Series 24: For The Love Of Faith Icons | Episode 06
Beth Moore Guides Us Through the Rocky Soil
Our For the Love of Faith Icons series wouldn’t be complete without one of Jen’s longtime inspirations and mentors: Beth Moore. After four decades of leadership as an author, speaker, and teacher, Beth has seen a lot and come through a lot, but she gracefully continues to be a relevant voice to new generations of women, helping them navigate the opportunities that have opened up for them, and leading them to push back against old challenges that persistently remain. It might appear that a faith icon as strong as Beth might herself be inoculated from faith crises—after all, her humor and thoughtful perspective have guided us through the valleys of our own faith for years. But she vulnerably admits that she never feels like she can get completely free from the “rocks” in her own life, which she explores in her new book Chasing Vines. Her beautiful analogies to the vineyard underscore her belief that no matter how rocky the soil we may find ourselves planted in, God has us there—and that soil will ultimately be fertile.
Jen: Everybody, welcome welcome. Jen Hatmaker here, welcome to the For the Love Podcast.
I know that you’re all tuned in today. I know you are, and I know why you are, and you are going to be so glad that you did. I just told her [our guest] a second ago, at the end of the recording, I’m like, “This is everybody’s lucky hour.” It’s your lucky hour.
We’re in a series right now called For the Love of Faith Icons, which is just delighting me to my bone marrow. It’s such an honor to talk to these men and women of faith and in leadership, who have impacted us for generations. This is why we wanted to start 2020 with this series: we wanted to start with wisdom, we wanted to start with mentorship, we wanted to start with leadership.
We look around, and everything feels so ba-na-nas right now. Is it even possible to stay faithful? Is this worth our time? And these leaders remind us, “Yes, stay the course. There’s so much love and joy baked into this journey that we’re on.”
I just couldn’t be happier, by any stretch of the imagination, to bring you today’s episode. I’m not even joking with you guys. We have been impacted by her teaching, her books, her conferences, her life, her faithfulness. Of course, you know that I am talking about Beth Moore.
I want you to know this, before we jump into this conversation, because I mean, I’m telling you, she just lays it down for us today. But I want you to also know behind the scenes, she’s been so good to me. So kind, so nurturing, so encouraging in ways that no one has ever seen, that nobody even knows. In some of my darkest and lowest moments, Beth has ministered to me on purpose, specifically, and pointedly. And I want you to know that she is even better in real life than you could imagine.
Obviously, that’s a little bit about her, if you don’t know her, besides my little advertisement that I did, my little Beth Moore commercial I just did. She founded Living Proof Ministries in 1994. The whole idea there was to encourage women to know and love Jesus, and find healing and redemption through a great love of scripture. And that’s been her through line all the way to today. That’s been her vision, the vision of her life, and she is faithful in it.
She’s written a ton of bestselling books and Bible studies. She leads a TV program called Living Proof with Beth Moore, and she and Keith, her husband, live in the Houston area, so she is my Texas neighbor. And she’s got two girls, Amanda and Melissa, and they are so dear to me, too. I love both of her daughters. And then, she is a grandmother to three beloveds. She has been a guide to us for decades, and a real mentor to me from afar and up close.
I looked around and went, “Where is a precedence for what I do? Who do I look toward? Who can show me what this life might look like?” Because a life of leadership in faith, as a woman, is a weird deal, you guys. I’m just telling you, it’s some weird stuff. It has got a lot of bizarre landmines inside of it, and I’m like, “Who will teach me how to do this?” And Beth has been one of my greatest teachers.
I’m so happy to share my conversation with my friend and my mentor, and somebody that I love and respect to the ends of the earth, Beth Moore.
Jen: All right, so when you and I turned on the recorder, we just both started laughing for about thirty seconds.
Beth: All we did was laugh, all we did was laugh. And I laughed last night thinking about it, and I laughed this morning thinking about it. I don’t know if it is because we think one another is funny, or if our lives are so absurd that we just laugh, Jen. I don’t know.
Jen: It’s got to be both.
Beth: I tend to think it’s the latter, I really do.
Jen: It sure is, and thank goodness we still have our wits and humor about us. Thanks for coming on today. I am just so delighted.
Beth: Oh, I couldn’t be happier.
Jen: You are easily one of my favorite people on planet earth.
Beth: Likewise, my friend, likewise.
Jen: Everybody listening to my podcast obviously loves you and knows who you are. I talked just a little bit about the high level points of your walk through ministry and all of your leadership. But just real quick, before we dive in, we have so many cool things to talk about. I wonder if you could talk for just a minute about Beth Moore. So, what are you doing?
Beth: I’d love to.
Jen: What is it like for your family? You live in the country, you’re a country person now.
Beth: Yep, yep. As of eight years, as of tomorrow.
Jen: Oh, wow.
Beth: It will not surprise you. I hope so much that someone is listening, that has this life and understands that I moved myself with the guy driving the moving van and all of that. Keith was at the deer lease when we moved.
Jen: Yes, sure.
Beth: I moved eight years ago tomorrow.
Beth: We moved out to the country, left our home of twenty-seven years, and moved out to the country. I will just never forget it, because he told me, he said, “It’s going to have to be January. It can’t be during deer season.”
Beth: I was like, “Baby, I need to get settled in the house.” I said, “Babe, I can do it myself.” And so that is exactly what I did.
Jen: Oh yeah, he’s not going to change his plans for hunting!
Beth: Oh, heck no. That never came up. That’s right. So I love you saying that this minute, because truly that is a goal of mine. I want very much to live in obedience to Christ in that present season, and not try to make a lot of assumptions, and not try to force the past on my present.
Jen: Oh, that’s good.
Beth: I’ll tell you why this is important to me. And Jen, you would know this much of my story. I was eighteen, between my freshman and sophomore year of college. [It was] early, early summer when I was at camp with a group of sixth grade girls, at a mission camp. It was there that I just sensed the unmistakable call of God. Now, I’ve been a believer. I placed my trust in Christ at nine years old, or at least made it public the way my tradition does it.
I can tell you that there was a sense—an overwhelming, unexpected, unanticipated sense of the Spirit that was on me, and somehow I know.
Beth: That my future was His. But because I did not know what on earth I could do, I was planning to be a lawyer like my grandfather, and was in pre-law, all political science and English, because I didn’t know what on earth it was.
Beth: It was like I knew that it was calling, that my future was His. But all I knew to do was, honestly, sign up that I was going with Jesus. For all these years since—so I’m sixty-two. That is all I have known to do, is [to say], “Okay, I’m going with Him.” I didn’t surrender to a particular kind of ministry, I just went, “I’m going with You wherever You’re going.” Jen, you will understand this. I didn’t even know what a woman could do.
Jen: Well of course you didn’t, there’s hardly a precedence for it at that point.
Beth: No, it was the oddest thing to look back on that there was just really no paradigm that I knew of.
Beth: I’m sure it existed, but I didn’t know of it. So I just gave Him my future and went, “Well, wherever You’re going, I’m going behind You, if You will be so kind to make sure I understand.”
Beth: It gave me a driving. I mean, I’m driven, driven to see women really step into what God has called them to do. But what that looks like, how that happens, still to do this day is just all up to Him.
Beth: We need to switch it up, and so that’s us, Jen. We’re just rolling with Him at the time, and it keeps me very alive with Him.
Beth: And attentive, because I have no idea what’s coming next. I have the next year’s calendar and a year and a half, I guess, of speaking engagements. I know I’ll be doing some writing.
Beth: Because I almost always am up to that. But how that looks in the day to day, shoot, I’m His. And I’ve got my man of forty-one years.
Beth: And Amanda and her family live in town, so we do a good bit of life together.
Beth: And then my Melissa is in Portland, and I will have her soon for about two weeks. So this is our life: a lot of dogs, a lot of walking in the country.
Beth: And a lot of time on my knees.
Jen: I think maybe what’s surprising the most was that when you put that yes on the table, when you say, “Here we go, I’ll do whatever You want. I’ll do what You ask me, Jesus. I’ll go where You send me.” That zigs and it zags.
Jen: Maybe I thought it was going to be kind of one straightforward path, which is the one I knew. It’s the one that felt familiar to me, that I’d seen other women walk in front of me, and I thought, Well, this will probably be the direction it goes. But I’ll tell you what, it just goes all over the map, doesn’t it?
Beth: It goes all over the map.
Jen: It does.
Beth: It’s a figure eight, where you feel like, Wait, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
Beth: I am circling all the way back around. I couldn’t agree with that more.
Jen: Yes, and thank goodness for it. To me, that’s kept it alive.
Jen: As you just mentioned.
Jen: One thing I’ve talked to you about before privately—and I would just love to host this conversation here on the podcast, too—you’ve been in ministry for, like, four decades.
Now, let me just put this caveat right in here: none of your male colleagues would get this question, none of them would field this question.
In my experience, like you said, there’s a big world out there. But from what I know, you’re one of the few women in ministry who can speak with some authority to this question, because of your longevity. So this is what I’d love to hear you talk about: after four decades of ministry, I would love to hear you talk about your family. And I’ve asked you this question directly.
Jen: As a person who is doing some similar work that has some similar requirements—being on the other side of airline miles and nights away from home, and the Friday nights, all of it, it’s all so incredibly familiar to me. I’d love to hear you talk about your family and how you held that beautiful mechanism together with a ministry that was not common for the girls. Their friends’ moms probably didn’t have work that looked like that.
Beth: That’s right.
Jen: One thing that I was loving—and we’re going to talk about Chasing Vines quite a bit—you had a portion in it where you just talked about how beautifully…not resilient, because that’s not the right word. Our ministry is not an assault.
Beth: No, that’s a good word though.
Jen: But how that’s been a strengthening agent in your family, in your marriage, and parenting. Can you just talk about that a little bit?
Beth: Oh, I would just love to, because man, we have gone all the way. When I would tell you that I had my first formal invitation to speak—now, I look back, Jen, and I realize that I had been president of my sorority, and I had been chaplain the year before that. So you start thinking back and realize that God was already sticking you up front pretty early on.
Beth: But when I was twenty-five—I remember well because I was about six and a half, almost seven months pregnant with Melissa, so that would’ve put me right in the middle of my twenties, very great with child. And it was the first time I just stood at a microphone, and there was a fairly legit group in the room. I was part of a larger conference. So realize that Amanda would have been two and a half at that point. Melissa is not even born yet, and now these girls are late thirties, Amanda is right at forty. So this is how long, this is how long. I would’ve been in the throes of ministry…
Beth: …when all of their teeth were [coming out], when they got all of their shots. Willow got her four year old shots yesterday. All of that would have taken place…
Beth: …right while I was in the throes of this. And one of the things that truly guarded me—please understand I was teasing with somebody yesterday—our family, this is no poster family. This is [not] what you want to model everything by. Keith and I were a train wreck, I mean a train wreck. So we set the bar a little lower, because we’re just glad we all still love each other.
Beth: And we’re all still together.
Beth: So these were very important things. I didn’t have to work to try to make sure that I kept my family on the radar. I didn’t want anyone else to raise my family.
Beth: I wanted them.
Beth: I still want them, and I also wanted to do this ministry that God has called me to. And so this is sort of the madness of it, because I wanted both of those things.
Beth: Now somebody is thinking, Well, then you had it all. No, not true.
Jen: It’s so true.
Beth: Because if I told you how many friendships I lost because I had to make a decision that felt like I’d be able to live with it when I was an old woman, if the Lord waits that long. And I’m on my deathbed, and I think about how I lived my life, well you’re trying to think, What would I have wanted to have done?
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: I want to have served Jesus with everything I had, and I would’ve wanted a whole lot of that to be within the context of the people that I love most on the planet, and who make me laugh the most, and make me think the most, and teach me the most, all of these things.
So man, I really went for doing it as well as I could do all of it. And that meant, I’m telling you, doing somersaults, twisting myself into a pretzel.
Beth: To get home as fast as possible if they were in half day kindergarten. I want some mother out there to stop and praise the Lord for full-day kindergarten, because that is not how half of your foremothers ever lived. It was half the day.
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: We had three hours. So I’d go speak at a breakfast, come running my tail back as fast as I could to pick those kids up, and this was my life.
Beth: Even when I wrote the first Bible study, they’d walk out the door at eight-thirty, I’d be at that table by nine. At three, I’d shut that Bible. I’d stand at that front door, and wait for them to come home, and I’d be in all sorts of disarray.
Beth: My house would look like a wreck, but this is how we did it.
Beth: And Keith, he was the one, just like you and Brandon, we did it together.
Beth: People ask me all the time, “Did he travel with you?” That wasn’t how we did it. We did it the opposite way. We did it, we were parenting these kids. So when I’m gone, he’s on. Every other Friday night, for one night, I was home on Saturday evening, he was on.
So this whole thing, this is how we did it. And God somehow, I think He so knew the effort was there, and the tears I was going to cry. I tried my hardest. For what we do, Jen, it’s constantly looking at, “What’s in May?”
Beth: “Who is graduating?”
Beth: “Who is going to have a prom?”
Beth: All of these things. You’re looking at that calendar trying to anticipate, “What am I going to miss that I cannot miss?” Birthdays, all of this. So I’m living in this, with all this anxiety, Jen, all this anxiety. But gah, I wouldn’t trade it.
Beth: And we got through it. Both of the girls, Keith told them, when each of them launched, he said—and I’m serious, someone needs to hear this. I’m as serious as I can be, and he said it seriously, and I sat there and nodded my head yes, and I amen–ed it. He said, “Both of you will need counseling over your mother and I.” And he said, “And we will pay for it.” And we kept our word.
Jen: You kept your promise!
Beth: Good parenting is paying for your children’s counseling, Jen Hatmaker. You want to ask me what good parenting is? It is paying for the therapy your children are going to need because of you.
Jen: These are the facts. And of course, we have five, so we just need to have a huge savings account.
Beth: You really do, you really do.
Jen: I mean, our investment in their future mental health, we’re at the tip of the iceberg, I’m just telling you.
Beth: No, it’s not good. At the very best, it’s not good, and then it can go down from there. But anyway, we’re still speaking.
Beth: We’re still one another’s favorite people.
Jen: You are.
Beth: With Melissa coming in soon, I mean, the first thing we said—this is so silly, just little when they’re tiny, and you say these things—[was] “Let’s make a Moore sandwich!”
Beth: So Keith and I would get the girls in between us, and we’d all just hug really tight. So I texted both the girls, and I said, “We’re going to be together in five days. We’re going to make a Moore sandwich!” So we’re still making a Moore sandwich.
Jen: That is so great.
Beth: That’s it, that’s what I got, girl.
Jen: I’ve told you this 100 times, but you and your relationship with the girls is such a joy to me. Because I pray that I’m staring at my future, that my kids will grow up loving—again, I’ve got to have real low, I’ve got maybe two hopes—“Please love God, please love me,” that’s it. I don’t know what’s past that.
Beth: Amen. You know what, Jen? I already see it, and I smile so big when I see it. And of course, with your boys, too.
Beth: When I see pictures of you and Sydney, and I can see the mischief in her face, and that you all have been laughing really hard.
Jen: Oh, mercy.
Beth: I just can’t help but grin from ear to ear, because I’m seeing that happening. When you feel like you’re not so heavily responsible, that you’ve taught them everything you know to teach them, and you’re still teaching. But when they really do become adults, it’s also laying it down. “I just don’t know how many more things I can tell you about living a life that I think is remotely worthy of your calling.” But then to be able to just go, “You are my best friend.” Oh, girl.
Jen: It’s so great.
Beth: You are going to have that.
Jen: It’s so great.
Jen: I love when you talk like this, and I love watching it. Well, frankly, that’s kind of the way that you started your book.
Jen: That’s where you began, this dream trip to Italy with the girls—which was fun to watch from the outside, by the way. You all cut up. There was just shenanigans on that trip.
Beth: We cut up.
Jen: And it tickled me to watch it. So I want to talk a little bit about this writing, because there’s so much in it that’s profound. I’m looking at my copy right here, it’s all marked.
Okay, so listen. This trip was beautiful for a million reasons, and Italy is one of my favorite places. But you kind of walked away with this huge obsession.
Beth: Yeah, yes.
Jen: And then it just turned into this really profound and robust piece of work. So can you talk about that a little bit?
Beth: I’d love to.
Jen: What you saw, how it captured you.
Beth: I’d love to.
Jen: Did you expect that? I don’t think you did. I think that’s not what you were looking for.
Beth: No, no, no, no, because I live by the seat of my pants, which you do, too.
Beth: Now, the trip had been planned. I want to give our listeners just a little backstory here. Jen, I hope this is fun for you. We think this kind of stuff is fun, because we just feel like we owe our kids so much, because they’ve put us on a plane a lot of times.
Jen: I mean, do we ever.
Beth: What I’ve been doing for years is stacking up frequent flyer miles. And I told the girls, I said, “One day, I am going to take y’all. I mean, we’re going on a dream trip.”
Beth: What’s important to know here is that we have been to a number of countries overseas, but always attached to some kind of work.
Beth: I’m trying to think if there is an exception to that. But we just would go as part of ministry, and then sometimes my husband and I would stay over a day or two and do a safari or something like that. But very rarely have I ever made a trip of any kind like that, that was just for fun.
Beth: So I said, “No work, no nothing. I’m going to take you all on a dream trip.” And it was really important to me that we went on frequent flyer miles.
Jen: Okay, yes.
Beth: It just was like, this is so representative. I’ll pay you back. I have been making a deposit into this account, and I got it to where we could fly business class. So I just kept stacking, stacking, stacking, stacking, stacking. And I mean, I cleaned that baby out. Think how many years has gone into this.
Jen: I love it, it’s so symbolic, it’s wonderful.
Beth: Oh, it was so fun. So we started dreaming, where is it going to be?
Beth: Well, pretty quick, we came up with Italy, because it’s just the best ever. But from that point, one of the things that makes me sad about myself is that I go so fast, I don’t give prior thought to where I’m going to be. I think about what I’m going to do if I go into a city, a really great city, to speak. I’ve got my message prepared, but I never think, Man, I’m going to be in one of the greatest cities in the world. Do you know what I’m saying? I don’t think through, Ooh, I should’ve made arrangements to eat here or do this.
Beth: It was the same with this. Listen, we handed it over to a good friend of ours that’s a travel agent. Because it was ten days.
Beth: We left it to her, so I couldn’t have anticipated it. But our taxi pulls us up to this little inn, and it is in rural Tuscany, twenty minutes from Sienna.
Beth: As far as your eye can see, there are rolling hills of vineyards. I have never seen anything like it in my life. And we just happened to be there at the very tail end of the harvest. when they were clipping the last clusters. I’m going to tell you guys, I was staring straight in the face of John 15. I couldn’t even believe it, it was like every part of it took on technicolor. Everything came alive, and my mind, my eyes were just jumping from one part of it, from the people that were going up and down the rows doing the clipping in their baskets, and watching the clusters of grapes drop into the basket. Watching this whole process, I was mesmerized. And so it began, I could barely sleep that night. It was the next morning that we took the drive in that they were watching them clip the vines. And all of it, the beautiful, fat grapes, the deepest, richest colors. It was romance, and I’ve said this to a person or two that asked me, “Is this a regular book or is this a Bible study?” Well, its scripture content was plenty for a Bible study, but this work, it needed room to breathe.
Beth: It needed the romance with it. It didn’t need a 1500 word limit every day. Laugh about it, cry about it, take them into it. Get them to put that cluster in the palm of their hand a moment. Squeeze it a little bit, see what happens. Smell it, smell it when it turns from that vine into that grape into that wine. Let them interact with it on the page and their imagination. And girl, listen, I don’t even know if it’s good.
Jen: It’s so good.
Beth: What I know is the whole thing came alive to me. Oh, it just killed me. And I realized why it’s called Chasing Vines. When I do this—and I would imagine that a number of writers have the same way of thinking—I like to tighten, to start out with a really tight lens. This is where we’re going.
Beth: And then I want to pull that lens out really, really far, and I want to see, What is it? How does it connect to the rest of scripture?
Beth: And you can honestly swing like Tarzan on grapevines from Genesis to Revelation, I’m not kidding.
Jen: You’re right, it’s a through line.
Beth: It’s a through line.
Jen: There’s so much. It’s packed with beautiful metaphors, and there’s so much to learn from the vineyard. There’s so much to learn.
Beth: Oh, I hope so.
Jen: And it was already written out first in the Bible, and then you helped bring it to life and bring it to our modern ears. Can you just pick out a couple of things…
Beth: I would.
Jen: …that you loved. That you just were so excited to discover.
Beth: I’m going to say one that I thought was really wonderful and then one that is harder, but I think people need to hear it.
So I want to talk, for just a moment, on placement. Because we connect very heavily with Isaiah’s passage in Isaiah chapter five, because it’s a spectacular part. I’ve got to tell you, I am so goofy, Jen. This will not surprise you at all that I just got chill bumps on my arms, because this is how much I love these passages.
Beth: There’s this part where Isaiah breaks out in song in the fifth chapter and he says, “I will sing a song of the vineyard. I will sing for my beloved.” And his beloved is God, so he’s singing to God about God’s vineyard. And he says, “My beloved planted his vineyard on a very fertile hill.” So it’s one way we begin talking about what in viticulture is called—and I’ll butcher the French—terroir, which is a word that means placement. It’s a sense of place, so it’s very, very important to the vineyard, and very, very important when it comes to the branches of the vine.
This is what I would want somebody listening to understand: that you have been planted in a place where you might think to yourself, This is the worst soil ever. Listen, if God has you there, that soil is fertile. It just doesn’t seem like it is. It’s that He’s got to do the miracle underground, He’s got to do the miracle in the energy and the life force of the vine to the branch. You’ve got to learn how to not let anything constrict the life that is between Christ Jesus and us through the spirit. That placement, to make sure that it’s in the best possible way to get the sun that it needs.
Jen: That’s good.
Beth: The way that the vine dresser goes in and makes sure—and I love this part, Jen—that if there is a real heavy, heavy cluster that is just crushing down, and the sun can’t even get to the one under it, man, it’s going to…
Beth: …they’re either going to lop that thing off, or they’re going to pick it up and put it on the trellis and tie it up.
Beth: It’s kind of that idea that even the players in a symphony, all of them have to be seated where they can see the conductor. And in a grapevine, all of the branches and clusters, they’ve got to have the sunshine. They’ve got to have the soil and just the right mixture of rain.
And what killed me, when I say in the book that it had me, I was already intrigued. I would’ve already thought it was beautiful, but when I was done, I mean, it was over for me. I was in a romance forever, because our driver, our taxi driver, she spoke very, very little English, and she told us when we got in, she goes, “Oh, I love to have Americans because I can practice my English.”
Beth: So one of the things that she said is, “The grapes,” she said. “They love the rocky soil. They love the rocky soil.” And Jen, I swear to you, I have never been able to get my life out of the rocks.
Jen: Wow, gosh.
Beth: And I don’t know why. These are questions I will ask the Lord when I get there. But yes, it is seasonable to some degree between hard and excruciating, and I think I’m not going to live until morning. Yes, there is some variance in there. But Jen Hatmaker, for the life of me, I cannot look over my shoulder and think to myself, Now that was an easy season. I guess I was so messed up.
Beth: From such an unstable home, and oh, I could just go on and on. You could play the violin for me, and I could get us both all choked up and all. But the truth of it is, when it comes down to it, I thought, I have found my fruit.
Jen: That’s it.
Beth: Because all I’ve ever had is rocky soil.
Beth: So there’s that, and now let me say on the hard part, because somebody is listening just for this right here. The pruning process, when the vine dresser goes to prune it, listen. The branch would be sitting there thinking, You’re destroying me.
Jen: Yes, that’s how it feels.
Beth: And you think God put a promise on your life, you think He gave you a vision for something He called you to do, and then suddenly you’re going, I mean, it blew up in my face. And you’re thinking it’s all done and over, and now you’re just going to somehow exist in meaninglessness, where your faith walk is concerned. You don’t understand that no, no, no, it’s because you were producing fruit. He does not prune a branch that does not produce fruit.
Jen: It’s great.
Beth: You can check it out for yourself. He comes, He starts clipping on [the vine], and it thinks it’s dying. Do you know that the only reason a grapevine ever produces a single grape is because it’s under so much stress, it thinks it’s dying?
Beth: It has reproduced itself. If the soil conditions are good for a grapevine, they will produce leaves, leaves, leaves, leaves. Oh, they’ll be bushy and leafy. But they only reproduce themselves with grapes when they’re scared they’re not going to survive.
Jen: That’s crazy.
Beth: It’s just nuts, so I need you to know, those who are listening: your life is not over.
Beth: Your ministry is not over. Your calling did not come and go. He has cut you back so that you can increase your fruitfulness. That is what it is, Jen.
Jen: That’s great.
Beth: My big thing with you all, you know, because I’ve harassed you to no end through the years: I don’t want you young women—and I’ll say the same thing about our young men—I don’t want you all to get frustrated or get discouraged and quit. Because it will feel like, I cannot endure this any longer. And you just have to hang in there with Jesus until you can catch a breath again.
Jen: Yes, yes. To that exact idea you talked about, in order for us to flourish, of course like you were just describing, the way God intends, the way He will prune us. He will just have His way.
Jen: That our active participation is required, as you say.
Beth: It is.
Jen: I want to talk about that, because there’s a little bit of a faith narrative that exists. I know I’ve definitely received this messaging sometimes. I’ve probably been a terrible participant in dulling it out in ways.
Beth: Oh, isn’t it the truth.
Jen: I’m going to go straight to heaven and just walk straight up to Jesus and be like, “Look.”
Beth: Oh, me too. “I’m so sorry.”
Jen: “Here are the things I’m sorry about.”
Beth: Me too, me too.
Jen: Yeah, it’s a whole list. But it’s kind of this idea that God’s work in our life is going to have an ease to it. It’s always going to have a gentleness to it.
Jen: It is always going to have a win baked inside of it.
Beth. Oh, nuh-uh.
Jen: It’s going to seem crystal clear even, I’ve definitely reset that lie. It’s always going to seem, This is obvious. This is what God wants for me, and so in real life.
Jen: In real faith.
Jen: In a real relationship.
Jen: How do we participate in God’s work in our lives and His plan for our lives, without imagining or just duping ourselves into thinking, Boy, this is just going to be some real, real lovely skating. And that’s how I’ll know it’s right, because it’s just going to skate along.
Beth: That’s right, Jen, I don’t know. One of the mysteries to me is how we got away with this theology. I don’t know, I guess it got mixed up with the fact that because many of those that were in our nation and in leadership, and in government, they were very Christian, at least by name and by perspective, and the fact that then America was so prosperous.
Beth: It all got wound in together. And so I think that’s probably where it came from, because even though a lot of us want to say, “Well, there’s the prosperity gospel. Well, here’s what we need to understand.” Yes, there’s certainly that, and we want to steer as far as we can away from it, or we’re going to go into a ditch. But to some degree, most of the American church buys in to a prosperity gospel of sorts.
Beth: Do you?
Beth: Okay, I’m so glad. But here’s the mystery: we did not get that from scripture.
Beth: So I don’t know what we did, we’ve done this. We have come up with this, based on circumstantial evidence, because this was considered to be, religiously speaking, a Christian nation.
Beth: And it prospered. Therefore, if you are a Christian, you will prosper. Wrong, wrong.
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: If you look in Matthew 10 and Luke 10, and somebody is going, “Man, I want to turn off this podcast.” No, I want you to listen to it, because here’s what I’m going to tell you. Do not tell me that at the end of the day, what we’re about to talk about is not what compels you instead of repels you. What is not compelling is, “I’m going to sign up for something that’s just going to automatically give me whatever is considered to be American success and that’s all there is to it.”
Jen: Right, right.
Beth: I’m bored stiff by it, I’m absolutely bored stiff by it. But when you tell me that Jesus has said to me, “Come and die and follow Me. I will give you a life you could not have anticipated. I will give you a fellowship and a communion in it that you did not know…”
Beth: “… was possible. You will walk out this thing with Me, half the time having no idea where you are going, reaching out your hand, and hoping I’ve got it. And I not only have it, I have the whole person of you, this whole thing you signed up for.”
Matthew 10 and Luke 10 both say, “Listen, you will be hated.”
Beth: “There will be people that will not accept you.”
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: He told them, He said, “You’ll be arrested, persecuted. Some of you will be put to death.”
Beth: “There are going to be places where you’re going to be thrown out. You’re going to be misunderstood. You’re going to have people withhold things from you strictly because you follow Me.”
Beth: He said all of these things, and it’s all over it. When you look at the life of Paul, he’s going, “This many times I’ve been shipwrecked.”
Jen: Of course.
Beth: Listen, we didn’t get thirty-nine lashes this morning, we’re doing good, where the New Testament is concerned. So it was never told to us, we’ve done that to ourselves.
Beth: We’ve rewritten the narrative. And what we did to it, we took the faith out of it. We took the whole, everything that would have caused us, been the catalyst for us to abide in this glorious Savior and know, “Man, I’m going to have to live in Him, because I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know, Lord.”
Okay Jen, perfect example.
So I’m on a walk with Him a couple of months ago. And I look up toward heaven, and I say to Him, “I hope You know where we’re going. Because honestly, Lord, I have no idea where this road You have me on is about to take me.”
Beth: “I hope one of us has an idea.”
Jen: That’s great.
Beth: And this is life, but it’s also why again this morning, Jen, I was up with Him, and I’m mesmerized by Him and He’s mysterious to me. And please know if you’re wrestling with Him, and if you’re just grappling with Him, listen, I beg you to tell me anything that is much more intimate than wrestling.
Jen: Yeah, that’s good.
Beth: If you’re wrestling with God, it’s full on, hands on.
Jen: You’re right.
Beth: Hands on, and you just keep talking. I think the dialogue, and it’s not even talking—be in His presence. Be mindful of His presence. Even if you’re upset with Him, tell Him. If you’ve had a devastation, a disappointment, tell Him. You just keep that door open constantly, that way open. And that’s abiding.
Jen: It is.
Jen: A lot of hope cracks through there, too, because it’s interesting to watch that sort of hollow theology of, “Everybody who abides in Christ is going to win.”
Jen: In this very sort of standardized way.
Beth: Right, right.
Jen: Because I understand on its face, this feels like a good and easy sell—because it is, of course. But actually, I’ve watched that break so many people’s hearts.
Beth: Oh yeah.
Jen: And I think about so many people that I love and that I have served and served with, that doesn’t hold. That’s not enough when you suffer.
Beth: That’s not enough.
Jen: And you will, because that’s the truth.
Beth: You will, you will.
Jen: You just will, so it’s not true that being a person of faith is some sort of inoculation…
Jen: …against pain or loss or suffering or failure. So when those things happen, which they will, then there’s nothing robust enough to hold you in it.
Jen: So it does feel counterintuitive to have to hand yourself over to a God who says, “Hey, people are probably going to hate you.” I mean, He is thinning the crowd.
Beth: He is.
Jen: Sometimes I’m like, “Jesus, You could’ve done…You could’ve tried harder.”
Beth: “You could have done better!”
Jen: “Really, you could’ve done a better job with PR.”
Beth: “You could have offered cookies, something.”
Jen: “I mean, ‘Just eat my flesh and drink my blood.’ What did that do to the crowd?”
Beth: Yeah, this was hard to go over.
Jen: But the thing is, as you’re saying, in that wrestle when you find yourself locked in, there’s life there and abundance.
Beth: There is.
Jen: Joy and hope. It’s just not the kind that the world sells us.
Beth: No, it’s not.
Jen: But it shows up, it does show up.
Beth: It does show up, and this is where fruit bearing comes in. This is extremely important. This is a thread in the book throughout, and it’s this concept right here.
Jen: This is the next thing I wanted to talk to you about. It’s my favorite part of the book.
Beth: Okay, good, good. It’s just basically to understand that life is not always going to be fun. It is not always going to be what you imagined it to be, it often will not be. It will not always go like you hoped it would. But the promise is—and this is what just honestly makes the blood warm in my veins over this topic. The promise is: it can always bear fruit.
I want you to go full circle with me here, because no, no, we can’t say that if you sign up for a life fully given, fully given to not only the affections of Christ, but literally abiding in those affections, that it’s always going to be a good time. But here is something you can know, that when He does bear the fruit, there is joy in that fruit bearing.
Jen: Yeah, there is.
Beth: There is, so know the thing that caused it to be such fertile soil for you and may have brought about the biggest harvest of your life, may be the worst thing you’ve ever gone through.
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: But do not tell me there’s not something about knowing that the enemy truly wanted to destroy you, and here you still are. That everything in you would’ve sabotaged every good thing that had happened to you, but here you still are. And after all of a life of thinking, I don’t know what means anything, suddenly, all of that has meaning because somebody got hope through your story.
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: You cannot tell me that that can’t be a high.
Jen: That’s right. I’ve seen that so many thousands of times now at this point in my life.
Beth: Me too.
Jen: It’s guaranteed.
Jen: This is a thing that I know I can count on. I know now at this point, which is a faith builder too. It creates a resilience I believe, because once you’ve seen that bear forward that many times, in so many circumstances through so many people’s lives and sorrow and loss, you know you can count on it. You know that’s how God works.
Beth: You do, absolutely.
Jen: Yeah, it keeps us in.
Beth: It keeps us in, and I get to tell people. You all, let me tell you: I do not want you, either brothers or sisters, I do not want you to fear age. And one reason I don’t is because the best part is what gets settled in your mind. And here’s what I know that I could not have known when I was my daughter’s age with this kind of certainty, and I certainly could not have known it at my grandson’s age: your God is going to be faithful to you. He’s going to be faithful to you, and he’s going to bring this strange joy. Obedience will always lead to joy, it will. What you sow in tears, you will reap if you will believe Him, take Him at His word, and let that soil be watered with your tears. And you will, if you continue to walk with Him, you’re going to come out on the other side of it. And it is either going to be on this planet, or it’s going to be in His presence, but you’re going to be waving those sheaves of joy. And it’s going to be like nothing you have ever experienced because here’s what I promise you: God is going to be faithful to you. He is not going to drop you.
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: And when you think everybody else has forsaken you, there He is again. He will not let go.
Jen: That’s so good.
Jen: Jen: I think the way that you wrote about recognizing good fruit and rotten fruit in our lives…
Jen: …I cannot quit thinking about it, Beth. I cannot quit thinking about it, that very candid way that you spoke about this, sort of gave us a formula.
Jen: To measure this phenomenon in our lives, which I want to hear you talk about.
Beth: I’d love to.
Jen: But couching that, watching you move through the world the last few years has been just a real deal, isn’t it? Isn’t it a weird time to be alive?
Beth: It’s a weird time to be alive.
Jen: Sometimes I just think I’ve opened up the pill bottle, taken all the crazy pills, and there’s none left because I’ve ingested them all.
Beth: You know The Truman Show, when you think, We’re going to find out we’re in a movie.
Jen: Yes, yes.
Beth: This isn’t real.
Jen: It can’t be.
Beth: We’re on a movie, and somebody is going to move that screen one of these days and we’re going to go, “Oh, yes, okay.”
Jen: We were punked.
Beth: Yes, this was a joke.
Jen: I want to hear you talk about it, because this is something that you wrote in chapter five. You said, “The vine dresser does…”—I cannot quit thinking about this—”The vine dresser does a curious thing with a rotten fruit. He turns it back into the soil.”
Beth: He does.
Jen: “And there, underground, by some spectacular organic miracle of nature…”
Jen: “…it fertilizes a future harvest.”
Beth: Jen, Jen.
Jen: That’s ping ponging around in my head so hard, so can you just talk about this world? Can you talk about good and bad fruit?
Beth: Oh, I will.
Beth: I will, because this has been such a fog-thinning season.
Beth: Honestly, I’m still working it through.
Beth: I don’t know how many more years it will take, but I’m trying to figure out this summersault I feel like I have been through. But one of the things that we talk about in the book is being able to look at what kind of fruit something bears. Remember, a very basic, basic truth that Jesus gave us is that, “You will know a tree by its fruit.” So there’s always time involved, and then there’s this ability to look and see.
One example I give, because you need something that you can wrap your imagination around that is real, for you who are listening, for instance, I said, “It really never worked for me to really, really push very hyper, hyper, hyper righteous homes.”
Beth: And by that, I mean I wanted a Godly home in the worst way. Don’t misunderstand what I mean.
Beth: But the more I pushed Keith…
Beth: …that I would not want to watch anything above a PG rating…
Jen: Yes, yes, I love that piece.
Beth: …or that I tried to make everything, and I wanted everything. I wanted him to lead us in devotionals.
Beth: All of these things. Well, the more I pushed him, the more he rebelled, the worse he got.
Beth: The worse his language got. And of course, who wants that?
Beth: But he was just ornery, and I would’ve been too if it would’ve been reversed.
Jen: That’s true.
Beth: So it did not bear good fruit, it didn’t. I can look and I can see over time—you always add time to the equation.
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: This plus time, was it good fruit or bad? Well, it was bad fruit.
Beth: Well, I’m watching some of that even in cultural Christianity in America, watching what is bearing bad fruit.
Beth: What is dangerous.
Beth: And what may look like for the immediateness of it, “This is a really great idea.”
Beth: “And let’s all get on this bandwagon.” But that over time, it does not bear out.
Beth: I want to give one example, because I know we’re narrowing down time. But for instance, something that I have seen, and I know I’m going to have to take the chance that somebody is going to think, She’s just got an ax to grind. I get it, I’m going to let you go ahead and say it because I can’t stop you anyway.
But one of the things that I have really become concerned about—and many of you are not in this environment so you don’t really even know it exists—but we’ve got places, there’s just this wide, wide breadth of evangelicalism.
Beth: To the far, far, far right. Really, what will be said is that, “We believe that women and men are equal before the Lord, we’re both image bearers.” They’ll go completely there, but it’s all kept so separate.
Beth: And they’ll say, “No, there’s mutual esteem.” Well, it’s been such an odd thing, because it has not been. I promise you, as much as I know to have my heart out before you, this is not being said with condemnation or criticism.
Beth: I’m saying when I’m testing the fruit…
Beth: …and I am with brothers from that far, far right…
Beth: …where there just is no serving. By all means, have distinct roles. I’m not talking about that, go ahead, by all means. I’m talking about simply even being on committees together.
Beth: I’m talking about doing church and community life.
Beth: Where you even know one another well enough to esteem one another. But I’ve found over and over and over that these are often people, these would be some of my brothers that can’t have a conversation with me.
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: Just a regular conversation.
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: Because there’s just so little communion together.
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: Serving together. Of course, I would tell you that they would believe I was equal to them before God, but they don’t know me enough to respect what I would ever bring to the mix, or what you would, or anyone else. That’s what I’m talking about. I don’t think holding the genders completely separate except for worship services, I don’t think it produces good fruit.
Jen: Agreed, agreed. And I love this possibility that you’ve put in front of us to test the fruit, because that has been so instructive to me, so incredibly instructive to be able to say, “Whoa, sometimes when things feel really confusing…” And of course the tricky thing is, the irony of it all is that some of these really extreme positions, it doesn’t take a whole lot of mental gymnastics. You can point to something in scripture and say, “See, there is what it says.”
Jen: You can. You can figure out a way…
Jen: …to use the Bible to back up what you’re saying.
Jen: And what you’re thinking. So that muddies the water for so many people trying to find discernment, and it’s truly confusing. What I find comforting is the fruit tells us the truth.
Jen: It really does.
Beth: The fruit tells us the truth. The plant doesn’t lie.
Jen: It doesn’t.
Beth: The grape doesn’t lie. And that is what my friend farmer Fred told me, and I talk about him in the book. He’s a soil expert, and he always says that the tree is going to tell you the truth about what’s going on in the root. And I’m telling you, Jen Hatmaker.
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: I believe it with all of my heart. What is growing from it? Okay, then something is amiss.
Beth: Something is amiss. You don’t have to throw the whole thing out, I’m not talking about digging up the tree. I’m saying, what is it if that is not over time bearing the fruit of love?
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: Joy, peace.
Beth: Goodness, and if we can’t see any fruit, something is amiss. And it’s just being able to be like, “Okay, listen, we all get stuff wrong all the time. We don’t have to go beat one another up.”
Beth: But we could say, “What is the answer here?”
Beth: And Keith and I, we had to come to some things that were just like, “Okay, for the Moores, this is how the Moores have to live. Not antithetical to scripture, but this is how the Moores are going to have to conduct our lives.”
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: “In order to make things work for us.”
Jen: That’s right.
Jen: Okay listen, I’m going to ask you one more question, then we’re going to wrap up.
Jen: We just kind of turned a chapter. And we’re starting a new year, but we’re also starting a new decade, which always sort of gives me pause.
Beth: Oh, me too.
Jen: Causes me to take a little stock.
Jen: And [it causes me to] think forward to the whole last decade and the whole next decade. So I would love to hear if you would give a word to us as a whole, as we all look ahead to this whole decade in front of us.
Beth: I’d love to do that.
Jen: Which is going to have this strange political climate cooked into it, we know that that’s not going anywhere.
Jen: We know that things are loud and screamy. We know that women are still being disrespected and disvalued. We know that poverty is still creating such inequity.
Jen: We see the darkness that’s in our world, and that is definitely going to still be in our world. So how would you lead us as we look forward?
Beth: I would love to do that. I would want someone to hear me say—there’s beautiful words of Isaiah 41:4 where God is talking and He says, “Who has performed and done this calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord the first, and with the last I am He.” And He’s making the point that He has laid out all the generations. From before time began, He knew exactly how long He would leave this present universe in its form, keep the earth spinning exactly how long His agenda is until His kingdom comes and His will is done, and He renews, gives us a new heaven and new earth. And oh Lord, let that be soon.
But what I want you to hear is that God could not be more purposeful. It says that, “He allotted our times and our places.” We go back to that terroir, that He’s planted us in places in the world, in the culture that we’re in. So I want very much for someone to hear me say that when we look around us and we feel ill suited for this time.
Beth: No, we were set in this time.
Jen: That’s good.
Beth: One reason why we know we are not just to ignore the world going on around us is because this is the one we were assigned to—this one, this one. We may think we don’t have what it takes, but God believed that through the power of the Holy Spirit—oh yes—we do have what it takes.
Jen: That’s great.
Beth: Oh yes we do, yes we do. And we bring the gospel into this very culture, into this very context.
Jen: Wow, yeah.
Beth: So when you’re just so overwhelmed and think, What has this world come to? Well, this is the world Jesus is going to be coming to. It is, it is. And we don’t live, and nor do we grieve as those who have no hope.
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: One of the things that we have to do is fight for your right to joy because we are people of hope that believe, with everything in us, that this turns out well.
Beth: And I don’t know who needs to hear this, but listen, when all of this is said and done, on the other side of this life, we really are going to have all our tears dried. And we really are going to live happily ever after, and all this pain and suffering will be over. And so until then, to me Jen, this is sort of how I picture it. Now I’m just picturing it in imagery, just let me talk poetically here a moment. But life is this whole conglomeration of these hints of both heaven and hell.
Beth: I mean, it really is.
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: We feel like we’re near the burning fires, and then we get these glimpses, these moments. Sometimes I can look in my grandson’s eyes, and I see one tiny brown fleck in his blue eye.
Beth: And honestly, I could dive in it like a lake, I could. And life’s so beautiful. I can have my puppy in my lap…
Beth: …and just look at those floppy ears, and I can think, I feel bliss right now. And you’ve got to grab that when it comes.
Beth: When God gives you a moment of joy and laughter, take it.
Jen: That’s good.
Beth: Because that was to help us through when the news comes on our feed and we see what else has happened.
Jen: That’s right.
Beth: We cannot carry the world. All we can do is minister in what He has placed in front of us, speak the good news in a really rough world, and know that God is going to be faithful.
Beth: Christ is going to make every wrong right. Oh yeah, He is.
Jen: Amen to that. You are preaching to us.
Jen: Everybody is getting a sermon today, and it is their lucky hour. This is it, this is it.
Beth: It’s their lucky hour.
Jen: It’s their lucky hour.
Beth: Jen Hatmaker, I love you so much. Can I say something that I say about you?
Beth: Every time, you know how you and me, we’re always fielding for one another.
Jen: We are, we sure are.
Beth: Because we’ve both been through so much. And I’ll tell you, something I say every now and then, if I ever hear a single negative word, I say, “You know how I know you don’t know Jen Hatmaker?”
Beth: “I’m positive.”
Beth: “How I’m positive that you don’t know her, is because it is utterly impossible to know the woman and not love her. So I know this, I know with the attitude I’m getting right now you don’t know her. Because if you knew who, you would love her.” And that I want to say to you. When I told my girls I was taping with you today…
Beth: …both of them laughed, “Oh Mom.” And girl, I’ve had such a good time. I love you, Jen.
Jen: I love you so much, and I’ve told you this in public and I’ve told you this in private, but I just want to say it one more time. Your mentorship right now, your leadership, not just to all of us, to the church, and not just to the community of women, but to me personally in my life as a mom, as a wife, as a leader—t has meant so much to me that I can hardly even talk about it right now. I feel so verklempt over it, but I want to tell you, and I know you don’t care a hill of beans about this, but this is just my way of telling you how far reaching it is.
But I have this very weird position to find myself in several very strange but very different circles. Somehow I’m in all of them, I don’t really know, I don’t have a good category for myself. A lot of it, they’re here, they’re there, they’re ancillary. But everywhere I exist as a member of a community, as a leader, whatever sort of faith community and which, wherever direction it leans. You are beloved as a faithful and courageous leader.
Beth: Wow, Jen.
Jen: You are beloved among us and all of us.
Jen: All of us, from the one far edge to the farthest other edge, and it is because you have borne one of the most faithful witnesses I have ever seen, and I’ve seen it for years and years and years.
Beth: That just kills me, that just kills me.
Jen: I can’t tell you, I just can’t do it.
Beth: I’m so unworthy of that, but I’m going to tell you right now, I am going to receive that love from you today because it’s a good day for it. Thank you for that.
Jen: You are so dear to us. Okay, this is the last thing you have to tell us.
Jen: This is something we actually ask everybody in every series, and I learned this question from Barbara Brown Taylor. Her question is—and you can answer it however you want—what is saving your life right now?
Beth: The country. The woods, walking with the Lord. I asked the trees the other day—please don’t think that I need someone to hold on out there. That’s not my mysticism, it’s just poetic.
Beth: “Can they keep a secret?” That’s the kind of thing I ask them.
Beth: “Can y’all keep a secret?” Because the things y’all hear me tell the Lord…
Beth: … are things I do not ever want told.
Jen: Yes, yes.
Beth: But I think that, I told Keith, I go, “The years it’s added on to me. The quiet in my soul that I can walk to the fence and visit my next-door donkey.” Jen, yeah, the country, the woods. The woods, being in the woods with the Lord. That’s it, yeah.
Jen: That’s great. Yeah, I have a similar response to that when everything feels like it is crumbling, if I can just get my body near some water.
Beth: Some water.
Jen: Near a tree.
Beth: Yes, yes.
Jen: Near the dirt, it is instantly healing to me. I love you so much.
Beth: I love you too, Jen. Thank you for having me, my friend. I’m so grateful.
Jen: The pleasure is mine, love you.
Beth: Love you too, bye bye.
Jen: Well, I told you to buckle up. Do not say I didn’t tell you.
I’m still thinking about several things that she said, and how it really deeply impacts a handful of things I’m walking through this very minute. But if I did not make it crystal clear, and I think that I did, but Beth’s leadership through this bizarre world that we find ourselves in right now, where things we thought were shared core values, are just kind of up for grabs. When everything is confusing, when our faith leaders are singing a completely different song than the one that they taught us.
I’m just telling you, Beth has been a faithful voice of integrity, of this sense of true north, of what is real and good and kind. What’s still good about good news. I have learned so much from her, and I have drawn so much courage from her, so much. She’s very dear.
If you need more, if that just came at you so fast, you can go over to jenhatmaker.com, which is where we have the transcript of this entire interview. We’ve got it all written out for you, all the links to Beth’s work, to her studies, to her spaces, her social media accounts. If you don’t already follow her, I’m just telling you, you want to. If you’re not following Beth Moore on Twitter, you need to get your life together, okay? Hear me, hear me.
And so, gosh, we have so much more to come in this awesome series on faith icons. So much more where this came from. Just the wisdom, the heat, the fire, it’s all in here.
Thanks for being with us as we kick off a new year, a new decade. If you haven’t already, pop over and subscribe to the podcast. Make it easy on yourself. It’ll just show up for you week in and week out. You don’t even have to do any work. Give it a little rating, give it a review. That means so much to us, and that’s so good for our little show.
So on behalf of Laura, our producer, and her team, and Amanda and I, we’re grateful for you. We love you. We hope to serve you so well this year.
Thanks, you guys. See you next week.