Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Future Yes by Sharon Lurie

MOOD: Grownup

*This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I better not get any phone calls from certain ex-boyfriends and former crushes accusing me of still pining over them. Three words: so over you!!! And to my paranoid, emotionally needy, velcro-clingy type friends who think, in discussing poor choices and screwy relationships that I'm talking about you. Guess what? I AM!!!!! All names have been changed to protect the innocent from harm and the guilty from embarrassment. *

Like many of us, I didn't have great examples as to what a Godly relationship was really like. As I went through my teenage years and young adulthood, I always seemed to gravitate towards men who resembled emotionally the dysfunction around me. Because I thought so little of myself, I would immediately latch on to whoever showed me the time of day.

When I moved to Tennessee, I was determined not to repeat the same mistakes. I had to first come to the realization that, although I didn't deserve the treatment I'd received from these various individuals, I did bring much unnecessary heartache upon myself because I was making very poor choices concerning those to whom I gave my heart. As I sought God's heart concerning the whole matter, He showed me that my biggest mistake in all this was that I didn't take the necessary time to really observe someone's character before entrusting them with my heart. So, I asked Him first what I needed to be watching, and this is what He said...

1. Does this person practice what they preach? Are they someone who tells me to do or say certain things but they don't live up to the same standards themselves?
2. What kind of person are they when they're under pressure? Do they immediately freak out and lose their cool? Are they someone who exemplifies a life whose confidence is totally grounded in God?
3. What kind of person are they when someone has wronged them? Are they the type that easily holds grudges, because if they are, it is a major red flag. If the person will easily take offense and hold a grudge against someone else, they will at some point be the same way with me. Someone who takes offense easily isn't walking in maturity or in the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the Bible specifically warns us to steer clear of hot tempered men.

As I implemented these three tests, I discovered that I was able to save myself a lot of heartache, but I wanted to go deeper with it. (Yes, I believe that we are to trust God to bring the right person to us, that it's not just us merely going out and choosing on our own. However, the Bible says so much about watching the company you keep and making wise choices, and just as we have to choose God's best when He presents it to us, we can also choose the Devil's worst!) As I prayed more, I said to God, "It's not enough for me to know who the wrong ones are. I want to know what the right one looks like. It'll be a lot easier for me to say no to the wrong ones if I know who and what it is that I'm saying yes to. Is there any man in the Bible that you can point out to me who serves as an example of the Godly Husband You have in store for me?"

At that point, God told me to read the Book of Ruth and look at Boaz. As I read it, God pointed out some very specific things about him...

1. Boaz, whenever he praised Ruth, always emphasized her relationship with and devotion to God. A Godly man's first concern for his potential mate is what kind of Christian she is and her walk with God.
2. Boaz, when Ruth came to work in his fields, told his workers to throw extra grain in her path so she'd have more to take home with her. However, he didn't tell Ruth that he was doing that for her. Boaz wanted to bless her and help meet her needs, but it wasn't in order to lord it over her or make her beholden to him. He wanted to bless her for the sake of blessing her, and he didn't care if she knew or not that he was the source of the provision. How many people have we had in our lives who did for us because they wanted to use it to control us?
3. Boaz made sure that Ruth was safe while working in his fields. Her welfare was his top priority.
4. Boaz recognized Ruth's integrity and sought to encourage her to press in and become the woman of God that God intended for her to be. Too many times, even among Christian couples, one partner ends up taking the other's eyes off God.
5. Boaz was an older single man. It was unusual for someone his age in that time to be single, but Boaz was content in that which God had called him to. He was deeply rooted in God's Word and spent much time alone in God's presence. I thought back to all the guys I'd given my heart to that had this restlessness inside of them, a restlessness born of unhappiness and discontent from seeking fulfillment in things other than God. Boaz put his whole identity in God, and although he had to wait a long time for Ruth, it was obviously worth the wait.
6. According to Jewish Biblical law, if a man died without having kids, the man's widow was to be married by the dead man's closest male relative to have children in the dead man's name. Although Boaz was a close relative of Ruth's late husband, there was another male relative who was first in line to marry Ruth if he so desired. Boaz wanted to do right by God and Ruth by offering Ruth to the closer relative first, even though it might mean that Boaz didn't get Ruth. Boaz's top concern was Ruth's spiritual welfare, and he wanted what was best for her, whether it included him or not.
7. Boaz was known as being someone of integrity and a man of his word, and when he made a promise, he stuck to it and carried it out immediately. There aren't too many men like that in the world (or the church) today.

Ruth's first husband was named Mahlon, which is Hebrew for weak or sickly. Boaz in Hebrew means strength and swiftness. What a great picture that when we wait for God's best, it turns out to be so much better than what we could get on our own. The truth is that we don't often wait for God's best, or take the time to observe character, because we, deep down, don't really believe that WE are worth the wait. We often buy into the Devil's lies that we're incomplete without someone, or there's something wrong with us, so we better settle for what looks the best at the time. If we can see how dearly prized we are of God, and how greatly He wants to bless us in this regard, than waiting for the right one is so much easier.

When I pray for my future husband now, I call him Boaz. Having this picture of "my future yes" has made it a million times easier to guard my heart and steer clear of the wrong ones, the ones that God clearly sees as "definite NOs." More importantly, though, I pray and concentrate my energy not on finding a Boaz but on becoming a Ruth, someone to whom a Boaz would be drawn. I pray that all the characteristics that made her stick out so much to Boaz would be evident in me. In the meantime, I know, too, that I am the Bride of Christ, and I need to learn what it means to be married to Jesus, both in how I relate to and love Him, and just how dearly prized I am in His eyes. If my heart is fully His and I am grounded in the fact that His Heart is fully mine, then when my Boaz does come along, my future yes will be wholehearted, unequivocal, and totally without regret.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

De-mythefying the Myth by Sharon Lurie

MOOD: God only knows!

*This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or back-ground of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I better not get any phone calls from certain close friends, both nameless and clueless, who think I am somehow libeling them, when in reality they are too self-absorbed and self-obsessed and will think that anything and everything is about them, no matter what I write. All names have been changed to protect the innocent from harm and the guilty from embarrassment. *

I am a writer. I did not ask to be one. If I had it my way, I would have boring office job, working eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, squirreled away in a cubicle in blissful obscurity. However, God did not deem it so. If my life were put in book form, it would be a cross between Erma Bombeck and a Stephen King novel. As stressful as such a bizarre life is to the one living it, to outside observers, it is rip-roariously funny. Therefore, I decided it was high time I profit from this bevy of personal humiliations.

Now, there are some out there who would ask, “How stressful could a writer’s life be?” to which I reply, “excruciatingly so!” I am constantly called upon to offer humorous and/or inspiring anecdotes for every occasion, and let me tell you, it’s hard being inspired round the clock. Also, my grammar must be perfect all the time, too. I regularly am chastised for grammatical flaws and vocabularic (is that a word? Oh, if not, I’m sure one of you will let me know) faux pas, as if the spirit of my deceased grandmother has possessed everyone in my circle of influence.

However, there are other problems. You see, most writers get their ideas from real events and real people (or at least real inside MY mind). It’s (usually) not some otherworldly experience, such as watching the sunrise, being visited by angels, or some grandiose dream that, if I was honest, was merely the result of eating bad chili dogs the night before. No, most often, we writers merely report what we observe. Therein lies a problem. If I write honestly and straightforwardly, I will undoubtedly get an angry response from someone accusing me of writing about them and that they’re not pleased with the light in which I painted them. However, if I embellish or alter some actual event in any way, then I will get angry response from someone who witnessed said event, saying I’m not being true to life, am I not a good enough writer to let the truth stand on it’s own, blah, blah, BLAH! So, I will thus err on the side of caution and not be bound by strict neorealism, because sooner or later it will be YOUR identity I will be protecting!

“Sharon!” my dead aunt Roberta bellowed from beyond the grave, waking me out of a sound sleep (or, it could also have been the chili dogs), “how dare you write about me in such an unflattering manner!”

“What are you talking about, Aunt Roberta?” I answered, half asleep.

“Don’t play coy with me, young lady! In that story you wrote about the space ship looking for planets capable of supporting human life, and the slime covered alien monster that looked like a Cher impersonator and fed on human brains, I know you were referring to me!”

“Hmmm…well, let’s see. Are you a vain, narcissistic, self-serving, morally bankrupt, gluttonous extra-terrestrial with bad hair?”

“I most certainly am not!”

“Well, then I wasn’t referring to you, was I?”

Then there’s the whole process of writing. People who don’t write think it’s all very romantic, merely setting aside time on a certain day, putting on CDs of the ocean or dolphins, lighting candles that smell like assorted pastries, and the words just flow on to the computer like water from a faucet. I’d be lying if I said it never happened like that, but most of the time, it’s more like molasses running uphill in winter, and brilliant writing often comes at the price of one’s sanity. Here’s a diary of the typical writing process…

6:00 PM-sit down to write.

6:01 PM-Decide can write better if have something to eat.

6:02 PM-Find penicillin factory inside refrigerator and decide it needs disinfecting.

7:00 PM-Take bath in Clorox after cleaning refrigerator.

7:30 PM-Discover hair is now green after Clorox bath. Ah, but have gotten distracted from writing. Will sit at laptop and worry about hair later.

7:35 PM-Obsess about marriage prospects now that bare striking resemblance to The Joker.

7:45 PM-Stare blankly at laptop screen.

8:00 PM-Give cat tummy rub as he stares at me staring blankly at laptop screen.

8:15 PM-Decide will take break from writing and watch DVD for inspiration.

8:20 PM-Put “Bridget Jones’s Diary” on DVD to watch for umpteenth time.

9:15 PM-Loop scene in which enormously successful love god Mark Darcy tells metabolically challenged, morally ambiguous, and slightly scatter-brained Bridget that he likes her just as she is and cry like baby for the umpteenth time.

10:45 PM-Crap! Been at computer going on five hours and haven’t written anything besides “by Sharon Lurie.”

10:46 PM-Begin to obsess about publisher who will cut me into little pieces when I tell him at 8:00 AM that I haven’t finished the article.

11:00 PM-Make run to Wal-mart to see if they carry any over-the-counter Xanax so can stop obsessing and start writing.

11:30 PM-Still staring at laptop screen.

Midnight-Am banging head against laptop screen. Think am now delirious.

12:30 AM-Suddenly inspired and crank out Pulitzer-prize-winning article, thanks mostly to vision brought on by blunt-force trauma of head against laptop screen and herbal Xanax.

2:30 AM-Email article to publisher.

2:35 AM-Call Apple Care to tell them about shattered laptop screen and somehow convince them it’s because of a manufacturer’s defect covered under warranty.

3:00 AM-Pass out.

5:00 PM, two days later-Who am I and how did I get here?

And there you have it, folks. Not all fun and games and not a whole lot in the way of glamor. So why then, do you ask, do we writers do it? I can only speak for myself when I say that mostly, it’s because despite all the craziness, I like to make people laugh, I like to give people hope, and if recording all the nutty things that come out of my head enables someone to move forward, than I know that the green hair wasn’t for naught.

So, welcome to my blog. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go extract shards of lap-top screen from my forehead.