I ran across a blog post today, that definitely resonated with me. Several parts of it elicited some “Mmmm hmmm”s and “You go, girl”s.
The author, Joi Weaver, tells her story of being a 33-year-old who has never been kissed and shares the social struggles that accompany virginity. I blogged about virginity a couple of years ago, as well as some themes she highlights in her story.
For instance, here is one paragraph I can definitely relate to:
[Singleness is] not my preferred choice, but I’m not going to fling myself at someone out of desperation. This sense of acceptance comes and goes. There are days when I’m tempted to run outside and proposition the first man I can find. But most days, I just accept that this is my reality right now, and change will not happen quickly or easily. Regardless, the frustration lingers: I would have liked it to be a real choice, not a matter of mere acceptance.
(Even though I have had the chance to say, “Yes,” to a couple of different men who were interested in me, it still feels like I haven’t had a choice because those men were not good for me, nor I for them. It wasn’t a choice of singleness or a great marriage; it was a choice between singleness and a bad relationship – and therefore not much of a choice at all.)
Miss Weaver goes on to tell how awkward it can be when everyone assumes that a single person our age has had sex – or at least left a trail of broken boy-hearts in our wake. She talks about the hurt that comes from conversations in which people brush over “33 and never-been-kissed” because they can’t understand it.
Miss Weaver’s solution to prevent the hurt of being misunderstood or overlooked calls for honest dialogue and a right to tell our own stories without being met with judgment or flippancy:
I may never stop wanting my story to change, but I will keep fighting to tell it my way. I intend to cling to the truth, even when it’s a painful one. I hope others with more normative experiences will start to understand, and find ways to include women like me in discussions about sex and love, without resorting to alienating comments about what “all women” experience.
We’re all women, we all have our stories, and we all want the chance to tell them with dignity and truth.
I believe she is right, and that her call to acceptance goes beyond women; each person should be able to tell his or her story. Each person should be met with love and grace, even if the hearer doesn’t understand the circumstances or agree with the life choices of the teller.
As Christians, we have an excellent example of what that looks like. I’m talking, of course, about Jesus; heck, He even calls Himself “the truth” (John 14:6).
Take, for instance, the story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. (If you’re not familiar with it, you can read it in Luke 7:36-50.) There’s a lot of cultural nuance in that story that I won’t get into; but suffice it to say that Jesus knew the woman’s story, accepted her culturally-inappropriate outpouring of love, and greeted her with such love and grace that her life was literally never the same again. He forgave her sins, and she left the party that day spiritually whole.
Jesus is a great example here, but we can’t stop at Jesus’ being our example, can we? If Jesus is just our example, we in our broken, sin-drenched world would constantly fail to live up to Him.
I remember a time when my sister invited me to go volunteer at a homeless shelter one evening. I went, but I argued and fussed with her the whole evening. I was trying to show the love of Jesus to the poorest of the poor, but I couldn’t even speak kindly to my own sister as she processed her life and the life of the people around her.
Even if you’re better than I am and always manage to speak kindly to people, how often do you think mean things or demand your own selfish way or get impatient with people who don’t behave the exact way our culture says they should? Whatever it is, I bet that you can think of times or ways when you didn’t live up to Jesus’ example.
So if it’s not enough to have Jesus as our example, what is enough to help us respond to people as He would? Well, Jesus also has to be our Savior. For all the times we fail to be perfectly loving/gracious/kind, Jesus Himself came to be our Savior. He came to rescue us from a life separated from the perfection of God our Father. He came to get His hands dirty as a human and die as a criminal in order for us to live as sons and daughters of God.
We deserved to be beaten up and killed on a cross, and when we realize that, it levels the playing field of humanity. It’s not just our woman-ness or man-ness or even our human-ness that unites us. It’s our sin. It’s our mutual failure to live up to Jesus’ example of kindness/love/grace to our fellow humans.
But Jesus didn’t just die for us; He didn’t stop by taking our place on the cross. He went on to rise from the dead, go back to His Father in heaven, and say, “That Charity down there on earth – she’s mine. I am gifting her the righteousness I purchased with my death.”
He says to me, as He did to the woman who washed His feet with her hair: “Thy sins are forgiven,” and, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:48-50).
Jesus reminds me, as he reminded Simon in the story, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little” (Luke 7:47).
And so the level at which I comprehend my forgiveness is the level at which I’ll love people whose stories are different than mine. The level at which you embrace the salvation of Jesus is the level at which you’ll show compassion to people whose stories make you uncomfortable.
Yes, we need to provide a safe place for stories, struggles, and triumphs to be told. Yes, the church should be really great at this. But we can’t do it on our own or out of our strength; by ourselves, we’ll (at least sometimes) fail to follow Jesus’ example with the woman who let down her hair.
The best way to be truly successful at loving diversely is when we level the playing field with the Gospel and allow it to overflow in our interactions with other people; when we counter-intuitively break our alabaster jars, counter-culturally let down our hair, and counter-selfishly love much because we have been forgiven much; when we say with Jesus, “Go in peace.”