Category Archives: Winter 2012

The Search For Truth


The Search for Truth:

An Exploratory Essay on the Metaphysical and Mimetic Significance of Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Doctor Faustus’

Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus brings a very wide assortment of knowledge to the forefront of the story. This is due, in part, to the premise of the play—that being Faustus’ ambitious desire to acquire all forms of knowledge. This is also due to the nature of Renaissance drama…Stories were formulated to mirror and reflect that of other archetypes, tropes, and literature. This was a means to demonstrate how smart the playwright was.  Shakespeare’s plays held formulaic storylines with predictable outcomes, as did Marlowe’s. It was a cultural indicator that showed their knowledge in the creative arts. Doctor Faustus pays particular attention to parallelisms between the protagonist, theological literature, and classic Greek mythography.  Marlowe paid very special attention to the correlations of these stories. It becomes evident that Faustus’ fascination with Greek mythology, and his hubristic dismissal for the dogmas of Christianity were both stemmed by his desire to obtain knowledge. Despite his biases, both of these spiritual domains were irrefutably connected by Faustus’ curiosity.  Marlowe boldly brought these allusions to light throughout the play’s progression, oftentimes in very literal forms. Noting their obvious importance, I couldn’t help but wonder how intricately the two belief systems correlated within the context of the story.  My inquiry on the matter started out being a very broad question—vague, even. All I could conjecture was that there was a definitive link between Christian theology and Greek mythos.  At first, I couldn’t quite articulate what specifically made it pertinent as a research topic.  But the more material I investigated, the more I discovered just how prominent the comparisons of the two cultural belief systems were within the text.   I consulted a myriad of scholarly sources in this endeavor. The ones I will be highlighting will be from essays written by scholars such as Michael Rudasill, T. McAlindon, and A.N. Okerland, among others. I also sought insights from a chapter discussion in Elias Shwartz’s novel on mimetic theory.  By the time I’d exhausted my efforts in trying to discern my question, it finally dawned on me:  The juxtaposition of these allusions were designed to reveal the truest extent of where Faustus went wrong in his quest for knowledge. The agreement in this was universal in my search. The parallelism of Christian theology and Classic mythology “melds myth so thoroughly and thrillingly into a diversity of structures: a Christian scheme, a medieval mystery, a Renaissance hunt for knowledge, and other pagan paradigms like the Icarus story” (Wessman, 413).

            Michael Carlton Rudasill composed a scholarly thesis for Florida Atlantic University titled “A Study of the Significance of Marlowe’s use of the Unforgivable Sin as a Plot Device in ‘Dr. Faustus.'” In it, he explores the extent in which Faustus’ blasphemy holds him spiritually accountable and thereby destroys any hope for redemption.  He also makes a commentary regarding how this demise parallels that of Greek tragedies.  Rudasill concedes that “the many scriptural allusions and references alluded to overtly or subtly inserted into the play by Marlowe provide more opportunities for research than can be readily handled in any single thesis (Rudasill 1).  And yet he managed to hone in on a very strong critical idea that supplemented my own exploration on the topic. There was one statement that rang particularly true in regards to my exploration: Rudasill highlights one of his sources, Judith Weil, who writes that “wisdom remains a strong presence in the world of Faustus; it is the grace that he repeatedly rejects, the intuitive love of God which, but for his folly, might have informed his learning and saved his soul” (qtd. in Rudasill 7). This agrees with the inevitability of Faustus’ fall from grace, and provides reasoning as to how his endeavor damned him. Rudasill takes this notion one step further and adds that Faustus’ casual dismissal of the discipline of divinity, a discipline and system of belief that was commonly treated as fact in Elizabethan England, shows the depth of his frivolous disrespect of a key part of his cultural heritage (27).  Faustus does indeed remove himself from his own culture and cultural doctrine…He does so by immersing himself in the romanticized incarnation of classical philosophies.  Rudasill draws a very apt conclusion in regards to the archaic structure and formulas of the Grecian classical era. He points out the necessity of the Chorus as a classical device, which then reinforces the association of Faustus’ tragedy with the tragedies of the classical tradition (26).  Because his accumulation of knowledge is gratified in a very selfish and selective manner, Rudasill concludes that “the overreaching Faustus will not only know the torment of the knowledge that he deliberately cast aside paradise, he will also know the pain of another literal abode of eternal torment” (33). This led me to believe that Faustus’ fascination with the classical era was very deliberate on Marlowe’s part, as a means of further accentuating the nuances of Christian theology that Faustus neglected to accept. Furthermore, the correlation between the two faiths demonstrates an imitative foundation to further illustrate the nature of Faustus’ demise.

I came to learn that there is a theory that expounds on the protagonist’s mimicry of theological formulae: Mimetic theory. This theory originates as an Aristotelean thought, which states that art, by nature, imitates art.  Meaning that what has been created, is then recreated by other means. This includes art of all forms, be it musical, lyrical, visual, etc. Elias Schwartz clarifies in his novel Forms of Feeling that, in the case of Faustus and literary theory, the prominence of theological allusions are meant to provide a comparison that Faustus himself is trying to imitate.  He lacks authenticity, and that perhaps plays a key role in influencing his eventual demise. Noam Reisner further explores this theory in his comparative essay “The Paradox of Mimesis in Sidney’s Defence of Poesie and Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.”  Reisner summarizes his key claim as follows:


“Faustus’s magical art, like the hell from which it draws its power, is an instance to prove the truth of theological absolutes which otherwise exceed mimetic representation, but it is a truth Faustus can never see. Ironically, however, Faustus’s inability to see this truth in a sense also liberates him from it. [. . .] Marlowe has Faustus fight the implications of this [mimetic] paradox by gradually emptying his magical arts of any practical or ethical content” (343).


Faustus has depicted the realm of metaphysics in a very selective and self-prescriptive way. This severely limits the scope of reality in which the absolution of truth resides.  Reisner articulates that “Faustus has no choice but to embrace the illusory yet entertaining nature of his power,” which thereby separates him from glory of God’s promise of eternal life (344). As much as Faustus scorns the Christian God and his heavenly conditions, he still has a desire to dwell within a realm that exceeds the limitations of man: “Faustus loses himself absolutely in Homer’s imagined world for its own sake” (345).  Reisner concludes that “the fatalism of Faustus’s position is thus not theological, but mimetic. Indeed, mimesis is all that he can cling to. Faustus uses his magical art to fritter away what little time he has, as he indulges in low level trickery and pseudo-humanistic parlour games” (346).  Upon decoding what role mimesis had in the role of literature and theater, it suddenly became clear to me as to why the correlation of Faustus’ religious fancies were so blatantly and repeatedly expressed.  The two literatures align in virtually every respect. The key difference lies in which one bears the Truth that Faustus must believe in order to truly achieve otherworldly knowledge.  One provides a truth that Faustus is unsatisfied with, while the other is laced with the lure of desire:  “Marlowe latches on to the idea that it is the mimetic act of imaginative conjuration itself which secures the truth-value of that which it cannot contain” (342).  In other words, just because Faustus is interested in one brand of faith, doesn’t mean it is the true faith.  When it becomes evident within the play’s canon that Christianity is indeed the right faith, Faustus is limited with the illusionary magicks that Lucifer seduces him with. Every conjuration Faustus makes is in its imitative form. There is no truth or tangibility to what he produces. It’s an indicator of the falsehood he’s immersing himself in, thereby furthering his blasphemous demise. Professor T. McAlindon agrees with Reisner’s perception of Lucifer’s coercive influence: “In rejecting theology [. . .] he embraces the devil’s most seductive manifestations, magic and mythology. Heavenly has come to seem hellish (equivalent to envy, cruelty, and despair); and now the old gods and magic serve to make hellish seem heavenly, by providing new rites, gratifying self-esteem, and offering satisfactions which are readily perceptible to the senses” ( McAlindon 215). Reisner brings to light perhaps one of the more quintessential examples of this from within the text: “Faustus’s wish to play out the part of Paris for his conjured Helen later in Act V (‘I will be Paris, and for love of thee / Instead of Troy shall Wittenberg be sacked’, V. i. 98-9) is merely a literalisation of the same idea through a process of reverse mimesis which allows the conjured image to compete for a claim on truth with the merely shadowed reality of heaven and hell” (345).

In his essay “‘I’ll Play Diana’: Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and the Actaeon Complex,” Christopher Wessman further explores Faustus’ mythical re-imaginings and the consequences that come of that.  Specifically, he does so in a close reading of the scene where Faustus victimizes Benvolio in a reenactment of the myth featuring Actaeon and the goddess Diana. Wessman finds it “entirely appropriate that a myth involving the secrets of knowledge and self-consciousness […] should be used as a vehicle for self-examination” (Wessman 419).  This ‘knowledge’ Wessman speaks of, is in relation to Actaeon’s unintentional knowledge—stumbling upon Diana in her naked and vulnerable state.  Wessman says that “Marlowe connects Diana’s divine power (and Actaeon’s transgression) to necromantic and theatrical prowess, interrogating and ultimately problematizing divinity, magic, and theater” (401).  Of the multiple interpretations of the myth, one of them deems Actaeon’s punishment as justifiable, due to Sartre’s ‘Actaeon complex,’ which is a loose interpretive meaning of: ‘to know is to devour with the eyes.’ Wessman explains that “Faustus’s goal at the outset is a visual penetration and consumption of divine secrets; his language expresses this voracious hunger,” not so unlike Actaeon himself (411). The irony here, is that Faustus casts himself in the divine role of Diana, but his fate aligns more similarly to that of Actaeon.  Wessman points out that in Act Five of the play, “Faustus’s diction betrays the mythological trappings of his end” (411). This includes phrases such as ‘rend not my heart,’—a homophone to imply the ‘hart’ that Actaeon was transformed into, ‘brutish beast,’ etc. All of which serve as mimicries of Actaeon’s own fate.  This suggests that even though Faustus eventually came to the final realization of God’s Truth, he still yearned for a romanticized and glorified death that imitated the classical tales he held in such high esteem.  His lesson remained unlearned, and that is what inhibited him from true redemption.

In contrast to the mythical perspective, Jay Zysk focuses primarily on the Eucharistic embodiment of Faustus’ moral dilemma in his essay “The Last Temptation of Faustus.”  He uncovers how Faustus’ disdain for the notion of God was due to his selfish compulsion to become his own God in a very literal and physiological way. Zysk says: “While Faustus does not reveal a desire for transubstantiation outright, his compulsion to effect substantial change through magic is related in part to such a priestly power [. . .] What he lacks in the capacity of priestly confection he locates in magical conjuration” (348).  This shows that Faustus’ has a very agnostic perspective in that he withholds any belief in a God unless he himself can become one.  God’s promise is of eternal life, not of eternal Godhood. Deified transformations, as it happens, are seen much more commonly in the mythography of the classical era, which Faustus then conceptualizes as his own brand of intellectual faith—one that suits his own ideals and motivations, as described by T. McAlindon: “Demons always seek to be worshipped as gods, and sometimes promise their follower that they too will be gods. The belief that magic is synonymous with idolatry and mythology is, in fact, clearly discernible” (McAlindon 216).

A.N Ockerland’s “Intellectual Folly of Doctor Faustus” agrees with Faustus’ selective faith, and highlights his delusion from an intellectual standpoint.  As ‘scholarly’ as Faustus makes himself out to be, Okerland proves that Faustus is just as flippant with intellect as he is with divinity: “Faustus profanes the intellectual process by selecting only those data which substantiate conclusions predetermined by desire. Increasingly, his actions reflect a tendency to hear only what he wishes and to see only the evidence that confirms his preestablished vision” (Okerland 261).  Even Faustus can’t deny it, as Okerland points out, that “his final cry, “I’le burne my bookes,” records all the anguish of that comprehension, of the knowledge so blithely ignored during the euphoria of his self-delusion” (277).  In violating the principles of the intellectual dialectic, Faustus is left with no other form to turn to except the metaphysical, which expounds knowledge in a way that either provides the truth, or lies about it. Okerland states that the “angels present a classic problem of whom to believe-and what to believe when contradictory statements are uttered as fact” (267).

  1. McAlindon’s essay “Classical Mythology and Christian Tradition in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus” was one of the first scholarly articles that I found in doing my research, but it was one that I felt needed to be reread with the most care, since the title suggested just how important it was in relation to my topic. The relevance imparted in the essay was very eye-opening, and it tied all my other sources together quite nicely as a whole. So due to that, I felt it necessary to discuss McAlindon’s findings last before transitioning to my own conclusions. McAlindon expresses his central claim right off the bat, stating that “basically, mythology and magic are conceived in Dr. Faustus as pseudo-divinity” (McAlindon 214). Meaning that Faustus’ acceptance of “theological attitudes to the classical gods and their fables [. . .] serves to emphasize a spiritual evaluation of the ambitions and passions which destroy the erring theologian of Wittenberg” (214).  McAlindon agrees with Okerland’s stance on the “intellectual” influence of the inner angels, as well as Wessman’s claim on Faustus’ God complex.  McAlindon says the fact that “[Faustus] is confronted with a choice between theology and mythology is nicely demonstrated by the persuasions of the Good and the Evil Angel, one urging him to read the scriptures and avoid blasphemy, the other pressing upon him ‘the damned book’ which would allow him to be ‘on earth as Jove is in the sky, / Lord and commander of these elements’ (i.75-76)” (216).  McAlindon’s key argument is that classical mythology and Christian traditions aren’t meant to coincide, so much as they are meant to oppose each other.  He concludes that “there is never any fusion of classical ornament and Christian doctrine; when confusion arises it has a dramatic significance, and in reality they are as opposed as the Evil and the Good Angel” (223).  McAlindon states that once he “rejects” the ideals of Christian divinity, “the old gods invade [Faustus’] mind with (in the theological view) complete inevitability” (216).  Hedonists of the 16th century, contemporary to both Faustus and Marlowe, were executed by means of fire. It is most fitting then, says McAlindon, that “the very last image in the play is one of fire, and it marks, most poignantly, the simultaneous end of the old gods and of one who aspired to be like them” (222).

Based on my research, I came to the conclusion that Faustus made two crucial mistakes on his quest as the play progressed. His first mistake was in formulating his own brand of faith…Faustus selected parts that he liked about anything he sought to learn and believed only what he fancied. He elected only to know what he wanted to know rather than what there is to know. This course of action blasphemed against heaven, which is deemed as the “unforgivable sin” in Elizabethan times. Faustus’ second mistake was not recognizing his accountability once he had accumulated all knowledge—It’s been long debated among scholars that Faustus never acquired the knowledge he sold his soul for…But I am of the mind that he did come to know all things, regardless of whether or not he accepted them as truths. One of the key reasons Faustus didn’t obtain the rewards of heavenly immortality because he disregarded certain truths. Faustus didn’t want to be held accountable for anything…but that’s the consequence of knowledge, as seen in the Fall of Man depicted in the book of Genesis. This dismissal of responsibility is what made him incapable of redemption. He didn’t accept the Truth until his descent had already begun. All of this not only mirrors Christian theology but it also parallels Lucifer’s own fall from grace, which is alluded in the Icarus myth that makes appearances throughout the play.            The endless parallels between these archetypal themes demonstrate how Faustus represents a dire consequence for being selective with what you choose to believe in.  Faustus has a superficial designer faith in mind—one where God doesn’t exist, yet God’s enemy does. Where a higher power is deemed ridiculous, but magic and myths can be made true. His beliefs all run contrary to each other.  And his persistence and hubris on the matter are what ultimately turn the tide against him.  He reimagines and reenacts the stories he revels in, at the cost of blighting others.  He glorifies himself and his prestige for attempting to outsmart those that gifted him in the first place.  He asks to know of God, Heaven, Hell, and the cosmos; yet he scoffs at what he disagrees with—or feigns ignorance at what he wishes not to be true.  All of these traits are hyperbolic representations of what we as human beings possess at our own internalized levels. And Faustus’ demise cautions us against falling prey to our own inner demons—which can instill pain and pleasure in equal fervor.  For me, coming to this conclusion awakened a deeper appreciation for the definition of Truth.  As stated in the book of John, the truth, while it may be ugly at times, will ultimately “set you free” (John 8:32).




























Anderson, David K. “The Theater of the Damned: Religion and the Audience in the Tragedy of     Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.” ProjectMUSE. 54.1 (2012): 79-109. Web. 12    November 2014.


Hammill, Graham. “Faustus’s Fortunes: Commodification, Exchange, and the Form of Literary             Subjectivity.” ELH.63.2 (1996): 309-336. Web. 17 November 2014.


Li, Li. “The Inevitable Fall: Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and the Icarus Myth.” Studies in             Literature and Language.  5.3 (2012): 24-29. Web. 12 November 2014.


McAlindon, T. “Classical Mythology and Christian Tradition in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.” PMLA.          81.3 (1966): 214-223. Web. 12 November 2014.


Okerland, A.N. “The Intellectual Folly of Doctor Faustus.” Studies in Philology.  74.3 (1977):

258-278. Web. 16 November 2014


Ornstein, Robert. “Marlowe and God: The Tragic Theology of Dr. Faustus.” PMLA. 83.5 (1968):

378-1385. Web. 17 November 2014.


Reisner, Noam. “The Paradox of Mimesis in Sidney’s Defence of Poesie and Marlowe’s Doctor      Faustus.” The Cambridge Quarterly 39.4 (2010): 331-349. Web. 17 November 2014.


Rudasill, Michael Carlton. “A Study of the Significance of Marlowe’s use of the Unforgivable Sin as a       Plot Device in “Dr. Faustus.” Florida Atlantic University, 1992.  Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web.

16 November 2014.


Schwartz, Elias. “Literature and Belief.” The Forms of Feeling Toward a Mimetic Theory of

Literature. Ed. Eugene Goodheart. Port Washington, New York: National University

Publications Kennikat Press, 1972.106-116. Print.


Wessman, Christopher. “‘I’ll Play Diana’: Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and the Actaeon Complex.” English Studies. 82.5 (2001): 401-419. Web. 16 November 2014.


Zysk, Jay. “The Last Temptation of Faustus.” Post Medieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies.        43.2 (2013): 335-367. Web. 12 November 2014.





A Passionate Defense of Genre Fiction

by Shelby Hallenbeck
This short essay was cross-posted from The Voracious Reader, the author’s literature blog. To find this piece and other works of hers, please visit
My boyfriend is a creative writing major at the same university as myself, and like me he’s preparing to wrap up his degree by taking a senior seminar course. The final project for the creative writing bachelor’s degree is, as one would expect, to write a long-form poetry or prose piece of your choice that reflects your own interests and style. There were, however, three limitations to what could be written:
1. No fantasy or sci-fi stories
2. No horror stories
3. No children’s literature
Naturally I have plenty to say about rule number three as a children’s literature major, but I’ll save that rant for another day. Now, I suppose that there could be a reason for these rules that makes sense logically (the professor isn’t familiar enough with certain genres, they’re harder to grade, etc.) but I can’t help but consider these limitations to be a reflection of the fact that we just don’t take certain genres of literature seriously. Despite the fact that some of our most brilliant social commentary comes from science fiction novels (the most famous examples being the ubiquitous 1984 and Fahrenheit 451) and that fantasy epics (Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, for instance) build a dense fan theory culture of their own, fantasy and science fiction novels are put in a separate space from “serious” works (science fiction is only taught as a 200-level intro course here at Eastern Michigan University, with no space for horror and fantasy novels), a few select classics aside. This isn’t to say that all genre fiction has something important to say; like all other types of novels there’s plenty of drivel to sort through, but by no means should we push certain genres aside due to a belief that they’re inherently cheesy. Or too popular. Or too shallow.
And yet despite numerous examples that yes, genre fiction can prove to have literary value while being massively popular, these novels are relegated to “guilty pleasure” status. In 2007, for instance, horror master Stephen King was named top guilty pleasure writer. In second place? J.K. Rowling, the author of a fantasy series so dense with biblical and literary references that entire books are dedicated to unpacking it. Another article asks “Should You Feel Bad About Reading Stephen King?”. I’ll tell you, dear reader, that as a literature major who just finished binge-reading IT and absolutely loving it, my answer is a resounding no. I will never feel guilty for reading Stephen King. Aside from the value of fun (which is sadly ignored by many), these horror novels, typically regarded as pulp, deal with more than one would think. IT, for instance, which follows a group of six adults who return to their childhood town to fight a monster that lurks in the sewers, asks whether or not you really can connect with your inner child and if imagination can be recaptured (there’s quite a bit more going on in the novel, but for the sake of brevity I highly recommend Mike Pace’s article “6 Reasons Why You Should Read Stephen King’s IT” to any interested readers), although more informed literary sources like Dwight Allen turn up their noses at these sorts of books.
Is there any solution to this relentless genre-fiction scorn, both in pop culture and the classroom? I have been lucky enough to watch my senior seminar class vote to read Ira Levin’s feminist sci-fi classic The Stepford Wives, and I’ll admit I’m pretty excited to see it picked apart in the college classroom. I can only dream that this is the start of a new trend, a slow shift into seeing some of my favorite novels being taken seriously.

The Book of Glass By Nolan Fleming Smith

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Mother Where Art Thou? By Aisha Almazro

Mother Where Art Thou

I have always acknowledged the power of literature, it can take you places, it can influence who you become in the future, one book can simply change who you are. Thus, I have always believed in the importance of introducing literature to children, as much as we can. Literature mixes perfectly with children’s wide imagination. Yet, after becoming a mother, my outlook to children’s literature has completely changed. I have begun to question if the literature we grew up with is the right one for our children to grow with as well because of the simple fact that every literature, every classical fairytale has always misses one thing, the biological mother. Therefore, I want to explore the classical tales and the modern ones in the hopes of trying to find the mothers in them and how they differ.

New worlds that are introduced to children can enrich their lives, their imagination. Children are always drawn to magical worlds where animals talk and men fly. We can see the stories they read reflect through their action, how they imitate what they read, how their idols are always the heros in the stories. However, these fairytales have always forgot the most important person in every child’s life, the mother. Fairytales lack the role of the mother, the hero always suffered the loss of the his or her mother by death, writers favorite fate to end the mothers character. A child is never exposed to the mother-child relationship, never shown the maternal love. Even though children growing up are influenced by their mother and she is the closest to them in their childhood. Yet, stories have always forgot this point.

If you asked an adult and a child nowadays about their favorite fairytale, the first thing that would come to their mind is one of the classical ones, girls will choose the stories with beautiful princess who marries the prince and boys will choose those with a reckless hero who wins against evil eventually. Yet, why is the mother not included? Why do writers tend to exclude her from the picture. For example, when we look at one of the classical tales of all time, Cinderella.

She is an unhappy girl who’s mother was dead and her father married a widow with two daughters, the story as they say, is a fairy tale history. When we look at such a famous world-wide tale and what it teaches, first of all, Cinderella’s story starts without any indication of her relationship with her mother, the sacred bond is slaughtered before it begins. However, she is exposed to an “evil” stepmother and step sisters. Thus, her journey begins in search of escaping her misery by trying to “fall in love” and marry the prince, the solution all heroines try to accomplish. This plot makes me wonder what are we teaching our children by it?

The story killed the mother, her bond, the maternal feelings between her and the child from the beginning. Thus, the child learn to exclude the relationship just like the story did, and focuses on the evilness, cruelty, unkindness and unfairness that is coming from the stepmother and her daughters. Not only the motherhood relationship is excluded, but also the sisterhood is devastated as well. If we are looking at the story from a child’s perspective, of what exactly the story is telling him, we see that first the stepmother, the closest mother figure to the hero, to be evil, it shows them that those who care about you can turn to be unkind and unfair. The same goes to the sisters who treats the heroin badly without any reason why, children learn that you may be mistreated for no reason. Thus, Rebellions is the only way for an adventure. Over all, what lessons the story is teaching then? it sure does not present the mother the closest giving person to a child, the fairness she deserves,, one might argue about the godmother but she is still far from being realistic, but yet we were told and still tell the magical story of Cinderella that lacked the magic of motherhood.

If we look at the modern fairytales, they are far from the princess and her prince, from innocence and sweetness. Modern fairy tales have became more complex in characters, more deep and yet, children are still enchanted by them. The modern fairytales have addressed the children readers more maturely, the way children should be addressed but it kept the elements of a good fairytales, by having magic, adventure, heros and heroins, the love and rebellions as well. For example, Harry Potter, one of the well known tales around the world. Harry Potter can be considered a fairy tale, or as professor Daumer sees it, the male Cinderella. it is a fairytale for the magic that wraps the story all together and the adventurous characters that pulls the children to read this story. Yet, are modern fairytales similar to the classical ones regarding what it intend to teach children about their mothers?

When we look at Harry potter, the story of the wizard going through his adventures in the Wizarding world fighting evil and making friends. Even though our hero is orphan, yet his mother and the mothers theme are empowered throughout the story. For example, Harry does not know his mother, but he knows she sacrificed her life for him, he know that sacrifice was the invisible force behind his strength to fight evil “Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign … to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. (…) It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.” (Philosopher’s stone P17)

Harry’s mother is not the only mother in the story, there is also Mrs. Weasley, Harry’s best friend’s mother, she is shown as the caring kind mother who showers her kids with love and kindness, kissing them goodbye and always asks about their being, and when they were in danger “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH” she was the ultimate protection every mother turn to when her children are in danger. Finally, there is Malfoy’s mother, who is even though the mother of an evil son and the wife of an evil man, still loves her son unconditionally, she remind us of Harry’s mother, she sacrificed her life by lying to Voldemort just to see her son. These are all examples of different mothers to different characters, yet they all share the same strong sacred bond to their children.

This makes us question the difference between the classical fairytales and the modern ones. In my opinion, there is a reason why they differ. First of all the writers simply differ. For example, Harry Potter was written by J.K Rowlling, a mother who knew what parenting is, knew

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the bond and the importance of it to children and parents and thus, indulged that theme throughout the story with different characters, it teaches our kids that no matter how good, bad, poor or rich you are, you are still loved by your mother, she is someone who is willing to sacrifice her life to you and she is one who should be looked up to. Not only it teaches our children but also the parents to acknowledge and appreciate the maternal bond between them.

Finally, psychologists, specially Bruno Bettelheim who wrote “The Uses of Enchantment” Argues with the fact that classical ones were written without any parental figure just because it helps children to be more independent and see their hero on his own

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going through a journey to fight evil people. Psychologists believes that presenting such evilness and dis-attachm them from their comfort, their mothers helps them mature and prepare them to the real world. Introducing such dark themes to develop a sense of meaning and purpose since it allowed them to “grapple with their fears in remote, symbolic terms.” I also notice how children have always behaved in a way that they reach a point where they try to imitate adults and having your mother taking care of you is not much of adult act, and that is why those motherless heros are more appealing to children who want to relate to those characters. In my opinion, a story can be appealing to children by having the adventurous characters and enchant them by magic and still have the mother in the story line like Harry Potter, the modern fairytales have empowered the role of the mother, yet the classical ones seemed to have abolished her role completely.

Ariel By Nichole Prater

Ariel was perfect in my five year old eyes. She was tall, I was short. She had long, red, straight hair. I had short, white, curly hair. She got to wear a coconut bra and have an awesome green sparkly tail. I had to wear oversized Lion King T-shirts with black leggings (the ones that had the annoying strap on the bottom of the feet) and white Keds. Let’s just say, I was no Ariel.

I knew every word to Disney’s The Little Mermaid movie. My mom said I watched it literally four or five times a day. I knew the songs, the dialogue, I even knew the dances. My favorite part of the movie was when Ariel wanted to be human and she is sitting on the rock watching the Prince from the distance and at the most intense part of the song she flings herself on top of this huge rock, flips her hair back, as big ocean waves hit the rock at the same time. I can’t really tell you why exactly I liked this part so much, all I know is that I was fascinated by the whole scene. So fascinated in fact that I would often get my hair wet in the sink, brush out the curls and put the hair over my face, run up to the back of our couch, fling myself on top, flip over my hair, and sing with Ariel all at the exact same time. My mom didn’t like this so much, I usually got the entire living room wet with the flinging of my hair, and was often sent into my movie scene room.

I had Ariel sheets, and the bedspread. I had the guppy nightlight, and the crab stuffed animal. I had a fish tank in my room that had the castle from the movie in it and I would pretend that all the

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fish could talk to me and I could talk to them. My walls were covered in stickers and painted with bubbles that when I stepped inside I really felt like I was under the sea. Ariel was my Barbie.

I liked the adventures Ariel got

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to go on. She got to search for “treasure” which really always consisted of human objects, like forks and spoons, and I liked how she never gave up on who she wanted be. At the time I didn’t want to give up being Ariel. So just like her I would go on adventures too. I would take the forks and spoons out of the kitchen drawer lay them around the house, then a week later go on my adventure and try to remember where I had put them. Most of the time however, my adventure would be cut short because my mom would vacuum and find most of the forks and spoons herself. Which I later found out, we had actually went through eight vacuums that year, and two different sets of silverware.

At age five I was the only child and grandchild on both sides of my family. So one summer day I decided that I wanted to be called Ariel. Nichole was such a boring name at the time, and I didn’t have any brothers or sisters like Ariel did, so I thought it would only be fair if I had a cool name like hers. It was pretty easy to get everyone in the family to call me Ariel. I think they just felt bad because I had no cousins or brothers and sisters to play with.

As a special treat my mom even bought me the red spray on hair dye that you often find around Halloween. With my white hair that hair dye worked perfectly. My hair was as red as a fire

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truck for three days. Everyone had finally called me Ariel, even my classmates in kindergarten. I was ecstatic, I had finally reached my dream of being her, although I didn’t have the tail or coconut bra, the red hair was all I really needed. For three days I thought that I was just like her because I didn’t give up on my dreams of wanting to be her. Then I washed my hair, or tried to at least. What my mom and I didn’t realize is that we were supposed to wash the dye out the exact same day that we put it in. So when I washed mine my hair didn’t exactly go right back to that white color my mom had hoped, it turned pink. For the next two days in school I was called pinky, until it finally washed out over the weekend.

After the dying the hair episode I started to realize that it wasn’t very easy being Ariel. I didn’t want to dye my hair red anymore because I didn’t want to be called Pinky when I tried to wash it out. I didn’t want to wear the coconut bra, because my fake one was really uncomfortable over my shirt. I couldn’t imagine not having two legs, because it was really hard to walk with my feet tied together. So I went back to being Nichole again. Although I kept all the novelty items in my room, and I still watched the movie often, it wasn’t worth the effort trying to be a cartoon character. My mom and dad liked me better as Nichole anyway. They liked that I was still short, and had curly, white hair, because I was still their baby. They said that if I wanted to dye my hair fire truck red when I was eighteen that I could, but then they just wanted me to be me for as long as possible, and I agreed.


“At least you have your health.”
– isn’t that what they say?
But what about you, as you pray and decay,
You haven’t got your health,
nor your wealth,
nor your youth,
Neither have you gotten the truth.

It took your hair,
It even took your fair –
skin. Reshaped, remade,
removal of the infection, for what you paid.

But this wasn’t what you paid for,
& now those things they told you, that lore –
What was if for?
What was it –
for five years, if you’re lucky?
Hold out for that 17% chance, if you’re plucky.

But It took that too,
& all that’s left to take is you,

& you are all I’ve got
left to hold

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to, not
to be forgot.

For, you are

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what I’ve got;

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I won’t let It take
you to that place we forsake.
I won’t go there,
I refuse to despair.

So forget

your health
& your wealth,
Forget your youth
& the truth

– you thought you knew
but you don’t, so don’t stew
in what was, or could have been, in another life;
this is your lot, rife with strife –
I’m so sorry, so … So, I’m
nauseated most of the time,

But, I won’t let it take me there
Even through tears, I’ll refuse to despair.
I’ll refuse, even when it comes
to take you, & it drums
your last beats, I’ll refuse.

& if they

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ever try to accuse
you of giving-up, living
you better believe I won’t be forgiving.

& I’ll live everyday defending
this idea we have of unending
Grace, even if we are pretending.
– as if it’s not impending,
this ending.

The “Intimate Public” of Mommy Blogs: A Genre Study By Chelsea Lonsdale

The “Intimate Public” of Mommy Blogs: A Genre Study

Motherhood has been culturally recognized as a distinct social position, though its status is often considered within the context of other systems. With the emergence of digital writing and online communities, motherhood has become a unique phenomenon taking the blogosphere by storm, simultaneously bringing both an intimate and social perspective to the forefront of mothering research. In this paper, I will provide an overview of the content scope, participants in, and implications of the subgenre of blogs known as “mommy blogs,” a framework within which women writers nurture an “intimate public” through deliberate and communal interaction.



Women have remained the subordinate half of a patriarchal system, causing a distinction between the public and private spaces that they occupy. Mothers in this system have been selected as caretakers and domestic preservers, leaving them little room in which to explore or process issues beyond the private home. In certain societies, such as those with low socio-economic status or less industrialized economies, women-centered kinship networks provide substantial support for the community as a whole. However, in mainstream, middle-class American society, mothers have a delineated path that they are expected to follow; one that both controls and presents ideals by which these women are supposed to abide, encompassing the many expectations placed on mothers that define culturally what “good” and “bad” mothering look like. These myths are often presented under the guise of parenting “experts,” who have published numerous books that populate the shelves at bookstores and libraries, or through websites that promote certain parenting styles in a hyper-idealized format. All the while, women who consume this information do so from a point of solitude; whether they stay at home or opt for a career, they are expected to embody an impossible number of identities and roles that severely limit the honest representation of what a mother really wants. Without the solidarity provided in the past by collaborative groups, such as women-centered kinship networks (Cherlin, 2009) or such groups as ladies literary clubs, mothers become isolated and cutoff from the intimate bonds necessary to survive. Mommy blogs have provided both a window into and a means to cope with the daily demands of mothering from an honest and evolving perspective; by both sharing their own experiences and having access to the experiences of others, women gain emotional and social support that is otherwise absent in our current social structure. Lauren Berlant (2008), in her book The Female Complaint, calls this “intimate public” an achievement:

Whether linked to women or other nondominant people, it flourishes as a porous, affective scene of identification among strangers that promises a certain experience of belonging and provides a complex of consolation, confirmation, discipline, and discussion about how to live as an x (p. viii).

Because blogs are characterized by their interactive nature as well as their intentionally small audiences, they also provide qualitative insight for researchers on the realities of motherhood and mother identity that would be otherwise unobtainable through interviews or other traditional forms of data collection. Researchers are

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actively involved in the subgenre of mommy blogs through participation and observation; several of the articles used to support my claims have been written by self-identified mommy bloggers, who are also working in the field of sociology.


How Blogging Works: The Who, Why, and How

In a 2008 ‘State of the Blogosphere,’ Sifry found that out of 133 million existing blogs approximately 36% of women and 16% of men published regularly about family issues (as cited in Lopez, 2009, p. 729). This points to the notion of “mommy blogging” as a qualified subgenre within the larger field, though this term has not always been received by its participants with pride. The participants within this “intimate public,” a term coined by Berlant (2008) in The Female Complaint, are generally white, middle-class, heterosexual females who are of childbearing age (Lopez, 2009). Lori Kido Lopez’s (2009) research focuses on the “radical” notion of mommy blogging, particularly its persuasive entrance by females into a male-dominated field. She challenges the domestic, or private sphere that women have been assigned to, acknowledging the digital space

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that this evolving community has settled within that has provided a venue for honest and provoking conversations pertaining to family subjects. Such topics include childbirth options, childcare, discipline, feeding, medical and health information, as well as parents-as-partners, single parenting, and mental health. Despite a failed representation of all mothers due to socio-economic restraints that limit access to technology (thus explaining the demographical data), mommy blogs shed new light on topics that have been marked as inappropriate for public discourse, which thus unpacks the myths of motherhood that the genre of parenting literature generally perpetuates.

Aimee Morrison, a self-identified mommy blogger and author of the paper “’Suffused by feeling and affect’: the intimate public of personal mommy blogging” (2011) explains in detail the rhetoric of mommy blogs, considering audience, purpose, and delivery as essential to understanding the affective nature of this subgenre. Morrison associates mommy blogs with network theory as these blogs rely on collective production and circulation, or a mutual and non-linear model of interaction between authors and their readers. She contrasts this with broadcast theory, which would involve a small group responsible for production of a text that is given to and received by consumers. Morrison (2011) identifies through an anonymous survey that more than 80% of respondents reported their readers to be other bloggers. This points to the unique property of mommy blogs, and blogs in general, that require an immediate and interactive response on behalf of the audience in order to flourish. Even more so, mommy blogs navigate this “intimate public” by maintaining small audiences and limiting their search-ability, relying on readership and network-propelled circulation to nurture their community. I find this to be incredibly interesting when compared to the communities that have provided a similar sense of companionship prior to or beyond the Internet, such as ladies literary clubs or women-centered kinship between families or neighbors; the community of mommy bloggers seems to have roots in these localized practices despite their international and often semi-anonymous presence.

Morrison (2011) continuously emphasizes the properties of an intimate public, those being a controlled audience (generally small and selective, as well as interactive) and the intimate, personal disclosure that determines topic choice and the amount of detail included. Therefore, though the authors maintain a certain degree of autonomy, the subgenre of mommy blogging is participant driven and thus forms a subculture within the genre. Mommy blogs are autobiographical by nature, updated frequently, and are accessible freely by anyone with an Internet connection (Lopez, 2009). Readers check in habitually, and authors use informal and narrative language producing a conversational tone (Lopez, 2009). Blogs are also often tagged, using keywords assigned to entries that associate entries with shared tags into searchable entities, which Lopez (2009) believes gestures to the “fragmentation of identity represented in blogs” (p. 738), though I will take this further and claim that fragmented identity is a concept associated specifically with the female identity, as evidenced by the many unattainable expectations placed on mothers and the many roles women must balance on a daily basis.

In terms of topic, what distinguishes mommy blogs from personal blogs written by women is the “recurrent theme of writing about children” (Lopez, 2009, p. 734); a choice that has led to marginalization even within the community of female bloggers. In a BlogHer 2005 conference, a conference attendee named Alice Bradley, claimed that ‘mommy blogging is a radical act’ (Lopez, 2009). This controversial statement at a conference for female bloggers that originally aimed to challenge misconceptions that females only blogged about children earned itself a session at the 2006 conference with Bradley’s claim as the session title (Lopez. 2009). Perhaps what Bradley calls attention to is the identity of mother and its need for reform and reclaiming: according to Lopez (2009), “the entire concept of being a mother is overwhelming and imbued with failure. Once women become mothers, their lives are taken over by society’s strict sets of rules and expectations.” This “new-momism,” a term attributed to Douglas and Michaels (as cited in Lopez, 2009, p. 731), is evidenced in the barrage of parenting literature thrown at new and expecting parents, in the social

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practices surrounding motherhood represented in the media (television shows and advertising), and institutionally through maternity leave and lactation policies. These examples all serve as places for these rules to be taught and reinforced. Though mommy blogs intentionally limit themselves from broader public discourse (which Morrison argues is a hindrance to achieving social change), their presence in the blogosphere is growing and with that comes continued uncovering of the hyper-idealized image associated with motherhood identity.

What is at Stake for Families?

May Friedman (2010) in her essay “On Mommyblogging: Notes to a Future Feminist Historian,” says that “maternal isolation has directed many different waves of feminism” (p. 197). In placing the feminist movement on a timeline we see that these waves coincide with the societal elevation of women, and consequently the shift from women-centered kinship within communities to a more individualistic environment. Andrew Cherlin (2009), a prominent family sociologist, recalls the nineteenth-century ideal of True Womanhood which focused on the private, domestic lives of women that came to define the woman’s sphere; while this distinction limited women in terms of social clout, it provided for a network that included other female relatives and/or members of the community that became impractical to maintain when the boundaries between gendered spaces were challenged. Community in general, but particularly for women who have been subordinate in a patriarchal system, fosters identity development and empowerment through reflexivity. Created kinship, or the actively constructed ties that individuals create with others, provides emotional support and personal satisfaction common to both modern expectations of relationships as well as communal values. This type of connection found amongst mommy bloggers counters individualism by providing a new accessible space for those who may otherwise be limited by their lack of local resources.

While mommy blogs are collectively working to redefine aspects of motherhood identity, these blogs also serve as educational tools and are becoming recognized sources of reliable data. In an article titled “’Motherbirth or childbirth’? A prospective analysis of vaginal birth after caesarean blogs,” Dahlen and Homer (2011) discuss findings from a survey conducted by analyzing blogs to gather data pertaining to VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) decisions. Like the other studies considered in this paper, Dahlen and Homer (2011) used Google Analytics to search for specific terms and themes in blogs which provided them a sample from which to begin analysis. Mommy blogs thus not only serve as the thread by which communities form and are held together, but also provide entirely subjective information for their readers. When faced with heavily implicated decisions pertaining to childbirth, childrearing, parenting, and partnership, women often turn to the internet to find answers. Blogs provide a unique take on the information usually presented objectively by medical professionals or other trusted authorities on parenting issues.


Despite their limitations, mommy blogs hold the power needed to access social change through solidarity, expounding on the “intimate public” and creating a space where both the public and private aspects of family life are engaged. These blogs illustrate contemporary motherhood identity as well as the social construction of expectations placed on parents while maintaining a space on the fringe of mainstream media. Through what Friedman calls “women’s storytelling” (p. 199), honest accounts of motherhood are given to the public as living data and thus an evolving archive is born through deliberate, consciously created communication. The subgenre of mommy blogs within a larger digital space, as well as the genre of parenting media, holds the potential for radical redesign that considers the actual dynamic needs of contemporary American families.


Berlant, L. (2008). The Female Complaint. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Cherlin, A. (2009). Public and Private Families: An Introduction. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Dahlen, H. & Homer, C. (2011). ’Motherbirth or childbirth’? A prospective analysis of vaginal birth after caesarean blogs. Midwifery. 1-7.

Friedman, M. (2010). On mommyblogging: notes to a future feminist historian. Journal of Women’s History 22(4). 197-208.

Lopez, L. K. (2009). The radical act of ‘mommy blogging’: redefining motherhood through the blogosphere. New Media Society 11(5). 729-747.

Morrison, A. (2011). “Suffused by feeling and affect”: the intimate public of personal mommy blogging. Biography 34(1). 37.

My Walk With God By Diana Micu

Before I start, I would like to give you a little introduction to our faith and what we believe. Our branch of Christianity strongly believes in the Trinity between God (the Father),

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Jesus (the Son), and the Holy Spirit. There is baptism through both the water and the Holy Spirit; many of my friends and I were baptized in the Holy Spirit before we were baptized in the water. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a personal baptism where our eyes are “opened” so we can truly experience God. Baptism in the water is more of a public confirmation to the church and everyone else that you are openly committing your life to Christ and choosing to follow Him for the rest of your life…

My “Spiritual Experience” began when my parents first brought me to church for my dedication 18 years ago. It wasn’t until about four years ago in 2008 that I actually began to take it seriously. As a little girl, I grew up in the church, made friends at church, knew all my bible stories, learned how to pray to God, memorized verses, and even sang for the congregation. I grew up fully exposed to the customs and practices of our church and went along with it, but I was mostly just going through the motions. I didn’t feel personally (emotionally and mentally) involved and I guess I can give some consideration to the fact that I was probably still too young to understand. When I was 14, I began to think more seriously about my faith and if I’m really, in fact, doing my part. I desired to become more involved and to feel more connected with God than just the distant motions I was doing until now. Many of my friends were in the same boat, so we all decided to make this change/decision in our lives together. April and May of 2008 changed majority of our lives because between these two months, hundreds of us were baptized with the Holy Spirit and our attitudes and outlook on our lives were changed forever.

As I stated in the intro, we are connected through several different churches so when I say hundreds of us received the Holy Spirit, I am not referring only to my church; it was a collection of the youth from all the churches in southeast Michigan. We often look at these two months as a time I like to call: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit because this is not something that happens often (in this capacity). May 7, 2008 was the night I was baptized and ever since, I have become so much more aware and conscious of everything around me. I was able to sing and speak in tongues and for the first time felt a true connection to God. It was also an encouragement to see all my friends receive it and on September 7, 2008 we all made a public decision to give our lives to Christ by getting baptized in the water (there were roughly 30 of us at my church; it was one of the biggest baptisms in our church’s history).

Little did I know these events would be the beginning of my spiritual journey. I’ve heard from several people that everything would get so much harder because “going through the motions” was no longer an option. From now on everything we did and said was supposed to reflect Christ in our lives and this required a real effort to try to become holy for God. This meant: repenting from our sins, making a conscious attempt to stop sinning (which is extremely hard) and fleeing from temptations. This is when Satan attacks us the most because his whole purpose is to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). He hates to see people give their lives to God, so his attacks become brutal when we are born again in Christ, and if we are not alert and properly prepared we fall badly in our spiritual walk.

The extent to which we fall depends on each person and their strengths; as for me, I did not fall too badly. At first I felt strong and alive and ready to take on the world, but I was not properly preparing myself to endure trials and trust in God at all times. This caused me to stumble, occasionally at first, then more often than not and I began to focus on the desires of my flesh rather than the desires of the Spirit living within me. I began compromising with things such as the music I listened to and the movies I watched and I even walked right into my “rebellious stage” with my parents. By the time I was 17, I reached a point of depression and loneliness which I believed I would never get out of; the happy, vibrant, confident girl I was three years prior got lost in the lies Satan threw at me which I allowed myself to believe. Lies such as “I’m not good enough” or “I have no value in God’s eyes” or “nothing I do will ever be worthy of the love God has for me so why bother trying.” These questions (along with several others) rang in my mind like a broken record player and I started to feel trapped and lost with no one to turn to. I lost my confidence in myself and my self-esteem plummeted; even my friends noticed a change in my

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behavior. Looking back now I see that God was with

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me, in fact, the whole time and all I can say is that I’m grateful that He cared about me so much to protect my heart. He never let me get into drugs, drinking, partying or falling in and out of love; he kept all of that away from me; it was simply something I never desired. Loneliness was my biggest enemy (sometimes I struggle with it even now). The feeling that no one was/is there for me, that I cannot count on anyone, broke my heart (especially when people really did let me down) and forced me to believe the lie that I am very much underappreciated. I stopped reading my bible, turned to non-Christian music as comfort, questioned why God didn’t let me meet someone who would be there for me while everyone else (my brother and now sister too) around me seemed to be getting into long term relationships and finding a companion. To this day I’ve still never had a boyfriend, but I’ve always wanted one. Finding a great guy and falling in love has been one of my only dreams since I was a little girl. Not being able to accomplish this dream made me feel like a failure and I kept questioning God, asking Him why things just never seemed to work out for me. I know this all seems silly, but when all you want to do is love those around you and they don’t receive it, nothing really hurts more; it’s hard to explain. My friends would always tell me that I didn’t need a guy in my life, that I have God and it’s all I need and I would agree with this, but in all honesty I was not convinced. God isn’t a physical being who could hug me when I need it most or speak to me directly like a physical human does (these were the excuses I kept coming up with; at the time I did not know how accessible God can be if we just reach out to Him in faith).

In May of 2011, I went to Chicago for a Romanian youth convention where my life took an unexpected turn and led me to meet one of the most amazing guy I know today. I will not give his name for several purposes, but I will tell you a little bit about him. Over the course of the following summer we got to know each other very well. I really began falling for him and believed he was the right guy for me. He was everything I prayed for (and more) in a guy, however, due to complications we never exactly dated, but we did remain really good friends; I actually consider him to be one of my best friends. He has taught me so much over the past year and has really showed me what it means to be “all out for Jesus.” He’s changed my life for the better and I do not regret anything that has happened because with each day that passes I find myself learning something new with every situation we faced. He’s not perfect, he’s not a saint, he’s merely a human, but he loves the Lord with all of his heart and is not afraid to show it. God is his number one priority and I admire that about him. Through him, God changed my life. He used him to show me how mighty He is and through this man, reminded me that God must come first or nothing else we desire in life will come true. Matthew 6:33 states that we must first seek the kingdom of God and only then will we receive our hearts desires (paraphrased).

I now know what it means to truly be born again. It’s a concept which I find hard to explain and can only show you by being an example. Our purpose is to live as Jesus did, in love and peace, and until recently my objectives were directed towards the wrong goals. I find that each new day I learn more about my God and myself and the fullness of experiencing God never ends. There’s always room for improvement and expansion in the Spirit and this is one of the things I absolutely love about my faith. There is no such thing as fully understanding and comprehending God’s love and devotion for us. Each new day stands as a testimony to His grace and mercy. The only reason majority of us don’t see it is because we do not know what we are looking for and don’t know how to reach for His hand, which is always stretched out and ready to catch us.