Childlike Faith – Living and Loving Your Life With God's Perspective

Tag - dating

When God is Close to the Brokenhearted

There was this one time where I really loved this girl, and she loved me back, but things got jacked up because life is broken and people are broken and mistakes are made. In this relationship, most days were really, really great. But there was one day when something happened and my heart was shattered into a million pieces. I can’t get into the details, but I feel like most of us – at some point – have been devastated before. I mean, really, really devastated. Like when all of the air gets sucked out of your lungs, and you can’t breathe but you still feel like you’re going to be sick. Like your entire world starts to actually simultaneously spin and collapse all at once. And you know you’ve never felt so much pain in your entire life.

I feel like most of us, at some point, have been devastated before.

That was how I felt in that moment. I just looked up the date in my journal, and I had written the following at the time:

The lesson can’t be from all of this: there is no such thing as the fairy tale. There is no such thing as things working out beautifully for you in all areas of life. I don’t want to get cynical. I want to keep my childlike faith. I really really want to. I think I will be able to, but this can’t be the lesson. It just can’t. It can’t be a reality check. I don’t want to believe in reality checks. I want to believe in a huge God capable of huge, miraculous things in the lives of His children. I need to believe in 2 Chronicles 16:9, that His eyes are on the lookout for those who are faithful, for whom He can show Himself strong. I need to believe this. I just do.

While I was pretty wrecked for the next eighteen months or so, God did do something the very next day for me. I didn’t realize the magnitude of it until much later, but He did show up in my life in a powerful way. And it’s important to reflect on because I believe He wants us to stay childlike in our faith, even when everything is falling apart. It’s so very hard sometimes, but He realizes that and shares in our suffering – and if we listen closely and pay attention to things around us, we will see Him move.

It’s so very hard sometimes, but He realizes that and shares in our suffering – and if we listen closely and pay attention to things around us, we will see Him move.

What happened was that the very next day, my friend invited me to go try to find mama loggerhead, leatherback, and green turtles. Living in Palm Beach County, we’re situated on a stretch of the Atlantic Ocean where 200-300 of these glorious beasts emerge from the water every night (and sometimes during daylight hours) to lay their eggs during the nesting season of April through September. However, you don’t see them all the time. It’s comparatively rare. And I’d been out before and had never had any success stumbling across one.

I had been sad and in bed all day, and was in no mood to leave my house, but for whatever reason I felt led to say yes when asked. And so we met up at around 10pm, and just started walking South along the shoreline on Palm Beach Island. The moon was almost full, and it was a beautiful still night with only a gentle lapping of the sea on the sand. There was a warm breeze which helped keep the mosquitoes away…and while I was out there, I realized I was super thankful not to be at home mired in my misery.

Over the course of the next four hours, we walked up and down the shoreline of Palm Beach Island.  And God gave me nine mama loggerhead turtles, up-close and personal.  If you think about it, that is mind-blowing, as most people go their whole lives and never see even a single one. We got close enough to eight of them to touch them if we wanted to (we didn’t). We remained quiet and tiptoed softly around them so they wouldn’t get spooked or alarmed.  We knew they needed to peacefully make it up the beach and deposit their eggs, cover the nest with sand, and then head back to the water. We even sat motionless by one for at least thirty minutes and watched its laborious efforts to dig a nest.  It just felt miraculous to be so close to such majestic and prehistoric-looking sea creatures, and it was almost too much to take in and process. I just shook my head and smiled in amazement, as it had lifted me out of my sadness for a night.

sea-turtle-laying-eggs

When I got home, I took the time to write out my thoughts following the experience. For one, I felt really special, like God was personally giving me a gift with every turtle. I had seen turtle eggs in their nest a few years ago, and little turtle babies one morning after surfing and talking to a volunteer who was tending a nest, but I had never seen a mama before. They were so enthralling to watch. It was like God pulled back a veil to give me a glimpse of something extraordinary and otherworldly. There was no one else around when we were out there on the shoreline, and it felt like we were on another planet.

sea-turtle-eggs

And now that I am thinking about it, I’ve gone out numerous times since then with friends and haven’t seen another. It’s almost like God provided the highest of highs for me while I was at the lowest of lows. He meets us right where we need Him to, because He knows our story and feels our pain and knows what we’re going through. His timing is perfect, and His ways are perfect. I haven’t needed Him to come through like that since, but I definitely needed it on that day of tremendous heartbreak and heartache.  I know I will suffer loss and devastation in the future, and what makes it easier for me to face is knowing that He will once again somehow show up and be there for me.  I can count on it.  I am confident He will respond in a perfectly-crafted way – specific to my situation, my needs, and the tenderness of my heart.

sea-turtle-at-night-eggs

Another interesting thing was that I kept looking backwards (while we were walking forwards) to see if there were any turtles we missed, or that were coming out of the water behind us. However, my friend only looked forward and believed that if we were going to see a turtle, it was going to be in front of us, and that we weren’t going to miss it. I thought that was profound. And maybe a message from God to me as well, perhaps related to my broken heart and perhaps related to everything in life. Because upon reflection, eight of the nine turtles were right in front of us (what are the odds of that?!), and while I did see a turtle behind us on our walk back to the car, it never fully left the water.

So I took that as a reminder that I want to try to live life not looking backwards. Even though it’s hard, since I have a natural tendency to evaluate and dwell on the past.  Especially when the bottom falls out, and when I think I’ve lost my chance and life is never going to get better.  I think the entire experience showed me that God does have special gifts for me, that he is a huge God capable of huge, miraculous things in the lives of His children. And that He is going to keep showing me in unique and soul-stirring ways that I am loved so much by Him, and that I am not going to miss them. I’m just not. I just need to keep moving forward and not look back, and not think that I have missed something.

I think the entire experience showed me that God does have special gifts for me, that he is a huge God capable of huge, miraculous things in the lives of His children.

I felt the real weight of this realization at that moment. And really, I still feel it right now. I’ve thought a lot about what He has for me, and for my loved ones, and I remain convinced that we cannot miss out on His best as long as we are staying close to Him, getting counsel from loved ones, and operating in faith instead of fear. We cannot miss out on His best. Even if we think we have, and even if we actually somehow have, He is beyond loving, and He will bring it back around to us again so we didn’t actually miss it. He’ll put it back in front of us, He’ll re-introduce it into our lives.

Typically, though, whatever it was wasn’t really His best for us.  And if we can just wait a while, He will bring along something more perfect. There is so much freedom in this realization. So much space to live and breathe and make choices and just TRUST. I’m pretty positive He doesn’t want us on tilt all the time, stressed out as to the future. He just wants us to keep moving forward and not look back, staying expectant for Him to do something incredible. To the faithful, He will show Himself strong.

Ever since that night, sea turtles have held a special place in my heart. I think you can understand why.  They were God’s instrument of love to me, reminding me in such a special, personal way that the best is yet to come. The best was yet to come, but I was in a very bad place that day, and couldn’t see it, couldn’t conceive of it. And so He chose to do something tangible, something magical in my life, to encourage me to let go of the past and believe for the future. My hope was at death’s door, but He intervened through nature, through sea creatures nesting. And it kept hope alive.

Image sources:

http://www.seaturtlespacecoast.org/mlb-content/uploads/Ed-Rosack-01.jpg
http://fohn.net/green-turtles-facts-pictures/images/Laying-Eggs-800×600.jpg
https://tourismtalktt.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/leatherback-4.jpg
http://d2tipiv4cs5bo1.cloudfront.net/d4/5f/0f5f81734131ac30e54e9b3290b8/feeling-the-heat-with-jeff-corwin-sea-turtles-video-image.jpg

How to Get Over the Girl

pikes peak
So there was this one time where I really liked a particular girl.  It was way back in 2005.  She was all wrong for me, but I still wanted it to work, and gave it my all because I thought it just might.  I would be sweet and endearing and thoughtful.  I would demonstrate in meaningful ways how much I cared about her and her family.  I would put in the effort to keep in touch on a regular basis.  But something wasn’t right…and I would think to myself, man, it shouldn’t be this hard.  But I didn’t have a reference point against which to measure what a great relationship looks like.  And “on paper,” it seemed like we would be great together.  To be honest, I think it was one of those situations where the timing was wrong.  In the past, she had seemingly liked me, but I wasn’t feeling it.  And now, I really liked her, and she wasn’t feeling it.  But I couldn’t let it go, and detach.  It felt like it was taking over my entire life, and it was eating me up inside.  Constant questions filled my mind: “What is wrong with her?”  “Why won’t she reciprocate?” “What am I doing wrong?” “Why isn’t this working?” And my mind and my world WOULD NOT STOP SPINNING.

Have you ever felt this way?  It’s so awful.  When you’re caught up in it – whether it involves a girl, or a boy, or a friendship, or something at school, or at work, or even with a parent – you’re just a complete mess.  You have zero perspective, you can’t see the forest for the trees, and it’s like you’re in a deep, dark hole that you’ve unwittingly dug for yourself.  But you have no idea how it even happened.  It just did.  You’re just stuck – and the hole is seriously getting deeper.

Have you ever felt this way?  It’s so awful.  You have zero perspective, you can’t see the forest for the trees, and it’s like you’re in a deep, dark hole that you’ve unwittingly dug for yourself.  But you have no idea how it even happened.  It just did.

Eventually, you may get to a point where you are completely unstable, and it starts to affect the other areas of your life.  And those who care about you are so confused, and begging you to get a grip because that one thing – in my case, a girl – can’t possibly have such power and control and influence over you.  And you know that’s correct, but it doesn’t change the fact that right now, you are in a total fog.  And every day is getting increasingly worse.  And you feel completely helpless.  I’ve been there.  It sucks so much.

What do you do in these situations?  Well, there is no easy answer.  And in those moments, it’s hard to even hear suggested answers, let alone implement them – despite the good intentions with which they are offered.  But I personally have to believe that there are things we can do, and I can at least share what has worked for me in the hopes that it can help someone.  You know I am all about childlike faith, and in my childlike faith I am convinced that God doesn’t want us to get stuck in these places, and actually wants us to prevent them from even happening, as much as possible.  But I also want to be gracious towards everyone and remember that life is broken and people are broken, and issues of mental health, chemical imbalances, and unbelievably painful pasts complicate the situation tremendously.  So, I share this with hesitation but in love.

Regain Control of Your Mind

First, I remind myself that because Christ lives inside of me and given us the Holy Spirit as a deposit, I can take every thought captive and make it obedient to how He would want me to think.  I truly believe that.  We are not supposed to just swallow all of the ideas created by our untrustworthy and random emotions, and assume they are the truth – the truth about who we are, what we’re worth, and what our future looks like.  But so many people do.  We can agree that our emotions are all over the place, and yet we allow those emotions to guide how we feel, and most of what we say and do.  As if they were trustworthy.  Which they are not.

We can agree that our emotions are all over the place, and yet we allow those emotions to guide how we feel, and most of what we say and do.  As if they were trustworthy.  Which they are not.

I can’t take every thought captive in my own strength.  I’ve tried.  Perhaps you’ve tried as well.  It may work for a short while, but not long-term.  And it’s fallible, because I am fallible.  The cool thing is that it is not solely up to us, and that He is ready and willing to help.  I know it’s hard for a lot of people to think that we have actual, real spiritual support when we live in a world and culture that exalts science and disparage spirituality (which I find funny, because science hasn’t – and can’t – prove absolutely everything).  But the fact of the matter is that if you are a believer, He is there to help you.

Set Yourself Up For Small Victories

But, I can’t do it arbitrarily or randomly.  I actually have to be more intentional than that to get out of the hole I’m in.  And so I once again remind myself that His Spirit is within me, enabling me to do all things, and I to go on “mini-streaks” in my mind.  So when it comes to this girl who I could not let go of and get over, I would try not to think about her for ten minutes straight.  If she entered my thinking, I would remember His words, and outright reject the thought of her and figuratively cut her out of my thought life.

I knew it had to be a clean break.  I couldn’t allow her to have a foothold – or even a toehold – in my mind, given how emotionally wrapped up and messed up I was at that point.  And I didn’t need to be reminded of her in any capacity, and she had to be deleted from my phone and blocked on social media.  Nothing against her, of course – I just needed to do what I needed to do to regain stability and health.  That’s most important anyway, and so I couldn’t hesitate to take drastic measures if my actual well-being was the goal.  If I got to ten minutes of not thinking about her, I would feel really thankful and proud of myself.  And then I would try to get to thirty minutes.  And then an hour.

And I didn’t need to be reminded of her in any capacity, and she had to be deleted from my phone and blocked on social media.  Nothing against her, of course – I just needed to do what I needed to do to regain stability and health.

It wasn’t easy.  It took me a solid week to keep her out of my thoughts for an hour.  But I was making progress.  And after many weeks, I got to an entire day.  And then I knew that it was happening.  He was helping me conquer this.  And I was getting back on track.

Use Your Faith to Defend Against Attacks

It wasn’t easy or automatic.  Thoughts of her did creep back in sometimes.  But when they did, what also helped me was reminding myself to take up the shield of faith.  And yes, that is metaphorical, but it actually activated my mind and heart to lift up and set in place a figurative “force field” of sorts – something to stop and deflect and extinguish all of the fiery arrows (negative thoughts) that are volleyed against me.  I don’t care where they come from – from my own self-doubt and fear, from societal pressures and expectations of what I or my life should look like, from Satan – it doesn’t matter.  God wants us to remember the agency He has given us to overcome.

You would agree that no one and no thing has the right to physically abuse you, and you would do absolutely everything in your power to keep it from happening.  However, we are sometimes willing participants in our own emotional abuse.

To be honest, some days the negative thoughts keep coming.  They are relentless, and they are vicious.  But I am not a helpless victim.  You would agree that no one and no thing has the right to physically abuse you, and you would do absolutely everything in your power to keep it from happening.  However, we are sometimes willing participants in our own emotional abuse.  And we don’t do a single thing to stop it, let alone everything in our power.  We just take it.  But He’s told us what we should do, and He has promised us to help us along the way.  We just have to do our part and implement His instructions, instead of looking everywhere else for advice and solutions.

Build an Altar of Remembrance

Finally, I am a big fan of altars of remembrance.  This is when I create a defined moment in the history of my life where I give something over to God in a profound, hallowed, and ceremonial way.  This has been modeled by so many heroes of the faith, and to me their lives are worth emulating in this manner.  So, in 2005, I flew out to Colorado, and my best friend Dan and I decided to climb the 14,110 feet of Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs.  Because I wasn’t acclimated to the altitude, it was a pretty miserable six-hour slog to the top for me.  But I had to get to the summit, and I wasn’t going to quit no matter what.  Along the way, I thought about the girl, and my life, and attempted to view the situation from God’s perspective.  I thought about His love for me, and His epic plans for my future, and how I knew without a doubt that He didn’t want me struggling so much like this.  Over a girl.  And frankly, over anything.  And I knew I wanted to be completely done with it, and surrender it over to Him, fully letting go and fully letting God provide me the right relationship He had for me at the right time.

And so when we got to the top, I remember catching a snowflake on my tongue (it had just started snowing right up there at the top – even though it was the middle of August) and then corralled Dan and our other friends together over on the side, off the beaten path, and away from other hikers.  And I reached into my backpack and took out a pen and some scrap paper.  And I told them that I had been struggling with something that was weighing heavily on my heart, and that I needed closure.  And I told them I was going to write it on a bit of paper and then bury it at the top of Pikes Peak.  And leave it here, forever, and be done with it.

I told them that I had been struggling with something that was weighing heavily on my heart, and that I needed closure.  And I told them I was going to write it on a bit of paper and then bury it at the top of Pikes Peak.  And leave it here, forever, and be done with it.

And Dan spoke up and said that he’d love to do the same thing, and one by one so did our other friends.  And so I tore small pieces off of my scrap paper and handed them out, and everyone wrote down at least one thing (and perhaps more) that they were dealing with, and that was holding them back and messing them up.  And we all folded up our pieces of paper (mine, of course, had the girl’s name on it) and created a hole into which they could be deposited.  And after covering them up with a lot of rocks, we all stood over the spot in a circle and prayed.  We prayed that God would honor our heart’s desire to pursue emotional health by deliberately burying what was plaguing us, what was worrying us, what was causing us to not trust Him.  And there, we let them go.

When I got back to Florida and the girl randomly popped into my mind, I told myself that I had left her and the hope of the relationship at the top of Pikes Peak.  That was my altar of remembrance, where God and I ended one chapter, and started another.  And that helped me so much.  I have altars of remembrance in certain places across America, definitely in Florida, and even in other countries (when I’ve gone on missions trips).  And they represent other areas in my life too – not just involving girls. And taking every thought captive and employing my shield of faith has gotten markedly easier as I’ve put these strategies into regular and constant practice.  It takes a long while, but you do reach a tipping point, and I can’t emphasize how much it is worth it.

When I start to head in a bad direction because of something in my life, this is exactly what I do.  Nothing more, and nothing less.  It isn’t magic, and it doesn’t perfectly solve every problem.  But it truly can make a drastic difference.  When you are starting to flounder and fail, maybe you can try these techniques.  Just try to do so as early as possible, because the longer you let it go, the harder it is to escape the deep, dark hole you’re in.  But no matter where you find yourself, do not give up.  There is always, always hope. There is always a way out.

Are You Safe To Be Yourself in Your Marriage?

safe-to-be-yourself
Lately I have been reflecting on the passion, energy, and effort involved when a guy really likes a girl and just wants to be with her. You know, when he’s past the uncertainty and has made up his mind that she’s the one for him for forever, and he goes all gung-ho pursuing her and trying to win her heart. I mean, this hypothetical guy spends time in the gym to get ripped, and he works hard to look and dress his absolute best. He comes up with extravagant and creative ideas for dates, and he remembers pretty much everything she says. He texts her thoughtful sentiments just to let her know he’s thinking about her. He’s incredibly sweet, courteous, and patient and rarely has a bad attitude when she’s around. He is funny and light-hearted and witty, and he always wants to put his best foot forward. Honestly, his goal is for every interaction with her to leave her feeling loved, and like she’s floating on a breeze. And, just wanting more and more and more of him.

He comes up with extravagant and creative ideas for dates, and he remembers pretty much everything she says…. He texts her thoughtful sentiments just to let her know he’s thinking about her….

That was me.

And then I got married.

I sometimes joke with my wife Rachel about the day she’s going to come home and find me relaxing all slouched and lumpy on the couch in front of the television watching some trashy reality TV show. I’ll just be laying there in my boxers, unshaven and unkempt. And there’s going to be wrappers and empty cans littered around me. And I’m going to be picking potato chip crumbs out of my chest hair while she looks on in horror….

Not a pretty sight, I know. But that image is hilarious to me; I’m smiling to myself just thinking about it. Now that I’m married, I can let myself go, right?

It’s not that I wasn’t myself while we were dating, it’s just that the fear of being rejected fueled my desire to be as perfect as possible (raise your hand if you’ve been there!), and not introduce any unnecessary question marks into the relationship at an inopportune time. Since then, we have had plenty of hard conversations before and after we were engaged so that we each understood each other’s struggles. Honesty and vulnerability has to happen prior to marriage. However, now that we are almost ten months after we made our vows, I don’t feel like I have to prove or earn my love for her. I just need to do my best every day to be all that she needs me to be – and that is enough. And I am doing my best, on all levels, when it comes to taking care of myself so I can be in great health to run around with our future kids (God willing), when it comes to making a living and managing the finances, when it comes to tackling major projects and being a good helpmate around the house, and when it comes to loving her in meaningful and tangible ways.

The fear of being rejected fueled my desire to be as perfect as possible, and not introduce any unnecessary question marks into the relationship at an inopportune time.

I tried to be the best boyfriend in the world, and now I am trying to be the best husband in the world. But those two seasons of life are, as I’m clearly realizing, totally different.

Now that I have won Rachel’s heart, and promised my unending and singular devotion to her and her alone – and received the same promise from her – I can feel safe in her love. I can take a deep breath, and exhale slowly. I can let the whole of myself show, warts and all, and know that it will be okay. I don’t need to keep scrambling and striving for perfection to get her to fall for me. I don’t have to compete with all the other guys who have rightfully vied for her attention and affection. We are together, and it is forever. She chose me, all of me. And I chose her, all of her.

I don’t need to keep scrambling and striving for perfection to get her to fall for me. I don’t have to compete with all the other guys who have rightfully vied for her attention and affection.

And I am finally discovering on a personal, visceral level that this is where the truest form of intimacy is found, and the best part of the marriage relationship. I had heard a lot about marriage being awesome because of this “intimacy” thing for years before I got hitched, but now it’s actually making sense – not just in my head, but in my heart. And in my life.

Now that I am married, I can let myself go. It’s a living, breathing, ever-evolving process. I’m choosing to slowly reveal more and more of my heart to Rachel, trusting that she will choose to see the best in me. And as she hears more of my heartbeat, our relationship grows. And she is encouraged to let herself go. I don’t want her to feel like she has to be perfect and prove herself worthy of my love. I just want her to share more of her heartbeat with me, so that our relationship can keep growing. To be honest, some of it is messy, and doesn’t have the varnish with which we coated many things while dating. Instead, it’s more stark, and more real. And more human.

We are plumbing new depths.

Image source:
http://bit.ly/2vmPOGf

When Love Starts to Become Conditional

When I was first falling for Rachel, I tried to do everything to win her heart. I remember teaching her how to juggle, and showing her how to play guitar. I remember writing her poems and letters, and talking with her on the phone for hours, and gladly giving up time I could spend doing the things I’ve always done (my work, my fitness, whatever) just so that I could spend time with her. I just wanted to be in relationship with her, and do life with her. And it was beautiful – really, really beautiful.

We are married now, and coming up on nine months in. I still love her very well, and she would tell you the same. But without a doubt, the responsibilities of life are elbowing their way into our relationship and trying to force out the romance we share. Now obviously, the primary goal of the next 50 years is to make sure they don’t – to do all that we can to keep that from happening in ways that undermine the beauty of what we are together, and what we have together. But many couples have failed. Many couples have not been able to invest in their relationship as much as they did at the onset, and it has had devastating results. Admittedly, I’m scared of that happening to us as well. This fear isn’t paralyzing, nor does it weaken my ability to rise up and do what I need to do…it’s just a healthy concern that prompts a real mindfulness about it. I just flat out don’t want it to happen.

One of the things I’ve seen around me is that relationship partners start to see the other person as less thoughtful, patient, compassionate, loving, and romantic as in the past.

I guess one of the things I’ve seen around me is that relationship partners start to see the other person as less thoughtful, patient, compassionate, loving, and romantic as in the past (when they were dating or early on in their marriage, for example). And this allows a certain cancerous thought creeps in:

“What have you done for me lately?”

I hate that. I hate it so much. But I get it. I realize that all of us have the tendency to not see the log in our own eye, and easily fixate on the speck in someone else’s. I recognize that it’s a self-protective maneuver to justify ourselves, to defend ourselves, to get ourselves off the proverbial hook for our role and contribution to any problems at hand. And I understand that we naturally struggle remembering the good times of the past when we are mired in the bad times of the present and any foreseeably awful times in the future.

As a consequence, the relationship becomes infected with unfair expectations, comparisons, obligations, and other malignancies. It starts off slowly, perhaps, but it quickly snowballs. Both start to act in ways not marked by unconditional love but by judgment, condemnation, suspicion, and – ultimately – hatred.   And both parties pull away and put up walls. And intimacy gets broken. And each starts to think they don’t need the other person. And everything becomes diseased and ravaged in its wake. And the love that burned so brightly before flames out, and now dissipates in smoke and embers.

Rachel cares about the Chiefs and Cardinals and Spurs because I love my favorite sports teams. She supports my personal and individual goals she knows they matter to me. She keeps her feet clean because I’m big on clean feet (that is my only weird “thing”!). I’m grateful for all of this and so much more – for all the things she does for me. But I want to be more grateful for who she is.

Rachel just wants to be loved. Regardless of what she does or does not do. And honestly, I just want to be loved, regardless of what I do. It can’t always be about us “doing” things to validate our love. That makes a person feel exhausted, like he always has to prove his love over and over again. And that is not a safe place in which to live – it is a tenuous, eggshell-laden space.

Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s okay to ease up completely and just coast when it comes to being thoughtful and romantic and loving. That is not okay. But we don’t want to feel the obligation and pressure to do so. Rachel doesn’t want to be like, ah crap, for Sameer and I to be great, I need to constantly amaze him with awesome and new ways to tangibly show him I love him. I don’t want to be like, ah geez, for Rachel and I to be great, I have to keep coming up with unique date nights and epic ways to show my affection. This is draining even to think about.

Love sourced in obligation instead of desire isn’t love at all. God taught us that when He gave us free will back in the day, and didn’t pressure us to love Him back.

I just want Rachel to know me, and trust my heart, and give me the freedom to love her any way I choose – with no strings attached. And she wants the very same thing: for me to know her and her heart, and trust her, and give her the freedom to love me how she chooses. We all know what it’s like when we feel obliged to do something special for someone else. It kind of sucks out all of the specialness from it, and it’s a crappy experience for you (the giver) and oftentimes for the person (the receiver) because they can tell. But when you do it because you deeply want to do it – more than anything else – it makes it so much better. It makes it absolutely great for both parties.

Love sourced in obligation instead of desire isn’t love at all. God taught us that when He gave us free will back in the day, and didn’t pressure us to love Him back.

Love should be more about the person than what you can profit from them.

So then I started thinking about how I am with God. Honestly, though my words to Him don’t express it, my attitude toward Him often betrays the same egocentric sentiment: what have You done for me lately? It does. Not in a harsh, direct way, but in a subtle, backhanded, defiant way. And if I stare at it, I can see that it is tinged with disappointment, hurt, and sadness. I’m let down and bummed out about something in my life, and I put it on Him, as if it’s His fault. And the way I interact with Him is greatly affected.

I don’t say it out loud, but I have suggested to Him in quiet, pouting ways that it doesn’t really matter all that He’s done for me in the past – I just need Him to come through for me now. And I question and protest why He hasn’t. And I just don’t get it. It baffles me. And it makes me bitter. And I get more sad. And frustrated. And I can’t change anything. And I wonder why He won’t either. And it pulls me in the direction of self-judgment, self-condemnation, and suspicion of His goodness and His love. I ask myself, if He really loved me, why doesn’t He give me what I need right now? And still, nothing happens, and nothing keeps happening. And I spiral into hopelessness.

And here is where I am prone to pull away from Him, and put up walls. And my intimacy with God gets broken. And I start to think I don’t need this, I don’t need Him. And my entire relationship with Him has the very real potential to become diseased and completely ravaged. And the love I had for Him that burned so brightly before flames out, and dissipates in smoke and embers.

God just wants to be loved. And just like I don’t always want to have to be tangibly proving my love to Rachel, I am pretty positive He doesn’t want to always have to be proving His love to me. He has loved me so well, and in countless ways. He’s saved me, rescued me, protected me, and blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. And most of the time, He just wants me to know Him. He just wants me to trust His heart towards me, and give Him the freedom to do what He needs to do in my life. He just wants me be in relationship with Him, and do life with Him – without condition.

In those moments I forget that while He doesn’t love me out of obligation, I am not open to allowing His own desires to channel that love along His timeline and in His preferred ways.

But yet, I come up with conditions all the time. I have so many expectations of what I want Him to do for me, what I need for Him to do for me. And my stubborn will silently demands Him to come through for me in certain ways as a test of whether He does truly love me. And it’s messed up. And in those moments I forget that while He doesn’t love me out of obligation, I am not open to allowing His own desires to channel that love along His timeline and in His preferred ways. It is childish, and self-centered, and controlling. And clearly, I am prone to do it in my other relationships.

“What have you done for me lately?” is not a question that belongs in our relationships. It’s a toxic way of thinking, and it will corrode the most valuable parts of our lives. Love is allowing others the freedom and grace to be, and not demanding them to do. Love is remembering the best from the past, and using it to inspire the present. And love is always believing that their intentions towards you are as pure and noble as your intentions are towards them. This is really what it is all about – to me, to Rachel, and to God.

When You Know, You Know

When it comes to finding the “one,” I’ve heard many people say that. “When you know, you know.” I’ve always been like, what does that even mean? How are you supposed to know? And is it so definitive? How can you have a perfect peace about committing to something/someone for the REST OF YOUR LIFE, no matter what? And since it is one of the biggest leaps of faith that a person takes during his or her life, what kind of certainty are we looking to feel? How strong is it supposed to be? And will it be qualitatively different from how previous relationships have felt? Or will it be similar but with just maybe one or two other positives that convince you to pull the proverbial trigger and pop the question? And how are we supposed to know that we aren’t supposed to wait longer, and that we aren’t going to meet a better fit for us? How exactly do you truly, actually, know – without a doubt? And can that even possibly happen?

So, I can only speak from my experiences, and I’ve lived enough years to see how God writes love stories in a variety of ways within a variety of circumstances and contexts. I definitely don’t pretend to have this figured out. But I did actually get to a point where I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Rachel was the one for me. And I think it’s worth remembering and cataloguing how all of this happened, to lead me to the decision to pledge my love and fidelity to her, for as long as we both shall live. Maybe this can encourage others who want God to be at the center of their love story, and can perhaps provide certain examples of what to look for as their romance and relationship continue to unfold.

~ One of the biggest things that clarified that Rachel, and not another girl (in general; I don’t mean anyone specifically) was the one for me was that she knew – and demonstrated that she knew – that I couldn’t and wouldn’t be the one she looked towards to make her happy. To bring her joy. To heal her hurts. To solve her problems. To take away her loneliness. She said it, but she also lived it out in so many ways so that I was convinced she wouldn’t burden me with a load that no man’s shoulders are broad enough to bear. She kept going to the Lord, and seeking out spiritual counsel and mentorship from others, and purposed to become whole on her own – instead of needing me in her life to complete her.

I was convinced she wouldn’t burden me with a load that no man’s shoulders are broad enough to bear.

I cannot emphasize how huge this was. We both still struggle and flounder sometimes, and are continually striving towards emotional health and well-being. In fact, I’m sure we will keep growing and maturing the rest of our lives in this area. But we are working towards that separately, and not saddling the other with the responsibility to take us there. When you meet a girl (or a guy) who unequivocally conveys this through both words and actions, know they are rare and know they are a keeper. This helps you to get to a point where when you know, you know.

~ Over the course of 1.5 years before proposing, and the six months before our wedding, I can honestly say that zero red flags, warning signs, or major issues arose. And I kept praying that they would, if they were there. Sure, we had to talk out a handful of heavy things, and I personally needed to learn to communicate better. But in terms of her character, integrity, teachability, humility, sincerity, dependence on God, and personal walk with Him, I didn’t have the slightest concern. She was a dime in all of those heart-level areas. It’s weird, as you get older, you truly learn that physical attractiveness and personality (e.g., sense of humor, energy level, intellectual curiosity) are important for a dating relationship, but not as important as everything else – especially in marriage and parenthood. Hopefully, you can have all of the above, but just make sure your significant other has the heart-level stuff in spades. Beyond a shadow of the doubt. This also helps you to get to a point where when you know, you know.

As you get older, you truly learn that physical attractiveness and personality (e.g., sense of humor, energy level, intellectual curiosity) are important for a dating relationship, but not as important as everything else – especially in marriage and parenthood.

~ We gave the people we trust in our lives full and complete freedom to be brutally honest about us and the relationship we were in. For example, I made sure that I arranged for Rachel to meet people who have known me for years, and who know my flaws and dysfunctions, romantic inclinations, and what would be good for me (and what would be rough for me). This included not just my parents and my sister, but also my spiritual mentors, my close friends, and people I do life with. We know that plans fail for a lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed (Proverbs 15:22). I just wanted them to see her around me, and hear her heart about life and faith and her hopes and dreams. I didn’t need their approval, but I did want I felt like if the relationship were a God-thing, the vast majority would be totally on board, because God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).

These individuals had carte blanche to ask the hard questions, and pose the worst-case scenarios, and I was definitely open to them saying that they didn’t have a peace about it. They were not to tickle my ears and tell me what I wanted to hear, but to just lay it out there because I knew they wanted the best for me. A few told us to work through certain issues individually because doing so would strengthen our relationship in the future, and so we did. If a handful of people I trusted would have told me that they didn’t feel the relationship was right, I give you my word that I would have broken it off. I would have. Because I’ve lived long enough to know that I’m not going to miss out on God’s plan for my life. I don’t even worry about that anymore. Thankfully, everyone was on board. And that gave me so much confidence about Rachel as we moved forward.

If a handful of people I trusted would have told me that they didn’t feel the relationship was right, I give you my word that I would have broken it off. I would have. Because I’ve lived long enough to know that I’m not going to miss out on God’s plan for my life.

~ I’m a guy, and guys tend to be visual (as you know). I am drawn to physical attractiveness. I’m not going to apologize for that. And I do see and meet beautiful girls – single and married – wherever I go. But my heart does not stray. Even a bit. I don’t want to get to know them on a deeper level, on a romantic level. Even when I think about the celebrities that my guy friends and I would playfully pine for back in the day – Avril Lavigne, Jennifer Connelly, Alex Morgan, Hannah Davis, Kate Upton, Jennifer Lawrence – I realized that I didn’t even want to have a chance with any of them. They just couldn’t compare to what I did have in my life. I hope it doesn’t sound too ridiculous that guys talk about this sort of stuff, and act like we might meet them any random day and have a chance with them, but we do. Anyway, I totally would pass on all of them, because I knew that I just couldn’t find a better heart than the one inside the girl I was with. I believed that fully and completely. I knew that to be true, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Talk about clarity, and being convinced about something. I was convinced about that.

There was a super catchy song a handful of years ago by a band called “Wheat” and the chorus went “I met a girl I’d like to know better, but I’m already with someone.…” I think about that song sometimes. But I have never felt that way while with Rachel. Because I really feel that I can’t find better, and that there is no better. And I think as we grow deeper in our marital relationship, it will become even truer, because our hearts will become more and more vulnerable, open, and surrendered to each other. This is how when you know, you know.

~ In our relationship, it also felt like God was propelling each of us towards marrying the other. I know that sounds bizarre, but it’s really true. Periodically, I would go through these private mini freak-outs where I would be like, ahhhh:

…how am I going to handle being around someone all the time (since I was used to being by myself all the time)?

…what if she gets sick of me considering how often I get sick of me?

…what if I just cannot handle being responsible for someone else?

Maybe sometimes in a relationship, you might feel like you’re doing a lot to keep it together, to grow it, to move it forward. And you feel a bit unsettled, or off-kilter, or all over the place, with too many ups and downs.
But He would gently remind me that I needed to take one step of faith at a time, and that He would help me. And so with every step, I honestly felt led by Him – wooing her, praying about her, defining the relationship, talking to my folks, talking to her folks, talking about the future, getting permission from her dad, proposing, and getting hitched. And He kept reminding me that He was sovereignly orchestrating the union with everything going miraculously smoothly, and easily, and without unnecessary drama. Maybe sometimes in a relationship, you might feel like you’re doing a lot to keep it together, to grow it, to move it forward. And you feel a bit unsettled, or off-kilter, or all over the place, with too many ups and downs. And sometimes in a relationship, you feel like your hands are off the wheel and God is just doing His thing, actively involved in everything, and you’re like “holy crap, this is happening” and you feel good and solid and stable and healthy, and you have peace, and it’s exhilarating and maybe a little crazy but you’re trusting and you feel like your trust is in the proper place. I think the latter is how it’s supposed to be.

While I did experience butterflies, sweaty palms, electric tingles, passionate kisses, and other moments of dizzying ardor and affection, those played zero role in me knowing that Rachel was the one.
As I reflect on these memories, I see that getting to the point of “when you know, you know” is not based on feelings or emotions. While I did experience butterflies, sweaty palms, electric tingles, passionate kisses, and other moments of dizzying ardor and affection, those played zero role in me knowing that Rachel was the one. Zero. I don’t recommend a dating or marriage relationship without those, but it didn’t affect my ultimate decision-making process. Instead, I naturally arrived at a decision after getting to deeply know her heart, praying about the relationship and being observant about red flags, seeking counsel from those who loved me, realizing that she was better and uniquely suited for me than any other girl, and seeing His hand repeatedly at work in all of the details. While my story is simply my story, perhaps there are some universalities that may (or should?) ring true for you as well. Let me know if you have the chance….

In Your Relationship, Does Your Heart Feel Safe?

does your heart feel safe?
I was talking with my friend Tammy the other day and she shared an insight after reflecting on a recent romantic relationship of hers – an insight which I thought was completely profound. And I asked her if I could blog about it, and she said yes. So here I go. Overall, I feel like a lot of people struggle with figuring out whether a person they like, or the person they are with, is right for them, is the one for them, is best for them. Whether it’ll last, whether it’ll stand the test of time. Or whether it will end in heartache or heartbreak. And perhaps awful, avoidable regret. And perhaps the more relationships you’ve had, the less likely you are to just throw yourself into it and go for it and see what happens. Because you’ve been wounded before, and scars remain, and walls remain that have been build up for protection. All of this is natural.

So it’s perfectly normal to wonder, and to think hard about it, and to analyze situations and behaviors and responses, and to get input and advice from mentors and friends and parents, and to do all that you can to make sure that the decision you make is the right decision. Of course, we can never be sure. We can never guarantee that it’s going to work out and that “happily ever after” will be our reality. Life is broken and people are broken and things get wrecked as much as we wish and beg and plead and try for it not to happen. But we based on what we know and what we can find out, we still want to be wise before we step out in faith, and before let our heart completely go there – to full-on commitment with no backup plan, to forever and always no matter what.

Life is broken and people are broken and things get wrecked as much as we wish and beg and plead and try for it not to happen.

Many of you know that I think, and I overthink, and could drive myself crazy if I don’t intentionally stop my brain from working and racing. But when it comes to relationships, I don’t think I’m alone there – many of us drive ourselves crazy thinking and overthinking about the girl (or guy) and how things have been, and how things are, and how things might be, and what are the good signs I’m picking up on and what are the bad signs I’m picking up on, and is this really going to work out in the long run….

But maybe it doesn’t have to be this hard. Maybe we’re doing it all wrong. Maybe it’s just a matter of three simple questions we need to ask ourselves in order to pretty much give us clarity about whether she (in my case) is worth pursuing and winning now and every day for the rest of my life. I (and probably you) don’t believe that there is only “the one” out there, but rather simply “the one for me” (or you). Okay, three simple questions:

1) Am I physically/sexually attracted to her? (chemistry!)

2) Do our values/principles align?

and what may be the most important one…

3) Does your heart feel safe (in her hands, or in his hands)?

Let’s talk about Number 3 because I’ve already covered Number 2 in detail and I could go on about Number 1 for a long-winded while (and will probably blog about it in the near future).

We need to remember that our heart automatically knows when it is safe. You know how it sucks when you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around someone? That’s something you feel in your heart. You know how it’s so rough when you have to have an uncomfortable conversation with someone who might react badly to you? You feel that in your heart. You know how it is one of the worst feelings ever when you run into someone who hurt you badly in the past? Again, it’s like a suckerpunch to your heart, you definitely feel it there.

You know how it sucks when you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around someone? That’s something you feel in your heart.

And so we need to listen to how our heart feels, and what it is telling us. Our thinking and over-thinking, however, just cloud our perspectives and complicate our situation and pull us away from what we probably intuitively already know deep down inside. Even though one of the greatest pieces of wisdom ever is to watch over our *heart* with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life (Prov. 4:23).

And so we get all messed up because we don’t listen to and live from what our heart is naturally, reflexively, autonomically telling us. Instead, we get lost and confused and irratic and unstable and paralyzed because we are listening to and living from the hot mess of our mind instead. Which is where all of our emotions and situational factors and rationalizations and defense mechanisms and memories and bad experiences and worldly wisdom and risk management skills reside.

Let’s say you are seeing a boy. Let’s say you’ve definitely gotten to know him for a while. Right now, you should ask myself, “Does my heart feel perfectly safe in his hands?”

So how might this work in practice. Let’s say you are seeing a boy. Let’s say you’ve definitely gotten to know him for a while. Right now, you should ask myself, “Does my heart feel perfectly safe in his hands?”  Maybe you say yes, and you’re ready to commit. Maybe you say yes, but you know you need to put in more time together before you can commit. That’s okay – it’s important to take that time. But if even early on, your heart says to you, “Honestly, no” – you should listen to it. It knows something is amiss. It can tell. And it’s just trying to save you some time and (probably a lot of) pain. Maybe it won’t tell you until after a while, but it *will* tell you. You can spend more time in the relationship, but eventually you’ll realize what your heart was saying was right, and then it will finally click in your *mind*, as your mind flashes back in a myriad of ways and vividly shows you the proof. That the relationship is over (or needs to be over). Dead in the water. That it’s totally not going to work out long-term.

I don’t think this is too much to look for. For our heart to feel perfectly safe in the hands of the one who is for you (or for me) forever. “Does my heart feel safe?”  That is the most important question to ask yourself.

Image source: https://ghshospital.org/sites/Granville/Uploads/images/Community%20Support/Health%20Tips/Heart%20in%20hands.jpg

The Beauty of Being Vulnerable in Relationships

I‘ve been thinking a lot about one of C.S. Lewis’s most famous and most profound quotes:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
~ *The Four Loves*

Deep down, I know that in order for a romantic relationship to really work, both individuals have to be incredibly and constantly vulnerable. And it’s definitely scary sometimes. Which makes it not easy. But, as we’ve all learned, the things that are worth doing and worth keeping are never easy. Amazing is not easy. And I definitely want amazing, in all areas of my life.

Deep down, I know that in order for a romantic relationship to really work, both individuals have to be incredibly and constantly vulnerable.

It’s really quite fascinating to witness the reciprocal interplay of vulnerability between a guy and a girl. Let’s just say at the beginning of a relationship, that it is ideal (traditionally) for the man to initiate and the woman to respond. For instance, he goes up to her, and renders himself vulnerable by complimenting her, or trying to start a conversation with her.

In his perfect world, she reciprocates by smiling, engaging with him, continuing the dialogue, and possibly rendering herself a bit vulnerable by complimenting him, or touching his arm, or holding his gaze for more than a few seconds. And then maybe he is feeling pretty good about his chances to get her number, or taking her to coffee, and so he puts himself out there, and asks. And perhaps she says yes.

All along though, she could hesitate. Deflect his attention. Pretend to be busy. Say she has to go. Reject him outright. But, everything seems to work when both are vulnerable, and take risks (and, of course, there is chemistry!). But nothing works if someone pulls back, or puts up a wall, or freaks out, or runs away.

Everything seems to work when both are vulnerable, and take risks (and, of course, there is chemistry!). But nothing works if someone pulls back, or puts up a wall, or freaks out, or runs away.

And then I think about daily communications between a boy and girl in a relationship. Texting, email, or in person. And how it works best when each is vulnerable with the other on a regular basis. If I say something super romantic and sweet and vulnerable to her, and she doesn’t say something in kind, there is the strong potential for my feelings to get hurt. And for me to pull back. And to put up a wall.

Basically, I really needed to hear it back from her, and she just didn’t give me what I needed. And so now I need to protect myself and try to keep her from hurting me in the future, because I kind of held my heart out there, and offered it to her, but she didn’t treat it delicately and lovingly. Rather, she was flippant with it, she was casual and maybe even a bit callous with it. And it was painful.

But now let’s say that maybe the next day, or in two days, or next week, she does say something super romantic and sweet and vulnerable – putting *herself* out there…and because of my recent hurt feelings, I just choose to not reciprocate. Maybe I am afraid, because of what happened last time. Maybe this time I want to teach her a “lesson” so she knows how it feels. Whatever the reason (and neither are good and healthy!), I won’t tell her what she wants to hear, what she is hoping to hear in return. And, of course, this will lead her to put up a wall, and to protect her own heart from being hurt by me (and perhaps others) in the future.

All of it is this such a delicate dance, with me stepping forward, and hoping she steps forward towards me as well…and me stepping back if she doesn’t…and then perhaps I’ll try again in the future, and hope she returns the sentiment, but if she doesn’t, the wall I build will be a little higher. Again, to prevent me from being hurt as bad (or hurt at all) the next time around. And she does the same if I don’t reciprocate.

Sometimes our desire to compliment and express our love isn’t purely an unconditional gift for the other person. Rather, it is because we want to and need to hear it back.

It’s interesting how we all need to be reassured, sometimes a little, and sometimes a lot. Sometimes our desire to compliment and express our love isn’t purely an unconditional gift for the other person. Rather, it is because we want to and need to hear it back. Sometimes I feel like I can step outside myself, and watch the battle unfolding in front of my eyes: with one side being my doubts and fears and insecurities, and the other side being the kind, loving things I want to believe about myself – and need to hear from others to strengthen that belief.

If we keep letting the quantity and quality of love we receive dictate the quantity and quality of love we give, we remain a pawn at the mercy of circumstance. Which can often lead to our lives devolving into a complete mess. An absolute, complete disaster of a mess, possibly sabotaging and destroying some of the really good things we have going for us.

And we also have to remember that we’ve set up various walls from past relationships, and past wounds and current dysfunctions – and that they often still remain in front of us if we haven’t truly dealt with them. We know we want to be completely free to live and to love with reckless abandon, but we realize over time that somehow and in some way, we just can’t. At least not fully. And it’s just really, really rough because it makes us feel stuck and it keeps us from God’s best, the best that is out there for us.

If we keep letting the quantity and quality of love we receive dictate the quantity and quality of love we give, we remain a pawn at the mercy of circumstance.

And maybe we realize that our current friendships and relationships can help us to get closer and closer to that freedom, but on the flip side, we see how they can also pull us farther and farther away from it. We give others that power by simply entering into friendships and relationships. They benefit us greatly and in so many ways, but they are not without tremendous risk – and that is what C.S. Lewis is trying to convey.

I guess this brings me to my main point, which is that I want to be the best boyfriend/significant other/fiancée/husband/lover ever. And I feel that in order for me to be that person, I need to develop the habit of being fully vulnerable in how I live and how I love. Because this draws it out of others, and it encourages others to break through their walls and try to be the same way. And to push past their fears of being rejected or dismissed or ignored or otherwise hurt. This is what leads to authenticity in friendships and relationships, and the best that is out there for us. Friendships and relationships simply cannot be amazing unless each person in them is genuine and open and candid and real. Really real.

And so even when I don’t feel like it, I know I need to keep pressing in, and keep expressing love. I need to be able to say, “I miss you” if I am feeling it in my heart, even if she isn’t able to say it back at that very moment. I need to be bold in talking about the things “we” want to do in the future instead of what “I” want to do in the future, even though saying “we” is scary because “we” is never guaranteed. I need to be courageous in saying over and over again that I believe in us, now and long-term, no matter what, even when stupid fears sometimes creep in and cause me to struggle. I need to share what is on my heart without holding back, and without hesitating or hedging. And every single time I am brave, it becomes a little easier to become brave the next time. Because I’m building into a habit, I’m building into how I always want to be. How I always need to be.

Best case scenario, when she wants to withdraw and set up walls, my persistent and constant love will keep her from doing so, and draw her out. And she’ll do the same for me when I want to withdraw and put up walls.

Best case scenario, when she wants to withdraw and set up walls, my persistent and constant love will keep her from doing so, and draw her out. And she’ll do the same for me when I want to withdraw and put up walls. And together, we’ll continue to work through things, and walls from the past will slowly but surely start to come down as well. Until honestly, there are no more left standing, and there is complete freedom to fully love, and fully be loved. And this will make all the difference in the world, and usher us into the absolute best that we can be for ourselves individually, and for each other.

Image source:
http://bit.ly/2vxGP4p

Why You Should Choose Someone Who Is Pursuing God

So, I mentioned in my last post about girls and standards that I believed a shared faith is so essential, at least to me.  I mentioned that she should be headed in the same spiritual direction as me, and she should earnestly try to live her life with integrity in all areas.  And I think it’s a very reasonable standard to have, and one on which I could never compromise.  Why?  Okay, here goes.  And I really hope to express this in a fresh, palpable way.

As huge of a fan as I am of life, I am also acutely aware of how very, very difficult it is to do well, and to not irreparably wreck yourself and others along the way.  Growing older is hard, dealing with the mortality of your parents is hard, handling school and work stresses is hard, dealing with your own personal junk and insecurities is hard, and relationships are hard – even if you are with your absolute dreamgirl, the one you know God made you for, and the one who was made for you.  And life is full of inconsistencies, and unpredictabilities, and instabilities, and so much that you can’t possibly control.  And of course you can’t control how a relationship will progress or turn out, but I think you can find a girl who makes it so you don’t need to try to control anything.  Because she is all about living for Him, and surrendered completely to what He wants for her.  And you hopefully are all about living for Him, and surrendered completely to what He wants for you.

You can’t control how a relationship will progress or turn out, but I think you can find a girl who makes it so you don’t need to try to control anything.  Because she is all about living for Him, and surrendered completely to what He wants for her. 

I feel that relationships end for many reasons.  Because people just don’t want to put in the hard work to make them last forever.  Because people think that the “feelings” of love should always, always be there, even though the reality is that feelings are fickle and fade, and require intentional, constant effort to be rekindled.  Because people think that there is someone else out there better suited for them, even though they were convinced this was the best possible person for them when they got together.  Because people think that they need to scrape and claw and salvage whatever “life” they have left, and that means getting rid of whatever it is they feel might be holding them back.

It has been said that you can’t trust a man without a limp (referencing Jacob in Genesis 32, and how he wrestled with, and was then injured by, an angel in order to break his pride and will, and lead him to growth and maturity).  To me, when it comes to relationships, that means in order for me to trust her (as much as it is possible to trust a fallible, flawed, and partly dysfunctional human being like myself and like everyone else), I need for her to have been broken in some way by Him, and especially by the Cross – which Christians believe is a symbolic representation of understanding what we truly deserve as those who rejected and hated God with our attitudes and choices, but who have graciously been forgiven and given the gift of life, and love, and today.  If she has been broken, then I can have faith that she is not all about herself, and her goals, and her future, and the nice, comfortable little life she wants to build.

If she has been broken, then I can have faith that she is not all about herself, and her goals, and her future, and the nice, comfortable little life she wants to build.

Rather, if she has been broken then I can have faith that she is more concerned with what God is concerned about.  Like, unconditional love.  Sacrifice.  Commitment.  Others before oneself.  Widows and orphans.  Those on the fringes, those who have been marginalized.  The narrow road, rather than the broad one which often leads to destruction.  Words and actions that build up, instead of tear down.  Being swept up in something bigger than herself, something that transcends the silly daily dramas we often get wrapped up in that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  Obtaining her identity from what He says about her, instead of from her physical beauty, or athleticism, or the scene she is part of, or her line of work, or American cultural standards of success, or from how she wants everyone to view her.

And then there is integrity.  I’m a social scientist by trade and a keen observer of human behavior by nature, and so I firmly believe that past performance is the best indicator of future performance.  I need her to have a track record and consistent pattern of making good, healthy, life-affirming choices.  Not a track record of choices made on bad days and nights which really convey sentiments like “Screw you, God” or “Whatever, it doesn’t matter” – where she does things just because she’s in the moment, or she’s mad at the world, or things have been really crappy and show no signs of improvement, or because she needs to numb herself from the harsh realities of life. 

I need her to not want to hurt God by doing stuff that makes Him sad.  Because that gives me confidence she is not going to want to hurt me by doing stuff that makes me sad.  And I really need her to feel that deeply, to where she can’t possibly turn her back on Him, or on me, by proceeding down a pathway of wrong and painful choices just to get through, just to survive, just to eek out whatever shred of momentary comfort or happiness she can get.

I need her to not want to hurt God by doing stuff that makes Him sad.  Because that gives me confidence she is not going to want to hurt me by doing stuff that makes me sad. 

To be sure, I must be clear that I am talking about a pattern here.  Because we are all going to make mistakes.  Possibly huge ones, with consequences that will last the rest of our lives.  But overall, she has to know that there usually always is a right and a wrong, and not as many grey areas as the culture would have us believe.  And she must desire with all of her heart to do what is right, because somehow – on a cosmic, transcendent level – it matters.  I know it matters to God, because He has provided a standard for us to try to emulate.  And it matters to me, because honestly I will find it so very attractive.  And it should matter to her, because it leads to blessings, and peace, and the fullness of life.

While a girl like this doesn’t guarantee a successful relationship, because life is complicated and we cannot manipulate it to turn out exactly how we want it to be, it definitely does increase the chances of things working out, and working out really wonderfully well.  Not that choosing a girl is like making a safe bet.  That’s the last thing I want, because I’m not going to get fireworks, and butterflies, and shortness of breath, and can’t-imagine-my-life-without-her intensity of feelings, and the essence of true, passionate, romantic love if I just choose a safe bet.  I just mean that I won’t allow myself to fall in love with a girl who isn’t moving steadfastly in this direction. Because that is the way I am going.  And we need to be able to do this adventure together, in step with each other, all the way to the end.

I’m not going to get fireworks, and butterflies, and shortness of breath, and can’t-imagine-my-life-without-her intensity of feelings, and the essence of true, passionate, romantic love if I just choose a safe bet.

Image source: http://hd-tattoos.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/black-cross-tattoo-3.jpg

What Should We Have In Common If We’re Dating?

skateboarding couple holding hands
My friend Mo recently mentioned how she wouldn’t date a guy who wasn’t into the same type of music as her, and so it got me thinking about our standards for the persons we want to date, and/or fall in love with, and/or spend the rest of our lives with.  Sometimes I feel like my standards for a girl are incredibly – no, insanely – high.  And we all know some people who pretty much have no standards.  But the vast, vast majority fall in between those extremes – we know ourselves, and we have an idea of what we are looking for based on certain preferences – but those preferences are sometimes colored by social expectations and even cultural caricatures in the media.

I can’t speak for every guy, but I personally want to be spellbound when I look at her face.  I want there always to be the potential of all of my thoughts falling completely out of my head when I look at her face, even if we’ve been together for months or years.

Near the top of the list belonging to pretty much every guy I know is the requirement that the girl be physically attractive to them.  We must remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what you think is hot or cute or pretty may not be what another person thinks is hot or cute or pretty.  I can’t speak for every guy, but I personally want to be spellbound when I look at her face.  I want there always to be the potential of all of my thoughts falling completely out of my head when I look at her face, even if we’ve been together for months or years.  There is this great scene from one of my favorite movies “The Family Man” involving my favorite actor, Nicolas Cage.  He and his wife are together at night when the kids are asleep, and he seems to just rediscover her face, her features.  And he can’t help but marvel at her, and be completely floored by her, and realize how lucky he is to be with her.

Jack: Oh, God, you’re beautiful.

Annie: Thanks, Jack.

Jack: No, I’m serious. You’re really stunning.

Annie: This is good stuff. I want you to keep this up.

Jack: You were always a very pretty girl in college. There’s no question about that. But this…You’ve really grown into a beautiful woman.

Annie: How can you do that?

Jack: What?

Annie: Look at me like you haven’t seen me every day for the last 13 years.

I know what that’s like.  I have felt that way – without it letting up even slightly.  It is so wonderful, and I don’t think it has to necessarily fade with time.  It is out there, and when you have it, you realize what a complete gift it is.  To feel that way about someone.

Okay.  Like my friend Mo, commonalities in music preferences definitely, definitely matters.  Music helps me through my days.  I think of A Day To Remember singing “I’m always screaming my lungs out, till my head stops spinning…playing my songs is the way I cope with life” – and it is so raw but so true sometimes.  Actually, much of the time, at least in my life.  And with music and certain songs and artists mattering so much to me, energizing me, consoling me, providing company to the emotions of my solitary heart through poetic metaphors and descriptions, I really need her to not only just understand, but largely feel the same way.  Not that I am going to love every song or band she loves – I want us to be different in some respects so we can introduce each other to new music and keep things fresh….  But yeah, if there is an artist who regularly does something to me with the music they create and lyrics they write, I really, really, really want her to like them too.  Because I will want to talk about it.  I will want to rock out to it on road trips with her.  With or without the windows down, but definitely at the top of our lungs! I will want to listen to it in the background while we kiss softly before falling asleep together.  I will want to go see them live, and take her with me, and have her as excited as me about the show, the event, the experience.  And I will want to text her lyrics that remind me of her and that steal my breath because they are so freaking perfectly written and sung.  Or write them on the bathroom mirror to start her day off with a smile.  If there is no real connection over music, it’s a dealbreaker for me.

I will want to text her lyrics that remind me of her and that steal my breath because they are so freaking perfectly written and sung.  Or write them on the bathroom mirror to start her day off with a smile. 

Particular shared interests.  This actually matters a ton to me as well.  I want us to be able to enjoy quality time together doing things that we both love.  Because of course then we get to enjoy the activity, which brings us individual joy, and we get to enjoy each other, which brings us corporate joy and strengthens our bond.  For me, I really, really need her to be into fitness through adventure.  Some girls are into fitness, and go to the gym six times a week.  Some girls are into adventure, and have wanderlust, and just want to get out there to see all that the world has to offer.  I need someone with whom I can rock climb random cliffs in Yosemite, or hike up to basecamp at Everest, or snowboard the Alps with me, or carry a 40lb overnight pack three miles down a trail to set up camp under the stars for a meteor shower.  This is my life, in part.  This is how I experience God most powerfully and most viscerally, and it is in these environments that He speaks most clearly to me. And girls who are into this sort of thing tend to have another quality which I find incredibly attractive – they are low-maintenance!  They can just throw something on, pull their hair back into a ponytail, and go.  Gaaahhhhh.  That right there is just perfection.  Seriously.  Girls like this would also do well on the missions trips I love to take every year, where you are often living out of a backpack and don’t have a lot of creature comforts around at all.  Because the trip isn’t about you, it’s about pouring yourself out to help and bless and serve those around you.  Doing missions is my heartbeat, and I need someone who can thrive with me in those situations, and not struggle mightily missing home and what home has to offer.

A love for kids.  This is actually very important to me, because I hang out with kids all the time.  Children, teenagers…mostly known through church or church-related activities.  We have pool parties, we play sports, we go to the beach, we watch movies, we give the parents date nights out.  We just have fun.  I have unlimited energy around kids, and just love to love on them and invest in them and show them that a life after God can be full of awe and wonder and excitement and adventure.  And I just need for a girl to feel the exact same way – so we can make a difference in the lives of young people who desperately need and benefit from solid role models.  I am going to keep doing this the rest of my life, regardless of whether I have kids of my own.  It matters so much.  It changes them, and it changes me.  So, yeah, if she’s not into hanging out with kids sometimes, it’s another dealbreaker.

I have unlimited energy around kids, and just love to love on them and invest in them and show them that a life after God can be full of awe and wonder and excitement and adventure.

————

Finally, a shared faith is essential.  I will go over this extensively in a future blog entry – and try to convey it in a fresh, unique, and gripping way – but basically, if she is not headed spiritually in the direction I am headed, and if she does not earnestly try to live her life with integrity in ALL areas, there is no chance for anything romantic to develop.  Even if she is the most beautiful girl around, who loves kids, and is into the same type of music as me, and we share a ton of interests.  Again, I’ll flesh this out much further in the near future.

These are just some of my standards; I definitely have more that are quite important to me.  But I wouldn’t even consider being with a girl unless these four were met.  You might think that they are too specific.  Or even too general.  Or just right.  I would just say that these have always, always mattered to me – since my early teenage years.  Think about what you specifically hoped for when you first started dating.  Have your standards changed?  Have they become narrower or broader?  How have your dating experiences affected those changes?  And what have you learned?  Are standards even a good idea, or do they unnecessarily decrease the possibilities and lead to a myopic view and value of guys/girls?  Or, do they keep a person on track so they don’t waste time with or give away their heart over and over again to the wrong person?  I really would like to hear your thoughts.

Image source:
http://bit.ly/2vq76m2

When You Have Wandering Eyes and Thoughts

wandering eyes and thoughts
There are beautiful girls everywhere. They are on the treadmills at the gym, they are in the produce section of the grocery store, they are employees where you work or students where you go to school – they are everywhere. But if you are in a relationship – if God blesses you with a relationship, you had better be all about that other person and not have wandering eyes.

It seems easy to slip up. Really easy. Maybe you won’t start a conversation that leads to a secret date and then an affair, but the Bible teaches that even if you so much as look at another woman with lust, you’ve committed adultery. I don’t want to slip up. I am scared of slipping up for fear that I will ruin the best thing He’s ever given me (and when you’ve waited on God and your dream comes along, you know it’s the best thing and you never take it for granted). I am also scared that I will place a wedge in between Him and I, and I can’t handle that distance, I can’t do life without Him as close as possible to me.

When I was single, I would see a beautiful girl and my mind would – in the span of just a handful of seconds – create this warm, witty, wonderful conversation that I’d have with her.

When I was single, I would see a beautiful girl and my mind would – in the span of just a handful of seconds – create this warm, witty, wonderful conversation that I’d have with her. Now that I’m in a relationship, I don’t let my mind go there. And I have to be really careful when someone new who I could be attracted to comes into my life.

The feelings of attraction are not sinful at all, but feeding them is. And our nature is to feed them, to see where things could possibly go. We do this by intentionally making eye contact, by holding their gaze, by making them laugh, by flirting, by a gentle touch on the arm, by physical closeness.

All of this seems so innocent, but if you’re in a relationship, you are playing with the fire of unfaithfulness and in time I figure that you will get burned. I don’t know, but that is what I am thinking, based on other real-life stories I’ve heard.

So, in these situations I have found that something must be done got to cut off your mind at the legs, so that it is not able to run with potentially sinful thoughts. And that something is actually pretty easy, but it feels like a bummer when you do it because it kills all possibility. Which is exactly what you know you want, but goes against the nature of the flesh – which craves attention and personal interest and sexual tension. I am all about my girlfriend, and I couldn’t feel more strongly about her. But I also don’t trust the sinful bent within me. So, I have learned that when you meet a hot girl, you should – as soon as possible – casually mention that you are in a relationship. That is it.

The feelings of attraction are not sinful at all, but feeding them is. And our nature is to feed them, to see where things could possibly go. We do this by intentionally making eye contact, by holding their gaze, by making them laugh, by flirting, by a gentle touch on the arm, by physical closeness.

About nine months into our relationship, I went to a work-related conference out of state and a hot girl started talking to me around our banquet room table. And I realized that I was enjoying her attention. And I remembered how John Eldredge writes in “Wild at Heart” that due to intrinsic insecurities that guys have, we look to girls to validate us – to make us feel like men. We deeply desire their attention, and their affections, and the affirmation that they give. Donald Miller, in “Searching for God Knows What,” similarly speaks about how we no longer listen to God tell us who we are, we look to and need others to tell us who we are (and thereby give us worth).

I don’t want to live like that, and we are not called to live like that, and I knew that a decision was laid before me. I could talk with her and subconsciously allow my mind (and maybe her mind, which by the way would dishonor her and lead her on) run wild with thoughts of romantic possibilities, or I could cut off my mind at the legs and make it clear that I wasn’t looking, that I wasn’t interested, that I was taken, and that I was all about the relationship I was in.

So, as soon as an opportunity arose to say something like, “My girlfriend and I….” I grabbed it. And I could somehow feel in the air that she was let down (not because I am this super attractive guy who makes all the single ladies swoon – that is far from the truth). And she didn’t really talk to me the rest of the conference, even in passing. But I was thankful. Because I did the right thing. I felt lighter, I felt cleaner, and doing the right thing kept that wedge from coming in between God and me, and that is worth everything.

Image source:
http://bit.ly/2wdmhjr

Pin It on Pinterest