Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Challenge of Love

I'm going to throw this out there: loving someone is hard. 

I know, epic new thought, right?

Of course I always knew that love wasn't like the fairy tales, that prince charming didn't come and sweep you off your feet with a song and a ride into happily ever after. I knew that it was harder than the movies depicted, but I still kind of thought that real love would be entirely blissful and lovely and there would always be a twinkle in the eye and dancing in the kitchen (I do watch a lot of romcoms, let's be honest).

It's just been over the last few months that I have learned the true nature about love and let me tell you, it is oh so different than I thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, loving someone is one of the most beautiful, challenging, rewarding, and humbling experiences of my life. I will always choose love, no matter how hard it is. To love is wonderful but to love is to be challenged, much more than I originally realized

So here is what I have learned about love in the past few months. Maybe it will help you, maybe it won't, but here we go. I'm sure it will change and grow as time progresses but for now these are my new understandings of the fairy tale:

1. Loving someone is a constant challenge to oneself. As we combine our lives with another we actually have to deal with all of our baggage, with our past, with our selfishness and our priorities, and that's not always fun. I like to be in control, to be in charge of my life, and I don't like being told what to do- a relationship can't function if one person always has to be in control. Over these months my whole life has shifted from "me" to "us" and man, that is quite the transition. It is no longer all about what I want. Now I have to compromise, to give in, to put his needs and wants above my own. It is what I want to do because he is my best friend, but that doesn't mean it isn't hard to let go of my selfishness.

2. Loving someone is extremely humbling. It would be so much easier to deny all of my own issues, claim my perfection, and walk away to wait for someone who thinks that I am practically perfect in every way, but let's be honest I probably wouldn't like that either. Loving someone is humbling because there is so much to learn about the other and I have to make an effort to consciously respond to what I learn, to ebb and flow with the tides of new understanding. Sometimes I feel like I am terrible at love, like I am completely inadequate and everyone else must know some secret that I don't. But then I come back to grace, compassion, to the reminder that we are both imperfect people coming together to rely completely on God's goodness and guidance. Thank goodness God works with us and through us. Refinement by fire hurts, but oh my it is so good to grow and become better.

3. Loving someone is about letting go. For me it isn't just about loving Cameron. A lot of the same things apply in loving the kids I work with. Because I love them I want to fix everything. I want things to be perfect between us. I want to be respected and I want to say the perfect thing every time. But that isn't how love works. Love works by doing my best and trusting God with the rest. Love works by being willing to give my hopes and dreams for the people I care about to God, to not try to control but to give, receive, and let God hold each of them in His arms instead of trying to hold them all in my own. I can't be perfect, but God's love is perfect and thank goodness I can rely on that.

Loving someone is hard, but it is a beautiful kind of difficult. It is one of the most wonderful things I have experienced. It continually turns me to Christ as I am shown love I don't deserve. It helps me to more fully understand the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It challenges me to love the way that He loves us- sacrificially, humbly, with sincerity and purpose.

Love isn't like the fairy tales, but it is a story all its own and everybody's story is different. It is a beautiful flow of conflict and resolution, of words spoken and dwelt upon, it is the moments of laughing in the grocery store and buying flowers and struggling with plans for the present and the future. It is so different than what I imagined, but I wouldn't change it for the world.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The More Difficult Path

It was the quintessential Robert Frost moment. The fork in the road labeled two paths and the decision lay before us like an open hand. There wasn't danger in one or the other, and neither had terrible consequences, but the first footstep would hold the answer.

                                             <---- More Difficult                Easy ----->

I had been battling sickness all week so the sensible answer was obviously the "easy" path, but with one look at each other my brother and I knew what we had chosen. We took our steps past the "more difficult" sign with confidence and moved toward the goal of the lakes promised above.

The signs weren't lying with their descriptions of ease and difficulty. The path we chose included steep runs of slippery rocks that had to be climbed in the fashion of a monkey, on all fours or clinging to the surrounding terrain. After days of barely eating, the upward rocky climb wore on me quickly. I never doubted that we had made the right choice but I started to wonder if the effort was really worth it. Then we turned the corner.

We were about halfway up the climb when we walked to the edge of the cliff and realized what lay before us. Over the steep rock race there was the most magnificent waterfall pouring down. As the rain fell and our legs ached we stood in wonder at this most unexpected surprise. The more difficult path had contained a secret. With more risk came more reward. The beauty lay amidst the challenge and the waterfall applauded us as if to say, "good choice! Now wasn't it worth it?" 

Whether intentionally or not it seems that I have often taken the "more difficult" path since college. Moving across the country for school, traveling on my own, raising support to work on a reservation. . . all held their fair share of challenges. They weren't choices made simply for the sake of conquering the difficult, they were just forks in the road where a step forward had to be made. And always without much knowledge of what lay ahead, or knowing if I had the strength to go on, I took the steps determinedly in one direction and went wherever the path led me.

Without doubt the "more difficult" certainly has been, and at points in my life I've wondered why I didn't just take the easy way instead. Either path would have gotten me to where I am now, but I have always found that the adventure and the challenge brings out something else as well.  Without fail if I willed myself to move forward the beauty would eventually peak out of the hardships to whisper happily, "Good choice! Now wasn't this worth it?" The beauty that was only on the difficult path has defined my years- the relationships, the jobs, the road trips and the celebrations. All of it made me who I am today, and it made the choices so very much worth the climb.

Surely life will continue to fork, and as I stood in the rain on that day looking at the falls I decided one thing- I will always step away from the easy path in search of the beauty only difficult paths can provide.