Before I left for China I spent an evening hanging out with one of my oldest friends and her ex-boyfriend.  It was the first time I had interacted with them since they had broken up and frankly, I was shocked.

Nothing had changed.

In fact, I’d say he was more attentive, caring, considerate, and in-tune to her than he was when they were dating.

Fast forward a few weeks.  We chatted the other day and I asked what the deal was.  She replied, “it’s the same as it was.  He’s my BFF with commitment issues and still treats me like a princess.  I don’t get it.”

I think I do.

You see, when we discussed their relationship before I went to China, she made the comment “I stopped sleeping with him, and I won’t.  He can’t have his cake and eat it too.”

Well, what if the sex isn’t the cake?

Women have long-held this notion to hold out sex because a man will, upon withholding, respond like a well-trained circus animal and furnish a ring.  “Why buy the cow…” our mothers’ fable warns us – so we hold back the proverbial milk.

But that’s a version of men that I won’t reduce myself to loving.

Sure men enjoy sex; but they also enjoy companionship & friendship with a woman, emotional intimacy where forever is covenantal, a home where they feel safe to shed their armor from the day’s battle and be loved by a lady who astutely chose him as ‘the one’.  They enjoy encouragement from us mysterious female types; something about them feeds off our respect.  Their strengths couple and compliment with ours – and it feels right and good.  And if they can get all of that without a tux and an open bar – why would they risk the vulnerability of asking for a commitment and seeing one through?

We’ve reduced the cake to sex.  We tell ourselves that’s all a man wants.  Don’t get me wrong, men like sex and it’s important – but to say that attraction & intimacy have nothing to do with what goes on outside the bedroom is a lie we’ve been told.

So by withholding sex and wondering why the circus isn’t performing says a lot about what we think of men; but, it also says a lot more about who we believe we are and what we believe we are worth.

It made me sad for my friend and sad for all the times I’ve done the same thing.  I practically invented using sex as a way to manipulate guys; but I don’t now.  Do I have a boyfriend, no.  But, do I waste my time an energy on someone unworthy of it, that’s happily a “no” as well.  I’ve come to realize that my passion, ambition, intellect, humor, loyalty, friendship, encouragement, & love are what make me worth engaging.  That’s the stuff that should be withheld from the men who won’t give me the respect of a commitment.

I am the cake.

accidental hiatus

April 5, 2010

the first month just happened.  It was mid-december and my heart got broken.

I mean, I saw it coming.  I practically set it up under a hammer…

A year before the writing was on the wall.  Actually, I wrote it.  I said it couldn’t work. I told him. We knew.

But I couldn’t bear the thought of being alone. I was so afraid of the silence in my  own head that I kept the noise very loud…I went from him to another and when the other didn’t work out, I came right back.  There were, for sure, a few mixed in for sport and pleasure and boredom, but that’s like an in-bound pass in basketball – all just part of the game.

The pattern has repeated itself like that a thousand times since that fateful first day when a boy’s lips first touched mine.  I was 12.  He bought me a ice cream after – and invited me back to his house.  When i said no he ignored me.

I figure out pretty quick how this worked.  If I wanted attention and an accessory; I knew how to get it.

rotate in some old ones, add in a few new.

guy after guy after guy after guy.

whatever it takes to not be solo

committed? who cares.

kind? doesn’t matter.

considerate? whatever.

I have what you want and you have what I need.  This, as Rob Bell says, is really about that.

So on that fateful December night, as I sat on a concrete slab of a brand new house being built, my heart was broken.  But not because of the guy, I’d gotten over him a year before.  My way wasn’t working out. And that is an earth-shattering rock bottom when you find it.

Isaiah 30 presents, at these moments, a proverbial fork.  It explains it clearly and for the first time, I was willing to do it.

The first month was easy.  I don’t know why.  I think I was just so tired that it was nice. It felt a bit like sitting on the bench for a breather.

The second month was a bit of a surprise. By this point it was mid-january and I like to fast from something at the beginning of the year.  This year it felt like I needed to just stop making it happen.  Pursuing boys, finding them, rotating them in and out of my life for only as long as it feels good and is fun.

stop using them.

It felt like it needed to be intentional.  Just back off.  Take a sabbatical.  And do it on purpose.

Which took me past Valentine’s day…two months, not even a kiss.

In my 18 year very storied kissing career, I can’t remember ever having gone longer than 3 1/2 weeks without at least kissing a guy.

And that hiatus was because I had mono.

So two months has become almost 4.  Even I am amazed.  Driving in the car on a date with an old friend on Saturday, he was asking pretty pointed questions.  This is definitely not the Sarah he’s known…and I don’t blame him for being so dumbfounded and inquisitive.  I was one of the legends.

How are you ok with this? Are you still functioning?

Because I let the stuff catch up to me.

I let it sink in.

I let it hurt.

and it hurrrrrrrrrrt…

but after that almost incalculable quake settled; I started relating to guys differently.

I started seeing them in a different way.  They were no longer little sources of booty I could exploit to serve a need – they were friends, sons, protectors, warriors, comedians, academics.  They brought good things out in me and sometimes bad.  They were interesting to observe purely, without plotting how I could manipulate.  I watch how well they love and how kind they are to their mothers and sisters and friends.  It is a view I’ve never known in a world I’ve never seen.

The desire to be married and a great wife didn’t and hasn’t gone away – it just looks a lot different.  I don’t wonder how I can make it happen.  Because it will.  Men are smart – they know.  Mine will know when it’s time and when it’s time he’ll know what to say and do what he needs to do.

I don’t think it satisfied my friend’s questions.  He continued.

How long are you on this accidental hiatus?  I don’t know.  Six months sounds good I think – which puts me in June.

Really? He said curiously with a hint of shock.  And finally uttered the question I think everyone has been wondering…

Why?

Because, I said, I really like who I am becoming.

the illustrious words of Ecclesiastes 3 have been ringing in my ears…

why?

Because I said it…I told the boy, only the 2nd boy i have ever loved, that I’m over him.  I no longer have that little piece of me that hopes we will somehow reconcile.

time has mended.

I felt this way for a while, but I don’t like to rush statements like these.  There is so much ego involved in break-ups that sometimes the harbingers of healing and wholeness can actually be self-protective measures.  So I waited a little.

I can’t say why I even felt it necessary to say it to him in plain language.  I suppose months of distance and silence conveyed the message.  He usually laughs at me for bringing this kind of thing up.  But, there were things to say because I believe in the power of words. They can do pretty cool things and I’m grateful to have loved a guy who always allowed me the ability to speak them.

It’s fully over.  And that’s good; it’s right.

On Sunday, the pastor of my church said, “sometimes you have to let someone in again to hurt you, just so you can know that you will survive, so you know you aren’t your own protector.”  it’s a powerful statement actually, and very true for this boy who I accidentally fell in love with.  He was kinder than any man I’ve ever known; and considerate, selfless, aware.  At the exact moment I wanted to use sex as a shortcut to intimacy, this boy who had long wanted a yes told me no.  He was willing to protect me more than I was.  Men are strong, I love that about them, and I had never before known it or been able to fall into it like I did with him.  I learned a lot.  He was a good guy, but just the right bit of ass-hole – enough to reassure me that I was not the center of his world.  I liked that, I wasn’t meant to be a guy’s center; I can’t save anyone.

With him, the giving was the reward.  I could have, would have rearranged my life to see his dreams become real, but in the end – I have my theories – he only knew a world where he gave himself away and had a lifetime of experiences that said his agenda isn’t worth other people’s inconvenience.  There’s only a slim chance to love someone like that because they have to take a big risk…he never took the risk and a tangled mess of frustration, anger, and hurt choked out all the good.  I can only insist upon his value and potential now as a friend.  Maybe it will be more convincing b/c I am no longer demanding anything from him emotionally or relationally.  I am free again, to give without an agenda.

Need is a funny thing in relationships – there are obligations of intimacy on any level and you need them to be in place to move forward; but you can’t need a person in the wrong sense.  Some needs are only met by a perfect Father, and when the two get confused, it can be disastrous. But, when you are able to have that need met in God, the sheer force of the love that you are able to give away without demanding anything in return in staggering.  I found those lines and the instincts toward them in me, in these last couple years with him.  I learned some very important things about how not to set a man up to fail. Love never fails…and in this case, it left me better than it found me.  I hope he can say the same.

 

Rob Bell penned perhaps one of the most brilliant commentaries on sexuality and spirituality. The book “Sex God” changed everything for me in terms of how I understand my attitudes, actions, and reactions to sex and guys.

his first chapter outlines the notion “this” is always about “that” – a powerful, convicting reality for all of us who have been puzzled by “why am i doing this?”

this week, for me, was no exception.

There has been a “this” – a thing that so excruciatingly defined my thoughts and my mood – a thing that had to be done b/c the way i was acting and reacting to someone i love was destroying him and me. it was making both of us less human.

for all intents and purposes, we put all of our cards on the table – i said i loved him. i do. he said he doesn’t want to hurt me. he doesn’t. i trust his kindness. but he also doesn’t want a relationship, he doesn’t want to make it work.

when i pull away, he tells me i’m gorgeous, funny, intelligent – and i come right back. when he pulls away, i give a little more of my body – and he is attentive again.

it’s a viscous cycle.

i ended it yesterday. honestly and in totality – i told him the pattern. we agreed. i prayed for the piece of my heart that got joined to him would come back.

they did.

this morning, i found myself checking flights to see him. did the magic prayer not work? were the soul ties not broken?

they had to be – b/c when he played his card to get me back it didn’t have the draw it once did.

so why? why was the only thing i wanted or could think to do fly to him and snuggle on the couch in his arms?

because “this” is always about “that”

i wish i could go into the “that”. I wish i could make sense of it right now, but all i can do is say that i know exactly what it is. i know it has to be dealt with or i’ll keeping trying to expunge it in the arms of men who don’t deserve to hold my heart.

this “that” though – seems insurmountable. and i’m scared.

A Twitter friend once posted, “Just once, I’d like to learn something the easy way.” 

Amen. 

Some people have a gift for it – my best friend is one of them – she just observes other people, takes it in, then makes the right decisions part of her ethos.  How? I have no idea. 

Recently, in the wake of one of my learning opportunities (read: bad decisions), I found myself on a much needed ‘drive and think.’   Nestled in my shiny white BMW, left knee bent up to my chest, right arm steering my gorgeous machine, winding down A1A music blaring – i felt free.  Free to face the truth and the demons; wanting a familiar lyric or tune to embrace my chaos and reassure me that everything works out OK in spite of it all. 

That’s one thing I’ve never gotten a clear answer on from the church – does it work out or doesn’t it?  Are my “hot mess” tendencies going to derail me or not? I mean, they are pretty clear about the “ultimate” resolution – but i’m not bent toward easily imagining dragons buried under the ocean and Messiahs riding out of the sky – let alone how any of that impacts my drive on A1A.  I live in the short-term.  I live where people are impacted by my decisions, not the least of which is me! I understand the condition of my heart determines my behavior but my behavior(s) also shape the condition of my heart.  

I’m fighting this war on two battlefields – and frankly, i’m not so great at defending my heart against the wounds of bad behaviors. 

It occurred to me, in the sanctity of my precious beamer, that i could actually ask God – did i mess this all up?  Does this work out for me, in spite of me, or not? Can God still do IN me and THROUGH me what He longs to do, or am i just hopeless?

So i asked.  I asked the God of the universe, the guy who put the sky together – i just asked him.  I talk to Him often, but even with the closest of friends, sometimes you grab their shoulders, look them in the eye and really ask.  This was one of those.

In all of the honesty that I’ve always hoped God was big enough to hold, I told him I like it, I love feeling the things I feel and I know better: i know they aren’t right or good.  I know they are dangerous.  I know He put them off-limits b/c He loves me perfectly – better than I love myself.  I told God that I wished I could claim to be a bug flying toward the light…incapable of resisting. But I believed him when He says He’ll provide a way out and to claim to be that proverbial mosquito, if i were to say I’m incapable of resisting, I’m calling Him a liar.  And I can’t do that. 

The ability to choose is what makes me most human.  If i abdicate responsibility for my choices, I become a little less human.  I won’t do that. 

I did what I did. I made a series of decisions that led to a consequence.  

There’s blood on my hands.

In a sense, I am the one, in Herod’s courtyard saying “He’s not what I want. I think I can do it better.  This doesn’t look like what i want it to look like…so I’m taking it into my own hands.”

and the blood of an innocent man is on my hands.

And I wonder if God’s big enough, good enough to hold me when i’m covered in His blood. 

I wonder – GOD how i wonder – if I messed it all up – if i disqualified myself somehow b/c I can’t get it right.

I want Him. I want to love Him well. I want Him to lead me b/c I like that way SO MUCH BETTER.  But time and time and time again, I’ve proved that I can’t muster enough strength or discipline or resolve to just do what I know God’s asked me to be. 

I’m covered in blood.