I’m Over Overthinking Relationships

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Relationships. “Can’t live with them and we can’t live without them.” Although sometimes I wish we could! If you’re anything like me, you’ve thought, worried, and stressed about relationships and dating…a lot. Probably more than you should. I’ve run through so many questions in my mind, I’ve given myself a headache.

“Should I keep going out with this person?” “Is this person ‘the one’ for me?” “Should I text them/or respond as much as I do?” “Should I end the relationship I’m in?” “Do I tell him my feelings…or wait for him to share his?” “Is this person really interested in me or just flirting with me?” “Do I want to spend the rest of my life with this person?” “Am I attracted to him or attracted to the attention?” “Do I love him or love not being alone?” “Can I ever trust another person after being hurt by my last relationship?”

These are hard questions. I’ve thought every one and more.

It can be a maze to sort through my emotions. Because of this, I think through every possible scenario. Soon I get lost in the maze. Then I’m left feeling confused and frustrated. I’ve prayed so many times, “Jesus! Please just tell me what to do!” But so often, Jesus hasn’t given me direct answers. He lets me stumble and get burnt out until I realize I need to give these thoughts, stresses or situations to Him. In the meantime, what do you do with these agonizing thoughts or emotions while you still don’t have clear answers?

“…casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Yes, this verse is quoted so often but hear me out. The word “casting” struck me.

It brought to mind fisherman casting or throwing their nets into the water. Why did God inspire Peter to write casting? Why didn’t he say “Put all your cares…” or “Place all your cares”? I think it’s because God wants us to continually cast or throw our cares to Him. He doesn’t want us holding on to it and carrying it with us. Sounds easy enough…but is it really?

I’ve gotten burned out by overthinking. I truly believe God put “casting” so we would take our cares…the things that mean the most to our hearts…and constantly throw them on Jesus. It’s not a “one and done” type of thing. It’s continual.

So every time you’re overwhelmed thinking about a potential relationship, dating, relationships or being afraid to try again…don’t hold on to it. Cast it on Him. The stress or situation may pop in your mind 50 times a day…give it to Him all 50 times. God knows your heart, fears, desires, hurts and condition. He cares for you.

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Let’s Be More Open About Our Sexuality

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Sex has always seemed nebulous and far off to me. I never got the infamous talk from my parents. Most of what I learned as a blossoming teen came from the cheap jokes of my classmates and awkward presentations in health courses. The media hasn’t helped much either. Throw in some squeamishness from Christians who are walking a hard line to stay pure, and you’ve got a big, boiling pot of confusion.

As believers, we like to challenge ourselves to gain all the biblical knowledge we can. We decipher the original Hebrew meaning of key words to clarify alleged inconsistencies. We fiercely debate predestination versus free will.

Yet, we put sex in the vaguest terms possible and expect people to have a deep and profound understanding of it. When the topic does come up, we act like we just stepped on something slimy in the ocean. As if, by merely talking about it, we’ll be consumed with unholy desires. Song of Solomon is practically a banned book. God intended it for marriage. Keep yourself pure. Wait for the right person. All these phrases do is sweep the topic under the rug.

In my personal experience, this has left me feeling strangely guilty about the idea of having sex. After being told it’s taboo for so long, how can I be expected to shed years of confusion, fear, and restraint when the time comes? Will some primal instinct take over and I’ll suddenly be endowed with wisdom from beyond? I don’t know! No one ever talks about it! It also makes me rather embarrassed that I don’t have a clearer, more godly perspective on such an important part of life. So often, it’s exploited and misconstrued, and I don’t know how to talk about it, let alone defend it. I’d like for that to change.

So let’s be a little more open about our sexuality, shall we? Hiding from it doesn’t develop reverence for it. It leaves us in the dark, making us scared to understand it – and we shouldn’t be scared of something God created for us.

Stressing to Impress

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Trying to impress someone else isn’t a bad thing. It drives us to do more and to be more than we ever would have if we weren’t doing it with another person in mind. The more it’s possible that we might lose that person, the more we are usually willing to do for them. The people we try to impress most are usually strangers to us.

It’s terrible, isn’t it? But I would rather go out of my way for a guy I think is cute than for one of my brothers. I would rather go out of my way for a girl I think is cool than for one of my own sisters. I would rather go out of my way for a professor or a boss than my own mother. I think I do this because I know my family has to love me no matter what I do. Strangers are free to choose whether to love me or not.

Even worse, we do even less to impress God, who loves us eternally and unconditionally. The Bible tells us to do everything to God’s glory, but so much of what we do is to advance our own interests.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Wanting to impress strangers isn’t bad, as long as we’re not trying to impress them in sinful ways, but it shouldn’t be our priority. Impressing God should be our priority. If we focus on impressing God first, we’ll find ourselves loving family and strangers alike more deeply and more completely than we can currently imagine.

 

Forgiveness Isn’t What You Think It Is

When someone hurts you, you’re supposed to forgive them. If you don’t the only person you’re hurting is yourself, right?
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Wrong.
It’s a nice concept, I suppose. But it’s simply not biblical. Forgiveness has become a very fuzzy term. It’s now a general attitude of warmth and forgetfulness toward an offender, regardless of the offender’s feelings or actions toward us. However, in the Bible, forgiveness is not unconditional. 
Forgiveness is the action of absolving a person of blame, not a feeling of general goodwill towards that person. We are commanded to forgive as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32) (Matthew 6:12) (Colossians 3:13). We are to forgive in the same manner, in a similar way. When does God forgive us? When we confess our sins. Why then, would God hold us to a higher standard of forgiveness than He himself does? The answer is that he doesn’t. Forgiveness is not unconditional, even though love is.

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Speaking of brother in the neighbor sense, not as a brother in Christ) Luke 17:3-4

The verse above indicates that we rebuke a person who sins, not forgive them. If he repents, we are to forgive him. Forgiveness is transactional. It’s a covenant of sorts: an agreement between two people. The pattern of church discipline in Matthew 18 is similar. We are not to receive a believer who has sinned grievously back into fellowship until he has repented of his sin.

There is no example in the Bible where a sinner is clearly unrepentant and is forgiven anyway, where he is absolved of all the punishment of sin. Forgiveness is meaningless unless it has an effect, and its effect is the mutual reconciliation of two parties, which can only take place if both parties are willing. If I invite guests into my home, and they steal from me and don’t regret stealing from me, why would I invite them back into my home? My forgiveness means nothing to them, because they don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong.

I think that we often confuse forgiveness with love. We are not commanded to forgive our enemies, but we are commanded to love everyone (Matthew 5:44). Forgiveness is a contract. Love, on the other hand, is not.

Thank God.

Top Ten Ships

And so, Valentine’s Week comes to a close. To end it, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite ships from movies, television, and books. Let us know what romances you like to see develop in the comments below!

  1. Peony said Pam & Jim from The Office. No top 10 list would be complete without these two, and for obvious reasons. Fans of the show were rooting for them from the very first episode. Theirs is the quintessential office romance, but what I love most about this couple is how much they grew together. One of my favorite scenes is from “Paper Airplane” (season 9, episode 20). Their marriage was experiencing serious strain – gone were the inside jokes and Jim’s wistful glances to the reception desk. At the end of the episode, through a series of attempts to reconcile, they finally break past their frustrations and embrace, with 1 Corinthians 13 narrating over the scene. Their relationship has known tenderness, and it has also faced some very real challenges, and that speaks volumes to couples who follow in their footsteps. Because let’s face it, we’re all waiting for our Jim Halpert.
  1. Petunia said Cory & Topanga from Boy Meets World. Everyone wants a love story like theirs. Elementary school, then high school, then college sweethearts, then marriage. They’re touted as a “perfect couple” but throughout the show’s 7 seasons they dealt with some very real issues like cheating and Cory feeling emasculated. They fought but Cory always understood what being committed to someone was—working things out no matter what. Now their love story continues on the spinoff Girl Meets World.
  1. Peony said Leslie & Ben from Parks and Recreation. My favorite power couple! Leslie and Ben balance their government work, triplets, and one solid rock of a marriage. These two are fiercely selfless, constantly putting each other before themselves. When they were presented with the opportunity to run for governor of Indiana, they had trouble deciding who would be best for the job, both insisting the other was more qualified (season 7, episode 12/13). The way they support and encourage each other is downright admirable. In a culture that seems to find humor in dysfunctional marriage, Leslie and Ben prove that selflessness is not only more fun, but that it’s something to strive for.
  1. Petunia said Oliver & Felicity from Arrow: The crack ship that became the strongest relationship of the series, Olicity came out of nowhere but also didn’t. These two started as team members, saving the city from the bad guys, but became team members in a much deeper way. They stood by each other, but they didn’t let each other get away with bad decisions or damaging thought patterns, which I feel like is often romanticized and shouldn’t be. They remind each other of the light in the world, and they keep each other fighting to make sure there’s more light in it.
  1. Peony said Jo & Friedrich from Little Women: I know I already mentioned Little Women in the top 10 romance movies list, but I simply had to go into more detail on these two. They make my heart melt, plain and simple. Friedrich is a kind, sentimental introvert who slowly falls for the worldly, feisty Jo. But they aren’t just another case of opposites attract. Despite their differences, they work quite well together. Friedrich encourages Jo to “write from life, from the depths of your soul”, and because of that advice, she pens her greatest work. Jo’s passion moves Friedrich to step out of his comfort zone, leaving his quiet, solitary life to become a husband and father. They’re just so timelessly sweet together. It’s the old romance – I can’t get enough of it.
  1. Petunia said Peeta & Katniss from The Hunger Games: Love is hard in the Hunger Games, but they made it work, at some times better than others. They protected each other, and they got through the trauma together. They have a kind of unusual relationship as far as gender roles go, but I’m not against it. I rooted for them through three books, and was so happy when they made it, despite everything.
  1. Peony said Lucy & Ricky from I Love Lucy: There’s some interesting history here. Lucy and Ricky (portrayed by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) were the first interracial TV couple. However, they weren’t just written for each other – they were actually married in real life, which definitely added to their chemistry. When the show premiered in 1951, interracial relationships were not widely accepted, but America quickly fell in love with this hilariously beleaguered duo. They showed us that love means being silly together, and crossing some boundaries while we’re at it.
  1. Petunia said Betsy & Joe from The Betsy-Tacy Series: I read these books many, many times when I was younger. What I love most about them is how realistic they seemed, and now that I’m older I see how realistic they actually are. Maybe I love Betsy and Joe so much because I identify with Betsy so much, but the relatability of their off-on-off-on friendship/romance would be hard for anyone to deny. Betsy and Joe were attracted to each other from the start, even as just friends, but it never felt right. Until it did. The friendly essay competitions, the cherry blossoms, the tentative friendship, the letters they wrote to each other over summer break, the dance at the junior ball…<3
  1. Peony said Fran & Maxwell from The Nanny: These two toyed with my heart for years. They’re the couple you know will get together by the end of the series, but until then you have to wait in agony, crying out, just love each other already! When they finally wed, it’s so satisfying. Fran is bright and genuine, and loves the Sheffield children dearly. Shenanigans aside, Maxwell can’t help but fall for her. They’re clunky, offbeat, and I can’t help but love them. And to think – she almost quit on the first day!
  1. Petunia said Gilbert & Anne from Anne of Green Gables: It’s a trope, and it can definitely be overused, but the love-hate relationship never gets old to me. Elizabeth and Darcy brought us to Gilbert and Anne, and I’m so thankful that they did. Gil was in love with Anne for years, but she couldn’t see him as anything more than her closest friend. She was in love with a fantasy, but eventually realized that she never needed anything but what she already had in Gilbert. Whether it’s in book or film form, I eat it up.

What are your favorite love stories? Let us know!

Learning to be Happy (for Others)

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With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, I thought it was appropriate to address an issue that many young people in the Christian community face today: learning to be happy for newly engaged couples while we endure the endless stream of “when will you find a boyfriend?” at every family gathering.

It can be hard to be happy for others. Maybe you’re wanting to focus on other things, but you feel distracted by the pesky desire to be in a relationship. Maybe you’re actually trying to find a partner, but not having much luck. Whatever the case may be, watching everyone pair off around you can be a source of stress and frustration. You may find yourself growing callous and cynical toward the blissfully unaware lovebirds, gagging at even the most subtle exchanges they share. This is all in good humor, of course. Hating love is the cool thing to do right now, especially if you’re a single twentysomething. So cast your stones! Boo and hiss! But be sure to counteract it with awkward jokes that mask how exasperated you really are.

Is it possible we’ve let this go too far? When scorn becomes the standard reaction to other people’s happiness, there’s definitely a problem, especially for Christians. It’s selfish, jealous behavior, and we need to stop excusing it under the pretense of trying to be funny. Singlehood will pass – why spend it being disgruntled? The Bible calls us to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). So let’s start rejoicing. Couples need love and support from their friends. Be genuinely happy for them. Attend the weddings with well wishes. Pray that their relationships will be centered in the Lord, and that they’ll grow in Him together. You’ll need prayers too, when your time finally comes. Trust me, it will.

Top Ten Love Songs

In no particular order…

  1. Peony is hopelessly obsessed with The Everglow by Mae: Where to even begin? The Everglow has been a personal favorite of mine for years, for a blazing myriad of reasons. However, for now, I’ll have to try to focus solely on the romance. It’s about giving oneself fully and fearlessly to love, and it’s illustrated by idyllic lyrics, casting warm, whimsical light into the mind of the listener. It’s a song that has to be experienced.
  2. Petunia’s pick is God Gave Me You by Dave Barnes: A famous country singer later hijacked this song, which I will never forgive. I still love it though, no matter who sings it. It’s about being thankful for someone God has placed in your life to help you through things, even though you feel like you don’t deserve the someone.
  3. Peony’s inspired by The Only Exception by Paramore: One of Paramore’s softer songs, The Only Exception is an honest piece about the apprehension one may feel about falling in love. It speaks of a cynic who has only ever seen relationships fall apart, and this shapes her attitude toward love. Thinking that it will inevitably lead to pain, she becomes comfortable in solitude, not wanting to risk anything. But through the course of this vulnerable story, our beloved cynic comes to know sweet trust, and that sometimes our beliefs change for the better and brighter.
  4. Petunia can’t get enough of Poison & Wine by the Civil Wars: So, maybe this doesn’t qualify as a love song, because the lyrics leave you guessing as to whether the two singers are really in love or not. It’s a slow, acoustic tune, with some beautiful harmonies and soul-wrenching lyrics. Never over-simplistic, and hardly optimistic, I can listen to this song over and over without getting bored. Plus, I love everything by the Civil Wars, so that helps.
  5. Peony wants to dance to Candlelight by Relient K: The artistic genius is strong with this one. Candlelight is sweet, upbeat and clever. With a bouncing, rustic sound and lyrics that could charm the heart of any lady, this song is sure to bring a little light to your day. It may even make you want to go swing dancing. It makes me want to go swing dancing.
  6. Petunia gets all the feels from Love You Forever by Ryan Huston: ‘I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always.’ I love this song forever, and like it for always because it’s equally about friendship and romance. There’s nothing more romantic, in my opinion, than being someone’s friend no matter what life throws at either of you. As of this moment, this is one of the songs I’m considering playing for the first dance at my wedding reception. Not that I necessarily need to be worrying about that in the near future.
  7. Peony loves Every Little Thing by Hawk Nelson: This one comes to us from Hawk Nelson’s glory days. It’s the sweetest, most sincere song, and it’s sung with so much conviction that I can’t help but sigh “awwww” every time. This song made me want to be like the mysterious, spiritual woman that Jason Dunn was so smitten with, largely due to the fact that I wanted Jason Dunn to be smitten with me.
  8. Petunia adores When You Look at Me by Celine Dion: When I hear this song, the words and the melody and the voice evoke a sense of timelessness, of love that lasts no matter what goes on in the world outside. Although the words seem to convey an unhealthy amount of dependence on the object of the singer’s affection, I really appreciate the artistry of the song. It’s all very dramatic. And I’m all about the drama.
  9. Peony geeks out about Just Not Now from I Love You Because (A Modern Day Musical Love Story): I do love my musical numbers. Our leading lady, Marcy, admits that she wants to be in love, but recognizes that she’s not ready for it yet. She knows her emotional limits, and that it’s not wise to jump into relationships so suddenly. This song has been an anchor of mine for a while. It reminds me that it’s OK to take things slow and not give way to emotions that are often fleeting.
  10. Petunia jams out to Hold Back the River by James Bay: Oh, the Bayster. What a voice! This song is about reconnecting with someone you shouldn’t have let get away. The words are tender, the melodies are strong, and my heart is melting. Go listen to it. Stop reading this list. I’m appalled that you got this far without checking out some of these songs.