Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's Raining, It's Pouring

I grew up in Christian circles of varying colors. Some were very conservative and only voted Republican and believed that cleanliness was indeed next to godliness. Some were charismatic, liked to dance, and believed that makeup was next to godliness. Still others were quiet, didn't believe in using birth control, and like to recycle. Suffice it to say, the term 'Christian' when applied to an event or characteristic is just not elaborate enough to define exactly what is to be expected. I realize this. I'm not stuffing anyone into a corner or painting all the puppets blue. I'm just making an observation. A very one-sided observation, albeit, but generally these are more colorful, no?

I was married six years ago this July. That means that exactly six years ago, I was going through the delight and horror of pre-wedding trauma. Some of it is necessary, of course. You are only allowed into the club if you can understand how terrifying it is to learn two weeks before your wedding that you must find another church in which to say your vows. We former brides will not respect you if you didn't have a late night in which you went crazy and declared your love for the single life and any male person you have ever known, doubting your decision to the core of your being.

It isn't all bad of course. Trying on your wedding dress seventeen times in as many hours is fun. Dreaming about the romantic things your fiancee would say the first time he saw you on your wedding day.....sigh. No, it isn't all bad. But it is all stressful, you cannot fight me on that. The only way your pre-wedding weeks will not be stressful is if you decide to stumble into City Hall one day with your best Big Star jeans and a tank top, carrying a plastic lei as your bouquet. And if you choose this route, the stress will just come later when you are looking at your 'wedding' pictures.

At the apex of the wonderful/horrible pre-wedding season is The Wedding Shower. It is a necessity, particularly if you are young and have no napkin rings. You know the drill; you head out one weekend to register for all the lovely things you want to fill your home with. You and your beloved fiancee have cute little fights over which china pattern is more 'you', how many sheet sets you really need, and whether or not anyone will buy you the enormous television you want.

Weeks go by, you forget what you registered for and you wonder what you will do when your honeymoon is over and there are no plates to eat off of. Impulsively, you run to CostCo and buy a large box full of cheap foam plates just to cover your bases.

The Wedding Shower day arrives. You pick out a special outfit that says "I am feminine yet still strong, but wistful and romantic, in love with this person, but I'm still me." And then you cannot find that outfit, so you go with whatever looks the most appropriate for when all your parent's friends arrive. Cardigan...check! Knee length skirt....check! Small pearl drop earrings.....check!

I despise opening presents in front of people. As a defense mechanism, my brain has learned to figure out what each present is before I open it. I'm very rarely surprised, and almost never wrong. But this is when I have some advance preparation, when I really know the person who is giving me the present...and if my 'gift' for gifts has a kryptonite, it is large gatherings. The more presents, the less sure I am of not only what the gift is, but what my name is and why I'm sitting in front of a large group of people wearing only my underwear! Wait...that was a dream....

The only way this could possibly be worse is if your fiancee has a different community, a group that wants to meet the fiancee. Austin and I met quickly, got engaged quickly, and hardly had time to get to know each other's families before the wedding day. He grew up in California, and therefore I didn't know many of the people that were his extended family. Many people wanted to see me, meet me, gossip about how not attractive enough I was for their Austin. We had a wedding shower in Phoenix and in Atascadero. Those lovely people on the Central Coast probably think I'm insane. What can I say? I have showerphobia.

Nevertheless, I did love The Wedding Shower experience. I was grateful for all of the friends and family who came together to celebrate our impending nuptials. Despite the fact that gift-opening disarms me, both of our showers were lovely and I (now) think fondly of those special days when we were the toast of the party.

Lately, I have noticed an alarming trend within the Christian world. Remember, I am not saying that if you are a Christian or know a Christian or if your name is Christian you adhere to this strange view. I'm just saying....

I've been invited in the last few years to several 'prayer showers'. My first thought was to laugh. My thoughts second through fifteenth were also to laugh. After that, my thoughts turned dark.

A 'prayer shower', if you are not blessed enough to have been invited to one, is a wedding shower. You are still expected to bring a gift from the couple's registry. But this shower is so much holier than any will find so much more than mints and mixed nuts here....

The crowd is expected to pray for the couple. No big deal, right? Praying is good, especially for those who are embarking on such a momentous life event. But the regular "Thank you God for this couple, bless them, thank you for their wonderful families and friends" won't cut it on a day like today. No, each guest is to 'bless' each couple with some 'words of wisdom'. They 'speak truth' into the couple's lives, and 'claim victory' and 'bind the devil' away from the couple.

What bothers me about the 'prayer shower' is not that a group of professing Christians would want to pray for their friends. It is that The Wedding Shower of yesteryear is being demonized. In effect, it is not good enough or spiritual enough to warrant the giving of gifts to an engaged couple. Apparently gift giving is now a very, very serious and somber occasion. Don't enjoy yourself or be fooled by the napkins with silver bells, because we aren't at this shower for fun! We are here to WORK!

I believe that many Christians are afraid of life. A baby onesie is probably not sanctified, but let's if you add a 'Jesus Loves Ewe' and a picture of a lamb,'ve covered your spiritual bases. I'm afraid of what I'm writing....perhaps I'm not writing my grocery list like Jesus would? Well, let me just whip out my Jesus pen, and now I've got that taken care of!

I'm being over the top on purpose, but I think there is a problem at the root of it.

Austin and I were talking (laughing maliciously) about someone's recent shower of spiritual depth and grace.

"The problem" said he "isn't that they are praying, obviously. The problem is that it isn't spiritual enough to just celebrate life."

Ahh, wise grasshopper said it perfectly.

When did life become evil?

It has been my understanding that we can celebrate life and its many ups and downs without superimposing our beliefs on top. I'm not calling for a separation of church and shower, but what good is faith if it has to be trumpeted and blared at every possible moment? I don't think that birthday parties should have altar calls and I don't know that I would want my St. Patrick's Day party to have a time for Intercessory Prayer for the Irish.

If you feel like telling someone about your faith, your feelings on God or anything else you believe in, then you should feel free to do so. But you should also remember that there is a time and a place for everything.

You may be in love with someone, but if you start passionately kissing while waiting in line for your morning coffee, you will get ugly stares. You should know that despite the ardency of your affections, you have turned people off to the idea of your relationship. This isn't a terribly effective parallel, but I'm trying to attack this shower from all angles to blow it to smithereens.

I'm tired, really really tired, of people misunderstanding the ability that God gave them to just live. If "this is my Father's world", then why are so many people afraid of it?

We know that regardless of how many 'truth speakers' attend a shower, the marriage is going to have problems. Why? Because marriage is hard.

Regardless of how many blessings are poured forth at a baby shower, the labor is still going to hurt. Why? Because labor hurts.

Life just is, and there really isn't any sense in being frightened into speaking in tongues all hours of the day to keep your kids from saying the word 's e x'.

I don't want you to think I'm anti-prayer. Not in the slightest. I'm just more of the understanding that actions speak louder....waaaaay louder than words. Prayer is there for a reason, and it has its place. If I want to pray for someone, I do. I just don't ask to do it in front of a group full of wedding well-wishers that just want to eat their cake.

Say a prayer, thank God for the couple that want to pledge their devotion, and be spiritual by sharing your party nuts.

No...not those party nuts. You have such a dirty mind...can I pray for you?

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