Relationships 5.0: How I mutilated a book… for love!

This is a story… about a girl. and a boy. (that’s me) and about how this boy read a really good book before talking to that gorgeous girl. and then he chopped up the book. Just for fun.

Enter C.S. Lewis. One of my favorite christian thinkers. He wrote a book about love:

thebook

“The Four Loves” by C.S. Lewis. A great book! (and reasonably priced at my local Half Price Books)

In The Four Loves, Lewis builds an all-encompassing philosophy about love: from love of an old friend; to the love of country; to the love of a spouse. Ultimately, he points out that all love comes from God and is a reflection of His love for us.

I thought this would be a great book to teach me a lot about my relationship with Toni. Especially since, instead of just getting advice on marriage, I got a look at how to get all your relationships right: to love as Jesus loved. I highlighted a lot of passages in the book that I liked. C.S. Lewis just says things so well. (especially if you read with a British accent)

disinfectant

“as if a long face were a sort of moral disinfectant”

The book contains a stinging critique of certain perversions of love such as thinking that seriousness or strength of feeling determine moral realities in love.

It also contains a clear call to action and risk! There is no safe investment! To love at all is to be vulnerable.

safe

Lewis ends recommending we take the risk of love because “The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from… love is Hell.”

So why did I decide to mutilate such a great book? Because it was time to do just that: to love and to be vulnerable. It was time to ask Toni to marry me.

1015081_10201233744551857_1484634037_o

Toni had been a great friend to me, and we had faced many a daunting debate round side by side. It was time to ask her to be the love of my life, facing life together (face to face) as well as head-on (side by side). After thoroughly reading and highlighting my copy, I bought a ring, cut a hole, and placed the ring very secretly.

How did it turn out? Luckily, I had a secret photographer (my brother Jonathan) hidden in the bushes that captured the look on her face when she opened the book:

proposal

She said yes! And I am so excited to share life with my best friend. She’s beautiful; she laughs at my jokes even though she knows I’m a dork; she works incredibly hard; and she’s probably the most empathetic person I know. Most of all, though, she’s got the main ingredient right: she loves others by loving Jesus first. She’s amazing. I can’t wait!

happy

(Credit for this shot goes to Katy. I’m also getting another cool artistic family out of the deal.)

What does it mean to be a man?

Image from Ron Swanson Says… check out their stuff.

I was inspired to write this after reading a little piece by Ben Howard on manhood titled “Ron Swanson is a Man“. I love the Ron Swanson character from Parks and Recreation.  I have for a long time been asking this question so I thought I’d answer: what does it mean to be a man?

Since I’m one year away from graduation and dating the girl of my dreams, it seems a good time to learn what it means to grow up. But there’s a lot more to manhood than that. In this post, I want to share my thoughts about both what it means to grow into manhood, and what responsibilities come with my sex.

Is a real man like Ron Swanson? Arnold Schwarzenegger? …Justin Bieber? I say none of the above. Let me explain…

Contrasting manhood with boyhood

Lesson 1 in being a man is “Grow up”!

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11

Image courtesy of kwanie on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Piggybacking off of Raising a Modern Day Knight, the four things that change from childhood to manhood are that a man:

  • rejects passivity (proactivity)
  • accepts responsibility
  • leads courageously (leadership)
  • expects the greater reward (investment)

These four principles – proactivity, responsibility, leadership, and investment – aren’t all that is good in a man, nor are they unique to men, but they distinguish man from boy. A child complains until he’s fed; a man goes out and makes a living (1 Timothy 4:8). A child tries to blame; a man recognizes that he can always improve (Proverbs 19:20). A child waits to be told right from wrong; a man leads others on the path. A child wants to be satisfied now; a man can delay gratification (Isaiah 40:31).

A real man waits for the right time, and when his time has come, he rises to the occasion.

Contrasting manhood with womanhood

Lesson 2 in being a man is “with great power comes great responsibility!”

“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life…” – 1 Peter 3:7

Image courtesy of April Killingsworth on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Let’s face it: men and women are different. As obvious as this should be just in biological terms, our “enlightened” society doesn’t really seem to reflect this anymore. Don’t get me wrong; a lot of our cultural reaction to the male-female stereotyping of previous generations is warranted. That’s why it’s important to reason very carefully about gender roles from what we know to be different.

Men and women are of the same spirit and have the same inheritance of life (Galatians 3:28, Mark 12:251 Peter 3:7), but have different physical strength (1 Peter 3:7), different mental patterns (Women are better multitaskers; men are more focused), and different emotional structure. And of course, there are different roles when it comes to making babies. Naturally, the Bible recognized different social roles for men and women (Titus 2, 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5).

Men are stronger, more focused, and more emotionally detached than women. This is just due to biology, and it just makes sense morally that the way God created you should effect who you are. A man who accepts the physicality given to him by God will:

  • Gird himself in strength – training physically, emotionally, and intellectually
  • Focus and lead others as he follows the Lord
  • Respond with even temper and be the first to take responsibility

People who don’t think women should work need to read about the ideal Proverbs 31 woman again (Prov 31:16,24). Sorry; side-track. I just think men in western culture often times define themselves and their manhood by their careers, and it’s not supposed to be that simple. Manhood is so much deeper than just: “I man. I work.” It’s about strength, focus, and leadership.

But hold your horses…

It’s more important to be a child of God than it is to be a man in America.

Hear that? Who inherits the kingdom of heaven? NOT MEN it turns out! Remember? “…unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 18:3)

So don’t try to be a man like Ron Swanson; don’t even try to be a great man like William Wilberforce. Be the kind of man Jesus was.

Relationships 4.0: friendship vs dating – how I started

It’s funny how I finally got inspired to write something about relationships during the craziest midterm week of my life. Well, here goes…

My story

Sweaty hands. Beating heart. But I’m excited. This is the time. Finally, after being friends for so long, I’m going to take the jump.

I’m just sitting in a Starbucks Coffee, but I haven’t ordered coffee. Not yet. Like that would help my bouncing knees… I can’t make them stop. Just stop, guys. Please! Words ring through my head: “Want to go talk? I’ll get you coffee.” Did I say them alright? Man, why were those words so hard? But over the phone is nothing compared to what I’m going to ask face to face.

… I hear a car drive up, and there she is! Yup; she. That, my friends, was just the start of the story.

As you might have guessed, I was just about to ask the girl of my dreams if she wanted to start courting. It was a nerve-racking experience. In a way, it might be worse than a proposal, because you are jumping into the unknown. I had a lot of thoughts running through my head: “What if she says no?” “What if she’s already found a guy at ACU and hasn’t told anyone?” “Does she even like me anymore?” “Gosh; I don’t want to ruin our friendship.”

Almost four months later, and I’m wondering took me so long. Toni and I had known each other for about 6 years. In highschool, we debated together and won several awards; we were a pretty awesome team. I had liked her for a really long time, but something had held me back from starting a serious relationship.

Fear. If I’m honest, that’s what stopped me from going from friendship to dating. Sure; I could make up legitimate excuses like too much school, not enough money, no car, etc. but really all of those things were problems I could fix if I would just get over that lump in my throat. If I took all these excuses to their logical conclusion, then I wouldn’t start dating until I was finished with school, working hard, with a house, no mortgage, and… I would be in my 40s.

Which is stupid. Truth is, real men risk rejection. But it’s deeper that that; relationships don’t work unless we start with the right attitude. So, what’s the right spirit to approach your crush with?

The spirit of Fear VS. the spirit of Faith

When looking to the bible for wisdom on courtship, some people (*cough* ATI *cough*)  use verses like “Guard your heart” or “abstain from every appearance of evil” (which is a misstranslation, apparently, and another reason to not go solo KJV). Neither of these verses specifically talk about dating, but what they are concerned with is external actions.

Let me suggest that we look at a few verses that aim at the heart instead.

For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

And here’s the crux of the issue:

…whatever is not from faith is sin.” – Romans 14:23

Which really kinda shatters my worldview. I used to think that it was safe to not date. Once you entered the dating world, then you had to guard your heart. You had to watch out for sexual sin and watch not only that you stayed on the path, but also that you didn’t become a stumbling block for your partner.

Now this is not completely false, but it is the wrong attitude for a Christian relationship.

It turns out that if the reason you’re not asking that girl out is because you’re afraid of rejection, (or even afraid of sexual sin) you are, in fact, living in sin. You need to reject the spirit of fear and have faith.

Similarly, constantly seeking out a new girlfriend because you are scared of being alone is wrong, too. God should be your portion. Have faith; you don’t always need to be dating.

I don’t mean to point a finger, because as I said I needed a kick in the pants when it came to overcoming my fear of losing a good friendship with Toni. There can be Godly reasons to not date, and there can also be Godly reasons to fall head over heels in love. But may I submit that it’s mostly an issue of your heart? So check your attitude.

I propose that we’ve been going about trying to “fix” dating entirely the wrong way. Maybe the solution is not necessarily to kiss dating goodbye, but it’s to live without fear! To embrace the spirit of faith; and reject the spirit of fear.

This post has focused on the attitude of purposeful Christian dating. Next, I’ll suggest some practical courtship tips. So stay tuned, and leave comment below. I always appreciate your advice.

Relationships 3.0: What is Love?

We live in a culture where people are quicker to get into bed with someon than tell them “I love you.” Sad.

But it makes sense. Sex is cheap and feels good. Love (by which I mean true love) is always sacrificial. It always means putting someone else above yourself. I will get back to sex eventually (and that will be a mature post…) but for now I want to deal with the positive side of the coin: what is love? How has our culture messed up this word? And how to we redeem passionate, sacrificial, christ-like love?

Love is not a feeling

That would make marriage very hard. I don’t know about you, but my feelings change all the time. If you look up love in a dictionary or somewhere you’ll get something like this:

love, n.

  1. affection, but more “profound”
  2. a feeling… of affection (???)
  3. sex sex sex
  4. the person you love
  5. love, as in “I loooooovvvvve the Dark Knight Rises”

No wonder our culture is so reluctant to say the four letter l- word – it has no meaning. It’s just a cluster of different things that kinda feel the same. But still… there’s something wrong with America when TV characters are more likely to say that they looooovvve a movie than that they love the person they’re sleeping with.

The Bible says a lot about love

Here are some excerpts that helped me deal with how very wrong American culture got it and how beautiful biblical love is:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Romans 13:8 “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”

Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us…”

1 John 4:8,15,16 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. … We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. … This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

I think it’s clear that biblical love is

  • sacrificial,
  • others-centered,
  • life-giving,

and it’s not a feeling!

The better definition of love

A lot of Christians define love using the the three greek words for love. The problem for me is that the love for a friend, the love for family, and the love of a spouse are all fundamentally the same thing – they are shadows of the love God has for us.

So I think there’s a better, unifying definition of love. It look me a long time to come to this, but once I did, it made this word a million times less scary:

Love is a deep commitment to someone else’s good – even above your own. It is putting what someone else needs over what you want.

And by deep commitment I don’t just mean “oh yeah, I love the homeless guy sitting on the street and I think that I should do what’s best for him.” It means that deep down in your heart you truly want what’s best for this person. That’s why love has been confused with a feeling; because it’s not something just in your brain.

As my quick bible study above indicates, love means that you would lay down your life for someone. If there’s even a second’s hesitation about taking the bullet for her, you’re not in love.

Top 5 myths about love… busted

Now that we’ve defined our terms, it’s hopefully obvious that:

  1. Love is not a feeling or emotion. Feelings don’t hold marriages together.
  2. Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you’re going to marry them. If God hasn’t give y’all the same calling, then it is best to let the find someone who can make their dreams come true. Along that same note, if dating interferes with your partner’s relationship with the Lord, the loving thing to do is to break it off. Crazy, right? That’s love.
  3. You choose to love, you don’t “fall” into love.
  4. True love has nothing to do with the person you love, it’s about your commitment. Read Hosea.
  5. The idea of soulmates is a dumb. Maybe more on this later…

Now for feedback. Good definition of love? Bad definition? Did I miss something? And isn’t Brandon Heath just awesome?

 

 

Relationships 2.0: the dating game is screwed up

To start this series at the very beginning, I have very little respect for the way our culture handles relationships and marriage. If you want to see why, look no farther than your TV screen…

The Bachelor

And now I’m forced to admit it publicly… yes, I watched an episode of the Bachelor on Hulu. (I know, I know, stone me now…) To me, it was the most radical statement about what’s wrong with dating culture in America. 20 girls all date the same guy at the same time. They go on the world’s most amazing dates in some of the most beautiful parts of the planet, and most of them fall in love and get heart broken when they don’t get a rose.

Thankfully, most people don’t use this system for finding their soulmate. We all recognize that this is a really dumb way to meet the person you plan to marry.  But, without really thinking about it, Americans, even those who genuinely want to get married, fall prey to all the same problems by treating dating like it’s a game.

How cultural dating turns out like the TV show

Now I said most of The Bachelor‘s girls fall in love, but I didn’t mean they fall in love with the man in front of them. Nooooo… they fall in love with his TV personality, or the kiss of way to much experience, or the amazing scenery, or the adrenaline of an adventure date. Seriously; they put themselves in situations where you’re going to fall in love with something. A lot of people call this “infatuation.”

They kiss; they talk about the scenery, but never do they talk about anything that helps them decide if their relationship will actually work. When was the last time a contestant talked about their religious convictions, checked if they were on the same page about children, where they wanted to spend the rest of their life, or any of the other important “boring” stuff?

</ end rant about the bachelor>

Ok… here are what I see as the top myths about dating in our culture:

Myth 1: Dating is just entertainment. Just like in the Bachelor, people go on dates someplace beautiful. They watch a stirring movie or a beautiful sunset and then look at their date and say “this person makes me feel amazing.” No kidding… what were you expecting? Entertainment dating is a horrible litmus test for whether you would work married to a person. Do you think you’ll feel the same way watching the local news with your spouse?

And the sad part about it is that you can have a lot of fun asking hard questions. Toni and I talked for five hours the first time I asked her and I can say I really enjoyed that time. This doesn’t mean we don’t watch sunsets or movies (the new Spiderman was pretty legit) or go out to eat, but it does mean that our focus is different.

Myth 2: All that matters is us, baby. Most couples spend a lot of time looking into each other’s eyes. But a couple doesn’t exist in a bubble; it’s important to hang out with other people and I think it’s especially important to hang out with your families. It’s also really important to get some outside perspective from friends.

Myth 3: It’s in his kiss. It is really easy to get fooled on a one-on-one date. That’s one reason it’s important to be around other people, but also why I’m a big fan of dating friends. And, no, contrary to the infallible wisdom of 60s pop music, you can’t tell whether the guy is good and really loves you from his kiss.

And then there’s shacking up. Always confused me… Maybe I’ll write about what’s wrong with cohabitation later. Basically, everything’s all casual until we want to be married, but then we won’t get married, just pretend… because marriage is special. Whaaaaat? Yeah, I am not doing that.

Purposeful dating

When I first approached Toni about this relationship, I asked if she was interested in “courting.” The reason I was using this kind of vocabulary is because I definitely didn’t want the cultural norm in “dating.” But let’s be honest; there’s no point in being counter-cultural just for the sake of being counter-cultural.

I think the term we’re using now is “purposeful dating.” That really highlights the key difference between us and the world: we’re not just playing around. If you really value your date, then you won’t treat this like a game.

But don’t worry… that doesn’t mean things can’t be fun. I think, and Toni agrees, that we have a blast. This is a really important principle for the rest of life, too: It turns out that living for a purpose is more fun that just living to have fun. (make sense?)

This has been a pretty negative post. It pretty much summarizes why I see a need to think so carefully about how relationships should work. But more positive stuff is coming… trust me. Leave some comments! Maybe share what you think the solution to these problems is…

And, to end this post, a “hey christian girl” meme:

Relationships 1.0: an introduction

Yes! I’m in a relationship. And totally excited.

First date...

Since I’ve started dating the gorgeous and wonderful Toni Maisano (her photography website), I’ve started thinking a lot about love, marriage, sex, purity, courtship, and… yes… dating. The D word… for my homeschool friends. That why I want to start a blogging series about relationships.

There are a lot of different courtship ideas floating around the Christian community, especially among homeschoolers. I kissed dating goodbyepractical courtship, the “10 commandments”  or the “middle ground“… and the list goes on.

Honestly, I still don’t know what to make of this, though I have plenty of thoughts on how to have a purposeful relationship that puts God first. Any advice from wiser, experienced peoples? Just leave a comment below.

Blogging about it is as much about helping me as it is trying to share my experience with you. Maybe you could learn something from a messed up bloke like me. Look for more coming up…

Response to the Daily Texan’s response to racist cartoon

Have y’all heard about the racist cartoon published in the official campus newspaper for the University of Texas, The Daily Texan? Apparently, the Texan won a contest for the most racist Trayvon Martin cartoon. Read some more and see what you think:

So I really don’t want to get into the cartoon itself or the Trayvon Martin case, but I do want to discuss how the Texan Editorial Board is going to respond to this whole incident. Consider this a response to their response. Here’s a comment I posted on their blog:

The nature of the comic aside, I don’t know what to think about the “new” policy that will come out of this. Specifically, am troubled by:
“We will also seek out and publish opinions that truly represent the views of the entire campus community.”

How exactly do you plan to do that on such a diverse campus? Will you turn your opinion section into a list of cookie recipes?

Personally, I love how many different, weird, opinions we have on campus. (since I have plenty myself…) That’s why the Texan HAS an opinion section in the first place. I would hate to see minority viewpoints stifled because of this mistake.

The role of a paper should be to inform, not publish stuff that everyone already agrees with. (isn’t this a duh?) Yes; the cartoon was probably a bad editorial decision, but don’t overreact into something worse. No matter how much negative attention they get, the truth is that sometimes we need to be challenged by weird independent thinkers.

Keep the Texan weird!

Do you think the Editorial Board is going to overreact and stifle minority viewpoints on the subject? Or am I making a mountain out of a molehill?