Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about a recurring theme in my life: faking my identity in the midst of romance. As far back as I can remember, I’ve struggled to identify who to be in relationships. I’ve navigated through relationships by mirroring the identity of the object of my affection. That is, I’ve made every attempt to be a “prototype” of what I think they want me to be that I’m not, because this will surely secure their affection for me.
I’ve also made desperate attempts to display the parts of me that I think make me a desirable choice. I have “performed” in order to appear to be the “perfect” mate. To some extent both of these approaches are assumed responses in the dating world, and can be marginally healthy between two stable adults. However, in my case, both have left me bankrupt, feeling disposable and replaceable! They have merely perpetuated my identity crisis within relationships.
And I’ve despaired of hope for a future with someone. I’ve struggled to hope for a romance between two people passionately committed to enduring the blows of love for the sake of loving each other. That is, will the passion to persevere in loving each other outweigh the struggle in learning to love each other. Love is painful and frustrating. In the same breath, it is also joyous and satisfying.
Until now, I’ve blindly believed that to make a relationship work I have to be anyone other than me.
And I am afraid I will be found out. I am afraid the subject of my heart’s affection—in human relational terms—will abandon me when the truth of who I am is discovered. I am afraid I won’t know how to understand him in the way he needs to be understood. And I am afraid I won’t know how to love him in the ways he needs to be loved. The truth is, at times, I am just afraid. At times, I don’t know my own worth. At times, I don’t know my own desires or my own thoughts or my own wants. And, at those times, I say all the wrong things when inside my heart is screaming something different. I fumble around because,
” ‘Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God’and ‘without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self’…To this extent we are prompted by our own ills to contemplate the good things of God; and we cannot seriously aspire to him before we begin to become displeased with ourselves. For what man in all the world does not remain as he is – what man does not remain as he is – so long as he does not know himself, that is, while content with his own gifts, and either ignorant or unmindful of his own misery? Accordingly, the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him.” — Calvin’s Institute of the Christian Religion
Then, as I ponder these things in the presence of God, tracing the root of my condition, I am reminded that even when I don’t know myself, God does (Psalm 139). I am reminded that when I lack the knowledge of my own worth, I have the felt reality of God’s presence overwhelming me with love and acceptance. Even when I don’t feel it, I know I will forever be irreplaceable to God. Everyday, I am discovering the realties of my own worth in God. Everyday, I am learning and growing in the knowledge and love of God and self.
And today, rather than hope for romance, I am choosing to allow God to use this deep longing that I have to not only be loved by a man, but to also love a man in return to shape me and mold me into God’s liking. I am no longer despairing of hope for a romance, but I am surrendering to the realty that living in the tension of an unfulfilled desire is just as meaningful as living in the fulfillment of that same desire. In the words of Donald Miller, “I’m convinced every person has a longing that will never be fulfilled and it’s our job to let it live and breathe and suffer within it as a way of developing our character.”
1. John Coe, The Seven Deadly Disconnects of Seminary Training: Theological and Spiritual Formation Reflection on a Transformation Model, (ETS 2005 Paper Proposal, Talbot School of Theology and Rosemead School of Psychology, 2005), 3
2. Donal Miller, Codependency: You Will Not Complete Me, http://www.faithgateway.com/codependency-you-will-not-complete-me?utm_source=fgwomen&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fgwomen20150528&spMailingID=48735740&spUserID=NDY0NTE4Mzk1ODMS1&spJobID=683167635&spReportId=NjgzMTY3NjM1S0#.VWpBkWDvZS8.
3. JoDee Luna, Warrior Princess Mask (Cover Photo) taken from Refrain from the Identical dare to live creatively, http://refrainfromtheidentical.com/2014/09/13/warrior-princess-painting-featured-in-somerset-studio-magazine/