If Valentines Day Steals Your Mojo

For all the complaining I do about Christmas, there is one holiday I love love love. It’s Valentine’s Day. Some of you, I sense, are making the gag gesture right now. Ladies, stop gagging and let’s get something out of the way:

Kay Jewelers is lying to you.

I have yet to meet one woman, (they probably exist but I’ve never met one) who is surprised with diamonds on Valentines Day by her super hot husband as she drinks champagne by candlelight.

You know what happens in the real world? Me neither, but around here, Sam Kirk draws hearts with a Sharpie on an old pizza box, tracing around the grease spots, and wraps it up with orange bailing twine to give to me as a card. If he doesn’t have a pizza box, he uses his Sharpie on case of Corona – beer missing.

And that kind of Valentine is perfect for me, because love looks different all the time and perspective is a good friend.

So let’s get us some of that, shall we?

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Now, I recognize mating is a biological imperative, and when you really want to do that but haven’t, Valentines Day can be a hard ass bouncer, rejecting you at the door for reasons he’ll leave you to imagine (and you will). So it’s not surprising February 14th can leave you feeling mopey or less than or unworthy.

But you are none of those things.

Enter Heineken. Watch the vid or what I say next won’t make sense.

Of course, it’s lame that the definition of a hero in 2016 is a guy who turns down another beer – that bar is set fairly low – but listen to the lyrics, which by the way were written in 1986.

He’s got to be strong and he’s got to be sure and he’s got to be fresh from the fight. A streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds yes, but no mention of some dude in a hoodie and Beatz, passed out on the subway.

Before I realized this was an ad for moderate drinking, I got excited about a whole bunch of beautiful women getting up from the bar, grabbing their keys and saying “Hey pal, take your Tinder profile and shove it because I’m worth more than this.”

“Yes!” I thought. “That’s feminism.” That’s what it looks like when women reject the cheap goods they know they’re about to get from some dude who can’t hold his liquor, much less the door.

Now before I get in trouble, let me say, I am a huge fan of men. I love them, especially the good ones who know something about strength and courage and self-mastery and commitment, but it seems they are fewer and further between these days. Add “loves Jesus” to the description and the talent pool dries considerably.

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I don’t know if he loved Jesus, but here’s Paul Newman circa 1963

So what’s a smart, Jesus-loving single gal with super high standards for sex and marriage to do with all that? Especially on Valentines Day?

First the bad news:

For better or worse, when it comes to finding a mate, most things are still out of female control. Men are still the team captains, and we’re still lined up on the gym wall. Sure there are exceptions, but the rule dominates: It is theirs to ask, and ours to accept or decline. The problem is, waiting to be picked is a powerless stance – one that’s especially difficult for women who are quite powerful in other areas of their lives.

I think this is deeply motivating fear for a lot of women. It was for me.

Will I get asked? What if I don’t get asked? What’s wrong with me that I haven’t been picked? There’s that Sports Illustrated model, of course she’ll get picked. Look at her abs, maybe I should do situps. Maybe then I’ll get picked.

It’s hardly cut and dried though. Countless women are stoked to be single and they’ll cite dozens of reasons for it. In fact, I was one of them too. My singleness allowed me space and time to travel around the world and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Yet, at a secret level, those questions still dogged me.

So it’s tricky territory. And maybe some of you are scoffing, saying “Hello it’s 2016 not 1950, and dating apps give women all the control in the world.” Do they? Or have they just increased the ease and speed with which people can hook up with strangers and be disappointed by them? Seems Tinder and Hinge have redefined the term “first date” so thoroughly, it’s unrecognizable as a concept, and women have to pretend they don’t care.

But most women I know care a lot, especially about things like respect, trust, mutuality and duration and they’re kind of disgusted with the whole show. Unfortunately, that getting picked thing is a powerful driver and sometimes, smart, strong women settle for deals they secretly know are just wrong for them.

Ladies. Don’t do it. Hold out. Because here’s the good news:

YOU’VE ALREADY BEEN PICKED!

If you choose to accept what Jesus said and did, you already are beloved, chosen, precious and royal. 

But you have to believe it, before you see it, and that’s the hard part. Imagine the deals we’d reject if we could dwell permanently in this spiritual reality, remembering at crucial moments that, in fact, we are worth dying for.

It’s mystical and abstruse and four-dimensional and fathoms deeper than the roses and diamonds kind of love that even the Christian radio stations hum with on Valentines Day.

But when you’ve been filled with the love of God, when you’ve sat long enough with him to be steeped in the fullness of joy, you own something deep and inviolable, and you begin to operate out of that place, like a Queen in her court. Not with pride, with power.

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Queen Mother. Photo Credit: The Telegraph

This is a long way of saying my Queens, if you are single on Valentines Day because you’re maintaining a high standard for your life and the people you allow in it…

GO YOU!

Use Valentines Day to celebrate that hard work. Keep rejecting the deals that are beneath you. Get to know the woman God says you and repeat it a thousand times a day if you must. Then shove every offer you get through that filter, to see what comes out. Make your choices accordingly.

And while you’re at it, go get your girls. Put on your sparkly dresses, red lipstick and favorite shoes, then go celebrate the fact you’re holding out for a hero – one who believes the same thing about you that God does.

Amen.

Take A Deep Breath and Jump

What if you flyI had a dream last night I can’t shake. I pay attention to those these days.

I was talking with a young woman, whose name I couldn’t recall, but she knew me. She was just about to graduate from college and was scared of loneliness. She knew her choices would inevitably cause drift from people she loved, and she wanted to hunker down in her current life. But graduation was coming. So she laid out a few options and asked what I thought.

I gave her my standard answer.

“I have no idea.”

This woman was clearly the daughter of some friends. I’d just spent the night at their kooky home/restaurant with the Central American vibe, but didn’t run into her until the morning. As she walked me to my car, I said to her:

“I don’t know what you should do, but I do know that any decision you make out of fear or to avoid some scary, unknown territory is the wrong one.”

Then I woke up.

The subconscious is funny isn’t it?

On Friday night, I made a decision to go forward with something that’s been scaring me for months. It requires a lot from me, things I’m not sure I have, and I have no idea how it’s going to work out.

But as I said once, right here on this blog, the Lord is trustworthy but if we remain hermetically sealed inside a world we can easily handle, we give him no opportunity to prove it. 

I believe this is how the Lord grows us up. This is how he’s growing me up, drawing me out of the shallows into the deep, where I’ve got no choice but to fix my eyes and walk. 

For weeks I’ve sensed the Lord saying: I know it scares you, but do it anyway. It’s how you’ll learn I’m right behind you, holding you up, whispering in your ear, this is the way, walk in it.  

More than anything, this is the faith I want for my life.

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Leaping Tiger Gorge. China.

When in our tightly controlled (and let’s admit it, often boring) Western lives do we make those leaps? I don’t, then I wander around wingeing at God,

“Why don’t you show up and be real?”

Why don’t you show up and do something you actually need me for? 

I want, on a daily basis, to leap from the cliffs of fear-based life management and fly into the wild, so I know what it is to lose my breath and catch it again, to be astonished by the broad and capable arms that hold me.

I didn’t decide to go forward out of fear. I decided because the potential in this move delights me. And that, to me, is the voice of God.

On Grace and Hustle

redwoodsThis morning I was watching one of my favorite pastors, John Ortberg, talk about the cycles of grace. 

And just what living in grace looks like day to day.

But then 20 minutes later something annoying happened, and all that resolve to live in grace slipped off me like soap in the shower.

Maybe that’s a good thing, because knuckling down and trying harder to catch and harness up the unmerited favor of God is frankly, kind of dumb.

Are you smiling with recognition? Yah, we do this.

I’m always trying to find the right balance between grace and hustle, because I’ve got goals and I don’t believe in lying down waiting for them to fall on me. But at the same time, I was the 10 year old kid who wanted to be 16. I’m rarely content just enjoying were I’m at, soaking up the grace of God.

Here’s the only thing that makes sense to me in this situation.

john-chapter-15-verse-5-arlene-nanoukNothing! Jesus says.

I have years of practice hustling without Jesus, and frankly I’ve got a few funny stories from it, so it’s tempting to think he’s wrong.

But what I didn’t have then, and obviously don’t have now, is peace – plain and simple, the kind of soul peace, that Ortberg said, “makes people want to be around you.”

And if I examine the goal of most my hustle, it’s usually to encourage people around me to keep growing into whatever God has planned for them. To do that, I’ve got to have something good cooking in my own kitchen.

I’ve felt the soul peace Jesus describes a number times, and it is amazing. It’s a not unlike slipping into a warm bubble bath or sitting down to talk with your favorite friend after a long separation. It feels good like that.

And the only time I ever find it is when I abide for a good long while, somewhere quiet; dwelling in stillness and expectancy.

One other thing Ortberg said this morning that stuck:

You are going to go through your day no matter what. You can knuckle-down and hustle it, getting aggravated in traffic, annoyed and snappy with your colleagues, or you can invite Jesus into it first thing, saying “Can you help me with this day because I want peace – your peace.”

It’s a choice.

I blew it in a thousand small ways today because I’m hustling like a freak. But happily his mercy is new every day, and I’m going to get up tomorrow and try again.

Abiding first thing.