As promised, it's time to share the best comments I received during the past month. As it's my first time doing this, I'm open to suggestions about the format. (For example, do you want to see my replies to the comments, or just the comments themselves? Is this too many comments to read? Or should I pick more? Anyone want to design a less ugly logo than what I whipped up at 8:30 last night?)
If you'd like to do the same on your blog, feel free to link up below!
On Marriage Means I Can't Do Everything -- And I'm Glad, e said:
In college I was so worried about keeping my options open and making sure that I wouldn't be unhappy in the future that I was paralyzed with indecision. I can't find it right now, but one of my professors gave me a quote from Oscar Romero basically saying that in order to be truly free--free to live a good life--we have to limit our freedom in the present so that we are able to open up new opportunities. Your posts remind me of that quote--and one of the most important lessons I ever learned.
I think children today need to hear a caveat to the adage "you can be anything you want to be." They need guidance in specific directions because the world is just too overwhelming without it.
Now that I am in a serious relationship, I also feel less pressure regarding my career choices because my options are more limited and I can choose what's right for me within that scope. It probably sounds silly, but I don't have to worry anymore that I will make a career decision that will strain a potentially wonderful future relationship.
I think people have tried to add a caveat to "you can be anything," which is "find your passion and do that!" Which really isn't much more helpful because it implies that not only can you do anything, but there is one right thing for you to do, and you need to find that out of all the possible options and do it. I think it's much more helpful, and realistic, to suggest trying out different things, and that what you enjoy at one time might be different than you what you enjoy down the road. This means that even if you have limitations to your situation, it's OK because there might be things within those limits that are among the many things you enjoy and are good at.
I know several people who have stressed out about getting in a serious relationship because of how it would limit their career choices (myself included). I think what you said, about choosing from your limited options so you know you won't strain the relationship, is a pretty countercultural view in a culture of being free and independent. But it makes sense that it would lessen your stress, assuming you're not operating from the "one right job out there" perspective but the "which options among my potential choices are good ones" perspective.
On Where I Feel Welcome (More Than at Church), alice wrote:
This reminded me of a sign that always makes me smile when I see it on this one church's door: "God loves everyone. No exceptions." Though I'm not a regular member of that congregation, when I do go there I have always felt so welcome, in large part because they embody that message.
My impression as an outsider has always been that since most churches require adherence to certain laws/commandments/etc., it's very easy for God's love to become framed as something that some people 'deserve', even if it's not theologically framed that way. "God loves you even when you sin" just feels different from "God loves you."
You're right about how messy it can get with having rules or commandments but having love freely given. When you think about it in the context of a parent it makes sense: Your parents have rules for you because they care about you, but you can understand that they still love you no matter what. The difficulty is that our earthly parents can explain why certain rules are in place, whereas we rely on people other than God to explain God's rules to us, many of which are either no longer relevant or may not have been commands from God in the first place. There's a million gatekeepers trying to stand between us and God, explaining both his rules and his love. As a child, we may feel our parents' love because of how they treat us (how they talk to us, look at us, hold us) even when we've disobeyed their rules. But we feel God's love mainly through other people, and when those other people cease to be loving on account of our supposedly breaking God's rules, it can feel like God's love is dependent on our following the rules. And it's not--but the way many Christians act, you would never know that.
On How Many Heaven Points Do You Have?, Mórrígan said:
This reminds me of something I read by C.S. Lewis, probably from Mere Christianity. He was talking about sin, and he said something like, it's not about breaking rules or following rules; it's about what certain acts do to your soul. It makes sense to me, especially when you look at how psychology supports such an idea, and I always see the soul and mind as inextricably linked. Doing certain things can have a negative effect on the psyche, but so will witnessing or experiencing things which you haven't caused too.
That's why I think the "accountant's ledger" model of God is so harmful, because God is emulated as the perfect parent. If this is how God treats us, how will believers treat their children? The ideal goal of any parent is to help one's child to become a person who is healthy in mind, body, and soul. That whole attitude that "if you do X, you receive Y punishment, because that's what you deserve" is a broken model of parenting, because it loses sight of the real goal, replacing it with the negative human desires for control, retribution, and sameness.
You have such a great way of putting words to the truth!Liberated Parents, Liberated Children helped me get a grasp on exactly what you're talking about--that it is not, or should not be, a parent's goal to raise well-behaved, obedient children. The psychologist whose work the book covers says that it should be our goal to raise humane children, children who genuinely care about other people. They will strive to do the right things because they understand what is loving and what is not, not because doing one thing over another has been beaten into them.
I think this is a helpful lens through which to understand what Jesus tells us, why there's such an emphasis throughout the Gospel on our hearts and on love and faith. It's not that the actions are unimportant, it's that the more important thing is the heart behind them. It's exactly what 1 Corinthians 13 starts off talking about: "...If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing."
I had not made the connection between the humane children statement and God's role as parent, but it makes a lot of sense. Thank you!
It was hard to narrow it down because there are so many great comments! Thank you to all of you who take the time to join in the conversation and share your point of view.