Even good relationships can be fragile,
fragile as ice.
It’s easy to skate along in the winter. Then, at the change of season, just as you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, and enjoy the rubber-band snaps of ice in the distance breaking the cold, stagnant air that had been drying your flesh, it is possible to slip through a crack.
Sharp numbness and gasping for air. Complete shock.
it’s a must, to crawl out, as soon as possible. How long can one stay in? Is it a decision, or a matter of strength? Either way, one must get out, avoid the freezing of blood pumping organs, crawl to shore and kiss the foundation—the ground that allowed this icy lake to exist in the first place.
How natural, is the passive-aggressive nature of skating.
I thought I had the memory capacity of a honey bee. “Forgive and forget.” Bah. “So easy,” I thought. I honestly don’t remember things I’ve forgiven, because I forgot them. I chalked it off as Christianity. Others chalked it off as selective memory.
This is the cycle of my life, and what I recently recognized as my skating routine. Do I really forgive? Or do I “forget”—meaning “skate” over a problem? I can forgive and forget– unless there’s that shock factor. Splash! Didn’t see it coming! I can’t stand icy water—feelings of anger and betrayal. It’s common sense to me, to jump out, warm up– common sense to guard that blood-pumping organ at the center, my heart. To pry the icy fingers of anger off, as soon as possible. Breathe. To reconcile as fast as possible, perhaps out of fear of a death, that death of what was comfortable, the death of what I thought I lived for—that routine called my life, I loved so much. If you fell in, would you ever skate again? Perhaps only once the lake froze, three seasons later, perhaps the next day, on the other side of the lake, with your friends shouting out “idiot!” Don’t put your full weight on thin ice.
Pleasantness, cold shock. Passive, aggressive. FB relationship , FB single. Do we stop and make a decision, or do we scramble to be comfortable, to save ourselves?
I believe there are two human quests that will always fail when we’re at it alone. You will recognize these quests, or participate in one, daily:
1) people searching out the perfect person to love, either now, or planning on it later.
2) people seeking to become the perfect lover.
Love and be loved. From afar, it seems like number one is hopeless and idealistic: a person desires to find his or her soul mate, the one he or she couldn’t live without. “The grass is greener on the other side.” Then number two seems like a dream come true, Christ in the flesh, if you will.
However, I have tried to be number two and realized Manning has some potent advice for me: “Apart from God’s love we’re all shadowy players, haphazardly walking through our roles on the stage of life. The love of God alone is meaning and substance.”
It’s not about becoming the perfect lover. It’s about being loved by the perfect lover, who cannot be human, as no human is perfect. Including you, me. Why become the perfect lover without being perfectly loved? To never be left behind? To earn love you crave? To gain praise over the sweat and toil of your sacrifices? To enable? To suffer abuse, justifiably?
The truth is, if we don’t love because we know that we are loved enough ourselves to love others, we are loving in fear, in bondage for the need to be loved. “The love of God alone is meaning and substance.” Apart from his love, we can do nothing, nothing but skate comfortably. Don’t be, but do. We act as if it’s okay to not be content, if one can just keep skating.
I skated along as the “perfect lover” or, rather, the people pleaser. Avoiding conflict, asking tough questions without probing, hoping for the best. When the ice cracked, I fell straight in, popped-out, frozen in shock. It all happened so fast. I protected my heart without even thinking twice, it felt like survival 101. I screamed F* you, de-friended my boyfriend, and sought a warm blanket after describing my cold shock to close friends. I had no idea I would risk the happy life I had before in measly minutes of cold shock. At the time, it felt natural, understandable.
This wouldn’t have happened, had I not been skating. Skating through my faith, my relationship, my boundaries. I was not aware of what forgiveness and God’s love meant in that moment I fell through thin ice, I only remembered that God wanted my best, and this wasn’t it, I had decided. It was over.
I became selfish and bitter. Worse than that: a bitter “Christian,” someone who grieves without hope.
After warming up, and hearing his explanations of the misinterpreted information, all I wanted was to skate again. It’s comfortable. But I had messed up, sick and still wet from the fall, a drowned rat. I was no longer me, no longer the “perfect” lover. I had a capacity for anger. I can’t forgive and forget so easily anymore. I didn’t even know what it meant. I didn’t even know I had my own cave of anger.
I wanted to love unconditionally, like God, and become a perfect lover to my boyfriend, to shake off this cold and wet feeling. Then it hit me that I desire being a perfect lover, not because I wanted my boyfriend’s best, but because I had a fear of being apart from him.
I didn’t want to see him for months. Years. I felt shriveled, an empty casing. But hearing stories of reconciliation inspired me. Once I tumbled out the bulk of my anger in emails, I crashed. All I wanted was to be held. All I wanted was for things to be as they were.
I don’t believe the grass is greener on the other side. Yes, I believe I could go find someone else. But love doesn’t happen because you find the “perfect” person. Love happens when you choose to love. It’s not an act of fear, but an act of courage. Judy Hougen, author of “Transformed into Fire,” puts it this way:
Jesus loves men and women, not for what He finds in them, but for what lies within Himself….He does not detect what is congenial, appealing, attractive, and respond to it with favor. In fact, He does not respond at all. The father of Jesus is a source. He acts; He does not react. He initiates love. He is love without motive. (116)
He is the source. Apart from knowing and believing God is the source of love, I will never be the perfect lover, because I will never be loved perfectly. Call the search for your human soul mate off. Your soul mate is next to you, his name is Jesus, he’s waiting for you to realize how messed up you are, yet how much he loves us, anyway. His love is deeper than the oceans, reaching further than east is to the west.
I told God, all I wanted to do was hug him, my “ex” boyfriend. He told me I could. I was shocked. I was driving over, in the fast lane. “Annie, he will still be there if you drive in the slow lane, the whole way there,” God said, “even if there’s a crash slowing everything down, he will still be there, needing that hug.” I was excited—God was talking to me. I had prayed to hear God’s still small voice, as I knew God was with me, and it worked.
I showed up and his house was dark. “Sh00t.” I thought. “I’m demon possessed.”I’m a bit of a drama queen now, apparently. I remembered the verse that faith is not an act by sight. I knocked on the door. Just once. Stood. Began to accept that I was not hearing God’s voice after all, when the door swung open. He needed my hug.
I prayed aloud. It was a beautiful moment, I’ll never forget. And I didn’t do it in fear. I didn’t hug him to make me love him back, to make him love me more. I hugged him because he needed it.
Strangely enough, I decided I won’t date him again until I recognize that dating him doesn’t mean I will marry him. This will take some time to get used to: after six years of dating exclusively, I didn’t earn marriage.
Truth is, reconciling this very moment would not be an act of love, it would be an act of fear. Right now, I don’t want a future without him, despite some shocking mistakes. Faith, love, hope—they should never be derived from fear. Yet, Christians do this often.
Why accept that Christ loves you? Just so that you don’t go to hell? Don’t become beloved out of fear. If we truly understood how much we are loved by God, we would desire to love him back, with a true love, an honest love that does not act in fear of others’ reactions. God doesn’t want us to primarily be perfect lovers. He wants us to be perfectly loved by him, the creator and sustainer himself. To do that, we would have a lot of fear to dump, a lot of bullshit to give up. I believe that God would rather have us scream out to him: “Why me? Why has this happened?” Than to “accept” love, where there’s no room inside, because an unaddressed anger, lust, greed, grudge is still there, swept under the rug. Don’t accept love because it’s the “right thing to do.” Perhaps it’s only the right thing to do after a change of heart, which is an uphill battle for us. Humans are so stubborn. We are terrifying creatures, walking with the kingdoms of heaven and hell inside of us. We are weak, but the decisions we make, the decision to share and receive truth and love are vital. I believe God wants us to wrestle with him, he is not afraid of our emotions, our reactions, our brokenness, our loneliness or our pride. His love is unconditional. He doesn’t want to reconcile with the good people, he wants to reconcile with you. With me. With your ex spouse. With your betraying best friend. He wants you, them—to know that you are created for more than this. The world will know Christ through how he truly redeems a messed up situation.
It’s understandable to yell “F* you!” and run off, after a betrayal. But to leave it there, without seeking help, without processing, means to act without hope, to act without Jesus Christ, who is hope.
Which is why I am choosing a path toward reconciliation. Which is why I am choosing to act slowly, that I may act out of love, not fear. Which is why I choose to live intentionally, with awareness of how I am feeling, instead of skating comfortably.
Crack that ice, become alive. It’s the season to break wide open, to warm up again.
Yes, I’m still angry, but not without hope; I feel alive.