Friday, February 26, 2016

Given Away Too Soon

The bride is a vision in white.  Not ivory or champagne - white is methodically and very deliberately chosen for this occasion.  With a veil shrouding her delicate features, a lovely, blooming bouquet of garden flowers in hand, she walks toward her groom... alone.

There is no need for the preacher to ask, "Who gives this woman away?"  There is no father-daughter dance.  All of the usual customs and courtesies in this regard are without purpose.  Because the father isn't here.

I was never one to plan my wedding as a little girl.  Having gone through multiple divorces as a child, a wedding - while beautiful - was never something I looked forward to as much as feared.  It wasn't until I was an adult, baptized into the kingdom of God, that I began to see the possibility of marriage being a truly beautiful thing.  Even more, I found a surprising desire to be forever joined in marriage with a man God had picked out just for me.

It's truly remarkable how God can take something that was once so terrifying and disdainful, and turn it into something beautiful.  What God creates to be pure and lovely, man often distorts.  Then, in ways and for reasons known only to Him, He sometimes chooses to redeem it once again.  It's what he did for me.  I am so grateful and blessed to be marrying my fiancee in just over a month.

But come the day I marry, I will be like the bride in white, standing alone in front of my groom.  My father, while very much alive, will not be standing behind me.  He has his reasons, and while I disagree with them, I respect him.  It's a difficult thing to fathom, however, walking down the aisle alone and not being given to another man.  I was surprised to find that even though I never dreamed of my wedding day until a couple of years ago, two of the things I wanted most on that day were to have my father give me away, and to dance with him.  The symbolism behind it is important to me.  To belong, to be protected and cherished, encouraged and guarded by my father, and then passed into the protection and tender arms of my new husband.

Unfortunately, it occurred to me recently that my father, as loving and good-intentioned as he is, gave me away years ago.  After he and my mother divorced he re-married and soon after had two children.  I love all three of them - there is no "step" in mother, as far as I'm concerned I have two mothers, and I love my little brothers more than I thought I could love two little guys.  At some point after they were born, they became his second chance.  His new family.  I never knew it happened and I could never have seen it coming, and I don't think he intended for it to happen.  But at some point after that he gave me away.  He gave me away to life, to adulthood to fend for myself, long before I ever met my soon-to-be husband.

I write this as an appeal to all of you fathers, or any man looking to become a father.  When you become a father you're not just birthing a child.  You're not taking on a responsibility for eighteen years and then calling it good.  As a father you are the first person to represent God himself as the ultimate Father.  You are not only rule-maker, enforcer, playmate and guide to your child, you are the protector, defender, spiritual leader, and example. You stand as the measuring stick to which every man will be measured against for the rest of her life.  When your child becomes an adult, he or she will actually need you even more than they needed you as a child.  It will just be in very different ways.  Not less important, just different.

What kind of father will you be, or will you decide to become?  While I respect my father's wishes, I wish he would be there for me on this day I start a new life with someone.  Perhaps the hardest part about respecting his wishes, is letting go of the illusion that I was protected, defended and - despite my independence and free spirit - still belonged to him until he willingly gave me to someone else to do the loving, protecting and defending.

I thank God that though I may have been given away a little too early, into what seemed to be an unforgiving, merciless world, I was never without protection or defending.  I thank God that He is omnipresent, omnipotent and that his love is everlasting.  My dad wont be there on my wedding day to give me away, but I plan to walk down that aisle with a vision of God the Father standing by my side, handing me over to my husband-to-be saying, "I give this woman away."  Thanks be to God he never really gives us away, he just brings someone else into the relationship.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love is...

An unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.

Always wanting what's best for someone even if that doesn't include you.

When you can't even find the words to describe how you feel about them.

Not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body.  No, don't blush, I'm telling you some truths.  That is just being "in love", which any fool can do.  Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

A steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.

A decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise.

A feeling that can't be described by any words.

Just a word until you find someone to give it a definition.

Something you become.

When you give them true happiness, even if that means you're not a part of it.

When you accept a person with their failures, stupidities, ugly points, and nonetheless you see perfection in imperfection itself.

Madness.

Like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen.

Being separated and nothing changes.

Compromise.

Having someone who accepts your past, supports your present, loves you and encourages your future.

Makes the ride worthwhile.

A fire.  But whether it's going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.

Something that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds.

Friendship.

Like jumping off a really tall building: your brain tells you it is not a good idea, but your heart tells you, you can fly.

Begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action.

Casts you into the wind, sets you ablaze, makes you burn through the skies and ignite the night like a phoenix; it cuts you loose like a wildfire and you can't stop running simply because you keep n burning everything you touch!  I say that's a good love; one that burns and flies, and you run with it!

Patient.  Love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast.  It is not proud, it is not rude.  It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

You.


Love is the one thing we spend our entire lives looking for - even when we're determined to spend our lives alone.  We're created, designed and destined to love.  We were never meant to be alone, and never meant to live this journey without someone by our side.  I mean love at it's purest form.  You see glimpses of this love in the most innocent of beings, the most selfless acts and in the subtlest of ways.

A toddler hugs a stranger.  A dog greets his owner after a day at work.  A stranger gives up his seat on the bus to an elderly woman - with a smile.  A woman gives an compliment to a surly looking woman behind the checkout stand.  He decides to spend his holiday with orphans instead of going skiing in the Alps.  He brings his wife a single flower he stole from a garden because he couldn't afford to buy one.  She takes out the trash this time, because he had such a long day at work.  A teenager spends his Saturday morning serving the homeless at a soup kitchen.  She gives her last five dollars to a charity helping out the local fire department instead of getting that cup of coffee.  A father spends the evening playing catch with his kids in the backyard after a long day at work instead of sitting in front of the television.  She visits her parents for dinner - just because it's been awhile.  He stands up to the bully at school when she's picking on someone weaker.  She makes a card for someone in the hospital she barely knows.

Love.

It's not complicated.







Sunday, February 7, 2016

Runaway Bride... and Papaya.



One of my all-time favorite Julia Roberts movies.  This particular scene is about two minutes before she goes sprinting down the aisle away from Groom #4.

Recently my maid of honor said I reminded her of this movie - don't worry, I'm not about to wear my Asics to my ceremony!  However, there's a point made in the movie that Maggie (Julia Roberts) has been running from her grooms because if she'd gone through with it, they would have married a lie.  She was never honest about the little things, about who she really was, and so she ran before she could say "I do."  As a soon-to-be-bride, this was a monumental moment when the lightbulb went off.

The little things matter.  In this stage of being engaged it's tempting to say they don't, but they do.  For instance, my fiancee enjoys bringing dinner to my place once in awhile and he often surprises me with dishes or types of food I've never tried.  Living in the Middle East that leaves an enormous selection for me.  One day he brought over papaya.  I took a few bites, muscled my way through it and set it aside.  He asked if I like papaya, and for some reason I said, "Sure."  No, I don't.  Why on earth did I say that I did?

Because he likes it.  In some twisted mathematical world that equation said I needed to like it too.  I've never been good at math.

Unfortunately, if we tell enough of those little lies, usually we do this with the intention of pleasing our partner, we create a mask.  Your significant other continues to fall in love with someone they think they know - but don't.  Hence, the significance of the lesson in Runaway Bride.  Then, one day, months or years down the road the truths start coming out and resentments surface.  I cringe at the idea of being served papaya every few days because my then-husband remembers that I said I liked it.  Why is it so hard to say, "no.  I don't like ______"?

Because we fear rejection.  Yes, even over those little things.  Deep down, those of us who struggle with fears of abandonment, rejection, accepting another's love, believing another's love is as deep as they say it is, and simply being loved for who we are look at a papaya and see our deepest fears coming true if we're honest.

But here's a fact about love.  Real love, the stuff that lasts and runs so deep nothing can get underneath it to create division, casts out fear.  Real love, the good stuff, means letting the truth strip you bare in front of the person you love and letting them decide if they still want you.  Even over a papaya.  Deep down, it's not just about a piece of fruit - it's about being seen for exactly who we are.  And that's the scariest thing of all: being seen, being known, being laid bare for another person to scrutinize, criticize and condemn.  But from what I hear, it's also the most glorious thing of all: being seen, being known, being laid bare for another person to love, respect, cherish and treasure.  Forever.

I'd rather the latter.  The only way to find out if that's possible is to take the leap and trust my fiancee with who I am, as honest as I can be, about the big and the little as they come up.

I can't imagine getting married without being seen, being known, being laid bare... at least when it comes to a papaya.  My fiancee and I aren't moving in with one another until the wedding, we're saving our first kiss for the altar, and there will be a lot more first's after that!  If I can't be honest about a piece of fruit, it doesn't provide my husband-to-be with much confidence in my ability and willingness to be honest about the bigger things.

So here it is.

Honey, I don't like papaya.  I prefer mango.