Saturday, February 15, 2014

No Other gods...

Dating is was my idol.

Since I was at least six or seven, I've been obsessed with the idea of being someone's girlfriend. And not in a frivolous sort of way. I was always quite serious about my love life. Every guy I dated, I thought I would marry. And I treated each relationship with that level of seriousness (or with as much seriousness as a 12-, 16-, or even 18-year-old can).

And I can't even say that I've dated a whole lot (although I have had my fair share of crushes), but when I did begin dating, very rarely was I single for long or not obsessing with my singleness.

My first "serious" relationship started when I was 15. I had liked him for two years before that (along with some mini-crushes on a few other boys) and so when he finally noticed me and asked me out, it was amazing. Although it lasted for a little over a year, that relationship ended because frankly, we were young. And I probably scared him with how serious I was about the whole thing, haha.

Within 2 or 3 months of that relationship ending, I was already on to the next boy who began paying me interest. In retrospect (we always see things so much clearer years later, right?), it was a horrible idea. For one, I wasn't truly over the other guy. Two, he was a bit of playboy. But, if I'm going to be honest, the thought of being alone didn't feel as good as being in a relationship. And he was pursuing me, so why not? Three years of being cheated on later, I finally reached the end of my rope and ended it. It was horrible, I missed a huge part of my debate class (and almost screwed up my grade) and moped around for about two months...

... until a new guy came along. Here I was resolutely sticking to being single. Refusing to make the same mistake. And all it took was a skateboard and a few sweet compliments and I'm inviting him to see the Easter play at church and then sitting on his couch letting him serenade me with not-so-great guitar playing; sneaking closer and closer to eventually kiss me. A year later... it was over. In a not-so-pretty kind of way. One that left my broken and depressed and my sisters on a silent suicide watch.

Not a pretty history. And instead of learning my lesson, I was ready to jump into something new as soon as the opportunity presented itself. That one also ended... but perhaps because I was older and a bit wiser from the past, it was okay and not as devastating.

And six years later... (ready for this) I'm still single. There have been almost-moments here and there, but I've been hesitant to move forward with them, or they've ended up just fizzling out before they can begin. At times, I've wanted to yell at God cause I didn't understand why no one thought I was pretty enough, or why he wouldn't want to pursue me, or why he didn't text or call me back, or... why I was still single.

But over these last six years, I've been making peace with my singleness. I've reflected on those past relationship, and know that if I had the choice, I wouldn't want some of them now. Or I know that God has more for me, and while the wait may be tough, it will be worth it. It hasn't always been easy, but now I'm beginning to realize that it's been good for me. And perhaps a necessity.

I just finished the book, "No Other Gods" by Kelly Minter, and I'm doing the Bible Study with my small group. And it hit me: Dating has been my idol. All of my past relationships have been my Ishmael to my Issac (you'd have to read the book, but the basic idea is this: God has promised us Issac, but we often try to rush His plans and create an Ishmael).

We often think of idols as statues of stone or wood, or things we literally bow down to. But as Ken Sande says, an idol is "something other than God that we set our heart on, that motivates us, that masters and rules us, or that we trust, fear, or serve."

The bold parts are me. Because I am was totally guilty of setting my heart on each new relationship and the happiness and security I was sure it would bring. I was motivated to do whatever it would take (even if it meant my ruin) to not lose whatever boyfriend I currently had. I trusted that they would fill me and make me complete. I feared that they would not and would leave me (which they all did). And then I fell across the blog post which said everything I thought over the years about my relationships and getting married. Based on these definition above... DATING IS WAS IDOL!

The last one word stood out to me: Fear. Because fear is one of the things that can drive us to our idols (and I'm a very fearful person. Side note: What I loved about the Ishmael-Issac analogy is that it reminded me so much of the message from Angie Smith on Hagar (Ishmael's mom) and fear). When I think of the story of Sarah and Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael and Issac... it's such a reminder that I can't build my life through anyone (or anything) but God. And attempting to do so usurps Him from His rightful position as my God. And even as I proclaimed that I'm okay with being single, I realize that even though it's been six years of singleness... relationships can still be a bit of an idol for me. Still something for me to work on.

As I've gotten over each relationship and have learned to be somewhat content in "actively waiting" for the right person to enter my life. But doing this study, I realized that I've never really let go and recognized how much I let those relationships define me. And how I still hold onto some baggage and fear telling some guy I really want to marry some day about it and then he decided that maybe I'm not so great after all. So while I'm content being single... there's the potential for an idol right there.

I am praying that I am free of this idol. And maybe it will be a constant thing I will need to pray over and tear down in my life. Because like I said in a recent post, while I do want to be married some day, I want to seek God first in all things. But also, as I've learned in all my past relationships, it can be pretty exhausting to set your heart and hopes on something that cannot be eternally faithful the way He is.

And that's not to say that expect my future husband to cheat on me or leave me. Or that relationships themselves are a bad thing. But relationships can be a bad thing when I turn that gift from God into a god.  And  no one but God can truly fill that empty space in my heart or validate me or solidify my identity or make me feel whole.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Feeling the Love

If you've been reading the blog for a while, then you know I generally reflect on my love life every so often. And of course Valentine's Day is the perfect opportunity to do that. Not to gripe about being single or even to gush about the romantic thing someone did for me (because, sad to say, that's only happened ONCE... and while I acted all pleased at the time, it was a bit over the top and embarrassing for me. Note to future man: Public Displays panic me).

I reflect each Valentine's Day because I think love is a beautiful thing, and February 14th pretty much puts it right in your face. I don't feel sorry for myself because I'm single. In fact, this year, as I watched kids pass chocolates, carnations and roses, I didn't think once about not having someone to share the day with.

For one, I was in the middle of losing a battle with a major cold/sinus infection that has me laying in bed and wasting a roll of toilet paper. But secondly, I feel extremely loved and didn't feel like I was missing out the whole day. And it was a pretty nice feeling, one I didn't even realize I was feeling until the day was all over.

The day started out with one of my students shyly handing me a gift back. The day before, he had asked me if I liked coffee, and before I could answer blurted out that he had something to give me, but wasn't sure if I'd like it, so he wanted to ask to make decide if he should give it to me or not. My heart melted in that moment as I assured him that whatever he wanted to give me, I'd gladly accept and love.

I had completely forgotten about the conversation until he walked up to me the next morning, holds out a cute little bag and says, "This is for you, Ms. Ishola. It's just a mug and some sweet tarts, but yeah..." He looked so cute and so shy and it was so precious! The moment I take it and say thank you, he quickly scurries off in embarrassment. I may not think so when I actually have a boyfriend/fiance/husband, but at that moment, it was the best gesture I'd ever been given on Valentine's Day.

Later, during my first off-period, I opened an envelope that had been left on my desk to read the SWEETEST letter from a student. I actually started crying as I stood behind my desk and her kind and grateful words washed over me all day long, never giving me a moment to feel sad or alone.

Letter from one of my Kiddos
And as the day ended and I had other students walk up to me to hand me a little bag or chocolate box with my name on it, my heart continued to melt. I continued to feel love.

This can be a tough day for those of us who are single--for whatever reason. But I've begun to realize that it's only a tough day if you let it be a tough day. Because while you may not have anyone writing you a MEGA long love note one a HUGE card (this is what one of my students did for his boo) or send you a massive teddy bear (also something that happened at school today), there is one thing that you must know: YOU ARE LOVED. By someone.

It may not be who you want to love you. And it may not be who you expect to love you. But there are people in your life who think about you and love you and are willing to show you they love you. You just have to be willing and open enough to accept it.

Just feel the love. It's out there and just waiting for you to acknowledge it.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

"Look at the birds of the air..."

I can be a major worrier.

I hate making decisions because I worry whether or not the choice I don't make would have been the better choice. I worry that others will hate my choices. That I will regret them.

Every time I moved, I worried that I wouldn't make new friends,  find a good church, or end up hating my new apartment.

I worry that I am not kind enough, or perhaps I'm too kind. That I am not giving enough, or that I give too much. That I am too aggressive, or perhaps too passive.

I just worry about everything.  It's actually quite silly.

Earlier this week, I heard someone else share about how much of a worrier she can be too. And her place of encouragement,  what calms her and eases her worry are birds. Every time she sees a bird, she stops worrying.

The birds remind her of Matthew 6:25-34. Specifically verse 26--"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,  and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"

God takes care of the birds, and we are more valued. So the birds remind her not to worry because God takes care of her. How great is that?

Personally, I find the black crows prevalent in Texas a bit creepy. But now every time I see a bird I will be reminded not to worry because God takes care of me

So each time I worry,  I plan to look at the birds in the air and trust Him instead.

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