Sunday, May 25, 2014

Are you ever terrified?

 
Are you ever terrified
That your fears are unique to your inside?
That if you were to utter just one breath
To reveal that you are out of your depth
The labels would manifest:

     Bitter
     Ungrateful
     Ruinous
     Depressed
     Emotional
     Neurotic

The first letter burned to your chest

Have you ever been told to be mesmerized
That through someone else’s eyes
Your life is golden?
So you must be emboldened
To keep up the fa├žade
Of a first world demi-god

You are not allowed to express that you suffer
Because you have a safety net Obama-care buffer

Have you ever felt obligated to say and do and feel
And the only solution that you can see is to steal?
Steal words from another
Steal time from each other
Steal emotions from an  acoustic band cover

Have you solely focused on
Not doing the motions wrong
That even your outlet of creativity
Has suffered severe atrophy?

Have you even been so afraid
Of being wrong
Of sounding dumb
Of having your perfect persona jeopardized
That you are now paralyzed?

Have you even been excited that you were doing everything right
But then in your impatient plight
You convince yourself to take just one small bite?
Since who really believes that the tortoise and the hare were even a fair fight

Have you even been afraid that life will pass you by
While you sit behind the stained glass window of responsibility,
That you are not living a life that is sexy?
After all, few should use their 401(k)s to buy a bikini when they are sixty

Have you ever been so burned out on hard work
That you are terrified you chose wrong?
You chose the wrong friends
The wrong significant other
The wrong career
The wrong duvet cover

Have you ever feared what people would say if they knew your fears?

When the fire has burned you to your core
And left you with nothing more

Than your worst

When your confidence is shattered
And your hiding veil is tattered

When it takes all your energy to make sure the next words out of your mouth are not to make something cursed.

When you are driven to anger by things that were never said
When the fight is all in your head

When you are left alone with your fears that tango through your thoughts
And haunt your every step, action, decision
And leave you doubting any past provision

Do you fear that your community would never embrace you
That they would shame you and say
“get it together” and then walk away?

Are you ever terrified
That your fears are unique to your inside?
That your fears will burn and brand you
To the point where people can’t stand you
Because your cloud of fear will darken their day
And you will be a thorn in their way?


Yea, me too. Me too. 

*I am intrigued by the comfort people find in sharing secrets anonymously on sites like PostSecret. But I am also captivated by the power that comes from sharing fears and being known within a community and experiencing that community meet your needs. Nevertheless, however many times I have seen or experienced a community rise up, I have to overcome this fear of being a burden. Ever. Single. Time.

There is such strength and bravery in the words "Me too". 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Conflict, Conflict go away, Come again never.

Recently, I have been struggling with staying engaged in the middle of tension or conflict. And I hate conflict. More than anything Blue and Orange this week.

Recently I retook strengths finder for the third time. Four of my strengths stayed the same: Responsibility, Achiever, Competition, and Analytical. But I got a new one: Harmony. As my top strength. I nearly vomited. Figuratively speaking.

Harmony? Are you kidding me? It’s so…so “Disney princess, cute and cuddly, let’s play with woodland creatures and sing about how great our lives are” harmony.

But the more I read about it, the more I began to understand it and see it present in my life. See, I hate conflict. I’m pretty sure I can count the number of people that have heard me yell at them [soccer pitch and family excluded] or even express a need for conflict resolution.

I hate conflict so much that I crave harmony and will do whatever it takes to achieve it. Even if it means pretending there isn’t a conflict. Conflict makes me uncomfortable. The tension of unresolved issues and the gaping hole of an absent solution give me slight anxiety. I don’t want to deal with it.

Even tax season has tension [I am a tax account if you didn’t know]. There is tension between not letting my teams and clients down at work and not letting my friends down outside of work. There is enough tension that in order to feel like I can make it through busy season, I have to avoid the tension all together otherwise the stress of work + the tension of finding balance [and potentially failing] = crazy, crazy Amanda.

So I just put my head down, claim “Busy season! Don’t talk to me!” and just work until April so that I don’t have to engage the tension. When I know that I cannot achieve harmony, or at least it is extremely difficult, I go into a minor shutdown mode.

But anyway, my busy season habits and goals to fix them are another post for another day…maybe sometime in May.

Work life balance is not the only place I am feeling called to engage conflict.

Our church is currently going through a “transition”. Transition is a nice word for being in a period of waiting for the next step. But that waiting period is being prolonged and is causing tension due to uncertainty. Essentially, now many people have come to understand “transition” to mean “no one knows what the [heck] is going on.” Last week I started writing this poem:

This circular debate
Is leading me to hate
The words out of his mouth
Of wait
Wait
Wait

There is frustration
And stagnation
In repetitive
Conversation

Too many things seem to not be moving
Which only leads to proving
That we must start excluding
To feel safe in our own

[…]

I will admit that my resistance
Is from my perceived lack of persistence
You did not try to sell me
You did not even compel me
and therefore it is your fault
That I think that I owe you nothing

I can blame this bitterness on the visibility
of church dirty laundry
I can blame this bitterness on the church vision
that has become such a quandary

But at the end of the day, I am choosing bitterness

[…]

I have responded to God to say that I am sinful
but I have not admitted to you to confess that I am vengeful

No one meant this as evil
But we perceive it as so
And what we perceive as evil
God intends for good so let go!

Let go of the theories to conspire
And the need to maliciously lurk
Give God the benefit of the doubt
That he is at work

Let go of the past
Let go of selfish expectations
Let go of the things that cause us to hurl misplaced condemnations

We have been broken
So that we can be scattered
We are the church of acts
Do you see how less these little things have mattered

While I am here
I will not just take up space
I will not let this become a place
Be Full of Complaining and griping
About the wait
Wait
Wait

Don’t evaluate or judge too harshly just yet. It’s not done. It’s lacking…a process.
We have been in “transition” for a year and half and counting. And by now many people are getting antsy, distrustful of leadership, both corporately and locally, and generally feeling abandoned.  You’d think that the longer we sit and wait on God, the more sensitive we would be to his voice. Instead, since few have heard a clear voice, many people are deciding to use their own, which is causing more tension due to lack of trust and/or questioning motives.

This transition is becoming heavy. It is a common topic these day. More than common. It’s practically a staple topic. I think in the last few weeks, a day has not gone by that a conversation about the church has not violated my ears.

I say violated only to communicate a point. Because I am tired. [Not tired in the sense of rolling my eyes and being impatient. But tired in the sense of being emotionally drained and exhausted] This constant tension of dissatisfaction and distrust of this transition without a solution in sight is becoming heavy and I am tired of being reminded that we are in a period of tension. I am tired of trying to keep up with the discussions and debates and stay engaged in a community that is becoming defined by conflict.

*I agree that if there is something wrong, we need to talk about it. But I am also a fan of finding a solution, not just talking about a problem for that sake of hearing one's one voice and opinions. 

[I am tired, but I am not giving up or checking out. As I mentioned earlier, I am in my own season of learning how to engage conflict. Not peace in the Middle East conflict, but conflict that arises from the tension of waiting that is so easy to be unaware of until I am yelling at my boyfriend because he won’t stop talking about the church that he loves dearly. Yay for the things that remind us we need that learning process to become healthy people]

But if there is one thing more tension inducing than the word “transition” are the words “here from the beginning”. Our church is young, so we don’t know any better, but drawing lines in the sand based on who was here from the beginning and who joined later and who had a hard season of redemption where they had left and then returned is further dividing a church that is broken.

Because I was not here at the beginning, does that make me less faithful? Does that mean I don’t care as much? Does that mean I am not hurt as much?

Our church talks about family a lot. And I feel accepted and a part of that family until someone reminds me that there is an exclusive club that was here 18 months longer than me.

Maybe people don’t realize what they are doing when they repeatedly mention “here from the beginning”. And maybe I am the only one that is hurt by it or feels pushed to the side. But it makes me feel excluded. And there is tension in being excluded.

Not that this is a new turn of events, but in the past year, the theme of exclusion has been digging deeper into my fear of being unwanted. I have been left of Facebook event invites, birthday party invites, wedding invites, lunch plans, etc. 

I feel like I am standing on the outside of a metaphoric window, looking in at a party that I was not invited to, but thought that I was a part of .                                                                                                                                           
I by no means feel entitled to be invited and a part of everything…well maybe in my little self-centered world I do…sometimes…but really I don’t.

But being excluded is uncomfortable, let alone being constantly reminded of that exclusion. 

I want with all my being to hear God say it’s time to move forward, to move out of this tension of waiting and being excluded, which are themes in more than one area of my life than just church and for longer than this past year and half. I long to be able to move into a season of resolution and peace. But those are not the words I am hearing.

I am hearing “Wait”.

So I will wait.

And I will engage the tension of waiting.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Surprises.

On November 17th,  2011, I wrote myself an email.

"I don’t want just physical.

I want a relationship behind it. I want a guy who will send me texts telling me he is thinking of me. I want someone who will pick me up from the airport and just spend the day with me. I want someone who will drop what they are doing to see me. Who will surprise me on New Year’s. Physical may sound fun, but without the relationship it is more of a game to me of how far I can go...I need to submit to the ‘no’ I have been ignoring. I can’t help the feeling of once again, so close, yet miles away. But I can’t help but hear a whisper that God has not forgotten about me…"

At that point in time I was struggling with believing I was attractive, valuable, or worth pursuing. After 23 years of date-less Saturday nights, I felt like I was lacking in terms of something to offer; that I was ill-equipped to date in this world. I was gradually figuring out that I could utilize my body and sexuality to generate a second look if I wanted. And it worked. But it didn’t. And that became the tension. Flirting was fun in the moment, but I would always go home and know that there was nothing really there, just the boobs and the beer talking. Flirting with the physical was just something to pass the time, to not feel value-less for a moment. I wanted to be pursued and remembered by someone but I knew at some level, that that was not the way.

For the next 10 months I would reopen this email to remind myself what I really wanted and why I needed to wait on God’s timing. I would have moments of steely conviction to stand by this email. Then I would have moments of “f*ck it, that’s never gonna happen, so why put hope in it” For a while I would oscillate between hope and defeat.

[Jump ahead; there was a poem, some hard conversations of truth with friends, times of struggle, times of victory and times of encouragement]. 

On November 18th, 2012, exactly a year (ok, plus one day) after I wrote this email, Phillip asked me out. 

I had returned from a 6 week long work trip to India. I walked into church, hugged some friends, looked around and saw him, but he hadn’t seen me yet [or so I thought]. I texted one of the few friends who knew of the interest, “I see him, but I don’t know how to say ‘Hi’” We hadn't really talked before I left for my trip, but while I was gone we had been trading innocent “Daily India Facts [DIFs]” such as…


And


So there I was, standing around, not totally paying attention to my friends, but glancing over at Phillip to catch his eye and wave. 

Wave. 

That sounded like a good plan. 

I would wave and maybe we would talk about my trip after the service. Maybe he would say “see you next week”. Maybe, maybe he would suggest we get coffee at some point to talk more about India. 

But he came over, jumped over a row of chairs, gave me a big hug and before he said anything else, asked if I wanted to go out with him.

I loved this. 

There were no games. No wondering if DIF’s were leading to the friendzone. No will he, won’t he ask me out. No wondering if he wanted to be guaranteed anything before he invested time and money in a potential relationship with me. No confusion. 

I was surprised, but stoked on the assertiveness of his pursuit. At that point, all I knew was that he was interested in me because I had shared a poem and funny facts about daily life in India. 

And this brought a security I had never experienced before.

After our first date, I was smitten. The date was going great in general. We went down to Laguna Beach, ate some Gelato, then had some Tacos.

[My thought at this date plan – He already abides by the wisdom I gleaned from Mark Foree on Trek in Jr. High “Always eat dessert first. That way you always have room” --> potential keeper]

But what really did it for me was when I suggested we walk down to beach and walk in the waves a bit. 

Moonlight walk on the beach. 
Yes, I know. 
Go ahead and roll your eyes. 
And while you are at it, cue Lady and Tramp Bella Notte. 

If there is anything I have learned about this relationship in the past year is that God is constantly surprising me. While we were down at the beach, somehow walking turned to trying to trip one another, which lead to Phillip trying to throw me into the ocean, and if anyone knows me, they know I don’t go down without a fight, so if I was going in the ocean, then this new boy that seemed to be speaking my love language of playful roughhousing was coming with me. [I grew up playing with my brother and his friends. Tackling was a way of life. Also. Three words: 43 Man Squamish]

My thought after the ocean incident --> absolute keeper

2 weeks and 7ish dates later [yes. There were many midweek dates] he asked me to be his girlfriend. Again, I expected this to happen later, but surprises happen, you know :)

So back to this email. When I randomly reread the email [around January probably] I realized what had happened. Within a month of our relationship, Phillip had done all the things I briefly mentioned in that email. I had forgotten about the email, had never shared it with him, and even when I had reread it I thought it was just a romanticized and unrealistic expectation to put on someone. I threw those things out there as tangible examples to juxtapose against physical satisfaction. I never meant it as a checklist.

But God surprised me by answering a prayer I never necessarily prayed as a reminder that he hears and loves his children.

God had not forgotten about me.

Now a year later on November 17th, 2013, I am sitting next to this man that I deeply love, admire and respect, hanging out on a Sunday afternoon. He is working on writing a book while I am reflecting on life and watching a football game. We drift in and out of conversation and writing, he asks if “we” won yesterday [Phillip has recently picked up on the celebratory inclination of being an Alabama football fan], I ask how writing is going, he asks what I am working on, I coyly answer, "you'll find out". 

Next Sunday is the one year anniversary of our first date. There have been so many blessings and surprises packed into this past year. There have been so many elements of redemption of past relationship experiences for both of us. So many times of prayer, times of laughter, a few tears, never enough kisses, but plenty of hope and encouragement. Many things I hope to continue to reflect on and think about and share with others. 

But in this reflection, I am constantly struck by God’s timing. In a season of life that is frustratingly not where I want it to be – work, school, family, life, Phillip, etc. – I am reminded of God’s passionate ability and desire to surprise his children. And I am left with no other conclusion than to let him surprise me. 

So here is to more dates, more oceans to be thrown into, and more surprises from God

In other news, my phone has been autocorrecting “my love” to “my life” when I text Phillip. 

I’ll leave that there…

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Question 11

A couple months ago my boyfriend and I went to Yosemite
If you know anything about us, you know that he is the talker.
I listen.

Let’s play 20 questions he says.

20 questions you must answer.
with no diversion,
no avoidance
no reciprocation or
manipulation.

20 uninterrupted questions.

Deal.

We began.

The questions fell out in no particular order
Gradually unpacking my thoughts and feelings like a mental hoarder

Question one asked about art
To which I claim I have no part
Ironic that art is where we got our start
And where I currently stand in part

Artist is not a name I favor
But we’ll talk about that later

Question ten was harmless
But then exposed my raw emotion
Question five I forgot
But question eleven stumped me
It meant I would have to look at my lot

This three-part question has taken me months to answer
Because I prefer to avoid the disparity that I know is present
But its like living in a world of sunlight but using lights made of florescent

There is a disconnect in giving God eye contract
Because I recognize that there is a claim on truth that I lack

**

What do I believe about myself?
What do I believe at my core
Do I believe I am beautiful
Do I believe I need to be more?

I am tax accountant who loves rap
Who can spit a rhyme as a means to distract
I am an introvert who loves to be the center of attention
But is insecure about the audience affection retention
I am an overachiever who wants to accomplish nothing once in awhile
Somebody please tell me how all these reconcile

Balance is for tight rope walkers, Olympic gymnasts, and restaurant servers
Not for a life lived in unrelenting fervor

Competing beliefs are wrecking my mind
Peace and security are a hard find
I believe I am unworthy
But I believe I am deserving
I believe I am not as good as I could be
But I believe I give my best
I believe my potential is greater than my current reality
But I believe I have the ability to pass any test
I believe noise causes problems so I stay quiet
But I believe I have all the answers and I should be the pilot

I want to never disappoint
But I worry at the worth I must accomplish
I want to never to be forgotten
But I worry that my words are made of rubbish
I want never to sit and wait
But I worry how to use my time
I want never to be last
But I worry I how far I have to climb

I want to be something else because I believe I am not enough

I work hard to prove something for someone
As if I am fighting for approval to make a wrong undone

I believe that I am a burden and yet I turn my life upside down to fit into somebody else's schedule

I believe the world rests on my shoulders
That I have to be the consistent strong one to remove all other boulders
So everyone better get their shit together
So that I can lose mine for just one second
Because I believe that if I let go then the whole world will fall apart
But I am exhausted from stifling emotion when it starts

**

Mine is not the only opinion that matters
What does the creator think about his daughters chatters?

I do not pretend to speak for God
I dare not even try.
But in the quietness of my despair
He calls out each of my lies

My child my child
I have told you my name
Stop running and hiding
This is not a fun game
My child, My child
When did I ever cast you with shame?

You cry out to me in exasperation
And I long to show you joy in your desperation

When will you believe that I love you?

What if I climbed up on that hill
Spread out my arms and declared
I am the divine and I claim that one as mine

What if I called your name out loud
What if I picked you out from the depths of the crowd?

What if I delivered you from a metaphorical lion’s den?
What if I restored you again and again?

You are worthy of being loved by the sheer fact that you are my creation
You are worthy of being loved
Let me shower you with adoration

I will not be exhausted
I will not be expended
My pursuit of you is genuine
Don’t ever believe it pretended

I have surprised you more than once
I will do it again
Take a deep breath
Let go of your plans
Of mine, they have no resemblance

**

What do I believe about what God believe about me?

The God of the universe that created the mountains and plains
This God of the universe apparently knows my name

And what do I believe about him who names me
What do I believe about the God who claims me
What do I believe about how me sees me
What do I believe about how he must perceive me

My answer about a God immutable
Varies like a tune unpredictable

I believe there will be dancing in the throne room
I believe that the laughter of a child will ring like chimes in the throne room
I believe that sunlight will feel warm on my face in the throne room
But only if I enter with perfection, into this throne room

If I am blemished, this belief is revocable
I tell a different story of fear insurmountable

I try to hide from the shaking head of non-delight
I try to hide from his pending requite,
I try to hide from this revealing light,
But the shadows of the corner do not cover my plight

I can stand up on these benches and proclaim a God of unconditional love
And yet I step down and cower in the shadows bracing for the karmaic wrath from above

I have such a wrong view of my savior
His love and power and behavior
He is no paint by number creator

If only the inaugurating of this correcting process would stop
The evidence of God’s character is colliding with my misconceptions like
A theological bull in a reality built china shop

I don’t believe that God is a liar
But if I’m honest
I act as if he’s out to conspire

One thing I do know is that is redundant
I cannot live life abundant
While looking over my shoulder
And doubting the atonement

My prayer is this:

May my vision of God be not retrospective
But currently corrective
To see his hand at work irrespective
Of my present situational collective 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bikinis tops and Ugg boots

I miss winter.

Maybe because I saw this cover on this stupid magazine at my friend's house.


[And by stupid, I mean frustratingly amazing because it is an incredible magazine full of inspirational stories and breath-taking photos that aim to start a movement of believing in the beauty of woman hood. If only I could sit around all day and "be inspired" about the art of being a woman...why do I actually have to go out and do the hard work of being that strong, beautiful, inspiring woman]

Maybe I miss winter it's because the prospect of 3 more months of summer [without summer vacation] is depressing to me.

[And by depressing, I mean depressing. Those in the mid-west miss summer. I miss winter. Let's trade...Until I get cold and run out of food from being snowed in and then I'll take my sunshine back. My generation is all about customization. Why can't I customize my weather seasons?]

I grew up on seasons. Fall in the Northwest was a sight to behold. Trees were metaphorically lit on fire in September and October. Maple trees were the eye candy of foliage.



[Maple trees are amazing. Maple bars are delectable. And you can never get enough Maple syrup on your pancakes...James Doscher might be on to something...]

Then in November, December, and January, the crispness of the morning air was refreshing. There was nothing more scared than warming up for an early morning game on a fog-filled soccer field.


[Hypothetically, the looser my muscles were, the less diving on frozen ground would hurt. Hypothetically.]

The reality of living in Southern California is that seasons don't exist. Even though I moved to California for school 7 years ago I mourn Fall and Winter every year. I am most angry, bitter, and irritable the week the Santa Ana winds come to town. Not because I have allergies, but because no Halloween weekend should be spent at the beach. It's just not natural.

In looking back at that magazine cover, that is the habitat that I love. Snow. Super cute sweaters. And a Husky dog.

I want to go to there.

Have you ever woken up to a fresh snowfall? For a moment, the world is silent. I love silence. In my introverted head, a day sitting in front of a fireplace while it snows outside, wearing a soft sweater and drinking a hot mocha without the noise of people is WAY more peaceful than a day at the beach.

I think it's because of the postures taken during those seasons.

From a material wardrobe standpoint, winter clothing is comforting, while summer clothing is exposing. The nature of summer here is that it is hot.

Like grossly, sweaty hot. 

Unless I want to flaunt super attractive armpit stains and back sweat, I cannot wear my faux North face fleece, jeans, and pretend Ugg boots.

Less clothing means more exposure. Insecurity runs rampant in my morning outfit selection process. I try to wear pants as long as possible, I hate tank tops and on the not-so-rare occasion I curse the person that thought inventing the bikini was a genius idea.

Clothing is the best way to hide or expose. 

Winter clothing says comfort and security. 

Summer clothing screams vulnerability and exposure. 

More than just weather wise, I feel like I am in a season of constant summer. Constant exposure. Constant vulnerability. Perhaps only to myself. In the past 6 months I have become increasingly aware of "growth areas". Each month adds a new ruler to measure up to.

Self-awareness is a bitch. 

[Not only are relationships a mirror into yourself, but they are an extension of yourself. If I was not raw enough, seeing my other scraped and bruised is like taking a razor to my own soul. Too dramatic? Either way, it breaks me to see him broken. And when we are both broken, who is left to pick up the pieces? Maybe that's a place we need to be in. No self-sufficiency and no co-dependence. Another Blog, another day...]

I  am left to lay on the beach in a bathing suit that I spend more time checking the neckline on than actually enjoying the fashion of. One thing after another leaves me realizing how far I am from this art of being a beautiful put together woman. On any given day, I can feel beaten down and discouraged, that I'm not doing life right. OR I can feel inspired and confident and ready to dominate life. 

On the days when my eyes feel like a rainforest, I long for the comfort of winter. I know exposure leads to awareness, which leads to growth, but growing pains without Kurt Cameron can become weighty at times. 

I need a season of refreshment. A season of remembering. A season of hope. 

Not a vacation.

A season.

Bottom line: I want to wear a sweater. I want to feel water on my face that is not from my betraying tear ducts. I want a big fluffy dog. 

Metaphorically and Literally. 

[And metaphors and analogies are only meant to explain part of a situation. Don't rain on my parade by reminding me of the inconvenience of raking leaves, doing my hair when it's raining, or driving in the snow. I will just throw skin cancer and swim suit malfunctions at you!]

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sex, Love, and Saturday Morning Cartoons...

**I write this partially out of frustration of the expectations and assumptions of relationships, partially as a defense of my character, and partially so I don’t have to answer this question anymore.**

This is me.


This is my boyfriend.


We are fond of each other.


Very fond.

[This kiss supervised and approved of by Kevin, the creeper in the background]

We are not having sex.
                                             
[Nor are we engaged, secretly married or planning to tie the knot any time soon. The only reason we would be tying knots this summer would be because we are learning how to sail, which unfortunately the closest thing I will get to sailing will be the topsider shoes I just bought. A pretend sailing adventure is better than no sailing adventure at all, right?]

We are fighting for purity.

There. 
I said it. 
It’s out there. 
Out there to hold me accountable. 
Out there to start a conversation. 
Whatever it starts.
It’s now on the map.

I say fighting, because sometimes it is literally a battle. 

To jump on or not to jump on, that is the question…

I am very attracted to my boyfriend. It is not uncommon for us to have to sit on opposite ends of the couch with pillows, blankets, ice cream bowls and/or the kitchen sink between us.

When we recently went to Yosemite [see rad photo album here], we didn't share a cabin. I had a cabin to myself. He had a tent cabin to himself. [I had a heater. He did not. Poor guy.] We also were not there by ourselves. We went with his family. When I told one of my friends that we had separate cabins, she said, “You wanted to share huh?” The honest answer is yes. Yes, I would love to not have to say good bye to my boyfriend at night. Yes, I would love to fall asleep in his arms. But no. No I didn't want to share. Us sharing a cabin and spending the night together is a dangerous idea. Us laying together in bed invites temptation. Basically, what I am saying is that we have terrible self-control.

I’m not trying to be self-righteous or pious. I’m trying to be honest. I am fighting for purity and for a wedding night in the purest sense of the idea. But it is difficult. There are moments when I am sitting next to Phillip and every ounce of my sexually driven mind and body is telling me that waiting is the dumbest decision I could ever make. 

Mindy from Animaniacs is running through my head. “Why? Why? Why? Why? Ok, I love you. bye bye” 


I am asking a question, but never fully understanding the answer.

I will be the first to tell you that I struggle in this area. 

[Actually that’s a lie. I will be the last person to tell you that I struggle because I hate to admit I am broken and imperfect. But as this is an unofficial honesty hour, here is my struggle]

Often it’s a married person that gets up in church and speaks about sex and how good it is in a marriage. Often it’s someone who is at the end of that process of waiting that shares their retrospective experience. I would love to hear someone mid-process, someone who is committed to wait, but is facing the temptations of impatience currently. How do you claim future victory while you are sitting in a present that does not look to be ending any time soon? Since very few people like to share mid-process [me being one of them, but see above reference to honesty hour], here are mine and my boyfriend’s thoughts [click here!] on sex, relationships, waiting and Saturday morning cartoons…all mid-process.

***

The first time Phillip told me he loved me was in response to why he had to back away and stop kissing me because we were arousing each other. He had to stop because he loved me. He loved me enough to wait. He loved me enough to not want to come in between my relationship with God. He loved me enough to push me toward the King, not pull me away.

It’s easy to make a purity commitment when you are in high school, never having had a boyfriend and are attending a youth group camp where everyone is making that commitment. I have a dime with a hole punched through it signify my 9th grade commitment to wait till marriage to have sex. Not only did I completely miss the weight of that so called "commitment", but I was also 10 cents poorer…and a potential felon. 

[Please don’t ask me what the dime meant…I really don’t remember. All I remember is that it was cool] 
Church camp is weird.

It is difficult to keep that commitment when I am lying on the couch kissing my boyfriend. It is difficult to not feel rejected or unwanted when he tells me to stop and pushes me off of him. It feels lonely to be left out of friendships because I can’t participate in certain conversations.  It’s lonely to not be able to laugh/understand/tell dirty jokes. People in the church won’t talk to me about sex because its taboo and people outside the church won’t talk to me about sex because I’m not having it. I am on an island of sexual frustration.


[where I do not have a dvd player with which to watch the top 5 movies I would want if stranded on said island. Woe. Is. Me.]


I have always heard the analogy that compares pre-marital sex or co-habitating to test driving a car. "How can you commit to one person for your entire life if you don’t know if the sex is any good?"

I don’t need to have sex with Phillip to know that I am very attracted to him and one day we will have fantastic physical intimacy. I do need to know if I can have emotional vulnerability with Phillip. I need to know that Phillip and I can have a disagreement, hurt each other, be able to forgive each other and continue to grow in our relationship. That is more important to me in building a relationship than getting it on. Our ability to deal with conflict is a vital key in the success of our relationship. I'm not saying this is an either/or option, I'm just saying that in the grand scheme of things, the quality of the sex is not a deal-maker or deal-breaker. It's not involved in the deal discussions at all. Rather it is a representation of the deal that we have made.

I look forward to a wedding night where I can look into my husband’s eyes, knowing that we just promised our lives to each other and knowing that I will give myself to him fully and that God will delight in our union. In that moment, there will be no hiddenness or shame in sex.If we are being honest, there will probably be a high five involved.

Saying this while in a dating relationship and nowhere near engagement or marriage is difficult.

At times, knowing I have to wait is disappointing and frustrating, and dare I say infuriating. I start to reason and justify why we shouldn't wait, why it is a waste of time, why there is no need to, why it’s not that big of a deal. But it is a big deal. Not the mother-of-all big deals. But maybe a favorite aunt of big deals. So I need to understand why I am waiting in order to remove bitterness and stop imitating grumpy cat all the time.


***

I keep thinking about growing up and snooping around my parent’s room to find my Christmas presents. Generally this happens around early December. Every so often my inner detective comes out and I am victorious in finding said presents. I think it was all the Carmen San Diego computer games I played growing up. 

[Plus, mom and dad, let’s be honest…hiding things under the bed is so typical…Christmas presents and extra candy alike] 

When I found the presents, I did so in hiding and I knew I was not supposed to, so I couldn't tell anyone. I couldn't get excited about the presents or share my joy. I had to stay hidden.

If you are hiding, there has to be something in you that knows what you are doing is not right.

Christmas morning rolls around and I already know what I am getting. This morning is supposed to be full of wonder and excitement for what is under the tree. Since I already know, some of that excitement is lost. I already know what I am getting, so let’s get on with the charades of the pictures and the smiling so I can get to playing with my brand new Barbie doll with 3 career outfit choices and matching shoes...

[Dear Mattel, please make CPA Barbie, complete with a tax return and depreciation guide. Kindest Regards, Amanda]. 

By pre-screening my gifts, I have robbed myself of Christmas morning excitement. When I open my presents, there is not as much joy. It is perhaps a sick sense of entitlement to what I think is already mine before it is given to me. I have robbed my family and community of the opportunity to celebrate with me in receiving a gift and sharing in the joy and excitement of that gift.

My parents were always going to give me the presents. They were not withholding them to be malicious or vindictive. They were waiting till the appropriate time. Now instead of loving the gift-givers, I resent them for making me wait. I took matters into my own hands to claim what I thought was mine when it was in fact not yet mine. I have robbed my parents of the joy of giving me a gift because I now demand it. I have ruined Christmas! And apparently I'm a thief. Well, at least I didn't shoot my eye out…

***

If marriage is a picture of God’s covenant with his people [The Mosaic Covenant established at Mount Sanai in Exodus occurred with strong imagery of a Jewish Wedding (rad, right?) and the comparison of husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church in Ephesians 5], and a wedding is the beginning of a marriage, then a wedding night is the celebration of that covenant.

I understand sex as a celebration of a covenantal commitment with my future husband to be faithful to each other and to pursue God together. Therefore, it shouldn't be casual. Sex should be intense and it should just be for marriage.

Waiting is not about beating God’s system or sticking it to the man. Whether you wait or not, if you believe that God is withholding from you, it’s still a wrong view of God.

Waiting is not about pursuing God until you are married and then turning and worshiping your spouse through sex or even worshiping sex at the expense of your spouse. That’s an unhealthy marriage about to happen. Waiting is about claiming God’s faithfulness and the goodness of his future promises. Waiting is about valuing the other person enough to encourage them to do the same.

When waiting is now about something to look forward to, as opposed to something to endure, it helps.

Full disclosure: While I understand why I need to wait and I am confident in my decision to wait, I am still HIGHLY attracted to Phillip. There are moments when I want nothing more than to ignore my conscience and lack all self-control... There is still the tension between excitement and anticipation of the future and the current attractions of the present.

Waiting is difficult.
Waiting is good.
Both are true statements and do not invalidate the other.  

This why we write.
To encourage others who feel the weight of this tension.

Phillip and I are not perfect. We struggle. We push each other too far sometimes. But so far we have always stopped, and we plan to continue to keep this solid line. Despite the fact that we have very different past experiences with sex, we are making the decision [notice making, not made, because this is a commitment we need to be reminded of daily] to make waiting a part of how we are pursuing each other and how we are in common pursuit of God.

God’s intention with sex is not to withhold or impose impossible standards on our relationships. If marriage is a shadow of God’s covenant with his people, then sex is the celebration of that. God desires intimacy with us, and we can only have that intimacy once we enter into covenant with him. Same with a future spouse. The sweetness of the intimacy is truthfully experienced when it comes with a commitment.

Waiting is not a cure-all solution. It actually might create more issues if you are not on the same page as your other. Waiting does not ensure perfect marriages and not waiting does not doom marriages. Waiting is not about virginity. It's about how you are in pursuit of God. 

Sex is not a salvation issue. Like I said, it’s just the favorite aunt of big deals. But it is an intimacy with God issue. One thing I love and value about my relationship with Phillip is that we encourage each other to pursue God individually as well as together.

I know I cannot pursue God and claim his faithfulness in my life and have sex with my boyfriend at the same time when the very act of not waiting says I believe God is not faithful because he is withholding by not giving me what I think should be mine. Therefore, waiting is important to me and my relationship with Phillip.

So if intimacy with God is not a priority for you, then disregard all things said above. Although I still think it’s wise to avoid a roster conversation. Those are the worst. But if intimacy with God is a priority, may this be an encouragement to you that waiting is good and there is hope and redemption in waiting, even if you haven’t before. There is always space to be able to stop and reorient your view of God and his faithfulness.

[I think it’s important to recognize that many will not understand this reasoning and will disagree with me and I will disagree with many of you. But it doesn't automatically mean that I dislike you or judge you or want to cut anyone out of my life. I do not write to be attacking or accusatory  This is merely an answer to the question “why”. Both for myself and Phillip and to those who have asked. If this only serves as a good space for Phillip and I to work out our why, then it has been worth it.]

Thoughts?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Craving Grace

But its nature, saved by grace means acknowledging that there is something I need grace for. 

If I need grace for something, then I am not perfect. 

The realization that I am not, was never, and will never be perfect is like a dagger in my back. 

I was told to be perfect because my heavenly father is perfect. What do you mean I need grace? I am trying to be perfect like him! If you keep saying I need grace, then I can never be perfect! I can never achieve what I have been told to achieve! This is not fair!

However, 

We are made perfect through grace. 

In his book "Knowledge of the Holy", I think A.W. Tozer explains it well, "...so grace is His goodness directed toward human debt and demerit. It is by His grace that God imputes merit where none previously existed and declares no debt to be where one had been before"

Accepting grace [acknowledging in the fashion of Romans that I have fallen short of the glory of God and it is by grace that I am saved so that I am may not boast] brings me into reconciliation with a perfect God. The only way to be in communion with a perfect God is to be perfect. Grace makes this possible. 

Be perfect for your heavenly father is perfect. Learn to love his laws and commands and strive to be like Christ, but cover it all in grace for that is at the core of salvation. 

As much as it rips my pride to shreds to admit that I cannot on my own accord live up to the standards of my King, that is the first step in accepting grace.

I am not perfect and I crave grace with a desperation of a man under water craving air.