Monday, April 26, 2010

Love's Spring

Late April is an aphrodisiac. Beauty is blossoming everywhere, pollinating hearts. Birds are serenading from somewhere in the trees. Lovers are loving, holding hands, locking eyes, lying in the grass under the spotlight of the sun, while time and space orbit around them. They are the kings and queens of their little plot of land in the world. With spring comes hope. And it is always a most happy occasion when hope and love are reunited. The two have always been dear friends to each other.

It seems that love phases through different seasons. There is the spring of love, when it's new and fresh and full of possibilities. It is love's genesis. It's when hearts come out of hiding, daring to dream again. The air is charged with excitement. Then, there is the summer of love, when love is fun and blissful and everything is in its right place. Its when love itself is enough to silence every other desire. It seems as though the euphoria and contentment will last forever. But then the autumn of love begins to set in. Things begin to look different. Colors fade, as an arctic wind whispers foreboding prophecies. The scent of death is in the air. The fire is sputtering. As this point, love's future seems uncertain. Then, without warning, winter falls and all goes dark. It feels as though God has turned his back. You feel as if you made a wrong turn somewhere back there. Hope is nowhere to be found. Your heart feels cold and numb, while praying to survive each moment. Heated passion turns inside out, and your best friend becomes your worst enemy. Life's winter is long and hard on love. But real love endures all things. Then, just when you think that all is lost, the sun breaks the spell and spring returns as if winter was only a bad dream. And love's cycle resets itself.

The other day, someone told me that their grandparents have been married for 60 years. That is a couple lifetimes, from my vantage point. I wonder how many times they've been through the seasonal cycles of love and come out on top. I wonder what advice they would have for me, as someone who has been married for zero years. I wonder how they would blog about love. I wonder if their love now exists in an endless summer, having broken free of love's spin cycle. I wonder if the word "love" means something so different to them that it might as well be called something else. I bet that they are very loving people. I bet that love has become a way of life for them, so much so that they don't even have to think twice about it, it's as natural as tying their shoes. I'm sure that they still go through winters, but I bet their love is unaffected by the changing winds. That reminds me more of God's love. Unchanging. Not seasonal. And yet I am far from that accomplishment. For now, I am sure to venture through the seasons of love, and in the dead of winter I will remind myself that spring is not that far off. Love endures all things.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Art Of Singleness

I wonder how many single people wish they were married, and how many married people wish they were single. . .

I had a great phone conversation with a dear friend who is now married. Amidst the crescendo of chirping kids, she encouraged me to enjoy my singleness while it lasts. She said that when God feels that He can bring more glory to His name through a married Ryan Smith, then He will bring the right woman along. It's a very easy thing for Him to do, as easy as turning a page. It could happen at anytime. One day can change the course of a life. He could even take one of my ribs and fashion a Mrs. Ryan Smith if He so desired (I hope I don't have to call her Mrs. Ryan Smith, that would be weird). He's God and He can do anything. But right now, I'm single. Just singing my solo. So God must feel that I can bring Him more glory as a single person during this chapter of my life.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35 says "I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible."

In all honesty, just because I'm single doesn't mean that I always spend my time "doing the Lord's work" or "thinking how to please him." That's the bull's eye, but sometimes, I feel like my singleness is enabling my selfishness. Singleness is virtual anarchy, self-rule, absolute freedom. I am not living with my parents and I'm not living with a spouse. I march to my own rhythm. It's all very simple. Do I really want to complicate things? And yet, I think most singles have this haunting sensation that they're missing out on something amazing. And those of us who've plumbed the depths of singleness and exhausted the luxuries of its liberty, are ready for something new. All the while, the hour-glass of God is patiently keeping time, grain by grain. God is very punctual. This is all part of His plan.

As singles, we must hand over our hearts to God. We are not in limbo, we are not idling, we are learning to love God more than anyone else, more than anything else. Someday, that will be the cornerstone of our marriage. In our impatience, we are learning to be patient. We are learning the art of waiting on God. And that will prove to be a life-saving tool in marriage. In our desperation, we are becoming more desperate for God. To be desperate for anything but God is a dangerous thing. Like Esau, some singles seem to be on the verge of hastily selling their birthright for a bowl of stew. We are also learning to give our freedom and our rights to another, namely God. We are learning what it means to serve. These are virtuous lessons. I think some married people are still trying to live as if they are single. They still can't seem to give up their independence. And so they fight their spouse as if they are leading an insurrection.

I want to marry a woman whose sole purpose is to please God. That way, if I please her then I will also be pleasing God through her. In that case, she will not be a distraction but a window to Heaven. I do not wish to marry someone who has worldly ambitions, because I would feel as if my pains to please her would be shallow and evanescent.

This is a time in my life that I will someday look back on and wonder why I didn't invest more of my freedom in the kingdom of God. I hate regrets. Often times, the tension of not being married, robs us of the joys of being single. I know that marriage will call down new glories, but right now I want to do things for God that I won't be able to do when I'm married. As a single, I feel like an artist, spontaneously splashing buckets of paint onto a canvas. From here, it looks messy, but to God it is a masterful mosaic worth finishing.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Second Chances

Sometimes I hate love. Sometimes it seems like an awfully mean trick or a cruel lesson that is never learned. . .

We don't get a second try at this thing called life. I wish we could've had a practice run or a crash course or something. We constantly face situations that we've never encountered before and we constantly make mistakes. What else can be expected of us? Everything is so clear in hindsight. I wish I had that sort of clarity in the present. Most days I feel like a rat in a maze, as if I'm part of God's science experiment. And I keep running into dead ends.

I've been struggling with the question of whether or not there is only one soul-mate for each of us. For me, that's always been more of a philosophical question, but now it's personal. The reason being, I have a gut-wrenching feeling that I let my soul-mate get away. I had my chance and now she's married to someone else. That's that. Forever. I keep replaying the past in my mind hoping to get back there and do things differently. I keep trying to remember what exactly was running through my mind back then. The problem is that our memories are so biased and clouded. I don't know if I'm replaying reality or not. Maybe, I wouldn't do things differently if I had it to do over again. But I feel like I really messed up God's plan for me. And now I'm left questioning whether God can bring along another soul-mate, a second chance. I'm trying to believe in the impossible, but the past continues to badger and bludgeon my hope. My heart literally aches, it hasn't ached like this in a long time. I'm trying to give it all to God because nursing these regrets seems very sinful and pointless and deadly.

I always feel like sad situations have worth if I learn something from them. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to learn from this. Sometimes, I get tired of learning lessons. But maybe, I'm supposed to learn what true love really looks like. I have a better idea now. And if by some miracle I see it again, I will recognize it and I won't let it get away this time. My only consolation is that I know that God sees the future, and that He knew that I would be in this very predicament. It's not a surprise to Him. So, I hope He has a back-up plan. I hope there is greater grace ahead, grace enough to quiet the past. What haunts me is that it is possible to miss out on blessings that God has for us. That's not a feel-good truth, but it is the truth nevertheless. With love comes freewill, and with freewill comes the freedom to live outside God's will. However, I wasn't trying to go against God's will. I was trying to wait. I was trying to be cautious out of reverence for God's will. But often my overly cautious nature results in gridlocked ambivalence. Sometimes, I fear that I am the servant in the parable who hid his talents and didn't take risks, because of his fear of God. God help me if that's the problem.

Fortunately, I believe in a big God, a God that turns bad things into good things. My prayer is that someone better will come along, someone better suited for me, someone that I'm better for. And I pray that I will look back and see that this whole thing was God's plan all along. And if I did miss true love, then I will dare to believe that He is still a God of second chances. Maybe, this is not a lesson in love after all, but a lesson in faith.