Thursday, June 5, 2008

The World Within The Magic Mirror

In the first chapter of “Trapped in the Magic Mirror,” the author begins by describing the days in which she used to play dress up. Now, if you are reading this (and you‘re a guy), I know that you won’t understand much of what I’ll be saying next; nor will you likely WANT to understand! When women are little girls, we like to dress up and pretend that we are princesses, brides, mommies, etc. We often dress up in play clothes, jewelry, and put on make-up etc. so that we feel beautiful and grown up. We act out our favorite princess stories, our ideal weddings, and whatever other blissful dreams we have in our heads that we hope will materialize one day. Maybe it’s somewhat similar to how little boys like to play “cops and robbers” or pretend to be a fireman or other type of superhero. I guess both genders naturally want to act out the roles we feel we’re designed to fill. Girls want to be the delicate, beautiful, feminine little princesses and damsels in distress that the bold and brave boy heroes want to rescue (when they aren’t too busy chasing down bad guys and saving the world of course). And guys want to be strong, heroic, manly men who everyone respects and looks up to. Then, eventually, they’ll come around and romance an eager lady in waiting.;)

I suppose, then, that both guys and girls have set expectations of what they’re supposed to grow up to be. Being a girl, I know that we women always feel the pressure to be beautiful, attractive, and able to capture the heart of whatever man comes our way. That’s because most girls have been sucked into believing that, just like the stories they have learned, they can have a wonderful fairy tale life if only given the right opportunity. If only they can meet the perfect guy- their prince and knight in shinning armor - then everything would be perfect and they could have heaven on earth. Forget the fact that when we become adopted into God’s family, we are already princesses and heirs to the Father’s Kingdom. We desire to have OUR kingdom come and will be done by having our ideal inheritance on earth. Just like Snow White took the bait of a poisoned apple offered by her enemy, we are often duped as well by Satan’s bad fruit (Eve isn’t the only dummy in history to fall for it is she? Her legacy still lives on!). Like her, we believe that we can have it all and get what we ultimately want if we just do things our way or the world’s way. The author says: “I learned if I was good and beautiful on the outside and loved a man with all my heart, I’d live happily ever after right here on earth.” Wow! That’s a mirror opposite of what God’s truth is; which is the true peasant to princess, “rags to riches” story. God’s Word concentrates on inner beauty and that if you love CHRIST with all your heart, HE is the prince that comes to rescue you from your “ordinary“ peasant life, gives you new and eternal life, and GUARANTEES a REAL happily ever after in heaven with the One who is the King and Ruler of all! But, in a world like ours, we are conditioned to believe in IMMEDIATE and tangible rewards. Why wait?

The author also goes on to say that “before I ever met my husband, I was in love with a prince who existed only in my imagination.” Once again, we find the power of influence at work. The stories that we absorb into our minds become the material that shapes our thinking and behavior. And, like the author, we end up forming expectations of how things should be based on the messages in the stories we‘re fed. Though, unlike all the basic “love at first sight” stories, REAL love takes time to develop. Most “romances” are based on carnal love fueled by hormones and emotions. It’s only when the blindfolds of “love” come off and you learn to TRULY love the PERSON (and not just how the person makes YOU feel) that REAL LOVE is uncovered. The author describes her experience of that by explaining her own marriage. She said that they had a great marriage and everything looked ideal if you were on the outside looking in. They really did have it all. However, hard times hit, and things started falling apart. It got to the point where she was about ready to leave him. Then, true tragedy struck. She said that “God has a way of using one crisis to divert another” and that’s exactly what happened in her life when her husband suffered a medical crisis. Through that, she got back in touch with the love that she had for him and it was through CHOOSING to love that those feelings returned. It reminds me of what a friend of mine told me, “Love is a choice…..feelings follow obedience.“

As the author began reflecting on her marriage issues, she said she realized that “many of our problems stemmed from my own addiction to romantic thinking and trying to live up to the idealized vision of the perfect life I imagine in my head. That vision drove me to expect way too much of my very human husband.” That really struck a chord with me, because I know I am one of the many women who has always wondered “why can’t my husband be like this…..?” Ladies, how often do we talk to each other and complain about the lack of effort our husbands put forth in the romance department? Do we really have valid complaints, or are we only upset because they are failing to measure up perfectly to an impossible standard we have set in our minds?

I guess there comes a time where we all have to face facts and realize that we have to come to a compromise with the life that we dreamed of and the life that we have. Discontentment isn’t a good state to live in, but that will be our sad reality if we continue clinging to the illusions of our fantasies. I remember a lady from church telling me about how she always imagined being with a certain celebrity, but that God had showed her that she needed to live the life that she was given and not a life that didn‘t (and wouldn‘t) ever exist. Her rich wisdom has always stuck with me, though I remember being surprised that she shared that with me because I guess I just never imagined that she would struggle with something like that. I think that’s probably a big reason a lot of Christians never get the help they need because we all have to “pretend” that we don’t have problems (so we don‘t tarnish our perfect image in the church). After all, if we show others our faults, our righteous friends will judge and shun us because they have no problems of their own (unless, of course, they are hiding and pretending too). Why are we all so afraid to talk to each and come out from behind our masks? Where’s the trust and honesty? Or, rather, WHY can’t we have trust and honesty? Is it because we have so many “Christians” who AREN’T trustworthy and honest and act just like the world? Sure, that may be part of it. There are indeed a lot of “Christians” who wound other Christians and contribute to their problems rather than helping to fix them (I can definitely think of a few from my old neighborhood and school who were known for being like that. Though, it‘s not like I was always the innocent one either!!). But, I think the bigger reason we don’t confide in true Christian friends is because we feel that having a problem means that we haven’t prayed enough or done enough to be the good person we ought. Consequently, we feel guilty and horribly flawed. We feel like a monstrous screw up and, therefore, an easy target for our friends to criticize. So, we opt out of seeking the counsel of good Christian brothers and sisters for fear of judgment and condemnation. And, consequently, we end up isolating ourselves, and stuffing our pain and problems.

So, we suffer in silence and our discontentment cycle continues. We even medicate our pain with some of the same things that inflict it in the first place. We continue watching, listening to, and reading things that feed into the romantic fantasies as well as continuing to buy clothes, make-up, or whatever else we think we need to beautify ourselves and feel special to capture the heart of our “prince” once again. Or, worse yet, we make the mistake of thinking that the prince is the one that always has to change and we start forcing him to change to accommodate our ideals. (Yeah, I have definitely done this at times!! Sorry, Mitchell!!).

Well, what finally happens when we feel like we have bottomed out and there’s nothing left to do? Well, the author says: “Without any real understanding of how to deal with our confusion and unfulfilled longings, we try to turn to God. But usually, it is to beg God to give us what we think we need. We may ask God to give us the kind of marriage that leads us closer to him and the ‘abundant life,’ but we don’t realize that our idea of abundance is more material than spiritual. Our understanding of the abundant life has a lot to do with our romanticized, idealized visions and unrealistic expectations.” Yeah, I hear that one!!

Subsequently, the phase that comes next is often the “magical thinking” phase that leads us to believe that if we just try harder, get more spiritual, do more to fix things and please our “prince,” (or even force the “prince” to change) things will get better. (Yep, this is totally speaking to me!! LOL). Though, this reasoning just isn‘t the answer. Just because one’s “prince” isn’t exactly “prince charming” doesn’t mean that we weren’t good enough to snag the right man, or that we married the wrong one, or that HE’S the one that needs to do all the changing. Whether it’s the guy or girl in question, there are no quick fixes for either person.

What is a person to do then? Well, that’s subject matter for the next blog!! ;) So, until then, feel free to ponder these study guide questions that the author provides in her book. I welcome your comments and personal stories. Let’s bear each other’s burdens and be true brothers and sisters to each other; by showing love, understanding, and no judgment or condemnation as we share and help each other. Though, if you don’t wish to post comments publicly, you can message me privately if you want/need to talk. We’re all in this together! God bless all of you!

Chapter One Questions

1. When you were young, what did you believe about marriage and family? What expectations did you develop as a result? In what way(s) were your views similar to or different from the author’s views?

2. How has your life differed from a life full of adventure and romance? Why does our culture often emphasize false pictures of what the future will be like?

3. What, as you were growing up, did people teach you was your real purpose in life?

4. In what way(s) have you struggled to reconcile your real life with the life you’ve always dreamed of having? How has this struggle affected you?

5. What do women you know do to make up for the deep voids they have inside? (Eating junk food? Reading romance novels?) What tools do you use to try to cope? (Be honest!)

6. What ingredients do you think will create a magical and happy life?

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