Spiritual pride versus truth in love

Her dark brown hair was pulled back into a tight bun. On top was a perfectly placed white head covering, complete with white strings, her modest caped dress hung well below her knees. The 17-year-old scooped ice cream from the cooler as she tried to place the customer’s accent.

“Why do you wear that,” He asked, pointing to her head.

Regina 2
As a young lady (Sorry I con’t figure out how to rotate the photo)

She referenced 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul instructs women to keep their heads covered and Ephesians 5 where the Paul tells women to submit to their husbands. That’s the only answer she knew. Not too long prior, she had called her older sister who had stopped wearing the covering, pleading with her to come back to the faith.

“I’m curious,” the customer continued, “I’d like to know more about your religion. Come see me at the table over there when you get a break.”

She was used to people’s questions and curiosity. She was curious about him. Her first free moment, she walked over to the table where he waited patiently. Their conversation flowed easily. He was a businessman from South Africa and that brought him to the area. He had never seen Mennonites before and had lots of questions about their faith.

“What do they believe about the Holy Trinity,” he asked.

“The what?” She replied.

“The Holy Trinity, you know, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

“Um, I don’t really know,” She muttered, embarrassed. “I’m not sure I really know much about the Holy Spirit.”

“Wow! Really?!” He gasped. “You don’t know what you are missing out on!”

He went to great lengths to share with her how the Holy Spirit guides, convicts, woos, calls, changes, sets free. He told her that while he respected her religion, it seemed to come with a great deal of bondage, unlike the freedom Christ offers. He shared enthusiastically, but with love and joy, not condemning or mocking like she was used to from those who didn’t understand her religion. He seemed to understand that her faith was not just a personal interpretation of Scripture, but was rooted in generations of tradition and ritual that had become her very identity. In her mind she was wondering what kind of flake she was talking to, but something in her spirit stirred.

I am that girl.

Charles and I stayed in touch, writing occasionally, even though I never saw him again. Several years went by. I eventually stopped wearing the head covering and plain clothes and at some point the letters from Charles ceased. I never gave it much thought. I was always amazed he had taken so much time and interest in a little Mennonite girl from across the pond anyway.

Then one day I received another letter post-marked South Africa. This time it was Charles’ mother telling me he had died unexpectedly of a heart attack at 42 years old. While she grieved she consoled me, his long distance friend, that he was ready to meet God and that he would be waiting for us when our time came. She told me that he had often spoken of me to her and that he was excited about the freedom I was finding in my own relationship with God.

I still have a refrigerator magnet he sent me some twenty years ago. Every time it catches my eye, I thank God for sending Charles my way.

As my freedom grew, so did my “Holy Spirit Fire.” I wanted everyone to have a taste of this freedom. I shared with anyone and everyone with or without their consent. I knew the truth and it had set me free.

I got bold with my new-found freedom, but not everyone was ready to be enlightened. I could rapid-fire loveless truth bullets faster than lightening, leaving a trail of stunned, wounded loved ones in my wake.

One day I drove my rusty (not-so-trusty) Chevy Blazer to an Old Order Mennonite preacher’s house, kicking up a trail of dust as I barreled down the long gravel driveway. I caught him completely off-guard in the garden and demanded answers to questions about this faith I’d always had, but was too afraid to ask before. By this point I had studied Scripture on my own and I had a Scriptural rebuttal for every single answer he gave me. He was speechless and I was proud.

Nobody won that day. Although I did eventually gain a reputation as a “Scripture authority to be reckoned with,” I lost friends. A lot of them. No one wanted this freedom I had when it caused me to be arrogant and heartless toward those who understood and interpreted Scripture differently than I.

Over time my message softened. I began to remember where I’d come from and how firmly and faithfully I believed what I believed, despite the bondage. I no longer consider myself any more enlightened than the next person, because we are all on an individual faith journey. I also came to love and cherish the foundations of my faith formed in youth and childhood.

We can boldly proclaim our freedom and enlightenment all day long, but I quote Paul in Galatians 5:13-15 NLT. “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Be aware of destroying one another.”

I go back to my story about Charles. If he had presented his Holy Spirit theology in an arrogant or demeaning way, I would never have listened. I would have been defensive and closed, spouting off my rhetorical answers like a pre-programmed champion. But instead he shared with love and my spirit resonated with his words.

We can dispute our theologies all day long, we can argue man’s laws and God’s laws, and which ones were historical and cultural and which ones are timeless and eternal. But this I can assure you, “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is NO LAW against these things.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT). Emphasis mine.

There will always be people who disagree or understand differently. We should expect and respect that. But they are living as faithfully to the Gospel as they understand it. I am always eager to break bread together, to share honestly and openly and safely, and to learn from one another. I am faithfully living out my call as best as I can understand it with my finite and imperfect being and enjoy walking this road with others.

neighboring-clip-art

Our faith stories are important. Let’s not diminish or hinder the work of God in one another with loveless truth bullets that maim and wound other parts of the body who understand and interpret Scripture differently. Find common ground and build trusting relationships with people outside of your circle of influence and see what fruit grows. Seeds sown in discourse and contention will reap simply that. Seeds sown in love… Well…

Hebrews 10:24 NLT “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”

Advertisements

Response to head covering post

Yesterday I posted a blog about why I stopped wearing a head covering. Read that here. I have had a number of public and private responses, so I wanted to share a little deeper.

First of all, the only grace I can claim for myself is the amazing kind, that’s why I love it so much!

I have had responses from people who are firmly convicted about the head covering and I always take those comments to heart. I have also had people thank me profusely saying this was an issue they have struggled with for a long time and that my personal testimony helped them. I did not write the post to change anyone’s mind to veil or not to veil.

I wanted to clarify that for those who believe that wearing the head covering draws them closer to God, I have absolute respect for them. I cherish the friendships I maintain in the Mennonite community and value the way I was raised. (There is way more positive than negative growing up in that community.) Also, I would never intentionally insinuate that everyone who wears a covering is fake and just because I don’t, I am not. Authenticity is an attractive discipline and I know many wonderful authentic folks, some who cover and some who don’t.

It was seeing the ad for the Head Covering Movement that really prompted the blog.

Truth is, I am often asked by Mennonites and non-Mennonites alike, why I left the denomination. The issue of the head covering frequents those conversations. It was not to make people question if they should wear one, nor to discourage those who do. Neither was it to cast a negative light on the denomination. What I wrote in the blog yesterday was simply a public response to something I am asked in private all the time.

There is so much more to all of us than this online discussion and your stories are as important as mine! I invite you to respond by sharing your testimony in a comment on this blog. (If you share the comment on Facebook, those who read the blog, but are not Facebook friends with me will not be able to read it.) Tell us, do you veil or not, and why?

God’s grace, love and peace to all,

Regina

 

Unveiled; why I stopped wearing a head covering

I’ve noticed a promoted ad showing up in my Facebook news feed, called The Head Covering Movement. I couldn’t help but click on the link.

I was raised in a tradition (the Old Order Mennonite Church) where women wore head coverings, based on the Scripture in I Corinthians 11. As an infant, mom put a covering on me for Sunday morning worship, which was the custom among the Missouri Old Order Mennonites where I was born. We moved to Virginia soon after I turned 2, where girls started wearing coverings full-time as teenagers. I started wearing a covering and caped dress at 16.

I was always told that the head covering was an outward sign of inward submission. I was disappointed to find that even with donning “the veil,” I was still me and far from submissive. I later learned that submission is an inward discipline. I have also seen cases where a woman wore a head covering and plain dress as an outward sign, but it was no secret who really “wore the pants of the household.” If using the outward sign as a reason, those cases simply made it a piece of cloth on the woman’s head.

I went through varied stages of the head covering; from the netted material with strings that fit over a bun to a black veil that covered most of my hair, to a doily. See examples here. I even went through a stage where I wore the veil during my sleep, just in case I woke up and needed to pray.

Plain dresses and head coverings did nothing to address the soul care I so desperately needed. The only concern expressed from my faith community to me through these stages were not about what was going on inside, but what was coming off outside.

I studied the Scriptures. I wanted nothing more than to please God. I believe that ALL Scripture is inspired by God and relevant for our lives today. My heart was stirred by the Scripture in Mark 12: 28-31. And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” and John 13:34, A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” And Micah 6:8, He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

While I was very familiar with the Scripture in 1 Corinthians, no where in my research could I find that the head covering was required of me to live a Christian life today. I know there are those who disagree with me, but I have “worked out my own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)

As I have tended to my soul, my outer person continues to be transformed as well.

I have utmost respect for someone whose firm conviction is to be veiled. However, I can’t help but wonder if a greater movement might be based on Mark 12.