Rock ‘n Roll: The most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expression it has been my misfortune to hear.  -Frank Sinatra

Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can’t help but move to it. That’s what happens to me. I can’t help it.  -Elvis Presley

We all know the iconic image of James Dean in Rebel without a Cause, a poignant study of American teenage angst and rebellion in the 1950s. According to historian, James Gilbert, the reason why many Americans were “puzzled and distressed by the activities of post-war teenagers” was caused by much the same issues that teenagers face today. Because of growing prosperity and growing technology in the early 50s, Americans began to be able to see certain aspects of their culture as a unified phenomenon. More and more teenagers were able to attend high schools and they were able to become socialized more readily. Mass media exposed the problems of juvenile delinquency as a national problem; however, the media also gave teenagers a chance to know what was hip nationwide. Teenagers began to separate themselves from adult culture and adopted new fashions, new slang, and a new music called rock-n-roll.

Many adults began to fear that this new subculture might be antagonistic towards the accepted mores of proper American society. Gilbert states that many believed “the very creative energy that welled up in rock and roll, new words, fashions, and customs threatened the stability of American society. To some degree they were right. Teenagers, by erecting barriers of fashions and custom around adolescence, had walled off a secret and potentially antagonistic area of American culture. No doubt for some that was the intent” (15). But many were most likely simply wishing to express independence from their parents, a healthy desire for teenagers since they will soon become adults on their own. What teens need is healthy guidance and flexible boundaries from stable parents and other adults they can trust. In the typical post-war response of paranoia, fear of a generation of juvenile delinquents caused an uproar and many authorities tried to stomp out this new culture. This of course only fueled rebellion against the restrictions and we eventually got the 60s “revolution.” Unfortunately, now that that generation has grown up, it seems like they’ve removed any and all boundaries from their kids and we’ve got a new generation of kids thinking that they can act on any impulse they want and don’t consider the consequence for themselves or anyone else.

Those who reacted against rock-n-roll the most were squares with no soul in them, dig? The first in line were the racists, who are right about rock-n-roll being formed out of black music. Early rock really was just a bunch of white boys ripping off blues and soul music and not doing it as well, but it turned out the result was not so bad. As Muddy Waters puts it: “The Blues Had A Baby, And They Named It Rock-n-Roll.” The problem is, since these various “Citizen’s Councils” that campaigned against rock music were racist they considered that a bad thing. Really, if anyone should have been upset, it should have been the black musicians whose creative property was constantly being ripped off.

There were also crybabies like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. and other established musicians. They complained that rock-n-roll wasn’t as high a quality of music as what they produced. It has to be admitted that in general, rock isn’t as intricate an art form as many genres of music, but Keith Richards has proved to us all that groove is more important than skill: it’s the beat that moves the feet. But the real reasons these guys were complaining was that they were losing the spotlight and losing money. Frankie proved this when he kissed up to Elvis and did a show with him to get back in the public eye.

Finally, there was the self-righteous religious folk who had no understanding of how much of a ministry opportunity they were missing by not embracing this wonderful new style of music. They complained that rock-n-roll went straight to the heart and emotions of the youth and it did. But instead of allowing parish members to develop music that would praise God and go straight to the heart of America’s youth, they shunned it and ultimately shunned their youth, pushing out those who enjoyed rock. As Christian rocker, Larry Norman, says, they let the devil have all the good music. I am not saying all rock-n-roll is therefore evil, I am saying that for 40 years since this anti-rock campaign, almost all the music that came out of the Church stunk really bad. What would these perfect parishoners have done had they learned that most of their precious hymns where originally written to tune of popular drinking songs that their great grandparents enjoyed? But now we’re finally starting to get some really good grooves in our worship and contemporary music…

Teenage rebellion usually flows from two extremes: too much oppression with no outlet for self-expression, or too much freedom and relativism without a caring authority to lead and guide teens safely into adulthood. Rock-n-roll was born in a time when uniformity was encouraged and self expression was often denied, now it seems those who should be in authority roll over and defer to their children’s wishes out of a fear of damaging their self-esteem, but the truth is they are leaving them stranded in a sea of hopelessness and apathy only to be blown and tossed about by the wind of endless doctrines with no compass to lead and guide them, teens today have no way to interpret the stars. Music is not the cause of any rebellion; it is simply the expression of those searching for some kind of meaning. It would be well for parents and the Church to take heed and listen, and then respond with the proper wisdom and guidance. 

Peter L Richardson
8/12/2004

Gilbert, James. A Cycle of Outrage: America’s Reaction to the Juvenile Delinquent in the 1950s.Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1986.

“Rock n Roll is Here To Stay”
-Sha Na Na

Rock ‘n roll is here to stay, it will never die
It was meant to be that way, though I don’t know why
I don’t care what people say, rock ‘n roll is here to stay
(We don’t care what people say, rock ‘n roll is here to stay)
Rock ‘n roll will always be our ticket to the end
It will go down in history, just you wait, my friend
Rock ‘n roll will always be, it’ll go down in history
(Rock ‘n roll will always be, it’ll go down in history)
So come on, everybody rock, everybody rock,
everybody rock, everybody rock
Everybody rock
Now everybody rock ‘n roll, everybody rock ‘n roll,
everybody rock ‘n roll
Everybody rock ‘n roll, everybody rock ‘n roll
Rock ‘n roll will always be our ticket to the end
It will go down in history, just you wait, my friend
Rock ‘n roll will always be, it’ll go down in history
If you don’t like rock ‘n roll, think what you’ve been missin’
But if you like to bop and stroll, come on down and listen
Let’s all start to have a ball, everybody rock ‘n roll
Ah, oh baby, ah, oh baby, ah,
oh baby, ah, oh baby, rock!

Identity Crisis,

September 18, 2010

…a short autobiographical reflection on Adolescence.

Pete & Grandpop

During the transition from childhood to adulthood adolescents are faced with many new challenges in life. Not only are they changing rapidly physically but they are developing mentally as well. For the first time they find themselves pondering deeper questions such as “Who am I?” or “What is my place in life?” No longer comfortable in the role of a child and not yet an adult, adolescents are searching for places to fit in, searching for answers to questions of meaning and purpose, seeking to define who they are. In short; they are searching for identity. People who come from a strong and stable family and live in a healthy environment will experience the least anxiety about who they are. However, families that are broken or dysfunctional or even just unable to define a strong set of beliefs will most likely leave a child distraught and searching for structure and meaning in life. While there are definite skills and strategies parents can learn to help bridge their children into adulthood, the reality is that no family is perfect. Every person must face the challenge life offers to discover what he is made of and what he believes in.

Although they have managed to get past their problems, my parents were in conflict with each other when I was an adolescent, so I was unable to find any sense of identity from my family. After my sixth grade year I left a private school were everyone pretty much looked the same and moved to a public school in the seventh grade. This was a culture shock for me and it was really the first time that identity became an issue for me. Not because it was something I thought about, much less tried to define, but rather because “identity” was something that happened to me.

In the seventh grade I was still a boy. I didn’t fit in with most of the kids in school, but I found a group in which to find shelter with. We discovered that if you didn’t bother the popular kids or the bad kids, they pretty much left you alone. All we were interested in was getting through the day, so we could get home to our afterschool cartoons. When we got together, we played GI Joe, our bikes were still used for pleasure, and the topic of conversation was often about who would win if Batman or Spiderman would get in a fight. And I think we were genuinely happy. 

Eighth grade was when I discovered that girls weren’t really icky. But this new awareness also brought me to my discovery of who I was. Plain and simple, I was a geek. I couldn’t help but notice who was getting the girls attention, as well as notice the huge gulfs between us that marked our differences. I accepted my fate and took my place among the geeks and the nerds, but I wasn’t happy any longer.

Before ninth grade came around, I decided that I needed to be cool. I was tired of being teased and abused. I had already tried my hand with the upper class popular kids and was laughed out of that crowd, so I turned to the rebels of my generation; I had become a Headbanger. We were the kids with long hair, in black heavy metal t-shirts, jeans, jean jackets and boots, no matter how hot or how cold it got. We were the rebels of our time, but even then I knew the truth about us, we were all rejects of some form and we found this tough guy persona in order to hide our pain. Most of us were good kids, but once you adopt an identity like that in a culture that is full of stereotypes, you fall into what the expectations are for your group. By the end of ninth grade I was cutting most of my classes and getting stoned on a pretty frequent basis. I practically failed my freshman year, but that was okay; the important thing was that I had friends who were cool and nobody abused us. Besides, why would I want to identify myself with a bunch of snobs who were too good for me? I wanted nothing to do with their world and this society that centered on their selfish material interests and popularity games, so college and high school were of no importance to me.

Ironically, my drug use helped me find my way back to something like a purpose in life. Somewhere in tenth grade, I realized that I didn’t really like heavy metal all that much, but I had discovered some really good music from the late sixties and early seventies. I unconsciously molded into a hippie, but I was still stuck in the late eighties. I liked the concept of peace and love, and I admired the previous generation’s attempts to “change the world,” but I saw their attempts as failures. I discovered Jim Morrison of the Doors, and I began reading his poetry and tried to decipher his words. Jim Morrison was aware of the hypocrisy of his generation. He saw that mankind on his own was unable to create any true society of “peace and love.” He didn’t offer any solutions, but he made clear the problems in his time. He was also interested in spirituality and, to put it mildly, was a bit obsessed with the afterlife. Soon I started reading works by authors and poets who influenced Morrison, and in turn I began my own search for meaning and truth in this life. I also began writing my own poetry and expressed the ideas of my search through my works. I had slipped into an identity of a poet-philosopher, and I was completely at home there. I used to joke with my friends that it was too bad you couldn’t get paid to sit around and think, like those old guys from ancient Greece, but I really didn’t have any direction or confidence in myself.  Eventually, my poetry gained the attention of one of my teachers who made a large impact on my life. She took an interest in my work and challenged me to do something with my ideas.

“If there’s so much wrong with the world,” she would say, “why don’t you do something to change it.”  I would always answer her that there was no use; no one can really make any difference. In time she became a mentor for me and her praise instilled confidence in my abilities and added self-esteem to my identity. One day she boldly asked me if she had made any difference in my life. I answered in an absolute affirmative, and she asked why I thought I couldn’t do the same for someone else. She made me realize that since she impacted my life for the better, that human beings, including myself, really could make a difference in the world, even if it was just a few people at a time. She was the first person to plant the idea of teaching in my head. Though it has grown and been refined, this is the main identity that has stuck with me throughout the years. Because she saw something of worth in who I was, she made me realize the value in who I could become. I learned that my potential is much greater than the weaknesses that hold me back as long I keep the vision before me and continue to walk it out. I was lucky enough to receive these foundational principles in my identity as a teenager; they have stuck with me, and they have helped me define my beliefs and have helped to build my confidence in the man I am today.

Peter L Richardson
Fall, 2002

“A boy doesn’t have to go to war to be a hero; he can say he doesn’t like pie when he sees there isn’t enough to go around.”   -Edgar Watson Howe

I’m so glad I was kid in the 70s and early 80s. We got at best a couple of hours of cartoons a day, and after that we were stuck doing our homework or even *gasp* playing outside with our friends until dark. When I look at what is popular on kid networks today, I cringe with sorrow. In the age of 24 hour entertainment, there is little depth in anything children’s networks produce, at least for boys anyway. Superheroes have turned into teenage whiny brats who spend more time trying to develop their “chi” or learning how to cast spells than getting down and dirty with the next bad guy who is threatening the world. Although very young, my kids were lucky enough to experience the tail end of the age of the comic book superhero before Pokémon came on the scene and ruined it all. With the exception of The Avatar, I have not seen one action/adventure cartoon that has any decent story development at all, nor any “heroes” with any noble qualities that I would want my kids to develop. In fact, some of these so-called heroes often act in ways that I would feel the need to punish if they were my kids. If the attempt is to make the hero more human, writers today take it too far. Why do we need make-believe heroes in the first place? Is it not because we all know that in real life we simply don’t measure up? Kids need heroes to look up to, to emulate and learn from. The day to day grind of reality is enough to drag down the spirit of any man, but when properly inspired, that same man can be a hero when push comes to shove. Yet, how can we learn to become heroes as men, if we don’t have good models to teach us as boys, and if we don’t have the opportunity to spend hours of outdoor playtime pretending we are the hero saving the damsel in distress, or even the world from utter destruction? When I consider the man I am today, I can trace back many of my positive traits directly to the influence of my childhood heroes.

“With great power comes great responsibility” –Peter Parker, aka: Spiderman.

Even in my earliest memories, Spiderman is a part of my imagination. I can’t remember my first comic or cartoon; he was simply always there helping this shy, rejected kid feel like maybe someday I could be a hero too. Peter Parker was actually the first teen superhero who wasn’t just a sidekick, and his creator, Stan Lee, revolutionized the comic book industry when he gave him real life teenage problems. But there is a difference between Peter Parker and the teenage heroes we see today. Instead of always being a self-absorbed and snotty, he learned from his mistakes, he strove to be a good person. Though he was interested in and awkward around the opposite sex, he didn’t obsess over his loves interests (at least not inappropriately). He didn’t use his powers for the self-satisfaction of kicking ass and gaining glory; he was a genuine hero who saw his gift of superpowers as a gift to the world. Any Spiderman fan knows the great lesson that Peter Parker learned from the tragic death of his Uncle Ben: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” What was most amazing about the Amazing Spiderman was that his powers didn’t really bring him glory, but they actually became a burden to him as he desired to just have a normal life, yet he still made the choice to sacrifice his time and limited resources to go out and fight evil and save the lives of complete strangers. Peter Parker was a geek at school; he was an outcast, but as Spiderman, he sought to protect the very people who rejected him when his mask was off. He could have had a chip on his shoulder, but he made the choice to be a hero. He had real life problems, but he still gave his time and energy to help others he considered to be in greater need. When Stan Lee condensed decades of story writing into three movies, the hero’s journey that Peter Parker takes, not only as crime-fighter in tights, but as a boy becoming a true man, is even more evident. In addition to protecting the weak and innocent, the call to love your neighbor, to do good to those who persecute you, to find the freedom that forgiveness brings our souls, yet all the while standing up for justice and what is right and facing the hard choices we must make in the process, is written all over those scripts. I never had a radioactive spider mutate my DNA, but the hours of comic book reading, and the time I spent imagining I was the web-slinger himself surely mutated my spiritual DNA, and now I’m a man who knows you don’t have to be perfect to be a hero, you just have to be willing to give what you’ve got, and when the situation calls for it, you need to make sacrifices in your own life in order to do the right thing and even help save people who will likely never offer any thanks in return.

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”  -Bruce Wayne, aka: Batman. 

My first taste of Batman was the old Adam West TV show, and the original Super Friends cartoon. In the first he was nothing more than a silly clown, and the latter a pretentious jerk who depended on his silly gadgets to survive. In my opinion, Marvel Comics definitely had better heroes and more interesting stories than DC Comics, so I never bothered with any Batman comic books. That is, until I discovered Captain Blues Hens, the local comic-bookshop. The first time my mom dropped me off there, I held my breath as I saw the rows upon rows of classic comics, and the walls lined up with every new issue released, even from comic publishers I had never heard of before! I found that the owners celebrated Batman as much as Spidey. I soon discovered why. The original comic book Batman had all the mystery and swagger that makes a villain appealing, but he was still a good guy. He was The Dark Knight, a protector of the innocent. In addition to just being one cool dude, Batman was special because he didn’t actually have any superpowers at all. All his skill was based on personal training. True, he would not have been able to accomplish the status of “superhero” if he was not rich, but in some ways, that makes him even better; he chose to use his riches to develop all his killer crime fighting equipment: the Batmobile, the Utility Belt, the Batcave all used up resources that could have been spent on women and drugs and multiple vacation mansions, but he used his fortune to help prevent others from becoming victims of crime. Of course he had his front of being a playboy, but that was just to ensure he kept his secret identity safe. His nights were not spent with loose women, they were spent bringing justice to Gotham City. Bruce Wayne was inspired to become a superhero when he was just a boy and his parents were murdered in front of him during a mugging. His father was in charge of a large successful corporation that was left to his young son too early. Luckily, Bruce had Alfred, the butler who was almost a member of the family, to raise him and take care of him. The young boy decided to honor his parents’ death by becoming someone who would prevent others from suffering the same fate. The idea of Batman was born. Batman is more than just the fancy gadgets paid for by his successful corporation. Think about it, he was still sharp enough to ensure that his father’s corporation continued to make money and provide for his crime fighting habit. He had to have the mind of an inventor and scientist to create all his crime fighting equipment; he also needed to develop his intuition and detective skills, and he needed a deep mental and spiritual strength to train himself how to fight and to know when not to. Batman was smart enough not let his grief from his loss affect his emotions when fighting crime. He knew to keep his head clear, and he followed a strict rule to never kill his enemy, no matter what. He understood the difference between justice and revenge. Batman teaches us that to be successful in anything, whether it’s fighting crime or running a multimillion-dollar-corporation you need self-discipline and self-control. He teaches us that while physical strength and skills are important, brains are almost always better than brawn. Batman usually defeated his enemies through outwitting them. Like Spiderman, he made great sacrifices for the protection of others, but he made doing good and being smart look bad-ass.

“It’s not the years; it’s the mileage.” –Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr.

What boy who grew up in the 80s didn’t don the fedora, the brown leather jacket and the whip? Indiana Jones allowed me to play dress up (minus the whip of course) well into my teens without looking too silly. I still own my first leather jacket I picked out as a cool guy teenager; it is curiously familiar to Indy’s. What makes Indiana Jones such a hero is his lack of heroic qualities that he learns to overcome as a flawed man who steps up to do the right thing when faced with danger. There is no mask needed here. Dr. Jones shows us once again that intelligence trumps brute force as he and a small band of faithful friends defy evil armies and prevent them from gaining more power to further their reign of terror in the world. Indiana Jones is just as excited, even giddy, to gain more knowledge and understanding about his craft of archaeology as he is to overcome the bad guys in his adventures. One of my favorite lines from the last movie happens in the midst of Indy wiping up some bad guys, when his son (unbeknownst to either of them at time) proclaims: “You’re a teacher?!?” Considering that Temple of Doom actually takes place a few years before Raiders of the Lost Ark, it is easy to see a progression of maturity and heroism in each of the four movies. In Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones is seeking adventure for the sake of “fortune and glory,” but he chooses to save a village in poverty instead. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, he goes after the greatest archeological find ever, the Ark of the Covenant, and learns to sacrifice his find to save the ones he loves and for the greater good of fighting the evil Nazi regime.  Indy restores his relationship with his estranged father in The Last Crusade, in fact, he only goes on this adventure to save his father’s life.  His maturity culminates in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when he is finally able to step up as a true man and claim the woman he truly loves as his wife and begin a relationship with the son he unknowingly fathered with her. A typical movie begins with Indiana Jones on a personal quest either for himself or for his museum. However, eventually he has to make the choice to sacrifice his own goals and desires and possibly his life for the greater good. By the last movie, serving others is old habit. One other thing that is significant about Dr. Jones is that as a man of science, he still has a respect for the supernatural, and in his search for understanding through the study of ancient artifacts, he learns that there are forces in this world that can’t be explained by science or history alone. The original Indiana Jones Trilogy wet my appetite to search for truth in this chaotic world of ours. I wondered about different cultures both ancient and in the present, and I understood that the more I knew about the differences I have with others, the better chance I have of survival and peace with them. I also wondered about God’s role in our world, and whether or not he really cared about our tiny human affairs of evil régimes like the Nazis trying to take over the world. Indiana Jones played a legitimate part as one of the tools God used to invite me to seek him and discover who he really is.

“You don’t raise heroes; you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes…” – Walter Schirra Sr.

Parents who believe that the media they allow their kids to be exposed to doesn’t hold much sway over their hearts are fools. I see two extremes with parents these days. Some want to lock their kids down so tight they shun anything that involves any hint of the imagination. Others allow their kids to be exposed to almost anything they want. I was shocked to one day overhear a conversation between my son and his friends when they were about ten years old. They were spending the night and were complaining that I was being too overprotective because I didn’t let him watch South Park and Family Guy. Apparently all their parents felt that since the shows were cartoons they were for kids! Considering the kids’ knowledge of the content of the shows, I am sure at least a few were getting a steady dose. What a wonderful logic of parenting! The painful truth is that ever since our fall in the Garden, childhood largely consists of a loss of innocence into the harsh reality of the fallen world. We have the difficult task of encouraging our sons to hold onto their imagination and faith so they can enter the Kingdom of God like a child ready to submit to their heavenly Father, and at the same time raise them to be mature men of God, spiritual-warriors even, so they are ready for the assault the enemy of our souls will surely wage on them. All this while working out our own salvation—no small task. Parents who shelter their boys too long and stifle their imagination will raise adults unable to cope with sin’s tempations and unable to act against evil when confronted by it. Parents who allow their boy’s flower of innocence to be cut too early will raise adults who are stuck in perpetual adolescence, believing that promiscuity is the only way for excitement and vulgarity is the only way to make a joke. As parents, we bear the image of God to our children. That is why a young boy’s greatest hero is his dad. It is a high calling that we will most certainly fail at because we are human. That is why we must encourage our sons to have heroes who arouse their curiosity about life and truth and the right way to live. We need to set before them men and women, super or otherwise, who make good choices and feel the painful consequences when they don’t. We need to give them room to breath and explore and imagine, but we also need to make sure the world they are exploring has safe boundaries. As they grow older and learn responsibility and morality, we increase their boundaries little by little so when the day comes for them to leave through the gate, they have the inner strength they need to fight evil and protect good at all costs, to fight for a woman’s honor, not to take it from her and abuse it, and even, if called to do so, to lay down their lives for the greater good of all. Boys need to see what true heroism looks like; they need to be able to spend time imagining and playing the hero, so they can one day become men who will be the hero.

Peter L Richardson*
7/21/10

*Pete’s Disclaimer: I stopped collecting comics in 1991 when I sold my comic collection for money for food shortly after I dropped out of college (my first attempt). Comics were already well on their way towards a dark trend that was geared to an adult audience. Although, to my knowledge, Spiderman comics remained mostly unaffected, there are a number of Batman works that are definitely inappropriate for children, and in some cases even teens. As with everything, parents need to monitor what their kids are reading, viewing, playing, etc. and use wisdom to know what each child can handle and offer guidance with any material they choose to allow. There is a reason the Indiana Jones films are rated PG13.

-this essay is based on my notes from a teaching I gave on 8/10/06 for a weekend parenting conference some friends were running for my church. I was asked to give the “single dad perspective.” I felt inadequate then, and I still do today.

Me and my son, drawn by him many years ago...

Me and my son, drawn by him many years ago...

“Fathers will teach the next generation,
     or they will lose the next generation.
Fathers will speak to the next generation
     about the many providences of God
     in protecting and preserving them,
     or the next generation will be without hope.
Fathers will cultivate gratitude,
     or they will produce a generation of ingrates.
Fathers will walk beside their sons,
     teaching them to honor their fathers,
     or there will be no America left to defend.”
          -Douglas W. Phillips

There are those times when our Heavenly Father breaks through with such clarity that we cannot deny he has spoken to us. Such was one of those times for me shortly before my ex-wife and I were divorced. I will not go into my list of grievances I had against her, but I was bringing them before the Lord in an effort to make sense of the mess my marriage had become. Because he is a gracious God and because I was feeling anything but gracious at the time, I felt like he was directing me in a path I did not want to follow. In anger and frustration and with my finger pointed at the sky, I blurted out loud: “But God, she has made herself my enemy!!!” For a split second I felt a smug justification to walk whatever path I wanted, until the Lord retorted with: “And what are you supposed to do with your enemies?” This moment was the greatest revelation God could have given me for the walk I was soon to begin. I cannot for a minute pretend I followed this principle with her at all times, I am a man of flesh and bone as well as the spirit, and in this spirit-flesh war, I am not proud of the ground I’ve given up to the flesh. However, having this moment to lean on gave me the strength to respond in love at times when it really counted. There are moments in my over ten-year-history of divorce that I wanted to go in with guns and lawyers blazing, but the Lord bit my tongue and the Spirit turned my cheek in the right direction.

Divorce is ugly (it is one of the few things that God says he hates), and it usually never results in a happy ending. However, when at least one of the parties submits him or herself to God as much he or she is able in the midst of the wreckage, God can and will turn what is meant for evil into good. I can confidently say that despite all the dumb-ass mistakes that I and my ex have made over the course of our volatile relationship; God has brought us to the place that could be the best possible situation for our kids who are stuck living in the middle of a severed family.  I would like to share a few lessons the Lord has taught me over the years. I, by no means, can be considered an expert; so far, I have only a 50% success rate with my boys (I have a great relationship with one, while the other wants nothing to do with me), but if experience has anything to do with wisdom, these words might be worth your time if you find yourself in a similar situation or know someone who is. Please take them with a grain of salt.

You and your spouse split up for a reason, right? So it should be no surprise when the two of you end up having vastly different parenting styles. When this happens you need to again (and again, and again) respond in love while you learn to respect your children’s “extended” family.  The hard truth is that dads almost always get the short end of the stick when it comes to divorce, but you need to man up and make the best of the situation for your kids. One reason why it is so hard for divorced dads who want to be good parents is because there are so many “boys” laying their seed everywhere and not taking responsibility, partly because they never had a proper father figure of their own. If you are not the custodial parent you need to make your place of dwelling a home as much as possible. Even if you are stuck in a one bedroom apartment, you need to make a space that “belongs” to your children. They need something that they can claim as their own to feel confident that your place is home for them as well. When they are there, you need to spend time with them and do it on their level. It is very difficult to bond with your kids when you’re only around part-time, but it is not impossible. Plato famously said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation.” If you want to create opportunities for you children to trust you and talk to you, you need to play with them.  I once knew a father who put his kids up in the guest room at his house, they always had to unpack their clothes and toys from their mom’s place, and then he wondered why they would never respect him or want to come over.

When the kids are young, I think it is best to set down a specific schedule of the times you and your ex will be responsible for them. It avoids confusion and can prevent those moments when your kid is the only one who didn’t get a ride home from practice. I think my ex and I avoided a lot of conflict with the understanding that if it was my weekend, then I would be the one to make sure the kid got to his game, recital, friend’s birthday party or whatever. As the kids get older, I think it’s important to give them more freedom in choosing how much time they want to spend at each of their parents houses. This is an emotionally tough call, but it goes with the hard decision that every good parent has to make to offer their kids more and more freedom in order to let them grow up into responsible adults. If your child prefers your ex’s place to yours, you should respect that, but you should also ask them what you could do to make your place more accommodating. If you can’t (because of limited money), or you won’t (because of values), explain to them why. While they might not respect it in the moment, this is an opportunity to teach them to be financially responsible, or more importantly to make good moral choices.

Since you and your ex will likely have different sets of values, you are going to have to learn to be flexible with morality, but at the same time, you need to know what areas you are not willing to compromise in and draw a clear line of expectation for your children. In a healthy marriage, a couple will discuss the hard decisions and reason together in order to discover if one is being too strict or the other too easy. They can then come back to the child with a united decision. In a divorce you only get hearsay about what the other parent is doing, and it’s not always easy to hear. If you feel your child is in serious danger, you should confront the other parent; however, you need to accept that even in the white-picket-fence scenario, your kids will eventually walk out that gate and get all that temptation for corruption in one form or another. The best thing for any parent to do is to prepare their children for making the right choice when faced with sin rather than just try to keep them hidden from it. If you have rules that are stricter than your ex’s, you should be prepared to openly discuss why and explain your reasons for your “not in my house” policy. “Because I said so,” just doesn’t cut it. What is the point if you only tell them “no”? Your children need to be armed with the knowledge of why something is harmful to them, or why you feel they are not yet ready for something.

No matter what your ex (or her new spouse) does, or how she behaves, or what she says about you, you cannot disrespect her in front of your kids. This includes complaining about her with other people. You will need to find strong shoulders to lean on and strong ears to bitch at; you need to vent, but never do it in front of your kids. The Bible commands everyone to “honor your father and your mother.” If you dishonor your ex in front of your kids and in essence ask them to take sides, you are planting seeds in their minds that could eventually grow into sin. If you have any anger or jealousy towards your ex, do your best not to show it to your kids; take your grief to the Lord.

One major mistake that I see single dads and moms make, especially as their kids grow older (perhaps out of guilt, perhaps out of a desire to be hip so they can get a younger, newer model for the role of spouse), is to try and be more of a friend to their kids than a parent. You can and should have a friendly relationship with your kids, but you are the parent, and you need to fill that role first. Frankly, even though it’s hard to find time, you need to go out and find your own friends. If you try to fill your emotional needs with your kids, you will lose perspective and not be able to make good judgments while you are trying to guide and discipline them. Of course, you always want your kids to like you, but if you are more concerned with them liking you than teaching them to make good decisions, you are only causing them harm, and you ultimately will lose their respect. The fact of the matter is you can’t make your child like you, or even love you, but you can demand that they show you respect, and if you do that, they will likely show other adults respect and become more successful in life in general.

On the other hand, you always must discipline in love and not in anger. This is something I had trouble with when my kids were younger, especially with my oldest son, and I’m sure this is one reason why he is resistant to have a relationship with me now. It has been a process, but first I learned to admit it when I overreacted, and at this point I have really learned to control my anger when I feel it coming. Disciplining in love is not as hard as it seems, but it can become complicated. It is simply stepping back and considering why you are upset and controlling your emotions before you respond. If your child has clearly violated your trust or done something that deserves a consequence, you need to consider what punishment will result in the strongest benefit for your child (not necessarily what punishment fits the crime).  What will teach him to make the right choice next time? The hard truth is this will be different for every kid and often different for each situation. With practice and time, responding in a calm and loving manner becomes not so hard; the complicated part is coming up with the best way to handle the crime! You will make mistakes and you will make them often. The important thing is to try to learn from your mistakes, and the most important thing is to admit you made one.

Whether or not you realize yourself that you blew it, or if God or a friend calls you out, or even if your kids call you out, when you are wrong: admit it! Some fathers have a hard time admitting when they are wrong out of a fear of losing authority, but the result is just the opposite. If you can’t admit when you make a mistake, everyone under your authority will eventually loose respect for you and stop paying attention to anything you say. When you admit your mistakes to your kids, you are validating their feelings of betrayal and respecting them as individual persons. This gives them the opportunity to forgive you and develop a stronger character. Your actions will also model humility, and when they make their mistakes, whether it’s out of just acting foolish or out of blatant rebellion, they will be more likely to admit they were wrong when confronted by you, and likewise, when they are confronted in their future relationships.

The last and most important thing is to model your relationship with God right in front of them. Pray, worship, and evangelize in front of them and with them. Especially, prayer. The Bible commands us to pray continually. My ex and I were just nineteen when we eloped. I remember having a conversation with a single friend while we were in our early twenties, and he was marveling at the impossibility of that command. I laughed and told him to just wait until he had kids; he would find that he could fulfill the command more out of need and desperation than obedience! The fact is we can’t control what happens to our kids; we can’t make them believe what we believe, and we can only protect them so much and hope to teach and influence them to make good choices and walk in the best path that God has laid out for them. All the earth belongs to the Lord, even your kids. The most powerful thing we can do for them is to cover them in prayer. Learning to practice spiritual warfare is required of good parenting. When they are young we need to pray with them, and point out to them when God answers their prayers. You need to pray with them for blessing over your ex, even when she just did something really wrong to you right in front of them. They will learn to bless those who persecute them.

Learn to model your parenting after God. He is our Heavenly Father, first as our Creator, second as we become born again in the Spirit and that mysterious relationship is restored. How often do we screw up before God and then cry out for mercy just one more time? Think about how He responds to you the next time you want to smack your kid upside the head for doing the same dumb thing over and over again. This is hard for some guys. We often see God through the flawed relationship we’ve had with our earthly fathers. We think God will respond to us with judgment and criticism because that is what our dads did. Ironically, this revelation is what often prompted me to get myself right with God and kept me on my knees. I know if my kids need anything at all from me, it is the legacy of Jesus. I don’t want them to blame God for my mistakes.

If you are still working on your relationship with your Heavenly Father, look into scripture that references God as a parent (for instance, the prodigal son parable). If you are having trouble having faith that the scripture is for you, watch fathers in your congregation that have had success with respect and love from their children. The Apostle Paul tells his readers to follow his example as he follows Christ’s example. Pick men in the church that you respect and ask them to mentor you, or at least to be a sounding board when you need wisdom in a situation. There are three particular men in my church who I was lucky enough to watch and learn from. I saw God and grace all over their relationship with their kids, and I wanted it with mine. First, I just kind of observed and watched how they did things. Eventually, I had questions for them about why they did what they did. Now I call two of them my best friends, and I still go to the other one, who is old enough to be my father, for advice when I need it.

If you are freshly divorced, you are probably angry at the world and don’t want to spend quality time with anyone, but you can’t do it alone. There are some single parents who, out of guilt and/or a desire to hide from adult relationships, sacrifice every ounce of their personal time for their kids. You need a healthy support system. You need spiritual guidance, and you need practical advice and practical help. You need someone who will go out and have a couple of beers with you and let you whine all night, but also stop you from having any more than just a couple of beers. You need positive and wise friends and you need God. Without both, you can’t be a healthy parent.

Peter L Richardson
6/19/2010

“After the war…”

Now that chaos has died down,
     we’ve called truce,
     drawn up our peace-treaties,
     and learned to negotiate like neighbors.
I think about the casualties of war,
     the survivors and innocent victims
     caught in the destruction.
It is they who are most deeply affected
     as the borders and boundaries
     change in their lives like the seasons.
How can they hold identity?
What heritage do they have to cling to?
To whom will they pledge their allegiance?
     But they do have choice.

I have fought long and hard and deep
     for this land.
To provide a place for them,
     a safe haven,
     a home.
The land won—a wilderness:
     A scorched scar on the earth.
But I have bled my fingers to the bone,
     broken my body like bread,
Filling the land and removing the stone,
Planting seed and building new home.

After the smoke is cleared,
After the infrastructure is finally
     coming together,
I receive the first fruits of prosperity
     for this new nation…
Fruit to provide for my people
     for the offspring…

Now that that is all done,
     what have I won?
The work so long and so hard,
     I wonder,
          do they trust me?
And what have I won,
     without their trust?

Peter L Richardson
5/29/2004

This Be The Verse
     -by Philip Larkin

They f*@k you up, your mum and dad
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were f*@ked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

Philip Larkin titles his poem with a declaration, with an epiphany that is almost a command: “This Be The Verse”! Straight away he seems to be declaring to us; “I’ve got it! This is it! This is the poem of poems: The meaning of life!” For what is the use of poetry, if it is not to discover life, the search of who we are and what it all means to be here, to be in existence. According to the Romantic Poets, poetry is the essence of life, it is what binds the universe together; poetry is the center. All things revolve around poetry and seen through her eyes there is a greater revelation in understanding our existence. It has been common knowledge since at least Shakespeare’s time that poetry is eternal, transcending all time, and Larkin’s use of classical English in the title takes us back to the Renaissance Period. It is as if Larkin is crying out to us to take this poem serious, that we are about to be let in on a secret that rivals even the revelations handed down by the classical poets of old! So what is this declaration of life?

“They f*@k you up, your mum and dad.” What? Is that it?! That I have issues because of my parents? Well that is nothing new, that’s not a deep revelation. Perhaps he hasn’t made his point yet. “They may not mean to but they do. / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra just for you.”

What is this first stanza saying? Our parents bring us into existence, and all they seem to be capable of doing is screwing us up. Even if they try to give us a good life, try to teach us to live good and be happy, they can’t. They can only pass down the faults they have and even add some extra ones to those. So not only do you inherit your parents’ bad qualities, the fact that they are screwed up will affect you in such a way that you have new bad qualities become a part of you. There is no escaping it. But here’s the good news, if you want to call it that; it’s not your fault! All those bad things you do, every mistake you’ve ever made, every complaint anyone has ever made about you, don’t fret, now you can just pass the blame back onto your parents. Think of the implications, if your problems exist because your parents f*@ked you up, then really you are not responsible for anything. If you are not responsible for your actions, then why bother; just do what you want, regardless of the consequences. It’s not your fault you’re the way you are, so why should you have any personal responsibility to change yourself?

Wait. What about this second stanza. Maybe there are more answers there: “But they were f*@ked up in their turn / By fools in old style hats and coats, / Who half the time were soppy-stern / And half at one another’s throats.” So… then, it’s not our parents’ fault. So whose is it? Oh, their parents! But wait, if our grandparents f*@ked up our parents who f*@ked us up, because they were f*@ked up in their turn, then it stands to reason, that our grandparents got f*@ked up by their parents and so on and so forth. So then, what Larkin is saying is that we are all a bunch of drunks who are always fighting amongst ourselves. And that each generation just hands down their depravity to the next with each new generation receiving a few more evils added on. There is no one good, no, not even one. What a downward spiral! I had no idea my life was so bad. There must be some way out of this!

According to Larkin, sadly, no. “Man hands on misery to man. / It deepens like a coastal shelf.” We are trapped. There is no way out. We are in prison, confined by our very existence. The world around us is a prison, we are held captive by our very thoughts, because of our inability to break free from them, they control us, not the other way around. Passed down from generation to generation our faults, our curses deepen like a coastal shelf, and no matter how beautiful we may think our reality is, it is only death grown onto death. We are slaves to it, death is in our veins, and our minds are trapped in depravity. What a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death?

Larkin’s advice? “Get out as early as you can, / And don’t have any kids yourself.” Cease all existence. Oh, that’s nice, how pleasant. Since we are all slaves to these faults, to a depraved existence, then it’s true, we should all die. Just give up, because there is no way out. No hope of anything because we are all looking to f*@k every one because we are all f*@ked up ourselves. What Be The Verse? What is the meaning of life that this poem has to offer us? Nothing. This is the meaning of life, Larkin declares, that there is none, we just exist in pain and misery heading in no direction at all.

Larkin attempts to deconstruct the myth of the family in this poem. He rejects the idea that a father and a mother have anything positive to offer their children. He in essence destroys the nuclear family and ultimately deconstructs society and the status of humanity altogether.  But by doing so he creates his own myth of nihilism and apathy. The ideology of a family is supposed to be a safe place for human beings to grow up and mature in. Mum and Dad have some kids, love them, and try to teach them to how to get along in the world. In essence, how to be good subjects. Unfortunately, Mum and Dad themselves are not always good subjects, so we have someone like Larkin come along and try to dispel the myth of good parenting.

Yet in his attempt to break away from this ideological state apparatus*, as Althusser would call it, Larkin only creates his own. A new reality (a new myth), where good subjects know better then to bring a child into such an evil world. Since they will not likely, themselves, cease to exist at this point these good subjects allow themselves to become freed from the responsibility of growing and maturing into better people. Why? Because it’s not their fault they are f*@ked up, it’s their parents’ fault. Hence they immediately re-enter the ideological state apparatus they tried to break free from and become once again, bad subjects.

The idea that “it’s not my fault” is just as much a myth as that every family produces perfect subjects is. Perhaps we can’t break free from our world, the idea of reality that has been handed to us, but the truth remains that we have the freedom to make choices that shape the reality around us, for good or for worse. We have the responsibility to make choices that will not only benefit us, but those around us. We especially have the responsibility to make choices that will benefit our children.

Larkin’s title may also present us with a double meaning. It could also represent unrefined, vernacular speech indicating the speaker of the poem is ignorant and doesn’t know any better. For centuries poetry was held in high regard and even came to represent the meaning of life. Likewise, the nuclear family had been understood to be what binds society together, the center of our structure of reality. High poetic language could become mistaken for ignorant speech in the title. The high call of the family, Larkin may be saying in the body of the poem, is unattainable because of the ignorance of “your mum and dad.” But rather then take responsibility to be healed from the issues caused by his parents, Larkin makes the mistake of trying to remove himself from something that is too much a part of him. Instead of looking for solutions to change the problem he’s exposed, Larkin chooses to remain in misery, when he could have chosen to hand down joy to man. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace…” Romans 8:5-6.

Peter L Richardson
11/5/2002

*Ideological state apparatuses

Because Louis Althusser held that our desires, choices, intentions, preferences, judgements and so forth are the consequences of social practices, he believed it necessary to conceive of how society makes the individual in its own image. Within capitalist societies, the human individual is generally regarded as a subject endowed with the property of being a self-conscious ‘responsible’ agent. For Althusser, however, a person’s capacity for perceiving himself in this way is not innately given. Rather, it is acquired within the structure of established social practices, which impose on individuals the role (forme) of a subject. Social practices both determine the characteristics of the individual and give him an idea of the range of properties he can have, and of the limits of each individual. Althusser argues that many of our roles and activities are given to us by social practice: for example, the production of steelworkers is a part of economic practice, while the production of lawyers is part of politico-legal practice. However, other characteristics of individuals, such as their beliefs about the good life or their metaphysical reflections on the nature of the self, do not easily fit into these categories. In Althusser’s view, our values, desires and preferences are inculcated in us by ideological practice, the sphere which has the defining property of constituting individuals as subjects. Ideological practice consists of an assortment of institutions called Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs), which include the family, the media, religious organizations and, most importantly, the education system, as well as the received ideas they propagate. There is, however, no single ISA that produces in us the belief that we are self-conscious agents. Instead, we derive this belief in the course of learning what it is to be a daughter, a schoolchild, black, a steelworker, a councilor, and so forth.

from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Althusser

Dancing with Mary Jane

April 20, 2010

Death

Death, PLR, 10/1995

When you smoke pot, it’s the end of innocence. Marijuana is like the tree of good and evil. It reveals things hidden, but they come with great consequence. It slows things down, gives you time to ponder, and your mind opens up into green fields and pastureland. For most of that night, you can actually perceive peace on earth. That is why it gives anxious people headaches, because idle time scares them.

But even on your first hit, as soon as you draw the smoke into your body, you can feel the claws grip around your soul. The smileyface façade of happiness is so strong you can easily ignore the claws, but they are there. Sharp, boney, little fingers grab a hold; at each hit they tighten their grip. The more smoke you draw into your lungs, the deeper the demon draws into your soul.

There is nothing else to say. I was taken captive. I was so much in love with pain. Weeping and gnashing of teeth? Sometimes I wonder if Jesus will just eventually take away all the real Christians and leave the rest of humanity on earth alone to fend for themselves. That would be hell. It’s not that I can’t imagine a worse place than earth at its worst; I just haven’t dared.

Who am I to tell someone to quit smoking weed? When the Lord invited me into His kingdom, He said I had to quit getting stoned. I said yes. I probably didn’t even mean it or understand what I was committing to, but because I was willing to quit in that moment, because in that moment I discovered Forever and wanted to serve Him, He rebuked the demon out of me. I was spared the struggle of addiction. I haven’t had anything more than a simple temptation since. I am free from that bondage.

You say pot opens up your mind? So did the fruit that Adam bit into. We’ve been paying for that one ever since. So in your worldly views, I have no reason to tell you that pot is bad. For me, I just know that Jesus doesn’t like it. I just know that what is best in you begins with your innocence—and with pot you lose it. What kind of paradise leaves you burnt out? Your prophets have all died before their time, and still you set up shrines for them and follow their grave mistakes. What kind of shepherd leads his flock off a cliff? My paradise lasts forever, my Prophet rose from the dead, and He is my shepherd. He tends to my wounds. When I am lost, He seeks to find me, and when He does, He rejoices and throws a banquet in my honor! He is looking for you and He longs to throw just as big a party for you, if you will let yourself be found by Him. You like to party? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. You can have the later without being corrupted and corroded by the first two. My spirit weeps and mourns when I see you wasting away. My soul is in bitter anguish when I think of all the potential that is stunted inside of you. I still remember your pain and why you try to cover it up. Your life has meaning. Give your burdens to Him. He loves you.

Peter L Richardson
October, 1994

An honest guy’s perspective.

“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well…Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth…May you ever be captivated by her love.” Proverbs 5:15-19

Malachi 4:2, Isaiah 53, Matthew 5.29-30, Hebrews 7:25, Hebrews 12:12-13, James 1:14-15

Malachi 4:2, Isaiah 53, Matthew 5.29-30, Hebrews 7:25, Hebrews 12:12-13, James 1:14-15 PLR '99

The issue of lust is rarely dealt with frankly. I’m just a young guy learning how to overcome sin myself; this is my attempt to expose lust—to bring it into the light so we can get a clear shot at it and kill it. As one who’s found himself starting on the “downward path to death” (Proverbs 5:5), this is a warning for others on that path to turn back.

Love or Consumption? 1 Corinthians 13 gives us a clear understanding of God’s idea of love. It’s easy to see how twisted the world’s idea of love is in comparison. I’ve found no better description of worldly love at its worst than by C.S. Lewis in the preface of his second edition of The Screwtape Letters. Lewis describes the demonic counterfeit of love like this: “Even in human life we have seen the passion to dominate, almost to digest, one’s fellow; to make his whole intellectual and emotional life merely an extension of one’s own—to hate one’s hatreds and resent one’s grievances and indulge one’s egoism through him as well as through one’s self. His own little store of passion must of course be suppressed to make room for ours. If he resists this suppression he is being very selfish. On Earth this desire is often called ‘love.’ In Hell I feign that they recognize it as hunger.”

2 Samuel 13 provides an example of this hunger. David’s son Ammon had fallen in love with his half-sister Tamar. Scripture says, “Ammon was so tormented that he became ill with love for his half sister” (v.2). When he approached her for sex, Tamar was willing even to marry him. Yet he was so consumed by his own desires that he raped her and then despised her and left her disgraced. Ammon was supposedly in love with her. Isn’t this typical of the pattern we find in the world? Some men will do anything, risk anything, and degrade themselves in any way for sex. These men disrespect women and care little, if any, for the individual they join their souls with. The act of sex is the most intense tying together of souls; that is why the Apostle Paul warns that in joining your body with a prostitute you become one flesh with her (1 Corinthians 6:16). This is the same principle that Jesus spoke of when he said that a man commits adultery when he looks lustfully at another woman. There is a literal exchange of their souls.

Who is Your god? The sinful aspects of lust go far beyond the devastating effects of tying your soul to numerous partners. Lust is idol worship. Paul Vitz, a psychologist from New York University, states, “Idols are needs and desires that we have begun to worship” (“The cult of self” Cornerstone Magazine 23,105/1995). Within the context of marriage, sex is a legitimate need and a healthy desire, but outside of marriage we must practice the fruit of self-control. Whether you are sexually active outside of marriage or you watch through a screen or magazine pages, you are bowing down to sex. It is spiritual adultery against Jesus, and it is demonic. In his seminar, “Lust and Spiritual Warfare,” Nick Marica of KEV Ministries states: “Illicit sexual contact opens up the gateway to satanic oppression…There are three separate instances [in Proverbs 5, 6, and 7] where God discusses the creation of a path leading to hell…Note the symbolism of the adulteress as a demon. In addition, note how God discusses her house—as a principality. These references are more that symbolic; the conclusion: you have opened a physical, mental gateway to actual demonic oppression in your own house.”

If sex is your god, the desire to own and dominate someone will consume you. Eventually, the object of your lust will become less important than experiencing the act of pleasure again. Some, like Ammon, resort to rape. Some begin to hunt women down for one night stands, looking for a challenge to conquer. Look at King David. He had wives and an abundance of concubines. He could have had any virgin in Israel, but Bathsheba was a challenge for him and he committed adultery with her and then had her husband killed to cover up the resulting pregnancy. Some men resort to hiring prostitutes.

Others who worship sex attempt to satisfy themselves with self-gratification. In high school, before I was a Christian, I discussed my desires to lose my virginity to a Christian friend. He quickly exhorted me to go home and gratify those desires by myself. Better to do that, he reasoned, than to lose the virginity I had. The truth is self-gratification does not quell the desires of lust, as some believe. It is only fuel for the fire. Whether through fantasy, video, or still images, it only keeps your mind on sex and increases your curiosity. It leaves you more empty, more lonely, and depressed. In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus instructs us that a man can commit adultery with a lustful eye. Then he exhorts us that it is better to gouge out our eye or cut off our hand if it causes us to sin than risk going to Hell. He was politely, but very strongly, encouraging us to practice self-control and keep our hands doing something productive rather than destructive to our souls.

I believe lust led to the downfall of Israel. Do you think worshipping other gods would have been half as tempting if it didn’t involve temple prostitution? “Sorry honey, you know I luv ya, but she’s part of the requirement. Besides, I’m doing this for us! We need better crops this year.” Yeah, right. Look at David’s son, Solomon. 1 Kings 11 tells us that King Solomon loved many foreign women from the nations with whom the Lord had forbidden the Israelites to intermarry. “’Because,’ God said, ‘they will entice you to serve their gods’…But Solomon was devoted to them and loved them dearly…his wives turned his heart to follow other gods, and he did not remain wholly loyal to the LORD his God as his father David had been” (v.2,4).

It is significant that David’s grandmother was Ruth the Moabite. Although Ruth herself was a righteous woman, throughout the Old Testament the nation of Moab was notorious for its sexual sins. David’s, Ammon’s, and Solomon’s struggles with lust were quite possibly the result of generational curses. If you are not the only one who is prone to lust in your family, you should research this subject (Derek Prince’s book, Blessing or Curse, is a great place to start).

Sex: The Real Thing. Let’s remember: God created sex. Why settle for a cheap imitation when you can have the real thing? Within the marriage covenant, each partner’s body is a gift for each other, free for exploration in mutual agreement. Think of Christmas. It’s always great to open your presents on Christmas morning during the festivities. But if you already know what you are receiving, it’s not nearly as exciting. How would that make your gift feel if your gift was your spouse?

If you go into marriage already experienced, or even just well researched, you may be faced with unmet expectations if you are not repentant, healed, and free of those experiences, and that is obviously unfair to your partner. At the very least, you have both missed out on some fun that should have been reserved for just the two of you. I’ve seen couples who have done it the right way. They have an amazing sense of unity—a bond of spiritual and romantic love that you can almost physically see. And I’m not talking about being mushy and annoying in public. I’ve also seen couples who didn’t get off to that great of a start, but worked out their salvation together through repentance and love, and they reached that same place of unity. Still, wouldn’t it be better to be able to have a strong level of trust right from the beginning?

If you are involved in sexual sin, it probably won’t be an easy road to freedom, and you will likely stumble from time to time. But Christ died not only to offer us complete forgiveness, but also total freedom from sin. Don’t underestimate his mercy. There are no formulas for overcoming lust or any other sin. However, keep fighting, keep drawing near to God—through worship, through the Word, and through prayer. Do what every Christian should be doing: cultivating a life led by the Holy Spirit. Jesus admonishes his disciples in John 6:63: “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh can achieve nothing; the words I have spoken to you are both spirit and life.” Listen to Jesus. Follow Jesus. Every day.

Peter L Richardson
March/April 1999

Originally published in Red Magazine, Volume 3, Number 1, March/April 1999.

 

“Patience”

She talks go
But when I go
Red lights flash ahead.
Somehow…
I prefer to stop.
Fire burns red.
My flesh burns for you.

No.
Far better
In me
A white fire
Of the core.
Purify…
Soul consuming.

Peter L Richardson
3/31/94