The Beauty of a Feelings Argument

“…one of man’s core passions.”

“These are [her] core desires….”

“…he feels a sense….”

“… the unique role God has given men to feel…”

“Part of [her] make-up is a desire….”

These are the common ways that true “biblical” manhood and womanhood are often explained: by describing feelings.

In a recent conversation with a Christian brother, he was discussing with me a book on biblical manhood. At one point in the conversation, he pointed to me and said, “It is your desire that he [my husband] initiate, that he lead.” I looked skeptical and so he said it a few more times, always saying it that way: “It is your desire….”

Speaking a while later with my husband about the topic, he asked me, “Is it your desire that I initiate things?”

First of all, I appreciated that he actually asked me, instead of telling me how I ought to feel. Second, I didn’t know how to answer.

See, the beauty of a feelings argument – looking at your own desires or telling someone else what their desires are – is that you can never be wrong. If you tell someone what they feel and need and you are right, you have the strongest evidence you need that your whole argument is right. If you tell someone what they feel and need and you are wrong, then you simply tell them that they have lost touch with their “true needs,” “womanly/manly soul,” etc. You can never be wrong.

The problem with the feelings argument, and the reason I was having so much trouble answering my husband, was that I can’t know if my feelings are trustworthy or not. If I agree and say I do like when he initiates things, I don’t know if that is because: a) it’s my biblical design as a woman to follow his leadership; b) I’ve been culturally conditioned to accept male leadership as the norm in our modern patriarchal society; or c) at my core, I am a broken, lazy, sinful human who is always looking for a way to pass responsibility on to someone else.

Feelings are created by God, and they are purposeful and complicated. I appreciate feelings, and I’m learning more and more that feelings need to be recognized and respected if you are going to respect the whole person (even “sadness” and “anger,” a la Inside Out). However, using feelings as the main thrust of your worldview is highly problematic. I can’t always trust my feelings, because Satan likes to get in there and mix things up; he likes to plant seeds of doubt where they don’t belong. My “core needs” may be coming from my core sinful nature, or my nature that is created in the image of God. Telling the difference is straight-up impossible sometimes.

Here’s what I do know: people are messy, and people are complicated. I believe in an infinitely creative God who can imagine and form billions and billions of beautiful humans and never run out of ideas. Each of us is inherently valuable, and put on this earth to bring glory to God. Learn about the people around you, and you will learn about God. I promise. God is a three-in-one eternally relating being who wants to relate to us, wants us to relate to Him, and wants us to relate to each other.

That’s where I’m at: trying to stop worrying about if my feelings are right or womanly or wrong or human and trying to humbly get back to why I was put on this planet in the first place.


As Against: Is it really your’s?


It’s Mine

I’ve read numerous articles lately discussing the very important issues of sexual violence and sexual exploitation. Any act of sexual violence or exploitation is absolutely, 100%, totally, and entirely wrong, and, in my book, anyone who works to combat these serious evils is working towards a very noble cause. However, in several of these pieces I’ve seen a recurring theme: that is, that a woman’s body belongs to HER, and no one should do anything to infringe on her physical autonomy.

Now, there are several reasons the idea of physical autonomy is so central to this cause’s message, one reason among them is the historical and present reality around the globe that in many cases, legally, a woman’s body was and is not her own. There also remains the tragic idea in some people’s minds – especially victims of sexual and other abuse – that they have no physical or psychological autonomy. I certainly don’t want to undermine or belittle that reality, but I do want to merely address the intoxicating idea in our society that what we have – everything from our time to our bodies to our money – is our’s and our’s alone.

This theme of independence and autonomy is seen throughout our culture in various ways; we see it every time an advertiser tells you, “It’s your money, do what you want with it,” or “It’s your life, fill it as you wish.” These messages are everywhere, and while it is incredibly important to impart self-worth in vulnerable or victimized people, such autonomy can only go so far before it is harmful and just plain false.

As Against

In law we learn that rights are not absolutes: it’s not a simple case of “Do you have this right, or don’t you?” Rather, we speak of rights in terms of “as against,” as in, “As against whom would you win in a fight for this right?” To understand this, imagine when you were a kid, and would race your sibling to the car in order to get the front seat. If you get there first, or call “shot gun” at the right moment, you could win the right to that front seat as against your sibling. However, if you pick up Grandpa on the way, mom is going to insist you give the front seat to him, and you lose the right the seat as against Grandpa. Grandpa has a superior right than you to that front seat, and he wins.

A community

What does this all have to do with autonomy? First, when we take the idea of individual autonomy too far, and assume all our rights are absolute, we can lose the very real fact that we are a part of a community.  While we certainly do have certain rights over our bodies, our minds, our money, and our lives, sometimes those rights become subject to another individual’s similar rights. We cannot forget that our actions are not our own. Collectively, we have to give up this idea that everything is just for ourselves, that it doesn’t matter to anyone else, and that no one else has a right to even ask you to change your behavior or heart. Because they DO affect other people: your racism, your love of debt, your sexuality, your addictions, your hatred, your struggles, your gluttony, your self-indulgence. Your actions, even behind closed doors, have far-reaching consequences, beyond what we can even imagine.

A creator

The second reason we cannot take the idea of autonomy too far is that we are also subject to our Creator. Fair market value is defined by the IRS as the price paid by a willing buyer to a willing seller, under no compulsion to buy, with adequate knowledge of material facts. Your value is defined as what someone would pay for you. Jesus, with full knowledge and without any compulsion to buy, paid his life for me. I am worth his life, and therefore I owe him mine. (His purchase, by the way, comes with privileges and protection beyond your wildest dreams.) I don’t get to do whatever I want, I have been bought and paid for and therefore my rights are not absolute as against my Father: He wins, always.

As one final thought, I leave you with this scene from the TV show Parenthood. This is my favorite scene in the entire series, and illustrates both that our actions have a very real affect on those around us, and that we owe everything we have to someone else. In this scene, Amber, a recent high school graduate struggling with finding her direction as a young adult, has recently gotten into a serious car accident while driving recklessly under the influence. She is taken to see her car with her very loving grandfather, who gives her a speech a lot of people should hear.

In case that doesn’t work, you can watch the clip on Hulu here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/233852


A New Year

This is the Devenney clan at the end of 2014 - always growing.

This is the Devenney clan at the end of 2014 – always growing.

2014 was a bridge year. It was the first year in a long time that I didn’t move. The last couple of years have all brought something new: graduating college, starting law school, starting a relationship, then getting married. And the next few years will bring new things: finishing school, moving, then starting my career. But 2014 was here, just sandwiched in-between years of surprises and changes, bridging them together and giving me space to move forward and breathe.

Although there were no big things for me this year, this year was no slouch. I started two new jobs, got closer than ever to completing my education, fell more in love with my husband, committed to eating healthier and even went through a spout of exercising.  We traveled to New York City, Virginia, and Ohio. We got through two seasons of unemployment, and began to really, tangibly dream about our future. We also said good-bye to my beloved Great-Grandmother.

2014 also brought lots of exciting changes to our family. We welcomed a new sister-in-law, Mayra, to our family. We also saw two cousins get married to beautiful women. My brother, William, was around for the longest stretch of time in years. We are preparing to welcome a new little cousin to the Bos clan. My cousin, Ben, and his wife welcomed their first girl. My sister, Rebekah, got a new job and started a new chapter of her life in Queens, New York. Lots of others got new jobs, and new homes, and new girlfriends or boyfriends or just friends. It was a growing year for our family, for sure.

2014 will also be marked in my mind, though, as a year of suffering. Although we, through God’s mercy, have been spared suffering ourselves, Massimo and I have watched a number of family members suffer this year. Watching someone you love so deeply go through such pain is hardly being spared suffering yourself; it feels so real. Some suffering was through outside circumstances – things no one could have seen coming or changed even if they had. With these family members, we pray for protection and peace, and thank the Lord that He sustains us every day.

With others, the suffering has not even been exposed yet, but we see what is lurking behind the closet door where they hide their bad choices. I have been searching for a word this year for when someone you love, hope the best for, and know can do better does something that can and will hurt them. You want them to – and know they can – have the best life, but they chose darkness, and self-hurt, and separation. Disappointment? Anger? Confusion, for sure. I haven’t found a word, but it is the word for the kind of pain that comes from loving so much. For these family members, we pray constantly, that they will recognize their power of free will, that their hearts will be softened to the hope of the Lord, and they will realize the light that comes with believing.

In 2014 we hoped. We have been given the right to dream with the Lord, and we will exercise that right again in 2015. The light is stronger than the darkness, love is deeper than hate, and we will hold onto these truths until they are all that remain. We will cling to these truths especially this year, as I finally exit the stress and security of education. After 20 years of classrooms and books, I will finally say good-bye, reap the rewards and pay the price for my years of schooling. We will be moving, Massimo will start his second guitar, I will take the biggest exam of my life, and start a new career – and these are just the things that are changing between the two of us! 2015 will likely be one of the biggest years of my life, and I am experiencing all the ranges of scared and excited you can imagine.

But no matter what, I will hold fast to the hope of God’s sovereignty, the only sure thing we have. We will celebrate, and pray, and work harder than ever before. 2015 – let’s go.

How would you characterize your 2014? What do you look forward to in 2015?


Only God Can Judge Me


“Only God can judge me!” declares the photo caption.

“Wow, way to judge!” proclaims the comment stream.

“You are just being way too judgmental and critical. Nobody’s perfect! You’re such a hypocrite. Stop judging, get off your butt, and get a life!”

Today, let’s talk about judgment. Comments like those above, though hypocritical in and of themselves, seem to be calling for a judgment-free world. And though the commenters make a judgment in order to call someone judgmental, they seem not to see it and continue on their aggressive campaign towards a passive Utopia in which judgment is no more.

But come on, does he really mean that? Does this commenter really want a judgement-free society?!

After all, where would this society be without some good use of judgment? What if I didn’t judge how fast a car is going into the intersection, and instead I just went for it – hoping that my lack of judgment would be so unoffending to the other driver that it just didn’t hit me?

What if we didn’t judge people by their knowledge of road laws and driving procedures, and we just gave anyone who wanted it a driver’s license?

What if I didn’t judge whether a young child was old enough to walk by himself home from school through a neighborhood that may or may not (I can’t judge) be unsafe? Would my open-mindedness be enough to protect him from getting robbed, kidnapped, or lost?

Would you like a doctor who didn’t judge your suitability for a drug or procedure?

Would you like a friend who didn’t judge whether you were sober enough to drive home?

Would you like a school that didn’t judge whether you grasped the lessons, and just passed you forward no matter what?

The point is this: yes, only God can judge your soul. But I am more than capable of – and should be encouraged to – judge your actions, shirt, driving ability, creditworthiness, sobriety, and whatever else you expose to the world. Would you really prefer a society where no one engages in any critical thinking? Is that better for you? How would you even know – you can’t judge!

To judge means “to form an opinion or conclusion about.” It isn’t always right, and it can change when more evidence presents itself. Having a judgmental society can be a very good thing. It means we’re talking. It means we’re connected. It means that we have seen or learned something, synthesized it, analyzed it, and produced an opinion or conclusion about it. It means that we have brains, and we’re using them. Plus, if we didn’t judge, then compliments wouldn’t mean anything; how meaningful it is to have a blind person comment on the unique color of your hair?

Lack of judgment can lead to car accidents, drug overdoses, bankruptcy, middle-school dropouts, arrests, and all kinds of other things that we don’t bring up at family reunions. It’s not a judgement-free world, thankfully. Judgments come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They can be nice or they can be rude, but the mere fact that you are judging someone or something is not a bad thing. How you do it is another story: respect, humility, and compassion are just as important.

As for your soul – after this world – that is the only thing the Facebook stalkers can’t touch. God can and already has judged your soul. It’s actually really simple: you are a loser; a sinner; a broken, spoiled child who doesn’t even know what you threw away. And you’ve been sentenced to death because of it.

But that’s not the end: God is also merciful and loving. He sent his Son, who was also God, and He died in your place so that you can be made new. You can be fresh, clean, and holy – if only you accept this free gift of Salvation. Just say the word.

And that’s why we can judge each other’s actions, to help each other see right from wrong and pick each other up when we’ve wandered far from home. But we also have to treat each other with kindness and respect, because we have value and dignity as God’s children. And we’ll all be judged by God in the end. So don’t forget that.