Thursday, April 22, 2010

Steps, Leaping, and Surrender

In my adult life I have had three significant love relationships. The first one was to the man I married, a man I dated, and the man to whom I will be married in forty days. I haven’t always been wise when it comes to matters of the heart. It would be easy to blame society, television, Walt Disney, or a million other factors. The truth is I was pretty mixed up when it came to the who to the whole love thing, but I didn’t know it and as I talk to other girls who hope to one day find love I see that it isn’t just me that had a problem sorting all this out.

We get a lot of mixed signals when it comes to romance. Most of us come from broken homes, so we believe that love is something that goes away and can’t be trusted. Many of us see the dysfunctional relationships portrayed in popular media and we think that love can be had in rapid succession with a number of partners. We are told that love is a commitment by so many people in the church. Walt Disney says love is forever and once we find it we are guaranteed a happily ever after.

We don’t know if love is something we pursue or finds us. We can’t figure out if it is something that we feel or decide. We just don’t know if we are destined to be the lucky ones or if love is a matter of intense effort. It is not easy to sift through all the information out there about this phenomenon.

As the date draws closer to my wedding, I am finding myself reflecting on the past. The events that shaped my perceptions, recognizing some of my mistakes, and things that I have endured in order to understand what makes this relationship so different from the last ones. Yes, definitely the man is different, but I am different too.

I was twenty years old when I was married the first time. I knew I wanted a husband and a family so I got married to the first man who seemed to fit my check list. I took all the proper steps in choosing this man. He looked good on paper, and I believed that as long as I kept following the formulas, did things by the book, we would be able to build a marriage that would be okay. There was no passion for him, and as it turned out, he had none for me. We were both looking of partners who fit certain criteria and we thought we had found them. It was not long before it was obvious that our marriage was based on misinformation and more than a few lies, but I still believed that if I took all the proper steps I could make it better. I told myself that I loved him, and if I just kept trying everything would work out.

I had every relationship book in print, worked the formula, and went through counseling all in hopes that I would find the right set of steps to our save us from destruction. The thing is love is a bit of a dance, but if it is really love, your partner doesn’t hate you if you step on their toes from time to time. In the end, I was unable to keep up, do the right things, or be the right person to keep him happy and all I was doing was killing myself trying to make it work. It wasn’t easy to admit that the marriage failed, but looking back, I realize that my biggest mistake happened when I believed that love could be a formula to be mastered.

The next relationship was comedy or tragedy of mistakes, depending on your point of view. I leapt into love, blindly, stupidly. For the first time I knew what it was to want someone in my life, not just try to have someone because it is expected. There was fire and passion, but it was fanned by the flames of uncertainty and doubt. The constant strain of whether he was going to be there for me or not, rearranging my life so that I would be acceptable and appealing to him, all in the hopes that he would one day wake up and realize he loved me as much as I did him. I held on through so much chaos and confusion thinking my leap of faith would be enough to sustain us. In the end, it takes two to believe for great things and both have to leap together. The last time I leapt, he stood firmly on the edge of that abyss and watched me fall, and I realized that I could never do that again.

I was a little lost for awhile after that. I didn’t know what to do. Love wasn’t working for me or I couldn’t make it work for me. I had tried taking the steps. I had made the leaps, what else could I do? It seemed so out of my hands, so far beyond anything I could possibly do that I felt hopeless. I didn’t like being out of control. I didn’t like feeling like I could do nothing to bring about the one thing that I have wanted since the first time I saw Cinderella, but I was helpless.

Then I met Ty, and I was too weary to take the steps. I was too scared to make another leap, but he never asked me to. Instead, he sat there one night and told me about the things in his heart, his hopes, his fears, and why I belonged in his life. He told me about how who I was, not what I did, fascinated and captivated him. There was no formula to master or ability to prove, and I found myself confronted by something so completely new, it scared me to death. He loved me, and all I had to do was surrender to it. I had to be okay with just being. I had to trust him, and it is hard not do with those beseeching blue eyes promising so much if you do. I had to turn loose of all my attempts to control the situation, and surrender to this man.

For the first time, I understood why so many people can’t figure Christianity out, why a God who offers grace is so difficult to understand and accept. When you spend your whole life thinking that love is something you have to perform to receive, being confronted by a love that demands only your presence is overwhelming. I almost walked away from Ty. He seemed too good to be true, but I decided I could be okay with this new type of love, the kind where I am beautiful even when my hairs a mess and my feet are covered in dirt from the garden.

I have to believe that God is like that. That he sees our dirty feet and smiles every time we turn our faces towards him, because its not about the steps we take or the leaps we attempt. It is about realizing he loves us and trusting his love enough to surrender to him.


Barbie said...

Insightful....beautiful....and from a place of deep pain where all enduring and endearing things start.

Emily said...

The most amazing thing about this relationship is that it is a safe place to figure it out, to learn from the events of the past. Yet another lesson on the love of God I am learning from this incredible man.

There is freedom and safety to embrace the past, not as something shameful or to run away from, and what it is to have someone to go through it with you.

If only we could recognize a God who loves us in the midst of our pain and disappointments, we might be able to enter into real relationship.

P.S. Thank you for walking with me through so much of it. Good times are ahead.

Lynelle said...

Thanks for sharing your heart, love you and incredibly thrilled for your new season.

Mary Leavell said...

Very wise and inspiring... wow