Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Quilt

Growing up, many of the relationship books that I read and the youth seminars that I attended used a certain analogies to describe the evils of dating relationships to teenagers.  One of the common ones was this: Picture two construction paper hearts, a pink one for the girl and a blue one for the boy, to symbolize dating we stick the two of them together with glue and let it dry.  Then comes the day that the couple decides to break up.  The two hearts are ripped apart messily.  Looking at the two separated hearts it is clear that there are pieces now missing from each that are stuck to the other.  The well-meaning authors and speakers use this to present the clear message that dating is painful and you will give parts of you away to the other person when you break up, which is obviously undesirable.  Therefore avoid dating.

I would argue that this is a terrible, unrealistic analogy for dating that is not biblically based.  Relationships are what the Gospel is built on.  Relationship within the Trinity, relationship between the Trinity and humanity, and relationship between other humans.  We cannot escape being in relationships.  Dating is another kind of relationship.  What if instead of teaching people that dating is bad and "giving pieces of yourself away" is wrong, we teach them the picture of the perfect relationship within the Trinity and the relationship of God with humans.  It is God's goal to leave us changed after entering into relationship with God, Christ's identity takes up residence in our hearts.  It is our goal as followers of Christ to convey that identity and influence to others.  In a sense we want to leave pieces of ourselves, and in another sense there is no way to be in any relationship without leaving behind pieces of ourselves and taking away pieces of the other person.  That is what relationship is.  We influence and evoke change in each other. 

Dating is just another form of that.  This is not to say that dating is not painful at times, and can be unhealthy.  Is there any human relationship that is not painful at some point or has the potential for being unhealthy?  

Therefore I propose a different analogy for dating relationships.  It is this: Each person has pieces of fabric, these pieces of fabric never run out for they represent the life experiences and characteristics of the person.  When two people meet the begin an acquaintanceship or a friendship and they show each other their pieces of fabric.  At some point they decide that their pieces of fabric would work really well together and they begin to sew them together into a quilt.  This represents the dating relationship or even a deepen mutual friendship.  As they continue to share experiences and sew their fabric together they continue to acquire new pieces of cloth that they add to their quilt.  As their quilt gets bigger it becomes more possible for them to help other people in a way that they were not able to when they were separate from each other.  Then there comes a time when they simply feel that they need to go separate ways and they begin the process of breaking up.  The stitches are picked and pulled out and the fabric is gathered; some of the pieces that originally belonged to one person end up in the collection of the other and vise versa.  Those are the lessons learned from each other.  Some quilts are harder to take apart than others.  But that is okay.  It was still a beautiful thing and it still was an excellent experience.  Now the two people with their pieces of fabric can meet other people and begin new quilts until they find the persons that they will continue to make a quilt with for the rest of their lives.

Relationships take a lot more skill and patience than slapping together two pieces of construction paper with glue.  This analogy does not eliminate the potential for getting hurt in the process.  There is a great possibility for pieces to be torn and mistakes to be made.  But we are not people with hearts that have a limited amount of love, or a legalistic limit on the amount and types of relationship we can build.  We are not glasses of water that have been spit in when we have been intimate to some degree with another person.  We are not pieces of gum that once chewed can never be desirable to another person.  We are not chocolate bars that get passed around and nibbled on.  We are not apples bitten and left out on the counter to brown.

We are human beings.  We are complex.  Do not reduce us to a cheap object lesson.  Some of us have different more difficult experiences in life and some times those pieces of fabric will be more difficult and painful to work into a quilt.  Our worth does not lie in how few people we've dated or who we have not kissed, or our virginity, our worth is in our being created in the image of God.  Our salvation does not lie in our "purity" or whether we've waited.  Stop preaching this like it is the "gospel".  This is not the true Gospel.  Christ came not to tell us to be careful about who we date, but to live out among us the ultimate relationship.

I am not a construction paper heart missing parts.  I am a human, a child of God, with a collection of personality characteristics and life experiences, which I am willing to share with others.