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Compli-meant…

toddler-shrugging.jpgme: “How are you doing today?”

girl: “I’m good.”

me: “Why are you good?”

girl: “wha…umm…what do you…what do you mean?”

This was a recent interaction I had with a girl here on my campus, here at Multnomah Biblical Seminary. This verbal double-take has almost become something I expect to hear as I ask that crazy unexpected inquiry of “why.”

If you’re wondering where this trait came from, it’s simple…it’s the response that almost every one of us as kids resorted to while growing up: the “why” question… (us wanting answers to our world). It also found me, in the most incessant exchange of hellos, in the grocery store of all places, (the greatest restaurant ever), where the check-out girl took the two extra seconds it takes to say those magical words…and…with eyes that made me believe she actually wanted a real response to her why…I said something so very true:

 “Well…I’m good…because you asked me why.”

So, from childhood to the Safeway checkout girl teaching me life lessons, I now make it a point of freaking people out…I mean…loving on people in this way. (Grin) You wouldn’t imagine the number of warm looks I get while venturing so far outside of the traditional realm of your most basic salutations.

old-woman.jpgLast week, it was Walmart’s beautiful, elderly, blue-eyed greeter Edna, who reminded me why I will never not ask the follow-up, “why.” Her eyes actually welled up as we, wonderfully and together, held up the line for a good 5 seconds after I had grabbed my bags, which is where she had grown numb to expecting everyone to be done with her.

Those 5 seconds of tears came from asking her, “So…do you have a long day of work left ahead of you?” She answered, with the tiniest quiver in her voice, which sounded like a stutter unless you were able to see what I saw, which was just loud enough to cancel out the obviously disgruntled rude exhale coming from three deep in the now stalled line…

“As a matter of fact, I just got here…but it’ll be better if people stop treating me like a machine every once and a while.”

I had to say it…”Edna, Jesus will never think you a machine…(haha), He won’t huff and puff in line either (sharing in a small laugh with her at the still  agitated gentleman). Then, with that, I’m-going-to-give-you-a-cookie-grandma-grin, Edna’s blue eyes lit up probably even my face from their revival, as she said…“He does love me doesn’t he…thank you sugar.”

I walked out of Walmart so very warmed by my interaction with Edna, for in a matter of no more than 60 seconds, she took my theology, that is worthless unless it’s drenched in application, and helped make it something real. She playfully and gratefully helped me teach, by default mind you, a complete stranger, who obviously needed a reminder to not take himself so seriously. What a minute-long team Edna and I made…(she made us shine though…bright baby blue)!

Other than the pure joy I felt I was literally marinating in, having received the blessing of Edna when all I really wanted was some Arizona: Diet Green Tea, I began to mull over a similar reason as to why Edna tugged on my heartstrings so.

She, in a single encounter reminded me that, yes, it is in fact possible to have one of God’s daughters (albeit in this case a 50+ year old one, which surely helped the cause) take your comments as nothing more than the love of Christ. Sadly enough this has not been my experience with a good number of His daughter’s here at Seminary.

If there’s been one thing I’ve been most disappointed in when interacting with the women here at Seminary, it’s been this over-compensating hedge they’ve placed around themselves which speaks more credit to their selfishness than it ever seems to about their Godliness. I say this with the biggest disclaimer imaginable. These are, before I launch into this frustration, the most Godly women I’ve ever met…and I knew a few  before I came here.

That said, I hope that any frustration that will undoubtedly be articulated, is only ever understood to come from a place where I simply want great women of God to become even more of the same. Simply put: I want them to whole-heartedly be able to receive the honest and intentional love of Christ coming from their brothers, as much, if not more, than they have all, in their own beautiful ways, seemed to almost master at giving off. In other words…you can sure love outwardly like Christ, but often don’t recognize when that same affection is being tossed right back.

Okay, so before all my female readers whack me over the head with various objects of pain, wish to hit me somethin’ fierce, or before they burn a hole right through their computer screens as they dauntingly set aflame my sentences with their eyes….know this…

       for my part, I do feel like I try, and do, to some degree, understand a woman’s heart…although I gratefully contend it can never be mastered (fully understood)! I say this in the same breath as the following…I suck at understanding it as well. I try and push the envelope and strive for the ideal through what obviously are this culture’s (my own) garrisons against my many attempts. I do try to Love His daughters well. I fail famously, doing the enemy proud countless times, and yet, through His graces, occasioned the outcome of a prince rather than than poison every now and again.  

I see my sisters doing what is only to be found on the other side of over-compensating in exacting excellence for Christ…trying to maintain even more exhausting standards than those Christ left for us to uphold. They either lead to failure quicker than compromise, or worse, somehow managing to keep that added-to excellence the girls, like so many of us, miss out on so many things that God has designed for you to enjoy…like true fellowship and honest to God care for one another…real interaction and Love that certainly would trump petty thoughts of crushes and fear if only we’d allow them. 

I was speaking with one of my roommates recently, and as we began to broach this topic we started to reminisce over how much simpler the Christian women were at our secular colleges. He talked of times when he would make plans to go to the movies with a couple of friends, and a half hour before all who planned on going, save for one lone girl. Now, here in Seminary, this would almost immediately mean (and I struggle to think of an exception unless you become one) the movie is a no-go or you are going stag. Keeping with the theme of the magic word…WHY?

Why is it so easy for Christian girls (who my roomie and I both agreed guarded their hearts exceptionally well), back at our old Godless colleges, to simply go out and enjoy a movie? We were practically finishing eachother’s sentences…

“there’s no pretense with them”…

“it’s never thought of as a date, unless it’s said to be one”…

“it’s never viewed as the guy hitting on the girl, or visa versa”…

“they just want company to go watch a movie.”

Bare in mind, this was just the ‘going to the movies’example. My roomie and I agreed that there were countless other examples where the Christian gals from the not so bubbled world of Christianity… “just acted more like our sisters,” as we both put it.

Again, let the disclaimer ring loud and clear…the women here at Seminary have wonderful hearts…they are in fact (and I think all the guys here would agree with me) the kind of women who possess the qualities (hearts) that we ought to always be looking for when the time comes to pursue a certain someone for marriage. That’s what’s so frustrating…why do we then tend to feel the undergrad gals act more like our sisters in Christ. I’ll tell you why…and there’s far more than this one reason…they risk there hearts being open to us for the sake of Christ.

I say on the heels of that…and I mean this with as much, if not more excitement and emotion in my words…WOMEN: safeguard your hearts for the sake of Christ…but don’t do more than that.

Don’t add to it.

In Genesis 3:2-3…we find that Eve responds back to the serpent with…”and God said we shouldn’t eat of the tree…(and here’s the death knell)…or touch it.” God didn’t say don’t touch it…that was the first example of religion sinking its filthy claws ’round the neck of an already stated and sufficient faith. But yeah, not touching the tree would surely ensure that we would even be that much safer…a little extra help thrown God’s way…for surely He would have liked to add such instruction if He could go back and revise His edict. How silly are we sometimes.

So yes, safeguard your hearts…Proverbs 4:23…but don’t overguard it in such ways that you keep it from Love. Our faults as men…mine especially, have run the length of all that plays the imposter of True Love…but to assume the intentions of our affections means that in turn you have thought our hearts so very easy to understand…thought our affections so easy to secure. Assuming us interested in you, in many real ways, is as dangerous as assuming us evil,. or not evil enough…even as dangerous as running away from anything resembling affection.  None of this did God ever intend, but in our current lack of Eden we as men, in my opinion, need your help ladies, more than we need your passing judgements. We need to sharpen one another in Love, as no one gender had it down pat.

I love thinking that as I approach, and in complete innocence, proceed to compliment a sister in Christ on campus…”you look nice today”…or…”you’ve got a great heart”…that somewhere in there, usually after it’s finished, you ladies think hard on what was said, and whether or not it was something good for your heart. THAT IS AWESOME, and Godly I might add! But for Pete’s sake (whoever Pete is) tell us when we over-step, not just our bounds, but YOURS! 

A lot of the time I find we only ever open our big mouths in the first place because we wanted to show you we could take a second out of the day and make you a priority …to show you that you in fact matter to us. Honest intentions should warrant or at least merit honest responses. 

I hate that there are some guys out that have ruined it for us all (this includes the worst parts of all of the former us (me) men)! They have treated all of our sisters in ways that have almost preconditioned all of you to assume that we are either incapable of giving compliments without a hidden agenda, or, and here’s where the selfishness comes into play…we simply must want to pursue you. That is phenomenally disappointing to me. I’m sorry, but where does anyone come off, especially at the tail-end of a few sporadic compliments here and there, thinking they are so precious, that we would be considering, with such simple words and actions, that we may have just found someone we think is a good choice to spend the rest of our life with. How you-centered.

uh_oh.jpgIf we thought that way as guys, we would be labeled as cocky and as having a huge ego. But women get away with it all the time…”it’s just me safeguarding,” you say. Bull! That is malarky at its finest (hooray 60’s expressions). Safeguard ’til you faint…but act like royalty while you do it. Slandering us, spreading what in any other circles other than cooperative Christian ones, is considered gossip, and not going to the source (us) to find out if what you are wondering is true or not, (is he hitting on me?) is about as grown-up and royal as a little girl playing with Mom’s lipstick.

I know I have said my fair share of more than, “you look nice today”…or…”you have a great heart”…but c’mon! Exchanging wit or banter with our sisters in Christ…is that really meant to be taboo. And yet…if what we say, honest or not, is in fact too much for you…the common denominator can be you and your incredible honesty right back at us. I get it…some girls will just assume too highly of themselves and almost always assume a random hello is one step closer to being proposed to…but…if this is the case, do all of us men a favor…especially because we should only ever want to protect you and help you guard your hearts…CONFRONT US!

eowyn-fighting.jpgIf we, after all are in fact poaching on your hearts, which you seem to be so convinced of at times, then defend this like it’s the most sacred thing you’ve ever been given. DEMAND that you know who approaches it, and for what reason(s). Make it an art form…your particular art of war! If your heart and whom seeks it is worth coming to dangerous and sometimes false conclusions over, then it certainly is worth defending ’til your last breath, right? It’s not a question of whether you should, but how are you going to. Gossip, assumption and letting us think not only that we’ve done no wrong, but worse, that we might actually be giving compliments at too slow a rate…that’s going to kill us every day, forever.

Know your hearts ladies…and share with us what you discover…especially if that is, you need to stay away from us. I personally have had four girld who were dear friends in my life that told me they couldn’t be friends with me because it was too hard on their hearts. I get it, people get crushes, and want something that’s simply not there. And for what honesty and true affection I was shown in each of those relationships, I would not trade any of those moments if I knew the outcomes ahead of time…that I was going to have to do without them. Their respective bravery was what set them apart, and I am forever indebted to such examples of what I hope to only ever find as qualities in my wife one day, Lord willing.

If you are not willing to do this radical honesty thing, then come off your high horse, because although a Princess never walks…you might need to.

I can’t begin to tell you how much the women of this Seminary mean to me. You have been some of my greatest teachers this semester. But my God have you caused me to doubt myself. You want to all but kill a Christian man where he stands…make him feel like you don’t believe in him. It’s the careful, yet honest blessings of the 18, 19 and 20 year old undergrad girls who have helped remind me that life is far more simple and perfect, dare I say, Christ-like, when we all live more like Christ, and not necessarily trapped in our little bubbles of Multnomah’s guide to safeguarding.

The undergrad gals safeguard too…but they love, recklessly at times, (like I said, you Seminary girls are what we men should only ever be looking for)…but I’ll tell you…when we want to go enjoy people, the way Christ seemed to do often with his disciples, we are often drawn to your younger followers. Pizza, coffee and/or a movie… and good conversation (of Christ and faith of all things) with the ones willing to love, is endlessly more appealing than walking on egg-shells, tip-toeing around our every syllable, and not feeling free with you.

I wonder how, if given this ridiculous brush-fire that seems to have swept through the hearts and minds of so many of our sisters here, we can all beat this? We are not loving on one another the way Christ did in our overly safeguarded worlds.

Disclaimer: If you as a woman feel you need to be always, once in a while or  indefinitely at an extreme distance from us men…by all means, make that a priority! We will know that you are loving on us that way. I would never want one of you ladies to think you had to step outside of where your heart was best kept reserved and pure for the Lord.

However, when and if you do (and all of you do at times) venture away from that far off bubble we all sometimes live in…BE HERE, WITH US, FREE! 

In other words, don’t show up unless you’ve come to terms with where your heart can and should be before hand. DON’T DO IT! I mean it. We’re going to screw that up somethin’ fierce. I have. I continually will make a mess of that so long as I create what sometimes turn into semester long scenarios where Godly women think I’m doing nothing but hitting on them every time I give a compliment or shoot some humor/wit their way.

We will, save for God’s grace, inevitably give completely the wrong impression to you every time! Everything we’ll do and say will be FRIENDSHIP & FREEDOM… but all you’ll probably ever hear will be, HE’S TOTALLY COMING ON TO ME.

Again, all Princesses thinking this way, please dismount immediately!

I am so sorry that there are men who have treated you in ways that resembled the worst parts of our former selves, and in some cases much worse…but know we are here, now, to help. We want to love on you as our very dearest sisters. Much like the relationship between siblings…don’t come out to play (enjoying life in Christ together) if you’re just going to second-guess everything we’re going to do. We equally owe you a heart-check on ourselves that should keep us from even showing up before you if we have anything but pure and Christly motives.

We should DEMAND of ourselves, so our sisters know when they are being valued as something more, complete honesty when we begin to see the unveilings of emotions within us to be more suited for an wedding isle than that of  a movie theatre.

In case you ladies think I’ve blown this thing way out of proportion… which by the way, I was never once was asking if you agreed…do me a favor and consider this entire letter not a question, but a statement, nay, a declaration of observation on our part. You are as guilty as we are!

I had a frightening thought earlier today as I wondered how I would write this unfortunate blog entry. I began to think some of the women here at this school, who are at times so incapable of receiving compliments, that I began to wonder what would happen if Jesus sat down next to you at a well (you of course don’t know it’s Him) and He proceeded to compliment you or even just chit chat with you…let’s say the horrible, “why are you good?” 

Given your current supplemented layers of excellence you would probably find yourself thinking Jesus was hitting on you! And yes, in any other life other than this one where Christ revealed Himself to me, I would enlist among the Pharisee henchmen and take part in crucifying the Messiah myself. Point is…

From sunrise to sunset, as our days start and finish, we need to remember that we are products of our culture people… we are surrounded in our culture and with more distinctive upbringings than I think any of us will ever understand. We are our parents, in some way shape or form, even if we vowed never to be…and in that spirit, we are often over-compensating in our call to be perfect and blameless before the Lord.

We dare not repeat the jaded end results of adding Judaism’s finest to our already perfect instruction from the Lord. Guard it well girls, for from your heart flows the wellspring of life. But guard it the way you should!

Your heart forbids even a careless touch…which, all I’m suggesting, could be your own, as you keep it from even being willing to be hurt for the sake of loving and being loved on.

This is awfully simple considering how complicated and nebulous it has seemingly become…we all need to be blunt, jaw-droppingly, honest about what our hearts can and cannot take. When this has been done right it’s seemed like the most refreshing 15 seconds ever, (every time it’s happened) …everyone in the room just now agrees and seconds that notion of how such honesty has always re-paid back well more than in cost…that’s because Truth is freeing!

Honesty will always be the lingua franca of believers. Safeguarding does not mean that we should be afraid…it means absolutely the opposite to me in fact.

We need to fight and protect ourselves, and one another the way we were always intended to so, we can love as Christ did…if our effort be anything less than this (radical honesty, all the time, then we miss Christ in our interactions more than we know.  

So Princess…if you can safeguard your heart without supplication to Christ’s holy intended experience, then remount your horse, take yourself as serious as you should, but not any more than that, and meet me and friends for coffee in half an hour. 

God love you Sis.                                      

1John 3:18

“Little children, let us not love in words and in talk, but in Truth and in deeds.”

Sis,

We never thought ourselves “little children” as we complimented you sis…we are but ever striving men, Princes even, battling for our lives on the edge of freedom and frailty, praying that our words are our deeds…I pray…

 Lord, help us to learn our Sisters ever better, so as to not do wrong by them. May our heart’s shield be but extra armor to theirs. I pray Lord, having failed miserably, and having known too the aroma of victory in You…Love Your loveliest through us God, as if it were You back again…nothing more, nothing less. Amen. 

For those of you who had a tough time extracting the theme from all of that…here it is. We ought to love our fellow brother and sister like Christ loved! This means we should always walk around with both, ridiculous and incredible amounts of honesty that all but guarantee awkwardness, confidence, beauty and Truth. A woman should always be asking herself the question…”Is this good for my heart?” A guy should equally be asking himself the question…”Is this good for my heart?” (they should too be asking, aloud, is this good for their heart). 

If both the brother and sister in Christ pour over these questions from the very first interaction they have with one another…unless they transgress and choose to do something that is simply not good for their heart…they should have the communicated and understood freedom to interact with one another as Christ did with everyone.

I know culturally this goes against so many things we’ve all been conditioned to. For instance: I am conditioned to think that I should initiate the relationship…but from that point on…short of me dropping to a knee…we should be leading this fragile journey of two hearts hopefully beating for the One, together.

From a woman’s point of view, yes, I completely understand how it could be awkward for a girl to have to tell a guy she’s interested in him (she does the pursuing)…or, that she’s not interested and that she can’t be around him…I get it…it’s tough…it’s awkward! But given what’s at stake: your heart…is there really anything too hard to say to ensure its’ absolute protection? The answer is a resounding NO!

We both, as brothers and sisters in Christ, must have radical amounts of honesty in every interaction we partake in, especially with those of the opposite sex…we are, no matter how familiar we feel, in waters unknown. 

At least at my secular college (Fresno State) the interactions between men and women were honest, albeit extremely immoral at times. This kind of Secular Theology, has even applied honesty to the disgusting title of, ‘friends with (sexual) benefits.’ They are even honest in the fact that they simply want to use one another for nothing more than physical pleasure. But we suppress, and in my opinion, transgress against our hearts and God, in our own selfish ways when we try to navigate the Christian relational waters. All fall short of His glory indeed.

Secularism defines love as nothing more than whoredom if it does not have God to thank and drive every part of it…it’s lacking and it is horribly empty, able to sustain happiness no longer than an orgasm at times. We are Christians though! We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, called everyone else (fellow believers as well). How much more honest should we be then than the unsaved…us, the anointed and expected ‘salt and light of the world?’     

Guarding your heart: to be intimately in tune with the Spirit so as to accutely discern what should and should not be the Christ-like protection of our hearts. The malliable bend and break of our heart’s bow; discerning what waters to let crash and be broken upon its strengths, and what waters to instead absorb deep within us, forever shaping us for the Kingdom our sails fill with.  

We need: More honesty…much, much more. More sensitivity. And more dedication to learning one another to possibly, especially as men, not even go anywhere near where the girls would have to fight back. I believe as men we can fight well enough to never cause a girl to have to use her shield…although it, sure as sin, better be raised.

The great theologian Jerry Maguire said it best, “Help me, help you.”

blood-1.jpg

I mean that girls…we as men need your help. I’m the intuitive one in the group, and yet I struggle on the edge of tears almost every night as I beg God to make my interactions right between His daughters and myself. I’m surely not alone is my nightly red-eyed posture as I think and pray for you women (we, men, are fighting for you). I know I find myself every night almost exhausted and feeling completely helpless, as I tried, and vow to continue trying, to love on all of my sisters well. I certainly don’t sit in what I pray are righteous tears evry night. My tears are summoned by a deeper fear…not of past, but of present…I at times have no idea if I’m hurting you or not.

And so, I vow to ask, for my part, to ask the right question, aloud and often, “Is this good for your/my heart?”… I apologize for not having done that nearly enough. 

Sisters…face us, look us in the eyes, and fight for your heart. Ask yourself the tough and right questions…”Is this good for my heart”…do that with what should be a telepathic-confidence, knowing that you should be able to read our minds perfectly, because we should be asking ourselves the exact same  question.

That is how we should interact…a little more secular in terms of their blatant honesty…with a little more Safeway-checkout-girl-inquiry, showing people we really do care…with a little more Walmart-Edna gratefulness…and with what I feel is in every way, is more like the way Jesus Christ did things.

Amen.   

About justingunter

I'm recently 29 years old, recently married and ready to change the world for God. He has called me to be a missionary! This means more than just changing zip codes and living in countries where I struggle (for a while) speaking the language the locals dream in. It means a lifestyle of sacrifice, audacious Hope and above all, a desire for Jesus simply because He is who He is. I moved to Franklin, TN in October 15th of 2012 and expect this to be the first of many changes for the great calling on the Gunter's life. Side note...I dig being married. It helps when you're married the best woman ever! Teale and I feel called to plant churches, combat sex trafficking and be a place of refuge and Holy sojourn to all who would seek to join alongside us for good or for a season. For now, Ol' Rocky Top is our home, Zoey is our Great Dane and we, the Gunters, love Jesus with all we have.

8 responses »

  1. Good blog buddy. Thanks for sharing your heart on this matter. Although its directed at a certain group of people I would like to chime in on what I have taken away from this discussion and others.

    Honesty is the best policy. In the secular realm, relationships are brutally honest. Either it is an official date or its not. The relationship will be defined by the first question and the first answer and its clear. From my experience in the Christian realm, this line is muddled, leaving relationships undefined and potentially more hurtful then a quick turn down and “thanks for asking.” So, honesty is the best policy.

    I’ve heard it said that being friends first is the “proper” way to go. Although, I have no problem with friends becoming romantically involved, I do think that if not addressed appropriately this can lead to hurt and even resentment as the undefined relationship creates emotions on one member of the team that is not shared by the other person.

    In terms of response I am less clear and have no good answers. At this point I think I would say that it is the mans role to initiate the relationship but I think the women based on her response should dictate where it goes and define it as such, the earlier the better.

    I think its better, for me, to be stabbed early and have the relational bound ires defined then to live in an amorphous relational state.

    At least these are my thoughts buddy in terms of my processing this information right now.

    Reply
  2. Nice post…I always wonder why more people don’t say “well” instead of “good”…

    Anyway, if you haven’t already…

    http://www.multnomah.edu/blogosphere

    Reply
  3. Justin – It always amazes me how our wavelengths match up in random moments.

    I am not planning on telling you the full story here, but I recently had a very honest discussion with a friend of mine and insisted that he be honest with me. After quite a struggle, I did not get the honesty I had asked for (No, I do not mean that I did not the response I wanted, I mean I did not get a response at all!) and it took me awhile to realize that the lack of honesty was my answer.

    Thanks for understanding me even though you didn’t know you did it. Hope all is well!

    Reply
  4. I myself am at a loss for words. I don’t know what to say but wow. I wish I could say more but I’m just so impressed by your words that it is making me think more than I ever have in the past few months. I will definitely let you know my thoughts when words come to me again.

    Reply
  5. This was a very helpful post for me, and with my biased opinion, would encourage just about any girl i know too also read it… More importantly however, this reminded me of a lesson out of “Mere Christianity”… “He (Satan) always sends errors in the world in pairs of opposites And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.” pg. 186

    I immediately dug this up as i was reading this blog, it seemed to be a great example for the message you’re sending, which from what i construed was; Girls guard your hearts, but don’t be so self-centered or naive in your brothers’ attempts to encourage that you flatter yourself at the brother’s expense. If i had a dollar for every time I’ve heard lady-friends mention that one of my buddies was “hitting” on them, I’m rich. And isn’t it ironic that it’s normally the more “manly” or attractive one’s? Hopefully you followed my thought process through this, I dont have the patience to go any deeper on this, considering you put it better then i ever could. Good one.

    Reply
  6. Alexwebmaster

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  7. I’m the only one in this world. Can please someone join me in this life? Or maybe death…

    Reply

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