Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Submission and Responsibility, Burden and Load

Asking for help with a problem =/= making someone else carry all of it

If you haven’t yet, I’d recommend reading this article. Today is a follow-on from that, and it’ll really help with understanding where I’m coming from today. The TL;DR version kind of reads like this, 1. In a married, Christian relationship, the wife willingly submits to her husband’s authority because he is marked as responsible for her by God. Submission is given willingly, not demanded. You can’t have authority over another without also accepting you’re responsible for them. 2. If you’re in a dating relationship, there is no obligation for married submission/authority to factor in, because you’re not married.

Which brings us to today, where I want to explore our very real need as Christian adults to be responsible for our own godliness, and how we serve and submit to each other. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.” Galatians 6:1-6 Question: What’s the difference between a burden and a load? They can’t be interchangeable things, or Paul, who wrote the letter to the Galatians, would have used the same word. I’d posit that a burden is something that cannot be maintained alone, whereas a load is an everyday thing, and should be managed freehand. Both seem to relate to sin, and to living righteously. As brothers and sisters, we’re called to help our siblings out of sin, with compassion and caution, both for the one trapped and for the one helping. However, we’re also called to manage our own everyday things, without playing the comparison game of ‘hey, I can do this better than/worse than you’. A burden would be something that any one of us would need help getting out of. Porn addiction. Substance abuse. Mental illnesses that impair our ability to function at a normal level. Serious illness. Grieving the loss of a family member. A load would be something lesser, something which all of us would have to face on a day-to-day basis. The lingering gaze or stray sexual thought. Speeding. That one extra drink. Anger that flares at a moment’s notice. Jealousy for your neighbour’s newest achievement. Bitterness at missing out on something. Any load can become a burden, if left unchecked. But, while we live in mortal bodies, we have to manage the sinful nature and renew ourselves in Jesus’ forgiveness. So, there’s a call for us to serve each other in godliness, which is consistently called out in Paul’s other letters, but there is also the call to maintain our own godliness. Carry burdens, manage loads. Help your mate out if lantana has taken over his house, but really, you should be able to spray your own bindiis. What happens if we confuse the two, with the people in our everyday lives? If some part of person A’s brain decided that their growth group leader, or their pastor - someone appointed in some kind of ministry to them - was responsible for their godliness - how they lived, thought, acted, and whether that was about following Jesus, then it places an impossible burden on them. It makes them person A’s priest, a job reserved exclusively for Jesus (Hebrews 7-8). Certainly, pastoral staff and older/more mature Christians in the church are responsible for the younger, but this is in regards to encouragement, and learning scripture. We’re all starving people looking for bread. There’s just some of us that know where to look. The pastoring or mature brother or sister cannot be the source of nourishment, but listening to their advice can help. If person A was to make their parents, their friends, or their significant other responsible for their godliness, then it’s much the same problem, but the ramifications are different. Refusing to carry the load of their own sinful-yet-being-renewed nature means that person A is refusing to take responsibility for maintaining their own faith, and instead is chucking that on the shoulders of those around them. I don’t need to do the weeding if I ask you to do it for me. The person who eschews the responsibility of their own godliness will refuse to heed rebukes, demand particular treatment, and restrict the activities of those around them, in the name of burden-carrying, regardless of whether or not the problem in question is something they need to sort out themselves. So that’s how it can manifest, but is it so bad? To ask others to do things that help with your godliness? Well, it depends. For person A, they’re asking those around them to help them with their godliness. They’re asking for help in an ‘area of weakness’. That’s not a bad thing. “Hey, I hate bringing it up, but I’m currently working through an alcohol addiction. I’ve only been sober a couple months now. Please don’t offer me a drink next time we’re at a barbecue.” But if this is continually asked or demanded, with little to no effort on the part of the asking party to make things better, then it crushes those around them, by asking for service/submission without taking responsibility for the problem. “You know I have issues with anger. Why would you plan for our growth group to do [this thing I suck at]? I’m only gonna get mad.” Which should ring bells. Sort of. The Pharisees did something similar - demanding of the people, without taking responsibility. Jesus wasn’t keen on it. “Woe to you Pharisees! For you crush people with your demands, yet you never lift a finger to ease the burden.” Luke 11:46 Burdens are meant to be shared, not carried solo. To make another carry a burden single-handedly is to crush them. I’ve been there. Wishing that you didn’t have a physical body so that the problem of having a physical body would go away is not a good time. 0/10, would not recommend.

But is there a time and a place where it’s appropriate for us to ask for help in carrying this problem?

Well, Paul explicitly commands us to do so in Galatians. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ….” And we as brothers and sisters are called to serve our siblings and be aware of their stumbling blocks as best we can, doing our best to prevent them from faltering in their faith. “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.” Romans 14:13-15 When you ask for help with the burden, is the end goal godliness? For both parties? Are both of you putting effort in to easing the burden? Then yes. Absolutely.

Is there a time and a place where it’s not appropriate to ask another to help carry this problem?

Well, you probably need to ask yourself two questions. One, is this a burden or a load? Is it reasonable for you to manage it by yourself, with others holding you accountable on the occasion, or is it something you need immediate, interventional help with? Lantana or bindiis? Either way, you’ll still need to contribute the majority of the effort required to help get things back on track. Two, what are your expectations when you ask? How are you expecting them to help? And to what extent? For what period of time? If there are indefinites on those limiters, you probably need to run a couple more checks.

A thought in closing

I don’t like writing these sort of posts that don’t have some grasp-able application. I spent nearly two years writing and publishing blog posts for a living, and if they didn’t have an application, they didn’t get published. So let’s get real for a moment, and talk about a real-world application of the burden/load thing. How we expect our brothers and sisters to dress. Fam, it’s fair to ask your siblings to be wise in how they dress, for practical and godly reasons. It’s fair to expect that some things have a time and place sort of appropriateness. Downtown wear is not interchangeable with beachwear. Speaking as a woman who works in the clothing industry, I think it’s fair to understand that women’s clothes are rarely practical, and for some reason manufacturers regularly forget to account for bras and that shirts need to have substance. There’s a reason why I’ve considered giving up and just altering men’s clothes to fit. But it’s not fair to put that responsibility on your siblings when they’re trying their best. Stumbling blocks and weaker brothers aside, there comes a limit to how much we can expect others to account for our godliness, and how much we need to cultivate the spiritual fruit of self-control. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking [earthly matters and limitations], but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.” Romans 14:17-18

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Christian Leadership and Dating

Two weeks into one of my previous relationships, we decided to play Portal 2 together. I had played Portal 2 in co-op mode before. Player 2 had not. I let him pick the level, thinking it would be a good exercise of ‘Christian Submission in a Relationship’.

We spent the next two and a half hours with me growing steadily more frustrated at the gameplay and Player 2, until I told him the truth. He’d picked the hardest level. Suddenly, us being stuck was my fault for not saying anything earlier. It was a great time.

Folks, today I want to talk to you about Leadership, Submission, and Dating.

First off, I’ll clear the air. I...don’t feel entirely qualified to be speaking on the topic. BUT. This is not a matter of teaching scriptural truths on closed-hand topics. So I consider it okay for me, as a woman, to be talking about it.

*takes deep breath*

Here’s what men and women are listed as equals in, in scripture.

Hosting a church
Priscilla and Aquila are a husband and wife team who ran a first-century church in Corinth. They taught the scriptures, hosted the group, and offered correction as needed.
Acts 18, 2 Timothy 4:19

Earning an income
Paul worked as a tentmaker before he was commissioned by Jesus, and he used the skill to support himself as he travelled around and taught the gospel. In fact, it was his point of contact with the aforementioned Priscilla and Aquila.
Lydia becomes a patron of the early church after meeting Paul and his cohorts in Thessalonica. She’s a merchant of purple cloth. (Which meant she was quite well-off. Purple dye was rare and expensive.)
Acts 16:11-15, Acts 18

Owning property
When his wife Sarah dies, Abraham purchases land so he can bury her. He insists on purchasing the land, despite the owner wanting to straight up give it to him. It's the first piece of land he owns.
After the taking of Canaan, land was allotted to different family groups and tribes. Because one family had daughters instead of sons, the leaders were commanded to not only give land to them, same as their peers, but for that land to remain in their family line, rather than be claimed by a husband from a different tribe.
Genesis 23, Numbers 36

Leading God’s people
The judges were a group of people who looked after the Israelites between them being led by Moses and Joshua after they left Egypt, and having their first king - Saul. The judges were raised up by God, and delivered messages from him to the Israelites. They also got involved in making decisions for the people, and when the time called for it, overseeing their battles.
Deborah and Gideon both took up these duties at different times.
Judges 4-8

Running a country
Shortly after Solomon builds the temple in Jerusalem, he’s visited by the Queen of Sheba. They meet, debate, gift, and trade as equal monarchs.
1 Kings 10

In Genesis, men and women are created as equal. Different, but equal. And throughout the rest of the bible, we see that they are equal in stacks of skill sets, too.

So where does the submission thing come in?

Before we hit the S-word that can have so many hackles raised, let’s have a look at two things that sit on the other side of it.




Responsibility comes first. You can have equals work on a project and one of them will be responsible for the success or failure of the project. After the fall, Adam is held responsible for the sin of mankind, not because he was the first to commit the error, but because he is responsible for Eve.

If you want a more modern example, my manager is responsible for me and my co-workers. It means that she is obligated to look out for the workers under her, and if something goes wrong, it lands on her first.

Because you have this relationship of person A is responsible for person B, it means that there is going to be some degree of authority either awarded or given to person A in order to make the work achieved by both harmonious.

So when Paul talks about the authority that comes with teaching in 1 Timothy 2, he’s also talking about who’s marked as responsible for those being taught. When he calls for women to submit, and to not hold teaching authority over men,  it’s because the men have been marked as responsible for them, and therefore have to be given authority over them in order to effectively be responsible.

Despite the fact that I’ve been working in my specialised field for longer than my manager, she has authority over me, because she is responsible for me. She tells me what to do, because it’s on her if things go south.

Responsibility and Authority are the opposite side of the coin to Submission, and to claim authority over someone without the responsibility precluding it is a foolish thing to do.

If you want an example of claiming authority without taking responsibility, look no further than the gospels. In Matthew 23:4 and Luke 11:46, Jesus tears into the Pharisees;

“Woe to you Pharisees! For you crush people with your demands, yet you never lift a finger to ease the burden.”

The Pharisees were responsible for teaching God’s law to the people, and they were so devout in doing so that they’d set additional laws to keep to prevent the breaking of the first laws. But at the same time, they didn’t take responsibility for caring for the Jews, or actually teaching them about who God was.

Godly submission should never be demanded, as though men and women were of different value or standing. Godly submission is given.

What things do submission and authority factor into in a God-seeking marriage?

These can be big decisions and small decisions, stuff like
Work - the type of job you take and the amount of hours and effort it will require
Ministry - the type of ministry you or your spouse gets involved in and how much time it is allowed to have
Having kids - how many, when you have them, how you raise them, what you teach them,
The company you keep - the jokes you focus on when you're with them, the nature and content of their jokes, the natural boundaries you have in those relationships
The type of lifestyle you choose/are granted - how much time you spend doing things, how you spend the money you *are* given.

These are all things that both parties weigh in on, and the only reason a husband should take point in the decision making process, is because he is responsible for the wife. He’s called to emulate Jesus, who loved the church and gave himself up for her.

For a husband to ignore the words of his wife and continually overrule them is to sail into a hurricane of trouble, and vice versa. This sort of thing is not a joint decision. It robs both parties of the ability to serve each other, and takes away from the personhood of the overruled party.

If I find you doing this, I am going to bring justice to your door. It’s not okay.

Okay, we cool?

Let’s take a step back, all the way to my light-hearted anecdote about Portal at the beginning.

If you are not married to your significant other,

There is no oath, no binding of souls. There is no obligation to headship/submission as a husband or wife would.

Sure, there is some of it. But it’s no different than to your other Christian brothers and sisters. We’re called to submit, out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21)

It’s wise, in that weird in-between space called dating, or courting, or whatever you want to call it, to work out if you could be responsible for; if you could submit to, that significant other, for the rest of your life. But there is no authority to have a say over the other’s work, or their friends, or their area of study.

The decisions that you make as a dating couple are not the same as the decisions that a married couple makes. A couple that enters into marriage enters into a partnership. Equal parties. Working together. One takes point because God decided one of them was going to be responsible for the other.

If that’s not you, then there’s no obligation. Not to demand or give submission, and not to claim or extend authority. We will always be responsible for each other to a certain degree, as brothers and sisters in Christ, but in matters that aren’t directly teaching scripture to a mixed group?

It is okay to disagree on.

In worldly matters where one of your has more experience in the area than the other?

It’s okay to use that expertise.

Besides, the respawn wait in the real world is far too long to allow the making of mistakes.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

For Whose Benefit: Conversations

"I have no right to know. I don't have a method of stepping into the depths of your heart without it getting dirty. So I'll wait. When you want to talk, when you think it's okay to talk....talk to me." - Rukia Kuchiki to Ichigo Kurosaki

 Thank you, Tite Kubo, for providing me with endless ins for blog posts, and sinking my OTP harder than the Titanic.

 Where This Started

The idea for this blog post started out as a random conversation and the fallout from it made me think about how to apply the strategy in other circumstances. And whether it was a good idea or not. It's also going to stay vague because that's actually how you help the most people with anecdotal lessons. Anyway.

I'd been chatting with a friend. They dropped an interesting fact about part of their life that I was somewhat aware of. I wanted to ask further questions on the topic. But didn't. I had no idea what to ask, or add to that conversation. So I let it slide.

On thinking about it later, I realised that there was something I was trying to do. That's where this comes in, because I think it might be a helpful strategy for conversations with other people.

Conversations can be for my benefit or for yours

Something worth noting before we get too far ahead of ourselves. This is less like an either/or situation and more like a sliding scale, or a Venn diagram. There's plenty of times when you'll have conversations with people that are for the benefit of both parties.

"Where do you want to go for dinner?"
"Well, we both like Mexican, so why not that burrito place down the road?"
"Sounds good."

There are times when the benefit isn't mutual, though.

"Can I talk to you about something?"
"Sure, what is it?"

Worm Can Opening 101, that one. Question is, are you about to open the can of worms because of an idle curiosity or because you want to hear out and care for the person who's just asked you to not freak out at this thing they're about to drop? (That isn't a neat progression of words. But life isn't neat, either.)

When you have conversations that are sensitive or heavy in nature with other people, there does come a point when you need to think about whether what you're saying is for their benefit, or if it's to desperately fill the void left by their words because oh man, this is heavy. I need to say something. Anything. Quick, make a joke. Lighten the mood.

Why should my conversation be for your benefit?

It's important to have conversations that aren't primarily for our benefit. It's important to be investing in the lives of the people around us. It's one of the many ways we can lovingly serve our peers, reflecting a Savior who sat down his closest friends and told them that victory and honour were to be found in service and sacrifice.

"But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”"

-Mark 9:34-35

Sometimes having a conversation for the benefit of someone else can look like just keeping an open ear. Sometimes it can look like acknowledging that whatever they are dealing with is hard. Sometimes it can look like sharing silence, rather than clouding a silent compassion with empty platitudes.

A word to the wise - if there's the chance to offer advice to the other, and you wish for it to be for their benefit, rather than a balm for guilt on your own part of action or inaction, check and see whether they want to hear advice first.

For many, and especially when an event is fairly fresh, offering advice without solicitation indicates a willingness to solve the problem, but it also indicates that the person offering the advice may not have thought about the problem. Or they just don't want it to be a problem for them, and if they offer a solution, then perhaps it'll go away.

So if someone unloads a heavy thing on you, and you want for your words to be for their benefit, check and see if they want your help or opinion first. If they've asked you to listen, then it is conceivable that they're okay with hearing out your thoughts. Just...check first. Just in case the problem in question touches part of their life that you've never had to deal with, and you might be inadequately prepared to offer an educated opinion.

How to have a conversation that is for someone else's benefit

There's probably like, three, four things to do, tops.

One, keep tabs on what your face is doing. If your person drops something massive on you, try really hard to not flinch. There are few things that will destroy my trust in someone faster than them immediately rejecting my words with their face. Develop a good poker face. Remember that this can help buy you a little time, but that all facades have their limit. Don't rely on the mere facade to get you through the year - you are going to have to provide a genuine response, even if that response is to tell them that this is bigger than you can deal with in the moment.

Two, ask questions that help clarify aspects of the issue. Ask open-ended questions to help build a good idea of the overall picture, and then closed-end questions when you want your friend to make the sorts of decisions that will influence this or that aspect of the issue. Don't ask for information unless you think it's important. Don't hold on to that information. You need it for 24 hours, tops. After that, chuck it in the 'burn' bucket inside your head.

Three, don't be afraid of silence. As we mentioned, sitting with people in silence is hard yakka. There's no grass for us to pull up any more because we're all adults. Or something.

Four, and perhaps most importantly, ask yourself if you have anything to add to the conversation. If you don't think there is, and you act on that, then you're having a conversation that puts the needs of the other over your own comfort and need to fill spaces of awkwardness. Hordes of awks. Fresh from Mordor.

If you do have something to add to the conversation, double check whether it is for your benefit or the other's.

A Better Connection

Having conversations that are for the benefit of someone else is hard. I spend way too much time thinking about the stuff I write on Facey and my million other social media sites and how they're supposed to change how other people think of me. I'm the entertainer. The interactions are about showing off how funny and clever I am.

But that's not what we need. Not in the age of the emotionally isolated.

God gave us two ears and one mouth. I'm trying to learn how to listen more. How to ask and not ask; how to react to hard things in a way that shows I value the people I speak with with. It's a blow to my pride, for sure. I've gotta forgo my carefully manicured image for something simpler - not claiming to know anything, just that you need Jesus' love, just like I do, and he's put me here and now because that's my job. Showing this person love like Jesus, serving this person like Jesus. Right here, right now.

Brooke out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Paradoxes (?) of the faith: Corban

Paradoxes are one of my favourite things. Working them out - how two things that cannot coexist do. When I was in year 12, my physics class accidentally got energy from nowhere during an experiment. We sat, utterly confused and trying not to burn holes in the magic Styrofoam cup.

Turns out our teacher had confused the exchange rate between calories and kilojoules.

So, usually when there's a paradox, it's because we're missing part of the puzzle. I love paradoxes because they remind me that there is always going to be things out there that I don't understand. They prove that my mind isn't the greatest that exists, and that there's a limit to human knowledge in a world that was built by hands without limits.

With that in mind, let's jump in to something I've chatted with a few friends over last year about.


Corban is this weird word that turns up in the New Testament - I'm pretty sure it's a thing that was invented by the Pharisees (teachers of Jewish law). Rather than try and explain it, I'll just upchuck the relevant block of scripture and we'll go from there.

Obligation > Gospel

"The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled - that is - unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Mark 7:1-13

It's worth paying attention any time Jesus gets stuck into someone about a thing, because it'll usually reveal something about the human heart. We encounter the paradox when we also look at another command of Jesus.

Gospel > Obligation

"Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."

Luke 14: 25-27

The first conversation I had about Corban last year was with a friend. We were discussing the scenario of choosing the obligations of ministry life over, say, taking care of a chronically ill family member. He pointed out the Luke verse - that we as Christians are called to forsake everything for the gospel.
I asked what he thought about Corban, and how that was supposed to fit. And he stopped. And we thought some more.

Jesus wants us to love him and the gospel more than anything. To be willing to give up everything for the gospel.


He also feels pretty strongly about caring for the needy. About caring for people who are supposed to be under our care. The reason why he'd gotten so stuck into the Pharisees was that they were inventing rules that at face value were for serving God, but were really just for serving their own ends.

I'd posit that these two things aren't opposites, but that they work together. Let's run through what happens to someone who clings to one concept and abandons the other.

The person who only follows through with the obligation to care for the physical needs of those around will forget the urgency and gravity of the gospel. They would prioritise physical care over spiritual need. Eventually, that need to care would consume their faith, and altruism would become their god.

The person who only follows through with the obligation to preach the gospel at the cost of all else rows out into the endless sea in a tiny lifeboat. They would sacrifice all ties that exist, abandon anything that would slow them down, and eventually burn out, their gospel burning out with them, never taking root because those preached to were never cared for properly.

You can't have one of these things without the other.

Gospel = Obligation

Here's what I want to posit.

We show that the gospel matters most when we care for those God has placed under our care. How we care shows that what we believe is alive in us, and not just merely lip service.

"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds."

James 2:14-18

Sometimes caring for those we are obligated to is teaching them the gospel. Sometimes it is feeding them, washing them, dressing them, and teaching them the gospel, whatever their age or capacity might be.

Two things to Consider

Firstly, the matters of the physical realm will always play second fiddle to the matters of the spiritual realm. I'm occupying meatspace for the next fifty-sixty years, tops. I've already taken up tenancy in the New Creation, and I'm gonna be there for a lot longer. Consequently, I should keep the needs of each realm in proportion. Eating each day is still important, and it's more important now, but it pales in comparison to where I plan on spending eternity. If that sandwich keeps you alive long enough to hear the gospel, or to preach it to someone else, then it is the best sandwich you'll ever eat. But it's a sandwich with a purpose. So watch it.

Secondly, it's a wise move to keep a wary eye on the parts of our lives where we might be tempted to call Corban, and who we might call Corban on. The reason why Jesus was so mad about the concept was not only because the Pharisees were gaming the system to not help out their parents, but also because they'd use the income they declared Corban however they wanted.

That'd be like taking on extra ministry responsibilities at church so you didn't have to help out your family with important things, and then bailing on said responsibilities to do your own thing.

Let's face it, we've probably all done this once or twice. I remember doing something similar when I was seventeen and skipping out on bible study to study for school, and then doing fat nothing during that time. But it's not a wise move. It's certainly not a mature thing to do.

Things I'm Thinking About This Week

Who am I obligated to love? How am I obligated to love them? 

How is the gospel evident in how I love them?

Is this an easy or a hard thing for me to do?

Am I trying to get out of it?

How am I doing that? By justifying? Ignoring? Claiming that I'm too busy with things?

How can I change to be more like Jesus in how I practically love people?

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 
Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

Romans 13:8-10

(I have few hard and fasts here. I find that thinking about the how and why tends to have a deeper impact. Happy to chat about it - I'm far from a closed case on the riddle of the-thing-that-sounds-like-Cornbread)

Brooke out.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Fear

I was seventeen when we first had the talk. The subject matter was our bodies, but it wasn't about how we were to change from children to adults. It was far more terrifying.

We were on year eleven snow trip. I remember the muted cold that followed us, even in the tiny cabin that the handful of us had occupied. I remember the tension, the revelation. I remember it suddenly making sense why one of my teachers and friends had taught us how to hold your keys between your fingers, and how to use different improv weapons.

One of the girls had been groped by a stranger on the ski lifts. So the female teacher who'd come with us sat us down and explained to us how we needed to be on our guard, all the time. It covered picking your seats on trains, watching your drinks, dealing with creeps, and where you should park your car at night.

In retrospect, the only reason why we had this talk at sixteen and seventeen was because we were from a conservative town, and a conservative school. They didn't know that I'd been catcalled from passing cars at thirteen. They didn't know I already had felt and known that fear. But there it was. We sat in that cabin, in the quiet, until it was time to go, and we left to have pizza. The fear stayed, though. It's still there.

I've been meaning to write about this for a while. A few months back, I had a conversation with a bunch of people about the rise of the 'strong female character'. The topic was concern, that the rise of such an unrealistic character would set women up for failure, frustration, and an inability to conform to a certain standard of womanhood. My addition to the noise was a need for such female characters, because of this fear.

What is this fear? It's probably important to define that now, after all.

As a woman, I am aware of my smallness. I am aware that in a fight against a man, unless there was a significant factor to tip the scales, I would lose. I am aware that I live in a world that is not safe. I am aware that I could be attacked, could be overpowered, could be raped. I am aware of my vulnerability, and I am aware of how in a lot of assault cases, the blame is placed on the victim for the incident.

This is not an irrational fear, that you could dissect. This is not an irrelevant fear, that you could dismiss. This is a very real fear, that follows you. I feel it resting on my shoulders, tickling the back of my neck, as I walk back to my car in the dark by myself, after work. Can I run in these shoes? Should I throw my first punch with my right or left? Would I be able to start my car if I've just used my car key to stab an attacker? Do I wear my hood up and hope that my over-sized coat disguises my gender, or do I wear my hood down so I can use my peripherals to track any incoming movement? Where can I put my hair so they can't grab it?

I once shared this with a guy. The look on his face and his response were genuine, unscripted. He'd never even considered that women had to think like this. He apologised that I had to feel like this. He held my hand tightly when we walked through a night-shrouded shortcut that I wouldn't have gone near with a six-foot barge pole. But it was a naive outlook at best, and a myopic one at worst. Because it doesn't solve the problem.

I'm not always going to have a bodyguard. I can't rely on there always being some dude around to fix my problems and save the day. Because there's not. That's not even a post-breakup cynical stereotype thing - it's a reality. Sometimes, you might have someone nearby. Sometimes it'll be another girl, sometimes it'll be a guy, sometimes you'll be hanging out in a pack of people. But that fear doesn't go away. It lingers in the back of your mind, like a rank aftertaste, reminding you that you are small in a bad way, and that you have to stay on your guard, all the time.


What is there to be done?

I don't think the fear will ever go away. There are times when it is safer, but for the most part, my brain will always check exit routes, the blown street lamps, and where I'll be when the sun goes down. When I'm on the train, I'll scan for the solo seat, because there's no room for someone dangerous to sit nearby. Despite how I'd love to go walking at night outside by myself, I know that it'll nearly never be safe to do so in the city, so I won't. And I won't wear shoes I can't run in. I'll blend, as much as possible. Then, if they can't see me, I might be safer. It's a lie we tell ourselves. But it makes things easier.

When we were in school, the girls had restrictions placed on our attire. Rash shirts or one-pieces on swimming excursions. Board shorts, if you got 'em. No thin-strap singlet shirts, low-cut tops, or short shorts on mufti days or camps. They told us it was for sun safety (a valid thing in Australia), but in retrospect, the choice was rooted in the same decisions that controlled our skirt length. I understand that the decision might have been made for our safety, but I don't think they protected us from danger all that much.

So what can be done?

I'll never stop being guarded. But making the in-between spaces safer for the vulnerable can be met from both sides.

I'm sharing this, so that the folk who've never had to consider what it might be like to feel the fear, to understand that it's there. That it doesn't go away, ever.

I'm sharing this because I want to teach the kids growing up now that people are to be respected and valued. That we're not just a collection of body parts for the amusement and use of each other. I want for us to raise a generation of protectors. And for them to raise a generation of protectors. But I'll teach kids how to be safe, too. Because I know that even if I taught every kid I met to look after other people, I know that I'd miss plenty who've grown up with the mindset that it's okay to use people. And I know that sin depraves the best of us to the lowest level.

In the meantime, I think it's okay for us to have well-rounded, female characters in our fiction - in case you were wondering about that still. I might have worked out where to park my car for my new job that isn't halfway down some nothing road with no lights, but there will be other car parks to navigate. There will be other train carriages to assess. There will be more creeps. And this will be true for others for a long time. So I think it's important for women to feel like they're allowed to be brave and powerful too. Because feeling vulnerable and powerless in a situation where you're so aware of it sucks.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Legend of Angry Brooke

Story time. If you'd met teenage Brooke, you'd have met a very different person. I mean, all the nerdness was there, but there was a lot of other stuff too. Stuff which I'm glad I don't really have any more. Most of the time.

There's not really a greater purpose to this post. It's more or less just telling you about the years I spent as a Super Saiyan and how I try not to be like that now.

The Beginning: Granny Weatherwax and Nynaeve

I've always been a fairly rambunctious person. My darling mother mused out loud last year about how I 'used to be such a confident kid', before asking what happened, because that's not who I am now. (Which is a whole other topic, but we'll leave that for later.) But yes. You put me in my field, and I'll be a happy camper.

When I transitioned from homeschooled year 6 to mainstream school in year 7, there were a lot of things to work out. How to do schoolwork in a group environment. How to deal with the incredibly slow pace everything happened at. How to mesh with other people who understood the rules of social interaction better than I. And since I always was super serious, how to deal with the teasing. I was a tall poppy in my early years of high school, and didn't understand the 'teasing as standard action' thing. I had a fairly short fuse too. So, it didn't take much to get me riled up or upset. That and my general naivety were some pretty good reasons why I got bullied.

So, a short fuse, and a lot of fear, because there was all this stuff I didn't understand.

About 2005, I found two very interesting outlooks from different fictional characters. Since books were how I learned anything, I found the concept of anger interesting when it was presented in The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett.

In it, the wise and cantankerous Granny Weatherwax teaches Tiffany Aching, the protagonist, how to use anger to combat threats. When something threatens you, you can get scared, or you can get angry. If you get angry, you're more likely to do something about the threat. At least, that was the logic, as I'd perceived it.

The other outlook I'd encountered was that of Nynaeve from the Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan. Nynaeve is a mage, capable of mighty things. Only issue is, the only way she can use her power right at the beginning is if she gets mad. She's kind of like the hulk, but with waaaay more irritated braid tugging.

I learned anger as a way of coping with and responding to issues, especially when, in the same year, I learned that my friend group had invited me into their circle so they could 'adopt a nerd'.

The Heyday: Little Dog Syndrome

During my middle and senior high school years, I established myself as she of the short stature and short temper. I hung out with a bunch of guys in the year above, and since I was head and shoulders shorter than everyone else, it just meant that I made a lot of noise in order to be heard.

It was my niche, my slot, and I dug it. If you irritated me (which wasn't hard), it'd be easy for me to yell at you. I talked a lot of smack. I'd also kicked people who insulted me and slapped someone who'd called me just about the worst thing you could call someone. In retrospect, I was scared of being forgotten, of having people not take me seriously. I never wanted to be the butt of the joke, for people to laugh at me for being a maladjusted, naive little girl again. I just hid that fear under aggression.

In what was one of my more questionable moves, I remember challenging the biggest guy in my year to a sparring match, so certain I could win because I 'knew how to handle myself', despite the fact that this fellow was about 6ft and weighed twice what I did. My ambition and aggression went for it. Fortunately, this guy was wiser and more chill than I, and what would have been the smackdown of the year never came to fruition. Honestly, even looking back at that one, I'm not sure what my goal was. Some kind of 'beat the largest one, become the alpha' logic. 17 year old Brooke wasn't incredibly sensible.

The Decline: 2010

Getting out of school was a good thing. I went from the school environment to a TAFE course that was 100% women. Sure, there was still drama, but it was different. I couldn't solve my issues by yelling at them. I still solidly enjoyed sparring with a few close friends - these were titled 'poke fights' and were exactly what they sounded like. They were less frequent, since all of us were getting older and we were less on an even playing field. Plus, the one I versed the most had the same limb-to-body ratio of a daddy long legs. Or thereabouts.

But I'd started looking back on how I'd tried to use my anger to be treated like an equal during high school, and had realised that it wasn't that effective. The guy I'd challenged to a match? We never spoke. To this day, I've got no idea how he's doing, and that's either because we weren't all that close as buds by the end, or because I've felt too embarrassed and awkward about hunting him down on Facebook since. It's probably a little column A, a little column B.

2010 came to an end, and while I could still be counted on to hulk out in a pinch, I'd mellowed out significantly from what I was.

At Present: The Girl With Something To Prove

If you know me know, you'd probably know that I'm still fairly driven. I've got a few friends who enjoy antagonising me as well as any sibling. I've at least managed to learn how to take some of it with a pinch of salt.

I mean, I still have a lot to prove, but that's because I set insanely high expectations for myself (something which I am - with help - currently taking steps to disassemble, because it's about as healthy and sustainable as throwing a brick into a washing machine.) At least now, I don't flare up like touch paper. Comparatively.

The only issue I have with this now, is that it feels like in dissipating my anger, I've lost something. Angry Brooke didn't take crap from anyone, and wouldn't let herself be walked over. She had the resolve to get things done, and took risks that needed to be taken.

In disassembling that, it feels like when things arise, I just let them happen. I avoid conflict instead of seeking it out or headbutting it into submission. I miss that, to a degree. Angry Brooke got stuff done. 

At least, that's what it felt like. 

Angry Brooke was respected. 

Except, I don't think she really was. You know a kid with a short fuse in your class as a teen, you're going to find it funny to throw things and keep your distance. You stay away from her.

Thing is, in looking back on Angry Brooke, she was a person I wouldn't want to be friends with either. In the middle of my anger, I did things I wish I hadn't. (See: Challenging my 6ft classmate to a wrestling match and losing his friendship.)

I Also Said A Lot Of Stupid Things. (Which, when you capitalise all the words, sounds like a song by Fall Out Boy.)

So, hulking out meant that I got things done, but in the process, I messed a lot of things up. Because I wanted to stop burning bridges and having all the stupidity coming out of my mouth, I stopped. Or at least, I've mostly stopped.

There are times when I still feel the fire, still feel the urge to raise my voice properly - let the world be wreathed in flames and fear of the legendary Super Saiyan Brooke. But, those are the times I usually cope by sitting somewhere and listening to aggressive music really loudly. It's hard for me to make friends. I don't want to lose any more of them. Plus, I don't think that wanton fury is incredibly God-honouring. And I want to be doing that better. Honouring God with my whole life, that is. I can't lose control over something so small. So I won't.

Perhaps there will be a time and a place for this fire sometime in the future, when I've learned to refine it down to the white-hot flame of righteous fury. That way, the drive and the expression could work in harmony to achieve the goal, rather than skewing each other into a sixteen year old girl's aggression.

I want to get stuff done. I just...have to work out when is the time to fight to the last and when is the time to kneel. (That's another blog post in the waiting, really. Another conundrum that is a question I don't have the answer to - I just think it's a good argument to work out. Anyway. Spoilers.)

That's about it for this post. I can't think of a conclusion. I should be blogging more regularly soon. We'll see how that goes.

Brooke out.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The last two years: In retrospect

Hi. You could be just reading my blog for the first time, or you could have read all of my posts, or you could have seen that I posted a new entry on my Facebook and followed it through because sometimes words come out of my mouth and sometimes they are interesting.

This is a little bit of a reflection on the last two years, those being 2014, and 2015. If you've been reading my posts for a while, you'll probably notice that that's about when the regularity of writing on Gone Aerial started going out the window, and there's a few reasons why.

I figured it was time to write something again. I've always had more to say, but when the jobs you're working have you either physically or mentally exhausted at the end of the day, there's not a lot left for writing. Still.

Here's a brief rundown of the last two years.

I finished Uni at the end of 2013, and my hopeless optimism thought that finding a job straight after WAVE of 2014 would be easy. I wanted to work after I finished uni, because I knew I didn't have a lot of life experience and I probably needed it. When I hit 22 in 2013, I realised that I was the same age as Mum when she'd gotten married, and it was probably time to start thinking of myself and acting like an adult.

What followed was a steep learning curve. I threw resumes at anything that moved. I picked up work in a local Chinese restaurant, but it wasn't enough hours or income to support myself, so I started falling behind on rent, and eating my way through the strange cans of food my Pop had given me a few years before, because all I could afford to buy was milk and apples and mi goreng. I'd fill up my car, not knowing if I'd be able to buy more fuel when I ran out.

This went on for a bit more than a month, before all the forms I'd submitted to request a bit of welfare subsidence kicked in. I was also helped out by my parents and some folks from church. Even then, there wasn't much of a rest. I'd spend a few nights a week working at the restaurant and the rest of the week, I pretty much lived at the Hub - the warehouse in Broadmeadow that doubles as my church's office/headquarters/place for things that aren't Sunday meetings. There, I continued applying for jobs.

I can't remember how many I applied for. There was a lot, and sometimes I'd get a rejection letter, but most of the time I'd never hear back. At this stage, I was pretty grateful for Centrelink, even if there were a lot of forms to fill out. I was able to buy food. I could pay rent. When the registration of my car came around, I was able to do that myself - something that really counted when you consider that I was trying to be a responsible adult.

About halfway through the year, I picked up some contracted writing work, and this eventually turned into my second job - writing blog posts for a marketing firm. Once this piece of information comes into play, you can kind of see why I didn't do a lot of writing of my own material - it's a little hard to write all day and then be motivated to come home and write some more.

So that was 2014. There were some hard bits, and some good bits, and some other pretty important lessons learned, but I'll get to those in a minute.

2015 has also been a pretty turbulent year, but for different reasons.

Because I had had a lot of spare time in the year prior, I'd started a few different types of ministry. I had time, so why not? Problem was, I was nearly working full time hours on top of part time hours spent in ministry.

I got sick, and stayed physically sick, for about three months. It was debilitating on my body and my mind, and I burned out. Recovery took longer, and I have to check in even now and still consider if I'm back to fully operational.

Burning out was problematic for more than just that reason though - it opened up a whole new can of worms, one which was marked 'mental health'. Although I don't know if there's anything in particular that has become my problem, I can testify that the inside of my head has not been a pleasant place to be at times during this year.

But, there were still really good things, and really challenging things, and things to learn from.

At the moment, my hours have changed, for both places, for a variety of reasons. Things are definitely going to change next year, not in the least because I'm planning on moving out of my house. Living alone is fine if you are mentally stable. Which I am not. So, some housemates are in order. I'm a little anxious about how things will go, not in the least because I've lived by myself for the last two years, so my house skills have gotten a little lax. But. Housemates. That's important. Need stability.

Where does this lead to? There is indeed a purpose for this blog post - not just telling you how my last two years have been. There's been a few hard-learned, but important-learned lessons I've picked up along the way, and thought they were worth sharing. Hence, post. But like, I don't want it to be like the posts I write for work, so it's not a numerically listed thing. But, uh.

The Rest Of The World Cares Less About You Than Your Lecturers And Teachers

I'm talking secular, working world. My church body has been highly valued and I'm so very thankful to them for looking after me. But the others?
When you're in school, your teachers have some degree of care about you. In uni, if you build a good rapport with your lecturers and tutors, they'll generally want you to pass a subject.
The same isn't true of the working world. The manager you just talked to doesn't know squat about you, and doesn't have a reason to care about what you can do unless you give them a reason.

It's Easy To Feel Entitled

And why shouldn't we? If you're a first world kid, growing up in a first world, cushy life, it's easy to feel like you're owed a job that you like. Whether or not you can find one of those jobs is another matter. I work in the service industry and you will never find another job where the people you meet will feel like making your life miserable is well within their rights and duties as a customer. It's even easy to try and use my sense of entitlement to try and rise above all of that. "I've got two tertiary qualifications, therefore I have the right to a better job," kind of thing. It...it just doesn't work like that.

Some Things Are Just Hard Work

In the last few weeks of my uni study, my church sat the students who were graduating down over dinner and we talked about what life would be like as a worker - the things we'd need to be aware of, and the ways we'd be challenged. One of the most helpful things I was told was "The first two years will just be hard work". They were right. No shortcuts. No cheat codes. Just a lot of honey chicken and oil burns.

Nobody Else Has It Together Either

I'm now a worker. I still have nights where I don't have enough energy to do anything. Weekends are a joke. But, I was raised with this crazy impossible standard where the things are supposed to be clean and I'm supposed to have it all together. After all, I'm the oldest, and I'm supposed to set and example and not be a bitter disappointment and blah blah blah. No. Nobody else my age seems to have it together. Which is a bit of a relief, because it's honest and it's real and it makes me able to admit my fears and weaknesses to other people, and ask for their help, because there's a lot of things I cannot do by myself.

Take One Day At A Time

Rolling with it is something I've had to get used to. It's not my favourite, but it's helped me see beyond the insurmountable hill of responsibility and just get down to putting one foot in front of another to keep going. If I can keep moving forward, then things have the opportunity to get better.

Celebrate The Small Things

You found your keys? Throw both arms in the air and yell in adulation. You survived another shift? Give yourself a pat on the back. There's still a lot of things I can't do. So when something goes right for a change, no matter how small, I remember that it's a good thing, and that we should celebrate victories, no matter how small.

Set Some Boundaries

This is important.

Remember To Rest

So is this. Like I said earlier, secular world isn't obligated to care for your shocking day prior. They only want to know that you can work. I have one night a week where I am home, and that's because I vigilantly protect it as The Evening I Am Home To Rest. If you're a people-pleaser, it's easy to keep saying yes to things until you collapse. I've done that once, and I don't ever want to do it again. So, make sure that your lines in the sand on what you can do, and what you can't do, are drawn, and maintain them, not because you are selfish, but because you need to keep functioning.

Remember The Gospel

As a Christian, the gospel is what keeps me going. Knowing and remembering and dwelling on it is what means I can come back for another round of work even though I was in tears over work the night before.
It's easy to gloss over it - be like, 'yeah, nah, I know this. I need some deeper theological truth to look at'.

No. Noob.

The gospel is where we start and end. Theology only serves to enhance our understanding of the gospel - of knowing and understanding that here is God, the creator of the universe, who would send his Son Jesus to bear my sins and failures to bring me back into a right relationship with him and make me into something better.

Know Your Value

Here's the kicker. I end up with this problem where I feel like my value is attached to what I can do. Or what I am. Problem is, when you take away my capacity for doing things, or make me feel like I can't do anything, the perceived value is going to go down the gurgler pretty quick.

But, here's the thing, and it fits into the gospel. Nothing I can do can attribute to my own value. (Therefore, I can end up feeling like I have no value).
But, the Creator God trades his Son, who has Infinite Value, for my life.
And here's the thing about this trade, about this purchase.

You don't pay for things you don't want. And you don't pay more for something you think has less value.

So even though intrinsically, I have no value, my life - my future, and my eternity - have been purchased with the most expensive thing there is.

Therefore, I am valued at Infinite, by the King of the Universe.

And he's the biggest power there is. There's not another power, bigger, who can say otherwise, or usurp that authority or purchase. This is what happens when you start dealing in absolutes - either things are or they are not.

I still have problems with remembering that I have value on a regular basis. When you're taught that everything else is more important than you, this can be a hard thing to shake. Which is why I keep coming back to the gospel, and why I have to keep remembering that I have value because of the gospel.

So yeah. that's where I'm at. Hopefully next year will be easier, (although I have my doubts). I'll just have a little more experience, and a better understanding of the grace that is sufficient for keeping me going.

I hope your new years are bright, and full of promise.
Happy New Year, guys.

Brooke Out.