Sunday, December 18, 2005
I was watching TV this morning, and something finally crystallized in my mind. One of the biggest problems faced by Christian men in modern American society is the objectification of women. That sounds like Leftist nonsense, and if my concern were over social justice, it would be. Only a fool wants justice; we're fortunate enough to be under grace. In any case, my reasoning is selfish. When we see women as things, we become bad men. In our society, we're told that that everything can be bought. Look at commercials: how often are women seen as some prize or plaything? Are a lot of TV shows different?
Lok at history. How many problems have come from people not seeing each other as human beings? Slavery, polygamy, homosexuality, genocide, and all sorts of other assorted unkindnesses can all trace their roots back to a view of people as objects and of ingratitude for what God has given us. And that view, which can justly be called inhumanity, is rampant here. It's present among both men and women, but as I'm a guy, I'm concerned with men's attitudes.
This problem drives us away from God. We become dissatisfied with what God gives us, and then we make the fatal mistake of thinking that a woman will satisfy us. This can range anywhere from wanting to get married to feeling as though you need a girlfriend to rape. This whole desire for women isn't by itself a bad thing; it's a perversion of a natural desire. In Genesis, God says that it's not good for man to be alone (and presumably woman, either). For many, probably most, people, marriage is a good idea. However, it's not a panacea. The person we are before we enter into a relationship isn't going to be suddenly and magically healed. There won't be a miraculous change. What relationships do, in this regard, is to give us an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. If done in a way that is meant to give glory to God, though, a relationship is a huge commitment and shouldn't be entered into lightly.
In middle and high school, nearly everyone I knew was in a relationship. Everywhere you looked, there were couples. I was a normal guy: I was interested in girls. I enjoyed their company, and so why shouldn't I have a girlfriend? For a high school guy, a taste of hell is sitting on a bus on an overnight trip while your three closest friends sit with their girlfriends (and a psycho-crazy girl who liked me sitting in the seat across the aisle from me). Bombarded by the media and the culture, pressure builds up, and sometimes you crack and sometimes you snap. I wanted a girlfriend not because I wanted to honor God or edify her, but because I wanted to prove my manhood. What I wanted was a trophy, a billboard saying "hey, look at what I've got." Not only was I only valuing women for what they could provide for me, but I was only valuing myself based on how others saw me based on the girl I was with.
Out of a mixture of naivete, obliviousness, and dumb luck probably presided over by Providence, all that happened in high school in college was that I went on a few dates here and there. It wasn't until I was in grad school that I finally had a girlfriend. Even then, I wonder how much of that was simply me cracking under pressure, as I made decisions that I wouldn't normally have made. My relationship with God became a means, rather than an end. I was prepared, at least in principle, to sacrifice everything to God. However, implicit in all of it was that I expected God to provide me with a girl. That was the one thing I'd wanted, and it seemed to me to be only fair that something as small as that should be my earthly reward.
Do you see the mistakes I made in thinking that way? Leaving aside all manner of lesser mistakes, that way of thinking implied not only that I thought God owed me something, not only that a woman was a prize rather than a person, but that a relationship was something of little or no value. How wretched is that line of thinking? Even worse, how many people would see no problem with it or even commend me for willing to give up so much? I wasn't giving up anything at all, and I was demanding one of the most valuable things in the universe. Every person out there is an immortal soul, and I was asking for one as though she were a free sample at the grocery store. Why should any father, let alone the Father, entrust me with such a thing as a relationship with a girl? Would I honor this woman except when I felt like it?
I face a challenge. To be entrusted with such a priceless thing as a marriage, I need to prove myself worthy in other relationships. I need to see people as God's children, rather than in terms of what they can do for me. I need to be responsible with my time, money, and efforts. Most importantly, any relationship with a girl needs to take a backseat to my relationship with God. I won't become perfect; if I'm blessed with marriage, my wife and I will be marrying imperfect, sinful people. Only God can heal us. The great thing is that we know that He will, and that he'll provide for our needs. Maybe if I can start by trusting in that, everything else will fall into place. I think it will.