Freedom to Be

In light of recent events, I find myself overwhelmed, mentally. I try to piece together what I read in the news each morning, or whenever I follow links off Facebook or Twitter. I try to understand what’s happening. I try to make sense of it all, when it seems as though all hell has broken loose.

That’s what this piece is intended to be. Me searching for the answers to “why did this happen?” and “how do we fix this?” Me trying to put this into context, in the larger part of the American narrative. Me trying to refine my perspective- what I believe about the world, and what I believe to be true. I don’t have all of the facts- please don’t try to cite me as any kind of authority. There are far more educated people all over the world who could tell you way more about what’s happening. That being said, I realize that almost no one will like what I’m saying here.

Over the last month, America has been destroyed by a shocking number of shootings. Pulse Nightclub. Philando Castile. Alton Sterling. The dead and wounded from Dallas. People are screaming about #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter and gun control and police protection and the justice system. And none of it is helping. NONE OF IT.

Before I go any further, I do want to give my condolences to those who lost someone to one of these tragedies. It’s a terrible thing to lose a loved one so traumatically, and I realize nothing I can say or do can give you what you’ve been denied. I pray for you, that you will have strength and find peace in these trying times.I do not want to minimize you loss, your suffering, your pain, but I do beg you to have a little grace for me.

As a nation, America has had a long, brutal and bloody history of racism. Implicit and explicit. And while we frown on the explicit displays, publicly anyhow, we practice and condone the implicit. Little attitudes that strip others out of humanity. THIS HAS TO STOP. IT HAS TO STOP NOW.

It is that implicit racism that fuels Trump’s plan to build a highly impractical wall. To halt immigration. It is that implicit racism which longs for, but will never confess to, a white America.

But let’s go back one step further. What drives racism? If I had to give an answer, I’d say fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of that which is different. Fear of losing control. I’ve wrestled with that fear in other ways- in relationships and new situations. But I also know that what’s different isn’t necessarily bad- it can be quite wonderful, in fact.

In my study of American history, it seems as though every racial encounter on American soil has been treated with fear. Changes have been argued out of fear. We struggle to maintain the system, because we can’t imagine a different social order.

We’re all too familiar with these stories of fear, so much so that we don’t stop to think about them. We know the tale of the Indian taking white scalps, the fear that faced settlers and pioneers, out to claim land for themselves. But we don’t speak of the fear felt the other way- fear that everything would change, that you could lose your homelands, your life, your family, your culture. And they did lose everything.

We know the tales of the black man, raping those poor Southern belles, because they couldn’t restrain themselves at the beauty of a white woman. Not only is this incredibly arrogant, but demeaning. But we don’t tell how that man got to be where he was. We don’t tell of the dread of the slave ships, the horrifying conditions they were forced to live in. We sanitize slavery to make it PG, to teach in schools, when it was anything but.

We may admit that this hypothetical man was conceived out of rape- the WHITE plantation master having his way with a slave woman who couldn’t refuse. But we don’t talk about the fear she’d lived in her whole life.

We know of more recent horrors, of the violence of Montgomery, of being dragged off buses and out of restaurants and being beaten to a pulp, of the fear they lived under when the KKK was at its peak. But we, as whites, don’t know the fear of being profiled. We don’t feel fear that we’ll be roughed up by a cop (because for us, cops mean safety), we don’t feel the fear of being different, because the consequences are too steep.

But that’s not to say that we don’t feel fear too. We’re afraid of losing our power. We feel like some of it’s already slipped away, as jobs leave the continent and the economy toddles back to its feet. As financial aid funding is directed to minorities. As marriage is redefined politically. As our civil religion is set aside, and we see other religions enter the nation. We fear, what is so simply put in several schools of literary criticism, “the Other.”

“The Other” is not how we see America. We never have- there have been repeated bouts of nationalism that reveal this (I recommend Kristin L. Hoganson’s Consumers’ Imperium or Manliness and Civilization by Gail Bederman.) But here is where the disparity between our language and our behaviors is evident. We demand closed borders, we demand the removal of terrorism- by which I infer targeting people of differing ethnicities and those who practice Islam. We act as though we’re protecting Black and Hispanic America from themselves, when all we’re really doing is creating terror.

It seems to me, when warned  that an “other” is armed, cops pull triggers out of fear. Fear for their lives may be reasonable, in some places. But sometimes, I think there’s a deeper fear. It’s this fear we need to address as a society. To not address it is like telling the rape victim to dress less promiscuously, even if she was dressed modestly. It’s not dealing with the poor behavior on the part of the rapist, which is essentially what White America has become.

We have asked a monumental amount out of Black and Hispanic and Native and Asian America. We have asked them to believe we do them no harm, when we have NEVER given them evidence to prove that. It’s time we stop expecting them to change for us, and we lay the foundations for a safe place, where EVERYONE, regardless of race, religion, nationality, sex, gender, etc.

As Americans, we have certain freedoms, and they were summarized beautifully by FDR. However, as we move forward, we need to add a fifth freedom to that list of four. We have, in theory, the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. We still need to claim the freedom to be. Freedom to be who we were made to be. Freedom to live our lives as is fitting. This is true freedom.

I don’t know that I have an answer for how to do this, but I suspect it won’t lie in screaming at each other on social media, or patronizingly reasoning with me or “the other”, or placing blame on a person or organization. I believe it begins when we, White America, face the music. Make the reforms necessary to make integrated America fair (we’ve have 50 years to get it right, it’s time we make progress).

Fear can be defeated, and it begins with knowing the other side. It begins with educating oneself on what it’s like to live as a person of color, as a minority, to believe a different religion. There have been those over time who are curious, and who want to know the answers. Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin is a good example of this. We need to integrate these voices- the beautiful symphony of American people, black, white, native, Asian, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, disabled, well-bodied (and minded), male, female and trans- into our curriculum in the schools.

It is only when we abolish fear of “the other” that TRUE justice can be done. It is only when we abolish fear of “the other” that America can claim in all honesty that we are a “melting pot,” a safe haven for the refugee, a nation where anyone can come and be free. But this requires truly positive actions- beginning with listening and leading to reforms- that must be enacted in spite of the fear.

We need to stop pointing fingers, and starting lending hands. This is how we will make America truly great. This is how we can make America the land of the free. Neither of our political parties hold the answer, but both know how to feed to fear to inspire favorable action.

We need immediate action. We need to stop this dead, before someone else is killed, or injured. We need to stop the fear, and claim the freedom to be.

A History Major’s Rant

This semester, as I engage with the texts of the past, I’ve been struggling on an emotional level with the material I’ve been reading for courses.

It is so hard to be so steeped in humanity’s failures, to see the death and dying, to see the fighting and the drinking and the drugs effect so many people’s lives. It’s hard to read about the destruction of the earth and other people so someone could make a quick buck. It’s hard to read about people dying brutal, bloody deaths, inflicted by other people. It’s hard to read about the injustices committed because of race, or gender, or people group. It’s hard to see the broken Imago Dei in the past, without looking away.

People come to my major because they think that History is an easy “A.” They think it’s about memorizing facts, names, dates. That’s not what it’s about, and I’m reminded of that every semester. It’s easy to lose sight of the people behind those names and dates, the ones who made this world we’re in now what it is.

Some days, I just want to find peace, love, joy. I long for a restoration from this broken reality. That’s the hope of Christ, and I can’t imagine doing my job without it. I don’t think I could do my job without it.

All of this is to say, it’s easy to say that hurtful thing. I know, I’ve done it repeatedly. But hurt people hurt people. In five words, that’s my summary of history. Guys, I’ve come to treasure those moments where people show kindness, no matter how small. It’s not the stuff that’s often remembered in history texts, and it seems like it’s far outweighed at the time. But it’s the stuff that makes us human. It’s the stuff that keeps us going. We can’t keep on like this. If we profess to be image bearers, then aren’t we called to reflect the goodness that God is? Even a little light can be bright in the darkness.

Friendships (Don’t Be Me)

I looked up today and realized that I was firmly and irrevocably on the outside of what used to be two of my dearest friendships. And it breaks my heart.

You see, I’m not entirely innocent. I have this brutal temper, and it tends to emerge when I’m stressed out of my mind, like I was about a month ago. I made some deep wounds, because I was hurting. little did I know that the wounds I inflicted were actually on myself, when I thought I was lashing out at air.

I know this about myself. And I thought that my friends knew that. So I assumed we’d be okay at the end of the day.

We aren’t. They view me like I’m some kind of monster, a stranger who will verbally destroy anyone who dares disagree. They’re still friends, it’s just me who’s on the other side, outside in the cold.

They say I won’t listen, but they don’t speak.

This is being written after an attempt on my part at patching things up. But nothing’s been done on their part to make amends. At least, nothing that I’m aware of.

They claimed to be concerned about me, but I don’t believe that they really are. That suggests an active attempt to help, to care, to be there, and they were not there when I felt like my world was falling apart.

All of this has left me redefining what a real friendship is. And I’m incriminating myself as well as them by everything I say after this.

Friendship is what happens when two people choose to love and care for each other for no reason other than a genuine enjoyment of the other’s company. It’s a bond that, in some cases, is deeper than anything blood can create. It’s an acceptance of the other person for who they are, and a choice to stay by their side when the world is falling apart around their ears.

Friendship is patience, it is love, it is laughter and loyalty. Friendship is crying and comforting and protecting. Friendship is understanding.

I can point fingers in all directions to show the failures of these, ESPECIALLY IN ME. Because even though this is my ideal of what friendship is, I am still human and I still fail. And, even if you don’t know me, you must know that although I hold myself to impossible standards (see some of my previous posts for more insight), I realize that no one else will live by them.

The break down in these two friendships began because of poor communication. They broke down because I hit a boiling point, and let all of the ugly out. I made assumptions, and I was wrong.

They doubt the sincerity of my apologies because of the way I behaved to try to survive. They didn’t care that there’s more to the story.

I find myself becoming resigned to this whole situation. It’s just another day in my life. Another friendship gone.

On the off chance that they’re reading this, that they’ve made it to the end of this article, they’ve heard me speak my piece. The ball is in your court. You know who you are, and you know your options.

For the rest of you reading this, treasure your friends, and choose your words carefully. Be cautious about hitting send. Don’t be me.

Gen Y and Self Vandalism

This semester I’m taking a US Cultural History class, which is fascinating. This class has caused me to pause and think about the way my generation functions, how we have been set up to interact with the “real world.” But the longer I’m in the class, and the longer I think about it, the more cynical I become.

You see, it strikes me how selfishly blind my generation is. No one cares for the well being of anyone else in a truly selfless and loyal way. There’s no concern for how one’s words effect and affect, because we’re “just kidding.” There’s no concern for how habits, like gossip, reveal two things- a victim complex (heaven help us if someone dares take responsibility) and a lack of respect for both self and everyone else.

Vicious lies and exaggerations blow beliefs out of proportion and feast on well-intentioned sympathy. Extremes offer something to talk about, just because we like the sound of our own voices, drowning out those who have a real message with derision and mockery.

All of this is revealed through not only nasty habits, but taste in music. A walk through the pop and rock sections of a music store will generally reveal artists who endorse this self-absorbed mindset, and it only takes a look at bands that are well known (Evanescence is who comes to mind) who sing of depressing loneliness, allowing for the hearer to wallow in self-sympathy, saying through their choice in music that they did all they could. This listener is their own worst enemy, unable to see beyond themselves, to see the damage left in their wake. They simply recite their sad stories and bare their scars over and over again, brooding on all their perceived injuries.

I will not deny that sometimes their scars are real, and tell a heartbreaking story. But there’s a difference between using those stories to make a point compared to brooding on them and reading way too much into every little comment. It is this second type I am referring to. It’s not healthy, and it’s highly destructive- to self and everyone else.

Along that similar thought process, not everyone is like this. I’ve met some genuinely kind, godly people my age. I’ve had some deep, encouraging conversations. I’ve had intellectually stimulating conversations with people only a few months older than me. But the trend I see is that of the selfish Gen Y.

We were the kids raised in the wake of globalization and the internet. We network instinctively, but this has given way to cyber-bullying. We are the true iEverything generation. We’ve been through countless anti-bullying campaigns and numerous self-worth messages. We aren’t allowed to say what we mean anymore, or mean what we say, especially if it offends. We’ve taken up a passive aggressive methods that put the Cold War to shame, because it’s all we’ve been left.

We rely on shallow relationships that spread horizontally, including everyone. This becomes a problem, because we no longer have relationships that are independent of each other. How we interact with one person is how we interact with everyone. If you hurt one person, you become a pariah in your social group, and there’s no forgiveness found there.

I suppose I could make excuses. After all, this applies to me too, though I so wish it didn’t. But I find I can’t excuse these behaviors, especially after feeling the sting of it. Something needs to change.

Respect needs to come back. A balance between this respect and our inflated self-image needs to be found, so we can not only respect ourselves, but others. After all, if we don’t respect ourselves, why would we respect others?

We need to learn how to listen, how to sit quietly and try to understand and comprehend what others are saying. We need to stop over analyzing everything that is said or done, and accept that maybe, just maybe, everyone else isn’t out to hurt us. That maybe they’re hurting too.

In short, we need to grow up. We can’t all be Peter Pan. We need to leave behind Middle School mentalities.

It makes me so sad that we’ve lost the innocence of childhood. That gentleness and kindness have become objects of mockery. We were made in the image of God, and we might have been his masterpiece, but someone went through the gallery and sharpied it, and every other piece in there.

The sobering thought is that it was me, and you, who desecrated that masterpiece. We are our own vandals. We can’t continue in this trend. We’re only hurting ourselves and others far more. Something needs to change.

If everyone has a longing for a basic dignity, a dream of equality, and a hope that one day they’ll be respected, without having to change themselves, then shouldn’t that be where we start? I don’t believe it’s too late for my generation, but I don’t think changes will be easy.

Unrealistic Expectations and the Myth of Perfection

I am a Type-A perfectionist with mothering tendencies. I am very much a morning person, and once I’ve gotten my shower, I’m wide awake and happy as a lark. I like to have things a certain way, and since I’m a micro-manager, if that way isn’t achieved it’s very hard for me to focus on anything. I have to be dying to miss a class, and my homework must always be at least a high B. When I work, I believe that I should give it my all, and do my very best. And it’s a constant struggle to fulfill my ideal of perfect officer for both my club and my honors society.

I’ve read theories on why I am the way I am. Everyone has contributed their two-cents worth about my personality flaws, and I catch myself taking these to heart, becoming paranoid about being perfect. I’m sure all of these theories play a part in it. I am a first-born, and a “parentified” child. I was homeschooled, so I expect more of myself academically than I expect from my peers, and it’s a thorn in my flesh that I am not the best at everything I do. I am an unrepentant over-achiever, and anything short of perfection, or my perception of what that would be, is not good enough.

These tendencies have caused huge problems for me. Friendships have been lost, or put in danger, because I come across as bossy and a “busybody.” I have been known to make friends feel like I don’t really want to spend time with them because I’m so busy, and penciling them in is taking away from other things, or on the other hand, I’m way too involved for their comfort. I never stop moving, meaning that I’m exhausted at the end of the day, and grumpy because I haven’t met my expectations for me.

Pausing now, in an hour of time gained unexpectedly, I can’t help but think about my expectations, my values, and the consequences. If I’m being brutally honest, I know that my goal- perfection- doesn’t exist on this earth, and it makes me think about why I do what I do.

There’s this drive in me that’s forever pushing me forward, while pulling me back over my mistakes at the same time. I need to do better. Need to reach my goals. This need makes it impossible for me to sit still (even as I’m writing this my feet and legs won’t stop moving, and I’ve gotten up several times to do little tasks.) I’m tied to both this vague future point and everything I have ever done wrong, and it leaves no room for present satisfaction.

I try to be “normal” and not let these needs and habits interrupt my life. I can try to explain it to those who are closest to me, but whether they take this into their calculations of me or not is another matter. I try to take everything I’m told with a grain of salt, and not let it become too personal. But sometimes, I really just need affirmation.

Sometimes, I just need someone to be patient with my quirks and habits. I need to people understand just how deep their words, even the most basic comments, go. I need to be heard out and what I say be taken seriously and treated with respect, and not joked about. Some days, it’s a struggle for me to not sink into a semi-depressed state because I’ve fallen short of perfection yet again.

Please don’t give me a handful of nice sounding Christian platitudes. I know that God is the only place where perfection exists, and that I’m not God. I don’t want to be God. I know that I’m a broken human being, and telling me that I shouldn’t have such high expectations of myself doesn’t help, it just makes me feel worse, because no one else lives like I’m a broken human, too. I know that one day God will make all things right, and restore the earth and everything in it to perfection, and I have faith that I, too, will be restored.

It’s not something that logic can work through. Trust me. I’ve been trying for the last twenty years. It’s not something that I’m entirely sure I can fix, and if I can, I can’t help but wonder if I’d really want to fix it.

You see, these traits make me a fantastic employee, a great student, and a Super-Womanesque officer. I’m responsible to a fault.

I guess my point in writing this is to clear my mind, to point out that you can take me or leave me, but understand that there’s way more under the surface than you could ever imagine. I (almost) always mean well in what I do, despite how that comes across. And above all, I just wanted to point out that I am merely human, despite everything I can seemingly accomplish without help. Please treat me like that.

Sorry, Just Not Sorry

The intelligent backlash is beginning against Emma Watson’s HeForShe campaign, and although it proves a refreshing break from the “Oh, look, she does have ovaries” and “This is not a woman to love” comments, its half thought through, at best.

Arguments are being made that this campaign is unfair to the men, because it doesn’t address the issues of female on male violence. It doesn’t discuss men’s rights, when he doesn’t want his significant other to have their child, and it certainly doesn’t talk about false accusations of rape.

This is all true. The campaign was not designed to handle these issues. But let us consider the source. Emma Watson was employed as the UN’s Women’s Goodwill Ambassador (emphasis mine). Not “Human Goodwill Ambassador” or “Domestic Orders Ambassador.” Naturally her focus will be on that which she was hired to focus on.

Conveniently, none of these articles bother to mention that even in first world countries, there is discrimination, and something needs to be done. As a woman, I can expect to earn 70 cents to the dollar (USD), compared to my male counterparts. In all the readings I’ve done, not only are women still discouraged from discussing the amount on their paycheck (which is considered bad taste and poor manners, allowing for discrimination to occur un-noticed), but supposing they feel the need for a raise, if they ask, although some companies view that as a valuable trait for upper level employees, they are treated as though they are somehow emasculated, losing their femininity by being aggressive.

This occurs at all levels, too. This last week, in one of my classes we were given an assignment and broken into groups. I was the only female in mine, which isn’t that unusual. However, as we went through the assignment and began discussing ideas, I was offering valid ideas, with support for my interpretation, which was the core of this assignment, but everything I said was not even given a fair hearing by my peers. It took the male professor to come over and ask if everyone was being listened to in order for my peers to hear me out, because they valued another man’s voice more than my own.

I didn’t believe this happened anymore, until it happened to me. I thought that surely the US had progressed enough that those who are my age, those who have been raised in an extremely politically correct era, would treat me equally. It is deeply disturbing to me that in one of the most advanced first world nations, this would happen. It is deeply disturbing to me that only half of the world still has no voice.

So while the HeForShe campaign isn’t addressing male issues, I do not believe it is totally invalid. Sure, it doesn’t address male issues, but let’s be real. It was created by a person who was hired to handle female issues, so why would it handle male issues? Maybe you should take it to the UN and request a Male Goodwill Ambassador to fight for equality, instead of complaining about Emma. But you won’t. It’s much easier to complain about perceived wrongs than do anything.

Sorry, I’m just not sorry for asking for equality. I’m not sorry for wanting to be heard, for my thoughts being given just as much weight as those of my male peers. I’m not sorry for not wanting to be called names because I chose to be aggressive in making myself heard.

The Death of a Bride

   Imagine with me for a moment. There’s this beautiful young girl. She’s skillful with her hands, and can make a mean supper. She’s kind and loving toward everyone, and welcomes strangers to her table.

   This girl thrived in persecution. She wasn’t wealthy, but always found that God provided, and continued to serve others. She was happiest serving others.

   Then one day people started talking about this girl. They told stories to cast doubts on her character and her past. They used these stories to try to discredit her.

   In response to these hecklers, her older brother made her veil her face when she went out. It wasn’t that she was immodest, but he didn’t want these people to say that she was. He spoke for her virtues in the public square, and he preached on her honor and purity.

   A while passed, and one day she was assaulted and robbed, by one of her older brothers, who then lied brazenly to their father and those in the world around them. The truth was eventually found out, and this brother repented and was welcomed back into the family.

   Her younger brother was humiliated by this, and he begged her to cover herself completely, only to show her hands when she went out to do what was needed. This new outfit hindered and slowed her, and that which was meant to protect her handicapped her.

   The people continued talking, and they soon forgot her good works for her strange appearance and her withdrawal from the world. She moved like a shadow, unable to speak and losing her effect quickly. Her brothers urged her to make her trips shorter and to be selective about who she helped

   Eventually. she rarely left her home. She still cooked, but it was decided that she ought not make and eat rich foods as before, and so lose her shape and risk the displeasure of her betrothed.

   This girl was made to sit, eating only the smallest amounts of the plainest foods, losing her vivacity, her love and her passion for justice. Her strength withered away, and she was forgotten.

   There are several ways to interpret this tale. Aside from the blatant criticism schools which would use psychological analysis about the dysfunction of this family, or the feminist argument regarding gender inequality. However, neither of these are what I, the author, has intended.

   This girl is the Church, the bride of Christ. Like in the story, the Church was once service based, loving and caring for the world around them. They were not idle, and they gave freely to those in need.

   Due to heretical teachings, church leaders, represented here by the older brother, chose to try to protect the church from disgrace, holding her to higher standards, standards of modesty and discretion.

   Despite this, she was robbed and poorly handled by those who were intended to care for and protect her. I chose to end this brother’s story with a message of hope and redemption. Good can come out the worst places- Jesus himself was a Nazarene, after all.

   Further reforms resulted from this, by well-meaning church leaders. Although I didn’t enter into the topic, the political landscape that surrounded the church through the periods of corruption- namely the Middle Ages and the Renaissance- is fascinating, and adds an admirable amount of complexity to the history of this institution.

   Young, fervent protectors emerged to care for the Father’s people- the younger brother- leading to a series of extreme reformations and separations. These hindered the Church in fulfilling our commissions and harmed our credibility.

   The attitude towards the Church shifted and even we bought the lie that we’re irrelevant in a world of science and math. Reforms kept coming, and we grew sluggish, inneffective.

   This is where we are today, and we ought not be here.We need to regain the love and the life of that young girl. We need to undo some of our reforms.

   Which leads me to the second interpretation intended by the Author. There was a purpose to each reform, however it was no only the usefulness we lost, but the beauty.

   If you have ever witnessed a Catholic, Orthodox, or High Lutheran, Anglican, or Episcopalian church service, you would realize the beauty of their worship. It is designed to engage all the senses in worship, and it is deeply symbolic. By contrast, as you go through the less liturgical churches, you see the services and the buildings themselves lose that.

   The reforms were made out of fear. We wanted to divorce ourselves from the pope, because we saw the sin and corruption in the church. By doing so, we forgot our beauty, the beauty of worship. Just as the girl was beautiful as she served, so should we be beautiful. Maybe it’s time to strip off that which separates us from the world, let them see the bride of Christ.

   Similarly, our fear and misplaced hatred has chased our awareness of the goodness and beauty that can be found in creation. We see only the inside of the church building, see only the darkness, and subsist on the smallest amounts of the blandest food- i.e. the word of God.

   THIS SHOULD NOT BE! God declared all of creation good, and although you can see the scars that fallen men have left on it, the goodness remains. Just as one can see the image of God through the fall of mankind in your fellow human beings. He loved humanity so much that he made us capable of appreciating beauty, and put us in a beautiful world, so that we could be in awe of it and the wonderful Creator who made it so.

   Despite this external beauty, it is true that there’s some beauty which is not good. This is the beauty to be had in a corpse at a funeral. It was made beautiful by creative pains, but it lacks a soul. This is all the glamour of the secular world, and ever so slowly is the church becoming like this. We need to come to life before this darkness entombs us, too. That which was intended to protect not only hinders, but serves as our burial shroud.

   For my third and final point, I mentioned in the story that some of the things the girl did were supposed to be in preparation for her groom. I did not, however, mention what the groom wanted.

   Let us pause and consider this, A young man melts a girl who cares for everyone. Her care for the world around her makes him pause, and he loves her for it. It makes her more beautiful in his eyes. He loves her as he is, flaws and all, and he wouldn’t change a thing about her.

   He sees the changes come over her, and his heart is saddened. He knows her brothers are trying to protect her for him. But he also sees the girl he loves, dying slowly.

   Does he still love her? Yes. Nothing could change his love for her, ever. But these changes are breaking his heart.

   What does Christ see in his Church? We are his bride, and he is our groom. His heart must surely be breaking as he watches her die off. Shouldn’t the bride of the one who died for her be alive?

   The time comes for us to make a choice. Should we die, or will we throw off what hinders us, and become alive?