Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ten Years Later

I struggled with writing this.

In fact, I had a couple of false starts and even almost had an entire blog written (and if you know me, they can get looooong), but all that I had written just wasn't right, somehow.

I set it aside a few days.  Sometimes that's all it takes to figure out how to go about this.

Because how does one approach writing a blog about the tenth anniversary of what was one of the worst days of one's life?

It was also my 25th birthday, just FYI.

And I got dumped by a guy I was absolutely and totally in love with.  I thought I was going to marry him.

But I didn't.

In fact, he's married to someone else.  

And, well...good.

I don't mean that in a Grumpy Cat sort of way.  I mean like a real, honest, wonderful good.

The reason I struggled so much to write this blog, something I'd planned to do for about a year now, was that I realized it's just not even that big of a deal, anymore.

I spent a the better part of the last decade thinking of that guy every single day.  I prayed God would take care of him.  There were times when I prayed God would bring us back together.  There were times when I just prayed God would get me over him.  But mostly, I just tried to live my life in the midst of the struggle.  And people didn't always like the way my life looked.  They wanted me to move on or whatever.

I did.  Just not how or when they wanted me to.

This post isn't so much about the relationship I had with this guy that ended ten years ago as much as it is about how God has used  the struggle to shape my life over the past ten years.

It wasn't until about this time last year that God finally let me know it was time to let go.  And there will be people who will argue with me about that and say I needed to let go way earlier, but I can't worry about them.  It wasn't their struggle.  It was the one God gave me.  And He had me struggle with it for years--about 13, all in all, considering the time when I met the guy to the time when I was 100% over all that had happened with him.  I still do love him, really, but oh, not at all in a way that might be considered romantic or even friendly.  I honestly hope I never see him again--not because I hate him or because I'm bitter, but simply because it would be ALL KINDS of awkward.  I wish him well.  I pray for him sometimes, whenever he comes to mind--which is not nearly as often as he used to.  I pray that he and his wife will honor each other and honor God.  And I leave it at that and go on with my life.

I couldn't do that until a little over a year ago.  And it's okay.  In fact, it's good.

And if you ask me why God had me go through all of that, I don't have a definitive answer.  I can give you a few things that I learned through it, a few ways I'm a better person for it, but in the end, that's all rubbish.  The real answer is: I don't know.

That's okay.

People told me right after the relationship ended that God just wanted me to learn something from it.  But I rejected that idea then, and I reject it now.  God didn't want me to love someone just so I could gain some lesson from the experience.  Certainly, I did learn a thing or two, but that wasn't the only reason or even the main reason for the relationship.  God wanted me to love that guy because He wanted me to love that guy.  Plain and simple.  He wanted me to, and so I did.  And He wanted me to wrestle with that for almost 9 years even after the relationship ended.  So I did.

I don't claim to understand it.  Trust isn't about understanding.  Trust is about obeying.

And the same Father who brought me into it brought me through and out of it, and I'm here on the other side a 35 year old (gosh that age sounds so grown up) woman who is still kind of figuring out who she is apart from that struggle.  Of course, I've got about a hundred other struggles that have come into my life since I became free of that one.  It's still okay.  It's still good.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I really hate the winter.  I don't like the snow.  I don't like the cold.  I don't like the stillness of nature, probably because humans are too busy to slow down along with it.  We're still going about all of our business unless we get snowed in or something.  Because humans are too dumb to hibernate.

But spring is my favorite season, and I'm glad that my birthday comes at the very end of winter.  It's not quite yet spring, but the world certainly knows it's coming.  Sometimes we have to struggle through some very long winters before the spring comes.  Sometimes we have to struggle through some very long nights before joy can come in the morning.

It's good.  I don't claim to understand it, but it's good.

So ten years later?  I'm not exactly who I thought I'd be.  But I know myself, and I do like myself.  I think both of those things are pretty important.

It's almost spring again.  There's a lot of uncertainty in my life right now--I have no idea what life will look like in a few months, let alone a few years.  Chances are, I'm going to have some struggles.

But, as I've said before and will continue to say, there's mercy in the struggle.

It's good.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Insecurity's Biggest Lie

This morning at church, my adult Sunday School class (they don't call it that, but that's what it is) got out very early.  Only a few people showed up, since there was a little bit of ice mixed in with the morning rain, and people down here in the South are paranoid (with good reason, I guess).

Some of my friends were going to be presented to the church as new members at the close the second service (which meets during my Sunday School hour), and I wanted to be there for them, so I decided to just sit in the foyer outside the sanctuary worship center and wait until closer to the end of the service.

I was sitting there, watching the sermon on a monitor.  I had already heard the sermon during the first service, so I wasn't paying all that much attention.  Still, it was nice to note that the pastor's second service sermon wasn't 100% identical to the first service sermon.  He spiced it up a little with different little examples and such.  Nice guy, that pastor.

Then a lady came and sat down next to me.  She was probably in her early-to-mid 60s.  I'd never seen her before, that I recall.  We sat in silence for a few minutes, and I figured we would just mostly ignore each other.

Then she asked me a question.

"Do you have any pets?"

I thought it was a weird opening question to ask a stranger, but I answered politely that I would love pets, but I can't have them in my rental property (without paying a huge deposit).

She told me about her "little Yorkie dog" and her "yaller (yellow) cat."

I nodded politely.  I am not good at making conversation, and I thought it was a little odd how much she seemed to want to talk about pets.

We sat in silence for a few minutes, and then she asked me, "Do you have any children?"

I just said, "No, I don't have any children" and hoped that was the end of the conversation.

But she continued.  "Why don't you have any children?"

I managed to stay polite, I think, which is pretty difficult for me most of the time.  I am pretty good about saying whatever is on my mind, and right at that moment, what was on my mind wasn't polite. I wanted to tell her to mind her own business.  Instead, I gave her the short answer to why I don't have any children.

"I never got married.  I never had any children."

The long answer wasn't something I really wanted to go into with a complete stranger.

She asked me another question.  "Don't you WANT to get married and have children?"

I took a very deep breath and said, "I am at the age now that if I do get married, I'd like to adopt, but I don't know if that's going to happen."

I immediately pulled out my phone and got on the Facebook, mainly to show her that I wasn't interested in furthering the conversation.  I didn't want her questions.  I didn't want her judgment.  The fact that I'm not a mom and will probably never be is something that I've made peace with, but it's not something that makes me particularly happy, either.  When people start judging me for something that has been a struggle, for something that's broken my heart, I really don't like it.

So I shut her out.

As I continued to browse the Facebook, I vaguely heard her mutter something about having tried to have kids, but not being able to.  I heard her say that she even tried to adopt once, but the adoption didn't go through.  Whatever, lady.  The conversation was over, as far as I was concerned.  How dare a stranger judge me for something they couldn't possibly understand.  How dare a stranger pry into my life without my permission.

After a moment or two, the lady realized I wasn't going to talk to her, and she got up.  She crossed the foyer to the welcome desk where one of the ministers was standing.  I heard her ask the minister the same questions she asked me.  She started out by asking if he had any pets.  It still struck me as a strange opening question, but he responded much more graciously than I did.  He also listened more graciously as she told him about her "little Yorkie dog" and her "yaller cat."

Then she asked him about his family, and he talked proudly about his wife and newborn son.  Then she talked to him about the child she had tried to adopt, and even though she wasn't talking to me anymore, I listened that time.

And I realized something.

The lady wasn't judging me; she was just trying to talk to me.

She was looking for someone who she could talk to about the things that had hurt her.  She was talking about her pets who meant the world to her, who were like her children, because she had never been able to have kids of her own.  And when she was asking those questions of me, she WAS trying to get into my life, but not in a prying sort of way.  She just wanted someone to talk to.  She wanted a human connection, to know that she wasn't alone.

Maybe she was a little awkward about it, but then, I know a thing or two about being awkward.

And like a fool, I let my insecurity lie to me again.

Insecurity's biggest lie is that other people don't have insecurities.  Insecurity's biggest lie is that other people aren't speaking from a place of brokenness, but they're speaking from a place of arrogance, from a place of judgment.  Insecurity's biggest lie is that we're the only ones who are hurting, the only ones who are fighting sin, the only ones who fail, the only ones who are needy.  And so we hide, we run, we fight, because we don't want to be hurt by those who are, in reality, hurting just as much as we are.

Instead of letting this lady reach out to me, instead of reaching back out to her, I shut her out to avoid being hurt.

And I missed that she was hurting, too.

I don't know what you believe.  I don't know if you're doing fine, or if you're facing the biggest battle you've ever faced.  I don't know if you feel hurt or judged or neglected or alone.

But don't let your insecurity tell you that you are alone.

No one wants to be hurt.  No one wants to be judged.  That keeps us apart.

I know that there are people out there who are filled with hate and pride and hypocrisy.  They lash out because their sin is greater than the sin they like to imagine and attack in others.  Sin is real, sin is ugly, and sometimes sin is all too easy to see in the hate that other people have towards others.  Those people are out there, and they make me sad.

But there are also people out there who are hurt, who are scared, who are angry, who are defensive.  They lash out because they've been hurt, or they stay quiet because it's hard to trust.  They fight or flee because their insecurity tells them that others don't care, that others will hurt them, that a lack of understanding or agreement means a lack of love.

It's hard to tell the difference sometimes.  Nothing is ever easy.

But I believe that love is the opposite of fear, and I believe that if we make that effort and that choice to love others more than we fear getting hurt, that some remarkable things can happen.  It doesn't mean that we'll agree on everything or even understand everything.

It does mean that we won't be alone.

I blew it today.  I missed the opportunity to make a new friend.  I missed the opportunity to see someone, to know just a little bit of who she is.  And maybe she's a little quirky and loves her Yorkie dog like a child, and maybe I'm a little quirky and eat too much hummus and draw horrible sketches of Dragons in my sermon notes.  Maybe we're both a little awkward and don't know how to have a conversation like normal people.  She, at least, tried.

But like an insecure jerk, I chose to believe she was seeking to hurt me instead of seeking healing, and I shut her out.

So I guess this is my penance.  It's not much, but it's sincere, at any rate.  Maybe a song will come out of the experience and be a better penance than this simple blog entry.  Or maybe my penance will be that next time (and I both pray and believe there will be a next time, because God is far more gracious than I deserve), when I see someone who strikes me as a little bit odd, a little bit rough around the edges, a little bit broken, and I choose to love instead of fear.