Learning to Question: The Value of Education

This blog post is the fourth in a series of responses to the article, “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins (Without Tattoos),” in which the writer basically argues that Christian women shouldn’t go to college, have careers, or even move out their parents’ house before they’re married because their sole purpose in life is to serve their husbands and raise a large family. Over the past few weeks, I have discussed the double-standard for Christian men and women when it comes to sexual purity, the necessity of finding our identity in Christ alone, and the fact that all Christians have an equally “holy calling,” no matter their vocation.

Ever notice how every time Jesus performed a miracle in front of a crowd, there were always those people wanted to throw a lot of big rocks at Him for blasphemy or demonic possession or – gasp! – healing the sick and crippled on the Sabbath or something?

We see it over and over again – people so fully immersed in their own perception of reality, their unshakeable belief that the Christ would be a mighty warrior who would dart in on a snow-white steed to free them from Roman captivity, that they were oblivious to the human incarnation of God when He literally stood right in front of them.

And these people believed the Christ was coming. They studied the Old Testament, they could recite the prophecies, they memorized the signs…but they had no idea who the carpenter’s son really was.

It is so easy for us to arch our modern, Holy Spirit-enlightened eyebrows at those ancient skeptics and condescend, “Umm…this guy turned water into wine, made the blind see, cast out demons, healed lepers, cured men crippled since birth, and…oh, yeah. He raised the dead back to life. Ya really think He’s just burning off steam?”

But how many erroneous, rock-solid beliefs – maybe even Biblically founded – do we cling to without even being aware of their existence? How many assumptions have been subconsciously etched into our minds that affect the decisions we make every day? How many beliefs can we not articulate because we’ve never actually thought about them?

What would happen if we were a little more uncertain about what we believe?

That, I would argue, is the true value of education.

People don’t like to feel uncertain. We prefer to draw tidy black lines between right and wrong, good and bad, people who eat their pizza rolled up like a burrito and people who eat it flat like God intended. Uncertainty means questions, questions mean we need to remove our rose-colored John Lennon glasses and try to squint through gray area.

Welcome to life.

Christians especially tend to fear questions. We worry that if we don’t unhesitatingly follow everything a Christian leader or if we mistrust an interpretation of Scripture, then we’re being disobedient or unfaithful.

Listen. Jesus never said, “Ask, and I will rebuke you for not operating in willful ignorance. Seek, and I will assume you’re ‘It’ in a cosmic game of hide-n-seek. Knock, and I’ll turn off all the lights and hide underneath the table like you’re a Jehovah’s Witness coming around at dinnertime” (opposite of Matthew 7:7).

Over and over in the Bible, God called on people to do something and they responded with a question – sometimes even multiple questions. When God first appeared to Moses, He 1) addressed him by name 2) spoke from a bush that was on fire but not burning up 3) turned Moses’s staff into a snake and then back into a stick 4) infected his hand with leprosy and healed it like a magician at a kid’s birthday party and 5) gave him a direct order with specific instructions. The message seems pretty clear, no?

Well, Moses still had several questions. And then, even after witnessing these signs, he told the Almighty Creator of the Universe he picked the wrong shepherd.

Yet despite Moses’s doubts and fears, the apostle Paul commends him as one of the most exemplary models of a faith-filled life (Hebrews 11).

Doubt does not equate unfaithfulness any more than fear equates cowardice or anger equates violence. The problem isn’t the feeling, it’s the control we allow it to have over our decisions and actions. It’s fine – normal and healthy, even – to have questions. What’s wrong is not pursuing answers. That is displaying a lack of faith…are you worried God won’t or can’t answer?

Not only is it ok to ask questions, it is impossible to become a mature Christian without questions. Because here is the scary thing: we can absorb life-altering opinions without even knowing it. We’ve come to expect it in the TV shows we watch, music we listen to, and books we read, but they can seep in through something as trivial as an offhand remark our elementary school teacher once made or a headline we notice while checking out at the grocery store. Unconsciously, we store these ideas up and allow them to affect our thinking.

The goal of education isn’t to teach us what we already know. It’s to introduce us to new ideas and concepts, force us to examine our long-held beliefs under a more intense light, make us a little less certain that what we previously assumed was correct.

Now, you may be thinking, but Jesus taught people how to seek and serve God…not algebra. What does asking questions to clarify your spiritual beliefs have to do with education? Can we compare spiritual discipline to academic study?

First off, I am not proposing we seek spiritual guidance from textbooks or Biblical principles in lecture halls. I’m not saying you need to strengthen your prayer life by reading Jane Eyre (but yes, everyone should definitely read that) or you need to supplement your daily devotional with The History of Trigonometry. (Please, if anyone ever catches me studying that, take me to Rome immediately so that I can get a gallon of holy water dumped on whatever demon, ghost, or alien has sunk itself into my brain.)

But our faith affects every aspect of our lives; your worldview influences your political opinions, your relationships, your professional life, the entertainment you enjoy. There is really no such thing as “secular study.” You can’t sit spiritual beliefs in one corner of your mind and academic pursuits in another and scold them into leaving each other alone.

So, since our faith influences everything, we need to examine all aspects of our lives to make sure they align with what we believe.

(If you’re thinking that sounds like a lot of work – bingo! You’ll be figuring out life ‘til ya die – now go get yourself a gold star.)

Second, learning to question does more than strengthen our knowledge of God and ability to “give reason for the hope that is within you” (I Peter 3:15); the practice of asking questions develops a certain attitude. It changes us.

As Christians, our challenge is to reset our inclinations – whether we developed them through “nature or nurture” – to align with Christ’s heart and God’s will.

The most significant, innate misconception I have – which everyone is born with – is that I am the realest, most important person in existence. As David Foster Wallace said in his famous commencement speech, “This is Water”: “Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe…There is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of…Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.”

That is where questions can help.

Questions make you a little less certain of your automatic assumptions. They force you to think outside your own perspective. We need to expose ourselves to other ideas and perspectives, so we can be conscious of our own and aware of other people. More than aware – able to relate and sympathize with them. By challenging ourselves to think beyond our own experiences, we learn to “love our neighbor.”

We do what we do because we believe what we believe. So, let’s be careful what we believe.

That’s what it means to be educated.

Some people perceive the sole value of college as getting a job and earning a substantial paycheck, but the goal of college is not to get a job. It’s to get an education.

Education is the practice and discipline of asking questions and finding answers. Being educated doesn’t mean spending $100,000+ on a piece of calligraphy. It doesn’t mean being the person who is content to sit in the back of the room and write down only what may appear on the midterm.

It means having a critical awareness of yourself and the world. It means being the kind of person who isn’t content to absorb, but instead analyzes, reflects, investigates.

Wallace concluded in “This is Water”:

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day…That is being educated and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing…

The capital-T Truth…is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time.

Let’s stop venerating willful ignorance and calling it faith.

Let’s storm our preconceived notions and steadfast assumptions and trust that our search for answers will kindle a sincerer love for others and bring us to a deeper, more intimate understanding of our Heavenly Father.

Let’s learn to be ok with feeling uncertain; let’s allow it to humble us and make us more patient.

Let’s ask questions. 

Big news!! Some exciting changes are coming to the blog. I’m not going to give it away yet, but if you type your email into the “Stick Around” widget on the side of the screen, I promise you will be one of the first to know. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out.

(Seriously. I’m so excited.)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

It’s Who You’re With: 25 Years of Marriage, Baseball, and Faith

You’ve heard that old cliché, “It’s not where you go or what you do, it’s who you’re with”? My parents are living that to the extreme.

Today, people are remembering September 11, 2001. I respect that; it’s important that we never forget what happened 17 years ago.

But I want to talk about September 11, 1993 – the day my parents got married.

That’s right; 25 years ago today, Kevin M. Renckens and Cyndi J. Kamp tied the knot.

(There weren’t wedding hashtags back then, but I like to think theirs would have been #GoneKamping. Other options include #HappyKamper and #StairwayToKevin.)*

So, what are they doing for their silver anniversary? Renewing their vows? Enjoying a romantic dinner? Revisiting the spot where an Ivy league grad from New York first met a bubbly systems analyst with big, brown eyes?

Nope.

Tonight, they are dining on Chipotle burritos, and in two weeks, they are flying to Ohio.

Because, you know, why settle for Paris when you can always have Cincinnati?

My parents are celebrating their 25th anniversary at the Great American Ballpark, watching a Reds game and chowing down hot dogs. Over the past few years, they have been on a mission to visit every MLB stadium, their navy Rays caps popping up in a new one every few months or so.

If you want to know where baseball ranks in my family’s priorities, my cousin Luke didn’t tell us when he got engaged, but as soon as the Rays officially announced the Logan Forsythe trade, my phone almost dropped dead of exhaustion.

It’s kinda funny; even though Mom is one of the biggest baseball fans I know, she really didn’t take any interest in sports before she met Dad. Now, she keeps up with the Lightning, she can talk about the Bucs…she even tells me about the latest round of the PGA tour.

In that way, Dad completely changed her.

But Mom changed Dad, too.

My dad wasn’t a Christian when he met my mom. In fact, on their first date, when she brought up Christianity, he told her how he could never give up control of his life like that.

He hadn’t figured out yet that Mom is usually right. And even when she isn’t…she is.

Now, he’s taken seminary classes, leads a mission trip to Africa every year, and has helped me, my sister, and so many others learn what it really means to have the heart of Christ.

I’m not here to say which is more important (sports fan or Christ follower), but I think we can all agree they both changed for the better.

(Ok, fine, Jesus is more important than baseball. But you can’t tell me He didn’t play a part in me getting an apartment right next to Tropicana Field.)

You might think that after spending 22 years around what’s been a pretty successful marriage (so far, knock on wood), I could crank out an article on what, based on my observations, is the formula for a strong relationship. But I don’t know if there’s some big secret to a long, happy marriage; I’ve never tried it. Heck, I’ve never even been in a relationship that lasted a full month (not counting when I was five and got married in my sandbox).

But I have learned something about how you know it’s the right person.

A lot of times, when we think of love, we picture someone we’re comfortable with. You know, sitting on the couch together, oily hair coiled into a messy bun, watching Netflix, and eating ice cream straight out of the carton, knowing that he’ll still kiss you goodnight and text you in the morning. Someone whose should you can cry on, who you can open up to about everything.

Feeling relaxed, comfortable, and safe around someone is definitely an important part of a relationship, but true love is more intense than that. It’s caring so deeply about someone, you can’t leave them where you found them. You don’t want to change who they are; in a way, you want them to be more who they are. You want them to be the best version of themselves.

That’s what Jesus did for us, right? God meets us where we are, but He never leaves us there. And no matter how many times we squirm ourselves out of His protective embrace, turn our backs to Him, and run back to the mess He saved us from, He always comes back for us, cleans us up, and brings us home like His beloved bride.

When I imagine what it’s like to be in love, I always think of someone who pushes me to try new things, to grow in some way, whether it’s finally mustering up the nerve to send my short stories to a literary magazine or even something dumb, like pulling me up on stage at karaoke night or just making me put on real clothes and leave my apartment once in a while. (No small feat, lemme tell ya.) I imagine someone who encourages me to do things I would never have done by myself.

Here’s what I have learned: in a healthy relationship, both people are unselfishly, earnestly working to help the other person grow and bring out their best qualities. My parents taught me the importance of being with someone who loves me not just for who I am, but who I can be, and is excited to support me on that journey.

And, of course, who’ll take me to every MLB stadium.

And Chipotle.

So, I guess the old cliché is true – it is about who you’re with, because the right person will take you where you need to go and help you with whatever you do.

If you want more reflections on relationships and advice from someone who has never actually been in a long-term relationship, type your email into the “Stick Around” widget on the top right of the screen! We can figure this out together, friends.

*I kind of just realized that my mom planned their entire wedding without Pinterest…like, how do you pick a dress when you haven’t been digitally hoarding photos for years? That’s probably why so many women wound up picking dresses with sleeves the size of balloons. I firmly believe the entire fashion disaster that was the 80’s could have been prevented if Pinterest had been invented 30 years earlier.

If you’re still reading this, you may be interested in my opinion on weddings (i.e., why I will never have one).

 

St. Simon's Island, Georgia, beach at sunrise

Island Vibes

Like I tell everyone who asks if I’m Southern: Florida is in the South, but it isn’t Southern.

I really identify more as an islander – a hippie one at that. I love slurping down smoothies, wearing floral bell sleeves and sandals that strap up past my ankles, and, of course, being outside. Especially being on the beach.Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, GeorgiaSt. Simon's Island, Georgia, beach at sunrise

So, not shockingly, our annual family beach vacation to St. Simon’s Island is one my favorite times of the year. Like, it might beat Christmas. (Except that Hallmark doesn’t celebrate it with a full arsenal of movies, which is highly disappointing. I plan on going into screenwriting just to create a summer Hallmark movie that takes place on St. Simon’s Island.)

bw7St. Simon's Island beach, GeorgiaEvery morning, I wake up at daybreak and run down to the beach. I think that “daybreak” is the perfect word to describe that time. It’s like watching the sky split open, blazing with all the excitement it bottled up overnight.

Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgiac2

If some of the black-and-white photos seem a little grainy…it’s because they are. Literally. The salt coalesced on my camera lens. Does salty air make for high-quality photos? No. But it makes for some pretty high-quality memories.

(That will be an iconic line in my summer Hallmark movie.)

Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgiac1

Hope you enjoyed! If you want more pictures or to stay updated on my Hallmark screenwriting ambitions, type your email into the “Stick Around” widget on the top right of the screen.

goldfish

A Fish Named Nellie Bly

Nellie was my first goldfish.

Not my first fish; I had a lot of fish growing up. And I named them all “Cat,” as part of my oh-so-subtle plan to convince my parents to adopt a kitty. (Took seven years, but it worked. Subtle and steady wins the race.)

Anyway. Our story starts on April 21, 2016. My sophomore year of college.

To raise money for a local philanthropy, a campus club decided to sponsor the “Fishy 500,” a fish race. Participants paid a fee, squirted fish with tiny water guns to spur them to swim through a 10-foot track, then got to walk away with the satisfaction of having helped abused children as well as the subjects of their mild waterboarding.

Which is how I ended up paying $10 for a fish that costs 34 cents at PetSmart.

I named her after Nellie Bly, who pioneered investigative journalism, but is now mostly remembered for her “stunt work,” most famously traveling around the world in 72 days, beating the fictious record set in the book Around the World in 80 Days.

I had no idea how ironic all of this would be.

I’ll be the first to admit – Nellie (the fish) had it rough. For one thing, being a broke college kid, I never wanted to spend the money on a fishbowl. Plus, none ever seemed to be the right size; I wanted something big enough so she didn’t feel confined but small enough that she didn’t feel lost in an endless sea of isolation. (Sorry for the pun, I really tried to avoid it.)

So, I bought a large piece of Tupperware from Dollar Tree, and that was Nellie’s home, except for a few short stints in a Mason jar, pickle jar, and salsa container.

You think that’s rough? Just wait.

Between my sophomore and junior year, I lived in three different states. Ergo, so did Nellie.

That summer, we packed our bags (and Nellie’s Tupperware container) and scampered between Tennessee (where I went to college), Florida (where my family lives), and Alabama (where I interned). As we toodled across state lines, Nellie bobbed along in a pink cup sandwiched between me, singing along to some Broadway soundtrack for x hours, and a passenger seat littered with mostly empty water bottles, my shoes, purse, and who even knows what else. Over the course of many trips, she had a few tumbles but always survived. She was basically the aquatic version of Jason Bourne.

The journalist Nellie Bly once feigned insanity to write an expose about the brutality and neglect of mental institution. I’m sure my Nellie longed for the sanity of an 1887 loony bin.

Anyway, when summer ended, the traveling ground to a halt as I slogged through the fall semester of junior year. Then we hit December. As a single fish parent, this posed a dilemma.

I always flew back to Florida for Christmas break. At the time, I was not well-versed in the TSA policy on fish. After diving into parts of the TSA website that no one who wasn’t planning a low-scale terrorist attack has ever looked before, I concluded that I could probably bring Nellie. But I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t want to take any chances with my little golden-scaled traveling buddy.

When I flew home, I always parked my car at a family friend’s house in Nashville to avoid spending a small fortune for airport parking. So, rather than run the risk of some dour muscle in a bulletproof vest confiscating Nellie, I asked my friends to keep her.

The mom was very nervous, but I remember promising, “Nothing will ever kill this fish.”

[Phantom of the Opera overture]

That poor woman prayed over Nellie every single day, and on January 2, 2017, when my plane finally landed at the Nashville airport – after a five-hour delay – and I lugged my duffel bag off the suitcase carousel, my car and Nellie were both shiny and sleek and ready to go.

By the end of the night, we would all be in varying degrees of ragged.

My plane took off late because of foul weather in Nashville. As I navigated the roads to Jackson, Tennessee, it was still raining steadily. To make things worse, there are no lights along I-40. But I had a podcasting class the next day, so I zipped through the dark, listening to the Hairspray soundtrack.

About an hour later, I felt the wheel turning itself to the left. Before I could react, my car smashed into the guardrail. Then it bounced off and veered to the right like a tiny metal ball in a pinball machine, slamming into guardrail on the other side.

I screamed. (Honestly, though, I think a part of me was less scared of dying than embarrassed that the last sound I ever heard would be Zac Efron singing “Ladies Choice.” That’s a swan dive onto rock bottom you never get to recover from.)

Anyway, after bashing both sides of the car, I managed to get control and pulled over to the side of the road. Turning on the emergency lights, I yanked open the car door. My bare feet sunk into the mud, rain sopped my clothes. I stood back and tried to assess the damage, but I couldn’t make anything out through the rain. Cold and wet, I crawled back into the car and called the police.

When I hung up, it hit me – where’s Nellie?

Her cup had rolled under the passenger seat.

My car was totaled.

We never found Nellie’s body.

Every time I tell this story people are like, “That’s the funniest and saddest story I ever heard.” And it’s true. And even though it hurt in the moment, looking back, I have to say, I couldn’t imagine Nellie dying any other way.

So, why write about this now, more than a year and a half later?

Grieving is a process, and it took me time to work through it. For the last nineteen months, I’ve wondered if I have the capacity to give a goldfish the care it needs and deserves.

A couple weeks ago, after writing about how Nellie weirdly helped me get my job, I decided it was time to move on. I was ready to open my heart again.

Life happens. Fish die, cars wreck, screws fall out. The world is an imperfect place.

After a week of research and visiting pet stores, I screwed up the courage to buy another goldfish.

Sometimes, you just have to get back on the horse. Or put another fish in the bowl.

Or the cupholder of my car, which is where my new fish ended up the very next Saturday afternoon as I drove from my apartment to my parents’ house, an hour away.

Amazing how, in spite of all our best intentions, we end up making the same mistakes.

Well, hopefully not all of them.

If anyone was wondering, I named my new fish “Nora” after Nora Ephron, who co-wrote and directed my favorite movie, You’ve Got Mail. So, I’m naming my fish after women writers now. Cliché? Maybe. But at least I’m not using them as a mini SPCA commercial.

In memory of Nellie. I hope that Heaven is a full-sized aquarium full of friends, where you can traverse the entire galaxy without the constraints of a Tupperware container.

If you’re reading this and not completely repulsed by my negligent fish ownership, type your email into the “Stick Around” widget on the top right of the screen.

“Having Gifts, Let Us Use Them”: The Equality of Career Women and Stay-at-Home Moms

This the third article in a series of responses to the blog post, “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins (Without Tattoos).” Over the last couple weeks, I’ve discussed the double standard for Christian men and women and the problem with building an identity around men (or anything other than Christ).

Hours before the sun rose on Erfurt, Germany, Martin Luther would awake on the floor of his spartan room, a table and chair the only furniture in the cell-like space. His monastic life consisted solely of worship, work, and prayer. Upon enclosing themselves behind the stone walls of the monastery, men renounced all earthly pleasures, taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. As he dedicated his simple life to the Lord, Luther was taught that monks and nuns had a higher, nobler calling than anyone else.

Then he read the Bible for himself. And he realized that was a lie.

Yet we continue to affirm it.

More than 500 years after the start of the Reformation, we still consider certain work “holier” than others. Specifically, while the secular world often applauds career women more than stay-at-home moms, Christians tend to praise stay-at-home moms over career women – even though favoring either devastates the mission of the church and drains our potential and power as women.

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many,” Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, comparing Christians’ different gifts to various body parts. “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose…As it is, men can act as many parts. Women, on the other hand, were intended to all serve the exact same purpose. Because the God who invented 440 species of sharks and specially designed hummingbirds’ eyes to detect predators’ movements while beating their wings 80 times per second – that God couldn’t think of anything else to do with women, so He gave the body of Christ four billion arms.”

Oh, sorry. I hallucinated there for a second.

Paul opens the chapter, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (I Corinthians 12:4-6).

In other words, God designed each of us to glorify Him in a unique way. As David praised, as God shaped us in our mothers’ wombs, He saw our futures (Psalm 139:13-16) and crafted us – our personalities, our talents, our dreams – with a specific vision for our lives.

We know that “every good and perfect gift comes from above” (James 1:17), so all human skill must come from God. Why would we believe He didn’t intend for women to act on the abilities and passions that He gave them? Why, if He gave women the gift of intellect, the capacity for reason, a passion for learning, and placed them in a society and financial position that allows them to attend college, would He forbid them from taking advantage of that opportunity? Or if God gave them talent and ambition, why would He demand they refrain from pursuing a vocation?

The only explanation, if you want to contend that women shouldn’t go to college or pursue careers, is that either everything I just listed is evil (which I don’t think anyone in their right mind would argue) or that, for some inexplicable reason, all women are just supposed to suppress the gifts and passions that God has given them.

Again, that irrational line of thinking is rooted in the idea that certain callings are noble and others are inferior.

The Bible does not imply that women’s role in society is fundamentally different from men. In fact, the much-lauded Proverbs 31 woman is industrious outside the home, buying fields, helping the poor, and even running her own business, making and selling linen garments (#GirlBoss). In the New Testament, Christians actually empowered single women. While Greco-Roman culture dictated that widows remarry within two years, Christians provided widows the financial resources and assistance they needed to live independently.

Some might argue that when we become Christians, we are supposed to present ourselves as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), relinquishing our own desires. But dedicating ourselves to God means striving to be the people He planned us to be before sin twisted the world. It means becoming more like the unique individual He originally intended us to be – not a copy of what well-intentioned legalists say we should be. C.S. Lewis addresses this in The Screwtape Letters: “When [God] talks of [people] losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.”

God not only calls us to good works, He designed us for them (Ephesians 2:10). Evangelist and author Jack Taylor once observed, “Our adversary would divide us by leading us to suppose…that the Holy Spirit deplores personal motivation.” When we root our identity in Christ, our drive to excel in our craft or industry is the greatest way we can glorify Him, because in doing so, we reflect His workmanship and character.

The persona of God is complex beyond our comprehension. He is an artist who brushes the sky with a fresh palette of colors every morning, but He is also a scientist who calculated the exact tilt and position of the Earth to sustain and nourish life. Jesus is the Prince of Peace who rode into the city of God on a donkey to negotiate an impossible peace treaty, ending thousands of years of division between sinners and a just God. But He is also a warrior who armored Himself in a feeble human body and struck a fatal blow to all the powers of Hell with the cross they nailed Him to.

As flawed, sinful beings, we cannot encapsulate these paradoxical aspects of God wholly or perfectly. But He still fashioned us to reflect these qualities, so together we can project a picture of our Creator. To suppress our gifts is to censor the image of God. It doesn’t matter if it’s an artistic ability, like dance, drawing, or theater; an intellectual pursuit like chemistry, philosophy, or law; an quality like leadership, organization, or peace-making; an “unskilled” position that lays the foundation for society, such as housekeeping, food service, or child-raising. There is value and dignity in all work, and we need to embrace our responsibilities with exuberance, knowing that we do so “for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

Because all work is God’s work when He has called you to it.

And if all work is God’s work, then, at its essence, no job can be “nobler” than any other.

That was what Martin Luther realized; all jobs are “masks of God.” To borrow his example, God may not send angels to surround the city gates, but He uses guards to protect the citizens. God may not rain down manna from heaven, but He has equipped farmers with the knowledge to produce crops.

That means that a neurosurgeon is no more valuable in God’s eyes than an automechanic. Ultimately, being a stay-at-home mom isn’t any more dignified than scooping monkey poop at the zoo. (And, based on my babysitting experience, some days it doesn’t feel all that different, either.)

This probably seems extremely uninspiring right now. But I would argue that recognizing the inherent equality of all work is both essential for the mission of the church and incredibly empowering.

For one thing, it liberates us from others’ expectations. We haven’t missed some divine calling just because we aren’t living the “traditional Christian life” of being married and raising a family. By the same token, not being part of the workforce does not equal a less significant role in society. It simply means God has called you to something else, at least for now. Knowing this allows us, like Paul, to be content whatever our circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13).

It also allows us perceive and approach all work – career, parenting, or otherwise – as just work. It is a means of survival, a way to glorify God, and/or (hopefully) something that we personally feel joy and a sense of accomplishment in, but it isn’t the essence of our identity or worth.

Finally – and possibly most importantly – recognizing the equal value of work builds unity.

We are the body of Christ, and as Paul points out, all the members serve a vital, irreplaceable purpose. We are a community of equal members, which means that there is no division – male or female, Jew or Gentile, career woman or stay-at-home mom. It abolishes our right to look down on anyone. It decimates our self-righteous hierarchy.

Sisterhood, and especially sisterhood in Christ, is one of the most precious blessings God has given us. The devastating thing about the “career woman vs. stay-at-home mom” mindset is that it pits women against each other, obliterating the power that we find when we come together, sharing in each other’s lives, rejoicing in each other’s accomplishments, sympathizing with each other’s struggles, offering each other advice, encouragement, help, and love.

Belief that God endows only some Christians with a “holy calling” negates the idea that all believers are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession” (I Peter 2:9). It creates division, not only between “work life” and “spiritual life,” but between believers. Between women.

It defeats the purpose of a God who came to Earth to bring unity, ripping from top to bottom the veil that obscured His face and welcoming His estranged people back to Him.

God has blessed Christian men and women with a diversity of gifts, passions, dreams, and callings. Let’s stop bickering and ostracizing each other like God only calls us to use them in one specific way.

Let’s just use them.

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“If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (I Corinthians 12:17-20)

The Identity Crisis of “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins (Without Tattoos)”

Author’s Note: For the next few weeks, I am publishing a series of essays responding to a blog post, “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins (Without Tattoos).” In the article, the writer basically argues that Christian women should not go to college, get married, or even move out of their parents’ house (until they’re married) because it might distract them from their sole life purpose of raising a large family. Last week, I discussed the double standard for Christian men and women that the article exploits.

I would like to announce that the writer of “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins (Without Tattoos)” has rethought her position and admitted that she was incorrect. She said that the title of the post should have been “Godly Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins (Without Tattoos).”

That’s all.

Good. Because that was the glaring problem with her theology.

But, as someone who struggles with pride (I mean, sure, I have a lot of good qualities, but humility isn’t one of them), I really respect it when people admit they were wrong. So, let’s phrase it her way.

It actually does kind of address the problem I wanted to talk about: leaving out God.

Now, changing the title to “Godly Men Prefer YadaYadaYa” doesn’t fix the issue at all, because the overarching motivation expressed in the piece is still the same: women should lead godly lives (and we’re ignoring her perception of how women live a godly life) to please men.

If this was a video, I would put a record scratch right here.

Not doing things to please other people is a very popular idea in modern mainstream culture. Disney teaches us to wish upon a star and follow our dreams no matter what anyone says. Pop stars croon that you only need to love yourself. You don’t live to please other people; girls don’t need to pander to men; live your life however you want; you do you, babe. #GirlBoss

All that is true, but it’s not the whole truth. And, as my mom likes to say, a half-truth is a whole lie.

Here is part of the truth: not only do we not need to live our lives to please other people, as Christ-followers, we shouldn’t live to please other people.

In church, we talk a lot about how we need to be passionate, “on fire.” We are shouting in the streets, dying to ourselves, conquering kingdoms, extinguishing flaming arrows (Christians love war imagery), crying out loud in the desert, eating wild honey and locusts, and beating our camel hair-clothed chests.

But when it comes to the declaration that “[anyone] prefers [anything],” God allows us to respond with lying-in-our-PJs-watching-golf-after-a-turkey-dinner apathy.

I Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Christians are still human beings. We experience human wants and needs. In some ways, how we live our lives is no different than the rest of the world – we work, we eat, we sleep (not as much as we should or would like to). The difference in the day-to-day lives of Christians is our motivation for living and, by extension, everything that we do in life. We live to glorify God, because we find our identity in Him and boast in knowing “nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

Here’s another part of the truth: we all find our identity in something.

Our identity is the very core of who we are. Do you know the biblical term for finding our identity in anything except Christ?

Idolatry.

Pastor Tim Keller describes idolatry as “anything in your life that is so meaningful to your life that you can’t have a life if you lose it…in your heart of hearts, you say to it, ‘If I have that, then my life has value, then my life has meaning. And if I lose that, then I don’t know how I would live.’”

That makes for a pretty bleak future when your idol is a temporary object of a fragile reality.

Here’s a third truth: there is nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to please other people. In fact, we should be serving, encouraging, and caring for others. The problem is when it becomes the consuming purpose of our life.

Here is the truly twisted and insidious truth about modern idols: most – if not all – of them were created by God.

In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes that, try as he might, Satan cannot create a single pleasure; the concepts of joy and happiness defy his very essence. Instead, he uses pleasures that God has given us – love, food, money, for example – and subverts them – lust, gluttony, greed. That is what makes sin so alluring and (at least temporarily) pleasing; it was originally designed for us to enjoy.

The problem isn’t that the idols themselves exist or that we enjoy them; the problem is the level of importance with which we regard them and the amount of control we allow them to wield over us.

God gives His children three things: blessings, callings, and an identity. The first two tend to be closely related; for example, God blesses us with a spouse, He calls us to be a faithful and loving wife or husband. He blesses us with a successful career, He calls us to work hard. However, blessings and callings come and go. They do not affect our identity. Our identity is constant. It is always Christ.

Idolatry is when we mistake the blessings or callings that God has given us for our identity. It’s what St. Augustine called “disordered loves.” Suddenly, instead of just making money so we can afford necessities (and the occasional splurge), we base our self-worth on the shape of the dried ink on our paychecks.

And that is absolutely heartbreaking, because here is the final truth: what makes Christianity radically different is that it is the only religion that does not require a performance. Every other religion dictates that you act a certain way, follow a certain code for a deity or whatever the highest power may be to deem you “worthy.”

We don’t have to do that. Our liberated lives are no longer a performance, a succession of rituals to placate a god who views us with indifference. Yet, when we find our identity in anything other than Jesus, we are placing that idol in the judge’s seat. We have no choice but to act out a desperate charade and present our case, hoping for mercy from something that by its own nature demands unceasing drudgery.

Last January, The New Yorker published an article titled “Improving Ourselves to Death.” The writer, Alexandra Schwartz, explores some of the ways that people try – and fail – to mold themselves into the pinnacle of human perfection. Two of the men she writes about, both business professors, spent a year delving into all the popular methods of self-improvement: Crossfit, therapy and life coaching, yoga, drugs, cleanses, stand-up comedy…the list goes on. Every month, they tried to achieve a different virtue: creativity, intellect, athleticism, productivity. At the end of the year, one of the men, André Spicer, realized that his self-focus had ruined his relationship with his wife, who was due to give birth in a few days. Schwartz summarizes what he discovered after a year of striving to perfect himself in every possible way: “On the other side of self-improvement, Cederström and Spicer have discovered, is a sense not simply of inadequacy but of fraudulence…[Spicer] writes, ‘I could not think of another year I spent more of my time doing things that were not me at all.’ He doesn’t feel like a better version of himself. He doesn’t even feel like himself. He has been like a man possessed: ‘If it wasn’t me, who was it then?’”

He lost his sense of identity.

In his famous commencement speech, “This is Water,” writer David Foster Wallace says, “If you worship money and things…then you will never have enough…Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you…Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.”

Wallace concludes, “In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.”

It truly hurts me to say that Wallace was not a Christian, and he committed suicide three years later. Despite his objective realization that all humans worship, he never chose to anchor himself to something that wouldn’t destroy him.

If this seems really depressing and hopeless – you’re right. It is. That’s the point. Our idols will always “eat us alive.” They are insatiable. They will always demand more from us, because when fulfilling our identity depends on our actions, we can never rest.

The good news is that we do not have to submit to them. Jesus is already sitting at the right hand of God – He doesn’t have to sit on the judgement seat anymore. The hammer that nailed Him to the cross acted as the gavel for God to declare His final verdict on those who claim their identity in Him: not guilty.

Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, emphasis added).

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21).

Court adjourned.

So, let’s try this headline: “Godly Men Prefer Women Who Could Not Care Less What Men Prefer.”

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“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida

Scored on an Error

“Hey Ali, I suggested that the girl who has the internship position you did last summer set up a meeting with you,” my boss mentioned as he passed by my cubicle. “I thought you could give her some advice on how to leverage an internship into a full-time job.”

“Sure thing! I’d be happy to!” I chirped before turning back to my Post-It note-covered desk, thinking, how on earth am I supposed to explain fluking my way into this job?


“Hey Mom, there’s that company I’m never going to work for.” I pointed at a logo along the Rays outfield fence.

Mom gave me a tightlipped smile. I think it only hit her that year that her daughter would be graduating from college with two majors – one in journalism and one in creative writing.

To borrow a joke that I’ve only heard a thousand times, that means I didn’t learn anything in college, except how to communicate that very clearly.

And I had just blown my one chance for a well-paying summer internship.

For one thing, I didn’t learn about it until after the application deadline had passed, so my application was late. Plus, confused by the mad juggle of summer internship applications, I sent in the wrong cover letter, so the first paragraph explained how deeply I wanted to work for another company.

Not surprisingly, they never contacted me, so I was pretty confident when we went to a Rays/Blue Jays game during spring break my junior year that I would never work for the company whose logo I had just laughed at.

I think we all know where this is going.

Fast forwarding, the girl who did get the internship dropped out, so they gave me a call and asked me to resubmit my resume and cover letter. After that, I had a couple interviews with an HR rep and one with a communications manager, featuring my well-rehearsed spiel on how a creative writing major actually teaches valuable skills (most notably, how to think of arguments for why creative writing isn’t a useless major), and for a little bit of personal flavor, I also sprinkled in the story of how I accidentally killed my goldfish in a car accident.

In a shocking turn of events, they decided to hire me as the corporate communications intern.

Considering the fact that when I showed up for my first day, everyone in the office already knew the story of my late goldfish, I can only assume that somehow clinched it for me.

Through no fault of my boss, I really didn’t know what I was doing the entire time. But I read once that one of the reasons Ronald Reagan managed to inspire people was because any time someone asked him a question, he would sit up straight, smile, and say, “I’m so glad you asked that question,” even if he had no idea what to say after that. So, I decided to try that little presidential fake-it-till-you-make-it policy. My boss would ask me to do something, I would give a cheery affirmation, then I’d go to my desk and quietly sweat.

The second semester of my senior year of college, my boss emailed me to say that they wanted to hire me; all I had to do was submit my resume and cover letter.

As I uploaded my resume and cover letter, onto my account on the employee portal, I noticed something – when applying for the internship, I had uploaded the wrong cover letter the second time, too.

Error 404: brain not found.

On my first day after graduation, I showed up at the office sporting a new ID badge with an employee picture that was somehow worse than my intern photo (although at least they spelled my name correctly this time). My supervisor showed me my cubicle, introduced me to my new team members, and then we went out to lunch.

“So, Ali,” he smiled slyly as we took our seats. “Do you have any pets?”

After explaining how I’ve spent the last year-and-a-half debating whether I have the time and resources to give a fish the care it deserves, I turned to tell the story to the new hires and learned that they had already heard about my poor goldfish.

The only bad publicity is no publicity, right?

Last Wednesday was my one-month anniversary as a full-time employee. To celebrate (or maybe coincidentally), the company gave us free baseball tickets and a half-day. Lounging on the Tropicana Field party patio with my coworkers – right next to the logo I had pointed out to my mom about a year ago – it really hit me how inexplicably everything had come full circle.

Public seminars are a $400-500 million industry. We read self-help books on setting goals, watch TED talks on exuding confidence through power poses, and paste together motivational vision boards. We all want to know the ten steps to success or how to improve your life in just five days.

But sometimes we don’t get an instruction manual. Life doesn’t always operate in a linear, logical way. It’s messy and imperfect and sometimes there’s no single magic key that unlocks success.

Maybe we really don’t have control over what happens in our lives. I guess all we can do is have a good attitude, do our best, and trust God to work everything out in the end.

And maybe have a killer fish story.

(Oh wow, that was too soon.)

trop

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

The Double Standard of “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins (Without Tattoos)”

The sounds of jostling and angry murmuring rolled from the back of the crowd gathered at the temple. Pushing their way through the rapt audience, the religious leaders threw a woman, barely clothed and smelling of a telltale pew-y scent at Jesus’ feet as they formed an accusatory circle around her.

“Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery,” they told Him. “Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (John 8:4-5)

They were itching for an excuse to accuse Him and discredit His teachings. It was a trap, and Jesus knew it. Why? Because if they were sincerely asking His opinion on the Christian response when two people – two – were caught in adultery, then the man would have been thrust into the scorching desert sand, too.

In answer, Jesus challenged the man who was without sin to throw the first stone.

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, one by one, the defiance seeped out of each man’s shoulders, and he turned away, convicted by the depravity that saturated his own upright, religious life.

And from then on, since Jesus seems to have the same set of standards for everybody, Christians vowed to hold each other – male or female – to an equal level of accountability.

Oh, wait. Sorry, I got confused with how the story should have gone.

Recently, a blog post went viral. It’s titled “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins (Without Tattoos).” The writer espouses a myriad of unbiblical doctrines, and the fact that she tries to discourage Christian women from going to college or having careers because it distracts them from their sole life purpose of raising a family is an issue that I won’t even tackle. (In this post.)

For now, let’s focus on this: the blatant double standard when it comes to men and women.

Don’t get me wrong; I think that economic responsibility and sexual abstinence are both biblically founded and healthy, practical ideals. But why do we act like these virtues are more important for women than men? Or, maybe more to point, like Christian women need to act as the body armor of God for men?

I wish I could say that the writer of this blog post was just one misguided voice in a sea of reason, but the fact that the post has been shared on social media numerous times with supportive captions disproves that theory.

And I’ve seen it myself. I’ve heard well-meaning women scold girls for wearing tank tops because it “spoils the mystery.” (First of all, does anyone really believe that there is a man in modern America who has never seen a woman’s shoulders? And second – sorry to spoil it, boys – but female shoulders look a lot like a male’s. Are they really that erotic?)

Growing up in church, I learned all the guidelines for dressing modestly: place your hand on your collarbone, and if your neckline is lower than the width of your hand, it’s too low. Shirt sleeves – at minimum – should be as wide as your pointer, middle, and ring finger together. Hold your arms down at your sides; shorts and skirts should be longer than your fingertips. (Does anyone else find it a little ironic that we use other parts of our body to determine how much of our body to show? I’m just saying, it seems like an inconsistent unit of measurement.)

Every summer on the first day of church camp, camp leaders would separate the boys and girls. The boys were told not to fool around with the girls. The girls were told not to dress or act in a way that would entice the boys, enforcing the idea that they are responsible for another person’s purity. If a boy slips up, then it is, at least partly, the woman’s fault for not covering up more.

(It also enforces the idea that the only reason for modesty is to protect boys from temptation, but I don’t have space right now to explain why that’s wrong.)

Here’s the thing: we can’t trust other people to act as our shield of faith. We have to rely on God.

In his book, Gospel, Pastor J.D. Greear uses this example: a guy and girl are alone, sitting on a couch in the girl’s living room. Things start heating up, and the boy feels overwhelmed by his desire. Abruptly, the girl’s Army Ranger father bursts through the door.

Instantly, the boy’s libido crashes.

What happened? His desire didn’t exactly lessen, but his fear of her father (and death) suddenly outweighed his sexual impulse.

It’s the same concept with any sin. The only way to withstand temptation is to be more submissive to God’s authority than our own desires. And that is something no one else can do for us. The world probably isn’t going to change to accommodate us; we need to learn how to live, work, and interact with it without being coaxed away from our Christian walk.

Don’t misunderstand; as believers, we absolutely should strive to help each other stay fixated on Christ and away from temptation. If your friend struggles with alcohol addiction, you wouldn’t be a great friend to constantly suggest hanging out at a bar. But Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29, emphasis added). He did not say, “If your eye causes you to sin, go rebuke that thing you’re looking at, because clearly it’s the problem, not you” (Nowhere in the Bible 10:1).

That would be futile advice. We can’t control the external world. We can’t change other people. We can only govern ourselves, and that means we need to take responsibility for our own actions.

I mean, aren’t we over the whole, “This woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave the fruit of the tree to me” thing? (Genesis 3:12)

Adam was a victim, but not of Eve. Of his own desires.

As a result of their choices, they were thrown out of paradise and condemned to a lifetime of physical, emotional, and spiritual anguish as God’s plan to bring mankind back to Him began to unfold.

Of course, before casting them out of the garden, God told Eve, “Since this guy who just totally threw you under the bus clearly needs some help staying holy and upright, I’m sending you along as his spiritual service animal. Go, and make sure that he sins no more.”

Oh, sorry. I got confused again.

So, why does this issue even matter? To use the old adage, kids are starving in Africa, Christians are being massacred in the Middle East, drug addicts are sleeping on the concrete just outside our church buildings. Why waste time griping that Christians judge women too harshly and go too easy on men?

Well, for one thing, it mattered to Jesus. He spent a large portion of His ministry with some of the most marginalized and despised people in Jewish culture: Samaritans, beggars, tax-collectors, prostitutes, cripples, and women. He didn’t do it on accident, either. He was proving a point: being united in Christ means being equal in Christ. In Galatians 3:28, Paul affirms this idea, writing, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This whole blaming women thing has been a problem since sin was invented. The bigger question is, why do we still do that? Why are we shoving the woman into the dirt while letting the man stay in bed? Just like when the religious leaders threw the adulterer at Jesus’ feet, it must be a trap, but what are we trying to accomplish? The only possible answer is that we are trying to ambush and disparage each other.

Here’s the crux of the problem: until we stop looking for excuses to blame one another, we can never unleash our full potential as the church. We can’t lead the world to Christ when we’re busy accusing half the people on earth of using pink spaghetti straps to drag the other half into sin.

We need to acknowledge that we all fall short of God’s perfect glory. We all struggle with sin and temptation. We all kinda suck.

When two people sin, they are equally at fault. They both need to be at Jesus’ feet, and we shouldn’t be circling them, stones in hand and arms flexed. We should all be at His feet – debt-free, virgin, non-tatted, or not.

Maybe that’s what Jesus was getting at all along.

Throughout the next few weeks, I plan to talk about other issues with “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins (Without Tattoos).” Next week will be on idolatry of marriage and family. If you want to stay in the loop, type your email into the “Stick Around” widget on the top right of screen!

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10, ESV)

Why I Will Never Have a Wedding

Premise: Weddings are freaking nightmares.

Yes, we’ve seen all the movies. My Big Fat Greek Wedding taught us that true love can withstand even a tightknit family. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers taught us that the best way to get a woman is to kidnap her and cause an avalanche so she would have nowhere to go if she did escape. The Princess Bride gave us the most iconic line in the history of romantic cinema: “Mawwiage is what bwings us togewah today,” which is such a great line because you can use it for any occasion – graduations, birthdays, funerals… But whether it takes standing outside the girl’s window blasting a boombox or riding into the a sunset on a lawnmower, they always get their happily-ever-after.

I’m talking about real-life weddings in the late 2010s.

Point 1: Dresses are expensive.

In high school, I bought all of my formal dresses at one of two places: Goodwill or Salvation Army. I think the most expensive one set me (read: my mom) back $40. (That may seem tacky, but to be fair, the only dance I ever went to was the Governor’s Ball hosted by a statewide government club and held inside the Tallahassee Antique Car Museum. Every year, I took a photo next to the Batmobile and a display case of pocketknives.) In college, on the rare occasion I attended some fancy soiree, I usually borrowed a dress from one of my sorority sisters.

Well, now, I’ve graduated college. I’m a 22-year-old working as a corporate communications coordinator in St. Petersburg, Florida, so the odds that I will invited to the Met Ball Gala – or any gala, ball, promenade, sock hop, or disco, for that matter – is extremely slim.

Some would say nonexistent, but I’m still holding out hope that I will one day run into Dan Stevens, and he will realize that we are meant to be together.

But unless – or until (Simon Sinek says positive thinking is the only way to achieve your goals) – that happy day comes, I will never have an excuse to wear a fancy ball gown again in my life, ever.

So not only does that mean that I already have two floor-length dresses that cost upwards of $250 hanging up in a closet in my parents’ house, but, if I were ever to have a wedding, I would (easily) be spending upwards of $1,000 on a dress designed for me to wear only once in my entire life.

Call me a Goodwill-hunting pack rat, but I honestly cannot wrap my head around that.

Point 2: Pre-wedding hoopla is insane.

The first time I was a bridesmaid, I twisted the combination of my school mailbox, opened the metal door (probably on the third try), and invitations to five wedding showers fell out. Five. For the same girl.

Now, I don’t think she reads this blog, but in case she ever does, I want her to know that I don’t judge her; I know that she didn’t plan them. And, to be fair, she had just graduated college and was working at Starbucks until her wedding. But as an introvert with a full-time job, I can’t imagine doing a bunch of pre-wedding shindigs.

And it’s not just the showers. Proposals have to be such an elaborate affair – emotional and intimate (but with a photographer close enough to capture everything) – plus a surprise engagement party with family, friends, balloons, cake, and a photo booth (pics or it didn’t happen). It is such sentimental rigmarole. Whatever happened to the days where a man just offered the girl’s father a goat? When did we decide we needed to bring pageantry and romance into this transaction?

And it isn’t just the future bride who gets proposed to anymore. Now there’s “bridesposing.” This is when the bride-to-be woos her friends into being her bridesmaids by presenting them with a small gift, typically jewelry.

Literally. It’s proposing to your friends.

(Although, as a bridesmaid, I realize I probably shouldn’t complain about this.)

Point 3: Lingerie showers.

Listen, we lived together three years, I never learned what type of underwear you like, and I don’t want to know now.

Point 4: The ceremony is just a freak sideshow in the social media circus.

I already mentioned the engagement brouhaha. So, let’s talk about the big day.

It takes a least three Facebook albums to capture the average wedding day: the pre-wedding primping, the family/bridal party/groomsmen/couple pictures, and the ceremony (which, honestly, are the least exciting pics). Not to mention all the wedding countdown photos (I know one girl who started post 400 days before her wedding – you read that right, a four followed by two zeroes. That is over a year!), the “I said yes to the dress” picture, the snapshot when you get the marriage license, the wedding hashtag, the bachelor/bachelorette party pictures, the wedding video, the anniversary video…

Conclusion: Let’s just get away.

Beneath all the Pinterest-inspired table settings, when photos are sucking at every gigabyte of phone memory and the send-off sparklers are nothing but ashy metal sticks, the important part of the wedding is that two people have vowed to love, honor, and cherish each other for the rest of their lives. I understand that it’s an important day, but in the grand scheme of things, it is one day.

Plus, I know a lot of people who say they don’t even remember the wedding. I recently had dinner with a friend who told me the only thing she remembers from her wedding is that one of the guests ripped his vasectomy from dancing. (I’m working on selling that story to Hallmark.)

All that to say, I’d rather save money for the honeymoon, so we can go somewhere exotic and start our life together with amazing memories and peeling, sunburned shoulders.

So if I ever get married, I’m going to elope. But not in an unplanned, harum-scarum, run-baby-run, kinda way. (Hello, it’s me.) We will be organized and logical about this. We’ll make travel reservations and toodle down to the courthouse on a pre-arranged date.

Heck. Maybe it’ll even be an excuse to wear one of those bridesmaid dresses again.

Sounds like happily-ever-after to me.

Do you hate weddings? Does emotion make you snarky? I think we’ll get along just fine. Click the “Follow Me” button or type your email address into the widget on the top right of the screen!