Monday, February 15, 2010

Does This Fit on a Candy Heart?

Happy post Singles' Awareness Day -- affectionately and cleverly abbreviated in these parts to S.A.D. I hope you blew ungodly amounts of money on the half-price chocolates at Wal-Mart and ate yourself into a sugar-induced coma.

I didn't do that, but kudos to you!

I did not take much pride in embracing this variation of the traditional holiday on February 14th; in fact, it shamed me half to death never to have had a real Valentine. I know, I know, I'm 20. The previous opportunities for Valentines to be found could only have really resulted in a note taped to a locker, or one of those candy-grams student council would sell, or something equally insignificant.

At least, it would have been insignificant to me. I assure you my male interests during my primary education were not especially headed towards any lifelong commitments, or even dates where Taco Bell and the mall movie theater were not involved in some form or another. But living in that little snow globe back then, where having a date to homecoming was not only a matter of life and death but also highly unlikely, it was next to impossible to see how anything could possibly change.

To be honest, I don't really know what it was about me that kept me in the little "no boyfriends" club. Perhaps God was just adamant that I not experience anything like that in my youth. Perhaps my pride in putting up this very independent facade in effect put up that barrier that frightened away the poor pimpled gentlemen of Orange County Public Schools. I was always inclined to think it was because I had body odor that I could not detect, or that someone had written GROSS -- STAY AWAY on my forehead with an ink that everyone but I could read.

I came into college with these hurts on my heart. Sure, I had been approached before, but when I was, it was rarely in a way that made me feel any better about myself. If anything, I felt kind of robbed or empty. I had pinned hopes and dreams on certain guys who I thought could fill the hole in my heart but none of them made an effort to fit, assuming that they fit that hole to begin with. Nothing about my past seemed to be a blessing in that area of my life, and I eagerly awaited for the circumstances to change. I was tired of this. Thus, when I read this, I got pretty pissed:

"Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am." I Corinthians 7:8

There are many times in this life that the very thoughts in my head were expressed in italics and with much punctuation, such as this: what?!

I would not accept this. In fact, it did occur to me that perhaps some later writer added this to Paul's letter, and that he couldn't possibly have meant that. Perhaps the canon we all thought to be true was a lie because someone let this passage get put into print. God created Eve because Adam was not meant to be alone! What on earth makes sense anymore?!

I tried reading articles and commentaries geared towards college students to gain some perspective that might open my eyes to getting this, maybe twisting it into something that Paul said but didn't mean and explain it all away, to little avail. I was not comforted by the idea that God wanted singleness for some, and relationships for others, and that he knew best. I wanted it either to be up to me so that I could fix this myself, or that the blame could be shifted on the many fools who passed up such a gorgeous and optimistic gem like me. I didn't really find solace in the idea that I'd be free to do more things. All I could envision was a future where I was living all alone, with no one to watch the History channel with at night, in a hut in Somalia as a missionary serving God. Then God would let me be killed by a band of thieves. That would be my reward for going it as a bachelorette: dying in Africa.

If you were not previously aware of the power of my imagination and just how half-empty my glass could be at times, well... now you are.

At a point, I stopped and wondered: what on earth gave me the grounds to think such things? There were so many times that I thought God had failed me before, when really he was up to something I would like the entire time. I recall when I got my rejection letter from Yale University on one day, and then a very measly financial aid offer from Rollins College on another. The thought of going to a public school, heaven forbid, gave me dry heaves. I felt so abandoned in my dreams of being some laureate scholar because I thought I had something going for me that would get me into these places.

Yet I take a look now at where I am and would have it no other way. When I first examined how this turned out, I really had to humble myself, hands in the air, surrendering the truth: "God, you knew what you were doing. Forgive my unfaithfulness and doubt. My blessings here are boundless."

I still wasn't ready then to believe that my relationship status could be the same story. I kept begging God for proof that this was a good thing, and that I had a reason to hope that I would be satisfied in the future about it. I wanted evidence that I would either have even a shot at finding a Mr. Lara who finds Russian writers enigmatic and doesn't find my 300 laugh variations annoying... or, actually be content without him. No amount of encouragement from my sisters in Christ helped, nor my mother, who lovingly advocates seeking a career as a UN diplomat and then settling down when I'm 40 with a nice man and his savings account. (90% kidding, Mom!)

When I asked for proof, boy, did I get it. And my proof, I mean a serious smack in the face.

I was lying in my bed, asking God just to explain it to me. I mumbled under my breath that his ways might not be my ways but, either way, I wanted them to make sense. And he just blew my brains out. Questions just began popping into my head one after another.

Do you even have the time to devote to that sort of thing, Lara?

Well... no. I barely have enough time to talk to the friends I already have as much as I want to.

Haven't I given you plenty of tasks to do for me that you're already up to?

Eh, I guess. Co-leading a bible study, praying regularly with friends, raising support for a mission trip, and just being a good friend to everybody -- believers and not -- is a pretty hefty list of things to pay attention to.

Haven't I shown you that other people do like spending time with you and value you?

I suppose being asked out on the occasional coffee date and answering my phone a couple of times a week isn't a bad sign.

When have I given you reason to doubt me?

When you are seized by conviction, it is one of the most terrifying but satisfying feelings you'll ever have. This regret that it took me so long to begin to understand gripped my insides like a vice, but at the same time I felt the tension flee my cowering shoulders. God knows what he's doing. He's shown me plenty of times that he has a plan for me, and it's a good one. I have always had things in my immediate future to look forward to. The only times I really grieved were the times I tried to look further than I had any reason to see.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

The blessings I've had all along came rushing in. It's nice knowing that I can just get up and go whenever I have a chance to do something crazy, be it fly to Bosnia or whatever. I don't have to worry about the needs of anyone else. I don't have to balance my time spent with friends and doing God's work with time spent loving someone else the way God calls us to when marriage comes into the picture. I don't know how much time I am going to have to go by my maiden name, and I kind of like it, so I can't just let it go to waste!

Now, I am still quite confident that I want Mr. Lara to come sweep me off my feet with orange roses in one hand and pita chips in the other. (I'm a quirky gal to impress.) However, I have a reason to hope and be patient. God's timing is the one timing that I have nothing apart from, and it's not up to me to go and get things going for myself. Stepping off the path God has carved for me is a fairly disturbing thought when I think of the glory to be found by staying on and trekking.

I am loved and protected already by the most important I AM.

"Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." Song of Solomon 8:4

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