Monday, May 04, 2015

blogging thru Scary Close - chapters 15 and 16

“You complete me” is the line that lost me in the movie Jerry McGuire. It’s just such a ridiculous concept. Having this expectation of another person is CRAZY. I mean it. Downright crazy.

But it sounds so romantic. This whole idea that getting married will take away so much of your hurt and your brokenness and make you satisfied and whole… But we live in a broken world! With broken people! That’s just not going to happen... Why don’t we get this?!?

Don writes in chapter 15 about the significance of knowing who you are and letting the other person be themselves. “…and the sleepless nights I’ve spent wondering what they were thinking or how much they liked me or whether I was a good enough man for them. A complete waste of time.” (pg. 207) 

Thinking back to chapter 14, it’s no wonder relationships don’t work out for people who are so worried what the other was thinking about them or whether they were good enough. That’s not about building something together. It’s about the false assumption that we are only good if we are in a pair, and that on our own we are less than. What a destructive belief this is.

As Don looked over the people he knew who were in thriving marriages of 30 or 40 years, it was because they “loved each other as an act of their conscious will” (pg. 211)

I’ve believed for many, many years that love is a decision. And love requires trying. All Don is doing here is reminding me that I’m not crazy. I know the world doesn’t think it’s a decision… that love is just something that happens. Poof! There’s love.


Love takes work. It takes trying. It takes effort on both sides. And it’s not the kind of trying that has you hustling for approval, trying to make the other person happy with you. It’s about trying together, moving forward in relationship together. For love to flourish, it’s a conscious act of the will. “Love is worth fighting for, but something you can’t be the only one fighting. At times, people need to fight for you.” (unknown) There is much we long for in this world, longing that causes us to fight with each other and grow weary with dissatisfaction.  It's easy to grow angry and frustrated at others because they aren’t taking that longing away for us.

Longing is part of life. But it cannot be fulfilled by another person.  “Betsy and I are going to try as hard as we can not to put the burden of that longing on each other. Instead, we will comfort each other in the longing and even love it for what it is, a promise that God will someday fulfill us.” (pgs. 215-216) When we expect the other person to complete us, to make the longing go away, we are making a huge mistake. No one can do that, be that, for another. Yet we far too often go into relationships with the idea that we were missing something (true) and the other person will make that go away (not true). We look to the other person or to the marriage to complete the missing piece. But no. We don't work like that, and the gospel doesn't work like that.

The last chapter of Don’s book is glorious. “Love is a decision,” he reiterates. (See! I told you!!!) “It is as much something you made happen as it is something that happens to you.” (pg. 224) This chapter is so glorious that I’m going to say the least about it of any other chapter he wrote.

Scary Close is a book that I will read and reread many times. Don’s writing does that to me, but this one in particular has helped me grow through my fear, my vulnerability. It’s helped me push through my comfort into risk and toward grace in loving people who need that grace. The book has felt like peeling back layers of an onion (and not just because of the tears) but because he started with our outer selves, helping us understand the fallacy in our armor. And that peeling back these layers more and more are scary and the tears will come. But we must do the peeling. 

Because love is about trying together. Not for their approval or for them to complete you, but about building together to make something beautiful out of this mess of a world. This trying involves vulnerability, risk, and most of all, knowing yourself and being known by another. This is scary. Scary close.

Friday, May 01, 2015

blogging thru Scary Close - chapter 14

Chapter 14 is called Do Men Do Intimacy Differently?

This is the longest chapter in the book, and the one all the women will run to in attempt to understand the men in their lives. Will it accomplish that? I’m not sure.

The first sentence is one that struck fear in my heart: “Men move towards what makes them feel competent.” (pg. 187) Don thinks this is likely why men run from intimacy – because they don’t feel competent in intimate relationships. This struck fear in my heart because my immediate thought was, “I already have a lot of expectations on me, now I have to make sure men feel competent around me, too? Sheesh. Am I their mother?”

But men aren’t bad at intimacy, he claims. He’ll talk about his feelings because that’s how his wife connects with him. But it is not something that comes naturally to Don, and most men. So men are led to believe they are bad at intimacy. This is closely tied to feelings of masculinity, because as men are drawn towards what makes them feel competent, they are also drawn toward careers that make them feel masculine, he says. He lost me a little at this point, and never really fleshes out the masculine concept (which is probably a good thing, because I think there are many ways for men to be masculine. But that’s another post for another time.)

Don moves on at this point in the chapter and doesn’t really connect the dots for me just yet. He begins to tell the story of Dan, a guy he hired to help grow his company.  Their conversations didn’t start about a business plan for the future; they started with a life plan. Particularly a plan for Don and his marriage with Betsy. Slowly, Dan begins to show Don how asking what you want your marriage to look like is about two people working toward a fixed point. As all relationships are living and moving and becoming something, two people, in romantic relationships or otherwise, should walk together with the same goal in mind. This is about building… and nurturing and growing.

This nurturing and growing concept in relationships is interesting to me. Because if we allow things to “take a natural course” then as Christians, we know that will lead to a more sinful place. We are broken people in a broken world, so for us to just “let things happen” in our relationships likely means what will happen also be something broken. So it makes sense to me that we must make an effort together to direct the relationship away from our natural tendencies of brokenness, ultimately to a healthy and God-honoring place instead. “I let friendships, business relationships, and even my relationship with Betsy take a natural course rather than guiding them to a healthy place.” (pg. 194)

So “building” is how men do intimacy, I guess. Though Don never comes out and says that in plain language (again, that’s not really his style.) But this makes sense to me, because as all women have probably experienced in their lifetime, men like to fix us when we feel broken. 

Fixing is not that different from building, if you think about it. Metaphorical fixing is far more likely to happen in a world that already has a lot of assumptions built. Cultural assumptions, historical ones, gender-based ones. These expectations and assumptions are built into us and the world, and are part of what makes us feel broken. They are definitely part of what makes us experience brokenness. When a man sees a woman they care for sad and broken then I imagine all they want to do is build something to make it better for us. Or simply fix the thing already built that is causing us the pain to begin with.

It’s sweet, really. I get that. Not always necessary. But it’s sweet.

If men are wired for building, what can we do as women to foster and nurture this, rather than make them feel like they are bad at intimacy, because it looks different than our way of connecting? How can we help men build without dismissing our own way of connecting, not making them feel incompetent?
“Men like to build and create and feel their power, and if they don’t do it in healthy ways they usually do it in unhealthy ways.” (pg. 203)                                                                                                                            
I’ve seen men with the desire to create and feel power build it in unhealthy ways. Through a relationship with a woman who is needy and weak, a job that builds them up so they want to spend every moment there, a hobby they are exceptional at so every extra cent of their paycheck is poured into it. It’s pretty normal, actually, once you start looking around for it. Now I just have an understanding of why.               

Men are from Mars and woman are from Venus. Both we’re both still planets, you know? And that means we can both try. Try to understand each other and figure out some way to meet in the middle, so that intimacy isn’t just a series of let-downs and disappointments, but about two people moving together and toward each other at the same time. For the sake of love, for the sake of friendship, for the sake of healing.

Because this world needs oh so much healing.                                                                   

loving a person... it's no small thing

This pretty much sums up the last couple of weeks for me. It's the "reaching out and trying" part that hits me pretty hard right now.

Loving a person just the way they are, it's no small thing
It takes some time to see things through
Sometimes things change, sometimes we're waiting
We need grace either way

Hold on to me
I'll hold on to you
Let's find out the beauty of seeing things through

There's a lot of pain in reaching out and trying
It's a vulnerable place to be
Love and pride can't occupy the same spaces baby
Only one makes you free

Hold on to me
I'll hold on to you
Let's find out the beauty of seeing things through

If we go looking for offense
We're going to find it
If we go looking for real love
We're going to find it