Sunday, March 2, 2008

no touchy

He spoke words of kindness. Made sure she was comfortable. Waited on her, hand and foot. It made an impact, especially after hearing a sermon on the subject of loving fellow Christians earnestly. Matt was able to show Emily the love of Christ without reserve.

That's a beautiful picture... and for that reason, I'm frustrated. With myself, with my Christian culture, and the American culture at large.

See, Matt was doing his job - serving a woman who had come to his coffee shop. He did it magnificently and showed God's love through his actions much more than if he had merely served her the drink... but what if Matt had paid Emily that kind of attention at school? At church? Care group? Oh, no! Whispers start to fly and glances are shot across the room by curious (or jealous!) onlookers. He's OBVIOUSLY got a thing for her. In the secular world... well, good for them. Let them date. Shoot, let them sleep together and see if it could work out long term. But in the SGC culture... Um, Matt? We're gonna have to ask you to tone it down some. Build relationships with some other folks, too.

Now, granted. The guys in my care group are freeking awesome at this... and at balancing it out evenly so that it goes noticed as brotherly love and not special attention.

I guess... I sense these extremes of "having no appearance of evil" and "if you're talking to a woman who is not your wife, you're obviously having an affair." There's "preserving a woman's purity" and there's "The women can lay hands on her in prayer, but the guys can't." "If you believe it's sin, you'd better not do it, but there is freedom" and "If it's possible to sin while doing this, steer clear." I've never found a good balance.

I guess these rantings were also inspired by a conversation I had with my care group leader when I was at group last night. You have non-Christians, with whom there will always be a level to which you cannot relate with them because you don't share Christ as a center of your life. But there are Christians who are that way too. If you approach them trying to ask forgiveness for a wrong, they say, "Oh, it's okay. Don't worry about it," and your reaction is, "No it's not! I've sinned. My sin is not okay!" you're not connecting spiritually.

My guy and girl friends in college... my effective "church"... weren't afraid to touch each other. Give massages. Frontal hug for a long time. Go for coffee late at night. I felt loved by them in a way that I never had before, and not in a way that was sexual. I didn't feel like we were walking on eggshells, afraid of one another. We could watch movies and drink drinks and say words without (I believe) sinning. You never had to be afraid to be yourself because we all messed up and we all forgave each other for it. It was okay not to be perfect.

But I was seldom challenged spiritually. That's not to say that they weren't Christians or that I slid while I was with them or even that it wasn't just where my heart was for that season... but for me, it was like maintenance work, or slow progression at best.

Nowadays, my church (group of Christian friends with whom I spend my days) is passionate. Strong. Humble. Challenging. Encouraging. But I feel like I have to watch my tongue and the music I listen to and I shouldn't share my blogs with the guys and certainly make sure I never come in physical contact with any of them or else... not that I'll be shunned but that I'll get a stern talking to about something I don't see as being a sin issue for me. I'm sure some of that is mere perception and leftovers from the ideas I had about the folks at SGC Chesapeake... but still. I feel like I have to focus more on appearances than I can on just loving my brothers and sisters and being my own messy self.

And what if, say, heaven forbid, I should want to be more than friends with one of the guys? I feel like I Kissed Dating Goodbye up until college and then I left... and missed out on what it looks like when Boy Meets Girl and they actually do something about it in this sort of community.

I dunno. This is the first time I've had any SGC folks reading my blog, other than my family, so I hope you ladies will give me some feedback. I mean, obviously it sounds like there's a lot of pride lurking as far as "I don't want to give up x" and "I don't want to conform to the rules" and so on... and maybe that's true... but can you at least see through that to where I'm coming from?

1 comment:

tek1024 said...

Sorry to be so late to the party, just catching up on my RSS feeds.

This issue frustrates me, too.

Also, it makes it difficult to hang out and/or make friends with either Christians (God-fearing, humble, church-going women who genuinely do believe the hogwash that you need to set boundaries and define your terms and be very clear and repent and say the Protestant equivalent of eight Hail Marys to cleanse yourself of your sinful thoughts if a man hugs you or makes a genuine error in spatial reasoning and accidentally touches something that made you blush) as well as non-Christians.

I'm sick of the semantics behind whether something is a 'date,' for instance, or not. If I take a girl out one-on-one, it's a date; get over it. If I take a girl out and we do or don't do X, Y, or Z: it's not a date? What? Where do you draw the line of expectations? If I go out with a girl I know is real cute and real atheist (ultimately a tragic oxymoron, but I digress), it's pretty well expected that we'll do certain things. If not on this occasion, then on another. And God forbid you should ask a girl over after a beer or vice versa, because EVERYBODY knows what that means, from Cosmopolitan to Men's Health. Maybe I really DO want to show a girl a book I just read without making some subtle insinuations about my bed, damn it!

And on the other side of the coin, of course, God forbid I should talk "like that" with one of the aforementioned Christian ladies. (I don't hold you to be one among their rank. Yours is a deeper faith that can love people through four letter words and half-drunken tirades, and that's not only classy and heartbreakingly rare, it's appreciated.) I grew up with girls who used piety as a shield against frightening male-ness and "vulgar speech," and it's tiresome. Not only that, but going on a "date" with a good little girl (almost all of them see a one-on-one meeting of any sort as a "date") means you get all the implications of the D word: you string too many Dates in a row and you've got yourself a woman quoting you Paul's admonition that it's better to marry than to burn, wink wink nudge nudge where's my ring drop to a knee and promise me your soul and your loins thankyouverymuch.

You well know I have no problem with kissing someone I'm dating; nor with being affectionate with my friends, even to the point of walking a very thin line! But in all reality it's simply very difficult to find genuine companionship in either of the aforementioned camps. Sadly, because of the reasons you cite, the suspicions of the group, the admonitions of counselors who don't want to have to deal with sexual nonsense if something ever does turn out to blow up on their watch, the attitude of fear and mistrust where companionship is "never simply companionship," and because of a Hawthorne-novel-era approach to affection and sexuality, it's virtually impossible to meet and really get to know members of the opposite sex in the one place it ought to be the most supported.

tl;dr companionship: do want? cannot has!