Twenty Years

Originally posted to Blogspot on:

February 13, 2014:

This one is for the ladies, the lonely hearts, the hopefuls. This is for those, like me, who have longed for relational change but couldn’t find it. This is for those who have nevertheless impacted my heart and mind in a positive way, who have, whether inadvertently or intentionally, affected my idea of what makes a woman great. This is for the good women who have called me friend and accepted me for who I am:

The heart is something we all have year round, and something we do our best to share whenever appropriate. On one day each year, we make a big deal about showing it, about nurturing it, about enlarging it, etc. We make plans to create an environment to revel in it and to exchange extravagant gifts to validate it. We can complain that Hallmark started it for its capital gain, but let’s be honest, it never hurts to tell someone who’s special to us that he or she is special, and if we’re so consumed with life that we need a designated day to remind us why we care, and remind us that we should say something about it, well, it sucks, but at least it’s something. The important thing is that we have that one person we need that reminder for. Shows that we’re doing something right in our choices. It might be the only right choices we’re making.

For twenty years I’ve been praying for someone worthy of my heart to come along and do her part to alter my life for the better, and more interesting, and more exciting, and more fulfilling. For twenty years I’ve spent each 15th of February expecting next year to be different, and each following 14th of February wondering why it isn’t. Some have argued that I don’t try hard enough to invite that change. But I know that’s untrue. Maybe I don’t cast my net into the sea and try to catch as many fish as I can, or pick through the pile until I find the first one I like. But I do invite opportunities to get to know people when connections are made. I don’t make it impossible for a good woman to get close if there’s no reason to keep her at a distance. I certainly am not lost on doing my part to invite change. But it takes two people to make a relationship work, and I can’t invite change if I’m the only one who wants to see it happen. The fact is, I have plenty of good lady friends who know and understand me and, as a result, respect me; some are just right themselves, but for whatever reason aren’t looking for more; some, I’m sure, are networked well enough to know somebody, and anyone who knows me well knows the qualities my heart tends to gravitate toward, yet those introductions are rarely made (and the few that are made tend to peg me completely wrong). Sometimes I meet someone worthy of my attention, and I make it my priority to offer my time in getting to know her—the end result generally comes down to her not having the time, or her deciding we’re just friends, or her simply not looking to date. I have given Internet dating a try, much to my chagrin, and, well, let’s just say I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a screwdriver than go through that nightmare again. The things that should’ve helped, haven’t, and the things that I never should’ve bothered with, also haven’t. Twenty years of praying about it, meeting good women, meeting a few that I really liked, and doing my part to move things forward have yet to put me in that position where the 14th of February actually means something. There’s a point when I have to admit that I’ve done everything I can and the rest is between whoever is out there and God. Might be the symptom of praying that I would find one, just one, who would be all the difference to me and more than enough to put other interests out of mind. Maybe if I hadn’t asked for that, my story would’ve played out differently. Whatever the reason, I have most certainly taken my chances. I can’t make someone choose me.

I don’t know when the change will happen. I’ve given it to God a long time ago, even though I remind Him often that I’m still waiting. I get frustrated when I meet and start getting to know someone amazing and come to find out she’s already with someone, or I’m not her type, or we’re not actually out on a date in spite of it sure looking and feeling like one. I get more frustrated when God uses a friend or stranger to drop off a random comment designed to give me hope (like the time when I was sweeping the dining room floor at the restaurant I had worked at, feeling brokenhearted over something relational but stupid, and the random old lady in the corner of the room told me I’d make someone a great husband one day—that was basically like hearing God telling me that, and at that time I needed some kind of encouragement) when the better solution, in my mind, is to give me favor and put the woman I’ve prayed for in my life, now, today, with eyes and a heart ready for me. She’s out there, right? So where is she? What’s the hold up?

Waiting sucks because there is no magic formula for speeding up that first meeting, or making someone that catches my attention “the one,” or being in the right place at the right time or doing the right thing to ensure that conditions are perfect for that meeting to happen and that first impression to be the best impression in the history of time, space, and the Internet. No Christian living book, no self-help book, and no seminar on “the perfect whatever” has the answer because that assumes formulaic thinking, and God has proven throughout history, in the Bible, in history books, and in personal stories I’ve heard from friends and family that He introduces people (I don’t believe in random coincidence) in any way He chooses, that there is no “right” introduction, that there is no “right” path, and that no two couples have the same origin story or chapter-by-chapter development as the next. Basically, two people meet (I believe by God’s sovereign hand), and they decide what to do with that meeting. Most of the time when God introduces two people, they say hello, feel nothing, and move on to the next table. That’s valid. That relationship was never going to happen. Perhaps it could have; perhaps it would’ve been the best relationship they would ever have with another person. But they will never know because the connection wasn’t fast, hot, and intense. They move on, hoping to find the relationship that does burn them hot and bright (and fast). Ignorance is bliss.

But just because this usually happens, doesn’t mean it always happens.

The stories that people have shared with me have often left a mark on my viewpoint. I’ve come to understand that when we do things God’s way, He can arrange things however He wants. Sometimes they know in the first minute that they’ve found “the one” or at least the one they’re gonna actually choose, even if “the one” is just a term we give to validate our dream partner. One couple I know (who might be reading this) knew they had found their respective spouses within four hours of conversation, immediately lost touch with each other due to forgetting to exchange numbers (I think that was the story), were somehow reconnected a week later, and in that second meeting the man asked the woman to marry him, and her response was, “What took you so long?” Their fifth date (over eight months of long distance communication) was their wedding. Twenty years later, they are still together; I assume happily.

Another couple I have great respect for were just friends for well over a year before they realized that they were better off together than not, and made the decision to date (it helped that their relationship was prophesized over; though that is most certainly a rarity, and proof that no formula is “the way”), and spent another year or so in courtship, putting God first, etc., and now they are eighteen years and two kids into their highly successful marriage. They didn’t have to marry. For the first year and a half that they knew each other, they had no intention in dating the other. But they didn’t close it down as an option. Their openness led them to much bigger and better things.

Another couple I know had done things perfectly by the courtship model, going through the various steps and stages as outlined in some of the best relational books around. They looked great together. Fit the formula’s expectations perfectly. They got married; they had taken their steps and stages to the letter. This was the natural order, according to the books. They divorced five years later after spending most of the marriage engaged in battle. They followed the formula.

The successful ones had just embraced God’s wisdom, and trusted Him to keep them strong, and trusted each other to keep each other strong. No set outline required—just the one that their Heavenly Father had put before them with them in mind. They also kept an open heart. They understood that they were inviting imperfect people who look badly in the morning into their own hard lives. They were gonna make it work because God didn’t have to bring them together but chose to anyway.

Every story is worth telling. My favorite ones are those told from the unlikeliest or craziest situations. I look forward to telling mine once I’m allowed to write the first chapter.

I don’t have anyone to share this day designed by Hallmark and adopted into popular culture as the day to say three important words, and exchange shiny gifts, and enjoy all the benefits of having someone who cares in my life right now. And, really, that’s okay. I do want to experience this sentiment that pretty much everyone else gets to experience year after year, and I hope to experience it sooner than later, but I’ve been weaned heavily on patience throughout my life, so this game of patiently waiting and improving myself in the meantime is more of the same. However, being single doesn’t make me unable to express to my lady friends what each of them means to me. You ladies deserve to know that you’re important. Right?

Even though I’m structuring this like a blog, I’m writing much of it with the intention of cross-posting it to Facebook for my actual lady friends to see, and I’m writing this to you, the ladies, because I want you to know that I appreciate the place you either had or still have in my life. I realize that many of you have not gotten to know me well at all, and if we’ve spoken just once, I guess we can chalk this one up to what could have been. But for those who have given me the time to know you well, and those who have allowed me to show that I care, and those who have accepted me in all of my states, at my best and at my worst, and those who allowed me to reciprocate that unconditional acceptance, you have my utmost appreciation. You’ve taught me a lot about what good women are. I’ve tried my best to show you what a good man is. I don’t know if I’ve done my part well, but I can tell you that if I’ve ever cared about you, even a little, or if I’ve gone out of my way to be there for you, or listen to you, or just enjoy your friendship in whatever state it’s in, then you’ve probably done your part to prove your quality to me, and any quality of yours I’ve admired, I’ve probably put on my checklist of traits I hope to find in a wife. That’s all valuable, of course. I hope you can appreciate that. God has certainly used you to impact me for the better.

To those of you who are married, I learn a lot by how you speak of yourselves, your husbands, and your families. You encourage me when you speak highly of those you’re “stuck” with. You scare me when you criticize even the little things, but you remind me that forgiveness is powerful, and love can overlook just about anything. You remind me that marriage is two imperfect people doing the best they can to make this awkward decision they had made at one point actually work. You convince me that it’s not such an insane decision to carry out when you speak of those times that do work. Time and again I hear people regret the decision to marry. Many wish they could go back to being single. I get it. Your freedoms are false. The plans you make, you have to run by your spouse (a lot like a twelve-year-old has to run by his parents). Your friendships with the opposite sex are extremely limited, and most, if not all, fade to just a shadow of what it once was. Seems like a raw deal on the surface. But then you consider the companionship, the intimacy, the partnership, the wellspring of resources, and the fact that if you’re having a heart attack in the middle of the night, someone will know about it and get immediate help, and suddenly marriage sounds like something that everyone should have a right to invest in. Even if it’s all kinds of scary. Seeing some of you going through these ups and downs, these joys and difficulties with your spouses reminds me that, if I can handle a woman at her worst, then I have no reason to be afraid of this. Most women I know, who trust me, will at some point reveal her worst, and I’m usually tolerant of it. I think I’m emotionally ready.

Those of you who are a little older, I get a picture of what a good wife becomes. You display the same tendencies as the newer wives, but do so as veterans. Your previous stresses are no longer stressful. You’ve endured. You’ve figured out your game plan and stuck with it. You’ve become the perfect model for the next generation. You remind me that any woman I choose will go through her rough patches, but eventually she’ll be made better, and even in those darkest moments, she’s worth having close to me. Today may suck, today may really suck, but there’s still hope for healing tomorrow and hope for betterment the day after.

To those of you who are single, I want to say that I appreciate you a lot, too. As of today, not one of you has taken a chance on me, and that’s fine. You decide what you want. Doesn’t mean I can’t learn from you, or you can’t learn from me, and part of making friends, dating future spouses, or just speaking to acquaintances, is to better ourselves, our circumstances, and to understand what other people need and, if possible, help them to meet those needs. I think that’s the nature of real love—giving of ourselves to meet the needs or desires of someone else, whether we feel like it or not, not because we expect a return but because we have the capability and desire to give anyway. To those of you who let me be who I am, thank you. You’re the reason I don’t give up. You remind me that I’m still necessary.

Not everyone who was close to me once is still close to me today. Most, in fact, have faded from my life as the years ticked on. But those who ever were close, I still care about, and still wish the best for. To those of you who have drifted away, I appreciate the person each of you has helped craft me to become. Some of you have done your part to make me stronger. Some have led me to greater tolerance. Some have reminded me of the qualities I desire in a wife. Some have reminded me of the qualities I hope never to encounter again. Some of you have shown me the errors of my ways. Some of you have forgiven me of my stupidities. I’m still thankful for all of that. Time and circumstance may have caused a rift, but you still have your impression on me.

Life is a process, a journey, a mystery, a heartbreak, a hassle, a joy, and a roller coaster. If you and I were ever friends, or if we could’ve been close had we just had a little more time and better circumstances, or if we learned anything valuable from each other, just know that I’m glad that you are or were a part of my life, that you have your special place in my heart, and that on this coming day where we’re supposed to make a big deal, I may be walking alone, spending my evening eating a burger and watching Robocop, but I’ll be happy because I’ve been given a chance to know you. I hope this message is better than candies and flowers. I hope you have the story you’ve always wanted.

Twenty years of prayer, and here I am pretty darn blessed to have such amazing ladies cross my path and show me what I’ve been praying for. Thanks to each of you who are, in fact, amazing.

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