Monday, March 26, 2012

"True love," by M

"Love to be real, it must cost — it must hurt — it must empty us of self." ―Mother Teresa

I came across this quote by Mother Teresa many years ago. I think it was during that stage when the cool thing to do was collect those cards and magnets that had bold colors/geometric designs with the quotes on them. Remember those? I still think they’re pretty cool, actually. Anyway, I was drawn to this idea of love hurting (maybe I was in the midst of a breakup… who knows) and I saved this quote as some sort of lighthouse in the darkness of that hurt. It’s really beautiful sentiment, isn’t it?

At the time, I took this idea of "real love hurts" to mean two things:

1) If we love people, we will hurt on their behalf. For example, if I do a good job of loving the people that I work for, my heart will hurt for them over their cancer diagnoses, the emotional burdens they carry, the financial stress they’re faced with, etc. I’ve certainly experienced broken heartedness for my friends and family when they are struggling with some major life obstacle. It’s true… loving people means hurting when they’re hurting.

2) If we love people, we will have to sacrifice. Loving people means feeling the occasional sting of selflessness… of not getting what you want all the time. Sometimes it’s super minor, like giving up a Saturday to watch some man-centric sporting event. Sometimes it’s major like sacrificing years of sleep when you have children. Sometimes its huge, like sacrificing your future, your plans, or even your life. Sacrifice is the loss of something for the gain of something greater… however, rarely does that stop us from grieving the loss, even if just a little bit.

Upon reflection, I think both of these interpretations are true. Serious love does end up hurting us in both of these ways. However, there’s another way that I’ve recently discovered that it hurts, also. And just like the first two, it serves to make us more like Christ… to "empty us of self."

My small group is reading a book these days called "Ten Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe," by Larry Osborne. (I’m not a huge fan of the book so far, for the record). However, the 2nd "dumb thing" it mentioned was that many Christians believe that forgiving means forgetting. Osborne goes on to say that it’s "dumb" to think that God is a forgetful God. How is it possible for an all-knowing God to forget something that we have done? Although The Bible says that, through forgiveness in Christ Jesus, our sins are removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), does that mean God has sin amnesia? If so, that presents a theological problem… it positions us as knowing something (the sins of our past) that our omniscient God does not. So no, God doesn’t forget.

Instead, he forgives our sins by canceling them. He cancels the eternal consequences of our sin (which is death, separation from Him – Hell) and treats us as though it never happened. This is not to suggest that He forgets about it, but instead that he chooses to relate to us (love us, bless us, define us, etc) as though we never committed such sin. This is truly incredible, if you think about it.

All of this means that if we want to love and forgive like Christ, we have to do the same thing. It means when people we love sin against us (and they do all the time) we are compelled to not hold it against them, not seek revenge, not change our definition of them, and not expect them to do it again. We are not to build walls using the memories of our past hurts. We are not to withhold our love out of anger. We are not to love less out of fear. That’s tough. And doing it the right way means that we make ourselves vulnerable to being hurt over and over and over again.

(Now, let me just throw out a qualifying statement here that I am NOT referring to situations of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. If anyone finds themselves at the hands of someone who is hurting them purposefully and maliciously for any reason, they have every right to do what they need to do to protect themselves. Moreover, I’ll clarify that "people you love" is mostly referring to those that you have no ability (or little ability) to rid yourself of – family and spouse. Friends, dating relationships, etc. do give you the opportunity to walk away, obviously).

But my point is that God loves and forgives us by choosing to be ceaselessly optimistic about our potential. He has FAR more faith in us than we do in Him. Every time I doubt that I remind myself of the apostle Peter. He was such a hot mess! And yet, Christ says "upon this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:8). So, God forgives us, cancels the eternal consequences of our sin, and loves us and trusts us the same as before. Our sin does not change who we are in His eyes. Yet, I think this makes for an oft-brokenhearted God. He gets hurt time and time again by our sin… our idolatry, our pride, our control… yet he pours forth his love from the cracks of that broken heart. Are we not called to do the same? Forgiving like God, loving like God, and having faith like God leaves us wide open to be hurt… and I think that’s the point. How else are we "emptied of self" if not for the gradual process of setting aside our pride and our supposed entitlements each time we get hurt? Each time we forgive, we hurt, and we enter into God's hurt and Christ's sacrifice for us.

And so that's what I'm learning these days. (Not that things are bad in my relationship... they're really not!) But, I'm taking this time to try to learn mature love. I once heard a great quote that said something along the lines of "dating is really bad preparation for marriage. Dating teaches you to run away, to try out different people, to always self-protect. Marriage requires exactly the opposite." Instead, I'm trying to take this opportunity of dating and start practicing the right things. And I'm sure anyone who's married would tell you that forgiveness is numero uno... or at least top 5. So, here's to learning to be like Mother Teresa and Jesus... I can't go wrong with that formula, right?!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Til Whim Do Us Part?

I've been browsing Facebook lately--not surprising, given that I have NOT adopted M's Lenten resolution, although I do think the post below this is fantastic-- and I have been hit with several realizations:

1. My friends are getting engaged and married at a very rapid rate. I wonder if the incidence of younger people getting engaged has increased due to the "pressure" of seeing seemingly everyone else on Facebook looking happy with their new sparklers.

2. I need more than two hands to count the number of people my age who are having babies legitimately. There were always people having babies, but now there are people having planned, post-marriage babies. Sometimes two. A few have had/are having three. This is crazy to me! Exciting, I guess, but crazy.

3. I know of at least 3 people who have been engaged, married, and divorced before they turn 25.

It's weird how four people who are all 25 can be in SUCH different stages of life-- one can be totally single, one married without kids, one married with a kid (or 3), and one already married and consequently divorced. And Facebook allows us to keep track of who falls into which category. It inevitably makes some of the single ones feel like they're missing out, some of the married ones wonder if they should be having kids already, and (I'd guess) some of the parents feel weary to see what a typical early-20s life can look like without kids, even if they love theirs dearly.

But this whole, "married and divorced within a year" thing is really troubling to me. Has this always been the case for a handful of people? Was it brushed under the rug without a social media site to document your divorce with a (reverse) name change and a broken heart icon?

I know that people get divorced for very legitimate and necessary reasons at times. I would never want someone who was in danger to stay in an abusive marriage. I also know that this whole post reeks of judgment. But there is something that feels inherently more-wrong about a quickie divorce than one where two people tried everything they could for decades before splitting.

How does this happen? Do people take their vows too lightly? Do people rush into marriage too quickly? Does our culture glamorize weddings to the point where getting engaged is about the event itself rather than the lifetime commitment? Is there some major, heartbreaking issue that only comes to light post-wedding?

Probably a little bit of everything, although I'd be inclined to believe that a secret major issue had to have shown some warning signs before the nuptials.

And what about the TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS? The money spent on the ring, the showers, the gifts, time-off that guests take from work, their flights and hotel costs, the wedding itself, the honeymoon, the moving in together, the just feels so irresponsible to not even give it a real shot before packing up and moving on (oh hey, Kim Kardashian!).

Again, I know this post is super judge-y. In a way, I'm not quite sure how to express my downright bewilderment and concern without it feeling judge-y.

I guess what I'm saying is this: don't jump into marrying someone just because you're in love with them, or because it's convenient, or because everyone else is getting married and it seems so fun. Don't jump into marrying someone even if you're already engaged and have bought a dress and put a $10,000 down payment on a venue if you know, in your gut, that things aren't right. Because inevitably, you'll find yourself realizing one day that being in love is not enough, and convenience is not enough, that it's not always fun, and that those things that bother you before marriage will bother you infinitely more during marriage... and then you're stuck.

And if you're stuck and it seems like you made a mistake...then at least stay stuck for a few more years and see if things don't get better. Marriage Today cites that 80% of people on the brink of divorce who choose not to go through with it report being HAPPY with their marriage 5 years later. Regardless of what celebrities are doing, regardless of what politicians are saying about preserving the "sanctity of marriage"... young people have to stop treating marriage as if it's like buying a new car that you can trade in and upgrade when you get tired of it.

Instead, we need to think of marriage as a 1995 rusted pick-up that needs constant upkeep, new brakes, pit-stops to refuel, and a good scrub every now and then. It's our job to do everything in our power to keep that car running no matter what the conditions are outside, or what we feel like driving, or how frustrated it makes us. Because we have stood before God, our family, and our friends and made the commitment not to give up on each other, and that's GOT to mean something.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Facebook as "The World," by M

I’ve had a lot of random thoughts flying through my head recently and all seem to be good candidates for blog posts. However, I kept kind of waiting to see if any of these thoughts would mature into any kind of coherent idea… and I’m not sure that has happened. I think I need to just commit to something and think about it more intentionally. Lol

Anyway, I guess in the spirit of my last update I’ll tell y’all what my Lenten resolution is for this year. After reflecting upon my current schedule and generally overwhelmed life, I decided that I needed to give something up and not add something to my spiritual endeavors. I was thinking "okay, how can I streamline my life and do fewer things to a better end and not add one more thing to a growing list of many things that I accomplish less than brilliantly?" So after some thought and prayer, I decided to spend less time on Facebook. I'm checking it once a day for less than 30 minutes. Here’s why:

1) I didn’t want to take a real facebook fast because people who aren’t on facebook become a burden to everyone else. It’s true. I didn’t want to be that person who is asking others to email me information/photos/video that I could otherwise find on facebook. I don’t want to be totally out-of-the-loop for social (and some church) events that pop up there. I don’t want my "facebook fast" to cause more work for me or others.

2) My time is limited. I would venture to say that I’m somewhat over-committed at the moment (and probably for most of my adolescent/adult life). The reality is that 2 hours spent on facebook is a bad return on investment for my valuable time. And while I hate to cut out one of my (very few) "vices"… my hope is that it opens up more time for truly fruitful endeavors like reading, talking to family, spending time with friends, etc.

3) I don’t want to be a slave to facebook. Honestly, the less I’m on it, the more I realize its potential to be toxic in my life. There have been many studies about how facebook and the advent of social media have created a culture of people who report greater dissatisfaction with their lives, simply because the nature of facebook fosters lots of comparison. The gist is that facebook is "mediated," which means that we typically only share those things that are fun, happy, and exciting about our lives. Even if we do share lame or sad things, it’s disproportionate to the ratio of good-to-bad that we actually experience in life. So as a facebook user, you compare your actual life experience to the mediated experience of others’ lives, and it makes it seem like everyone has a better, happier, more exciting life than you.

Moreover, I’ve decided that even if you can get the comparison thing through your head and try to avoid becoming victim to it, facebook presents another problem, which is that we inadvertently create expectations for ourselves based on the knowledge of what everyone else is doing. Facebook is the ultimate vehicle for peer-pressure, and it’s dangerous that we rarely recognize it as such. We see all these people who are graduating from law school and think to ourselves "wait… now everyone is more educated than me. Should I be more educated?" We see all these people who are having babies and think to ourselves "I’m so behind! I’m never going to be a cool mom because I won’t be young and hip and by the time I have kids I’ll be in my 30s and my body won’t bounce back like my 22 year-old friends’ bodies have." Facebook is now what we use as our benchmark for success or failure at life. Even when we don’t totally buy it, we still feel a knawing sense of "I’m behind," "I’m not doing enough," "why does my life not look like that?"

It's no surprise that it's dangerous, as a Christian, to use "the world" as a benchmark. The Bible talks much about how loving the world makes us enemies of God. Enemies of God. That's kind of big and scary and heavy. So, in my mind, that means if I take my cues for my life from Facebook and not from God... I'm in troubled water.

"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the World, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father, but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." - 1 John 2: 15-17

So, I'm spending this season of Lent trying to break myself of my reliance on Facebook and turn my attention more towards God - His definition of me and His plan for my life. I am loving the change already and anticipate continuing in this long after Easter. My heart and life just feel healthier.

To end on a happy/funny note, I'll admit that I'm participating in Stuff Christians Like #689. It's true! Christians love a good digital fast. haha!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Trusting My Spouse

It's W, obviously. Talking about marriage again. We've made it 7 months so clearly I have lot of knowledge to give (ha!). Thanks for indulging my desire to share my new lessons along the way.

In any case, I never really thought I'd have a problem trusting my spouse. I mean, T is SUPER trustworthy. He comes through when he says he will, he is very careful to only make promises that he can keep, he is better than I am at refusing to tell those little white lies that we all assume are meaningless (...does he really HAVE to know I ate Taco Bell for lunch again this week?!), and he's all-around an incredibly honorable guy.

I've always trusted him in the sense that I don't think he'd ever cheat on me, or secretly spend all of our money, or get caught in a underground black market stock trading scandal that I was blissfully unaware of.

I thought that trust was the least of our issues, with more pressing topics of concern being our ongoing battle of who steals more of the covers, and why T feels the need to wash (or rather, feels the need for ME to wash) every single article of clothing that has touched his skin for at least 3.5 seconds once.

But man, I don't think I really got it before I was married and particularly, before T started looking for a new job.

Right now, I have pretty much no control over what our life looks like in 4 months when T finishes his two-year investment banking commitment. Those of you who know me AT ALL know that I can be a bit of a perfectionist and control freak, and it is killing me that there might be major changes coming our way that are unknown AND out of my control. It's hard being married and having dreams (a spouse that comes home for dinner every night, a house with a yard and a puppy, a community where I have friends...) and not having any way, personally, to acheive them. These dreams are largely dependent on where my husband gets a job, what its hours are, and how much it pays. And granted, T is trying his absolute best to find a job that meets these criteria because he knows they are so important to me, but at the end of the day, it's T's business.

I can't write his cover letters, or do his interviews, or craft his thank you notes. I can't decide which jobs fit his skills because I am not remotely knowledgable about what he does and what sort of potential jobs would align. I can't make sure he's on time for his interviews, or that his phone won't cut out, or that he balances how much he talks versus how much they talk. I have a ton of skills from my major about finding a job, interview skills, winning people over...and I can't use them. I have to trust that HE will perform. And it has been hard for me.

I've always been one of those people who subscribes to the belief that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. I want this stuff to work out-- and I have to trust T to do it right because there's nothing I can go but sit and wait. Patience is not my strongest virtue.

Case in point-- T is flying to another state for a final-round interview today. His flight was at 9:20am. At 7:45am he was still in the apartment messing with his belt. If it were ME, I would've been out that door by 7:15 at the latest. It's rush hour, Chicago traffic is horrendous, my last time at Midway the security line took me an hour and a half and I would've known that whether I made the flight wasn't just about me but about my spouse and our future and our family...and I had to bite my tongue and just wait. Because T is a competent adult and I have to trust him. Even if he should've just fiddled with the darn belt in the elevator or in a cab, in my opinion.

And he made the flight, with plenty of time to spare, and I'm sure he'll do an awesome job because he's brilliant and seriously one of the most competent people I know at everything he's ever tried. But it's been so hard for me to sit idly by and trust him to achieve MY dreams through HIS next job.

Prayers for patience and trust would be appreciated. Prayers that he gets a job would be great as well!