Saturday, July 30, 2016

Relationship Preparation, Maintenance, and Messiness

Check out this yahoo in the back right corner with the sports jacket.  Who let him into this race?  He'll be throwing that thing off about two or three minutes. Hopefully, it didn't cost him much.  Or, what about the gal in the elf outfit in front?  Where did she find that get-up?  And, if you take a look at the photo below, I'm sure you'll get the idea that these women are probably all thinking, what in the heck am I doing here in this winter race without my clothes on?  Sounded like a lot more fun than it's going to be after all.  Hopefully, they'll warm up in the next ten to fifteen minutes of the race, but the Grinch in center is probably going to eighty-six the mask due to heat exhaustion sooner than the yahoo with the sports jacket, so long as the Grinch doesn't crash, due to lack of visibility!

Do you ever feel like you're out of place in life like the characters in these photos?  You're at the starting line but everyone seems more prepared?

Back in 2010, I started attending this adult Sunday school class at my church that was supposed to be for twenty and thirty somethings, but in reality almost everyone was married and many of them had kids.

I was single.

The class wasn't supposed to be just for married couples or those with kids, but pretty much every topic centered on marriage and children.  Every Sunday, I came to class feeling like I was wearing a Grinch outfit, a sports jacket, or had simply forgotten to put my clothes on for the race!  Nevertheless, I wanted to be part of a community my age, and most people my age were married and many of them had kids.

So, I kept going.

For the first six months, there was a point during each class that I almost literally had to brace my chair with both hands to keep me from walking out because I felt so out of place.  It isn't that the people in the class were doing anything wrong.  They were simply being themselves, and talking about married stuff and kids stuff.  Nevertheless, I kept pressing on, and finally, after about six months, I began to feel more comfortable, with only an occasional desire to run.

The story doesn't stop there.

My marriage class is but one example of feeling out of place at the starting line.  Every single one of us is tempted to look around at the others and feel pretty out-of-place.

I'm married, but the one next to me has a new born.  We've got a newborn, but the couple next to us has four middle schooler's.  We're having our first children but our peers are having grandchildren!  Why the heck are we so far behind?  Yeah, but you don't understand my situation as a grandparent.  I wish I could go back and start over.

I'm single.  I'm divorced.  I'm remarried.  I'm a single parent.  Those around me don't seem to be.  Or, I'm remarried, but her remarriage certainly seems to be going a lot better than mine!  Oh, and you think you have it bad?  I know you're single, but you're only twenty-five.  I'm single, going on thirty-six, plus I don't even have a job that could help support a family if I did get married!

Do you get the idea?  We're all wearing sports jackets, Grinch outfits, and many of us aren't even wearing clothes at all, but we're at this starting line every day and we're wondering what in the heck happened!

The reality is that we have to figure out how to believe that it is okay to toe-up at that starting line and enter the race every day.  Once we realize that pretty much everyone is in the same boat as us, we can begin to forgive ourselves for not living up to the expectations that we and our cultures have placed upon us.  We have to get out there and take a chance and see what we can do every day.

I do think marriage is a wonderful and beautiful thing, and I'll continue to write about it, but our stories are so complex and often messed up, so we just have to do the best with what we've got.  The hope is that we can keep entering the story every day, and maybe over time, the story will be a little more beautiful and powerful than we thought it had been while we were measuring it against crazy notions of perfection.

(photos taken from flickr creative commons by Roxanne King)