18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him….. 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
– The first book in the Bible, Genesis, chapter 2, verses 18 and 24. Cool story, bro.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how dangerous it is to love somebody. Really, I mean to love somebody well. I was dial spinning on the car radio the other day, and heard someone talking about this very subject. This guy was going on about loving someone sacrificially, understandingly, and in a committed way. You know, all the Jesus-type examples.
Friends of mine and I talk about this kind of thing all the time, on both sides of the gender divide. Men seem to be a little more predictable, bless their little visual hearts. All the ones I ask, every single one, start with “I have to love the way she looks.” Obnoxious, if I didn’t feel pretty much the same way, myself.
I went to something called a Meetup the other day. It was basically a dinner event with a speaker, centered around what God has to say about the character of a prospective partner. It was pretty cool, and thought provoking, and had the added benefit of a lot of supercute dudes.
Their were about 250 people in attendance,and afterwords, about a hundred of us piled into cars and went across the street to have tea and PIE. Hilarious! Just the word PIE is funny. Sheesh, I felt like a Baptist kid all over again. Pie! Not a beer in sight, or any other ‘adult’ substance, for that matter. I spent the rest of the evening chatting with a very nice, unmarried, midthirties gal who hadn’t found a Christian husband, and would very much like to. On my other side, I had a great conversation with a drummer from a successful local cover band. He was very funny and thoughtful, but surprisingly soft-spoken for a man with a thirty year entertainment career that included music, standup and improv comedy. It was really fun, and very, very safe.
I got to thinking, though, mainly because the drummer posted a message to me after the event. Perfectly innocent, charming, a simple, “It was nice to meet you, and I hope to get to know you better next week.” I responded in kind, and then thought about it. (Usually, it’s better to do that in reverse order. )
It’s been kind of fun to venture out into this world. Sometimes, I think those of us firmly in midlife like to delude ourselves into thinking that we’ve changed dramatically somehow. Sure, perhaps we’ve accomplished a lot, have a bunch of great kids, and maybe a lot of stuff. People like me get to a certain point and a rain of sorrow is to be expected. My mom was 82 when she died, after a long and fruitful life. What else could I ask for? My husband died of cancer. I miss him, but it happens, and the number of cancer wives are legion. I’m not an overwrought widow anymore, and I’ve moved into a new life.
But at the heart of it, what’s really changed? I like to have friends, grow my little Christian early childhood facility, travel, run around like a kid,laugh out loud, dance, and sing like opera star I wish I were.
In reality though, a lot has changed, thank God. I learned so much during my married life. Marriage was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and one of the most deeply satisfying.
Chris and I were kids when we met, still in our teens.Thank God we had the sense to wait until our early twenties to marry, but our cockiness is a little embarrassing to recollect. We were both convinced we could make a difference the world, and had found exactly the right person to do it with. We had, and we did, but the battles along the way were epic. It was a tremendous amount of work to love this man in an understanding way, but I was glad to do it. He felt the same about me. When we would climb a mountain together, literally or otherwise, there was nothing like it. Love, too, like Garrison Keillor says, is also about “growing tomatoes and washing dishes together.” A precious part of my history.
The speaker at the Meetup drew this analogy to love affairs in general- Gather a lot of kindling, pour a lot of lighter fluid on it, drop a match,and thing will burn pretty hot and pretty bright. It’ll also die really quickly. Thoughtless, physical love affairs are a lot like that.
As Christians though, we want the kind of slow burning, red-hot, stokeable, marshmallow-roasting, kind of fire that you can keep banked forever, if you do it right. This can only come with time, and a pretty fair degree of thought.
I’ve observed in friends around me that it is so almost like breathing to take the easy route. A male acquaintance once actually told me that he had found a relationship that was ‘effortless’. That the woman ‘made sense’, and he was passionately, head over heels in love. Two months after being introduced to her he had found ‘the great love of his life.’ Hoo, boy. Watermelon seeds take longer to germinate than did this love affair.
(Seriously, though, how dangerous is that. I tell my girlfriends that story, and usually get gales of laughter. Then they sober up. There is no such thing as a effortless relationship, or a baggageless human. To think so is to place a terrible expectation on any prospective partner. After two failed marriages and nearly age 50, you would think that maybe my friend needs to apply himself a little more. Oh, well. It’s not just children that can be slow learners.)
At any rate, I find myself asking “Just what do I want again here? Man-candy to look at across the table? Jovial friendship? Fellow warrior in the Kingdom of God? Reliable emotional support in times of trouble? Workout partner? Spiritual discussion partner? All of the above, and more, really. All of this while allowing whoever God brings my way to be his own, unique, completely alien, male self.
Study this picture with me, for a minute. I know the instructor on the right, just a little bit. These boys are Navy reservists, and I think this shot is a pretty interesting study in gender differences. Start on the left. The first strikes me as pretty young, almost a post college kid, a study in youth and naivete. Until you look at the number of kill shots on his target, and notice the missing part of his hand. How’d that happen?
I’m using Navy issue Beretta M9 Parabellum. Standard qualification course of fire with adherence to the timed fire guidelines.
The next gentleman seems a little bit older. Perhaps it’s his glasses, or the lines around his mouth. He also seems to be pretty generic, the sort of guy who could be your insurance agent, until you look at the number of holes in his target’s neck and torso.
The black man has that sort of guard up that I’ve noticed in a lot of fit, young black men. This is just a guess, but a lot of black men I know wear a carefully constructed neutrality on their faces. Another guess, is that they’ve had to do that out of necessity. This man is probably the local Sunday school teacher, and perhaps has gotten tired of being judged the badass former gang member, due to his appearance. Still, though, the solid shots through the heart give pause.
My acquaintance is the instructor on the right. Notice the way he leans into the photo, almost as if he’s straining to get out of it, and on to the next thing. I find that to be a very deliberate, masculine, almost dangerous quality. Very different than most women I know.
So what to make of all this? We are who we are, Jesus has created us vastly different, yet similiar, like puzzle pieces that fit together. It would be completely alarming to love one of the warriors in the picture above, or any other man, for that matter. Really, the list is huge. What if he died? What if I thought things would be easier that they turned out to be? What if he were unfaithful? What if he disappointed me, left me lonely, devalued me somehow, left his faith, or did any one of a number of dangerous things that would hurt me?
How can I know, how can I be sure?
Well, hell’s bells, I can’t. Do I really want to be? What fun would that be? Why not make a leap of faith, a leap of trust that God actually does have another messed up, wonderful, funny,humble, broken leader out there for me. One that wants to learn to love me well, just like I learned to love well.
Sounds a lot more satisfying to me.