Friday, March 20, 2009

Part Two

I want to really drive this idea home, so I'd like to read a story from -- yep, you guessed it -- Lauren Winner's Real Sex.

I recently attended a women's retreat where one of the workshops was about singleness. The speaker, whom I'll call Myrtle, encouraged the single women in the audience to think carefully about what type of guy they're looking for. "You want a Prince Charming," Myrtle said, "and Prince Charmings are attracted to modest women. You might attract certain men by sporting skimpy skirts, but you won't attract the kind of man you really want to be with."

It's encouraging to think that mature Christians are more interested in character than cleavage; yet there is something unsettling about this assurance that chastity will be the erotic mystery that will lead Mr. Right (or Miss Right) to our door. Prince Charming can begin to rival God as the object of our attentions. Myrtle ended her talk on this note: "What we single women have to do is no more and no less than faithfully pray that our perfect guy is out there. We don't need to hunt him down, we just need to wait for the Lord to deliver him to us. [Is he a pizza?] We don't need to worry about him. Instead we need to focus on ourselves, becoming the pure, modest woman that our Prince Charming will be on the lookout for. We need to devote ourselves to prayer, humility, and grace. We need to continue becoming godly women, so that when the time is right, we will have those godly characteristics that the godly man we dream about will love."

[And that sounds right doesn't it? I mean, that does sound like what we ought to be doing: focusing on prayer, humility, and grace. But this is the point:] I'm not disputing the desirability of the chaste woman or man. It may well be that one of the benefits of practicing chastity is that you attract friends and admirers that admire chastity. But attracting others is not the goal of chastity. Indeed, if Myrtle is focused on catching the eye of the guy who likes chaste women, she may not be inhabiting chastity at all.
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Myrtle seems to be working toward becoming, principally, the kind of woman Prince Charming wants, which incidentally may be the kind of woman God wants. Her priorities, I would suggest, need to flip-flop. We are to become the persons of God, and this may bear the incidental fruit of attracting a great partner. The point of chastity is not that you turn your attention away from other people to make you more attractive to them, but that you turn your attention away from sexual and romantic entanglements with other people, and orient yourself toward God. (129-131, bracketed parentheticals mine)
What does it mean to “orient our lives toward God”?

Right. It means we align ourselves to God’s ways. Why would we do that?

[Silence.]

It's a tough question, I know, but an important one. Why does it matter? Why should we bother? Let me help you put words to what I suspect some of you know in that deep, unspeakable way. God’s way is the way it’s supposed to be. We talked last week about the physical reality of sex being evidence that God’s creational intention for sex is good and right and true; how sexually transmitted diseases evidence the fact that when we misdirect our sex-lives, something isn’t right. Look around you. Look around you and you’ll see things aren’t the way they're supposed to be. There’s so much hurting in the world. There’s so much hurting sexually; things are no longer true -- or straight -- they’re bent. Jesus came and he began the process of righting all the wrong and healing all the hurt. Those of us who believe are called to continue the work Christ began until he returns, when everything will be made right at long last! We do this by orienting our lives toward God.

Here’s where I get back to why it’s important to have standards concerning who you will and will not date. Because purity, sexual purity, is bigger than sets of dos and don’ts, rights and wrongs, standards and judgments; it’s about shaping our lives to the themes of the Gospel, themes such as love, mercy, justice, healing, forgiveness; themes such as defending the oppressed and supporting the weak; themes that express God’s way. Learning how to do this is a life-long process. Jesus promises in Matthew 6 that if we will orient our lives toward God’s kingdom, everything else will work out. In light of this promise, let me challenge you to commit the rest of your lives invested in communities dedicated to learning what it means to pray and live out, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth...” Marry the man who has oriented his life toward God and journey toward the Kingdom together… for as long as you both shall live.

Part One

Below is a talk I gave recently to our high school girls. I thought you all might appreciate it.
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Today we’re going to talk about boundaries and expectations. Both of which cause us to be selective.

I have to thank Brad Paisley for a song of his which has provided me with this metaphor: dating is a lot like shopping for new clothes. The line from the song goes like this:
When you go out shopping, you try on brand new clothes.
To see if something fits or not, there's just one way to know.
Why's it any different when someone asks you out?
You might as well just try me on before you turn me down.
I appreciate this metaphor. I walk into a store -- even ones I frequent -- and sometimes I don't know how something is going to fit until I try it on. Other times I can tell simply by looking at a piece that it isn't my style or is too big or too small. You know, there are some stores I don't even have to go into because those clothes aren't for me: they might be too trashy or too preppy or whatever. Also, having friends with me whom I trust is helpful. They're honest with me and will encourage me to try things I might not otherwise; items they know will look good on me when I may be unsure -- and they're almost always right! I also depend on them to tell me, "No, Renea. That dress doesn't do you right; that color is not for you. Renea, seriously; put that one back." :)

You see where this is going don't you? Okay, so dating, well, living really, is about risk, but it's calculated risk -- more or less. To say that it's important to take risks... in any relationship, dating or otherwise, is not to say we should be uncritical or haphazard. Not being selective about who you’ll date is like letting a perfect stranger pick out all your clothes for you; whatever that person brings you, that is what you have to buy, take home, and wear. You don't do that. Why would you be unbiased about who you date?

Okay. So let’s talk about dating non-Christians. How many of you think it’s probably okay to date unbelievers? You can be honest. Come on. Forget for a minute that you know what the right answers are supposed to be, or that you think you know what I want you to say. ‘Cuz let’s be real, if you’re unconvinced about what the church has to say about dating unbelievers, chances are we’re dropping the ball in some way. And hey, we aren’t right about everything; that’s impossible; maybe we’re wrong about this. So if you think we are, let’s talk about it.

Worldview. Whole persons. Intimacy. (Sorry, I did this part extemporaneously.)

The author of our book puts it this way: “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it. Is that how you want to aim for your husband – with an open, blank slate? Or do you want to dream of someone who is just right for you, who complements your weaknesses, and who fulfills your hopes and desires” (63)?

And the point she’s making is the same one Brad and I were making with the shopping illustration. If we don’t have certain standards, goals, ideas and expectations for our lives, including our love-lives, we’ll be directionless. We’ll zig and zag here and there following any story about sex and romance that’s compelling in the moment. And that makes us incredibly vulnerable to believing the lies and distorted views the world has about who we are and how we should live, distorted views about who we are sexually and how we should live our romantic lives.

I’d like to take this thought a bit further, if you’ll let me. I’d like to suggest a bigger target. That instead of aiming for a husband who will fulfill the hopes you’ve pinned upon him, we aim for the Bridegroom of the Church, Jesus, and put our hope in him. As you release your arrow in the direction of the Kingdom, if you happen to snag a husband by the shirt collar, GREAT! More to the point, if your arrow becomes intertwined with another going in the same direction, WONDERFUL!

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Stay tuned for part two, and see where we go from here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The P.E.A.C.E. Plan

This is a teaser vid. Go to the website, get yourself something to eat, get comfortable, and watch the whole sermon.

video