Tag Archives: relationships

variousthoughtsonlove

A Celebration of Heroic Love

It’s the week of Valentine’s Day. Barf.
(Okay, not really. But I’ve never been a fan of how people obsess over this overly-commercialized holiday.)

For the past few years around V-Day, I’ve been posting pieces about singleness and how amazing it is. Stick-it-to-all-those-sillies-who-make-such-a-big-deal-out-of-this-stupid-day type posts. Because I’m fine with being single. Okay? Okay??? Geez. (In fact, I’ve never been one to mope over being single–although I’ve definitely had my down days–but I’ve always tried to fully embrace the present and be content wherever life may have me.)

But I’m not going to write a celebratory post on singleness this time. Although if you want to read my posts on singleness, please do so here and here and here. Because they are really good posts. I’m quite proud of them, actually. ;)

Instead, I wanted to celebrate love. And not in the way you may think…

***

“A genuine falling in love . . . is a capitulation to the beautiful. Falling in love here does not refer to superficial infatuations or egocentric lust but rather to a selfless commitment made to a fascinating beloved. While this is seen in ideal and holy marriages, it is especially clear in the case of saints who are head over heels in love with the supreme Beloved, whose name is God. Saints see and are smitten. The heroic response is the only response. They know from experience that anything less than everything is simply not enough.” [Fr. Dubay]

Our culture worships the idea of love and romance and all the things it entails. And yet, I think it often focuses on the wrong things. We are obsessed with the idea of obsession and infatuation. To many, getting lost in another is love. You lose yourself in this black hole of another, and you forget all your other friends, and you don’t care about anyone else, and you are consumed…

Then, of course, there’s the sexual aspect of relationships. I don’t think I need to say a ton about how our culture obsesses over sex. The only thing anyone seems to care about anymore is if the other person is “hot” and will be good in bed.

And yet, healthy, good love is not losing oneself in another. Neither is it just sleeping around with the hottest person(s) you can find. Healthy love is when two people can come alongside each other while still maintaining their separate identities, respecting one another and striving to push each other onward in each of their callings.

Love is not about obsession. It’s about selfless clear-headedness in evaluating if certain actions will harm another or disrespect another.

Love is not about lust. It’s about controlling oneself so that one’s desires don’t make another into an object simply to use for one’s sexual gratification.

Love is SO MUCH MORE.

It’s seeing another person as a human being wrought in the image of God. It’s striving in words and deeds to help another person be all they can be–and not drag them down to be something they are not.

Love is standing in the gap for another when they need it the most. Love is holding someone as they cry and not being afraid of negative emotions. Love is celebrating in one’s triumphs even when they are not (or are better) than your own.

Love is messy. Love is hard. Love is heroic.

Love can be found in so many different kinds of relationships.

It’s found in parents who provide for their children, and in siblings who call each other every week to catch up on life, and in friendships where one can be real and vulnerable, and in strangers who pass each other on the street with a kind word…

Love can be found in every human interaction. In how you treat the store cashier and how you give to the needy and how you don’t shout at that annoying child and how you rescue a stray animal off the side of the road.

It’s everywhere, people. Everywhere. Not just in romantic relationship. Love should just be part of our existence in every interaction because every human we encounter deserves to be treated with love.

That’s what it’s like to get swept up in the Beloved. That’s what I think the quote I quoted above is about. If you get caught up in God, and you embrace Him as the ultimate Beloved, then it changes everything. When you embrace that love, you can live in love. It pours out of you. Every small little thing shouts of a Great and Infinite Love that is beyond anything we could’ve ever imagined.

It’s far deeper than a simple romantic attachment between two people.

You smell it in the wind and see it in a rainbow and hear it in a bird’s song.
You feel it in a brother’s protection and see it in a child’s smile and taste it in a mother’s cooking.

I love my God, and I love my world because I love my God.
I see the beauty of love everywhere.
I see that it’s a powerful force that can heal and transform each and every one of us.

So I guess all I’m trying to say is…

Don’t limit your celebration of love.
Don’t get so caught up in whether you have someone or not.
Don’t get so caught up in chocolates and cards and dinner dates.

Don’t miss out on Love.

The heroic love that puts people first no matter if you’re in a romantic relationship with them or not. The self-sacrificing love that is just there for people even when you’re not getting anything out of it in return.

That’s Love.

That’s what I’m celebrating this week.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
[1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV]

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
[John 13:34 NIV]

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On Love & Control in Relationships

One thing I have been thinking about a lot this past summer is love, relationships, and control.

I did a series in July on past relationships with guys, and how painful it’s been for me. How manipulated, controlled, and violated I felt many times as I desperately tried to gain a boy’s love. I didn’t know what love was, and so I let guys walk all over me. I’d change everything for a guy if I thought that’d make him stay. I was attracted to abuse, and I mistook it for love. I have never, ever once felt that a guy loved me. He only wanted to control me.

This month, Boze Herrington took over my blog and wrote about being in an oppressive cult environment where everything was becoming increasingly controlled. Where the concept of the love of God became twisted to control a whole group of people. Where God’s love was withdrawn when people did not follow the leader’s every command.

I think it’s really hit me this summer.

Love is not about control.

It’s not about making someone look, act, think, or feel exactly like you do.

It’s not about making someone cater to your every whim or fancy.

It’s not about manipulation or force –even when it’s masked as something “spiritual.”

Love is about seeing the person as a person, about encouraging them to be all they can be, and about helping them face their brokenness with courage.

Love is about walking alongside another and giving them all the resources they need to blossom into who God has made them to be.

An artist.

A scholar.

A writer.

An engineer.

A doctor.

A mother.

A husband.

It can mean so many different things to so many different people.

Yet unlove comes when we force people to conform to our version of what we think they should be. It’s when we say, “Everyone must be a missionary and preach on corners. That is the holiest way to follow God.” Or, “Everyone better be really outgoing. God hates quiet people.” Or, “I don’t like that you drink sometimes, you’re sinning.” Or, “If you really loved me, you’d sleep with me.” Or any other thing someone can say to control your behavior.

This is so unlike God it makes me angry just thinking about it.

God loves each and every person–each and every broken, flawed individual in this world. He calls to each one lovingly, tenderly: “Come back to me. I love you, no matter how messed up you might feel. No matter how broken. No matter how confused. I can handle your darkness, your questions, your pain. Come to me.”

And yet, here’s the tricky part. Because God loves, He does call us out of brokenness. He calls us to wholeness, to holiness. He does tell us thing we should and shouldn’t do. And this can be a hard, hard battle. But God loves us too much to let us stay in the mire of our darkness. He calls us higher, He calls us to freedom. And He walks alongside us no matter how many times we stumble.

It’s a choice. The choice to embrace love, the choice to heal, the choice to find freedom in God…

The beautiful thing about God is that He never, ever forced us to love Him. He gave us a choice. That’s the beauty of true Christianity. A God who gave humans the chance to choose to love. To have free will. To respond to His love.

And yes, God’s love can draw us toward Him. God’s Spirit can speak and direct us. But God never forces us. He brings circumstances into our lives that direct us. Yet we can choose to follow Him or not.

How hard is this for God? The all-powerful God of the universe lets us have free will. He lets us choose to love Him. He lets us choose to reject Him. He beckons to us all, He died to save us, but He will never make us love Him.

Love is not love if it’s forced.

I’ve been in love. I’ve loved deeply. And my love has been rejected. I know what it’s like to reel from the pain of rejection. But let’s be honest–if the person I loved had been forced to love me back, wouldn’t it have been empty? If I could’ve made him love me, wouldn’t it have been cheap love? False love?

Real love is a choice.

And God wants us to choose. To choose Him.

It’s a dance. He asks, and we must respond. His Spirit leads, but we must follow. It’s give-and-take. And it’s the most beautiful dance we could could ever embark on.

But it’s not about control.

singleness

Singleness and the Church – Guest Post on Convergent Books

I’m a guest blogger over at Convergent Books today! Today, I’m talking about the honorable state of singleness and the great history of singleness in the church. One of my favorite topics in the world. (No joke. It really is.)

Read it! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Here’s an excerpt to pique interest…

singleness

Singleness and the Church

At church one time I was talking with some older ladies. Our conversation went something like this:

“So, are you married?”

“No.”

“Oh.” You could  hear the disappointment in their voices. As if there was nothing more to talk about now that they knew I wasn’t a mother or wife like them.

This has happened many times in a variety of settings. Married Christian woman act disappointed and dismissive once they find out I’m single. No matter what I talk about—be it my love of hiking, my work to protect girls from human trafficking, my endeavors in writing—it’s all met with an odd silence. With a disapproving show of disinterest.

Because I’m single, I am nothing. Or maybe, in their world, I’m broken and in need of fixing.

Read the rest here.

convergent

kiss

Boys, The Good & The Bad – Part III: The College Years

Here is Part III of my four part series on “Boys, The Good & The Bad.” You can read Part I and Part II here. This series is a look back on my life and my interactions with boys. My purpose for this series is to show both the pain and the encouragement that males can bring to females. It’s to explore the ugliness and beauty of relationships with the opposite gender. It’s a complicated issue, but so many us of struggle with our identity when it comes to the opposite gender. We have a profound impact on each others’ lives, for good or for ill.

kiss

***

Needless to say, I enter Bible college a broken mess.

For two years, I’d loved a boy who never loved me back. I poured my heart out trying to save a broken boy who drained me of all emotion and made me hate myself because he didn’t look at me once in the way I looked at him. I’m recovering from anorexic tendencies, still struggling intensely with self-hatred and depression, and I have so many questions as to why that whole boy mess happened in the fist place.

Now, I’m surrounded by boys. Some of them are interested, some of them flirt with me. I just cant. I can’t do it yet. I stare at myself in the mirror and think, “What do they see in me that I don’t?” I wonder if I’m pretty. I just don’t know. All I can see is a girl who wasn’t good enough for the boy she loved so deeply.

I’m lonely. I don’t want to date yet. I just want a friend. I pray to God one night, “I just want one guy friend who will simply be my friend all four years here at Bible college. Just one friend who won’t expect anything from me.”

A few days later, *Alex, who is in the same First Year Transitions group I’m in, walks up to me after class, shakes my hand, and tells me, “I’m Alex. I don’t like you or anything. But I want to be your friend.”

I’m blown away. I don’t like him either. Phew.

He sees me a few days later, and we sit at a soccer game cheering on our school’s team. He tells me if our team scores a point, he’ll give me an avocado. Our team scores 8 points. He has to ask another girl friend of ours where to get me an avocado. But he gets me one.

As the months pass, he asks me how I’m doing, and I hesitantly respond. But our friendship slowly grows. I know he’s safe. I know he doesn’t want anything from me. It takes a while, but he is a friend all four years of Bible college.

A friend God gives me in His great mercy.

A friend who simply cares.

***

My sophomore year in college, I date Boy Two. I actually start liking this guy my freshman year in college, and it carries over into sophomore year. I really think he’s awesome. He’s smart and likes theology and art. I am convinced God wants us to be together. I am so attracted to him (which is funny to think about now–he really wasn’t that amazing). I like his facial hair. And….and darn it. I just can’t get him out of my head.

Finally, in a burst of “stepping out in faith,” I Facebook message him my number. I know girls aren’t supposed to do that, right? We’re supposed to let a guy pursue us. Well, I failed.

About a month later, he finally calls (he’s been warming up to me before that). We hang out, we study.

He tells me we’re just friends.

Okay, fine, I think. I can do this again. It’s not like Boy One. I learned my lesson. I don’t have to give my heart away like that.

A day later, he calls me again. We hang out another time. “I think I want to give you a chance.” He tells me. “We’ll see how this goes.”

Suddenly, things are turning around. God truly does want us to be together.

***

We don’t-date-but-actually-do-date-because-we-hang-out-ALL-the-time-alone-together for a few months. This entire time, he’s up and down. Sometimes, he tells me that he likes me and just can’t stop thinking of me. Some days, he tells me he doesn’t know what to do with me. “I mean, I like you. I just don’t know if I should date you,” he says. “I’m really, really praying about it. God is just going to make it clear. I mean, I want to date you, I just don’t know if God wants it.”

This is confusing to me. I feel as God wants us to date. Why isn’t Boy Two getting the clue? But I like him so much, and so I just go along with it.

One evening, he asks me, “So…why should I date you?” Although I don’t see it at the time, it’s a subtle “What’s in it for me?” type question. He wants to know if I’ll be worth it. If I’m worth his time and effort.

What do I say to something like that? Why should he date me? I was hoping he’d know that without having to ask me.

Because we kind of are dating, whether he’ll label it that way or not. We’re hanging out almost every evening. And if we don’t hang out, he’s calling or texting me.

But it’s not dating, according to him.

It’s just….weird.

I just feel a little sad inside a lot of the time I’m with him. I feel empty. I can’t seem to get super happy. One evening, he tells me, “I like you! I really like you. I really do! And I want to date you, I just need to pray a little longer. I’m just not sure about a couple things.”

I try to get happy. But I can’t. I don’t know why.

“Why aren’t you happy?” he asks me. “You should be happy about this.”

“I don’t know,” I tell him.

“Well, I told you I really like you. You should be happy.”

The next time I see him, I try to be very, very happy.

***

Finally, he says, “God says we can date.”

God is good!

He said yes.

So we date.

***

He’s a guy who tells me I’m wrong all the time, who demands my trust, who expects me to support him and all his emotions, but doesn’t do the same for me.

“Give me your trust,” he says. “I need to know you trust me. I don’t want you to hide things from me.”

He wants to know my hurt, my past, my pains. I feebly attempt to tell him some of the pain I’ve been through with Boy One. I try and trust him because I need someone to show me what trust means. I need him to be healing. I need to learn to trust a guy.

So I give him my trust. Not my love, my trust.

Yet when I ask him about his past, he won’t tell me anything.

***

He tells me I’m wrong all the time, he treats me like I can’t think logically even when I can, he doesn’t like that I’m smart.

He tells me exactly what our future will look, what the next ten years of my life will be like. He tells me what he’s the leader of the relationship, that he makes the decisions, and that I will follow and support him. He tells me that it’d be weird for us both to pursue our passions, because the guy is supposed to do that in order to provide for the girl.

He tells me a lot of things.

And I listen, like a good girl should, and I obey. God wanted us to be together, I think. So I have to be happy. I’ve got to be a godly woman and submit. I’ve got to make this work. 

***

And he finally breaks up with me because, “God told him to do it.”

God told him to break up with me? It’s painful, it’s wounding. Why use God as an excuse? Why use God as a way out? I’m just confused. “God told you to date me in the first place,” I say. “You said you’d prayed about it.”

“Well, I did. He just told me this now.”

Boy Two takes the trust I began placing in him and pulls the rug out from underneath me.

And he doesn’t really care about that at all.

“I’m afraid you’ll say bad things about me. I’m afraid everyone will hate me,” is what he he tells me when we break up. That’s all he cares about. How he appears to everyone outside. It’s all about him all the time.

(I don’t say much about him at college. His reputation, after all, is so very important, and I don’t want to damage it).

***

Yet with that break-up, something breaks inside me again.

I didn’t love him.
But I did trust him.

Something about Boy Two and his whole mess has damaged me more. I feel like dying. Especially when he ignores me–literally, ignores me–after we’ve broken up as if I hadn’t even existed.

I am of absolutely no importance.
I am no one.

Just a speck that he easily abandoned.

He moves onto other girls after that. We are all a secret from each other until a year later, when we realize he’d messed around with multiple girls all in a row.

I begin counseling that year.
Because something is really wrong.

***

Summer after sophomore year. I decide to stay in Chicago for the summer. My friend Alex stays in town over summer, as well as some other guys. We all hang out in groups and do silly things together. We have a Hulk night and dress in green, we watch Band of Brothers, we play Scrabble. We also have serious talks about life and relationships.

They are just there.

They help me clean the dishes when we have parties.

They laugh at me, and I feel a little funny.

They are in awe that I can predict the plot of Iron Man right away. (I’m a writer, so sometimes I just see how someone would write things into plots. But really, Iron Man is not that…hard).

They are just nice.

I begin to see how good these guys are. They simply treat girls like humans. They aren’t how to see how many they can date, how many they can sleep with, how many they can use.

It’s a great summer, even though I feel so broken. Even though I have times where I feel so, so sad.

But I’m glad I have friends. Guys who remind me that there are great guys. Not all of them are disorienting, self-absorbed, damaging.

***

Junior year hits. It’s just…a hard year.

I secretly like Guy Three all year, and he never even looks my way. And when he finally does, its just this condescending, playing kind of interest. He lusts after me, I can tell. But lust doesn’t make him want to go for it, since he’s a good, Christian guy. I feel like an object most the time when I’m around him. I feel flustered every time I’m around him. I feel stupid and inferior and not cool enough and just…horrible.

I’m a failure at capturing a man’s true, genuine attention. I couldn’t with Boy One. Boy Two didn’t stick around. And Boy Three just kind of flirts with me, condescendingly speaks to me, and in general is just a self-absorbed jerk, even though I genuinely like him. Even though I tell myself he’s this awesome guy who loves God so much.

I feel pretty pathetic.

Because I kind of am.

But why?

***

I go to counseling all year, and it’s the year I begin to get to some painful stuff. Stuff that goes deep into my family and into seeing how imperfect my family is. How I never connected emotionally with my own father, which is why I constantly look for affirmation for it in guys—especially broken guys.

I’m devastated by this. My family is supposed to be perfect. I love them so much. Yet I never told them anything about my pain. And they never really asked. I was so alone in high school so much of the time. I hid so much from them. I wonder if I can ever repair our relationship. I wonder if I can ever work through my father hurt–which wasn’t intentional at all, but has still deeply wounded me.

The end of junior year come. I am officially rejected by Boy Three, who tells me that we are just friends and he is interested in another girl. Yet he was playing with me. He was really attracted to me. I saw his eyes. I know the looks.

But I wasn’t enough.

I’m never enough.

The whole thing is so confusing to me.

And I realize a guy can be attracted to you, lust after you, use you, and still not care once cent about you.

***

Alex and I do homework one night together (he likes that I take good notes). He sees I’m not doing well.

“Can I just tell you something?” he says. “I’m engaged now, so I can tell you this. I’ve always been your friend, so you don’t have to think this is weird. But you are beautiful, and you are talented, and you are godly. You’re better than most the girls at this school. And if a guy doesn’t see that and admire it and pursue it, then he’s not worthy of you. You’re worthy of being pursued, of being treated well, of being loved.”

I nod tearfully as he gives me this speech. I realize it’s something I’ve always needed to hear. But no one ever told me this. I go to my room and cry and cry.

A few weeks later, I tell another friend what Alex told me. She needs to hear it, too.

There are so many girls who need to hear it.

His words are healing, his words are true, his words are caring.

And I’ll never forget them.

***

It’s the summer after junior year. I’m not in a good place. I can feel myself hardening. I sometimes cry in our apartment when no one is there.

I’m feeling a lot of anger. Anger towards my family, anger towards God, anger towards men. I’m feeling angry towards myself and how I just can’t seem to get a guy to stay to save the life of me. I’m feeling anger towards guys and all their stupidity. How they use girls and lead them on and drop them when they feel like it.

All I want is to be loved. To feel safe.

I’ve never felt loved and safe with a guy (romantically). Never!

I don’t know it at the time, but that summer is when I make the vow: “I will never love a guy again.” But I do. My heart hardens, the walls go up. It just seems too hard to try and work through my issues. It seems easier to just…stop. To stop trying.

Guy are never sincere, I think. They always just want what they want. They never really care.

(It’ll be two years before I realize the silent vow I made to myself that summer).

***

This is the summer I begin having weird panic attacks whenever rape is mentioned or I see it on movies. Seriously, I watch four movies that summer with graphic rape scenes (on accident), and I start shaking every time I watch them. I start crying. It’s like this visceral reaction. It’s so strange. I know I haven’t been raped, but for some reason, I’m reacting so strangely to these things.

Something is wrong.

I just don’t know what.

***

My roommate is engaged to a great guy that summer. He looks at her with that Look. He has eyes only for her. I see how much he loves her. This warm, full look. It gives me comfort to see it. That’s the way a man acts who is really in love, I think. When he truly doesn’t seem to see anyone else but his woman in his mind.

You can tell.

You can tell when a man looks at a woman and loves her and sees her. You can tell when a man looks at a woman and simply sees her alongside plenty of other women.

Isn’t a woman just another woman to most men?

The whole thing makes me sad. Because guys are always looking at someone else, always lusting after things they don’t really care about. I can tell because I know I’m beautiful now, and I see guys stare at me all the time. They don’t do anything but stare. They never try to get to know me, they just look. And it’s not the nice look, either.

And I’m tired.

This is not a good way to start my senior year in college.

***

Senior year in college happens.
The Year From Hell.
Everything comes to a head.
Some guy friends I truly thought were friends abandon me at the beginning of the year. They move onto other girls quickly and with ease, as if they hadn’t cared at all (which I guess they didn’t). But I cared, and I’m devastated.

It’s the last straw.

I don’t understand how guys can just easily abandon girls—even girl friendships, I shout to myself. I don’t understand that kind of inhumane tossing aside of relationships for whatever else comes next. I don’t understand why guys use girls all the time for their own gain and pleasure. Even Christian guys who are supposed to be so much better than Non-Christians, right?

Christian guys suck just as much as Non-Christian guys. They’re just better at pretending they’re not!

I’m tired,

and I’m jaded,

and I’m bitter

and I’m angry.

***

I’m going to counseling. I begin to sift through the mess that is my emotions. I begin to realize that I have suffered abuse in the past from guys. No, not physical abuse, but spiritual and emotional abuse. I feel violated. I feel alone. I feel as if Boy One and Boy Two just took, took, took and left my heart lying in this mess on the floor. It still lies there, unprotected and vulnerable. So then Boy Three was just such a stupid, pathetic mess because I just let him play around because I just didn’t know how a guy should treat me.

“There’s such a thing as emotional rape,” says my counselor gently. “It’s where you are violated emotionally, where a guy demands emotions or trust from you, then takes those things and leaves, just as he would physically taking you.”

Emotional rape. I’ve never heard of it before. But suddenly, everything makes sense. The summer movies where I started shaking when rape was addressed. The ways I clench up when people talk about it. The ways I silently relate to girls who’ve been sexually abused, even though I have no idea why I relate so deeply.

A boy doesn’t have to force himself physically on you in order to violate you and take things he never should’ve taken. A boy can take your emotions, and your love, and your trust and leave with them. It is, in a sense, rape. Yet it’s so much more subtle. So much harder to figure out than outright physical violence. Boys can just as deeply wound through emotional aspects.

I begin to understand why I’ve felt so broken ever since Boy One and Boy Two.

I freak out. I start having black outs and panic attacks. I feel like I’ve failed. I’m not a good, Christian women. I’ve been abused. I’ve abused myself. I truly think I shouldn’t be loved. God’s going to leave me if I make one more mistake. No one will ever love me. I’ve messed up. It’s all my fault. If I’d just been a good, perfect Christian girl who wasn’t so broken, none of this would’ve happened.

I victim-blame just like victims usually do.

***

Another of my friends since freshman year, *Sam, sees something of the pain and starts telling me he’s praying for me. He’s a fun, great guy. I never tell him what’s truly going on because I’m so ashamed about the abuse stuff, but he sometimes listens and he sometimes prays for me. And just knowing that is helpful.

We sit on the bus on the way to senior retreat, and we talk about things, and he tells me about a book called The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning. I know I need to read it. I ask him if I can borrow it.

A few days later, he comes up to me. “I was going to give this to you in a few weeks once I’d finished it,” he says. “But I just really felt like God told me to give you this book now. You need to read it.”

So I eat up that book. It’s all about love and grace and forgiveness. How we are all broken, yet God still loves us through the brokenness. My life is changed because of that book, my relationship with God changes because of it.

I will be forever grateful to him for helping me even though he didn’t know how important it was that I read that book.

The impact you have on people through simple acts of kindness can be astounding.

***

My friend Alex also talks with me. I don’t tell him what’s really going on, either. I just can’t tell anyone—especially a guy. But he sees something is wrong, and he talks to me. “You can cry, you know that?” he says. “It’s okay to cry.”

“I know,” I say.

He’s about to get married, and he’s about to graduate in December, and I know our friendship will never be the same. It’s ending, in a way. I’m okay with it, because it has to be that way.

Yet he’s the one guy friend I have all four years who I really trust. The one guy who asks me questions and isn’t afraid of the responses I give him and who stays by my side even when I get really, really broken.

I’m so grateful for him.

And I will miss him when he graduates.

Because now, I’ll have no one to talk to.

***

My last semester at college is a painful one.

I’m alone. I have no guy friends anymore that I can really talk to. I have one girl friend left at school (most my other good friends have graduated) who knows what’s kind of going on.

The only one who truly knows is my counselor.

I want to shut down. I don’t want to feel anything anymore. I don’t want one more person to leave or abandon me. I don’t ever want to love or be loved.

I feel numb. I don’t care anymore.

People really suck.

Christians suck the worst.

***

(LARGE PARENTHETICAL STATEMENT:

This is the year I like Boy Four. I’m not going to say much about this crush. It’s actually more painful than any of the others, because he’s actually a good guy. The first good guy I’ve liked in a long, long time. I never even show him or tell him I like him. I feel too broken to do much of anything anymore when it comes to romantic feelings. It’s a very secret crush that lasts most of senior year. Sometimes, I think he likes me, but I never know for sure.

I wasn’t going to mention him in this post, but I have to be honest. So there. Boy Four.

It’s different this time, though. Because I know in my heart of hearts it’s not going to work out–no matter how much I like him. No matter how much I pray or try and make God say yes.

God says no.

And it’s the first time I don’t fight it as much as I’ve done in the past.

Yes, it’s hard. I make some mistakes during this year with Boy Four. I do try and tell myself God wants it, I do try and control the situation. But I recognize these things in myself now. I’m fighting them for the first time.

But it’s also a triumph. Because in the end, I walk away from the feelings, the feelings that I know are wrong, and I say no to myself.

It’s the first time I feel God calling me to something else. Not dating, not marriage (at least not now). Not those  girlish dreams of my romantic youth.

But other dreams.

Dreams I can’t see yet. Dreams I can hardly imagine.

And I take God’s hand and start surrendering. (It’s a painful surrender, to be sure).

There’s nothing I can control–not love, not life, not anything.

I die to self.

It’s the first time in my life I truly do so.

END PARENTHETICAL STATEMENT)

***

Last semester, I take this drama class.

In the class, we have to feel. We have to do these creative projects that make us express emotions and pain. It’s a hard, hard class, but God uses it to help me get through that last semester. He helps me realize how deeply important art and creativity is in my life. How He made me so expressive and creative for a reason. I’ve stopped really doing creative things because I feel that a grown up doesn’t do those things. A good Christian doesn’t do those things.

The class begins to heal me, because it’s the first step I take toward embracing myself as a creative, artistic, expressive person once again.

I come up with a project for this drama class’s final exam. It’s a experiment in facing my wounds. I’ve begun to realize that for so long, I’ve placed my identity in others–especially men. It’s been painful. But because I’ve placed my worth in others, I’ve nearly been destroyed. I let them walk all over me. I let them use me.

And it has to stop. I must find my identity in God.

I ask this guy to help me with it. I need a painter for the drama I’ve written. A painter to represent Jesus. This painter will paint a painting entitled “Loved.” This painter will paint over horrible words people have given me. He will show me a new identity.

I don’t know this guy very well, but he’s in my class, and he’s an artist. A good artist. I don’t think he’ll help me—I mean, who would? I’m just a mess. But I guess he doesn’t know that. I ask him, and he says yes.

We work on the project, and that is, in a way, healing. He sees some of my pain. I have to show some of my emotions to this guy in order to make the drama effective. I’ve shut down so much at this point that I hate showing emotions to guys (to people period).

But I do. And we perform our drama about being Loved, and it’s a huge success. Beautiful in so many ways.

This guy gives me the painting he paints for our skit. “This is yours,” he says. “This is your story.”

Another moment of healing.

The painting says “Loved.”

It’s a needed reminder as I graduate and start another life.

A new life.

(And it is this project that inspires me to begin my blog, Identity Renewed.)

***

A few years later, I ask myself: Why are relationships about control so often? Why can’t we let people we date be who they are meant to be? Why can’t we let them dream and encourage their dreams? What makes us want to stifle them?

Is it fear? Jealousy? Pride? Or all of these things?

To truly love someone is to hold them in an open hand. To truly love someone is to want to see them succeed in their passions. To see them flourish and grow and become more like Christ.

If someone you are with doesn’t listen to you, stifles your opinions, stops your dreams, treats you condescendingly, plays around with other people even as they date you…If they tell you, “God told me you need to behave that way or go along with my plan,” or just use God as a trump card all the time for their own actions….

Something is wrong.

And God is not okay with that. God gets really ticked when people use His name as excuses for their own immature, selfish, controlling behavior.

God isn’t the cause of these things.

God probably doesn’t want you to to be with someone like that.

In fact, He doesn’t.

But so often, we place our identity in the opposite gender, and we stop truly listening to God, because it seems so much easier to put our worth in a guy or girl.

But we are Loved. God loves each and every one of us. And yet, if we don’t understand His love for us, we will let others treat us any way they want. Our relationship with God, the truths we believe about Him, are so crucial to every other human interaction. When our identity is in Him, things begin falling into place.

Because to live in His love, to place our identity in Him, is to learn what Real Love is.

I learned this lesson over those four years of college. I learned to start placing my worth and value in God, not men. And yes, it took some hard, painful things in order to do this. But now, a few years down the road, I’d never take back those experiences.

I also learned to surrender to God. I start learning to follow Christ in my heart of hearts. I stop fighting Him and telling Him what to do when it came to life and love. I took His hand and truly started walking with Him in the direction He was walking. It was a novel idea, I suppose, to follow Him instead of the other way around. To begin trusting Him to direct the course of my life instead of me.

Yet this changes everything. Because I am Loved, and God has a better plan for my life than any I can dream up on my own.

Tune in next week for Part IV, the last part of this series!

*Names changed for privacy.

kiss

Boys, The Good & The Bad – Part II: Senior Year in High School & Beyond

Here is Part II of my four part series on Boys, The Good & The Bad. Read Part I here. This series is a look back on my life and my interactions with boys. There have been many painful experiences, but many joyful ones. My purpose for this series is to show both the pain and the encouragement that males can bring to females. It’s to explore the ugliness and beauty of relationships with the opposite gender. It’s a complicated issue, but so many us of struggle with our identity when it comes to the opposite gender. We have a profound impact on each others’ lives, for good or for ill. I’ll be exploring that as the series progresses more.

kiss

***

I’m a senior in high school. My Kindred Spirit leaves for college, and that alone is harder than I ever thought it’d be. I miss her a lot.

And then Boy One enters the picture. The first boy I ever really, really like. Yes, I’ve had inconsequential crushes a few times. But this…this is different. I like him immediately. We become good friends. We have a lot in common, and we have fun together. I’m hoping it’ll work out.

But a few months down the road of our friendship, he tells one of my friends, “I don’t like her, we’re just friends. There’s not a lot of chemistry between us.”

I’m devastated. No chemistry? Does he really find me that unattractive? Now I know what it means to be “Just Friends.”

It SUCKS.

Yet I know I have to hide my feelings and be just friends, because that’s what he wants. So I hide my feelings. I don’t want to destroy our friendship, because it means a lot to me.

The more I get to know him, the more I see how broken and wounded he is. My heart reaches out to him. I want to help him. I want to heal him with my love. I want to be the girl who rescues him. I’ll do ANYTHING to help him. It seems so romantic.

“I’ve done some really wrong things,” he tells me. “I can never forgive myself. God can never forgive me.”

He cuts himself, and he does other things.

I send him verses, and I pray for him, and I try and talk to him, and I am just there whenever he needs it.

“You’re the only one I can trust,” he tells me. “No one else listens to me like you do. I can only trust you and my youth pastor.”

I am equated with a youth pastor in his mind.

For some reason, this binds me to him in even stronger ways in my mind. I have to be strong for him. I’m the only one he can trust. I’m the only one that’s really there for him. In a way, I begin to equate my love = God’s love for him. I begin to believe that God wants me to stick this out and love this guy because no one else will.

My love will save him.

So I must stay. I must show him love. I must show God’s love, no matter what happens. God is telling me to love him.

My heart begins to break, slowly, gradually, deeply.

***

Have you ever fallen in love?

Because falling is the right word.

You’re walking along living a normal life, minding your own business.

And then you trip, and you fall off a precipice into a yawning abyss.

You spin and you lose control.

You don’t know what’s up or down, right or left.

The clear blue sky grows smaller and smaller above you.

And the darkness grows stronger and stronger.

And you keep falling, falling, falling.

You wonder if you’re insane.

You forget yourself and everything you used to know.

Because love feels a lot like insanity, especially when the person you love could care less.

You’re not falling in love, then.

You’re simply falling into darkness.

No one is there is catch you.

***

For two years, senior year and the year after high school (I take a year off before I head to college), I love him. I silently, secretly love him.

Why? Because he needs me. And because God told me to. And God told me I’d heal him with love.

He never loves me. In fact, he likes every girl in our circle of friends except me. It’s torturous, as he tells me who he likes this month, and I just nod my head and grin fakely.

“What is wrong with me?” I ask myself all that time. I look in the mirror at myself and think, “What can I change about me? What do I do differently?”

Yet I must love him. God told me to. I read my Bible more, I pray harder, I plead with God to change him. I take Scripture out of context, I twist it to mean things it doesn’t mean. I convince myself that God has made me a promise that I will be with this guy, that he will change, that he will love me. And nothing changes. Nothing. “God, don’t you care at all about me?” I shout. “Don’t you see what I want? Why don’t You answer?”

No matter how hard I believe, I’m met with nothing but silence from God.

The more I try to control God, the more insane I feel.

***

I’m crushed and despairing. I begin thinking horrible thoughts about myself.

He’s rubbing off on me. All his self-loathing and abusive tendencies become part of me. I don’t know where I end and he begins. I feel everything he feels.

I stop eating. There are days I just want to punish myself, to make myself pay for the ways I’ve screwed up. If I had just done everything right, if I had just been who he wanted, then he would love me.

God told me to love him. God promised that He’d heal him through my love.

And it hasn’t happened yet.

Which means I just need to try harder. Love is about sacrifice, I tell myself. Love is about dying to self and being there for the man you love no matter what. Love is about denying oneself. If I can only do this more, then my love will change him.

And it doesn’t.

So I feel like a failure.

***

Once, I have a dream. In the dream, we are in a dark house and all of Boy One’s ghosts are in the house. There are hundreds of white, ghastly figures walking around. They overwhelm him. I keep trying to help, to get him away, but they start overwhelming me, too. We are surrounded by these haunted figures who start tearing us apart. I’m suffocating, I’m dying. The ghosts move in closer, and I’m about to be run over by them…

I wake up sweating. The dream is a perfect description of how I feel.

Yet I love him so much. I just want to help him. I can’t stop loving him. It’s this addiction. This life-sucking addiction that I can’t ever get out of.

I’ve fallen into darkness.

So I love him.

***

As year two of my love begins to come to a close, I meet with him.

“I want you to know that God loves you,” I tell him. “God can forgive whatever you’ve done. He’s just waiting for you to come back to Him.”

“Teryn, I don’t know what I would’ve done without you the last two years,” he says. “Thank you.”

“I’m just trying to be a good friend,” I say, although my heart is hurting so deeply it feels like a knife is stabbing me repeatedly.

I love you, can’t you see? I think. Can’t you see that all this is because I love you?

After that, things seem to unravel more. He pushes me away. Then he needs me. Then he pushes me away.

Then he dates another girl and doesn’t tell me for weeks. I find out through a mutual friend. “He doesn’t even like her,” my friend informs me. “She really likes him, though.”

The pattern of his life.

***

Do any of you know what it is to love and to not have that love returned?

To know that one of the most precious and beautiful of feelings is not shared by the person you love?

To know that no matter what you do, or what you say, or how much you care, they don’t give a shit.

Like I’ve said before. It’s a Game.

And I was never good at playing The Game.

***

Boy One gets worse and worse. He ignores me more and more. He uses me. He lies to me. He pretends not to know what’s going on with me.

He doesn’t even come to my going away party when I leave for college. He says he’s coming, and then he chooses to work the night of the party. He says he’ll come see me to say goodbye, and then he never does.
He says a lot of things, and I always hope, and the hope is always crushed.

When I leave for college, it’s like my heart is torn into a million pieces.

I am shattered.

God, why did You tell me to love him? I ask again and again. Why did my love not heal him? Why is my heart so broken? Why wasn’t I good enough?

***

It takes me many years before I realize how weirdly abusive the whole situation was. How manipulative it was. How I let him use me because I had no idea how I should be treated in a relationship. My identity was in him, and I was almost destroyed because of it.

I also realize how God DID NOT tell me to love him and to lose myself in him. How I tried so badly to control the situation of this broken, messed up guy with Scripture and prayer and love. How God said, “NO, NO, NO,” time and time again. I over-spiritualized everything because I was in love.

Feelings are fickle, the heart is deceitful, and spiritual language can be used so beautifully for what WE want. My own depravity got in the way of God’s voice in many, many ways.

Half the blame can be put on me. I should’ve walked away long before it got so crazy. (And I do walk away, actually. My freshman year at college, he starts contacting me on Facebook and tells me he wants to see me during Christmas break. I tell him I can’t. I tell him it’s too painful, and I can’t see him again. It’s the hardest thing I ever do).

But some of it was NOT my fault. People reject love, even when it’s well-intentioned. You can’t control another person no matter how hard you love them. They will either respond, or they won’t. They will either use that love to their advantage, or they will love back. And it takes wisdom and discernment to know the difference.

This boy didn’t know what love was. He only knew what hurt was. He’d been hurt, so he hurt me in return. He was shattered, and so he shattered me. It’s the cycle of hurt and abuse that, unless truly give to God and truly broken, perpetuates throughout generations. Hurt begets hurt, abuse begets abuse, unlove begets unlove.

And I, in my innocence and romanticism, got caught up in a something that was too strong for me to handle. I was wounded.

I fell into darkness.

God caught me at the lowest point.

***

Because you see, during this time in my life was when my relationship with God became real and raw. I was humbled, I realized how stupid I could be, and I realized how deeply I needed God. I learned so much about God’s love, what it is and what it isn’t. Even though I made mistakes, I also experienced God’s love in amazing ways. He is rejected all the time by a world that hates Him, and yet He loves. He loves us all with this deep love that aches to be reconciled to us. He aches to heal us. He aches to change us and free us.

I saw this boy with this Love, and I saw him through God’s eyes. He didn’t respond to such a love, and that wasn’t my job. But God’s love is powerful, and it is painful, it is beautiful, and it is utterly beyond comprehension.

God gradually lifted me out of those dark places. He patiently waited for me to come back to Him, for me to acknowledge my own depravity and my need for control. He saved me from myself. He loved me, He never left me, and He deepened me through this whole time in my life.

Tune in next week for Boys, The Good and The Bad – Part III: College Years

*Names changed for privacy.

heartbreak

Two Poems About Heartbreak

heartbreakIt’s Tuesday, and I’m posting a poem. Two, actually! The poems I’m posting tonight are tied into the blog series I’m currently doing in the month of July called “Boys, The Good & The Bad.” Part II of my series will go up on Thursday evening. In that post, I will be talking about falling in love for the first time.

It was not a pleasant experience. I loved this guy, and he didn’t love me. He was a broken guy who dragged me into this mess. And I, who truly believed I could love him into change and healing, tried in every way to help him. It didn’t work.

The first poem, entitled “Afterthought,” is actually a song I wrote during a time when this guy I loved liked another girl who didn’t like him. Oh, the drama. I felt very much like an afterthought, always. I tried so hard to be there for him, and yet he always had eyes for another.

The second poem is a poem I wrote expressing the pain I saw in him and how much I wanted to help him heal. I was so hopeful that through my love, he would find hope. I was convinced God was going to do miracles in him and free him.

It didn’t happen.

(I was such a romantic back then, which was wrung out of me quite thoroughly).

Sigh.

I truly loved this guy. It’s painful to go back and think about it, but I learned so much through the whole experience. I honestly don’t want to share these poems, because they show this broken, little girl side of me that just wanted love and would put up with anything to get it.

I don’t like to think about that side of me anymore.

 

Afterthought

(Verse 1) She and I walk down the hall,

And I see him standing there.

My heart starts beating hurriedly,

And in vain I wish to hide.

My head goes down,

I don’t want to blush,

Then I glance up hopefully.

And there he stands, watching only her

with an expectant little gaze.

Angry, I chide myself,

My heart sighs with lost hope.

Because I care too much—

My heart is rent—

Although I know

I should’ve known better

*

(Chorus) Because I’m just an afterthought.

An afterthought, an afterthought.

He didn’t give me a glance—

His look was all for her.

Because I’m just an afterthought,

And that’s all I’ll ever be.

*

(Verse 2) Oblivious, she chatters on,

Thinking they are only friends.

Forgotten, I stand quietly there

While my mind keeps wondering:

Why did I come?

Why can’t she see?

These secrets are too much for me.

For as he gazes at her, his eyes are sad

Although he tries to mask his pain.

And I see, reflected in his face,

The loneliness that reigns in me.

And he cares too much—

His heart is rent—

Although he knows

He should’ve known better.

*

(Chorus 2) Because he’s just an afterthought.

An afterthought, an afterthought.

She doesn’t give him a glance—

She is just his friend.

That’s all he’ll ever be.

Because he’s just an afterthought,

And that’s all he’ll ever be.

*

(Bridge)

And yes, I feel lonely,

And so do they.

And why can’t it all

Just end happily?

But the thought comes to me

That God has a plan

Although we haven’t seen it yet

And yes, it’s all confused now

But we’ll endure ‘til it’s time

For the right love to come along

*

(Chorus 3) Because none of us are afterthoughts

Are afterthoughts, are afterthoughts

He loved me before time—

He wrote my love story

And that’s comfort enough for me

Yes, I’m not an afterthought,

…afterthought…

…afterthought…

I might feel like it now—

But the time will come

for true love to begin.

03-26-06

Your Eyes

Ever since I became your friend,

I can read what you’re really feeling:

Even if you lie or smile vacantly,

Your eyes tell me the dark truth.

I have seen deep sorrow and regret

Reflected like wells in your eyes–

All the sins and pain of yesterday,

Your eyes tell me the vague story.

 

How I wish I could change

The sadness in your eyes,

Replace the self-condemnation

And give your eyes radiant joy.

 

I wish I could dispel the darkness

That dwells in your eyes.

I wish I could shout and sing

Until your eyes shone with redemptive melodies.

 

And oh—how I love your eyes!

Even when they fill with un-spilled tears,

Mirroring your self-deprecation,

Even then, oh—how I love your eyes!

 

And I cry to myself when I am alone

Because I can’t heal your eyes.

And I hurt and ache inside

Because your eyes have no peace.

 

All I can do is pray and wait

For the God of heaven to heal,

So that your eyes can truly smile at me.

Oh, how I long for that day!

 

When you have forgiven yourself,

When you have surrendered all,

And made sense of yourself, your past, your future—

Then I will see His light in your eyes…

12-26-06

kiss

Boys, The Good & The Bad – Part I: Childhood Through (Most of) High School

Here begins my four part series on “Boys, The Good & The Bad.” This series is a look back on my life and my interactions with boys. My purpose for this series is to show both the pain and the encouragement that males can bring to females. It’s to explore the ugliness and beauty of relationships with the opposite gender. It’s a complicated issue, but so many us of struggle with our identity when it comes to the opposite gender. We have a profound impact on each others’ lives, for good or for ill. I’ll be exploring that as the series progresses more.

kiss

***

I grow up in the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico.

But really, I grow up in a world of my own making.

I’m homeschooled, and once our schooling ends for the day, my siblings and I play outside in our great backyard. Our family doesn’t watch a ton of TV, and if we do it’s PBS. What’s the Story of Wish Bone, anyone? As a child, I sometimes get angry mom doesn’t let us watch a lot of other stuff. But now, I look back and wonder if it wasn’t for those imaginative times playing out in the backyard and reading good books and exploring the world instead of sitting in front of a TV—where would I be now?

Childhood is something I look back on with no twistedness. It was innocent, beautiful, and full of joy. All I have are light-filled memories of enjoying school (except maybe math), climbing my favorite apple tree and reading in its boughs for hours, reading aloud good books to my siblings, making up stories for my sister when we’re supposed to be sleeping, of reading under the covers with a flashlight…

And all those books become lived-out stories and make-believe. The neighborhood kids and I make up elaborate worlds and put on plays for the neighborhood. We have various lands in our backyards that are named appropriately. We fight bad guys and explore exotic countries.

I am lost in a world of imagination. It is idyllic and beautiful.

I don’t think much about boys except as friends. I am never a “boy crazy” little girl.

I do, on one occasional, chase a boy around and try to kiss him–but only because he’s really annoying me, and it’s the worst possible punishment I can inflict. He flees in terror.

I have one particular boy friend named *Daniel. We play all sorts of adventurous make believe games together. We play that we are space travelers. The swing set is our space station. We play that we are adventurers. We play that we solve mysteries. I am always named Crystal, and he always calls himself Mike. One time, he wants to play a game where he asks me to marry him. He is still Mike, and I am still Crystal. So we play it, and we laugh when he gives me the ring. It is something that is a joke to us, this strange concept of marriage.

It’s just a game.

***

I’m grateful for my childhood.

Heaven will be like my childhood. Full of wonder and light and hope. It will be a time when we go back to who we were before pain and disillusionment set in. It will be like coming home, like playing in one’s backyard and eating apples. It will be about creativity before criticism, about imagination before pragmatism. It will be about freedom, not conformity. It will be about innocence and understanding the deeper things at work in every single detail. It will be about believing simply and beautifully before our own heads and our own selfishness gets in the way.

We will be full of wonder and we will be wise.

***

I get my first crush when I’m 10. *Eric’s a gentle, sweet boy who likes to read books just as much as I do. I can’t even remember if he was “cute” according to girls’ standards. I just liked that he was nice and caring. He starts a book club and newsletter. He lets me borrow his books. We’re on swim team together.

He writes me my first love letter.

(My last love letter, too.)

He tells me it’s coming in the mail. I’m a little mortified that my parents might receive it before I do. I check the mail every day for a week. Finally, I get the letter, written in the scrawly handwriting of a 10-year-old boy.

I read it and blush. He talks about how he dreams about me every night. He really likes me.

We have no idea what that means. We’re still innocent. We aren’t like 10-year-olds nowadays, already knowing the great workings of sex, making out, and dating taught to them at young ages. We just think “like” simply means…well, wanting to be around each other, sharing the same interests, and caring for each other.

Isn’t that, in the deepest since, what it should be about anyway?

He calls me sometimes, and my mom doesn’t approve. His dog dies, and he calls me for comfort. My mom hangs the phone up on him and tells him to never call again. I go into my room and cry.

My family is going to move to Texas when I’m 11. We have a going away party. *Eric asks if he can talk to me. He takes me away from all the guests and says he really likes me. He wants to hold my hand. We hold hands (it’s a little sweaty, really).

Suddenly, I see my mom’s disapproving face in the back of my mind. I feel sick to my stomach. This image haunts me for years when it comes to guys.

“Let’s just be friends,” I say. “I’m moving away, anyway.”

“Yes, that sounds good,” he says. “I think you’re right.”

I think he’s just as relieved as I am. We didn’t know what we were doing, anyway.
So I move away, and I never see him again.

It’s the only healthy relationship I ever have.
The only nice guy I ever like.

And I was 10.

***

My idyllic childhood is left far behind in the Land of Enchantment.

Junior high sucks.

I’m lonely. It’s the first time in my life I know what it means to feel something deep and painful welling up in my soul. I’m lost. I had safety and security in my home in New Mexico. That is now gone.

I’m ugly.
I’m awkward.
I have braces and these thick, horrible glasses, and nasty hair.
I hate myself.
I’m mad at God for moving me away from home.

I can’t fit in wherever I go. Church people make fun of me because I’m homeschooled. The homeschool group I’m in is so cliquey, I hate it. The prettier girls laugh at me and exclude me. I like adventure and fantasy and things boys like. I don’t like to watch chick flicks and plan my future wedding like most the other girls. I roll my eyes every time someone mentions “wedding colors.” But I try so hard to pretend I like these things because I just so badly want to be accepted.

I fail at this.

I am not popular. But I read veraciously. I want to take fencing lessons someday. I want to ride horses. I want to have an exciting, adventurous life.

One guy befriends me, though. He sees me reading Fellowship of the Ring, and he asks if I want to watch a movie with him and his friends. I have two girls friends who are actually friends during this junior high time. Two girl friends and one guy friend (who likes one of my friends and talks to me about it a lot).

Then, at 14 everything changes. My braces come off, my hair gets cut short and cute, I start kind of getting a little of a fashion sense. The guys look at me differently. The girls get a little more hostile. And all I want to do is fit in, and I’m still not good enough.

My good guy friend suddenly likes me. I don’t like him. I feel horrible, but we were always just friends. He liked someone else for so long, and all the sudden, he likes me. I don’t understand. We were friends. It makes me sad.

Why do things have to get weird and complicated? This is a painful time, as our friendship deteriorates. He looks at me sadly, and it breaks my heart.

It’s the first time I begin to realize that guy and girl relationships (even friendships) can often be full of pain.

This painful experience makes me not want to have another close guy friend like that again. I don’t want to hurt someone. I don’t want there to be pain like that ever again.

But my family moves again to another part in Texas, and I leave behind those strange, painful junior high years behind me.

***

Is this part of growing up, then?

When guys and girls can no longer interact with each other without a certain danger? When we become aware that the opposite gender is something strange and mysterious, both beautiful and deadly, if mixed in the wrong way?

When we realize that feelings and attraction and sexuality begin to control us in confusing and powerful ways? When friendships are ruined, and girls betray girls they’ve known for years over boyfriends, and boys fight with each other over girlfriends?

When did it become a Game? A Game to see who is prettier, who is better, who is taller, who is louder, who is sexier? Who can use another the most, who can sleep around the most, who can kiss the most, who can date the most?

Our identity becomes ever-entangled in the opposite gender, how they see us, how they view us, how they use us.

For some, this is fine. They vanquish their foes, and they come out on top, and they leave junior high and high school with exploits to boast about forever, with relationships strung behind them like little jewels to crown their puffed-up heads.

But I have never been good at playing The Game.

I just wanted to care.

And that’s not what The Game is about.

***

I move again to another city in Texas.

The first three years of high school are wonderful.

My family gets involved in another homeschool group. This one is not as cliquey. The girls are welcoming and amazing. I meet my Kindred Spirit there. We slowly and shyly become friends, and we revel in imagination, we dance in the moonlight, we hope for adventure. She begins to heal me with her love, because she accepts me for who I am.

I begin to write and draw and embrace who I am.

It’s the happiest time in my life since childhood.

The guys are fun. I’m still cautious around them for a long time because I’m not sure even friendship is worth it if it can end so badly, but as the months pass, I begin to really love them as brothers. A couple of them are smart and like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, theology and thinking. We have deep discussions and arguments about everything.

*Jake is one of these guys. He’s like an older brother to all us girls. He asks me how I’m doing and actually cares. He starts dating a great girl, and they’re going to get married. I see him often, I see the way he treats girls simply like they’re sisters. He protects them, and he tells them the truth (even when they don’t want to hear it) about the boys they’re dating. He cares about them. You know you’re safe.

The whole group brings me out of my shell more and more. We are one big, happy family.

I laugh and do crazy things and talk about God like I never did before. These people are amazing. We go on campouts and hang out in the wee hours and just care about each other. No one is trying to simply use each other or climb some stupid social ladder. Everyone just cares.

I begin my fantasy trilogy during this time. I write and draw, I plan out three whole books, I revel in creativity. I start the story when I’m 15, I start actually writing the first novel when I’m 17. I write and draw and write and draw as if nothing else in the world matters.

My Kindred Spirit encourages me in this endeavor. “Do it, Teryn,” she says when I tell her I want to start writing. “You know you can do it.” My friends read my first novel and love it. “Teryn, I’m so proud of you. You’re going to be a novelist someday,” says my Kindred Spirit when she reads the first novel.

We both dream about being novelists, living in the mountains in cottages. We want unique, beautiful lives. We dream about falling in love with men who will take us on adventures. We are very romantic, although we pretend we’re not. Because we both have a strange hardness to us, too. A strange pain that even in high school is beginning to surface subtly, strangely. It’s hard to put into words.

Yet at that time, it doesn’t bother us much.

I am myself. She is herself.

We are all ourselves.

I can be me and feel loved and accepted.

It’s the safest I’ve ever felt.

I’ll never feel that safe again.

***

I’ve often wondered what made my childhood and those three years in high school (before my senior year) so beautiful to me.

It was because of this.

Boys and girls treated each other like people first. Maybe it was innocence, maybe it was our commitment to true Christianity, maybe it was just that we were a sincere and caring group of people.

Yet my friends weren’t automatically trying to figure out which boy was the hottest, or which girl would be easiest to sleep with. Yes, there were some on the fringes of our group that did this. But the core of our group, the deep friendships we had, were about loving each other as brothers and sisters in Christ first and foremost. We saw each other as humans, and we cared.

And yet, this isn’t taught in our culture today. Hasn’t our sex-obsessed, porn-addicted generation turned the simplicity and purity of love and like, of male and female, and turned it into something that was never intended?

When did we forget what it means to simply care for the opposite gender, not objectify and fantasize over them in bizarre, unhealthy ways? Or have we always done that? Is that something that we must war over forever, this strange habit of treating males and females as less than human (depending on what gender you are)? As objects to be traded in our need for worth, for status, for identity, for desire?

When was the last time you simply cared about someone? Without strings attached, or expectations of having some sexual or romantic need met? When was the last time you just did something nice for someone of the opposite gender because you simply wanted to help someone?

It’s not how we work as a society anymore.

Maybe it’s something worth pondering, though.

Tune in next Thursday for “Boys, The Good & The Bad – Part II: Senior Year in High School & Beyond.”

*Names changed for privacy.

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Crushes (A Poem)

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This Tuesday, I’m kicking off the month of July’s theme with a fun little poem about crushes. (My theme for July is a series called “Boys, the Good & the Bad.” I’m going to go back and talk about ways boys have both positively and negatively impacted my life. Check out Part I on Thursday evening.)

Relationships with the opposite gender can be bittersweet. Throughout my childhood, junior high, and early high school, I had fairly tame encounters with boys. Most my childhood was spent playing make believe with good little guy friends. I didn’t even get my first crush until I was 10, and it ended far too soon. (Oh, but it was a nice crush.)

Throughout junior high and early high school, I had a few inconsequential crushes here and there, but nothing too serious. Most of them just left me feeling frustrated with myself, because I tended to shut down around my crushes and act like a babbling mess.

The whole thing seemed a little ridiculous to me. Silly. Annoying. Infuriating. I didn’t get why girls my age (and boys) were so obsessed with one another. We all needed to grow up a lot. We didn’t understand anything. I didn’t get why the whole thing turned into this weird pressure, this social ladder, this Game that was most often played viciously and selfishly.

And let’s be honest. I failed at the Game miserably. (I always have, as you will see).

So in high school, I wrote this poem about crushes to express my views on the whole stupid thing.

Enjoy. :P

Crushes

God in heaven, why do I have to get crushes?

They are so irritatingly immature.

A cacophonous whine in my heart.

The giggling jargon of youth,

Pulsing in my soul.

The voices crowd around my consciousness.

Taunting, teasing, pushing, persuading.

“You would look so good together!”

“Does he like you back?”

“Talk to him!”

Ai! I cannot talk to a guy I like!

It never works with my tongue.

Crushes are so futile.

Inconsequential.

Absurd!

03-25-05

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Your Love Can’t Change Him – Guest Post on Devotional Diva

Today, I’m a guest blogger over at Devotional Diva–an online magazine for 20-somethings trying to figure out life, love, faith, and everything in between.  My latest post is about love, heartbreak, control, and letting go.

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You Can’t Change Him

In many chick flicks and romance novels today, there is a common storyline.

It goes like this: Bad boy meets awkward, shy girl. Girl’s innocent charm completely captivates boy. Her love heals him. Boy changes and they live happily ever after.

As females, this dream is close to our hearts. We all want a man to see there’s something in us worth having and to change for us.

We want our love to change things.

Read the rest here at Devotional Diva!

Also, check out another post I wrote for Devotional Diva, entitled “Follow God’s Heart.”

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You May Not See It Now (Poem)

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It’s Tuesday. I”m posting a poem.

My senior year in high school is rough. It’s the first time I fall in love. And I mean, I’m in love. It’s the kind of love you feel to the depths of who you are. The kind that burns within you in fury and passion. The kind that would do anything for the one you love.

The kind of love that is supposed to be returned.

But it’s not returned. The guy doesn’t love me back.

So the unrequited love begins to turn to despair. But it is still love. No matter hard I try to stop it, I still love. The burning love eats me up inside.

I am good friends with the guy I love, and so I hide it. It gets worse and worse. I start caving into depression.  There’s this weight of darkness on me I’ve never felt before. I begin wondering if God is even there. I begin wondering who I am and why life is not all I thought it would be. On top of it all, I begin getting sick (with Lyme’s Disease).

Life is most assuredly not working out the way it was supposed to. I begin not eating.

One night, I’m lying on our trampoline in our backyard. It’s nighttime. I’m just lying there, and I want to cry and cry and cry. I’m not sure why I want to cry. I just do. I don’t know why God is walking me through this time. I don’t know why God won’t just give me what I want when I want it. I don’t know why life is becoming so unbearably painful.

But as I gaze out into the night sky, I see clouds. They are smeared across the sky like some half-finished painting. And behind the brooding clouds of grey…are the stars. They glimmer, even though everything is blurred by the clouds. They shine on. The clouds can’t touch them.

I know that the Infinite is out there.

And God whispers to me, “Someday, this will make sense. The clouds won’t last forever. Light shines on. Someday, the clouds will pass and you will see clearly.”

And I write this poem soon after that evening: “You May Not See It Now.” It’s to remind me that I must cling to God, for someday He will help me see clearly.

It takes five years for me to truly understand why God didn’t give me that boy. Why He stopped the unhealthy relationship and withheld the very thing I craved because it would’ve destroyed me (I come close to being destroyed regardless). It takes me years to heal from the broken, draining, heart-wrenching loss as I love a guy who does not love me back for two whole years.

Five years later, I truly begin to see. To see how I was attracted to abuse and to darkness and to unhealthy men, and how these things nearly destroy me.

The answers do come.

I just didn’t see it at the time, lying on the trampoline at the innocent, loving age of seventeen, wondering why.

Why God was breaking my heart.

***

You May Not See It Now

Child, hope on—

Behind those dark and frothing clouds

there is a crystalline blue sky;

You may not see it now,

But someday those clouds will part

and reveal the vast heights above.

The sun shall blaze forth and the

birds shall sing again.

Child, hold on—

Although the darkness stifles you tonight,

tomorrow the light shall come;

You may not see it now,

But steadily in gold and red vibrancy

the glorious dawn shall spark.

The day shall be renewed and the

flowers shall bloom again.

12-20-05