Monday, June 23, 2014

On the Zombie Apocalypse

An important lesson to remember in life is this: Follow-up is key.  My last post, On Being a Pastor's Wife, was my most-read post so far this year. So it only makes sense that I would follow up that post with a topic I'm equally passionate and expressive about: the supposedly inevitable zombie apocalypse. Yes, there is some sarcasm there. I give you permission to groan.

I've never understood our culture's obsession with zombies, vampires, ghosts, and various other paranormal undead/immortal creatures. I like to keep my fiction and reality very clearly separated, for the sake of my own sanity. It drives me crazy when people bring up this zombie apocalypse thing like it's something that will actually happen, as though we need real strategies for how to survive it and conquer the walking dead that are out to eat our brains or whatever it is that zombies supposedly do. The images are horrible, the very thought makes my stomach turn, and I generally like to point out Hebrews 9:27, " is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (ESV). So there. Clearly, zombies are completely fictional, made up by some crazy people for some sort of sick entertainment or to horrify children and women with appallingly vivid imaginations. The "inevitable" zombie apocalypse will never, ever happen, as I have frequently and emphatically declared in conversations and on social media.

Then, as part of my daily Bible reading, I came across this fascinating description in Zechariah 14:12, "And the Lord will send a plague on all the nations that fought against Jerusalem. Their people will become like walking corpses, their flesh rotting away. Their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths" (NLT). Eek. I don't know about you, but to me, that sounds a lot like zombies. I should probably note that when I pointed this verse out to my husband, a pastor and Bible scholar, he rolled his eyes and shook his head. However, that verse has forced me to rethink my dogmatic belief that the zombie apocalypse will never, ever, happen.

And now for a word on biblical interpretation. It is possible to take any singular verse of Scripture, or an isolated passage, or a few scattered verses that seem to deal with the same topic, and make them say just about anything. In support of zombies, one could also point to the passage in Ezekiel 37, where the prophet records his vision of a pile of bones becoming a great army, or the brief, strange account of graves being opened and many bodies coming out and appearing to people immediately after Jesus' death in Matthew 27:52-53. I think it's important to point out that none of these passages (or any others you might know about that I've missed) are actually about zombies. I believe Ezekiel is painting a dramatic visual of the fact that when it comes to restoration, God is capable of anything. The passage in Matthew shows some of the immediate, powerful, literally earth-shaking effects of Jesus' death on the cross. And Zechariah is pronouncing judgment on the nations and restoration of the nation of Israel. Of course, that passage is actually apocalyptic, so the zombie plague is, in my opinion, a possibility. It could be suggesting something like biological warfare or nuclear fallout, which Zechariah obviously would not have understood, but he could have described the effects. Or maybe it's symbolic, a picture of something that won't actually happen, but which warns of the seriousness of opposing the people of God. Zionists could read the passage and declare, "See! Don't mess with Israel!" The fact is, the Bible talks about a lot of things, but it's not about zombies. So to build an entire zombie doctrine on this one verse would be foolish. This is why my husband rolled his eyes. It's important to be very careful when interpreting Scripture.

That said, the Bible does provide abundant fodder for a fertile imagination. I've also caught references to what I believe are dragons and unicorns (prompting additional eye-rolls from Greg). It's amazing what you catch when you actually read it. I'm just a few days from finishing my latest year-long read-through of God's Word, and it's always interesting when I find things I don't remember ever reading before. The book of Zechariah has some fascinating parts to it. Even if you don't have time for careful analysis and and study, reading through the whole Bible every year is a worthwhile endeavor, and I highly recommend it. I'm going to start a new plan on July 1st. I'll post the link if anyone is interested in joining me.

So, I have to admit that a zombie apocalypse might actually happen someday. Does it matter? Probably not. Do I care? Definitely not. Am I going to start stockpiling weapons and planning how to defend my family and my brain? No. If it does happen, or if something similar happens, from what I read in Zechariah it will be part of God's judgment on his enemies, so I'm safe. Whew.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

On Being a Pastor's Wife

Every once in awhile something will come out in a magazine or on the Internet about all the things pastor's wives deal with, and when that happens, I'm always tempted to write a blog post. Today I'm succumbing to the temptation. So here goes.

I suppose I could call this post "5 Simple Truths About Pastor's Wives...and Everyone Else" and it would maybe go viral or something. People seem intrigued by this special and rare creature often called "The Pastor's Wife" as if that is the sum total of her identity. I've been described as "not your typical pastor's wife," whatever that means. I've heard people say, "I forget you're a pastor's wife! You're so normal!" And I've also been asked, "So you're a pastor's wife? Wow! What's that like?" And I want to ask, "What's it like being an engineer's wife? Or a computer guy's wife? Or a doctor's wife?" Because being a pastor's wife can't be very different from any of those. Let me clear up some of the mystery: Being a pastor's wife means being married to a man whose life is defined by his calling. Does that mean my life is also defined by his calling? I don't know. I've never thought of it that way. The way I see it, my life is defined by my calling. Not so different from anyone else, really. It's just that my calling is to be married to a man in ministry, specifically, to Greg Duke. Right now that calling means I'm a pastor's wife. It's that simple. Really.

Please hear my heart: My intent is not to belittle the struggles and hardships that pastor's wives face. All those things you read in articles and on blogs are true. Life as a pastor's wife can be difficult and sometimes it's not very rewarding. But isn't that just life? Life is hard. In many ways life as a Christian is even harder, like we're struggling to stay afloat while we swim against the current of the culture. Seeking to be a Christ-following, God-honoring, Kingdom-growing wife and mother brings a new set of challenges every day. Some days I look back over the day and think of all the things I could have done better, things I shouldn't have said, or things that I should have said but didn't, ways that I think I failed, and all I can do is thank God that He got me through it and we're all still alive and mostly unharmed. I am always thankful that I have the resurrection power of Christ working through me, giving me the strength for that swim upstream. And I'm thankful for the roles He's given me in this life, one of which is the role of a pastor's wife.

Did I always feel comfortable with the idea of being a pastor's wife? To be honest, no. I struggled with the idea when Greg first brought it up. But it's not like he came home one day and said, "God is calling me to be a pastor," and I groaned and said, "Great. This is not what I signed up for." I know that happens to some women, but that's not my story. I always knew I was called to marry a minister, and Greg has been in ministry the whole time we've been married. I just thought he'd be a music guy, or a college campus minister, or a church planter. The journey to his calling as Senior Pastor (and currently the only pastor) at Aberdeen Baptist Church is a long story, maybe for another post. But it's a journey that we took together, and we knew that God was leading us every step of the way. I believe with all my heart that we're where we're supposed to be, doing what we're supposed to be doing.

I am so incredibly blessed. I have deep connections in my community of friends. I have the privilege of investing in the lives of many people around me through prayer, through conversations about God and His Word, through just hanging out and enjoying life. The wonderful people in our church take really good care of us. They've watched our kids, taken us out to eat, given us generous gifts when we needed them most - whether they knew that or not. My husband is a treasure and I thank God for him constantly. Sure he's busy, but he does good work, and although he sometimes has meetings or has to visit with people at times that might be inconvenient for me, and yeah, those middle-of-the-night calls happen and they're not fun, his flexible schedule allows him time to spend with his family that many men don't have. Our family doesn't suffer because Greg is a pastor; we're blessed because he's a pastor. And that's the truth.

So I'm a pastor's wife. I really think the most important part of that "title" is "wife." Just like every Christian wife, I'm called to support, respect, and help my husband in any way I can, submitting to his authority over me just as we both submit to Christ's authority over us. I have struggles, and I have victories. Sometimes I control my temper, my tongue, my thoughts, and sometimes I don't. I try to be open and honest, but I do have things I don't tell certain people, and even some things that I won't tell anyone. I love and adore my kids, but there are moments when I don't like them very much. I have lots of friends but sometimes I'm lonely. Sometimes I just long for a few minutes of adult conversation. Sometimes I wish I could get away. But most of the time, I'm happy with who I am, where I am, what I'm doing, and who I'm with. This is who I am. If that makes me a unique, strange creature known as a "pastor's wife," I guess I'm okay with that. I just have this feeling that I'm really not so different from anyone else.