  I wasn’t the woman who had made all those mistakes.  I was His Promise and I had dignity and I had worth.

1526__67131.1383422039.1280.1280Dearest Reader, this is the same way He feels about you.  He is no respecter of persons.  He loves you with an unbelievable love!  Let Him talk to you today about who you are.  You are precious to Him.  He isn’t mad at you.  He isn’t embarrassed by you.  He doesn’t walk out the door and abandon you in your time of need.  He’s not running to the Father to tell on you.  He protects your dignity and goes before the Father interceding on your behalf.  He’s not focused on your mistakes.  His intention in drawing them to the surface of your heart is so that He can skim them off and heal you.  He has no intention of marching you and your sins before a crowd of people.  He would never put your mistakes on display like that.  He’s more interested in talking to you about who He made you to be.  He looks beyond your faults and sees your needs.  He sees your true countenance, your true identity.  He sees your heart, your soul, your worth.  

So, if you have any shame in your heart today about anything in your life or in your past, let Him take that shame away.  

That’s all He wants to do.  

*Name and location has been changed.

CATCH A TIGER BY HIS TAIL: AMELIA EARHART

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” -Amelia Earhart

 
           Though countless women from past and present inspire my desire to tear down walls of gender inequality (many of whom you are bound to read about if you continue to follow this blog), Ms. Earhart has ever been my paragon in this respect.  Perhaps it’s because we share a birthday (July 24th), a connection which inspires me to hope we also share a similar nature: tenacious, fearless, and unapologetic.  Perhaps it’s because she was so bold concerning issues I care about: namely the rights of women to control their own lives and push beyond the list of socially prescribed career and family roles.  Or perhaps it’s because I work with so many disenfranchised women who, for whatever reason, have resigned themselves to make the best of a cultural system which exploits and oppresses them.  And it’s women like Amelia Earhart who give me hope that through the simple decision to act, we can conquer the mindset which falsely and resignedly declares “Oh well.  It’s a man’s world.” 

        And, if I’m being completely honest, it has a little something to do with the fact that when I flick through a Google image search of her, I’m mesmerized by how rad she looks in her leather jacket and aviator goggles.
 I mean, even her appearance, from her pants to her aviator cap to her grim and gritty grin, is a slap in the face of traditional gender roles.  Without words, each photo whispers “I won’t conform to your expectations of who and what I should be and that’s your problem, not mine.  So while you wrap your head around the audacity of a woman in trousers standing up for and making her own life choices, I’m going to go fly this plane.”

        While it is all of these aspects which cause me to admire her, the most inspiring thing about Amelia Earhart has nothing to do with fighting against gender inequality.  Quite simply, I’m in awe of the fact that she wanted to do something and she did it, despite the fact that it was difficult and despite the fact that it was scary and despite the fact that it had never been done.

         Start here to learn that she was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences, was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots, taught at Purdue University aviation department, was a member of the National Woman’s Party, and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.

        It’s true that Ms. Earhart disappeared while attempting to circumnavigate the globe in her plane and is presumed dead, but this should not diminish any aspect of her life including all the accomplishments she achieved in her short 39 years.  The fact that she died as a result of attempting one of her goals doesn’t shake me in the least.  In fact, it reminds me of a quote by playwright, George Bernard Shaw, “Death is the ultimate statistic.  One out of one dies.”  The question for us, then, is never “Will I die?”  The question is only ever, “Will I live?”

        This is the same ideology I present to well-meaning people in my life who are at odds with some of my own life choices.  I’m often asked by family members and friends, “Aren’t you scared to travel to a third-world country?”  “Isn’t it dangerous to go to strip clubs? Especially in the name of Jesus?”  To which, I can only reply, “Yes.”  Yes, I’m scared…  Yes, it’s dangerous…  And it’s the ellipses which follows this exchange that makes me smile every time because it’s within the pregnant pause I pray the idea is eventually birthed in their minds: Why should danger and fear hinder action?

      I’m thoroughly convinced that it shouldn’t.  Under no circumstances should fear and danger ever trump the right and the desire of a person to truly live.  I’m sure fear was present when Amelia climbed into the cockpit of the first plane she ever flew, when Susan B. Anthony cast her first ballot, and when sixty Saudi Arabian women each got behind the wheel of a car as a protest against a kingdom-wide ban on female drivers.  But where would we be if these women and others like them let that fear guide their lives and dictate their actions?

        Fear will always accompany courageous acts.  In fact, true courage can actually only exist when there is risk involved, when there is truly something to fear.  Because courage is not the absence of fear.  It is, rather, the decision to act in the face of fear. And as my girl, AE, points out, “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”

         But courage is even more poignant in the life of a believer, because courage  can have providential consequences.  Courage is exemplified by Moses standing before Pharaoh with nothing but a staff and a word from God, declaring, “Let my people go!”  Courage is David, tiny and unarmored, swinging a slingshot around in the face of a giant seasoned warrior.  Courage is Daniel refusing to bow to the statue of a powerful king.  Courage is a sinful woman walking across a crowded room of religious people, bowing before Jesus, breaking open her alabaster box, and anointing his feet.  Courage is Jesus in the garden, sweating drops of blood, begging that the cup pass, before declaring, “Not my will, but yours be done.”  Each of these people weighed the goal against the risks, and found the goal to be worth the pain and danger.

        This is true freedom.  Not living your life devoid of fear and pain, but daring to live despite the fear and pain.  True freedom is choosing to live for a cause greater than yourself, a cause that is worth the risks involved.  For me, that cause is Christ.  What’s the worst that could happen?  I could die.  Sure.  But it’s worth it to really live and to see others live.  And if you’re a believer, death should not scare you anyway.  As Paul said, “To die is gain.”

         Be sure that you were not created to live a small, secure, petty, typical life.  You were created for a unique purpose and you were bought with a price.  Your life matters and your actions ripple throughout eternity.  So what is it you’re going to do with this one wild and precious life you’ve been given?  Where is your passion and what fears stand between you and your goals?  Why let them have any sway over your decisions?  The adventure is worthwhile in and of itself, but the goals are what make it worth the risks. The fears are paper tigers.  They look ferocious but are of little to no substance.  Your fears of the future, of what people think about you, or what they can do to you, your fear of failure, your financial fears and social fears, fear of inadequacy, fear of embarrassment, etc., etc….none of them have any real power over you.  They’re made of paper which crumples before your courage.

        So now that we have the proverbial paper tiger by the tail, how do we crush him?  It’s quite simple really: act.  Do the thing that you’re scared to do.   “Everyone has oceans to fly, if they have the heart to do it. Is it reckless? Maybe. But what do dreams know of boundaries?” -Amelia Earhart

        So, jump in that plane and find that you can soar.