Thursday, June 28, 2012

“Bible Lessons for and from the Broken Hearted” Copyright © 2012 Megan Snider

This is another misguided attempt at writing in my usual confessional style. It is rather appropriate that I chose the term “confessional” since today I am going to examine a belief that traces its roots to Catholicism. Being your average “backseat Baptist”, I have only set foot into one Catholic Church.  It was a historical church and I naively asked the woman if the glass bowl by the door was a collection plate. She chided me saying, “You must not be Catholic.” It was used for sprinkling holy water upon oneself. As a Baptist, the closest you will ever get to sprinkling yourself with holy water is splashing some water for a faucet onto your blouse in the church bathroom. And I digress.

I want to go into depth about something that I was never taught as a youth. As a youth I was repetitively taught that there was a mate for everyone. As a fragile adolescent and then as a pensive and isolated adult, certain Baptist churches drilled the idea into my head that God would send me a mate. After all, God made Eve for Adam, right? And didn’t God say, “It is not good for man to be alone”? Yes, assuredly He did see these things. However, I want to point out something crucial to you. He said these things BEFORE the fall while Adam and Eve were still in paradise. This all took place before that one shiny blood-red apple purged all of mankind collectively out of the boundaries of bliss and into the outskirts of oblivion. God said all of this before the fall. This means that perhaps if there has never been a fall due to original sin, then each of us would have a mate. But, as we cannot deny in any way, all have fallen and fall short of the immense glory of God. Therefore, we are doomed to desolation, pain, misery, agony, strive, heartache, loneliness, and restless passions.

We went through the Book of Solomon several times in Bible study class. We also cruised through Corinthians and Proverbs which instructed us on how to behave, dress, and act as proper young Christians. Girls were told to keep their virginity. This dates back to a scripture which says that our body are not our own but property of the Lord. Our virginity therefore is not ours to give away to just anyone. It must be within the sanctity of marriage and it must be given to a mate handpicked by God. Our virginity would then go to the groom on the wedding night and be a sacred wedding gift as foretold in scripture when a man leaves his family and joins with a woman to become one flesh. Imagine the impact this has on fragile, lonely hearts!  Twisting the scriptures a little more, the Bible instructor went on to say that we could pray for what we wanted our mates to look like so that God would also fulfill our sexual desires within the context of marriage.

Now, for 99.9% of Christians, the above scenario seems to be the case. But, what about the remaining 0.1% of us to whom this does not apply? What would they teach us? They say that God gives us the desires of our hearts. A lot of people take this to mean that God is some giant genie up there in the sky granting wishes. This is not so. As with everything in the Bible, you must consider the context. God will only give you the desires of your heart if they align with His desires for you. Do you see? If you lust after or pursue something, it becomes the desire of your heart. But God may not want you to desire this thing. Don’t you remember the scripture that states, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you”? It does not say “pray for what you want and God will fork it over, gents and gals”!

I believe it was about a month ago that I took my burning question to the web. I scoured the Christian apologetics websites and the Christian forums for answers. I flipped through Bible studies and read pleas from Christian woman after Christian woman desperate for a mate. They were normal Christian woman. I am nothing near normal. So what hope have I? In my great desperation, I asked God to lead me to an answer. I stumbled upon a Catholic site. Some of the things I did not understand because it was Catholic doctrine, but it still made sound sense.

As you probably know, Catholics in general have a great many ideas concerning marriage. The topic of the mass for that day was Matthew 19. Now, as you know, in Matthew 19 Jesus is speaking about divorce laws. Yet, Jesus departs onto a small tangent in the scripture which I had never read before and no one had taught me about as a young woman. I had only been taught to wait for my mate and I had also been told to look to Jesus as my mate while I waited for my own fleshly embodiment of passion incarnate.

I want you to look at Matthew 19 with me. How I wished someone had stood up in those classes and started yelling out Matthew 19. These are Jesus’ own words for the New King James Testament. Jesus said, “11 All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”

Okay, so let’s break this down to make it clear and understandable in case you are curious or need to brush up on your “thou, thy, and thine”.  Literally speaking, we all know what a eunuch is. At least, at this age, I would hope you know what a eunuch is. However, it is clear here that Jesus is not talking about literal eunuchs, for, if He were, what would be the purpose of the statement, “(…) There are some eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.”

If you look at the heading above this verse on Bible Gateway it reads, “Jesus Teaches on Celibacy”. I believe this is a good starting place, but it does not really incorporate the whole thought process and cognition going on in these passages.

As you know, or should know, a literal eunuch is a male whom, for the almost all intents and purposes, is incapable of sexual intercourse. This means that he will not enter into the covenant of marriage, nor perform sexually, nor propagate nor marry. If you look at the application of the eunuch literally, he has been marked because he is missing a crucial component that makes him suitable to be wed and to produce offspring.  Look a little closer. You will see that this man has been made identifiable by being a eunuch. Remember in the Old Testament when God marked Cain for shedding his own brother’s blood? I believe that being a eunuch is a mark that one will never marry. I believe the word “eunuch” is used metaphorically. For those of you who are not English graduates, a metaphor is “A thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else-- especially something abstract.” The use of the word “eunuch” here would certainly be abstract. Why would someone undergo literal castration to get into heaven? This is surely not required. There is something else much deeper going on in this passage.

As I read the Catholic explanation of this passage, which went into great detail, I finally received the revelation I had been looking for. Let’s look at Matthew 19 again. I will quote it in case you have forgotten. Remember, again, this is Jesus speaking. In Matthew 19 Jesus states, “11 All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”

Now, let me point out one little detail for you. Do you see the different ways one can be made into a eunuch? There are a few listed here. I only wish to focus on one. Notice that Jesus states some eunuchs
were born thus from their mother’s womb”. What does this mean? Let me tell you. According to Catholicism, this statement signifies that someone born with a grave physical, sexual or mental illness should not marry according to Jesus. I’m sure dysfunctional people marry every day. However, there is a vast gap between being dysfunctional and being completely debilitated.

As you know, I maintain a blog on mental illness. I know the firsthand effects of debilitating, terrifying, and costly wages of suffering with a long term mental illness. I’m not going to lie. I’m not going to say that when I saw this verse I was completely happy. In a way I suppose I was glad the charade was over. I’m basically a shut-in now. Even while I am shut in, I still experience panic and other symptoms that cause me to retreat and force myself to calm down. You can look in my eyes and look at my face and you will never be able to tell what is happening with me. Yet, it will still be there. It is like any other illness. Can you be brave and fight off cancer or diabetes with proper diet, exercise, faith, hope, grace, perseverance, prayer, a positive attitude, affirmations or alternative medicines?   These things may help to a small degree, but does it take away the pain and the mark of the illness completely? The answer is of course not.

I am angry with my teachers who were so reckless in their approach to Bible interpretation. I cannot believe that they so happily and eagerly spoon fed me generalization after generalization like I was a toddler strapped in a highchair. The sad fact is that my soul grew up on that food. Now I must find a way to regurgitate it because it disagrees with my whole system.

Let me tell you something. There is nothing wrong with hope. If you are a good Christian boy or girl, the Lord will probably answer your prayers for a mate. However, if you are a consumer at a local meantal health clinic and have to get refills of Zyprexa r Haldol, well, you can still hope but you might want to remember Matthew 19. Now, let me make myself clear. I am not saying that the mentally ill should not marry. Like all diseases there are differences in intensity and symptoms of the illness. I believe that a great deal of mentally ill people can marry. However, if you are hiding in your own house or afraid to go for a car ride, you may want to either force yourself to go out and face the terror or face some facts about your future. Even if you are mentally ill and you try to find a mate, you will be met with rejection like anyone else.

I have been met with rejection after rejection. I tried to change everything about me. In college for two years I ate only 100 calories a day and exercised twice a day. All in all I lost around eighty pounds. With this new figure I thought that surely someone would be attracted to me. The one date I did arrange at this time was cancelled and the fellow gave me a lame predictable excuse as to why he could not date me. At first I wondered if I had just not met the right person. However, as I not inch but slide into the age of thirty, I realize that perhaps I have been marked as a “eunuch” myself. I wonder if it is not time for me to face facts as well. I have watched all of my friends marry. In general, people lose their virginity around the age of fourteen to seventeen. These days it would no surprise me if it were at a younger age than this. Jokes are popped to me relating my circumstances to Steve Carell’s role in the move “The 40 Year Old Virgin”. I suppose that is a little funny. Unfortunately, in the movie, Carell’s character was simply shy; he was not “crazy”. Most of my friends are well beyond me. A lot of them are now expecting their second child. Many of them have been married for years—not months. Some of them were married but are now divorced. Some are in long-term and committed relationships that are headed towards marriage proposals and diamond rings hidden in the bottom of a glass full of champagne. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not feeling sorry for myself.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been living under the pull of a strong delusion for twenty-seven years now. As a girl, I hitched my wagon to a star. And that star has remained firmly planted in the same space it was twenty-even years ago. I believe it is better to know the truth—even if it is unkind—than to know a lie that is kind. I do not pity myself. I only feel regret and I mourn for things that I will be missing out on. Things like emotional and physical intimacy. Things like communication and events (even though I am scared to go to any event!). Things such as companionship and trust. Things like sharing ideas and making future plans. I desire all of these things. I will not lie. I have no reason to lie and I have nothing to lie about.

You may get to the end of this and wonder why I have written this. I have written this for all the women and girls out their pining for their “soulmates”. Sure, like I wrote before, 99.9% of them will find one, but 0.1% will remain metaphorical “eunuchs”, won’t they?

Now, I realize adding another person to the equation complicates things immensely. I would not want someone to be with me if he were made to suffer by my affliction. That is not my intent. However, I’m not sure many men I am attracted to are just hankering  to date a shut-in.  If I can be nothing else, I must be honest. Yes, I do go out, but it is usually brief. I do not spend whole days in town and I do not like to be out after dark. Perhaps that will change and perhaps it will not.

However, this does not change my mission. Dear girl in the 0.1%, please know that you are not alone in being alone— as paradoxical as that seems. I just want you to learn this lesson now before it’s too late for you. I don’t want you to turn from God or wrath. It is okay to experience frustration, sorrow, and to struggle with the ever persistent feeling of loss. I know that you will look around you and all you will see is an outward appearance of wedded bliss. You will see unions consummated as you hole up in a tiny room with a big overhead light and type away into the night into a great vacuum. We were all made for different services unto the Lord. Some of us were meant to be mates and some of us were not. You may mourn this loss for the rest of your life. You may pray desperately for years as I have. Nothing changes facts. Facts are simply facts and you must come to overwhelming overload often before you come to overwhelming acceptance.

I just wanted to take a minute and have you stop and consider the things that some churches are too scared to admit. You see, being Christian has nothing to do with taking the easy route. Being human has nothing to do with taking the easy, route each. Christians suffer both because they are Christians and because they are human. Take comfort in the fact that Jesus was human and can relate to this whole horrible human condition.

I once recall seeing a car with a banner on the windshield that said, “Jesus is my husband!” Now, I’m assuming this woman was not married to a Hispanic man named Jesus. I’m assuming she was referring to Jesus Christ. I must admit that I felt horrible pity for her. I did not want to end up that way. But, you can’t push up against fate; it will simply push back harder until it totally crushes you. Perhaps this woman had the right idea.

I am no predictor of the future. Past “relationships” I have had with men seem to fall into the same category: outright rejection. As I sit here and ponder and remember Matthew 19, I simply wonder if it was not some invisible mark upon my forehead that only they could see. I wonder if there was some sign printed off onto my flesh that repelled them. I suppose that in the long run, none of that matters.

There are situations people face every day that they don’t want to be in. This is just one example. I am sure each one of you could give me a heartbreak story. As adults and adolescents, we face overwhelming odds every day. To those of you who have a wife or husband, I would ask that you not take him or her for granted. I would ask that you do everything humanly possible to keep your marriage alive. I would ask that you enjoy communication and intimacy in any form. Why do I ask you to do these things? Because I am unable to and I would hate the idea that one person has the total sum of another person’s affection and chooses to throw it away.

Young ladies in the church, here is my advice to you: Guard your hearts. Don’t just guard them against the wiles of iniquity, but guard them against the charm and smoothness of false teachings. Know your Bible. Always read the Bible for yourself and never depend upon someone else to explain to you what you do not know yourself. Knowledge is power. If I would have ventured out of the Song of Solomon enough to read some other passages, there is a great chance that I may have stumbled upon Matthew 19 and tried to make some sense of it. Now, twenty-seven years later, I am ruing the Bible lessons I am taught and chewing and spitting them out like a cow chews its cud. The ideas they presented in Bible school were truly beautiful ideas. But for me they were just that—ideas…fantasies…passions…flights of fancy. And that is all they will ever be. So, young women and even young men, I warn you: Guard your hearts. Your enemies may not be lurking outside the church. They may be working right from within its own walls.

Copyright © 2012 Megan Snider
(c) Megan Snider
Copr. M. Snider 2012
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