Sunday, May 22, 2011

Renewing the Mind

Well, unlike W, I thought it was easier and less confusing to put "by M" in the title, as opposed to having to open every blog with a sentence about who is doing the writing. Ah well. This is M, by the way. =)

Okay, so I've been doing a lot of mind-renewing lately. A LOT. I'm trying to figure out how to "do singleness" the right way. This is actually a lot of hard work mentally and spiritually because I'm fairly confident that, up until this point, I've only had experience doing singleness the wrong way. At least I know what not to do? Although, knowing what not to do does not necessarily mean that knowing what to do is just the inverse. Like I said, it's been a bit of work, and I anticipate it continuing to be so.

That said, I've really been enjoying the process so far. (Enjoying singleness?! WHAT!?!) It's been exciting to see the ways I'm maturing and growing... and even exciting, in a way, to be knocked over the head with these giant blind spots that I didn't even know I had. It makes me look forward to my next relationship (many months from now) because I can see already how I will go into it much healthier and much more whole. I can only imagine where I'll end up, say, 9 months from now in terms of how I approach the whole business. I'm really excited to see where God takes me and how He changes my heart!

As part of my mindset-shifting exercises, I figured that first it might be beneficial if I lay out the rules and objectives that I've outlined for myself for the dating fast. If I've missed any good ones that you've thought of or practiced, please share them! (p.s. These sound absolutely ridiculous... and they kind of are. But hey, it's easier to stay within boundaries once you've decided what those boundaries are, right?)

1) No dating - dating counts as a series of intentional one-on-one interactions with a member of the opposite sex that would lead to a DTR, or the uncomfortable feeling that a DTR is necessary.
2) Limited touching - For example, an arm grab accompanied by "don't step into the street! There's a truck coming!" is acceptable. An arm brush accompanied by "It was great to meet you!" is... not so much.
3) Limited texting - avoid texting members of the opposite sex for reasons other than logistical questions.
4) Limited facebooking - I will NOT go home and immediately facebook random guys that I meet. I will NOT facebook certain exes more than once-a-month checks to see if they still have facial hair and/or if they've gotten married yet. I will NOT stalk men on facebook if I don't know at least their a) last name, b) place of employment, and c) hometown. I will accept friend requests if I get them, and appropriately respond to communication (see rule about texting).
5) Maturity and honesty - I will be up-front about the dating fast to anyone that may inquire about my availability. I will be as mature and respectful as possible in the event I need to "let someone down"

1) Make and value my friendships - learn to find certain fulfillment in my relationships with friends. Recognize the pros of having friendships with women AND men (abiding by the above rules, of course!). Make new friends, specifically with the objective of finding some non-believers and befriending them, too.
2) Get involved - engage in my city! Try new things... take people up on their offers... learn spontaneity. Busyness = no time to sit and mope about singleness.
3) Love and be loved by God - switch my focus from studying God to knowing God. Live in His abundant love. Let God hold my whole heart.
4) Become a student of men - Observe!! Watch the guys that I interact with... what are the qualities that I find attractive? What are the qualities that I find unattractive? Who around me seems to have the most of each? Why?
5) Live the calling - use this time to further the Kingdom. Learn. Serve. Give. Live fully for Christ in a way that only singles can.

So there you have my rules/objectives! Although I don't anticipate this blog being just a place for semi-weekly updates about how the dating fast is going, I'll probably get back to these now and again to remind myself where I'm going with this. For those of you that I interact with frequently, please hold me accountable!

And now, just a few thoughts on how else I'm shifting my mindset...

1) How I approach marriage and married people. In the past (and let's be honest, in the present too, when I'm not actively trying to avoid it) I would see married people out and about, or at church, or on facebook and think something along the lines of "ughhhhhhh they WOULD be married. They WOULD be so cute and look so happy and be done with dating. They WOULD get to do all the fun things associated with marriage and have a sparkly ring too. LAME!" Okay, so let's just call it like it is and say that those thoughts are fueled by envy. And those thoughts are also fueled by some false beliefs: that now that these women are married their lives are perfect, that God is withholding this grand thing from me just out of meanness, that marriage is the ultimate goal in life, etc. Nothing about those thoughts is true or productive. So, I'm renewing my mind by choosing to think differently when I see cute 20s-ish married couples... "They are married... God loves me just as much as He loves them... God knows how much I want to be married... God is faithful in granting the desires of our hearts... I'll take this and all the other married people I see as a sign that God gives marriage to the great majority of people, and He'll likely give it to me too... just not yet."

2) How I view men. Okay, so I've pretty much never had straight-guy friends before right now. Seriously, like never. In the past, any males that I interacted with generally fell into one of the following six categories: 1) boyfriend. 2) boyfriend's friends. 3) boyfriend stand-in (you know, the one that's not technically the boyfriend but is for all practical purposes because you talk and hang out all the time but say you're just friends) 4) sister's boyfriend. 5) gay friend (I have many and I love them!) 6) potential boyfriend. So yeah, nowhere in that list is just the typical "it's a friend of mine who just happens to be a straight male." And frankly, I've discovered recently that I need a BIG mindset shift to even create a category in my brain for guy friends. Before now, any guy that I randomly met would either be labeled "potential boyfriend" or "non-potential boyfriend" and I would modify my behavior accordingly. Potential boyfriends got the flirty, touchy, facebook treatment that I'm currently trying to avoid, and non-potential boyfriends got totally rejected and ignored. HELLO MONICA... THIS IS NOT OKAY! I'm learning to value men as people just like I value women as people. I'm learning to see their strengths and weaknesses in the context of their humanity and not in the context of a potential husband for myself. I'm learning that in this bizarre way I was kind of objectifying and reducing them in much the same way my feminist heart gets sick about when they do it to us. YIKES! And so, as I mentioned above, I'm just trying to learn how to be around them, enjoy them as friends, and really observe how they act. Even ones that I would ultimately consider "non-potential" likely have some attractive qualities that I can at least note and then look for in others in the future. This probably seems silly or like so 7th grade to many of you reading this, but seriously... its a big change for me.

3) How I view God. I recently had a thought that God has been probably very jealous for my heart for these last several years. Here I am doing all of these things in my faith life - trying to be spiritually mature,and learning, and journaling and whatever... and all this time I've been simultaneously running around trying to frantically give my heart to whatever semi-qualified man I could find who would take it. I feel like God is like "Monica, why can't you give your heart to Me? Why can't I have it? Why don't you love Me as much as you love having earthly love?" Back to the image of Hosea and Gomer... truly. When I think of all of the time and mental/emotional energy that I've spent chasing after dead-end men or relationships... it's staggering. I'm trying to learn to just... stop it. To give my heart to Christ and let Him decide if and when someone else may get it. It's a really big adjustment though.

Those are probably the three biggest issues that I've encountered as of now. I'm not sure I did too great of a job explaining any of them... they all make sense in my head at least! The process of "renewing your mind" is one that takes A LOT of work. It's a process that I've only pretty recently learned; sometimes it's painstaking to systematically and continuously figure out and address those things in your mind that need renewed. I like to think of it like food that starts going bad if it isn't pitched and replaced at the appropriate time. Maybe that's a gross image? True though, the consequences are gross for us if renewing the mind never happens... I go back to Romans 12:2 - "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will." Lord knows my goal is to know God's will when it eventually does come to the question of whether some man is in it or not. As God is faithful, this renewing of my mind will pay off in when that day comes! Amen!

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