Lies, All Lies!

This afternoon I was overwhelmed by the crushing certainty that I am always going to be alone. I am old (well, comparatively to many of my friends) and still somewhat overweight, even though I exercise regularly and work hard not to overeat. I don’t make much money, and a lot of the time I still feel like I don’t have much to offer. I understand that it’s unlikely that I will ever marry a young, beautiful woman. Sometimes that hurts, and sometimes I’m honestly not sure that I want to. However, this emotional certainty that I would always be alone filled a part of my day with pain. It passed quickly enough, much like the majority of such lies, but left behind desires that I would rather not entertain, also much like the majority of such lies.

Life is often painful. We all have lies that we’ve built up over the years, lies that are buried deep in our psyche and help to form our fundamental self-image. These lies might come from old pains, from rejections, from childhood traumas… whatever. The lies that we believe can spring from any number of sources and none of them make those lies valid or true (they are two different things). I’ve often believed the lie that I have nothing to offer women, that I’m just not what women want, by citing the many rejections that I have under my belt. Honestly, this often seems like a valid defense for this lie, but sometimes I have to wonder. There have been times that this challenged my trust… honestly there are still times that it challenges my trust. Rejection can be very difficult to deal with. It can tear you apart quickly and easily, and sometimes that leaves you with little to hold on to. Enough rejection and it’s easy to start assuming that you will be rejected. This isn’t just true with women, but with every aspect of life. It’s easy to assume that you’ll be rejected at everything you do.

Honestly, I can count the number of times someone has tried to set me up on one hand. Heh, I used to ask some of my closer friends to set me up. I had one friend who used to tell me repeatedly that she ‘didn’t know anyone good enough for me’… I quickly took this to mean ‘I don’t know anyone on whom I’d inflict you’. The thing is this has more to do with me than it ever did with her… well, a little… honestly I’ve never been very sure that this particular friend likes me very much. I know that she loves me, but I’m not sure that she actually likes me. Still, it’s probably likely that this is more me than her also.

As I said, all of this has challenged by trust for God in the past, and it continues to challenge that trust. I still wonder if I’m going to be alone forever. I’m still not comfortable with that thought. I know that God should be sufficient. That I should be joyful in the midst of my doubt and in my loneliness. It’s still a challenge though. I am getting much better at rejoicing in the midst of pain, but this is still something of which I’m terrified. I even pointed out the other day that God told me to wait, that it wasn’t time yet for him to bring the right woman into my life. Of course, this all implies that there is actually reason to hope. Still, there are days when I trust and hope, and then there are days when I’m thoroughly terrified of being eternally alone.

I’m also just afraid of rejection in general. I finally started my application to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (for next fall) and, halfway through, was thoroughly convinced that there is no way they will let me in. I’m too old, I don’t do enough in the church, I don’t read enough, my grades are too low, I’m in too much debt, etc, etc, etc. I think about a hundred reasons why they would reject me ran through my head. Needless to say, I didn’t quite finish the application, though I got through more than half of it. Nonetheless, I knew that starting it would be difficult, this is why I started a full year before I hope to start. My goal is to have the application done my the end of the month, and then go from there. I’m terrified, and fairly certain that I won’t be able to hack it even if, by some miracle, they do let me in.

Here’s the thing though, with both woman and with seminary. I’ve been rejected… a lot… in both areas of my life, but God has grown me in the past seven years. Part of that growth has come through repeated rejections. Nonetheless, I know that if he wants me in seminary, then he will put me there, and I know that when he will put me there. It will probably take a miracle to get me back into school, and it will probably take a miracle for any woman to fall for me. However, God is in the business of miracles. It’s what he does, and he knows when best to perform them. So, all I can do is trust him and wait.

Want vs. Need

I often tell people that the difference between want and need is very important. This was drilled into me as a child, but I don’t think I actually learned the difference until I was in my mid-twenties. The less you have, the more you find out how little you actually need. These days I can honestly say that there isn’t all that much that I really want. There are things that I want, but not all that many. However, something I’ve realized is that I’ve tended to apply this formula to my relationships as well. I tend to look for relationships based on need, and I think that a large part of this is because I believe that if a woman doesn’t need me she won’t want me.

I’ve had an introspective sort of day, and what this introspection has brought me to is the fact that I need to seriously restructure how I choose women to pursue. I’ve mentioned that I tend to set myself up as a rebound guy, and the reason for this is that I want to be needed. I want a woman to need me around, and for some reason I think that if she needs me around, then she’ll want me around as well. Of course, as I’ve also mentioned, I tend to treat women well, until I try to change them. This creates a vicious, broken cycle in which I find a woman who is hurting and needy, nurse her back to emotional health, but in doing so realize that I don’t actually have much respect for her. So, I try to teach her how to be a person that I can respect (i.e. change who she is), which (when combined with getting her back to a point where she doesn’t need me) causes her to walk away. I can’t describe how incredibly unhealthy this is. Honestly, I don’t really think I need to explain it, and I’m amazed that I’ve never actually realized it before. I think I’ve mentioned that I’m an idiot.

So, my new goal is to only pursue women who actually seem to enjoy having me around. That means that I need to find some women who enjoy having me around, which I’m not sure how to do. Perhaps it means that I need to become someone that women enjoy having around… which I’m also not sure how to do. I kind of think that T’Amber might enjoy having me around, and honestly Sally has already told me that she likes me (not romantically in any way, just in general as a person). However, I’m not really sure what any of this means or what to do with it. I’m bad at this… really bad at it.

That being said, when I get the chance I’m planning to ask T’Amber out. Part of me expects her to turn me down flat. Part of me expects her to be interested. Part of me doesn’t know what to expect. I’m also going to invite Sally to lunch… with a group of people… and I’m still rather hoping that she says no.

Have I mentioned lately that I’m really not a fan of dating. It’s just hard.

…And yet I found myself editing an eHarmony profile from about two and a half years ago. Seriously, I’d forgotten I made it. They finally quit sending me emails, and then I got one more… one thing at the right time is all it takes to change things. For good or ill or somewhere in between… or not at all. I’m guessing not at all with eHarmony, personally.

Where the Mind Goes…

I am a wholly sinful man. All to often a wholly sinful man with very little control over his mind. I’m sitting in my favorite coffeeshop right now, praying and communing with God precisely because of this. There are some days when women hold no interest for me whatsoever… for anyone who reads this it’s probably obvious that those days are few and far between, but they do happen. There are many days when a particular woman is on my mind. Not always the same woman, the heart of a single man is a mercurial thing, but a particular woman. Then there are days like today.

I’m praying and meditating because a few minutes ago I realized where my mind was. I found myself not with a particular woman on my mind, but desiring every woman in the shop simultaneously. One had a prettier face, one had a smaller frame, one was dressed in a manner that caught my eye, one young woman had beautiful eyes, another had larger breasts, etc, etc, etc. I think I was on the verge of fantasizing about a seven-way. Needless to say, this is not something that I was comfortable with.

So, I turned to God. To the source of my hope and my peace, and then I decided to write about it. Both have helped immensely, and I find my mind moving back into the domains that I want to focus on. Not to say that any of the attractive women have left… well, maybe one has, but to say that the focus of my mind and heart have shifted. Laozi said ‘let me have fewness of desires’, and I think that this is very important. I could easily get lost in my desire. I could easily say ‘give me all the women’. I could easily find myself dissatisfied simply because what I desire isn’t what I can or should have.

Instead, as Christ tells us in Matthew, I want to seek first the kingdom of heaven. That is where my heart and mind should lie.

The other day I was talking with a friend of mine about women and relationships in general. She said something that struck me, not so much for what she said, but for my reaction to what she said. She told me that I deserve to find love. There was a time, not too very long ago actually, when my automatic response to this would have been ‘yeah, right’. This would have reflected not simply a belief that I wouldn’t find love, but that I didn’t deserve to be loved.

This wasn’t my automatic response, and this is a good thing. My automatic response was ‘I know’. I believe that I do deserve to find love (at least, as much as anyone does), and that I deserve to be loved. I believe that I deserve to find someone who will love me, desire me, and treat me like a king, and someone who I will love, desire, and want to treat like a queen.

As an aside, this is something that I think a lot of women today fail to realize. I have met a great many women who say something along the lines of ‘I should be treated like a queen’, and this is not untrue. If I love a woman then I should treat her very well. However, it is also an inherently selfish statement. I want to find a woman that I can treat like a queen, but I also want to find a woman who understands that she should treat her man like a king. I’m very good at finding woman whom I want to treat well. I am not good at finding women who want to treat me well. This then leads me to try to change them. They do not want to treat me well, and so I set out to teach them the importance of doing so. It becomes my quest not simply to make them better, but to make them what I want… which is inherently and extremely selfish and immature.

Back to my point: I am finally in a place where I actually believe that I deserve to be loved. However, my friend also said ‘you’ll find a woman who will fall head over heels for you’, and my instinctive response to this was still ‘yeah, right’. While I am in a place where I believe that I deserve to be loved, I still have trouble seeing myself as lovable and desirable. The whole issue that began this post is a part of the reason for that, but I also know that this is something that everyone deals with. My friend pointed out that I ‘have so much to offer a woman but don’t believe in’ myself… well, she said ‘yourself’… why I ended the quotes early.

…That probably didn’t need to be explained. Anyway, my friend was pretty chalk full of wisdom. She’s completely right that I still have a lot of trouble seeing myself as desirable. I can identify things about myself that I think a woman should want, but I don’t really believe that any woman does want these things… or at least, not from me. Part of this is simply experience. I’ve been rejected by a lot of women, and that does help to shape my beliefs… more reinforce that ‘shape’ if I’m honest. However, the actual problem is much deeper than that.

While I see myself as deserving of love, I still don’t really see myself as fundamentally lovable. I still retain some measure of the belief that there is something in me or something about me that makes people essentially incapable of loving me… even though I believe that I am deserving of that love. Like I said quite some time ago, if you take away all of the masks I’m still that scared little kid who wants his parents to love him, and there is no woman who can touch that.

This is something that I think God is currently working on, and I have no doubt that it is not an easy task. I don’t know what its going to take to change this, or how long its going to take. However, I am confident in him.

Sleep

I am exhausted. Have you ever been at that point where you’re just too tired to think? Where you can’t even figure out what it is that you need to do next? That’s where I am right now. I know that I still have some grading to do today… I’m sure of it… I think… my classroom is down anyway so I don’t suppose it matters even if I do still have grading to do. I probably need the break anyway.

Honestly, I feel like the Sunday before last (June… something) was a month or two ago. Between cleaning, grading, bills, conversations, etc, etc, etc, I have had an incredibly long week. It’s been good though. I was talking to one of my students this week about the difference between hedonism and utilitarianism. Both philosophies tend to operate on a basic ‘pleasure=good/pain=bad’ mentality that is really truly simple to understand. There are variations of each that focus on this concept in different ways. For instance, some hedonists pursue long-term pleasures even if these involve short term pains (a position John Piper argues for in Desiring God). Utilitarians tend to argue that the greatest pleasure for the greatest number is good (i.e. seek the greatest good not the personal good), but pleasure is still associated with good.

I have a problem with this fundamental argument. The last week has not been pleasant for me. It has not been enjoyable, pleasurable, happy (I’ve been fairly happy, but circumstances certainly haven’t), etc. It has been difficult, exhausting, expensive, frustrating, and quite thoroughly painful. That being said, it has also been very good. I’ve seen growth in myself that I hadn’t realized was there. I’ve been tested, and I’ve been happy, even though nothing about my circumstances encouraged me to be. So, I have a difficult time accepting the notion that ‘good’ and ‘pleasure’ are linked together. Pain can be good, and pleasure can most certainly be bad. This doesn’t mean that they always are, but it does mean that good/bad and pleasure/pain are not synonyms, or necessarily even comparable.

Honestly, I’m tired enough that I’m not really sure I’m even making sense here. Oh, and I also learned from a friend today that apparently asking a girl to lunch means you just want to be friends. I never would have realized this, and I’m glad my friend told me because I was planning to ask not-Sarah to lunch tomorrow. Instead I called her and left a message asking if she wanted to get coffee some evening this week. I really hope that there isn’t some secret woman message in leaving a voicemail…

I think I like it better when I can just grunt at people.

New People

I managed to get all of my grading done today, amazingly considering that I took a four hour break to have a very enjoyable, very interesting, very deep spiritual conversation with two young ladies in the coffee shop that I normally work at. These weren’t strangers (though I did meet someone new tonight), but a couple of people that I met at the bbq I went to on the 4th. Honestly, I’m really not sure how I got all of my grading finished with the great conversations I had. Nonetheless I managed to get it all finished, and I finally got my good computer back, which is nothing short of amazing!

There is nothing quite like a good, deep conversation to get you going, and I had two long ones today (both with women amazingly enough…). I’m honestly not sure that I can explain everything that we talked about, it was all pretty heavy theology and philosophy, but both conversations moved from one topic to another pretty seamlessly. I do remember that a small section of the conversation covered the theology surrounding the ‘once saved always saved’ doctrine (which I reject, I’ll write about that someday), and we talked about natural sin and personal sin and why we all thoroughly suck in ever possible way, which is why we need grace in the first place. It was kind of an awesome conversation.

I also met a new friend (hopefully) today. We’ll call her Sarah… though that isn’t her name. Although… something tells me that I have actually met someone named Sarah recently… mmm… so we’ll call her not-Sarah. Anyway not-Sarah also provided a very enjoyable and very natural conversation. We talked about a lot of topics ranging from C.S. Lewis (who she loves and I hate… well… dislike) to salvation to childhood, to stupid dating decisions, to classical education for children, to jobs and college. Needless to say we talked for a while (hour and a half, maybe two hours). So, in between all of that talking, I managed to get 12 papers graded, discussion boards graded, evil disgruntled students responded to, and a bunch of back rubrics done. I feel like I had a fairly productive day. I also got not-Sarah’s number.

Here’s the thing… I’m not sure what the hell I’m doing here. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to not-Sarah, and I would very much like to talk to her again. However, I’m not convinced that I need to be anything other than single at the moment, and while I’m actually very satisfied being single at the moment, I’m worried that I might fall into old habits. For now, I’m going to let it be a good conversation that hopefully leads to another good conversation, and leave it at that.

I also got a couple of very nice comments today, and while I decided a little while back that I’m not going to post any comments on the blog, I wanted to thank the sender for the encouragement. You know who you are, and I appreciate the kind words… and yes, I am being tongue in cheek… mostly… I do have to admit that I am occasionally thoroughly annoyed at how quickly this blog seems to be gaining followers after I worked so hard to build a following on my professional blog.

Bible Study Burdens

Today has not been a good day. Actually, it’s pretty much been a downright bad day. Here’s the thing, today could have been a good day, it probably could have been a great day, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t. I’ve been meeting with a group of guys for a kind of floating bible study for a while now, and this week the only time we could meet was at 5:30 this morning. That’s right, 5:30… in the morning. So, I went to bed early (like 11), and got up early so that I could be ready and awake for the bible study.

The problem is, for a few days now I’ve been doing my devotions, but not really doing them. You know what I mean. I’ve been in that place where I don’t really want to spend time with God, but I do out of duty. Don’t get me wrong, duty isn’t a bad thing. If someone is spending time with God out of duty, I’m certainly not going to tell them to stop spending time with God. However, there’s a big difference between dutifully going through the motions and really doing the minimum necessary, and passionately devouring the word and spending time listening to and communing with the father. So, for several days now I’ve been going through the motions because I haven’t actually wanted to spend time with God. Ever since my fast ended really.

This morning instead of being interested, motivated, and passionate about getting into the word with a good group of men, I was distracted and ambivalent. I like ambivalent, it’s a good word, but I really don’t like being ambivalent. So, three hours later when we finally get done, I take off and head home, deciding that I’m going to take the rest of the day off… well mostly… as much as I take any day off anyway. I did a little work, worked out, and then watched anime and played video games for most of the rest of the afternoon. The thing is, I spent the entire morning struggling. I was trying to relax and watch a funny anime, but I found that all I wanted to do was look at porn.

So, like the bloody idiot I am, I did. I really don’t like porn. Even if it didn’t appeal strongly to my basest instincts and lead my mind places that I’d rather not go, it has no redemptive value. There are no strong story lines in porn, no great acting, no clear social commentary, no meaningful dialogue… mostly because it’s all about getting off as fast as you can. So, that happened, and then I repented. Still, my day didn’t really get any better.

I’m not going to say that the stain of sin follows you around, it’s doesn’t. Once something is forgiven, that’s that, it’s gone. However, I was tired, lackadaisical, and somewhat morose for the rest of the day. I couldn’t really get into the game I was trying to play, and I wasn’t particularly interested in the show I was watching. I just didn’t particularly care about anything.

However, after most of a day of this I finally got myself off my ass and took a friend out to dinner. After that the rest of the night got better… until I ran into a mutual friend of that lady I’ve been thinking about. She told me that she and a couple of other mutual friends are thinking about fixing said lady up with another mutual friend… and again my day plummets downwards. Not for long this time though.

Here’s the thing. After all of this, all the struggle, the sin, the apathy, and the disappointment, I finally did what I should have done a while ago. I went and spent about an hour actually talking to God. Not listlessly flipping through pages in my bible. Not hurriedly saying a few rote words of praise and supplication. I spent an while actually talking to him. This made all the difference. It got me out of my funk for one, but he also pointed out that I shouldn’t have been particularly disappointed in the first place.

I’m finally happy being single, remember? Did I forget that? Why yes, yes I think I must have. I need to be single for a while to solidify that… well, to let him solidify that. I don’t need to be dating anyone right now, or pining after anyone right now, because I’m supposed to be single, and I knew that… I just forgot about it. More than that, as much as I might regret spending a few days thoroughly indifferent towards him, he wasn’t indifferent towards me.

We all go through times when we don’t particularly want to talk to God, and he always brings us out of them. Why? Because he’s perfect and we’re not. I failed to look to him for my strength, which I really needed after my fast, but he didn’t fail me. He was just waiting for me to be ready, and that took some doing. I think I’m getting better about recognizing these times and turning to him during them, but I still fail miserably sometimes, and he forgives me.

So, all in all, my day sucked. However, it turned out good in the end, when I finally turned to God for help. This brings me back to what I’ve said time and again. We must turn to God. The more quickly we turn to God, the better off we are, and the faster we’ll get out of whatever funk we’re in. Turn to God and let him bear your burdens. You sure as hell can’t do it alone.

Out, Out Damn Spot!

As I write this, I’m sitting on my bed seriously considering not ever pursuing the lady that I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts now. This isn’t because anything has happened between us, I haven’t seen or spoken to her since the game night we were both at last Friday, but it’s been a stressful evening, and I’m rather down on myself right now. At the moment, I just don’t really see the point in trying. My thoughts keep coming back to a single question: Who could ever love me? No one ever has, so why would this woman? I’d just be setting myself up for more pain.

Often we let discouragement convince us to give up before we’ve even made an honest try at something. We get depressed, or we get hurt, or circumstances turn hard, and we just give up because there’s no point in trying. The above paragraph shows two major problems: 1) Will I create a self-fulfilling prophesy? And 2) If I honestly think this little of myself, then am I really ready for a relationship?

Honestly, I’m not sure I have an answer to either one. If I can’t believe that she might be interested in me, then is there really a chance that she would be? Not to say that I’m not a worthwhile guy, but my perception can have a strong effect here. If I convince myself that she couldn’t be interested, and act accordingly, then chances are that if she is interested, she’ll lose interest pretty quickly. Thus, I create exactly the response that I expect.

However, I really think the latter question is the more important one. This is the question to which I keep returning. Am I ready for a relationship? I want a relationship. I want someone to love me, and I want to love someone… ….those should probably be reversed… but am I ready for one? I’ve been through a lot in the last couple of years, and there’s been a lot of pain and rejection, not just from women, but definitely from women. I like this woman, but I’m really not sure that I’m ready for anything even remotely smacking of romance at the moment.

I have a friend who has recently started dating a guy in this same situation. Well, he was in the same situation when she first got serious about him a year and a half a go. I actually find the similarities somewhat amazing. He’s a little older than me, so at the time he was the same age that I am now, with a similar history with women (I don’t know if he was celibate), and the same questions and concerns that I have now. My friend, we’ll call her Jill 2, waited for this guy for a long time, loved him, and didn’t pressure him, and when he was finally ready they got together.

A part of me wonders if maybe this woman that I like could be Jill 2 for me? At the same time, I wonder if I would want her to be. While I have no idea where I am right now, I’m not exactly keen on making someone wait like that. I have waited (2 years at one point) for women and I know how much it hurts to wait for someone you love. I also know how much more it hurts, and how unfair it is, for that waiting to wind up being for naught.

Sometimes we get discouraged. Sometimes that discouragement is because of guilt or depression, lies or foolishness. Sometimes that discouragement is because we’re trying to do something that we really shouldn’t be doing in the first place. Sometimes we need to play through the pain and keep on going, and sometimes we need to stop. The problem is trying to tell which is which in a life where we generally don’t get second chances.

My answer? I’m going to pray about it… a lot. I’m going to pray and pray and pray, and then I’m going to pray some more. Then, I’ll probably ask her if she wants to see a movie with me and see what happens. Ultimately, I don’t know where this goes. I wish I did, and I hope God tells me to either go for it, or to leave it alone… very, very clearly. However, I do know myself. I’m not generally one to let an opportunity go by without at least giving it a shot.