ARTICLES BY COLLEEN CHAO

Category: Weakness

Category: Weakness

man person people old
Community

A man like Roy

He stole through the church doors, long, lanky, and strong of stench. His bony limbs were swallowed in oversized tweed, his hair a matted mess of gray, fingernails long and filthy. His face was gaunt, eyes expressionless. “Homeless” would have been a generous term for this man. He sat toward the back of the sanctuary, then slipped out before the brave-enough could greet him after the service. But he came back. (Something brought him back.) My heart sank when he walked through the church doors during my office hours one day. I should want to help someone like this, I chided myself. Simple conversation proved futile, which seemed a mercy—he couldn’t have had a bath in years and the smell was repugnant. I offered him a cup of coffee and went to find the pastor (who happened to be my dad). The man had a name, and soon Roy Pilcher was a regular at church, unpredictable as he was in the timing of his visits, with no regard for weekday office hours or Sunday service protocol. Occasionally he would disappear for weeks on end, and just as we wondered if we would ever see him again, he resurfaced looking and smelling as ghastly as ever. A quiet man, Roy would stand in silent reverie or sit alone at the back of church, legs folded, bony knees sticking out of his burnt-orange pants (those same pants, week after week). But when he sat with my dad—who, for all I know, became his sole friend in life—he would become so engaged in the conversation that he’d suddenly jump up, slam his fist on the table, and yell out random statements like, “Those children in Russia need Bibles!” I always felt uncomfortable around Roy, but I learned how to hold a brief conversation with him and care for him in one small way: every time he walked through the church doors, I offered him a cup of coffee and a chair in the Fellowship Hall while he waited for “The Pastor.” (It was never “Pastor Greg” or “your father”; it was ever and only “The Pastor.”) Other church members also made an effort to reach out to Roy, but he talked very little and when he did speak, it was largely nonsensical. Roy became a strangely beloved part of our church family. Of course he would never pursue membership or volunteer to serve in a ministry or reciprocate the love shown him. He would never be dependable or devoted. He would come and go as he pleased, needing help and conversation and cups of coffee. And although I never would have put it into words, subconsciously I considered Roy a lesser member of our church body. The idealistic, self-righteous, 22-year-old version of me understood so little…. When Roy needed a ride home one day, we discovered he lived just a mile from our church, in a small shack so filthy it deserved to be condemned. But the shack was set on valuable property, and Roy owned it. We found out later that he also owned property in the Northwest and sat on a sizeable amount of cash. This mangy man had more money and assets than I ever would, and that revelation would forever change me and my assumptions about people. Roy’s wealth remained confidential, and it never changed our treatment of him. Roy was Roy, and his money was irrelevant. Until one day…. Roy walked into the office again, the same rancid wildness about him, but this time with a surprising new agenda: he wanted to bequeath his property and cash to the church, to further its local ministry, and to buy Bibles for children in Russia. A man who desperately needed a shower and a good meal to eat, a car and a change of clothes, resolved to give everything he owned to God’s kingdom work. He did it behind closed doors, with a fanatical look in his eyes and urgency in his voice. And that unraveled my neatly packaged Christian paradigm. I sang on the worship team, directed kids’ choir, and discipled teenage girls while I waited for my missionary-husband to ride up on his white steed and carry me off to a notable overseas ministry. Together we would change the world for Christ! But this man was a little insane and had no spiritual ambitions to speak of. He lived in a dump and didn’t care one wit about what others thought of him. Yet he secretly gave everything he had as if it was the most natural thing in the world. When a man like Roy comes along, he brings a raggedy version of God’s love and divinely disrupts our tidy world, our neat and clean Christianity. After six years at our church, an aging Roy was too weak and disoriented to remain on his own, so my dad helped him settle into an assisted care facility in town. Dad got the call every time Roy escaped the premises, and he cared for him to his dying day. Not many mourned Roy’s death, nor cared about what he’d done with his life. But stealth kingdom work had been done because one unlikely, unkempt man gave everything he had to God. Scriptures for further encouragement: Mark 12:41-44; Matthew 16:24-27; and Matthew 6.

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person holding baby s hand
Motherhood

When motherhood comes late

[When I wrote this over three years ago, I knew of only one other “older mom” of younger kids. I was in uncharted waters. Since then, I’ve met many more women in this same boat. If you’re feeling at all “late” or “laughable,” I hope this will encourage you….] September 2013 From four years old on, I dreamed of nothing less than growing up to marry and have kids. But the fact is, I got started late—at least according to my preconceived ideas and biological clock. And due to some ongoing health issues, I’m not able to bear more children. But God gave me a son. After years of wondering whether I’d ever get to be a mom, I experienced the glory and pain of pregnancy, and then in one miraculous moment, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy whose name means, Appointed by God. Exalted by God. It was as if someone handed me the sun, moon, and stars when they lifted Jeremy from my womb and into my arms. I was forever changed. To be sure, though, it’s different starting a family at age 35. Friends my age have multiple kids much older than my two-year-old. I’m knee-deep in diapers, ABC’s, and 5:00-AM wake-up calls, while they’re navigating karate lessons, homework, and the early teen years. I’ll admit, sometimes I even feel a little dumb. I walk into a mom’s group as a 37-year-old with one toddler, and the 28-year-old next to me has twin babies strapped to her chest, a 3-year-old tugging at her pants, and a 5-year-old dancing circles around her. When moms exchange stories and advice, I keep silent. What could I possibly contribute to the experts’ conversation? I’m light years behind, and I know it. Even simple math can intimidate me: when Jeremy is 15 years old, I’ll be 50. When he’s 25, I’ll be 60. That’s weird. Or maybe it’s just weird because I’m looking around me to define normal. It’s weird because I spent over two decades of my life dreaming of an entirely different reality. And it’s weird because I’m shortsighted and I forget to “set my mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” I’ve been entrusted with the care and nurture of an eternal soul, so my work as a mother must be eternally minded. God wanted me to be Jeremy’s mother, and He wants the story He’s written in my life to be part of Jeremy’s spiritual heritage. My long wait for marriage and motherhood is integral to His good plan for my son. In the end, my motherhood won’t be evaluated by my age, number of children, or how I compared to others. It will be evaluated by my faith in God, by what I did with what He gave me. That looks so different for each of us, doesn’t it? The more I’ve rubbed shoulders with a diversity of women, the more I’ve come to realize that regardless of age, stage, or number of children, most moms feel like I do: a bit of a misfit, trusting God through unique challenges, and sometimes feeling isolated by the nonstop needs of parenting. It’s in our human nature to think that no one else could ever understand our particular set of circumstances or the unseen pressures we navigate each day. But what makes us unique can also bind us together. I can learn from the mom twelve years my junior. I need the input of my wise single friends. I seek practical advice from the older woman who raised an only child. I listen intently to the dear friend who mothers a special needs child—and to the one who grieves her ongoing infertility. And at the end of the day, it’s just me and my husband on our knees before God, seeking His heart for our little man, asking for the wisdom He promises to give us. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Centuries ago, God took a husband and wife whose bodies “were as good as dead” and gave them a son. It was an impossible, laughable set of circumstances—so much so that the old husband and wife named their newborn “Isaac,” which means he laughs. When that miracle son had a son himself, and that son gave birth to more sons, and they in turn became “many and mighty,” God said to them: Listen to me…. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him. For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. I wasn’t old like Sarah when I gave birth to my son, but I still have pangs of grief over what could have been (those three or four older kids I would have had by now). Yet I feel the weight of God’s glory in this altered reality. Motherhood isn’t an arrival—it’s another way I get to worship God. The God who knows best. The God who gathers me up in His arms and gently whispers, “I am never late. I am never wrong.” Scriptures referenced: Colossians 3:2; Genesis 21; Romans 4:16-25; Exodus 1:1-8; Isaiah 51:1-3 Photo credit: Karen Race McCutcheon Photography. Lorelei Conover Photography.

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Singleness

Sex and the Single Girl

Imagine keeping a lion in a small cat-carrier . . . for years. Day after day, night after night, he roars, he eats (a lot). His energy is endless . . . and yet you keep him caged. As a single girl in my thirties who was committed, by God’s grace, to saving sex for marriage, I often felt very much like that caged lion. Sometimes my physical drives were so strong, I despaired—the long, intense fight for purity in a sexually-saturated culture seemed impossible. And while there was constant dialogue about men’s sexual struggles and temptations, there was this eerie silence when it came to women. Was I part man, or was this normal for women? However, the more I opened up and shared my struggles with other single women, the more I realized I was indeed normal and in very good company. So why wasn’t anyone talking about it? Or maybe the greater question is why do we even want to fight for sexual purity when our desires seem so natural and good—and often feel too powerful to control? Christ Is Better If I can testify to anything, it’s that I found Christ to be greater than my sexual desires. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with an agnostic coworker who was, once again, giving me grief about not sleeping around. (Mind you, I had never offered that information at my workplace, but I guess everyone had figured it out based on my lifestyle.) It ended by me saying, “Eric, Jesus is better than sex.” And by the way he looked back at me, I could tell he desperately wanted to know that was true. I think we all want to know that’s true. If sex is the highest good in life, the greatest pleasure we can experience, we’re in trouble. Yes, sex is amazing! On this side of marriage, I can testify that God created a really good and pleasurable thing. But it doesn’t begin to compare to the infinite pleasures we have in God. God created sex, then told us to enjoy it only within the context of marriage between a man and a woman; so if He has us wait an excruciatingly long time for it, He is (mercifully) teaching us to meet our very deepest desires in Him alone. That’s easy to say; it’s incredibly hard to live. In fact, it’s impossible to live. Sometimes my fight against temptation brought me to the end of myself and reminded me that “you are my Lord; I have no good apart from you” (Ps. 16:2). I could not boast in my own strength; I was so keenly aware that God Himself was sustaining me, and apart from Him I would quickly lose the battle. Listening to His Promises During those long years of singleness, this is where the rubber met the road: Would I listen to my passions, or would I listen to His promises? I remember pounding my pillow, crying out in anguish, even yelling when the flesh seemed too strong to fight for one more day. But it was in those desperate moments that I found God to be exactly who He claims to be. It was in the trenches of the fleshly fight that I learned to take my Commander at His word. And His Word says that He makes known to me the path of life, in His presence there is fullness of joy, and at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). So how can a single woman walk in His fullness of life and joy in the midst of sexual frustration? Here are a few of the ways that helped me: Memorize and meditate on Scripture. I can’t overstate this enough. God’s Word has strengthened, sustained, convicted, encouraged, and changed me. Unless we’re constantly in the truth, we’ll easily fall for lies. Be accountable. Keep talking! Be open and honest with godly, safe, and wise women in your life. When sin is brought into the light, it loses its power and stops condemning you. (And you may be surprised at how many women around you can identify with your struggle!) Exercise and eat well. Run or do Pilates or take a dance class. Feed your body good stuff. Sitting in front of chick flicks and eating chocolate cake is not going to help the cause. Serve others. Channel your frustrated energies into caring for the people around you. Send an encouraging text to someone who’s hurting today. Host a meal at your place. Deliver coffee to a mom who’s at home with several kids. Don’t compare. Don’t keep looking at what your married friends have. Their challenges and sufferings are different. God knows how to make all of us need Him desperately in very different ways. Don’t borrow tomorrow’s troubles. God has given plenty of grace for today. “I’m going to be single for the rest of my life!” Don’t go there. Take stock of your cultural diet. Evaluate and re-evaluate your movie-watching, music-listening, clothes-wearing habits. Are you feeding or starving the lust of your flesh? Set helpful boundaries with men—for your sake and theirs. Hanging out alone with a man never helped me; it usually stirred up desires unnecessarily. Keep a thankful heart. I can’t tell you what a powerful tool this is. Thank God for everything you can think of, big and small-it’s like instant heart surgery! Remember the goodness and kindness of God. Resisting sexual temptation for any prolonged period of time can wage war on our belief about God. Is He mean, unfair, detached? Why all this anguish to obey Him? But according to 1 Peter 4:12, we shouldn’t be surprised at the fiery trials we face in this life. The best news in the world is not that we are spared pain but that we are infinitely loved and forgiven (so our pain has purpose). In His kindness, God came to be with us in the form of Jesus, to free

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Category: Weakness