Bad habits, holy orders - Dwelling Spaces

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Bad habits, holy orders

I wonder if you watched the recent Channel 5 series: Bad Habits, Holy Orders? For 4 weeks it followed a group of 5 young women as they went from 'selfie' driven lives that for most included hard partying, regular one night stands, and high-spend shopping, to life in a convent with a group of nuns. In some ways the story followed an expected trajectory, shock at being separated from phones and makeup, and adapting to living simple lives of prayer and practical work with very little spending money. Then rebellion and handling the motivations behind that, all of which resulted in quite a moving growing relationship between the women and the nuns.  However it was the third episode that struck me at quite a profound level.

The nuns sent the women off on 'mission' to other convents where they were to help out with work amongst elderly people and homeless people.  For most of the women it was the first time they had spoken to people who lived such different lives to them. And quite a beautiful thing happened. Each young woman, in her own way, began to find herself. And for some it was quite a dramatic transformation.  And it helped me realise this....the culture that we find ourselves in is one that wants to consume us. Our image is graded by the level of positive response it receives, our value is determined by the amount of money we can spend, our personal attractiveness is based on swipes to the right or number of sexual partners. For the young women on the programme the gap between the person that was being consumed and who they actually were had almost become unbridgeable. These women were giving what they felt the world wanted to consume, but the bridge back to finding themselves was to really give of themselves. 

The young women could take or leave the prayer and being part of the worshipping lives of the nuns. What they deeply needed was the love of a 'stranger' someone not compelled to love them, but someone who loved and valued them as the women they were beneath their appearances. The nuns were concerned for the who the women were becoming, they were concerned for their characters, and to encourage them to really think about what they valued. For me this is the gospel, the good news of God. The bible talks about God looking on our hearts, not being concerned about physical appearance or what others might say about a person (see 1 Samuel 16.7 or John 2.25 for example). Why is this important? Because God truly knows us. The gospel tells us that God created us as good people designed to be in relationship with God participating in the divine life where each person is valued for the unique place they have in fulness of life for all people and all creation. This fulness of life means being able to give of who you are out of love for God, love for others and love for yourself. 

The narrative of our culture which says 'give me what I want' is a narrative that consumes, not fulfils. For the young women on this programme, the gospel brought transformation, because it showed them the freedom that comes from a new narrative, a story of self-giving. A self-giving that reveals and fulfils who we are.

The series is still available here on catch up:

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