Wanting someone else, part 2

Here’s my little follow-up to some responses to “Wanting someone else.” A few points to clarify:

Actually, I’m gonna let Walter Brueggemann (theologian) do some talking first: “Sexuality is good and is ordained by God as part of creation. … Sexual identity is part of creation, but it is not part of the creator. Sexuality, sexual identity, and sexual function belong not to God’s person but to God’s will for creation. … Sexuality is ordained by God, but it does not characterize God. It belongs to the goodness God intends for creation” (Genesis, 33-34).

So I’m not saying that sexuality and our identity as single people are as essential to our being or image as culture pushes on us. But here’s something I’m wrestling with: on the one hand, Jesus—“in whom the fullness of God dwelled”—was single for his entire life and ministry. But that’s not to say that he didn’t necessarily feel the same wants and desires that we do—perhaps including the one for a partner. (Perhaps not; some may not agree with that position theologically.)

Perhaps it was that his understanding of his Father’s love for him was enough. His understanding of his place in God’s story was enough. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t ‘with someone’ like culture told him he should be because he knew whose opinion mattered. Perhaps if I was in a more content relationship with God, it wouldn’t matter as much; perhaps if I was concerned with the one opinion that counted, it wouldn’t matter as much.

The bottom line is: I have community; I have accountability; I have people to laugh with and cry with and pray with and live life with; I have people who are seeking to do the same things that I am; I know that I am loved. And I know a lot of single friends who are in this same place. The one thing that we do not have, that we cannot achieve or attain, is to be wanted.

And for us, that is the one thing that continues to hold tension …

[The ellipsis is symbolic of the tension. :)]

Wanting someone else

Last year, I met a girl who I thought I was going to marry. Seriously, when I talked to my accountability group about her, they hadn’t seen me so excited about someone since … well, ever. She was beautiful and fun and loved God. The first time I saw her, I was smitten. Yeah, ‘smitten’ is the right word.

One year later, I’m not married. Not engaged. Not even dating. So my sense was probably off by a little bit. 🙂

On a more serious note …

Over the last year, I’ve been talking with various friends about what it means to be a single Christian, living the full life that Christ came to give us. What does it mean to be a single, sexual being? Sensuality and sexuality are part of what it means to be human, to be stimulated by touch, taste, smell, sound and sight. So what happens when there is no one to give that kiss or embrace, no one to pull close, whose smell you can inhale and feel like you’re home? Being is communion, writes one theologian. If God was not in communal relationship, he argues, he would not be, so integral to his nature is this concept of communion. So what about us, created in his image, when we do not have such communion?

One song asks: “Who doesn’t long for someone to hold, who knows how to love you without being told?”

Many of my friends are now married, and they have other concerns and issues to deal with. Responsibilities only seem to mount as we roll through this thing called life. I realize marriage and/or relationship isn’t the Promised Land. But it can sometimes seem like it, not just because it’s what the church pushes (consciously or not); but because everyone wants to be loved. Everyone longs to be special to someone else, to mean enough to that person that they’re at least near the center of that person’s world. I hope I’m not over-generalizing or over-emphasizing the human want/need for love. I don’t think I am, but I realize all the while that I write from my limited, single perspective.

I’ve heard people say that unless you’re content being single, you won’t be content when you’re married; or that you should have all of your desires met in God because that would be too much for another person to carry. And there’s some truth in such statements. But I can’t agree with them completely.

You see, if you notice in Genesis 2, even before what’s become known as “The Fall,” there existed a need for something other than, or in addition to, God. When God created the man, he said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” The man, who enjoyed unbroken communion with God and with nature was still alone. There was a need for companionship, relationship, with someone like him.

It was a need that God didn’t meet straight away. After saying this, God brought the animals and birds to the man to name them; but none of them was a suitable partner for him. And I’d assume this took a while; who knows how long it took? The point is, there was a delayed response to need.

It took long enough so that when God did create the woman, the man’s response was one of true value and appreciation: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” It was because of the conflict brought on by unfulfilled need, the waiting and wanting, that he was able to truly value what he had been given. As Donald Miller puts it, “God directed Adam’s steps so that when He created Eve, Adam would have the utmost appreciation, respect, and gratitude” (Searching for God Knows What, 65). The point is: what we want that we can’t have plays a part in making us who we are. What we do in response to these wants impacts how our faith and how our character matures. God has embedded in us desires that he wants us to do something about. (Now, not all of our desires come from God, but that’s a whole other blog.)

In the specific case of relationships, it’s okay to want one as long as this doesn’t become the driving motivation of our lives. We do have to be prepared to accept that we might not get it right away, or even at all, but it’s okay to want it. It can lead us to prayer and a better relationship with our Father. And hopefully it will.

More on relationships coming …

I was so sure …

“Maybe you’ll get married before you graduate,” my friend joked. I laughed, my mind going back to two years ago …

***

On August 7, 2005, Ally and I got back together for the last time. Of course, we thought it was the last time because we’d be getting married—that was the basis on which we got back together. We’d dated on and off for three years, we’d known each other for four; and we’d exhausted the other options, it seemed—there was no more time for ‘let’s just see what happens’.

Of course, in retrospect, this is not the best reason to get back together with a view to getting married. But retrospectively, I know that it didn’t work out. Looking back on my thoughts that week, though, I found myself alarmed at how sure I was about our decision. The conviction and confidence I had that nothing could sway my decision is shown up by the fact that we didn’t last two more months. I had a sense of peace about committing the rest of my life to this person that, two months later, became: “[we] broke up (again) tonight. It felt clear. It was right. We both knew it.”

I wasn’t in the right place at the time; I learned the hard way about the fickleness of emotions.

I’m still learning. And probably will be for many, many years …

***

P.S. I was reading 1 Chronicles this morning. In 26:32, it reads, “Jeriah had two thousand seven hundred relatives …” (and that’s just the men!). For those of you know how small the Christian world is, I’m employing this verse as proof that we might just be the new Israel. ☺

Love and Marriage

July 27th is a special day. It’s my parents’ wedding anniversary. As of tomorrow, they’ll have been married thirty-nine years, which is pretty amazing. Now I’ve only been around for twenty-five of those years, but I’ve been able to appreciate their sacrificial love for each other, their respect and honor of each other, their mutual submission to each other—in short, they’ve been an awesome example of Christian marriage, and I know my brothers (who are married) and I (who am not) both appreciate their embodiment of the gospel and their faith in their marriage.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, and happy anniversary!

P.S. Happy birthday to Ally (Friday) and Jason (Saturday) for this weekend!
P.P.S. Oh, and the facial hair thing? I shaved my face clean two days after I posted that blog. I realized that I will likely never be the goateed, ear-ringed and tattooed alter ego that I once thought I might be—it was a passing phase. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to grow facial hair, I had an earring for a few months before getting annoyed with it, and I keep shying away from getting a tattoo. I think I’m just going to give up on this idea …

Before shaving my ‘facial hair’:
And after … big difference, huh?