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Posts Tagged ‘love’

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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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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If you haven’t heard the new single by American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, I highly recommend that you do so. The song is hard-hitting and profound, and I definitely teared up when I first heard it (and still do). Take a look at the lyrics to the first verse:

There’s a place that I know

It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone

If I show it to you now

Will you try and run away

Or will you stay – even if it hurts?

Even if I try to push you out – will you return?

Something I’ve been struggling with recently is the terrible reality of just how sinful I am. This isn’t a forced feeling; a fabricated sense of self-deprecation brought on by years of sermons and my general demeanor that is prone to self-criticism. While those things are certainly in place, it does go deeper than that. Most recently, I found myself going once again against my better judgment and following a path that lead me to sin in a certain way. Now, of course I sin everyday, but often when it catches up to me, the guilt is hard to bear. I do desire to follow the Lord and seek His ways, but I can just be so selfish and self-serving that when I fail, it takes me a good few days to even start to feel hope again.

Of course, as it pertains to this blog, most recently I have found myself feeling terrified that I will never meet anyone who will actually want to put up with all of me; my spurts of anger, my oft-inappropriate statements of honesty; my deep longing to be loved that has led me to look for it in harmful ways – and that’s just the surface of it. The thing is, I honestly am thankful in some ways that I have made certain choices, as it has opened me up to be far more forgiving and understanding than I would have been otherwise, and than I used to be. I also know that because of it, I would be absolutely fine extending forgiveness to my future husband with his failures – which of course he will have. For some reason, though, I often wonder if maybe I’m too bad for it. That I could never deserve anything remotely “good” – and I’m sure that it’s based on my poor understanding of grace. I get so exhausted from trying to be holy (and yes, I know that’s sort of an oxymoron) and just want to live sometimes – without guilt. I don’t want to feel stuffy and repressed. I also don’t want to be all over the place. It does seem to be a daily, tiring, incessant battle between will and spirit – and while that most certainly is a Biblical framework of what our life on Earth is like, I get so discouraged when I see people that are “good” get to marriage…although that isn’t always the case, either.

I think all of us yearn for one person that we care about to say, “Yes – I choose you! Your imperfections, your anger, your jealousy, your lustful tendencies – and I’m here to walk alongside that battle with you!”. The difficult part is getting to the point of exposing ourselves and all the burdens that we carry to someone else. It’s perhaps made even more poignant when we don’t have anyone to expose ourselves to – and that might be one of the most painful experiences of the single life; that it can feel like our real selves are never really appreciated in the passionate way that we desire them to be.

Christ  has shown us the ultimate example of this exchange – by making us beautiful by His choice to become sin for us. To take on the role on the very thing that entices us, drives us, destroys us – and gives new Life through it. I don’t think that this advocates a sense of “Jesus is my boyfriend/girlfriend” mentality, because to be frank that seems a bit silly and people are created for intimate relationships with each other – Christ ideally being at the center of them. But I do think that once we have an understanding of who God is and how He loves us, it is easier to feel that we are worthy of love from other people – because we deserve neither. I absolutely, 100%, do not have this down right now, and I don’t think any of us fully will until we see Him face to face. However, it can only be helpful when it comes to how we view ourselves in relationships. Sometimes we have to flat out just hope that things will happen as we would like – that we’re “open” to the experience of falling in love and letting ourselves known and be known. I’m hopeful that despite all of my crap, someone will find that “nobody’s a picture perfect”, as Kelly would say – “but we’re worth it”. That me, and you, and everyone else, is to the core worth loving, despite ourselves.

 

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