Wednesday, November 13, 2013

12 Years a Slave: A Painful Truth

When my husband Anthony and I left the movie theater after seeing 12 Years a Slave this past Saturday evening, I KNEW I had to blog about this movie.

Even though I don't feel like I have much to say - that hasn't already been said - I feel like I MUST speak. I MUST write.

Because 12 Years a Slave shook me to my core in way that hasn't happened in a very long time.

I left the theater thinking, I've got to tell THE WORLD to go see this movie.

Four days later, I do have a few more thoughts. So here you go...

I. US slavery was a brutal, evil part of our country's history:

The US slave trade is said to have begun in 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia (my parents' home-state). For over 250 years, human beings were sold as cattle for the purpose of financial gain for their slave masters.

12 Years a Slave handles this period of time with fervor and brutal honesty. It is very painful to watch, but it is an authentic portrayal of one man's story. It also uncovers a more obscure aspect of slavery -- free black men and women who were kidnapped and forced into slavery.

Some have labeled the violence in the movie "excessive." However, the US slave trade was excessive. It was brutally violent. It was vulgar and dehumanizing - intentionally so.

II. The Bible was misused by many slaveowners to subjugate their slaves

The key word here is misused.

It was painful to watch the scenes where slaveowners misquoted the Bible. And I wondered, how could someone misuse this life-giving book? How could they use the Bible to justify so much destruction and pain? How did they misinterpret it so profoundly - with such wicked intentions?

I have no answers here. I only know that some people will go to any lengths for money, power and social standing. Even to the depths of distorting and prostituting my Father's beautiful and inerrant Word.

III. God can use our deepest pain for His glory

Warning: Plot-spoiler ahead...

Based on the true story of Solomon Northup - beautifully portrayed by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave ends with a short description of Solomon's life after his rescue from slavery. After spending a horrific 12 years in slavery, Solomon was said to have joined the abolitionist movement and also to have aided the escape of slaves through the Underground Railroad*.

Would Solomon have become an anti-slavery activist without his experience as a slave? Maybe. Maybe not. But his story reminds me that God can use our deepest pain to grow us up, to take us to higher heights, to use us for His purposes and His glory.

The universal truth here? God never, ever wastes pain.

He didn't waste Solomon Northup's pain.

And He won't waste yours either.

* The Underground Railroad was a covert network of people and places that assisted fugitive slaves as they escaped enslavement in US southern states.

Friday, November 8, 2013

This Means War: A Pastor's Wife Speaks

Yesterday my husband Anthony and I returned from Long Beach, California.

No, we weren't there to surf or walk hand-in-hand along the shore, the cool sand rubbing between our toes.

We were there to attend the 2013 Mosaix Multi-ethnic Church Conference.

We were there to hear from amazing speakers like John Perkins, Eugene Cho, Choco De Jesus, Efrem Smith, and many, many more.

We were there to meet and reunite with friends and co-laborers - other pastors and leaders of multi-ethnic churches around the country, and world even. (There was an amazing group of church leaders from Congo, Africa.)

But one special treat for me was connecting with other pastor's wives like me. Other women who get me and this life I'm living. Other women who know that it's hard being a pastor's wife, but it's even harder being the pastor's wife of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-social economic church.

Other women who understand that we're waging war every single day of our lives.

At the end of the conference I had a conversation with another pastor's wife about this war we're fighting. Here's what she said about the warfare we face in the multi-ethnic ministry life:
"The enemy wants to destroy us. And if he can't destroy us, he will try to destroy our marriages. If he can't destroy our marriages, he will try to destroy our children."
This is the boxing ring we pastor's wives step into every day of our lives. The enemy doesn't want hurting people to come to God. He doesn't want the Church to reach the souls in its community. He doesn't want the Church to feed the hungry, help the homeless, adopt the orphan, love the unlovable.

He definitely doesn't want the Church to open it's doors to people of every race, color, language, social class and political party.

And he doesn't want the white man to love the black man. Or the Puerto Rican woman to love the Japanese woman. Or the rich person to love the poor person.

Oh, we can love from afar. We can accept from afar. But to sit next to one another on the church pew? To serve food to the local homeless community side-by-side? To sit across from one another at our dining room tables?

Now that kind of activity means war, my Friend.

And the war is real for us ministry wives. Just look at a few of these numbers:

  • 56% of pastor's wives report having no close friends *
  • 59% of church planting spouses lead 1-3 major ministries in the church in addition to family, community and personal commitments **
  • 80% of pastor's wives report having struggled with depression *
I'd love to collect the stats on pastor's wives of multi-ethnic churches. I wonder if the numbers would be even higher... 

The moral of this story? 

If you're a pastor's wife, reach out. Be honest with your family and close, trustworthy friends about your struggles. The gig is up, Girlfriends. This thing is hard. Let's just be real about it.

If you're not a pastor or pastor's wife, pray for your pastor's family. Pray especially for your pastor's wife. Even if she's smiling and happy every single time you see her, know that her life is not easy. She experiences warfare in ways you might not ever experience. Her life is full of responsibility and service like many will never know. She shares her husband in ways that are unseen to most. Accept her. Love her. Even if she's not nearly as cool or friendly or efficient or talented - or whatever - as you'd like her to be.

Friends, this multi-ethnic movement is a force to be reckoned with. I believe it will change the world. 

But if it's going to change the world, it's going to do it most effectively with faithful leaders and healthy marriages and cohesive families.

Let's work towards that end -- on our knees.

* According to Focus on the Family
** According to "A Study of PCA Church Planter Spouse Stress and Satisfaction Levels" by Shari Thomas, 2005