Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Dueling Madonnas - Saint verses Sinner ... And How it Affects us.

We all have role models, even when we don’t realize it. Influences from what we’ve seen and admired subliminally exert a gentle pull on our souls. An undetected yearning to be like `that person’ or like a particular quality `that person’ has. After watching Schwarzenegger or Stallone I feel an heightened manliness. Their testosterone pumps mine up. I think my chest even get hairier after I watch their movies. I had to stop watching Jackie Chan after I ripped all my pants. You girls may admire the style or attractiveness of some lady, and wish to copy her makeup, hairstyle, or the way she carries herself. If you put a child before the tube with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on, within an hour they’ll be kicking holes in your walls. They want to be a ninja turtle. I’m not talking about idol worship, puppy love crushes, or deification. I’m articulating a principle in humanity where we actively shape ourselves and are shaped by what we see and feed on. And whether good or bad, we are pumped when we see things we wish to identify within ourselves. This when recognized, can be a source of immeasurable spiritual strength. Or when ignored, the means of our destruction. And it is a powerful ingredient in a parent’s cookbook for the development of Godly children.
It is well to pause, and consider who you admire. For the process of imitation is frequently subliminal and not necessarily noticed. Do we admire and watch particular actors/people because they are like us and we identify with them? Or, is it because we want to be like them and shape our character by what we see? I suspect the process is blurred between these two spectrums, for even when we watch someone that is representative of our character, that someone hardens our resolve and educates us on supplementary character attributes that we could adopt. For example, perhaps a boy sees a strong confident man in a black leather jacket (with his collar up). The boy admires the outward display of confidence and strength. Inevitably, the boy will buy a leather jacket and wear it appropriately. Eventually, he will learn that that persona encompasses more than a mere black leather jacket, and may next be influenced to purchase a motorcycle. Mannerisms and expressions will be absorbed, depending on the extent of the infatuation. This appears to be ingrained in humanity, which is why it is important to pause and consider what you admire and are striving to become. Because depending on your preferred cast (from which to mold yourself), you will inevitably be choosing between two opposite directions: one towards God and the other away from Him.

There is a repercussion to who you admire. Free will is more than just accepting God’s gift of grace into our lives. It is actively, and daily, choosing to honor Him by how we live our lives: in what we watch and who we admire.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)

And if you are a parent, it is the de facto source of guiding your child to heaven or to hell, or creating an hell spawn or an angel. Children are particularly impressionable, learning from parents, extended circles, and media. They quickly absorb their surroundings to learn how to function, or dis-function, in life. I admittedly struggle in this regard. As a father, and a man, I have certain characteristics that I cherish and wish to develop; And I wish to see them in my boys. Sadly, I know that some of these are antithetical to God’s desires. It is a constant quandary for me. I am a chivalrous male warrior that will break your jaw for disrespecting my wife. And I am a theological warrior that understands I am to turn the other cheek and walk away when someone strikes me. This generates a degree of self-loathing when I am forced to walk away from a confrontation. It seems I am acting cowardly and eating dirt. Yet spiritually, I know it is a far stronger man that can walk the path of the Savior. So given this internal tension within me, my children receive mixed messages from their father: to punch a bully, or to walk away??? I say this to illustrate that despite our greatest intentions, we are not perfect examples for our children, and never will be. But make no mistake ... Our intentions for our children (and ourselves) must be `our greatest’, despite our lack luster ability to carry them out. How we actively shape ourselves (and our children by extension) is tied to a cultural identity. And this, my friends, is easy to recognize and scrutinize.

How is popular culture affecting you? As Christians, we grow and are nurtured in this maniacal materialistic culture that engulfs us. New un-Scriptural theologies are even developed to condone gross accumulation and self-indulgence. We know materialism and greed are wrong, and yet we believe ourselves untouched by its devilish digits. Yet we sit in it without knowledge of its insidious influence upon us, like the frog in the warm water experiment. When you place a frog in hot water, it will jump out to safety. But if you place a frog in warm water and slowly increase the heat, it will fail to recognize the danger and be boiled to death. Are we being corrupted by our surroundings? Whether it be a love for manna or a dysfunctional understanding of sexuality, it is essential to process the sensory inputs we receive in light to God’s truth. Otherwise, we risk enjoying an ever-warming warm bath.

We need to inventory our role models to elucidate our standing. On a general level, there are two contrary role models that articulate the internal struggle within us, allowing us to pinpoint where our affinity lies. Interestingly enough, they both go by the same name: (1) the blessed virgin and (2) the material girl. Which Madonna do you follow? Which do you relate to better? -The caricature of materialism and loose sexuality ... Or the pious and humble mother of the Messiah? This is not a Catholic thing, so anyone whose hairs just rose on the back of their necks needs to relax. Mary was an extraordinary woman that all Christendom can attest too. No other woman was as blessed as her, to birth, and nurture, and mother the Messiah. She’s definitely in the spiritual big leagues. Moses was a friend of God. God made a covenant with Abraham. Jacob wrestled with God. And Mary conceived the son of God. She was obedient to God in everything she did. And she followed Jesus and loved Him unequivocally. The Savior was the thrust of her existence. Is this our role model? Do we follow the Master blindly, from town to town, as she did? Do we dedicate our lives to Him, as she did?

Or do you identify with the humanistic Madonna of Materialism? -The pop singer who is ironically idolized by her fans. Is this who you secretly wish you could be like? This role model is successful, famous, popular, and rich. She flies around the world and vacations in exotic locations. She hobnobs with famous people. And she’s so very popular and trendy. Would you like her to be your neighbour? Or perhaps your pen pal?  And would your life be nicer if it was more like hers?

If someone shouted the name “Madonna” out loud, which of the two would most people think of first? That says something about our culture. When we willfully absorb the Biblically devoid media around us we are affected. Hollywood heroes are not godly examples. Music icons exemplify the world here and not hereafter.

Yet, our propensity to role model can be edifying when placed at God’s feet. And it is seen throughout Scripture. Jesus himself was a rabbi that molded His students to become more like Himself. They admired Him and wished to emulate and learn from Him. In fact, this is the corner stone for the process of sanctification, the process in which we become more Christ-like. This is also an important component to Christian discipleship. A good Christian role model is balm for the soul. And a good parent is balm for a child. Seek out good role models, and become one for others.

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