“…I might obey my way into suffering, but I will not sin my way into suffering.”
I’ve written about this before, but it’s after midnight, I’ve got a full cup of chamomile tea, and it’s on my mind again. So, here we go!
I just adore those times, so few as they are, when you know someone long enough, or deeply enough, to begin to see who they are in their appearance.
As an empath, part of my INFJ personality, I make quick judgements about people within minutes of meeting them. Not severe judgements, just things like “Trustworthy”, “Untrustworthy”, “Insecure”, “Hiding something”, pretty vague estimates, but enough to help me navigate my world and choose who I want to be influenced by, or who I want to be an influence to. I can feel, more times than not, the emotions of those around me. Certain people may have hearts of gold, but have such tumultuous emotions that I just can’t handle spending extended time around them. Others, thought extremely rare, exude a calmness that tames my own cloud of emotions. These are people I can spend hours with and never grow weary.
My favorite thing is when I meet someone, and my first impression is positive, but vague. Nothing really solid for me to build a foundation on to decided exactly how I feel about them yet, but it’s looking at the very least, not negative.
Fast forward. Now, I look at them and I don’t see their features, I see kindness in their eyes, a joy-filled smile, gentle finger tips, wise lips. Their features become anchors for their personality traits. It’s such a profound transformation. That is when you can really love a person for who they are, when you cease to see a body and instead see them. Who they are becomes their appearance when you look at them through the eyes of your heart. Gosh, it’s a beautiful sight.
Last night I was kept awake until 5am with nightmares bordering on hallucinations, due to a mild fever. Eventually I managed to fall asleep and slept until 2pm, waking with an insane hunger and being short of oxygen because of the congestion in my lungs.
So, entire holiday weekend taken up by sickness. Yayyyy. Literally nothing I had planned/needed to accomplish has been done. Nothing. Very annoyed by that, but, can’t do anything about it.
Spending several days at home unable to do anything but watch TV and eat things may have been good for me physically, I’m sure I needed the break. But mentally and emotionally hasn’t been good at all. I honestly hadn’t realized how much the business of a full time job, running errands and keeping the house up has kept my mind away from both the continuing grief of being without a mom and the desire for relationship. About four people I know got engaged in the last few months, several people I went to youth groups with or worked with (who are younger than me) are married and about to have their first child. One of my close friends just celebrated her one year anniversary and my cousin’s was today.
Being without my mom has actually made it worse in a way. She was one of the people who never got tired of encouraging me that “my prince will come”, constantly reminding me that I am beautiful and I am desirable. You never realize how valuable that gentle reminder is until it’s gone. God has been so faithful to remind me of these things both through scripture and the kindness of random people I meet. He has not left me through this. If anything, He’s helped me draw closer to Him and learn to long for His word even more. But nothing takes the place of a mother’s love. God designed it that way, and I know He cries with me. He’s holding my heart together when I don’t have the strength to.
Seeing my Dad without his bride is one of the most painful things I’ve experienced. It is not good for man to be alone. (Gen. 2:18) As I’ve written about before, few is the number of people “created for singleness”, God designed us for that intimate relationship. It teaches us to be more selfless, to put their needs above ours, but it also provides companionship in a world where few are trustworthy. “Till death do us part” is a vow that guarantees that even on your worst day, you’ll still have at least one companion by your side. Until death, that is. Marriage is such a beautiful union of two imperfect people learning to love one another with Christlike love. And that makes the loss of a spouse all the more painful. I’ve seen my Dad hurt before, but seeing him lonely is so much worse. He tries to hide it, to smile and be silly and just keep on going. But I can see it in his eyes.
I have no doubt that God has a plan for all of this. I know He’s got a man for me, and I’m certain He won’t leave my Dad lonely forever. He’s already used our testimony in the lives of those around us, people are amazed by the joy we continue to have despite the loss. God has blessed us with a peace that passes understanding and He comforts us in our mourning. We still have our really hard days, but we are making it.
Today just happens to be one of those really hard days…
I love you, Mom. I don’t know how I’m going to do this without you and your gorgeous laugh, your knowing gaze and your corny humor. I wish I had said I love you one more time, given you one more hug. Friday night was the last time I really laughed with you, when I told you I’d seen a cute male nurse and you said you’d give him my number and tell him he had to go through you first. I’m holding tight to that one last really good memory.
I posted a video of an hour(ish) long sermon a few weeks ago, I titled that post “The Definition of Love” if my memory serves. (And it may not, so I apologize.) It is a fabulous message and I really enjoyed it, it keeps coming back to me time and time again.
Today I was at work, nursing one of the many small injuries I acquired today–mostly paper cuts, guinea pig scratches and one bite from an angry Russian hamster (today was not my day) and thinking about not the definition of Love, the verb, the action, the thing you can and should act out with every person you come in contact with, but the definition of falling in love.
I was once waiting in line for a burrito bowl at Moe’s (one of my favorite places to eat) when I heard a girl say to her friends “I think I’m falling in love with him… I’m not sure, but I think I am.” It made me mad. Not mad with her, but with our culture. Maybe it’s just me, but I know when I’m in love. I don’t mean romantic, lovey dovey “oh he’s so cute and funny and he has a nice smile” thing, that is what’s called a crush. I don’t have those. I might occasionally meet/see a guy who I have a temporary interest in, but it is always a critical interest. Each time I come in contact with him I analyze him. What’s the point of having some kind of “thing” for a guy who is attractive, but deep down just a shallow jerk? It’s such a waste!
So what does it mean to fall in love, then? I honestly can’t say definitively. But I can say what it means for me.
Falling in love is when you’ve analyzed someone, quizzed them, tested them, and inquired of them until you know them extremely well. You’ve seen their faults, and you’ve seen their strengths. You’ve had a few disagreements, but you’ve worked them all out and come out better on the other side. You’ve watched them mature and grow closer to God, and they’ve helped you do the same. And suddenly one day you look at them and a quiet, calm, peaceful thought sprouts roots in your mind, it whispers “I could spend the rest of my life with them, and love every minute of it.” And you realize it’s true. That no matter what you faced, you would sacrifice anything to protect the beauty you see in them. Even if it hurt sometimes, you would strive, and you would love deeply, and you would give of yourself until you ran dry if you have to, because you love them. And you’re willing to commit to loving them even during those times when you don’t “feel it”.
That kind of love doesn’t go away. Even if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, and one day you find someone else whom you feel the same way about, I don’t think that means you stop loving them. You’ve just resigned to the fact that your love for them has to be kept quiet. That you have to move on. And it hurts.
Better is open rebuke
Than love that is concealed.
Perhaps when you’ve finally found someone who returns that same love to you, your “previous” love changes form, into something that doesn’t hurt, a gentle and endearing friendship-love. I don’t know. I just know that I see almost none of this definition of love in the world. And it makes me feel alone sometimes.
I’ve allowed myself to become something of a hermit of late, for that reason. I just see so many extremes. Extreme immaturity, extreme “religiousness”, when all I really want is someone like myself, in the sense that I am imperfect, I sin, I do stupid things sometimes, make a fool of myself. But I’m changing, I’m self analyzing, I’m striving to become more like He who rescued me. I don’t see that in many people. I just want to be in the presence of someone whom I can relax with. Not worry about being ill influenced by them, and just laugh, and be myself. Sure, mistakes are made, and no one is perfect, so obviously at some point someone will say something the other disagrees with, be it a moral objection or just a personal preference. And that is okay. It’s how we grow.
It’s why I’ve secluded myself. I feel as though I am constantly pouring myself out on those around me, and I’m empty. I’ve run out of “it”, whatever “it” is. I need someone to pour themselves into me, too. I need someone who can give as well as receive. I suppose you could tell me that I won’t find that if I don’t go out and mingle. Perhaps you’re right. But tonight, it’s almost 2am, and I have a cold, and my finger tips are sore and injured, and I’m not feeling very optimistic.
There is always some peace in having submitted to the right. Don’t spoil it by worrying about the results, if you can help it. It is not your business to succeed (no one can be sure of that) but to do right: when you have done so, the rest lies with God–and Will!”
For reflection on Daniel 6:1-23
All this flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am a mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.
Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love–a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek–
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.
Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.
For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.
For reflection on Jeremiah 45:4-5
There is always some peace in having submitted to the right. Don’t spoil it by worrying about the result, if you can help it. It is not your business to succeed (no one can be sure of that) but to do right: when you have done so, the rest lies with with God–and Will!
~C.S. Lewis, December 29, 1935
For reflection on Daniel 6:1-23
God was awfully busy with me yesterday. I mean, I’m quite sure he always is, but yesterday I saw it.
My Bible study was awesome. It was a group of 14 people, guys and girls, ranging from one or two 17 year olds up into their mid twenties. The leader of the group is the father of one of the girls there, and he was such an awesome guy. He’s probably in his 40’s or 50’s, and he brings a lot of wisdom to the table, but he still encouraged us all to join in and ask questions and share.
Their house was out in the middle of nowhere, down a steep, scary looking gravel driveway, out in the middle of the woods. Gorgeous, quiet, peaceful. The second I walked into their house I felt at home, comfortable. Which is unusual for me when coming into a group of people I barely know.
We studied the concept of Peace last night. Peace with yourself, with God’s plan, with waiting on him. It was quite good. I’m really proud of myself, I read aloud at one point, I prayed aloud with the group (which I usually never do for fear of saying something that makes me feel foolish), and afterwards when a couple girls pulled out their guitars and started playing a few familiar songs, I sang with them. Not loudly, but loud enough to be heard a little.
One girl came up to me afterward and was asking me about myself, and I shared how I’m trying to make friends and have fellowship with more people, and that I’ve spent too much of my life secluded. She nodded and said, “That is exactly how I feel. And God is really strongly telling me that I need to get to know you. So, um, are you free to hangout at all next week?”
Guys, this is what I’ve been praying for for so long. It’s literally, in my mind, a miracle. Everyone there was so accepting and welcoming and understanding. So much so that I nearly started to cry several different times.
One girl, a very spunky black girl who really cracks me up, was talking to me about guitars and was like, “Yeah, so I taught myself and if you’re not using your guitar, I’d really like to buy it from you and you’re really pretty by the way. Just thought I’d slip that in there, cause you really are.” and then her sister chimed in, “Yeah, can I braid your hair?”
I’ve just, never felt so wanted so quickly. Usually when I enter a group, I feel like the outsider. This was like being welcomed into a family. I was also told by the sassy black girl (I would mention her name but it’s really unique and I don’t want to draw any stalkers, haha), “You’re the quietest person I have ever met. But you stick around us for a few weeks, you’ll find your inner crazy. We’ll draw it out of ya, then you won’t shut up!”
I didn’t want to leave that night. We ended at about 9:15 or so, and I didn’t leave till about five after ten.
When I came home, I found out why the timing of all this was so important. I ended up having a difficult, though good, discussion with my best friend, and God knew that I would need this hope that I acquired from Bible study to help carry me through that conversation.
Not that it was much easier. And I didn’t get much sleep last night, because I needed to just listen to come encouraging music.
These two songs stand out above the rest as the most real to my situation. I’m looking forward to the day I can sing the chorus of the first one and really, joyfully mean it.
I want to be the comforter. The care-giver. The healer. The one who you go to when you need a soft, kind word and a moment of peace. I want to build you up, encourage you along, support you in your efforts. I want to be the one who can offer a correction in a gentle and quiet way, that leads to conviction and change rather than defensiveness. I don’t want to be in the spotlight, I want to be the one backstage, with a smile, saying “I always knew you could do it.” I want to be the one who knows what’s on your heart, someone you feel safe sharing your struggles with because you know I’ll keep it to myself.
I want to be the one you miss when I’m not around. The one you know to be loyal and true. The one you go to after a long hard day.
I want to be soft and lovely. Calm and peaceful. Comfortable. Gentle. Warm.
I hope I’m succeeding.