Monday, February 16, 2015

A Christian Journey Through Shades of Grey

I usually don't post about hot topics, but this one has me hot and bothered.  With millions of people reading the Fifty Shades trilogy and millions seeing the movie, but then critics calling its content violent and abusive, there seems to be a disconnect between fifty shades fans and observers being able to connect the dots to why the content is so desirable.  So I thought I'd share my journey through Fifty Shades reading as a mother and a wife with a healthy bit of feminist thrown in the mix.
Growing up in a deeply religious culture, sex was rarely spoken of.  The few examples of "monogamous" relationships I experienced were definitely unhealthy and compounded by poor media examples.  Sex was very taboo.  In church we learned how bad it was, to avoid it, that our virtue was priceless, how offensive to God it would be if we didn't protect our sacred bodies, and that we could only have sex after we were married.  Looking back, I can see that these messages were delivered with a pure intent although grossly misguided.  We were never taught to value the sexual relationship, only to value the actual act of sex.  This can be absolutely devastating to a relationship, to connect deep feelings of guilt in association to sex, and then to unknowingly objectify the act of sex itself.  One moment you're suppose to completely abstain from sex, and then after a magical ceremony, suddenly sex is suppose to feel completely ok.  Unknowingly, we can carry those feelings of guilt and inferiority with us into our marriage.  Instead, I think our children should be taught that sex is a gift God has given us to allow us to bind ourselves to another person...  to connect us physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, and we should save that special connection for the person that we plan on spending forever with.
I entered our marriage with all of this unnecessary emotional baggage.  Our relationship was strong, our friendship was solid, our sex was.... well, it was sex.  Neither of us had anything to compare it to, and it got the job done, so it was great.  Then I heard about the Grey trilogy.  I love to read; I heard it was a little sexy, but everything in Hollywood is sexy these days, and I'm a grown woman.  No big deal.  (Maybe I didn't get the best review before reading.  I just knew it was on the bestseller list, and really had no idea what I was getting myself into).  I started reading and got wrapped in this story of love and trust and struggle and growth.  The hubby and I began reading passages together.  We now had a platform to talk about things we never even knew we needed to talk about.  Our communication grew to include those little dark corners of desire and need that we'd never really talked about before.  I followed the characters as they began to trust each other with their most basic needs.  Anastasia trusted Christian with her whole self.  She trusted him to know her well enough to satisfy her every need, and she had the humility to look only to him to be sated.  I realized I had trust in my relationship, but I didn't have THAT kind of intimate trust.  Through absolutely no fault of my husband, I had entered our relationship with an emotional wall around myself; I'd kept that last little bit of myself reserved, so just in case the worst happened, I'd still be ok.  I had never completely given myself to my husband, and for me, that kind of submission could only be possible by giving up control of myself, my fears, my desires, and giving him the opportunity to meet those needs for me.  We have grown together to a place of love and respect and trust that I never even knew was possible.
As I followed the characters' relationship, I saw the ways Christian showed his love.  He was attentive to her needs, her body language, her safety.  It helped me realize men show love in different ways from women because they are biologically providers and protectors not nurturers, so I am now open to the many different ways I am shown love.  I notice when the door is opened for me, when he puts gas in the car for me, or when he recognizes that I need him.  Because the book is a fictional novel, I was also able to use it to ask myself what is acceptable in a relationship.  Do I have boundaries?  Are those boundaries necessary or are they protecting my fear of inadequacy?   This popular, over-sensationalized novel gave me the power to ask myself soul-baring questions.  Do I doubt myself because of my past failures?  Do I truly believe that I deserve all that God has given me or do I constantly question myself because I grew up being told I was never good enough?  Will I forever let my past govern my future and stifle my potential?  Can the truest form of love heal my scars of self doubt and mistrust? And all of these questions and moments of introspection were sparked by a novel that people are trashing because of its morality.  My wish for my children's future is that there are more love stories and less war movies.  That our society doesn't make them feel guilty when they try to discover the beauty of true intimacy.  That they can find love and hold on to it and allow themselves to grow within it.  That they will never doubt themselves or my love for them as they struggle and learn all that this life has to offer them, and that as true Christians we can respect the journey we each take in finding our way back to Christ.