It is not great faith to demand something of God.

Let me repeat that.

It is not great faith to demand God to do anything. But that’s what’s happening today. And the #WakeUpOlive movement is only a symptom of a much bigger, and much more terrifying problem in the modern Church.

A Worldwide Movement

A few days ago, my Instagram feed started to fill with post after post from prominent Christian leaders. All of them cried out in great faith, and all of them were asking one thing: for God to resurrect a little girl from the dead. Immediately, my mind went to an image of a little girl in a hospital bed, clinging to life. Perhaps she had been in an accident? Some sort of freak illness? I wasn’t sure–the details were vague. But my curious mind had me search the hashtag and Sherlock Holmes the mystery. It soon became clear that there was no hospital bed. There was no freak illness to speak of. There was only a little girl named Olive who had stopped breathing out of thin air and had been pronounced dead.

Tragic. Absolutely terrible. My heart ached, grieved for the parents–the mother a prominent worship leader out of Bethel Church in Redding, California. I cannot imagine what she is going through. I cannot fathom such a grievous loss. I don’t want to, frankly. But I’m an empath, and so when I hear of things like this, there is a part of me that cannot help but to feel things like this. And I felt the sting of the loss of this child in a profound way.

I think that’s why I kept coming back to the hashtag. I couldn’t quite grasp what was happening. Wake Up, Olive? Were the people of her church praying to God for a resurrection?

My first response was surprise. Great leaders of my faith wrote eloquent prayers, sang heartfelt songs, begging God on Instagram to reawaken this child–this toddler–from death itself. People from all over the world poured out their support–paintings, songs, prayers, beautiful words, all crying out to God for a mighty miracle. An earth-shattering kind of miracle.

Wow.

That’s faith, right?

It could be. Maybe it is. Maybe I’m just missing it.

The Great Cosmic Vending Machine

Or maybe this entire movement is a symptom of a much, much bigger heresy in today’s Western Church. Is it great faith to demand something of God? Is it great faith to urge the entire world to pray for something so unlikely? On the surface, it is. On the surface, a worldwide prayer movement looks and feels a lot like revival. It parades in the same garments of the coveted awakening that we as Christians profess to long for. But just a small peek behind the curtains reveals a much uglier truth.

I do not believe such prayers are the result of great faith. I believe such prayers–publicly demanding God to resurrect a (as of the penning of this article) five-days-deceased child–are the direct result of the heresy rampant in our churches today. The Prosperity Gospel. The very idea that God, the Great Cosmic Vending Machine, is waiting to hand out blessings to those who have the right faith, the right words, the right prayers, the right lifestyle. That wealth and wellness and wholeness and yes, even miracles are all signs of the favor that God is just itching to bestow upon his creation.

I’ve bought into the concept that I can speak out a miracle if I just have enough faith.

As a Westerner, I totally understand this mentality. I’ve been a part of many churches and denominations over the course of my life, and as a self-proclaimed Spiritual Mutt, I can attest that I’ve bought into this way of thinking before. I’ve believed that I could live my best life now if I just speak it over myself. I’ve bought into the concept that I can speak out a miracle if I just have enough faith. I believed that my mindset played a huge role in how God would bless me. In a sense, that’s true. My heart and mind are both predictors of my mouth. And my thought patterns absolutely affect my day-to-day existence. Yours affect yours too, whether you like it or not. But the danger in this theology is that it can very swiftly morph into something else. The idea that my best life is attainable with the right mixture of words, faith, and attitude leads to a way of thinking that results in expecting God to perform when, where, and how I pray. It leads to a way of thinking that is formulaic. If this, then that, if you will. If I speak with faith, miracles will happen (not could happen, mind you. Will happen. There is a profound difference in that one word.) If I believe boldly, I can call down heaven and proclaim a resurrection over a tragically deceased little girl. And maybe I can. But I never have. I doubt anyone praying over the #WakeUpOlive movement have, either.

My best life came when I stopped seeking my own will for it.

But I do, in fact, live my best life. Already. Every day. I love it. But my best life is not the life I had envisioned for myself. My best life came about when I surrendered my ideas of how my life should look and submitted to a Holy God. My best life manifested when I admitted that I didn’t have it figured out, that my ideas for what’s best for me weren’t best at all. My best life came when I stopped seeking my own will for it. My best life is a life that knows God is sovereign and I’m not. My best life is a life that prays in faith and surrenders in humility. My best life is a life that says, God knows, I don’t, and that’s not only okay, that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Do you see it? Do you see the difference?

The rub I have with the #WakeUpOlive movement is not the faith. It’s not the hope. It’s not the unity of the Church. Those are beautiful things. Good things. The rub I have is the very heart of the prayers and the very audacity to demand anything of a Holy God. The very idea that God will bend his sovereign will to those he created in the first place. The rub I have is that no one is talking about caring for the grieving family. No one is having frank conversations about how to navigate unthinkable tragedy well. That’s the role of the Church — to be the hands and feet of God. To love. To hold. To care. To walk alongside. NOT to demand of God that which is not ours to demand. Can God resurrect her? Yes. Absolutely. I 100% know that the Creator of the Universe is capable of the humanly impossible. The question is will he resurrect her. After 5 days, I can answer with a confident “no.” Is that because he’s bad? Evil? Unfair? No. It’s because he’s sovereign. He gives and he takes away. At will. For reasons we can’t always understand. For reasons we may never understand. That doesn’t make him a maniac, that makes him SOVEREIGN. There is a difference.

So if I, as his creation, demand of him, if I say, “God, you MUST do this because you’ve done it before,” I’ve essentially said, “You don’t know what you’re doing. I do.” The #WakeUpOlive movement is not a great testament of faith, it is a dangerous picture that too many Christians paint of God. When we worship a God who will give us what we ask for as long as we come to him with the right heart, the right words, and the right formula, we worship a maniac.

But when we worship a God who is sovereign, whose ways are higher than ours, and to whom we’ve fully submitted ourselves, then and only then do we begin to grasp our place in his world. Then and only then can we begin to make sense of tragedy. He has a reason for all things, including early death. Including untimely death. Including the loss of a child. Teaching anything else, is heresy.

***

The old man smiled. “Weep, my son. Weep for what you wanted. Weep for the life you thought you would have. And once your soul is purged, look into my face and let me show you what I had for you all along.”

~Excerpt from The Chalam Færytales, Book V (yet to be published). Copyright 2019 Morgan G Farris. All rights reserved. If you share this anywhere, please tag me. It’s just the right thing to do.

Last week, Twitter blew up with the hashtag #MisandryInPublishing. Apparently some poor, hapless (male) soul posted that he believed it to be a real problem and women. went. nuts.

Oh man, the hate on Twitter. It’s mind-blowing how nasty people can be sometimes. But I digress…

The poor soul was obliterated by one cat-scratch after another—women on the man hate rant about how the entire concept of misandry in publishing is laughable at best.

I read through the banter. I wondered as to the fate of humanity for a moment. And then I stated my peace and moved on.

Yes, I am a female author. And yes, I believe misandry in literature is a real thing today.

It’s everywhere. Almost every modern novel I’ve read of late is chock full of man hate in one form or another. Oh no, it’s usually not blatant hatred. It’s subtle and clever. It’s portraying men like they are slaves to their instincts. Like wolves on the prowl. It’s portraying men like chest-beating Neanderthals who roam about looking for a broodmare. It’s portraying men like video game obsessed, Cheeto-slamming drunks with smoking hot wives who run the household. It’s portraying men like hapless, hopeless fools when a woman leaves them.

It’s misandry, and that’s all there is to it.

I’ve blogged about this sort of thing before (there’s one article on this site that I wrote years ago and it still gets several hits a day. It blows my mind.). Back then, I wrote about how men needed to step up to their roles as husbands and fathers. I saw an epidemic of man-boys who couldn’t bring themselves to put down their video game controllers long enough to run the household. I confess, I see things a little differently now. Yes, those men exist. And yes, ladies, Neanderthals exist, too. I’m not disagreeing. But I’m beginning to see that it’s not so much that the world is riddled with sex-crazed man-boys as it is that we women have decided it is. In our perhaps good intentions of vying for equality, we’ve lost sight of what the word means to begin with. And we’ve decided men are to blame for our problems.

We women yelled for equality in the ‘70s when we burned our bras. We shouted for equality in the ‘80s when we demanded better pay in our jobs. We screamed equality in the ‘90s when we insisted that “it’s a man’s world.” And here we are still crossing our arms and stomping our feet claiming that men have all the fun.

Ladies, when are we going to put on our big girl panties?

I read an article the other day about women (once again on the hate fest we call Twitter) tweeting under the directive “describe yourself as a male author would.” It was sickening, what women think men think of them. It’s embarrassing that we’ve boiled down men into nothing but sexual machines who cannot think past the next breast they’re going to ogle.

Ladies, I don’t know what men you’re surrounded by, but my husband, my father, even my son, are NOTHING like that. They’re men. They’re strong. They’re kind. They’re grounded. They’re gentlemen who open my door. They’re fathers who kiss their babies. They’re men who aren’t afraid to cry. They’re soldiers guarding their own homes.

My husband is the kind of man who is as tender as he is fierce. He is as passionate as he is strong. He is as kind as he is fearsome. He defends his family with valiant passion, loves his God with unwavering devotion, sacrifices for his wife without second thought. That’s a man. That’s masculinity. And any woman who would be threatened by such a thing needs to take a long look in the mirror.

It does not make a man Neolithic that he should be a visual, sexual creature. It does not make a man domineering that he should wish to open a door for a woman. Women scream for gender equality, but if you ask me, what they’re really screaming for is female superiority.

No, thanks.

It’s a big enough deal to me that we figure out this whole gender equality thing, that I wrote an entire book about it. I wanted, for once, to read a love story about people who stick together. I wanted to read a love story about a man and a woman who embrace their inherent gender roles, work together, and face the world arm in arm, not one in front of the other. Gender equality—true gender equality—is about embracing what makes women inherently feminine (and NO, that’s not pink lace and glitter), and what makes men inherently masculine (again, that’s not chest beating and gun toting). Femininity is at its heart, about the inherent empathy of our sex. It’s about embracing our natural instinct to nurture and love. And masculinity, at its heart, is about men embracing their God-given instinct to protect. Both are rooted in love. And neither have anything to do with pink or blue or glitter or camouflage or the length of your hair or the length of your shorts or any of the nonsense we associate with gender.

So ladies, let’s stop pretending like we’re screaming for equality when we call men Neanderthals for being exactly how they were designed to be. Maybe one of these days we’ll finally figure out that gender equality—TRUE equality—is exactly how God intended it. He is, after all, both male and female.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

 

I am a perfectionist. There. I said it. I like to wrap things up in a pretty box, tie a bow on them, and call them accomplished. I like to explain things. I like to categorize my life into snippets of theology. “Oh this? I learned ____________ from this. And that over there? That was the time I learned _____________.” I think being able to define the incidents in my life has given me a sense of purpose. It has certainly given me a sense of sanity.

So when I was faced with something I couldn’t define, I was lost. Broken. Utterly shattered. When my journey of being a surrogate ended abruptly, unexpectedly, I didn’t know what to think, let alone what to pray.

Somewhere back in 2012, I met a woman who was a surrogate. She was carrying twins for strangers. Strangers. It blew my mind and right then and there I decided that someday I wanted to do the same. I wanted to gift a family with something they could otherwise not have. It took a few years of convincing my husband, but somewhere in the summer of 2016, he acquiesced and said, “Hey, let’s look into it.”

So we did.

I filled out an online application (which was shockingly long and in depth). I wondered if I’d even pass the rigorous criteria required to be a surrogate. When I passed that initial screening I was stoked. When I passed the second level, the physical exam, and the in-home assessment, I was over the moon.

I was going to be a surrogate!

Now before I go on, I need to point something out: pregnancy for me was easy. So was conception. It was literally a case of, “Oh, hey what do you think about getting pregnant? Oh you’re on board?” BAM. Two weeks later I had a positive pregnancy test.

Honestly. It was like that.

So, naturally I assumed surrogacy would be the same.

I had pretty strict criteria for the surrogacy matching: namely that I was unwilling to abort the child for any reason (even if my own life was in danger). It limited the selection pool, but eventually, after about a year of the whole process, we were matched. And the couple… they were like a dream. It was absolutely mind-blowing that we could have so much in common with a couple from a completely different part of the country, with completely different upbringings, completely different cultures, even different races. But we did. And it all felt like kismet. Surrogacy was in the bag. It was going to be as easy as my pregnancies had been, I was certain.

But it wasn’t.

Not even a little bit.

Don’t be fooled. Surrogacy is not for the faint of heart. It’s taxing—mentally taxing, emotionally taxing, physically taxing. Not only that, it’s overwhelming. It’s a whole lot of, “Oh, you want me to do that now?” But I persisted. All I could think of was handing that couple their precious baby in nine months. Of seeing their faces as they held him in their arms (they already knew the embryo was a boy).

But it didn’t happen.

Somewhere near 8 weeks of pregnancy, feeling nauseous, unable to sleep or button my pants, I got the diagnosis: blighted ovum.

If you don’t know what that means, it’s basically when the embryo attaches to the uterine wall like he should, but never grows.

It was devastating. I’ve never ever been so at a loss for words as I was sitting in that doctor’s office, FaceTiming the intended mother as he said (rather abruptly, I might add) that the pregnancy wasn’t viable and it was a blighted ovum.

No.

That wasn’t possible

It couldn’t be.

We talked it over with the parents and decided to stay on all the medications and wait two more weeks. Just in case. Maybe the doctor was wrong. Enough Google searches told us it was a possibility.

But he wasn’t wrong.

And at 9 1/2 weeks pregnant, it was official. It was over.

Now I had miscarried once before—between my son and my daughter. But it was somewhere around 5 weeks along and little more than a late period.

At almost 10 weeks? That’s a different story entirely. I won’t go into details, but sufficient to say that no one ever tells you what miscarriage is really like. No one tells you how devastating it is. How humiliating. How painful. It’s labor. It’s contractions and shocking pain. All of that, without the reward at the end. I started miscarrying at church and looking back, I’m fairly certain I went into shock. I didn’t even realize what was happening. But it was sudden. And it was terrible. And I still tear up thinking about it. I drove home in excruciating pain, my clothes soaked through with blood, and all I could think was how I wished I were in a hospital bed, instead of having to deal with this in my own home.

And then came the real pain.

Then came the part where I had to face it. My sweet couple, they only had one embryo. One chance. And I failed them. I failed them so thoroughly I couldn’t put it into words. Everything I saw reminded me of my failure—every innocent post from Facebook friends enjoying their babies. Every commercial of families. Every song about the grace of God. It all reminded me that I had failed. That this sweet couple that I had come to love like my own family would never know the joy of holding their own child.

And yeah, I was mad. I was mourning a child that wasn’t even mine. Tell me that it’s not life and I’ll tell you this—I wasn’t mourning an embryo. I wasn’t mourning a clump of cells. I was mourning a child. Their child. I was mourning the fact that he didn’t get a chance.

I couldn’t explain it. I couldn’t fit it into that little box I liked. I couldn’t wrap a bow around it and call it a lesson learned. I still can’t.

I cannot explain why we lost that sweet baby boy. I cannot understand what God was thinking. I cannot say why God would call me to be a surrogate (because I know he did) for it to fail so completely. And worse, I cannot even fathom why he would put that family through it, either.

Here’s the strangest part of it all: somehow, that has given me comfort. Somehow, through all of this, God has reminded me that he is still sovereign. That I have not taken the sanctity of Life out of his hands and put in in a petri dish. He is still the One who gives and the One who takes away. He is still the One who decides the fate of each of us. We cannot take it out of his hands.

Somehow, that has given me peace.

No, I’m not okay with it. No, I don’t think on it with smiles and fondness. I am still mourning, still grieving.

But I’m okay.

It’s okay.

And God is still God.

Maybe that’s the lesson. Maybe the point of all of this is that sometimes—sometimes God is so much bigger than our expectations. Sometimes the plans God has for us are nothing at all like what we expected.

And maybe that’s okay, too.

The irony of it all is that before we even had the embryo transfer, I painted something for the intended parents. A gift as we embarked on this journey together. It was a scripture the mother had quoted to me the first time we met.

Proverbs 16:9—The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

Wow. Just… wow. There could be nothing more true. And for this girl, who naively went into a situation with rose-colored glasses and the best of intentions, I walk away knowing that my steps are the Lord’s, not mine.

And that’s okay with me.

Sometimes the most profound lessons come from the most unexpected places.

If you’re paying attention at all, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted a blog in a long time. Like, more than a year. There’s a reason, actually. Not one about which I will go into much detail at the moment, but suffice it to say that I have a reason for my absence, one that I hope will be something you enjoy. (Annoyingly cryptic, I know.) But not now, soon…

That being said, I’ve recently gone through a rather profound chapter change in my life that I felt worth sharing, so I’ve decided to take a brief hiatus from my hiatus (did you see what I did there?) to regale you with a little peek into my life of late.

You see, yesterday was the first day of school (collective eye roll, I know. If you’re on Facebook at all — and especially if you don’t have kids — you’re choking on first day of school pics). But for me, it was the first day of kindergarten for child number one. In other words, it was a big day in the Farris household. People kept asking me if I was ready for it and I, too, rolled my eyes. “Yes,” I would say emphatically. “Why ever would I not be?” After all, he had been to preschool last year. It was fine. I didn’t even cry. Neither did he.

But yesterday, as I dropped him off, kissed his little cheek still plump with the last vestiges of baby fat, and walked away, I realized I was indeed NOT READY for this next chapter. Not at all.

I was mercifully able to hold it together until I got the parking lot. God knew that if I fell apart in front of him, he very well would have been scarred for life and never gone back. My husband too, was a little misty-eyed on the car ride back home. The quiet, rainy car ride. Fitting, I thought, that it should rain on his first day of real school. Fitting for my contemplative soul, anyway.

It was my husband, of course, who poured wisdom into the moment. “It’s moments like these,” he said, “where I feel sorry for people who don’t have children.” An odd observation, I thought. “Why?” I asked. “Because it’s not until you’re faced with something like stepping away from your kids that you realize just how much you love them. How much it hurts to be away from them. And it’s in those moments that you realize that if God loves us even an iota as much as we love our kids, we’re going to be okay.”

Well then.

Well said, husband. Well said.

We started musing about our little first born — how he tends to be so tender-hearted and sweet. How when he messes up, the first thing he asks either one of us is, “But do you still love me?”

Of course, I always want to yell. What a ridiculous question! Of course I still love you, son! I’ll never stop! The question often exasperates me until I realize — don’t I do the very same thing to God? Don’t I think, in my flawed view of His love for me, that when I mess up, He’s waiting to waggle a finger and say, “I told you so. I don’t love you as much anymore.”

And so it was, on the first day of school for my little kindergartener that I learned one of the most profound lessons I’ve learned in a long time. That our love for our children, like so many of the wonders of this miracle we call Creation, is such a sweet portrait of the Creator’s love for us.

So as you send your babies off to school, as you rock your newborn at 3am and wonder if you’ll ever sleep again, as you send your oldest off to college and wonder if they’re ready, remember with me that He loves us even more than that. He’s jealous for us even more than we are for our children. And He’s waiting with open arms for when we return home to say, “How was your day, my love? Tell me all about it!”

I remember it well. It was six years ago today. Our wedding day. The weather was perfect – sunny, seventy-five degrees, blue skies, crisp, fall air. The grass was still green. The trees still had their leaves. The flowers still had their blooms. It was as if God had put fall on hold for our special day. Everyone marveled at the weather – it was like a dream.

“You’re so lucky,” we heard. “The weather is just gorgeous!”

And it was. Fall in Texas is beautiful, but not typically because of the colors, or the foliage; it’s beautiful because it’s a welcome reprieve from the brutal summer. But fall in Texas is usually brown. And crunchy. And messy.

But not this day.

It was as if October 25, 2008 was destined to be the perfect day for our blessed union. And we didn’t argue with God’s decision to hold off the wind. And the rain. And the pecan leaves falling brown and messy on our outdoor altar.

But we knew it wasn’t luck that blessed us that day. It was God.

And that blessing was and is a beautiful reflection of our marriage. Six years in and I’ve never been more in love with you, Lance. You’re my best friend. You’re the most incredible man of God I’ve ever known, and I’ve known a lot of men of God. You amaze me with your faith, your solidarity, your loyalty, your humility, your love. I want to be more like you. You’re my rock. And I know you’re my gift from God above.

I also know that it wasn’t luck that kept us in love. It wasn’t luck that made us fall more in love everyday. Just like our beautiful wedding day, it wasn’t anything but the grace of God Himself. And our marriage is what it is because we made a decision from the beginning – to make it a three-stranded cord, not a two-way street.

We chose God. We chose to trust Him. We chose to include Him in our marriage. And it has paid off. Boy, has it paid off.

We aren’t still in love because we just haven’t had to deal with adversity. We haven’t grown closer because we’ve skipped through the tulips for the past six years. No, we’ve seen a lot, you and I. We’ve been to hell and back. Together. We’ve walked through the shrapnel of failed relationships, abuse, hurt, pain, loss, grief, misunderstanding, fear, financial trouble, anger, and unforgiveness. Some of it we have brought on ourselves. Some of it was handed to us on a silver platter with a ransom note reading, “Deal with this, or else.”

We’ve wished we had answers. We’ve prayed desperately for deliverance. And we’ve wondered what in the world God was doing.

But through it all – through it ALL – we’ve held fast to our faith in the One who can, and does, hold our hands, go before us, go behind us, and love us through this journey called marriage. Through it all we’ve chosen to trust Jesus despite not understanding Him all the time. Through it all we’ve depended on Him to be our portion, not each other. And through it all, we’ve seen His righteous right hand delivering us time after time.

That’s why our marriage is blessed. That’s why we’re successful. That’s why we’re more in love today than yesterday – and we’ll be more in love tomorrow.

And that’s why you’re my best friend, Lance.

Happy anniversary, sexy. Here’s to a hundred more.

wedding_stacy

Above: Stacy (left) with her beautiful daughter (right) with my husband on our wedding day

It was five years ago today. We lost a friend that was one of the most selfless, kind, truly honest persons I’ve ever met. Her name was Stacy. She was a wife, a mother, a friend, a lover of Jesus. And to me, she was a rock. I miss her every time I have a funny story to tell. I think of her every time I pass by the places we frequented together. I miss her every time something happens in my life – my children she never met, the crises of faith that I would have shared with her. You see, Stacy was one of those people that would tell you like it is and somehow make you feel better in the process. She had a way about her that was one of a kind, and she was truly my best friend.

I learned at her funeral that I was one of many, many who felt this way about her. And that’s why I know that this song will encourage anyone who knew her. But it is also meant to encourage anyone who has lost someone or something they weren’t supposed to. You see, sometimes life throws us a curve ball. But a blessed life is not a life void of problems, or trials, or losses. It is a life that faces whatever comes with faith in the God who makes all things new, brings hope to all loss, and life to dead places. A blessed life is a life that just keeps believing, somehow.

So on this, the five-year anniversary of the loss of a dear friend to so very many, I would like to share the song I wrote for her the day she passed. Let it encourage you, lift you up, and remind you that life is precious.

We miss you, Stacy.

Song

Somehow (mp3)
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Devotional

Somehow (PDF)
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