Grappling with Oneness

It has been a few years now since I was married. I have grown accustomed to picking which side of the bed I want to sleep on because there is no one on the other side. I have gone through the phase of curling up with a body pillow or laying long-ways across the bed so it doesn’t feel so empty. I have nearly forgotten what it is like to nudge someone in their sleep because they are snoring or to curl up with them when I get cold. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss it at times. It means I have adapted to sleeping alone and I am more comfortable with it today than I was some ten years ago.

I have spoken with many people about the dramatic change in their lives when a spouse dies or they find themselves alone after a divorce. Even those who have never married have that sense of longing for an intimate relationship with someone. So we find ways to fill the hours of our day with work, friends, family, and busy things. But there can be so much more if we look.

I am a firm believer in seeking our mission and living out a life of purpose. I am also aware that for many of us singles, a purpose-filled life doesn’t always eliminate the sense of aloneness we have at the end of the day. It doesn’t replace the sense that we are home alone reading a book or watching TV. More importantly, I also know that living with purpose changes everything and makes my time alone more palatable.

Purposeful living brings a sense of joy and peace and in some cases, a reason for getting out of bed. There is nothing worse than a day of emptiness that leads to a night alone and the anxiety of a gloomy morning. James wrote that in the midst of our troubles we have the opportunity to find joy. (James 1:2) I believe that opportunity comes in the shape of service to others. The psalmist cried out in his distress and emptiness in Psalm 102 and in the midst of his sadness he realized that God is with him. He is never truly alone. No matter what happens, he can find peace in that promise. When we can identify our mission and turn our attention to the needs of others, we can experience God’s love in a profound way. We can change our perspective from the sadness of what we don’t have to one of joy in knowing that we are living for God—even if we are living alone.

Now we can close our eyes at night, comfortable in knowing that God is watching us and that we will waken in the morning with a sense of celebration that God has given us another day to worship and serve him. While the bed may still be empty, I believe our hearts can be full. Even as we grab our extra pillow at night, we can quietly end our day in conversation with God about his reason for our circumstance and ask that the morning bring new purpose and a greater sense of belonging. It is the same conversation we should have every night, regardless of our marital situation. You see, my fellow singles, this relationship is far better than any other relationship for which we could ever wish to have and we are fortunate that we can give all our attention to enriching our relationship with the Lord.

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Hearing What We Don’t Want to Hear

As I lay out my plans, I have found it helpful to have someone who will ask me the questions I don’t want anyone to ask me. I have a coach and a spiritual director who does a great job of seeing into my carefully concocted plan and finding the areas that I am avoiding because it might cause me to regroup and take new action. As much as I dread these questions, they get at the meat of what God intends for my plans and away from how I envision things. Some may call this an accountability partner, other wise counsel, or maybe just a concerned friend. Whatever title you give this person, make sure you have someone who will tell you what you don’t’ want to hear—and this applies especially to relationship building! Continue reading

Life is Not a Hallmark Movie

Every year I get hooked on Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. I love the ones where the Christmas spirit changes a person’s heart and everyone lives happily ever after. Ok, I admit, I especially love the movies where the star says they will never love again because somewhere along the way their heart was broken. And yet, in a few brief days (TV hours) they meet the perfect person and find love again—and live happily ever after. Healing and moving forward happens quickly in these movies. Lives are fixed and tied up in a neat bow in record time.

Unfortunately, life isn’t a Hallmark movie. Healing our wounded hearts and souls usually requires more than a few nicely placed words of encouragement. For some of us, healing may take years of counseling and support from family and friends before we see a breakthrough. For others, full healing never really comes. For some of us it may be years after we were hurt that we are even willing to acknowledge our hurt. We hang on for dear life, put on a Sunday smile, and make believe that all is well. Before we can have a healthy relationship, we need to be healthy ourselves through that process we will better understand what we are looking for in a life-long relationship with another.

I think that we are all seeking purpose in our lives and most of us are hoping to share that purposeful life with another person. It doesn’t matter if we are young and seeking our first romance or trying to get over our first love. It doesn’t matter if we have lived long and divorced or lost a spouse to illness or an accident. It doesn’t matter if we have never had a true loving relationship and don’t know what that looks like. We as humans seek relationship with others and most of us are looking for that person who shares our passions and will support us in fulfilling our dreams.

So how do you have your Hallmark moment? I suggest you start by praying about what God wants for you today and in the future. Seek out a counselor, spiritual director, or life coach who can help you discern what that is for you. If there are hurts that need healing—seek healing first. Then build your life around your purpose. Be where like-minded people are likely to be. Volunteer where your gifts can be used and meet other people who are using their gifts in a similar way. Turn off the movie, get off the couch, and head out the door.

Will you find your life partner there? I don’t know. I can tell you that if you truly seek God’s call on your life and you put your energy into areas that support your life mission; you will find people with whom you can share your life. You see, it may not be about finding the perfect partner but about finding the best way to live your life and finding people who support you on that journey. And maybe, just maybe, you will cross paths with the person of your dreams and maybe, given time, you will find your Hallmark ending.

“Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live in the land and enjoy its food. Find your delight in the Lord. Then he will give you everything your heart really wants. Psalm 37:3-4

Blind Spots

I am convinced that there is something wrong with the thermostat in my apartment. I have programmed it to warm up the apartment just before I get out of bed so that I’m not stepping into the freezing cold. It, however, seems to think it is much warmer than it actually feels—at least in my bedroom. So most mornings I get up and manually turn it up a couple of degrees to take the chill out of the air. Then I realize it is too late to warm up my bedroom because I’m already up and out of my comfy covers. I keep repeating this behavior, thinking this is the morning it won’t be so cold. Ha!

Blind spots. Those things we don’t see or aren’t willing to acknowledge about ourselves. My thermostat is reading the air near it. The living room area is much warmer than our bedrooms and so it doesn’t think it needs to do anything. Our bedrooms are its blind spots. I have a blind spot in setting the thermostat to match when I wake up. After several cold mornings I need to make an adjustment if I don’t want to get up in a cold room. And I STILL haven’t fixed it. Part of that might also be because I don’t want to accept that winter is coming and I hate the cold.

Life coach Georgia Shaffer says that we all have blind spots that impede our process forward. One of those areas in which we get stuck is not seeing the reality in our situation. In my example, the reality is nothing will change in my morning ritual unless I do something to change the environment and circumstances. We may be living out a fantasy in hopes that what we wish for will come true. It can be painful to look at our situations and realize that we are the problem. I have to accept that I don’t live in California and it is getting colder. In some cases, we may be stuck in a make-believe life because the alternative is unknown and scary.

Do you find yourself sitting in an office day after day and feeling that something just isn’t right with the business practices or the people you work for? Do you tell yourself, “it will get better” or “I’m just imaging things” and go home feeling drained a little bit sick. Are you waiting for a promotion or raise that is never going to come? We tell ourselves a lot of things out of fear when really we should move on. Are you refusing to see the reality of whatever situation is not benefiting you at work when it is time to find something new? Are you missing beneficial opportunities because you don’t know what to expect? Has someone told you this is as good as it gets and you are lucky to have this job?

Are you in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect you or treat you well? Are you hanging on because most of the time it is ok and ignoring the other not so great times? Are you thinking that the longer you stay the better it will get—that they will come around? Are you compromising who you are so you won’t be alone? Reality check. Most times the person we are in a relationship with is not going to change. If you have shared your point of view and it is ignored, the chances are it is not going to get better. Are you willing to commit to someone that steals your joy and who only makes you happy if you ignore all the other stuff? Are you conceding who you are so that they will love you? Your blind spot may leave you committed to something that compromises who you are and stops your personal growth.

There are many areas in which we have blind spots. I can’t seem to lose weight but maybe that is because I am sneaking in candy bars. I can’t pay off my bills because I cheat on my budget. I am not getting promoted because there is no opportunity or I am not putting enough effort into the job. I can’t find a job I like but I am not putting much effort into preparing myself for a career. I’m not growing spiritually but I’m also not making time to read my Bible or to pray or go to church.

I can’t…I don’t…I won’t…Those are killer words that might indicate you have a blind spot that is holding you back. Ask yourself what the truth is in your situation. Ask yourself if you want it to be better. Ask yourself if you are really ready to stop ignoring the things that are clear to others and make a change. Are you negotiating which truths you want to believe in to the point that you don’t know what you value or what truth means anymore?

You matter. You are valuable and worthy of success and good things in your life. You have the right to make decisions about your happiness, even if there may be some pain along the way. You have the right to reset your thermostat and greet the day with hope and promise. You have the right to set a new positive course for your life. Start by being honest and pulling back the curtain to let the light into your blind spot. Breathe in the truth and make the changes that align you with that truth.