A Taste of Immortality: Teenage Girls and Vampire Love

I confess. I know more about Anne Rice than I do about Twilight. Early memories of vampire stories flood in when I think about death's kiss, the iconic black coffin, and a red satin lined cape. My mother was notorious for taking the hayseed 4-H kids to mind-blowing theatrical performances. Everything from Macbeth ("Out, damned spot!") to a riverboat dinner theater production of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Dracula was young, handsome, and flew in over our heads on a wire to the stage below. Romantic to the hilt, this story hit home with virgin love, the deadly first kiss, and the immortal beloved.

The snake in the garden offered Eve knowledge. She bit deep into the apple. As I watched Dracula seduce Lucy, something jumped in my chest. I was 12, just beginning to taste the hormones of the teen years. I longed for this kind of uncontrollable draw toward sex, toward the forbidden fruit. Part longing for an eternity of romantic love, and, I suspect, part longing for a return to what was lost in the Garden centuries ago.

Immortality is the promise of today's forbidden fruit trees. We see it in botox injections, plastic surgery, and a Jane Fonda who doesn't look a day over 30. We stretch mortality to it's limit, beautifying old age.

But my leaping teenage heart wasn't just thirsting for immortality. It was the untameable love affair that drew me in. I wanted a love affair like that - one that could not be denied, one that would never end.

Parents today struggle to understand why teens are gaga over Robert Pattinson. Aren't vampire stories a bit antiquated in this modern era of technology? Why is it that vampires still hold their illusive and timeless allure in an age of short attention spans, text messaging, and break-ups over e-mail?

Christian reviewers paint Twilight's female lead as Eve, and Edward as Satan. Reviewers say teens drooling over this saga are suffering an "unhealthy obsession". While some writers in the Christian blogosphere applaud this saga for endorsing sexual abstinence, others worry that blood-lust is simply an allegorical longing that parodies sexual intercourse.

What if the deeper themes of vampire stories hold the key to their timeless allure? The innate longing of the heart for immortality is central to the Bible and echoed by the incantations of vampires throughout history. Just as Satan offered an immortal kingdom to Christ in the last temptation, so vampires offer the same to young girls.

I remember how I felt watching Dracula as an early teen. I remember the longing for that weird and perverse sexual release in the biting kiss on the neck. I can still feel the lover's breath on my skin, the offer of an unending love affair with the dark prince. There were notes of sin layered deep into the tale of this love story, the temptation to give in to a lesser good for instant gratification. The virginal austerity of Jonathan Harker, with whom sex is but a far-off honeymoon dream, requires a patient and chaste lover. What teen girl wishes to quell hormonal urges for the promise of a sexual tomorrow? The vampire commands all the worship and seduction a teenage heart can muster.

In the final notes of the story, we learn that the vampire denounced God and sold his soul to Satan. He lies exposed as a lowly demon, dying far from home, his immortal dream in ashes. In his final hour, he begs forgiveness from the women whose lives he ruined.

Undying love and an immortal kingdom on earth offer the power Eve thought she might gain by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These themes are timeless and tragic, and draw young girls to the vampire's altar with the promise of a godlike existence here on earth. From Zeus and his bride Hermes and many affairs, to Tom Cruise as the vampire bad guy in the Ann Rice classic, and Satan's serpent and Eve's temptation, there is no doubt that the lure of the vampire is alive and well, throughout history and into modernity.

But the truth at the heart of that deep longing for a love affair that never ends lies not in dark themes, but the beautiful, all-important story of our relationship with Christ. As I look back on the girl who leaned hard against the balcony rail, trying to drink in the story playing out on the stage below, it wasn't a vampire love I was longing for. Deep in my heart, right where God put it when He christened me with the Holy Spirit, was the desire for a King to worship, serve, and be ravished by. It was the call of the Bride to the Bridegroom. For the truth is, however beyond the scope of my pre-teen imagination it was, Christ was singing a love song to my soul, even then.  "Will you be my lover, for eternity, time immemorial?", He sang.

What if the song in the hearts of girls entranced by Twilight is not one of evil, but of good? What if they're really hearing their Savior, calling them to the wedding feast?

What are your memories of vampire stories? Will you allow your children to read them or see the movies? What Christian themes do you see in the Twilight saga? How can we use the allegory of vampire stories to converse with girls about sexuality and pop culture?

Living unintentionally

I confess. I don't know what we're going to do today. It's Saturday. And we have absolutely no plans.

I used to be a perfectionist. I had a spreadsheet for almost everything. I had computerized lists for packing before a trip, how to wax my old-fashioned linoleum floor, what objectives my 1st grader needed to meet by the end of the school year. My grocery list was organized by aisle so I could walk through the store never having to back track. Our meal plan was a 6 week rotation.

That was before I got my wake-up call. I was diagnosed with cancer at 28. I only planned to have cancer for a few months. I printed off reams of research studies and brought them with me to doctor's appointments. But God had other plans for me: surgery and radiation didn't kill my cancer, and I had to change my plan.

Four years went by in no time flat. I hardly noticed the days passing. Worn out from cancer treatment and it's ravaging effects on my body, the slow slide out of my ultra-scheduled life started with the laundry. It started to pile up. And by pile up, I mean the clean clothes pile started to resemble a small mountain.

Soon other little things starting slipping, too. I didn't always have energy to clean the table after a meal. [enter another mountainous pile, this time the dishes.] Some days I couldn't help my kids with schoolwork. Sometimes I went weeks without vacuuming. I didn't always return the calls of my friends promptly. I took long naps when I "should" have been doing something productive.

Guilt lived in my belly like a nasty case of heartburn. It was eating a hole right through me. I felt failure so deeply it almost paralyzed me. Fear, too - what if I never got back to "normal", spreadsheets and schedules and meal plans "normal"?

Slowly, imperceptibly, the guilt ebbed away, replaced by something extraordinary. I started to see the children dancing on the dusty floors instead of seeing the dirt on the floor. I started seeing their smiles when I fed them a delicious warm lunch off of our last 4 clean plates. I decided looking in Laundry Mountain for a clean pair of jeans for the naked toddler was a treasure hunt, and we giggled and practiced our pirate lingo while we tore through the pile. 

I must decrease...He must increase...

I don't live intentionally. It exhausts me. I usually don't know what we're doing tomorrow, much less next week. Does that mean I don't have grand dreams for my children, that I never do anything productive? No. Their schoolwork gets done (most days). We talk about Jesus every chance we get. I'm even teaching them to help me clean the messes around here, and search for their own clothes in Laundry Mountain.

The truth - at least in my disorganized life - is that He fills the empty places. His plans are what happen when my plans are flexible. He shows up when I turn away from the list and focus on living.

Joy was never on my list. Those joys, everyday miracles, that are hidden in the moments of the mundane - a child's smile, a daisy waving in the breeze, laughter with a friend, creativity. These fit themselves into the cracks the schedules left behind.

When He looks down at me, He doesn't see Laundry Mountain and all my other unintentional failures. He sees a mom giggling with her child, snarling "avast, Matey!" while digging tunnels in the clothes He provided this family. He is intentional. So maybe I don't need to be.