Saturday, November 16, 2013

Love, Save the Empty

“Mom, this boy at school won’t leave me alone. He chases me around at recess, pokes me all the time and calls me names. Why is he doing this?”

“Oh sweetie. He must just like you, that’s all!”

How many of us have had this conversation? I think we’ve probably all said things like this to little girls in our lives. Sometimes, it’s true. Boys mature at a slower rate than girls, and as children they struggle to show feelings in an appropriate way. This might also be because society tells boys that men don’t cry or show any kind of sensitivity in any way. What’s a little guy to do when he finds himself “in love” but unable to show his little sweetie the kindness and respect she deserves because the world tells him he’s a wimp when he does so? We try to make sense of this confusing world of growing up by telling our little girls that when boys like you they are mean to you.

I don’t like that very much. And here’s why.

Little girls grow up in a complicated and confusing world. Their families and friends tell them they are beautiful, but society bombards them with false images of beauty that they desire far more than what God has naturally blessed them with. Take a look at this video—this completely fake woman who has been distorted and changed beyond recognition. She starts off as a pretty girl on her own, but winds up looking beautiful beyond what is actually achievable. She is computer generated, but when we see these images on TV commercials and magazine covers we fail to recognize the lies that these women actually are. The end result is a constant struggle to achieve the impossible.

The woman is literally erased and stretched out right before our eyes. Still, our little girls are looking up to these fake women and striving to be them. They are bound to fail, because these women are NOT REAL. Little girls grow up into young women who desire more than anything to be loved and cherished. But if they don’t believe what their families and friends say to them, who will they believe? Who do they then go searching after in order to fill the hole in their hearts? I think we all know the answer—boys.

When young women are desperate for love and affection, they often fail to recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship. And why should they see the signs if for their whole lives people told them that when boys like a girl, they are mean to them. Affection starved young girls overlook abusive treatment in relationships because they’ve convinced themselves that the behavior will probably go away one day, or that the man doesn’t really mean to hurt her, he just doesn’t know how to express his love properly. They try to explain it away, to rationalize it. Take a listen to P!NK’s newest song, “True Love.” I hate this song. Every time it comes on the radio I keep it on just so I can reaffirm that I still hate it, and that the message hidden inside this catchy little tune are damaging words to young women everywhere.

Here are some lyrics that particularly get on my nerves:
·         “I know life would suck without you. At the same time, I wanna hug you, I wanna wrap my hands around your neck. You’re an a—hole, but I love you, and you make me so mad I ask myself why I’m still here, or where could I go, you’re the only love I’ve ever known, but I hate you, I really hate you so much it must be true love.”
o   Seriously? If this guy is an a—hole and you’re asking yourself why you’re still with him….why are you still with him? She explains why in the next few words. “You’re the only love I’ve ever known.” Women in abusive relationships are told by their abusers over and over again that they are worthless and that no one else would ever love them. When you are told something often enough, you begin to believe it. So even when violence finds its way into the picture, women often don’t leave because they truly believe they are unworthy and unlovable, that their abusers is the only one that will ever love them. Great words of encouragement, pop culture!
·         “Just once try to wrap your little brain around my feelings. Just once please try not to be so mean.”
o   If the man in your life never stops to consider your feelings, it probably isn’t a healthy relationship. If you have to ask the man in your life to “just once try not to be so mean” it probably isn’t a healthy relationship. But hey, if a boy is mean to you it means he likes you, so it probably isn’t a big deal anyway. See my point? We are teaching our young women that it is okay for men to mistreat them, because in actuality it is true love!
·         “Why do you rub me up the wrong way? Why do you say the things that you say? Sometimes I wonder how we ever came to be, but without you I’m incomplete. I think it must be true love.”
o   How does one come to the conclusion that this kind of treatment is true love? It just doesn’t make sense to me!

I know the majority of people who hear this song probably don’t read into it as much as I do. It’s true that we treat those closest to us the worst. I can be having the worst day ever but I will smile and chat politely with the cashier at the grocery store and then go home and lash out at my husband. We all do that. That’s what most people probably think of when they hear this song. But children soak in everything they hear. When all the songs on the radio tell them to sell their bodies for love and that true love means being miserable and just bearing through it, they will take that to heart. All the messages that the world throws at them don’t just roll off their shoulders. Years and years of this kind of “education” will affect them more than we’d like to think. The cycle of abuse gets harder and harder to break when there are so many negative messages like P!NK’s floating around the airwaves.

I like this song much better. It’s called “Love, Save the Empty,” by Eric McCarley. It gives clear examples of why our society is so messed up. Take a listen to a few of her lyrics:

·         “Face down on top of your bed. Oh, why did I give it up to you? Is this how I shoot myself up high, just high enough to get through. Again, for false affection. Again, break down inside.”
o   I love the honesty in this verse. While TV shows and movies tell us that hopping in and out of bed with as many people as possible is fun and romantic, the ugly side of doing so is hardly ever portrayed. When teenagers are given the message that casual sex is fun and no big deal, of course they’re gonna do it. But how many of them will tell you they regret it? Chances are slim. The world says that those who wait for their spouse are lame. So if you’ve given yourself up and regret it, why risk being seen as lame? Lying about how you feel is probably the way to go. Better yet, let’s just bury it and pretend we’re not broken. That sounds like a good idea.
·         “Sad boy you stare up at the sky when no one’s looking back at you. You wear your every last disguise, you’re flying then you fall through. Again, for false attention. Again, you’re breaking inside.”
o   Boys are not immune to the brokenness of our world. They are searching for love and affection just as much as girls. It breaks my heart that society does such a good job at breaking down the sweet boys of this world. If you go back to the first verse, Erin talks about little girls and boys not having good role models to strive after. I agree 100% with her. If children have poor role models and soak in the lies of our society, chances are they will be beaten up along the way.

I wish the little girls and boys of the world could hear God’s truth over the loud, ugly lies of society. I wish they would take to heart verses like Psalm 139:13—“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” I wish little girls and boys would fully believe that they were hand-woven by God himself, and that God doesn’t make mistakes. I wish that when little girls and boys started learning about love and relationships, they would memorize 1 Corinthians 13—“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It does not rejoice with injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” If little girls took these verses to heart, I think they would more clearly see the foolishness in the type of love that P!NK and others like her sing about.

I wish little girls and boys realized that the type of love they seek out is right in front of them, and that Jesus loves them with a depth and intensity they will find nowhere else.  A love that took up a heavy wooden cross and marched up Calvary’s hill while the world yelled lies and insults right at his face. A love that endured humility, brutality, and destruction just to save them.

You can help break the cycle of abuse by sharing this truth with your kids and all the kids in your life. They need to hear this truth so desperately. Please join me in doing so!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pushing Back the Dark

When I was in middle school and high school, I was in love with Karen Kingsbury books. I always had my nose in one, and her writing greatly shaped my own. One thing I admire in her writing is the clear gospel message she puts into her stories. But I didn’t always appreciate this.

As a teenager, I highly doubted that Christian fiction could change lives. Why would anyone respond to a made-up character encountering God? I’d heard lots of personal testimonies that had touched my heart, but reading about it just didn’t feel the same.

My heart has of course changed. It changed when I began writing Christian fiction myself. The other day a reader emailed me and asked me some questions about my book—he asked me if my characters were based off of real people. They aren’t, although I will say that as I stepped into Molly’s world and imagined how I would react to what she goes through, I put in many of the thoughts and emotions I think I would have had. There is a little bit of me in Molly. Because of this, I truly believe that Molly’s encounters with God are more believable—her encounters shadow my own. I didn’t just make all this up. Yes, it’s true that the story is fictional. But I’m writing about a real God and real experiences with him. I know Molly’s story is impacting people, because people have told me! A few young readers sent me messages thanking me for writing about real emotions, and for including a message of Jesus and sound Biblical truth into my story. God is bigger than my dreams! He took a skeptic and turned her into a believer.

With this revelation in my mind, I keep pushing forward. Which is not always easy. The other day a royalty check came in the mail. And it was tiny. When Ben, my family and I decided to go ahead and take a risk on this book, we never expected to make a ton of money. Our focus has never been on money. Still, we had a great weekend at Lifelight in September and expected to have some book sales on this check. It just didn’t end up that way, and it was a little disappointing. Ben quickly reminded me, though, that even though we didn’t sell as many copies as we might have liked, the gospel message was in a few more hands than before. We simply have to keep plugging. Keep pushing back the dark.

I don’t know what stands in your way of pushing back the dark. Fear, uncertainty, and disappointment stands in my way—perhaps those things and more stand in the way of what God is calling you to do, whatever that may be. There will always be a reason to quit, and Satan will shout those reasons at you as loud as he can. You have to make a choice of who you want to listen to—your Savior, or Satan. Jesus calls us to be a shining city on a hill, but I know personally just how hard this can be. Choosing to listen to God can be extremely difficult. But just as the song "Pushing Back the Dark" by Josh Wilson says, “Somebody needs a light you have.” God allows us to be a part of his divine work—why do we let fear get in the way of shining his light?

Stop listening to the lies. Get out there and shine your light! There are words that need to be written, songs that need to be sung, encouragement that needs to be given, hurts that need to be listened to. Whatever it is that God has called you to do, start doing it. And go ahead and listen to this amazing new song by Josh Wilson for encouragement J