A letter from God?

My wife saw this article posted online. Needless to say, she was incensed by it. She toyed with whether to comment on the article but decided against it. She showed it to me. I decided it was so awful it was worth fisking it so that others might have something to post in response should they feel the need. NB: this was posted to a group for Evangelical women. This gives some insight into the kind of nonsense that passes for acceptable and with which many of the women in our churches will readily come into contact.

So, here goes:

Title: A letter from God to her daughters who observe Lent

That’s right folks, the title highlights just how awful the rest of this is going to be. Referring to God with female pronouns gives you some measure of the problems here. Isn’t it funny how, in a world in which we insist on self-identifying our gender, the only being in universe not allowed to do so is God.

Dear Daughter,

On Ash Wednesday, if you’re in church, the minister will invite you to the observance of a “holy Lent” and mark your forehead with the ashes of repentance.

Not if you’re a Nonconformist he won’t. On the silliness of Evangelicals going after Lent (particularly if you’re not Anglican), Carl Trueman has some choice words for you here. But we remain in the land of the permissible here.

Let me be very clear about this at the outset: I love you so much. I delight in you. I cherish you. For ever.

Starting to get a bit saccharine but, yeah OK.

Here are a few more things I want you to comprehend. Despite what you’ve been taught, “holy” does not mean pure and unearthly. “Sin” does not mean breaking my rules and making me mad. “Penitence” does not mean listing and wallowing in all the ways you’re wrong and bad. Repentance does not mean promising to do better to stay out of trouble.

Well, where to start with this? ‘Holy’ doesn’t mean ‘unearthly’ but – and these are not my words, but the words of Strong’s Greek Lexicon – holy (Gk. hagiazo) does mean to purify, sanctify or set apart. But the idea of ‘purity’ is most definitely within the lexical range.

Likewise, whilst sin doesn’t exactly mean ‘breaking my rules and making me mad’ (clearly not ‘making me mad’ because ‘making me mad’ is the consequence of sin, not sin itself, obvs). But, again, the two words most commonly translated ‘sin’ (Gk. hamartia and hamartano) include the concepts of ‘missing the mark’, ‘offence’ and the idea of erring morally. Now, to offend someone or something has to be offended against. To miss the mark, there has to be some mark to hit. So sin does imply breaking God’s law (rules, if you want to be so crass) and he is offended by it (or, it makes him mad, if you like).

The word ‘penitence’ doesn’t appear in the Bible but the word ‘repent’ (Gk. metanoeo) certainly does. The writer is entirely correct, ‘repentance’ doesn’t exactly mean ‘promising to do better.’ But it certainly does carry the idea of changing one’s mind, reconsidering one’s moral position and turning away from it. It does mean an intent to turn away from wrong.

Please think about these words a new way, on Ash Wednesday and every other day going forward.

What if you only sin when you refuse healing and cling to brokenness? When you use those sharp broken edges to hurt yourself and others?

What if holiness is when you choose to be whole, even though you’re terrified? When you embrace and enfold those pieces of yourself you’ve lopped off to fit into others’ molds?

What if penitence is when you see yourself clearly, and know, speak, and live from your heart?

What if “repentance” is re-membering your true self in all her messy glory?

The problem here is that no Greek lexicon agrees with these definitions of what those words mean. No context in which those words are used in the Biblical text carries or conveys those meanings. So, whilst Ms Morris may enjoy the thought-experiment of asking ‘what if’ all these words meant something else, in the real world of words meaning what they actually mean, they don’t mean any of the things she suggests.

Worse, she calls on us to ‘think of these words in a new way’ but offers us no reason why we ought to think of them in a new way. These are merely what she wishes these words meant, not what they actually mean. And, of course, when I make words mean whatever I want them to mean, just like Humpty-Dumpty, I can make anything mean whatever I want, irrespective of what the person saying it intended to actually communicate with their own words.

What if, this Lent, instead of focusing on the ways you’re not good enough and the ways you fall short, you commit to your own healing?

Once again, we run into a bit of a problem. Committing to your own healing sounds great until it becomes apparent that you cannot heal yourself. Telling people suffering with incurable diseases to merely ‘commit to your own healing’ doesn’t do very much to actually heal them. The writer is now doing with real world problems what she has just done with words. She is making them mean whatever she wants them to mean and then offering solutions that do nothing to solve the actual problem.

The Bible is quite clear that we do, indeed, fall short of God’s glory (cf. Rom 3:23). It is only when we grasp this truth that we can figure out what the solution to our problem really is. It requires a work of God in us to heal our sin-sickness (cf. John 3:1-21). Committing to our own healing will render you dead. Instead, we must commit ourselves to Christ, the only physician able to heal you at all (cf. Matthew 9:12f).

I was there at the Big Bang, enlivening every particle, atom and molecule. You are made of me, and through me you are connected to everything and everyone. I am every-damn-where, girl. You swim in me and I in you.

Umm… this just isn’t true, is it! I mean, God did make everything and he was there at the beginning. But we are not ‘made of [God].’ Nor are we connected to ‘everything and everyone’ through Him. We are united to Christ by the Holy Spirit if we are genuine believers. By that same union, we are united to every other true believer in Christ. But we aren’t made of God nor connected to everyone and everything as a result. That’s just heretical crazy-talk.

This means, my dear, when you let yourself be healed, your healing heals the world. And when you cling to your brokenness, the world stays a little more broken than it needs to be. Your healing is important and necessary. You think your healing is selfish. That’s incorrect. Your healing is crucial. I’m using that word deliberately, sweetheart. Your healing IS the crux – where you and I come together.

Therefore, as per the previous paragraph, this is also totally untrue. Like A-grade nonsense. Your healing does not heal the world. You are not in any way the saviour of the world. The world is broken but it will be fixed only by Jesus when he comes to finally and fully consummate his kingdom and make all things new.

Being ‘healed’ – and I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt that the writer means ‘from sin’ (because there is some pretty big, flashing, blue-siren level doubt that is what she means) – is not selfish. But that is because your healing from sin is a gift from the Lord himself, nothing to do with you at all really. But nor is it crucial. It is crucial for you inasmuch as if you are not healed of your sin-sickness by Christ you will face a lost eternity. But that has no bearing on whether the Lord will one day finally and fully heal and restore his broken world. He has promised he will and nothing will thwart that. In fact, that should be a far more comforting thought as you realise – instead of the drivel being peddled in this letter – that the salvation of the world, the healing from sin and brokenness that blights creation, does not depend on you. How liberating that the Lord has it in hand entirely apart from you. Come to Christ and rest easy that nothing rests upon you.

This Lent, the only fasts I want from you are these: Fast from distractions that allow you to stay wounded and broken. Fast from believing you’re not good enough. Fast from making yourself small, and nice, and silent. Fast from all judgment, especially of yourself.

Or, better yet, come to Christ and be fully healed from your sin. Instead of ‘fasting from believing you’re not good enough’, rejoice that because you aren’t good enough Jesus Christ did all that was required to heal you regardless. Remember that you aren’t good enough and give all the more glory to God as he determines to save not-good-enough sinners like me. Don’t ‘fast from all judgement’ but, as Jesus commands, ‘judge with right judgement’ (John 7:24).

This Lent, make space for me to flow into you and through you.
Befriend your fear, your anger, and your sadness. They are a deep source of nourishment and strength.
Let your love go free.
Let your joy be unconfined.

Or, better yet, feed on Christ who will be a source of nourishment and strength. Recognise that fear, anger and sadness do not belong to the world as God originally created it but will one day be gone in the New Creation. Recognise that you may only love because Christ first loved you and you can only really love as you come to know the one who truly is love. Realise that your joy will only be unconfined, overflowing, when you know all your sin has been paid for at the cross of Jesus.

Sweetheart, healing isn’t complicated, and it’s always available. All you have to do is tap into it, like a maple tree in springtime or an aquifer of living water. You know this. But it’s so easy to forget, isn’t it? All you have to do is let me clear out the dams and the trash, the resentments and identities and old, too-small skins, that keep you stuck and stagnant. Relax your heart armor just a little. And then allow yourself to flow, child. That’s all you have to do. I’ll do the rest.

I literally don’t know what this means. Honestly, no clue. But ‘healing’ (running with my benefit of the doubt assumption again) is always available but it is found in the form of forgiveness for sin from Jesus Christ. It is not something we ‘let’ God do, but something that he will, indeed, do to us as a gift of his free grace. We don’t have to let him ‘do the rest’ so much as let him do it all.

This Ash Wednesday, let those ashes symbolize our unending connection, a connection so easy to forget and so simple to strengthen. When the priest wipes those gritty ashes on your forehead and says, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” celebrate your elemental oneness with this dear, dirty earth and with me. I am in those ashes, in the dust, in the stars, and in you.

Ummm… again, just nope.

Girl, I need you! You’re the only you I created. So, please, let yourself be the creation I made you to be. You don’t need someone outside yourself telling you how to live. Trust yourself. Trust your heart. Trust me. I’ve got you.
All my Love,

Actually, no, God doesn’t need you. That’s Aseity 101. I recognise that calling God a ‘her’ at the top of the post indicates that the concept of Aseity probably hasn’t factored into the article. But God doesn’t need you – he is entirely self-sufficient and content within himself.

He did create you for a purpose though. He created you to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But, of course, if you are to ‘let yourself be the creation I made you to be’ you certainly do ‘need somebody outside of yourself telling you how to live.’ How on earth can we know Almighty God unless he makes himself known to us? And how can we hope to be the creations he created us to be unless we know what he created us for? And we can’t know that unless, that’s right, the creator tells us what it was we were created for and how we might fulfil our purpose.

You see, it is strange to assert ‘trust yourself’ and to simultaneously ‘trust God’ whilst insisting God doesn’t need to tell you how to live. Which is it? Do you trust yourself? The Bible says, ‘the heart is deceitful above all things’ (Jer 17:9) so that’s probably not great advice. To trust God is to listen to what he says and act upon it. That means opening up your Bible and hearing what he says about you and acting in accord with it. That means recognising you are, indeed, a sinner who needs to repent and turn to Christ for the forgiveness of sin, so that you might enjoy that good, glorifying relationship with God he created you to have with him.