I have a confession to make: I was in my high-school production of Grease.
Whew. That feels better.
I might not feel so lame about it if I actually had a real role, but I played Johnny Casino: a bit player in the stage show who didn’t even make it into the movie. Danny got Sandy. Kinickie got Rizzo. Johnny Casino sang a song at the high-school dance. No love for Johnny. The way I see it, in a show about teen love, any character who isn’t either in love, or helping the ones that are in love get together is an extra. You might as well be a talking prop.
Such is life.
I got an email last week from a youth pastor that was concerned with a post that one of his Grade 9 girls had put up as her facebook status. It was essentially a set of instructions for how a boy should treat his girl, with things like ” Tell her why you think shes so cool . . . Pick flowers from other peoples gardens and give them to her . . . Throw pebbles at her window at night. When she starts swearing at you, tell her you love her . . . Lend her your cds . . . Write on her . . . Kiss her in the rain. When you fall in love with her, tell her.”
He was concerned with the passion that was in this; the yearning to fall in love and be loved in return. He lamented her failure to grasp God’s love for her, and the ideology that seemed to say that she NEEDED to be in a relationship. He was asking for help getting through to her.
Of course, she didn’t actually write this. It’s a lesser known meme that’s been cycling around the net since about 2004. It’s viral. That means she saw it somewhere and grabbed it. Something about it pulled at her. Maybe the words settled into her mind like they were moving into a comfortably decorated room, all made up and waiting for them. Maybe she just recognized a glimmer of truth in them that tickled her fancy. Maybe she wanted to look wise. Whatever the reason, she decided share it with her online family.
The fact that it’s stayed alive this long, moving from host to host, though, shows that the sentiment is more symptomatic of our culture rather than the heart’s cry of one girl.
So then. Is he right to be concerned?
God’s love has never been a substitute for earthly physical love, but in collaboration with it. We aren’t just meant to be in community with God, but with each other. I am fully cognizant of the love God has for me. I know personally his covenant love and how he pursued me to the grave because of his great desire for relationship with me. I also need my wife. I was made to love her and she was made for me. God designed us so that in romantic relationship, his love would be reflected, and we would have a sense of completion; we would have someone on earth to represent his love to us. Is it wrong for a girl to desire that? Absolutely not.
The depth of that desire, though, and what she’s willing to trade for it is a very legitimate concern, because it stems from a warped perspective of love. It’s often used to fill a gap larger than it’s meant to. It fills the gap of absent or uncaring fathers, of abuse, of being left with feelings of inferiority and insignificance by the people that should love her most. It fills the gaping wound in her soul surgically inflicted by a media that pries us open with messages of incompetence and incompleteness and leaves us with a desperate desire to fill the artificial emptiness they create. She needs to hear early and often how wonderful she is, or she spends the rest of her life trying to get people to say it. We all do. This isn’t by any means just a “girl problem,” or even a teen problem. This is us. This is our life. The things that should be good enough aren’t. The things that should be sufficient aren’t. We aren’t enough. So we spend our lives looking for the things we’ve been told will make us better.
So many of the kids I work with have, by grade 7 or 8, reached a place where they’ve been taught that rather than having a committed and/or passionate relationship being a part of being loved, part of being a person, it’s the end all and be all. Being told of God’s amazing love doesn’t negate all that we’ve been conditioned with. More than that, a head knowledge of God’s love and all he’s done for us doesn’t necessarily translate into heart knowledge of it’s sufficiency. That takes time. It takes an act of God. We’ve got to keep telling them – we’ve got to keep telling each other; Not saying that we’re wrong to feel the way we do, because our self-esteem is damaged enough already, but to be there as God is, to continually and gently present the truth of his love, to water the seed and pray for it to take root.
Honestly, it drives me nuts when I see a facebook status go from “in a relationship” to “single” then back to “in a relationship” in less than 24 hours. It makes me want to take my head off and put it in the freezer when 2 hours after being asked out the kids are talking about how in love they are. If they’d ever actually been in love, they wouldn’t throw the word around so easily.
It makes me want to cry when a week later their world ends because they broke up.
Is it a problem? Yes. But it’s not THE problem. It’s a symptom of a culture that says our identities are found in others. That we’re only as good as other people think we are. As the things we have. As the money we make. As our status in our communities. It’s not going to stop because we say that’s wrong. It’s only when we understand the sufficiency of ourselves in who God made us to be that we can put that behind us. Then we can be the whole half of a healthy relationship here on Earth. Then we can see all that he intended earthly love to be.