Nothing is really lost in God’s economy. I learned a lot in my research for the novel I never finished.
I learned that anger is not a good motivator.
I learned that I can change my mind about a group I distrusted.
I learned that suffering is not the only way to gain Godly wisdom. If we pay attention to history and the wisdom gained by other people’s mistakes, we can move on down the road more quickly than if, like recalcitrant teenagers, we have to experience absolutely everything for ourselves.
I was following a discussion on purity and the courting/betrothal movement today. A couple of blogs pointing out some basic assumptions about purity and responsibility made me think.
One of my characters, who had been delivered to a medieval nunnery in my non-existent novel, questioned the high value placed on living without sexual experience as a basis for recognized sainthood for women ( I learned this after I spent a considerable amount of time reading about the lives of saints officially canonized.)
“Why is it,” the young girl asked, “that so many women are honoured for what they did not do instead of what they did do? Why is protecting your virginity until death of more value than raising loving, courageous children, or treating a difficult mother-in-law kindly?”
Even today, the emphasis on purity and “guarding one’s heart” against any undo or premature emotional, or especially sexual feelings, in order to avoid temptation, may seem like a good idea at first. Alas, as is often the case, when wisdom is hijacked by fear the result is usually more rules – fences around fences. For parents who fear that their kids might someday suffer the same negative consequences of giving into temptation like Mom or Dad did, control becomes the new temptation.
In medieval times it was thought that virgins had greater influence with God in their prayers, so families often designated one or two of their progeny to cover the sins of the rest of the gang by shipping them off (often against their will) to cloisters and monasteries. Enclosure behind high thick walls ensured the “purity” of their bodies, if not their hearts.
Some young people are still raised with the notion that any sexual feelings or attractions qualify as impure thoughts and uncontrollable lust, and that merely being alone in the presence of someone of the opposite gender can lead to “defrauding.” Not only does this skip the opportunity to develop self-control, it often leads to young women feeling responsible for men’s lack of it. The crazy part is, once they are married (when a young man is brave enough to run the gauntlet and seek her father’s permission to formalize a conversation over a plate of nachos – with a view to marriage) the young woman, who has been told for years that thinking anything other than no, no, no is “defrauding,” is now suddenly “defrauding” if she says anything other than yes, yes, yes. She goes from “You mustn’t!” to “You must!” without passing Go. Legalism can take the fun out of everything.
You can tell that grace is no longer a part of the equation when God’s permission has to be qualified with yeah-but disclaimers and words are re-defined. When impure means having a God-given sexual feeling and lust is merely being attracted to someone, or guarding your heart means shutting it down, fear is running the show. Self-control ( aka moderation) is a fruit that comes from Holy Spirit — whose love casts out fear.
The actions of Godly wisdom and of human fear may look the same for a while, but one leads to freedom and the other to more slavery (the whole point of Galatians). God sees the heart – and there’s a wideness in his mercy.
Love means respecting our own and others personal boundaries. Love means recognizing and respecting our own and others limitations when it comes to resisting temptations to indulge in practices that will not be in our best interest, whether eating, or overworking, or making out without making a commitment to care. The grace of Christ means we are no longer slaves to fear, nor to deliberate choices to act in ways that come from contempt for God, others or ourselves.
The gate may be relatively narrow, but it’s hard to dance on a tight rope of our own making. It is for freedom that Christ has made us free. Let’s not get tangled up in barbed-wire fence rules again.