This is republished from the blog So Totally in Love by Lorissa with her permission. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Several summers ago, during our family vacation, we took our kids to our hotel’s outdoor swimming pool for a few hours. While the kids were splashing in the water, I couldn’t help but notice a young teenage girl (maybe 14-15 years old) sunbathing on a nearby lounge chair while reading 50 Shades of Grey.
Immediately my heart sank as I began to ponder the influence that this book would have on this young girls impressionable heart and mind. At one point she got up for a few minutes, and I noticed that she left the book and towel on her chair. I remember looking around wondering if anyone would notice if I went over and secretly stole her book so that I could properly dispose of it (by burning it of course). I decided that might not be the best idea. When she returned, the youth minister in me wanted so badly to go over and have a conversation with her about it. Once again, I talked myself out of it. I was concerned about how awkward that conversation might come across, plus (trying to justifying my omission) I reminded myself that I was on vacation and needed to remain present to my own children.
However, there have been countless times that I have replayed in my mind what I wish I had said to that girl, if only I had been courageous enough to do so. And now as the days count down to the release of the movie, I cannot help but replay in my mind how I wish that conversation had gone. I imagine it going something like this.
“Hello, my name is Lorissa and I am on vacation with my family. However, I work as a full time youth minister. I love my job because I get to work with teenagers with whom I care deeply about. I couldn’t help but notice the book you are reading and as someone who cares for the emotional and spiritual well being of young people, I was hoping that I could share with you some of my thoughts and feelings about this book. (Now in my imaginary world, I believe that she would gladly welcome my insights – so I continue).
“I could share with you how I’m concerned about the glorified violence towards women that is played out in this book or it’s overly sexualized content or how I’ve heard that it lacks in it’s literary substance, but I’ll spare you my thoughts on those things. What bothers me the most about this book, is that millions of women (and the media) claim that it’s a great love story. Undoubtedly, there may be a warped sense of emotional attachment that unfolds between the main characters in this book, however, I feel that I can speak with authority when I say, that this story has nothing to do with love. A man who truly loves a woman would never manipulate her into signing a contract so that he can strip her of her purity and dignity in order to fulfill his violent and degrading sexual desires. This is NOT love. My biggest concern is that those who read this book may in some way, even subconsciously, begin to believe that the actions that take place within it’s pages are somehow an expression of…..love.”
Then I would direct her attention to my husband and kids across the pool. “See that man over there, the one who is throwing those boys into the pool? That is my husband. I’d like to take a few moments to share with you about our own love story, and especially how he treats me. You see, we’ve been married for 10 years and we have five beautiful children. He is an amazing man and I’ve created my my own version of ’50 Shades of LOVE’ that I’d like to share with you.” (For lengths sake I’ve condensed my list down to 10).
#1. His LOVE is chivalrous: My husband opens doors for me, gives me his jacket when I’m cold, and he doesn’t allow me carry heavy objects, etc. In doing these things he never makes me feel as though I am inferior or weak because I am a woman. On the contrary, he makes me feel that because I am a woman and especially his wife, that I am worthy of great care and respect. Because of him, I feel lifted up and honoured.
#2. His LOVE protects: My husband is very serious about protecting both our children and me. He takes this role seriously and goes to great lengths to ensure that we are protected in all ways; physically, emotionally and spiritually. He is continually checking and re-checking the locks on all our doors and windows, researching and buying the safest of vehicles, continually being aware of our surroundings and making sure that there are passwords on our TV’s/computers so that our children are not exposed to things that might harm them. Because of him, I have a strong sense of security in my life; which is an incredible gift in this very uncertain world.
#3. His LOVE builds me up. As a woman there are days in which I struggle with my self-image and self-esteem. After having five children (and another on the way), I’ve grappled with my own body image and sadly there are days in which I don’t particularly like my own reflection in the mirror. Unfortunately at times I compare myself to others and thus become discouraged with my own gifts and talents (or what I feel is a lack there of). There have been times in our marriage that I’ve battled with depression and have given in to the sound of my own voice tearing myself down. However, he knows me all too well. He reads me perfectly. On a daily basis he uses his voice of affirmation to drown out the negatives ones that surface from time-to-time. He builds me up and tells me how beautiful I am. He goes to great lengths to use the most detailed of words to reminds me of my talents and the ways in which God is using me to touch the lives of others. He is relentless in his pursuit of building me up and helps me to see the great things in myself that he somehow sees in me.
#4. His LOVE is sacrificial. Most often he is the one that wakes up in the middle of the night when one of our children isn’t feeling well, needs a diaper changed or needs to be comforted. He does this so that I can continue to sleep soundly. He wakes up early with the kids on the weekends and makes breakfast so that I can sleep-in. He goes out of his way to do things to make my life easier. Whether it’s helping out around the house or taking the kids somewhere for a few hours so that I can have some time to myself, I continually find myself in awe at both the big and small things that he does for me and others.
#5. Our LOVE is life-giving. Because our intimacy is open to life and God’s desires for our marriage, I never feel used or objectified by my husband. In fact, because we practice Natural Family Planning and abstinence is sometimes a part of, I recognize the ways in which my husband lays down his life sacrificially for me in this regard. He places my well being before his own needs. He does not give in to lust, he rejects pornography and the objectification of women and he has a significant respect for intimacy within marriage and God’s extraordinary design for it.
#6. He SINGS: A lot. He sings to me, he sings to our children, he sings in the shower and I am certain that he sings when no one is around. The sound of his singing fills our house with immeasurable joy.
He also likes to dance and I truly cannot tell you how attractive I find my husband when I watch him sweep our little girl off her feet and dance in our foyer with her. Her smile lights up the room as he sings to her while gliding back and forth making her feel like the little princess she is. He even dressed up like Kistoff (from Frozen) this Halloween, just for her. It’s these little things that make me crazy about him.
#7. He keeps his commitments: One of my husband’s deepest convictions is to follow through with his commitments. When he tells someone that he is going to do something, I know that it would take an act of nature to keep him from doing so. Because of this, I know that he takes his commitment to our marriage very seriously. He repeats his wedding vows to me on a regular basis and he goes out of his way to make sure I know that our marriage, our vocation, is his number one priority.
#8. He is a man of God and a man of prayer: His life is a witness to Christ. He is most at peace when he is at mass or in prayer and he is hungry for the Word of God and the Truths of our Faith. His natural response to nearly everything is prayer. When he proposed to me, he said these words, “Lorissa, I love you. I want to spend my life helping you get to heaven and I want to be a Saint with you someday. Will you marry me?” Each day, he lives out these words and he is truly my spiritual leader. He guides me and our children towards holiness and he cares deeply about our souls. He leads by example and I notice how our children watch and follow his lead. My boys want to be just like him in so many ways and our daughter thinks he is the greatest thing ever! I agree.
#9. He LOVES to make me laugh: Sometimes life can be so serious, intense and even at times marked with suffering. My husband takes it upon himself to make life a little lighter. He makes me laugh (even when I don’t feel like laughing). He tries to be creative and he does the craziest of things to make our lives fun, spontaneous and memorable.
#10. He is romantic. Whether it’s surprising me with an over-the-top date night, bringing me breakfast in bed, or lining our hallway with Hershey’s Kisses that lead to a bouquet of roses on our anniversary, he never ceases to amaze me with the extent that he goes to in being romantic and thoughtful.
Now, I realize that our relationship may not live up to Hollywood’s standards when it comes to glamorous or sexy. It’s also not perfect and often times it is steeped with opportunities for growth and forgiveness. But like so many other couples, I believe our marriage is one that reflects what love is truly about; sacrifice, laughter, honor, respect, romance, commitment, prayer and faithfulness.
These are the things about love that I wish I had shared with that young girl that day. I wish I could have painter for her a more authentic image of love – the kind that our hearts truly long for, as opposed to the false and twisted version that is so glorified in 50 Shades. This is ultimately the message that I wish I could share with all young women (and even older women). That we should never settle for the counterfeit version of love in which lust drives people to use, manipulate and objectify one another for their own desires.
Real love does exist. It’s truest identity can be found when one looks at a crucifix and sees Him, Love in the flesh pouring Himself out for His beloved (us). From Him, love flows and flourishes in the hearts of men and woman and becomes manifested in the world around us. Love is what we dream about from the time we are children, it’s what pushes our hearts to pursue what is good and beautiful and it gives us hope to go on. It has the power to forgive, to heal and to make the world a better place. Let us never lose sight of it truest meaning or tarnish it’s splendor. Let us desire and work relentlessly for friendships, relationships and marriages in which love brings forth light, bears life and reflects the deep and beautiful mystery of it’s Creator. Let us also remember, especially in the coming days, that of the many beautiful and wonderful things that love is……it most certainly is never grey.