Have This Mind Among You

Last night Nate and I were in the midst of a project. More precisely, I had finished my part of the project as far as I could and I was waiting on him to finish his so I could start on the next phase of mine. I know myself well enough to know if I even think about getting distracted, I will, and my best weapon against that is to work like some maniac superhuman until something is done. Nate is not like me. He gathers his tools slowly, remeasures precisely, decides he needs a better tool to do the job and goes to Lowe’s to buy it, assembles better tool after reading the directions (Who reads directions?), and then—finally—makes the cut. I dance around with ants in my pants. He says, “I like your enthusiasm,” which I think is a euphemism for “Get off my back.” We finish the project at 9:47pm. We only get slightly mad at inanimate objects which I consider mostly a success. We end the evening as friends. It’s a win.

A friend asks yesterday, “Do you think you and Nate have a wildly counter-cultural marriage?” I think it depends on which culture you’re talking about, I say back to her. After we talk it out for a few minutes I say, “I think if there’s anything different about our marriage from worldly culture and perhaps church culture, it’s that we don’t treat our marriage like it’s the place where we can be our worst selves. We don’t treat our home like it’s the place where we can ‘be real,’ as though every other relationship in our lives deserves the fruit of the Spirit, but at home we can drop the facade and level all the pent up frustration of the day at one another.” I said, “Nate should get my best self, the best of the Spirit’s fruit in my life and heart, not the worst self. So, yeah, maybe we’re counter-cultural in that sense.”

I think this should be true of every relationship, but especially the ones in which we share the closest quarters or most time. Roommates, close friends, boyfriend or girlfriend, church family, spouse, children, family, whoever it is who sees you most, should receive the first fruits of the Spirit’s work in you. In the midst of conflict, peace (Philippians 4:2-7), in the midst of growth, patience (I Thessalonians 5:13-15), in the midst of disagreement, kindness (Ephesians 4:32), and so on. The world tells us we should find and surround ourselves with people who just let us “be ourselves” or “be real.” But scripture offers a more beautiful arrangement: allowing the Spirit to work in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), and offering His fruit to others in abundance.

Nate shouldn’t get the worst of me, even in the midst of house projects where we differ greatly in speed and method, he should get the best of the Spirit in me. More than anyone else, he should experience the Spirit’s work of gentleness and kindness in me. He should see God’s goodness and faithfulness in me. He should feel the Father’s love and patience through me. These aren’t ideals, these are foundational in a sanctified child of God. Imperfect, yes, but attempted by faith.

Whoever you live with today, the one who sees where you throw your dirty laundry at night (I throw mine at the end of the bed.), the one who sees your bad eating choices, or who knows you prefer reading Louise Penny mysteries at night instead of classic literature, your roommates, your spouse, your kids. They’re the ones who see the real you. And the realest thing about you is the Father loves you, He sent his Son to die for you, and His Spirit lives inside you. That’s the real you. Armed with a love like that, a gospel like that, and Spirit like that, the real you is the best part of you. And you can give that to them in fullness, abundance, with joy because the Spirit who bears fruit in you is the Spirit who helps you offer it to others.

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Note:

Every time I say things like this, I get two responses from readers:

The first is, “Your marriage is like that because your personalities are easier.” Okay. Maybe. But I don’t think Paul was saying the fruit of the Spirit was only for people with low-key personalities. I hope not. And also, our personalities haven’t always been like this. Our character has been formed over decades and is still being formed, and it informs our personalities, instead of the other way around.

The second response is the “Just wait.” But I refuse to submit to the “Just wait” narrative about anything in life. God is our sustainer and he gives more grace. So I’ll keep asking for grace and trusting his sustainment. God doesn’t let a single one of his little ones go through life without exactly what they need for sanctification at every moment. Whatever our portion is today is exactly what God knows will best sanctify us and make us more like him. For some that’s singleness, for some it’s children, for some it’s financial difficulty, for some it’s infertility, for some it’s trauma, etc. Sanctification isn’t a competition and whatever our current hardship is, it doesn’t make us the winner. I don’t want to be so worried about the “just waits” of the future that I miss what God is doing with my today.

No One is an Expert

I have written hundreds of thousands of words on Sayable (or her predecessor) since 2001 and I have never experienced the level of word-fatique I feel today. I lay in bed this morning, the sunlight splitting our curtains in two, and thought of all the things I want to do today and one I thought I should: write.

A week ago I handed in nearly 60,000 words to my publisher on human touch. Almost every working hour of my last four months have been spent on this manuscript and I wish I was more confident in its message. I believe in its message, but as I told a friend who works for my publisher, “I feel like I know less about this than when I started.” Maybe that’s how it is for every author. It’s not until we begin to plumb the depths that we realize how deep the depths go and how infinite their complexity. If human touch is my Everest, I’ve barely deplaned in the Kathmandu airport. My aim was to make readers think about touch, but I fear most of us just want the distilled stuff: give us the how-tos and to-dos, leave thinking for the thought-leaders. But my brain hurts because all I’ve done for months is think.

And I’m tired.

Abraham Heschel wrote, “If you work with your hands, Sabbath with your mind. If you work with your mind, Sabbath with your hands,” and my mind is spent. So yesterday I pulled the 1980s knobs off our 1980s vanity in our guest bathroom, sanded it down, and painted it. Then I pulled out a handsaw and a level and cut some beadboard to size. Then I broke our brand-new utility knife (I think) and learned how to use a caulking gun and liquid nails. We’re doing a full renovation of our master bathroom and I’ll leave those things to the experts, but I can work the YouTube tutorials and figure my way around a bunch of tools for the guest bathroom. I think. I really have no idea what I’m doing but I’m still going to try.

There’s been a lot of chatter on Twitter recently about the revival of the blog and it reminds me of how a few years ago I encouraged women to shut their blogs down. I think I still believe there is a glut of information out there and not all are called by God to write or tell their story. Most aren’t. God doesn’t give us our stories so we can tell them. He gives us them so we can see Him and tell about Him. But in an age where “telling our truth” is the thing, one must find a place to tell it to as many as possible. Hence, blogs.

I’m glad for the conversation and the encouragement to rein in the desire to be published on the Big Name Sites; I’m glad for the encouragement to write and post on the same day (I have always done this on Sayable and while it’s meant eating my words more often than not, it’s also meant my salvation has been worked out in real time, not in some happy-clappy “I used to be, but now…” testimony and three point homily.); but also glad for the encouragement to refrain from hot-takes and reactionary posts; I’m glad for the encouragement toward quiet faithfulness in unseen spaces, the exercise of scales and grammar and theology. I hope and pray it leads to better writing across the Christian publishing world and not just bigger celebrity.

I know all these things seem a bit disparate. Maybe they are. I’ve just been thinking this morning about how none of us are experts in anything, not really. Even the ones who seem to be are still learning. Everyone is selling something and to sell it compellingly, most people pretend to be good at it. But we’re not. Not really. Not all of us. Not even most of us. Most of us are YouTubing DIY projects (to watch videos made by people still learning). Most of us are reading books written by people who wish they had said something differently or better or not at all. Most bloggers, the ones who don’t quit when the page views are slim or the comments get nasty, are just putting one foot in front of another in the long slog toward someday.

I don’t know. Maybe you’re scrolling through something today, looking for the experts. Maybe you’re the one people think is the expert. Maybe you’re pretending or maybe you believe you’re as great as your press. I don’t know. I’ve watched a lot of friends in ministry fall in the past few years and more than anything it makes me just beg God, “Let me decrease. Make me an expert in my own weakness and a student of your great glory. Help me to never be deceived by the promise of god-like-ness that everyone offers me with their four steps to everything.”

My brain still hurts so I’m going to go paint the palest pink I could find on our bathroom walls. Because you never know until you try.

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