Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bless the Broken Road

I recently stumbled across a courtship website -- one of the many floating around cyberspace --that uses the catch-phrase "Courtship: Never Know a Broken Heart." Additionally the site suggests that "courtship is God’s royal plan for believers to find the love of their lives in His time. It produces strong, stable, permanent marriages without all the pain and rejection along the way. " (Nevermind the fact that a university study found that courtship marriages statistically have a higher divorce rate than marriages in general.)

The site "was birthed in the heart of [the founder]... during a time of prayer and fasting, God began to reveal the sorrow of His heart for young people who go through painful journeys to find love. [The founder] heard the heart cry of the Father God that the brokeness must stop."

(It is baggage like this that caused me to avoid using the term "courtship" to refer to our relationship).

The danger in this way of thinking is that it actually sets people up for a broken heart. Out of my personal friends, there are as many "courtships" that did not end in marriage as actually did. Following a model of courtship does not guarantee that you will not experience heart break. If that is your goal upon entering a relationship, you just might be setting yourself up for a disastrous marriage. The whole point of courtship is to make sure that you are compatible for marriage and that God is in fact calling you to that. If it becomes apparent that you are not, it is far better to end the relationship than to proceed into marriage!

And ending it may leave one or both persons heartbroken. Having your heart broken is not the worse thing that could happen to you. And definitely preferably than an unwise marriage. Marriage is permanent (or at least should be). The heart mends. Depending on how you handle the heartache, it may even mend to stronger than before.

I know. In a little more than a week, I will be marrying my sweetheart (who in my humble opinion happens to be the best man alive ;). But neither of us can honestly say that we've never cared for anyone else besides each other. We've both experienced the pain that a broken relationship brings. Neither of us regret it. I would not go back in time and change that past relationship if I could, because I grew and matured from it in ways I would not have otherwise.

That's not to say that I actually recommend that everyone go out and get a broken heart. God's plan for every life is different and individual. There are many people who will not have a broken heart... romantically. But they will experience pain in other ways. A life without pain is like a life without happiness. We cannot truly feel joy without knowing what sorrow is.

We live in a fallen world. It is not God's design for us to always be "happy." James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." It is not just romance that can cause one's heart to break. Sickness, death, friendship, sin, repentence... As long as our heart still beat, they will break.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Modesty: An Overlooked Definition

There's a topic I feel strongly about and am frequently reminded of, for one reason or another. The latest reason was attending an annual homeschool convention. The topic is modesty.

In my opinion, the homeschool community has been improving in that area. However, many people would disagree with me. Why? We have different definitions of the concept of modesty.

In the past, homeschool conventions and other events were dominated by a certain "look" - something along the lines of denim or homemade calico jumpers, dresses, and skirts. For women and girls, that is. Men and boys oddly enough always looked a lot more mainstream, but that's a side issue. In recent years though, there has been a gradual shift in female clothing styles toward trendier skirts, tops and even, Heaven forbid, pants and jeans. I have heard this change criticized as being "wordly" and "immodest." My view is that we're finally starting to dress modestly.

Modesty is a big issue -- and rightly so -- in homeschooling circles. It is the topic of many books and convention workshop speakers. I am not suggesting that it is not important and should not be emphasized. My point is that it's been incompletely taught and as a result, incorrectly embodied.

Modesty is primarily taught as a lust issue: women should dress "modestly," ie, not inviting lust from men, not causing a brother to stumble, etc. That is absolutely correct, but not the full definition of the word. A seldom-mentioned aspect of modesty and the truest definition of the word is not attracting attention to yourself. Yes, that includes not causing lust, but also means not attracting attention, period. As in, causing yourself to stand out. Which even goes beyond clothing itself, it emcompasses attitude, body languge, one's inner spirit. But my original topic pertains to clothing.

That's why I think the homeschool "look" misses the point of modesty. If you're walking through a store and repeatedly turning heads because of the outfits (often matching) that you are wearing, that is not by definition modest. It no doubt is successful at discouraging lust, but still makes one the target of prolonged and often negative attention. That's why I referred to homeschoolers' clothing style shifts as an improvement in modesty. While still maintaining appropriate coverage/concealment, more and more are turning to styles that are actually currently in style. And by style I'm not talking about the very latest fashions or anything copied from popular actresses and trendsetters. Just the basics of inobtrusive modern style, yet modest. Style and modesty: they don't have to be contradictory terms.

P.S. I still enjoy the occasional denim skirt. In fact, I wore one to the convention.