By Carolyn Shields
For a moment our hearts are beating, but for eternity our hearts will be still. So all we should strive for in this present moment is to do the will of the Lord. Every relationship can and should be a channel in which the graces of God flood from our souls, but what do we do when these relationships seem rare or a little atypical? Or what happens when we do find these relationships, and then suddenly, they are brittle around the edges and fall apart in our hands? How can we harbor them in the ports of our hearts when that beautiful organ is bruised and wounded, doubting, tinted only a light shade of pink...when it's tentative to become vulnerable? What then?
Loneliness is perhaps the deepest pain we can feel in the center of our chests, and those dead-end hours of solitude, those seasons of unwanted seclusion, and those heavy minutes of quiet thinking at 2a.m on a Friday night can contort our hopes, damage our dreams, and weaken our trust. Loneliness was the first thing that God deemed not good in this world, and our twenties can seem lonesome at times. What happened to that tight companionship in college, that community of womenfolk? Where did all of those beautiful men you were just dying to magic their lives with your gentle, feminine grace disappear to?
But think about it: imagine someone, a friend, an acquaintance, or even a nameless stranger you talked to for a few minutes, and out of the blue something reminds them of you. Your favorite song, a window display, a similar mannerism, or a journal entry they come across from 4th grade. They remember you, even if you haven’t seen each other in weeks, months...years. You may think you’ve been forgotten, but you haven’t been because so much of one person is made up of another. But memories are not enough for us.
We keep holding on in hopes of something and someone who will reciprocally lead us to Christ, and our patience is wearing tissue-thin. We keep praying that a man will theatrically bump into our shopping cart at the store (though realistically, why would we ever use a shopping cart because 1. we eat out half the time and 2. we can't afford to fill one) and we make eye contact, and then three years later, we make babies. We somewhat-selfishly-secretly hope that our girlfriends will always be there at our side, and not five steps forward in conquering her own little future. We question if our guy friends can truly be just that, and we wonder why they don't introduce us to their single friends, DANG IT, and if the relationship with our mother is truly as strained as we think or fear it is.
We desire authentic relationships, and we try to find them everywhere because we don't want to feel that penetrable loneliness. And when we lose those beautiful relationships, we look for them in the saddest little places like smoky bars, hollow affiliations, gilded attitudes, and sometimes damaging literature and corrupted cinema.
When I was in China, or just at times when I missed him, I would listen to my old boyfriend's music and try to find him there. It was like talking to him. Sometimes. And every now and then after the break-up, I listen to that playlist on spotify, my only playlist, his playlist, and I'm falling in love with it, but I still can't help but look for him in those lyrics, and think of the way he must have exhaled in awe at Sufjan Steven's genius the first time he heard it. Because I don't understand, and that's what I've been learning lately: We WON'T always understand. And that's ok. We WON'T always make sense of things, and we WON'T always know, and that.is.ok. We may not receive an answer because Christ is the answer. We are not meant to pursue, we are the prize.
But there's something to be said about those brief encounters, those 'relationships' that do not really last longer than a blush or a few breaths, where something inside you changes because of it. It's a mutual exchange, always. But it's not always a change of grace. Our hearts may be too walled to receive it, theirs may be too blind to recognize it, but we can't exclude talking about these relationships that can barely even be called that. And how often are we inspired, motivated, and enthused by our weakest of relationships, by those we hardly know or only know from a distance.
I wouldn't say that relationships are an art, but rather a gift that we do not always fully understand because 'blurred lines' have shaded natural boundaries of the most healthy of them. I pray that the following articles will cast light and erase some of those blurred lines that culture and Robin Thicke have planted in society. There's a plethora of advice, sources for hope, and words of encouragement found on our Relationships page, and be sure to check our Archives. Your beauty can't be hidden from the world. Be a channel to everyone you come across, and reflect that feminine beauty.