25 October 2018

Why I Don't Speak King James

While traveling in Quebec City, my travel companion (who also happened to be my aunt) and I found ourselves quite frequently having to apologize for our lack of French-speaking skills. Aunt Beth would clasp her hands apologetically, lean forward ever so slightly and say, "I'm very sorry, I don't speak French." The way she said it, she really did sound very sorry.

I have to confess to a similar lack of proficiency in "Bible-ese" -- King James and otherwise -- except that I do understand it; I don't speak it, and I'm not all that sorry about it.

Don't get me wrong; it's not that I think it's simply terrible. King James English has a long-held and honorable place in literature and in history. Though I do admit to finding it humorous when a speaker of modern American English abruptly switches to Shakespearean when in prayer, as if God might not otherwise comprehend. No, my beef with King James English (and "Biblical" terminology in general) isn't that they use it to talk to God. It's that they address me with it.

Case in point: I was scolded by someone the other day for my "worldly" perspective on something. (I had the audacity to defend a viewpoint that the other person considered outrageously feminist.) Being on the receiving end of a long-winded, self-righteous tirade made me realize: You know, I don't think I'm all that big a fan of this term worldly. Not merely because the other person was misunderstanding me. And not merely because language changes over time, and these days worldly means something more like "mature, savvy; cosmopolitan."

No, I'm not a fan because it seems at odds with critical thinking. Dee Parsons over at the Wartburg Watch says, "Whenever Jezebel, Hitler or Satan is brought into the discussion, we have left the realm of thoughtful commentary." I feel the same way about worldly and other Bible-isms.

You might think this argument leaves me without a leg to stand on, theologically speaking. After all, doesn't the Bible speak out against the ways of "the world"? Doesn't it warn against the peril of loving the world and being conformed to it? Indeed it does. But context matters in this discussion. The Bible also says "For God so loved the world", and "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth [the same word translated elsewhere as world]... and saw that it was good." We are all part of the world that God created.

Most Christians who use "the world" in conversation aren't mindful of this distinction, however. They tend to use it as code for "anything I don't agree with." If you're on their side in any given argument, you're spiritual and righteous. If you take the opposing view, you're worldly (shame on you).

"Worldly", in my opinion, fosters an escapist mentality. It effectively "others" people with whom we disagree, making us believe that we don't need to take the time to hear their perspective.

Besides coming off as incredibly alienating and "ivory tower", the words world and worldly fail to capture exactly why someone objects to something. Don't tell me that drinking is bad because it's worldly; that's a cop-out. Flesh it out for me. Why are you uncomfortable with it? You might believe that I'll become addicted, or you're worried about my reputation, or perhaps you have an alcoholic friend or family member. We can address those specific concerns and at least come to mutual understanding, if not to agreement. But dismissing something out of hand as "worldly" tends not to be conducive to such dialogue.

A similar issue exists with the past-its-prime term "fleshly." For some reason, people in my circles who drop the word fleshly in casual conversation demonstrate an appalling lack of both interpersonal and self-awareness: "I have a hard time getting up early to do my devotions, and it's because of my flesh." "The reason so many church members are missing from prayer meeting is because they're fleshly." No, getting up early is hard because it's hard, and because your body is built to run on a certain number of hours of sleep. Maybe prayer meeting is poorly attended because people want some time in the evening with their families after having spent all morning and part of the afternoon in church. (Or maybe, just maybe, prayer meeting is boring!)

I'd also add "old nature" and "sin nature" to the list of offenders. Again, my disagreement isn't with the facts, per se: Is humanity's nature beset by sin, by brokenness? I personally believe so. Yet for some reason the place I most often hear "old nature" used is in reference to the totally normal and age-appropriate behaviors of children: Crying infants. Toddlers getting into mischief because they're curious about exploring the world around them. Energetic preschoolers running around making noise. Supposedly, it's "old nature" -- and nothing else -- that makes the baby fuss during a church service, or the toddler get upset because he has to sit still for storytime.

That's why I personally don't use these terms if I can help it. They don't encourage us to dig deeper into what's really going on, either with ourselves or with others.

20 October 2018

Bed-Warming Options: Pros & Cons

This post is written in honor of all those wonderful places [not here] that are experiencing cooler fall weather, especially at night. If you live in a place that gets really chilly toward the end of the year, sometimes socks or flannel sheets aren't enough. Here's my review of all your various bed-warming options (feel free to comment with any I've forgotten):

1. Husband
Pros: You get a heat source that's the same size as your body -- or larger -- that can also give you hugs and cuddles.
Cons: Your heat source may accidentally kick or elbow you, snore, sleep-talk, or steal the blankets. Also, heat output is non-adjustable and may be too hot on warmer nights.

2. Dog
Pros: Dog is softer and fuzzier than husband.
Cons: Dog is smaller than husband and therefore less useful as a heat source. Claws, wet nose, and excessive wiggling tend to detract from usefulness, as do the shedding of fur and the leaving of stink on the sheets.

3. Corn bag
Pros: You heat it in the microwave, so you don't have to worry about the thing shorting out or burning you alive in your bed like you might with electric heat sources.
Cons: Needs to be constantly reheated to maintain warmth. Has a distinct aroma that will probably give you inconvenient cravings for popcorn.

4. Electric blanket 
Pros: Similar to Husband, it will provide you with a large surface area of warmth, but won't invade your space or hog the blankets, because it is a blanket.
Cons: I don't suppose there are any, as long as you use newer electric blankets. I can only tell you my experience with the old ones, which were all my parents had and which I heartily don't recommend, especially after they get threadbare. The wires inside give it a stiff, "crunchy" feeling, and the presence of electric current also means you can hear your blanket buzzing if the room is quiet enough. Kind of weird. I also don't recommend using electric blankets while sleeping outside (or semi-outside, like on a screened-in porch), because what if it rains? Can you get electrocuted by your bedding? I don't know, but this thought has definitely kept me awake on many a rainy night.

5. Heating pad
Pros: Similar to a corn bag, but you don't need a microwave.
Cons: Similar to an electric blanket, but (I assume) the smaller size poses a smaller risk. Maybe not. If it shocks you or catches your bed on fire like the tag says it can, I guess it doesn't really matter what size it was to start with.

6. 18th-century bed warmer
Pros: I don't know; I've never used one before.
Cons: You're basically sleeping with a frying pan.

13 October 2018

On Changing the World

Nevertheless, it is good to be zealous if it serves a noble purpose. ~Galatians 4:18

If you're having a dull day, engage someone in conversation about how one does -- or does not -- make the most of their mortal, earthbound life. I guarantee it'll stir the pot. If you're having this discussion in Christian circles, it'll be more like stirring a hornet's nest, so proceed cautiously or not at all.

Recently I was privy to a conversation being hashed out on the well-worn and weary battlefield of the "mommy wars", i.e., should mothers be career women or stay-at-home moms? As I'm not a mom, and therefore not the best person to advise mothers on how to proceed there, I mostly stayed out of it.

It wasn't long before the discussion took a predictable turn from motherhood modus operandi toward something more all-encompassing: the dichotomizing of success versus obscurity and sacred versus secular; of using one's gifts to serve family versus reaching out to the world at large.

I've observed a pattern in general Christian discourse on what's deemed "sacred" and what's "secular." Menial tasks and "small" acts of service (for which stay-at-home-motherhood has become symbolic, probably because parenting requires so much thankless work and selflessness) tend to end up in the former category. Meanwhile careers, money-making, and/or high-profile ministry are equated with self-aggrandizement and avarice and are usually in the latter category. "Contentment with little things" is put on a pedestal; "ambition" and "accomplishment" are demonized as self-centered and worldly.

Among Christian women, the ranks of defenders of the "sacred" category are well populated. The same tired, worn-out arguments are paraded out again and again: that God doesn't call us to be successful; that worldly success isn't a reliable indicator of His blessing; that anyone who wants to attain a measurable degree of influence in this world is just ensnared by the love of money and the praise of men. Besides, Jesus lived in poverty and relative obscurity, so who do we think we are trying to have influence anyway. Stop looking for success. Keep your head down and fold your laundry. Be faithful in the little things.

And I can guarantee that somewhere along the way, there'll be an impassioned plea to just silence the voices telling women what to do, already.

It's funny, because the voice that scolds us for even bothering to have this conversation is also a voice telling us what to do. It's essentially an attempt to steer the conversation by shutting it down.

So I'm going to be that tiresome, incorrigible iconoclast who asks us not to do that, but instead, to keep our minds open to possibilities. Possibilities such as: Having big dreams and wanting to do "great things for God" (as cheesy as that phrase sounds!) doesn't have to mean you are self-glorifying or not "faithful in the little things." It's not an either/or choice. As Katelyn Beaty, the former managing editor of Christianity Today, expresses it in her article "Ambition: It's for Women Too":

"Sadly, this gives women false choices in identity formation. You can either be nurturing and self-sacrificing or ambitious. But Jesus—and many saints throughout history who set the world on fire for God—dismantles that false dichotomy. We can be self-giving and self-driven, content with our circumstances, yet deeply discontent when those circumstances are filled with suffering and injustice. Rather than dismissing ambition outright, we need to ask what ends our ambitions serve and then amplify those ambitions when they serve good, holy ends." (emphasis mine)

Yes, there are some risks in entertaining this idea. We might have to start viewing the world as a place rich with potential for adventure and personal growth and giving, rather than a bad place full of bad ideas that are out to get us. We might be invited to dust off our imaginations and put them to use. (Imagine that!) We might even be asked to question our cherished presuppositions, or the present arrangement of our priorities. I say "we" and "our" because I include myself in this ongoing process of self-adjustment.

When I say "change the world," I'm referring to the scope of our efforts, not necessarily the size of our impact (which isn't totally within our control anyway). It need not necessarily entail anything grand. It can mean volunteering for a worthy cause in your neighborhood or sponsoring a child on the other side of the world, as well as writing books or starting a successful business or donating lots of money.

Frankly, I'm a little tired of the negativity that instantly comes out when anyone talks about "changing the world." It's true that some wannabe world-changers -- young ones especially -- overestimate their ability to make a dramatic, large-scale impact, but so what? They'll learn eventually. And you never know, maybe someday they will make a big difference! But that's a lot less likely to happen if they're always hearing that it's wrong for them to think that way; that they "shouldn't be focusing on success." Come to think of it, I'm honestly not sure why the idea of "success" raises some people's hackles so much -- I mean, what is it about failure that they find so appealing? That question is tongue-in-cheek, of course, but there's a grain of truth there...

I suspect that many of them are simply caricaturing. They think anyone who talks about ambition is a stereotypical Machiavellian go-getter. Or they believe that effecting change in the world necessarily comes at the expense of caring for their families and their ordinary, everyday responsibilities. Or they misunderstand "influencing culture" (to borrow a term Beaty uses) to mean always being "movers and shakers", on the level of politicians and movie makers. Or they somehow mishear that the only worthwhile work takes place at a 9-5 job, and most of us aren't saying that... at all.

The most uncharitable -- but common -- assumption of all is that everyone who wants to change the world or have influence is just trying to make a name for themselves. So a couple of caveats are in order. Yes, it's true that for most of us, our accomplishments won't end up in the pages of history books. Yes, it's true that God doesn't call most of us to fame and fortune, and we'd be foolish to use those things as the only measurement. Yes, it's true that power corrupts. Yes, Jesus was poor and unconcerned with his social status.

In my opinion, the argument that we shouldn't seek influence because Jesus didn't is a pretty poor one. At the very least, most people making it aren't ready to take their own advice: If you have a social media account, you've already given yourself a larger public platform than Jesus ever had, or sought.

It's time to stop villifying the concept of influence. It may help to pare down all of the baggage associated with the word (prestige, authority, power-mongering etc.) and return to its most basic definition: having an effect on others. If that is "influence", we'd be foolish not to try have influence wherever we can. The sky is the limit.

Jesus did it. He was a person of tremendous influence. He was a world-changer -- without a doubt, the biggest one there ever was.

"[Jesus] had a pure and powerful inward will: to preach the gospel of salvation, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to be a stumbling block to the haughty and powerful, and to take up the cross in all its crushing weight to accomplish his most important work of atoning for the sins of the world.

This is the type of ambition that we Christians are to have, by God’s grace, no matter our stage of life or spheres of influence. Oriented toward God, ambition is the setting of the will to accomplish the desire of the heart. It is the motor that keeps us pressing for shalom, for hints of his kingdom to appear in our offices and schools and city halls and homes." -- Katelyn Beaty, A Woman's Place

You may take issue with Beaty's choice of wording (powerful, crushing weight, etc.) and argue that she's being hyperbolic. (Full disclosure: I'm not the biggest fan of Christian superlative terminology myself.) But the point remains: Jesus was a world changer, a restorer of shalom, and we walk in His footsteps. The love of Christ compels us. The love of Christ -- not of money or success merely as an end in itself -- motivates us to lift our gaze from our homes and families to the community and the world around us and ask how our gifts can be put to use there. Yes, it is possible. Holy ambition and faithfulness aren't mutually exclusive, and I doubt that most of us are so strapped for time and energy that we can't dream at least a little. Who knows what kind of difference we might make!

06 October 2018

10 Things That Make No Sense

1. Scented trash bags. Garbage + Artificial Chemical Scents = Garbage that's several notches further down on the scale of Foul-Smelling Things. 

2. Bathroom air fresheners, for generally the same reasons as #1. Adding fake Lilacs™ to poo smell doesn't make the poo smell better. It makes it worse. Contrary to the manufacturer's claims, bathroom air freshener doesn't fight odor. It doesn't bother with a fight. No, it immediately surrenders and joins the enemy's side.

3. Highway tolls. All those millions of dollars collected every day, day after day after day. Where is all this money going? My rattled teeth and bent car axles would like to hazard a guess: not road repair.

4. Making the bed. Why bother? I'm only going to sleep in it again tonight. It's called saving time!

5. Fabric softener. It works by breaking down the fibers in your clothes, essentially destroying them. I don't know about you, but I happen to like most of the clothes I own, and I don't want them ruined. Then again, I do understand the appeal of stepping out of the shower and being able to wrap your body with a towel that doesn't feel like a potato sack.

6. Antibacterial hand soap. It's antibacterial, which means it kills bacteria. You know what most of the germs being passed from person to person in your average social setting are? Viruses. Yep, being doused in Purell doesn't bother those cold and flu bugs one little bit.

7. Colds. I don't know why, in our modern advanced society, we are still afflicted with the common cold every winter (and spring and fall and even summer). We've eliminated smallpox and scarlet fever, but we haven't come up with anything to make sore throats and sinus congestion a thing of the past? I've never donated to finding a cure for cancer, but man, if they ever start working on finding a cure for the common cold... here, take my money.

8. Armpit hair. It serves literally no purpose except to make you look bad, smell bad, and feel gross. Not to mention, how is deodorant supposed to work on a forest of unruly hair?

9. Fake maple syrup. It's not that I don't know why they use artificially-flavored corn syrup instead of the real stuff: It's less expensive, and its availability isn't dependent on a few limited sources. But the same is true of counterfeit money, and we consider that a crime. Just sayin'.

10. The news media. Even faker than fake maple syrup, and about ten times harder to swallow!

04 October 2018

Obituary of a Square Peg in a Round Hole

Sharon Mindy Spender Gay, born in New Haven, CT on October 27, 1987 to John and Ruth Spender, was lost forever to the immortal realm of pink clouds and harp music on October 4, 2018. Her untimely demise resulted from a combination of factors, including prolonged exposure to the known brain-atrophying effects of South Carolina's Lowcountry region, as well as intense withdrawal from levels of social and intellectual stimulation necessary to sustain life.

Sharon was a lifelong lover of art, commercial explosives, and cynicism. Her sole accomplishments were a faked high school diploma and two extraneous university degrees in obscure fields of study. Before her death, she was last seen searching for her life's purpose, which to our knowledge was never located.

No memorial service will be held. In keeping with her wishes not to take up as much space in death as she did in life, the deceased's remains are to be cremated. The ashes will be kept until they're lost or the family gets tired of them, whichever comes first. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Fund for Helping Churches Get Better Tasting Coffee.

Sharon is survived by approximately seven billion people, including her husband of three years, Wesley H. Gay, and a 50-pound tornado named Sheba. She will be greatly missed by her friends, family, and the coffee industry.

21 September 2018

Meditations for Winter

Lately I've been thinking a bit about how often I hear Christians say, "You can't live the Christian life in your own strength," and then they proceed to give you advice on how to do exactly that. Somehow -- don't ask me how -- this phenomenon has become immune to being questioned. We're supposed to accept statements like these uncritically; if we don't, it's just evidence of our hardness of heart:

"If you don't hear God speaking, it's because you're not listening."

"If God feels far away, it's because you moved away from Him."

"If you want God to use you in great ways, all you have to do is be willing/available."

"If God doesn't seem to be at work in your life, it's because you're sinning, so repent."

"If your prayer life feels frustrating, be more disciplined in the habit."

"If it's not working, you're just not trying hard enough."

Notice what all of the above have in common: they're attempts to "fix" parts of our spiritual lives on our own. If things are going wrong for us, it's either our fault or God's fault, we reason -- and we know it can't be God's fault, so that leaves only one other option. We need to try harder, do better, give more, pray more, serve more, have more faith, fill in the blank...

I tried for a long time to wrap my head around how this is not "living in your own strength" -- until I finally gave up. I didn't just give up because I was too tired to try anymore; I gave up because the evidence for trying was no longer compelling.

I found too many stories in the Bible of people to whom God spoke even when they weren't listening (Abram, Gideon, young Samuel, Elijah, Saul of Tarsus), as well as people who waited for God to speak or intervene in their situation, yet they heard nothing for a long time (Job, Sarah, Hannah). There were stories of people whom God used in a particular way at a particular time for His own reasons -- their willingness or lack thereof didn't have much to do with it (Jacob, Moses, Balaam, Jonah, Lazarus). And there were stories of people who felt forgotten by God even though they weren't living in sin (David, Mary and Martha, John the Baptist, virtually all of the Old Testament prophets).

It seems that some of us are in good company.

And some of us are still persuaded that we can hear God speak or know our life's purpose or have this or that spiritual experience if we just set our mind to it or believe hard enough. "According to your faith be it unto you," we echo the words of Jesus to the blind men in Matthew 9, forgetting that these men were actually standing in front of Jesus Himself at the time, and He had already made up His mind about what He was going to do for them. But it's all the same, we figure -- where there's a will, there's a way.

No matter what, we're in the driver's seat.

I'll venture a guess as to how this happens so easily, and bear in mind this isn't a comprehensive answer. I wonder if our Western -- in this case, American -- culture provides a conducive environment for fostering this way of thinking. The American ethos, after all, contains a healthy dose of pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, every-man-for-himself philosophy. In many parts of the world, fate and karma are the values people live by, but not so much in ours. "Reach for the stars" is our rallying cry. If we want it, we'll do it, have it, take it, whatever. America loves underdogs and "rags to riches" stories and people who make great comebacks from terrible circumstances: Even when the deck is stacked against us, we will overcome. We will be victorious. We will find a way.

And I don't think that's a bad thing, per se. Proactivity and innovation and refusing to settle for the status quo are all great qualities. You could argue that that can-do spirit is the very reason for our country's existence. We have done some great things because we believed we could.

But I do wonder if some of it hasn't seeped in to our Christianity and colored the way we approach our spiritual journeys. I wonder if it encourages us to mistakenly identify delay as defeat. Accepting that a situation is outside of our immediate control isn't something we're proud to do.

We criticize the "Name it and claim it" philosophy when it comes to health, wealth, and prosperity, but we apply that same idea to matters of faith. We have quick, tidy answers that don't take into account all the other possible (highly varied and individual) reasons for our frustrations: Maybe prayer isn't working for us anymore, not because we just aren't disciplined enough, but because it's time for a different approach to praying. Maybe God has stopped speaking to us or working with us in the way that we're accustomed to because He's preparing us to experience a different way of relating. Maybe we're sad all the time and the answer isn't that we just need to meditate on Scripture more. Maybe, just maybe, we need a good antidepressant (speaking from experience there).

Sometimes the problem isn't that we need to stop doing "the wrong thing" or start doing "the right thing" in order to turn things around.

Sometimes, we're just waiting on the passage of time.

This is par for the course almost everywhere else in the visible world. Time passing is what happens while we wait for trees to grow new leaves in the spring, for flower petals to unfold, for fruit to ripen, for seeds to mature to the point of readiness. "To everything there is a season", and all that. The point is, we can't force any of these things to happen. Will we cause a tree to grow faster by scolding it or telling it what it should look like at this point in its life? No, there's really nothing we can do but wait. Meanwhile, the sun and the rain and the dividing cells and the microscopic organisms in the soil do their work.

All factors which are out of our sight and completely out of our control.

Note also that growth isn't a once-and-done deal. The tree expands and branches out and yields its fruit and multiplies while the warm season lasts. Winter always comes around again, and the active production of new growth pauses for awhile. It's a time for resting and recouping. This can be a disheartening time for someone who doesn't know or can't remember what spring looks like. Wintertime looks (and feels) a lot like death.

But there's always life underneath, and the tree enters each wintertime a little bigger, a little stronger than it was the last time.

I don't think it's totally unforeseen that "growth" is God's metaphor of choice for how we progress in the Christian life. (I hate to even say "Christian life" because all of life is life, and our relationship to God isn't somehow separate from everything else) We cycle. We have our springs, our summers, our autumns and winters and we take something from each one. "Wintertime" is usually the most feared time of all, because it's almost always the darkest, the coldest, and the least comfortable. It's a time where we aren't actively flourishing and "producing." Not surprisingly, it's a time that tends to invite criticism from ignorant onlookers, who don't see what's going on below the surface. Nevertheless, wintertime is necessary. The summertime wouldn't be what it is if there were no winter.

And God does not hold it against us, the time that we take to grow and process. He doesn't become alarmed during those periods when we don't have much to offer -- just as we don't become alarmed at the shedding of leaves from a tree in anticipation of winter. It's all part of the plan. It takes time.

The idea that we don't control our spiritual growth in the same manner and with the same methods that we use to control our diets or our budgets (hard work, discipline, the "right" mindset, etc.) isn't a popular one. It doesn't preach well. It doesn't sell well. And it doesn't do much to make us feel like we have everything under control.

But it's what we'll always find at the end of ourselves and all our trying -- however we get there, whenever that may be.

08 September 2018

Does Your Umbrella Leak?

How many of you have seen Bill Gothard's infamous "Umbrella of Protection" graphic before?

If you haven't, count yourself lucky. If you have, you're in good company. Either way, I want to offer some of my thoughts on this illustration, since it is so familiar to many of us who come from complementarian church backgrounds.

According to Bill Gothard (who was somewhat of a household name to fundamentalist homeschoolers of the 1970's and beyond), the umbrellas represent layers of "spiritual protection":

God-given authorities can be considered “umbrellas of protection.” By honoring and submitting to authorities, you will receive the privileges of their protection, direction, and accountability. If you resist their instructions and move out from their jurisdictional care, you forfeit your place under their protection and face life’s challenges and temptations on your own. (original emphasis)

I'll grant that "protection, direction, and accountability" are aspects of God's grace that -- more often than not -- come to us indirectly through human means. That fact notwithstanding, I have several issues with Bill Gothard's umbrellas.

For one thing, his picture shows a total lack of understanding, not only of theology, but of how umbrellas work! I mean, how many umbrellas does a person need to shelter them from the rain? One. Who in their right mind uses three of them stacked on top of each other?

You only need one umbrella, people. 

This isn't hard. Even preschoolers know this.

It should go without saying, but if you're using more than one umbrella at a time to protect you from a rain shower, then one or more of them are unnecessary -- or broken -- and need to be scrapped.

Things get interesting when we take this oh-so-elementary knowledge of how umbrellas are supposed work, and apply it here. We're left with this question: Which umbrella is the most important -- the one we couldn't do without? (I hope you'll say "Christ's", because that's the right answer!) Which naturally brings us to our next question:

Why isn't Christ's umbrella big enough to cover everyone -- the husband, the wife, and the children -- without them needing to be (or have) separate umbrellas? Why does God need multiple layers of protection beneath Him? Does His umbrella leak? What is the husband protecting his wife from that Christ alone is unable or unwilling to? The implications of the answers to any of these questions are scary, to say the least.

In fact, it almost looks like the husband is protecting the wife from God, and the wife is protecting the children from the husband, which makes for a pretty dysfunctional family dynamic if you look at it that way.

Worst of all, though, is the fact that the wife is separated -- by her husband -- from direct access to God. God's protection and provision for her is mediated through a man, who is (obviously) a fallible human being. Meanwhile, the benefits the husband receives from God come directly from God Himself. It's sort of like Moses speaking to God on behalf of the Israelites -- except, that system of relating to God was supposed to be dispensed with after Jesus died on the cross (the book of Hebrews is my recommended reading material on that topic).

Funny, isn't it, that some of us believe God would tear through the veil of the temple so we could have access to all that He offers us, meanwhile leaving intact "umbrellas" between us and Himself. There's something kinda wrong with that idea, I think.

And yet I still believed it for a long, long time. By the time I got married, I'd thoroughly internalized the "umbrella hierarchy" and all that it implied. It was precisely this thought -- the thought of someone else standing between me in my relationship to God -- that nearly destroyed me in the first year of my marriage. Coming to a realization on these points is ultimately what started me down the path to egalitarianism:

If being married means Christ can no longer protect me and provide for me Himself, then I would have been better off never getting married. 

If being married places a barrier between God and myself, then I am better off single.

And we're not even delving into how misguided and damaging is the assumption that "protecting and providing" are only (or primarily) the husband's responsibility, or that caring for children and "managing the home" is only (or primarily) the wife's responsibility. That's a whole 'nother ball of wax right there!

Having said all of this, I don't believe it's enough merely to point out problems with the "bad" model of authority. We need to replace it with a visual of a better one. Thankfully, someone has already done this for us (I don't know who the artist is, or I'd credit them):

Notice that there's only one umbrella, and it belongs (as it should) to Jesus.

Male and female leaders stand side by side as equals, both fully covered by Jesus and neither depending on the other for what He alone provides.

Note as well that the children stand alongside the adults, not underneath them. God's protection and blessing covers them as well as their parents.

Now, if anyone ever tells you you need "the umbrella of protection", you know which one to take with you!