Grief and objectivity alternatingly wash over me as I write.
Yesterday evening, I received an email from a Christian author friend-acquaintance, whom I know only virtually, telling me that she and her husband are separating. My husband knew them well in his past life through their participation together in a church home group. He urged her to contact me through email, because he knew she was working on a Bible study that attempted what I was attempting in my own book: teaching women to interpret the Bible for themselves using seminary-level tools. So, she sent an inquiry and we struck up a virtual friendship. I prayed for her and she for me.
In different circumstances, I would mention her book’s title, because it’s excellent; however, in light of recent events, I want to respect her privacy. The relevant point is that, having ministered side-by-side with her husband, having both slogged and leaped through the raising of children, and having both committed their lives and marriage to Christ, divorce was not something she ever envisioned happening to them.
I have only one friend who, standing at the back of the church with her dad by her side, thought, Well, if it doesn’t work out, we can always get a divorce.
None who are married will ever say marriage is easy. None who are honest, anyway. Even with the absolute best of spouses, which I’m blessed to have, it’s still often hard, sometimes very hard.
Yet, this is not a post about the hard work of marriage. Instead, I’d like to attempt to capture for you in words the epiphanal moment I had immediately after reading her email.
A few times, I thought my life was about to end. In those next split-seconds, it was just as “they” say: memories of my entire life, along with a reprioritizing and a selected rescripting of my life, flashed through my mind in a sudden wash of clarity.
Similarly, upon reading that friend’s email, a number of seemingly unrelated events occurring over the last few years suddenly coalesced into a fresh scrutiny of my present and recent habits, conversations, and priorities.
This was a connect-the-dots moment.
Call it an epiphany, call it an a-ha moment, or just call it “oh duh…,” last night I connected the dots on a series of small experiences that have been accumulating over the last two to three years. I can think of no better way to build the effect for you than to present the contributing elements in a series of vignettes and then attempt to tie them all together for you. Perhaps, for some, their collective effect will jar you with the same force they did me.
~2009: The initial idea for and subsequent call to write Women, Leadership, and the Bible came during my final spring semester of seminary in 2002. As I slogged along for years in my effort to obey God by formulating the outline and plan for this book, I’m sure I spent as much time fantasizing about becoming an in-demand speaker as a result of my book’s widespread success as I did writing.
Yet, in the off-moments from those fantasies, I wasted plenty of precious writing time wallowing around in jealousy toward admired speakers. Additionally, I entertained regular day-mares about speaking in front of a group and being exposed as a spiritual and intellectual fraud. That is, I daydreamed about these topics extensively until one day when God gently set the record straight.
One writing night, rife with doubt yet again over my ability to write anything useful or worth reading, or that anyone would actually purchase much less want me to come talk to their group about, I was having my typical fantasies and day-mares. As the wasted minutes ticked away while I wandered in the alternatively delightful and dreadful wonderland, God interrupted.
The thought, or perhaps it was the Holy Spirit’s illumination, struck me clearly: “That’s all you, Natalie, and it’s all about you. But you don’t have anything to say until God gives you something to say.”
Another thought, coming from both observation and personal experience, struck me further: when God gives a person something to say, he provides plenty to say, along with the power and conviction to say it. It’s the “authenticity” piece everyone harps on these days as being so critical for writers and speakers. That comes naturally when God gives the message. Whump.
~2009, about two seconds after that epiphany, up to this very minute: The thought occurred to me: Do I really not want to be a fraud? And do I want to build a foundation strong enough to withstand any accusations of spiritual or intellectual fraud, whether they originate externally or internally? Then I should spend as much or more time in God’s Word as I do writing about it, writing about studying it, or marketing the writing about studying it.
April 2011: I met my author friend through an email inquiry. She asked me to read her manuscript and write a review, which I happily did once I looked at it. Our friendship thus begun through the ether, we prayed each other through the completion of our projects. We celebrated her publication (because it happened years before mine did). I’ve endorsed it publically, recommended it privately, and given copies away.
June 2014: I emailed my second cousin, congratulating her on her engagement. Thinking of the joys and challenges my husband and I have faced in our own marriage, I urged her to spend as much if not more time planning her marriage as her wedding.
July 2014: I emailed my author friend to inquire about joint venturing on a new internet-based project to equip women with best practices in interpretive skills. I wanted her contribution to be her expertise in distilling a certain area of biblical exegesis into “normal words” for “normal women.” That’s when she wrote me back with the news of her painful last year.
And that’s when my heart sank and my mind went into hyperdrive, making connections at warp speed.
What bothered me was the possibility that a “solid” couple – Jesus-lovers, ministry together, committed church pillars, active church home group participants, grown children, together for decades, etc., etc. – a couple whose relationship, in many respects, looks much like my husband’s and mine — could call it quits. Also, my friend’s book teaches women how to study and read the Bible, like mine does.
After the ride through what felt like a prayerful-cry hyperspace, the symbiotic effect of all these vignettes was this:
Work on your life and relationships, with God, family, and others, more than you write or speak about them.
So what do you think? Oh duh?
Can you relate to the issues arising in any of these vignettes I’ve mentioned?
Is there any area of life you need to work on more? Less?
God bless you as you write, speak, live, move, and breathe. May it all be in the Lord.
After twelve years in part- and full-time ministry, she pursued and received a Master of Divinity (’02), focusing on biblical studies, gender studies, and homiletics. Nearing graduation, she sensed the Lord leading her to write a book helping women discern really tough life issues by going beyond emotion and/or hearsay to pursuing biblical and theological reliability in their decision-making about their beliefs.
To this end, she pursued and obtained Doctor of Ministry (’05) from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (S. Hamilton, MA) in the "Effective Ministries to Women" track. Continuing to follow the Lord’s leading to write, it became clear her inaugural book would make her seminary education and training beneficial to and for women who may never go to seminary themselves, but who would love to if they could.
Her first book is "Women, Leadership, and the Bible: How Do I Know What to Believe? A Practical Guide to Biblical Interpretation" (or WLB, for short – Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2014). To support women reading and working through WLB, Natalie developed "Biblical Breakthrough!" – an online course coaching women through the material in WLB (www.BiblicalBreakthrough.com).
In 2015, she founded The Verity Initiative LLC (TVI) to incorporate the various outreach courses and programs she has and will continue to develop. Under TVI, in 2015 she launched "YOUR Biblical Breakthrough!" (www.Your.BiblicalBreakthrough.com), an online telesummit for women providing four to five brief training sessions in Best Practices in Bible Study and Interpretation.
Besides producing WLB, BB, and YBB, Natalie has other fascinating accolades that will make her your next scintillating guest speaker or interviewee, including surviving birthing three children, and twelve New England and five Ohio winters. 🙂 She is also life partner to her husband, David, who often helps her stay (or get) focused.
Natalie is uniquely positioned to provide a stimulating interview for your podcast or blog, discussion for your webinar, lesson for your college or seminary class, or retreat custom-designed for your group.
Find information on WLB, her blog, and links to her outreach programs at www.NatalieEastman.com.