Sunday, February 19, 2017

I took myself out, even on Valentine’s Day, and think you should, too.

Yes, I took myself out to dinner on Valentine’s Day this year.

I know that sounds weird. And honestly, most of the time when people write a little too much about “rocking the solo life,” I think they’re a) not being truthful and b) trying to make it look like they’re really okay when they're not so sure. Maybe I’ve made it to a deeper level of delusion that I’m not writing from that place, but I don’t think that’s the case this time.

After all, I am pro-together, pro-relationship, pro-community, pro-love. I deeply believe faith and life are team sports. Life is better lived together. This post is not at all an ode to being “Miss Independent.” 

And yet, today, I’m going to say something seemingly contrary.

I take myself out for dinner (or lunch or coffee) sometimes and I think you should too.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: as great as my life is, I have an ongoing struggle with not feeling picked or being wanted. It’s my most familiar wound and my favorite lie to battle. My history is riddled with supposed proofs that affirm this wound when the battle rages on a given day.

I know I’m not alone in this wound. Many people, regardless of relationship status, experience this ache. I would even say that sometimes it feels bigger when dating or married because it’s not expected. This is one of the devil’s favorite tactics for us. He can trick us into a plethora of different sins when we feel the need to prove our value or numb the feeling of being unwanted.

Because of this particular wound, my heart and mind can get a bit wonky during a time of the year made for pairs.

My BFF, Katy, knows this about me very well. I was woken on Tuesday with a text from her to help affirm my heart.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, girl! You are so loved!!”

I loved hearing from her and starting my day that way. It helps. We should speak these reminders to each other.

But here’s the thing: this year, I knew it already.
Not just knew it, but believed it.
Not just believed it, but was living in it.

Perhaps it’s from more consistent time in Scripture in my recent weeks and months. Maybe it’s from taking time to work through my worth issues with a counselor who faithfully speaks back to me my identity as a daughter of the Father, whenever I speak a need for validation from another place. Maybe it’s learning to stop freaking out about being alone, and realize I’ve never been because of God’s incredible promise to be with me until the very end of the age.

Maybe it’s that I’ve begun seeing times by myself not as a last resort and proof that nobody wants me, but a divine appointment that Jesus has arranged to just be with me.

I actually considered my regular strategy of inviting a bunch of people to do something for Valentine’s, so we’re all busy being awesome instead of alone. I knew, though, at this particular time, that would’ve been proof of my need to prove my “okay-ness” with activity and people. And honestly, had it been a week earlier when I was feeling rattled with rejection, this may not have been the case.

Whatever the reason, Valentine’s Day was SO different this year.

I went to sleep the night before, prepping my heart for newsfeeds full of gushy posts and pictures of perfect dates and thoughtful gifts. Comparison is the thief of joy, ya know, Shel. Then this peace settled in over me and I thought with a smile:

“Jesus, I’m so excited to get up and spend Valentine’s Day with you. You’re just the best at love. I can’t wait to see what you have planned for us.”

Guys. I know that sounds so cheesy and fluffy, maybe a little disingenuous, and all kinds of #Jesusismyboyfriend ish. I’m totally aware. But I’m serious. It was real.

I texted Katy back with my delight to just be loved perfectly by the Lord for the day. I’m praying that this would be an everyday thing. To get up and be loved by Jesus, inviting him into every moment and step of this day’s adventure; that rejection and fear and loneliness would be defeated. 

Because here’s the thing: I’ve woken up way too many days desperately wanting to be wanted while feeling the exact opposite. I've had so many days where I've straight up told Jesus in my thoughts and actions that He and His love are not enough for me and I demand more. 

When we don’t believe that we are fully loved to the brim in Jesus and that He's what our heart truly needs, we beg, borrow, steal, coerce, guilt, manipulate, pressure, and burn ourselves out to be loved. When we don’t believe that we’re enough—that God deeply wants us just where we are, how we are--we begin a path of proving and demanding. 

We expect others to fill a place of love and identity that they simply cannot.

We live in a place of fragility, looking to the incomplete efforts of others to tell us who we are and what we’re worth. They feel beat up and we feel devastated.

Friends, this is dangerous for us, no matter our romantic situation.

No person should be in charge of giving us our worth. Jesus has already done it. Even in our most ragged and hot mess days, our worth remains because the cross was accomplished.

Time spent solo, (not device-dependent time, mind you) teaches us we’re okay. We get to talk to the One who made us, who never tires of hearing about our day, who delights in creating moments, appointments, and surprises for us to experience together, who will never waiver or be fickle, who will only speak truth and life and freedom to us.

So I took myself to dinner and sat by the window with a book at one of my favorite cafes. I watched as couples rushed past, others with gym bags, and men with bundles of flowers. I got some curious glances and I fought the urge to just sit there hidden in my phone, but I was okay. I was great, really.
Because I knew I wasn’t alone. Though it may not have looked like it from the outside, I was fully wanted in that moment. A moment for time with the One who called me “beloved” first and always.
When we can just simply be loved in the times that feel like the exact opposite, it strengthens our heart with truth. It creates space in us for grace.

If I trust I’m loved and can be content in it here, as one sitting at a table with two chairs, it will be easier for me to be loved and content in relationships with fallible people.

I will be better in relationships for having been alone with Jesus. I will be set free more and more from needing to be completed by someone else, and therefore be freed to love and enjoy them well. I will be less inclined to stress and overwork if I know that who I am doesn’t depend on what I’ve accomplished. I will be less weird and manipulative, if I trust I’m worthy of being loved regardless of who wants to be with me on a given day. I will be less likely to hold relational hostages by withholding the love I feel I haven't received because of what I have already received in Christ.

Time spent away with Jesus fills and anchors me, so I’m less rocked by the fickle. I’m more able to set people free with how I love them, instead of trying to trick them into loving me back. I’m able to persist through the sting of rejection because I know I’m fully and deeply chosen by the Best of the best.

This isn’t a recipe or invitation for one-way relationships or being insulated from hurts. However, when we find security in the One who can offer it perfectly, we’re set free to love well, whether or not it’s reciprocated. Since I’m not longer a slave to winning people over, I am no longer roping myself into unhealthy relationships and I can give life and grace to those who do choose me.

Life and love are so beautiful, y’all.

Dating, single, married, divorced, or otherwise, spend some time away with the One who made it and made you. Be reminded of and solidified in your place as His beloved. Let that fill and steady you. Let it heal you. Let it set you free as you love others well.