It was Valentine’s Day this weekend. For some, Valentine’s Day is exciting – filled with romance and reminders that they are valued by someone else; and for others, it is a reminder that things may not be as they wish in the romance department. It can also be a holiday where those in a relationship don’t have their expectations met; or they don’t meet someone else’s expectations. Needless to say, it is a hyped-up day that can bring great joy or great pain. Whatever situation you found yourself in, I hope that you had moments of feeling loved and valued no matter what your relationship status.
What I have realized about pain is that it is often caused by expectations. There have been many times in my life that I have created a scenario or way that I wanted something to work out, and when it doesn’t, I am devastated. I begin to feel angry at God that my expectations weren’t met. I don’t think expectations are always bad, but sometimes romantic expectations blind us to reality. The reverse is true for me as well. I have created negative expectations around certain things, and one of those reared its head this Valentine’s day season – and just changing one word changed it all for me.
I am a singleton, as Valentine’s Day reminds me. I had some amazing friends and an amazing pup to spend the day with, but I still noticed all the couples as I watched the sunset at the beach with my pup. There are days that I would have felt a little bitter. Honestly, I smiled this Valentine’s Day as the couples canoodled and picnicked. It’s hard to be bitter when the sunset blows your mind, you’ve just driven down Highway 1 with the top down and music blaring, and you realize your life is pretty great and anyone who wants to join in this adventure will only add to that.
So on my bad days, what would normally make me feel a little bitter? Seeing happy couples when I am not currently in one makes me ask the question: What is it about other people that makes someone engage in the hard work of a relationship for them? And worse than that, why isn’t someone willing to do the hard work with me? What about me makes the work not worth the benefit? Wow, I just realized how mathematical that sounds. And also how much I make it about me and not about where the other person is emotionally or life stage wise.
I think I have a position that can sometimes be seen as intimidating, and because I love big things in life – lots of friendships, travel, big ideas and adventure – I can feel like my life is too much for someone else. I feel as though my life looks complete and my course set, but truly I want someone to do these adventures with. I don’t need someone, but it would be nice, and has been nice, when there has been someone to enjoy my adventures and big thoughts with. I can adjust the sails to include the course of someone else. I think for so long I have been saying the sentence, “I want to be married or in a relationship, but I haven’t found anyone I want to join this crazy adventure and at the same time is willing to pursue my heart and do the hard work.” My life is just too big, and my dreams are too big. To sum it up: ‘I am too much,’ and at the same time, ‘not enough.’ This wound has been one I have turned over to God again and again, but I still walk with a limp.
It was in reading an article our lead pastor shared with me for our current sermon series that I decided to change that sentence and the thoughts that join it. A Stanford professor, Dr. Bernard Roth suggests that we too often use the word ‘but’ when we should use the word ‘and.’ We too often create dichotomies that get us stuck in a way of thinking and in the way we engage the world. For instance, the sentence “I want to go to a movie, but I have to work” makes us feel as though there is no way to do both. He suggests changing the sentence to “I want to go to a movie and I have to work.” Suddenly, possibility and doors seem to open; all from changing one word. I was thinking about this as the sun set on Valentine’s Day – what if the sentence my heart has been saying has the wrong word in it. What if instead I said: “I want to be married or in a relationship, and I haven’t found anyone who I want to join this crazy adventure and at the same time is willing to pursue my heart and do the hard work.” What hope and possibility does this open? What sentence in your life do you need to change?