Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thoughts On Dating

The reason why I hate dating is that I hate breaking up. Whether I'm the one breaking it off or getting dumped, everyone loses. I really wish there was some way to date without hearts opening up and getting attached and risking heartbreak. And yet, that would probably be a very dull dating experience. People will tell you to "guard your heart," which sounds good until you try to do that, while still trying to function as a human being. How do you explore love and yet guard your heart?

C.S. Lewis said "To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable.” C.S. Lewis knew all about this sort of insulated solitude. He didn't marry until he was 56 years old, then he was only married for four years until his wife (17 years younger than him) died of cancer.

I think that heartbreak comes in different forms. Separation is not the only means to heartbreak. I'm sure that even married people experience heartbreak from the caustic words and actions of their spouse. But the reason that they experience heartbreak is because they love. Our hearts cannot be broken by people whom we have no affection for. To love someone is to allow them to reach into your heart, they may either do good or do damage, there are no guarantees. But, in the end, feeling pain is better than feeling nothing. A heart that has never been broken is a heart that has never truly loved. The problem with broken hearts is that they tend to react by locking all the doors and boarding up the windows, until they suspiciously observe everyone through a peephole. Everyone becomes suspect, everyone becomes a threat.

When love is awakened, heartbreak is inevitable. Most sane people don't go into a relationship with the intention of hurting each other, and yet it happens over and over again. I think that dating is only dangerous if there is no intent to explore the possibility of marriage. I would argue that if someone is nowhere near ready and willing to get married, then they are not ready to date. I could be wrong, but statistics show that everyone who agrees with me is right (go figure). So what is dating? It seems like it is simply a means to get to know one another and see if you still like each other after that:) Many young Christians, seem skittish when it comes to dating, as if dating is not spiritual. It can be very spiritual or it can be very worldly, it depends on how you go about it. Prayer is everything. God should be allowed to chaperon the whole process. That might sound old-fashioned, and yet excluding God in the dating experience is a sure sign that things are not heading in the right direction. We tend to pray selfish prayers, but I recommend praying for the other person, prayers like "God, what's best for her? Am I the right person for her? Will this draw her closer to you, God?" That seems like a good place to start. If we enter into dating with a selfless attitude, then that very attitude will set us up for a salient marriage. In short, practice being a good husband or a good wife, right now.

I think the best way to buffer your heart is to keep giving it to God, even while you are dating. That is also a good indication of whether or not you should date that person. Ask yourself- Am I still able to give my heart to God in all of this? God doesn't want us to worship our girlfriend or our boyfriend, our wife or our husband. They are miserable gods of miserable heavens. We must put our faith and hope in the true God, not in another human being. That being said, if we are ever to get married, then we must date. Maybe, dating is another way for God to teach us to pray fervently.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Marriage Is Not The Meaning of Life

How many movies have ended with a wedding? As if that is the end of the story. As if that is the resolution to any and all conflict. As if that is the end of the adventure. I want to make a movie that begins with a wedding. . .

The other day, I realized that a germ of a lie had crept into my head. The lie is this-I will be happy if I get married. I wonder how many people enter into marriage or a dating relationship expecting the other person to fix them. Is that what marriage is all about? Just another self-improvement method? People parrot the words "It is not good that man should be alone," but as singles, we hear them saying "As long as you're unmarried, you will be unhappy and broken." Jesus wasn't married, and apparently it was good for him to "be alone." Anyway, that verse about man being alone, was uttered in the context of Adam being the only human being on the planet, he was utterly alone. No friends, no family. For some reason, people quote that verse as if marriage is the cure to loneliness. However, I know that their are many married people who still feel lonely. Be that as it may, it is interesting that Adam had unfiltered communion with God, and yet he was declared to be alone. Evidently, we need people, and that's okay. God designed most people for marriage. It's okay to love God with all your heart and still desire to be married. We were designed for fellowship with others, and marriage seems to be the deepest fellowship that we can have with another human being. It involves sharing absolutely everything. It involves being absolutely naked with somebody. It involves sex, the indelible bonding of two souls. Marriage is the confluence of two lives.

These days, there is a lot of talk about living in the present, the now, as a means to contentment. A couple years ago, I took a world religions class. I learned that Buddhism places a heavy emphasis on living in the now. Our assignment was to go into the MacDonald Forest and try to fully exist in the moment. It was the opposite of escapism. I was to drink in my surroundings and become fully aware of my thoughts and senses. It was an attempt to freeze time. It was very calming. It was also very difficult. It is tricky to think about what you are thinking about. Sometimes, people ask me what I'm thinking about, and I don't know what to say, because my mind feels like a buzzing beehive. Anyway, I stood in that forest, trying to think about what I was thinking about. And then the most annoying question popped up-Why? Why am I doing this? What is the point of being so engrossed in the moment that I have to go stand in a forest by myself? Dwelling on myself is depressing, not liberating. With that in mind, I can't think of any scriptures about the importance of living in the moment, but I can think of several verses about living one day at a time. We're told to not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough worries of its own. We're told to pray "Give us this day our daily bread." We're told to hold our future plans loosely, and say "Lord willing, we will do this or that," because we have no idea what will happen tomorrow. And we're told to not look back once we've put our hand to the plow. Naturally, it seems that all of my discontentment flows from living too much in the past or in the future. I will only be content if I'm able to live for today, not focusing on what could've been or what should be, but simply appreciating what is. Another day is before me. An opportunity to live and love people. An opportunity to be content in God.

If you are single, say this sentence out loud "Marriage is not the meaning of life." Louder!. . .okay, not that loud. We mustn't try to find our life's meaning in marriage. We're not going to be married in Heaven. Marriage is temporary, like everything else in this world. What you are doing right now and whatever you do later on today- going to work, mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, getting a haircut- it's all temporary. Most of it is quite meaningless. After all, it's not about what you're doing, but it's about why you are doing it. If it's not for God's glory in some way, either directly or indirectly, then it's meaningless. And you will feel a divine discontentment in your soul. Similarly, if you invest in marriage only for the sake of having a good marriage, then it is meaningless. But if you are truly doing it for God's glory, then it will shine as eternal gold.

Here's my new outlook on the matter. I am not going to expect marriage to grant me contentment. 1 Timothy says that "Godliness with contentment is great gain." Apparently, godliness is linked with contentment, it has nothing to do with circumstances. It is a godliness that contents itself in an unchanging God. It is possible to be "godly" and yet not content yourself in God. That's where most Christians err. I want to achieve that sort of steadfast, divine contentment before I get married, so that I don't put impossible pressure on my wife to make me happy. I'm not going to enter into a relationship with the idea that we will fix each other. Only God can fix us. I want to get married for the sole purpose of loving God more through our togetherness.

Yesterday, I was trying to be content with life as usual, not just concerning relationships, but with everything. I prayed "God, if you want me to settle, then I will settle." He told me not to pray that anymore. It seems that there is a place for godly contentment, but there is also room for godly discontentment. If you've read the Bible, then you will notice that God never told people to get comfortable. God is not a very good massage therapist. He always imposes on people's comforts, roughing them up a little. That's fine with me, I get bored easily.

Anyway, each day seems to be a temporal bridge between yesterday and tomorrow. My world is changing, I am changing. I know I am in the fold of providence, and so whatever bridge I am on right now, is a bridge worth crossing. I want to keep moving forward, following hard on God's heels, and God is always on the move. But I also need to learn to enjoy the journey, laughing and singing along the way. Say it again-"Marriage is not the meaning of life." Maybe, we should stop asking "What is the meaning of life?" and start asking "What is the meaning of today?"