I REALLY didn't think it was a big deal, honestly--and I didn't have a lot to say about it, at least not anything that would make for an interesting blog post. It sure was smutty, but I KNEW that going in. I have read fictional books about extra-marital affairs, and the lust of the heart; I've read historical fiction books detailing the ways a young girls virginity was sold to the highest bidder; I've read books detailing sexual rituals, and others about sexual abuse. My point being, 50 Shades is not the first inappropriate book I have ever read, it's not the worst movie I've seen, or the most terrible joke I've laughed at. It's not even close to the worst and most judgmental things that have come out of my mouth (or crossed my mind), or the ugliness I've verbally dumped upon my husband out of frustration or fear. On the "Christian" scale of my (very long) list of terrible offenses, this doesn't even make the top 100.
I'm NOT telling you this to justify my choices, but to tell you I have made them. A LOT. Because there was this backlash from the Christian community regarding these books (no shock there), and then it was popping up on Facebook, and it made me insecure and defensive, disguised as angry. My blog post was in THIS reaction, but I still wasn't sure what my point was EXACTLY; it certainly wasn't arguing the biblical merit of 50 Shades of Grey, nor was it attacking the women who chose to honor God by not reading it. I honestly didn't feel that freaking passionate about the book, but the way we respond to it was certainly giving me hives.
Because, as a Christian woman, I understand EVERY SINGLE REASON why not to read this book. I do not believe God is pleased with or impressed by 50 Shades of Grey, and on that point, you'll hear no argument here. But here's the honest truth: there's also that side of me that is caught up in popular opinion and hype, that likes to do what everyone else is doing. It's the same part of me that is a sucker for peer pressure, that learned my limits with alcohol VERY PAINFULLY in college, or was part of terrible girl drama growing up. I have crossed almost every boundary there is and made some pretty terrible mistakes--and that part of me is SENSITIVE around Christians, because they would disapprove of almost my entire life and I know it, even before they post blogs on Facebook about why they aren't reading 50 Shades of Grey. So I hide my brokenness, and I follow the rules, and I never really share the parts of myself that would meet with disapproval--and I lose SO MUCH intimacy with other believers, because it means I can never FULLY share how God is redeeming me.
This ISN'T the intention of those blog posts, and I KNOW that. Those words are meant to be helpful and affirming, and to hold each other accountable--and those are GOOD things. But they aren't the ONLY things, the only way we exist as Christians, because the story is always greater than the line between right and wrong. For every Christian woman who agreed and abstained from 50 Shades--there are others who have already read the book, won't comment, and will carry a some shame about what you're saying. Or, they'll be defensive (disguised as anger) about the implication that they don't love their husbands, their God, or themselves as much as the women who choose not to read the book. But they'll never talk about it, or bring it up, or have a conversation about what God does with all the smut we fill our minds with, because they already feel like a good Christians would never have touched it.
"Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the hid from the Lord among the trees of the garden. But the Lord called to the man, "Where are you?"
He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."
Genesis 3: 8-10
*********Eve was given ONE single commandment, NOT to eat one very specific type of fruit in an entire garden...and she did it. And it's a part of the Bible, because it SAYS SOMETHING. It seems so easy and obvious, NOT to read "50 Shades of Grey", or to gossip about our friends, or to hold some kind of judgement over our neighbors, or to see a really violent movie, or a really sexual one. The popularity of books like 50 Shades are NEVER surprising to me; this has always been a world in which we test our boundaries and learn their consequences. That doens't make it RIGHT, but the story of the Bible, according to Christians, is how our choices are HONORED or BROKEN, or REDEEMED--what God does, exactly, with our obedience, as well as our mess. Tell the world not to cross a line--and they will do it anyway, in ignorance, or apathy, or spite. SO NOW WHAT. I believe that in the eyes of the Lord, right and wrong are clear and good; and yet I also believe that the business of being our creator and knowing our intentions, our capacity for creativity, our free will, our pride, our curiosity, and ultimately, our failure are impossibly complicated. Consider the bad choices we've all watched our children make, while understanding EVERYTHING that got them there--the decisions we made on their behalf, the personalities they were born with, the circumstances we would change or do-over, and even the things that seemed insignificant, that ALL play into who they are becoming. Ultimately, it's black and white, but boy is there an entire history of the world that got them to that very point. DO NOT underestimate the value of that story.
This post is for Eve, who ate the fruit, and HID. Out of fear and shame. And while she definitely could have used someone telling her NOT to eat it (like the blog posts I've read), she also needed someone to sew her a loin cloth and tell her to get her ass out of that tree. Because that's what we do, ladies--we HIDE. And it's really easy, because we work, and have kids, and extracurricular sports and activities, and a million reasons not to really engage with others. We live in separate houses, and we decorate them all cute--and when they are messy, we LOCK THE DOOR. We're all suburban "fine" and we don't lose our sh#! over yogurt/homework/ stepping on a Lego. And we aren't bored, or jealous, or lonely, or wondering why balancing work and family is SO HARD; we don't read 50 Shades of Grey, and we can certainly handle life, AND throw a handmade, unicorn-themed birthday party, thankyouverymuch.
And that's where I'm going with this. I don't care if you don't agree with me, because as you might remember, AGREEING with me isn't a prerequisite to my friendship. You can decide not to go near this book with a 10 foot pole, and I can respect and understand that, and I do believe God will honor it...in fact, he's high-five-ing you about it right now. But you can tell me that you've read it, and that the authors very frequent use of the term "inner goddess" made you want to hurl--and I will laugh at that, too. I will tell you that there are all kinds of temptations that threaten marriage--but also, that reading this book has not led me to be consumed with pornography, or overcome with desire to be shackled and whipped. We all know that being numb to these kinds of ideas and images is a FINE LINE though, so be aware. I will also tell you that the way I treat my husband, what I expect of him, how I talk to him, how I listen to him--those things have a DRAMATICALLY greater affect on our marriage than this stupid book, and yet there are months when I explode over dumb things, or I don't pay attention to, or pray for, or give these parts of our relationship any sort of thought or consideration. Be aware of that, too. And maybe I will tell you about some of the hurt and scars that I carried into our relationship when I was 20-years-old--how we were a TERRIBLE match, how we carried different expectations, how we had COMPLETELY different world views, and how we fought ALL THE TIME, because I expected him to fail or hurt me. And how these things had big effects on us in those early dating years when this relationship seemed doomed and impossible--and yet, by his grace, he grew us into a pretty kick-ass team. Not because I followed the rules, or learned to act like a good wife, or just miraculously became less selfish, or because I've become proficient at hiding my scars--but because I am learning that God is trustworthy and full of grace and mercy, and that his love for me is greater than every bad decision I could ever make out of insecurity, or apathy, or fear. And my love and trust for him? It is weak at times, and often mediocre, but I have seen it be big and bold enough to survive watching my husband battle cancer, or facing infertility, or having really sick kids, or losing a child--and still desire more.
This post is for me, and for anyone who has ever felt "naked" up in that proverbial tree. Do not let anyone define the strength of your faith on the rules you follow, because that is not even half the story that the Lord is writing for you.
He is quick to provide you with clothing. And I will gladly pour you a glass of chardonnay.