The Grey Fray

Are you as sick of hearing about 50 Shades of Grey as I am? Plenty of people much more influential than I have articulated the damage this movie inflicts on society in general and women in particular. I swore I wouldn’t contribute to the publicity, albeit minimally, by writing about the objectionable story-line.

But two things altered my decision not to jump into the Grey fray, both related to a slightly different perspective.

  • My experiences in nearly a decade of volunteering at Women’s Crisis Centers.
  • My concern for the potential of an almost predictable spike in sex crimes involving unwanted male domination as a direct result of the movie.

As a Crisis Intervention Counselor, I repeatedly witnessed firsthand devastation of women’s lives when “NO” is ignored and the sanctity of her most private space is violated. Many survivors consider the experience worse than if they had been murdered. Her body lives but her soul feels dead.

Now, after 50 Shades of Tinseltown tripe masquerading as entertainment, I’m envisioning a surge in headlines implicating men who didn’t believe a woman’s “NO” or who trampled her regardless.  

Personal discomfort aside, these two things compel me to speak up.

Someone please help me understand how millions of women sat in a movie theatre sighing and cheering as actors smeared lines of decency, not to mention laws outlining criminality, in the name of romance and passion.  What happened to the mass media indignation aimed at a Hollywood star a few short weeks ago? Women who screamed loudest over allegations of rape against an African-American television and comedic legend are the same women swooning over non-consensual sex and violence perpetrated by a wealthy white guy against an innocent young woman on the big screen. What’s wrong with this picture?

Why the double standard? Has Mr. Grey’s helicopter scene stolen the oxygen from our brains?

 Movie scripts exalting sadomasochism are not harmless fantasies. Graphic images of violence and perversion don’t vacate our minds when empty boxes of popcorn hit the waste basket at the theatre exit.

The message of 50 Shades of Grey, that women desire domination even if they cry otherwise, reeks of disrespect, danger and denigration of women everywhere. Such filth cheapens legitimate desires of a woman’s heart and positions her as nothing more than a man’s disposable toy.

Sadly, the madness doesn’t stop there.  The negative impact to men escalates in direct proportion to what women tolerate, even embrace as romantic. Yes, yes, a thousand times YES, men are accountable for their actions. But they take their cues from women. In light of millions of female viewers supporting this glorification of sexploitation, should we really be shocked when men claim confusion while passing around a defenseless, intoxicated sorority girl like a bong in the 60’s?

Let me break down a few elements of 50 Shades’ “plot”…and I use the term looser than Madonna’s morals or P Diddy’s drawers:

Man stalks woman at her place of employment

Woman has innocent chats with male friend; man threatens to hurt her if she doesn’t stop

Man steals woman’s car and sells it

Woman tells man she is a virgin; man ravages her purity

Man breaks into woman’s apartment; Woman gets tied up to her bed and violently assaulted

Woman repeatedly utters the word “NO”; man takes that as a “come on” and perpetrates sexual deviancy including beating her with a leather whip to the point of crying out in agony.

What am I missing? What about this is swoon-worthy? Where exactly is the romance?

How does this qualify as a “love story”?  Two words: It doesn’t.

Consider the above but take away the leading man’s money, power and prestige. You’d have another episode of Law & Order S.V.U. where police officers vigorously track down this sick, twisted animal. As in any good cop show, the pervert would be captured. Someone would demonstrate the proper use of handcuffs to him. And he would trade in his suit pinstripes for prison stripes.  THEN sane women everywhere would have something to cheer about.

Lest there be any lingering confusion: Stalking, threats of harm, intimidation, and non-consensual  sex are  criminal acts. Not seduction. Not passion. Not romance. Certainly not love. Not even desire out of control, as any Women’s Crisis Counselor or Law Enforcement Officer can tell you. Forced sex is called rape. And it’s against the law. Men who perpetrate such actions are not sexy. Not irresistible. Not confident lovers. They are cowards. And they are criminals. They deserve to be prosecuted and locked up as the feculent felons they are.  Not glorified as role models of romance.

Finally, I’ll echo what every other voice of reason emphasizes…Women, we were not created objects of male gratification. All women deserve respect and honor.  There are men in this world who know what that looks like and are eager to engage you with enlightened magnanimity. Real men want to hold doors for you and willingly offer their seat to a lady. Real men speak without raised voice, threats or intimidation. Real men will only put their hands on you with loving intent.  Real men will protect your heart, not violate your body.

One last thought. Real men do not deserve mixed messages or double standards. Respect is a two-way street.

Whether Hollywood ever gets that or not, I pray you do.   


“Where’s Waldo?” A Single Woman’s On-Line Dating Saga

Perusing my local Barnes & Nobel bookstore, I held in my hands a copy of “Where’s Waldo: The Fantastic Journey”

Pouring over the colorful, eye-boggling pages I began to consider how much this book reminded me of my on-line dating experience.  Themed pages of giants, warriors, vampires, firefighters, farmers, & monks, all strangely representing various personality types of men I’d encountered along my cyber quest for love.  Though it’s been a few years, I vividly recalled a cast of conspicuously curious internet characters.

~Giants: men who were bigger than life or at least thought they were, who roared about themselves ad nauseum while looking down on others. 

~Warriors: men addicted to battles, trouble following them down every path. {In laymen’s terms they are referred to as “bad boys”.}   

~Vampires: Nocturnal males who prey on women, suck the life out of them, then move on to their next victim.    

~Firefighters:  Men who show up at the first sign of a flame but leave behind a scene of smouldering ashes.  

~Farmers: down-to-earth fellows, steady, reliable, yet slower than a John Deere in July and about as exciting as watching wheat grow.

~Monks: Tender, spiritual, non-verbal, funny dressers.

Each page displayed hundreds of near-identical characters with varying degrees of colorful clutter and debris surrounding them to further distract seekers from finding the One they sought.  Of course, Waldo was on every page but so deeply entrenched among a visual cacophony, the challenge was to find him among the bewildering frenzy of aberrations without curling up in the fetal position whimpering something incomprehensible.

The caption across the top of this literary treasure read, “Have you found Waldo yet?” And across the bottom, “Now with EYE BOGGLING EXTRAS!”

Indeed, my on-line dating experience unfolded much like pages in this Waldo compilation.  Promises to mingle with Christians, find bliss with my perfect match or  fall in love with my soul mate belied the fine print, common sense warnings that I most likely must stave off  hundreds…in my case thousands…of modern day giants, warriors, vampires, firefighters, farmers, & monks.  After countless hours, weeks, months spent looking for the “significant other” equivalent of a needle in a haystack, the Fantastic Journey was no longer quite so, well, fantastic. 

Those “eye-boggling extras”?  In my experience, they included photos of men flanked by Harleys, hound dogs, horses & hunting rifles, in addition to pictures of matches in costumes–from Superman to Shaquille O’Neal- and more than one fella sporting pumps and lipstick.  {Thankfully, the self-proclaimed nudist only posted pics of himself from the neck up.}

Photos were only the tip of the e-romance iceberg.  The biggest problem with on-lines daters, in my estimation is that most singles rush to fill out their profile while uneducated about and unrecovered from their previous relationship failures.  They haven’t invested in learning from their mistakes in an effort to move toward wholeness.  Whether newly divorced, recently widowed, or even single for years, many bring their trunk filled with unhealed wounds, self-exonerating blame, unrealistic expectations and unfulfilled fantasies into cyber space with them.  Unresolved issues clutter emotional landscapes, much like Waldo-type debris littering the pages of our story.

As singles, attracting quality people into our lives can prove a significant challenge.  Perhaps the best place to start is with our own trunks, unpacking the stuff we’ve been carrying around for years, embracing the call to health in mind, body & spirit, and working to become quality people ourselves.   Then, rather than searching for Waldo amidst a sea of frightening caricatures, we might actually discover there’s a truly fascinating individual smiling at us over the top of an inspirational anthology. 

Replacing the flamboyant children’s book on the shelf, I inquired of a store employee where I might find the self-help section.

There’s Gonna Be a Wedding!

Attending a 4 day conference focusing almost entirely on romance was a shock to my system.  Like drinking water from a fire hose…that’s how I describe my experiences and emotions in the CAPTIVATING retreat.   

I know enough about God to unequivocally profess His love for me even in painful circumstances where I completely lack understanding.   I don’t doubt God or His presence as he carried me through some of the most excruciating journeys a human being could ever experience.  God’s love has never been in question for me.   Frankly, my doubts centered in the value of romantic love.  Pain from human relationships abated my desire for romance. 

My mindset venturing into the CAPTIVATING retreat dissuaded me.  ‘Romance feels too much like chasing a fantasy.’  It felt that way because that’s how it presents for most of us, a very elusive dream.  I raised the white flag, surrendering to the conclusion my desires for romance must be taken captive and imprisoned.

I reasoned love can take many forms.  I love Christ and He has given me compassion & a heart to serve His daughters.  I could devote my life continuing to serve in women’s ministries and find deep fulfillment therein.  Too, I have many meaningful platonic friendships with men.  I convinced myself that is enough, I can live without romance.  Mine was a noble and practical pursuit.  Love God, serve His children, be a good friend, forgo silly romantic notions.

But there stood Stasi Eldredge systematically…and Biblically…unraveling my commitment to live a life without romance.  Her words pierced me to the core.  “You were created for romance.  In fact, your deepest desires… to be pursued, fought for, cherished above all others…are where you bear the image of God.”   

My deepest desires are where I bear the image of God?  God desires romance?  What a foreign concept.

All my life I’ve heard and believed God loves me.  While a stretch for some people to grasp, it isn’t for me.  I have experienced the love of God much as I felt the love of my Daddy when I was a child.  I embrace the concept of Abba/Daddy, crawling up on his lap, pouring out my heart to Him and listening for His wise counsel.   I cherish my times alone with Abba.  I treasure Scriptures declaring my standing as a child of God.

The message of CAPTIVATING pulled me in a completely different direction.  This speaker challenged me to believe God loves me with a deep romantic love.  She even invoked Scriptures to back it up, ones I’d heard many times about being created in God’s image and God giving me the desires of my heart, i.e., putting desires into my heart.  {Genesis 1:27; Psalm 37:4}

For as long as I can remember I declined putting too much emphasis on romance.  I’m too practical to believe “Love conquers all.”  I know first-hand how much work relationships take and even then, heartache and pain always factor into the equation.

To expect any man to provide a font of endless romance is unrealistic and unfair to men.   For that very reason, I purposefully renounced chick flicks years ago.  All those Hollywood scenes of impure fantasy stirred up longings impossible for a mere mortal to fulfill.

 If I wasn’t in a relationship with a man, watching Jack & Rose in Titanic created longings for something out of reach.  Ensuing dissatisfaction disgruntled me and my prayer life became one on-going gripe session…  “God, when are you going to bring me a nice man?  Don’t you realize how long I’ve waited?  Do you care that I am bearing all life’s burdens alone or that I have no one to share life’s Joys with?”  

If I was in a relationship, scenes from The Notebook rendered me frustrated.  My man didn’t devote every ounce of his being to me like Noah did for his beloved Allie.  Guess who I took that frustration out on??

I can’t adequately articulate the significance of the moment God’s romance candle first flickered inside my heart.  I realized if my heart bears the image of God’s heart, it must be true…He too, longs for romance as much or more than I do.  AND if GOD is the One who put the desire for romance in my heart, He would never give a desire which endlessly frustrates me or offers no possibility of being fulfilled.  Only a cruel God would do such a thing.  I have walked with the Lord long enough to know He could never be cruel. 

The missing link…

In the course of the CAPTIVATING retreat I felt the Holy Spirit telling me my desires are not wrong but where I go to with those desires continually causes me pain and grief.  How many times have I taken my longings to a false lover?  All the years following the dissolution of my marriage, I carried secret pride in managing to remain pure in my body.  Yet purity of heart escaped me.  I peddled my hungering for love and acceptance, my longings to be delighted in, to men who could never meet those deep desires of my soul. 

For days the speaker communicated romance was God’s idea.  All things I consider romantic…flowers, moonlight, sweet fragrances, soft music, a gentle kiss, the sound of ocean waves or a waterfall, the sight of twinkling stars…those were created by God.  Romance was not only God’s idea, it is His constant gift all around me! 

For years my Lord patiently waited, wooing me while I embraced a fantasy.  He pursued me with fields of wild flowers, love songs of birds outside my window greeting my mornings, romantic whispers of ocean waves, moonlight and gentle rain to caress my skin, breezes to tenderly kiss my face, aspen leaves wildly applauding my presence, glorious sunsets across a breath-taking mountainous landscape and diamonds in the night sky beckoning me to choose one for my engagement ring from the Creator of the universe!

 In all of creation, God continually shouts, “I LOVE YOU! YOU HAVE CAPTIVATED MY HEART!”

In designing me in His image, He crafted a heart longing to be romanced, pursued, fought for and cherished. He created me with desires for deep intimacy. He would not gift me intense desires without a means to fulfill them.  Jesus Christ was…and is…that fulfillment.  He is not only the Author of my love story, He is the Hero.  God is a Hopeless Romantic.   Even more amazing, He DESIRES ME.  He is the Lover of my Soul.  

Though precious the title “child of God”, my Creator did not stop there.  In a mystery unexplainable in human words, God declares I am His BELOVED BRIDE. 

“You shall be called by a new name which the Lord shall pronounce with His own lips.  You will be a glorious crown in the Lord’s hands.” ~ Isaiah 62:2

“The Lord has acknowledged you as wife, once deserted and heart-broken, Your God Has Called You BRIDE…” ~Isaiah 54:6

“Let me rejoice in the Lord with all my heart…He has robed me in salvation as a garment and clothed me in integrity as a cloak…like a BRIDE decked in her jewels…” ~Isaiah 61: 10

“For as a young man weds a maiden, so shall you wed Him who rebuilds you and your God shall rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his Bride.” ~Isaiah 62:5

In the words of Tim Reimherr in his song, More Than Ashes, “There’s gonna be a wedding.  It’s the reason I am living, to marry the Lamb…”

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