Today is a special treat for me personally. One of my favorite aspects of blogging is the ability this venue offers in regards to introducing subjects and people of great significance to the wider body of Christ. It is my honor and privilege to have one of my favorite bloggers here today for our fifth blog interview. I hope you will take the time to read through this interview and jump into the conversation with any comments or questions that you may have. Please understand that some of the dialogue here today is for mature audiences. With that said, let me introduce you to our guest…
Nicole Cottrell has a blog called ‘Modern Reject’ which I have come to greatly appreciate and anticipate each week. The rare honesty, vulnerability, and openness in her writing have been quite refreshing to me. I appreciate and can relate to the journey that Nicole is on as her journey is the same journey that many of us are on as well. Many others feel the same way about Nicole’s blog as Modern Reject has been listed in the top 200 Christian blogs for the last couple of years.
Nicole became acquainted with the illuminate blog through her amazing husband Jonathan who was introduced by a reader in their church family. I love how the internet works, and am very thankful the Lord has caused our paths to cross in the blogosphere. Shortly after I became familiar with Nicole’s writing, I knew she was a rare jewel in the kingdom that I wanted to have here on the blog. Nicole has graciously agreed to take part in this interview. Her responses to the interview questions have greatly blessed me, and I know you will be blessed by this conversation as well. Without further delay, let’s jump into the conversation!
Nicole, as you know, I have come to greatly appreciate your blog. Your expression of raw emotion through your writing is not careless or angry, but very appropriate and refreshingly honest. Your willingness to not be guarded gives evidence to Christ’s healing work in your heart. I am thankful for that. In some of your posts, you speak of a time that you walked away from the reality of Christ for a season. How did He captivate your affections toward Him again?
What a great question. Well, how long of an answer can I give? The story itself is rather long and intricate, but the quick version goes something like this: I was in college, thousands of miles from home, having spent more than a year wandering (really, running) from the Lord. I was standing on a street corner, trying to hail a cab in Boston. It was snowing. I was smoking. A cabbie stopped and told me I couldn’t smoke in his cab. I reluctantly tossed my cigarette and got in his cab. He then began sharing the gospel with me. I think I laughed out loud and told him I already knew all of this.
Then, why was I smoking, he asked? Why did I look sad, he asked? Why did he feel like the Lord wanted him to share with me, he asked? It went on like this for some time, too. People — random strangers — approaching me and telling me that Jesus wanted me back.
I had a women step out of a telephone booth as I was walking by, follow me down the sidewalk, and tell me to go back to church.
I had a woman in the subway, who looked as though she might cry, approach me. Before she spoke, I preemptively said, “I know what you’re going to say.” She paused, smiled at me, then said, “So then, when are you going to listen? He wants you to come home.” It was through His constant pursuit of me, and my life simultaneously falling apart, that I was brought back to the Father’s arms and the friendship of Jesus. I never say that I walked back to God, but rather I crawled back to Him — so broken and humbled by the way I had abandon my King, in awe of His gracious, unbridled, and unhindered love for me, overjoyed for my return.
Jesus Christ wooed me and He won me…again. I don’t plan on ever running from Him again.
What led you into the world of blogging? What has been the most painful and rewarding aspects of blogging for you?
For over a year, my husband, Jonathan, had been trying to get me excited about the idea of blogging. I, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with it. “Everyone and their mom…and their mom’s dog has a blog, so why would I want to start one, too?” I’m known for rejecting things others perceive as popular or cool, and this was just another such example.
But, then the Lord started quietly speaking to me about my need to write a blog, even giving me very clear, prophetic dreams about it. I resisted. I grumbled. I ignored His promptings until Jonathan told me that the Lord had gifted me with an ability to communicate and I was called to use that gift. A few weeks later, I started Modern Reject.
I have a love/hate relationship with blogging. It spurs me on and dries me up all at the same time. More specifically, the painful aspects of blogging come in the form of unkindness, jealousy, snarky comments, and those who think they actually know me because they read a 500-word blog post. Hopefully, I don’t sound like I’m whining because, despite some of the less desirable parts of blogging, it is also just about the coolest thing around.
And it’s rewarding. Every day. When someone writes me and says that I’ve offered them encouragement, or hope, or a new way of looking at the Word, or themselves, or Jesus — that is beyond rewarding. It’s addicting, actually. Once God showed me that Modern Reject was less of a blog and more of a ministry, I got it. In short, it’s the people that keep me going.
Christ is many things to me. He is Father’s expression. He is Lord. He is my Brother. He is my friend. In the last few years, however, I have been awakened to the reality that He is our Husband. As a guy, this is an aspect of Him that I can only grasp through my spirit, not my flesh…Nicole, I truly appreciate your husband’s participation with you on your blog. You two have a beautiful partnership together. What romantic qualities of Jesus Christ do you see expressed through your husband?
So, let me preface this by saying that I married an amazing man. I married the best man I know. It is easy for me to talk about him and have him sound like some sort of Jesus/Superman/Brad Pitt hybrid-clone, but he is not perfect. He is perfect for me.
All that to say, I would confess that one of the main romantic qualities of Christ I see in my husband is a spirit of service. I mean, service doesn’t sound sexy, right? Oh, but it is.
I think Christ’s spirit of service — the fact that the Son of God came to serve, not be served — is nothing short of romantic. Likewise, it is watching my husband lay down his life for me, on a daily basis, to serve me. Now, I’m not talking about me lounging around while he feeds me grapes, but loving me as Christ loves the church.
If romance is the feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love, then Jesus is the world’s greatest romantic. It’s impossible to know Him and not be captivated by those feelings — the tension that exists between Jesus revealing more of Himself and that which remains veiled. He is everything, yet we only experience a sliver of all that He is.
Similarly, my husband, while fully available to me — open, honest, loving — still woos me. He still surprises me, still pursues me, still seeks to know me, find me, discover me. There is a comfort, but also a slight mystery — a secret (and not-so-secret at times) flirtation. And like Christ, Jonathan’s love compels me to love him more. Just as Christ first loved us, my husband loves me first in all things, but in doing so, I respond by also wanting to lay down my life for him.
Nicole, you have written quite a bit about sex on your blog. I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability on that topic. A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about the cycles of sleep and how this process was created to shadow a greater reality of life and rest in Christ. In the same way, can you describe how you see the process of sex in human marriage as a shadow of our greater communion with Christ?
Oh, man. This question is worthy of an entire book, let alone a lengthy answer. The revelation God brought to me about sex in the context of marriage is that sex is a gift. It is not merely the way we reproduce or meet some animalistic needs, as some suggest. Sex is a gift given by God to His children, to be enjoyed in the framework of marriage.
Taking it a step further, when believers enjoy the gifts of the Father, they are participating in worship — giving praise and thanks to God for His goodness, kindness, generous heart. So it follows that, when we enjoy the gift of sex in marriage, we are worshipping the Lord. In that way, we are sharing in greater communion with God. Crazy to think about, right? When I first realized this, I was like, “Say whaaaaatttt?” And then I was like, “I can get down with that.” Because, sex is not just a physical act. Nor is it just an emotional or spiritual one. It is all three.
More specifically, I think sex within marriage mirrors our relationship with Christ in that it requires our participation and prioritization. The busyness of life can rob us of remembering that we need to respond to Christ’s pursuit of us. We must seek after Him. As life and its many demands often try to dry up marriage beds, husbands and wives must pursue one another and be determined to not allow anything steal away their intimacy — be it physical, emotional, or spiritual intimacy. Much like our relationship with Christ.
I think the quicker we are to recognize sex as a gift, the more apt we are to protect it as such. To treasure it, keep it, enjoy it, and, in doing so, glorify Christ.
It seems that you have had a monumental shift regarding your understanding of ‘church’ over the last few years. Can you describe your shift away from the typical ‘missional’ evangelical mindset that focuses on external works, toward understanding the church to be a community of people centered around the person of Christ who live by His divine life? What prompted that shift, and how has this affected you?
On some level, I suppose I always knew that what I was experiencing on a typical Sunday morning, in a typical evangelical church, wasn’t actually church. Like so many others I know, somewhere deep down, in my spirit, I knew that church was something else — something more, something alive, something glorious. I just didn’t know what that was or how to find it. Over the years, as I attended various churches, I would catch little glimpses of what I imagined church could be. A small group here or home group there that felt more like a family. But, at the end of the day, those were not much more than a social club bound together by interests, stages of life, and doctrine.
Before marrying Jonathan, I knew he was going to start a church. I surrendered to this idea, even though the thought of starting just another Sunday-morning-service-type-church down the street bored me to death. Thankfully, Jonathan felt much the same way. As we began to pray about what this church would be, where it would be, and when He would call us to start it, we were surprised to hear from the Lord that it would be radically different than we had expected.
There would be no head pastor, no youth group, no programs, no weekly home groups. God was calling us to a different form of expression…and to be honest, it scared the crap out of me. I didn’t understand how it would work. What it would look like. What my role would be exactly. But Jonathan and I continued to press into what God was revealing. In doing so, we knew that we were to begin an organic church body.
The biggest shift for me personally in living life in and among my church family in an organic way, is twofold. First, I never knew how badly I craved and longed to find a spiritual family. I never knew what it was to be spiritually knit together with people, besides my husband and a few family members. I never knew how deeply a spiritual family is truly God’s provision for the saints and a temple (the people, not the place) for us to exalt, express, and experience Christ. It’s truly radical.
Second to that, the biggest shift for me has been to learn how to more fully come under the Headship of Christ. I mean, we all say it, “Jesus is the head…” but the church so actually lives that out.
Now, however, as I have practiced alongside my brothers and sister what it is to appoint and “hold fast” to Christ as the true Head, it is something so radically different from anything I had previously known. It is, for the first time in my walk with Jesus, me being placed exactly where I should be, so that Jesus can be positioned exactly where He should be — His throne. It has been breath to me, pure life to me, grace to me, joy to me, freedom to me. It is everything, because He is everything.
Nicole, what is your heart’s cry for the bride of Christ these days?
I suppose that my heart’s cry for the bride is very much what I just explained. I long to see the family of God become just that — the family of God. I long to see us surrender to the Headship of Christ and allow Him to lead. Not man. Not programs. Not agendas. Not even doctrine or theology, but Jesus Christ Himself.
In line with that, too, a few years ago a man prayed and prophesied over me that I’ve been called by the Lord to a “ministry of freedom.” Those words were, and have remained, like a salve to my soul, a healing balm to my spirit. I desire more than anything for believers to experience the true freedom of Jesus Christ. Freedom from bondage, freedom from sin, freedom from ourselves. My hope is to see every Christ-follower come under the headship of Christ and, in doing so, take hold of the freedom available to them. As Galatians 5:1 reads, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free….”
Jamal, thank you so much for allowing me to answer such thoughtful, personal, and engaging questions. I think I actually learned a bit more about myself in doing so. No joke. I so greatly respect you and your writing. I count you as a dear brother and gift to the Kingdom. I’m thankful for all that you do in the name of Jesus.
Nicole, thanks so much for taking the time to come here on the blog and share your heart with us today. You truly are a blessing to many.
Was there a statement or phrase that jumped out at you? Was anything ‘stirred’ inside of you? Is there a question brewing in your mind? Feel free to post any comments about this interview or questions for Nicole here. Let me also encourage you to check out Modern Reject. You will be glad you did.