The one about allies

I was pretty angry last week. Re-reading my entries I don’t regret them at all, but I decided today I would try to write from a more positive viewpoint. There’s a lot that frustrates me about the world, but there are also parts of the world that make me glad. Good allies give me strength. The word ally has a rich history as word used to describe countries that were on the same side. However, it can also be aw way to describe interpersonal relationships. The easiest definition for me is that an ally has my back. I wanted to draw attention to two of my allies that are making me happy in this post.

Last week my family and I were watching the Olympics. It was the night that Bodie Miller skied in one of his many events. (You may have heard about the part of the night where a reporter repeatedly asked him about the death of his brother until Miller finally broke down and cried.) Before that happened NBC had a clip package all about Miller’s life with his  wife and young son. As I am wont to do when I watch television and see something that upsets me I began to rant a little about Miller and the “all American family” image being projected around him. I don’t want to get into all the specifics that made me angry about this because as I said, I want today’s post to be uplifting. If you don’t know about what I’m talking about you can read the details here. My mother had already heard about this so I was really telling my dad. I quoted from the linked article quite a bit to make my points. I expressed my frustration at the way the mother of Miller’s child seemed to have been forgotten in favor of the perfect story package for NBC.

My dad listened carefully as he usually does when I go on about something. I finished what I had to say and we went back to watching the show. The next day I was browsing my Facebook newsfeed which was of course full of people talking about how terrible it was that a reporter pushed Miller to talk about his brother until he cried. (By the way let me just say that as disgusted as I am by the custody battle surrounding Miller and the mother of his baby, I agree that the reporter went WAY too far in her interview.) As I scrolled down the page I came across my dad’s profile. He had posted a link to this article and added “this should make us cry too.”

Which brings me to my first point about good allies. Good allies listen, and use their status as allies to inform others about an issue that is important to you. My dad didn’t have much to say the night before when I was talking about the Miller situation. But, he was obviously listening. I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful it feels when people listen. Sometimes I feel like people must roll their eyes when I start talking about something. “Oh here goes Janelle again. She’s upset about something.” Believe me, I know I can make much ado about nothing. But, it can still be disheartening to think that people are already checked out the moment I open my mouth. But my dad posting the article was him saying he heard me. He heard what I had to say. He heard me not only in that moment, but on into the next day. Which lead him to use his role as my ally to inform others about something that was important to me. It’s a small thing that makes a big impact.

The second example of a great ally came this past Sunday. At church we’ve been doing a study called “One Another” which focuses on the passages in the Bible that direct us to do things unto “one another.” It’s been a great series and you can check them all out for download here. On Sunday Pastor Brad read from Ephesians 5 and the topic of his sermon was submission. (And yes that included the wives submit to your husbands passage) It’s always interesting to watch women in a congregation when this particular topic and these particular verses are brought up. They straighten up in their chairs. Their eyes seem to spark. Some lean forward in their seats. Others turn to their friends and share a “how is this going to go” look. I had a friend tell me after the service when she realized what the topic and text were she thought “Oh no.” I admit I had a quick moment of worry. But I shouldn’t have been worried. Because my pastor and my church are my allies.

I could quote the whole sermon here for you because it was so great, but I won’t. (Trust me, you need to download and listen to it. I’m not going to be able to cover all the great parts.) Pastor Brad spent a lot of time on the idea that submission is personal. He asked us all to set aside our preconceptions about what it means to submit, and what we thought this passage of scripture meant. He reminded us that submission is not a definition you can apply to another person. When he talked about husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church he spelled out what that really meant; death. Christ died for his church. When I talked to several of my friends after church we all became fixated on his next line and how much it blew us away. Pastor Brad, using his own family as an example, said ” I die to my own wants so that Leah has what she needs.”

I’ve known men in my life that believed this. I was raised by a man that believes this. My sister is married to a man that believes this. But this was the first time I’d heard a pastor say something like this from the pulpit on a Sunday morning and it almost made me cry. Allies use their position of power to lift you up. Pastor Brad reminded all of us that what is most radical about Paul’s words were not the ones that talked to the wives, children and slaves. Those people being told to submit was not a radical concept. What was radical was the instruction to those in power; the husbands, parents, and masters. Having an ally use his position of power to lift me up instead of holding me down is freeing. It frees me to submit with a full and thankful heart. Submission becomes easier because I know the leaders in my church are my allies. They love me like Christ loved the church.

These are just two examples of the many allies I am blessed to have in my life. The world around me can be extremely frustrating. But, it gets a little easier to deal with thanks to allies like my dad and Pastor Brad. How about you? Are their allies in your life that came up at just the right moment and gave you strength? Have you ever been that for another person? Share your thoughts in the comments!

The one about a book survey

I’ve been very busy since the last time I wrote with some really exciting things that I’ll be mentioning soon so continue to watch this space! But until then I decided to participate in another one of the many “book memes” that are floating around the blogosphere. This one I found on Should Be Reading and it’s called Musing Mondays. This Musing Monday post asked bloggers to play around with the 3 books questionnaire. Maybe you’ll find a great new book to read! Here are the questions and my answers.

3 BOOKS THAT HAVE IMPACTED YOU

1. Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James
2. Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World by Lisa Bloom
3. Emma by Jane Austen

3 BOOKS CURRENTLY ON YOUR WISHLIST

1. Anne’s World: A New Century of Green Gables edited by Irene Gammel and Benjamin Lefebvre
2. Reading the Women of the Bible: A New Interpretation of Their Stories by Tikva Frymer-Kensky
3. The Pleasure of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs

3 BOOKS YOU’VE PURCHASED IN THE LAST 6 MONTHS

1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
2. Arabella by Georgette Heyer
3. How to Blog for Profit (Without Selling Your Soul) by Ruth Soukup

3 BOOKS YOU CAN’T HELP BUT RECOMMEND TO OTHERS

1. The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
2. Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
3. Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans

3 BOOKS WITH AMAZING COVERS

1. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (for pure nostalgia factor)

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2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (because Noelle Stevenson is an amazing artist and you should check out her tumblr for more drawings and her web comic!)FANGIRL_CoverDec2012-725x1075
3. Emma (yarn edition) by Jane Austen. (Because yes this version is made out of yarn! Check it out here.)9780143106463_Emma_ClaDlx.indd

Link me to your blog with your answers, or if you don’t have one leave your answers in comments! I’m always looking to add to my reading list.

The one about words

CVS 10:00 AM. I’m waiting in line to pay for my shampoo. There are 3 other people behind  me. The bank of check out counters are right in front of me. The sign to my left says “Form one line and wait for next available register.” The man, about 6 feet tall 40 years old swaggers up pauses for a split second next to the rest of us and then proceeds to move directly behind the person paying at the register. I gently clear my throat and say “Excuse me, but the line actually starts here.” He turns giving me the dirtiest look and responds “Oh, sorry” the tone making perfectly clear that he really isn’t sorry, but he moves to the back of the line so who cares. Less than 10 seconds later a second man approaches the line and realizes there are 5 people standing in line. He speaks to the first man “Is this the line?” The first man responds “Yes” and then raising his voice a little bit louder to make sure that I can hear says “And you better not try to cut because the line police will make sure to correct you. Because ladies ALWAYS have to be first I guess.”

I turn back and give him my iciest glare but before I can really get into it it’s my turn to pay. I finish my transaction and start to leave. His words follow me out, “Great! now how are we going to know how to stand in line?”  By the time I get to my car I am shaking with anger and reminding myself over and over that I absolutely cannot go back in there and give this jerk a piece of my mind. This is not the worst thing that has ever happened to me. This isn’t even the worst time I’ve been harassed by a strange man. But for some reason this time I am almost boiling over the rage of how we use words to take power away from each other. In two sentences I move from a person concerned about being polite, to a bitchy control freak who sees her job as being the person who keeps everybody else in line. I sit in my car for a few minutes waiting to calm down and I think about what could have made that situation different. If only I was older, bigger, or stronger. If only I was a man the size of my father. He probably wouldn’t have had the guts to speak like that around him. And I’m tired. I’m so tired of it.

I’m tired of the double speak.

to a woman “You’re so bossy!”

to a man “You’re so decisive!

to a woman “Whoa calm down, you’re making a big deal out of nothing.

to a man “Wow you’re really upset. This must be an even bigger deal than I thought it was!”

to a woman “You’re such a control freak!”

to a man “You know exactly what you want and you go after it!”

to a woman “Don’t be a show off.”

to a man “You have so much confidence!”

to a woman “You’re being a bitch.”

to a man “You’re the man!”

to a woman “Wow! Why are you angry? Calm down!

to a man “Wow! You’re so passionate!”

Enough

I’m done.

No more.

Telling someone not to cut in line doesn’t make me a bitch. Being decisive, knowing what I want and asking for it does not make me a bitch. Don’t speak to me like I’m a child. I’m not. Don’t mistake my politeness for timidity. Don’t mistake my silence for fear. I’m not afraid of you. I’ve just decided you aren’t even worth my time. Trying to get through to you would be like screaming at wall asking it to move; worthless. So, go ahead and say what you want. I’m moving on. And you’re moving to the back of the line.

This entry is very raw and I freely admit pretty righteously angry. Have any of my readers dealt with this feeling? This feeling that an aspect of your personality is being demonized simply because of your gender? What did you do to cope with it? See below for a really great commercial that also captures what I’m talking below. Leave your thoughts in the comments!

The one about Valentine’s day

Well, another Valentine’s day has come and gone. I wouldn’t call myself a cynic about the day. Growing up my parents always bought Jena and I gifts and the focus of the day was always about ALL the people in your life you loved not just romantic love. But yesterday I found myself thinking about the romantic love aspect of Valentine’s day. And then I opened my reader and saw that The Junia Project had posted an excellent blog about dating as an egalitarian. The Junia project is a really great website with many bloggers who write about gender equality in the church. This post was entitled “Questions About Egalitarian Dating” by Kate Wallace. It was a really great blog about finding a person who has the same views on gender roles as you do. It also brought up some interesting questions for those of us who are egalitarian to talk about in the comments like; who pays for the date? Who opens doors? and, “When should you have the gender roles talk?” I found the ensuing discussion really interesting, and enjoyed reading all of the comments. I even commented myself. I stated my answer to those questions (read the blog to see exactly what I said), but I had to put a few caveats in my response. I’ll quote part of it here.

Honestly, as a mid twenties egalitarian woman trying to date my biggest problem isn’t finding a guy who thinks I’m equal to him, but just finding a guy… these questions are things I wish I struggled with as a “dating” egalitarian woman, but really I can’t even seem to find any Christian men right now much less worry about these questions.

Okay so do I sound sufficiently like a whiny single girl yet? Bear with me I have a point. What I have just articulated is something I am seeing articulated by many single Christian girls (this may also be a thing for Christian guys but since I’m speaking from my own experience I wouldn’t know). I think these issues highlight a bigger problem facing the church at large. The church doesn’t know how to help older single people and older couples. 

Google any books about Christian dating and most of what you’ll find falls into two categories. 1) the “I kissed dating goodbye” courtship type of book, and 2)books that seem targeted more toward high school and college age people. But, if you manage to get out of college without finding a significant other…good luck and good riddance because not only are there seemingly no books, but the church you go to probably won’t be talking about this in any substantial way.

The older I get the more I realize we need to do an overhaul on how we talk about dating as a community. I have heard single Christian guy friends talk about not wanting to go out with a girl until they find out many things about her; her hopes and dreams, how involved she wants to be in ministry, and if their personalities mesh. My bewildered response was always a variation of “You know how you figure those things out? You go ON A DATE WITH HER!” But then, the more I thought about it the more I realized that the problem wasn’t just in their thought process, but instead their thought process was a result of the culture they were raised in. I think the church (whether intentionally or subconsciously) teaches that casual dating is wrong. 

Now track with me because this part may get confusing. I am not for casual dating. But I also am for casual dating. Let me explain! I would not date a man that I could not picture myself marrying, BUT I don’t think I am going to marry every man I date. That is the difference between bad casual dating and good casual dating. But I think the message we get starting from our teenage years goes along the lines of “casual dating is wrong because you are wasting your time with someone you will not marry.” So wanting to know everything about a girl before he asks her out doesn’t stem from laziness or cheapness, but rather a fear that he is somehow stepping outside of God’s plan by dating willy nilly without getting all the facts.

So what we have are a bunch of single men and women between the ages of 22-30 wandering around trying to figure out how the heck to get into serious relationships with each other without dating casually first. And we are banging our heads against the wall in frustration. (At least I am). Unfortunately, even when Christian singles do manage to find a person and begin a serious relationship with them the problems do not end. The church not only hasn’t figured out how to teach people to be single, they don’t know how to instruct couples who are serious about each other but not entering marriage yet. The message is don’t have sex.

“Okay, but can we make out?

“Don’t have sex.”

“Okay, but seriously what about making out?”

“Don’t have sex.”

“OKAY! COOL I’M WITH YOU! BUT WHAT ABOUT MAKING OUT.”

“Don’t have sex.”

For those of us who are not Amish or Dugger types who won’t have any physical contact with their significant other until marriage, this is immensely frustrating. (By the way I mean no disrespect to those who have chosen to have that type of relationships. I just mean that these issues don’t really apply to them as much.) For the rest of us picture a long straight line. At one end is no physical contact. At the other end is the ultimate physical contact; sex. There is a lot that falls in between those and unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much discussion about that middle part. We hear over and over don’t have sex, but hear nothing about how to be in a long term relationship and stay committed to not having sex before marriage while still having a physical component to your relationship. 

There’s a disturbing silence around this topic. What ends up happening because of this silence is destructive. Couples feel that they are the only ones struggling and figuring things out in the dark. All while not realizing that most of their peers are dealing with the same thing. Silence and hiding leads to guilt which leads to shame and condemnation. And it has to stop. I want to quote the wise words of a friend who is now married but who had some great insight to share.

Other things are talked about openly in church. Like dating intentionally, the purpose of marriage, the actual experience of marriage – all are talked about, but no one has any idea what to do when you are with someone you think you could marry or know you are going to marry. But also it’s interesting to me because I have known people who never kissed until their wedding day or until their engagement, but that’s like two or three couples in history. I’ve known so many more who definitely didn’t wait on that but it’s just like where is the dialogue at all? Everyone doesn’t have to have the same exact guidelines, method, boundaries, but there is a void in dating dialogue. It just skips from like don’t be near the opposite sex at all to everyone is young and already married

That quote is from my friend Diane. She’s wonderful and you should follow her blog here.

I could not have said it better than that. So this Valentine’s day I found myself wishing that this problem would start changing. And I realized if I wanted things to change I needed to open up the dialogue and tell the truth. There’s a gap in our theology and our young couples and singles are falling into it. It’s time to make a change. We won’t figure it out right away. The answers won’t be easy. But we need to be honest and try.

I really want to hear from all of you. If you are single and post college how do you feel about dating? Have you found it hard to date? Why or why not? If you are in a relationship but not married are you having a hard time with this stuff as well? What do you do about it? If you are married did you deal with this while you were single? Leave your thoughts in comments.