Wednesday, August 21, 2013

32 and Single: Realistic Expectations?

One of my favorite things about blogging is that it is a big conversation. I recently posted a short commentary entitled 32 and Single: A Response to "How I Know My Wife Married the "Wrong" Person." Many of you responded on Facebook, over email, or in person and I enjoyed hearing your thoughts. Thank you for sharing pieces of yourselves. I am surprised that the most popular topic of conversation has been about doing the work involved in marriage. While I have many thoughts about this, there is one piece of feedback in particular that I keep coming back to. A friend of mine pointed out that it might be unrealistic to look for a man who is ready to do the work of marriage, but instead to look for someone with the character qualities that are the building blocks of this kind of work. At first, I thought she was splitting hairs, but she pointed out that things like admitting you are wrong, apologizing, and being open to confrontation, and even counseling, are things that are much more socially acceptable for women.

I think her point might connect to gender based social norms. Why is it that we praise a man who is going to become a counselor, but catch our breath and pause when a man we know mentions that he is going to counseling for his own benefit? Why is emotional and mental health something that might be more acceptable for women? Is it? Really? Even if that is case, marriage is one of the hardest and best things that I have seen and as such it seems like it is one of those circumstances where it is okay to hold out for this quality. Personal, internal growth is one of my deepest values, and I hope that should be enough reason for me to wait for someone who can meet me in this place.

But is it? Other pressures and voices vie for my allegiance.You are getting older and there will be less opportunities out there. Don't back down from being yourself- you are only going to attract someone who isn't afraid of a strong woman if you are acting like a strong woman. But don't be too intimidating. Don't be too hard, or too soft. What, if anything, about this is available for compromise? Isn't marriage at least partly about compromise? All of those voices feel thin. They don't have the meat of the Spirit.

As deep calls to deep
Now you, who began with the Spirit, how do you think you can continue in your own strength?
Love one another deeply and from the heart
Do not lie to one another... since as member of the same body, you were called to peace

The Spirit challenges me and calls me forth in such a way that I have to be the most full version of myself in order to answer. These voices ask me to leave something substantive behind to "get a man." The voice of the Spirit calls me to bring all of myself and my values and to be transparent and honest with others. Listening to those other voices feels like a lie because they ask me to hide some of my fire, complexity, and fear. I think that I need to hang onto all of those things in order to honor the depth of the Christian life. So, yes, I think I do want to wait for a man who is capable of doing the work of marriage. And I think there is merit to the idea that the work of marriage-things like apologizing, owning and working through one's dysfunction, challenging others to be the best version of themselves- is more socially acceptable in women. What do you think?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Wrong Questions

For months now many areas of my life have been in flux - my boss took a job in New York; my roommate of three years got married; I left my church of thirteen years to join not only another church, but a totally new denomination; two of my dear friends and co-workers left to have a family and move to another state. And I complained. I am complaining.

Basically every day I am upset that these are the changes I have and not the changes I want. Why isn't my career taking off? or moving at all in any direction of my choosing? or at all? Why am I still single? How does eHarmony work anyway? Why am I without active or real connection to youth ministry? Does God still have a plan for my life that involves any of these things? Did I hear that wrong? Am I still hearing God?

Am I still hearing God? That is probably the first real question I have asked in months. It is a life-giving question that leads to another question for me- What is God doing right now, and how am I supposed to respond or be involved? Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 

I have all this free time. I am in the midst of many mid-level changes. No, they are not the changes that I desire, but this is where I am. Since there is no such thing as wasted time with The Lord, then what do I do with the circumstances that are right in front of me? God, what are You doing and what should I do? I have not been listening to You, not for months. I have been too occupied with wondering why I am not where I think I ought to be and making sure You know that I am not happy. How foolish I have been- how wrong to stop listening, to stop seeking You for who You are already are and not who I want You to be. You will not be changed, manipulated, or cowed. You Are who You Are. I love that about You and I love You for it. 

I have been wrong, and I have put all my energies into the wrong places for the past few months, maybe even years. I have been asking all the wrong questions.