Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Single of Heart: Single and a Christian Young Lady

"To be the beauty, abducted by the bad guys, fought for and rescued by a hero....This desire is set deep in the heart of every little girl--and every woman....There is something fierce in the heart of a woman. Simply insult her children, her man, or her best friend and you'll get a taste of it. A woman is a warrior too. But she is meant to be a warrior in a uniquely feminine way. Sometime before the sorrows of life did the best kill it in us, most young women wanted to be a part of something grand, something important. Before doubt and accusation take hold, most little girls sense that they have a vital role to play; they want to believe there is something in them that is needed and needed desperately....Women​ love adventures of all sorts. Whether it be the adventure of horses or white-water rafting, going to a foreign country, performing on-stage, having children, starting a business, or diving ever more deeply into the heart of God, we were made to be part of a great adventure." ~John & Stasi Eldredge, Captivating

Ponder the above quote and think honestly on its reflection. If Captivating pointed out one important thing to me it is that I was created by God to be a helper, to desire to be fought for and rescued. And this, however, is where the eye of my personal storm rages. Honestly, being single has never been much of a struggle for me until this year--I went through all of high school without ever being in a relationship and, outside of a small two week dalliance my freshman year, I have remained unattached for almost twenty-one years. And even though my twenty-first birthday is merely a week away, I know I am young and that I have more than enough time to trip in front of the man I will one day marry. Yet, the community I live in at university is poisonous towards a young woman of God and her expectations of relationships. Christian universities, especially mine, run rampant with relationships, engagements, and marriages all achieved within the space of those four years of undergraduate studies. 

Even further, though, these relationships have very little affect on my own circle. Despite the fact that my university is small and I know most everyone by name, I do not spend an equal amount of time with everyone. Relationship pairings have meant very little to me until now--when such changes are beginning to radically affect my own sphere of life. It sounds selfish, I know, but two of my best friends at university both entered serious relationships within the last year, one got engaged this past Thanksgiving Break and the other will be engaged within a matter of months--if her boyfriend's jests are to be disregarded. And so, that leaves me and my friend, Dani, to spend a great deal of time on our own, as our friend Rina divides her time between us and her fiancĂ©. And even now, despite having to share one of my best friends, none of that has been as hard as now being confronted often with, "Sheridan, get yourself a man, I want to double date with you," from more than one source. 

I am not the kind of girl that sits on the fence with men: I have more guy friends than I do girlfriends and I have been caught red-handed in the act of flirtation, but I am not the one to ask them out on a date, coffee, yes; attending a movie as a massive group, of course; one-on-one, dinner, not a chance. While I am a millennial, I was raised old-fashioned and if a man were interested in me, he can be courageous and ask me out himself, I'm certainly not going to do it for him. And yet, this is where I have learned may lie the root of one of my problems: I am not forward with men in any spectrum of relationships past "chilling." I almost never realize I'm flirting and when I'm caught, I'm so embarrassed, I blush like no tomorrow. Why then, would I struggle with being single? When then, if I'm cool simply being friends, has this become a major struggle in my walk? 

I know one answer is that I am increasingly beginning to feel left out or worse, the dreaded third-wheel. While the boyfriends come around to the room, since their girls live with me, events like dates or hanging out leave me the odd one out as they sit there involved in a romantic mush fest, which for all intents and purposes is uncomfortable to witness, no matter how much joking and teasing occurs to lighten the mood. And to top it off, my precious engaged Rina says things like, "Sheridan, I have discussed you at length with the university secretary (who I do office work for on occasion) and we have decided that given how amazingly stunning you are, there is no good reason for men not to be pounding down our door asking for you." She really means nothing malicious by it, but it only points out the obvious: I am unattached and in fourteen months I'll be in her bridal party. I am behind her in this magnificent race we have all believed we are running to find love. 

And, it's true, I have the same grand excuses every head-strong, stubborn woman has for not dating: I'm focused on my studies, I'm not in a good place right now, I am no where near ready to even have marriage as a prospect on the horizon, etc. Yet, I have been informed that those are not truly valid excuses, which has me wondering where anyone gets off telling me that. I am focused on my studies right now--a boyfriend is a massive distraction and as I have learned this year, I would much rather be social than do my work, a toxic combination. I am truly not in a good place right now--any man came my way, no matter how good we may be for each other--I cannot even imagine how long that relationship would last, probably become my second short-term dalliance that ends with the man moving on. And, despite the fact that most of my friends are getting ready for "the walk," I am no where near ready to even fathom the possibility of having the conversation within the next year--too much has happened and will happen in the next year to properly account for anything. 

Right now, I'm trying to figure out just what exacting God is writing into my life story and I can tell you, from the looks of things, a man is currently not one of them. And so, here Dani and I sit, with this horrible little stamp on our foreheads that we both would swear was a neon sign on given days: Christian Young Lady, Single, Looking for a Good Man, Although You Would be my First! Yeah, that's a sign that draws a ton of applicants, the "I'm-Her-First-Real-Boyfriend job, woo-hoo! Let me hop aboard that train." No, that statement is laced with sarcasm in just about every man's mind when they meet the two of us, I'm quite convinced. We're loud, intelligent, and we have opinions that we certainly don't know how to keep to ourselves about things that matter to us. No, Dani and I are now attempting to figure out this together, this taboo that we have somehow existed within for almost twenty-one years (the amount of people that make it seem like fifty is truly amazing). Somewhere along the way, Christian culture said we were supposed to meet our husbands sophomore/junior year of university, get engaged senior year, and marry in the year or two to follow. I disapprove of this formula--this one that our faith-based educational community is obsessed with--there are so many more important things for the time being.

So, here is what I say to this struggle I face more and more as Rina's fourteen months rapidly expires: the Hell with people saying, "I don't understand why you're single." If I understood it well, maybe my situation would be different, but for now, this is the hand I possess, and you always play the cards you are dealt. I am not going to waste my single years. I want to travel--odds are Dani will come with me. I want to have a career (maybe several across different fields). I want a higher education degree (maybe more than one) so I can taste the abundance of life. I want to see the horizons I have only ever studied, photograph the far reaches of the globe, and write under the shade of some ancient ruins. I want to find my God, even if it means I have to lose Him in the process to find Him for real. I want to witness the bustle of the busiest cities, hear the music of narrow street corners, and the rhythm like jazz I believe to be laced through existence. 

Here, now, I submit my manifesto to be single of heart, to throw away the garbage and time lines my culture says I need. I do not believe I was placed on this earth to merely wander down a path, be picked up by the first man I come across, and spend my life following him wherever he goes. There will be a time and a place to work with a significant other, to carve our own crazy path through this smattered map of life, but until that time, and through this struggle, I will free myself of such nonsense beliefs and create my own path where few have dared to tread. Life's grandest adventures wait for people who are courageous enough to open the door, backpack over their shoulders, and take the first steps down the dusty road...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

God called us out of Darkness

I have thought for a very long time about exactly what purpose I had in creating this "blog." I have not been one who tends to openly record my thoughts for people to see at the ready--my notes on Facebook are walled up behind privacy barriers. Yet, here this empty space has remained, for almost a year by my count, and now I have finally decided upon what it should be utilized towards. I was never quite sure that anything I had to say would ever be of enough merit to warrant anyone else reading my words, but I love to write and I have decided that I shall share and just listen to what people are saying.

For this premiere post, I thought I would keep it short and sweet, and perhaps explain why exactly I decided to name this "lux ex tenebris invictus." As you may have realized, that ancient Latin phrase translates as, "light triumphs out of [the] darkness." Surprisingly, it found it's way to me decorating the front of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra t-shirt (shown above) and I had my ancient history professor translate it, since I knew no Classical Latin at the time. Upon learning what is meant, I thought how incredibly amazing that such a simple phrase is and the power it possesses. Even if you study the image for but a few heartbeats you can see everything innate within the statue, everything that it is trying to convey. Lions are powerful and strong, hunters on the savannah, family-centered creatures, fiercely loyal, incredibly gentle, but at the same time incredibly dangerous. And just look at how the lion has been situated--he is triumphing out of the darkness, surrounded in light that reflects from the moon, snow, even piercing blue eyes (however unnatural). 

I would then, in light of all of this, in light of the most simple of triumphs, that light can be seen in the darkness, propose this challenge: What holds us back from such a life? God has called us up out of darkness, we are not bound by the shackles of Hell, so why do we live like they still are bound to us? I know that I have struggled with this for so long, sometimes everyday for months at a time, especially the last two years. I am not immune to conceding to the black, wilting in the empty, all I am asking, is that lady to lady, man to man, and across lines, we embrace the fact that together we can be this lion, proudly atop his perch, his achievement etched in stone. We can achieve invictus.