In Today’s Digitally-Obsessed World
By LESLIE LUDY
Part One: A Remarkable Love Story
Lieutenant John Blanchard stood in Grand Central Station, oblivious to the crowd bustling and scurrying around him. With a racing heart, he fixed his eyes on the big clock towering overhead. It was almost time. At six o’clock, he would meet the girl he thought he loved — but had never met. As the minutes ticked by, he kept wondering what color her eyes would be and what her voice would sound like when he heard her speak for the very first time.
John’s mind drifted back over all that had happened in the past few years ever since his pilot training days in Florida at the beginning of World War II. He fondly recalled his memorable visit to a library on his day off, when he’d picked up a book and started thumbing through the pages. His eye had immediately been drawn to the beautiful and insightful notes someone had written in the margins of the book. He found himself wishing he could meet this mysterious person who seemed so kind and wise. He flipped to the front of the book and saw a name: Harlyss Maynell, New York City.
On a whim, he decided to try to find her. Hurrying out of the library, he tracked down a New York City phone book and looked up her address. His heart skipped a beat when he saw her name and address listed in the phone book. Well, what have I got to lose? he decided. He wrote her a short letter, telling her how he’d found her name and expressing how much he appreciated the ideas and insights she’d expressed in the margins of the book.
He never really expected to hear from her. And the day after he wrote the letter, he was shipped overseas to fight in the war.
But to his amazement, she replied. Her letter was forwarded to him overseas.
He remembered how her letter was just like the notes she had written in the pages of the book — gentle, kind, full of grace and wisdom.
He wrote to her again. And soon they began corresponding. All throughout his time as an Air Force pilot during the war, Harlyss’s letters brought him joy and comfort in the midst of darkness and fear. Each time he flew over Germany and heard the bombs all around him, he never knew if he would make it out alive. He confessed his fears to Harlyss, and she encouraged him with Scripture and to look to God for strength.
As they continued to write, John began to realize that he was falling in love with this amazing woman named Harlyss. He wrote, “Please send me a picture of you,” but she replied, “No, I won’t. Relationships are not built on what people look like.”
Still, he was intrigued by her and longed to meet her in person. John was elated when he found out that he could finally return to the United States on leave. He wrote to Harlyss and asked if he could meet her in New York and take her to dinner. She arranged to meet him on the day of his arrival at Grand Central station at 6:00PM underneath the big clock. “You’ll know who I am because I’ll be wearing a red rose,” she told him in her letter.
At last the day had come. John fidgeted nervously as the clock struck six, his eyes glancing this way and that. Suddenly, he caught a glimpse of a beautiful young woman in a pale green suit walking towards him, a coy smile on her face. Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears, and she had sparkling blue eyes. She was one of the loveliest women John had ever seen.
Excitedly, John started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not wearing a red rose. As he looked at her, she tilted her head teasingly. “Going my way, soldier?” she said.
John took a step closer to her. And just then he saw another woman standing directly behind the girl in the green suit, with a bright red rose pinned to her coat. It was Harlyss Maynell — the woman John had been waiting to meet for the past two years. His heart sank. She was a plump woman, well past forty. She had graying hair tucked under a worn hat. Her thick ankles were thrust into low shoes.
The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away. John had to make a choice. Should he follow after the beauty who had just spoken to him? Or stay and face Harlyss Maynell?
He made his decision, and did not hesitate. Choking back disappointment, he turned to the woman and smiled. This would not be love, but maybe it would be something even better — a precious friendship for which John would always be eternally grateful.
“You must be Miss Maynell,” he said kindly, extending his hand to her. “I’m so glad you could meet me. Will you join me for dinner?”
The older woman’s face broadened into a smile. “I don’t know what this is all about, son,” she replied, “but you know that young woman in the green suit who just went by? I met her on the train. She asked me to wear this rose on my coat. She said that, if you should ask me to dinner, to tell you she’s waiting for you in that big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of a test.”
Part Two: The Lost Art of Feminine Mystery
Times have certainly changed since John and Harlyss’s love story unfolded nearly seventy years ago. If Harlyss had been a typical modern woman, she would never dream of withholding her photo from a handsome young Air Force pilot, or of testing his motives and character before jumping into a romantic relationship. On the contrary, a modern Harlyss would likely text him multiple times a day, share intimate details about personal life, and continually send him her most flattering selfies to keep him interested. She wouldn’t win his heart through sincerity, gentleness, and wisdom. Instead, she would use a clever combination of feminine charm and digital technology to entice and ensnare him.
Technology has made it extremely easy for a single woman to snag a guy. All she needs to do is set up an impressive online dating profile and she’s sure to draw some interest within a few days. If a woman is lonely, she can simply hop on the Internet and “shop” for a man. And if a girl wants to get a certain guy’s attention, she just needs to make a lot of digital noise to get him to notice her.
Many Christian women believe that we should take full advantage of modern technology when it comes to romance. They say that instead of waiting around for years until the right guy finally comes along, women now have the opportunity to take their future into their own hands and become proactive about finding a relationship. And thanks to online dating sites, iPhones, and Google, countless women are selling their feminine mystery down the river in order to satiate their loneliness and gain the satisfaction of male attention.
But is this the way that God intended a woman to find a man? Are “digitally manipulated” relationships really all they are cracked up to be?
Harlyss Maynell was a young woman of guardedness, discretion, and patience. She wasn’t desperate to get a guy. She was willing to wait for a man who was truly worthy of her heart. She was willing to put him to the test to prove that he was interested in more than good looks and temporal pleasure. She protected her God-given feminine mystery. She found a beautiful love story because she followed God’s pattern for honor.
Purity. Propriety. Honor. Nobility. Dignity. Mystery. Guardedness. Patience. Trust. Surrender. These are not popular concepts amid our selfie-texting-Twitter-Facebook-Google generation, but they are the building blocks for a God-scripted love story. We cannot find true and lasting romance without them. Technology or no technology, we can only discover God’s best in relationships when we honor God’s design for relationships.
So how can we live with womanly honor in today’s technologically-driven world? How can a modern woman conduct herself with dignity and propriety in a world that revolves around Facebook, Twitter, and selfies? Is it even possible to protect feminine mystery in today’s digitally-crazed society?
It is more than possible, because it is God’s pattern. But a lot depends upon how much we are willing to trust Him, and how completely we are willing to surrender to Him.
To become women of dignity and strength and find a romance far beyond a temporary and unfulfilling fling, we must be willing to swim against the tide. While every other woman around us is busy texting guys, building online profiles, and posting selfies, we must choose a different pattern — by God’s grace.
What does that mean practically? Let’s take a closer look.
God’s Digital Code of Conduct
Technology in itself is not bad. When fire is confined to a fireplace, it provides comfort and warmth to a home. But when fire is used inappropriately, it can quickly burn that same home to the ground. The same is true with technology. In order for today’s digital tools to be a blessing and not a hindrance to our lives and romantic futures, we must use them only in alignment with God’s principles and not the world’s. For example:
Taking fun little photos of yourself may seem innocent enough, but selfies can quickly destroy your feminine mystery — especially when you use them to get a guy’s attention. Can you imagine the heroine of a Jane Austen novel constantly sending self-portraits to a potential suitor? (Or to anyone, for that matter?) The women in those old-fashioned romance novels knew how to protect their mystery. They didn’t continually put themselves in front of men in order to gain attention. When a man showed interest in a woman, she didn’t respond to him with over-eagerness or desperation. Rather, she remained guarded, allowing him to prove that he was truly worthy of her heart. Men treated women with respect and honor, because women knew how to protect their God-given mystery.
Though fictional, those stories paint an inspiring picture of dignity, honor, and feminine guardedness. What a far cry from the “Here I am, in your face!” and “Here’s me again!” world of selfies. Simply put, selfies cheapen a woman’s feminine dignity. Posting selfies in an effort to impress a guy makes a woman seem desperate for attention, and entices him with her physical looks instead of allowing him to be drawn to the light of Christ shining through her inner life. By their very nature, selfies draw attention to self, rather than to Jesus Christ. Christ said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). The word deny here literally means “to lose sight of oneself and one’s own interests.” In your interactions with guys — or anyone else for that matter — make sure your focus is pointing their eyes to Jesus Christ, and not yourself. Forgoing the selfie is a great first step toward that goal.
A godly young man summed it up well when he said, “Taking pictures of yourself and posting them all day long is the ‘in’ thing to do, but honestly it is not very inspiring [to a godly young man]. I admire my sisters and see a tremendous beauty within them when they are outwardly focused and pointing people to Christ. Inversely, there is a repugnance within my soul when I see girls preoccupied with themselves even when they may be outwardly attractive.”
Harlyss Maynell demonstrated this principle. She didn’t even consider using her photo to draw John’s favor and attention. In fact, she purposely kept her physical appearance out of the equation for as long as possible, focusing on pointing John to Christ and not merely drawing him to herself. We, as modern women, would do well to follow her example.
Bottom line: If you are going to take a selfie, just send it to your grandma!
Flirting is another one of those things that may seem harmless in today’s world, but just think about what it really is. Flirting, by definition, is an effort to draw the attention of the opposite sex to yourself, often in a sensual way. Proverbs 31:12 says that a godly woman does her husband “good and not evil all the days of her life” — that means both before and after she meets him. In light of this truth it’s important to ask the question: If you wouldn’t flirt with other men after you are married, then why is it okay to flirt with them before you are married?
When you flirt, you are enticing and distracting men with your wit and charm, often causing them great distraction and temptation. In addition, you are dishonoring your future husband and disregarding God’s pattern for feminine mystery. Just read Proverbs 7:7-12 for a closer (and sobering) look at what God says about this pitfall.
In our modern age of technology, we must realize that flirting is still flirting even if it is done digitally. Strategically texting guys (you know — those teasing, witty, and/or flattering comments sent at just the right moments) is no different than openly flirting with guys in person. Additionally, girls who post their intimate thoughts, desires, and future dreams on blogs or Facebook page are essentially inviting guys to read their personal diary — which is often nothing more than creatively cloaked flirting.
I once knew a single young woman who used her personal blog to list all the qualities she was looking for in a future husband. Soon after, a guy she knew began using his personal blog to describe the kind of man he was. And (surprise, surprise!) all of his self-proclaimed “qualities” just happened to perfectly match her list of traits she wanted in a husband. Over the following weeks, I observed these two people flirting with each other through their blogs, even though they never mentioned each other’s names and even though they never flirted with each other in person.
Disturbingly, this man was far from the person he claimed to be on his blog. He had simply read her personal diary — in the form of her indiscreet blog posts — and then digitally transformed himself into the kind of man she was looking for. It was the perfect scenario for manipulation, disappointment, and heartache, and that is exactly what it led to.
Flirting — whether digital or otherwise — does not belong in the life of a woman who desires to bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ.
Bottom line: Make sure every word you tweet, text, or post truly honors God and blesses your future husband instead of just draws attention to you.
Okay (deep breath), I know I’m venturing into dangerous territory just by bringing up this topic. Online dating is becoming increasingly popular among Christian singles, and many people get quite defensive when the subject is challenged. I have met plenty of girls who have excitedly informed me that they found their soul-mate through online dating. (I.e. “We’ve been chatting online for three whole months, and he is so amazing!”) I have heard the brilliant-sounding arguments from those who claim that “modern technology has made it easier than ever to find the man of your dreams!” And I’ve seen and heard the ads for Christian dating sites that beckon you to “entrust the sacred task” of finding your lifelong partner to their skilled team of experts.
Aren’t we forgetting something here? What about inviting God — the ultimate Matchmaker — back into this sacred area of our lives? What about trusting Him to orchestrate our love stories in His own perfect time, instead of rushing ahead impatiently and manipulating circumstances or hiring a professional company in order to speed the process along? What about the patience, guardedness, and dignity that He intended a daughter of the King to showcase? Are we ignoring His reminder that, “in quietness and trust is your strength”? (Is. 30:15, NIV).
Today’s single women have become so desperate for romantic companionship that they have resorted to publicly promoting themselves to available men, using flattering photos and long-winded explanations of their personalities to try to prove that they are a good catch. What a contrast from Harlyss Maynell, who wouldn’t even consider sending her photo to a man until she truly knew the motives of his heart and character of his life. How different things could be if we would simply learn that kind of patience and restfulness in this area of our lives.
Imagine not being in a hurry to find a spouse, but completely at rest in God’s perfect timing. Imagine not being desperate for a relationship, but joyfully content with where God has you right now. Imagine being free from the pressure to somehow prove to guys that you are a good catch. Can’t you just feel the deep sigh of relief?
Why not walk in that kind of freedom right now? It’s yours for the taking in Jesus Christ.
Annie Wesche, a single young woman who is also Set Apart Girl®’s Creative Director, summed it up well when she stated, “The world looks at singleness as a dilemma to be fixed. But if we live by faith in the Son of God, and get to know Him, we find that He is undeniably a God of purpose with rich plans for every single day of our lives. Let us trust in the Lord with ALL our heart, leaning not on our own understanding (or the world’s), but in every area of our lives — including singleness — acknowledge who He is, and trust that He will direct our lives. There is no one else I would ever want to entrust this sacred task to than to Him.”
Bottom line: Let God — not a company or an online profile — be your Matchmaker. Remember that He cares more about this area of your life than you could ever imagine! He’s the only One truly worthy of this sacred task!
It’s been nearly seventy years since Harlyss Maynell chose to win John’s heart in a most unusual way. And it is high time more women begin to follow her example. Her unwavering protection of her feminine mystery is a powerful reminder of what real love is based upon and how it is formed. No matter what technological advances may come and go, the best method is always God’s pattern — not digitally manipulating hearts. Technology can never outdo His amazing plan for feminine mystery and masculine honor. A digitally concocted love story could never replace one that is lovingly scripted by the Author of true and lasting romance. As a lovely poem in Corrie ten Boom’s book Tramp for the Lord reminds us, “God always gives His very best to those who leave the choice to Him.”
So don’t be distracted by the allurements of our selfie-texting-Facebook-online-dating-obsessed culture. Keep your eyes on the One who knows you, formed you, and cares more about you than you can ever imagine. Protect what He protects, and honor what He honors. There is simply no other way to experience His very best.