Monday, February 27, 2017

You Complete Me and Other Romantic Nonsense

Yes, you read that right!  While Tom Cruise's tearful declaration to Renee Zellweger at the climax of Jerry Maguire caused many of us to swoon and sigh, it is fawning drivel.  But, she buys it, and they ride off into the sunset, with a precocious bespectacled little guy, swinging merrily betwixt the two of them, and pitching a baseball like a major-leaguer--to the delight of Jerry, the sports agent.  It makes for a great Pinterest meme.  But, not much more.

I am a romantic.  Y'all know that.  I am a "box full of movie ticket stubs, dried rose petals, and mini-golf score cards" ESFJ who wears her heart on her sleeve as a daily fashion statement.  Yet, after two decades of marriage (wow, that sounds rather formidable, doesn't it?), I have learned that there is so much more.

A lovely college student recently posed the following question/concern/perplexity to me.  
"There seems to be two camps when it comes to love and relationships.  One end of the spectrum is the relentless search for that one perfect person.  This person will be everything, know everything, do everything right, etc. And, when you find that one perfect person, it's all moonlight and roses. Then, there's the other end of the spectrum that says relationships are hard, we are all flawed, consider yourself lucky if you happen to find someone who's willing to take a chance, blah-blah-blah.  So, here's my question--which is it?"

Isn't that a great question?  I thought so.  Before I answered her, I immediately thought of that list that I made in college.  The "he's the one" list.  A list of qualities, virtues, and deal-breakers that quite possibly not even Jesus could live up to.  Ladies, whether written down on paper--or just imprinted on your brain--you know of what I speak.  Admit it, you're among friends.  Of course, I had a mental list in high school, too, which might have contained such significant attributes as "blue eyes, blond hair, and looks good in a pair of oft-washed blue jeans".  Deep, I was.  

One perfect person.  Let's start with the word "one".  I don't believe that there was simply one person, in the wide, wide world, who would have been right for me.  Realistically and geographically speaking, we live on a densely populated planet (over one billion served, or some such number).  The male-female ratio is fairly even; thus, there's a pretty good chance that there is more than one person out there who would float my boat, as it were.

Furthermore, for my dear friends who find themselves "single", either through divorce or death of a spouse, if I believed (or more importantly, they believed) that one person stuff, this means that there is no hope of a loving, healthy relationship for them in the future. I simply can't buy that.  If another relationship is in the Plan for them, I would want that for them.  

Perfect.  Oy, what a word.  There is no such thing as a perfect person.  We are all broken, sinful creatures who have a moment or two of wonderfulness every so often.  Does that mean that one should just take whatever comes along and make the best of it?  Of course not.  However, if you seek absolute perfection, you will be absolutely disappointed.  And, then you start sounding like an episode of Seinfeld with break-up excuses like "He's a close talker" or "she has man hands".  "She eats her peas one at a time".  Really?  Really.

And, let me ever-so-gently remind you, dear reader, that we are not perfect. We can yearn for magnificent "soul fruits" to manifest in our lives, like those that show up in Galatians 5--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, self-control, and the like. However, such things are impossible without Grace.  

For that young man who is currently pitching woo, there is a "top ten" list in Paul's letter to Timothy that makes a great yardstick.  "Temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable" are among the qualities for an overseer--a church statesmen.  A wee bit different from my "must-have" list of a bygone "You've Got The Right Stuff, Baby" era.  Oh, and you can add those Galatian Fruits into the mixing bowl.  Starting with the right ingredients is always helpful, don't you agree?

As Knightley so adeptly expressed to his darling Emma, "perhaps it is our imperfections that make us so perfect for one other."

So, we find ourselves in the middle of the spectrum.  Relationships are messy, gorgeous, frustrating, self-sacrificial, and rewarding.  Pick your favorite adjective--and then add its opposite for fun.  It's not all moonlight and roses--but then again, it's not all tornadoes and cacti, either.  There should be a healthy balance of impromptu Sonic Blast runs and conversations about the meaning of life.   Or what that insanely intelligent Philosophy prof mentioned today in Ethics class.  

In the end, relationships are work.  Our strengths are magnified, our weaknesses exposed. Should you think that a romantic relationship with the opposite sex will "complete you"; then, you are in it for the wrong reasons.  It's not about you, it's about other-centeredness. Such things are mysteries; but, it is a mystery worth solving.

"But to lose your life for another I've heard
Is a good place to begin..."

~Andrew Peterson

Monday, February 13, 2017

Love and Peanut Butter

Seventeen years ago today, the last original Peanuts strip was published.
Poor Charlie Brown's love for the little red-haired girl was never returned.

"Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love."

Friday, February 3, 2017

Mind Blown

"The heart cannot love what the mind doesn't know."

Mind. Blown.  Excuse the over-used, painfully obvious pun.  Think about the first time you meet someone and you say to yourself, "I want to know this person more." So, you seek to spend time together.  You hang out.  You chat.  Back in the olden days, we did that. Chat.  Face-to-face.  Long conversations over mediocre college cafeteria food.  Late-night laughter on the phone.  Or spontaneous Slurpee runs.  You get to know this person. And you do this by spending time, the very best currency of all.  The more you know, the more you love.  It's a heart-mind connection.  

This could be true of a completely platonic friendship.  Or in a romantic relationship.  But, the beautiful thing is that it can also be true of the most life-transforming relationship.  With Jesus.  And, how best to know Him than to spend time with Him.  And, how can we do just that?  We can read His story.  We can learn about who He is--his character, his person.  Wow.

No, I didn't have a late-night epiphany on the road to Damascus--or to Kroger.  I didn't find it on a Pinterest meme.  Two weekends ago (a fortnight!), I packed up my forest-green travel duffle (circa 1995), jumped in a car with two of my favorite sister-peeps, and landed at our annual FBC Ladies Retreat in the booming metropolis of Linden, Tennessee.  Population 134.  Or thereabouts.

Enter Glenna Marshall, our speaker.  How many times have we heard the phrase, "To know Him is to love Him"? (capitalization mine).  It's a basic truth.  But, so many times, we J-inclined Christ followers make knowing Him so very complicated.  We must have the latest, trendiest Bible study workbook, a chevron-striped fabric-ensconced journal that we made ourselves (with matching pen), the accompanying app, French press coffee--and the list goes on.  Guess what?

All we need is our mind (God gave us that!), our Bible, a notebook, and a pen.  Maybe a few well-sharpened pencils.  Are you serious?  It's that easy?  No way.  Yes--and WAY! And, I know this because God used Glenna to remind us.  "...for the Bible tells me so!"

We open our minds (and hearts) to what He wants us to know--which is in His word.  We pray for His discernment and freedom from distraction.  We learn His story.  We write what we learn about Him. What we learn about man.  How this passage or chapter points us to Christ.  It's about Him.  We learn about Him by spending time with Him.  He reveals His character to us.  And, you know what can happen?  

As we know more about Him, we love Him more deeply.  As I am prone to say of myself, "Well, big bag of duh, Sister!"

Mind blown.  Heart won.

To Be Continued...