To My Father

A few months ago, my friend Ellie and I got together to talk over tea. Whenever we set aside time to have a planned conversation, we can cover bazillions of topics and spend up to four hours simply talking. On this particular afternoon, one of the topics was our fathers. We were sharing about how grateful we are for the fathers God blessed us with – their love, respect, training, humor, and discipline. As we were talking, a woman interrupted us. She wanted to tell us how special it was to hear two young ladies praising their fathers. And she wanted to encourage us to speak those words to our dads. I tell my dad I love him, but I don’t often speak aloud my thankfulness. So today, on Father’s Day, I want to take the opportunity to formally honor my father.

Daddy, you are my role model. I want to be like you in the way that I speak, talk, listen, and live. You have set an example as a godly man and that example has set a precedent for what I look for in a future husband. The way that you love and respect my mother shows me how a man should treat his wife, or any woman for that matter. The way that you train and disciple your children follows after the teaching in Proverbs. I hope to do as well in raising my own children someday. (As much as I say I won’t have children, you’ll probably have grandchildren to spoil eventually.) Your sense of humor is also something that I admire. You don’t have to take yourself – or anyone else – seriously, but you know when to draw the line. And of course, your dance skills are impeccable. I love how you are always willing to dance, and no matter what Mom says, I think you’re a pretty swell dancer. Thank you for pulling me out onto the dance floor, even when I was in middle school and embarrassed, because I need to take myself less seriously.

Your unconditional love and selflessness is a picture of Jesus. You always look to the interests of others before yourself. Many times you have sacrificed comfort and time for me. I can’t recall a time that I’ve ever heard you complain. You look for the positive in a situation and you are the rock on which I lean in difficulty. You are quick to forgive and move on. While it is one of the most painful things to disappoint you, you have never remained angry or made me feel unworthy. I have assurance that you will love me no matter what, not only from your words but also from your actions. That is Jesus’s love in motion.

Thank you for always challenging me to never conform. You have engrained within me a love and acceptance for uniqueness in life. I know that the bandwagon fallacy will never work with you. I have learned that saying, “everybody’s doing it…” is the quickest way to end a discussion. And while it has frustrated me at times, I am truly thankful for your resolve to do life differently. My life has been more full because we chose not to do things like everybody else.

In addition, you have respected me as an “adult” since the age of twelve. Although that term caused me to put undue pressure on myself, your meaning behind it pushed me to maturity. Even in the little things, such as the use of “um,” “whatever,” “like,” and “basically,” you have cultivated excellence. Thank you for pushing me to be more articulate, effective, and excellent in my speaking and writing. I can rely on you for an honest critique accompanied by encouragement. You have always called me to something greater than myself, and for that I am thankful.

These are only a few of the many ways that I look up to you. I am extremely grateful for your presence in my life. As every child writes on their Father’s Day cards, I would not want any other Dad but you. (And that’s the truth.) Thank you for inspiring me to chase after my dreams and for challenging me to always do my best, yet always loving me despite my flaws. I am so appreciative that you have never asked me to be anyone other than myself. I am the woman I am today because of your respect and support. I love you, Dad.

The Myth of Ownership

Psalm 24_1-2 1920-1200

Recently there has been an onslaught of social media messages about women’s rights, many led by the hash tag, #yesallwomen. While the campaign was started to end violence against women, it has quickly grown into something larger – a campaign of female superiority and deservedness. I’ll be honest; the sentiment bothers me. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for women’s rights (I am a woman, after all). I support equal pay, equal privileges, and equal opportunity. I support the concept of feminism, but I do not support the feminist movement. The truth is that God created men and women differently. We were created uniquely to compliment each other.

But the real thing that bothers me about the feminist movement, and the thing that I want to discuss here, is the misconception of ownership. Every week I meet with a small group of high school ladies, led by two wise women, to discuss spiritual truths. Currently we have been reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. One of the chapters we discussed this past week talked about how Satan uses the idea of ownership to twist our thinking. The #yesallwomen campaign came to mind during our discussion. Some pictures show topless women with the caption “still not asking for it.” Another image going around is a paper taped up in a school with the typed words, “I don’t think my shoulder, bra strap, belly-button, legs, or back are going to distract any male students or faculty. This dress code is telling girls to cover up so that they don’t distract males because ‘boys will be boys’. It’s hot. Girls are going to wear shorts and tank tops. We should stop teaching women to change so they don’t have to fear men, and start teaching men to respect women. This is simply perpetuating rape culture.” What’s wrong with these images and captions? They put all the responsibility on men, and none on women.

Women call modesty confining, because they just want to be confident in their bodies. (There is nothing more impressive than a woman who is confident in how she acts and does not rely on how she looks.) But with the idea of wearing whatever we want comes the idea that we own our bodies. We start thinking, “Don’t tell me what I can or cannot wear,it’s my body.” And the concept doesn’t only apply only to women and modesty either. The idea of ownership permeates everything we say and do as a modern culture. It leads to drunkenness, drug use, and promiscuity. C.S. Lewis, in the persona of Screwtape the demon, writes about this topic.

The sense of ownership in general is always to be encouraged. The humans are always putting up claims to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in Hell and we must keep them doing so. Much of the modern resistance to chastity comes from men’s belief that they ‘own’ their bodies… (p. 113)

If we own our bodies, then we can do whatever we want to our bodies. Right? Yet when we say “my body” the true sense of the possessive pronoun becomes ambiguous. The definition of “my” becomes blurred. C.S. Lewis also writes about how Satan twists the definition of ownership in our minds.

Even in the nursery a child can be taught to mean by ‘my teddy bear’ not the old imagined recipient of affection to whom it stands in a special relation (for that is what the Enemy will teach them to mean if we are not careful) but ‘the bear I can pull to pieces if I like.’ (p. 114)

If we believe that we own our bodies, anything goes. We can wear whatever we want. We can drink whatever we want. We can do whatever we want. There are no limits.

But we don’t own our bodies. Actually, we don’t own anything. God created us, and we are His. He is our Designer and our Owner.

Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

If everything is all His, then it stands to reason that we are His! Therefore, we can let go of this belief that we can do whatever we want; instead, we are accountable to Him who made us. We don’t have the right to anything, because everything we have belongs to God. And the most important thing that belongs to God is our body. We are not only God’s creation, but He also gave up His son for our lives. He paid the price for our bodies.

Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

We have a responsibility to care for our bodies—in the way we dress, in the things we ingest, and in what we do. And if men and women are equal, then we should equally help each other out.

We have the same responsibility not only to our bodies, but also to everything that we are given. As I thought about the myth of ownership, I realized how much this thinking infiltrates our actions. For me, the most common area is in regard to time. I feel as though each minute is my time. Each morning, I am the possessor of twenty-four hours to do what I want, when I want, and how I want. Those are lies that only end up causing me irritation and frustration. My time is God’s. I don’t deserve anything. Well, I take that back—I deserve death (Romans 6:23). But Jesus gave His life for me. The least I can do is give Him my time and my body.

In the long run either Our Father or the Enemy will say ‘Mine’ of each thing that exists, and specially of each man. They will find out in the end, never fear, to whom their time, their souls, and their bodies really belong—certainly not to them, whatever happens. (pp. 114-115)

For those who don’t believe the words of the Bible, my thoughts will probably hold little credibility. But those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ are equally as guilty of buying into the lie of ownership and deservedness. May these words encourage and motivate us to live selflessly in a world dominated by selfishness. This was a reminder for me personally of Whom I owe my life. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

– – Phebe