Satan has no power in Christmas Carols.

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There are a lot of cushy Christmas carols. And for good reason. Who doesn’t want to hear about cute baby Jesus asleep and cooing in his manger? The perfect soundtrack for opening presents on a snowy morning. And what about Joy to the World? Fantastic. It’s a happy day, let’s be happy and sing happy songs.

Although Christmas is the season of light, I think sometimes in the midst of the cuteness of Christmas we lose sight of the real reason Jesus came – because we’re crappy people living in a pretty crappy world. Can you name the carols that these lyrics come from?

Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Dawn in our darkness, and lend us thine aid. 

To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might.

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight. 

O come, thou Rod of Jesse free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny. 

That’s straight up theology right there. Sometimes Christmas carols like to fudge things a little bit – pretty sure Jesus cried like most human babies, and we all know the three wise men didn’t actually visit him at his birth. (Also, it probably wasn’t a cold night, but Christmas! Snow!)

But these lyrics don’t pull any punches. They use real Scripture to drive home the “real meaning” of Christmas – and believe me, you’re not gonna find the “real meaning of Christmas” in a Hallmark movie (Love, Hope, Joy – cushy words that we don’t always know the exact meaning of.)

You’re going to find it in darkness. Because that’s where we all were before the birth of the Christ.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
Isaiah 11:1-3

Christians don’t like to talk about Satan that much anymore. That’s kind of a polarizing name. “Oh really? You guys believe there’s this reddish-looking guy with hooves and horns sitting on your shoulder?” Satan has taken a backseat in most modern theology – why would we want to tell people they’re going to Hell to hang out with this horrible guy?

The truth is, Satan looks good to us. Why else would we sin all the time? He shows us ways that look like they lead to truth and light, but before we know it, we’re on a path of darkness. In Hebrew, a rough translation of satan is “accuser.” Satan may seem like our friend, but once Judgment day comes, he’ll make sure all of our sins are laid bare before God so we can go with him. I’m just being straight up with you. Satan does not have your best interests at heart.

Enter the Rod of Jesse. Before the birth of Christ, there was no mediator between God and His people. God was strict judgment – follow these rules and then you’ll be set free. But because He loves us and is jealous for our love, He sent us a sacrificial lamb that would put dark shadows to flight. That would stomp on the head of Satan.

Although Satan has no power, he’s still very real. And if we choose to, we can follow him willingly, whether we realize it or not. By leaving out the darkness of a pre-Christ world, we sanitize the message of Christmas. Jesus came because we are crappy. Jesus came because we deserve Hell. 

But that doesn’t have to frighten us. These carols also remind us that Satan does not hold claim on our souls any longer. A tiny baby changed that entire narrative. See, the theologically intense carols can live harmoniously with the cushy ones. We can rejoice because of that deep truth. Let’s balance both instead of one or the other.

We have just entered the season of Advent. Wait patiently on the Lord; He has not forgotten you. He has done what no god has ever done and sacrificed His own blood so that we can live with Him forever.

Bid all our sad divisions cease, and be Yourself our King of Peace. 

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What’s So Funny About Virginity?

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It’s a typical Hollywood trope. Teenage boy goes on search of self, navigating the trials of high school and, before his senior year is out – getting laid. Usually with the help of his friends. Antics ensue, sometimes involving hookers or porn, often involving alcohol and that one hot girl in his class. By the end of the movie, he’s transformed from a dorky, invisible boy to a full-fledged man. All because he “did the deed.”

At the risk of sounding like a Puritan, teenage, pre-marital sex is the norm in pop culture and in society in general. It’s cool to have popped the cherry, and it’s almost a competition to see how young you can get it done. Granted, this post isn’t going to be just me wailing about how all teenagers are degenerate now, throwing around their bodies to whomever will take it, but I’d just like to get that fact out of the way: when you’re a teenager, it’s not really cool to be a virgin. It’s certainly not cool to be a virgin in your 20s – and if you listen at all to pop culture, it’s really not normal either. I mean, seriously – when was the last time you watched a sitcom or network drama and two unmarried twenty-somethings didn’t have sex?

Somewhere along the line, the whole idea of virginity became funny. In movies, virgins are shown as the socially inept and often naive counterparts of their cooler buddies – usually the same buddies who are trying to get him (or her) laid. Take The 40-Year-Old Virgin for example. Just the title alone. The title is supposed to be surprising – he’s in the middle of his life and he’s never had sex? Gasp. He’s depicted as the most wholesome human you could possibly meet – including playing with dolls and, according to an IMDb synopsis, “doesn’t even watch porn or masturbate.” The audacity. While there are layers to the story, the main point of the film is that the main character is socially inept because he’s a virgin. And that’s hilarious. Once he reveals to his work friends that he’s a virgin, they immediately go on a quest to try to “fix” that, like virginity is a problem that needs to be solved.

Because you’ve never really lived until you’ve had sex, right?

I could go on with a plethora of other movies about the rite of passage that is being “deflowered.” American Pie (the ultimate buddies-get-laid comedy), The Virginity Hit, and Cruel Intentions (not necessarily a “funny” example, but one that has a little bit different implications.) A few years ago, a documentary called How to Lose Your Virginity examines virginity as a societal (and patriarchal) concept meant to supress your sexuality. The organization behind the documentary even gives out “V-Cards” to schools and organizations, which acts as sort of a punch card for every time you have a different sexual experience.

While there are patriarchal implications to virginity (a lot of times women feel more pressured to be virgins, and men feel more pressure to conquest), I don’t think that’s the right way to look at it. By dismissing it as a societal construct, we dismiss some people’s deeply-rooted personal beliefs and values. Do not read “rigid moral code” here. I’m not talking Virgin Suicides.

I’ll put it this way: we all know stereotyping is wrong, right? Stereotyping racial groups, sexual orientations, and social classes is frowned upon in media. So stereotyping a virgin as being socially inept, sexually naive, and irrevocably awkward doesn’t seem very tasteful.

“Okay, Audrey, calm down,” interrupts the Internet. “Don’t you believe in expression? Why are you advocating for people to supress their sexuality? Virginity is funny because it’s such a ridiculous concept in this day and age.”

It might be for some, but for others, it’s a choice they’ve consciously made, and it’s a moral code they’ve stuck by (I know “morals” don’t really hold much weight in this day and age, but I’m going to use it anyway.) In other words, I don’t care what people do. I’m not going to tell you how to live, but I am going to tell you that some people live differently than you, and it doesn’t make them awkward or laughable. While sex isn’t such a taboo topic anymore, virginity is. People get uncomfortable (or even apologize) when they find out someone is a virgin. People think it’s weird when a boyfriend and a girlfriend haven’t had sex yet. That’s just kind of how things are nowadays, and I understand that.

My hope is that we can change the conversation about sex, especially as Christians. It’s not suppression to be a virgin. It’s not naive to be a virgin. It’s not wrong to choose to be a virgin. It’s also wrong to shame Christians who have lost their virginity. All things, even virginity, are redeemable through Christ.

I live as a virgin because I am called as a Christian to honor God in all things, including my body. I don’t always adhere to that calling. Sometimes I eat way too much nasty food or abuse my body so that I get sick. Your life is about more than just sex. Your sexuality should never define who you are. It should also not define how you see other people.

For now, I’m done spouting off one-sidedly about this. But let’s keep the conversation going.

a. w.

Ceaselessly into the Past: A Look at Journals, Conclusion: A Troubled Heart

Do you remember how it felt to move into college? It almost felt like going away to summer camp. You’re put in this tiny room where you’re going to live for an extended period of time with a complete stranger who kind of weirds you out and are directed around for a week-ish of orientation and mixer games until BOOM. Classes start and you feel like you got hit by a truck.

I did that twice.

Yes, friends. I’ve talked about it a little bit, but not in too much detail. In August of 2014, I moved into Hillsdale College. Five days later, I moved out. I was terrified, alone, homesick, and having existential crisis after existential crisis.

(Audrey, calm down. That’s how everyone feels when they move into college…) Well, I guess I just wasn’t prepared. Was it fear that motivated me? Probably. But would I make the same choice again? You bet your bottom dollar.

I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had since I made that fateful decision. In September of 2014, I moved into Cornerstone University. One day later, I started classes. Three years later, I’m starting my senior year. No regrets.

But freshman Audrey, 18 years old and tossed about on buffeting waves of choices and their consequences, wouldn’t say the same. She spent her first fall semester of college crippled by fear and anxiety (like most freshmen, am I right?) She thought about transferring multiple times. She thought about changing her major (she did. I have a semester’s worth of music classes under my belt, in case you were wondering.) She thought she would be married by the time she graduated (HA. She fell prey to the Christian college mentality.)

And somewhere in there, she started to journal. Ish. So here we go:

Journal #5: No name (I wasn’t that creative anymore. It was just a red composition book from Meijer.) October 2014 – July 2016 (I think. It is rather unclear.) 

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The quote at the bottom is from Frankenstein the Musical. Yup. You read that right. There’s a musical. About Frankenstein. And it’s actually pretty legit so don’t judge me. Ok judge me.

So here we are in October of 2014. It’s chilly and Audrey has found a moment to pour out her thoughts. She’s sitting in the lounge of Pickitt Hall (I remember this part but not much else) and finds time between homework to jot something down:

24 October 2014

It’s been a long time since I’ve journaled. The first time was when I got this thin little journal from my aunt (was it my aunt? I think so. There was a sparkly pen with it. It lit up when you wrote something.) (Good memory, kiddo.) It had this cartoon angel on the front (Remember?) I think I was nine? Ten? (Eight.) …I kind of stopped [journaling] in high school because I couldn’t find any time. I should find those journals and read them (What a great idea! Then share them with the Internet, ok?) I was a weird child (yes.) Er, creative. Both. Whichever one. (Both is good.)

For years people have been telling me “You should journal! It will help you organize your thoughts/reduce stress/help you figure out your life!” Well, maybe, but

1) My thoughts are just as messy on paper as they are in my head; 

2) Journaling feels like an obligation and therefore a stress-producer;

3) My life has never been resolved through writing things down. Maybe that will change. It’s cheaper than therapy, anyway. (Cue laughter.)

So what do people usually journal about?…I think [famous writers] have an innate sense that they’re going to be famous so they make sure everything they write is elegant and extemporaneous. Or they are just innately good writers and therefore get famous. (The rest get blogs.)

So there’s your introduction to 18-year-old Audrey at a turning point in her life. You can tell that from October 25’s entry:

How about I start with this: Who am I? Good question. I don’t think I can answer that. I was just thinking how weird it is that we define ourselves by who we are when who we are is constantly changing. Can one be defined by that which always changes? Maybe that’s the answer. Who are we? Constantly changing things. Who am I? That which is never the same. 

Someone get this girl a blog. She’s hopeless. And she’s feeling the weight of 18, apparently:

I’m learning a lot in college. Not just conventional things like what I’m paying to learn, but other things too…For example, I’ve learned that eighteen may possibly be the most insecure age there is (oh honey it gets worse.) That’s why everyone feels they need to be in a relationship or talk about all the great things they’ve done. They’re starting to feel the pressure of adulthod. I know I am. Seeing people who know exactly what they want to major in make me feel like I should know too. People who are in relationships make me feel like I should be in one (story of your life.)

So here’s what we know about Audrey so far: She’s confused and she wants a boyfriend. Is that what I’m getting here? She’s also paranoid. October 27:

I feel as if there’s never a time during the day when I’m not being scrutinized. There’s never a time when I’m completely alone, without fear of someone walking in or watching or staring at me (that’s called living in a dorm.) Just now someone looked at me, smiling and laughing in my direction. Why? What’s wrong with me? 

On October 28 I wonder if I’m attractive. Who doesn’t? Image is still a difficult thing to handle in college. You can still feel the judgment of high school seeping over (I know I did.)

On November 4, 2014, Audrey fell in love. She would stay that way for two and a half years. She met someone, and in her insecurities, latched onto him, thinking he was her only shot. (You can imagine how that went.) But she’s real excited on November 5. Everything seems to be falling into place.

She talks about Hillsdale on November 10. She’s still having dreams about it, but claims that the doubts are gone (they never go away.)

And then a little introversion –

11/15/14

I went to a dance tonight. I always go out thinking I’ll have a great time, but I always stand to the side and watch awkwardly. This was the first time I went with extroverts who wanted to dance. I just wanted to dress up and look pretty. My outgoing friend pulled my arm all night so I would dance. I said I didn’t like the song. “No one does,” she said. That really hit me. Is everyone as uncomfortable as me?

And on 11/22 –

Sometimes I think of myself as an F Scott Fitzgerald character: a narcissistic, restless, overly-romantic youth…I feel displaced. Restless. Confused. Bored, sometimes. Hopeless other times. Scared. Childish. Recently, lovesick for someone I’ve only known for three weeks and only seen three times. But you know me, making a big deal of little things. (that won’t change any time soon!)

So we find our little heroine troubled. She longs for something that she can’t have, but she still has hope. She’s about to enter one of the most stressful times of her life. Winter of 2015 was not a good one. She had an overload of classes, a lovesick heart, and a mind full of anxiety. I remember a lot of painful, bitter tears being shed during that time. Life just did not seem to be coming together for me.

But looking back, I realize how much all of that taught me, and I couldn’t be prouder of myself for enduring that and becoming the woman I am today. She still has a long way to go, but she’s made leaps and bounds in the right direction.

So I’ll conclude this short series with a little tidbit of knowledge from our heroine. Where will she go from here? No one knows. She doesn’t journal anymore (she blogs, which might be a mistake, but we’ll see.)

3/15/15

The heart is the harbor of love. If God is the author of love, then the heart must be God’s harbor. But what if the heart is not full of God, full of love – what is it filled with? That is a dangerous, tempestuous harbor, one that no sailor would find refuge. Let your heart be the refuge of the sailor Love, who tosses wearily from wave to wave in hope of a safe haven. Why not calm the waters of your heart and whisper, “Author of Love, you are welcome here. You who calm every storm, calm my troubled waters.”

a. w.

I’m A Christian, But…

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I’m a Christian, but sometimes I don’t act like it.

I’m a Christian, but sometimes I don’t feel very Christian.

Sometimes I don’t love people.

Sometimes I don’t care.

Sometimes I even hate people.

I’m not proud of it.

I wish I could be the Christian that everyone else seems to be.

Always happy, always perfect, always #blessed.

I’m a Christian, but my life isn’t like that.

Sometimes I don’t act like Jesus.

Sometimes I don’t want to follow Him.

Sometimes I don’t even love Jesus.

I love myself more, most days.

Some days, I openly disobey. I go my own way.

And I don’t even care.

I’m a Christian, but sometimes I chase the world.

I chase it relentlessly.

Because I want it.

Fame. Money. Happiness.

Being a Christian is hard.

It’s impossible in this day in age to have a definite opinion about anything.

But if you’re a Christian, you have to.

You have to disagree with people.

You get accused of telling people they’re going to Hell.

You get accused of saying you’re perfect and special.

You get accused of being a hypocrite.

Why do we get accused of these things?

Because sometimes, these things are true.

We can’t help it.

We’re. Not. Perfect.

I’m a Christian, but I’m. Not. Perfect.

I’m selfish. I’m broken. I’m filled with negativity.

I’m a Christian, but I’ll be the first to tell you that

I

need

Grace.

I need grace even when I don’t think I need it.

I need it every second of my small, selfish existence.

I’m a Christian, and I need Grace. We all do.

The earth groans for grace,

and she doesn’t even realize it.

I’m a Christian, and it makes me different,

but it doesn’t make me better.

It doesn’t make me more loved or cherished.

God so loved the world 

that He gave

and gave

and gave

and gives.

I’m a Christian, but I’m not perfect.

I’m not perfect, but I’m loved.

 

a. w.

It’s 2017 and I’m Still Wearing a Purity Ring. Here’s Why.

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I was 18 years old and working as a grocery store clerk. As I scanned an older couple’s groceries one evening, we exchanged some banter, as one does with near strangers. They were talking about how usually the wife does most of the shopping and making witty quips about it. The husband then looked me dead in the eye and asked:

“How about you? Do you do the grocery shopping for your hubby?”

The question startled me. But not as much as it could have. When you wear a silver ring on your left hand where a wedding ring would be, you get questions like that. I got them at 18, and I get them at 21.

“Are you married?” is a question I’m not unfamiliar with hearing. After that comes the awkward clarification that I’m not married. Sometimes I just stop there and avoid the further awkwardness of explaining what that ring is. Because then I’d have to talk about…sex. 

Well, I’d have to talk about it implicitly. I’d have to say, “It’s a purity ring.” And then you see it behind their eyes.

Oh. She’s one of those people.

I went to a Christian school growing up, so abstinence was in our curriculum. In eighth grade, twenty-five sweaty and slightly hormonal eighth graders gathered weekly to listen to a woman talk about the dangers of premarital sex (a bit more tactful than the Mean Girls coach, I might add.) Eighth graders tend to giggle at the s-word. (Not to mention all the other words that go along with it.)

After those uncomfortable four weeks, I made the purity pledge (I still have the ATM – “Abstinence Til Marriage” – card in my wallet. Judge me and judge me hard) and then after eighth-grade graduation, went to a Christian bookstore and got a small silver ring to wear on my left hand. It has three words on it. “Love. Purity. Trust.”

Fast forward to today. I’m typing this and it’s still on my finger. I haven’t taken it off much since then. It peeks up in many of my Facebook photos, has made a handy prop for a few plays and musicals, and has been the subject of many questions and comments over the years.

You might say it’s become a part of me.

And that was the norm for Christian school kids. Many of my friends had or still have purity rings. I thought the Silver Ring Thing was a thing of the past, until I Googled it before writing this to find it’s still in fact…a thing. Their mission statement says: “SRT defies the meet-up, hook-up, break-up mindset of today and inspires students to a pure life centered in Jesus Christ.” And that’s great. I’m glad that it’s still around. 

But is it still…relevant?

It was when the Jonas Brothers wore them. But now they don’t. Because it’s not cool anymore. (Or they’re married. But I’m talking mainly about Nick here. You know, the one who used to be the cute and innocent one.)

Purity rings became a Christian norm in the 1990s, when millions of Christian teens were taking purity pledges, only to (fairly quickly) break them.

Teens and sex go together – it’s always been like that. It’s hard to tell a teenager “no, don’t touch that, wait for something better.” Teens want everything now. Which is why teens have sex. Which is why adults tell teens not to have sex. Which is why the purity movement seemed repressive to some, and many adults are now coming out about their experience with the purity movement – that it was forced upon them by their church groups, that they were made to believe sex was inherently bad, that it prevented them from having a healthy sexual awakening or full knowledge of their desire for intimacy. You name it. The purity movement messed them up, apparently.

But for me, it’s not a fad. And it’s certainly not repressive.

That’s not what it’s about. At least not for me. And maybe we as Christians are just getting the whole sex narrative wrong.

See, I don’t see my purity ring as a ball and chain, enslaving me to some doctrine or ideology of “do” and “do not.” It doesn’t make me fear sex or intimacy, or feel guilty for having impure thoughts or looking at things I shouldn’t. I intend to wear it until it is possibly replaced with a wedding ring, and even then, wearing it still.

Because above all else, it’s a reminder.

There are so many allusions in the Bible to Christ being a bridegroom. Can you grasp how intimate of an image that is? God chose this language – the most intimate relationship a person can have – to describe the relationship of His son to us. Because His love is unconditional and intimate. It penetrates our hearts and permeates every square inch of who we are.  And if you think that’s explicit language, read Song of Songs. (Guess what? Song of Songs isn’t just about sexy time between a king and his bride. Guess Who else it’s about.)

Also, in modern translations of the Bible, a euphemism for sex is “knowing” someone, particularly in the KJV. In the time that version was written, that was a common way of politely saying “they did the nasty.” But isn’t that an accurate way of talking about sex? It’s not just your body. It’s your mind and your soul merging with another person. You know them as no one else knows them. And Christ knows you even beyond that.

Our culture tends to focus on the carnal aspect of sex, which is degrading to both sex itself and the humans who do it. Sex in its carnal form isn’t the point of human sexuality. That’s for the animals. We were given senses and souls to “know” sex in a much different way. With strings attached, if you will.

Let me put it this way: When a buck and a deer, well…come together, the deer doesn’t have to worry if the buck is going to call the next day. The deer doesn’t have romantic feelings toward the buck. She doesn’t have to worry if she took her birth control or if she ruined her possible future relationship with her future buck husband.

She’s meant to have sex and make babies. No strings attached.

And people are too, but not in the sense that animals are. Our sexuality goes far beyond that of carnal animals. Ours is rooted in love, not necessity or instinct. Hence the Christ-bridegroom allusion. If our sexuality was meant to be casual and carnal, that allusion would fall apart and cease to have meaning. But because of the importance the Bible puts on marital sex, it infuses that beautiful allegory in all its fullness. Rules can be good, y’know.

Animals weren’t designed for intimacy – just for sex. Humans were designed for both. Human sex is more than just making babies.

(And that’s why R&B was invented.)

All that to say, that’s why I still wear a purity ring. I haven’t given up on the notion that we are more than animals, and that we are infinitely loved by a Man who wants us to live in His image. He loves us as a groom loves his bride. How amazing is that? No other religions can claim to have the same allusion.

I wear a purity ring to remind myself that, before anything or anyone else, I am infinitely Loved.

a. w.

 

My Adventures in Online Dating, Part 2: If You’re a Christian, Swipe Right

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Give me a little time and, take all my money, take all my money

You’ll come around and someday, I’ll be the one you love.

– “Broke,” Bear Attack

Hey!

According to most men on dating apps, that’s not how you should begin a conversation with them. But I think I can say hey to all y’all, instead of thinking of a witty pickup line. (I mean, what do they want other than ‘hey’? A deep question about systematic theology? Very confused.)

But I’ll get to “what men want” in another post. What do Christians want?

In other words – should Christians use dating apps?

Well, my obvious answer is probably “yes,” since I’m currently using one myself. BUT like most topics, different people have different opinions about it.

The Bible isn’t cut-and-dry about dating apps…obviously. We all know Hosea didn’t have an awful marriage because he accidentally swiped right. Ruth didn’t get Boaz’s attention with…well…~pics.~

And then there’s Song of Songs.

BUT ANYWAY

Dating is different now than it was in Biblical contexts. It’s more different than it ever has been before. Until the later part of the 19th Century, most women were still given away by their fathers and/or the patriarch of their family – sometimes to someone they’d never met. ~Love~ really didn’t come into play all that much. It was more mutuality or convenience that drove most courtships and marriages. (Not always…I mean, we’ve all read Jane Austen. I hope.)

What I’m trying to say is, the dating game has changed. But the name of the game is the same. (Lame.)

So has Christian dating. There was that whole courtship phase we all collectively went through in the 90s, until that was overruled by both Christians and non-Christians alike. Courtship is a bit stressful, with a little bit too much commitment far too soon. (It was so bad that the guy who wrote the book apologized.) And we have our ideal, “celebrity” Christian couples, like the Duggars or the Robertsons, who we then found out each have their own fair share of problems just like the rest of us.

So now what? Now what phase are we in? If we’re not being given away, or being courted, what are we doing?

Are we being swiped? 

Well, in a word, yes.

The game has changed, and I don’t think we need to sit idly by and let it change without us. Of course there’s dangers to online dating, but there’s dangers to live dating too. And I’m not even saying you have to limit yourself to an exclusively Christian dating website. Put yourself out there.

So that’s kind of my answer. Yes. Of course a Christian can date online. But, like all aspects of living in a fallen world…you have to be careful.

Actually, I would encourage Christians to date online. The great thing about dating online is you’re spreading your net further than if you simply mingled among your work, school, or church friends. (Because to be honest, sometimes the pickings are slim. Especially at church. Everyone’s already married. Or maybe you go to an old person church.)

So yeah, definitely set up an account on a site you deem appropriate and go on dates.

But here’s the “no-duh:” only if you actually want to. 

If your female relatives keep asking you why you’re still single, that’s not a good enough reason. If your guy friends are telling you about their amazing wives, that’s not a good enough reason. If you’re just plain lonely and want someone around, that’s not a good enough reason.

The church definitely puts undue pressure on single Christians to get married. (You can’t graduate from your 20-something small group into a couples group until you do.) So if you’re seeking a partner just because you feel like you have to (or your grandma keeps asking) don’t do it. That goes for both offline and online dating. Just don’t do it. Wait til you are ready.

And only you can know if you’re ready.

That took a much more serious tone than I meant it to. But the song remains the same: I invite my young, single Christian friends to check out the online dating scene. I’ve had more interesting conversations on these dates than I normally have. And I’ve met other Christians who have different opinions than me (gasp.) So even if you don’t find your soulmate, you’ll probably meet some pretty darn cool people that you wouldn’t have met otherwise.

One last thing before I let you go. When entering the dating scene, whether it’s for the first time or after your last-breakup, remember this (another no-duh clincher:) If you like someone, don’t change your convictions for them. This can come into play especially in online dating. You see a cute guy’s profile and see what he’s interested in, and you might be tempted to, well, change. Maybe he smokes marijuana, and you’re not comfortable with that. Maybe he doesn’t mind sex before marriage. Maybe he has vastly different political opinions – or even some opinions about the Bible that you disagree with. Even if he (or she) is a Christian, that does not give you a free pass to change who you are in order for them to like you “more.” Seriously. It’s super easy to do online. I’ve definitely done it a few times.

So, my Christian brothers and sisters, go on dates. Talk to people. Swipe left. Swipe right. Remember what you believe and why you believe it. If it doesn’t work out, it’s okay. God has something better in mind for you.

Now you kiddos go have fun.

a. w.

 

 

the Hope that You Have.

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“Back when the Bible was written, then edited, then rewritten, then rewritten, then re-edited, then translated from dead languages, then re-translated, then edited, then rewritten, then given to kings for them to take their favorite parts, then rewritten, then re-rewritten, then translated again, then given to the pope for him to approve, then rewritten, then edited again, the re-re-re-re-rewritten again…all based on stories that were told orally 30 to 90 years AFTER they happened.. to people who didn’t know how to write… so…” – David Cross, actor and comedian

Any good Christian would blanch at this quote and start to sputter. “But – but – wait – that’s not the whole truth.” It kind of sets a fire under you, doesn’t it? I don’t know about you, but it definitely gets me fired up. My apologetics sirens start going off. I stare that quote right in the face (or the screen, since it’s usually on Facebook) and say, “Sit down, I got something to tell you.” When I got them where I have them…I…

…blank.

A few weeks ago, I had coffee with someone who has walked away from the faith. He gave great evidence for his lack of faith, for his issues with Christianity. He hit me with scientific evidence against God. He hit me with the contradictions of the Christian faith. I sat there getting fired up, twiddling with my iced-coffee straw, waiting to say something. When I had the opportunity…I…

…blanked.

And his words sunk in.

And I started to doubt.

He asked me why I believe in God. “Is it just blind faith?” he asked.

And I blanked. And I doubted. And I questioned. And I prayed.

Why do I believe in God?

It’s like I forgot everything I was taught. I forgot tenth grade apologetics, twenty years of going to Sunday school and church and youth group, sixteen years of Christian education. I sat face-to-face with an atheist and had no idea what to say.

Why do I believe in God?

That’s not an unfamiliar question for most Christians. We reach a point in our lives when our parents aren’t around to tell us how to live, whether they were Christians or otherwise. They’re not there to tell us to go to church or tell us what to think. We have to get up and go to church, wake up and pray every morning…and have a better reason to believe than “I was just raised that way.”

This goes for any religion and any ideology, really. Once you’re on your own and can think for yourself, you have to know why you believe it.

Ever since that question was posed to me, I’ve mulled it over in my brain. In order to get answers, I went to the most reliable place I know – Facebook.

After posing the question to my friends, I got a number of different answers. I got a few different categories of responses, and most of them were to be expected. Most of them fell into the following three categories:

Evidence. “I have yet to find a reason or argument or fact that proves he doesn’t exist, and I doubt I ever will find or hear of one.” This quote from one of my friends sums it up pretty well. Similarly, one of my other friends cited her pastor who said “they’ve found the bones of Buddha and Mohammed, but not of Jesus.” Evidence-based people look for facts to back up their beliefs. Some Christians operate this way, which is why we have so many “Case for Christ“-esque films/literature.

Grace. “I don’t know where my belief and his grace even begins.” It’s hard to argue with grace, especially when it’s given freely and often. That’s what the Christian God promises – grace without end for those who choose Him. Many of my friends’ testimonies involved stories of grace and marveling at its mystery.

General Revelation. Any good Bible student knows what I’m talking about here – the way God reveals Himself through nature, to anyone who wants to take a peek. There’s not special knowledge needed, just the senses. I think more friends of mine responded with this than any other reason. “I have much faith in an intelligent creator, a higher being that created us and continues to watch over us,” said one. “I listen to or help create beautiful music and cannot stand to believe that sound could have been accidentally created,” said another, who happens to be a musician.

“Can everything that we see, and all of the infinity finite details that make up all of the world around us be unguided, random chance?” It’s kind of hard to imagine our world was created by just the right mixture of whatever matter, or an explosion.

But some might say it’s far-fetched to believe in a Big Dude in the Sky, too.

Which brings me to my other point – some people responded why they don’t believe in God. I got some fairly compelling answers there, too. Here’s a segment of one:

The way I see it, the Universe is way too wonderful and weird for there not to be some higher power or whatnot, but I guess I’m not comfortable saying that it’s the Christian God. Maybe it is, maybe it’s multiple gods, maybe it’s something even bigger that all of that, and maybe just maybe it’s nothing at all. These things, for me, are too much to try and comprehend, so I leave it alone, and focus on the things that I know and can see in my every day life.

This person identified as an agnostic, and also talked about how faith and the Bible are good things for certain people. What was interesting was no one responded by outright saying they don’t believe in God. Maybe I don’t have enough atheist friends.

A compelling comment I got was this:

I believe god either died or abandoned us long ago and that’s fine, he was selfish, full of himself, arrogant, and merciful only to those who fell for his lies. He probably had daddy issues which is why he needed mankind to worship him and acknowledge him because his dad could care less about him. I can see why. I can’t believe in that god. I believe there was a war of the gods at some point, and somehow that god won. I can no longer believe in that god. I can’t believe I ever believed in that god. I hate myself for believing in that god.

How does a Christian respond to that? How do I respond to that? It makes my skin prickle and gets me fired up…but how do I respond?

As you can see, opinions are diverse when it comes to higher powers, but they all seem to point to the same thing – a need for Something Else. Something Beyond. A belief that we’re here for a reason. Because what would the point of all this be, if that weren’t the case?

But my question still wasn’t answered. I now understood why they believe, but why do believe?

“Because my parents do” isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Neither is “just because I do.”

So, in the midst of twenty years of Christian training, hundreds of people who’ve trained me up in the way I should go, waiting for me to give voice to my faith with bated breath, I make my response.

So, why?

Because I refuse to live in a world without hope.

We can’t just be here by accident. It would be impossible for me to live if I thought this was it. There’s got to be something. Something Beyond.

I can’t live in a universe without a Creator. A truthless universe is no universe at all.

And most importantly, I can’t be a human without a Savior.

And that’s what sets Christianity apart for me. Not only is there a God, but there’s a Savior. A Savior who had the audacity to take on human flesh and save people who don’t deserve it. What other god has done that?

Is it blind faith? Quite possibly. But I’d rather believe it than believe in nothing at all.

Could I be wrong? Maybe. Maybe this is all there is. But what have I got to lose by believing?

Why do I believe? Every day, I stand in the midst of the Great Creator. He stands above any evidence against Him, rises above all doubt, and loves his Created so much that He made the ultimate sacrifice in order to declare, “They are mine.

That’s why I believe.

a.w.


Oh the mystery of it all
I can never peer within 
I’ll never find the words or understand 
The fullness of a God
Become a man

Vapor, The Liturgists