Saturday, October 1, 2011

Good or Cool... Or Both?

"Would you rather marry someone who is cool, or someone who is good?"

Around here, these types of questions are common. Sometimes they come in the form of the "would you rather," but more often they come in the form of "perfect in every other way." (eg, "say he was perfect in every other way but had a birthmark that looked like a Hitler mustache...would you still marry him?" "say she was perfect in every other way but tasted like metal...would you still marry her?")

Today's question wasn't as simple because of its definition and cultural challenges. Let's take a look at those, then, before we answer the question.

Webster has many entries for the definition of good, but I think a little Bible dictionary from 1897 may say it best: the deliberate preference of right over wrong, the firm and persistent resistance of all moral evil, the choosing and following of all moral good. (Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary)

Strangely, 1897 didn't have much to say about the definition of "cool." The Bible doesn't list it in any of the "definition passages," such as 1 Cor 13 defining 'love,' Galatians 5:22 describing character traits that the Holy Spirit grows in a believer, nor is it in Proverbs as a goal (such as wisdom, or a godly wife). Rather, each culture and microculture has it's own definition of "cool." What may be supercool in one culture may be seen as ridiculous in another.

So, for the purpose of our argument today, let's say that "cool" can be defined as doing what it takes to be popular in one's own microculture.

You may know people who are able to do both. I can also think of a small handful. What a challenge this is, though, to go after the culture's approval and not fall prey to what it deems as desirable. What does your culture tell you to do to obtain popularity? Is it how you dress, how you spend your Saturday night, or is it in the words you use? How many of those things do a sandpaper rub against goodness? For those who balance both integrity and cool, are there compromises made - and if so, do they tip towards compromising their spirit or their flesh?

Getting back to the question of "would you rather...." Say those two words can't easily co-exist. Say you have to choose someone (or BE someone) who stands in front of the mirror and says, "Yeah, this is sorta pushing the edge on modesty. It's probably going to get a lot of attention, but 'everyone is wearing it' and if people have a problem with it, that's THEIR problem, not mine." And then do they finish that inner monologue and go out anyway, as is? Or do they modify the outfit till their conscience is clear?

Or take a language example. Do they use words that push the gossip/slander edge, or that are flavored with unkindness? Are the words offensive to those outside the microculture who may overhear them? (or even to those inside the microculture?)

In closing, let me also say that this week's analysis of cool & good has brought with it a sad realization. The word good has become culturally negative. It brings with it a picture of a nerd, a teacher's pet, a picking 'good' over 'cool' seems outrageously lame. However, God has also brought to my mind the use of the word "good" - how it is used to describe HIM, His love, His character, His creation, His spiritual work in our lives, His benevolence, His purity and holiness and faithfulness and kindness and heart.

How cool is that?!

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness & truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. (eph 5:8-10)

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulnes, gentleness, and self-control. Against these there is no law. (gal 5:22)

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him! (ps 34:8)

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His faithful love endures forever. (nine million times in psalms)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Real Challenge of Raising a Young Man: part 1

The chicks are gone for the school year; the mancub remains.

Attention now diverts to things of the boy: no longer are purses and hairbands and teabags left about....we now have enormous shoes, muscle milk cartons, chunky CS Lewis volumes, sheet music and sweatshirts strewn about. He takes up more landscape physically than the girls. The sound that surrounds him is less chatter and debrief, and more grooveshark and youtube.

It's easier now to see him as an adult than a child. I recall this turning point with the girls - we upped the tempo of Woman Training towards the end of high school - realizing our time to influence them and impart skills was limited. I remember feeling challenged as a woman to also train a woman, as if some judgemental spotlight would shine down on my laundry pile or burned casserole and shout "INSUFFICIENT! Who are you to role model as a wife?"

It feels different with my young man. Who I am as a woman, role-modeled for him, seems more about character than accomplishment. Is this because the Man Stuff is taught by his dad, and I couldn't begin to teach checking oil, changing tires, and fixing a leaky faucet? Perhaps. Or maybe it's because I think all of those things take lower priority than setting his appetite for the good stuff of the heart that cannot be learned on Food Network or TLC.

Should he desire a wife who is pleasant and charming? Somone who is not lazy and selfish? Shall he value gentleness and rich humor? Will he feel at home with a woman who serves her family with joy? Is it foreign or familiar to be met with kindness instead of sarcasm? Is the dinner table conversation noble, good, pure and edifying, or is it an exchange for gossip and slander? Does the heart of the home - the mother - bless or stress others? Is our homelife something he'll want to emulate... or flee?

The real challenge of raising a young man is not combatting his clutter or taming his volume. It'd be far easier to settle for a "101 Things to Teach Your Son" checklist than it would be to examine my own example! Teaching him how to aerate a lawn or demoss a roof would be much simpler than turning the spotlight on my behavior.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,

whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it
into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (
Phil 4:8-9)