A Meeting of Minds

Keep Calm and DateI’ve spent nearly 20 hours with Bryan in the last week. And I don’t even know how it happened.

On Wednesday, he took me out for tapas. On Thursday, we met at a grocery store, and I cooked him scallops in a lemon butter sauce with fresh green beans. And on Saturday at 9am, he drove us to a downtown pub that hosts watch parties for Chelsea FC, his favorite football club from his time in London.

When I’m with Bryan, time flies by, and I am never ready for the day to end. We don’t really have sparks or intense chemistry like I do with Flynn, but we share a comfortable companionship. I enjoy doing life with Bryan.

When I cooked dinner for him on Thursday, it was my first time to see his house. It’s a three story house in a ritzy part of town. No surprise. One of his neighbors owns three BMWs. The other has an Audi and a Porsche. You know… no big deal.

Bryan gave me the tour, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he is in the process of building a gazebo on his rooftop porch. He didn’t strike me as the kind of guy to work with his hands, but it is pleasing to me that he does – and that he enjoys it so immensely. There is something very attractive about a man who works with his hands.

Later in the evening that Thursday, in telling me about his travels (and explaining the stories behind the various cultural relics decorating his home), Bryan made reference to being happy to be back in his own bed. “What color is the comforter on your bed?” I asked offhand, trying to envision the room as I often do when people are telling a story.

He looked at me with a puzzled expression. “Don’t you know?” Well, he’d given me a tour, but I hadn’t noticed.

“If you did know, what color would it be?” he asked me.

I thought for a moment. “…blue?”

He smiled warmly at me. Affectionately. Pleased. “Yes.”

“Why are you looking at me like you know something I don’t?”

Bryan explained. “I recently read about hypnosis theories. Apparently your subconscious is constantly picking up on more than you realize in your focused, conscious thoughts. One of the tricks of hypnosis is to ask your subject things like, ‘If you did know…’ or ‘If you had to guess…’. That causes the subconscious to activate those memories you didn’t even realize you had. Your subconscious provides your conscious with the answer.”

These are the kinds of conversations we have all the time. We talk about logic puzzles and brain chemistry and psychology. It’s interesting. Intriguing. Entertaining. Like I said before, when I’m with Bryan, time flies by, and I enjoy doing life with him. But I want – no, I need – more than just a meeting of minds. My heart needs lighthearted playfulness. I need someone who can be silly and who makes me laugh.

Bryan says I still have walls up – or rather (in his words), a curtain. He claims that I peek over the top of the curtain so I can see everything that’s going on, but I never part the curtain for anyone else to see in. He says that I project the image of myself that I want others to see. And that image isn’t false, but it’s only a part of the whole.

Bryan also says he is determined to break through the barrier. Leave it to Bryan to be perceptive enough to recognize my shielding… and to be compassionate enough to genuinely want to know me – all of me.

More than anything, I want to be known. Fully known and fully loved, despite being fully known. But I know that if I part the curtain, Bryan won’t like what he sees, and then he’ll reject me, like so many have done before.

I told him as much. His response? “How do you know I won’t like what I see? You haven’t given me the opportunity to make that determination.”

“Everyone else has rejected me when they’ve seen in.”

“And, based on what you know of me, am I like everyone else?”

No.

But… better to keep the curtain up for now.

Authentically Aurora

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Happy Birthday, Ashley!

girls laughingToday is my best friend’s birthday. We’ve been best friends since third grade and known each other even longer than that.

Ashley is like the sister I never had. She is hilarious – quick witted with a self-deprecating sense of humor – and she’s beautiful. She’s tall and slender with intelligent eyes and a great laugh (plus super thick hair that I’ve always been jealous of). She is brilliant – more intelligent than she gives herself credit for – as well as organized, resourceful and talented (especially in the kitchen – wink, wink, gentlemen)!

girls being sillyAshley is wonderfully fun and quirky, and she has never lost her childhood sense of wonder. When I’m with Ashley, I get to be a kid again and lose myself in the magical world of imagination. But she’s also a realist. She is grounded and down-to-earth; practical and well aware of how painful this life can be. And she doesn’t run from the hard times.

Ashely is a rarity in that she has stuck by my side through every season of life we’ve experienced thus far. She has celebrated with me and mourned with me. She’s been with me thorough times of laughter and times of tears. She has suffered with me through times of heartache and loss… and she has taken ridiculous pictures with me at Harry Potter World and laughed uproariously with me when I’ve made a fool of myself, like the time I had a guy stop at a grocery store for tampons at the end of a first date. But that’s a story for another day.

best friendsAshley is the friend who “sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). She recognizes that friendship means a commitment to care for the other person through whatever comes. She recognizes that love is a decision more than it is a feeling. And she has loved me when I’ve been unlovely. She has been a portrait of Christ to me, and I am indescribably thankful for her friendship.

So happy birthday, Ashley. I’m praying 28 is a great year for you.

Authentically Aurora

Organized Religion

Church MosqueMany of us have been wounded by organized religion. Many of us have been hurt, insulted and offended by the Christian church. And as a result, many of us carry bitterness toward pastors, elders, bible study leaders and other fellow Christians. I count myself among those who have spent the past several months angry with God, largely because I am angry with His people.

In the midst of my depression, my most recent bible study leader told me that she wasn’t sure I was really a Christian. “You have a lot of head knowledge about God, but you don’t seem to have ‘heart’ knowledge. If you really believed that God is good and sovereign like you claim to believe, you wouldn’t still be depressed.”  Psalm 42, lady. Our emotions don’t always follow the rationale of our minds.

And then there are those Christians who try to guilt you into changing your attitude (you think I want to feel this way?) by asking you in a sickeningly sweet and often condescending voice, “Aurora, what would Jesus do?” Clearly they have forgotten that flipping over tables and chasing people with a whip is within the realm of possibilities.

WWJDPast church leadership wouldn’t allow me to sing in the choir because I hadn’t been baptized by immersion as an adult. After confirming that they don’t believe baptism is necessary for salvation, I retorted, “So I can be a member of the Kingdom of Heaven but not a member of your church choir?” They had no response, but I still wasn’t permitted to participate.

Since my broken engagement, I have visited three different churches. One was comprised almost exclusively of married couples. One had the compassionless bible study leader mentioned above. And at the third, I was invisible; no one noticed if I came or not on a given Sunday. So I have largely stopped going to church. I know deep down that it’s not a long term solution, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to suffer the throes of organized religion again just yet.

As hurtful as the church can be, I know that staying away because I’ve been hurt is a false excuse because people are messy, and pain is inevitable. Churches are filled with sinful, fallen, broken people because we are all sinful, fallen, broken people. The very message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that you don’t have to clean yourself up before you come to Him; He meets us right where we are, in the midst of all our mess.

I believe that we were created for fellowship. I believe that Satan wants to isolate us. I believe that lies become louder and bitterness becomes more deeply entrenched the longer we withdraw from community. So I have known all along that I would return to church services someday. I have just been taking my time, nursing my wounds. And today, God sent someone to tap me on the shoulder, saying it’s time to get involved again. I know it was God tapping me on the shoulder, because it was a Muslim inviting me to a Christian church.

Wait, what?

Alim was born in Iran (no surprise, given that I am a Middle Eastern magnet) and moved to Canada as a boy. He recently came to the United States for a job at the same company where I work, and he and I have run into each other at a couple of networking events in the past, although I never seem to remember his name. He saw me in the cafeteria this afternoon and came over to talk. He remembered that I am a Christian, so he asked me where I’m going to church. When I explained that I’m not actively involved in church right now, he said, “You should come to church with me. Want to come this Sunday?”

Alim was raised Muslim but, upon moving to the Bible Belt of America, couldn’t help but be curious about Christianity, so he started visiting churches as a part of his self-described “exploratory phase.” And so God used this Muslim-turned-Christian-church-attender to invite His wayward Daughter to attend church services again.

God certainly works in mysterious ways.

Authentically Aurora

The Importance of Companionship

Elderly CoupleLife is so much sweeter when lived in companionship with someone who knows you fully and yet, in spite of knowing your flaws, proceeds to love you unconditionally.

I wrote yesterday about laughing with Kyle about the ridiculousness (i.e. horrifying embarrassment) of my Monday. Being able to laugh with a friend about what would otherwise be a freakishly terrible day completely changed the lens through which I viewed the morning’s experiences.

My parents lived in China for three years for an expat assignment, and they had a blast, but they each told me separately that, without the other, it would have been an awful three years. Because my dad had my mom there with him, he was able to vent – and then laugh – about the comical nature of trying to run an efficient and profitable business in a country that values full employment and saving face above all else. Because my mom had my dad there with her, she was able to chuckle about her stories of shopping at the grocery store, moo-ing at the butcher to ensure they ate beef (not dog) for dinner. If either of them had lived in rural China alone for three years, the experience would have been frustratingly painful and disconcerting. Instead, it was a wonderfully memorable adventure for them as a couple.

I am often struck by a rather revealing statement in the biblical story of creation. After God created both land and sea, He “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:10). When He created plants and vegetation, He “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:12). He created the sun and moon and “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:18). Three more times, God looks over His creation and declares it “good”. But in the midst of this perfection, prior to sin entering the world and corrupting God’s creation, God sees one thing that He declares NOT good: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). And so God creates a wife for Adam, and Adam names her Eve.

What this tells me is that loneliness existed before sin entered the world. Despite having a perfect, uninhibited relationship with a perfect and holy God, Adam was lonely. Despite living in paradise, Adam was lonely. Despite looking around at all of the rest of creation and declaring it “good”, God saw Adam’s isolation and declared it “not good”.

Adam’s loneliness was not a sin. We were created in the image of the Triune God and, therefore, were created for companionship. “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help… Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer” (Eccl. 4:9-12).

I am striving to be content in my singleness, because I know that God is the ultimate Satisfier of my Soul. No man can “complete me” or fully satisfy me. Every human being is fallible and will disappoint me, just as I will disappoint them. But I long for a companion to share my life with – someone to laugh with about the hard days and rejoice with in the good days – because I was created for companionship. We all were. Loneliness is not a sin. And it is not good for man to be alone.

Authentically Aurora