Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Requiem For A Romantic

I don't think I should be a romantic anymore. I'm getting too old for it. Reality has slapped me one too many times. Maybe, it's time to grow up and realize that true love doesn't really exist. Kind of like a love atheist. Maybe, I should finally wake up to the fact that love is just a bunch of chemicals. Or that love is just something we choose arbitrarily, and that it's as free as our will. Maybe this whole time I've been looking for someone who I could fall in love with but I should have just chosen anybody who was a good match for me on paper. This is all very easy to write, but I don't know if I can do it. I don't know if I can really kill the romantic in me. It runs deeper than romance, I am an idealist in every way.

Even as I write, I fantisize about becoming a world-renown author, and I imagine people lining up and camping overnight in the rain and then stampeding and scrambling into the store to buy my new book. I picture people coming up to me at the grocery store with tears streaming down their faces, saying that my book turned their lives around. And then I could go into hiding and move to Australia for a while and write another book that would save the world. And then other world-renown authors would quote me for the next 100 years. I don't care about fame, I just like to dream. Anyway, love is hard on romantics. It makes us hallucinate, hoping for the best and seeing things that aren't there, but eventually the fever breaks and then there is a part of us that wishes we were still hallucinating, even if it wasn't real.

But I still see glints of hope in the Bible. I like the story about Isaac and Rebekah meeting for the first time. It appeared to be love at first sight, with God as the matchmaker. It says that Isaac loved Rebekah.The Hebrew word for that kind of love is ahab aheb, which means to have affection for. It was more than just a responsible decision, more than a good arrangement, Isaac actually felt something. Another love story involves Jacob and Rachel. Again, it says that Jacob loved Rachel, same Hebrew word for love--ahab aheb (pronounced "hubba hubba"). And apparently, he had so much affection for her that he worked for 14 years to get her. Isaac and Jacob seem like the patriarchs of romance. The original lovesick souls.

I've also been stewing over the verse in Song of Solomon that says "Do not awaken love until it pleases." This is a curious phrase that implies that we do have a choice when it comes to falling in love. But the phrase "until it pleases" seems to imply that there is an aspect of love that has a will of its own once we choose to animate it. There are sides to love that are within our control and parts of it that are beyond us. Some of it is manageable and the rest of it is as mystical and bizarre as the Trinity itself. And then there is the allusion to timing in this verse. Timing is key. It warns us to wait until the right time to fall in love.

Anyway, being a romantic feels like you're craving a kind of food that you can't seem to find, nothing tastes right, nothing hits the spot. Or you feel like the guy in I Am Legend, a lone warm-blooded human in a world full of flesh-eating zombies. The truth is, I've never been married but I miss my wife. I've missed her for quite awhile now. I hope she misses me. Someday, I want to give myself to her without holding anything back, and I want it to be mutual. I was just reading about the woman who poured all of her expensive perfume onto Jesus's feet. And then she wiped his feet with her hair. She withheld nothing, even to the point of looking foolish. It was so undignified and unraveled. I want to love someone like that. Extravagantly, recklessly, wastefully. I don't want it to be like a poker game anymore, with all the bluffing and gambling, holding and folding. No more charades. I want all the cards to be laid face up on the table, so we can both see that neither one of us have a very good hand, but that it doesn't matter because winning isn't really the point. There's no competition, the point is just being together.

It all seems very possible. Then again, maybe not. After all, I am sick in the heart. Indeed, there is a high cost to being a romantic. It's kind of like being a Christian. There is a high cost to being a follower of Jesus. But the cost of not following Jesus is much higher. So maybe I will string along the romantic for a little while longer. And I will try to convince him that it will be worth it in the end and that he is not the only lovesick soul out there.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Fog of Love

The fog of war is nothing compared to the fog of love. Life is hard, and love is the hardest part. Love toys with the mind, bending it beyond its dexterity, mushrooming until it is impossible to think about anything else. At times love seems as fickle as the wind, yet other times it glimmers as the anchor of our humanity. If only love was an algorithm. If only it was black and white, yes or no. If only it could neatly fit into a magazine, right next to the cooking tips. If only it came with a warranty for those who invest everything toward its cause. With love, nothing ever plays out how you see it in your mind. Nothing.

A girl emailed me and told her story about her last relationship. The relationship started out so well and then ended in a hopeless tailspin of "He loves me, he loves me not." I felt her confusion and frustration and pain. And I began to wonder if her ex-boyfriend had multiple personality disorder. One day he'd act as though he was head-over-heels in love and the next day he would blow her off. She forgave him and gave him grace upon grace, but no amount of thoughtful gestures from her could bring back that lovin' feelin'. Her every effort to be closer to him only pushed him farther away. The worst part is that she is now left torturing herself, trying to figure out what she's done wrong. She didn't do anything wrong. Why do the good ones always have to suffer? Anyway, she asked me for advice and I quoted the old proverb that says "Run Forest, run."

So what are we supposed to learn from all of the headaches and heartache? Are we supposed to learn to love less? That seems bad. So are we supposed to learn to distrust the people we love? That doesn't seem quite right either. Or maybe to learn to distrust ourselves. That could be good. Trusting myself means that I'm not trusting God. That's why I like the Bible. I need something outside of myself to rely on for direction. Some people think that they are following God's heart when they are really just following their own heart and claiming that it's God. That is known as psychological projection where someone projects their feelings onto someone else. Those kind of people don't like the Bible because the Bible is too direct and honest. They want a flattering pat-on-the-back but the Bible tells them that they've got something in their teeth and a booger hanging out of their nose and that their shoes are untied. So they read something else. Anyway, I need to trust God and not myself in order to navigate my way around this maze. With most mazes you are trying to find your way out, but I'm beginning to see that there is no way out of this love thing. We discover where the deadends are, but there is no exit and that is the point. And even with the Bible's razor-sharp words, love is still so messy. We can never quite get it right. There's no closure. I used to analyze my relationships but now I know better. If I try to predict what the other person is thinking or feeling, based on reason alone, then I'm usually wrong.

Maybe, this is why God seems so complicated, because God is love, and love is the epitome of complicated. Maybe, this is why we get so frustrated with God sometimes. We come wanting answers and He tells us a riddle. And then we ask Him for the answer to that riddle and He tells us another riddle. And then we don't want to ask anymore questions. But maybe, God is really trying to tell us that our comfort is not as important as we think. We want love without pain, and yet pain is an integral part of love. It's interesting that Jesus's death on the cross was the greatest expression of love. It wasn't very romantic, in fact it was ugly. There's nothing pretty about a bloody, naked man crying out in agony. Love without pain and you have no Crucifixion. No Crucifixion and you have no Resurrection. Yes, unrequited love kills us. It is a cross. But when a part of us dies then we are ready to undergo a resurrection. Death and love are not so far apart, death makes way for glorified love. . .as long as we don't stay in the grave. Love is boobytrapped to make us need God, only God can resurrect deadened hearts.