making the grade

Do you sometimes feel like you're not smart enough to be around certain people?  Do you think your friends and family are smarter than you?

Oh sure, in school we are graded on our performance.  There are scores for the SAT and ACT.  Supposedly you can even measure your IQ (Intelligence Quotient) in numbers.  Are your grades, scores, and numbers not as high as everyone else's?

Let's step away from all of those measurements for a moment though.  It's not necessarily that other people are smarter than you are.  It's just that we're all smart in different areas.  Imagine for a minute that your friend is a successful lawyer and you are a professional chef.  Does that mean either of you are smarter than the other?  Absolutely not.  You do not know the law inside and out like your friend does and your friend cannot whip up an amazing meal like you can.  Neither of you are smarter.  You both are just good at different things.

If everyone was an athlete, then who would create music?

If everyone was a mathematician, then who would write novels and poetry?

If everyone was a farmer, then who would practice medicine?

You might think that some professions are more complicated than others.  Yes, you might have a hard time understanding what your friend is good at, but your friend might have a hard time understanding what you are good at too.  All of our brains are wired to understand different things in different ways.

So it's not necessarily that some people are smarter than others.  We're all just smarter in different areas and good at different things.  Your talents, abilities, and intelligence are unique to you and no one sees and understands the world in the same exact way you do.

through the speakers

What kind of music do you listen to?  Four of the six radio presets in my car are tuned to either classic rock or oldies stations.  The other two are mainstream stations and the only reason they're tuned to mainstream stations is because I couldn't find enough classic rock or oldies stations to fill up all of my presets.  The collection of music on my Pandora account and my iTunes is varied.  It ranges from Skillet to Frank Sinatra to Queen to Patrick&Eugene and so on.

What kind of music did you listen to when you were growing up?  My parents didn't really allow us to listen to non-Christian music when we were young.  (Considering that NSYNC, Britney Spears, and the Backstreet Boys were some of the popular music during that time, I don't think I missed out on much.)  I remember times when my mom discouraged me from listening to certain kinds of music.  I was listening to Radio Disney one day and my mom made me change the station.  On another occasion when I was older, she wouldn't let me listen to a local Christian rock station.

The music you listened to when you were growing up, do you still listen to it now?  Around when I was 17 or 18, my parents became more lenient about the music we listened to.  It was a little strange because what was once "taboo" was suddenly ok to listen to.  Talk about mixed messages.  Nowadays, I hardly ever listen to contemporary/mainstream Christian music by choice.  I think I got burned out on it.  I enjoy the hymns in church and the songs we sing at OAFC, but you usually will not hear Christian music playing in my car or coming out of my computer speakers.

I understand why my parents had rules about music.  They were just taking care of us and wanted us to have good influences and I thank them for that.  However, I wish they had gone about it a little differently.  Instead of making secular music evil and taboo and never allowing us to listen to it, I wish they had taught us how to recognize why certain songs aren't the best to listen to so we could eventually discern for ourselves what music is inappropriate and what music is acceptable.  We could have learned to recognize the negative influences in certain lyrics and be able to say why they are wrong and choose for ourselves to not listen to them.  Yes, this is something I have learned for myself now that I am older, but I wish I had learned it sooner.  I wish I had learned it sooner so that when friends would talk about music I could have given an educated answer about why I chose to not listen to it instead of lamely saying, "My parents don't allow us to listen to that."


infinite pieces

A friend of mine recently shared this link on Facebook.  How the Teachings of Emotional Purity and Courtship Damage Healthy Relationships.  Be sure to read the follow up article too.  Emotional Purity and Courtship - A Conclusion.

I grew up in what would most likely be called a conservative Christian homeschool environment.  My family wasn't the most extreme conservative family, but we weren't the most liberal either.  We were about in the middle.

I grew up around conservative views on dating, courtship, etc.  I heard things like, "Your first boyfriend should be your only boyfriend and your only husband."  "Don't kiss or hold hands until you're married."  "Don't say 'I love you' until you're engaged/married."  While these rules were never enforced upon me by my parents, I did accept some of them to be hard and fast rules for relationships.  Goals to be attained.  Plans to be followed.

In the article, the author explains how these views and "rules" can cause shame, pride, and dysfunction.  They can also lull us into a false sense of security that if we follow a prescribed set of rules for dating, we will be "safe" from getting hurt.

I can relate to everything written in the article, but the parts about shame are what I identify with the most.

"You are considered damaged goods if you have fallen in love and had your heart broken."

I used to follow this line of thinking.  After my first break up when I was seventeen, I felt like I was "damaged goods".  If I felt that way then, how do you think I feel now having experienced other additional relationships and break ups since then?  If having your heart broken just once makes you "damaged goods" then I ought to be beyond repair at this point.

"It was Josh Harris in I Kissed Dating Goodbye and the Ludy’s in several of their books that popularized the idea that every time you fall in love or get “emotionally attached” to someone, you give away a piece of your heart. The more pieces you give away, the less of your heart you have to give to your spouse someday."

Again, I used to follow this line of thinking.  I used to feel like I was somehow less of myself after every break up.  That I left part of myself behind.  Yes, it is painful to break up with someone when you have become so emotionally close to them.  It hurts any time you lose someone you love, whether that someone was a boyfriend, girlfriend, family member, etc.  But should we let that loss define us?

The thought that your heart is portioned into pieces is silly.  It's like saying, "Oh, I'm sorry, your heart only has four pieces and you just gave your last piece away.  You are no longer able to love.  You are no longer fit to be in a relationship."  The love in our hearts should not have a limit.  It should  not run out.  As the author says:

"Love doesn’t work that way. The more you give, the more you have. My third child doesn’t have less of my heart just because I’ve loved two other children before him. And, really, I haven’t given them “pieces” of my heart. I’ve given them each all of my heart. The miracle of love is that it multiplies by being given."

God loves us, right?  Right.  And it makes Him sad, breaks His heart when we sin, right?  Right.  So what if every time we sinned, God lost a piece of His heart?  If God had a finite number of pieces of His heart, and He lost a piece every time we sinned, then He would eventually run out.  What kind of God is that?  God doesn't run out of love.  And if God doesn't run out of love for us, we shouldn't run out of love for each other, no matter how many times we break each others hearts.

My young homeschool friends and I, whenever we talked about boys it was only terms of having crushes on them or them being potential boyfriends.  We never talked about them as being friends.  We never interacted with them as friends like we interacted with each other.  This led to a skewed way of thinking.  This led my mind to believe it's nearly impossible for a guy and gal to be friends without any romantic ulterior motives at all.  It's taken quite a while to reverse this way of thinking.  As the author says:

"Guess what? In the real world, men and women can have innocent relationships. They can talk to each other without there being ulterior motives. They can laugh and exchange wits and, yes, even drive in a car together without anybody thinking anything dubious is happening. They are not naive but they are not afraid of their own shadows. Purity and integrity in relationships can exist without unnaturally freaking out about it."

I remember as a young teenager, beginning to read a Christian book about dating.  I don't remember the title or if my parents had told me to read it.  But I do remember within the first few pages it said something like, "Relationships require commitment.  If you can't commit to reading this book all the way through, then you can't commit to a relationship."  I stopped reading the book and never picked it up again.  The author of the book would probably use that as evidence to say I can't be in a committed relationship.  I would say that I felt the author was trying to put me on a guilt trip to finish his book.  "Oh no, if I can't finish this book, then I can't be in a relationship!"  Yes, I was only a teenager when I rejected that book, but I would still do the same thing today.  I'm not going to let an author guilt me into finishing his book or make me afraid that I can't be in a relationship.

The thought of having only one boyfriend and that boyfriend being your only husband is nice.  And if you don't want to kiss, hold hands, or say 'I love you' until you're married, that's perfectly fine too.  But do it only because it's your personal preference and not because you're trying to prove something, not so you can boast.

"I remember watching a video in which one of the biggest names in the courtship movement bragged with obvious arrogance that he didn’t tell his wife he loved her until their wedding. And I thought, “How twisted can we get? We took something as simple as saying ‘I love you,’ built a straw man rule around it (‘saying I love you is defrauding’), then hung it like a trophy on our walls.” Job well done, folks."

I recently talked with a friend of mine about relationships and such.  I expressed to him my concern that I don't want to go through divorce in the future.  I have seen what others have gone through when they have a child out of wedlock, when they go through divorce, and other terrible things.  I told him I didn't want to put myself, my future husband, or my future children through that.  While he commended my noble intentions, he also reminded me that everyone is sinful.  The divorce rate among Christians is similar to the rate among non-Christians.  Marriage is a commitment between two people.  If those two people continue to love each other, work together, and support each other, then everything should be fine and dandy.  But if one of them starts to falter or stray and he or she has no intentions of fixing the problem, then there isn't much that can be done to save the marriage.

"1 + 1= 2. Emotional purity + Biblical courtship = Godly marriage. But life doesn’t work that way. You can do everything “right” and your life can still go wrong. You can do everything “wrong” and still be blessed. Rain falls on the good and evil. Time and chance happen to them all. People who follow the courtship formula still get divorced. Or stuck in terrible marriages. Courtship is not the assurance of a good marriage. Life is too complicated for that. Love involves vulnerability. When you choose to love, you are choosing to accept risking a broken heart. No formula can protect you. Life involves risk. Following God involves risk. He is not a “safe” God. But He is good."

As the author says, you can do everything "right" and things can still go wrong.  Following a courtship formula does not guarantee you will have a "happily ever after".  All humans are sinful.  Bad things happen.

"Formula says, “I will follow a God that I’ve put neatly in a box, and He will give me the desired results.” Faith says, “I will follow You even when I can’t see where I’m going, even when the world is collapsing around me.” Formula says, “I will not risk. I will be in control of my future.” Faith says “I will risk everything. I will trust Him whom I cannot see, surrender what I cannot control anyway.” Formula is the assurance of things planned for, the conviction of things seen. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)."

Instead of trusting a certain set of rules will protect our hearts, we should trust in God who guides us and takes care of us no matter what happens, whether or not our hearts are broken.

So where do I stand in the midst of all this?  What are my opinions and beliefs?

Lately, I've been feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted when it comes to relationships.  I feel spent, worn out, and tired of trying.  The views discussed above and in the referenced article definitely contribute to this exhaustion.  I believed I was giving away pieces of my heart.  I believed it was best to have one boyfriend.  I believed in trying to save as much physical contact for marriage as possible.  What did all of this belief get me?  Shame.  Guilt.  Sadness.  Self-doubt.  Self-loathing.  Unworthiness.  I believed that since I didn't follow the rules, that somehow made me less desirable.  My mistakes and my sin tarnished me.  It made me unwanted.  If the rules that are supposed to keep you safe and "guard your heart" make you feel like this instead, then I think there's something wrong.

I'm still "under construction" as I like to call it.  I'm still recovering from these dangerous views on relationships.  I'm still recovering from what I've been through emotionally and mentally.  I will be ok eventually.  The love and encouragement I have received from friends and family has meant so much to me.

This entry is terribly long and I haven't even touched on the second article.  Please go ahead and read it.  Anything I would write about it would just be reiterating what it says.  It talks about how we are to love one another if we're not supposed to follow the rules of courtship.  Definitely take the time to read it and thank you for sticking around long enough to finish this lengthy entry.  While racking up a high number of views isn't the point of this blog, I do enjoy it when others are able to take something away from what I write.  When you go through as much heartache as I have, it eventually comes in handy.  God has a reason for everything, even the painful things.  :)