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I’m in the process of redesigning this blog and working more intentionally on branding, so I haven’t been posting. But I couldn’t let this moment past. You can see the post below as a kind of follow-up to a brief post I did several years ago.
Rochelle and I saw ‘The Help’ this weekend with another couple from church. They are wonderful people and gave me the book last year. Since the wife of the other couple, like me, is from the south, she thought I would resonate with the book, and in many ways I did.
I was born in Jackson, MS, as were my parents and grandparents. Both of my grandmothers were maids in Jackson, working for multiple white families. ‘The Help’ nails the look of Jackson and its cultural and racial ethos – both in the 60’s and today. From my read – visiting hundreds of times over my lifetime – Jackson remains two cities; one white, one black. Speak with contemporary Jacksonians, white and black, and you’ll get a completely different picture of the city, just like you do in ‘The Help’. The whites in the movie don’t see a racial problem in Jackson while it’s painfully obvious to blacks.
It’s been interesting to see the response of my white friends to ‘The Help’ (and I have tons of them and I love all of you). What has startled me is the amazement by which they look at the racial division in the 60’s. The white characters in ‘The Help’ are largely unlikeable. They want separate bathrooms, believe in separate stations in life, and mindlessly go along with the status quo; a status quo which occupies a social position of separate and unequal and the theological position that God did not create all people in his own image. When we see it in Mississippi in the 60’s we look back and marvel with confused awe and disgust. Some of us even think, “How could people be that way?” But many of us don’t think that most Sunday mornings when we sit in our segregated churches.
Our senses get offended when someone like Hilly Holbrook speaks of segregated bathrooms because “niggers carry different diseases than us”. But that’s hardly a concern at most congregations I know. There’s no fear of black butts on white toilets because there are no black butts in the building. If you don’t believe me, what’s the racial make-up of your congregation. I bet most of them are OVERWHELMINGLY homogeneous. As a matter of fact, that’s how the church-growth experts tell us is the best way to grow a church.
Once, in college, I sat in a ministry class and listened to a young white woman explain that segregated churches are better because different ethnicities like different worship styles.
It would seem that the apostle Paul didn’t consider the powerful importance of “worship styles” when he said that Jesus Himself was our peace and had destroyed the the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility between us (Eph. 2:14). Apparently, even the church is inventing mythical reasons to keep the races separate. Shockingly, this is antithetical to the message of the New Testament, wherein one of the central questions is bringing Jews and Gentiles together as one under the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Just this last week on Twitter, someone referenced seeing ‘The Help’ and asked, “I wonder what our kids will look back at and be embarassed?” I submit, it will be the same thing…at least if they’re better Christians than we are. Jesus Himself prays that all his disciples be one (John 17), and Paul works for it throughout his entire ministry, yet it is the least talked about issue in the church. We get all in a bunch about things we can’t do anything about; real important things like millennial debates, and hardly lift a finger to do what was critical to Jesus and Paul, bringing people from different backgrounds together to become one.
The difficult and deadly work of ending Jim Crow and segregation in the south was undertaken by courageous men and women, who under the banner of Christ, sought to end a wicked, demeaning system of life. Yet it was the white churches in the South who were last to the party. In fact, they openly defended the status quo, rebuked Martin Luther King, Jr., and called to uphold segregation and second-class citizenship. These churches and their leaders saw nothing wrong with segregation, with white, blacks, Latinos and anybody else all worshipping separately, though supposedly to the same God.
Some churches still do this.
Some churches maintain racists systems in the David Duke kinda way. But the majority maintain it by not caring at all, not working to end it, not standing up for others and by sitting on their hands…in the theatre.
This week we’ve been walking through Palmer’s Rules for dating. I began with the need to be clear and then moved on to The SoulMate Myth. I realize that The Rules, and the idea that there are any rules seems like they diminish romance, curtail chemistry, and remove spontaneity. That is one way to look at. I prefer to see the rules as practical steps and decisions, gleaned from the successes and failures of others, that will lead you to the person with which you can maximize romance, chemistry and spontaneity. While thinking and practicing The Rules, it won’t always feel romantic. Somewhere in inside you, you want a movie-style romance. But, in truth, those movies are a kind of emotional pornography; unrealistic, sensational, and intended for emotional gratification rather than lasting value. We see these emotional pornography in the oft-suggested notion in movies that one you find your partner or soul-mate that that person will somehow “complete you.”
You seen it in movies, and it was famously stated in one in particular. The “complete” narrative goes like this:
Someone is somewhat happy but there is something lacking in their life. Through a confluence of events they meet someone they think they want to spend forever with. Some obstacle to their love is introduced or highlighted and then the obstacle is overcome allowing the couple to “live happily ever after.” The hole that existed in their lives has now been filled; everyone has a new lease on life and all will be well.
But have you ever thought about all of the poor assumptions wrapped up in that narrative? Let’s ask some questions:
- What If You’re Happy Already? Where is it written that singleness is a curse and should be avoided? As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul directs us in the opposite direction. Not everyone should be married, which, if the Bible is to be believed, suggest that you don’t need someone to “complete you” whether you get married or not. Truth is, only God can complete you — something the Ecclesiates writer discovers after trying absolutely EVERYTHING else!
- How Poorly Do You Think About Yourself? The idea that there is another person that has the ability to “complete” you means that you somehow see yourself as incomplete. That’s an awful lot of power and dependence to give to another person. What happens to your sense of self if, God forbid, your completer dies early? And what happens if your competer strongly disagrees with you about something major? If you allow someone to complete you, you will always be dependent. Once a teenage girl told me about how important it was for a girl to have a boyfriend to feel good about herself. She got pregnant her senior year in high school. The guy split and her life was altered in a way, if thinking clearly, she would not have chosen.
- How Poorly Do You Think of God? If the Biblical narrative is true, one of the recurring themes is that God alone is enough. Enough for salvation, enough for sustained growth and relational intimacy; God is just enough and to live otherwise is a denial of that truth. Of course there is a relational component, people need other people, yet it is the spark of God in one another, His image, to borrow the language of Genesis. If You need someone other than God to complete you, you may be granting a person god-like power. As far as I can tell, this is idolatry.
Yesterday, I began a series on Palmer’s Rules For Dating. The Rules are generally, but not totally, geared toward young women and are designed to produce a healthy dating life, which will hopefully become a fulling, life-long marriage. Yesterday we talked about young men and today we turn our attention to a powerful impediment to healthy dating: The SoulMate Myth!
Perhaps the most insidious idea in the dating world is The SoulMate Myth.
Here’s how the soulmate myth goes: There is one person that God has uniquely designed for you to meet, date, fall in love and live happily ever after with. When I was in school at Abilene Christian, girls shared an old-wives tale about an artery in your ring finger that lead to your heart and that’s why you wore your wedding ring on that finger. The boy who placed the ring on your finger was the one person God meant for your heart.
Hogwash! I’m not a doctor or the son of a doctor (unless a Ph.D, counts), but I really hope all my arteries wind their way back to my heart!
More to the point, and to be clear: You don’t have a soulmate! There’s is not one, single person carved out in the universe custom made for you. Just because nearly everything in America is customizable, it doesn’t mean people come that way.
Just think about the anxiety you would feel if you really believed that! Did you meet them in elementary school and put sand in her hair? Was he or she sitting next to you at a concert and you never managed the courage to speak to him or her? Were you supposed to meet them at that Sunday night youth devo that you skipped because you were trying to finish your homework? With 300 Billion people in the world, you’d have to wonder about a God would send you looking for that small a needle in that large a haystack. As a matter of fact, a God who did that might be described as kinda cruel. And if you had to go on a hard target search like that, what time would you have for anything else? I mean, how much time can you spend on ChristianSingles.com?
Yet people believe it. They walk around thinking they’ve married their soulmate or “the right person” and they’re happy about it…until they’re not. They get married, hit some bumps in the road, find comfort in the company another man or woman, or in just being alone and suddenly they say to themselves, “I married they wrong person.”
The truth is that there is no single right-person. Instead, you should be looking for the right-kind-of-person. This right-kind-of-person is found in 1 Corinthians 13. Rochelle and I enjoy a great marriage, but both of us acknowledge that either of us could have had a great marriage with a number of people given that those persons were committed to the same things we are committed to; faith, hope, love, divorce never being an option, and the primacy of Jesus. Certainly it would be different, but marriage isn’t sustained by chemistry; it’s sustained by commitments. In turn, commitments give rise to chemistry, but what many people call chemistry is pretty much lust! As Rochelle’s father told me during my engagement, “If you stay committed to Jesus, you’ll stay committed to Rochelle.”
So, how do you find the right-kind-of-person? It’s simple. You become the right-kind-of-person! Psalm 42 reminds us that “deep calls to deep;” like things are drawn to like things. If you want a person who is patient, kind, not envious, isn’t jealous, etc…you need to become that kind of person. So guess what, if you’re dating a jerk…look in the mirror.
You have think about your own behavior and character like a virus, a good virus. Some people will be susceptible to the virus, they’ll be open and non-resistant to the right kind of love and care. Other people’s system will fight the virus, reject it. Let them. If you’re becoming the right kind of person yourself, the right kind of person will be inspired and drawn to you (this works for friendship, as well). The wrong kind of people will try to inject their antidote of impatience and selfishness into your system. Get rid of them! Quickly! They are a cancer that will eat away at your own health unless you eradicate it!
Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” When it comes to dating and marriage, I say, “Be the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.” There’s not haystack that way.
Last week I sat with my summer interns, both female college students and outlined “Palmer’s Rules for Dating.” The rules aren’t actually rules, but rather guidelines that, if followed, increase one’s chances of healthy dating and healthy marriage. The Rules have been gleaned largely from my experience as a youth worker watching high-schoolers and college-aged kids go about the task of finding a mate in the most disasterous ways. Since several people have e-mailed and facebook messaged me about The Rules, I thought I would share them here.
A few things to understand first: (1) These rules exist in the world of typical young adult dating. There are no “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”-ish type rules. I don’t have a problem with the book, I’ve never read it. However, these rules are aids in the world of dating that is familiar to most of us; (2) In nearly 15 years of working with students, the vast majority have been girls. Therefore, The Rules, are typical aimed at girls and designed to help girls; and (3) Some of The Rules are serious, some of The Rules are funny (or I think they are), but all of The Rules are true.
Rule #1: Boys Are Clueless!
I’m serious. Young men don’t think much, there’s not much going on upstairs. In fact, young men are very, very simple creatures. This means, whatever you’re doing to get his attention; He won’t notice. Don’t waste your tears crying to your girlfriends that he “doesn’t know I exists.” He knows, he’s just thinking about football.
A few years into my marriage, Rochelle shared with me that when she first became romantically interested in me, she started to hang around outside my classes, and sit in my vicinity in chapel. This was completely lost on me. If a young woman wants to get a guys attention, she’ll need to do something just a little shy of clubbing him over the head! You’re going to have to think like a guy. Think about it. What movies do guys like? Adam Sandler movies, The Green Lantern, Transformers; these are movies with horrible scripts, the storyline spelled out for a nine year old and more explosions than thinking. Subtlety won’t get you where you want to go. I would have never asked Rochelle on a date had not a mutual friend visited me one afternoon and brought a club with her.
We’re just wired to think differently.
For example, a young woman is driving with a young man. He’s quiet. She says, “What are you thinking?” “Nothing,” he replies. Suddenly her mind starts spinning: “What’s he thinking that he doesn’t want me to know? Is he going to break-up with me? What secret is he keeping? Maybe it’s the outfit I’m wearing? He doesn’t like it. Is my hair okay? Does he like someone else?” On and on it goes. And what is he really thinking?
He’s not lying. He’s simple.
That means if you want to date a boy, if you want something particular out of relationship with a boy, or if you want to get rid of a boy, you have to be crystal clear about your expectations. No beating around the bush. No hints. No suggestions. No “he’ll pick-up on my vibe.” To make him play a guessing game is a prescription for frustration for the both of you.
Movies will tell you that once you’ve found your “soulmate” (a topic we’ll discuss later), then he will automatically know your favorite color, when you’re discouraged, what flowers you prefer and when to give you a foot massage. Uh-uh! Won’t happen! Remember, romantic comedies are written by women. They are the projections of a dream world. Real life isn’t like that. Like everything else in life, people don’t know things until they’re taught things.
And if you think that it should happen and that if he loved you, he would know these things, then you’re going to frequently feel unloved. Yet, you’ll know you’re loved, when he knows what you want and need and then he gives it to you…whether he wants to or not. These are things that a good young man will learn and learn to do over time, but he won’t know to do them initially unless you tell him.
I know, I know. This doesn’t sound so romantic. Well, get over it. I’m trying to set you up for a successful dating life, which hopefully will turn into a fulfilling, life-long marriage. The Rules create fertile soil for romance to grow. Stay tuned….
Matt Worthington is good friends and teacher at MacFarland Middle School in the Washington DC Public School system. As you know, schools everywhere, especially urban schools, are in a financial trouble. Teachers, somehow, have become the new enemy, but as the son of a career educator I know first hands that the men and women teaching in inner-city schools deserve combat pay rather than disdain (my father once had a parent pull a gun on him!!). Plus, if your’e the kind of person who still believes that education in the best social, cultural, and financial elevator, I have great opportunity for you.
Matt and his students at MacFarland are in a contest to win $50,000 for an Apple Mobile Learning Lab through the Pepsi Refresh Everything contest and they NEED YOUR HELP!! After logging onto the site you’ll be able to read more and ask Matt any questions about McFarland and urban schools. You can also vote by texting “107022” to 73774 to vote for Matt and McFarland. Matt and the McFarland crew are currently ranked 32 out 258 contestants, but in order to get the grant we have to rank top 10. We need you, this blog community and my friends, to make this happen!
In both conference finals, the more experienced, veteran team won. Obviously, in the world of sports, there gets to be a moment when an athlete or team becomes too old, but that isn’t the case with Dirk’s Mavericks and LeBron’s Heat. They are in – or very close to – their prime, while the teams they beat are simply, well, too young.
Over the last 30 years, no team has won the NBA Championship with a avergage age under 26. The average age of the Oklahoma City Thunder? 23. The average age of the Chicago Bulls is 27.2, but their star, Derrick Rose, is 23. These team’s leaders are too young to win! Though both teams have great futures, we saw in the playoffs the challenges all young leaders face, regardless of their field of play.
- Wanting to Be Liked! Young (and new) leaders want to be liked by their collegues. They don’t know where the boundaries are yet, and even when they’re far more talented, it takes a while to become as assertive as you need to be in order to lead with success. Through the playoffs, we didn’t say Derrick Rose or Kevin Durant get in the face of their teammates. When the series was on the line against the Mavs, in the closing seconds, Durant didn’t have the ball! Could you imagine Jordan, Kareem, or Bird doing that? No! They set the expectations for thier team. If you didn’t meet the expectations, you paid the consequences. Leaders have to hold the team accountable for the goal, which means you won’t always be liked. And yes, sometimes this means asking the owner and/or GM to get rid of a player, who though talented, doesn’t show up in shape to play (think Kobe and Shaq).
- Seeking Help. One of the pitfalls of being talented is the illusion that you can do it alone. What the playoffs revealed is that no one besides Durant and Rose could be counted on when the game was on the line. Say what you will about Lebron, but he knew he couldn’t get past the Celtics on his own. He knew he needed help! Young and new leaders are slow to ask for help. If you feel that you’re sputtering as a leader, look around at your help. Is it the right help? If not, you might consider taking your talents to South Beach or going out and getting what you need.
- Seizing Opportunity. Both Dirk and Lebron have been to the NBA Finals before and come up short. You can see it in the urgency with which they are playing. Young leaders think that they have more time than they actually do; that they’ll make it back. Not true! The opportunity you’re looking at right now may never come around again. Ask Dan Marino about that. When you get an opportunity, you gotta grab it.
- Demanding the Ball. As I mentioned above, in the closing seconds of Game 5, Kevin Durant, didn’t have the ball. That’s inexcusable! Real leaders want the ball; they accept the responsibility and shoulder the load. Weak leaders blame others. This doesn’t mean that you distrust your teammates, it means that when it’s on the line, you have confidence that God has shaped you for this moment, for this stage and you know you can deliver. In games 4 and 5, Dirk was quiet for much of the game, but in the closing moments, he demanded the ball and delivered.