Saturday, June 30, 2012

As Best I Can

        I'm thinking tonight about a story Kate McCord shared in her book about living in Afghanistan.  As probably everyone knows, women in Afghanistan have to be covered in the presence of unrelated males, can't sing  even in the privacy of their own compound lest their lilting, seductive voices tempt a male passerby, and they absolutely  cannot travel solo, unaccompanied by a male relative.
       The rationale behind this is that God will not tolerate sin and  the community is His appointed watchdog, required to sniff out said sin and judge it accordingly.  To judge in Afghanistan means not only to say this is wrong but also to punish the wrong doer; the same type of connotation that the word carried back in Biblical times. (Think the woman caught in adultery in John 8).
      In Afghanistan, Kate formed some close friendships and one friend in particular came, over time, to understand that God really loves us,  something she had never even considered before.  As Kate was visiting with a group of women one night, someone asked her a loaded question: had she ever traveled without a male guardian? Kate had, of course, as she had been involved in international business for many years. However in order not to offend anyone she sidestepped the question by saying that a relative had driven her to the airport in America to start her journey  to Afghanistan and then men from her office in Kabul had greeted her upon her arrival.
       Kate's close girlfriend grew very quiet at this reply because she was able to "read between the lines". She knew Kate had traveled extensively in Europe and she knew Kate was single  but had never considered the implications of all  this.  She asked Kate in a subdued voice  who accompanied her on the  plane or stayed with her in hotels?
     Again, Kate thought about sidestepping the question but because her friendship with this woman was close and because she knew her friend's views on some issues were gradually changing, she decided to respond simply and directly, without arrogance but also without apology.
    As the women understood that she had slept in hotel rooms and sat on airplanes by herself, they gave disapproving looks and began to mentally withdraw from her.
     Her close friend, however, simply looked troubled and  said in a pensive voice, "Then you are unclean." Kate knew her friend had chosen the nicest word she could possibly use in that society to describe a woman who was tainted.  The more common terms for single women traveling solo were not nearly as kind so she knew her friend was trying to be gentle with Kate even as she stated what, for all the women in that room, was an undeniable truth.
    Kate had  expected this reaction however and she even understood the rationale behind it:  in Afghanistan, if a woman is not protected by a male, everyone assumes she will fall into sin. Pure and simple.   So even if no one saw her fall into sin, she had the opportunity so she must have done it.
   Kate responded by talking  to them about how a person can sin in their mind, even when everything on the outside looks "correct".  Their knowing looks confirmed that the women's  own experiences validated the truth of what she had just said.  Then she reminded her close friend that she, Kate, read the Holy Bible every morning and followed her  God who was loving but also pure and without sin.  She asked her friend if she believed this and the Afghan woman  said that, yes, she did. She had "read" Kate's life on a daily basis and knew Kate truly loved Jesus Christ.
   From there,  Kate went on to say that  she believed in an all-knowing God, an all-seeing God, a God of love who had graciously sent His Son to die for her as well as placing  His Holy Spirit to live within her heart. And because she knew that He was with her every single solitary place that  she went -  in taxis, on crowded planes, in impersonal airports, and even in lonely  hotel rooms - even though she had many opportunities to sin, she would never take them.
    She let her friend quietly digest this information before gently asking her, "Do you believe this?"  Her friend said she did- again, because she had observed Kate's heart  closely  over the years.
    Basically, Kate was telling her friend, How can I take the presence of my loving Father into an immoral situation? How can I enjoy wrongdoing when I know He will be  watching me, His child, with great tenderness but also sadness at any  wrongdoing?
    She was telling this Afghan woman, I don't need a male guardian to keep me from wrong; I need only remember that God loves me, has sweet plans for me and is always near to me, as near as the very air I breathe.
    Right now, there is a lot of chatter on the  net about the movie, Magical Mike, and the book, Fifty Shades of Grey.  Some have gotten upset, insisting that others cannot deprive them of the choice to watch the film, read the book (as if a blog could actually do that...)   I would agree wholeheartedly that everyone should have choices. This is America and thankfully, we do have choices. Women can sing, laugh, dance, read,  and go to movies - or not - as they determine and I wouldn't have it any other way.
  Others have said that exposure to these things is detrimental to a marriage while, on the opposite side, people are saying that this doesn't affect marriages at all and only the unhappily married are grouching about this book or that movie  - because they are unhappily married - and therefore simply want to make everyone as miserable as they themselves are.
    I don't think one  book or one film will destroy a healthy or even a semi-healthy marriage. Neither do I think this type of book or film  will make a marriage better.  (I came of age during the hippie movement and while I liked the movie, The Four Seasons with Allen Alda, I never bought into that type of philosophy. I don't have to get grimy in order to appreciate clean and figure out which one is better).
      Nor do I think that going to  a movie, or refraining from going to a movie, says much if anything about the state of a marriage relationship.
       However, like Kate, I treasure  God's love.    As I grow older, He truly does grow sweeter.  Over nearly six decades, He has proven Himself to be  my faithful,  eternal friend, giving me  comfort  in times of sadness and bringing joy to me as well, even in the dark places of life.   Wherever I go, I know He is there and when I feel afraid, I cry out to Him instinctively.     When the birds are singing early in the morning, I am reminded  that His lovingkindnesses are new, fresh, just like the first pure rays of  sunlight  spreading across our yard. And when storms gather round me, whether physical or otherwise, again, He is the first One I turn to. And I know that someday, should Phil go to Heaven before I do, He will still be there for me  - because of Him, I will never be alone.
    And because He has been so sweet to me, so faithful, there are simply some places where I  could choose to go but I just don't think I can. Not because He'll quit loving me if I sit and watch male strippers entice, seduce, and engage in various types of sex acts. I know He won't.  But because I just don't think I can treat Him that way.
   It's one thing to see the sin of the world, which He does. Everyday.  I fully understand that. But I think it's another thing altogether  for a loving Father to watch His precious daughter absorbed in socially acceptable porn scenes with a "redeeming" story line. Please don't get me wrong: no one loves a good redemption story more than my Heavenly Abba.
   But somehow, I just honestly can't see Him sitting in a theater, watching Magical Mike and saying, "This is soooo where I want my precious daughter to be... and this is exactly what I hoped for  when I lovingly breathed life into  all the actors and actresses on the screen - I created them for just this very  thing."
   Again, everyone is entitled to their opinion. And while I realize mine isn't worth much, I'm thankful that I have the right and freedom to express it. And that others have the same right as well.
   I'm not for burqas anymore than I am for Fifty Shades of Grey or Magical Mike.
   I just want to follow Jesus as best I can.  And tonight, this is what following Jesus looks like to me.