Sunday, April 28, 2013

Love, Marriage, and Country Music

My niece had her first communion today, and it was really sweet to see all of the little girls in little white dresses and veils, as well as all of the little boys in suits.  As I watched all of them go up, I was struck by how similar wedding dresses are to the first communion dresses that the little girls were wearing.  While I should have been paying attention to the scripture readings, I was thinking about some of the reading I did about the Catholic Church before I converted, and how many theologians say that taking communion is the consummation of our relationship with Jesus, much like sex is the consummation of a relationship between a man and a woman in marriage.  Part of this is because they both serve similar purposes--both have both unitive and creative aspects to them. With sex, it should bring a married couple closer together (be unitive physically, emotionally, and spiritually), and there is always the possibility that a baby will come out of it nine months later (the creative aspect).  With the Eucharist, the unitive aspect is that we are taking in our Savior, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity--so there is literal uniting of ourselves to Him--and the creative aspect is that, when we take communion with the right disposition, it will birth new life in us. I don't think I would have noticed the imagery of the white dresses and veils as a protestant, so I have to say that it was really cool to see and understand it today.  I also think that this is part of the reason that it used to be that a person's first Communion was usually around the age of 15 or 16--the analogy is much more powerful, and the wait creates a longing in us for our Beloved, much like the wait of an engagement does for our physical spouse.

My niece in her First Communion Dress.  Isn't she beautiful?
So, with these ideas swirling around my head this morning, I have been thinking about my own failed marriage as well as my own relationship with Jesus.  One of the contributing factors in my own marriage's demise was the fact that I was never in love with my ex.  I cared about him, but not with the passion that one should have for a spouse.  In truth, I don't think that I have ever been in love with anyone, in spite of the fact that I was engaged or almost engaged several times before I married my ex.  While there was one guy that I was close to being in love with, I'm not sure that I can really say I was in love with him either.  I think that the potential was there but never realized for some reason, probably due to our mutual immaturity at the time.  At 37 years old, I find that sad and slightly tragic.  I know that much of the reason that I married my ex was because I was vulnerable and still deeply hurting from a recent bout with depression--I didn't trust my own judgement, so when my ex told me that he knew I was the person God had for him, I trusted in that rather than try to discern God's will for myself. 

I also have to wonder at my motivations for getting engaged or talking about engagement in the other relationships before my ex--was I just that desperate to be married?  Was it because of pressure from family?  Was I that silly and immature (that would be a resounding YES!!!)? I look at me way back then, and go, "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING????"  I've spent time looking at the journal entries, and I know that some of it was just being in love with the idea of being in love.  The fact that my parents expected me to leave college with an MRS degree, not the BA and MA that I ended up with also contributed. 

So did our culture...even as I am rediscovering my love for Country music and other genres, I'm finding that some songs are just problematic.  They glorify sex as love (remember "I think we're alone now"?), or they talk about love as it should be, and I find myself longing for a love like that rather than being content with the place where God has me.

This song is a case in point.  I love this song for lots of reasons.  The singer is great and the sentiment is one I think just about every female would love to say about their significant other.  I would also argue that every woman in a good marriage has things their husbands do on a regular basis that "makes them cry" in a good way.  At the same time, this kind of song is perfect fodder for envy, and maybe the creation of unrealistic expectations.  When a guy hears stuff like this, does he think, "there's no way I can live up to this," or does he go, "I want to do that for my significant other"?  If I were a guy, I might lean more toward the former than the latter.

This is another example.  While it is a lot more realistic, it still makes me wonder if I will ever truly fall in love.  And this thought is usually followed by wondering whether any guy I would be willing to date would be willing to date me.  I can think of all of the reasons why they wouldn't be: I'm divorced, which at least points to the possibility that I'm not willing/able to commit to a forever relationship; It also points to some major baggage; I'm chaste, which is very rare in our society, especially for a divorcee; I am a faithful Christian, and expect them to be the same; I'm Catholic and I plan to raise any children I have as Catholics; I have a history of major depression; I have eclectic tastes in music; I have food allergies out the wazoo--even I have trouble keeping track of them; the litany goes on and on....

Then I find songs like this--the songs that say exactly what I feel about a particular situation.  I've come to the conclusion that, like the name of this song, I'm hard to love: I'm one of those high maintenance females that guys don't like to date.  I'm working on that, but my many allergies mean that I'm going to be higher maintenance than most women.  I mean, at some point I'll have to have a conversation with him about not using fabric softener anymore, and just choosing a restaurant is fodder for nightmares...This is not the picture of low maintenance!!! 

And yet, lately I have found myself praying that the Lord would allow me to be head over heels in love at least once in my life--with Him and maybe with another human being, even if the second comes to nothing.  Is it wrong to want to experience the pinnacle of what it means to be human? It might be that I'm overdosing on Country Music, and I need to cut back on my consumption...I probably DO need to cut back on how much country music I'm listening to, but I doubt that this is the only reason for my prayers.  Scripture says in I John 4 that God IS Love.  When we are in love with another person, the best of who we are comes out--it is also through love that we come to know God.  Think about it--when we are in love with another person, we study them, try to think of ways to please them, and our longing is for their company...and that is what we should be doing with God. Additionally, love for others is probably the best remedy for selfishness, and all of us struggle with that particular propensity!

I know that I'm really not ready to begin any kind of relationship--my ex has only been out of the house for 7 months, and the divorce has only been final for about 5, not to mention the fact that I won't truly be free for a relationship until I have heard about what the Tribunal says about my annulment application.  I can't help but think about it, though. 

And that, in and of itself can be dangerous, as it can set up expectations that no human being could ever meet.  I quit reading romance novels in college because I realized that it created unrealistic expectations of what a relationship should be.  Really, I should know better, as none of my relationships have followed what is considered to be a "typical" pattern--you know, where the guy gets up the courage to talk to the girl, and then pursues her relentlessly until he wins her heart and they ride off into the sunset together....typical romantic comedy drivel!  However, when guys have pursued me like that, it has felt more like the story line from Mr. Wrong, than it has happily ever after! 

There is a very real part of my heart that wants....something, I'm not sure what to call it, in my romantic relationships....I guess the best way to explain it is a cross between being cherished for who I am, to not be afraid of showing the whole world that he wants to spend time with me, for him to be willing and able to stand toe to toe with me if he disagrees (I have out-stubborned most of the guys I have dated), to not be afraid to hold me as I blubber and get his shirt all wet, to value my opinion and me as a person, to discuss intellectual issues with an open mind, to be desired by him physically, and for him to proactively seek to help me get to Heaven. In short, I guess I want him to be in love with me, too, and that has also been missing in my relationships to this point (or at least it has from my perspective--I could be wrong).

That is why I take solace in the following verse from Jeremiah 31: 3-6

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
I will build you up again,
    and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.
Again you will take up your timbrels
    and go out to dance with the joyful.
Again you will plant vineyards
    on the hills of Samaria;
the farmers will plant them
    and enjoy their fruit.
There will be a day when watchmen cry out
    on the hills of Ephraim,
‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
    to the Lord our God.’”
No matter what happens with the humans around me, God already loves me like that, and even when I cry out with longing for human companionship, the Lord is there to comfort me, cherish me, and draw me closer to Him.