Sunday, December 27, 2009

Love and confusion

My most recent book purchase was "Loves Me, Loves Me Not: The Ethics of Unrequited Love" by Laura Smit; I was interested because I'm personally quite acquainted with that extremely painful subject -- mostly on the receiving end. And as I read, I was reminded of some of the horrendous mistakes, not just in commission but in attitude, that I've made over the years in trying (and generally failing) to date.

I haven't read through the entire book, but one thing I see missing: Hope.

As virtually everyone knows, dating is difficult at any age; nearly 30 years ago the then-girlfriend of a fraternity brother nailed it when she called it "depressing." It's not clear to me so far who Smit's target audience is or what she wants it to learn; I hear from her, "When in doubt, don't." That may be fine for persons from their teenage years up to their 30s.

Of course, I'm nearly 50, would like to be married and have peers, including my younger brother, who are grandparents. And part of me today really does feel immature because I don't have the responsibility of a spouse and children, and it's really tough to come to and leave church alone.

But here's the issue: We men are supposed to be the pursuers, the initiators, the leaders; paradoxically, often we don't have much of a clue when a woman is interested or simply naturally kind. And I think that leads to the misunderstandings that often happen when folks get their wires crossed. Such a situation was the catalyst for my leaving my last church (although God was clearly calling me out), and with my last major heartbreak nearly three years ago I was depressed for nearly three weeks!

Going further, I've recently been reminded of God's great love for His children and how we nonetheless often ignore him (and I confess that I'm guilty of such). During that time of admitted self-pity three years ago I got a message from Him, "Now you know how I feel." And the Scripture reminds us that we didn't choose Him; rather, He pursued us. (Indeed, from the time I first heard the Gospel to when I actually received Christ was about eight years.) Now, I realize that the comparison cannot be taken too far because He's divine and we're not; still, we're not supposed to sit on our butts and wait for "her" to show up.

And therein lies the confusion over Smit's thesis. I understand and accept that she has committed herself to singleness. However, building a relationship requires risk; while I think realism is necessary, so is vulnerability. Besides, if your goal is simply "possessing" another person, which is less and less the case with me, you ought not to be in a relationship in the first place.

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