Every day this time of year I stumble over the right words to say. I don’t feel there are enough words to use to describe my thankfulness to my mother (now two mothers). I am a better woman because of my mother and my husband is a better husband because of his mother. I can’t thank my mom enough for taking the time to raise me, to love me despite my rebellious tendencies, and to put up with me when the hormones really kicked in. I can’t thank her enough for holding my hand through doctors visits or being the shoulder to cry on when I had a broken heart. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe her thoughtfulness, laughter, and unrelenting optimism. There isn’t a gift greater than the security of a loving mother and more importantly parents who loved each other.
Let’s take a look back into how God defines love because I think most girls have bought the lie of “Maybe it is love, as much as it can be”. God defines love very clearly so that we aren’t left questioning whether it’s love or not. I have a feeling that if you are guessing then it’s not. I know you have heard this before but read it like God is talking to you, he has sat down with you at Starbucks and is wondering how your relationship is going. You tell him things are OK but your pretty sure it’s love. So he takes a long sip of his Latte and ask you…
“10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
You don’t need a boy, you need a God fearing man. I know this will take time and you will have to wait but I can promise you it is worth it. I used to believe my brothers and my dad were the only God fearing men on this earth. I believed I would never find anyone as wonderful as them. I watched how they loved their girlfriends and then wives and I was jealous. I figured I would never find a man who could love me like that. They opened the doors for them, doted on them, respected them, took them on dates, and always always placed God in the center of their relationship. I knew in high school I would never find a boy like that because I wasn’t being the woman these kind of men go for but I prayed one day I’d have the strength to be a God fearing woman, the kind God fearing men look for.
Then I met Ben. He was everything and more I had prayed for, looked for, and heard about. He met every character quality on that list but I only met him after I became God’s image of love. I met him after I loved God so deeply I became like him. Let me promise you that our love is not perfect but it’s as close as you get. We still fail each other but we have a standard that our love lives by.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
You deserve this. You were made for this. God wants you to know that he deeply desires for you to have this but if we are putting a standard on our men then we must also put it on our selves so ask yourself this.
Are you patient? Are you kind? Do you get jealous? Do you boast? Are you rude? Do you put yourself first? Do you keep a record of wrongs? Do you delight others hurting? Do you love truth and pursue it? Do you protect love? Do you trust? Do you hope in love? Do you persevere no matter the cost?
God did. He did all those things for you so that you would have the ultimate example of love because you deserve that kind of love. Don’t trade the imitation for the real thing. Don’t be penny lane and don’t buy the lie that maybe it is love. If you are wondering if it is then it’s not. I can promise you that when you have the real thing you know it is. When Ben and I feel in love it was better than any chick flick I have ever seen and it still is.
I have taken a hiatus from writing to carefully consider where to go with this blog. I want to be real, gut wrenching honest, but something keeps holding me back. Something keeps telling me that revealing too much of myself will end badly. I want to change that about church, the idea that we have to put on a perfect face and pretend like we don’t struggle. The truth is the Christian life is hard and standing up for something many times means standing alone. I am OK with standing alone as long as I can be me. After a conversation this weekend with my aunt I realized that the audience I want to aim this blog at struggles with much deeper issues then giving grace, they are in the midst of life changing decisions and to avoid that would be doing what I have promised myself I wouldn’t do. So even if things get sticky I will keep sharing my story unashamed because its worth standing alone.
FIFTY BUCKS AND A CASE OF BEER
One of my favorite movies is Almost famous, it’s a true story of a journalist who goes on the road with a rock and roll band and falls in love with the “band aid” Penny Lane. Penny lane loves the lead guitarist who has a girlfriend. She goes on the tour with them and lives in the fantasy that the tour will never come to a close and more than that she believes Russell loves her. Meanwhile the journalist, William, the good guy is falling for Penny. The tour is coming to a close and they are about to go to New York where Russell’s girlfriend will be meeting them, he is gambling with another band and he wagers Penny lane, 50$, and case of beer. William is watching and leaves broken hearted. He goes to talk to Penny who is trying to convince William that Russell loves her.
Penny Lane: Maybe it is love, as much as it can be, for somebody…
William Miller: Somebody who sold you to Humble Pie for fifty bucks and a case of beer! I was there! I was there!… Look- I’m sorry.
Penny Lane: [sniffs] What kind of beer?
The first time I watched this I realized we have all been some form of penny lane or at least I have. Most girls have bought the lie and ended up in tears wondering why he traded her for something else. Most girls have fooled themselves into believing that sex is the basis for a lasting relationship. Penny was fooled into believing he loved her, that he would fight for her. I’m sure he said the right things, made her feel the right way, and so she gave in with the hopes that something greater would come out of it.
Penny lane was a real girl, someone who feel in love and fooled herself into believing that when push came to shove he would pay the price for her but she had already given herself for much less. She wanted love so she traded it for the imitation and when a better offer came along he traded her. Walking away is a lot easier than staying, staying requires hard work and sacrifices and walking away requires nothing more than somewhere to go. We never know what Russell said to Penny behind closed doors but I bet it’s not much different than what most girls are told. Words are cheap but commitment is hard work. You are worth more than fifty bucks and a case of beer. You deserve love that is safe, one that doesn’t leave you questioning your worth in this world.
What are you trading your love for? What have you fooled yourself into believing? Do you think he loves you but your heart feels insecure? Is he asking things of you that feel cheap and leave your empty? I don’t care what life has told you in the past you are worth more than fifty bucks and a case of beer.
There will be times in your faith that you come back to the painful conclusion that you are human. No matter how much time I spend with the Lord I can’t shed my humanity. There are things to remind us of this everyday, a slip of the tongue and your back to your old ways. This is why it is so important not to put your faith in humanity. Religious leaders will fall, parents will disappoint, and friends will leave but Christ will never fail you. This might sound trite but anyone who has placed their faith elsewhere has left church broken and abandoned. We cannot trust in humanity because it is fragile.
I am 794 miles away from home but somehow it all feels so familiar, the lockers, the overwhelming smell of vanilla and Abercrombie, the confusing layout, the kids rushing to class, the couple in the corner making out. I walk the halls and breathe a sigh of remembrance. The bell brings me back to the here and now and I have no idea where room 2070 is. Finally I stumble into the classroom and twenty sets of eyes look at me. I few of them look confused; I am obviously not their teacher. I tell them that today I am their substitute. A few more confused looks and then one brave girl in the back asks,
“how old are you”
“23” I say looking down at my instructions, they have a test today.
“you look like your eighteen” one of the pretty girls in the front says. I glance up and see the familiar faces. It might have been six years since I was in high school but not much has changed, there is still the loner in the back wearing all black trying to blend in with darkness, the oversized scary boy who wants me to know I don’t have authority, the peppy cheerleader that smiles even when nothing is happening, the angry girl who probably dates scary boy in row three, the athletes who swish their hair to the side trying desperately not to care and the rest, the average kids that get lost in between categories. I know they won’t take their test until I go through the normal ritual of questions so I let them ask. No I didn’t go to school here and yes I am old enough to teach. Yes I am super tall and no you may not stand next to me to see if you are taller. No I didn’t play basketball and yes I am married. At this point I can normally get them on task when the brave girl in the back says something I don’t expect.
“Tell us your life story”
I look up; twenty sets of eyes look back. Only forty five minutes left in class I wish I could tell them my life story.
I would tell the popular girls to be nice to because later in life they will realize they aren’t all that and a bag of chips. I would tell the pretty girls that looks aren’t all they have. I would tell the kids in black that this is just a phase and the real world isn’t quite so harsh. I would tell the tough girls that getting hurt is part of the process. I would tell the pretty boy with the hair swish that there will be a million of him wherever he goes next and the only thing that makes you stand out is your character. I would tell the girls trying desperately to fit in that one day it won’t be so hard. I would tell the in-betweeners that one day they will have their place in this world. Mostly I would tell them their is a Jesus who loves them and can bring relief. There are so many things I would like to tell this class but for now they have to take a test.
Sometime at 1:00 am
Family is a tricky thing, you are bound to love people you don’t always get along with and so often we miss the joy that is family. Family has been downplayed and thrown away, convincing us that a relationship with the people that should matter the most isn’t really that important. We are a selfish society, caught up in what we can get. We don’t like that family requires love without something in return, at least I didn’t. My family gave me nothing in my eyes except a rule book to follow and brothers that annoyed me. I spent years abusing their love but when I changed they were waiting with open arms, they loved me even though they got nothing in return. After we mended our relationships I spent years trying to make up for lost time. I would come home from college for every birthday party, sick day, and family event I could. When my mom was hurting I rushed to her aid and when my family was in trouble I rallied the troops to fight through it. When my husband and I got married I had a hard time leaving a cleaving because I was so invested in repairing the damage. My family became my world and I couldn’t believe I had missed out on these relationships for so long.
When I was in the midst of my rebellion Satan had me convinced that my parents were the problem. I had to have a scapegoat because if I could see reality, if I could see that I was the problem then I might stop self destructing. I was the problem though. My parents did nothing but parent and for that I hated them. I wanted my freedom which I’m sad to say at sixteen isn’t yours to grasp. I wanted them to let me make my mistakes and stay out of my life. I wanted them to let me drown. I was one of the lucky ones though, my parents cared. Most of my friends parents knew we drank, they knew we were having sex, they knew we did drugs, but they didn’t care. The weird thing about being a teen is that you want someone to give you boundaries because you know deep down that you are hurting yourself, you know that this hurts and if you parents care enough to discipline then they love you. If they love you enough to make the hard decision then they care about your well being. If they punish you even when you kick and scream then you mean something to them. Parents like to think they are doing kids a favor by giving them “room to make mistakes” but that is selfishness with a fancy title. My friends whose parents wanted to be “cool”, the houses we’d drink at, the parents who smoked with us, I’m sad to say their kids never came out of it. Their parents sent a clear message early on that they didn’t care. They sent the message that your life is not worth the headache that it takes to parent.
I was lucky, my parents cared. My parents tried desperately to parent in any way that they could. They did everything to send the message that my life was worth more than this. I deserved more than I was allowing myself. My friends could see that. They often joked that they wanted my parents to adopt them, they loved being at my house and I couldn’t see it. I was so deceived that I couldn’t see the greatest gift God had given me.
One of the many times that I got caught having a party at my house my parents were looking for a unique way to punish me, grounding me for months on end wasn’t working and I can only guess they were tired of me being around the house. They decided to give church camp a go, my brother was leading worship at the camp so they figured, what’s the worst that could happen? They really underestimated me.
The camp is in Panama City so I conned one of my best friends into going with me. We were placed with some other girls who were labeled “wild” and I quickly made friends with the girls. We would skip the sessions and get in constant arguments with our small group leader on why we had to wear one piece bathing suits. Whenever my small group leader tried to get me to answer questions I would spout off some smart answer about why I didn’t need God. During the worship sessions they had security guards around the hotel so none of the kids would leave, my youth pastor found me yelling at a security guard about why I should be allowed to go up to my room. I finally ran past him and dropped the F bomb. My small group leaders and youth pastors were left shaking their head and praying the worships leaders little sister would straighten up.
Four years later I was setting up for the youth leader meetings when I heard a voice I barely recognized call my name. I turned around to find my small group leader from so many years ago standing at the door, mouth open. “What are you doing here” was all she could manage. “I am an intern”, I said with a smile. She laughed; there wasn’t much else to do. The camp that I fought so hard to leave made an impact I didn’t even know about. I dedicated a summer of my sweat and tears into the camp and the best part is at the start of every week I got to share my stories of so many years ago when I was a rebellious camper who refused to wear a one piece.
God really does have a sense of humor. He asked me to go back to the camp to show everyone what miraculous things God can do. I promise that if you ever knew me during this phase of my life you would agree that it was a miraculous change.