I wanted to title this post “Celibacy vs. Marriage,” but that would have just been click-bait, because the two really aren’t in a competition.
They are in a family together.
Today I write something that is related to the idol of marriage which has permeated so much of Western Christian culture. It might have permeated further than that, but I don’t have experience with that; I’ll stick with what I know.
I have written some brief thoughts on the popular practice of praying for your child’s future spouse, but I want to look at the expectation of marriage from a different angle today.
Let’s start at my cousin Gabi’s wedding just over ten months before my own, in July of 2008. I had the privilege of representing my branch of the Martinez family. My parents were selling their house and couldn’t make it, so I took up the (Rod) Martinez family mantle and participating in the joyous event. I was joined by my then-boyfriend, who would become my husband in June of 2009.
Gabi and her branch of the Martinez family are passionate followers of Jesus who worship in the Catholic Church. They have encouraged me in my faith over many years, bringing much comfort as I navigated being charismatic in a mostly non-charismatic family. They were consistently and kindly for the work of the Spirit in my life. I’m so thankful to be related to them. Anyway, moving on.
Gabi and Jonathan’s wedding was a Catholic one, and it was full of oddly Catholic things. The oddest thing for me was that a priest performed their wedding.
Now, I know that it is a very normal thing for a priest, Catholic or Anglican or Episcopal or Orthodox, to perform marriages. What struck me as odd—and distinctively Catholic—is that the priest performing the wedding ceremony was himself unmarried. Celibate. And, pardon my naive honesty, I thought to myself, “What do these priests know about marriage? How can one of them offer a wedding homily that will be edifying to this couple?”
The priest offering the homily said something along these lines–“Not that I know exactly what you’re getting in to…”
I left the wedding, so happy for my cousin and delighted to celebrate with her, but also scratching my head a little at this celibacy vs. marriage issue. I chalked it up to the superiority of the Protestant and Orthodox practice of permitting the clergy to marry and lamented a little for my Catholic friends and family that their priests were missing out on something better.
Fast forward to this past year, when I have been wrestling with the question of singleness and marriage in the Church. Questions like: how do these different life positions effect relationships? what do friendships between single people and married people look like in the Church? how can I deeply love my friends or others I encounter who find themselves, by choice or by circumstance, unmarried?
It has caused me to confront the great idol of marriage. The one that has resided in my own heart. The one that resides in the Western Church. The one that threatens my friends and terrorizes so many others.
I do not wish to get into the gritty details of why or how God puts some people in marriages and not others. It is a truly deep and many times painful mystery. But I have learned that all my friends and family are needed in my life, no matter their marital status.
I need them to participate in my life because they have deep and great things to teach me. Things about patience, about faithfulness, about loving the least of these, about challenging the status quo, and so much more.
And I have realized (this week!) that the Catholic Church affirms this in the marriage ceremony. The single and celibate and more-likely-than-not never married priest has SO MUCH to give a couple on their wedding day. Because he is living life and loving others and laying down his life daily for the sake of the Gospel. Singleness does not exclude him. He has the beautiful priority of leading others into this sacrament. Let’s celebrate marriage and let’s celebrate singleness.
If we can get away from the idolization of marriage in the Church, a much happier and integrated family we will be. We are a family. There is room for everyone in this family–gay, straight, single, married, rich, poor, happy, depressed, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Messianic Jew.
He Himself is our Peace, tearing down the walls we’ve built. Lord Jesus, Send Your Holy Spirit and make us one as You and the Father are One.
So, is the Christian alternative to wishing someone “Happy Halloween!” wishing them “Happy Reformation Day!”?
Okay, I haven’t read all the “why-Halloween-isn’t-anti-Christian” articles that people have been posting. I just really hate Halloween because I think spiders are creepy and large displays of arachnids are hard to avoid at this time of year. And for some reason, seeing pre-teen girls dress up as prostitutes has never been my fancy, either. I think someone could make the case that Halloween is anti-woman, but this really isn’t a Halloween-bashing post.
It’s about Reformation Day and why it is anything but happy.
I definitely am not the only one thinking about this; note (Protestant) Stanley Hauerwas’s sermon here on the subject from Reformation Sunday 1995.
But, wait. I get ahead of myself.
A little background: What is Reformation Day?
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther purportedly nailed his (in)famous 95 theses to the door of the castle church at Wittenberg, Germany. It is considered by many as the spark of the Protestant Reformation. You can read the Wikipedia article about it here. I know, really academic.
Let’s get personal. I won’t bring up politics or money now, but let’s talk about family. Let’s talk about religion.
Have you ever experienced a major division in your family? Maybe someone decided to get a divorce or someone else withdrew from family events based on ideological grounds or relationship status or something.
If you have experienced this, you know that it is a really painful time.
And when I say really painful, I mean it’s the kind of event that has pushed me into prayer and tears in a way that I haven’t been pushed before. Our family. Not unified. Broken down. Can’t say certain things to certain people. Misunderstanding and refusal to communicate.
There is no glory here.
Sometimes divisions are necessary, and that doesn’t make them less painful. But I would hope that in our family, the division is temporary and that we pray fervently and daily for restoration. That we would seek fruitful communication and hope to celebrate our own Restoration Day.
Maybe you celebrate Reformation Day because you see good come from the splintering of the Catholic Church, the birthing of Protestantism. I dunno, maybe it’s freedom in Christ, salvation preached for what it really is, a stand against corruption and bad theology.
I’ll give you that. For now.
But here’s something to think about: should we celebrate an event only or the One through whom freedom comes?
We definitely celebrate the Cross–an event of incomparable importance and mourning and weight. We celebrate the Resurrection–an event of incomparable importance and glory and significance. We celebrate the person of Jesus Christ, the heart of His Father and ours who sent Him, and the Holy Spirit sent to bring us into right relationship with the Godhead, teaching us all that we need for life and godliness.
But schism? Divorce? Family brokenness? These are not to be celebrated. A victory for true theology? It is only a victory if we believe that a doctrine as more important than love.
Don’t get me wrong: correct doctrine is so important. But it is not doctrine alone that saves us but relationship. Salvation is relationship with the Father through the crucified Jesus as we are sealed by the Holy Spirit.
Maybe you haven’t experienced the bittersweet taste of an ideological victory that severs a relationship. It leaves both parties wounded and searching for healing, even if one or the other doesn’t realize it.
The Church of Jesus Christ is a family, Christ as the head. It is a beautiful collection of people who are called to unity and to love in the name of Jesus Christ, because He came to make us one and to set us free. We are united to Him in His death through baptism, raised to walk in newness of life!
We celebrate Him. We mourn the Cross and we rejoice in it. We celebrate the victory of the Cross and the Resurrection. We eagerly await His coming, when He will judge the living and the dead.
And we mourn at our family division and earnestly pray for His Church to be one, united in love and truth in a way that only the God of all existence can bring about—in the fullness of time, at the request of Jesus and the intercession of His Church.
Make us one! Like You and the Father are One!
So let us not see this Reformation Day as happy. Let us mourn with Jesus at the brokenness within His people and pray with Him as He intercedes for us—that we would be one just like He and the Father are One.
To our knees, saints! After all, it is All Hallow’s Eve.
(It takes a minute to load; again, please forgive the poor sound quality!)
You are my hiding place
And when I am afraid
I hide myself in You
You preserve me from all harm
You fill me with Your song
Of love and deliverance
You instruct me in Your path
You guide me with Your eye
I confess my ways to You
And I run into Your arms
I run into Your arms
And there I find my home
Don’t get me wrong–I highly value prayer.
My parents prayed for my future husband for so many years.
It comforted me that my parents wanted me to get married and that they were investing in the search, at least, if not in the final product, should he never actually materialize.
In high school, I prayed for my future husband a lot. I had a lot of God-issues to sort out, though. Like, was God even good? For a long time, I thought that if I really wanted something, He would take it away to teach me more reliance on Him. (That is definitely not the character of the triune God. But it has taken me years to learn this.)
I remember driving with four women from my church to a Beth Moore conference in Houston. I was 18. I had just graduated from high school, never having dated. Never having been kissed. A fresh heart and a very full life ahead of me. And I was crying. In the backseat of a Chevy Avalanche with four married women. Talking about their husbands. Wondering if I would ever find my husband.
And then, there is that time that my Cuban grandmother called my cell phone by mistake in college. Her English was fading the longer she lived in Spanish-speaking Miami and it was hard to communicate, but we always tried. When she realized it was me and not my dad on the phone, she still had something to say: “Why aren’t you married yet? The longer you wait to get married, the harder they are to train.”
My Abuela. That’s her picture up there, in the banner for my blog. Strong, stubborn woman. So much to emulate. And yet, so much to leave behind…just like any human being. Her message to me? Probably something to leave behind, even if it has truth behind it. I’m not particularly interested in training someone to pick up his socks. I hope his mother taught him that. :)
But getting married…that’s the point of my life, isn’t it? “Get married; make babies!” as the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding so articulately demands.
Please don’t get me wrong on this second count–I LOVE being married. Zachary is the (second) best thing that has happened to me. He is my best friend. He is my support. He is my cheerleader (sans skirt). He is my cover. My lover. My mate. I don’t know where I would be without him.
But I would still be me.
And I would still need friends.
When my firstborn was on her way, I was zealous in prayer. We prayed about everything–sleeping habits, health, confidence, love for God…and then I got to that obvious Christian parent staple: praying for her future husband.
I was conflicted.
I asked myself, “What if she isn’t ever going to get married?” It wasn’t a question that provoked sadness, though I know that might be some people’s reaction. I’m so happy being married–don’t I want happiness and fulfillment for my daughter?
Yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt.
But that doesn’t mean she should get married.
My friend Jim and I had a conversation in college that went something like this:
Jim: If people in the Church didn’t get married, the Kingdom would come sooner rather than later.
Me: Wait. What? No. God designed us for families. Marriage is a part of that. You’re wrong.
Okay, so most of this response was in my head and after the fact. I had to struggle through the implications of what he said for a long time. Should some, perhaps most, Christians seek to marry? A resounding yes! Should all? I think the answer is an equally resounding no.
What if? You know the game. It’s not always helpful to play. But humor me this one time.
What if it isn’t the best idea for my daughter to marry?
What if she is part of the generation in which Jesus returns and she is so consumed by love for Him that she would rather pour her life out in sacrifice as a single woman rather than as a married woman?
What if Jesus comes back before she is of marrying age?
What if she never meets Mr. Right? (What if the idea of Mr. Right is a socially-constructed fable to comfort us in the partner search?)
What if my daughter isn’t interested in the opposite sex? What if romance isn’t on her mind? Ever?
All these questions float before me as I see and hear of people praying for their children’s future spouses.
May I suggest an alternative? Or two?
First, if God speaks to your heart to pray for your child’s future loved one, DO IT. He directs us in the things to pray every day. My first suggestion is to ask the Lord what is on His heart for your child. Joining with Him in what He is praying is the most effective way to see your child blossom and bloom, I’ve found.
Second, pray for your child’s friendships.
Marriage may not be for everyone, but friendship is.
I want to pray for my daughter and my son–that they will each have deep, meaningful, challenging, Jesus-centered friendships that will propel them deeply into the heart of God and in love of their neighbor. Friends that will challenge them to love when it is uncomfortable and when it hurts. Friendships that will build in them the relational aptitude they need for all of life, whether they get married or not.
Jonathan-and-David friendships. Covenants before God. Rich and meaningful and rewarding covenants that are meant for everyone to have. Married or single.
That is my prayer for my daughter, for my son, for all my future children. For friendships that mirror the heart of Jesus, who calls us not servant but friend.
And then as their friendships develop over their lives, we will pray and seek with them if marriage is something they are walking towards. With willing and open hearts, not pre-conceived ideas of what the Christian life looks like. But fresh. Hungry for genuine relationship. And in some cases, leading to family. More humans to be friends with. Amen and amen.
My husband is my best friend. He is the human (the non God-human, that is) who understands me the best. Our friendship runs more deeply than all the other aspect of our marriage, which are also really amazing and truly valuable.
Truly, that is the heart of God.
In the week since I last posted, I gave birth to the most beautiful little boy. What a week of love it has been! For those of you who read my last post, you will know that the weeks leading up to the end of pregnancy were very difficult, but holding this little nugget in my arms has wiped away so much of that pain. His life is so worth the suffering I’ve been through and will doubtless go through; it’s just a part of life.
You also know if you read my last post that I am coming to terms with my weakness. This is the story of Brennan’s birth, and it is a story of weakness.
To start this story, you need a little background about the birth of my daughter Lily in March 2012.
To say that all of my friends who had kids before me are hippies would be a little bit of an exaggeration…we’ll call them granola. Crunchy. The I-gave-birth-naturally-with-a-midwife-and-I-only-use-cloth-diapers type. Awesome women who have turned into awesome moms.
As I yearned for my own baby to hold in my arms, I learned a lot from them—the best toys for promoting imaginative self-play, how important breastfeeding is, and how they prepared for the natural births of their children. There was never any condemnation for women who chose to have c-sections, just conversations here and there about the awesomeness of natural childbirth and how God made our bodies to do it well and how quick modern doctors are to promote surgery over nature.
When we found out we were expecting, only 1 week before moving cross-country from Texas to Florida, we were thrilled! And as you know from the last post, I quickly quit taking the antidepressant I had so long been accustomed to. We arrived in Florida from Texas and settled in. I didn’t get a job because I was honest when people asked if I would continue to work after the baby was born (the answer was no). So there was a lot of HGTV and snacking during Lily’s gestation.
And gall stones.
The. worst. pain. ever.
And there’s no baby at the end. Just relief from the worst pain you’ve ever experienced. (Don’t Google image-search ‘gallstones’ unless you have a strong stomach…)
I had particularly bad gallstones which blocked my pancreas and caused pancreatitis, which the doctors told me could be fatal. At 37 weeks, I was hospitalized for 3 days. Those stones passed but they told me that if I had another stone like that, they would do an emergency c-section and cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal).
I had another gallstone. We raced to the hospital, glad that at the other end I would have no gallbladder and we would be holding Lily in our arms.
The gallstone passed in the hospital. Alas, it didn’t block my pancreas, so no need for emergency surgery. And we came home again with no baby.
When I went in for my 39 week appointment, they told me that I was dilated .5 cm. After all those darn Braxton-Hicks contractions. That’s the tip of a finger. Baby ain’t coming anytime soon, they said. And then they did an ultrasound…which said baby measured either 8 pounds or 10 pounds. And hadn’t dropped.
“You have a medium-sized pelvis,” the midwife said, “but not a big pelvis. This is a big baby. Would you like to have a c-section tomorrow?”
It didn’t take long for a ‘heck yes’ to come out of my mouth. Or at least that’s what I felt in my heart. :o)
So my first baby never dropped, never caused me to go into labor, and never got shoved through a very small opening in my body. And consequently she had a beautifully shaped head that got lots of compliments.
I ended up having another gallstone two weeks later and had that darned cholecystectomy, so healing from a c-section was compounded by healing from the awful-gas-inducing laparoscopic gallbladder removal.
All this was compounded by this tiny evil voice in the back of my head that told me, “You are a wimp. A c-section? You haven’t passed the womanly test of natural childbirth. Sucks for you. Try again next time.”
And there was a twinge of guilt every time people asked me about my delivery.
“Oh, emergency c-section?”
No. It was scheduled. Because I am a wimp. I couldn’t handle being pregnant anymore.
(Never mind that I grew and carried another HUMAN inside my body for 9 months. But guilt and shame are not always logical.)
When we got pregnant with Baby #2, I wanted to try for VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian). There were multiple reasons (it’s cheaper!), but I have to say my main motivation was to prove myself.
I am a woman. I can do this. I am captured by the eschatological impulse expressed in the groanings of child-bearing. I want this experience.
As I type that, it is so obviously about me. But it’s the truth.
We started our pregnancy with the delightful midwife all my crunchy friends had used, but we moved when I was about 20 weeks pregnant. I told my new OB/GYN that I wanted to try for a VBAC and asked what he thought.
“You had an elective c-section with your first?” (Enter feelings of shame.) “It’s possible. There’s a one in 200 chance of uterine rupture, and that could be catastrophic. But we can try.”
I love my doctor. But those words “could be catastrophic” rang in my ears and in my heart. I know that many woman have done a VBAC successfully, but my heart was troubled.
So we prayed. We asked for wisdom about what to do. And one night shortly thereafter, I had a dream.
In my dream, I was wading up a shallow river in my hometown. The setting was familiar. I saw familiar faces of people from all different places as I walked, pregnant and heading for the hospital. It took me a long time to make it upstream. I arrived at the inlet that would take me to the hospital and I sat and waited. It was so peaceful. The water around me was so clear and I sat on some rocks, waist-deep in the stream. I felt like a salmon who had swum upstream to lay her eggs. It was beautiful. Pine trees overhead. The colors of East Texas fall. And then my doctor walked up to me and said, “Amanda, it’s time to have a c-section.” So we went inside the hospital, I had a c-section, and they laid my son in my arms.
When I woke up and told my husband about the dream, I realized that I had decided to have a c-section.
Fast-forward to last Monday morning. I couldn’t sleep the night before because I was so ready to meet our son. Our c-section was scheduled for 7:30 and we eagerly reported to the hospital at 5:45 a.m. The nurses were amazing. They prayed for me in the operating room…I hate anesthesia and needles. And while they were putting in the anesthesia, Jesus got my attention in all my fear and worry.
“Look at Me,” He said. “Let My beauty carry you through this.”
And in my heart I could see Him standing there before me, and all was well.
There was such joy in me as I endured the surgery. It’s not a walk in the park, but the joy set before me was my son! And when they held him up and he cried, so did I.
Ten pounds and one ounce.
The doctor said I would have had to have a c-section anyway.
And I was so thankful for dreams and revelation of the Father’s heart for me.
Not a wimp. Just weak. Learning to walk in relationship with the God who holds all things together.
P.S. Sorry for the sentence fragments, honey. (My husband is a bit of a grammar nerd and told me after the last post, “You are a great writer. Your sentence fragments just bother me a little.”) It’s my blogging voice. :o) I promise not to use them in an academic paper.
Thank you all for reading. I have had so many responses of encouragement and love, as well as chastisement for using the terms ‘wimpy’ and ‘weak’. I believe some clarification is in order. Firstly, the title of the post was a take on _The Diary of a Wimpy Kid_, more a pop culture allusion and an attempt at humor than an indication of feeling wimpy myself. Secondly, I completely believe that a Caesarian section is a valid alternative to vaginal delivery, not lesser. It is often necessary. I did not mean to imply any judgment towards others moms for going this route, planned or emergency. This post was to process the guilt I felt at missing out on the vaginal birth experience. But I hope you could tell from reading that my delivery was full of peace and joy after I dealt with those feelings, results of lies from the devil.
My sister Jennifer took this picture a few weeks ago. It’s my daughter, and those cheeks are killing me. She is such a delight.
In fact, she was so delightful that we decided to have another baby, and the estimated arrival time for him is one week!
During my first pregnancy, I had it pretty easy–online teaching as a job, no toddler to chase around, and the convenience of Steak-N-Shake on the corner by my apartment. Things change dramatically in the second pregnancy. I. am. exhausted. Oh, and I think I have a stomach bug. After just getting over the sniffles last week.
And God is still good. But I would definitely appreciate your prayers as our little family makes it toward the finish line of this life phase (and a new starting line, too!).
When we found out we were pregnant with Baby #2 (who is currently kicking me as I write this, letting you know that he is around), I found myself a little grieved at the thought of having two kids. Don’t get me wrong—we were trying to get pregnant. It’s just that it had taken us 2 years and surgery to get pregnant the first time, so this time it was all happening rather quickly. 2 months of trying.
Only 9 months left with Lily alone.
You know how hormones make emotions fluctuate during pregnancy. Well, I was feeling like a horrible person. I wanted to get pregnant and I did. So many people do not have that blessing as easy as it came to me. I had a beautiful daughter coming up on her 1st birthday. My husband was a great dad and partner in this journey of parenthood. And here I was, bummed (and probably a little scared) that we were going to be bringing Baby #2 into the world.
I felt sorry for Lily. She had all of our attention. She was our delight and our joy.
And then the Lord spoke to my heart. He said in the gentle and tender way that only He can, “It is Lily’s portion to be an older sister.”
It took me a few minutes to wrap my mind around what He was trying to tell me.
I am an older sister. I have a beautiful and very talented younger sister (see the photo above and the linked blog for starters). But I was not happy when she arrived. This included taking all of my toys from her, even though I had long outgrown them. I sat on her and tried to make her go away forever. It was a long and rough journey to friendship with Jennifer. It mostly happened because I started driving. And she wanted to go places.
So, if it is Lily’s portion to be an older sister, does that mean it was my portion, too?
That she will be more fully herself as an older sister to one and hopefully more brothers and sisters. That I am more fully myself as an older sister. This is deep stuff. And there is joy in this place.
So I was able to pretty quickly rejoice—fully, not just in part—at welcoming Baby #2 and Lily’s little sibling into our hearts. We eagerly await welcoming him into our arms. Just a few short days.
And then come all the diapers.
Those of you who haven’t had the honor and duty of caring for a newborn may not know that they go through a lot of diapers. It has been kind of a relief as Lily has gotten older to go through fewer and fewer diapers each day. Potty-training is on the horizon. Praise. The. Lord.
But as I have been trying to enjoy my time left alone with Lily, I have learned something very valuable about the heart of God the Father.
Last week, we were at my parents’ house, mainly just to get out of our duplex and to eat all of my mom’s food. (No judgment. I’m pregnant.)
Lily LOVES going outside, and though I am exhausted, I am feeling all accommodating because it’s her last few weeks as the center of my attention, parenting-wise. So I agreed to take her into my parents’ lovely backyard. That has a big, scare-the-crap-out-of-a-mom pool. That she loves. And loves to touch and lean over and potentially fall in to.
But this day, she just wanted to sit on the gliding chair that overlooks the pool and also has a great big view of the sky over the house. We carefully navigated our way around the pool and the hot tub and eased ourselves into the glider.
“Bird!” she exclaimed as an eagle flew over our heads.
“That kind of bird is called an eagle,” I told her as we swayed back and forth in the chair. She leaned her head back and watched him fly until she couldn’t see him anymore behind the trees.
“Yes, you’re right. The eagle flew behind the trees.”
“We’re sitting in the chair.”
“Yes, we’re rocking.”
And she looked back up at the sky.
She was still for several minutes, looking around the yard and the sky, taking it all in. My heart was so full at this time we had together that it could have burst and the floodgates of my eyes would not have stopped for several minutes—a mixture of happy and sad tears. Happy to have this time with her. Sad that these moments were not more plentiful, where both she and I were still together. I only let a few tears leak out. Quite a feat for a pregnant lady.
And then I knew why she had been so still and quiet.
I smelled it very strongly, a pleasure enhanced by the super-sniffer with which I am equipped when pregnant. At first, I thought about snatching her up and going inside to change her diaper.
But I stopped myself. I knew that if I did so, this moment we were sharing would be lost. And it was so precious to me, sitting next to her, stinky as her diaper was, and it actually did not bother me. I would not let go of that moment for the world. My delight overweighed my discomfort. I didn’t mind at all. I was enjoying my daughter. Soaking up this time together that she was giving to me. It was such a precious moment.
Eventually she tired of sitting in the chair with Mommy and wanted to get down. And then we moved quickly inside to change that diaper.
It took me a few days to collect the heart of the Father from this. But it is so clear to me now. There are times that when He and I are spending time together, He lets me just be me. Yes, there is sin inside me that eventually will need to be dealt with. It’s like a poopy diaper. But for now, He is overjoyed and delighted to be with me, no matter what I’m carrying around. Because He delights in me.
Because He delights in you.
Because He delights in us.
God only changes diapers when He’s good and ready.
Take this to heart! For yourself and also for the people around you. Especially when you think that God is taking way too much time letting this person persist in some awful way of life that is so stinky to you…remember that He delights in you. That He delights in that person. And that He has the best timing of anyone who has ever existed.