Thursday, May 16, 2013

"It Comes Down to Obedience...or Lack Thereof..."

Such were the words I spoke to one of my children when the question was broached about the possibility of getting a bellybutton piercing.

Truth is...and I'm putting it here in writing where even that said-child can see it...I have little problem with bellybutton piercings. Besides the pain, I mean.

True...I think it's crazy and insane and no one would dare touch my belly button {it's cute enough the way it is, thank you very much}, but I truly understand why people do it. They're pretty, now that I've gotten over the bizarre sensationalism of them. Call me desensitized. I don't have anything against nose piercings either. Not the teeny-tiny cute diamond studded ones, any way. Ferdinand the Bull type piercings do bring out the beast in me.

Humans have loved to adorn themselves since forever. At first that's what flowers and minerals were for. If we are to respect and glorify God with our body then, many times, these adornments are simply a cultural form of doing so.

I'll never forget my first year as the director of religious education at our church when, immediately after Confirmation practice, one of the boys met me outside the church and excitedly said, "Hey, Ms. Cay, do you wanna see my new tattoo?" He didn't ask exactly; he was already in the process of turning his back to me and pulling up the corner of his shirt to reveal this life-sized facial image on his entire shoulder blade.

If he was hoping to play the shock factor on the church's DRE, I'll admit that the life-sizeness of the tattoo definitely shocked me. Nothing else did. I've come to expect certainly things from kids. Not that it's right or wrong, but once it's done, it's done. People try to fight too many factors in life that they just aren't going to win.

And so, I calmly admired it (because it was the image of Christ, afterall, and who can not admire that) and I commented in amazement on the size of the tat and then I asked who had given him permission to get it.

"My dad did," he stated proudly, pulling his shirt down and turning back to face me. "Matter of fact, he came with me and he's going to get himself a tat of the -------"

I don't remember what he said his father's tat was. I knew his father was a very devout member of our church and big into the Cursillo movement. They were piercing themself with the image of the crucified Lord.  Not for me to question that.

I think too of a young man in our church who came back from Afghanistan, having killed his best friend, served prison time, been arrested on DWI, and who struggles daily, nightly, and forever with addictions and demons and doubts. And I've seen him more devout in Holy Adoration than I've ever seen myself. I've seen him walk with tatted arms to the sacristy to prepare for Mass and come back to pray in bent prayer before distributing the sacrificial lamb with tatted arms now shrouded in the white garment of redemption. I've heard that he told his mother he would gladly spend the rest of his life in prison if he could only be cured of his addictions, freed of his demons, released of his bondage.

This young man puts on the human face of Christ every time he serves at Mass and, as he enters the church carrying a heavy cross, a wounded Church allows this wounded man to give a wounded Christ to other wounded parishioners. If we are scandalized by this then we probably need to reevaluate our own reasons for being there.

Long ago, I caught myself drowning in a pond of expectations and trying to make life the way I would like it to be. That brought me to the lowest I've ever been in life. I refuse to let Satan jeer me into judging my life or allow me to judge anyone else's life to that extent ever again. Taking people where they are and where they've been keeps me firmly humble, firmly on the ground, and firmly with faith in the good God.

I've had my own young adult reveal to me that she had gotten a tattoo. She treated me to a free dinner when she told me. That should have told me something was up, but I was blissfully still in the dark about children taking their parents on a free date when they have news to tell.

"But it's a (flower) blossom, Mom!" she smiled triumphantly as though she were two years old again and bringing me weeds from the garden. A flower makes all the difference. Agreed? I won't say where it is or what type flower blossom for security reasons but, if my kids are expecting a shock factor, they won't get it from me.

I play defiant that way. ;-)

I think the stresses in many parent/children relationships come from playing the shock factor card. Older brothers are champs at teaching younger siblings and my brother played the shock factor card a lot. I learned from the best. ;-) I resolved my children would not play that card on me. I've been forewarned.

I figure I got a free meal out of the deal and, yes, it's a flower that is tucked neatly away. Case closed. Let's move on, shall we?

As a Christian, I must truthfully look to Scripture as my life's handbook and what it says about piercings and tattoos. I'm guided to these verses:

"You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh…or tattoo any marks upon you...” (Leviticus 19:28)
"They will not make tonsures on their heads, shave the edges of their beards, or gash their bodies." (Leviticus 21:5)
"Be sons of the Lord your God. You shall not cut yourselves, nor make yourselves bald, because of the dead..." (Deuteronomy 14:1)

For piercing, my own little earbobs would make me unacceptable alongside of Scarlett O'Hara. Being Christian does put an entirely different perspective on matters of the body but Leviticus and Deuteronomy are from the Old Testament, last I looked, and Christ gave us a new commandment and a new covenant with his coming and passing through our mist. People think the Catholic church censors everything everyone does, but they don't. The Catholic church doesn't condemn you to hell for such triteness.

That's what I like about this article:

This article puts the issue into reasonable perspective but doesn't condemn anyone. It gives us an examination of conscience we should all ask ourselves before getting something done to this temple that houses the Holy Spirit. Those examinations include:

1) Is it a diabolical image?
2) Is it exultation of the ugly? (Why would we adorn this body given to us with something ugly?)
3) Is it self-mutilation or disfiguring? (Destruction of what God created in His image)
4) Is it harmful to health? (Naturally one of the first things that shocks a parent's system into reaction)
5) Is it a desire to shock or repel? (Really? why does this surprise parents? Most of us did it to our parents, didn't we?)
6) Is it indecent or irreverent? (I suspect this to be the most common reason nowadays and it points back to the shock factor which points back to people wanting to shock people into paying attention to them)
7) Is it a sign of sexual orientation? (Used to be when I was in school. Now we are camouflaging the waters so we are all equal.)
8) Is it unsuitable?
9) Is it vanity? (Again, I suspect this is a common reason, even in the case of cute little bellybutton rings which HURT LIKE THE DICKENS...though I wouldn't know...because everyone is wearing them and they are cute!)
10) Is it immaturity and imprudence? (Hum, yes! because young people are immature and imprudence.)

So, again, I think an examination of these things, as with any decision one might make, needs to be taken. Be sure to read the Universal Criteria included in this article which ends with:
"The human body is meant to be treated with care, not maltreated or disfigured. Its dignity and beauty must be kept and cultivated, in order that it be an expression of the deeper beauty of the soul."

Which truly is just an underscoring of Corinthians 6:19-20:
"Do you not realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you and whom you received from God?
"You are not your own property, then; you have been bought at a price. So use your body for the glory of God."

And so, to wrap this up, when my child approached me about a belly button piercing I initially took the easy road out by telling her, No, your daddy would have a fit!"

When she persisted in questioning, I firmly but calmly told her, "Sometimes children have to listen to their parents just because. It comes down to obedience or lack thereof and too many children are openly defiant and obey no one. As long as you live with us and are our responsibility, you need to be obedient and respect our decisions."

I hope she remembers that disobedience is what caused Adam and Eve so much grief. Probably, in a couple of years, I'll get another free meal when she invites me to go on a dinner date with her. Dinner dates with one's child(ren) are sure ways of keeping communication open and their hearts receptive. Parents, just don't reaction negatively to your young people. When you do that you've already lost half the battle and get no respect at the end of the war.

[Spoken by a parent in the trenches who may loose the battle before we reach the end but who doesn't mind getting her boots muddy alongside of you...if that holds any ink at all. ;-)}

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