In light of recent events in the news that remind us that there are predators who take advantage of young women’s dreams… I became attracted to this painting by John Everett Millais called “Eve of St. Agnes.” It is a painting that endeavors to capture on canvas a moment expressed in a poem by John Keats, written in 1819 and one that was popular during the Romantic period.
The poem is based on a legend that if young women perform certain rituals on the Eve of Saint Agnes’ feast day, January 20th, and if they do things perfectly, they will be given a vision of their future husband.
They told her how, upon St. Agnes’ Eve,
Young virgins might have visions of delight,
And soft adorings from their loves receive
Upon the honey’d middle of the night,
If ceremonies due they did aright;
As, supperless to bed they must retire,
And couch supine their beauties, lily white;
Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require
Of Heaven with upward eyes for all that they desire.
But here is what happens…
Madeline goes to bed, having performed this mystical rite perfectly, and one of her young suitors creeps into her bed chamber and takes advantage of her. Then upon her awakening she basically decides that all this is ok because somehow his deception proved his ardent love for her and she accepts his heart as true and well you know the rest…
Going back even further, Saint Agnes was a young woman who was very beautiful and an early Christian and who decided she wanted to give her life to God and remain pure. However, a scorned suitor turned her in for being a Christian and she was then horribly martyred. I won’t go into the detail, but you can imagine.
At this point you realize that these kinds of stories are not new and certainly not specific to our culture. I’m sure we all have a story or two we could tell, but what makes someone particularly vulnerable to those who do not have their best interest at heart? Must we accept this long tradition of saying this is just the way things have always been?
What makes all of us, young and old, vulnerable to predators?
- Stop living in the future: There is a little part of us that has this untouched dream-something pure from God- a virgin dream you might say-that we are longing for someone to open a door for us–to discover how truly wonderful we are and to give us an opportunity that will heal our restless spirit so that we can finally live “happily-ever-after.” (The bad guys know this)
- Realize a root cause: We become vulnerable to predatory behavior when we are hungry for acceptance and affirmation and looking to others to fulfill our dream. Not wanting to upset anyone, we stop listening to our inner compass, and forget the sound of God’s voice. We become pleasers to all those around us. (They make us think: Don’t create a scene. Don’t be silly.)
- Make a habit of thankfulness: Learning to live “Out of Control/In God’s Hands” means we stop waiting for someone to come along who will open a door for us. We put an end to our complaining and become more awake and mindful of the many blessings from God all around us! Resolve to commit your life to God. Begin each day by asking for his blessing and end by creating a “praise list” to glorify God as your great provider.
- Look for ways to nurture others: As you give your life to God, notice who he brings to you each day. Realize that every soul is a uniquely gifted and sacredly created human being filled with their own hopes and dreams. Look for ways to encourage and build up those around you and soon you will be soaring with more confidence of your own.
- Turn to scripture: Daily prayer and scripture reading will keep you grounded in your true source of strength and security and better able to walk away from unhealthy people and situations.
This Week’s Scripture:
As I was thinking about all of this, I came upon the passages that highlighted Zechariah’s song. This is the moment he realizes that God has made all his dreams come true:
Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel because he has come and has redeemed his people… to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. ~ Luke 1: 68, 77-79
From this, I am reminded that I am highly prized by God. When I fully see this, I can walk in peace…secure in the knowledge that He is the true lover of my soul.
May God’s peace be with you!