Monday, July 31, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Nine - Part Three

After an allegory packed with dead plant allusions, Ms. Mally decides to use more of her personal life experiences to demonstrate how dreams must die.

She starts with a story of when she was around 20 and her brother Steven was 14.  He was discussing how much  he wanted a laptop and said that he wanted one badly but would be shocked if he ever got one - like how his sister views marriage.  When Sarah asks him how he would feel about getting married, he says that that would be like Sarah getting a laptop instead of getting married.

Sarah uses this to spring-board into the idea that all young women want to be married, but I'm stuck on how obvious and all-consuming her desire to be married must be to make such an impact on her teenage brother.   My brother and I have about the same age difference - he's 4 and a half years younger than me - and he's never commented on my desire to be married.  He met my boyfriends and had pretty good relationships with most.  He offered to beat up (mostly jokingly) one boyfriend who dumped me in a particularly callous manner; I declined, but appreciated the offer and the kindness that it came from.  Sarah's hunger to be married must burn in her to be that obvious.

Sarah Mally trots out a standard chestnut of hers by talking about how a nine year-old friend of hers wanted a boyfriend more than anything else in the world.  Now, Sarah was 11 and in the process of starting to witness to her friend so her friend may have decided to nip that conversation in the bud.  I live in an area where enthusiastic attempts at conversion are taught at a strangely young age.  I don't remember anyone trying to convert me, but my brother had a friend who tried about every 18 months or so.  Well, he did until my brother chased him down the street waving a rosary at him and throwing "holy water" at him.  My only question was where my brother got the holy water; we received cheap plastic rosaries at school every so often so I knew he could find one or more in our junk drawer but we're not the kind of people to keep holy water at home.  My ten year old brother looked at me and replied "Yeah, well, he doesn't know that, does he?"  That was the last time I worried about my brother.  Any ten year old who can improv his way out of conversions using a cup of tap water and a junk rosary is going to do fine in life.....

Next, Ms. Mally describes a point in her Bright Lights ministry.  She started Bright Lights when she was 17 and had mentored three groups that formed in her area by the time she was 21.  After presenting Bright Lights at a conference, she found that there was a lot of interest from other girls and mothers for her ministry.  Understandably excited about expanding her ministry, she realized that Bright Lights was going to need materials for groups to use, training for future leaders and outreach at mother-daughter conferences to raise awareness of their ministry.

I see nothing wrong or misplaced about her excitement or planning.  She had a workable ministry model that she had ironed the kinks out of locally.  Mally connected with a larger audience - presumably at an ATI/ATIA/IBLP conference - and found that her model was wanted across a larger geographic area.   I don't like her ministry - but she's following a tried and true method for ministry expansion.

Then comes the self-doubt:
" As the weeks went by, I began to realize that some of my ideas were rather unrealistic and that many obstacles had to be overcome. I began to wonder whether all these ideas were really from the Lord or just my own dreams. I began to search my heart and evaluate whether my motive was to truly reach young ladies or to gain something for myself. I desperately wanted to want only what the Lord wanted, but I was confused. My dream seemed to be from the Lord - yet I also knew how easily prideful and selfish motives could creep in. (pg. 173)
  • Based on what she wrote in the book, none of her goals were unrealistic.  
    • Writing lesson guides would be time-consuming, but she's already taught three groups her curriculum.  
    • In terms of gaining wider attention, she JUST finished presenting at a conference.  Getting accepted to other conferences shouldn't be too hard and she'd have material to give to attendees (e.g., a sample lesson plan she created earlier).  
    • Leading training conferences for leaders (teenage girls) would take a longer time-span to accomplish because she'd need a certain mass of publicity and momentum before she'd have enough interested candidates to pay for the conference - but "long-term goal" is not a synonym for "unrealistic".
  • Sarah Mally and I would not get along well in real life.  If someone tells me that they're worried that their small, local ministry for pre-teen girls is a manifestation of their "prideful and selfish motives", I don't know if I'd laugh or cry.  This might be a sensible reaction, though, to being a follower of Gothard her whole life.  Her subconscious might have been picking up on the dangerous vibes that he puts off.
  • This is a handy way to prevent people from being ambitious at all.  Sarah Mally is freaking out at enlarging her ministry from small/local to medium/regional.  Imagine how much more panicky she'd be if she wanted to do something that was a bit more taboo like getting a college degree in nursing, teaching, social work or business. 
" I distinctly remember one day just a few weeks later when I got on my knees and made a list of all my ideas and dreams for Bright Lights -- every little desire and every big dream. I put them all on my list. Then, one by one, I surrendered them to the Lord, asking that He would purify my heart and use me to accomplish His purposes, not my own. Finally, I ripped up the paper and asked the Lord to exchange my dreams for His will --whatever it might be. I still had a strong desire to minister to young ladies, and I still felt that the Lord was leading me to pursue the vision He had given, but I also knew if the Lord's plans were different than mine, He could be trusted. Even if none of my ideas came to pass, I was resolved to put my whole heart into His assignments and follow His leading." (pgs. 173-174)
  • I was moving along pretty well with Ms. Mally until she started ripping up the paper that she outlined her plans for Bright Lights.   I visualized God/Jesus watching her and saying "Wait? What are you doing?  Those were the plans!"
  • This is a strangely detailed ritual to get rid of Ms. Mally's guilt or unease about being an active participant in her own life.  After all, nothing she's alluded to about her ministry is sinful.  It's a pretty mundane form of proselytizing.  After the ritual, she's on the same path she was before with the same feelings of excitement and drive and a bit farther along in planning. 
"Several years later it suddenly dawned on me that every single one of those dreams had to come to pass. And even more exciting to me was the fact that dozens of other ministry opportunities that had never even crossed my mind had also been part of the Lord's bigger plan. Waiting was involved, and God's timing was definitely different than mine. In fact, some of the things that I hoped would happen immediately took nearly five years, but in hindsight it is clear that God sees the whole picture and writes the last chapter." (pg. 174)
  • This is the bit where the wheels fall off.  The net outcome of Ms. Mally letting her dreams for Bright Lights Ministry die is that all of her dreams come true.  This is a slightly watered down version of the Prosperity Gospel.  Gothard's ATI/ATIA/IBLP is a pro-natal, anti-education version of the Prosperity Gospel where if a person follows Jesus, Jesus will give them everything they want.  Sarah Mally makes the deal even sweeter by claiming that she's received even more possibilities than she had ever dreamed of.
Immediately after this, Ms. Mally explains that she went through the same ritual for her dreams of building her own family.  When the book was written, she hadn't married and discloses that obviously that set of dreams have not come true - but that she believes that God has a plan for her life.  

I wonder if she's truly resigned to "following the Lord's assignments" for her personal life.  The Princess and Sarah describe wanting romance with a man they love and wanting to be a mother.  Romance and getting married do not come with an end date - but bearing biological children gets much harder as women age.  Ms. Mally wrote this book at 25-26 years of age when she had at least 15 years of potential childbearing ahead of her.  She's now 37 years old; women can have first babies in their late thirties, but the success rate drops markedly every year.  The successful pregnancy rate drops more rapidly for women who have never had a child than women who have had a previous pregnancy and scientists aren't entirely sure why that happens.  Ms. Mally's situation is complicated by her alliance with Gothard's cult.  Members of ATI do not use birth control, do not use assisted reproductive technologies and do not adopt children.

How many of the various girls that Ms. Mally has bashed as boy-crazy are now married mothers? I'm willing to bet that around 80% of them have been married at least once and most have had one or more child.  That's the strange irony of parent-led courtship: for a culture that idolizes marriage and parenthood, they are failing miserably at getting their kids married and reproducing.
  • The Botkin Family has married off 3 sons out of 7 kids for a 43% marriage rate.  
  • The Maxwell family has married 3 out of 8 for 37.5% success rate.  
  • The Duggars have 11 kids over the age of 18 with 4 marriages and one engagement for a 45% marriage rate.  
  • The Bates Family has married 4 out of 9 over the ages of 18 for a 44% marriage rate.  They win a consolation prize for not having an unmarried child over the age of 25.
  • I can't find any information on Sarah Mally's brother - which I hope means he ran away from the cult - but their family has either a 0% or 33% success rate.
Next up: Sarah Mally's scariest family story yet....

4 comments:

  1. I'm confused. She let her dreams die by performing a ritual that kind of seems like a spell, but she didn't actually let them die because she kept working for them, right? Does letting a dream die mean you keep working toward a dream, but tell everyone (or just tell Jesus) that you actually gave up on it? Isn't that lying? I thought letting a dream die would consist of giving up and working on something else?

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    1. I have no idea. My understanding was that letting a dream die means letting go of it all together - not working at it bitwise.

      But I often find that my understanding of life is different than most QF writers ideas....

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  2. I just finished reading through all your reviews of It's Not That Complicated and Before You Meet Prince Charming, and I just wanted to say I really enjoyed them. As a young teenager I was really into the Vision Forum movement, and now there is nothing more satisfying than seeing these books picked apart and criticized. Thanks for taking the time to do these great reviews!

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    1. You are welcome! I hope that others who were exposed to this poison - and I do believe these books are toxic - can see the problems in them.

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