Sunday, July 26, 2009

Women's Night Session 3, Part 2

I've heard it said that romance novels are porn for girls. I think that is very true. A large part of our attraction to romantic stories, movies, scenes in T.V. shows, and lyrics in songs is the false hope we have that they will satisfy our longing to experience these things in our own lives. In a way, we try to live through the lives of the characters. It is as if we actually believe that if we can feel close enough to that character or identify enough with the person on the receiving end of those lyrics, we will somehow feel better about our own situation. We all the know the classic scene from Titanic with Jack and Rose at the front of the boat, her arms spread wide, enjoying each other and the wind. Did you know that on boats now there is a person whose job it is to stand there, preventing people from recreating the scene. Something about that scene, about the story of Jack and Rose, captivated our culture in a very real way. So much so that so many people wanted to mimic it so perfectly that boat companies now have to hire an extra person for each trip. Why is all of this a problem? Well, lets look at the Jack and Rose love story. Who is Jack? He is nobody. He gambled his way on to the boat, he probably doesn't even have another change of clothes. He has no way to support Rose. And they knew each other for all of two days. Yet somehow we think that if only he hadn't frozen in the water, they would have had the perfect love story. The great danger is this. What we see on T.V. and in the movies, what we read about in romance novels, and what listen to in love ballads is NOT REAL LOVE. Joshua Harris said it well when he said, "The world takes us to a silver screen on which the flickering images of passion and romance play, and as we watch, the world says, 'This is love.' God takes us to the foot of a tree on which a naked and bloodied Man hangs and says, 'This is love.'" There is a categorical, astronomical difference between what the world tells us is love and what love actually is. The kind of love that we see in the movies and read about in books pales in comparison to the kind of love that God has in mind for us. What God calls us to in relationship is something far greater than could ever hope to be captured on screen. Even the greatest saints struggle to articulate it in their writings. God calls us to be a reflection of His very self. That's God's vision for love - a complete emptying of all that is selfish within us to make way for complete fulfillment in Him. When we attach ourselves to what the media portrays as love, we are cheapening our own understanding. We are not guarding what is precious within us. Instead, we are allowing the shallow standards of the world a chance to seep in and destroy what we know to be true. There is a song by Casting Crowns called Slow Fade. It describes the way that little things can lead to big sins. "People never crumble in a day; it's a slow fade." It is by giving away little pieces, bit by bit, that we end up with a destructive, dysfunctional understanding of love. We don't have to look far to see broken relationships. We encounter them daily, in the husband and wife that never stop fighting, in the boyfriend and girlfriend that can't seem to remain faithful, in the parents that can't keep their marriage together, in the abusive relationships, in the emotional and physical hurt. We don't have to look far to see a failed vision for love. In a world that only aides in such destruction, it is more important than ever to discover, embrace, hold on to, and protect God's vision. It is far more glorious than I could ever describe. It is the little choices we make each day that decide for us the kind of relationships we are going to have. We need to limit the media's influence. Our thoughts are a rehearsal for how we actually live. "Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny." -Samuels Smiles If we can find ways to keep the media's disillusioned standard for love out of our thoughts (out of our minds), we will have more success at keeping it out of our actions, habits, character, and destiny.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Women's Night Session 3, Part 1

Last week's Women's Night was titled "Media/Guarding Your Heart/Emotional Chastity." If you are thinking that seems like a whole lot for one session, you're thinking correctly. We made it happen though! Not many people have heard the phrases "guarding your heart" and "emotional chastity." I'm still searching for the perfect definition, but the following one is sufficient for now. Guarding your heart simply means that you are careful with your heart because you value it as a gift from God, meant to be the place where He dwells within you. Emotional chastity acknowledges that the battle for purity is not only a physical one. When we are emotionally chaste, we are careful with where our emotions lead us; it perfects our ability to guard our hearts. Whereas physical purity protects what is exterior (our bodies), emotional purity protects what is interior (our minds and emotions). Please keep in mind that at no point in this post am I attempting to claim that girl's do not struggle with physical purity. To do so would be ludicrous and horribly ignorant. Physical purity is simply not the topic of this particular entry. Today's focus is the internal struggle. There certain thoughts that most girls have on a regular basis that are contrary to interior chastity. Here are a few examples. Girls meets guy. Girl finds guy attractive. Girl thinks about how her first name sounds with his last and practices signing her name with it to see if looks good. Guy walks by catching the attention of girl. Girl wonders what their kids would look like if they got married. In both scenarios, girl's thoughts probably linger long after the moment is past. And, if guy passes the name and kids tests, girl's thoughts probably go even further. Girl starts thinking about what they would talk about on dates; she imagines how he would smile as she walks down the aisle towards him at their wedding. In short, girl has officially begun mentally stalking guy. Mental fantasies, like those mentioned above, are not always sexual. It is far too easy to imagine and dream about our wedding day. When a guy hugs us, and it feels good, it is far too difficult to avoid replaying that hug and the way it felt in our minds over and over again. But these things are not emotionally chaste. Instead of protecting our hearts and emotions, they become the first steps in giving too much of ourselves away. There is a reason our minds and emotions do this. God created humans for relationship. Our minds and emotions (just like our bodies) are designed to draw us into intimacy. But that intimacy is designed to blossom and grow as we enter deeper and deeper into relationship with our spouse. When we allow those things to get out of hand now, we are taking away from the relationship for which they were created. Part 2 will go more in depth and look at how the media plays into this...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another Year

I promise that the Women's Night blog will be up before our next session, but today is my birthday, which requires a different kind of reflection.

"How do you measure a year in the life? ... How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?" ~Seasons of Love

My journey from 21 years of life completed to 22 years of life completed had some pretty major themes and lessons learned.

First of all, I now know what kind of alcoholic beverages I like (vodka, beer) and what kind I dislike (rum).

In Christian Moral Life, I learned the "theory" (if you will) behind virtue as well as the practical implications that should have on my life. I now have some concept of virtue, which I hope has lead to more virtuous actions.

I learned more about relating to guys, more about guarding my heart and emotional chastity, more about the ways I struggle, and more about letting God come first.

I learned that pride and fear are by far my two biggest battles. And that God is so much bigger than both.

I learned that the Holy, Roman Catholic Church is more amazing, more beautiful, and more Truth-filled than I will ever be able to comprehend. Studying the Church and learning theology are two things I almost didn't do. Now, I can't believe that before this year, there was a time when I thought I didn't need to.

I learned that meeting my Lord and Savior in prayer is the only way I have chance and getting this life right.

I learned that I love life the most when it costs me the most of myself. Living a life that lends itself to selfishness is no way to live. Living a life that lends itself to sacrifice, to less of me and more Him, is the only way to truly be alive.

I've never been the biggest fan of bridges. It's not that I'm super afraid of them, I just don't like driving over them (but I love walking over them). This year, I've learned that the same is true in my spiritual life. The bridge that connects the person I am now with vision of the holy woman God is calling me to be is a bridge that terrifies me. I see now that I am standing at one end, hoping in what I can see waiting at the other, but failing to take a step. My prayer for this upcoming year is that I learn to embrace the bridge (my path to holiness) by stepping. God is good.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Women's Night Session 2

"You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with one glance of your eye..." Song of Songs 4:9 I think that this verse captures in a powerful way what a lot of women want when it comes to the way that they look. Sometimes, we just want to walk into a room and have heads turn and people thinking about how beautiful we are. I can remember once in grade school going to a class bowling party. I walked in the room, and Michael Jeffferson (whom I had a crush on at the time) gave me this look of repulsion. It was a horrifying moment. Now, at the time, I had just begun experimenting with make-up, so there is a real chance that the way I looked actually merited his reaction. Regardless, I went straight to the bathroom to talk with other girls about how I looked like crap. Unfortunately, we had all brought make-up with us, just in case we needed to touch up. I probably walked out of the bathroom looking worse than I did going in. Fast forward a few months and I was on my way to a surprise birthday party for one of the boys in my class. Everyone was gathered in the basement, and I knew I had to walk down the stairs with all of the judging eyes on me. I took a deep breath before beginning the journey. When I got down there, everyone was normal. I was so relieved that I had avoided another bowling-alley incident. I wore that exact same outfit (the one that met the approval of my peers) as much as possible. (Side Note: as for the bowling alley outfit...I never wore any part of it again). A lot of times, young (and old) women try to make themselves look a certain way in order to get attention. They use their looks as a means of filling the need to know that they are desired by the opposite sex. This is how the world tells us to make ourselves beautiful. In a survey done by Dove, it was found that only 2% of women would describe themselves as beautiful. The most intriguing part of this is that those results come from a time when beauty can be bought. Even the celebrities who "have it" by the world's standards aren't satisfied with their appearance. We live in a world that gives us a false standard for beauty, and then tells us to chase that image for our own sake. The reality, however, is that even those who meet that standard do not find happiness for themselves.
Modern feminism has done its job well, reminding us that we shouldn't seek the approval of the opposite sex, convincing us that everything we do should be only for ourselves and no one else. So, presumably, we wear slinky thongs and super-push-up bras not because they makes us attractive to men, but because they make us feel good about ourselves. We spend hours at the mall snatching up the latest sexy trends because we are "comfortable" enough with our bodies to carelessly showcase them to the world... We obey the tyranny of pop culture under the guise that we are free to do whatever we want, whatever makes us feel good. As modern young women, we have deluded ourselves into thinking we are empowered, but in reality we couldn't be more ensnared. We convince ourselves that we are making our own decisions, that we are listening to our own voice, but in truth we are like putty in the hands of the culture's warped agenda. Young women today are supposed to be the most liberated, independent, confident, and fulfilled of any in history. But we are a desperate, lonely, (and) insecure ... lot - plagued by eating disorders, abusive relationships, emotional breakdowns, and sexual chaos. We've been looking for beauty in the wrong place. And our incessant search for beauty has stripped us of all that is truly beautiful. (Set-Apart Femininity, Pg 11-12)"
So, if today's culture has left us facing the opposite direction of true beauty, what is truly beautiful? "Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30 True, lasting beauty is supernatural; it comes from God.
The Beauty that comes from loving and serving God with a happy heart is a beauty that endures even when your figure has fallen south and wrinkles adorn your face. True beauty doesn't come from fresh makeup, the latest hairstyle, or how you look in your blue jeans. Rather, it radiates from the inside out, from a heart that delights in the Lord (Every Young Woman's Battle, 54)."
Pursuing beauty is not a bad thing; in fact, it is important! However, it order to properly seek and find beauty, we have to keep in mind it's purpose. All beauty comes from God. "All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18) Beauty is God's gift to us, meant to bring glory to Him. Our beauty is meant to draw others closer to God, not to draw attention to us. We are created in the image of God. We are created beautiful. But as with all of God's creation, that beauty is best seen when it allows God's greatness and glory to be seen. The most beautiful women that I know absolutely radiate God's love. They are beautiful because their holiness allows their beauty to unveil the beauty of God. I don't mean to belittle the problem. The voice of the world is loud, and people all around us are buying in, surrendering to its disillusioned standards. But look at the holy young women around you. Look at those women (young and old) that are walking beside you in Truth. When you look around, do you see ugly? I don't. I see pure, holy beauty. I'm not saying that you have to pretend to love what you see in the mirror. I could list things I see that I don't love. The point is this, we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by what we see. One of the best lessons I learned from the Harry Potter books is this, in order to win the battles within us, we have to decide that there is something more important to focus on. Harry struggles through 3 books to stay out of Voldemort's mind. He does not succeed until his life depends on it. He cannot win the battle until there is something he acknowledges as more important. God has a great purpose for each of us as individuals. What it all comes down to is this, we can either focus on trying to build up ourselves, chasing the vanity of the world, or we can focus on building up His Kingdom. I'll close with this thought from Every Young Woman's Battle (Pg. 60). "Do you want to spend your life looking into mirrors, distracted by your own reflection and how your looks compare to others, or do you want to invest your life looking beyond yourself and into a world of people who need to experience the love of God through you?"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's Been Far too Long

I have no idea what this post is going to end up being about. All I really know is that it has been far too long since my last post. The total of drafts I've begun and have yet to complete is now up to three. This is highly unusually; I normally don't stop writing in the middle of a train of thought. Who knows when they will be posted. Steubenville was a wonderful experience as always. God and I had many good moments in which He stretched my capacity to love and be loved. I had to deny myself many times in order to make progress in prayers. The topic for the largest portion of my prayer was intimacy. I'm hard pressed to find a word that is more terrifying to me. I'm begun to read more about the mass. I'm finally getting around to some of the books I purchased during the school year. There is one thing about me and the mass that I know for certain: I do not know enough about the mass. Nor do I enter into with the proper disposition. I'm hoping that will begin to change as make more room for God's grace to reach me. I'm really not sure what will be coming next. It will either be a post on grace, beauty, Edwina, prayer, or something entirely unrelated to any of those four...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A New Rule

Starting today, I'm imposing upon myself a new rule. I'm admitting right off that it isn't brilliant, and it may not survive the weekend. I'm attempting it anyway. I must now earn the right to eat unhealthy foods. If I want to go out for ice cream, I have to exercise first. If I want to have beer before I go bed, I have to have gone for a walk after dinner. I'm considering do a similar thing with computer/T.V./video game time (I probably should not have put the nintendo in my room). I could earn that by equivalent reading time or prayer time. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

From Elizabeth...

Read her article here. She writes beautifully, telling the story of Jennifer who is courageously (and publicly) living the call of every Christian. "I believe enduring love is primarily a commitment and an act of will..."