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A few weeks ago, a dear friend loaned me a book that she had just finished, stating that it had made her think of me and that I would really enjoy it. It is a memoir, and to be honest, I don’t usually go around picking up that type of literature – even though, almost always, I love reading them. I have a thing about hearing other people’s stories; there’s something about people’s actual experiences that speaks to me so much more than abstract ideas. As the post’s title suggests, the book is called “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not”. The author, Trish Ryan,  lives in Boston as well, and used to attend the church that I have just started to “check out” as it were – in large part thanks to this book. She is thirty-something, hilarious,  is married, and has a dog. Obviously there’s a little bit more to her than that, but since I haven’t met her (yet), I’ll start with that.

I was wary when my friend suggested I read this, as I’ve had not-so-great experiences with books that claim that all we need is Jesus and isn’t it so crazy that He is our husband and we really don’t need an actual one and we’re actually pretty low on the spiritual scale if we do?! Like, yay! (Not).  In a nutshell, Ryan’s experience speaks to the fact that the struggle of her desire for her husband, and to figure out her spiritual life, are in fact very much related and it’s okay to pursue them together.  The book starts off with Ryan experiencing a situation where God speaks to her at a red light one day, after she very honestly comes to terms with her poignant desire for a husband.  Ryan says that the Lord communicates the following words in response to her plea: “I want you to want more for yourself. I have a husband for you, and a family, and everything you want, but you need to take Jesus seriously”. (Ryan, 3).

This voice experience comes to Trish after a traumatic situation in her life, when she feels little to no hope for a future filled with light and blessing.  She had had an understanding of God as a child – and at the same time, she also believed that what makes for a happy life is having a great marriage to the right guy. However, since that point, her desire to find the happily ever after ending leads to heartache after heartache, and also into the world of new age philosophy and spirituality. We follow Trish’s journey from a woman who practices astrology and feng sui to “control the circumstances” of her dating life, to the moment when she starts attending a church where all the “Christians” are, the ones who don’t have sex until marriage, and pray, and all that stuff. Hee. She does comes to an understanding of who Jesus is, and specifically who He is in her life and journey. It’s powerful stuff. And the thing that’s intricately related? Her desire for a husband. Much of the book is focused on her attempts to make relationships work, and to her struggles with God once she starts following Him and the husband doesn’t appear right away. I mentioned earlier that now she is married. So it seems that God held onto His promise to her, right? How so? Well…you’ll just have to read to find out! The way that the Lord brings her spiritual AND love lives together is so beautiful, and so Him, really. And I think it suggests quite a few things that I have alluded to before on other posts.

1) I can actually have a burning desire for marriage and the idea of a happily ever after ending – and still be “seeking first the kingdom of God”. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

2)  I really don’t need to have it all together in order for a husband to arrive. Really. In one of her talks on her website, Trish makes a point that I had never thought about before: the idea of self actualization is actually kind of a scam. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to start a whole life together as a unified couple when both people have spent so much time trying to “find themselves”. I felt very encouraged when she says that she learned more about herself and who she is after her marriage.

3) This one’s tough for me to fully believe, but here it is: God cares about my physical desires and needs, not my spiritual ones.  Trish’s story suggests that Jesus does care about my desire for marriage and children, and for my incessant crook in my neck, and my love of pasta. They are very important to Him. His blessings and joy are not just for the spiritual world, or for the life to come, but they are available here, now  (see 1 Peter 5:7 to support this). He delights in not only fulfilling our hopes, but Ryan would argue, in exceeding them as well.

In general, I could not recommend this book enough. Ryan is an amazing writer, profoundly honest, and utterly relatable. If you struggle with your desire for marriage and intertwining that with your faith, as I do, it’s a breath of fresh air to read the experiences of someone who does not give the standard “Jesus is my all” pat answers. It’s real. And it makes me excited to be part of the reality that she states is not only possible, but should be expected, for the believer – and for right now, not just sometime in the future.

You can find Trish’s memoir and her most recent one, A Maze of Grace, at most bookstores and on Amazon.com.

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First things first: wow – it’s been a while since I wrote on here! Sorry people. It’s been a crazy last month or so, and getting busier…so please excuse my lack of posts. I’m going to try and get some more ramped up though, and of course – ideas are welcome!

I’ve been thinking recently on the whole notion of the set up, and how for so many people, it’s a “last resort” type of action – when desperation has started to seep in and there’s no prospects rolling in (see my last post for more on how to react to that). Many people, myself included, inwardly flinch at the possibility of being set up with someone who doesn’t excite them, or even worse, seeing the person as a reflection of who they are attracting. Sometimes, it can be a hard dose of reality to face. Others may prefer wanting to meet someone “the natural way”, whatever the heck that means. A few days ago, my roommate and I discussed the ridiculousness of this statement, because no one ever really meets someone completely naturally. There are always other factors – Person A decides to go to church and sits next to Person B, Person C reluctantly attends a party where Person D is at, etc. I wouldn’t necessarily go so far to say that God is the driving force that brings us to certain places to meet that special person – honestly, sometimes I think it’s just being in the right place at the right time, and what we do with those circumstances to maximize them. I do not in any way think that agreeing to a set up means that God is not behind it. In fact, many people meet through friends in this way – so why, do I wonder, are so many people against it?

I’ve started to ask people in my workplace, as well as in church settings, to keep me in mind if they meet anyone they think I would get along with. Sure, it’s a little awkward, but how is it any different than going to a  bar or party and nervously making eye contact with the handsome stranger on the other side of the room? I may only be 25, but I want to be as intentional as I can be, knowing of course that intentionality does not always a husband bring :). For my part, the frustrating thing is when the people I ask don’t seem to take me all that seriously. Often, the response when I ask is to laugh it off and be all, “Oh, yeah, I definitely will!” and then to not do anything on the premise of it being “awkward” to tell someone that they have a friend who they might like getting to know. I know it’s awkward people, but isn’t it worth it to find your friend someone they might have a future with? Even if it’s not a good match, I guarantee it doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated to have someone put a good word in for me, and in many ways that makes up for any awkwardness on the date! The truth is, my friends know me the best of out of anyone really, and so in theory I should be able to trust them to endorse me to some unsuspecting victim…er, I mean, guy.

Of course, the flipside of all of this is if you find yourself looking to set your friend up with someone. In this case, it takes a sense of discernment and some guts to break the ice with a guy (or girl, obviously depending) who you sense might be a good match for your friend. To be very honest, I often get scared out of doing this on behalf of my friends. Granted, sometimes the person might just not be interested in getting to know the friend – which is silly anyway because how do they know if they don’t try? – but there have definitely been those times that I’m afraid to approach the person in question because of the awkward situation it could lead to. Sometimes I find myself on the lookout for good men for my friends, and it just feels like the same old group of people are there all the time. That can get discouraging, but that’s why I’m trying to branch out to new groups – meetup.com, if you have it in your city, is a good resource – to scope out the scene ;). There are also times when one needs to evaluate the men that are in the same group and see if there are some that have been overlooked – perhaps the scales need to come off your eyes, so to speak.

In all of this, discernment is key, but there are two important things that I’ve thought about lately in regards to this. The first is that you don’t want to ask just any single guy you come across just because your friend has asked you to set them up – that’s just offensive and could definitely hurt your friend’s trust in you. No one wants to be set up with someone whose manners or general essence is so far off from them that it shakes their confidence. However – and this is a big one – I also think it’s equally important to be open to different opportunities for your friends, even if they themselves have not considered that person. Let’s be honest for a moment here – most Christians, women especially, have too much ego involved in the dating process. I know that in the past I’ve disgustingly remarked, “Why on Earth would you put me with that person?” only to be surprised that, upon getting to know the person, their crooked nose or pimple-scarred face (um, hello? I only had acne for ten years straight – who am I to judge?!) really has no bearing on their ability to be worthy of affection. We’re not all that, and none of us deserve a perfect Prince Charming. It’s all a gift, and while attraction and chemistry is certainly an added bonus, it is not by any means the way we should measure someone’s eligibilty. If we honestly think someone would be good for our friend, and that friend responds with automatic defensiveness, I think it’s perfectly fine to remind them that, as dear and lovely that they are, they don’t look like Angelina Jolie. They’re not going to end up with a Brad Pitt look alike – sorry. Realistic expectations, people.

Good judgment is key for the set up situation, on top of prayerful action. People asking to be set up need to not be ashamed of it, and to be open to go on dates with people that they might not have considered for themselves. Those looking to set their friends up need to get over their awkwardness and speak up on behalf of them, and to really do your part in looking for a good match. Protracted singleness, when a desire for marriage is given from God, just doesn’t do much good when it’s met with bitterness and lost hope. Community exists for a reason – let’s all get out there and be willing to get set up and set up!

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I’m just going to put it out there: one of my biggest fears is that I will never marry, or that the Lord will come back before I get the chance. Call me a bad Christian, but there it is. I’d like to say that I trust God with my whole life, but because this is something I so desperately want to try and control. Therefore, it’s really hard not to get really frustrated and squirmish about my single state at times.

One of the most poignant reminders of this fact is when I look into the prospects of possibilities and find myself coming up empty.

In general, I do feel like Jesus always wants us to experience the process of things rather than just the end result, and more often than not this means that some level of pain, confusion, and hurt is involved.  In many ways these experiences show the insecurity of the people involved, and also of course the great plan that God  has to turn evil and pain into good, just out of His character. To be honest, it’s all well and good to discuss this and put a stamp of Christian approval on it, but when it comes to specific fears and hopes, I get panicked. I always feel a greater sense of calm if there’s someone I’m interested in versus when there isn’t, but since I have yet to find someone who I have had a true, deep connection with, the insecurity of wondering “why not?” can often leave me stagnant. It’s very easy to think that my past will dictate my future, when in fact the only thing that defines my future is Jesus’ choice to die for me 2,000 years ago.

The Bible is full of so many examples of God’s presence in the midst of people experiencing no prospects. Abraham and Sarah literally laughed in the angel’s face when they were told they would have a child after fifty some odd years of waiting and they were 99 years old. NINETY NINE. I would have laughed too. But yet, God still provided. Abraham later on showed how much His love and trust in God became His main focus when he was willing to lay down his son for God- which, of course, God prevented by providing a sacrifice instead. It really does warm my heart to think of that.

Anna the Prophetess became a widow after seven years of marriage, and stayed that way until she was eighty-four (!). She spent most of her time praying and worshiping the Lord, enraptured by being in His Holy presence. (First of all, can you imagine only being married for seven years and spending something like fifty years alone?!) But still, Anna loved the Lord and desperately wanted to see His glory come to Earth – and He let her see the very face of the One who was to save her. Beautiful – a wonderful example of how the Lord fulfilled her lack of prospects with the greatest one a person could ever behold.

Finally, one last example is found in Adam and Eve, and to be honest I just thought of this. I find it amazing when I think about the fact that it must have felt truly terrifying – there isn’t a word to describe the experience, really – to realize that while once they were secure and comfortable, but in one second, after one choice, they were thrown into a frenzy of fear, insecurity, and loss. Talk about feeling like there were no prospects when there once was nothing but freedom and joy! But God intervened, and gave them back access, in part, to Himself through the sacrifice of an animal to cover their naked bodies. He was showing them two things, I believe: 1) That relationship with Him is the only thing that could restore their dignity and security and 2) That He is willing to sacrifice so that we might receive a new prospect, a new hope, and ultimately a relationship with Him again.

All of these examples help me to remember just how amazing our God is, and I can think of many more from my own personal experiences. I wish that I would remember them often enough to trust Him in those moments, like I’ve experienced recently, when my dating life slightly resembles that of a mirage; something that I’m excited to see after a dry spell in the desert, only to realize that it is just a figment of my imagination. In recent days, in light of this, I have been at times so hurt and frustrated that my anger has gotten the best of me and I’ve really let God have it. Then, I justify that it’s probably all my fault and the insecurities come out – I’m too emotional, I laugh too loudly, I’m way too much of a sinner for an honorable man who loves Jesus, and my chin dimple is so not cute. And then I rest fitfully in my subtle belief that God is untrustworthy.

The fact is, He has never lied. God can only speak truth because that’s His very nature! It’s also His character to create something out of nothing; to create matter out of space; to make life triumph over death. I honestly do feel like sometimes I don’t have a holy bone in my body, but I do know that God’s prospects are given to us not because we deserve it, but because He wants to – and because Jesus’ sacrifice paved the way for hope to always win out.

It only takes one church service to attend, one party to drop by, one elderly neighbor’s grandson to meet – and it’s there. I hope that if you’re still single and feeling like you have no prospects, you can face each day knowing that there’s hope because there’s a God who is amazing at creating something out of nothing. It’s like His signature dish. And in the meantime, He is with us along the way – and that fact offers me a great deal of comfort if I ponder it.

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This will undoubtedly be a little controversial, but it’s important and thus, oh well.

The issue of Christians dating non-Christians is one that either gets overlooked or overemphasized, depending on the nature of the community that we’re in. Like a lot of other biblical principles, it’s easy to sometimes avoid it altogether, or wrap it up in the box of But-Grace-Covers-It-and-God-is-Love, tie a ribbon on it and never think twice again. Or it’s so shoved down our throats that we start to feel guilty if we even talk to a non-Christian guy, because what if we (gasp!) were attracted to him?

Just to relieve you of any piqued curiosity, I will start off by saying that I do not think that, as a Christian who fails but still wants to glorify God, it is best to date someone who isn’t also in the same boat. I don’t even necessarily think that  it’s “because God says so” even though, if we’re honest, that should be enough of a reason.  I think it because I have experienced it firsthand. A few years ago, I entered into a relationship with a really great guy, who I met in the kind of way that people do in movies (read: a meet cute). Granted, we didn’t have a ton in common, but I was in an unstable time in my life, fresh off a year abroad fraught with unhealthy decisions and even worse lingering thought processes as a result. In my head, I knew it was “wrong”, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to just give him a shot. I did, and we ended up dating for about three months, which although not long by other standards, was not just a walk in the park either. Ironically, after months of feeling guilty and even more separated from God that I already felt beforehand, we broke up. There was a realization that we would just never really understand each other fully. And believe me, despite my sense of relief, it still hurt – a lot. I felt like a failure.

When Jesus explains that to marry an unbeliever is to be unequally yoked, my mind of course immediately goes to images of an egg splattered unevenly in a frying pan and I’m consistently confused. And then I have to reign myself in (pun awfully intended!) and focus on the real meaning. In marriage, and really any type of relationship, we are called to carry each other’s burdens. When two cows are held together by the same yolk, there is an even amount of weight, ideally, on each shoulder. Neither cow is expected to fully carry the weight of the other, but the burden of both is shared. It is in this context that I believe it is most easily understood (thank goodness, since of course, that was the initial point of Paul even using the example). If we put ourselves in such deep connection with someone who does not share our faith – and our hope – then, undoubtedly, either ourselves or the person we’re in relationship with is expected to carry a heavier burden. Perhaps we, as a Christian, feel the need to always invite that person to church, just to satisfy our inward twinge that we’re still doing “Christian things” despite this (that was me). And the other person carries a large burden in this case too – they probably feel inexplicably unable to be good enough as themselves. That certainly will not lead to knowledge of the Gospel.

So there’s the lack of ability to carry each other’s burdens (which, we are told, fulfills the law of Christ) but there’s also something else: with this set up, codependency is inevitable. Often, if a Christian woman really cares for a man who isn’t a believer, she is often more likely to engage in behaviors or make decisions before which  previously she would have hesitated. For a man, if they’re dating the non-Christian woman, maybe it’s because they don’t feel like the women that attend church with them are the right mix of sexy and cute (can’t speak to the guys perspective all that much, so apologies if that’s way off!). The result is that one, and often both, members of the couple seek to get from the other what that person can never give them. It’s a painful and sometimes humiliating cycle, especially when observed in hindsight.

We all have battles to fight as we navigate our way to marriage, and fighting against the temptation to fall for someone who even just gives us the time of day can often be difficult to resist. In my experience, I’ve had a lot more non-Christian men seeking me out than Christian ones, and as hard as it is to admit, many are the thoughts I’ve entertained of what it would look like to date them. Perhaps part of the solution is for more Christian men to ask the women of Christ around them, and for women to be receptive. And another part, I think, is recognizing what marriage is for and how the relationship between a man and woman can really only be fulfilled through the institution. Marriage is a representation of Christ and the Church, yes, but also of Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. They are all in sync with one another, fully loving, and fully aware of the Other in their entirety. There is no one pulling too much weight, or anyone left abandoned. It is intimacy bound together by the mutual everlasting comfort and joy of knowing another.

I’m left to think that a relationship which does not have at its center the Person of Jesus Christ, if He is present to one of the couple, is at best lonely and at worst, lacking a giant essence of God’s character. God’s desire for His children to not be married to unbelievers is not a rules-based hope for humanity, but one steeped in His interest in our welfare and joy.

Believing that, of course, is certainly half the battle.

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So, before I get into this, I am going to be completely open and admit that yes, I am addicted to the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise. I just started watching last year and understand it’s basically a piece of crap show with people getting hurt and embarrassing themselves on national TV, but yet I’m hooked. It’s probably because I do have a slightly obsessive interest in the way that people get together. And let’s be honest: it’s ridiculously entertaining.

I thought I’d do reviews on each season after they come out, complete with observations and lessons, if you will. Since my blog is based on love and the path to marriage, it’s certainly quite fitting! These particular posts will of course be silly in nature, but if you have watched the season, then you’ll probably understand. If not…well, you undoubtedly have more brain cells than me!

Observation #1: Don’t trust men who sell wine for a living.

Ben Flajnik, runner-up from Ashley Hebert’s season last year, is a winemaker from Sonoma, California who needs to wash his hair. He tends to cut women off when they’re trying to explain themselves and not listen to a thousand warning signs regarding one person. He often looks confused when he’s trying to be serious. Like so:

At the beginning of Ben’s season, I was genuinely excited to see what would happen on his season and who he would end up with. However, with each episode, I got more and more uninterested and was thoroughly disgusted at times with his behavior and attitude (but alas, I still watched). Obviously, I don’t know Ben in person and God still created and died for him, but I’m guessing that someone who spends probably 75% of the time inebriated on the job probably doesn’t have the best judgement – and let’s be honest, if I was a winemaker, you’d best believe I’d spend a few times a day “sampling the stock”. Love me some vino.

Observation #2: Pretty models always win.

Courtney Robertson, the model and “winner” of the season, was obviously the one “American loves to hate!” – Chris Harrison, Host of Da Bachela. She said all sorts of awkward things like “How’d that taste coming out of your mouth?” “I got the rooooose” and of course, “winning!”. Homegirl looks to Charlie Sheen for catchphrases. But needless to say, she of course captivates Ben first with her beauty (“Now THAT is a pretty girl”, he salivates as he first met her) and then with her weirdness. And at the end, despite the fact that she is used to getting her own way and of course knows how to play a part well, she gets the guy. Of course, both she and Ben do seem to have the best “connection” of all of the women there, so I actually do think it might last a long time. Maybe they’ll give Kim K a run for her money with a whopping 73 days.

Observation #3: Pretty models are insecure.

Poor thing. Seriously, insecurity is an issue with all of us, and I did feel for Courtney throughout the season when she expressed her feelings on camera. I can’t laugh at it though, because I struggle with it, and it’s always a good lesson to see the repercussions of trying to find your worth through anyone or thing besides Christ.

Observation #4: When a guy you’re interested in doesn’t like you, just make lots of friends instead.

It cracks me up that at The Women Tell All episode all of the girls started yelling at each other in their drunken state, and then days later on Twitter they’re all “Heeey girl! Love you!!”. I get it, it’s a high pressure situation, but these women were super catty and honestly give us all a bad rep. I went to a women’s college and honestly came across minimal cattiness while I was there, so it’s not all as it seems. (Then again, if you threw a dude into the mix, I’m sure it would come out). Still, all in all I’m glad that the girls did seem to get over their jealousy and insecurity and just learn to get along. In the wake of any heartache, female friends very much make it better. At least, if they’re good friends.

Observation #5: Standing up for Christ in a relationship will always be difficult if it’s one sided.

In particular, Kacie B’s experience on the show makes it clear just how difficult following Christ can be once our hormones and feelings are activated. It was quite obvious that Ben basically sent her home once he realized how biblically grounded her family is, specifically when it came to living together before marriage. Kacie is a believer, and it was actually refreshing to see her experience all types of emotions, including anger, and not just succumb to being the “good girl” (although she is overall perceived as that). However, since her departure from the show, Kacie has admitted that she really does want to be with someone who shares her faith and values, and that sometimes having feelings for someone who doesn’t can become messy quickly. I’m going to do a post soon on the issue of being unequally yoked soon, but for now, I think this is definitely a good lesson to learn.

So, that’s it folks. I’ll definitely do this for Emily’s season as well, which premieres on May 14th (not that I’m counting down, or anything). I’ll leave you this video as a farewell – as a warning, it does have censored nudity due to the skinny dipping fiasco, so just as an FYI.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh1dS4JFp4w

 

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A few weeks ago, I embarked on something that I had never thought I would try: speed dating. I had obviously heard of it before, but always put it aside as something only older people do, for whatever reason. I have tried online dating for a while now, and to be quite frank, I don’t think it’s really for me. I really hate the whole process of trying to get to know someone over the Internet when meeting in person can often answer so many more questions, plus there’s the whole chemistry thing (although I do NOT judge someone purely just by that…or try not to!). So when I signed up for the event last month (I used 8MinuteDating for the record) I really, really didn’t know what to expect. For this particular company, you register first and automatically get on a waiting list; once you’ve been confirmed as registered you are then officially signed up. I found out a few days before that I was confirmed, and I had all but almost forgotten about the whole thing when I got the notification email.

I dragged one of my friends with me to chill out at the bar just in case no one showed up and it was a weird situation, and so she came in with me and we went to the bathroom to “freshen up” – aka calm me down before I hyperventilated. The first man I saw was obviously approaching sixty years old, and I decided at that point that all bets were off and that I needed to leave right away. I hung around the bar for a little bit and after seeing a few other people that looked to be in my age range, I went back in and started to chat to a few people. Two and a half hours later, the event was over, and it was actually pretty fun and something I would definitely consider doing again. I do, however, want to go through some of the plusses and minuses of this method of meeting people, because there are a few important things that came up for me. I’ll start with the negatives.

1) While it’s an obvious feature, you don’t get a lot of time to get to know the people that you are dating. It’s only eight minutes, which is helpful because it’s a good amount of time, but if you really are interested in talking to someone, it can feel a little short.

2) You don’t know who will show up. This of course can be a good thing as well, but there is definitely a chance that there are people there who are not looking for the same things you are. For me, I wasn’t sure that other Christians would be there, but I wanted to try it out anyway.

3) Cost. For 8 Minute Dating, it was about $40.00. For me, that’s a little bit pricey for just a few hours, especially considering the fact that if you want to buy any drinks, it’s extra.

All in all, the negatives weren’t that bad, all things considering. On to the positives.

1) You get to meet people in person instead of creating an image of someone over the Internet. This was huge, as very quickly it was easy to see who I naturally meshed with versus who might’ve just “looked good on paper”. It was fun getting to meet people and see who I got along with.

2) Along the same lines, I got to chat to a lot of people that most likely I never would under any other circumstances. All of the guys were very sweet and nice, and only one was questionable in terms of his expressed intentions. They were interesting and fun, and I’m definitely glad I got the chance to meet eight different people in one setting.

3) It’s good dating practice! I enjoyed the experience because it allowed me – and the guys, as well – to relax and get to know the other person in a casual environment. There was no pressure built up resulting from imagining who this person was beforehand, so it opened the conversation up to flow as naturally as possible. Even though I am an extrovert, I sometimes do struggle with being a good conversationalist especially around men, so I really appreciated the opportunity to practice this.

So, overall, it was a good experience. Did I meet anyone “special”? No. But I did meet some very nice guys, and did go on a few dates after the experience. Would I try it again? Yes, definitely. I’m going to see if my church would be willing to sponsor a Christian-based event, because I think it would a) be extremely popular and b) help draw men and women from the church out of their shells a little bit. I think the key to this, though, would be the fact that dating doesn’t have to be full of pressure! Obviously, if I’m interested in dating a Christian man, I would feel better speed dating with a room full of them. So if you’re interested in this kind of thing and live in Boston…let me know! I want to know your thoughts :).

Have any of you been speed dating? If so, what are some of your favorite/not so favorite things about it?

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Hope.

A small word, with sometimes disastrous consequences if that which is hoped for is not attained. Hope is really what drives any of us to do anything; to continue to look for a job even when we’ve gone on countless interviews to no avail; to force ourselves out of bed and off to the gym in hopes that we will work off that slice of pizza or five we had over the weekend; to stash away in our prayers the glimmer of hope that that person, whoever they are, will finally sweep us off our feet (or let us sweep them off their feet, if you’re a guy!). Whatever shape it may take, Hope gives us a possibility for more. We thirst for it, and truly thrive off it. It’s for this reason why it hurts so much when Hope is taken away from us, or maybe even never shows up to begin with.

I’ll use an example from my own life to start.

When I was a young girl, I watched many a Disney movie. My particular favorites were The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast. Strangely, I don’t remember thinking that I wanted to meet my own Prince Eric, or even Aladdin (homeboy had nice abs for a cartoon though!). (I did have a crush on grown-up Simba, which looking back on it is incredibly awkward). I would say that I got most of my desire for marriage just from something that existed within me. When I was a teenager, I was introduced to the wonders of Jane Austen, and that was when my awareness of this desire became poignant. I read all of the books and took in countless versions of Pride and Prejudice, unknowingly instigating an unhealthy attitude towards romance and what relationships actually look like. At the same time as this was happening, I plodded on through high school with no one expressing interest in me and trying to figure out what the dating world looked like as a born-again Christian. It was then that I got introduced to Christian self-help books, like When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy, and the infamous I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. I basically took all of the things written in those books as gospel. I thought that if I just worked on being holy and totally embrace Jesus as my “boyfriend”, He would provide me with the God-written love story He so desires for His children who actually really loved Him. And so I only watched movies with a rating of PG or less. I didn’t less to non-Christian music. And I certainly didn’t think about online dating, because that would me I wasn’t trusting in God to bring me a husband. This line of thinking existed until I went away for to study in Scotland during my year abroad, when choices I made tore down my previous worldview on dating and left me feeling broken, ashamed, and most of all, without hope. I was convinced that I had ruined any hope of a wonderful relationship, because I had yet to experience one. I felt ugly now because of a realization of the true horrors of my sin, not because I was told so by an insecure teenage guy in the hallway. I remember thinking for the first time that my hope of a marriage to a Christian man may never happen, and the hollowness that accompanied that was unlike anything I had experienced before.

For me, the most painful thing now is that I still have that fear, and in many ways it is justified. God does not promise any of us husbands, and certainly not perfect marriages because they do not exist. I have a much healthier view on marriage now than I used to, thanks to His guidance and teaching, but yet I still desire it. Something I’ve learned recently is how much the blessings God gives is not determined at all by our deserving them. Quite a few of my friends who are in relationships are wonderful, God-fearing women, and I am so happy for them. However, I do struggle with wondering what they did that I haven’t. I start to wonder that maybe if I spent an hour with the Lord everyday like they did, or seemed as confident as they are, that maybe then the Lord would see that I “deserve” a relationship just as much as they do. In essence, I let my own hope for marriage become a catalyst to scrutinize my friendships and undermine God’s grace. Now let me be clear: I am of the opinion that desiring marriage is a good thing and not bad; that there is nothing wrong with expressing such a hope. The issue is not my desire for marriage, necessarily, but the way that I sometimes perceive God’s actions in it. I assume that He is trying to skewer me into pieces by stripping away my hope with every rejection or lonely holiday that passes; that He is dangling my Hope in front of me only to rip it away right when I think it will happen. In those moments, I cry out to Him bitterly with the words of Proverbs 13:12 – “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”. Lord, why are You willingly making me heartsick? Do you want me to waste away and become bitter? It becomes ever so easy to wallow in my sorrow and pain, to lash out against the very One who I just want to be comforted by.

It is during these times that I am reminded of Psalm 84, verse 11: “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless“.

Perhaps it is true in some sense that the Lord does favor those who seek Him out – that He draws near those who draw near to Him. But that insinuates that He does not favor those who don’t deserve it, which is to say, all of us. We know this not to be the case. If we are in Christ Jesus, God has promised us not to withhold any good thing because we are blameless in His sight. I’m not sure what good things mean in this context – I’m guessing it is the presence of the Holy Spirit, or Christian community, both of which are incredible blessings that I have myself experienced, and certainly not because I have done anything to deserve it.

A few weeks ago, I heard a sermon at my church about the Saturday following Good Friday. For the disciples, they had no idea that Easter Sunday was coming. They were waiting in hopelessness, darkness, despair, for something that they didn’t even realize was about to happen. The speaker remarked that God allowed the disciples’ despair precisely so that they would come to an understanding of what true Hope is. Obviously, because of Jesus’ resurrection, my ultimate Hope (and yours!) as indeed been fulfilled already. It absolutely is true that no matter how poignant my desire for a husband is, it is nowhere near my deep need for God’s presence in my life and the next. That Hope was fulfilled at our lowest point, and so I believe that even when I feel despair, there is always a tiny glimmer of Hope that says that I’m still in my waiting time. To be brutally honest, I don’t want to even think about the possibility of staying single the rest of my life. However, what I do know is that I can only take things as they come; that I will continue to be hopeful every morning despite my fears and insecurities, and that I want to continue learning to hope in what is eternal. I don’t know why I haven’t been pursued in a deep way yet, and it does leave me in a state of feeling unloved and unnoticed at times. Sometimes, I wonder why I consistently try to remain positive when my hopes in this area are dashed again and again. I just don’t know.

Perhaps part of it is that my Lord embodies Hope, and I don’t want to let go of that no matter how painful the journey is. I want to be aware of God’s presence in my Easter Saturday of waiting, so that perhaps I am not so surprised when my Easter Sunday finally arrives.

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