An imperfect rose

My daughter goes to a Baptist youth group* on a Friday night because it’s a chance to spend time with her good friend from primary school who goes to a different high school. Each week when I pick her up from the church I ask how the night went, did she have fun and what was discussed. We then talk about how the ideas that were explored can be understood in the light of the way we understand the world to work, I quite like that this means we are talking regularly about what it means to be a good person and to how live well and all that good stuff.

Tonight, however, I could not find anything in the message that Caitlin relayed to me that made sense. They’d been told a story about someone having a beautiful perfect rose in their possession and then that rose being handed around to many many people and by the time it came back to the owner it was damaged, dirty and worn out and no longer perfect or beautiful. All of which was a preamble to the idea that when you are born you are perfect and beautiful and life wears you out and makes you grubby and leaves you damaged etc and isn’t it wonderful that at the end of all that there is still someone (Jesus) who wants and loves you. Which presumably is remarkable because one assumes that no other person wants the damaged, dirty and worn out rose.

Putting aside the remarkable similarity of the rose story to abstinence only sex ed stories I’ve seen, I reject the idea that life inevitably makes us less than, damaged, diminished and unloveable. Life is growth and enrichment and the accumulation of a rich tapestry of experience. Life is relationships, love, friendship. Life is learning and teaching, discovery and exploration. Life can be hardship and misery as well as abundance and joy. What it is not is some kind of ruination of perfection.

This was not a message I ever came across in my years growing up in the Uniting Church, I find it quite bizarre and off-putting that my 12 year old and her friends are being invited to think of themselves as well on the path to being damaged, dirty and unwanted.

*My answer to the slightly quizzical look now on your face and the “but aren’t you an atheist?” question is that it’s her choice (she identifies as atheist at present) and we are not afraid of ideas.

14 Responses to “An imperfect rose”

  1. Dina says:

    The rose story reminds me of the season finale of The Simpsons this year. I think it’s pretty much saying that if you have sex with many people, you’re a slut.

    I can’t think of a positive way to spin the story. Maybe it will come to me later.

    I prefer your way of looking at life….love and experiences make us better, not worse.

  2. Deborah says:

    It certainly sounds like the set-up for abstinence ed. Preparing the ground, maybe.

    I agree – life is for living, not for keeping pure and pristine. Great post, Mim.

  3. Ariane says:

    What a depressing world view, and also, very bizarre. Babies are perfect? Really? Babies are useless. I just can’t even slightly reconcile the idea that as we grow from useless, incapable babies to old, capable, emotionally mature and wiser people, we are diminishing.

    And frankly, I can’t think of many states of being grubbier than a baby.

    Wow, just wow.

  4. Pen says:

    Sounds like a good dose of Philip Pullman is in order. I think it’s exactly that message that he rails against in HIs Dark Materials.

  5. Unknown Mami says:

    I’m not afraid of ideas either, but I don’t like that rose analogy. It doesn’t even make sense.

  6. Toni says:

    What a strange thing to have told the children. Like you, Mim, I grew up in the church and I never heard anything like that. Yeah that Jesus wants you if you end up as described but I don’t think we are all heading down that path. How depressing for kids to be told that is how they are going to end up, loved or not.

  7. Jen D says:

    I thought it totally sounded like a slut-shaming exercise too. It seems awfully negative to me. I went to youth group and was in Girls Brigade and was even a youth group leader at one point and I don’t recall ever hearing anything so depressing šŸ™ What did Caitlin think of it?

    • mimbles says:

      She wasn’t too impressed, though I have to admit I sort of started ranting about how ridiculous it was before she’d had much chance to say anything!

  8. hyperion says:

    I do recall (from 14 years of catholic schooling) a similar kind of story. However in that particular religion class, a number of us rejected the idea, speaking of how much more we knew (hahaha, 13 years old!) at that point than we had years before. The discussion was encouraged and we ended up coming up with the conclusion that while experience may sometimes knock or wear us down, in the end it makes us what we are. Used in that context, the story had a positive outcome. But in the absence of discussion and dissent, it is a truely depressing and awful message.

    Better the pristine bear on the shelf than the one-eyed, bald, battered teddy bear? I’ll take the battered teddy bear every time, grease stains and all.

  9. sheila says:

    Well I’ll just note that I LOVE the look of your blog! I’ve come over before through a specific link and never noticed how incredibly cool the layout is! Unless you just re-did the whole look in which case never mind, lol.
    But I LOVE the layout, VERY unique!

  10. Nat says:

    Like others – sounds like a “have sex with everyone” type story. Self respect is one thing. But I don’t think it needs to be taught like this.

    Nat

  11. Nat says:

    Oh. And another thought. I’m where I am and I’m the way I am because this is where I’m meant to be as far as I’m concerned. Overstuffed, stitches coming undone, and my fabric is definitely well worn in places. It makes me who I am.

  12. mimbles says:

    Thank you all for your thoughtful comments, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a bit off!

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