Saturday, June 30, 2012

Letting your swear down

"Some Christians will only swear around other Christians."
". . . ?"
"That way they don't have to worry about ruining their witness."
"Except, you know, because of their total hypocrisy."
"It's like letting their hair down."
"Letting their swear down?"

Something like this conversation occurred in my small group one day.  I was 100% flabbergasted (and horrified).  How about you?  Do you know people like this?  Can you explain to me why they think this is okay?  I'm quite curious . . .

Less Like Falling in Love

"Evangelical teenagers were coming to describe the Christian life as falling in love with Jesus and experiencing the "thrills" and "happiness" of a romantic relationship with him. Perhaps because they believed so strongly in a personal relationship with Jesus as the center of Christianity, they didn't question what might be lost when that relationship was equated with an erotic, emotional attraction to a teen idol." - Thomas E. Bergler

You know, this is really interesting to consider.  My small group just finished reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, and in chapter 18, Miller talks about the problems with the fact that the dominant metaphors we often use to describe other kinds of love in the church are economic metaphors.  In the very next chapters, however, he didn't have a problem with using the evangelical American church's dominant metaphor for relating to Christ: romantic love.

As one who has an outsider's view of romantic love, I have really found this metaphor and its consequences disturbing, especially in the church.  God's love, as depicted in the Bible, is so much more than a crush, puppy love, passion, or even the best romantic relationship ever.  Why would we want to reduce it to something so much smaller?  There is no one metaphor that can contain God's love in the Bible because it's that big.  He's God, after all.

On top of that, it seems like if we-the-Evangelical-US-church are doing this to try to make Jesus (and Christianity and the church) more attractive to others, this is the wrong tactic.  People outside the church are aware of the limitations of romantic love (despite also seeming to glorify and idealize it as the ultimate kind of love available to humans), so why would they be interested in a temporary, often emotion-based relationship with an unknown quantity they can't see, let alone have sex with?

Are you uneasy with this metaphor?  Do you have any thoughts about this or what metaphors might be better to emphasize?

Do you really want to help?

"We live in society where no one lets you know anything – we all suffer in silence. And the person saying 'let me know' knows full well that you won’t – but if some kind of problem crops up in your life, they will pull that out and say 'I told you to tell me and you never did.'" - Matt comment on April 17th 2012
I have a friend who was until quite recently very pregnant with twins.  She found herself encountering all kinds of weird invasions of her personal space from people who had once been pregnant and thus felt entitled to inflict themselves on her.  She said that during her time of obvious disability, she discovered this piece of advice for those who really want to minister/help/be a blessing to those in distress/disability:

Don't assume that you know what the person/people in questions want/need just because you were in a similar situation.  Keep your "I know just how you feel"s and unasked-for advice to yourself.  If you actually want to help, ask the person how you can help.  I'm experimenting with, "What one thing can I do for you right now that would be the most helpful?"  Ask more than once.  (Also, be okay with the answer of, "Nothing right now, thanks.")

I suppose the extension of this would be to make sure you ask the people in your life what you can do for them even when they seem okay.  I suspect, as Matt says, there's a lot of suffering in silence going on, possibly related to the fact that we spend much of our time trying to pretend to the rest of the church that we are okay and fine and dandy especially when we know we are not. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Losing slowly

I have this good friend who is male.  I allowed the friendship because he is aware that I am happily single and celibate and have no intention of pursuing a romantic relationship with him or anybody else, and he has acknowledged that and is dealing with it.  He is not similarly geared, so I know that some day he will get a girlfriend and leave me behind.  And so, every bit of time we spend together is precious because it is finite, and I know it brings us closer to an ending.

I find that, surprisingly, this does not poison our time together.  I think this is the result of some combination a better understanding of the way God lets us intersect the paths of others and an understanding of the Japanese concept of finding beauty not just in things that are impermanent but in things that are fading right now before your very eyes.

My friend said once that he hoped we would be good enough friends that his future girlfriend would be jealous, and I found that touching but probably somewhat unrealistic.  I don't do well with hostility, and it would take a very special woman not to be hostile in that situation.  I wish that he finds that kind of woman for his sake.

Not that this will happen immediately.  My friend is in school and working full time and his main hobby that might result in meeting new people is one that is not over-full with eligible young ladies.  There are a few, but he does not wish to pursue relationships with them because he has had past relationships that started in shared hobbies and ended up in him having to drop the hobbies after a breakup. 

The end is hardly looming right now, but it will come.  I will enjoy the time we have until then.