[Read part one of this series here]
Most of us are better theologians in hindsight. We look at the struggles we have weathered and survived and testify warmly of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us. But when a new crisis hits or we weary of the steady dripping of little problems and stresses, our theology collapses like a house of cards and we’re faced with the task of reassembling it all over again. Yes, God was good, he was faithful, he was in control, he did show his love to me back then. But here and now? Somehow yesterday’s theology doesn’t look quite so glorious or reliable in the bleak light of today’s circumstances.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus is just the sort of down-to-earth advice we need to move our theology into the present. Rather than despairing of God’s goodness until we see fresh evidence, fixing our eyes on Jesus helps us head into the current situation bank- ing on his goodness. And the fact that this exhortation to “fix our eyes on Jesus” comes up in the middle of a race should tip us off that the benefits of a woman’s theology are not restricted to the war zone. Knowing God has enormous peacetime value too. We need theology every day, whether we’re carting our children to piano lessons and soccer practice, cooking a meal, listening to a friend, or shaping business strategy in the corporate boardroom. The great women theologians I have come across cultivated the habit of using their theology in the here and now. What set these women apart—kept them from sinking when everything else was going down and strengthened them to lend a hand to others— was their unblinking focus on God. They were serious about knowing him and studied the Scriptures with that intention. They nurtured their faith on the truth of God’s character so that, instead of starting over from scratch in each new situation, wondering if God’s goodness had expired or if he had somehow lost control, these women fixed their eyes on him and actually put their weight down on the truth. No matter what the challenge or the adversity, their ironclad conviction was that he is always good, is always on his throne, is always working, always knows what he is doing, and that his love for them never stops. They were not passive with their knowledge but consciously took it up and confronted life with it. Their hearts were strong because they were sure of God. It made a difference in their running, and what is more, because their eyes were fixed on Jesus, they were better wives, mothers, daughters, and friends.
A cartoon appeared in the October 1998 issue of Christianity Today, next to a book review titled “Theology for the Rest of Us.”3 The reviewer was assessing Dr. Ellen Charry’s book By the Renewing of Your Minds, in which she argues from Jesus and Paul through the writings of Augustine, John Calvin, and other church leaders that theology is (and always has been) good for every Christian in practical everyday ways.
The cartoon pictures a mother seated on a park bench with one hand resting on the handle of the stroller containing her wide- eyed, pacifier-plugged infant. Her other hand holds a book, balanced on her knees, which she is reading with the same undivided interest you would expect her to devote to the latest romance novel. The apprehensive look on the baby’s face is explained by the title on the book jacket: “Theology for New Mothers.” What the cartoonist intended as a joke (or at best a bit of satire on the notion that a mother would find any use for theology) is, in fact, an excellent suggestion. I have not yet attended a baby shower where the new mother unwrapped a systematic theology book, but upon reflection, that might not be such a bad idea. The value of reading Dr. Spock is negligible compared with the help a new mother would gain from focusing on her theology.
So how does a young mother, a grandmother, or a single fix her eyes on Jesus? What does it mean for the woman who hits the ground running in the morning and doesn’t stop until she drops into bed late at night? How are we supposed to fix our eyes on Jesus? And what difference will it make anyway?
3. Christianity Today (5 October 1998): 96.
Taken from When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James. Copyright (c) 2001 by Carolyn C. James. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com
Buy When Life and Beliefs Collide on the Zondervan site here
Carolyn Custis James (BA, Sociology; MA, Biblical Studies) thinks deeply about what it means to be a female follower of Jesus in a postmodern world. As a cancer survivor, she is grateful to be alive and determined to address the issues that matter most. She travels extensively both in the US and abroad as a speaker for churches, conferences, colleges, theological seminaries, and other Christian organisations. She is an adjunct professor at Biblical Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, blogs on www.whitbyforum.com and Huffington Post / Religion, and is a contributing editor for Leadership Journal.