The core message of this chapter is one I can agree with: God loves you. Jesus loves you.
However, in trying to show women how they can find healing, they make a couple problematic arguments. Unfortunately, everything that is problematic about this chapter isn’t unique to Stasi and John; the teachings they present are extremely common to evangelicalism.
The first one we arrive at is this:
Why did God curse Eve with loneliness and heartache, an emptiness that nothing would be able to fill? He did it to save her … God had to thwart her. In love, he has to block her attempts until, wounded and aching, she turns to him and him alone for her rescue.
Jesus has to thwart us, too–thwart our self-deceptive plans, our controlling and our hiding, thwart the ways we are seeking to fill the ache within us. … He’ll make what once was a great job miserable, if it was in her career that she found shelter. He’ll bring hardship into her marriage, even to the breaking point, if it was in marriage she sought her salvation.
I believed this about God for most of my life– that God was so irrationally jealous that any time I was distracted by “the things of this world,” anytime I made an “idol” out of something in my life, God would reach down from heaven with a gigantic stick and whack me until I gave him my devoted attention.
When I was a teenager, I developed tendonitis in my wrists; it eventually got so bad that I could not keep playing the piano for church, although I was very carefully continuing to take piano lessons under the watchful eye of my doctor and physical therapist. We explained that congregational playing was too much for my body to handle, but when the pastor and his wife found out that I was still taking piano lessons, but “not using my talent for the glory of God,” the wife came to me and told me that God would punish me. He would take away my talent if I didn’t immediately start playing for church again.
I spent the rest of the night sobbing, and the next six years in terror that God would whack me– “thwart” me– for “seeking life apart from him.” It’s taken me years to undo the damage of believing that this is how God works, and it troubles me that this is the image of God that Stasi and John want us to have.
However, we’re also asked to think of God as our “Defender.”
I have a problem with that, mostly because God doesn’t defend us.
He promised to do a lot of things– love us, never leave us, forgive us, save us, prepare us, mold us– but he never once promised to “protect us from danger or harm.” My life– all of our lives– is living proof that he doesn’t do this. I was abused. I was raped. Even when the abuse I experienced was done in his name, he did nothing to stop it. Believing that God would “protect me from harm” almost shattered any belief I had because it is so obviously a lie.
Today, I believe that I can trust God, but it’s what I’m trusting him for that matters. I trust him the same way I trust my partner: I trust in his character, in who he is. I don’t trust my partner because I believe that he’ll be able to protect me from all harm– and neither do I trust God to do that. I used to– and when he didn’t come through on this “promise” I believed he’d made to me, I was devastated.
Stasi and John also have a problematic view of forgiveness. They say it’s necessary to forgive those who have hurt us for all the typical evangelical reasons– if we don’t, we’ll be become bitter, etc. However, what they go on to describe doesn’t sound like forgiveness to me– it sounds like “moving on.”
I don’t mind what they recommend, necessarily:
This is not saying “It didn’t really mater”; it is not saying “I probably deserved part of it anyway.” Forgiveness says, “It was wrong. Very wrong. It mattered, hurt me deeply. And I release you. I give you to God. I will not be your captive here any longer.”
In a way, they’re describing the process I’ve gone through in recovering and healing from being raped. I had to recognize that it hurt me, that the hurt mattered, but I am working to get to the point where my rapist has no control over my life; I am tired of the nightmares, of panicking when I see someone like him in an airport . . . but I would never have termed this process as forgiveness.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, but what I see of forgiveness in the Bible has to do with reconciliation and restoration– a process that can only begin when the person who sinned is repentant and seeks forgiveness. Choosing to let it go doesn’t seem to be the same thing to me.
Also, the fact that “ASK HIM TO DESTROY YOUR ENEMIES” is on the very next page is highly confusing to me.
They finish off the chapter by emphasizing, again, just how important it is for women to be beautiful and the only way we can be beautiful is when we’re passive non-actors who are vulnerable and tender and feminine.
Come back next week when we listen to them talk about how desperately women want to be in a relationship– because, after all, no one in the Bible has ever talked about how awesome celibacy is!