This morning on NPR I heard Shankar Vedantam (which is an awesome name) pose a frightening question. He wondered aloud "if one wants to be lied to, does it actually constitute a lie?" Hmm.
This was in reference to an even more frightening reality--the use of "vanity sizing" in the American clothing industry. Apparently, what was a size 8 in 1950 is currently a size 0. Yikes! Vedantam (author of Hidden Brain) explains some of the psychology behind the marketing and it basically boils down to this:
We prefer to be lied to!!! (You can check out the article here)
Got me thinking about places I don't want to hear the truth and I remembered a vivid moment between Jesus and me. It was during a time when I felt particularly fragile-emotionally and spiritually. A wise person posed this question to me. "What do you think Jesus is saying to you right now?"
For years, when I asked that question of Jesus, I could hear him say, "I love you". But on this particular day I heard "Get behind me Satan". That didn't seem right. In fact, it was downright harsh. I wanted to run away, but I was frozen. Had I really heard this? Would Jesus really say this? (Play along with me here--this all happened really fast!).
As I began to breath in and out again, I found myself face to face with reality. Jesus loves me, to be sure, but he's not just a supernatural cheerleader or motivational speaker. Sometimes his glance is lovingly piercing as he illuminates previously unexposed areas of selfishness and other sin. He promised as much--
12 For (A)the word of God is living and (B)active, (C)sharper than any (D)two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and (E)discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
What's interesting to me about the vanity sizing debate is that this lie has direct health consequences. (And, yes, a lie is a lie even if we prefer it). Researchers are finding that, although pretending our clothes are a smaller size helps the retail industry, it keeps us from taking life saving action. (If I'm still a size 8, why change my eating habits?) What a powerful spiritual analogy!
Thankfully our God is motivated by love--not money or market share--so he's free to tell us the truth about ourselves! For it's only in reality that I can bask in forgiveness and grace and his strength and transformation.
May I never settle for anything less than the truth!
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I could have sworn that Jesus was inviting me to a spiritual workout in 2012. The words he gave me at the beginning of the year were strength and beauty and in my finite mind, that required some bulking up. I was
game. I so desire to be a strong women. A woman of resolve and discipline and conviction. A woman who doesn't shrink from difficulty or pain. A woman who influences and remains calm under pressure. And who looks good doing it. (What?? That's not what he meant by "beauty"?)
I thought God wanted that for me too.
But on the way to my workout things started falling apart. As I walked with
Jesus, I decided to demonstrate my current strength levels to give him a better
picture of where I needed to focus my efforts. I ventured down some dark alleys
by myself to highlight my willingness to face danger, I gave some instruction to
others to display my knowledge (I have a degree, you know), I suggested a few
workouts we could try in an attempt to show my initiative and even ran a few
sprints. I think he was impressed :).
And then it turns out, we weren't heading to the gym at all (which made my
expensive athletic wear seem a bit unnecessary). After all my antics he sat me
down and explained (for the millionth time) his plan for my strength...weakness
(which I do not have a wardrobe for).
Understandibly, I'm a bit relieved. I've been doing some research on what
kind of strength is available when I'm weak and it's way better than what I
could accomplish in a lifetime of workouts. Plus...I know weakness. I'm already
Interestingly, my verse for the year already explained this..."strength and
beauty are in your sanctuary"--Psalm 96:6. They are not mine to possess...only
to reflect. And after reviewing God's strength compared to mine, it seems an
I have to admit that I'm still figuring out what this means practically, but
Jesus promised to give me lots of reps. He also promised to show his glorious
might. Want to be my training buddy?
Tonight Madison and I watched yet another modern adaptation of the classic, “Snow White”. It starred Julia Roberts and some other impressive people and I kind of liked it. But also, I kind of didn’t. I’ve grown weary of watching women fight battles while men bumble around like idiots. I believe I am doing my daughter a disservice if I represent this model of feminine strength as the ideal.
You may not know me, so let me assure you this is not another call for women to take a backseat so men can take charge. I am saddened and angered at some of the statements about women that have come from Evangelical leaders in recent months. I want to scream that women don’t have to be weak in order for men to be strong. But that is not my point today. I want to talk about stories that shape us.
I first came across this concept in one of my favorite child rearing books…”The Wonder of Girls” by Michael Gurian. As I reviewed it again tonight, more than ten years from my original reading, I was amazed at how the basis of this story has shaped me.
The demonizing of these feminine fairy tales was made popular by the 1960′s feminist classic “The Cinderella Complex” by Colette Dowling. If her hypothesis is true, these stories subjugate women, destroy their individuality and make them dependent on men. That is a sad fate indeed. However, I believe that theory is flawed. Gurian and others insist that, instead, Cinderella (and Snow White) are stories of the making of a heroine. A strong woman who overcomes hardship, develops unwavering character, and discovers who she is, all while strengthening those around her.
Heroes and Heroines are not the same. A heroine is not just a female version of a hero. While some of the qualities overlap, the heroine’s journey is different and, in many ways more complex. By simply making the heroine identical to the hero, we lose what makes her uniquely strong (a focus on relationships, alliances and attention to beauty in unlikely places, i.e) . In fact it diminishes the entire role.
Notice that in these fairy tales, the heroine is the reason for the story. The prince serves as a supporting cast member. But not in a bumbling idiot way. The princess is carrying the ideals of the kingdom and in rescuing her, the prince rescues those ideals. They are both becoming more loving, wise and powerful through their ordeals and by the end, they have successfully passed into adulthood. That’s a worthy quest for my daughter and sons.
Yes, that means that I may need rescuing. Duh! It’s the core of the Gospel–I need a Savior. (And so does my prince.) I have been rescued in a most dramatic fashion and I am living my whole life in response. What a beautiful reality!
You may still cringe at some of the dated stereotypes of men and women in these stories, but perhaps you can set aside the world weary cynicism and take a second look. The Heroine’s journey is always treacherous and sometimes frightening–too much for any woman to attempt on her own. So here’s to the journey of womanhood, the acknowledgement of need and the gift of a Savior!
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Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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