“It’s not so terrible. Rather than dwell on problems why not look for life’s gifts? Every day is a present. Beautiful!”— Alice Herz-Sommer (108 yrs old- World’s oldest Holocaust Survivor)
The unexpected arrival of someone into my life is an opportunity to see God’s blessings, and simultaneously triggers all my inner demons and work still left undone. There’s never such a thing as “no fear,” even when I feel the gift has been delivered into my arms directly from God. The human fallible me, intercedes and interrupts the miracle. There’s a myriad of fears which creep in, little by little, trying to undermine the gift.
When his human flaws began to introduce themselves to me, like an onion exposing its layers, I could feel my resistance grow, as fear dug its heels in. This is always a very difficult period to navigate in a relationship: the flaw discovery phase. Not until you reach this place are you able to really begin the relationship part of the dating experience.
In the beginning of getting to know him I realized he was unaware of what emotional intimacy is. He said he never saw it modeled and didn’t know how, but that he wanted to learn. I cautioned myself to be careful because I am done with relationships where I try to “fix” a guy. Some time ago I decided I want a guy to show up ready to start from a healthy place. However, I also realize that we are all a work in progress. The key is in how aware is this person of his issues, and what is he actively doing to develop himself? Has he demonstrated progress over a sustained period?
I prayed about this because I did not want to enter this relationship if it was not right for me. But like many prayers, God doesn’t answer with a bolt of lightning, though His Omnipotence could. He doesn’t stamp “this is the one” on the guy’s forehead, though He could. I think God’s silence promotes the process of the human experience, so that through our free-will choices we learn and develop our discernment. He doesn’t make our decisions for us, much like as parents we would develop emotional cripples if we did that to our own children.
I decided to embark on a relationship with him because of his sincere desire to grow and actions he took, such as enrolling in counseling, reading positive and empowering books, attending church with me (prior to that we went to separate churches), and attending the men’s weekly church group. I began to see concrete efforts and changes begin to take place.
During a moment of journaling, I felt an inaudible reassurance that seemed to urge me, “Trust Me, I have heard your prayers. But it’s not just about you. It also about the work I must do in my other child. I am using you as the vehicle to his healing and transformation, much as I’m using him as a vehicle for your healing. You are so focused on his imperfections, that you are blind to the work I am doing through him, to hone you. You have spent your adult life running from relationships because the man is imperfect. Here’s another imperfect man. I know this triggers fear inside you. But today, I make all things new in you. Here is a man desiring change. He walked through a lonely low period prior to meeting you, so that he could realize he needed to make changes. I make all things new in him.”
We had the privilege to hear Joyce Meyers speak when she visited a local church. She said,
“Love people. Do it on purpose. It’s the only way to be happy.”—Joyce Meyer
Hearing this was humbling to me, reminding me that happiness in a love relationship doesn’t mean meeting a guy who is flawless— Whatever my definition of flawless happens to be, because everyone has their own version. In expecting flawless, I reveal my own flaw: the misconception of perfection. Happiness doesn’t arrive in the discovery of perfection, but rather, happiness is made possible in my decision to love.
I renewed my commitment to not give power to fear, but rather to love. I focused on non-judgment, and to love him where he was. I knew he was working on himself, and I was going to be supportive and encouraging.
This experience showed me that I was erroneous in my belief that something has to show up as perfect, to be from God. He also allows imperfect things and imperfect people to intercept our path to challenge us to love—to grow through love. If we can love imperfect people, we can love as He loves us.
Fast-forward seven months into the relationship. This past weekend he was sitting in my kitchen expressing how “different” we are. This is a fear he was plagued with early in our relationship. Early on, he cited very superficial differences. This weekend, he did much the same. He may have observed other differences deeper than these, but none that he chose to share. Holding back is part of what people do who fear emotional intimacy. I was disappointed that after seven months of being in a relationship with me and sincerely expressing “I love you,” he would choose to focus on this debilitating energy rather than breathe life into our relationship.
He admitted, “I don’t know why I keep focusing on our differences…” I wish he could move beyond that and instead focus on all the things we share in common. Many times during our time together we discovered many ways we were alike, so I began to capture a running list. The similarities outweigh the differences by a factor of five. Yet, he chose to focus on the lesser.
For the remainder of our evening together, he embarked on a stampede of negativity as he cited example after example, where it was his opinion that I make changes. Though at first, he began with a couple of things which do need my attention to correct, the remaining items were very much non-priority subjects.
His list included topics like, my daughter’s two cats that jump on the counter to drink water out of their mug.
He asserted, “I imagine this adds stress to your life.”
“Actually it doesn’t. I don’t consider this a problem requiring a resolution.” (I actually think it’s quite funny that they have to drink from a mug, much like humans. It is their designated mug. It’s not like I ask him to drink from it. Okay I’m being defensive here.)
He was projecting onto me things that were issues for him, cloaked as my issues. He opened the floodgates of negativity, without regard to how this tsunami might wipe me out. He did not run this through a filter first, where one might ask, “How important is this really?” “How much of this is my stuff and my reaction or a preference, rather than a problem she needs to address?”
After listening to complaint after complaint, I felt like a cup that was running over—Not from things that will encourage and strengthen me, but rather a heavy burden of worries. Not only do I have my own internal list of things that I know require my attention— as most single parents can attest to, that’s already burdensome on its own— now someone who should be my supporter is adding to the pile. He was not here to assist, nor to partner with me. It was more of an ambush. He was picking a fight, looking for an excuse or a way out of the relationship.
I could have listed areas where he needs improvement, but I didn’t see the love in that. I didn’t want to decimate his spirit, though he justified his grenade launching by saying, “I thought you wanted me to talk about my feelings.”
Those were not feelings he expressed. But he doesn’t understand this. And so to his point, yes we have differences. This is one of them.
It was surreal. We started a potentially great evening with plans to meet my friends for dinner. The last words I heard him speak were that he has to focus on himself and making changes…and that he’s not ready for a relationship. The coup de grâce of the evening was his admission that he’s afraid of commitment.
I told him I would not wait. “I have to get on with my life and move forward.” I’m not in my 20’s anymore. I don’t have 10 years to wait on a guy that “may” or “may not” feel ready. His last dating relationship lasted 12 years, with no commitment. He’s 47 years old. He’s never been married.
When I later shared that with my 18 year-old daughter, she said:
“When a person says he is afraid of commitment it doesn’t make sense to me. Because it’s like he’s saying, ‘I’m afraid of having someone in my life to share problems and burdens with. Someone who loves me and is dependable and trustworthy.’
He’s afraid of that, but not afraid of being alone for the rest of his life. And being so old that when he falls down and finds himself without his “Life Alert” button, he doesn’t have a wife to call 9-11 for him. Maybe instead of being afraid of commitment, he is really afraid of other things.”
In quiet disappointment, I chose to go alone to keep the dinner plans with my friends. As I turned my car on, immediately Deepak Chopra’s soothing voice came on the radio:
“I am not a victim. I am a creator.”
Instantaneously I smiled and felt the influx of empowerment as I reflected on the beauty of how God works! God restores. He will provide for me in the darkness. I needed comfort. I needed to be lifted up. Instantly I was reminded that I can choose to be a victim of someone’s fear (or my own for that matter), or I can choose to create a different reality for myself. I choose love over fear.
I also chose to remove myself from the negativity that he was bombarding me with. Now I understand where all that unrelenting grenade launching was coming from. It was to justify to himself his fears, and a quick exit— A quick relief from fear. If we run from it (what we fear), we think we are running away from it, but instead we are running with it as our constant companion until we decide not to live that way any longer, and we begin to create a new way. “…I am a creator.”
Initially I was certain that God brought him into my world. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe He did not bring him into my life. Sometimes I struggle with the dilemma of “How do you know?” In my heart I believe God arranges Divine meetings, but it is still up to us to do the necessary work to honor the meeting. Otherwise, we throw away the opportunity to see God’s transformational power in action.
I feel gratitude for our intersecting paths, because in the practice of the relationship I was able to have my fears revealed to me. And in the past where I did run from imperfection, this time I was willing to trust God and the process of what could be if I stayed to experience the transformation. Ultimately, God’s best is revealed after we commence the work of giving love, not fear, the power.Through God’s Grace, I look forward to the day when I meet an imperfect man who is ready to love an imperfect me.
I pray for God’s discernment so that I may be able to identify “the imperfect one” when I see him possess “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”— Galatians 5:22-23
In Gratitude and hope,
Copyright © 2012 Ella Venezia. All Rights Reserved.