Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Head Games

I had two conversations with divorced friends today where the topic of dating came up.  One of these friends has dated several women since his divorce a couple years ago.  The other has chosen not to date at all in the two years since his divorce.  But oddly enough, both said almost the same thing.

The non-dater said, "I don't have time for all the head games involved in a dating relationship." 

The dater said, "I'm not into the head games that go on in dating.  I want a real relationship."

You know what?  I'm not into head games, either.  In fact, I don't know too many people who are.  So why do we play head games if not many people enjoy them?

My theory is that our culture has taught us that the "proper" way to find a mate is through dating.  Dating has its own set of unwritten rules, just like any game.  In our culture, feelings come first, then commitment.  And like all games, dating has winners and losers:  some people win the one they "love" and end up with a spouse, while others "lose" and end up with a broken heart.

But what if we decided not to play the dating game, or at the very least, not to play by the rules our culture sets?  What if we turned the whole thing on its head and determined how compatible we were, then made a commitment, then let the emotion of love follow the commitment? 

It sounds unromantic by 21st century American standards, but it has worked in other cultures, most of which have much lower divorce rates than ours.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that this form of courtship is the norm, and dating, as Americans practice it, is an aberration.

I am not opposed to romance.  I am not opposed to "falling in love."  But I would love to dispense with all the games and make a practical decision to commit to loving a certain person, and then carry through on it.  I suppose that during the time between the initial commitment and the actual marriage, it is possible that we'd discover that there were good reasons not to carry through.  This is a chance I would be willing to take.  At least the relationship wouldn't be about how well each of us played the dating game.

Instead of playing games, wouldn't it be refreshing to just be honest?  One of us could say, "Hey, I think we would be a good match.  If you are willing, I would like to commit to investigating whether we are as well-suited for one another as it appears to me right now, with marriage as our eventual goal." 

Maybe this is courtship for adults.  Whatever it is, I wish I could opt out of the head games and give it a try. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reading Ahead

I enjoy reading, so I read a lot. 

One of the books in my "To Read" stack is Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts, by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott.  I realize that I will not be remarrying anytime soon, since I am not even in a dating relationship at this point, but I thought I might glean some insights from it anyhow, so I picked it up this morning and started reading. 

The first chapter is called "Are You Ready to Get Married Again?"  The Parrotts divide the signs of readiness for remarriage into two types:  personal, and relational.  They further divide each of these broad areas of readiness into two or three essentials. 

Here's where it gets uncomfortable for me.  The very first essential under personal readiness is self-concept. 

I am not totally down on myself.  I am aware that God loves me, and that I am uniquely and wonderfully made by Him.  I know what gifts and talents and abilities He has given me.  (Look out world:  I've got a gift and I'm not afraid to use it!  :-) )  I have seen Him work through me in people's lives, so I know that I am not useless.

But when it comes to men, and to relationships with men, I think my self-concept may need help.  In the first place, I have a hard time believing that any man would be attracted to me.  I am overweight, over forty and come with four kids and the baggage from two marriages.  It would take a very special man to look past those issues and see my heart.  In the second place, I don't really know how to be single, how to attract male attention, how to flirt, how to date.  I can sort of fumble my way through meeting a potential suitor, but I look like someone with two left feet attempting to dance Swan Lake while doing it. 

Here is my quandry:  how do I challenge that belief that no man would be attracted to me?  And how do I learn to do the entire courtship thing?  It's not like I can sign up for a class in it, and book learning only takes a person so far anyhow.  What specific steps can I take to grow in this area of my life, to learn to believe that God can bring a man into my life who can overlook all the negatives, or at least live with them?  What specific steps can I take to learn how to start and maintain a love relationship again?

The Parrotts' book is geared for those who are already in a relationship, so I don't think this one will have the answers.  But if anyone has any ideas, I would love to hear them!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Does Time Heal All Wounds?

Does time heal all wounds, or is there more to it than that?  Does a person always need a counselor to deal with issues and hurts from the past, or is it possible to work through them without formal assistance?

A good friend who is also about two years out from a divorce claims that time and self-examination are doing the trick.  Is that really enough?  Or does everyone need a little extra help in recovering from divorce? 

What do you think?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Broader Vision

When I first felt called to go back to school for my degree in marriage & family counseling, my focus was on marriage counseling.  But as I get closer to my start date, my calling seems to be getting broader.  I am starting to feel a real burden for children, or more specifically, for teens and pre-teens who are in dysfunctional families. 

In the past year or two, I have had several young women express to me their desire to work with young people whose families have fallen apart.  I wonder if God could be using me to bring these young women together so that we can minister to these hurting kids in a way that none of us could do alone?

I don't know for sure, but I do know that I am excited to see what God has in mind for my future!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize that you are guilty of the same thing you faulted someone else for?

A while ago, I gently chided a male friend for lumping all women into one category and not trusting any of them.

Yesterday, it hit me that I am just as bad.  I tend to lump all men into the same category and expect them to disappoint me.

I realize that these are lessons we have learned through experience,  and obviously my friend has had at least one and possibly many experiences where women proved to be untrustworthy.  I have had many experiences where men said they'd do something, then never carried through, leaving me disappointed.

But a funny thing happened.  The friend who doesn't trust women promised to fix something for me.  And he did, in a timely fashion, no less.  So it seems that some men can be trusted not to disappoint, to carry through on their word. 

I am working on adjusting my assumptions about men disappointing me.  I hope my friend has some positive experiences so he can adjust his thinking about women being untrustworthy.

How do you need to adjust your thinking about the opposite sex?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

No Help Needed

Over the past few years, I have come to love and appreciate the Old Testament.  It is no longer the dry list of names and Sunday School stories that it used to be to me;  it is now the wonderful story of how God deals with His spoiled creation.  It is a very clear revelation of who He is and how powerful He is.  In essence, it's a portrait of God.

I love the people in the Old Testament because of how human they are.  Despite the fact that they lived thousands of years ago on the other side of the world from 21st century America,  they struggled with the same things that we struggle with today.

Take Sarai.  She was married to Abram (who was eventually renamed Abraham, at the same time as Sarai became Sarah).  They had no children.  But as recorded in Genesis 15, God made a promise to Abram that

"a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  (Genesis 15:4-5)

Sarai knew that she was too old to have children.  But she desperately wanted God's promise to Abram to come true.  So she devised a solution to make it happen.  If you aren't familiar with the story, you can read it in Genesis 16.  Abram got his son, but it wasn't the son God was referring to in His covenant with Abram.  There was a great deal of family strife, and the Middle East, in fact the entire world, is still paying the price for Sarai's attempt at "helping" God's plan along.

Sarah's daughter-in-law Rebekah also tried to "help" God out.  In Genesis 25, the account is given of her twin sons' birth and God's promises regarding them.  In Genesis 27, Rebekah helps her son Jacob to deceive his father in order to bring about this promise.  Once again, much heartache and family strife follows this decision.

I have to confess, I have a strong tendency to be a Sarai or a Rebekah.  I love God's promises and I can't wait to see them come to pass. 

That's my problem:  I can't wait. 

So I "help" God.  And disaster follows.  (I could tell you the story of my first marriage if anyone wants to hear how I "helped" God, and like Sarai and Rebekah, made a huge mess of things.)

Right now, I have a pretty good idea where God is taking me. We haven't cut up animals over the promise like God did with Abram, and He has not given me a specific prophecy as He did for Rebekah in Genesis 25:23, but somehow I know where my life is heading.

The problem is, I want to be there right now.  I can't wait.  But I must.  I know that if I interfere, if I behave like Sarai or Rebekah did, like I have in the past, I will only bring disaster on myself, and possibly interfere with His plan for my life.

This is where "waiting on God" comes into play.  And so I return to Psalm 27:13-14 again:

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dreaming of a Real Man

One more reason why I would like to be married again:  I need the emotional support. 
I know some of you who are married are thinking, "Yeah, right, like you'd ever get that from a husband!"  You know what?  You probably get more support from your husband than you think you do.  But it's one of those weird things that you don't miss until it's gone.

My ex was emotionally unavailable for much of our marriage.  But the simple fact of knowing that there was somebody there to share the burdens of raising kids, to take on some of the responsibility for how they turn out, and even just to be a warm body and listening ear (even if he really wasn't listening) at the end of a long day was a comfort.

This summer, I am overwhelmed.  I miss that support, no matter how little I had.  I also miss the stress-relief of someone to hold me at the end of a long day.  I miss having someone whose future is so tied to mine that he prays for me, knowing that he is really strenghtening himself when he does that. 

This morning, I turned on the radio and caught the tail end of Family Life Today.  They were talking to Stu Webber about "applied masculinity."  That got me thinking.

Our culture tends to devalue the role of husbands and fathers, and it seems that many men are willing to "live down" to the cultural view of men as bumbling idiots who aren't really necessary in a family. 

But to borrow the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.,  I have a dream.  I dream that someday, God will bless me with a man who understands how important and necessary he is to me and to our family.  I dream that God will bless me with a man who refuses to stoop to the level that the media places men on, and will instead stand up tall and be a real man, one who stands firm and strives to be all that God has called him to be.

And no, this isn't just a fairy tale.  There are men out there who are real men.  I know some of them, and I pray that someday one of those men will be a part of my life and my family.  I could use the support of a real man.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Songs for Quiet Desperation

Wow, time gets away from me when I am busy and stressed!  I can't believe I have neglected posting for two whole weeks now.

Our pastor started a new sermon series titled "Leading Lives of Quiet Desperation."  He opened the first message of the series by playing the Casting Crowns song, Praise You In This Storm.  This song was one of the songs that carried me through my time of quiet desperation, AKA my separation.  (Although I am not sure my desperation was quiet...)  This song expressed almost perfectly my determination to continue praising God, even though He wasn't working things out the way I thought He should, and the storm was continuing to rage in my life.

This got me to thinking about other songs that were important to me during that time in my life.  One of them was Lord (I Don't Know), by the Newsboys.  My confusion and uncertainty about the future was captured nicely in this song, and the plea for His peace was the prayer of my heart.

A song that made me cry everytime I heard it was another Casting Crowns song, Slow Fade.  In fact, to this day, when I hear this song, I get choked up.  Was the writer of this song spying on my ex-husband as he did his "slow fade" into adultery?   How did he capture so clearly my concern that one or more of my children might follow him down this road someday?

A song that we sometimes sing in church took on a whole new meaning for me during that time in my life.  Blessed Be Your Name (and I liked the version by the Newsboys with Rebecca St. James) suddenly was more about my marriage than about the loss a friend had suffered several years previously.  I wanted to be able to continue to say "Blessed Be Your Name!" despite my circumstances, to get through the death of my marriage with the same measure of peace and stability as my friend had displayed during his loss.

It's amazing how we can find so much comfort in songs that seem to fit our circumstances. 

What songs speak to you during your times of quiet (or not-so-quiet) desperation?


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

20 Questions

If I were interviewing a man for a significant position in my life, there are certain things I would want to know.  Sometimes, though, some of these questions aren't appropriate to ask.  Some of them are very serious questions, the kind that would be deal-breakers;  some are not-so-serious, just curiosity-satisfiers; and some are downright silly.  So here is my list of 20 questions I wish I could ask.

1.   Where are you spiritually today?
2.   How did you get there?
3.   What kind of chocolate do you like best?
4.   Where would you live if you could live anywhere at all?
5.   Do you ever get drunk?
6.   What is your favorite sport?
7.   What would your dream job be?
8.   What is your favorite kind of kiss?
9.   What do you do when you get angry?
10.  Have you usually been the heart breaker or the heart breakee?
11.  Have you ever been arrested?
12.  Boxers or briefs?
13.  What kinds of jobs have you had?
14.  Do you have a bad temper?
15.  What was your favorite subject in school?
16.  Have you ever done drugs?
17.  Have you ever hit or shoved or otherwise been violent with a woman?
18.  What do you sleep in?
19.  What is your favorite food?
20.  What is the best thing a previous wife or girlfriend ever did for you?