A Spiritual Misfit's Journey: Faith Like Lego's

My little boy is a Lego-maniac. He's only six-years-old, but he's got a brilliant imagination and is meticulous with the details. At least once a month, his grandmother takes him to a "build night" at the local Lego store. Forthe first few months, on build nights, Ben would get a small kit and follow the instructor's directions precisely. Eventually, he started bringing extra packages home, one of us adults would supervise and guide him as he pieced the characters, airplanes, and superheroes together. Building Lego's with Ben reminds me a lot of my journey as a spiritual misfit.

For Christmas, I bought Ben a Lego "blockhead" (great name, right?) of the Beast from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." Sitting with my son through the construction was a great chance to have some quality time with the little boy I adore so much.

At first, things were going great. My son was following the booklet, section by section, piece by piece. The longer Ben worked, I started to notice an interesting tension between his excitement over what was coming to life, and his exhaustion over not being able to follow such detailed diagrams.

But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse—and it’s doomsday to you if you do. (Matthew 18:6-7)

We were about 80% complete with building the Beast when Ben realized he'd put one piece in the wrong place. It couldn't have been any bigger than 2cm x 2cm, but that one out-of-place Lego messed up the entire construction. If you've been following my blog for the past few years, you know my spiritual journey has mirrored that of little Ben and the Lego's.

Spiritual Misfit

Eventually, Ben lost his temper and smashed his brand-new construction to bits. It wasn't perfect, and to my son, if it's not perfect: it's worthless. I've been there, trying to jump through the hoops of manmade religion. I've exhausted myself, attempting to live up to every unrealistic expectation of religious leaders and armchair theologians. For a while, I became an angry Deconstructionist, too.

If you've had a similar experience, stubbornly seeking the approval of the institutional church, but only becoming more disenfranchised and disillusioned, I hear you. If you have more questions than answers, me too. I have been angry, frustrated, and worn out.

As a spiritual misfit, I find solace in the words of Jesus:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew 11:28-30)

After a while, my son calmed down and wiped his angry tears. In the process, Ben learned three lessons I hope he clings to the rest of his life:

  1. Manmade rules aren't for everyone.
  2. Whatever has been crushed can be restored.
  3. Everyone belongs, not everything fits.

Looking for more?

Jon Scott and I had a great conversation on The Holy Heretics Podcast today. The title of the episode is "Faith...I doubt it!" If you are looking for a faith that embraces the gray areas of spirituality, listen to this podcast episode today!

Resources:

  1. Is Your Faith Water or Cement?
  2. I stopped praying months ago. Here's what happened...
  3. Wholeness in a Time of Polarization

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6 Mistakes When Reading about Women in the Bible

The false teaching that idolizes men, while subordinating and harming women has been allowed to run rampant in the Church in the name of “Biblical Gender Roles” for too long. This teaching reduces women to objects created by God as an afterthought to please and take care of men. It blames women when men lust after us or assault us. And it limits women’s gifts and calling in ways Jesus never did.Often when Jesus was addressing the legalistic false teaching of the Pharisee’s, He asked them, “Haven’t you read?” The Pharisee’s had the Scriptures memorized, and yet in many cases, they missed the point.

So, if you believe that women have subordinate gender roles in the Church and at home, I ask you:

Haven’t You Read…

  1. “Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time” (Judges 4:4)?

God chose a woman to lead His people, and no it wasn’t because there were no good men. That’s a narrative made up by people who want to limit women; it’s nowhere in the Bible, and it’s insulting to God.

2. “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy’” (Acts 2:17-18)?

Peter quotes the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-29), and we see God affirming women’s callings in both the Old and New Testaments. So stop trying to silence women in the Church.

3. “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29)?

Jesus didn’t say, “If you lust after a woman, blame her, and tell her to wear more clothes.” Take responsibility for your own sin—stop shaming and blaming women.

4. “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)?

Both Paul and Jesus (in Matthew 19:11-12) say that if one can accept the single life, it is good for that person to do so. So stop idolizing marriage and pretending a woman’s ultimate calling is to become a wife and a mother.

5. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21)?

This verse sets up the “marriage instructions,” so often used to keep women subordinate in the home. God’s design for marriage is not female submission; it’s mutual submission.

6. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground’” (Genesis 1:27-28)?

Patriarchy wasn’t God’s design. God created Adam and Eve with equal worth and the same responsibilities. Patriarchy is a result of sin entering the world. God warned us it would happen in Genesis 3:16, which was not a command or a part of the curse. It was a description of how sin would affect the relationships between men and women. As Christians, we should be moving away from sin, not elevating it as God’s plan.

Looking for more?

Listen to Stephanie's conversation on the #AskSteveAustin Podcast today! In Episode 28, Stephanie encourages Christian women to "Stop Trying to be the Proverbs 31 Woman". Click here (or listen below).

The Kind of Jesus I Really Need

Hi, it's Lindsey! I'm over at Songbird and a Nerd today talking about the kind of Jesus I need. My kids were watching a happy little Christian t.v. show. You know, the kind from the 80’s that airs on some random public station, over the antenna. The one with the ultra cheesy choreography and bad music. My kids were watching that. It’s not what I would have chosen for them, but let’s be honest. Sometimes I just don’t care what they watch. I’m raising a toddler and a preschooler, and there are times that I’m simply thankful to have a moment to breathe.

Read More

How to Have a Badass Marriage in 10 Easy Steps

I’ve been married 10 years today. But like I said to my wife, 10 years just means we are 5th graders - we still have a lot to learn. You laugh, but honestly, don’t get too stuck on the advice in this article. I’m just a fifth grader. Ask the folks who have been married 40, 50, 60 years. They’re the ones with a badass marriage. Lindsey and I are just getting started. How to Have a Badass Marriage in 10 Easy Steps

In most cases, married life looks nothing like I expected. I was 24 when we got married, and even though I was in love with Lindsey, I was clueless. I had this very Southern Evangelical Christian view of what a family looked like, and boy was I in for a shock the first time my wife asked me to do the dishes, or help with the laundry, or sweep the floor. I had never seen that modeled - not by my parents or any other family members, so I thought it was my role to go to work, pay the bills, and come home to be King of the Castle.

I laugh at all the ways Lindsey and I have grown together over the past ten years.

Here’s How to Have a Badass Marriage in 10 Easy Steps

  1. Try to out-serve each other. Instead of expecting the other person to have specific duties that is part of their “role” in the relationship, do whatever you can to out-serve them. She usually washes the dishes? Do it without asking. He usually mows the lawn? Surprise him by doing it while he’s at work. Great relationships give more than they ever take. And badass marriages give a lot of grace.
  2. Form a unified front. Whether you are dealing with friends, family, or your children, be united. Talk to your partner first! Make a game plan and have each other’s backs.
  3. Own your issues but don’t feel like you have to own theirs. We celebrate each other for having boundaries. We both deal with anxiety on a semi-regular basis, but we give each other space on hard days. It isn’t our job to “fix” the other.
  4. Honest and direct communication. This should be at the top of every list for a successful relationship of any kind. Say what you need. And say what you don’t need. No one is a freakin’ mind reader. For us, this often means speaking up when we need boundaries around rest. A badass marriage starts with solid communication.
  5. Balance the serious with the fun. I haven’t always been good at that. I used to mask everything with humor. But Lindsey consistently encourages me to speak my truth, and to work through whatever I’m recovering from. It’s still not easy for me at times, but because I adore my wife, I am willing to be vulnerable. Kick-ass marriages have good balance.
  6. Be trustworthy. Trust is the cornerstone of any good relationship. Brennan Manning says trust and love go hand in hand. You can’t have love without trust. If you want to be a kick-ass spouse, you’ve got to earn their trust. That means that if your partner tells you something personal or hard, it goes to the grave with you. Ride or die.
  7. Forgive quickly. Keep the small things the small things. I’ll never forget the ridiculous fight we once had over the exhaust fan in the master bathroom our first year of marriage. Decide what matters, and work it out. But if it isn’t worth a “family meeting," let it go.
  8. Take some time apart. A badass marriage knows not to smother each other. Let him have a guy’s night. Or leave the kids with him and go enjoy a glass of wine with the ladies. A little absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
  9. Know which family you belong to. Your wife and/or your kids are your family now. You can honor your parents and respect your in-laws without letting their opinions control your relationship.
  10. Don’t neglect date night. I know life is busy and babysitters are expensive, but don’t neglect time away with one another! Lindsey and I have a standing date night every Friday night. Sometimes we go out, sometimes we order pizza and stay in. Either way, we have committed to each other that our time together matters.

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7 Self-Care Tips for Tired Parents

Parenting is exhausting, especially in the early years. I don't care how many books you've read by James Dobson and Focus on the Family, even the most dedicated parents sometimes face burnout. 7 Simple Self-Care tips for tired parents

 

Here's the good news: you are not alone.

Just last night, Ben woke up twice with a bad dream, and Caroline ended up in our bed by midnight. Eventually, I found respite on the couch around 2am because I was just sick of fighting with them.

And here's the thing - I adore my kids. Lindsey and I CHOSE them. We made a conscious decision to have them. We chose to move forward with growing our family and bring little ones into the world. But as cute, smart, and funny as my two kids are, they still wear me out.

Self-Care Tips for Parents

In Episode 011 of the #AskSteveAustin podcast, I share 7 simple self-care tips I've learned in the past (almost) 6 years of parenting. The first lesson is: DON'T FORGET TO PLAY. There are six other lessons, like the why I believe Grace throws us an ice cream party on our very worst day, plus the difference between bitterness and boundaries.

If you're a parent facing burnout, or maybe you're not a parent, but you're completely exhausted because....life, check out Episode 011 today! Maybe your kids are no longer at home, or you might not even have children...that's okay! These self-care tips apply to everyone!

Self-Care for Parents

Click here to listen to Episode 011 of the #AskSteveAustin Podcast right now.

You can also click here to listen (and subscribe) via iTunes.


What did I miss? What parenting lesson would you add to the list? Do you have a hilarious #parentingfail to share with the rest of us? Bring it on! Let's continue the dialogue in the comments...

Thanks for listening.

#AskSteveAustin Podcast: Dealing with Tension in Relationships

Relationships can be tough. When there is tension with the people you love, it can make connecting with someone you genuinely care about difficult. Whether it's a friend, lover, loser, or leaver, the unpredictability of people makes relationships...interesting...at the very least. How to deal with tension in relationships

The latest episode of the #AskSteveAustin Podcast covers relationships, in all their glory.

In this episode, I talk about:

  • Dealing with parents who don't approve of your lifestyle
  • How to fight fair
  • People who seem to never suffer
  • How to best love someone with a mental illness
  • The Rules of Wrestling

As usual, I answer your questions from a place of honesty and as a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks. I'm not a doctor or a medical professional - just a guy who's been there and is willing to tell it like I see it.

Check out my latest episode today!

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Grace: It's All about Gas and Groceries

Have you ever lived paycheck-to-paycheck? Contrary to what anyone may have told you, an author has to sell an astronomical amount of books to ever make any money. My average month from book sales is around $35. I'd gladly show you the Amazon receipts. And I promise you, that pay doesn’t come close to balancing out the time I spend at the keyboard. Grace: It's all about gas and groceries.

But I write because I love it. I write to connect with you. To spread the message of messy grace, to fight the stigma of mental illness in the church and society at-large, and to give people hope. Sure, I’d love my writing to actually pay my bills, but it hasn’t for the past 10 years, and yet I find myself right back here, in this seat, telling another story.

Last week, I checked my bank account and we were down to $26. That’s right. Twenty-six bucks to last a family of four a whole week. Sadly, that’s the place we find ourselves about one week out of every month. And we don’t live an extravagant life. Lindsey and I live in a 30-year-old, 2 bedroom townhouse, and both drive cars that are more than twenty years old. We don’t have any kind of lavish lifestyle. But we do have bills and student loans, and two little ragamuffins, whom we love with all our hearts.

It takes a lot of money to live these days.

I was stressed all weekend over the fact that we only had $26 to last us another week. I knew we’d have to choose again: gas or groceries? And then on Sunday I decided to check the PO Box. To my surprise, there was a check for $100 from someone I love.

It’s not a guarantee. It’s not an expectation. It’s not promised. But it has shown up regularly for several months now.

I breathed a sigh of relief. We could get some groceries and some gas. And I could give Lindsey a positive story, instead of confessing that the money had run out before the month....again.

I’ve been talking about heavy stuff lately. Theology and questions. Faith and doubts. I’ve been demanding answers from Jesus that I didn’t have the guts to utter 15 years ago. And I’m tired, friends. Dog tired. I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired of arguing. I’m tired of wrestling. I’m tired of wondering if I’m even “saved” any more.

Whatever that means.

Then again, $100 in my PO Box let’s me know I’m saved. Salvation comes for my family when I can feed my children and have enough money to get to work. I don’t know what the afterlife will be. I have no idea if the rapture is real or if Jesus is the only way to God. But my kids aren’t concerned with those things, as long as the crackers and apple juice don’t run out.

I think the same was true in Jesus’ day, too. Blind Bartimaeus didn’t care if Jesus was the Christ, or just a Rabbi with special powers. He just knew that one day, he was blind, and now he could see. The woman at the well didn’t sit with Jesus and debate the prophecies of Isaiah or get into a discussion over a pre, post, or mid-trib rapture. She just knew this man had told her everything she’d ever done wrong and was still compassionate enough to offer her Living Water.

These days, I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I am less certain about matters of faith today than I’ve ever been, but I’m still thankful for gas, groceries, and grace.


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