What a crazy, mixed up world we live in

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My Dear Christian girl,

I write to you from a post-evangelical America in which the church has lost much of it’s influence on our culture.  To live as a Christian is passe, counter-cultural, and most people have no idea what it looks like.  Oh, certainly you can walk into a Christian bookstore and find a plethora of positive, encouraging self-help books below vomit-inducingly-inspirational Thomas Kinkade paintings, many of them outlining the “Biblical way to date” or worse, how to kiss dating goodbye.  To quote Tim Keller, the closest we post-evangelicals come to having a pope, “That should be the shortest book in history, because there is nothing IN the Bible about dating! It wasn’t invented yet.”  If you have ever suffered through any of these books, I think you will agree with me that contemporary American Christianity has nothing productive to say to those of us young-somethings that live in the real world, not an Amish village (or Christian college, which is pretty much the same thing expectations-wise), but want to get married someday, all the while loving Jesus.

So, I write to you, just a guy who loves Jesus to a girl who loves Jesus, to be truthful and honest about what I am looking for, what confuses or frustrates me, and to discuss whether or not this could work out between us.  I don’t claim to have the right answers, but in the dearth of anything helpful from those around us, at least I am trying.  I want to know what I should be looking for, whether we should pursue something, and how we can do that.  If at all possible, I don’t want to be one of those “disturbingly weird” Christians, but I know that doing things the way of our pagan friends isn’t the right way to go.  Where is the balance?

If you can muster the patience to read, would you allow me to present my thoughts on the matter, from a Christian guy to a Christian girl?

Thank you,

A Christian Guy

I am at peace

My darling,

I think I have written what needs to be said, for now.  I am at peace with what I have said, and am a much better man and Christian for having done so.  I pray you have benefited from my letters.  I have no plans to continue to write letters to you like this, although I may do so from time to time as the Spirit moves me.  Who knows, I may even write a whole series of letters to you.

But for now, I think the topic could use a rest.  I will continue writing on a much broader spectrum of topics at achristianguy.wordpress.com, but thank you for letting me process the thoughts that have haunted me.

Love,

A Christian Guy

Relationship Drama – Artificial Passion

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My Drama Mama,

When I wrote last about the difference between passion and love, I made the observation that as humans, we tend to desire love, but to pursue the rush that comes from passion.  Today, I want to make another observation that builds off of that point.

First of all, please know that both this letter and my last come out of my brokenness, and are a part of my penitent repentance.  I am guilty of having pursued women because they made my head go fuzzy enough to ignore all of the signs that we weren’t compatible for a long term relationship.  I am guilty of the topic for today: confusing the chemical rush of relationship drama for the intensity of passion, and even supplementing the waning passion with escalating drama so I can feel the same intensity.

It works.  There is a rush of feeling that comes from drama.  Fighting so that powerful anger can turn to powerful attraction and passion when the fight is resolved, wallowing in unfortunate circumstance so that grief can mimic the high we need, staying in bad situations because of a need for the intensity they grant.  We all do it at certain points in our relationships.  And some of us become addicted (or date someone who is addicted) to this drama.

It isn’t helped by Hollywood and stories.  We are taught from Disney to Shakespeare that the purest kind of true love is that which is fraught with drama.  Romeo and Juliet cannot be together nor express their lust (read the play, it isn’t love).  Ariel knows she is in love because she suffers from afar her longing for Eric (about whom she really knows nothing).  The love stories we grow up with portray love as coming about through (or in spite of) extraordinary circumstances.

Can I just say: I don’t want that.  I am glad for people that find love in the midst of difficult circumstances, but I want a nice, quiet, relaxed relationship free of as much internal drama as possible, eventually a marriage as smooth as I can get it.

I don’t want to live a life free of drama, oh no.  I want to live an incredibly externally dramatic life as a part of a greater story.  We all need a place in the plot, a purpose to why we live and try and love.

However, there is more than enough drama in the great battle between Jesus and the triple-threat of sin, death, and the devil for me.  I am a soldier being shot at as the Kingdom advances.  There are beautiful people captives to addictions, destructive patterns of sin, hopelessness and despair who need to know the rescuing love of the Savior Jesus.  The great story of God’s redemption has enough drama large and small for my weak frame to handle, and I want to engage as fully as I can in that script.

But that righteous drama is external.  Why would I substitute that drama for the drama internal to relationships?  I know teenaged girls are typically thought of as poster children for creating drama, but I see adult men doing it in quieter, but no less real ways.  We as a species seem to love the rush of emotion that comes from the tempestuous romance.  I think there are two reasons for this:

First, I think we habitually seek out the intensity of relationship drama because we are seeking passion and not love in our relationships.  When the passion ebbs, we are addicted to the hormonal high that used to be triggered by the other person.  We quickly find that we can achieve a similar chemical rush by blowing things out of proportion, fighting over insignificant issues, or letting small feelings run rampant and become big feelings.

Second, I think we believe our life’s story is closer to a fairy tale than an epic.  We live as if we are the main characters in the book and our romance is the most important relationship in the story.  The Bible, on the other hand, suggests that we are minor (but important) characters in a grand epic that spans the length of time itself; the story of God redeeming his fallen creation.  In THAT story, the main character is Jesus, and the most important relationship in our life is the one we have with God.

I know my marriage will be rocky.  Partly because I will marry another sinful being and will proceed to drive her nuts.  Partly because Satan hates Christians and will try everything to distract us from the real war, and hates marriage in particular and tries to break the godly ones.  I hope to keep the context of the great story during those difficulties and fights.  I hope to remember that we are all a part of the ongoing redemption of God.  I hope to remember that my wife and I are just minor characters in that story, and that we must keep our eyes on Jesus.

In closing, let me leave you with a quote from the Bard himself that reminds me of the greater story in which we get a small scene.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts

As You Like It  Act 2, Scene 7.  W. Shakespeare

Your minor character,

A Christian Guy

Passion versus Love

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My Patient Partner,

We humans love love.  We are designed in the image of the infinite-love himself, to love and be loved by him, and to love like him.  When we receive love from others, our souls resonate with joy, for we are created to give and receive love.  We long for love.

But so often, we mistake passion for love.  In our culture, when we singles say “I am in love” it most often means “I feel passionately about this person”.  I understand why.  Love is quiet, safe, accepting, forgiving, patient, and a decision to make, sometimes in the face of challenging circumstance.  Passion is hot, hormone heavy, intense, a rush of pleasure and emotion, unmistakable, and a reaction to circumstances, not a decision.  So I understand how we humans confuse passion for love.  The two accompany each other in most romances, but passion is noticed in the intense burning enjoyment of another while love is most noticeable in the midst of pain and difficulty.  Of course we long for the ease and thrill of passion.

Passion dies, however.  Love can last for a lifetime, because it is a decision and won’t burn out, but passion is like burning paper; it will consume itself and become cold again if given a little time.  At this point, romances are revealed as either passion or true love.  True love isn’t a sustained burning passion, but the glowing embers that remain when the kindling burns out.

Why then do our relationships go from passion to passion?  We profess that we want to find that life-long love, but we base our dating decisions almost solely on how many beats per minute our heart rate elevates around someone.  Then, when we come down off of the high, we break up to find someone who will give us a new rush.  Could it be that the ENTIRE dating culture has become built around passion and not love?  I am not talking about dating the world’s way, I am talking about Christians, courtship, everything.  Courtship can become a rule-soaked passion for another bottled so tightly by rules and admirable restraint that it has no outlet, no oxygen, no way to burn, and so the couple never discovers if they love each other; because they can’t see past the repressed, unexpressed passion.  At the marriage, they kiss, then they go have a lot of sex, and that bottled passion is finally given the room to breathe and consume itself.  Then, after a few months, they wonder “who am I married to?” and “why is our love fading away so quickly?”  Was the love ever there, or was it just passion?

I hate to say it, but I think Christianity is doing a worse job at this than the world.  If you aren’t a Christian, it is legitimate to be looking just to “hook up”.  That’s just  an honest chasing of the high of passion, and is remarkably well constructed to achieve the stated goal.  If you are a Christian, though, you can’t have hooking up as your end goal.  Hopefully, you are looking for love.  Then why are so many of us only considering dates with those we would want to hook up with, if we would let ourselves?

What if, instead, we looked for lovable qualities in our prospective dates, and let passion ebb and flow on top of the solid foundational coals of love?  What if we went on dates with amazing people we felt NOTHING towards, knowing that the feelings will follow if we decide to pursue a relationship?  Is this radical?  Is this throwback?  Is this timeless?  Is this foolishness?

I don’t know, but the lack of meaningful leadership and vision in “Christian Singleness” has resulted in an incompatible promise of the worst of both worlds.  We learn to evaluate through a (largely) unchallenged worldly lens of thrill seeking while nurturing a deep, Godly desire for lifelong Christian love and companionship.  Meanwhile, in the real world (i.e. outside your youth group), we are legitimately confused when we have a series of broken relationships with fantastic people who sent our heart a-twitter, but failed to kindle the coals of love and commitment.  We have believed the pervasive, false promise of our Christian age that if we A) stay pure ’till marriage and B) marry a Christian and C) keep a boatload of rules added to the mix that only confuse and shame those of poor self-control, then D) We will have life-long passion with the love of our life.  I am sick of these lies!  I want the hot, scalding passion.  But more, I want the deep, intimate, and quiet love of and for an amazing woman of God.  When I find it, there will be many periods throughout our life and marriage of amazing passion and heat and fireworks.  There will also be seasons of waning passion.  During those warm-ember times, instead of panicking that “the thrill is gone“, I will still be with my best friend and trusted companion.  What does it matter if one of those times of companionship rather than burning passion is right at the beginning?

Don’t even get me STARTED on the media-sustained passion-substitute called drama.

Frustrated, but honored to have had your ear and attention,

A Christian Guy

That which I will not to do

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My Disappointed Damsel,

Please forgive me.

Not for what I have done, or necessarily what I haven’t done.  Not even for who I have been.  Please forgive me for who I haven’t been.

You inspire me to live my true life.  God created me an acorn, and I have a tree to grow into.  God has given us both glimpses of who that will be, but it’s like a suit coat on a teenager: it is baggy for now.  I don’t yet fill it.  When I finally do, I think I will find myself in a casual conversation with St. Peter.  In the meantime, I feel like I am imitating my potential, or, in darker moods, I feel like I am pretending to be that person who I not-yet am.

Every time I am around you, I clearly hear the call to live into that potential.  But the reflection of myself that I see in your eyes is not well known to me.  He does not look like the person who co-habitates my life. In my core, I am the me that was born again, but always living with the momentum of the me-that-was-born-and-daily-dies.  It’s not that the old self has power, but only that the terrain has become accustomed to it.  Even if all of the deer of a forest die, the trail will remain for years.  Making a new trail is hard work.

And I am weak.  So very, very weak.  Some days, I walk down the old trail and don’t even glance at the new.  Others, I sit and do nothing.  I am grieved that I am so weak I cannot even shed my weakness.

I wish I could be your Aragorn.  Ever strong when you need me, steadfast and faithful.  The truth is, I am more of a Pippin.  I feel in over my head almost all the time, more interested and capable in sitting down to a feast than battling orcs.  I feel inadequately prepared for our relationship and life in general, and all I can do is hope that my infrequent efforts catch a whiff of luck and keep me from death or dismemberment.  It’s not the picture of a brave warrior who rescues damsels in distress, but such am I.

Yesterday, I wasn’t living in light of my potential.  I wasn’t heeding the call God has placed on my life.  I have repented, but there will be many more days like that to come.  I asked God to show me what living in grace means, and he keeps showing me how hopeless I am without him.  I don’t deserve anything admirable, and his intervention and strength in spite of my weakness is my only explanation for the few times things go right or good in life.

Forgive me for not being who I should.  Forgive me for disappointing the reflection in your stricken eyes.  Forgive me for being to wise to promise it will never happen again, because I know it will.

On days like this, when I pick myself up from the mud and put just one foot in front of the other, I thank God for excellent travelling companions such as yourself, my sweet, disappointed damsel.  Please walk with me in his grace.

Your meek hobbit,

A Christian Guy

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