Monday, February 28, 2005

Love & Lent

Someone asked me to write about Lent, which I'm going to do in a moment. But first I have to mention that I am very distracted because a church very close to my heart is going through some major trouble. They've had an evaluation that came back with horrible results, including recommendations that all of the pastors resign (I don't get that at all). The senior pastor, who I know very well, and his wife, the minister of music, are devastated and confused. Please send up prayers for them.

Now on to Lent. This year started with my first attempt at really keeping a lenten fast - I was going to try to fast over lunchtime, and also not eat out. Well, those both went the way of the dinosaur within a week. I was just too darn hungry at lunch (and my energy level was dropping alarmingly, not good for someone who does as much as me), and while not eating out was a noble idea, when you have two students in the house with wacky schedules and you're moving, the convenience of take out is almost a necessity. So oh, well. I was kind of frustrated by the whole rules thing anyway. It was making me focus too much on what I was missing rather than what I was gaining from the discipline (would that have gone away?).

Lent is a time for self-examination and confession before God. It is a time when we acknowledge our failings so that Christ's saving power becomes all the more real to us, and we can truly celebrate the miracle of Easter when the time comes.

I have certainly been practicing a deep self-examination this Lent, and I have you and blogger to thank for it. I have learned so much about myself from our recent conversations as I work through these desires I have. And I think I may have come to a major realization about myself.

Apart from the general married-person desire for first-time-flutters, I think that these things I am talking about are much more platonic than they may feel. Let me try to explain.

I think it boils down to this: I have a huge amount of love. I love to make new friends because it gives me the opportunity to love more people. I treasure my old friends because I've been able to love them for so long. This is probably because God pours out this amazing amount of love on me and it can only spill over to those around me. I feel so completely loved by God.

In my subconscious, then, the love is manifest in romantic ways, because that's the best way my human mind can express how strong it is. The deepest feelings we humans can muster usually manifest in sexual attraction, since that's the strongest connection and the most whole-body love we can feel. While I may not even think of someone as a potential romantic target, in my dreams he or she is that way, because I simply am so delighted to know him or have her as my friend. The best way my little mind can get around this all-consuming love that pours out from heaven is to tell me it feels like romance.

I love my friends so much. I am so priveleged to know each of you. If I know you in person, please know that I am head over heels for you. You are incredibly special and deeply loved.

And if I only know you by this blog, I treasure you so much for the way you call me on things, and examine me, and care enough to read me, and you share yourself with me. You are so very loved.

Lent is about deprivation and solitude and seems to be so dark. But it is also about the most triumphantly loving act ever performed in all of history. Let love lead you through this season, until the great orgasmic release of Easter.

Thanks be to God!!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

About those "evil desires"...

I just wanted to finish up the discussion about my wandering eyes by reassuring everyone that in fact I'm over it. This is actually what always happens: I get restless, I wish for those "first time" feelings again, I tell my husband about it (that's key), when it's appropriate and we're close enough I tell the person I feel them for, and then in a few hours or days, I come home and see my husband and it pretty much all melts away.

I've been enjoying the lively discussion so I've been arguing for the way I felt earlier in the week, even though it was pretty much just that one day. But I want to let you know that you need not worry for the state of my immortal soul nor my mortal marriage, as both are in fine condition.

I like blogging because of the immediacy of it - the fact that you can write what you're feeling at an exact moment of time, and the neat little time stamp will record the time you felt that way. But of course our lives are constantly moving and changing, and so I thought I should bring you up to speed.

I wrote about my temptation because I want married people who've felt the same way to know they are not alone. We all struggle with this - I think it's an absolutely normal part of married life. The human being is a sensuous creature, and we long for excitement. But we also treasure the warmth, safety, and intimacy of our committed relationships. Being with one person only is difficult and requires a lot of work - even if you're deeply in love. An important part of the work is always being honest with ourselves and with each other.

And so if we are fortunate enough to be married to a person who understands all this, we will pretty much always go back. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

What is your worldview?

Hey, I'm a secular humanist! Who knew??

Lies my parents told me

I saw a little grey kitty sleeping on the hood of a car in our parking garage. It's there to keep warm. We're having unseasonably cool weather, including the heaviest rainfall in 100 years. Most of us do what we can to cope, and kitty's no different. I see someone's left out food and water for her. Good.

I remember finding out from a friend just a couple years ago that my childhood cat had dropped out of the engine of my family's station wagon one day. He'd crawled in there to get warm and then someone turned on the car...and the rest was history for him, at least.

My parents told me he ran away. I was pretty shocked to learn the real gruesome story. Actually my parents told me all my cats ran away. To this day I'm nervous about letting my cats out because I don't want them to run away.

But I've learned that they're homebodies and they don't wander far. And somehow, with that amazing animal instinct, they can always find their way home - even to the right apartment in a big building.

Which begs the question...what really happened to all my cats?

Monday, February 21, 2005

More about dreaming

I want to clarify that this whole notion of taking time off has nothing whatsoever to do with the amount of love I have for my husband. It's somehow completely separate in my mind. It's more like I want to take a vacation so that I'll miss him and want him back. But I still love him as much as ever, and I still know I want to be with him the rest of my life. That doesn't change. And he understands, bless him.

Yeah, it's just that there is this experience I want to have - or I feel like I missed out on or whatever. When I was dating I was not who I am today. And the woman today wants to get a first kiss. Or just a date. Those butterflies. They come swarming in the night into my gut, and if I've dreamed about someone I see the next day, then they come back.

Being the ridiculously honest and open person that I am, I shared my dream with the star of the show. I have done this two other times. And a curious thing always happens: the other person always just assume that there's no way I could actually be serious about wanting to do this thing. I thought I had a shot with my one close friend who's not religious, but no, even he was morality man. Which is great, I'm glad that I choose to be intimate and vulnerable with such upstanding men. But there's also a little part of me that says, "Hey! I'm the married one. If I am looking past that, why can't you?" And I figure the answer is because they don't actually find me attractive enough to look past it. And that hurts a little.

I know it's all nuts and I shouldn't think about these things at all. How totally inappropriate for a seminarian to harbor thoughts of infidelity. But it's not like I want to have an affair! I don't even want sex. I simply want the chance to try kissing another person (or perhaps hugging passionately???). And you know what? I want to be the one who says no. Who says that was a wonderful experience and I'm so glad I had it, but I know I want to be with J forever. If I could find a person who had the same understanding, a no-commitment innocent makeout session...just a chance for me, for once, to be the one who stands up for my marriage.

Because I keep having these thoughts because I never get to be the one to end them. So the guy doesn't take me seriously and I chastise myself and I feel awkward for a while then get over it. But necessarily the thought will return with another new friend because the thing that caused them has not been fulfilled. So if it was fulfilled, and I got to decide for myself that I choose J, then would they go away forever?

Plus wouldn't it be cool if someone else actually felt this way about me? Now the psychosis comes out. I want someone else to feel this way. I love how it feels to have a crush, but I love even more being crushed on. And baby, you'd get a little bit, even though you wouldn't get me in the end.

Hmmmm....any takers?
: )

Dream a little dream

I saw Jim Wallis last night. If you get a chance to see him on his book tour, GO! It is absolutely worth your time. What an inspiring evening. I am thinking about where my gift “meets the crushing needs of the world” – that’s how he described vocation.

I’ve also been pondering these dreams that I have. See, I’m lucky to be a vivid dreamer who frequently remembers what I dream. And my dreams almost always are the same: there is another person and me and we fall in love. Sometimes they are sweet, just like reliving dating or a first kiss, and sometimes they are erotic. Sometimes the person is my husband, but not too often. Sometimes it’s a boy and sometimes a girl. Very frequently it’s someone I know in real life. That used to cause me problems, because I’d have the dream about someone and then I’d think I liked that person. It’s amazing how powerful the emotions in these dreams are.

Here’s one from a couple nights ago:

I was on a field trip with a class (don’t know which one) to…a grocery store. And one of my friends from seminary, a guy, happened to be on the trip. And he and I met up by the sushi counter (those are normal in our markets out here), and for whatever reason, we started kissing. And it was the most wonderful amazing kiss. I remember as I put my arm around his neck I saw my wedding ring glint (sometimes I’m married and sometimes not in these dreams). But it was the kind of kiss where both of us just wanted more. It was like, wow, we have to keep doing this!

So the van that brought us there was leaving, and he and I made up some excuse to stay, and we decided to pick up some cheesecake ice cream and walk over to his apartment since he lived close by. In the ice cream aisle there was more kissing. I don’t think we ever got to the ice cream.

We got to his apartment and there were many distractions, including me seeing J and hiding from him (frequently I’m not actually in trouble or feeling guilt, I’m just hiding). But I remember vividly that the whole goal in the dream was to get somewhere where we could get back to the amazing kissing!

And that was it…nothing sexual or super-naughty happened. And I woke up wondering if it would be okay for me just to kiss this guy one time to see how it is. Maybe our lips were made for each other’s. And then I wondered how I’d go about getting him to kiss me (since he’s got a girlfriend), and that probably wouldn’t work out very well. And then I started thinking about whether a kiss is really all that bad for a married person…I mean, what if I talked to J and let him know that it was really just about my need to feel that “first kiss” again, nothing beyond that. Would it work? Would it destroy everything?

I’ve been married for nearly 7 years (uh-oh! The itch!). And I’ve really come to a place where these dreams get more and more frequent. The main theme in them is romance, it’s not sex. Sex is great when it happens, but the important thing is that I’m feeling first love again. That wonderful mixed-up knot of emotions that one has when dating someone. I think I miss dating so very much. I got married pretty shortly after another long-term relationship…I haven’t “played the field” since high school, and even then I was usually in a relationship. Did I miss out on something? Or is it natural for me to just be going through a phase in which I need something fresh?

I dream the most frequently about Joe, my first boyfriend, my first love. I am still so in love with that guy. I think he’s become majorly idealized in my dreams, but boy, do I wish I could see him again just once.

Anyway, sometimes I think that married people should get little breaks, every 5 years or so, in which we can date other people for just a couple months or something. Then we can get all the “first kiss” stuff out of our systems and realize how crappy dating is and go back to our lifelong partner. Has anyone ever been married and done this – mutually agreed that it’s okay, if not to date, to at least try kissing another person? I mean, everyone always talks about how tough it is to only have one set of lips for the rest of your life (some talk about more vulgar parts, but I’m a romantic). Is it possible to just once in a very long while try out someone else? Not for keeps, but just for the rush?

Oh, well. It will probably have to remain forever in my dreams.

There was a nice long one for you since I haven’t written in forever.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Many questions

So many questions lately. My NT teacher took a poll in class on this one, and I'm sure she'd be delighted if I came back with more answers. So here's the stumper:

If Paul had had a son, would he have circumcised him?

Then she hands out these questions we're supposed to answer, questions like:
What is a Christian?
What is the gospel?

And other such little issues. Luckily it was not a test, more a poll.

I feel lame because I don't have my own answers anymore. My thinking has been so completely influenced by Dallas Willard. It is really not an exaggeration to say that The Divine Conspiracy changed my entire life. Lately he's been writing more interesting stuff - particularly on the crucifixion, which was one area he'd not really dealt with before. A paper on it can be found at his website, if you are interested. He gives a whole new slant to the event. Fascinating stuff. The cool thing is that he wrote it as a chapter in a new book The Passion and Philosophy (you may be familiar with the "X and Philosophy" series, they've done several TV shows, movies, and even baseball. We own The Simpsons and Buffy, and plan to get The Matrix, Seinfeld, and surely a few others). ANYWAY I was no fan of the Passion, but Willard takes the opportunity to lay out his rather radical sotierology:

So my answer to the gospel is Willard's paraphrase of Jesus' message "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand": "Rethink your thinking in light of the fact that God's resources are yours for the taking."

Isn't that a much more exciting, pleasant gospel than "repent because you're going to hell"? And the kicker is, it is true. The Christian faith is about a new way of living - as Willard says, "The smartest man who ever lived is giving a master class in living" - and you're invited. He's taking disciples in how to live a meaningful, beautiful life.

So there, I've solved the meaning of life. We can all go about our business now.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Hello, long time no write

I have been majorly delinquent lately. I'm trying not to do what I always seem to do with new web stuff I find, which is hit it hard at first then forget about it after a while.

I've had very little time to work on the play or anything much (including homework which is very bad) because I've been trying to find us a place to live closer to school. This is something of an obsession now. I need to cut back on craig's list. It's like a drug, that site.

I saw my psychiatrist and he seemed to think I was doing very well. I have to say that seminary has just been a shot in the arm for me. It's really quite amazing to be learning all this stuff that I actually give a rat's ass about. I can't remember that ever happening in school before.

Anyway I have to get back to work, but I felt bad for not writing for so long.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Jesus doesn't hate sex

Well, I don't know, maybe he would, I don't think he had any personal experience with it. But most men are pretty into it.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that despite all of these stories, which are healthily discussing the damage done by well-meaning Christian loved ones, I do not believe for a second that God is down on sex. I think the comments from several people about the wonderful gift of sex are an important part of this discussion.

And God is definitely not down on sexuality - just read Song of Solomon to see that even the Bible completely celebrates the beauty and uniqueness of the sexuality of women and men.

Somehow it's all been distorted over the years. But let's remember that before the Puritans (who largely influenced this whole thing), there is a God who loves us and wants us to love ourselves, every part of ourselves, even the naughty bits.