A Week of Stretching

 

I should preface this post by saying that lately, I have gotten into the habit of bottling myself up. I’m one of those people who tends to put up a front. I put my best foot forward, rarely discussing what I’m really going through or how I’m feeling. But I got convicted by that this week so today, I am going to write a super awkward post about probably one of the most ridiculous weeks I’ve had in a long time.

It all started with an Instagram post from this social media influencer I follow (I know, I know. Very millennial of me. I don’t care. Her posts are awesome.)  Anyway, she shared this post about this five day prayer challenge for praying for your future spouse.

Here’s the thing: I don’t pray for my future spouse consistently. I keep meaning to but I always find an excuse not to. It’s just so uncomfortable. I pray when I’m moved by the spirit. I have, however, spent much of my time praying for the men I have fallen for. An act, I would learn later this week is actually super unhealthy. But we’ll get there.

So I felt like this was a good opportunity to grow. I’m all about growing. I signed up for the challenge. I received the first email on Monday.

Day 1: Pray their house isn’t built on sand

Basically, it was about praying that your future spouse loves Jesus fiercely. I spent the morning trying not to pray for the guy I had been pining for the last eight years. I had reached this point a few weeks ago where I decided I was going to move on from him. It was right around the time I decided to be a foster parent.

Day 2: Pray they are breaking ties with every ex-lover

This was actually super convicting for me. On the one hand, they were talking about “lovers” as in idols, so that could be anything that separates your future spouse from God and honestly, loving you. So I was on board with that. The convicting part for me was this little secret I’ve been carrying for over a year.

I still follow my first love on Instagram.

I actually get a lot of enjoyment from knowing what’s going on in his life, because he uses it on a regular basis. It’s not like I still want to be with him or anything. He was just such an important part of my life that I take comfort in knowing he’s okay. But I realized it’s a load of crap and I should probably unfollow him. Actually, I should definitely unfollow him.

Day 3: Pray for “Godly Chemistry”

This one was interesting. It wasn’t talking about chemistry in the traditional sense but rather that “Godly chemistry” has to do with matching purposes. I used to equate this with compatible jobs. For example, I first fell in love with my first love over our shared passions for nonprofit work. I mean, I saw our whole freaking future together. And man, did I argue with God over it. I told God repeatedly why we made sense, what impact we would have if we were together.

The hardest lesson to learn for my little pragmatic heart was that matching purposes between spouses has more to do with how you’re both wired. Elizabeth Elliot describes it in The Mark of a Man by that a man will know his wife because “she comes from your rib bone.” She meant that a man’s wife is a reflection of who he is. Still doesn’t totally make sense to me but I tell my guy friends this all the time.

Day 4: Pray they don’t eat the apple

So I literally prayed this over a month ago, in the spirit. This was about stopping with dating other people. Amen.

Day 5: Pray they are “hiding & seeking”

A very well-known trait of mine is that I like to take the lead in relationships. I have asked out every guy I have ever dated or liked. About three years ago, I realized how sinful my behavior was. Don’t get me wrong – I love a strong, confident woman who knows what she wants and goes for it. But I wasn’t doing it for that reason.

I didn’t want to be found. I didn’t want to be pursued by a man. I didn’t want to be wanted. Being “found” meant opening myself up to being loved. Weirdly, I preferred rejection by my own hands than intimacy with another person.

The devotional said to pray that your future husband will “find” you and you are in a position to be “found.” I was really confused about what it meant to place yourself in a position to be found so I asked a friend to explain it to me.

She explained that while it’s the man’s job to find, it’s the woman’s job to be found. She does this by basically ignoring other men by pursuing Christ so deeply that she doesn’t notice the men around her.

It hit me that I think  I have reached that point. I really do. So my week was crazy emotional and now I really don’t know what to do with myself.

Probably unfollow that guy on Instagram.

Why I Didn’t Want a Wedding

It’s no secret I’ve never wanted a wedding. For external reasons, including money, hating dancing in public and not wanting a day all about me, I have told anyone who would listen that I fully intend on eloping. It’s never gotten much deeper than that.

And then today, I spent the day packing up a good friend’s house. She and I have known each other for eight years. We’ve bonded, fought, laughed and argued our way through the various seasons of life we’ve both been through. Today, I was thinking how easy it’s become, being friends. I love her like a sister. We packed, ran errands, watched a movie. It was a good day.

Weddings are the things of fantasies. A woman wears a gorgeous gown, all eyes are on the groom as he looks at his bride. The room is full of all the people who love the bride and groom, people who have cheered on the relationship through its various ups and downs. At the center of the wedding is the couple but the celebration is really for all of us.

But of course, my mind drifted to another time in my life. One where I was impossible to know and hard to love. I was alone, drifting in emptiness. I went to parties I didn’t care for and shared conversations with people who couldn’t be bothered to share their story with me. I have no friends from that time in my life. Not one. Nobody stuck around. Nobody tried to fight through the wall I had built for myself. Nobody bothered.

They’re faces of people I see on Facebook but I have no emotional connection to any of them. And they don’t have any connection to me.

I spent all day with someone who loves me like family and I couldn’t stop thinking of the people I never got the chance to love, who never got the chance to love me. But I couldn’t help but feel grateful. Grateful for the friends who stuck around. The friends who tore down the wall I had built for myself. The friends who bothered.

I imagined what it would be like to be in a room full of people, all staring at me as I walk down the aisle in a dress I’ll never wear again. People who barely know me, because so few people have walked alongside me in my journey. It’s my living nightmare. The wedding becomes a question of who really loves me and who’s just here out of politeness. It feels false and artificial. Because a wedding is about everyone involved in the process of a relationship, not just the couple. 

I’ve been wrestling with this idea that someday, I’ll get to go back. Go back to that place where I wasn’t particularly loved and show them they were wrong. I’m enough, really enough. I replay it in my head all the time. They’re all in a room and I’m sharing the details of my life now, what this beautiful mess has become, and I finally have their approval. And somehow, in this fantasy, I’ve accomplished completeness. I’ve earned their respect. And they’ll all want to come to my wedding.  

But that fantasy hasn’t come true. It probably never will. What I have now has to be enough. Spending the day packing dishes into old boxes for my friend, I started to believe this could really be enough. And maybe I’ll have a wedding. Maybe I won’t. But it’ll be my choice.

 

Of mice and butter

I’ve been wrestling lately with pretty significant writer’s block, which is bad when you write professionally for a magazine. My editor has not been pleased with my work.

The last time I couldn’t write like this I was 20, a sophomore in college and making new friends. My social life was thriving. I had an active dating life. Things were good.

Until it wasn’t. You know, if you truly want to understand exactly how well you’re doing in life, fall in love. Falling in love has a way of revealing how miserable you really are.

I didn’t intend to fall in love. He was a friend. I generally have my guard up in relationships. Blame it on trauma. Blame it on my upbringing. I do not come from relational parents. Whatever the case may be, intimacy and I have never quite been on the same terms. I learned early on in life that if I shared my story in all its gory details, nobody would question whether or not I was truly a vulnerable person. Years later, I have been told by friends that my vulnerability fooled no one and they all felt like they never truly connected with me.

I have no good answers for why this friend was different. I think my guard went down most likely because I never saw him as a threat. He came from a wealthy home, drove a car his dad bought him, wore nicer clothes (read: not from a thrift store). There was nothing about him that suggested that we would have anything in common. And yet, despite our superficial differences, we were very much cut from the same cloth.

I let him in. I let myself care about someone wholeheartedly. And there’s something really beautiful about that.

But here we are, seven years later, and I am still struggling to form intimacy with others. Even worse, I am at a place where I am fighting to be vulnerable with where I’m at. I can count on one hand the number of people in my life that I would say know me and vice versa.

 

I’ll be honest-I don’t want to write in this blog anymore. Would it matter if I stopped? This used to matter but I’m at this crossroads of deciding who I want to be. I either choose to stay the same, fall into old patterns of shutting people out or I choose to move forward in faith toward something real. Because I’m getting fed up of living a mediocre life.

I heard a pastor say once that marriage is the ultimate form of intimacy. It’s choosing to let your guard down fully with one person every day for the rest of your life. Inside, I was shaking. I really, really love being single. Like really. I used to think that I had the gift of singleness but I know deep down it’s just the warmth of self-preservation that I’m attracted to. I have driven away every man I’ve ever dated or been interested in by my unwillingness to let my guard down.

But I remember what it felt like to let my friend in. It wasn’t that it felt good all the time or that he didn’t drive me crazy at times. It just felt real, like my feet hit solid ground.

I had bad writer’s block when he came into my life. I was suffocating behind the wall I had built for myself. But maybe that’s why I fell in love with him, because as long as I was comfortable, I wasn’t going to be ready to love anyone. Comfort can be deceitful. I used to believe that I would know I was ready to be with someone when I was settled and secure but that’s not what I’ve seen in my life.

Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. – Catch Me If You Can

Maybe the struggle means I’m on to something important.

When You’re Not The One Getting Married

I’m a Christian.

Christians get married. Young.

Younger than I am now.

Lately, everyone seems to be getting engaged, married, in the baby-making phase of life.

And I’m over here lucky if I remember to eat dinner.

One of my biggest shames has been my dating life, speckled with commitment-phobia and just ongoing cases of dating the wrong guy. I have often said that this is where I am most like the world.

I’ve known sexting and drunken dials to boys who broke my heart. I have looked the least like Jesus when I’ve dated.

And two years ago, I told God I was done. I surrendered my dating life. I told God that I wanted the right guy to ask me out. We were done with dating for the sake of dating.

Of course, I failed immediately. There was online dating, which was dumb. Such a joy-thief. And then of course, there was the one who got away. The one I told earnestly how deeply I cared for him and he responded with a “God’s not telling me to pursue you” to which I responded with indignation. Surely, he was wrong. But I lost the argument and two years later, I still wish the conversation had gone differently. I still wish he wanted me.

So I surrendered my dating life to God but wrestled Him for control.

This wasn’t about kissing dating goodbye. Surrendering my dating life had everything to do with the condition of my heart while I was dating.

Somehow, God got through to me. I laid down idols I didn’t even know I had. I sobbed in groups over fears of marriage and commitment. And God fought for my heart. He fought for the desire in my heart to know and be known by someone who would honor every messy part of me. Everything in me grace is working to change and grow.

And it’s beautiful, friends. The girl who told her parents at 19 that marriage wouldn’t be a part of her story now desires a God-honoring commitment to another person.

But….it’s hard. The waiting is hard. Each day that goes by, I think that maybe it won’t happen. Maybe 19-year-old me was right. And those social media posts of all the engagements, marriages and baby announcements start to feel like the devil tempting discontentment. Some days, I don’t want to be joyful for the one that has a different story than me.

Maybe I won’t get married. Maybe that wasn’t the point of this two year journey. Some days, it aches in me that possible truth. But the beautiful thing is that more days are coming that I’m not so discontent. That’s just Jesus, embracing me into the woman I’m meant to be.