The fear of man is a snare,
but the one who trusts in the LORD is protected.
“For the praises of man, I will never ever stand….” Noble words, good words. On one level very, very true words. Should be true. Want to be true. Unfortunately, ever since teenagerism, over 30 years ago, the truth is, it hasn’t been as true as I wish it to be. In the course of pursuing emotional closeness with another human being I have experienced both fleeting and false “friendships” that are not really there for you when push comes to shove and which depend wholly on one-sided effort on my part to sustain any semblance of relationship; unrequited “love,” and emotional manipulation and abuse — and bad judgement on my part because I really want to give people the benefit of the doubt and believe that they can be better than they appear.
Problem is, they have to want to change and be open to GOD’s transformational power because He won’t force them. But I can be slow to accept the truth and hold onto futile hopes long past any reasonable expectation –partly because of my faith that GOD is able for anything; but too often, largely because I can’t bear the thought of another rejection and dashed dream, I fail to let go and look ahead and see that GOD has something better in mind than what I thought I wanted. So I stubbornly hold onto the dead thing and insist that if I just do or say exactly the right thing, pray enough, wait long enough I can breathe life into the rock and all my fairy tale dreams will come true. I get too focused on what I want rather than letting GOD do what He wants in me and for me.
It has gotten to the point where I can feel just emotionally dead to the pain and confusion and tell myself that I don’t care anymore or that I have to hide my true feelings because 95 percent of the time, knowing how I feel will not change the other person’s mind about me. More often than not, my desire for emotional honesty just gives someone who is truly indifferent to me or uninterested in my thoughts, feelings and needs the ammunition to hurt me.
Never exactly popular — not with “boys” nor friends in general, I have historically had a tendency to get way too emotionally invested in hoping and dreaming of the fairy tale romance that would ensue as soon as the XY chromosome bearer that struck my fancy fell madly in love with me, as I imagined I had with him, in spite of the indisputable fact that the entire relationship existed only in my head and my overactive imagination….and keep your mind G rated because my imagination was more interested in the emotional connection with a guy who would actually WANT to be with me and be motivated enough to pursue me of his own accord without prompting and from a sincere heart and not out of pity or resigned obligation or boredom/joke/way to pass the time until something better came along or hidden agenda that had nothing to do with actually respecting me as the person GOD made me to be.
My reality has been much more prosaic and dull. It has mainly consisted of males who barely knew I existed or were passing acquaintances at best with a bare minimum of words passing between us, if any, ever. The male species does not seek me out. Not when I was young and single, and not now that I am middle age and single — and there could be a million and one reasons why. I do not want even want to get into the self-doubt and depression causing debate of whether it is a failing or defect on my part, his, both or just that none of these are God’s will for me.
I am not saying all this for pity or sympathy. In fact, please don’t go there. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me nor feel obligated by a false sense of guilt or rescue to play the hero of this story to turn it around. It is what it has been and the past cannot be changed. But God can write my future any way He wants –whether that is more of the same or a radical turn around and change of tradition.
The truth is that I have already done the route where I sacrifice the quest for Godly integrity (in a partner and in myself), respect and unconditional love for temporary physical satisfaction and the illusion of love. I have already known what it looks and feels like to have someone use false “love” only in order to manipulate me into losing myself, my God-given identity in Him in order to placate and gratify his own desires. I can unequivocally say, it is not worth it!
After a 22 year “experiment” in compromise for the sake of peace and “love,” I can definitively assure any doubters that compromising one’s Godly principles to win peace and love, just because you aren’t getting the attention you crave from the Christian boys/men you wish would fall madly in love with you (but in reality barely acknowledge your existence), does NOT, absolutely does NOT actually produce love nor peace. In my experience, it is the breeding ground for an ever increasing contempt, abuse and utter lack of respect for yourself and anything of GOD and a complete disregard for anyone’s comfort or physical, emotional and financial safety but his own. In other words, if you are at the point where you are considering heading down that road — DON’T, just please DON’T! I guarantee you it will not end well!
Evidently, however, my 22-year detour delayed my fully learning the lesson that putting all my hopes and dreams and emotional well-being into the futile hope that someone who barely knows nor cares that I exist beyond a polite surface level meet and greet at best or formal association of a shared workplace or group affiliation or is only offering a cheap knock off of “love” as a manipulation and control tactic, is suddenly going to wake up one morning against all signs to the contrary and suddenly really know me, understand who I am and fall madly in love with me and carry me off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Something on the order of Lucy’s description in While You Were Sleeping:
Do you believe in love at first sight? Nah, I betcha don’t, you’re probably too sensible for that. Or have you ever, like, seen somebody? And you knew that, if only that person *really* knew you, they would, well, they would of course dump the perfect model that they were with, and realize that YOU were the one that they wanted to, just, grow old with.
Chasing that dream and having it repeatedly crushed beyond all recognition led me into settling for the extended version of a disappointing and soul crushing alternate reality. GOD finally broke through my misplaced sense of duty in the face of utter indifference and God rebellion and finally complete rejection that actually set me free according to 1 Corinthians 7:15. He rescued me from my own short sighted choices and gave me a second chance.
I find though that being middle aged and single is no easier than being young and single — in some regards even harder, because most of the guys in the right decade are either already married or don’t want to be married or have bigger issues than considering romantic entanglements or have personality — shall we say it the nice way– “quirks” that probably explain why they are still single. If I see a guy who physically catches my attention, nine times out of 10, he’s married and I have to quickly shut down that train of thought so as not to violate the 7th and 10th commandments. The few who appear to be single (yes, I confess–when I get the first inkling that I find a guy attractive, I check for the wedding ring and the proximity of any woman who might have a claim on his affections before letting my train of thought leave the station!) generally follow the same pattern as I experienced in my teens and early 20s — I don’t exist or I am merely an acquaintance or casual or formal associate, not even an actual friend. No initiating contact on their own, so it is a very one-sided thing with no indication of reciprocal interest.
This is where the waters get dicey for me because if I don’t check my thoughts early enough, my emotional investment runs away with me all out of proportion to reality and I find myself putting out copious amounts of effort, while trying to seem casual and unconcerned, to try to trigger his interest. It is exhausting, it is deflating and always disappointing. It never fails to end with me getting hurt, although most of the time it is not at all the guy’s fault. He never did anything to raise my expectations — it was all me and my own wishful thinking and imagination.
So I find that instead of hoping and trusting in God for the future He has written for me, I try to co-opt control and make things happen according to my vision of perfection, even though it has never, ever, ever turned out well for me. Not with my young crushes and unrequited “loves,” not with my former marriage (ended only after much prayer, final rejection and refusal to get any kind of help and physical/emotional/financial safety became a HUGE issue) and not now, nearly two years later, that I am wondering what God may have planned for my future in this department.
I want someone who loves Jesus with all his heart more than he loves me, who authentically loves and has a great relationship with my kids and can handle all the baggage and reality that is me as GOD made me, no masks, no mirrors, no compromise or pretending to be someone I’m not. These are non-negotiables. But, if I act like I want that more than I want GOD, even if I say differently with my words, then I am not ready. If I still let my desire for male companionship, run away with my emotions and put my identity into trying to force or inspire a reciprocal commitment from an unwilling partner, instead of standing firm in my identity as a Beloved Daughter of the One True King and letting Him unfold my story in His time, I am still in need of remedial lessons from GOD in putting all my hope and trust in Him and the specific promises He has made me.
On another level of my struggle, a lot of people are surface “nice” but too busy with their own things to really dive into real relationship or are too invested in the modern desire for “privacy” to be truly authentic, honest, real and welcoming. I am starting to recognize more and more the prevalence of the “official” or “Christian” nice that gets put on in the right circles but never pursued outside of the common place of intersection. Very few people actually care to go deeper than the surface — even many who say they care, only remember to do so when I am right in front of them and start to backpedal and look for escape hatches if I get too real. I don’t mean dumping all my baggage on an innocent store clerk or oozing drama all over my colleagues when we need to be working. I mean people with whom I have at least an apparently somewhat reciprocal relationship can seemingly cut and run all of a sudden, revealing the limits to their interest in me and that which concerns me.
All this past and current baggage can make me doubt my own instincts and second guess myself into inaction. But that is a large part of how I got into the mess I was in in the first place. I can’t even count the number of times that I have sensed something but been afraid to speak up or act for fear of standing alone or offending someone with the Truth — even if spoken in grace — only to have it proven later on that I was right and I would have been better off acting on my gut even when I couldn’t explain why or how I knew something at the time. GOD has been working on me lately though and convicting me to stop ignoring these nudges, these instincts, to get up and act. These things turn out to be right, not because I am something special but because He is revealing things to me and I have been in the habit of ignoring it, afraid of seeming too presumptuous.
I have to stop pretending that I don’t care or that my thoughts and emotions are something to be ashamed of or hidden. Not that I have to do a total data dump on everyone I meet. I surely do not want to be guilty of TMIing people who are only being polite and cordial and have no interest actually getting involved in my story. I need to accept that GOD gives me my emotions for a reason but not let them run away with me before I check with Him to find out His reason. Not to use them to develop my own agenda and get so emotionally invested in making my vision happen that I scare people away with an aura of desperation and neediness.
But on the other hand, to be honest with myself and GOD about how I really feel and let Him lead me to the appropriate times and places to share with someone else instead of acting like it would be a disastrous tragedy if someone found out that this is what I really think and feel and would surely drive them away, unless he has first taken the risk to declare his undying intentions. If my true thoughts and feelings would be a deal breaker, then this would not be a healthy relationship to start with and there is no point in pining over something that in reality would be another destructive relationship. (Although, I confess, I don’t care what modern century it is and how “progressive” things have supposedly become — I am a little on the old-fashioned side so if a guy has any interest in exploring possibilities with me, he will have to take the initiative to ask, to pursue me, as Karen Kingsbury says, “like a dying man seeking water in a desert.”)
Nonetheless, I will not be throwing myself at anyone. It is not, however, shameful, tragic or fearful if a guy notices or suspects my interest and asks for confirmation. I hereby resolve for once in my life to be honest if that ever happens and weather the consequences, take the risk of rejection and not let it sink my emotional ship or distract my focus from who I am in GOD, no matter what any man (or woman) thinks of me.
Bottom line is, whether in the matter of where GOD might be leading in the romance department, or in discerning true friends from surface level acquaintances masquerading as friends or speaking up on issues when He gives me insight on a matter because He has given me a platform to do so, or obeying His lead in the myriad details that make up my life regardless of the opinions of others who just want me to “play it safe” or conform to human logic, I have to stop getting so wrapped up in whether anyone else is going to understand or approve or whether this will attract the guy I think I want (whether he is what GOD has in mind remains to be seen since as I said no signs of pursuit, as usual, so no way to tell if there might be any attraction or compatibility beyond physical appearances).
If someone is not on board with me, and the way GOD made me, I have to practice just moving on, moving forward and looking for the ones that GOD will bring into my life that will understand, will value His work in me. I have to stop being afraid to say what I really think, what I really feel, what GOD is really doing in my life, the Truth He puts on my heart, and to do what He really asks me to do even when I can’t explain it to anyone else or others want to modify the plan according to their own comfort levels and find it presumptuous or arrogant that I think I know what GOD is asking of me and am sticking with His plan.
Let me never be more concerned with praise from men than God’s approval! (John 12:43)
I am learning to trust that I am hearing from GOD and just going with it. Do I get it perfectly every time? Absolutely not! But the more I rest my hopes and dreams and identity in Him rather than the folly of futile hopes that others will come around and see me the way I want to be seen and treat me accordingly, the more I experience the peace and love I so crave — from Him. The more I can do that, the more prepared I am for whoever He may choose to share me with in the future.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will go with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12