As I write this I know that my good friend i just got off a call with will probably chuckle as she reads it because its literally because of her that I’m even writing it.
It’s crazy how much harder relationships are than what we ever imagined. Not even just talking about dating or marriage. People, peopl-ing and connecting in friendship, acquaintanceship, situationship- the works. It’s messy and its freaking hard!
Just today at work I was thinking to myself how I am probably overdue for a day off because I’m getting to the point where I have little patience and grace for most of the people I love and enjoy working with. I had yet another day in a week of those days where it just all seemed to be conflict centric. I vented to a coworker as tears streamed down my face about how defeated I was feeling with one particular relationship at work.
“You are both sharp people, iron sharpens iron right?” they said.
I know its true but I really didn’t want it to be true. But it is. When we do life with people there are moments where they are the cushions that catch us when we need a place to fall. But other times when they spark something in us that seems like it will set off a fire. Cause thats exactly what happens when iron sharpens iron.
How we get from the place of renegade sparks flying and setting fire to your house, to the place of strength, confidence, and safety is a journey thats unique for each person relationship. My relationship with my best friend (who has been the biggest instrument of grace with skin on I’ve ever known) was one that started off with much more of the fluffy resting place of friendship. She and I connected over mutual trauma, family dysfunction, love of Jesus, and lots of laughter. She was the safe place where I learned how to heal, love, and accept grace and help. Not that we haven’t also sharpened each other along the way. Thats certainly been the case. She is quick to call me out and call me up to be the best person- the one I was created to be.
I’ve had some dating relationships like that too. One guy I recall dating and during one of our first phone calls, I had been telling him about some of the things I’d been through, almost casually as if it didn’t have any impact but I was just giving him some random statistitcs. But when he paused and said, “I just feel like you need to hear that it wasn’t your fault” and began speaking over me life, purpose, and scripture over and over again- well I sobbed on the other end of the phone. Now it was of course silent sobs because I did still have my pride at that point… its long gone now lol. But the comfort I found in that relationship in that time was one that brought me so much safety and healing. He was a pillow to catch me when I was falling.
Other relationships just feel so incredibly hard. I’ve learned to be so incredibly grateful for those ones because of all the growth that has come out of them. If healing comes from the softness of relationships, growth comes from the hardness. I’ve learned more about communication, guarding my words, compromise, intentionality and boundaries from some of my friends and relationships. There’s nothing like a boyfriend who calls your friend to tell her what a terrible girlfriend you are and smashing his hand through a wall to make you grow to find your voice and have a talk about boundaries and anger, ammiright??? (I was 18, give me a break)
Its crazy how the longer we do life, the more you start to realize that you don’t really know where its going to take you. And how do we prepare ourselves to figure out which are the moments and people we want to grow with during our lifetime?
As I talked with my friend, she brought up the fact that often times in Christian circles or just as women in general, we are cautioned against fantasizing. Now I’m not talking fifty shades kinda stuff, but the part of our brain that sees the cute boy and starts down this imaginary future with him long before we’ve even said hello. Or that takes the friendship that never would be more down this fantastical path of our imagination that he harbors deep affection for us if only we could draw it out. Or that the boy with potential that we have been giving a chance, suddenly makes the drastic changes and becomes the boy of your dreams. That kind of fantasy.
We know that can get dicey sure.
But she brought up a good question, how am I supposed to even think through these moments that come up and how to handle them if I’m not even thinking through it ahead of time?? As the former president of Runaway Imagination Club… this is what I’ve learned to help my heart to be guarded but to still be intentional and thoughtful even as I’m in friendship, considering dating, dating, or moving towards marriage.
Does this make me feel safe
Does this make me feel chosen
Does this make me feel treasured/loved
Those are based on some of the values that I have come to realize over the years but I think they are some good ones to help guide the “fantasy” if you wanna call it. For instance, I’ve had some friendships over the years that I definitely was holding out hope for them to blossom into something else. When it came down to it, I would think through, what does that look like? If he were to also be interested in moving from friendship to something more? Would I be bringing this up? Would I feel treasured if I made the first move? Would I feel chosen even if we decided to remain friends? Would I feel safe in opening up to him in a different way?
Later on in relationships those questions turn into to:
- Do I feel chosen in the way that we navigate and compromise around opposing schedules?
- What makes me feel safe in how someone navigates the things that anger them?
- Do I feel treasured/loved if our love languages are complete opposites?
- Do I feel chosen in the way that we date/are intimate in the midst of work, family, kids?
- Do I feel treasured/loved in the way they talk about me to their parents/family/coworkers?
These questions are less about the person you are dating, the person across the work table, the friend across the living room and are so much more about learning about you. What are the moments and things that make you feel safe, chosen and treasured and what things do not. The things that do not, are not automatic dealbreakers. I am not dumping someone in friendship just because I don’t feel treasured if they forget about my birthday. But if I see myself respond emotionally in those situations, then I learn about myself that I feel so incredibly treasured and loved when people remember and celebrate me on my birthday. So I will remember that when my heart finds people who love me like that along the way, to hold onto them because they are good for my soul. I have plenty of friends that birthday’s aren’t really their thing and I don’t mind, honestly. But I am so thankful for the ones who do, because they see a part of my heart that comes alive.
And we don’t just learn this by experience either. Thats the part where the whole “fantasy” conversation came into play. Truth of the matter is we are pretty much experts on ourselves- we are the ones most familiar with the inner workings of our hearts and minds and most of what we need for life will come from there- not from someone telling us what’s best or good for us.
I’d like to insert a caveat here that I’m not referring to what’s toxic, destructive, or if you are also a Christian, what is biblically wise. Those things we sometimes need to hear the hard truth from people when we’ve lost sight of what healthy looks like
Back to the fantasy…. The fantasy here comes in thinking through and playing out scenarios and important questions in your mind. I’ve never had to navigate dating someone who worked a schedule complete opposite to mine and hardly being able to see them, but I’ve played out the “fantasy” in my head, allowed myself to sit with the emotions of how I’d feel not getting quality time with someone I care about. I’ve also played out other scenarios in my head with the purpose of preparation- someone more experienced sexually than I am, different theological backgrounds, friends to dating, setting boundaries, navigating uncomfortable family expectations, first holidays/birthdays in a new relationship. Still asking those same questions along the way.
Now here’s the thing, no situation is exactly the way we think it through as we contemplate what life may be like and how our hearts may feel or our minds may think. Part of that being that we aren’t always fully honest with the picture of ourselves in that moment sometimes until we are put there forcibly. I don’t know about you, but I tend to be a bit of an emotional escape artist and so avoiding the things or thoughts of the things that might make me uncomf is not out of the ordinary.
But here’s the thing that i’ve learned. There’s a healthy way to have the fantasy. There’s a god-honoring and self-honoring way to dream about the posibilities. And here’s the thing to keep in mind while you do: if the dream/fantasy has no edge of fear or adventure or uncertainty to wade through, then its likely that your head is too far in the clouds. But if in the dreaming you are thinking about how, if at all, your life could possibly blend with that of a sweet single dad you know, and contemplating what fears or frustrations or deep joys that would bring up- i’d like to make the case that thats the kind of fantasy thats healthy.
Now take what I say with a grain of salt because I’m someone who has had some recent convos with my therapist that make me realize how intolerable uncertainty is for me. Like big time intolerable. So maybe, the fantasy and the dream of situations allows me a moment to find my balance and a certain sense of certainty or predictability even in the midst of what is unbelievably uncertain- living life with another human. But I think at the end of the day its not a bad thing. The only two people I know for a fact i’ll journey with for the entirety of life is myself and Jesus. And so the idea of knowing better my own heart and mind is treasure and not something I’d ever punish myself for.
So if you needed it, here’s my inconsequential permission to take a moment and lose yourself in the fantasy, in the dream- not just the dream of the good but of it all. To think and contemplate and weigh your own heart and its motives and responses. And to come to the other end of it ready to love well in all areas of your own life.