Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Hipster Heart in a Boomer Body

Okay. Maybe not hipster. But I think you know what I mean. Even though my face and body are developing more texture, I still feel young on the inside. Translate: lots of time and energy, want to contribute to the world, love learning new things.

I love young people and I have a lot of them in my life. The ones closest to me have never made me feel old or irrelevant. They have sought me out for friendship and mentoring. And during my own seasons of insecurity or struggle, they have offered me a listening ear and words of affirmation. It's a two-way relationship.

I also love a church that is filled with young people, is fully integrating them into the life of the community and is seeking out young leaders who will replace the ones who will one day be obsolete.

Oops. I mean happily retired.

Except, is retirement from ministry something to be desired or even biblical? Is obsoleteness something the church should accept? Put another way: Will those churches which are successfully engaging the youth today continue to engage them as their hair turns white or falls out?

Being young certainly has its advantages. In today’s culture youth is idolized. But there are also huge advantages to being older.

For most the difficult life decisions are now past – career and marriage (or non-marriage). There have been lessons learned on how to survive the darkest moments or crises in life and persevere with faith in Christ. If finances were wisely handled, those in retirement have the time and money to devote to ministry opportunities.

Women and men who have aged gracefully in the knowledge of Christ have gained the wisdom that comes in pursuing Him through the ups and downs of life. In a recent Oregonian article describing a new talk show premiering on Lifetime April 26 called “The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet,” Jane Fonda remarks that knowing yourself gets easier as you get older. For the Christian, knowing oneself is intimately connected to knowing Christ and that brings a deep sense of confidence, peace and stability.

In the same article above, de Cadenet reveals that the show “came about from my own desperate need to find role models that I could relate to.” She laments further, “I just couldn’t see them anywhere.” So de Cadenet went out to find them.

Last weekend I attended a women’s ministry conference that was devoted to helping the generations find each other. There I heard two dynamic young speakers express desires to have spiritual friendships with older women. They pleaded earnestly, “We need you!” I also observed older women listening attentively to their voices in trying to understand how their churches could better include the younger generation. The willingness to cross the generational gap was a powerful force for unity, love and affirmation.

However it became clear that the conference was mostly focused on those churches that were struggling with being relevant to the youth, churches that were mostly led by older members. But that’s not a description of all churches.

There are some in which the dynamic is the complete opposite. The leadership and the congregation consist mostly of Millennials and Gen-Xers. Boomer role models are rare and places for ministry or leadership are hard for them to find.

The statistics are clear. Seniors are the fastest growing population in the world. And the church is ill equipped to minister to the wave of white-haired believers about to hit the pews and is unprepared to provide the seniors places for significant ministry. James M. Houston and Michael Parker address this issue in their book, A Vision for the Aging Church: Renewing Ministry For and By Seniors.

There are many older believers who have already deconstructed their church experiences and are on board in the core values common to progressive, young churches, especially values of relationship and mission. Many understand how to embrace the broken and accept less-than-perfect people. They have had to learn that with their own children. And there are some who can offer a kind of wisdom that sorts out what is irrelevant in today’s culture but also spares the young church from making mistakes that are common to humanity.

For those churches that claim the authority of Scripture, you can’t get more biblical than this. The older members of a community are to be honored and cared for. Reaching the youth is critical in our churches. But marginalizing or disengaging the older generation hurts the body of Christ, which includes their gifts and their voices. I believe it grieves the heart of God who more often than not waited until His appointed leaders were well past youth before they were called to enter into their most significant leadership and ministry roles.

Younger people who are currently in ministry or are preparing to enter ministry do well to consider how they would want to be treated as they age. Like death one cannot escape the aging process. I don’t think anyone imagines becoming obsolete or being put on a shelf, not when one actually has more to offer when older. Young churches would be wise to consider how they might bridge the generational gap.

The Boomers are waiting for an invitation.

What are some ways to cross the generational gap or include the older generation in the life of a faith community? If you are older, do you feel obsolete in your church? 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Man. A Woman. Just Friends?

That's the title of an article by William Deresiewicz in which he suggests opening the closet wider to allow platonic friendships between men and women. No sex necessary. Of course Harry insisted that was impossible in the movie "When Harry Met Sally."

Not that platonic friendships don't exist today. It's just that friendships that don't end up in bed are not part of popular culture according to Dereseiwicz. After briefly tracing the history of platonic friendships, he makes this observation of our current culture:

We have trouble, in our culture, with any love that isn’t based on sex or blood. We understand romantic relationships, and we understand family, and that’s about all we seem to understand. 
We have trouble with mentorship, the asymmetric love of master and apprentice, professor and student, guide and guided; we have trouble with comradeship, the bond that comes from shared, intense work; and we have trouble with friendship, at least of the intimate kind. When we imagine those relationships, we seem to have to sexualize them.
I am fascinated by the fact that this conversation is taking place inside and outside the church. Both secular and sacred space is being made for friendships between men and women that don't have to turn sexual.

In his book Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and WomenDan Brennan asks these questions:
What would our marriages, our friendships, our churches and our communities look like if men and women were not afraid of connecting with each other in deep ways? What if men and women could really know each other without sex getting in the way? What if we didn't have to be so afraid of our own and other's bodies that we cannot trust ourselves with them?
He believes that people can enter fully into these friendships as embodied sexual beings without becoming romantic. He goes on to suggest that deep spiritual friendships between sexes may actually decrease the number of divorces.

In an interview conducted by Kathy Escobar, Brennan states that "you cannot have reconciliation between sexes without cultivating and nurturing friendships between the sexes." This statement is important to understand especially when women are invited to the table of leadership. Equality is not necessarily achieved by making space at the table or adopting a doctrinal view of women that allows them more freedom.

Equality is experienced when space is opened in the heart and the other is invited. Misunderstanding and barriers will persist if that space is assumed to be sexual rather than sacred.

When Brennan was asked what surprised him most about his cross-gender friendships, he offered two: His friendships with women challenged him to change his views about women in ministry and they helped deepen his love for and friendship with his wife.

In March 2011 Brennan launched "the sacred friendship project," a place to share stories of cross-gender friendships. Coming up at the end of this month in Chicago will be conference, a "sacred friendship gathering" for those who want to explore and encourage a deeper communion between men and women.

So what do you think about this conversation? Agree or disagree?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Barriers, Boundaries and Beachheads

I sat in the classroom next to my husband still yawning from the 7 a.m. start time yet motivated to be at church because the topic was important to me – mentoring.

It turned out to be one of the strangest classroom experiences I’ve ever had.

From the beginning the women, outnumbered three to one, were invisible. The conversations were directed toward the men and the illustrations were about men. Though the content was really good and gender-neutral, when the teacher laid out the strategy for establishing mentoring relationships, he only addressed the men. When I heard the strategy, I groaned. I knew it would not work. Women had been exploring mentoring programs for decades and his basic idea had been tried before. And failed.

After class I approached the teacher and shared the history of mentoring within women’s ministries along with my past efforts to implement programs in previous churches. I asked him to reconsider their plan based on women’s experiences. There was no further discussion or any invitation to help shape what they hoped to initiate among men in the church. I did not understand why any discussion and planning taking place did not include both male and female leaders at the same table. It seemed to me that sharing decades of women’s experiences would save the men a lot of unnecessary failure or frustration.

Ever since then I have been critical of gendered discussions and ministries that create unnecessary and unhealthy barriers to the Blessed Alliance.

Recently a woman from United Kingdom commented in response to my post “My Vision for Gender Reconciliation.” She is alarmed at the growing influence of the American conservative evangelicals and their impact on church life in the UK. In particular she is concerned with the growing trend to separate the women from the men at leadership conferences or plan women only and men only retreats.

In fact what she perceives is that male leaders are encouraging the exclusion and seclusion of women from conversations as if the issues of women are different from the men. However when she goes to the women-only workshops, the topics apply to both genders and the separation seems to not be necessary. In fact she is alarmed at the growing exclusion of women from the general leadership of the church.

As I consider gender reconciliation I believe the practice of dividing men and women in the church is overdone and exacerbates the misunderstanding and mistrust between them.

Men’s and women’s ministries and separate retreats or conferences have been a part of the American church landscape for many years. However in more recent years I am hearing a rumbling in the church, a questioning of practices that are not relevant to the younger generation and a suspicion of underlying attitudes and belief systems that have supported these practices. It’s time to do some critical thinking and re-evaluation.

We need to evaluate practices in American evangelical churches and refrain from exporting damaging practices to other cultures. I’d like to suggest three questions as we consider how to promote the Blessed Alliance, a life-giving, transformative partnership between men and women in the Kingdom.
  1. What are the barriers that need to be removed?
  2. What boundaries are appropriate to keep?
  3. What beachheads need to be established to move forward with the Blessed Alliance?


Walls dominate the American evangelical church landscape. The task of dismantling them will not be easy.

First on my list are those barriers that separate women from the men and result in the inefficient use of resources, limit the expression of diverse gifts and perpetuate misunderstanding and stereotypes. Gender diversity offers a wider range of perspectives, wisdom, and creativity. It also promotes a deeper sense of unity because women and men are partnering to do the work of the Kingdom.

I know that removing barriers actually makes things a bit messy and requires more work. There’s certainly more potential for conflicts. But I see conflicts as opportunities to love and understand others more deeply, to experience more gospel-centered relationships and to grow in grace and compassion.

There’s certainly the danger of inappropriate sexual attraction. But I believe it’s possible to have cross-gender friendships without sexualizing them. Lusts, like any other sin, can be controlled and overcome through the Spirit’s transformative work. Barriers won’t protect us from sinning anyway. If anything they intensify the sins. It’s easier to indulge in pornography behind the barriers than to actually face a man or woman in community where non-sexual friendships can be encouraged under the watchful eyes of godly shepherds who also can spot the “lustful eyes” (Matthew 5:28).

In her recent blog post titled “alongside” Kathy Escobar wrote this: 

There is so much we can’t learn when we’re always segregated, relegated only to be above or below one another, or full of fear. I wish more men and women would bravely dive into the deep end of learning how to live alongside each other as leaders, brothers & sisters, and friends.

Christ came to establish a profoundly redemptive community committed to walking together “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 5:2-3).”

Why do we have barriers in America? These are the two main reasons I get from men in the church:

Men have no control over their sexual impulses when around women. So women can’t be in the same room with them. Or at least prop the door open.

Men have all control in hierarchical structures and authoritative roles of leadership in the church. So women are not needed at the table. Except to lay out the coffee and donuts or take notes.

I can’t quite figure out if men see themselves as weak or as strong. Either way the barriers go up and women are excluded.

Removing barriers means combining resources, pooling ideas and encouraging cross-gender communication. It means a commitment to cross-gender friendships within a community that will work hard against the cultural pressures to sexualize them. Removing barriers means recognizing the presence and work of the Spirit through all the voices of the community so that a woman can speak into the life of a man and a man can speak into the life of a woman with words of reconciliation, healing and affirmation.

Removing barriers will create a new culture within the church where unity and love is a visible and felt reality. The church becomes a witness to a world that wants to belong to such a reality.


I define healthy boundaries as agreed upon lines of demarcation that allow a subset of a community to experience a deeper level of relationship or healing.

Examples include:
  •         A single mom’s group seeking encouragement and affirmation.
  •         Women who have suffered abuse from men.
  •         Men seeking freedom from sex addiction.

Each person’s journey is unique and is marked by seasons of life that can be wonderful or difficult, joyful or painful, healing or damaging. Small communities of identification and solidarity have their place within the larger community of faith but they must be created with care and understood within the larger framework of unity and love.

The boundaries of safety or solidarity must not turn into barriers that keep individuals from intersecting with other members of the community. The healing will be more complete if a woman who fled abuse can someday receive friendship and care from a godly, tender man. Men rally around the single mom and offer practical help around the house or spend time with her children who need spiritual fathers. Those who are gaining freedom from pornography find friendship with the opposite gender in ways that are meaningful and not objectifying.

Boundaries are not barriers. They are lines in the sand that can be erased by the surf when safety is no longer needed, when the seasons change or when healing has happened.


Definition: the beginning point of an assault to capture enemy territory; the initial position or foothold gained that opens the way for further advancement and development.

In American evangelical churches the debate is reigniting concerning women in leadership and ministry. But there has been a significant shift in this debate. Whereas in the past the battle lines were drawn between the conservative and liberal interpretations of the Bible, the current debate is found inside the conservative evangelical camp.

Well-known, respected evangelical scholars are advocating for gender equality in all spheres of the church. Patriarchal and hierarchical structures of leadership are not only seriously questioned but also abandoned in some churches. The number is slowly growing.

A beachhead has been established.

Women are gaining a foothold in seminaries and churches. But the transition to this new understanding of the Blessed Alliance is terribly painful and slow. For now large numbers of women are leaving evangelical churches that refuse to remove the barriers. However these women are having difficulty finding a community that welcomes their voices and their gifts, especially leadership, teaching and preaching. Furthermore Jim Henderson in his book, The Resignation of Eve, identifies other women who have not left physically but have left emotionally and are no longer volunteers or voices in the church.

Additionally the advancement of the Blessed Alliance is stirring up a resistance movement, a push back from conservative forces within evangelicalism. Like Mark Driscoll and John Piper.

As difficult as it is for evangelical women right now, I have hope. I am optimistic that the beachhead will persevere and women one day will be treated equally and will be free to enter the full spectrum of gifts and callings.

For those outside the American culture, like the woman who is watching the reverse happening – the establishment of a conservative beachhead among British evangelical churches – I would encourage your voices to rise in protest, asking for critical reflection on the nature of the changes taking place. Do not allow the leaders to build barriers, to exclude and seclude women. Pay attention to the conversations and call for dialogue that exposes wrong motives and wrong thinking. (From my understanding, British culture has a more healthy view of women. Look at the heroines in British TV or film – they don't have to be young, gorgeous or ninja fighters.)

Any movement toward greater division hurts the church and does not accomplish the reconciliation brought through Christ. The Apostle Paul understood that reconciliation with God meant reconciliation with each other. Not just Jew and Gentile. I believe Paul would have included men and women. Jesus certainly did.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16)

The results of destroying the barrier?

For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit (2:18). And…in him you are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (2:22).

The Blessed Alliance is worth fighting for in order to gain the presence of God. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Music a Church Plays

Recently a close friend sent a link to a video from the NY Times titled "Connecting Music and Gesture." My friend suggested the video was an appropriate analogy to church leadership. I so agree and love the implications.

The metaphor of an orchestra makes more sense to me than the metaphor of a factory a certain pastor years ago used to describe his church. In his business model people were on a conveyor belt and leaders were workers who "ministered" parts so that as they came off the belt each person would be a mature, functioning member of the church, a well-defined product according to the flowchart. The factory church did not sit well with me then. It disgusts me today. In Christ’s story for his Bride, people are subjects, not objects, objects that are used rather than known and listened to.

The metaphor of an orchestra appeals to me because the people are subjects. The conductor represents the leaders of the church, and the musicians are the members. Here are some transcript excerpts from the video where Alan Gilbert of the New York Philharmonic explains the role of the conductor (highlighted sections are mine):

“There is no way to really put your finger on what makes conducting great, even what makes conducting work. Essentially what conducting is about is getting the players to play their best and to be able to use their energy and to access their point of view about the music. There is a connection between the gesture, the physical presence, the aura that a conductor can project, and what the musicians produce.”

“There are lines that exist together and relate to each other in a linear way. So there’s a basic flow that happens, but one thing I was particularly thinking about just now was bringing out different layers…I find that interesting, so it’s not just a monolithic, homogenized texture. It’s a texture that hopefully works well together, but has local features, based on how each individual line moves.”

One of the ways to make your sound better is to make it really obvious that you’re really listening and that it really matters to you what it sounds like. That’s not actually conducting. It’s kind of embodying or representing a kind of aspiration, if you will, and it’s uncanny how that actually can make a difference. As soon as it’s apparent that your ears are open and that you’re interested and you’re following the contour of the sound, then that very contour is affected by that.”

Can you see the beauty of this analogy? My husband did. He wrote a response after watching the video that I want to share with you.

“I understand that thought, being one who appreciates a good conductor when playing in an orchestra.  The reason a conductor is needed in an orchestra is because all the musicians are playing parts that make a whole, and the parts are not their own invention--but those of a higher power, the composer.  The conductor is the interpreter who draws out those voices in the orchestra or choir and maintains the unity and coherence of the whole. 

A church operating with the leader-conductor view would see the church body as the musicians playing parts written on their hearts by the Holy Spirit.  These could be also seen as the spiritual gifts given for the working together of the church as a unified body.  The leader-conductor becomes the interpreter who draws on all those "voices" in the congregation to bring out the grand and unified sound as it was originally intended by the composer, God. 

Unfortunately, some conductors I have played for (generally in middle school years) were band-oriented conductors and knew nothing of string instruments.  As a result, when those conductors were directing the full orchestra the string instruments were rarely the focus of their attention and, as a cellist, I felt neglected.  We played our parts but knew that the conductor was semi-blind to our need for direction and if we played badly it didn't seem to matter.  I remember those times with a feeling of wanting out, wanting something more, wanting to be known.”

Jon goes on to write that he understands why certain groups struggle with their place in the church, including women who are evangelical, boomers who are progressive and youth who have uncomfortable questions. He concluded with this:

[Many] have been chosen to be neglected or relegated to limited roles rather than being known and used as God has primarily gifted them.  Perhaps the [leaders] would do well to think about re-interpreting the script and be better listeners of the congregation they feel that God has asked them to conduct.

Not just the ones who are included determine the texture of a church but also the ones who have been marginalized, whose voices have been silenced. The tapestry may look really good until you look closely at the frayed edges.

Back to our metaphor. The orchestra may sound okay to the untrained ear but to those with discernment, there is something missing. There are sections that are not playing up to their full potential because the conductor is not paying attention or is intentionally ignoring them. The full beauty of the composition is being missed when those sections are not playing the parts that were composed for them. 

And when a musician cannot play to their fullest potential, eventually they quit playing and a part of their soul dies or they find another orchestra because they must play the music in their hearts.

Friday, April 6, 2012

From Dirty Feet to the Foot of the Cross

Wednesday a friend related to me a disastrous encounter with the women’s pastor of her church. She had gone to her with her story that was marked by deep pain inflicted by men, especially as a former radical feminist who had come to Christ and started a journey of reconciling her feminist beliefs with the truths of Scripture. The advice offered? Wash the feet of men.

That was not helpful. It was a misguided and unfortunate application of what I believe to be completely opposite of Christ’s intent in washing the feet of his disciples.

How timely that the next day was Maundy Thursday. Holy Thursday, a Christian observance of the Last Supper and for many a reenactment of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. In that simple and profound act Jesus revealed something of the Father that dumbfounded them in the moment yet defined them for their journey toward a new community.  

The Apostle unfolds the story in John 13 in such a way to help us understand Jesus’ intent for the foot washing.

In 13:1, we read Jesus’ thoughts as he anticipates the days ahead: Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Jesus loved deeply and forever that initial band of misfits, the beginnings of a new community that he called, taught, lived with and sent into the world to be his hands and feet, his body. But he knew his days were numbered and he would be leaving them behind. So the Passover meal was prepared, an appropriate last supper before the events of the next day would thrust him away from “his own who were in the world” toward his Father in heaven. Then in the middle of dinner, Jesus got up, stripped off his clothes and washed their feet.

Shock. Embarrassment. Resistance.

During his interaction with Peter, Jesus was patient but clear. Christ’s community was to go beyond the reality of chosenness and cleansing. His followers were to embrace a divine love that humbles itself for the uplifting of the other, serves for the good of the other, and washes for the healing of the other.  

In this scene, I don’t think that Jesus’ act was primarily a teaching moment on servant leadership. I believe Jesus was demonstrating the one quality he desired his body, the community of his followers to be marked by. Love. Mutual, inclusive, humble, self-giving, naked-and-not-ashamed love.

After Judas leaves to betray not only his Master but his community, Jesus looks around the room at the eleven with clean feet who will walk a difficult path to build a new radical community and he says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

So wash one another’s feet.

The pastor should not have asked my friend to kneel before men and wash their feet. Instead if she had gathered the men in the church office to kneel before my friend and wash her feet, the pastor and the men would have been doing as Jesus did. If my friend had been in the Upper Room, I am confident that Jesus would have washed her feet.

Thankfully today is Good Friday. Where we have failed to love, we also find forgiveness at the foot of the cross. Where we harbor pain and bitterness, we also find at the cross freedom and the possibility of reconciliation.   

In light of my passion for gender reconciliation, I believe Jesus’ act is one key to understanding how men and women can move toward each other with divine love, acceptance and healing. The metaphor-example of foot washing is a powerful image-act for a community of men and women who seek reconciliation and seek to remove the barriers to collaboration and community.

This Kingdom dance between male and female image-bearers must flow back and forth between the foot of the cross to the feet of each other.

Note: For those who are interested, New Wine, New Wineskins' Gender Conference audio recordings are available. Really good stuff.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

LOST on my own island

Stubborn, inflexible, pigheaded vs. determined, persistent, tenacious. These words are listed as synonyms. Each of them has been true of me more than one time in my life. I blame my father. If I were to choose one word, one quality that he worked hard to encourage and build in his two daughters, it would be independence

I think it was because Dad knew my sister and I would be leaving our home on Okinawa after high school and figuring out how to live in the U.S. on our own. We would be separated from him, make our own decisions and be self-sufficient in a land we did not know. I don't know how he did it, but my earliest memory from childhood illustrates his success.

I'd like to think I was showing signs of being a child genius at age five and that is why my father decided to have me skip kindergarten and go straight into first grade. Most likely he was anxious to get me into the classroom and away from home where it was a challenge for my deaf-mute mother to care for two young girls. 

The first day of school required some careful planning on the part of Dad. Since he was a civilian employed by the Marine Corps, he had to obtain housing off base in a local Okinawan neighborhood. He was able to buy a home in the middle of the sugar cane fields. 

The journey from my home to the grade school was not an easy one for a little five-year old to take. My dad had to plan the route and teach me how to get to school. This meant walking a half mile or so on a gravel road from our home to the main paved road where I had to catch a local bus, pay the fare, ride for a couple miles and then get off at a specific stop near a busy intersection closest to the base gate. After stepping off the bus, I had to walk around the corner or take a short cut through side streets to get to the bus stop designated for the American yellow school bus that would take me through the gate and drop me off at the elementary school.

Though I don't remember, Dad must have taken me on practice runs because on the first day of school, a little five-year-old girl made the journey there without a hitch. Except there was one thing my dad forgot. 

How to get home.

Perhaps he had confidence that I would be able to think backwards and make my way home. The only problem was the bus stops were on the other side of the street. Nothing looked familiar. I sat on the yellow bus driven by a man whose task was to be sure the kids got off at their designated stop. Of course, being the first day, he didn't know us and assumed we all knew where to get off.

But I had no idea which stop was mine. So I stayed on the bus. Each time it stopped to release a student or two, I looked frantically for some sign of familiarity. None came. I observed enough details to realize two things. First, we were definitely off the base and in foreign territory. And second, we were heading in the opposite direction from where I sensed my home was. I distinctly remember thinking that I was too embarrassed to ask for help and that I was determined to find my way back home without it. I took note of two major turns made by the driver and figured I could work my way backwards. I ended up waiting until the driver reached the end of the bus line where the last student disembarked. And so did I without a word to the driver.

My five-year-old brain pictured the route it had mapped out and my five-year-old legs began the journey of several miles in the opposite direction. 

After a couple of miles I recognized the corner of the major intersection where I was supposed to have transferred from the yellow bus to the local bus. I felt relief but the long walk had taken all the energy out of my five-year-old body and I couldn’t take any more steps. Despair set in when I realized I wouldn’t make it home. In the exhaustion the tears began to flow. 

Then I noticed a policewoman standing on the sidewalk observing the busy late afternoon traffic. She didn't see me. There was still some residue of embarrassment and I couldn't bring myself to ask for help. Instead I willed my wobbly legs to position myself next to her and hoped she would initiate a rescue. And she did!

Soon I was sitting at the nearby police station waiting for my father. Apparently he had called the police when I did not get off the local bus as planned. Soon I was reunited with him. But before he drove me home, having realized his incomplete instructions, Dad took me to the stops I should have learned for the after-school trip. The next day I successfully completed the journey to and from school. Without any help.

I can’t imagine doing this to any of my children when they were five. Though life was certainly different back in those days and on the island, I still don't think it was normal for a father to push a five year old to that limit. Nevertheless in the end he was right. I needed to be independent in order to survive my first years in college. However, my journey to the U.S. was not only as an independent seventeen-year-old but also as a new follower of Christ. And independence or self-sufficiency was not exactly a quality a Christian bragged about. 

It's been 38 years since I left my 464 square mile island and journeyed to America. During those years I have been "lost" several times and have had to decide whether to ask for help or figure out the way on my own. I have discovered there is a place of tension between dependence and independence. 

Dependence is unhealthy if it's co-dependence, if it traps me in a state of neediness or if I refuse to take responsibility for my choices. Independence is unhealthy if I am disconnected from people, self-centered in my choices and prideful in not asking for help when it's appropriate. As these words intersect my Christian faith, I have discovered that I am learning to be independently dependent. 

At the same time that I find my identity in Christ alone, I find my place in Christ’s body. At the same time that I bow my knee to Christ alone, I bow my knee to serve my sisters and brothers. At the same time that I seek Christ alone to meet my needs, I humble myself and ask for help when I need it. At the same time that I enter a place of silence and solitude to hear the Spirit’s voice, I sit with my community and listen to their counsel and perspective.

“Lost” is when I am extremely independent or extremely dependent. “Found” is the middle place where I am both independent and dependent.