Monday, September 21, 2015

A Hamburger and Fries

You ever have a moment where you feel as though you know exactly what God wants you to do, and yet you don't want to do it? And it's not even a good reason why you don't want to do it, just something stupid and inconsequential?

I was on my way to Life Group tonight, and I was already going to be late. Shaw (our main street) is crazy that time of night, and even getting on it was slow going. And there, at the corner, was Dee. I had forgotten her name, but she was often there at the corner, holding a sign, asking for help. I was blasting music, as is my wont, but I turned it down as I approached the corner. I pulled out my wallet, but a quick glance confirmed what I had already suspected: It was empty.

So, as is my usual practice in that situation, I simply said a short prayer for her and went on my way, turning the music back up. Except...the joy I had been feeling mere seconds earlier was gone, replaced by something else. A nagging feeling, as though something had been missed. And it wouldn't go away.

You're just going to let it go, just like that?

Well, I mean, yeah. It's late, the traffic is crazy, I don't have money, what am I-

You could get her some food. It's nearly 7, and she had nothing with her.

Well, yeah, I could do that, but it's going to take forever to get the food and -

Seriously? There's a Carl's Jr right there.

And so there was. So almost without thinking, I pulled into the parking lot (although, due to a miscalculation, it was actually the next parking lot over that I pulled into). And then it began again.

Wait, what are you doing? Buying food? She probably doesn't even want food. She's probably going to look at you like you're a weirdo, and then you're just going to have food sitting in your car, food you don't want, and it's going to be awkward and -

And then I got out of the car and went into the Carl's Jr. I got a burger and fries, and a drink, and then started back down the way I'd come. She was still there at the corner, so I went past, U-turned, and pulled into a nearby parking lot. I got out of the car, grabbed the bag of food and the drink, and started walking towards her.

She saw me coming, and she set down the sign and came to meet me. I'd been working out my "speech", what I was goign to say to her, but it left me, so I mumbled something about how I didn't have any money and I thought she might want food and -

"Food is great!" she said. "Thank you!"

I asked what her name was, and told her I'd be praying for her. She did the same, and said a short prayer right there. As I walked back to the car, I saw her checking out the bag and grabbing some fries.

But then, as I pulled out of the parking lot and began to turn the corner again, I saw that she had placed the bag back on the ground. She wasn't holding her sign. She wasn't looking at the cars passing her by. Instead, she had her hands slightly raised, her eyes closed, and her face towards heaven. And she remained that way until I could no longer see her.

It interesting experience, and it made me 25 minutes late to Life Group. It's very rare that I have that moment, that point in time where I feel as though I know exactly what I'm supposed to do. I'm just glad that God refused to allow me to pass it by, despite my fighting it every step of the way.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Duct Tape and People

The youth group at my church just finished up three weeks on sex and dating, covering the usual gamut of God's intended purpose for sex, common temptations and obstacles, and forgiveness and recovery. We worked through this during our mid-week Small Group time as well, and last week, that unfortunately included a popular addition to such talks: The Duct Tape Example.

One of my fellow leaders brought out a roll of duct tape in the middle of the talk, and asked for volunteers who were "really strong." Finding one such volunteer, he tore off a suitable length of tape and plastered it to the volunteers arm, observing that the tape was stuck fast and was now "one flesh" with the high schooler. Then he ripped it off, pointing out the pain experienced by the volunteer, as well as the hair and debris that remained stuck to the duct tape.

He repeated this a couple more times, noting each time how much less sticky the tape had grown, and how much weaker the attachment was between tape and high schooler. And each time, he brought it back to sex, telling the guys that each time they had sex with someone else, they would become less capable of experiencing a meaningful connection with the next person they had sex with, even someone they intended to marry. And at the end, he was sure to bring up the power of God in Christ, to forgive us and make us new, and heal our wounds.

He said all the right things. He didn't say anything that was untrue, and he said a lot that was true and helpful! But the problem is, the illustration itself is incredibly flawed.

As the last volunteer shook the tack-less tape from his arm, one of the guys said something that (unintentionally) drove the point home for me. He said, "So we should call all the hoes at our schools 'duct tape'?"

He was joking, of course, but the comment betrayed the crucial flaw in the illustration. While it was accompanied by a lot of spoken truth about connection, intimacy, and the very real dangers of pre-marital sex, the illustration itself said something different:
Girls who have sex with multiple people are inherently worthless. 

That's what the illustration says when performed with a group of guys. It can't say anything else. The tape is an obvious (and explicit) stand-in for a woman, and it is quite literally worthless for its intended purpose after one or two people have "had their way" with it. The illustration is very least, if your goal is to get guys to associate worth with virginity.

A lot of the guys laughed when he made the "hoe" comment (they are high schoolers, after all), but I immediately raised my voice, to say, "And that's the danger of illustrations like this: They reduce people to one thing, and make that the only worthwhile thing about them." I think he understood my point, because he immediately nodded and was quiet for a bit.

But the problem remains: We use these illustrations, and to the people in charge, they mean one thing...but to the people witnessing it, they mean something completely different, about people, sex, and worth as human beings. And I think we need to stop with the analogies, because ultimately, I think they do more harm than good. Or, if you simply MUST use analogies, they need to be accompanied by a LOT more explanation and restriction: What do they mean, and more importantly, what do they NOT mean? This is what our analogies lack, and this is the reason why they so often reduce people to something less then people...and that is unacceptable.

NOTE: I owe a great deal of my thinking on this matter to my good friend Alishia, who has written about this topic here and here