You’re Wasting Your Mind

I was eighteen and about to graduate from high school. I had been a straight-A student since preschool (Ok I lied. There was one B in grade school. I blocked it from memory.). I scored high enough on the ACT to have my pick of high-ranking universities. I could go anywhere I wanted and be anything I wanted.

My plans were set. In August, I would leave St. Louis and embark on a new adventure…in Kansas City. All the way across…the state. At the not-so-prestigious…University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). I would go there to study…

Dance.

“You’re wasting your mind,” one of my classmates said one day as we left worldview class. I’ll never forget the expression of disdain as he shook his head and slung his backpack over his shoulder. I knew what he was thinking; I couldn’t blame him. From the outside, it looked like I was throwing away the mind God had given me.

But I knew something else.

God would not let my gifts, talents, and abilities go unused if I chased after Him.

I learned that lesson from my mom, an incredibly creative and talented individual. Throughout her life she has danced professionally, choreographed professionally, sold art, refinished furniture, written music, taught preschool music, taught Bible studies, acted in church plays and community theater, led worship teams, taken voice lessons, taken piano lessons, authored poems, choreographed for show choir, written musicals, and the list goes on. Oh, and she raised 4 kids as a stay-at-home mom.

Don't Waste Your Mind the Great Artist Britney Lyn Hamm Her songs may not be on K-Luv and she may not be starring on Broadway, but no one can rightly look at her and say her creativity has been wasted. She has submitted her life to following Jesus, not to maximizing her potential. Her greatest aim is knowing Him, not being known. Yet in His faithfulness, God has given her opportunities to use all her gifts and passions in various seasons of life – not all at once, not always in the ways she expected or even wanted. He, the Great Artist, has been faithfully painting a greater masterpiece in and through her life than what the world can see.

Flash forward in my life over a decade. I’ve long since graduated college. Not as a dance major but as a psychology major. I didn’t go on to pursue a Masters’ degree, which makes the Psych degree, well, almost useless (practically speaking). I became a wife and a campus missionary to college students. I began working in marketing communications with small businesses and nonprofits (that’s a story for another day). I became a mom, once, twice, three times a lady (couldn’t resist). I began a biblical counseling training program I plan to complete (hopefully in the near future). I started (and finished) writing my novel. I embarked on providing my children with a rich, quality education at home. I discipled countless college women and wrote a premarital counseling curriculum with my husband.

Today I received an email from a client of mine. We worked together a few years ago on another client, and she contacted me last week for services for her own business. Her email today said, “I came to you for your mind. I choose to work with people who challenge me to think more clearly, and it was evident in our meetings that you have a very keen strategic mind and an effective and professional way to help others see what they are not seeing.”

I don’t share that to pump myself up, I really don’t. Go be impressed with someone else (preferably Jesus). I share it because I found great, God-exalting irony in the contrast of her statement to the one made by my classmate years ago. My name may be meaningless to 99.99% of the world, but I do not believe my mind has not gone to waste. From discipling college women to teaching my children to assisting clients with their communications strategy to crafting a novel, God has and is using my creativity and intellect as His vessel.

Here’s the point of all of this: When you submit yourself to Jesus as the King of your life, He is faithful to use every bit of what He has created in you for His glory and the building of His kingdom.

   It may not happen in the ways you expect.

            It may not happen in the ways you want.

            It may not happen in the ways that make money.

            It may not happen in the ways that achieve measurable success.

            It may not happen in the ways that the world affirms.

            It may not happen in the ways it happens for others.

            It may not happen all at once.

But it happens. Because God, the Great Artist and the Loving King is a God of purposeful, intentional design, not a God of wasted space.

Friends, when the love of Jesus is enough for us, we are free from needing the affirmation of the world, the dollar sign in our bank accounts, the awards and certificates that measure our ‘success’, to validate our gifts and abilities. We are free to let the Great Artist mold and shape us into His vessels, trusting that He will put every piece to good use according to His purposes.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

Neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are my ways higher than your ways,

And my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

For further reading: Jeremiah 18, Isaiah 64:8

 

Image credit: morguefile.com

In Response to Beth Moore’s Letter to Our Brothers in Christ

Wow. My respect for Beth Moore just shot through the roof with the letter she wrote regarding how she has been treated as a female leader in the Church. My husband asked me this evening if I’d read some letter Beth Moore wrote to men in the church. I’ve been MIA from social media today and had heard nothing about it (that always seems to be the case when something significant happens in the world). Naturally, I Googled it immediately and read it. Not being super familiar with the substance of Beth Moore’s doctrine, I honestly didn’t know what I’d find.

This letter reveals the heart of a woman who chases after Jesus relentlessly, who is a dedicated and humble student of God’s word, who has sought to balance the precarious tension of the biblical principles of complementarianism and the high calling and equal value God gives to women, and who writes not with bitterness or selfish gain or a throw-it-to-the-wind departure from Scripture but with heart-wrenching, prayerful, beseeching plea for change that glorifies God and gives women the same dignity and freedom Scripture allows them. I can’t speak much to her teaching and theology, as I’ve never done any of her studies, but I can find nothing in this letter to disagree with, theologically or in tone and intent.

I was shocked to read how Beth has been treated. The vague pictures she painted only scratch the surface, no doubt. I realize with humility and gratitude that for much of my life, with few exceptions, I have been surrounded by men who value me, encourage me to use my gifts, listen to my wisdom, give weight to my opinion, and respect me as a woman and as a leader. That is a profound (and sadly unique) reality. So let me say thank you to men who, in various seasons and to varying degrees, have been those kind of men… Travis Hamm, Bill Bayer, T.J. Bayer, Bryan Bayer, Rob Baas, Gary Hamm, Jesse Hamm, Peter Assad, Roe Gammon, Chris Baker, Craig Dunham, Jason Rose, Jared Crabtree, Ben Wishall, Chris Klein, Jason Todd, Josh Moore, Phong Nguyen, Chad Brockmeyer…I am undoubtedly forgetting someone.

It is largely because of YOU that, in a world where being a woman is a constant uphill battle against deep-rooted oppression, misogyny, condescension, suppression, exploitation, and objectification, I am wholly content with the biblical picture of complementarianism, so much so that I do not feel the need to depart from it in search of liberation. I am beautifully free as I am. That I have seen  and experienced the beauty and protective care of biblical submission and hence joyfully embrace it. That I have discovered, developed, refined, and used my spiritual gifts and skills within the body of Christ. Beth’s words remind me what a gift that is. It is a gift I must begin fervently praying my two daughters experience within the church as well.

I have studied Scripture extensively on the topic of male and female roles. I have studied Greek roots, dived into cultural context, read commentaries, written academic papers on it, the whole shebang. I have sought to disprove aspects of complementarianism in seasons when I didn’t particularly like my God-given role as a woman and wanted to find an “out”. Through all my study, prayer, and reading of both sides, there are two clear principles I simply cannot ignore, and they are:

  1. God gives women more value, purpose, equality, and true freedom than any other culture at any other point in time. In this way He is radically countercultural.
  2. God gives men and women different roles in the home, the family, and the church, meant for His glory and the good of all parties. In this way He is radically countercultural.

I could go into more detail on the latter, but that’s not the point. The point is that when men tangibly demonstrate the first principle to their sisters, like those I named above have in my life, the second point is FAR easier to accept and live out. No, not accept. That makes it sound like something bad we must resign ourselves to. The correct word is embrace. Those two principles MUST work hand in hand in order for women (and men, too) to flourish. I believe I’m a testimony of that, as are several of my dear friends whose husbands are named above.

Oh, church, how we need more men like these. How beautiful it is when men and women labor together for God’s kingdom, with different but equal roles, with dignity and respect and love for one another. For the whole point of God’s design for gender roles is that together we paint a picture, an imperfect sliver of the gloriously complete one, of our incredible God.

Men, when you rise up and treat your sisters in Christ with dignity, honor, and respect…when you encourage them to use all the gifts God has given them for the glory of God and the good of others…when you uphold biblical complementarianism not out of protection of your own sense of power and superiority but out of recognition of the wisdom and beauty of God’s supreme design…when you value the perspectives, opinions, experiences, and dare I say, emotions of your sisters as much as you value one another’s…when you give women as much freedom as Scripture does…when you seek to protect and care for them in a Boaz-kind-of-way in a world where they are exploited and discarded…then, as Elisabeth Elliot so powerfully titles one of her books, you help free us to joyfully rise up and say, “Let me be a woman!”

P.s. – that’s not to say women’s pursuit of liberation and power is all your fault, men and that if you just treat us right we’ll behave ourselves (hah!). We have our own sin issues, too, that complicate your calling and go right back to the Garden of Eden, but that’s a topic for another day. 😉 For now, let’s just agree that you can lovingly help us live our our role (point #2) by demonstrating God’s perspective on us (point #1).

P.s.s. – I have absolutely ZERO interest in debating complementarianism/egalitarianism online. All comments that seek to start such a debate WILL be deleted. Read your Bibles, pray with humility, flesh it out in your church community, and live out what the Holy Spirit leads you to through those steps. You can disagree with complementarianism and still agree with the heart of this post, so there’s really no need to debate, now is there?

Clinging to Jesus in the Labor of Life

(If you don’t like birth stories, you can skip down to the heading below)

March 19, 2011:

Britney Lyn Hamm New Mom5:15am: I wake up in pain, breath-stopping pain. This isn’t like all the trial runs. This is the real deal.

9:00am: We check into the triage room at the hospital. “Five centimeters,” they say. “FIVE?” I ask. “Only FIVE?” It hurts this bad and we’re only halfway there? 

For the next several hours, I labor. The back pain is mind boggling. “I can’t do this,” I say to my husband with each contraction. “I need something to help it,” I say, desperately resigned. I’m only at a 6…only a 7…only an 8. “Just get through this contraction,” he says each time. I get through that contraction. Then another, then another.

1:45pm: Transition hits. If I thought I was in pain before, I had it all wrong. Now it’s too late for the epidural, even if I wanted it.

2:15pm: Time to push. They aren’t kidding when they say “ring of fire.”

3:03pm: A.N. Hamm is born, and all the pain slips away. “You did it, Babe!” he says, excitement bright in his eyes. Yes, Love, we did it.

 

April 24, 2013 – Due Date

Britney Lyn Hamm new baby 28:00am: I think I might be pregnant forever.

12:00pm: I meet with a college girl for discipleship. Contractions begin. She’s none the wiser.

1:00pm: She leaves. I tell my husband this is it, but to carry on his meeting in the living room while I labor in the bedroom. I’ll let him know when I need him.

1:45pm: Just kidding. Meeting over. The episode of Psych is not an adequate distraction. I can’t do this alone anymore.

2:30pm: We check into triage. “Six,” they proclaim. “SIX?” I return. “I’m only a SIX?” This labor is moving fast, they assure me. The intensity matches the speed.

Yet again, I say to my husband, “I can’t do this; I want something for the pain,” each time a contraction peaks. “No, you don’t,” he assures. “Just get through this contraction.” And then another, and another.

The room is a flurry with activity, much different than the quiet hours of labor in the room before our firstborn’s birth. This baby is coming like a train.

5:05pm: E.J. Hamm is born, and all the pain slips away. “You did it, Babe!” he says, excitement bright in his eyes. Yes, Love, we did it.

 

April 27, 2016

11:45pm: A contraction hits. I shouldn’t be scared, but I am. I know that this will hurt. That ring of fire ain’t no joke, and I know that now.

April 28, 2016

Britney Lyn Hamm new baby 32:30am: We head for the hospital. It’s a busy night. We’re waiting in triage for a room, but this baby is coming fast. And if I thought the previous two were intense, I hadn’t seen intense yet.

“I can’t do it!” I say, “The pain is too much!” “Just get through this one,” he keeps saying. I lock my eyes on the deep blue of his where I find nothing but a love as intense as the pain coursing through my body, and I get through it.

4:30am: We get settled in a room – and not a moment too soon!

4:45am: With one swift push, A.G. Hamm is born, and all the pain slips away. “The baby’s out?” I exclaim in surprise. “You did it, Babe!” he says, excitement bright in his eyes. Yes, Love, we did it.

 

The Labor of Life

All three of our kids just had birthdays in the last six weeks, plus I’ve been hooked on Call the Midwife, so the labor of childbirth is present on my mind.

Today, as I washed dishes after returning from the library with my eldest daughter, I reflected on the day. And it struck me that parenting – really, all of life – is a lot like labor.

Today was an incredibly hard day, involving a sick toddler who spent most of the day (and last night) screaming.  Like the contractions of labor, I thought each time she let out another blood-curdling scream, I can’t make it through this. I could not see an end in sight to the screaming and the sleeplessness and the feeling of total helplessness.

Before dinner, as I bounced the finally calmish toddler on my hip, I kissed her and said, “We made it.” As I washed dishes two hours later with a finally quiet house, I breathed a sigh of relief. We made it. The pain of the day slipped away with my precious ones on their way to dreamy land, and I felt one more little brick of character and faith had been laid in my heart.

How much of life is like that? How often do we look at the clock and think, “How will I make it to 5 o’clock? To next month? To next year?” Whether it’s the unrelenting demands of a boss at work, the insurmountable pain of a lonely marriage, the sheer exhaustion of caring for and raising children, the repeated disappointment of a negative pregnancy test, the overwhelming flood of grief over a lost loved one, or something else, life is full of contractions. Ripples of pain and suffering we aren’t sure we’ll get through, big or little.

You know what’s amazing, though? We get through it. We survive. We come out on the other side, and by God’s grace, sometimes we even come out stronger.

With childbirth, we get through it because we don’t have a choice. Our bodies WILL birth that baby. There’s no stopping it. The only choice we have is how we endure it, not if we endure it. But even that is not the measure of strength. Some people think I’m extra strong because I birthed three children naturally, with no pain relief (on purpose). I don’t think that’s strength – I think it’s madness. I think any woman can do that, because a century ago we didn’t have a choice.

Life is a lot like that, too. Sometimes we get through it- whatever it is for you – because we have to – there’s no other way but forward. Sometimes we get through it because we’re pursuing a higher goal or aim that makes the pain and struggle worth it in the end. Sometimes we get through it because of convictions we can’t compromise.

The Source of True Strength

Let me be honest, here – my husband is the real rock star of our labors. I genuinely believe that without his gentle but firm reassurance, I would have gotten an epidural all three times. That’s not to say that would have been weakness, because it’s not – it’s simply not what I wanted. He brought out of me what I couldn’t bring out of myself. With each contraction, with each lock of his eyes on mine, he reminded me of where true strength lies: not in overcoming it all in one fell swoop, but in persevering and sustaining through one contraction at a time.

Faith is a lot like that, too. The good news is that we don’t have to get through it alone. God does not remove the pain in one fell swoop, at least not usually. We have to get through it one way or another. But He’s there with us, with mercies anew every moment. He grips our hand and lets us squeeze the heck out of it. He locks our eyes on His, where we see nothing but a love so intense it endured the greatest pain for our sake, and He says, “Just get through this moment.”

God doesn’t promise us enough strength for the next day, or even the next minute. He promises us enough strength for right now. As we get through each moment, holding His hand, watching His eyes, listening to His words of reassurance, we find that we get through it, and some prize awaits us on the other side. Maybe it’s not a precious new life ushered into the world. Maybe it’s just one building block in our faith as we see one more tick on the wall as evidence of His faithfulness. Maybe it’s just one building block of character in our hearts as He weeds out something that needn’t be there to replace it with a deeper faith in Him. Maybe it’s just knowing that this time we were a little bit calmer and quieter than before because we trusted more deeply that He would carry us through.

I didn’t get through today gracefully. I didn’t get through it with utter calm. I didn’t get through it with perfect faith. But perhaps strength isn’t found in what we endure, or how much we endure, or how quietly we endure it, but in how tightly we cling, moment by moment, to the One who holds our hand. And let me tell you, today I clung.