When I Miss You….

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When I miss you… I don’t want to remember just the times when you held me in a long embrace and told me you loved me; but also the times when you shut me out of your world, leaving me deep in shame, wondering, “What did I do wrong?”

When I miss you… I don’t want to remember only the times you told me you were ready for a long-term commitment. I want to recall the memory of you asking to look at rings and casually bringing up your doubts as to whether you wanted to marry me, words that broke my heart.

When I miss you… I don’t want to remember only the moments when I felt alive with you; I want to remember your harsh, judgmental words and resentments, as I was left a crumpling heap on the floor. I want to remember how your cruel insults left me feeling.

When I miss you… I don’t want to remember the fleeting fun times we had together in isolation of the times I walked on egg shells to spare you from anxiety, stress, and talk of commitment.

When I miss you… I want to remember that I was too much for you– too much passion, energy, and emotion. I want to remember how overwhelmed and stressed you felt when I acted like me… so I learned to push myself to the side and pretend to be the person you wanted me to be.

When I miss you… I want to remember your lies and manipulations. I want to remember my realization that to be with you, I would have to live with an emotionally barren, unfulfilling relationship because you didn’t know how to affirm or care for me.

When I miss you… I want to remember the times I cried and screamed into my pillow about how I wish you could be different. I want to remember the heartbreak and reality of on-again, off-again, and on, and on, and on. How I felt tepid, lukewarm in your eyes; a back up option; the person you could fall back on when you were lonely.

When I miss you… I want to remember what I deserve: an emotionally stable, warm, welcoming, compassionate, loving, and selfless man who will laugh at my absurd humor and kiss me just for being me. I don’t want to have to pretend, censor, and shield anyone from the truth of who I am, nor do I want to feel physically objectified.

When I miss you… I don’t want to just remember that I believed you were “The One.” I want to draw on the reality that “The One” would not treat me like you did. “The One” would not disconnect and withdraw when life got hard. “The One” would fight for me and love me through it all. You were someone I once loved, but that goes no further. You are my past, but not my future.

When I miss you… I want to remember that I miss the idea of you rather than you. I loved the person I thought you were, rather the person you ended up being. Even when I was convinced that you had changed, I want to remember the realization that you hadn’t.

When I miss you… I will honor that feeling, but I will not dwell in it, because you were not and never will be “The One,” even if I believed that for a while.

 

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Almost Lover

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As a girl, I never fantasized about my wedding because I believed I would never have one: because at my core, I was unlovable. After years of “binge dating” and a string of semi-serious relationships as a young adult, I found that no guy was ever good enough. Little things would bother me after a while, and I would shut myself away and go back to being alone.

On a string of platonic, unmemorable dates from guys I met online, I agreed to go out with a guy whose first email to me included the subject line, “I also like cheese.” I thought it was funny. (However, the enigma remains: why I would put the fact that I like cheese on my dating site profile? Whatever). I decided he was worth a coffee date because let’s be honest, cheese is pretty great. So on a Saturday afternoon in May two years ago, I met up with this guy, my expectations way low.

I knew there was something special about Boy on our first date. We had crazy chemistry that words could not describe. Things happened fast. Before I knew it, Colbie Caillat songs became my Spotify staples. I fell hard, and I fell fast.

I am not a spontaneous person. I am more of a “let’s plan everything 6 months in advance” type of person. But with Boy, things were different. I didn’t cling to my 10 PM bedtime. In fact, we stayed out all hours of the night. We kissed in the rain and in restaurants… and well, everywhere. We were infatuated and passionate, in the most cliche, characteristic sense of the word.

This is not me, I kept thinking. I don’t fall for people like this. I’m not this person.

I was not “that person” who would grab my boyfriend’s hand and giggle like a 13-year-old at his jokes.

But with Boy, I was that person. I was that happy, touchy, worry-free blushing girl. I would have dropped everything and gone somewhere with him. I was head over heels, mad, drunk in love. It was “that can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach for the stars, over the fence, world series kind of love.”

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By our second date, I had no doubts that I would end up marrying Boy. I let him into all crevices of my being, and I thought he was letting me into his as well.

Due to childhood Disney indoctrination, I knew how this story was supposed to go. Boy and Girl meet. Boy and Girl fall in love. Boy and Girl face difficult circumstances, but they persevere because they are so in love. Boy and Girl live happily ever after.

But this Boy and this Girl did not live happily ever after.

In the same whirlwind that started our romance, the relationship I had with Boy ended suddenly and painfully. I was left reeling with the vacancy of passion and love that had become a welcome refuge.

I didn’t know how much I wanted love until I had it. Then when it was gone, I didn’t know how much I would miss it. Or how much it would physically hurt to have this relationship die. There was a void in my heart. I wanted love. I wanted him… or did I? I didn’t know what I wanted anymore.

I wrote this about a year ago:

“Boy came into my life, and he changed my world upside down. I loved him for a short time, but I loved hard. Is it better to have loved and lost, as the old saying goes, or is it better not to get a taste of this really good, beautiful thing because of the yearning that follows?”

When things ended with Boy, I wondered: Maybe that is it. Maybe this is my shot and happiness and love, and it’s over now. Perhaps I’ll never love again. We are never guaranteed love. I went on dates with other guys, but they were mindless and disappointing.

I never stopped thinking about Boy. I sent him drunk texts at weddings. I saw the beauty of the waves crashing on the Pacific Coast Highway and told him I still wanted him. Once I even texted him in the bathroom during a bad date.

And yet the stars didn’t align for us.

But the stars did align, two years later, and Boy came back into my life.

I thought we were more seasoned and mature. We talked about feelings and dreams and hopes and wishes. We set boundaries, and I thought the old issues that broke us apart would make us stronger.

I looked into his eyes, and I wondered: Is this it? How does someone know if a person is “The One”? Would our relationship be doomed because of the past?

As it turns out, the love that came back from the dead didn’t stay alive. Soon enough, our old issues resurfaced, and instead of reading the writing on the wall, I chose to ignore it and make new memories.

I wanted it to work. I fully invested in the relationship and embraced the unknown. But then, in a series of events that I cannot recount for boundaries and privacy, it was no longer healthy for either of us to remain in the relationship.

If I’m being honest, I feel like such an idiot.

Why didn’t I learn from my past mistakes? Why would I have put myself out there… again… with the same person… and expect different results?

And yet, I couldn’t have done it another way.

Love is not guaranteed, and sometimes love hurts and dies. But I know, deep down, that the struggle for love is innately human and the most worthwhile goal in life. Even though my self-protective side screams for me to be alone and safe, I know I must keep pursuing what I’ve always wanted: love.

I needed to know (again… and again… and again) what could have been, and now, I must move on with my life.

My inner voice tells me, Nobody could ever love you, not like this. You’re too messed up, and you ruined your one chance of love.

But then there is a part of me that wonders…

Maybe there will be fireworks again, and this time it will last.

Maybe someone will be able to say, “I want you and I choose you every day, and I will do that for the rest of our lives.

Maybe someone will love me with all of my faults and think, “How can I best express love to this girl?”

As I read in an article earlier this week: “If you must want; wait to be chosen every day, wait to be reminded that you are special, wait to be loved in the way that you constantly love, wait to be taken seriously and wait for someone who doesn’t keep you waiting, because you know that you deserve better than waiting around for someone to make up their mind.”

I was struck to the core with grief, but I’m also realistic enough to know when something shouldn’t be.

So in the words of a favorite song:

Goodbye, my almost lover
Goodbye, my hopeless dream
I’m trying not to think about you
Can’t you just let me be?
So long, my luckless romance
My back is turned on you
I should’ve known you’d bring me heartache
Almost lovers always do

Online Dating After Kissing a Few Frogs

Online dating… what even to say. How even to characterize this odd experience. I have been on a few online sites sporadically in the last few years, and it can be fun, but can we all agree that the experience can be a little weird? While I have met a few decent people online, I have also been inundated by far too many cliches (putting it nicely) but more frankly, bullshit.

Most guys look amazing in writing. I will introduce you to Stereotypical Online Dating Guy #1, Marcus (this person = totally made up, I’m not that mean). The online dating gods matched us together, and I am super pumped. He looks great in pictures (ahem, that were taken 10 years ago, ahem), and he seems like the sweetest. He likes sports and traveling. He is a laid back stud looking for a partner in crime, someone to whom he is attracted. But of course, the most important part of a girl is her character (Christian equivalent: “looking for a Proverbs 31 girl”).

What a cutie.

I finally meet up with Marcus. THE ANTICIPATED FIREWORKS.

Marcus ends up being… eh. Typical. Then I find out he likes John Piper. Dammit. An hour goes by and I keep checking my watch. Oh. my. goodness. could. time. go. slower. No sparks.

No offense to Marcus, he is very nice. Nothing against him. But online dating is a crap shoot. Most of the time it is fluffy meaninglessness and completely random.

I mean, does it even matter what I put on my profile? All I need to do is incorporate enough cliche mannerisms to get the Marcuses of online dating to contact me.

Is it just me, or is there something odd about how superficial the whole system is?

These guys all look the same. They talk of college football, travel, and their faith. And the weather. Oh God, the weather. “Wow, you lived in California, how do you like being in Michigan?” If I could have a dime for the number of times that statement has been uttered…. HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO GET TO KNOW ANYONE BY TALKING ABOUT THE WEATHER?

I don’t know how any of these sites match people together. Personality characteristics, location, attributes desired in a partner– they all use imperfect heuristics that work marginally at best. (Caveat: It is oh so hard to measure compatibility. It’s not like I have a better idea on how to solve the online dating woes of a single 20-something girl. Just let me vent, okay???).

Online dating can work, I have seen it work. BUT it doesn’t work when everyone is so fake. But then to get dates you have to play the fake game. And so the crap shoot cycle of being paired with “travel… football… beer” Marcuses at random continues. How am I supposed to filter out if any of these people are worth my time?

Honestly, I am sick of being fake and censoring myself knowing that others are scrutinizing my words. For once, I want to be REAL on one of these sites. Or at least, if I’m going to make a profile composed of bullshit, it might as well be ridiculous (with a dash of truth).

SO, I have decided to make a (satirical) dating profile that I will never, ever post because to online date, you have to play the games and go through the hoops. Playing games –> not doing what I’m about to do. But I’m just saying, if it was socially acceptable to do this, I would.

Enjoy!

 

About Me:

“Hi, thanks for reading this. I’m sorry if at any point this starts to be stereotypical or cliche, because my goal in life is to be anything but. Let me start with a few exclusionary factors right now. If you are cliche, enjoy puns, bubbly/ positive quotes, you can along to the next profile. Also, I am looking for a guy who likes or can come to like Rachel Held Evans. Similarly, you have to like Rob Bell in some capacity. I have broken up with someone over Rob Bell, I am totally not joking about this. If you’re not on board with Love Wins, that’s fine. Enjoying his early work will suffice. But you and Rob Bell must have some familiarity because I might want him to officiate any hypothetical wedding.

If you’re still reading, welcome. As you might guess, I am a theology nerd and Jesus feminist. If you whisper sweet nothings to me about Rob Bell or Time Keller, you will automatically be granted a second date. If Henri Nouwen is your favorite author, we might be soul mates.

I am like an angsty teenager who loves angsty teenage TV shows such as Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. (If you are angsty, that is a plus. If you like to yell into the abyss during existential crises, that’s also a plus).

If I could eat only one food for the rest of my life, it would be Sour Patch Kids. Every few months, I get an intense spell of wanderlust. I have deep, intense feelings, and sometimes I cannot name them right away. However, my therapist can, so it’s all good. I am subtly hinting that I may have struggled with some mental health stuff in the past, but I’m going to be coy about it until date 6, at which time we shall lay our cards on the table.

I am an anxious perfectionist, which is exacerbated by excessive caffeine consumption. If I could be granted a magic wish, I would wish for unlimited Starbucks holiday drinks for the duration of my days. Or I might wish for the ability to teleport. Dammit why can’t people teleport yet?

If it ever comes to this, know that I want to be proposed two in one of two ways: at a Rob Bell event or at a NEDA walk. So, file that information away.”

“Engagement Season”: On Being a Single Christian

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Apparently we are now in “engagement season,” as this picture on Instagram that went viral showed. The viral nature of this picture has prompted lots of discussion on marriage/ singleness, so I decided, maybe it’s time for me to start talking about singleness, because, well, I am single. And I think about it a lot. Now let’s up the ante: let’s talk about Christian singleness. 

First a little background.

When I was growing up, I thought that my life would begin when I got married and had children. Even though I was always a high achiever, I considered career goals to be a back up plan reserved for my first few years of marriage prior to the commencement of popping out babies. I had this world view for a disturbingly long time– even in college, I was prepared to meet Prince Charming at any time and leave everything I had to follow him. My identity would be in being Mrs. Prince Charming. That’s where I would find worthiness and wholeness.

I was primed to think this way. My role model growing up was Ariel from The Little Mermaid, which, looking back, is scary, as this Second City skit hilariously depicts. I was idolizing a voiceless young girl who changed her body for a complete stranger who she apparently loves. Not to mention that she is 16. Growing up, I also saw a lot of educated women who stopped their lives when getting married and having children. The rest of their existence was filled with helicopter parenting, militant PTA presence, facilitating parties, and complaining to the principal about difficult calculus teachers. What is a young girl to learn from these models of love, marriage, and womanhood? That being a wife and mom were king. More than anything, those experiences colored one’s identity and guided the rest of a person’s life. Getting a job? Getting a raise? An education? Apparently less exciting and valued than blowing $70,000 on a wedding, as this article from the Huffington Post shows. 

My experience as an evangelical Christian with dating and marriage has been much, much worse than my experience with singleness in the dominant culture. Things get elevated when moral and divine components embedded into discussion. As a teenager in an evangelical church, I was given rhetoric like, “God’s plan for your perfect mate,” a poem that can be summarized by the following: God wants you to have the perfect marriage. Just wait. Draw close to him, and when the perfect time comes, he will give you more than you could ever ask or imagine in a mate. I heard things like, “If you dance with God, he will let the perfect guy cut in,” and, “God is writing my love story.”

I drank the Kool Aid… for a while.

I patiently (well, not that patiently, let’s be honest) waited for Mr. Right to march in, and (cue the crickets). It hasn’t happened. Theologically, this has been problematic for me. Am I not being a good enough Christian? Am I not holy enough? I’ve been having this really long dance with God, and it’s super awesome, but when is this awesome guy going to cut in? Maybe if I learn this lesson… and that one… GOD AM I BEING PATIENT ENOUGH YET???? (Crickets). Okay, guess not.

There is this strange theological view of God as a cosmic matchmaker who is facilitating billions of chick flicks. What about those of us who haven’t gotten cast? What about those of us who haven’t gotten the ring by spring? Are we missing something? Are we not good enough? What about people who never get married? Or who get divorced? Or who are in abusive relationships?

In my despair over being single, I’ve poured over Christian literature on singleness (and marriage). I remember reading a book based on the story of Ruth, which described how she patiently waited for Boaz. I read it every time I was lonely, which was a lot. Over the years in church, I have gotten the consistent message that a primary concern of the Christian life is getting married. I saw marriage portrayed like a massive party with balloons, blow up toys, and awesome cake. You could finally have sex. The instructions that Paul gives about lifelong celibacy? Contextual, apparently.

Unfortunately for me, I’m not willing to be this single Christian woman who prays daily for my future husband and cultivates the traits of “sweetness and submission” to male authority figures. After years of therapy and theological education, I will not wait on the edge of my castle in a Cinderella dress waiting for my Mr. Jesus-Right to sweep me away. Yes, I pray, and yes, sweetness and submission can be beautiful and godly things, but I think that God is much more concerned about how I live and love others where I am than wistfully cry myself to sleep and read Mark Driscoll, who obviously understands the plight of single women (oh wait…).

Jesus talks about a lot of things. Poverty is a big one. The oppressed. Healing. However, the Bible does not talk much (anything?) about picking a marriage partner in the way that our modern culture conceptualizes marriage. The Bible can generalize to things like marriage, and there are clearly examples of marriage being a blessing in the Bible, but the Bible is not a guide book for dating or marriage. It is so much more than that. In addition, the way that the current evangelical church has defined dating and marriage are not inherently cornerstones of our faith. Just because many Christians are married and God can work in marriages doesn’t mean that marriage should be “the” ideal for every Christian adult’s life. Clearly marriage is not a mark of holiness and godliness in and of itself because Jesus and Paul both chose celibacy.

The evangelical emphasis on marriage is so pervasive (google the books/ articles written on marriage by evangelicals), I wonder if it borders on idolatry. The implication of the dance-with-God–then-the-perfect-guy-will-cut-in phrase is that you stop walking with God when a guy comes around. God is like your wingman who desires you to have a greater good… MARRIAGE. Isn’t that kind of problematic? Christian Mingle, a site that appears on my facebook page incessantly, has the verse Psalm 37:4 on its home page, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Then right below it, it has a picture of a couple gazing into each other’s eyes. If I recall correctly, Psalm 37:4 is not really talking about marriage– it is talking about delighting in God. Not God… so you can get a better husband. Not God for anything. God for himself. Elevating marriage over God is something that I have struggled with doing in my own life, but I think that a lot of Christians– including pastors– do that as well. And their beliefs are conveyed to teens in youth group and divorced single moms and single twenty or thirty-somethings attending baby showers every weekend, and it hurts. Yes, marriage is something to strive for and is something to be celebrated, and yes, churches are right to address marriage, but marriage cannot be seen as the only (or “preferred”) path, because it’s not.

Recently, I read an amazing post by Christena Cleveland called, “Singled Out: How Churches Can Embrace Unmarried Adults.” It is beautiful, and you should totally check it out. She writes, “In a Church that was founded by a single guy, singles are terribly marginalized.” Cleveland also has some helpful tips for churches so that singles are not treated like second-class citizens or oddballs. Also importantly, Cleveland has the experience of being unmarried herself. I appreciate how Greg Boyd, a married pastor, invited Cleveland to speak with him about singleness to his church so the voice of an unmarried individual was heard.

You know what is annoying? When people who are not single think they have the right to talk about singles. I grit my teeth when I hear someone say, “I was exactly like you, and then this guy came along, and everything changed! But I totally know what you’re going through.” Pastors are historically annoying about the topic. I can’t find statistics about this, but from my own experience: most pastors I know are married. And they got married at 22 to their high school sweetheart. And then they preach to their churches about marriage and have marriage seminars and have the audacity to say they understand singleness? You haven’t been single since you were 18. You’re done now.

If there is one thing I learned in seminary, it is this: it is hard to live in the tensions: between what you want and don’t have, between what is and what should be, between what you know and don’t know. I am not willing to settle for pat answers about… most things. Marriage is one of them. I am not willing to accept the evangelical cultural mandate for a certain kind of marriage. Yet, I am looking for a Christian man. This leaves me with a small pool of potential relationship partners, but it is a risk I am going to have to take because I am not willing to lose myself and my convictions for some guy just because he loves Jesus. Consequently, I am not willing to date a guy who is not a Christian just because he happens to be more accepting and liberal.

In lamenting about our lack of choices of single men, my roommate joked that Rachel Held Evans should start a dating service so we can filter out all Christian guys who are expecting us to submit to them for all major decisions. We would both sign up. Neither of us are joking. However, until then, I will be content learning more what it means to love the other, following the Spirit imperfectly, and realizing that in Christ, I am enough. I am enough with or without a husband, with or without a family. Until that right guy comes along, if he ever does, in the dance that is life, I will be awkward dancing in a corner eating Sour Patch Kids and laughing at my own jokes. Honestly, and this has taken me years to say that, I am okay with that.