Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I Met A Girl

I met a girl. She's awesome. And what's more, she thinks I'm awesome. We are very awesome. You might say that I'm in love. I've told her that I love her at least a hundred times now. It feels good to say "I love you" when you mean it. I couldn't really say that to a girl until now. Now it's not hard to say it at all, in fact, it just feels like a sin not to say it. We've also kissed. I've heard some Christians say that you shouldn't kiss before you're married. Maybe they're right. Kissing is dangerously fun. Why is it so fun? I don't know, but it's not as fun if you don't love the person. But I love this girl, and so it's fun to kiss her. Ever since we started dating, I've felt like I was dreaming. I know that sounds corny and it's probably because of some chemical imbalance, but that's how I've felt. I keep thinking that it's too good to be true. If I don't see her for a day then I think that I imagined it all. Maybe it's because somewhere along the line I'd become a cynic about true love. I was beginning to wonder if it really existed. It seems that when life pranks us over and over again, we become skeptical about anything that resembles hope. Or love.

 To tell you the truth, falling in love was terrific and terrifying at the same time. I found myself asking scary questions like "What if she doesn't love me as much as I love her?" or "Does this mean that I have to start tucking in my shirt?" And then I began to wonder if God was going to get mad at me for loving her so much. I didn't want Him to get jealous that I was giving her so much attention. I didn't want to get into trouble, I didn't want to mess it up. I'm not going to lie, there have been some bumps in the road. We've had a few minor arguments, but in hindsight I realize that even those arguments were really because of love, love finding some kind of traction through trust. We were both feeling like we were miles off the ground, and if this thing didn't work out then it was going to hurt. Someone told me to guard my heart and I told him that I'd heard that before but now I wasn't sure what that meant. In the past, guarding my heart meant keeping people at a distance. But I didn't want to keep this girl at a distance. I wanted to let her in. I wanted to risk a little in order to reach for something a little impossible.

It's fun to tell people about the person you love. When I told my parents, my mom said "I've never heard you talk like that before about a girl." I probably look and sound a little crazy when I tell people about her, then they naturally want to meet her, probably just to make sure that I'm not crazy. I think that's how it should be when we tell people about Jesus too. We should be so intense and giddy as we talk about Jesus that people should want to meet him. He really is a very nifty person. He created a whole world full of galaxies and oceans and music and the girl I love. If that doesn't spark interest in people then they are uninteresting people.

 I see why it's a bad idea to love someone more than God. When something good tries to pose as God then it actually becomes a lie, because it can never be God, God is God. It's always a bad idea to let a lie rule your life. Through all of this, I keep telling God that He is my supreme love. He is God. But I'm not really reminding Him, I'm reminding myself. This girl is a gift from God, one more expression of God's love to me. It's scary how our eyes can get so fixated on a gift more than the person giving it. The dangerous thing about God's generosity is that we can become very selfish and spoiled children. We can even forget to love him back. And yet there's also a curious dimension to this in that I can love God to a certain degree by loving this girl. By romancing her, I can't help but see God smiling from ear to ear. He's blessed when she's blessed. He probably even chuckles when he sees us together, we can be very silly. Sometimes one of us will pretend we are going in for a kiss and then lick the other's nose. She started it. We've shared some nutty experiences. Like the other day, we were standing in the extremely long line at Voodoo Donuts in Portland. Suddenly, hundreds of people started screaming and pointing and running down the street. Most of the people jumped out of line which was fine with me. A surprise appearance by Godzilla himself would not prevent me from partaking in the rare delicacy of an Oreo/Marshmallow donut. So what was everyone freaking out about? Well, apparently once a year Portland hosts a parade where thousands of people ride bikes through downtown. And they are naked. I've never seen so many naked people, I'm probably scarred and need lots of prayer and healing now. Anyway, we got our donuts and ate them while surrounded by the delightfully romantic ambiance of thousands of streakers on wheels. Yes, thank you Portland for that indelible memory, you really are weird, but I still love you. Anyway, dating is lots of fun. To be continued...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Everybody Marries The Wrong Person

"Everybody Marries The Wrong Person." I saw this statement as a book title and it got me thinking. It sounds pessimistic at first, but to me it was a refreshing thought in its own way. There is so much pressure to find the one person in the world who is right for you. But that is the problem. There is something wrong with everybody. If you don't see their quirks and flaws right away, then time will tell all. Our thinking is riddled with contradictions. We know that nobody is perfect and yet we search for the perfect husband or wife. And if that's not enough, many of us feel the pressure of becoming perfect before we get married. But how can we really expect to be a crack shot at something that we've never done before?

I read an article in this month's Psychology Today that challenges the idea that there is one right person for everyone. The article said that that sort of thinking sets couples up for disenchantment and disappointment and often divorce follows. The reason is because it excuses you from taking responsibility for the problems in the relationship because your first thought is "I married the wrong person, it's all her fault, I need to get out of this and find the right person." Now, there are extreme exceptions. For instance, being married to a meth addict would pose a lot more problems than being a married to a person with a full set of teeth. But the point is that when people hop from relationship to relationship looking for the "right person" then they are merely trading old problems for a set of new ones. Why? Because you and I are part of the problem. We don't necessarily need to change partners we just need to mature.

Regardless, it seems that many Christians think that there is one right person for them. I'm not sure where they got this, because it's not in the Bible anywhere, unless you have the Disney translation. Of course, God is involved in the whole process of two people coming together but I'm not convinced that it's predestined or written in the stars somewhere. It sounds more like a lot of singles are looking for an easy marriage, and all the married people are telling us that marriage is challenging no matter who you marry. Maybe we should listen. It's interesting that statistically speaking young people are getting divorced more than anyone else. An article in the NY Times reads "more marriages dissolve before the age of 30 than at any other time." I bring this up because I find that youth and idealism often go hand in hand. Don't get me wrong, I am a glass-half-full optimist, but idealism is a little different. Optimism sees the good side of reality. But idealism is fueled more by fantasy and sets us up for disillusionment, because we weren't seeing the world clearly in the first place. Idealism doesn't equip us with the tools we need to face reality.

Yesterday, in our church staff meeting, a pastor's wife was talking about how blessed she was by her husband. I hope that my future wife someday boasts about me. I think that would be the highest compliment, to hear that from the one person who knows you better than anyone, who knows about your shortcomings and yet brags about you to others. It doesn't seem to happen very much these days, sadly I hear so many wives badmouthing their husbands. Maybe some of it is warranted and maybe some of it is a little harsh. I don't want to fuel the battle of the sexes and there is always two sides to a statistic, but it is interesting that statistically women file for divorce twice as much as men. However, this is not necessarily a point for the guys, because generally speaking guys tend to be less eager to work on their marriages.

If we want an actual Biblical model for marriage, then here it is: Christ didn't marry us because we were the "right person," Christ loved us while we were still sinners. This is the divine blueprint for a divine marriage. A marriage that is alive is a marriage that grows out of the dirt into something lush and beautiful. I think that compatibility is not static, but that if two people are willing then they can grow more compatible over time. In short, you will marry a sinner and so will she. Mistakes are inevitable, but forgiveness will make a relationship invincible.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Poem About God's Love

A heart that dares to love, is a heart that dares to break
And a God who infinitely loves is a God who must infinitely ache
How does it feel to have so many runaway children when you're a good Father?
How does it feel to wait for a bride that leaves you standing at the altar?
How can you be so crazy about a world full of crazy people?
Surely, You are not blind and yet you love everyone as equal
Oh lover of my soul, how deep does your love for me really go?
If you were to love only the polished parts of me, well then there aren't many
And if you're looking for perfection then I'm not ready
I need a love that goes deeper than me, deeper than sin
Because most of the time I feel like I have an evil twin
Do you love even him?
I need a love that is willling to stand by me through it all
Not only when I'm taking a stand but when I'm taking a fall
And so it seems that when I'm on the ground is when I'm much, much closer to bowing down
And I do bow
I bow even now
Under the weight of this love I cannot possibly stand, I cannot possibly understand
I cannot possibly withstand
This love that outlives death, this love that fills my every breath
This love that pursues the very crumbs of my soul
This love that burns until it devours me whole
How many times have I walked away?
And how many times have you called my name?
Anyone that does the math will see what I see
39 lashes plus 3 nails sounds like love to me
In the end, my heart doesn't stand a chance
Against a God that went through hell for me, a God that bleeds romance.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Stop Dreaming, You'll Never Get Married

Some of us singles are beginning to think that way. Marriage has become imaginary for many of us. It's in a galaxy far, far away, something that only happens in movies or for the lucky few who find that pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. It seems like there should be more of us getting married but we're not. And then there's that nagging feeling that maybe your destiny is closer than you think. Maybe she is across the coffee shop right now. Maybe, she is looking at you and wondering the same thing.

I have to admit there are some fairly paradoxical Scriptures about the vision for marriage. For instance "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church" but then there is "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife. . . then he cannot be My disciple." Here's another biblical paradox, in one place it says "It is better for a man not to marry" and yet elsewhere it says "He who finds a wife finds a good thing." Ok. . .so I could probably contextualize these scriptures in a way that brings comfort and clarity, but I want to let the tension linger a little.

The point is that marriage and love seem to be messier than most people care to admit. There are so many cute cliches about marriage and about what to look for and what to expect and how it works, and now we as singles are left peering into bottomless idealism. People tend to exagerate things when they talk about something that other people haven't experienced. I have to laugh when I hear someone talking about how being a Christian is "one big, amazing rollercoaster of an adventure!" Maybe they live in Christian Candyland, but I don't. In the real world, I've found that the Christian journey is, for the most part, a series of gritty conversations, conversations with God and conversations with people about God. It's intriguing and fun, but not exactly a non-stop sugar-high. Not only do we glamorize but we can't help but organize. In our minds, we organize the way that things should be and will be, and when things are not that way then we think that something has gone wrong. But maybe we had the wrong expectations in the first place.

Likewise, marriage has become so idealized and organized in our young minds that reality can't seem to measure up. I'm trying something new. I'm trying to imagine myself married and placing myself in very ordinary scenarios. For instance, imagining myself cleaning the house or grocery shopping with my wife. It doesn't sound very fun, but it sounds real. I am also imagining life's hiccups within the context of marriage, like getting a flat tire on the way to church, or one of us getting sick for a week. Sure, there will be romantic date nights and fun get-aways, but there will also be the mundane, the occasional boredom, and the ever-present need for God's hopeful light in the valley. I'm leaving room for the reality that marriage will be different than how I've organized it in my mind. Everything else in my life has defied my expectations, so marriage will probably follow suit. The reality of marriage will constantly challenge the way I think marriage should be. It will go left when it's supposed to go right. Life is like that. Sometimes, it rains on Christmas when it's supposed to snow. But who says it's supposed to snow? Who's making these rules for Christmas and marriage and the way things are supposed to be? Maybe we are. We are all like Pharisees who take a few good principles and turn them into stiff, lifeless rituals. I don't want a marriage like that, I want a marriage that breathes and sometimes bleeds because it is alive.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


It seems that great love always begins with an aching, and it ends with an even greater aching. . .ahh love.

I went to a funeral yesterday. It was for Matt's dad. Matt was one of my closest childhood friends. His dad was a good man, and even at 54 he was too young to die. Funerals are the only ceremonies I can think of where the guest of honor isn't there. As I sat through the service in the church that I grew up in, surrounded by people that watched me grow up, I was once again reminded that life promises death, love promises loss. As I looked around the room I realized that as I get older I will lose more and more of these people and then it will be my turn to go. I know this, I've always known this, and yet there are times when you truly know something in a way that you can almost taste it. Where it's not just a passing thought, but it's a gravity that grips your senses.

But this is a blog about love and dating and heartbreak and marriage and everything in between, so why am I writing about a funeral? Well, it reminded me that often we as singles can be so preoccupied with thinking about that one special person that isn't in our life yet, and we can so easily forget to cherish all the amazing people that are in our life right now. They won't always be there. Again, we all know this, but do we really know this? Also, I think about the fact that we aren't promised another day or even another breath. Whoever said that we were all guaranteed a soul mate and a wedding and a family and grandchildren someday? We aren't entitled to anything. We have today, and that's all we have. Even today will soon be in the catagory of loss, we can never get it back. If we don't choose to live a full life today, then we won't do it tomorrow either or next week or next year or whenever. Today is the day to love each other like we've never loved before. To love each other like we are all dying, because we are.

Autumn itself is something of a poetic funeral. Death falls from the trees. And we too will pass from this world like a wandering leaf. Without warning. Without a sound. We will be carried away by a brisk wind never to be seen in this world again. And it is only those who have truly loved, that will have truly lived.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pursuing or Stalking?

In my relations with girls, I've always felt that there is a very fine line between pursuing and stalking. For instance, throwing pebbles at a girl's window at night could be interpreted as magically romantic or just plain psychotic. A series of letters from "a secret admirer" could be a girl's lifelong fantasy or her worst nightmare. You just never know. When it comes to sweeping a girl off her feet, it's difficult to know if you are trying too hard or not trying hard enough. And let's face it, if you try to sweep some girls off their feet then you're bound to get a face-full of pepperspray. Cavemen never had it this rough.

As a guy, you never know if a girl perceives you as a gallant pursuer or a creepy stalker. Girls, give us guys a break sometimes, will ya? If you don't want to be chased then just tell us, we can take it. We don't like paradoxical signals-- it feels like the old game "Red Light, Green Light." But if you do want to be chased then make it a little more obvious, we'll give you a headstart, whatever. If the cat-and-mouse thing isn't clear to us then we feel that if we go ahead and chase you, then you're going to tell all your girlfriends about us-- the creepy guy who won't leave you alone. And we don't want to be "that guy."

Unfortunately, I realize that this is all wishful thinking. The dance of dating is never this choreographed. Fortunately, most guys are risk takers. If we waited to figure out a girl before pursuing her then we would be celibate for life. Girls are an unsolved mystery, it's just one more thing that makes them captivating.

Plus, it's a good learning experience for us guys. Someday, my future wife will want me to understand her on a deep level. And that process begins when I first meet her and try to figure out what she needs and wants. Does she want more attention or does she want some space? Lesson number one: Timing is everything in everything. I could be frustrated with all of this mystery or I could appreciate that it compells me to look deeper into her heart. Thus, bringing us closer together in the end.

The way I see it, if Jesus is our male role model, then we must pursue our bride as madly as Christ pursued his. So boys, be men. And girls, maybe hold off on the restraining orders.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

All The Single Ladies

I am constantly amazed that so many quality girls end up with not-so-quality guys. With frogs actually. Did they meet in the dark? Did they lose a bet? Maybe they thought that the frog would transform with enough tender loving care. And yet each day they hear the same ol' words-- ribbit ribbit. Why are their standards so low? Perhaps they've never had a man in their life who showed them a better way. Who showed them what it feels like to be treated like a lady. Girls who have higher standards usually had good dads. Dads who cherished them in a way that would ruin most girls' tolerance for amphibians. Some girls seem to gravitate toward the bad boys. The sad thing is that they get exactly that, and they are treated badly. What did they expect? I wonder how many gentlemen they passed up because they didn't know what a gentleman was.

It's interesting that the way a worldly guy picks up on worldly girls is by devaluing them. Instead of honoring the girl and rising to her level and reinforcing her dignity, a "player" will bring her down to his level by treating her like a cheap object and not as a prized princess. If he treats her like a princess then she is less likely to sleep with him, because he would only be reinforcing her precious worth. And her self-worth is what will prevent her from giving herself to the man in a cheap way. On the other hand, a real Christian guy will treat a woman as a daughter of God. And if there is any Father to fear then it is surely God. A godly man will treat her as if he is her older brother, zealously protecting her purity from the mangy wolves. His goal is not to get her to sleep with him, but to honor her in such a way that her high standards are maintained until her wedding day. Ladies, both kinds of men are out there. If a guy doesn't treat you like a princess then he is not a prince. Choose wisely.

So what is the true test for whether a man is indeed a man? Well, is he like Jesus? Pontius Pilate was right when he pointed to a bloodied Jesus and said "Behold, the Man!" You see, a real man lays down his life for the one he loves, because the one he loves is his life. Fortunately for us, Jesus didn't just send us flowers or chocolates or write us a poem or take us salsa dancing. But He actually volunteered to be our blood donor, when we were lying on our death bed. That is real sacrifice and that is real love.

In some of my conversations with top-notch Christ-like guys, they've talked about some of the fickle, non-commital, ambivalence that they've been experiencing with Christian girls that they are interested in. It only confirmed my suspicions. I used to think that there were so many quality girls who were still single because the guys weren't making an effort. But many guys are taking the initiative and yet they are getting stone-walled. And I'm not talking about losers, I'm talking about really great guys. But I'll be fair, both sides are responsible. Now, if people want to be single for the rest of their life then that's fine. There is nothing ungodly or unbiblical about that. But just don't blame anyone else for your singleness if you are passing up gems.

I'm not sure what the answer is to this stalemate, feelings are difficult to sort into black and white conclusions. These days, you can pick petals off of the proverbial flower and recite "She loves me. . .she loves me not" all day long, but in reality it's no longer that simple. Now you have to add "she's not sure if she loves me. . .she's not ready for a relationship. . .she doesn't know what God's will is. . .she loves me but not like that. . .it's complicated" and on and on it goes. There aren't enough petals in the world.