Monday, December 17, 2007

284. tell me about love (part 2)

Couple weekends ago I was asked to play drums at my church's morning services (two morning services). During the second service, the band gets together during the sermon (since we've already heard it during the first service) and hangs out so we can get to know one another better or catch up on what's been going on. This week, the worship leader asked an interesting ice-breaker type question. He asked us to share something that no one or very few people knew about us - something we felt comfortable sharing.

I shared that I'd never had a girlfriend but not for lack of trying. When I shared that, I thought it was something only my closest friends knew but after thinking about it later, I realized that I had already shared this fact in my blog (see entry 162). So I guess it wasn't as much of a secret as I thought it was. Maybe I should have shared how I went skinny dipping in the ocean in the first early hours of January 1, 2000 (true story).

I'm not sure how the other members of the worship team took what I shared about being single, but it's funny because later that day while we were packing and cleaning up after church, the worship leader asked me if I'd be willing to go out with someone who was Chinese. In jest, told him I'd go out with anyone with a pulse. The truth of the matter is, the list of things I'm looking for in a significant other is pretty long and esoteric (see blog 62 and 275) but I'm open to the idea that the person I end up with might be someone I never would have expected so consider this an invitation to set me up at will.

All that said, I've also written before about how after years of longing, pining, craving a girlfriend, I've found ample contentment as a single man. And I have. Among other things, I've come to appreciate the freedom being single affords. I can go where I want, when I want. I can eat whatever I want wherever I can get it. And that's one less gift I have to buy this year.

But in the back of my mind, I know I'm missing out.

In my previous post about love, I wrote a bit about 1 Corinthians 13. Paul ends that epistle with this line, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love," (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Honestly? If asked, I suppose I could rattle off a list of ideas that I think describe love but it would be like me describing the surface of the moon - I've seen pictures but I've never really been there.

And I've heard it said that in order to get love you've got to give love. But how do you give something you don't understand? When I heard this idea, I figured the best way to show love would be to give of myself to others - to help in what ever ways I could and I think (at least I like to think) that those who know me will say that I'm someone who will drop what I'm doing at the drop of a hat if I see someone with a need that I can fill.

But what if that's not how love works?

Take a look at this other piece from 1 Corinthians 13 - this time from Eugene Peterson's paraphrase, The Message:

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7


What if all the generosity I gave that I thought was love was just "the creaking of a rusty gate?"

What if I have no idea what love is?

Because (and maybe this is the secret that few people know about me) I don't think I know what love is.

And that's a pretty screwed up thing to write but there it is.

Well, let me clarify that a bit. Of course there are people in my life who I love - family, the guys in my band, friends back in Hawaii, new friends in Seattle - but even with these people, it's sometimes hard for me to know how to love them. I know I love them, but how so? How do I show it, how do I live that out?

And if I have uncertainties about loving those I love, how am I supposed to love my neighbor or my enemy or Harold?

[insert long pause (say, 20mins) where I'm staring at the screen, wondering if I should write this next bit]

I hesitate to write this because, to me, it sounds terribly self-indulgent and selfish and spoiled but it's where this entry is headed so I may as well just go there.

See. . .

I. . .

I wonder if I'm not sure what love is because I don't think I've felt loved in a really long time.

Is that okay to say?

There's a really popular book which I haven't read but I've heard a lot of people talk about it so I'm vaguely familiar with its concepts. It's called The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. In it, Chapman talks about five "languages" of love - five different ways that people experience and give love. They are:

1. Words of Affirmation
2. Quality Time
3. Receiving Gifts
4. Acts of Service
5. Physical Touch.

I don't think I speak any of those languages.

Well, let me qualify that. I think I show love to others though acts of service. But I don't know if that's how I receive love. In fact, looking at Chapman's list, I'm not sure if any of those is how I receive or feel loved.

There are lots of different versions of this Love Languages book. There's a Men's edition, a children's edition, and a teenager's edition. I think I need a geeky introvert edition. I'd feel loved if he wrote that.

I guess I write all of this to make this point. I wonder if the easiest way to learn about how to love and be loved is to, well, be in love - ideally with someone who loves you back. And so I wonder if I need to get over the comfort I've found as a single person and put myself back out there and try and find someone I can grow old with.

I don't know.

So tell me about love.

What's the best way to give and receive love?

What is it about modern society that makes it so hard to express and/or feel loved even as we are supposedly more "connected" through cell phones and email?

Should I get off my lazy, single ass and put myself out there more?

Lastly, I got no game when it comes to dating. Does anybody think reading this book would help me learn some moves?


Leo said...

I know Darwin's got a big stack of books and DVD you can borrow!

rjgintrepid said...

Thanks for the honesty Randall.

Personally, I also struggle with the being single thing, the lack of healthy relationships. I have indeed been in two romantic relationships, but as my mother said, "they were characterized by abuse and neglect, respectively". So I don't know what it is to be in a relationship where I am truly loved for who I am, and treated in a loving way.

I can read the Five Love Languages and rank each one according to what I would like. I can say that my family is loving, my friends are fabulous, I really am okay as a single person. But you are right, there is a type of love we are missing out on.

As a girl, it is even harder because there's this whole "should a girl ask a guy out" thing involved. I really would rather not do the asking, but wonder if that means I will be always alone, wondering what guys are thinking. Yes, expressing love is hard, and wanting others to express it when they won't or can't is harder.

I go back and forth, having hope, then deciding I am not going to hope anymore, then back to realizing that I can't give up on true love in the end.

So put yourself out there, Randall. Don't give up. The trying and the waiting and the hoping might be difficult, but hope, like love, is never an easy thing. But I think it will be worth it in the end.

Autosmiler said...

I applaud and admire your openness. It's led rjgintrepid and me to get "lost in your thoughts", so to speak, by following one link in your blog to others you reference within them.

I did want to go through them before commenting, though, in case something I wanted to say were redundant or irrelevant. Thanks for inviting us to share our two cents -- here are my thoughts.

At first, I got the feeling you were trapped in the "Christian nice-guy" syndrome, whereby you're typecast as the nice guy who's fun to hang out with but not date. I do know a lot of guys like that (including my older brother), except b/c they are in my cohort, they are approaching 30. They are extremely shy and never had a girlfriend, but as their personalities unraveled through time I saw that they would make the most devoted, ideal husbands. Strong Christians, intelligent, with good jobs, funny (once the shyness is overcome through friendship), and so loving in their own way. That is to say, they live with servant hearts, and you get a feeling of being appreciated for your company.

That doesn't quite answer your question about what love is, and I don't propose to have one. I bring up about my brother and my friends because I got the sense that you felt alone in being a long-time singler. In fact, it goes beyond "Christian Nice Guys" as I also have several single male friends who are not Christian but intelligent and nice nonetheless. Perhaps they're single still because they are also characterized by nerdiness. I've not had deep relationship discussions with them, but I suspect they fall prey to the same (appropriate) need of having high standards. And let's face it - there aren't a lot of girls out there who can talk obscure video game references or HTML code with the best of them.

High standards in themselves are a good thing. It shows you care about who you want to open yourself up to; it is a vulerable, brave act, which should reflect the respect you have for yourself. On the other hand, one-on-one relationships in my past [and believe you me these were very few and far between!] with guys who were less-than-standard taught me to re-prioritize my standards. Like being willing to travel/try new things; it used to be on the lower end of my needs spectrum, but it's moved to one of the top spots. I wouldn't have known it was so important to me until I was with someone who didn't feel the same way. So in the end, I find myself caught in the mixed mindset of dating questionable men (not in the give-me-the-creeps way, but in the doesn't-fit-all-my-criteria way) to find out if I've got my head and heart aligned adequately, versus staying available while waiting for Mr. Right to approach/appear.

Again, I veered off the direct topic of love, but it fits in there. Isn't love mutually created and embellished through time and effort? I don't have the references to support this, but I have heard occasionally that prearranged marriages have the smallest divorce rate. "Fiddler on the Roof" comes to mind.
But my father and my mother
Said we'd learn to love each other
And now I'm asking, Golde
Do you love me?
Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I've lived with him
Fought him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?
So, if that's the case, why have standards beyond "acceptable"?

One more topic I wanted to hit on, and then I promise to stop this rambling comment. RE: being content with singleness.

I blogged back in October about the same thing, except I did use the word "happy". I am in the camp that when bonded with someone, your entire day/life is no longer your own. I've often wondered if I truly am happy with being single so that I do have that kind of freedom, or if I try to convince myself that I am happy so that I don't feel as lonely at nights when I want to cuddle, or dining alone. Or when hanging out with the "ands" (e.g., Jeff AND Jen). With my busy schedule (full of things I personally want to do), I don't see how I could fit in a boyfriend b/c I see relationships as a big responsibility.

The_LoneTomato said...

Thanks for all your thoughts, rjg and autosmiler...oh, yeah and leo (who do you think he got those books and DVDs from?)

The way our "modern" world handles love and dating has to be the most dysfunctional in history.

Maybe smiley is right, we should just get set up to get married. But there's NO WAY I'd let my parents hook me up.

Maybe we can get Quest to set up an event where all the singles put their names in two big hats (guy hat, girl hat) and PE can draw names and pair people up then marry them on the spot.