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Posts Tagged ‘bitterness’

It’s been seventeen thousand years since I’ve wrote on here. I’m hoping that will change…but I have to admit, I’m running out of topics! (Suggestions hereby welcome).

One of the reasons I’ve been absent has to do with the last post I wrote, incidentally. Basically, I’m not perfect. I have a dark side – or many. Recently, my choices led me into a state of feeling like I had no business hoping for a marriage of any sort, let alone a good one. I don’t feel deserving. So I’ve reacted against feeling bereft of my desire with self-pity, and it hasn’t been fruitful or life-giving. But it has been a source of growth, and a necessary one at that. I have sinned, and sinned purposefully, in the area of relationships, as is often the case these days. It has only been in the last few weeks, in light of the evidence of this, that I have started to realize the root of my patterns.

You see, I come from a broken family. A child of divorce, I was devoid of having a strong male presence in my life. I learned to mask the pain of it all; to pretend like just because it is now so normal for so many women, that it is fine. But it’s not. It’s not okay that I had to learn to walk into the world without my father to tell me I am beautiful and worthy of affection and love. It’s not okay that I felt left and abandoned, in part because it was true. It’s not okay that I have been plagued with insecurity and low self-confidence as a result.

And it’s not my fault. And these things do not have to dictate my future.

I’m not sure what kind of families you all come from, or what kind of pain haunts you at night. However, I do know that we all carry some burden of our pasts around with us and into our relationships. I have learned recently how important it is to face these issues head on, lest they remain unnoticed like an odorless poison that is discovered only when it is too late. It is far too easy to ignore the warning signs when we are enticed by promises of pleasure in the wrong context that leave us decidedly empty, or by the presence of someone – anyone, regardless of background – pretending to love us. But I do believe that Jesus, who defeated sin on that cross, is there to defeat our sin now – and even more, to heal the root of it. After all, He always went above and beyond when He healed the lepers, the beggars, the lame and the blind – not only did He address their physical needs, the”bonus” (and incidentally, the most important) thing was healed as well: their relationship with Him. And through that, other people as well. I have learned that relying on Jesus to heal my past and the roots of my decisions is the only way I will be able to look forward to the future with confidence. Have I fully done this? Definitely not. Should I even expect to be fully healed before entering into a relationship headed towards marriage? No, I don’t think so. But I think it helps remind us of where we are headed, once we know where we came from.

Until recently, the process of healing scared me. I didn’t want to be limited by a timeframe before I felt like I could hope for a godly relationship. I’ve since realized, though, that a break from dating needed to happen. To clear my head. To face my demons, and to sometimes feel alone in that. I’m still absolutely in the process of doing this, and I don’t think it’s going to end anytime soon. But I do find that I can hope again, and that is beyond freeing. God is a God who redeems brokenness, after all.

And when my guilt threatens to consume me, I scream the heck out of Hebrews 9:14:

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,so that we may serve the living God!”.

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One of the most unfortunate things that I have noticed recently is something that I struggle with deeply. When people get married, or even start the process from singleness to being in a relationship to marriage,  a block occurs between a single person and a married one. It is very painful for both sides, and perhaps it’s more of an indication of what we are putting our trust in than anything else. For me, I know that I’ve been depending on a friend a little too much when I find myself almost overcome with a sense of loss once they get into a serious relationship that eventually leads to marriage.

Since I’m single, I can really only speak from that point of view. I’ve noticed that specifically in my own thinking, whenever someone gets married, I automatically assume that they will have no need for me anymore. In fact, the person doesn’t have a need for anybody anymore, because they’re married! All of their relational needs are supposedly met in this one person. Of course, this is extremely unhealthy thinking, as I do recognize that there is no possible way for people to rely on any one person alone – except for Jesus. However, the most painful part for me when a friend gets married/starts dating seriously is that, if I’m being honest, I don’t really matter as much to them. It’s not a dig on my value as a friend, or on my responsibility to still be there for them, but the fact of the matter is that once a couple gets married, their spouse is the most important person in their life after God. In a very real sense, this leads little room for the same kind of friendships that someone may have had beforehand. That’s just the nature of the “leaving and cleaving” that we are called to do when we marry, and it is painful for the friends who are not “left behind”. It’s also very humbling. I’m not good at responding to this kind of humbling, and it often  results in my feeling bitter and abandoned…and consequently, at a loss as to how to react to the Lord in it.

As an example, if any of you are familiar with the 1990’s sitcom Boy Meets World, you’ll remember how viciously Shawn reacts to the reality that Cory is actually marrying Topanga. In the wedding episode, the old friends end up fighting right before the big day, and Shawn storms out, claiming he no longer wants to be Cory’s best man. They eventually end up reconciling, and there’s a little joke with Cory saying his vows to both Shawn and Topanga – before he gently has to tell his friend, “OK, Shawn. I have to talk to her now, okay?” It’s a funny moment, but also a rather painstakingly poignant one. The fact is that we cannot all be intimately walking with our friends once they get married – that is the very beautiful aspect of the covenant that is made! However, as the friends who up until that point were walking with either the bride or groom in a similar way, it is appears as a sense of exclusivity that does hurt. The issue, I think, is not that we feel those things, but it is in the way that we respond. God calls us to have hope, and not to be overcome with bitterness or jealousy. I so easily fall into a self-pitying mode when a good friend starts dating – because I essentially blame God for taking something away from me (in this case, a friendship). I really am joyful for the couple, but I just let sinful thoughts and desires sneak inenoug,h so that often, my turmoil is expressed to the person with whom I am called to rejoice. I think that as the single friends in this situation, we can respond lovingly by 1) Understanding that God is the true Source of our stability and friendship, and He knows what He is doing when He gives and takes away; 2) Coming to a realization that we are called to rejoice with our brothers and sisters, no matter what we’re feeling; and 3)  To remember that God Himself is no stranger to loneliness. He draws near to the brokenhearted. We’re allowed to tell him how we’re feeling, to let our feelings have our course. We also are still called to be friends, I believe, to the ones that get married. Just because someone gets married does not mean they don’t need other friends! I’ve seen this happen a lot with myself and with others – even talking to some of my married friends, who do feel like singles don’t talk to them at all, or at least to a much less degree, once they’re married. That is very sad, and selfish on our part.

I can’t really say much to the married people who might be reading this, but what I would suggest is maybe to seek out more single friends if you are not already doing so. Let them understand that they still matter – that you’re not different from them just because you happen to have a ring on your finger and a new last name. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace. And especially with singles, sensitivity is key (but also – most singles just need to get over themselves, so please don’t feel the need to walk on egg shells!).

The marital status rift leads to a lot of unspoken tension in churches today. Singles look at marrieds and are overcome with anguish over desire to have what they have. Married people, perhaps, feel isolated because of this, and therefore they tend to connect more with other married couples rather than singles. Either way, our pride and our desires get in the way. To be honest, I’m not sure how to proceed in mending this rift, but I do know that if God can solve the problem of the greatest rift to exist – that of our sin – then this surely is something that can and will be resolved. We are called to unity, not disparity.

For singles (DEFINITELY myself included), this starts with realizing that your feelings and needs cannot be the ones that are sought after first. It may involve a lot of pain, but so be it. “If a seed falls to the ground and dies, it bears much fruit..”

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