Life Hurts

My generation has been blogging a lot about twisted concepts of marriage, romance, love, and sex. Some really good stuff has been put up. Good discussions are happening at the Good Women Project, Rachel Held Evans, Elizabeth Esther, Deeper Story, and Prodigal.

I even recently posted a few choice excerpts from a similarly-themed article.

I get excited by people questioning assumptions with which they were brought up. I get excited by conversation, real thoughts, people being real and not allowing themselves to be stifled.

But life hurts either way – you know?

Yes, people have been hurt by ultra-conservative, fundamental teachings about sex. Women have been ashamed of their bodies. Men have been told so often that they have a lust issue, that they have developed an unhealthy fixation with “getting rid of lust.” Boys and girls weren’t taught how to appreciate beauty, they were scolded to cover up, look away, not be friends with members of the opposite sex.

But that wasn’t really my life. That was fringe, observed, occasionally a part of my world. Usually through other people. I was allowed to wear tight pants and be best friends with boys.

Sex has hurt me, though. Sex too early, too young, with the wrong person. Not me personally, i.e. I’ve never actually had sex. But I’ve had friends so hurt and scarred and changed because of it. People who abandoned their friends because they wanted to chase after physical satisfaction. Friends betraying each other. Secret abortions. Members of my family (I won’t say how extended, or on which side) are still grieving, mourning over scars left by abortion. Abortion that happened because of selfishness, recklessness, carelessness. And abortion was just a consequence, a symptom of the problem.

You want to know something I think is a problem?

How somehow we’re so animalistic, flesh-driven, self-focused that even when we think sex is foolish, wrong, or even just not the best idea, we think we can’t help it. We think we can’t control it, stifle it, or just make smarter decisions.

Sex is not food.

You will not die if you don’t have sex.

My fiance says that making “good” choices comes easily for me; that I hold myself to a very high standard. One thing that’s difficult for him is that I instinctively hold everyone else around me to the same standard.

[We all do, don’t we though? Don’t we all hold each other to high standards? Usually even higher than the ones we hold ourselves to]

And I don’t know; maybe all of that’s true.

Listen, I have learned to understand and be OK with people who interpret life and the Bible differently than I do. It’s true, what so many people are saying: Scripture is not as black and white about premarital sex as we like to think. There are arguments as to what “fornication” means – and “adultery” means having sex with someone else once you’re already married to someone.

So I get that.

As it so happens, when I look at the broad brush-strokes of Scripture, I see sex as a covenant thing. Something that symbolizes what God describes marriage (and nothing else) as being.

[the two shall become one flesh]

Something that goes with marriage and doesn’t work properly outside of marriage, else what on earth is Paul even talking about in 1 Corinthians 7?

That’s one corner of my quadrilateral. (two corners, really, because tradition agrees with me)

But my other corners match up, too. I won’t bore you with my logic. Doctors, psychologists, scientists have talked about statistics and all kinds of reasons why sex works better inside marriage. Some of the logic is so infantile, you wonder why anyone questions it.

Experience is the part that hurts, in my life anyway.

The raw, removed fact that my husband has had sexual experiences before marriage doesn’t hurt me. In fact, when I found out about it, hurt or anger was the farthest from my mind. But every action has consequences. And some of those consequences hurt me.

He was tortured for months with shame and guilt over many things he got himself into before knowing me. That shame and guilt hurt me, because it was hurting him. He is going to have a harder time dealing with certain preferences and apprehensions I have about certain sexual things, specifically because he’s been in sexual situations where he didn’t have to deal with them. That hurts me. He has preferences which were formed before and outside of our relationship, specifically because of (or affected by) prior experiences. That hurts me. That excludes me. That puts pressure and expectations on me in a way he cannot possibly understand.

Sometimes, on bad days, I hate every girl who ever said, “sure” to a man who wasn’t her husband.

Because he’s MY husband. And now I have to deal with the hurt, the fear, the expectations.

And our relationship is beautiful, and he has healed amazingly. I worry neither for our marriage nor our sexuality as a couple. These words I write don’t come out of constant fear, wringing of hands, uncontrollable emotions. Just…life.

Intellectually, I understand it when people come to different Scriptural, logical, or experiential conclusions from myself.

But I wince when I hear people say that virginity means nothing. It’s true, obviously. Virginity, a woman’s hymen, mean’s essentially nothing.

But God alone knows what kind of emotional, spiritual, relational baggage that gets attached to one’s virginity. I know that to be true in my own life, and I feel that I have a very, very mild case of the hurt compared to so many people I know.

Virginity can be attached to abortion baggage. Infertility baggage. “I-know-I-like-this-thing, and-it’s-going-to-be-really-hard-for-me-if-you-can’t-fulfill-that” baggage. Pregnancy, or child baggage. Disease baggage. Cancer baggage.

I have seen, experienced those things. That kind of baggage.

And it hurts.

And I’m ok with saying that, although I hope I won’t be lumped with the negative buzzwords of “purity culture” “courtship teachings” or “fundamentalist” for doing so.

Who Am I?

Who am I?

Where am I?

What informs me?

I am female.

I was raised in the south.

By Bible-believing, Christ-following parents.

I am the 3rd of 4 of my Mother’s children.

(2nd of 3 of my Father’s children)

(first girl)

(with seven years and twelve years, respectively, between my older brothers and myself)

I am an older sister.

I was home educated.

(my Mother dislikes math)

(and science)

I worked as a hostess in a restaurant for two years.

While taking general education courses at a community college.

My family sings.

I do theatre.

I went to a fairly charismatic, southern Christian college for my final two years.

(In large part because of their theatre program)

(Where I learned a lot about how to read the Bible)

(And how we tend to simplify complicated things, and vice versa)

In my short years, I’ve dealt with (in my family, friends, or myself): death, sickness, cancer, war, marriage, divorce, babies, changing diapers, building houses.

I’ve seen poverty and wealth.

I’ve nannied children and cleaned houses.

I watched my older brothers play video games.

And learned how to knit.

And played Texas Hold’em poker and Scrabble with my family in the evenings.

And wasn’t allowed to watch Fern Gully as a child.

And talked politics with my father since I can’t remember when.

[These things inform me. These things greatly affect who I am Today]

Done

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).

That story is about the anointing of David. David’s elder brother Eliab was a visually impressive candidate for King. Surely, Samuel thought, the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD. But Samuel was bad at predicting God. Samuel was bad at finding the correct vessel for God’s work.

We are bad at predicting God. At identifying his spirit within others.

So I think I’m done.

I’m done saying:

“he’s not a Christian,”
“she can’t be a Christian”
“a Christian wouldn’t live like that” or “make that choice” or “come to that conclusion.”

Maybe {insert gasp} some people are just bad Christians. Maybe some people are just weak, indecisive, or have different convictions than I have.

I may not think it the most God-honoring thing to do/think/believe, but Christians

are gay
pray to Mary
think communism is fine
want to restrict guns
believe that Jesus’ death on the cross purchased salvation for everyone, whether they follow him or not

I may take issue with how someone interprets this or that bit of Scripture. And they may be straight up ignoring Scripture. But that doesn’t make them Not Christians. That doesn’t give me God’s eyes and God’s discernment and the ability to peer into somebody’s soul.

I’m tired of buying into the delusion that I am fit to make those judgments.

So I’m done.

Dear Mom & Dad

Dear Mom & Dad,

I’ve been thinking about this post for months, and I’m not even sure what to write. Should I just hop right in?

1. Thank You That This Is Not (Was Not) My Life

I have never known what it feels like to have my parents not support me. In fact, “supportive” might be the best word to describe you guys. I grew up watching you support each one of your children. Brother needed to get over his shyness so he could find music – Dad, you pushed him. He found music, he found he could lead and direct music. And that changed his life. Brother brought home girlfriends. I was too little to know what that phase of your relationship was like, but I’m sure it was tricky. Still, I don’t remember shouting matches about girls. When he was old enough to responsibly date, you allowed him that freedom and didn’t smother him. When he had his first car accident, you dealt with it and let him use the other car.

And then, Lord, there was us. We girls. You encouraged Sister in all her all her many (many) developing talents. Sewing machine. Camera. Endless supplies. More than that, though, a push to really figure out what she wanted…so you could help give it to her.

And me. Looking back, did I drive you crazy? Maybe you rue the day I discovered live theatre. Maybe not. But I had to have it. Schedule-eating, energy draining, live theatre. In the last years of high school I had to come up with brilliant arguments for participating in each new play or musical. And you conceded those arguments, because you saw my heart was there.

(and yes, I still think I needed Peter Pan)

And then there was the Guild. More theatre, more responsibility, more time taken away, more of me dedicated to this Hungry Animal. “I can direct this play,” I said. Dad, you made me prove it. You made me argue it, show it, give you my plans and back-up plans and boundaries. And then, when it was all done, you said, “Well then, I will help you in any way I can.” And you did. You went to Lowe’s with me, you bought supplies, you helped us build a fire escape. (Such a pretty fire escape) I can’t imagine what you thought I was doing….but I did it. Because you helped. Soon I sprung out and feathered a new nest of builders and supporters, with the Guild, but your initial help was never forgotten or taken for granted.

When high school drew to a close, you know I just wanted to bury my nose in The Boards and forget school. But you knew I needed it, and you told me so. It’s funny, while there was maybe a handful of the “must I attend college?” discussions, I never doubted what my major would be. (English, mais bien sûr).

(on that note, thanks for toeing me into The Community College and letting me live & eat at home while I worked at the restaurant. And springing to buy my books every so often – super appreciated)

When the time came to transfer to The University, I briefly flirted with my inner desire to declare Theatre Major, but I’m too realistic for that. I realise that may have had you panicked for a bit.

Dad, thanks for taking me places and letting me not like them. Thanks for getting my list of important things from me, and making that a priority. Thanks for not making a requirement for me to attend This or That University or-else-you-won’t-support-me. That mindset in parents still boggles the mind. Thanks for partnering with me on my choice of school. It’s cost both of us a lot of money, I know. But I’m glad I went in to debt over it, and not you. I’ve got the rest of my life to pay it back (although you and I both know I’m looking at a much shorter timeline). Thanks for letting me be an adult there and have to figure out all the application, money stuff, paperwork, loans, housing…everything. I think it prepared me for life.

You prepared me for life.

Mom, thanks for taking every possible moment to gently teach. Everything can be a life lesson. I know that because of you. I found myself emulating you a lot off at school, if someone got sick or hurt. Because mothers know, you know? They know how to deal with things. I hope I can be a shred of the woman you are, whether or not I’m ever a mother.

2. “Boy”

I am aware that Sister and I freaked you out, and that it’s possible you were even questioning that we had normal, healthy sexuality at points. I know it’s weird for daughters not to date in high school. You dealt gracefully with Sister’s forays into dating, once she got there, and gave her pretty reasonable boundaries I thought.

I’m sorry my first love flourished away from home. I know that was hard. I know it got harder once you realised how Different he was from maybe what you were expecting. How different he is from Dad in many ways…and how his similarities seem unnerving in so young a person. I know it got harder when we got engaged. But you know…you let me be my own person and live my own life. It BLOWS MY MIND when I see teenage, young adult, and straight-up-adult children whose parents try to dictate every aspect of their romantic life.

(I mean, you know this. I’ve ranted to you enough about it)

Thank you for being my friends, my support, my leaders, my encouragers.

I know I’ve gotten more jaded. I know I’ve changed my mind about things that disappoint you. But I’m just trying to become a real person, and I think you know that. I’ve gone to college, fallen in love, gotten seared and scarred by multiple bad room-mate situations, and had to provide way more leadership than I should have been expected to. It changes a person…or rather, keeps them from getting stagnant.

I’m MORE than I was four years ago. I don’t think anything’s really truly much different. I’ve always noticed my opinions, called a spade a spade, and desired to protect those I love with all my energies. That’s all still there. I’m just also a snarky editor now, who cares a lot about Christians knowing how to read the Bible correctly and stuff like that.

This post was WAY train of thought / rambly.

But anyway… thanks.

Quotes from Russell D. Moore

[some beautiful thoughts from his article, “Like, A Virgin?” on Touchstone Magazine.]

“It is good and necessary for us to teach our children sexual fidelity, the goodness and joy of chastity until marriage. But we must do so in a way that molds the next generation into the image of Christ, not into the image of the merciless Pharisees whom he opposed. Hearing our children pray, “Thank you, Lord, that I am not like that fornicator over there,” is not success. One can go to hell with virginity intact.

Thus, you are not ‘owed’ a virgin because you are one.”

“Those who have been forgiven must know that we stand in grace not because our sins are not there, but because Christ has made propitiation for them on the Cross. And not for our sins only, ‘but for those of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2).”

“The issue isn’t whether fornication is damnable; it is. The issue is whether damnation can be turned back, by Golgotha Hill Blood and Garden Tomb Life.”

“Jesus was a virgin. His Bride wasn’t. He loved us anyway.”