A Paradox of Love - Yada

Love – it’s predictably unpredictable. It confuses me, exhausts me, drives me, gives me direction, and defines me. There is no formula for it, yet love is a tangible reality.  It can be defined but not completely grasped. Love can be found and chosen, given, received, rejected, manipulated, crushed, grown and squelched.  People both live because of it and die for it. Love defies boundaries and constraints; but can’t thrive without them.  It is fluid and at the same time absolute. Love is the pinnacle of life and the paradigm of Christ.

Love is caught in the release, a passionate balance, and an endless energy. It intentionally decreases for increase and holds back to bring freedom. Love is instinctive and taught, but never bought. It breaks and heals, blinds and brings clarity, bids and forbids, calls and answers, fights but doesn’t force. It’s sexual and it’s platonic, unconditional and intimate. It’s a choice and it’s a feeling. Love is knowing and being known. Never was there a concept that held so much power, definition, dimension, and conflict of meaning united under one word.

I am a person who loves definition and clear direction – I long for black and white while I live in a world of gray. I serve a God who is clothed in rainbows of color and depths of mystery. I prefer extremes; to live passionately by standing on one side. Yet the paradox of love demands a balance – a center in the irony of those extremes. 

One of the mysteries and paradoxes of love is knowing and being known in the very intimate recesses of our lives and hearts. It’s not just a physical/sexual knowing but a knowing – an accepting and embracing of the very essence of a person.  The more I know of love, the more I discover there is to know – more mystery. It frustrates me and entices me at the same time. In the last two years I have known and experienced every one of the above paradoxes – and know in another year I could probably re-write this after experiencing them all over again.

I recently uncovered a small bit of the mystery while reading Dannah Gresh’s newest book* . One of the Hebrew words for “know” is also a word used in scripture as both a sexual love and a deep knowing love – “Yada”.  Adam lay (yada) with his wife or in some translations –knew (yada) his wife and she conceived.

“Yada is ‘to know, to be known, and to be deeply respected.’ What an amazing thing God thought about sex. That it was to be something that causes us to deeply know another. Without alluding directly to the physical act of sexuality, this word points to the deep emotional quenching I long for in the act of sex.” pg 17

We all long to be loved, known and have that deep emotional longing in our hearts satisfied.

“Yada is a word that transcends the physical. It describes the whole knowing of a person. It portrays an uncovering and an embrace of the nakedness of another. There is no secrets, and nothing held back.” pg 24

That is connection worth having! And by the way – “yada” is not always used in Hebrew for sex – in cases of incest or rape “shakab” is used – meaning ‘an exchange of bodily fluid’. There is no knowing or respect there.

Yada is also a pre-knowing or seeking – it’s not just an accepting and respecting of the now.

“Before there can be yada, there must be a quest… The quest of a heart propelled by true love not selfish desire. ‘Think of it as a before love.’ Before love is a yearning and searching for someone who does not yet reciprocate this love.” pg 22

While that is beautiful in sexual realm, it’s even more so in the emotional and intellectual realm. Sound at all like what the Lord does for us? He sought me out before I knew Him. He knows every bit of my nakedness, brokenness and loves me anyway. In Him I am known and free to be me – the way He made me. Nothing I do surprises Him. He “yada’s” me!

Here is the mystery of the love that blows my mind – Note the use of the word “know” transliterated from “yada” in Psalm 46:10:

“Be still and know (yada) I am God.”

This stopped me in my tracks. God wants me to know Him the way He knows me?!? My Lord who is clothed in rainbows of color and depths of mystery wants me to yada Him? This isn’t a creepy, sexual “Jesus is my boyfriend” thing. The Lord wants me to deeply know Him. Embrace every part of knowing of Him - the sides of Him that I don’t yet understand and that make me uncomfortable. The very paradox of who He is – Almighty, God, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, Sovereign, Friend, Lord, Savior, Father, Judge, merciful, righteous, holy and I AM. The Beginning and The End (now there is a paradox!). He won’t fit into a box of my making and the depths of His love certainly won’t either.

I’m learning to embrace the paradox of love in it’s entirety as the mystery of a God who yada’s me and wants me to yada Him.  He woos my passionate heart and brings me to a balance found in Him alone. He is the paradigm and author of love and as such the balance of the paradox is found in Him.

*Dannah Gresh's Book : “What are you waiting for? The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex”

Boys and Pink Toenails?

This past week J. Crew released an ad picturing a mom painting her son’s toenails a bright pink.  The caption with the picture read “Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.”  Is it way more fun though? Many people are asking what the big deal is. So a mom decides to paint her son’s toenails. If the little guy wants pink toenails what’s the harm? What sister out there hasn’t convinced her little brother to hold still long enough to practice on his nails or hair? It’s all innocent fun and advertising.

Or is it? A picture paints a thousand words and what can be easily written off as a person’s creative choice often heralds a much deeper sentiment and meaning. The controversy surrounding this ad simply brought to the forefront the ongoing confusion in our culture regarding gender and gender roles. Is it a sin to paint a boy’s toenails pink? In and of its self I don’t think so.
But when we look at the whole picture there is a lot wrong with it. Our culture is bent on making everything gender neutral, from the clothes we wear to the jobs we hold and the people we marry.  The world screams – “defy all odds – be anything you want to be – be the unique you!” Well that’s great until we have a whole generation of people trying to be different and unique – in the end they are all the same.

We all want equality and uniqueness.  Isn’t that how the Lord created us? Uniquely and at the same time equal in value as male and female?  Sin has distorted and abused that uniqueness, but it is still beautiful. We are trying to fight and at the same time recreate the very thing we already are! Why are we trying so hard to blur those lines? 

The harder we try to be gender neutral the more confused we will be come. In fact “confused” is now a label to describe someone’s sexual identity.  It’s not just conservative Christians that are concerned about where this cultural trend will lead us. Psychiatrist and Fox News Contributor Dr. Keith Ablow weighs in on this ad:

 “This is a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity—homogenizing males and females when the outcome of such “psychological sterilization” [my word choice] is not known.

In our technology-driven world—fueled by Facebook, split-second Prozac prescriptions and lots of other assaults on genuine emotion and genuine relationships and actual consequences for behavior—almost nothing is now honored as real and true.

“Increasingly, this includes the truth that it is unwise to dress little girls like miniature adults (in halter tops and shorts emblazoned with PINK across the bottoms) and that it is unwise to encourage little boys to playact like little girls.”   I highly recommend you read the rest of his article.

We are created uniquely male and female for a reason and purpose. It is something that should be celebrated not discouraged.  Sure, sometimes I don’t love being female. I resist the good, God-given tendencies that come with being a woman.  On the flip side, as part of the curse “my desire will be for my husband.” As a woman with a fallen nature, I will always desire to control my husband/men around me. Not an attractive thought. Men and women have aspects of their gender that they don’t like – but it is never an excuse to neutralize and homogenize ourselves to the point that humanity is one confused grey vacuum of monotonous clones. 

If we embrace the uniqueness of our genders and the equal-but-different roles that go a long with them – I think we will find that the very thing that is perceived to hold us down in our culture (our genders) is the very thing that will set us free to be unique.  Picture a kite. Without the string that grounds it, the kite would never fly. Sure, without the string it might catch the wind and soar a few feet – only to dive bomb back to earth in a matter of seconds.  Embracing the uniqueness of our genders is like the string.  It allows us the freedom to fly.

Be you. Be the real you and wear pink nails or guys jeans if you want. Just don’t get sucked into being so ‘different and unique’ that you are lost in that grey monotony of being gender neutral. Try first to embrace and express yourself in a way that is unique by focusing on something that already makes you different from roughly 50% of the population – your gender.

Our culture is dive-bombing. Grab a few kites and remind them strings are ok. The next time you see a boy playing Cowboys and Indians or a girl playing dress up – encourage them in it.

Modesty Today

The balance to be attractive and modest is a struggle for many women. I have been wanting to write on this for a while and in my research on this topic, was pointed to a friends blog. This is the best blog I have read on modesty and I have been given permission to share it with you. I am excited to guest post Charissa Strobolakos's blog "How Then Shall We Live?". I pray you are as challenged and encouraged by this as I was. Enjoy.

"I honestly don’t feel I have any original, corrective or insightful thoughts to contribute – that’s not the purpose of this blog. This is my attempt to work out, in my own head and heart, the role and definition of Christian modesty.

Chastity. Purity. Modesty.

Those are beautiful words. Intimate, sacred, even holy words.

They thrive in silence;
but our culture has lost the ability to keep a secret.

We market everything. We sexualize everything. We speak everything. We critique everything. We voice everything. We post everything. We film everything.
and yet, for all our sharing, we remain isolated – individualistic in our thinking; loners in our living.
We’ve lost sight of the souls behind the sculpted bodies, the hearts behind the athletes and the people behind the lyrics.

We’ve reduced ourselves to a jeans size, number on a scale, job title, athletic abilities, degree,bank account, talent, possession or relationship.

When all that remains, matters and defines us is the external we can’t afford to be modest.
Purity can’t be separated from its accompanying traits of respect and love. When we isolate skinny jeans, boxers and bikinis as defining factors we strip the word of its full power;
Modesty is a meant to be a lifestyle of sacrificial love.

As Christians we should excel in this area – driven by a deep love for our God, our neighbors and ourselves. Too often, instead of abiding in a grace-filled attitude of chastity, we Christianize cultural standards of modesty (or what remains of them);

That’s when clothing sizes become the benchmark of purity, swimwear decides holiness and accomplishments determine spiritual value.

We become human doings not human beings.

It takes courage and humility to live with modesty. The lifestyle described in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 is so counter-cultural it’s humorous; “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: you should mind your own business and work with your hands”.
Jesus summarized that way of life with the simple command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

Scripture is not replete with commands on dress and modesty because appropriate attire and attitudes are a natural byproduct of a love-filled heart.

Let us learn to love each other’s souls.

At times, there may be an appropriate place to correct immodest behaviors; whether they be in dress, words or actions. We should strive to receive and give such corrections in grace, evaluating our own motives and recognizing our own weakness.

Much of this sounds idealistic, even to its author, but it’s what we’re called too. It’s what is best.
The body is a beautiful creation. Sexuality is a wonderful gift. Intimacy is crucial to healing, growth and joy. Vulnerability and safety are the stuff of life. We’ve embraced counterfeits of each by clinging to the false intimacy and shallow acceptance which accompany immodesty and blatant sexuality.
Is it any wonder the world, and many Christians, are lonely? When beauty, sexuality and intimacy are exploited, reduced to momentary thrills and external definitions they are incapable of satisfying our souls.

Our cultures obsession with immodesty is a revealing testimony to its perpetual dissatisfaction. Always seeking the next salacious person, story or thing (and that’s all any of it truly becomes; things).

Let us be people defined by our God.

That is achingly difficult. For me, it’s a fight every single day.

Biblical modesty is simpler when understood as “loving one another” – it’s simultaneously far more complex when it encompasses every moment of our day.

Purity is a daily battle.

Modest living, Biblical living is surrendering the need to achieve, to be “the best”, to be defined by the external, to dress in a way that demands attention, to be known for our successes. It takes humility.
Loving people as they are, wading through each others brokenness, refusing to satisfy our lust with each others bodies, confronting our own sinfulness. It takes courage.

God, give us a deep appreciation of simple things. Let us delight in hard work, sacred secrets and the beauty of silence. Lord, refine our hearts to crave purity and authenticity. Give us the courage and humility to live with modesty; trusting our reputations to you and not our efforts; Give us your mighty grace to sacrificially love each other."

Thank you Charissa! To check out other thoughts from Charissa please visit her blog: Old Enough For Fairy Tales.

Soul Print

 I love to read – I mean I really LOVE to read. I’m not happy unless I have at least 3 books going at once.  It was getting to the point where I was wondering if I could “afford my habit”! I recently discovered “Blogging for Books” from Waterbrook  Multnomah Publishing Group. What a Godsend. They send me a book for free and I write a review for it. Simple and sweet!
So because of that, I’ll be adding some book reviews to this blog. I hope you will be encouraged to check out some of these books. They have encouraged and challenged me. What we read, watch and listen to now, we will be in 10 years. What are you putting into your heart and mind?

Mark Batterson’s newest book Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny hits a home run. I’m a Mark Batterson fan to begin with, but this is my new favorite. Soulprint is all about discovering your identity in Christ. It is not a self-help or self-discovery book in any way; rather it addresses the importance of recognizing the way God made you and the situations He used to form your character. From divine pauses to defining moments each season of our life has a purpose in God’s plan and like a fingerprint, we all have a unique ‘soulprint’.  Yet so many of us, if we will be still long enough to admit it, are desperately insecure about who we are.

Why do we as human beings waste so much time and energy comparing ourselves to others?  Mark says “When you play the comparison game, no one wins!  It results in either pride or jealousy, and both of them will cause you to compromise your integrity.” (p. 88) We are each created unique, for a unique purpose and destiny.  Batterson recognizes the only way to discover yours is through the Lord and His word: “If you want to discover your soulprint, you’ve got to begin and end with Scripture.” (p.135) Mark uses many scriptures and examples such as David to lay out the plan for discovering your own divine soulprint.  I highly recommend this book. It’s an easy read and yet it challenges you to live out who the Lord is calling you to be.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.  For more information or to purchase Soul Print - check out Amazon.

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I'm a fun loving, people person, with a passion for ministry and the Lord. My greatest desire is to see people come to realize who they are in Christ and how that effects every area of their relationships and lives.I want to know Him more.