Day 3: She Used to Be Mine – Sara Bareilles

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Broadway.com

Serendipity is when you find yourself in the right place at exactly the right time. It’s also an incredibly cheesy movie starring John Cusack (worth the watch, though, if you’re alone on a Friday night with pizza and a bottle of wine.)

Allow me to be equally cheesy and say that “song”-endipity is finding a song that encapsulates exactly how you feel at exactly that time. It doesn’t happen often. Oftentimes I force meaning onto a song and make it mine. But sometimes, in those rare beautiful moments, a song comes to you, catches you off guard, and surrenders itself to your soul.

I could pinpoint a few times where that’s happened to me. End of May by Michael Buble came across my earbuds when I’d had my first heartbreak at sixteen. And it was the end of May. The words “Times like these you feel like you are done with feeling, you feel you wanna stop the pain from healing, because you feel like you’re the only one who’s ever felt this way” hit my angsty teenage soul like an atomic bomb. I could talk about that song, but that would just be a lot of sixteen-year-old Audrey crying all summer long over a boy who never noticed her. And who hasn’t gone through that?

Let’s look at this serendipitous song instead:

Day Three: She Used to Be Mine – Sara Bareilles

I listened to this piano ballad for the first time my sophomore year of college, when I was trying to figure out who I was. Sophomore year wasn’t the easiest – the sophomore slump is a real thing, and my depression was hitting me hard. I felt ill-at-ease about everything – my choice of major, my friendships and relationships, everything. On top of that, my grandfather died that winter, about eight months after my other grandfather had passed. Death makes me think about legacy – who am I going to be when I’m older? What choices am I making today that will define me tomorrow?

Sara Bareilles, whose power ballads and crooning vocals have inspired women and men for a little over a decade, wrote the musical Waitress in 2014 based on the 2007 film of the same name. The show made its Broadway debut in 2016 and is going nowhere but up, thanks to Bareilles’ mixture of soulful ballads and poppy tunes. It tells the story of a young waitress, Jenna, at a pie shop. She’s married to a horribly abusive man and is pregnant with his child. (Don’t worry, the ending is a happy one, but I won’t spoil it.)

Jenna’s ballad comes when her life has all but fallen apart and her husband has left her. She sings about her life thus far – her mundane job, her unhappy relationship, and now her baby who’s about to be born. The song’s deeper meaning is that she’s lost herself – to a career, a relationship, and her circumstances.

It’s not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person, and makes you believe it’s all true
And now I’ve got you
And you’re not what I asked for
If I’m honest I know, I would give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two 
For the girl that I knew
Who’ll be reckless just enough
Who’d get hurt, but who learns how to tough it out
When she’s bruised, and gets used 
By a man who can’t love
And then she’ll get stuck
And be scared of the life that’s inside her
Growing stronger each day
Til it finally reminds her 
To fight just a little, to bring back the fire in her eyes
That’s been gone, but used to be mine

“The life that’s inside her” refers to the baby that she’s carrying – which is honestly something she didn’t ask for, at least not with the husband she has. The life could also be something she’s suppressed for a long time – she’s spent so much time giving herself to others that she forgot to look out for herself. Now she’s all used up.

There’s life inside each of us that we sometimes suppress. I remember a time when I gave up a lot of myself for someone. I came really close to losing sight of who I was completely. This song came to me during that time – a time when I was trying to define myself, after a long time of being used and drained. What was I going to let myself be defined by? My loneliness? My neediness? My desire to fit in? Or could I find my inner strength again and let that define me?

The chorus that Jenna sings hit me the hardest. She sings fondly of herself, as though she’s proud of both her vices and virtues. She describes the dichotomy within her that’s relatable for anyone:

She’s imperfect, but she tries
She is good, but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy, but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone, but she used to be mine

If this song was sung by a man, you might think he’s singing about a girl he’s lost – a girl that used to be his. Instead, that typical breakup song is turned on its head, and we’re listening to a young woman who’s lost herself in spite of herself. Jenna is mourning the fact that she’s gone, and only has herself to blame.

Going back to Audrey during her dreary sophomore year of college, I’m glad she didn’t lose herself completely, even though she got pretty darn close. I’m glad that she grew, and she rose up and away from that darkness. She’s still pretty messy now, but she’s kind.

And she’s still mine.

 

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three men.

romance, love, breakup

You have loved three men, my dear.

The first was everything you thought you dreamed of. You met him unexpectedly, and when you saw him for the first time your heart fluttered. You knew he was going to be special – but you didn’t think he’d be special for the wrong reasons.

You saw him across the room and thought and hoped and prayed that maybe he was the one. And it seemed right. For awhile.

When you think of him, you think of late night drives. You think of scary movies and takeout. You think of the skin between his neck and shoulder that you loved to kiss.

You think about those things so you don’t think about the tears. The tears you shed when he didn’t respond. When he said it wasn’t going to work. When he said he missed you. When you found out about her. And finally, when he left. For good.

And when he left, he left you bleeding, didn’t he? He made you forget how to trust. You blame yourself most days for hanging on. But how could you let go? He used you, my dear. He used you for your soft heart, your gentleness, your goodness. He never meant to stay. The first man you loved saw your beauty and made you bleed.

The second was too good to be true. He was gentle and gave you bouquets of promises that you believed he intended to keep. You showed him your wounds. If you were honest, you wanted him to heal them. And he did. But his stitches were clumsy and the bandages fell off. He promised balm, but sometimes he’d rub salt into them instead.

When you think of him, you think of letters and flowers and everything romance should be. You think of long kisses in the hallway. You think of whispered promises and the glow of the dashboard reflecting in his eyes.

You think about those things so you don’t think about the guilt. You don’t think about the questions, the doubt. The inevitable end. You wanted him to heal you, but he saw your wounds and was horrified. So he left.

Don’t blame him, dear. He just doesn’t know how to love something that’s imperfect. He was afraid of your wounds. He wanted a doll, unblemished, unscarred. He was never going to love you enough.

And for awhile, you didn’t think anyone would. Or could. How could someone love you if you didn’t love yourself? You cried, not because of him, because of yourself. You thought of knives, of what life might be like without you. But in the midst of that, you healed. Your gaping wounds became soft, pink scars, mere ripples on your skin. You were no doll, but you were no monster, either.

Darling, I encourage you to love the third man.

The third man isn’t there because you need him. Your wounds have healed. It’s because you saw him and it made sense. He has scars to show you too. He sees yours and isn’t afraid of where you’ve been. He wants to hold your hand and walk with you to where you’re meant to be.

When you think of him, you aren’t worried. You’re not anxious about the future, but you’re thankful for every day you have with him. The third man will hold you when you cry. He’ll listen when you’re angry. He might be unexpected. He might be flawed. But he’ll be yours. He will see where you’ve been without him. He won’t promise life will be perfect, but it will be better.

The first man wounded you and left.

The second man saw your wounds and walked away.

The third man will see your scars and stay.

a. w.

The 4 Steps to Healthier Anger

dealing with anger, anger, rage, bitterness, healthy anger

Everyone has been “mad” before. There are different levels of what being or feeling mad is like. There’s what I like to call “slightly pissy,” which often happens when you’re stuck in traffic. “Highly irritated” is when you’ve been on hold with that dang company for thirty minutes. Downright mad is when you find out someone at the office has been spreading a rumor about you. And full-on, full-blown rage is when you – not your coworker – are fired for that rumor.

There’s justification in most anger. Sure, we could all get over our annoyance at slow drivers on the freeway. But when something happens that our gut tells us is just plain wrong, that anger comes from a place of justice, of a need to change it. Anger is a human being’s reaction to something that adversely affects them. 

However, anger isn’t totally arbitrary. You could see it as a chemical reaction, where you can’t control what will happen when you mix two substances together. But I see it more as a tool. You can choose how to manifest and use it. Oftentimes (regrettably,) my anger manifests itself on the highway as a middle finger. Or a loud, prolonged honk. Anger can quickly become bitter and untamed, causing you to do and say some damaging things.

Several things have happened to me this year that have flown me straight past anger and right into rage. This past winter, a close friend of mine hurt my best friend badly. I saw how it affected her and the term “white with rage” wasn’t enough to describe how angry I was. I lashed out hardcore at that hurtful friend, enough to get me blocked on social media. I regret the things I said to this day and wish I could have thought a bit more before I let my anger get the best of me.

Anger oftentimes goes hand-in-hand with sadness, disappointment, or guilt (all emotions that adversely affect you.) Anger can face inward or outward – it’s probably safe to say that everyone’s experienced both.

It’s not wrong to react angrily to injustice, pain, or unfairness. That’s the kind of anger I’m talking about here – that “pit of your stomach” anger, not just the fleeting annoyance of your fellow drivers, or sigh-inducing hold music on the other end of the phone line. But that real, raw feeling when you know it’s not just going to “pass.” The problem arises when we wield our tool the wrong way. There are two extremes that most people turn to when they’re angry: 

Bottle it up. You might be the kind of person who doesn’t express anger. You just stew in it for awhile until it goes into hiding. But if someone pokes the bear, the claws come out in a nasty way.

Take it out on someone or something. Maybe all of your anger comes out unbridled and untamed – all at once, on whomever happens to be around to bear the brunt of it.

Obviously, neither of these are good ways to work through your anger. But unfortunately, most of us revert to one of these two extremes when we’re angry. So what’s the solution? Is there a sweet spot between the two extremes? How do you communicate and work through your anger healthfully?

It’s sort of like exercise. Doctors don’t recommend that you stay glued to your couch with your eyes on the TV all day. But they also don’t often recommend working out seven days a week every waking hour. They recommend balance between work and rest to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In the same way, we can balance between shutting off and spouting off when we’re angry.

I’ve come up with four steps to release your anger without hurting yourself or others. There are lots of anger management methods out there, but here’s what I came up with after a bit of thought and research.

1. Calm. Think of the last time something made you really angry. Your initial reaction was probably something like clenched teeth or a spike in your blood pressure. You may have been tense and snippy for the rest of that day. The next time something makes you mad, let your gut react. A lot of times we can’t control the physiological, knee-jerk reactions of our body. But once your body has reacted, take three deep breaths (in through the nose, out through the mouth, all that.) This will naturally calm the physical effects of your anger. If you’re able to, separate yourself from the person or situation that made you angry. Stay off social media, don’t check your email – do whatever you have to do to make sure you don’t come in contact with the conduit. Do something that makes you feel calm. That might be hard to do in a workplace surrounded by stressors, but even something like squeezing a stress ball or taking a walk on your lunch break can free your mind from whatever is making you angry.

Conversation. Once you’ve cooled your jets, talk to someone about how you feel. You don’t even have to go to a full-blown therapist. Talk to a parent, spouse, roommate – someone who is willing to listen. And I’d encourage you not to merely “vent.” Ask for advice. Ask them what they do when they feel the way you do. And really listen when they respond. Make it a conversation instead of just a therapy session. A lot of times, conversations like these can help you see the situation from a different point of view.

Compassion. When I’m navigating anger, I go back to the wise words of our good friend Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. “You can never understand someone until you consider things from his point of view.” If you’re angry at someone, it might be pertinent to examine why you’re angry (unmet expectations, an insult to your character, etc.) and also why the person acted the way they did. Most people are looking out for their own interests, and that’s usually a good thing to keep in mind. Understanding that can turn your anger into your power to negotiate.
The next time you’re angry at someone and have to talk to them about it, first express how they made you feel. It’s okay to be up front about that. “When you said/did this, it made me feel [blank].” Follow up with your perception of the issue. “I understand that you might see it differently, and I want to talk about it.” This kind of conversation avoids cheap shots and arguments that get nasty fast. Do this after you’ve had time to calm down and think about it. Reacting with your knee-jerk reactions is never a good idea.
Note: Have this conversation with the person you’re upset with, not with anyone else. Gossiping is not a healthy way to express anger! 

Comprimise. When you’re angry, there are two ways to comprimise, depending on who/what you’re angry with. Both of them involve resolving the situation so you can go on with your life feeling good about that situation. You can comprimise:
With the other person. Comprimise is the best part of every conflict. Find a middle ground instead of one or the other (the whole two extremes thing) and resolve the issue. Shake hands and be friends/coworkers/aquaintances again.
With yourself. Sometimes you’re not able to confront the person or even the situation you’re involved with. It may be that the person simply doesn’t want to talk, or it’s a project/issue at work that you simply don’t have the power to address directly. Decide for yourself that you won’t go to the two extremes – shutting down or spouting off. Determine what middle ground you’ll use.

Anger will always be tricky. It tends to catch us off-guard, which is inconvenient and frustrating in and of itself. However, anger isn’t something we should be afraid of. Just because something makes you angry doesn’t mean you’re an uncontrollable rage-monster. It means you have a gut that cues you into what’s right and what’s wrong. And that is a very good thing.

If you know how to use it.

a. w.

Lord, Deliver Me.

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Lord, deliver me.

 

Deliver me from hatred into love.

 

Deliver me from anger into peace.

 

Deliver me from sadness into joy.

Lord,

Deliver me from

silence

when I should

speak

From complacency

when I should be

moved

From guilt

when I should be

grateful.

 

Lord,

Deliver me

 

from my careless tongue

 

my wandering eyes

 

my deaf ears

 

my hesitant feet

 

Deliver me

into love

when I feel

unloving

into mercy

when I feel

unmerciful

into forgiveness

when I feel

unforgiving.

 

Lord, deliver me

 

from

 

self-pity,
self-focus,
self-criticism,
self-harm.

 

Lord,

deliver
me
from

myself.

Lord,

deliver
me
into

You.

I believe.

Deliver me

from my

unbelief.

 

a. w.

 

The Five Habits of Highly Toxic People

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Photo: Hannah VanKampen

It was about a year ago at this time that I decided I was worth more than I let someone treat me. Looking back, I don’t understand why I let it go on that long. I wish I could have sat my slightly younger self down and very gently slapped her upside the head. (Seriously, that’s what I needed.)

What are you thinking? I want to say. Why have you allowed yourself to be a doormat for so long? 

And a doormat was exactly what I was, in a two-ish-year-long “relationship” that I let go on for two years too long. “Relationship” is too strong a word. He got embarrassed when I called him my boyfriend. He never met my friends, barely met my family, and left a pretty big emotional dent in my heart when he left for good. I blame myself first when I think back on that. I hung onto him through all the “yes” and “no” and “I can’t be with you” and “I miss you” and more wishi-washiness than Charlie Brown ever had. Afterwards, I jumped into a relationship I thought would be stable – something that I thought would make me feel whole again. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.)

This kind of person – whether it be boyfriend/girlfriend, friend, coworker, boss – is what we like to call toxic. When I think of toxic, I think of the radioactive symbol that you sometimes see in alien movies or those OSHA sheets that your employer is required to have. Those symbols and manuals warn the onlooker that whatever chemical they’re looking at can potentially harm them. You want to stay away from them because they might cause bodily, sometimes irreversible harm.

A toxic person can do the same thing. Once you’re “exposed” to them, they can cause irreversible damage to your heart, your other relationships, your faith, even how you feel about yourself. Like the safety data sheets at your workplace or symbols on chemical bottles, it’s good to have warning signs for potentially toxic people.

That’s why I devised this little list. Oftentimes we see articles entitled “5 Habits of Highly Successful/Motivated/Positive People.” But I think it’s healthy to have the opposite too. Not just to recognize the toxic people around us, but also to discern potential toxic habits in our own lives.

So here are five habits that toxic people tend to adopt:

1. People are commodities. Toxic people are always shopping. Not for goods, but for people. They need the next best thing. It’s like they’re watching TV and ordering the next 1-800 product that comes on the screen while the packages pile up unused at their door. For whatever reason (there are many,) toxic people require constant streams of validation, and once they stop getting that from someone, the vein is cut. Then once the toxic person cuts off everyone (which is usually inevitable,) they feel isolated, so they go back to the friends they cut off and make amends. It becomes a cycle. Shop, “buy” the person’s trust, feed off the validation, sense a lack of validation, cut off, repeat. This can happen in any relationship: romantic, friendship, workplace, you name it.

2. Relationships involve latching, not attaching. Although they sound similar (and rhyme,) “latch” and “attach” mean two fairly different things.
Here’s what the definitions of attach are:

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Source: Dictionary.com

“Attachment” connotes connection. In a sense, it’s becoming part of a unit (like in the military definition.) For the most part, it seems mutually beneficial. You attach a picture to an application because it increases your chance of being hired. You might call a healthy relationship an attachment.

Now here’s latch:

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Source: Dictionary.com

“Latch” makes you think of a tight grip, almost to the point of complete possession. Instead of connoting a healthy relationship, you might think of a leech latching onto your skin, or a baby latching onto its mother for food – a beautiful relationship, but at the same time, the baby is taking something from the mother.

What I mean when I say a toxic friend forms a relationship on “latching,” I mean that they cling to you with almost a death grip until they’ve been satisfied. A leech will fall off once it’s sucked enough blood, and a baby eventually is weaned. The need is gone, and there’s no more desire to be close to you.

Friendships (and most relationships) do have a level of costs and rewards associated with them, so a little bit of “latching” isn’t a bad thing. But when a toxic friend suddenly feels cheated in the rewards category, they’ll leave the friendship.

3. They put other people, even their closest “friends,” down to feel better about themselves. Toxic people tend to be toxic because they have a lot of baggage. Not to give them excuses, but they’ve probably been through some stuff. A lot of their toxic behavior is them taking it out and relieving that weight or stress. This can come in the form of heavily criticizing others. Usually, they point out their own flaws, but in other people. Oftentimes this comes when the toxic friend no longer feels the constant stream of validation and begins to lash out. But usually, the cycle will continue after this. The toxic person pushes you away, and depending on how forgiving (or, frankly, gullible) you are, you’ll come back and try to make amends, but for the duration of the friendship you’ll be walking on eggshells.

4. They’re a lot of talk but no walk. Toxic people love sharing their tragic backstory (because usually they have one.) Most people respond to this story in the way you respond to a wounded animal on the side of the road – “Aww! Poor thing!” Unless you’re smarter and more emotionally mature then most people, you want to care for the “cute animal” that is your toxic friend. You think you can mentor them, help them, even change them. You might be able to do two of the three of those things, but you definitely can’t change them.

Where the disconnect happens is the toxic person doesn’t do anything to help themself become better. They know and recognize their own flaws but instead of trying to work on it themselves, they “latch” onto other people who might be able to fix them. This is especially dangerous in romantic relationships for obvious reasons. That’s why you hear so many stories of women who think they can fix their boyfriends. “I can make him a better person, I know I can. I can fix him. People just don’t understand him.” It sounds really nice, but soon it gets emotionally draining because the toxic person is taking and taking and taking and never giving or sacrificing.

5. They’ll let you know when they need you, but disappear when you need them. This might be the worst habit. Toxic people acknowledge your existence for their benefit and their benefit only. The minute you need them, they don’t respond to texts or act uninterested. I call this selective attention. A toxic person is “toxic” because they’ve allowed self-centered habits to govern their life, so people only exist to meet a need (see #1.) I also call this a vacillating friendship. The toxic friend goes from extremely kind and affectionate to suddenly cold and temperamental with little to no explanation.

Now to ask the searching question – do any of these habits apply to you? Do you find yourself doing these things? It’s easy to point fingers, but it’s not always easy to look inward. I could probably name a time when I did each of these five things at least once. I’ve gone through seasons of life where I’ve suddenly realized how I’d been treating people and I didn’t like what I found. What about you? Here are some searching questions to help you examine your own life.

  • In the last week, how have I gone out of my way to help my friends? How often do I ask them for help?
  • Where is the first place I go to seek validation? What do I do when that source isn’t there? 
  • What do my friends come to me for? How do I help them? 
  • In this particular relationship, what are the costs and rewards? Does one outweigh the other in an unhealthy way? 
  • In the last week (or even day,) what have I said about someone else that I regret saying? How often do I say these things? 

 

a. w.

The Gracious Breakup

I’ll be the first to admit that I was full-tilt crazy after it all went down. But who isn’t when something that significant happens? When one day someone is there and the next day they aren’t? When it seems like everything you had with that person means nothing at all?

Take it from me, it can make you crazy.

Whenever your brain has something to think about, it will think about it. And a breakup gives you plenty to think about. It revolves mostly around the age-old question – what went wrong? And sometimes, you don’t get a definitive answer. It just went wrong, and that’s it. Not much you can do.

But then comes that fun part called “moving on.” I know we all love that. Trying to go at least one day without thinking about them, without checking up on their social media, without being…well, not over it. Maybe you want to get back together, or maybe you’re just angry or sad. But whatever it is, it ain’t easy to just “get over it.” Whether the relationship lasted two years or two months, it hurts. Because something that was there isn’t there anymore.

I honestly don’t think there’s such thing as a clean break. I think it just hurts – and it’s supposed to hurt. That’s what makes us human. But the key is not to let the hurt consume you. I’ll admit, I let the hurt consume me (not just in breakup situations, but in other “heartbreak” type situations, if you know what I mean.) I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to talk about it so bad that I did some really stupid things. Things that I regret. Don’t let pain do that to you. Honestly, it’s not worth it in the end.

Then of course, comes the Taylor-Swift-ex-rage phase. Where you brush it off and pretend you never had three emotional breakdowns in the last week, where you put on your best red lipstick and pumps and devil-may-care attitude. Everything becomes his fault. He was the jerk. He let it end. He’s probably a sorry sap right now.

I honestly think that fault is usually on both sides. A lot of times it’s communication, or lack of time spent together, or difference of opinion, or all of the above. Whatever happened, one or both parties decided that it wasn’t worth it anymore. Sometimes it’s no one’s fault other than you weren’t compatible. Playing the blame game usually doesn’t make things go any better. It just causes more anger and resentment. And I don’t think you want that after all you shared together.

It’s really easy to compare post-breakup. Who’s moved on faster? Who’s finally happy again? Am I doing better or is he? It almost becomes a competition. Well, if I’m doing all these things and accomplishing all this, they must be failing at everything. They’ve got to be, because they let me go.

It’s certainly okay to be mad. Just don’t get bitter. After I was sad, I got so mad. The anger was almost all-consuming. It leaked into other parts of my life. My days were spent swimming through negativity and cynicism. Honestly, I’m not over that hump yet. I’m mad at everything that happened. I’m mad at the situation we found ourselves in at the time of the breakup.

But don’t let the anger become bitterness. Because that’s a lot harder to heal than a little bit of righteous anger. Bitterness puts layers on your heart, like concrete that hardens over time. It makes it a lot harder for healthy relationships to happen in the future.

So, is there such thing as a “gracious breakup?” 

Probably not. Simply because the nature of a breakup is, well…breaking. And breaking isn’t a fun thing. Like, ever.

But is there such thing as moving on graciously after a breakup?

Of course there is. A good first step is not being too hard on yourself. Of course you hurt, whether you were broken up with or the one who did the breaking up. You can hurt. Because something’s broken. Broken things hurt.

A good second step is letting yourself feel everything that comes along with the breakup. Hurt, sadness, pain, anger. It’s not healthy to keep that inside. Let it out. Vent it to someone. Journal. Throw darts. Do what you have to do. Even if you feel like you aren’t “getting over” it, that will come with time. There’s no set time limit for getting over someone. But it will happen eventually.

Finally, move on graciously. It won’t be a magical switch-flip, though. Healing something broken takes a long time. You’ll have setbacks. It’s all in how you handle it. If you’re feeling sad, don’t text or call them (guilty party here.) Talk to a loved one instead. If you’re feeling mad, don’t broadcast it all over (also guilty.) Write it down and rip it up, or go for a long run and listen to angry music. Getting through it is what will help you get over it.

And friends, I know it’s not easy. But I do know that whatever is waiting for you on the other side of that pain is good. I think I’ve finally found my Good on the other side of the pain, and it was definitely worth it. So be patient with yourself. Keep waking up in the morning. Keep telling yourself that someday all of this won’t matter. Keep going knowing that you are worth far more than one breakup or misstep.

And that alone is worth knowing.

a. w.

Dear Young Christians: Stop Chasing Romantic Love.

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It’s a boy-meets-girl world.

We crave tangible affection. We crave it in different ways. Oftentimes, we crave a love that is romantic – long-walks-on-the-beach and long-talks-after-dark romance. Sometimes (oftentimes) we crave it so much that it becomes an ideal. Or an idol. This isn’t a new conversation.

We have expectations for the way our lives should run based on what we observe. We grow up, we go to school, we get a job. And somewhere along the way, we expect Mr. or Mrs. Right to come along. That’s how it happened for our parents, our grandparents, many of our friends and relations. Love happened. You might expect to meet in college, or during your summer job, or at a work party. You expect that somewhere along the way, maybe after a few duds, it will happen for you.

But sometimes it doesn’t. Either it doesn’t happen when you think it will, or it doesn’t happen at all. Not everyone finishes out their life happily in romantic love.

We’ve all grown into these expectations. When our circumstances don’t line up with our expectations, we begin to worry. If I don’t have a partner, something must be wrong with me. I must not be doing something right. As a result, we have incredible young single men and women believing they’re not enough, saying self-degrading things like they’ll be a crazy cat lady or a 40-year-old virgin – “forever alone,” like one popular meme. They’ve stopped seeing value in themselves because someone else hasn’t seen it.

And that ain’t right. Our value shouldn’t be found in that.

I’ve had a lot of interactions with single Christians, having grown up in a Christian environment. It’s implicitly part of the Christian algorithm to get married. If it wasn’t, churches wouldn’t have marriage retreats and Christian Mingle probably wouldn’t exist. In my opinion, this mentality causes desperation and devastation. If I’m not in a relationship/married by now, then something must be wrong with me. Christian men and women become desperate for companionship, and bad stuff happens when someone is desperate.

It seems to me that the church shouldn’t spend all its time and resources on those who are married. Marriage retreats and relationship self-help books have their place, but there’s only one kind of love that the church should be stressing above all others.

Agape. 

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Agape might sound like “friendly” love. Or “friendzoning,” if you will, because it implies a brotherly love. But what else does it imply? Unselfish. How often do we pursue romantic love to get something out of it for ourselves? In all honesty (and speaking from experience,) our need for romantic love rarely comes from an unselfish place.

There’s a reason agape has those three main definitions (I’ll get to the fourth one in a second.) Agape is vertical, horizontal, and plural. Agape reflects the love God has for us. Agape reflects the love we then show to others as a result of God within us. Agape should be present in all our personal relationships. 

Agape is how we should live our lives. I know it’s impossible for humans to be completely selfless, but what would an agape world look like? Single men and women would not feel desperate, needy, or “forever alone.” They would be filled with agape love. That love would overflow into every pore of their lives.

The world would be a love feast. 

What the heck is a love feast? 

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Media from dictionary.com

Who doesn’t love a good meal? Even better, a good meal shared with the ones they love? A shared meal directly correlates to companionship. What if we lived in a world where churches hosted meals, not specifically for the married or the single, but for everyone. An agape feast!

I am not married yet. I would love to someday be married and have children to raise with the love of the Lord. Marriage has sometimes (often) become an obsession for me (you should see my wedding board on Pinterest.) I yearn to live my life with someone by my side – a husband, a father, a companion. I will not find that by being desperate, by swiping through a dating app, by going to a singles’ group thinly veiled as a 20-something church group.

I’m well aware that I am not promised a happy marriage. None of us are promised romantic love.

Do you know what we are promised? Agape love. If you need a reminder of that, read John 3:16.

God does not promise us romance. To think that our end-goal as a Christian is romance cheapens the idea of love. God has promised that we have a bridegroom in Christ. A husband or wife is merely a bonus – and if you are privileged enough to have one, you’d better treat them as one of the greatest gifts you’ve been given. Marriage is a gift from God, when it’s rooted in agape. But He gives other gifts that are equally as valuable.

Set your heart on things above.

And go forward in agape.

a. w.