DISCLAIMER: I am a MA in Writing Student at Rowan University who has recently had the opportunity to study under Professor Atwood. The following review may be biased.
When I saw that I would be required to read MC Atwood’s debut young adult novel, The Devils You Know for my Seminar II class this semester as part of my MA in Writing program at Rowan University, I was very excited. Last fall I had a wonderful experience studying under Professor Atwood by taking her Writing Genre Fiction course. Atwood is hilarious and one of the kindest individuals I’ve ever met. She is also seriously talented as both a writer and an editor.
The Devils You Know was a real pleasure to read. I love that while the book is Atwood’s favorite genre – horror – it is also still young adult. While terrifying, it was also extremely relatable. This novel is about more than a creepy haunted house with scary clowns and dolls (seriously…so many dolls…). It’s a story about friendship and finding yourself in the midst of the terror known as high school.
In the beginning of the novel, Paul, Violet, Dylan, Ashley, and Gretchen don’t know each other very well for the most part. Paul is seen as being the cool black guy that everyone loves. Violet is the quiet “nice” girl that no one knows very well, but Paul has a crush on, and she is beginning to develop feelings for as well. Dylan tries a little too hard to be a bad ass and I can really see him as being a bit of a punk rocker/skater kid. Ashley is the stuck up, rich, right-winged Republican princess that owns the school and absolutely HATES Gretchen (the feeling appears to be mutual), and Gretchen is Dylan’s partner whom is every bit as weird and tough as he is.
The quintent rarely ever crosses paths and most certainly wouldn’t call each other friends. However, when the opportunity to visit the legendary Boulder House on a class field trip presents itself, all five members of the group sign up and find themselves forced to not only share in the same space and experiences, but to also work together as a team and get to REALLY know the truth about each other. Sometimes the truth can be completely alarming and sometimes you think you know someone (as is the case of Dylan and Gretchen), but later realize you don’t know that person at all.
For instance – who would’ve guessed that Paul likes to wear tights and role play during medieval events? Nice girls finish last…and get taken advantage of as seen by the way Mr. Rhinehart takes advantage of Violet by having an affair with her the day she turns 18. Dylan is not actually Dylan at all…he’s John Michael…and despite his foul mouth and constant use of the word “yo”, he’s not as tough as he wants people to think he is. He’s actually a very conservative Christian who attends church every week with his rich parents. On the other end of the spectrum, Ashley isn’t the conservative Christian she wants everyone to believe she is. In fact, she’s gay and she’s trying everything to hide her true identity from everyone, especially her Republican parents. After all, her father IS a well-known senator who HATES anyone that’s not straight. If he knew the truth about her it would destroy him and the rest of her family. What’s worst – she doesn’t hate Gretchen at all. In fact, she’s in love with her. As for Gretchen? She’s tough because she has to be, not because she wants to be. Her family is on food stamps and she makes her own clothes because she has no choice. Her mother is ill and the family constantly struggles with money.
In order to survive the house and everything in it – from demonic angels to creepy evil dolls to scary clowns to even whales and everything in between, the quintent must work together. However, when the quintent’s secrets are revealed to one another, they all feel such a strong sense of shame that they want to go through the house alone. However, they later learn that while they each have their own secrets, it doesn’t make them less and if anything, knowing the truth about who they are is what will not only bring them closer together, but also force them to want to stick together to support each other and to make it out of the house alive and beyond the house, to make it through high school alive, too.
Some of the novel’s strengths lie in the extreme attention to details, particularly with the imagery and descriptions of the house. It’s a very unique and clever book that while sticking to the main conventions of the horror genre, doesn’t fall into the trap of cliches. For example: there’s an entire room dedicated to whales and aquatic lives. I’ve never been afraid of whales and squids/octapuses, but I am now! I also really appreciated the way the novel took the very successful risk of having multiple narrators/points of views. Each chapter was told by a different character – Ashley, Gretchen, Dylan, Violet, and/or Paul. This allowed the reader to get up close and personal with all of the characters. Atwood did a great job of breaking them all down and creating an equal balance between each character’s voice so it never felt like you had too much of one character and not enough of another character. It also never got too confusing or overwhelming; five seemed like the perfect number.
So why four stars and not five? While I really enjoyed this book and struggled to put it down, it wasn’t perfect. There were still some things that bothered me with this book. One of the main things I didn’t like was Dylan’s character. He really annoyed me. I didn’t like his dialogue and I had trouble believing that’s how he would actually talk. I think there was an instance in the beginning where he said something along the lines of “I remembered to turn my swag on” which made me cringe. Do people even use the term “swag” anymore? I thought that died around 2008. “Fuck-a-doodle-doo” also sounded really awkward to me. I could believe him saying it once or twice, but constantly throughout the book? And no one ever comments on how weird it sounds? I had trouble buying it. Lastly, by the end of the book I was really annoyed by his constant use of the word “yo”. I think he said it but I feel like that would be something he’d say in the beginning of a sentence, not the end and reading it vs. hearing it – it reads kind of awkwardly and annoyed me as a reader. Lastly – his name is something completely different than what everyone calls him and no one knew this? I feel like the school would at least have his legal name down and probably call him by it on the first day of class. I just didn’t buy that as being his secret.
Also, reading this as a conservative Christian, I realize I’m a little biased but I did take some issues with the content of the novel. At times I felt like I was being attacked based on my views and like I was supposed to apologize or feel bad about being a conservative, Republican, Christian. I go to church every week the way Dylan/John Michael did – I don’t think that’s a “bad” thing in itself.
Lastly, demonic/fallen angels? The angels which are typically symbols for good, were made into symbols for evil. I wasn’t really okay with that imagery. I felt like the idea of Christianity throughout the novel was being shown in a negative light. Some of the jabs against Christianity/Republicans (such as the subtle George Bush reference…) felt a little over-done/cheap. I also thought of the impact/influence they may have on the novel’s target teenage audience which made me a little uncomfortable.
But overall I did really like this novel. It was very well researched, well written, and engaging. 4 out of 5 stars.
I’ve always loved horror movies, but they very rarely scare me. I don’t know if it’s because I have a sick sense of humor or because I was raised to be tough or because so many horror movies are not well done (probably a combination of all three of these factors), but I usually find horror movies to be hilarious. Whenever I see a monster come out to attack their next victim or a character gets their head chopped off or something along those lines, I can’t help but laugh. I find most horror movies to be on the same level as comedies as far as humor is concerned…
With that being said, there is one movie series that stands out as being the only series to ever actually completely freak me out and scare me: the Saw series. I never once laughed while watching the movies in this series. I was completely freaked out, and yet I could not stop watching them. I watched the entire series on Netflix within about two days’ time. Since these movies left such a strong impact on me, it made sense for me to re-watch the original Saw film and analyze it in light of what I’ve learned in class about the horror genre so I could see just what it is that makes these movies so appealing and how I might choose to apply these principles to my own writing.
The first element that works well in this film is the fact that it’s extremely fast-paced. The movie opens with two men, Dr. Lawrence Gordon and a man that simply goes by “Adam” as being locked into a very dirty, almost archaic bathroom together. There is also a dead, bloodied body lying on the floor. Adam and Dr. Gordon have no memory of how they got there and they are also chained to the wall unable to escape. At first they also do not know how the man was killed or what happened to him. The last thing that Dr. Gordon remembers is going to work the night before and the last thing that Adam remembers was going to sleep the night before. This is scary because the characters were just living ordinary, regular lives and now they are in a very unordinary environment. It makes us think it could happen to us, too. There is also a bit of the fear of the unknown because Dr. Gordon and Adam don’t know how they got there or what’s going to happen next. Right away we as viewers know that something is drastically wrong and we are drawn in to the story because we want to know how they got there and how they might escape.
The entire story line and plot for the movie is also so expertly done. Many people would argue that Saw falls under the category of body horror, which I agree with since Dr. Gordon saws his foot off in an attempt to escape from his chains, Adam’s blood is poisoned, and Amanda has to solve a puzzle or risk having her jaw explode, but I’d also argue that this movie can also fall under the categories of police procedural and psychological horror. It’s police procedural because there is a mystery that must be solved throughout this movie. Detectives/police have been working on a case for a while now where a man known as “Jig Saw” has murdered and tortured several different individuals. His motive is that he wants to teach people to be appreciative of their lives. Jig Saw was recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that is slowly killing him. He is very angry and bitter by this news and doesn’t think that others deserve to live unless they can appreciate the beauty of life. For those who manage to survive Jig Saw’s cruel games of torture, their views on life are forever changed, which some could argue is for the better. Since they were so close to death, they realize how easily life can be taken from them so they gain a stronger appreciation of it.
Even though Jig Saw is a horrible person who brutally kills and/or tortures people, I find myself almost sympathizing with him and liking his games at times. The idea that people should be appreciative and grateful to be alive is something that few people would argue against; Jig Saw just goes about it in the wrong way. The film also falls under the category of psychological horror for this reason. It messes with our minds as viewers. Are we really sympathizing and feeling sorry for a mass murderer? Furthermore, the story messes with the minds of the main characters, Dr. Gordon and Adam by putting them up against each other. In order to live, someone must die. In Dr. Gordon’s case, he must kill Adam if he wishes to allow his wife and his daughter to live. In Adam’s case, he must murder Dr. Gordon’s wife and child if he wishes to live since he now has poison in his blood that will kill him at a designated time if he does not complete this task. The characters often have to consider morality and ethics and what’s more important or valuable – their own lives or the lives of others around them. They have to do extremely immoral things if they want to live, and sometimes they also have to do those things just so the people closest to them may live. These are difficult decisions for anyone to make, and they also don’t have time to think through their decisions. Time is of the essence; wasting just 1 minute could be the difference between life or death.
The main takeaways I got from this film that I could apply to my own writing is to get to the action quickly, and have a strong/unique story line that keeps the reader’s attention. The puzzles are disturbing but entertaining to watch because you want to see if the characters will be able to solve them in time and be sparred their lives. They also set the scene for each film after, allowing all of the films in the series to fit together nicely. In writing this would be a great strategy to use if you were planning to write a book series rather than just one stand-alone novel. The film also has several highly graphic scenes such as the opening scene where the characters are in complete isolation with the exception of each other’s’ company in a filthy bathroom, all of the blood from the dead/dying characters, and the scene where Amanda must violently mutilate a dead man’s body and remove his intestines in order to get the key to remove the device from her jaws before she is killed. In order to achieve the same or similar effects in writing I would need to include very strong details for the setting and use very strong descriptions so that my reader could “see” the horror in each scene.
Wow, long time, no post. Am I right? I apologize for being so quiet on here lately. My initial plan was to dedicate much of my summer to get back into blogging and updating my marketing and deaf awareness social accounts, but then I ended up going all over Pennsylvania and spending a lot of time in Chicago and investing more time into studying and before I knew it summer was over and none of those goals got accomplished. But hey, I’m here now and that’s something, right?
Anyways, guys – we need to talk about Coraline.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Coraline it is a really creepy and really really really freaking weird children’s novel written by Neil Gaiman. This book was published in 2002 and became a movie a few years later (I’m not sure when exactly but I want to say the movie came out around 2007…does that sound about right?)
I was assigned to read this book for my Seminar I course this semester. When I found out it was going to be my required reading I went and watched the movie on Netflix right away. I have heard a lot about the movie and have been meaning to watch it for some time. On the surface, Coraline reminded me a lot of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, two movies I always really loved. Now that I know that Coraline had many of the same producers and masterminds that those other movies had, it makes a lot of sense.
I thought the movie was interested. I liked it and couldn’t stop watching it, but I also thought it was one of the weirdest, creepiest movies I’ve ever seen in my life. I love horror movies but the only ones that ever really did a good job of scaring me are the Saw movies. I found most other horror movies to be completely comical.
Coraline was scarier to me than any of the Saw movies were.
…And the book was better than the movie but still somehow even more horrifying to me. I don’t know if I loved it or hated it. I thought it was super freaking weird, but at the same time I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t have to have the book read for class until September 20th. Last night was probably the worst time I could’ve read it since I was running on about 3 or 4 hours of sleep total (isn’t grad school fun?) but I started reading it during my commute to work earlier in the day and I couldn’t put it down. Despite how tired I was, I couldn’t sleep not knowing what was going to happen to Coraline next. It’s been awhile since a book captivated me as much as this one did, so there’s no denying that despite my concerns about the book’s weirdness, it was extremely well written.
But, Mr. Gaiman, I have a few questions for you now, none of which were included in your little Q&A session for the book’s 10 year anniversary edition. Here are my questions:
1. Why in the world is this book considered a children’s book?
I have friends that have young kids who have seen the movie version of Coraline and love it. If you’re three or even five years old and can handle Coraline, more power to you because despite your young age, you are stronger than I am apparently. I would never tell my friends or anyone not to let their kids read or watch this movie. It’s so well crafted that I don’t think you should deny a child the right to watch the movie or read the book if they want to.
But, at the same time when I have kids of my own I don’t think this is ever going to exactly be one of my reading recommendations for them. I might even be the kind of mom who keeps her copy of it under lock and key and tries to shelter their kids from discovering it.
My reasoning has nothing at all to do with the book’s craft, but everything to do with the creepiness of this book. I was afraid this book would give me nightmares last night and I’m 27 years old. The book literally talks about an “other mother” and an “other father” and the mother is really evil and literally plucks kids’ eyeballs out and replaces them with buttons. Is it me or is this not horrifying? How many kids saw this movie or read the book and were suddenly petrified of their dolls afterwards? I mean I’m always kind of petrified of dolls – they are creepy to begin with, but after seeing Coraline I think I’d kill anyone who handed me a doll…
2. What kind of a relationship does Neil Gaiman have with his own parents?
I’m not trying to sound like Sigmund Freud or anything, but Neil Gaiman must have some serious mommy issues to write a book that is this messed up.
But while I think the other mother is much more evil and disturbing, I wouldn’t say the father is off the hook exactly.
What was Gaiman’s inspiration for making his characters like this and is it a positive or a negative portrayal? In the book’s reading guide it seems as though Gaiman wants his readers to connect with the idea of their parents not having time to play with them as kids. I think that is a common theme in children’s books, but Gaiman is going much deeper than that with his portrayal of Coraline’s parents here.
The other mother is completely evil and creepy. Did Gaiman have a rough childhood with his mother? Would his mother or has his mother ever caused harm to him perhaps in a way that she believed would be to his benefit (like how the other mother wants to love Coraline and give her a happy life, but at the expense of her eyeballs?).
Were Gaiman’s parents divorced? Did his mother steal him away from his father as a child (kind of like the idea of kidnapping presented throughout the text?) Did it break his spirit (kind of like the idea of how the other mother stole the children’s souls)? Was Gaiman’s mother evil and manipulative and abusive not only towards Gaiman, but towards his father as well? Was his father simply “whipped” and living in a “whatever your mother says goes” kind of world when Gaiman was a child? Coraline’s other father just seems way too absent and nonchalant and a stark contrast of the other mother in this novel. Even Coraline’s real parents seem to have some issues and tension between them where the mother seems to play a dominating role and her real father is just kind of there.
Or – did Gaiman have a great family life with very loving, perfect parents and perhaps he used that as the inspiration to show children that even though their parents might be busy they still love them and their real parents are better than any kind of substitute they could ever dream of, no matter how mice or similar other people may seem?
Either way, it definitely seems as though Gaiman’s own experiences with his parents could have influenced this book.
3. What is with all of the mice?
Just when you think Coraline couldn’t get any weirder – there is a freaking mouse circus. You can’t make this kind of stuff up. What kind of drugs was Gaiman on when he wrote this book? No, seriously.
It’s really weird, but at the same time this could potentially be brilliant.
Circuses have been in the news a lot over the past decade or so – the time of Coraline’s peak. One of the main reasons why people are so angry about circuses is due to the treatment of animals used. We all care about animals like elephants and tigers and seals and horses and lions which are often used in these circus shows – but what about mice and rats? Do they even count as being animals?
We slaughter these animals in mass quantities because we don’t think they matter. We seem them as being dirty, disgusting, diseased, evil, and not worthy of life. We perform clinical trials on them. We do all kinds of tests on them. If the rat or mouse dies in the process we don’t even grieve for them, we just simply take out the trash and go on with our lives.
This is where Gaiman is doing something really unique. Gaiman does what he does best and brings in the really freaking weird character of Mr. Bobo – most frequently referred to as “the man upstairs”. The man upstairs is training his mice and he seems them as being talented and kind of brilliant for their ability to perform music and hundreds or thousands of tricks. I don’t think anyone would argue that Mr. Bobo takes great care of his mice; he even talks about buying them new cheese to help them out a bit. How many other people would do this for mice or rats? I don’t know of anyone who would go through all of that for a rat. I know me personally if I see a mouse or a rat first off I’m grabbing my cat, Picasso, and making him kill the little menace, and that’s only if I feel like being nice that day.
I’m wondering if Gaiman chose to perhaps include the mice/rats in his book in this way to make a political statement on how we view animals and animals rights.
Or – is this something larger. Is it a political statement on how prejudice we are? How we view good and evil?
The latter statement seems like it may be a bit more accurate.
Because think of this. Most of us will look at a rat or a mouse as being evil, whether it does or does not actually bother us. Sure, a rat in the subway is probably filled with disease and if it bites us we’re probably going to get infected and die and that’s evil. But then there are still domesticated rats and mice that people actually keep as nice little house pets. Are those still evil?
And why is our first human instinct always to kill the rats and mice we found walking the streets? Why don’t we ever think to stop and pick up the animal or call animal control and to get them help and see if we can cure them of their diseases? We would do that for a dog or a chicken or any other animal. Why are rats and mice different?
And to further drag this point along. Let’s compare the mice to the other parents.
The mice – whom on normal non-Gaiman terms would be considered evil, filthy things, seem to represent something good, perhaps one of the only things that are good in this novel.
The other parents start off in the book as being good. We normally think of our mother and father as being loving, kind, and supportive of us. They are meant to protect us from all harm. Originally the other parents were supposed to be better versions of Coraline’s own real parents, but we soon found out that they actually weren’t as kind and loving and supportive as they seemed to be. They wouldn’t have protected Coraline or kept her safe. In fact, these two individuals we automatically assume are going to be a positive force in Coraline’s life are actually EVIL and a source of harm to Coraline and all whom they come into contact with.
That’s kind of an interesting little juxtaposition there, isn’t it?
4. Is Neil Gaiman wiccan or a witch or something?
Of all of the parts of the book, these were the elements that bothered me the most as a Christian. Gaiman seems to want to chalk it up as being just magic based on the reading guide and his answers to the questions in the Q&A for the 10th anniversary edition of Coraline but this is more than just Hansel and Gretel era-magic. I mean – tea leaves? Really? Miss Spink and Miss Forcible seem like true witches.
But are they evil? I think it’s debatable honestly. I don’t usually see them as being evil or bad the way you’d normally view a witch. This kind of goes back to the idea with the mice – something often seen as being evil is actually good.
But what is going on with those dogs? The images didn’t seem as strong in the book as they were in the movie, but they were equally as disturbing. They literally have a collection of dead dogs in their home. When their dogs get sick they don’t seem to really jump on helping them. I mean I know they take the dog to the vet and everything but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that they kind of WANTED the dogs to die so they could stuff them and grow their collection.
And doesn’t this kind of fit in with the theme of the dolls? Stuffed animals are like dolls right? It’s better to kill real, living things, to substitute them for stuffed items that can be whatever you want them to be or something along those lines? Creeeeeeeeeeeeepy, but it is what it is, right?
Also, who can forget that weird little song Coraline sings about be a “twitchy, witchy girl?”
Is Coraline the witch? Hmm…it’s possible.
5. Does Gaiman believe in God? How does Gaiman view God?
The whole magic and witchcraft stuff is only a small part of a larger whole in Coraline. He seems to be really commenting on bigger issues connecting back to religion and his views on God. I don’t think it’s any wonder that my Baptist friends aren’t all a big fan of this novel because these parts made me a little uncomfortable and these are some reasons why I may hesitate in recommending this book or movie to my future children one day.
First off, let’s talk about the other mother again. Who is she really? She is very evil almost like Satan, but I guess not that evil. Is she playing God? The novel does talk quite a bit about how the other mother created a world for the children and she’d create a world for Coraline if she’ll only agree to live with her. It explains how she could create something new every day so that Coraline would never be bored, but there is no outside because she hasn’t created that yet.
Christians believe that God created all things. We can have paradise in heaven if we only follow Christ and accept him in our heart. Coraline can have all things if she only allows her mother to sew buttons in her eyes and stay there forever. It’s different, but similiar, no?
Also let’s talk about those souls that the other mother is collecting from the children. This seems really really satanic to me. You always here of those sayings of “I sold my soul to the devil”, isn’t that exactly what these kids here have done? Are they in hell? It sure as heck doesn’t seem like they’re in heaven, that’s for sure.
I also want to mention that this doesn’t seem to be the first instance where Gaiman has commented about religion and God, for better or for worst. He has another novel for adults called American Gods. Now, I haven’t read it at all and have no idea what it’s about so I can’t really say anything other than this: it makes you wonder.
These are just five main questions I had after reading Coraline. Now that I’ve written them all out and analyzed this book in over 2600 words I can’t say that I am anywhere closer to knowing the answer to my questions. In fact, I’d argue that I have even MORE questions and I don’t even know if I liked the book or detested it.
To describe this book in just one word, only one word is needed to sum it all up:
Today my bible plan told me to read Chapters 11 and 12 of 1 Corinthians. I was definitely excited to see this on my bible plan for today because 1 Corinthians is my favorite book of the bible. This book has taught me so much about what it means to be a Christian woman and the roles of a man and a woman and the relationship they should have with one another and with God.
When I read these chapters today, verses 4-15 of 1 Corinthians surprised and confused me at first. These verses say that women must keep their heads covered at all times, whereas men are to keep their heads uncovered. The first thing that came to mind was honestly Muslim women. They must always keep their heads covered – is this the same thing? Have I been dishonoring God my whole life? Are the Muslim women onto something?
I breathed a sigh of relief when I read verse 15 which states, “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” This verse seems to confirm that by a “covering” all that is really meant is hair. But what about women with short hair? Are they dishonoring God? How short is too short?
I decided to Google this issue for more information. Here are 3 sources I looked at:
I feel like most of these sources say “we don’t really know” combined with “it was a cultural thing”. I am leaning towards it being a cultural tradition or custom. If we look back to scripture in verse 2 Paul states, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”
Here, the word “ordinances” stands out the most. I assume an ordinance is a tradition, but what does Google say?
Okay, so not quite tradition but rather law – something much more serious. But whose law is it? Is it God’s law or is it the church’s? Context is everything here. I believe it was church law at the time since Paul is talking to the church of Corinth and helping them to remember their first love – the church. He is helping them to restructure since their church was filled with so much sin and unworthy of honor. In this verse then, Paul is praising them for holding the ordinances – or laws – of the church…the laws that Paul has put into place for them.
Verse 16 also stands out to me where it says, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the church of God.” Two words stand out to me here: church and custom. I think of the word “custom” the same way that I think of the word “ordinance” – as meaning “tradition”. However, I was wrong about the definition of ordinance, so I could just as well be wrong about the definition of the word “custom”, so let’s look at Google.
Oh look at that – I was right on this one! Paul’s use of the word “custom” here shows he was talking about a tradition. Furthermore, he was talking about a tradition that is very specific for that time period. I believe this means that it’s not a defined, universal law for all of mankind meant to survive the test of time, but rather it was a church law for this specific church or this specific region (the people of Corinth) during that specific time. We can’t know exactly how specific this law was for the people or exactly how Paul intended us to interpret it, but I think it’s safe to assume that this law was for a specific time period. The word “church” used in this verse further confirms that it was a church tradition, not a law ordered by God.
So, where does that leave us and women in the church today? Well, I don’t think it’s “wrong” for women to adhere to this old custom and to choose to wear a head covering, but they also aren’t required to. I think it’s their choice. However, I think that the head covering was a symbol during that time that pledges a woman’s loyalty to her husband. Verses 13-15 states, “Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair; it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” The covering was something specific for women that men were not meant to wear. I think our society/culture has created its own version of that today. Some of the above sources I looked at say that it’s wedding rings, but I don’t think that is quite right because men wear wedding rings, too. However, I think they are on the right tract. This is what I think it is:
Yes, I know sometimes men will wear an engagement ring these days, but it is still far less common and by some even considered “taboo”. Male engagement rings are also usually much more masculine than female engagement rings (the traditional diamond ring). In the past when Paul was talking to the church of Corinth the head coverings were meant for married women to wear as a symbol of their loyalty to their husbands. I think the engagement ring has the same purpose in our culture today. A woman who is about to be married wears it to show her loyalty to her husband. Once the woman is married she adds a wedding ring but the woman usually wears the engagement ring with the wedding ring. Either way, it is still a symbol of her loyalty to her husband.
Another verse from chapter 11 that stood out to me was verse 17 that states, “Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worst.” Here Paul is condemning the church of Corinth for saying that the church is not uniting in a way that lifts up the congregation, but rather, it tears them down. When I read this I thought of the people of Corinth staring at women and whispering things like “Look at her hair, it’s not nearly long enough!” (assuming that the head covering was a woman’s hair and not an actual head piece). What good would that do? Paul is saying we shouldn’t be quick to judge and gossip and bring down people in the church, but instead we should unite and help each other out, for we are the body of Christ and when one member stumbles it is our job to help them back up.
1 Corinthians Chapter 12 further discusses the body of Christ and the role of the church and its members. In verse 26 Paul says, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it, or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” This reminds me of what Pastor Lex DeLong has preached – we are all united in Christ. We are one body of Christ and when one of our brothers and sisters of Christ falls, we all fall. When one of us rejoices, we all rejoices. We are all made up of one.
I don’t think this is the case in a lot of churches today and that makes me really sad. There are too many churches that are quick to judge, scorn, and gossip when one of the members sins or goes through a rough patch in life. Not only is that unbiblical, but I think that is sin in itself. God doesn’t want us to scorn other church members. I think he would want us to confront the individual and to help them to correct their behavior, but that’s it. The key word here: help. He would want us to help our brother or sister in Christ back up and if we’re gossiping and judging, that is not helping.
When I read these verses I also felt extremely thankful and blessed to belong to such a wonderful church now – Washington Baptist Church in Turnersville, NJ. We are not perfect, as nobody is except God, but I do believe that we are doing an incredible job with striving to become the kind of church Paul talks about in the bible in chapters like Corinth. I know that from my experience being a member of this church we are a group of people that make up the body of Christ that really does care for and love one another. Some churches I’ve been to and you’re just another nameless face. Yes, our church is small, but I truly believe that even if we grew exponentially, this would still be the kind of church where everyone takes the time to get to know everyone and to pray for each other. When someone is hurting in the church, we all feel it and when someone is succeeding, we feel their joy. We’ve cried together as a church, but we’ve also laughed, smiled, rejoiced, and ate way more than we probably should (we’re a church that really loves food :)).
Are you looking for a new church to attend? Washington Baptist Church would love to have you! Come join us for Sunday School on Sundays at 9:30 followed by our sermon at 10:30. For more information:
So… I’ve had a rather interesting week.
Casey tried to connect with me on LinkedIn on Wednesday.
Casey as in THE Casey. The one who I met on my 23rd birthday and fell hopelessly in love with. The one I had a crazy long distance relationship with. The one I loved with every ounce of my being.
The one that thought deleting me from social media and not answering my texts but then sending me a few sentences in an email on “why he did what he did” a few months later was an acceptable way to break up with me.
The one that broke up with me for no apparent reason.
The one that made me want to set myself on fire and watch my skin turn to ash as a way to relieve the pain I was feeling.
The one that broke me.
The one who wanted to get back together a few months later because they realized they made a horrible mistake.
The one I forgave.
The one that scared me.
The one I trusted.
The one my soul hungered for.
The one I was addicted to.
The one I swore was a gift from God to share my forever with.
The one who cheated.
The one who got engaged.
The one who got married.
The one with no apologies.
The one that suffocated me.
The one I would have gladly died for.
The one that made a mistake.
The one that got away.
The one that ruined my life.
The one that’s still married.
The one that just won’t go away.
Yes, that Casey.
My first instinct was to almost laugh at it. I couldn’t believe how pathetic the whole thing was. The ex from hell whom I refuse to talk to trying to add me on LinkedIn because he probably thinks that’s his best chance at staying connected with me. It’s barely a step above MySpace.
I let it sit in my inbox for a couple of days. I wanted him to know how it felt to wait. How it feels to not know. How it feels to try your hardest to reach someone who couldn’t care less about you.
I debated on whether or not I should accept it. I couldn’t bare the idea of going down this path and ending up crushed again. But a part of me wanted to be able to flaunt and dangle my successful career in front of his face to show him just to show him all that I can and did do without him; to show him just how much I really don’t need him.
The last time I talked to him was in October after ignoring a series of Facebook messages from him (we are not Friends on Facebook; he sent messages to my Facebook page). He told me he was miserable and that his wife didn’t appreciate him (there’s a feeling he’s taught me quite a lot about…). He called me the one that got away and said he had no one to blame but himself (no…You don’t say?). After I ignored 5 or more he finally made the mistake of saying, “I wish you would talk to me. I miss you.”
But I didn’t want to hear it.
In the past I may have been different. More trusting. More forgiving. More understanding. Excited to hear from him. Excited at the possibility of getting back together.
In the past I would’ve had hope.
Because I loved you.
I can forgive many things but I can’t forgive you for marrying her. Especially not when you’re still married.
I told Casey off when I received that message in October. It was like every wound on my heart had been reopened and this time instead of having a heart of love, I had a heart of pain ready to attack before it even stood the change of taking on any additional pain.
This is what I said with his response at the bottom:
I thought that settled it. I never imagined this would still be going on now, another 2 months after sending that message and just a few days after he “celebrated” his 2 year wedding anniversary with his wife. Actually, thinking of it that way makes me sick. For someone that claims so much to be a “disciple of Jesus” you sure haven’t mastered the whole “Love thy wife” part…
I accepted Casey’s LinkedIn request a few days after he sent it. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s a part of me that wanted to show him just how much I didn’t need him. Maybe I had hope still for him for some reason. Maybe I wanted something to happen. I don’t know.
But when Casey followed me on Twitter the day after, I know how I felt: scared.
Scared that this was all going to start over again. Scared that a marriage was ending and I’d be to blame. Scared that I was going to ruin the life I’ve gotten comfortable living – alone. Scared that this time would somehow be the worst than the last two times.
I thought about everything very deeply. For a few days, I couldn’t sleep. On the one hand, it was the same old, same old and I’d be a fool to go back to it. On the other hand, what if this was the one time things were going to be different and I was giving up on the one I was meant to be with?
I thought about it over and over and over and talked with some friends. And this is what I learned:
He didn’t love me.
He didn’t love me before we started dating, after we started dating, after we met, before we met, when we met, or now.
I loved him more than anything.
But he didn’t love me, nor will he ever.
No matter what you do for someone, regardless of how much you love them, you can’t make them love you. It doesn’t work like that.
And it’s not worth my time or energy any more and things aren’t how they were when I was 22. One of us is married. The other one is in a deeply committed relationship with work and school and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anyone stand in the way of reaching my goals.
When I was 22 I had the whole world in front of me. I worked as a crummy cashier at the local Walmart begging for an escape. I thought you were that escape. There was nothing in the world more thrilling and exciting than being a 22 year old new college grad with a 32 year old long distance boyfriend. When I graduated I was so excited about the possibilities and what the future held not just for me, but for you, too; for us. I thought we’d take over the world – travel together, open a business, be our own boss. Be entrepreneurs and both business and life partners.
But it’s not what you wanted, obviously.
You were selfish back then.
Now, it’s my turn to be selfish.
I want to earn my MA.
I want to work 2 or more jobs at a time.
I want to dedicate more time to my church.
I want to study hard and harder and earn a Ph.D..
I want to teach.
i want to write and publish a book.
I want to move to Philly.
I want to move to Cincinatti.
I want to big time editor for some fancy NYC magazine.
I want to move to California.
I want to work 80 hours a week because I can.
I don’t want anyone to tell me who to be or what to do.
I don’t want to waste my time on you (I’ve wasted too much time already).
I want to be selfish like you.
I feel no guilt.
I feel no shame.
No sympathy for you.
We’re not meant to be together.
You’re not my lover.
You’re not my friend.
You are most certainly not “the one”.
And you don’t love me.
Because you don’t leave the people you love.
You don’t destroy the people you love.
And it took me awhile,
But I don’t love you like I did yesterday.
And I’m tired.
And I’m sick.
And all the hell you put me through.
And I’m done.
I’m so, so, so, done.
And so, so, so ready to go on being a little selfish and to live this life without you.
And here is what I want from you:
Please. Please. Please.
LEAVE. ME. ALONE.
I have nothing more to say to you that hasn’t already been said.
This has burnt up in flames many times over.
It’s time to leave the the ashes along so the dust can settle
And this can finally, finally, maybe die and be over with.