Five Minute Friday: Visit

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Gentle Reader,

Chit-chatting with Kate and the crew about the sacred, the mundane and the in-between. Tonight we: visit.

Go.

I’m fascinated by the Myers-Briggs personality profiles. As an INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging) person (and a female one at that, which is apparently rare), learning about the different types and how everyone navigates the world is right up my alley. I love seeing how things interconnect. I’m fascinated by both patterns and differences.

Yet as much as people intrigue me, they drain me. If you imagine a turtle pulling himself deep inside his shell, that would be me. I like alone time. I cherish alone time. I jealously guard alone time.

And then all of a sudden I pop out and go, “Where’s the party?”

I got to do that this past Saturday. The hubs and I invited a few friends over for a visit, something I haven’t been able to do since before I had surgery. I don’t dive into friendship quickly or easily, so I’ve had the same core group for about 10 years. Three of my dearest relationships stretch back to high school. When we get together, in whatever combination, the banter flies fast and heavy – and then turns abruptly to matters like politics and theology.

There’s such joy in that.

Such sweet comfort in the bouncing from the silly to the serious, knowing that the jests are made with a gentle heart and the thoughts shared have been weighed and considered.

I may not speak to any one of my friends on a daily or even weekly basis, but there is a love that connects us. If one of them needed a kidney and I was a match, there’d be no questions about it.

My heart swelled with warmth as I sat on my little corner of the couch and looked into those dear faces squished into every nook of the tiny living room. I was tired and sore. I’m always tired and sore these days. But I was so very glad to have arranged that visit.

Stop.

Grace and peace along the way.

50 Shades of Something Else Entirely

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Gentle Reader,

I realize that I’m a couple of weeks late to the party, but I do like to make a dramatic entrance.

There is a plethora of articles and information out there that go into great detail as to why 50 Shades of Grey is nothing more than an attempt to glamourize (and thinly at that) an abusive relationship. Some of the loudest voices actually come from within the BDSM community itself, which I find incredibly telling. Priscilla Shirer discussed the series at length with author Dana Gresh and clinical psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery over two episodes on The Chat (you can find part one here). And of course there are quips galore, the best of which has been floating around Twitter (I am unclear as to the original source):

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is romantic only because the guy is a billionaire. If he was living in a trailer it would be a “Criminal Minds” episode.

How true. Although I dispute that it’s romantic at all.

I’m not going to give you an exhaustive list of reasons as to why you should avoid 50 Shades. (Except that it began as Twilight fan-fiction. Please do dwell on that for a bit). It’s been done and by people far better versed on the topic than I. A simple Google search will lead you to that conclusion.

I have something else to tell you.

First, let’s be quite clear about the fact that this is pornography. Women who would (justifiably) flip out if their husbands or boyfriends indulged in the consumption of illicit material are absolutely kidding themselves (or outright lying) if they insist that 50 Shades is “just” a love story. This series has sold well because of the graphic descriptions of sex. (And the descriptions can’t even be that good; more than a few reviewers have said that E.L. James’ writing is awful). If you read the books or see the movie, at least be honest about what it is that you’re putting into your mind.

Second, the major thematic element in the 50 Shades series is control, not love. I have not read the books (nor will I) but I have had enough exposure to them to know. I’ve read plenty of quotes. I’ve cataloged dozens of copies of each one for the library. I know that Mr. Must-be-Ironically-Named Christian Grey stalks, grooms and abuses Anastasia I-Checked-My-Brain-at-the-Door Steele (she has GOT to be the single-dumbest female character ever written). I know that he uses his past as an excuse for his present behavior. I know that he uses power – financial, physical, emotional – to manipulate this woman he so “loves.”

There’s nothing sexy or romantic about it. The fact that anyone thinks otherwise is quite literally beyond my understanding.

But maybe the people who enjoy these books (and the movie that the actors themselves found to be horrid) were never stalked, groomed or abused.

I was.

Too young and naive to understand, too convinced of my own complete lack of self-worth, I never found the words to discuss what happened to me as it was happening. Not with my parents or other trusted adults, at any rate. My friends were aware of some things, but they were also too young and too naive. Many of these people are still in my life and I love them to pieces, but their advice at the time simply wasn’t helpful. How could it be? We had no experience of these things.

There is nothing but horror to be felt when your boyfriend pretends to shoot himself during a phone conversation because he loves you “so much.” Nothing but confusion when he screams at you in front of others because you achieved something while he wasted his time and somehow that’s your fault. Nothing but pain when he calls you terrible names. Nothing but frustration when he starts dictating your clothing choices. Nothing but an undefinable emotion when you tell him that you’re afraid he’ll hit you – and he does. Nothing but terror after you break up with him and he shows up at your workplace, outside your classroom doors, uninvited at friend’s houses when you’re there, follows you home night after night and sits in the street for long stretches, staring.

And yet you think all of these awful feelings are somehow love, because he’s sunk his hooks so deep into your mind that you no longer know what’s up or down, right or wrong. When you try to confront him about something, he cries. Or refuses to speak. Because you’ve hurt him. Because you don’t understand how deep his devotion to you goes. How dare you question him?

I’m still afraid to run across this guy and it’s been more than 11 years since the last incident. I don’t want to be afraid. I’m a grown woman with a good life and an ever-growing sense of self. By the grace of God, I’m strong. I’ve dealt with some genuinely difficult stuff. Yet the handful of times I’ve run into him… The ice crawls up my spine in the thinking about them.

Real love is not about control, my friend. Relationships are not based in one partner dominating the other. Ladies, there is something fundamentally flawed in your thinking if you are attracted to Mr. Grey, if you think he’s so dreamy and you want a guy just like him. There are plenty of Mr. Grey’s in the world – and they are evil. They will manipulate you. Gaslight you. Abuse you. They will cut you until all of your beautiful sparkle, all of your unique life, is drained out through the veins of identity and value.

That’s not love. That’s not romance.

It’s 50 Shades of something else entirely.

Darling, precious women – you are worth SO MUCH MORE. In fact, the God of all creation has such passionate love for you that He sacrificed His own life so you could be with Him. So you could be made whole. He wants nothing more than to bring you out of darkness and into the light of His wholly perfect love. He wants you to have healthy relationships where you are cherished. Highly esteemed. Where you can grow and flourish. Where your gifts and talents are appreciated, your strengths admired. Where your weaknesses are acknowledged but never used against you.

God will never push you into the dirt and He doesn’t want you to be with anyone who will.

Mr. Grey belongs in the trash.

Don’t climb in there with him.

Grace and peace along the way.

The Wall and the Wave and the Whole

Gentle Reader.

A negative state of mind can only change if it is consistently flooded with truth. A cynical person can learn to see the bright side only by regular exposure to that which is positive. An anxious, fretful woman banned from using medication must turn to truth and positivitiy the second she begins to stew and worry. To that end, I am participating in the 2015 edition of the Siesta Scripture Memory Team. I’ve got to put good stuff into my soul to drive out the bad that so naturally and easily arises.

Little did I know that the first two verses I chose to memorize would have such depth.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” – John 15:9 (NKJV)

Usually we focus on the “abide” part. We wonder what it means, what it looks like. Truly, the definition is fabulous: “accept or act in accordance with.” So abiding in Jesus’ love means to accept it. To live in it.

I’ve read this verse more times than I know, and this go-around pricked me with something new. “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.” Jesus is telling His people, His disciples, His friends, that He loves them exactly how the Father loves Him. By extension, He loves us exactly as the Father loves Him. We can further surmise that He loves His people just as the He loves the Father, just as the Spirit loves Him, and so on. Dwell on that for a minute. The Holy Trinity has existed in perfect, never-disjointed relationship for all eternity past and will exist in perfect, never-disjointed relationship for all eternity future. The love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit never ends. There is no limit to it. There is no reaching the bottom.

So much beauty. So much comfort.

There is also confrontation.

God’s love isn’t about smoothing things over. It’s not about maintaining the status quo. Jesus walked into the lives of His disciples and turned them completely upside down and inside out. He challenged how they thought, how they acted, how they felt. He’s still doing that today. The constant, unending love of God is first like hitting a brick wall then drowning in a fathomless sea. We go through the wall first. We see the gore of the Cross, the most loving act in history, and we are crushed.

Then the waves rush in. Instead of washing us away, they somehow rebuild.

“He must increase, but I must decrease. ‘ – John 3:30 (NKJV)

I believe that John the Baptist fully embraced the meaning of these words. He knew that Christ was the star of center stage. He knew that his mission was about pointing people to the only Savior. John knew precisely who he was and who he wasn’t.

And that’s because of the Lord.

When we accept and act in accordance with the love of God, we come to understand who we are. There is so much freedom to be had in that understanding. We can walk in confidence. We can speak the truth. We can create healthy boundaries. We can love others without an agenda.

We – I – need the wall and the wave in order to be whole. Love confronts and love comforts. There are times when the most loving thing that God can do is bring us face-to-face with our nastiness. And when we take a good look in that mirror, God never fails to hold us close.

Broken by the wall, rebuilt by the wave.

Made whole.

Grace and peace along the way.