To be honest, I haven’t had a lot of good dating experiences. In my 25 years as a socially awkward introvert, I’ve always struggled with the vast differences between the men I want to date and the men who want to date me. Very rarely does someone fall into both categories. If we lived in a world where men idealized women who read a lot of books rather than women who are confident and attractive, perhaps my experience would be different.
Recently, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis from his book The Four Loves which says, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.”
I’ve always been quick to love. Sometimes my affections are born out of physical attraction, or convenience, or well-timed flattery. In the end, I usually end up on my couch, watching Say Anything with a box of Chinese take-out and contemplating the first chapter of Ecclesiastes. “’Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’”
I’m afraid I haven’t always been good at guarding my heart. Sometimes I get caught up in the lie that a relationship on any terms with the object of my affection is better than no relationship at all. I have the tendency to hang on to a relationship well past its expiration date — even after I know he doesn’t like me in that way, even after he is dating someone else, even after things get unbelievably complicated — just because it is easier than letting go. It has never been easy for me to just walk away and then trust myself enough to stick to that decision once the first wave of lonely reality sets in.
Sooner or later, we all love the wrong person or let down the wrong person who loves us. After a few painful experiences, it’s easy to build walls, to dress up fear as rational hesitation, to assume the worst about someone and call it reality. I think we assume that God wants us to be completely content in our singleness, and painful relationships are a consequence of not trusting him enough to bring us the right person “in his perfect timing.”
We live in the tension between God is enough and the seemingly insatiable longing for a living, breathing, tangible person. Even Adam, who had unlimited access to a more intimate God than we could ever imagine, longed for something else—though in his case he probably didn’t understand exactly what he was looking for until he woke up and saw her eyes looking into his.
C.S. Lewis goes on to say, “We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.”
At some point, we need to stop being so afraid of loving the wrong person. While it is important to use discernment in relationships, guarding your heart doesn’t mean building a ten-foot wall. I love how C.S. Lewis points out that even most misplaced love is more God-like than closing ourselves off to relationships out of fear, and no one knows more about misplaced love than the creator himself. If what I’ve been taught about him is true, then God certainly understands what it’s like to love living, breathing, tangible people who don’t always love him in return.
Sometimes, relationships just don’t work, and it’s important to know when to walk away. But just because a relationship ends, that doesn’t mean that it never should have begun. Looking back, I can see how each time I loved someone I learned something. To erase the pain would be to erase the moments of extraordinary courage, the heart-fluttering excitement of new possibilities, the meaningful conversations over coffee, and the enduring favorite songs that began as tracks on high school mix tapes. For some of us, maybe our hearts are meant to be broken, and “if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.”
If you know someone who is struggling with heartbreak—from a recent relationship or from the lack thereof—will you email them this post?
Photo credit: David Goehring