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When Gender becomes “a thing”

Written By Krysti Wilkinson, USA

“Ha, ‘That’s not the gender I associate with’. Can you believe that’s even a thing these days? The world has gotten so ridiculous.”

A friend and I were discussing how you can’t be too quick to assume one’s gender these days. He was trying to be funny. And, in a way, I understood where he was coming from. The language we now use, the things we are encouraged to say to be politically correct or to avoid hurting a person’s feelings, do seem, at times, a little ridiculous.

But I paused and thought about it a bit more.

“You know, I’ve never felt like I was born into the wrong kind of body. And I’ve never felt like I belong to a different gender than society tends to classify me in. So I can’t speak for them, but I can imagine that must be a very scary experience. And, for the sake of bringing a little comfort to people who must spend a lot of time in fear, I don’t mind it ‘being a thing’.” I replied.

The Church seems to be spending a lot of effort trying to figure out how to react to society these days. And it makes sense—we want to be in the world, but not of it; we want to be a light in the darkness. We have to walk a careful line of embracing humanity while also pointing to a better way. It’s a confusing place to be.

I’ve heard all the science back the gender fluid debate and all the science against it. I’ve heard the “there is no gay gene” defense, and the “born this way” claims. I’m no expert on the situation, but I’d like to think of myself as, at the very least, well versed in the opinions. And while it can be a pretty complicated situation for the Church to find herself in in 2017, I’d like to think the response is quite simple: What would Jesus do?

When I look back on Jesus’ life on earth, I see Him seeking out the marginalized and the hurting. Not condemning them or correcting their way of life, but including them in His story and inviting them into something greater. He chooses compassion, time and time again, when it would be so easy to do otherwise.

It was the religious teachers who were too caught up in laws and regulations, whom Jesus ridiculed. It was the Pharisees who so convinced they had life figured out, whom He was quick to correct. The people who were looked down upon, judged, or completely forgotten about—those were the ones He drew near to. Those were the ones He cherished.

We can debate the potential effects of bathroom laws, but I wish we were more focused on the current reality that 84 percent of transgender youth feel unsafe at school. We can discuss gay marriage, but I wish we were talking about LGBT young adults having the highest rates of suicide attempts. When Christians want to debate numbers, I want to remind them of Jesus’ two greatest commands: Love the Lord our God, and love our neighbor as ourselves.

We’re to be known by our love. Do we remember that as we bicker over what pronoun to assign to a person? Are we choosing love, or denouncing people’s ways of life? Are we loving our neighbors, or are we trying to tell them how to live, what to do, and who to be? Are we only reacting to society or actively loving the members of it?

We’re called to love, above all. Love involves hard conversations and discipline and all of that. But it’s ultimately about drawing close to Jesus and wanting others to draw closer to Jesus as well. We can’t do that if we’re too busy focusing on what is indicated on their birth certificates or rolling our eyes at their use of pronouns or keeping ourselves as far away as possible from them.

I’m still learning so much about this conversation, as I think we all are. I’m trying to ask more questions than offer answers, and trying to forget everything I “know” in an attempt to learn a thing or two. We can tend to cling to the truth we’ve always assumed to be absolute and deny any other ideas as illogical when entering in to difficult conversations. I’m trying to put all the weapons down. Conversations are much easier when we both agree to show up with open hands.

So, when my friend scoffed at people associating to a different gender than they are born “being a thing”, I asked him how he felt about it. I didn’t claim to have better answers than him or to know more than he did and I tried to see where he was coming from. Loving others includes granting grace. And I’m always in need of a constant supply of grace.

While we’ve been so busy searching for cold facts, scientific evidence, and indisputable truth to back one claim over the other—I can’t help but think Jesus doesn’t care. The Jesus I know chose compassion, time and time again, over condemnation. I hope to do the same.

Grace Upon Grace

Title: Grace Upon Grace
Materials: Hand-lettering
Description: 
What exactly is Grace? What does Grace mean to you? How have you personally experienced God’s grace in your life?

Here are a selection of quotes about “Grace” which were done at a recent handlettering jam session in Singapore. May it encourage, provoke, and move us to give praise to the giver of Grace.

 

Grace-upon-grace-(9)

Grace to me is something God gives freely to an undeserving person like me. I believe that God’s grace is sufficient for someone who’s insufficient and weak like myself. There were times where I felt completely defeated in my own circumstances but because God is a God of grace, He gives strength to the weak. Only His grace can meet my needs and it is available all the time for me. – “Grace is the power to fulfill what we lack” (David Guzik)

Artwork by Esther (@doodleswithjoy)

 

 

Grace-upon-grace-(8)

My chains are gone, my debt is paid
From death to life, and grace to grace
– Grace to Grace, Hillsong Worship –

I love this song because it reminds me that I am nothing if not for the Cross. Without Jesus, I would be hurt, broken and barely just going through life. But because of Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, I can live with purpose.

Artwork by Wan Ting (@tingthepro)

 

 

Grace-upon-grace-(7)

I’m not the best at my studies, but God was there. I’ve given into temptation on many occasions, still, He was there. With His gentle whisper and reminder of His grace, I was able to make a change. I’ve made a big step in my life’s direction at the age of 21, but God never left. I know I’m living in grace each day. I’ve been through heartbreak and heartaches, but God allowed for it. so that I could feel His grace. Without God’s grace, there is really nothing I can do.

Artwork by Vania

 

 

Grace-upon-grace-(5)

Everytime I see my limitations and failures, I always feel disappointed with myself. I think I will never be good enough to do a significant work. This quote reminds me that God’s grace is enough to use a broken person like me in a meaningful way.

Artwork by Meliana Sari Dewi (@melianasaridewi)

 

Grace-upon-Grace-(11)

Living as a Christian in a fast-paced life can be exhausting at times. At times, we find ourselves being overwhelmed by tasks, deadlines or perhaps – expectations from people around us.  Sometimes, we forget that the Holy Spirit is the source of our power and find ourselves in a place where our well-intentioned diligence has become striving.

Yet, whenever we are put in a situation like this, we can be reminded that God has given us His unmerited favor- grace. We can be assured that His grace is enough for us, even when we feel so powerless, simply because His grace made us stronger in our weakest moments.

Artwork by Ika (@scriptography)

 

 

Grace-upon-grace-(2)

During the good and the bad, when I’m weak, hurting or struggling, His grace is always enough. And because of His grace, I have the reassuring peace and hope in knowing that He is always in control, in every situation of my life. Only by His unfailing grace can I get through every day. His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in my weakness.

Artwork by Janelle (@thehopeletter)

 

Grace-upon-Grace-(1)

“Why am I not perfect? Why do I have this flaw?” When in lack, I’m always reminded of the fact that I’m like clay, being molded to perfection but not destroyed, because of God’s abundant grace.

His grace empowers me to carry on. It brings me to a place of recognizing my lack at the feet of the cross. Moreover, when I experience the abundance of His grace, I can never remain at the same place. I draw closer to Jesus, and I draw closer to perfection.

Artwork by Faith (@chffaith)

 

 

Grace-upon-Grace-(10)

I do what I do, because of what I’ve received. The experiences I’ve gone through, people I’ve met and divine revelations I’ve experienced, screamed for a voice. Sharing these lessons through brush lettering gave me that voice. This ability was, and still is, a gift of grace and there is no better way to respond to such grace than by sharing it with the community, so that it multiplies. I do what I do, because I have received by his grace.

Artwork by Alicia (@alyletters)

How A Preacher I Didn’t like Convicted me

“But if not for the grace of God, I am finished!” said the speaker at my church one Sunday.

I couldn’t agree more.

I knew the speaker (let’s name him Dan) on a personal level; he was someone who had a rather abrasive personality. Having had a few run-ins with him in the past, I didn’t always look up to him as a Christian example. When he uttered those words at the pulpit, memories of all my past unpleasant encounters with him resurfaced. I couldn’t help but think how right he was—about himself.

So I began to listen carefully to every word he preached—and found myself going “yup, that’s you!” at various points of his sermon. It seemed like a message he was preaching to himself, and I even wondered how much he would change after his message.

In my church, it is a practice to share with the person seated beside us our reflection on the message and to spend time praying for one another. When it came to sharing time that Sunday, a sister-in-Christ shared with me how Dan’s message resonated with her. She had recounted all the times in her life when God had saved her from the messes she made, and realised how, if it hadn’t been for the grace of God, she would indeed be finished.

Listening to her, I felt overwhelmed by guilt. Instead of focusing and reflecting on what the Bible had to teach me that Sunday morning, I had allowed my judgmental feelings towards Dan to get in the way. As I reflected on this incident, I felt the Lord leading me to remember three things:

1. We are all in need of God’s grace.

There were many times when I, too, had been ensnared by sin and God had been gracious to me. I’ve lost count of the number of times I had sought the Lord’s forgiveness for my sin, only to eventually plunge right back into a sin-filled life.

Despite the many times I lived as though I had given up on Him, God never gave up on me. Who was I, then, to assume that God could not have also worked in Dan’s life? At least he was honest about his struggles. We are all in need of God’s grace.

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; (Romans 3:10)

 

2. We need to focus on removing the plank in our own eye.

I was so focused on Dan’s faults and shortcomings that I failed to allow God’s Word to examine my own life and to change my heart that morning. Focusing on how others ought to behave or change without first considering what I need to do with my own sin-filled life is, as the Scriptures describe, hypocrisy.

I have come to acknowledge that despite being saved, all of us are still very much work-in-progress.

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5)

 

3. We need to remember God’s grace and mercy for us.

Over the recent Easter weekend, I was reminded of the disastrous state my life would have been in if not for Jesus. Jesus’s death and resurrection was God’s ultimate display of both His grace and mercy for mankind.

Remembering that truth helps me to firstly recognize my deep need for a Savior. Being a recipient of God’s grace and mercy should then lead me to extend it to another—like Dan.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

 

Among the many things I may disagree with Dan over, I do agree with him that if not for the grace of God in my life, I would be finished.

3 Ways Discomfort Discomforted Me

Not again. I was at my wit’s end. A good two and a half weeks had passed since I had finished my second course of antibiotics, but as I gazed at the ceiling that night—awake, alert, and anxious—it felt as though I was back to square one.

For weeks, I had been experiencing a mild case of urinary tract infection (UTI). It was not the first time I had it; but unlike the first time, when a round of antibiotics easily cured it, the symptoms were relentless this time.

In most cases, UTI manifests as a frequent or intense urge to urinate. On some nights, I would go to the toilet as many as seven times before going to bed. On other nights, anxiety about having to visit the toilet in the middle of the night would plague me the moment I lay on the bed. I would end up tossing and turning for a couple of hours—and on some occasions, the entire night.

That night, I had just made five trips to the toilet within two hours. As I flopped onto my bed for the fifth time, I could feel my heart racing and a sense of dread setting in. I couldn’t help thinking about what else I should have done to ensure a faster recovery.

Take antibiotics, probiotics, and cranberry juice? Check. Drink a lot of water? Check. Pay a visit to the doctor? Check. Twice. Seek divine intervention? Big check. I even “formalized” my plea to God on three separate occasions by recording my prayers in my journal when the symptoms seemed to much for me to bear.

But none of these things seemed to work.

“Maybe this is the thorn in your flesh God has given you,” my brother finally said on one occasion after hearing me lament for the umpteenth time and trying unsuccessfully to cheer me.

That’s when it hit me. What if God had no intention to remove this “thorn in the flesh” from my life for the time being? What if the whole reason why I was going through this was that God was trying to teach me that His grace was sufficient for me—but I had just been too preoccupied to see it?

When I finally turned to scripture to read about Paul’s struggle and response to his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), I felt rebuked by my own less-than-ideal response. That’s when I discovered three things about myself.

 

 1. I tend to rely on myself.

As much as I know my life is in God’s hands, I almost always resort to human means to address my problems. If I’m falling sick, I make sure I get enough rest and eat the right food. If I don’t achieve positive results at work, I try to put in more effort. If people don’t respond to me, I look at what I should or shouldn’t have said, and try to make up for it. Everything in life can be “fixed” with the right solution, and so can my health.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with these actions, I realize that it’s only when I exhaust all human means that I turn to God, delve into scriptures, and pray actively and fervently for relief. This is exactly what happened in my recent case of UTI.

 

2. I tend to focus on myself.

In the grand scheme of things, I knew that the physical discomfort I was experiencing wasn’t that bad. For one, it would hardly constitute the kind of suffering the Bible talks about (Romans 5:3-5). Also, aside from having to make frequent toilet trips, I didn’t feel any physical pain and could function perfectly well. I could eat, work, sleep, and play. As long as my mind was distracted by something else, I wouldn’t even feel the symptoms.

But I certainly made a big deal out of it. Whenever the symptoms became more pronounced— especially in the evening when I was resting at home—I would throw a pity party for myself and invite my family members to be a part of it. I also made sure those around me—my colleagues, church friends, and close friends—knew I was “suffering” and would never fail to request for their prayer.

I’m ashamed to say I don’t always remember to pray for friends the same way, especially if they share about their “minor” problems like cough and cold. In fact, I even secretly frown on those who keep harping on the same issue, such as when my mother kept asking my brother and I to pray that God would remove the itchy sensation around her neck. It was only when I had to go through a prolonged period of physical discomfort myself that I realized how “non-issues” like these could so easily affect and discourage me.

That realization made me more sympathetic to others going through similar discomfort. I decided to consciously pray for others every night as I prayed for my own relief. And that’s when God really put my problems in perspective. Compared to the aunty at church who was having a relapse of lymphoma and a friend who had just suffered a serious viral attack that almost took her life, what did I have to complain about?

 

3. I tend to focus on this earthly life.

Though I know that this world is not my final destination, I tend to live my life as though I’m going to be here for eternity. It’s only in moments of helplessness that I’m reminded of the truth that I should not be holding on to anything in this life.

Discomforts and setbacks of any magnitude or nature serve as reminders that we live in a transient—and broken—world. Our physical bodies are not built to last; over time, they will naturally wear down and malfunction. How comforting, then, are the words of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, which tell us that the suffering we go through in life now is preparing us for eternity: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Though we see trouble and suffering on every front, we know that these are but signposts that there is something so much better ahead of us; difficulties and suffering in life will come to an end. And while there’s nothing we can do to escape problems in life, we can certainly change how we choose to respond to them. American pastor Charles Stanley once said that nothing attracts the unbeliever like a saint suffering successfully. Based on how I had been responding, I’m pretty sure I looked more like a saint suffering sorrowfully. Still, I thank God for using this episode to correct the way I have been viewing and responding to “suffering”.

As I write this article now, I’m thankful that God has stopped my UTI from flaring up in the past week. I’m not sure it will recur, but this experience has given me the determination to do these three things the next time I’m faced with any form of “discomfort”:

  1. Commit my discomfort to God and ask Him for strength and wisdom to respond to it.
  2. Remember that there are many others around me who are facing similar discomfort—if not worse—and pray for them.
  3. Thank God for giving me the discomfort, because it is a reminder that this earthly life was never meant to be a comfortable one.