So now I’ve got the pressure to write something each and every day for two weeks, right out in the open in front of everybody. It’s bad enough feeling like you have to be entertaining and somewhat profound, but on top of that the Barclay Press people expect us to be spiritually enlightening and encouraging, too! Might be just a tad too much pressure. So, I’ll make a commitment to simply share what I’ve been thinking about, letting God nudge me in the process.
And if the pressure of writing profundity isn’t enough, I guess that it’s also my job as a father of three girls to help them learn to take risks and pursue their dreams in life. I’m reading “Growing Strong Daughters: Encouraging Girls to Become All They’re Meant to Be” (Lisa Graham McMinn), which is quite helpful and challenging. But it’s getting me all scared again, scared like when I read “Reviving Ophelia : Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls” (Mary Pipher). It’s not a safe world, and that’s one thing to have to deal with for myself. But then to think of the pressure our culture (and I include Christian culture in the pressure cooker), the pressure on my girls to hide their creativity, to focus on unattainable physical beauty, and to live responsively rather than actively… I just get plain old freaked out and scared.
Part of the time I watched the Super Bowl today, one of my daughters sat on my lap. We were with friends, and the kids were more focused on the commercials than the game. They’d heard us talking about how much money was spent to advertise during the Super Bowl, and how companies tried to bring out the best commercials with so many people watching. And in the first commercial break, I saw with new eyes how hard this battle will be for my girls as they grow up. The first commercial was telling us that if guys drink Diet Pepsi, every beautiful babe in the borough will want you. The second commercial was a guy drinking a beer and making wishes to be with two beautiful women on a tropical island, which of course is granted (because the beer is also Aladdin’s lamp, I assume). And the women are stunningly beautiful, unattainably beautiful for anyone who actually, you know, EATS. If that wasn’t bad enough, the punch line of the commercial is that these women are also the horrible stereotype of a nagging woman who want the guy to paint the hut, take out the garbage, blah, blah, blah… and we go back to the guy drinking beer, who decides he’s got to start wishing for something else. Message: women are only valuable if they’re beautiful and silent, useful only to men if they are a mannequin brought (barely) to life.
Yes, I can see the need to help my girls have an alternate picture, to take the risk of throwing off a value system that is everywhere and pursue something truly creative and Godly in themselves. Lisa McMinn keeps coming back to the idea of women and men as co-stewards of creation, joining God in the ordering and creative work of the world.
I’ve begun making a mental list of the kinds of people and stories that inspire me to take risks, to strive for excellence, to throw off cultural mediocrity. At folklore.org, there’s the story of the creation of the Macintosh computer, and how a small group of people gave their lifeblood to create something insanely great that would revolutionize the world. There’s the amazing artisans who brought the Lord of the Rings movies to life with unbelievable attention to detail. There’s Coach K and the Duke Basketball team and their relentless pursuit of perfection. They all inspire me to find MY arena, the area where God is calling me to pursue excellence. But it’s kind of a geeky, boyish list, isn’t it? I’d love to hear from some of you who are women what things inspire you to pursue excellence, for my girls’ sakes.
But for now, I’ve taken one small, practical step to deal with my fear of the big bad world. Praying with my daughter Natalie (Talli), I told her I thought it would be great if she began telling God one or two of her dreams, and asking him to shape those dreams and help her achieve them. When I heard her telling God of her desire to write and illustrate a book someday, I was a little less scared.