Fifty Grades of Clay

I don’t know about you, but I liked getting good grades in school.  I like grade-A beef.  When we got a new roof after the wind storm of 2011, we got the highest grade shingles.  I like high-grade tires and leather shoes of a high grade.  Our kids like getting A’s and freak out at the thought of a B.  Truth is, everything is better when it is of a higher quality, or higher grade.  Think of cotton sheets, lipstick, and even paper towels. 

I guess there is a way to tell the higher quality cashmere from the lesser quality cashmere.  For lay people like me, it’s because the higher the grade, the softer it is, and the less likely it is to pill.   I can tell if clothing is well made, just by turning the garment inside out and inspecting the seams, looking at how the buttons are sewn on, and how the hem has been done.  Was the fabric cut on the bias when it shouldn’t have been?  The workmanship of a garment is important to the function of the garment and the value of the garment.  If it is made poorly, it will fit badly, maybe hang the wrong way, and won’t last.  I don’t like wasting money on cheap clothes because they tend to fall apart and make me feel like I just flushed money down the toilet. 

This weekend I took my daughter dress shopping.  We had heard about a boutique selling modest, lady-like dresses for a good price and so we were excited.  Then we found out the dresses on sale were seconds, or had some sort of flaw.  Dresses normally around $150 were $28.  I was suddenly suspicious.  We had just driven 30 minutes for this sale and now I had to inspect every seam and buttonhole?  We each found a few dresses and tried them on.  There were several women there, waiting for a turn in the two dressing rooms they had, speaking loudly outside the curtain, being quite rude, I thought, and seeming to rush me as I labored to try on these dresses.  I kind of felt pressured to get at least one, since I had driven all that way.  I quickly narrowed it to two.  The others had flaws that were obvious to the eye and so I left them on the hangers.  I was excited to find two dresses that looked like they were constructed without any major flaws.  Would it justify $28?  My daughter also found two dresses that looked gorgeous on her and we decided to get them and go home so my girlie could go skiing. 

The next day, yesterday, I wore my  new black dress to church.  It was horrible.  As soon as I sat down I could see the problem.  The dress was not cut out properly and so it hung strangely.  It also had a decorative placket on the bodice that was sewn onto the dress in a weird way and on my body, it quickly became all bunched up and looked ridiculous.  This had not been apparent until I was sitting down.  When I try things on before buying, I always sit down and make sure things look good from that angle, that things aren’t too short, and don’t become odd or scary in a chair.  The dressing room did not have any chairs so I could not do this.  Needless to say, I obsessed with the stupid dress for three hours at church, silently debating to myself whether or not I should go home and change.  I also obsessed about how I could possibly fix it myself, or should I just throw it in the trash when I got home?  Not a good way to spend church.  I was angry with myself for breaking my rule of buying cheap clothing.  It never satisfies.  I would rather have fewer things of a higher quality, than a closetful of trendy pieces of, well, I am going to say it—crap.

This morning, like I always do after our kids and my husband have left for school and work, I turned on the Today Show as background noise while doing the breakfast dishes, starting the laundry, and going over my calendar.  To my horror, all the excitement during that half hour was centered on a new movie, based on a book, that is set to open Valentine’s Day weekend, which is in less than 2 weeks.  The immoral story, “Fifty Shades of Grey.”  I will say right now that I have not read these books and will not see the movie.  I have higher standards than that.  The books have been called “mommy porn.”  I’m a mommy, but I don’t watch or read porn.  Apparently, we live in a sick, messed-up world if this book sold as many copies as Natalie Morales said.  We’re also ready to be struck down as a nation if it’s true that sales of rope and cable ties skyrocketed after this book came out.  Really, people?!  And, if we listen to the Today Show hosts, they are leading the way in being completely and honestly un-embarrassed to admit that, not only have they read the books, but are eagerly awaiting the opening of the movie.  ????  I’m really glad I don’t look to those morning hosts as my heroes or inspiration to the way I lead my life, seeing as they always seem to disappoint. 

I will just say it.  I am sick and tired of marriage, true love, fidelity, chastity, virtue, and family being made to look provincial and outdated.  I am so darn tired of Hollywood telling people what is cool and fashionable.  I’m bone tired of the attacks on the family and marriage and how it is only so very rarely that a movie actually portrays a man and woman as being happily married, with children.  Just because the rest of the world has it all screwed up, doesn’t mean we have to listen!  Just because other people are reading “mommy porn” and buying ropes doesn’t mean we have to!  I don’t know about you, but ropes and cable ties don’t exactly sound like love to me.  It sounds terrifyingly scary!  It pretty much screams, r-a-p-e!    Kind of like a murder scene without the murder?  Kind of like, hell on earth?  I will even say that if my husband came home with rope and cable ties, I would run out the front door and call 911!

Love, true love, is chaste.  It is virtuous.  It is NOT filthy, degrading, scary, dark, or twisted.  It is beautiful, lovely, joyful, warm, safe, and heavenly.  I am so grateful that God has given us the ability to express ourselves physically to our spouses.  I think we need to remember that the whole purpose of sex is to make a family and keep a family.  When we get married, it is a serious, forever commitment:  to begin a family, centered on Christ.  This requires us to put off desires and physical appetites and try to become more like God.  We are taught that “the natural man is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19).  We can’t become like God, or have hope to live with Him again, if we act like a bunch of animals.  Marriage is ordained of God.  The family is ordained of God.  The power used to create such a family and a marriage is ordained of God.  It is God-given power to create.  It is not to be wielded carelessly, with rope and cable ties, with anyone you think looks “hot.”  It is to be used to bind  husband and wife together, to make us closer, to help us express beautiful love and trust, respect and caring, for each other, and no one else.  Marriage is to last forever, between two people.  And, sometimes because of age or illness, injury, or accident, two people who really love each other can no longer express their love in this physical way, but it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other.  Maybe in those circumstances, a couple’s love becomes even more holy because it is all about the spiritual and emotional connections.  This worldly, stupid ideal that monogamy isn’t humanly possible, or two people can’t possibly be together for a lifetime, or we all grow and change and need to experience different people, is nothing but a giant pile of CRAP! 

The family is falling apart.  Marriage is out of style.  I wonder why.  Because people are listening to this garbage instead of listening to God.  I don’t care what your faith is—if you are a person of faith, you know I’m right.  God doesn’t want it this way!  In fact, I know it makes Him sad to see his children act this way.  He wants desperately for us to be happy and He knows that the best way we can be happy is to belong to a FAMILY, with a mother and a father who are married, who are committed to each other, and each other only, for FOREVER, and thereby are committed to their children, made with the beautiful God-given power of procreation, for FOREVER.  There is safety in this!  Children are happier and feel safer and are more successful when they come from this kind of a home.  Couples are able to overcome hardship and trials together when they are bound to each other in this way.  If people of faith would stand up, together, and say, I am not going to participate in this garbage being thrown at me by ignorant, rebellious, self-important famous people!  I am going to listen to God and his servants.  I am going to take my cues from the scriptures, from the teachings of the prophets, and not from “the world.”  There is power in numbers, people.  We need to stand up for what is right and true and chaste and benevolent.   

Please do not be tempted to see this horrible movie.  And if you have read these filthy books and subscribed to their ideas of “love,” throw them in the trash where they belong and pick up the word of God instead.  Or, if you don’t want to read the scriptures, read something else, that is clean.  There are plenty of clean, wholesome works of literature to read.  If you would like a list of my favorites, I will be happy to give recommendations.  The point is this.  There are plenty of things in this world that are “lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy, and of good report,” so let us “seek after these things.”  We don’t have to follow the world’s standard to be happy, or cool, or popular.  I think the best thing we could do as people of faith is to openly, unapologetically stand up to all that is disrespectful of marriage and family. 

In Isaiah 64:8 it says:  “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” 

What this says to me is this:  God loves us all.  He made us, in fact.  We are created in His image.  We are his masterpieces.  His creations.  He is proud of us and loves us all.  We are all different and beautiful in unique ways.  But, we are made in the image of God.  That means we are God-like, that we are god-ly, that we have potential to be like God.  But, we also have been given our agency, to choose, to decide.  This is a wonderful blessing, but we have a responsibility–yes, a responsibility, to use it wisely.  I really don’t believe God gave us agency without hope that we would use it to try to become like Him.  We have our agency to make choices, but we must live with the consequences of those choices. 

My question to us is this:  What grade of clay will I choose to be?  Will I be moldable and teachable?  Will I refuse to yield to what God asks me to be, what He needs me to be, and crack and shatter all over the floor?  Will I be humble enough to do what He has asked me to do so that I can become the lovely, glorious vase with a gentle shape and a beautiful color?  The world wants to tell us what we should be, but that is not in harmony with what God has already promised us WE ALREADY ARE.  We can have all the blessings He waits so eagerly to give us, if, we choose to be humble enough to let Him shape us and mold us.  We do this by being obedient to His laws instead of listening to the counsel of men. 

The reason I am so concerned about the impact this book and movie are having on our culture is this:  If every person of faith was doing what they knew to be right, this book would not have sold so many copies and it would not be anticipating making so much money at the box office.  Maybe you can keep your bishop or pastor from knowing you read the books, or maybe you’re excited about the movie and will tell everyone on social media.  The truth is that God knows if you read those books in secret or on the subway.  And he cried if you did.  Because he wants something better for you than the crap in those stories.  He wants you to feel loved and respected, safe and clean, whole and cherished, beautiful and angelic.  And you can NEVER feel like that while tied up with rope and cable ties, even if it’s only in your imagination.  Not ever.  Let us choose to be a higher grade of clay.  It is by our choices that we make ourselves a lower grade of clay. 

I unpicked the black dress and will attempt today to fix it.  I’m not sure if I can or not.  I will see.  But, it wasn’t worth the $28.  I already own beautiful, well-made, high-grade dresses and I didn’t need another one.  It isn’t worth the headache it has caused to save a little money on a dress.  Next time I am tempted to buy something of lower grade, I will remember one can never cut corners and expect excellent results.  Because I know who I am.  I am a daughter of a King, who is God, and because of this royal heritage, I cannot afford to participate in anything that will cheapen me or His legacy.  I have made promises to Him, to my husband and children, and I want to keep them.  I need to be a higher grade of clay, the glorious, ultimate form of clay possible, because that is how He made me.  If I take His hand and follow his plan, I can be Fifty times the highest Grade of Clay.  That is my goal.  What is yours?

As a reminder, I love the quote from Billy Graham:  “My home is in heaven.  I’m just traveling through this world.”

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