in pursuit of critical and compassionate living and thought. in surrender to courage & delight of Christ.
A short-time ago, I succumbed to internal and external pressures to post a list of all the things I want to grow to become in a relationship, and will look for in a person. Here’s a couple things I learned in the deep end:
1. It was scary…but not why I expected.
Vulnerability is scary. This much I knew. What I didn’t realize was that posting this list would root out the excuses I was using to hide my values, and my insecurities. If people see who you want to be, in depth, it will scare them away. I had no idea I had this subconscious idea that if I were to ever find lasting admiration and affection from someone, it would be because I lured them into discovering my value. This shouldn’t surprise me, though. What are we told? Don’t give away too much too soon, guys like mystery and chase. You must *win* the girls heart. Its your inner beauty that counts, (but you’ve got to catch their attention first). If you do everything right, then you can let down your guard. Its the subtle message behind the glorification of the unassuming girl-next-door, the friends that finally grew to “see” each other, the mystery-chick, the strong-and-silent type, and the promise that nice guys don’t always finish last (and the bait-switch tactics of the “nice-guy” counting on this). We all want so badly to be loved and known – and this is what it is to be human. And yet, we are all so uncomfortable with the idea that maybe it isn’t being “enough” that will bring us into intimacy, but simply the messy, unpredictable mystery of being exactly that and no more: loved, and known. Time to stop hiding.
2. It did scare some men away.
Or did it make me more comfortable scaring some men away? Said the first gentleman to admit he Google’d me before a date only to find the gold-mine of personal information exposed in that List: “Well, I can say that some of those are very important to me…!”. After initially coming on strong, he ghosted a day later. And I thought, was it misinterpreted? Did he think I was looking for someone who was that List, rather than wanted to become that List? Maybe. Or maybe he actually had his own To-become List, and it was different. And that is A-Okay.
It’s easy to be disappointed with false-starts. Writing it all down with the risk of dateable men seeing it made me feel a sense of “So what?” if it ended possibilities prematurely. The List scares me. Its reflects a good portion of who I want to become, but really its an overwhelming heap of unattainable qualities. And I want to run towards it. If I do end up with someone eventually, I imagine it will be because they are also running to, and not away from a similar scary-unattainable vision of who they want to be. I’m alright narrowing the race out of the gate.
3. It attracted some men (though maybe a little too blindly).
Said the gentleman who also Google’d me before a date (really, again?!): “All this time, I have been looking for you…!” Gulp. (Cue re-ignition of the fear of giving people a false sense of knowing me if they read that List!) What’s the polite way to ask a guy to basically take a chill-pill and three giant steps backwards?? (Please advise…) When I asked him to take whatever he read with a BIG grain of salt as to who I am now, and what is not reflected by that list, he replied, “But how else would I have known of your heart for the Lord?! I am captivated!” Eek. This was also not what I intended. How else would he have known? By my speech and my silence in regular conversation, by my action and behaviour in everyday encounters, by the witness of my hands in stewarding Christ and Kingdom through my work, by the reflection of who and what I surround myself with, by what I laugh at, and what I mourn. If my “heart for the Lord” is only evident by explaining it on paper, then I have far to go in truly living in Christ. In this case, it was encouraging to be admired by someone for the things that are most important to me. However, the man’s undue early eagerness reminded me that this was the List of things that matter most, and that other things still do matter. (Not to mention – it was a good reminder that mutual vulnerability and information is vital to getting to know someone, and making each other feel safe!). I ended the conversations not long after for reasonable things that were not reflected in the List, or any type of quantifiable, programmable recipe for love. A List, is a list. A person is what I want… and want to be.
4. It kept me grounded when fantasy almost swept me away.
Eyes met, coffee cups were fidgeted. An impossible approach, an apology wave goodbye. But oh! We meet again! An unexpected repeat encounter, but so many lines to cross for a word. I laugh to myself (how’s this supposed to happen?!), then eyes widen, when none of the obstacles seem to matter. Hello! A lovely exchange of words, and a promise to meet again. All with respect, kindness, and a lot to admire. Oh, what movies are made of! Then I cancelled the date. (Sorry!) The more the Prince and I talked leading up to it, the more evident what I already knew was unlikely became. Prince and I did not share the same foundations for our lives. Mine was Christ.
It was very tempting to just go on the date – its just a first date! Not for bad reasons, but for all the wrong ones. For as much as I remain a proponent of the early stages of dating as a more casual project of getting to know one another relationally (again, how do you politely tell everyone we’re due for a chill pill??), I already knew ultimately it wasn’t going anywhere. This date-to-be was playing to my indulgence. We had all the things I am afraid to admit I was (am?) afraid I’ll have to “compromise” for this List. Matching humour? Hobbies and interests? Chemistry and attraction? Enjoyment and admiration of the parts of me that maybe don’t “matter” as much, but are truly part of who I am? Added to the list of what he had going for him were all the more superficial and culturally-inflated things we’d like to deny are attracting. White picket fence, great family, community father-figure? Financially stable, and doing what he loves for work? To boot. But frankly, Jesus and I aren’t necessarily going that direction. My subversive Jesus and His subversive Gospel had already turned my inner List-for-my-life around. Writing down the chapter on what kind of relational person I want to become with someone (and making it accessible to all the people I am explicitly and silently accountable to!) reminded me of what I truly want. Turning down what did not line up, was not a measure of self-discipline, but of desire.
I still wonder if I should take the post down so Google-ing dates won’t know more than I want them to beforehand, or get the wrong impression.
I still wonder if I put far too much pressure on myself, who I want to be, and be with, in thinking too far ahead.
I wonder how much I really give grace for myself and others in becoming rather than being this List.
I wonder how naive I will think I was in ten-years time.
What are the expected and unexpected rewards, challenges, and limits to your vulnerable moments? How do you learn to trust the process?