October 27, 2013

Of Love and Budgets and Boundaries

We stand up from the table, push our chairs in, wind up our computer chargers, satisfied for now with the excel spreadsheet that itemizes our individual monthly budgets. Money management having never been my strong point I immensely appreciate his patient help with details I would naturally miss.

I thank him for giving his time. "I think I like budgets," I tell him. "It makes me feel more secure knowing I'm going to have what I need for everything."

His eyes soften, twinkling with the glint of a dozen thoughts we both understand without saying, and he smiles that slow, thoughtful smile that reminds me of his dad. "Rules and boundaries often make us feel that way" he finally says.

And my heart smiles.

My mind thinks of how true his words are in our relationship. I think of these three warm and happy months that I've been his girlfriend, and of the security and assuredness that permeates every fiber of this relationship. I think back before that to the years that proceeded it-- years full of boundaries, restraint, and caution that many in this age of carefree lovemaking would perhaps deem "unnecessary" or even "unreasonable." Those were years of wondering and uncertainty. Real, live romantic feelings had to be denied expression; self had to be surrendered to Jesus. Tough lessons had to be learned. And yet at the end of the day all I can say is that I'm unbelievably grateful. Grateful for these holy impulses of restraint that shut out only that which weakens and defrauds, and hold in so much trust, and pure, boundless joy.

I love those moments when we're ticking down the miles in his faithful red Honda. Periods of animated conversation subside into prolonged stretches of quiet, contented thought. His hand rests idly on the gear shift, and impulsively the nerves of my fingers clamor to slip into the valleys between his knuckles, but they are constrained by something nobler, purer, and lovelier. Because I want to fall in love with his heart before I fall in love with the warmth of his touch. I want to have what is strong and abiding before I enjoy what is powerful but temporary. Before I say those three special little words I want to have searched out the deepest corners of his heart so that when I say "I love you" it means "I know the darkest and ugliest and most annoying things about you and I absolutely love who you really are." 'Cause that's what real love is, and that's the kind of love where trust flourishes.

It is no news today that divorce has become as common as a routine dental checkup-- and, sadly, is just as common within the church as without. A quote I read recently on a friend's blog seemed to capture the essential reason for this:

"What nearly all modern Christians have done is place romantic love above marriage.  Instead of seeing marriage as the moral context to pursue romantic love and sex, romantic love is now seen as the moral place to experience sex and marriage.  This inversion is subtle enough that no one seems to have noticed, but if you look for it you will see it everywhere." --Dalrock

True, no?

So-called love, emotion, feeling, and passion are all too often the driving, directing force in relationships. "If it feels good, do it" is the word of the day. All too often emotions carry couples all the way into marriage without them ever discussing the tough issues or knowing if they are truly suited to make each other happy. When the emotion dies, there is nothing to hold their hearts together. All too often "easy come" becomes "easy go." If the couple does choose not to take the option of divorce and they "stick
it out," it is often a lifelong struggle for them to find happiness and true fulfillment in their relationship.

What if we did it different? What if we went back to the old ways and made commitment first?

What if romantic love was slipped onto the back burner to simmer away until the tough questions had been asked, the personality wrinkles ironed out, compatibility determined,  and the heart opened to its very center? Then-- like the boiling honey which pours over hot, crisp, flaky layers of phylo dough, sizzling and simmering to create baklava--romance could saturate the strong and lasting commitment with sweetness, warmth, and, yes, sizzle.

Maybe we'd form deeper, more-lasting, more-fulfilling relationships. Maybe there would be more kids who can say "My parents are still together, and you better believe they still love each other!"

Is my relationship with Josiah destined to be one of those "forever and ever's?" That I don't know, and I have hesitated long to mention anything about it on my blog for that reason. I am fully aware that a courtship that does not end in marriage is just as successful as one that does. I don't believe that just because I can trace the providence of God in a hundred ways in leading us together that my (very) human mind can anticipate or forsee His ultimate plan for us. What I do know is that His plan is good and I will like it, and that the relationship He has entrusted me with is worth being protected with the best of boundaries so that regardless of the outcome there will be no needless regret.


Never thought I'd be the girl to say it, but I like boundaries.

I like them a lot.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks bro :) can't wait for Christmas!

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  2. My Heart and my Mouth are speechless!!!! These are the unspoken words of my current 3 month courtship. God Bless! May the LORD continue to use you mightily. I shall continue to tune in to hear the LORD's leading. It is so nice to see someone else with aching and longing heart to please the LORD; at whatever the cost to their natural inclinations. *BRAVO*

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