Tag Archives: Cross

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Why Gender Matters 6: Heavenly Bodies

Every Sunday I am blessed by a young family of six who typically sit in the pew in front of me. Far from being bothered by the squirms, yawns, and fights that erupt in the service, I relish them. I marvel at the two parents who patiently adjust attitudes and seating; through this prism of life, I behold the Cross and the communion meal and realize this is what is all about—a man and a woman submitting to each other out of reverence for Jesus (Eph. 5:21) and making a way for younger lives to do the same.

I think of our grown children scattered throughout churches in Kansas City and trust that Annette and I did something similar for our family.

Gender difference–and harmony in that difference–points beyond itself; it offers us a glimpse of heaven. Rightfully ordered, the dance of maleness and femaleness—desire and restraint, initiative and response, fruitfulness and frustration—gives us a window to our cosmic destiny.

Let me explain. We are made in His image as male and female. Biblically, we don’t know much more about that ‘image’ except that it is a gendered reality. God chooses to represent Himself in the duality of man and woman together, unity within difference. After we discover this gendered image of God in humanity (Ge. 1 and 2), God is imaged throughout Scripture as essentially masculine in that He initiates relationship with His people (Israel, the Church, etc.) and is likened to a father/husband/lover to His people who are primarily defined in feminine terms–as responders to His love.

So Scripture highlights divine initiative and human response. The latter is not inferior to the former. Both are essential to revealing the Kingdom of God on earth. Jesus is responsive, and in that sense ‘feminine’ in relation to His Father—He does only what the Father says and does (JN 8: 26-29). And Mary’s ‘yes’ to God is heroic, the courageous response that sets in motion Jesus’ saving love for all.

Jesus takes this to a new level by defining Himself as a bridegroom to a bride (MK 2:19), a reality that St. Paul capitalizes on in Eph. 5: 22-37 when the apostle likens a man’s servant initiative toward his wife—and her respectful response—as a window to the spousal love that Jesus possesses for His church, a consummation that is a future reality—the feast where the Lamb unites Himself wholly to those He loves (Rev. 21: 1-4). That’s why Christopher West says that marriage is the trailhead to the ‘summit’. That summit is heaven—the wedding feast–our ultimate union with Jesus.

Here we enter into sacrament—in this case, the fusion of body, soul, and spirit in lifelong communion between a man and woman. Marriage helps make concrete and tangible something real but unseen; as a sacrament, it points beyond itself and helps us apprehend an otherwise mysterious spiritual reality.

I marvel at the power of holy and harmonious love between a man and a woman. We are all aware of the power of broken marriages to shatter faith and true spiritual sight. How much greater is the power of faithful love, with all of its frustrations, between husband and wife? Annette and I grow more appreciative of each other as the years pass. We laugh more and bristle less at each other’s quirks and are grateful for the constant ‘yes’ we give each other in season and out. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. Through our reliance upon divine advocacy, I pray that our human love becomes a clearer window of heaven for others.

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Cross Fit: Sorrow and Self-Giving

I am just winding up a month off in which I spent a lot of time with the one I love most—me! Ouch. Truth hurts. Gratefully my native selfishness was no match for the glorious time Annette and I shared. We stayed home, caught our breath, and renewed our vows. Time off and tuned to each other: nothing better.

A long time ago Jesus called Annette and me to our primary vocation, which is marriage. Anything good that springs out of ministry flows from this most important union.

No-one deserves my attention like her. Consider this: for the last 36 years of our lives together, Annette has said ‘yes’ over and over again to Jesus as I have gone throughout the world to impart His transforming power for sexually broken people. We love to minister together but kids and Annette’s homing instinct have resulted in a division of labor, which became even more accentuated over the last six months. A flurry of national and international trips rendered Annette nothing short of a ‘war bride’ so it was a huge gift to have a month off to reunite. Thank you to all who helped to sustain Desert Stream in our absence. You freed us from any financial concern; we are deeply grateful. You gave and we rested. Bravo.

As always, repose brought exposure. At the beginning of our time off, Annette brought up afresh an area in which we have disagreed. I disagreed again and could not see her perspective. That day’s Gospel reading—‘whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me’ (Matt. 10:38)—hit me hard and exposed a plank in my eye. A familiar stronghold of selfishness blinded me to Annette’s greater need.

I sought out my pastor and he counseled me well. A deep sorrow over my sin resulted, something only the Spirit and holy space could inspire. Aquinas wrote that such sorrow is sign that the Cross is being born in one’s heart. Let it be so. In areas where I do not see well, I need to slow down and feel the gravity of my sin. Only then will my repentance be genuine, not a superficial shaking off of shame.

That repentance has continued over these weeks and resulted in what I can only describe as a renewed passion in me to fulfill St. Paul’s words ‘to love our wives as Jesus loves the Church and gave Himself up for her’ (Eph. 5:25). No small task! When I take seriously Jesus’ self-giving on Calvary—the piercing that released the healing flood (Zech. 12:10-13:2)—I can re-enter His fruitful surrender and deny afresh my selfish, controlling ways in order to offer what I can to this amazing woman who deserves that and more.

I do not allow my evident faults to stop me from giving more. That is always Jesus’ direction to husbands, a self-giving that springs from the arresting sorrow of His Cross.

Please join Annette and me in Chicago July 27th-30th at the annual Courage Conference where we will share about our rich life together. As I said, we don’t speak together often so join us for this unusual opportunity. The Courage gathering offers an array of healing persons and gifts. Hope to see you there.

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friend john by andrew comiskey untrained eye

Friend John

How do you love someone whose self has become a defense? My friend John found it easier to present outrageous escapades than the longings of his heart. At times we wondered: are gay sex and drugs really that important to him? We needed mercy to remind ourselves that the real John was much more than both.

I first met John 35 years ago, before AIDS even had a name. He then lived in West Hollywood from which he bounced to San Francisco then back, a ricochet driven by failed attempts at rehab and happiness. Read more »

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Mercy 17: Merciful Allegiance

‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.’ (LK 9: 23)

Jesus’ Cross is the foundation of our freedom. His broken body is the narrow way to a spacious life. He asks us to follow Him, to align our new lives with His cruciform one. That means discovering in every hardship we face for the Kingdom’s sake a little cross. Read more »

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