Nicole Marie Howe is a writer, speaker, Bible study teacher, wife, and homeschooling mama to four kiddos. She serves as editor and regular contributor for the quarterly publication, An Unexpected Journal and holds a Masters Degree in Cultural Apologetics from Houston Baptist University, where she discovered the power of the imagination to restore awe and wonder to her floundering faith. Drawing deep insights from her ordinary experiences, Nicole is passionate about helping others discover the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of Christ in broken and unlikely places. When she's not devouring books, Nicole loves singing, pretending to be a chef, and performing Improv at her local theater. Her writing can be found at www.anunexpectedjournal.com, www.theperennialgen.com, and www.nicolemariehowe.com.
“The beauty of it smote his heart, and he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was a light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
Today as I write, it is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. As the internet raises its voice with opinion pieces, heated arguments, and the latest headlines, I feel a familiar fatigue, a growing weariness from the deluge of brokenness that perpetually threatens to submerge the earth whole.
If you know anything about my story, you know my affection for amaryllis flowers – ever since I had one that bloomed in the shape of a beautiful, blazing cross in the middle of a shadowed season of doubt.
That same friend has continued to gift me with amaryllis bulbs every year, and even in spite of my brown thumb, I’ve learned to love tending to them and watching them grow. I don’t know what it is about these mysterious plants, but they always seem to whisper secrets as they quietly and unobtrusively unfold little by little over the passing days. Not in any weird pantheistic way; in the way any beautiful work of art whispers to us about the “More” that is brimming underneath the surface of everything.
The evangelical world has been in a bit of an uproar the past couple weeks ever since Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, announced he is walking away from the Christian faith. Conversations were already sparked in previous years when he publicly denounced his best-selling book, one in which he gave high praise for what has been popularly dubbed as “purity culture.”
In a statement on his blog, Harris laments some of the ideas promoted in the book, such as never kissing or dating until marriage, and the ways these ideas instilled a “fear of making mistakes” as well as “gave some the impression that a certain methodology of relationships would deliver a happy-ever-after ending.”
In both philosophy and religion, one subject consistently addressed is the matter of whether the human race is inherently good or inherently wicked. While major religions have formed immutable convictions on the issue, our personal convictions often wax and wane in direct correlation with whether we are speaking of our enemies or our allies. Regardless of religious belief, it seems our human propensity is to demonize our opponents while idolizing those with whom we agree.
Especially in our polarized culture, we often live as though our enemies can do no right while our allies can do wrong.
I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self.
Vulnerability. Authenticity. Transparency.
These are popular buzz words in our culture today. Trendy ideas don’t usually show up in a vacuum; it’s probably a safe bet that the promotion of ideas such as these arose, in part, in response to a kind of generalized suspicion that seems to be working itself into every crack and crevice of our human relationships and institutions. For as much as we desire healthy connections in which we can risk the vulnerability of deeply knowing another, as well as being known ourselves, it seems an indiscriminate cynicism is sinking its roots into our most sacred places, proliferating an outgrowth of mistrust and disappointment and choking out the vital bonds necessary for healthy communities to flourish.