Love Defined. (April 2017)

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“Love Defined” is an intermittent series of writings that reflect the way “love” continuously gets redefined in my life over the course of my experiences over time. My goal is to have a record of the way love matures and manifests itself in action as I continually give it and practice it in my life.

Love Defined in April 2017:

Love is an continuous act of respecting a person’s decision to reject you — though I fail at honoring this about twice a week, I am learning that love and respect are so interconnected and need to co-exist. I used to think that “lack of communication” is the downfall of many relationships, but I now believe that underlying the communication is the level of respect two people have for each other. When that respect is lost, then even good communication won’t really matter. I have to come to terms is that what was being lost over time unbeknownst to me was mutual respect – of each other’s time, of each other’s commitments, of each other’s needs. This lack is probably why I still find myself wanting to keep in contact despite knowing better. This next month, the goal is to fully and truly honor the decision of the rejection, continually choosing to respect space that was desired.

Love is the coming to terms with what love looks like now — have you ever wondered how much suffering you’re able to take on simply because you love someone else? It’s astounding how much bandwidth I have for “punishment” and “pain” because of how much “love equity” I possess with someone. I think the breakup process is the gradual exhausting of that love tank, so that you’re able to actually objectively observe the condition of the relationship, and make better decisions about your own health. I absolutely hate having to “demote” someone who no longer wants my heart from the position of “significant other” to “just-as-significant-as-the-rest-of-my-friends.” As someone who has committed the past three years of his life to voraciously communicating edifying, uplifting words to others, to actually say beautiful things that I have in my heart to tell them that I see in them, it really really sucks that the relationship is no longer in a place where they can receive it in the way I want to express it. But that’s where it is now – they have chosen to lower their level of significance in my life and therefore it’s no longer appropriate to affirm who they are to me at that level. The only encouragement for me is knowing that God can actually take over and surround that person with even better words and encouragement and life that I could only dream of saying. In fact, I know that’s the conversation God has always been having, and knowing that, I am glad and more able to step away.

Love is a truth-teller that is not concerned with making you feel better — A breakup is when you decide someone isn’t worth your time anymore. That they are no longer worth fighting for. That the value of your life increases when they are removed from it. That you believe in a future where you are happier without them than you are with them, and you want to invest in that future. That’s the subtext behind the action. That’s why it hurts – it’s a rejection that has evidence. They tried you out and decided that in the long term you were not for them. But love is always revealing truth, and that truth does provide the necessary perspective to focus on health and wisdom. And the truth is that I will never know what is in her heart, and it will never be shared or made known to me. That evidence is clear. The wisdom, however, I am gaining from this process become the guideposts that will help position me better for when love for someone else arouses in me again eventually.

Love Defined. (March 2017)

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“Love Defined” is an intermittent series of writings that reflect the way “love” continuously gets redefined in my life over the course of my experiences over time. My goal is to have a record of the way love matures and manifests itself in action as I continually give it and practice it in my life.

Love Defined in March 2017:

Love is not found in the strength of its grip but in the tenderness of its release — of my role as a pursuer, stepping down as the warrior determined to win her love, setting down my weapons of words, setting aside my climbing gear that I’ve used to scale the walls surrounding her heart. It is a submission to respect her desire, her wish.

Love is an offering — of my role as her future partner, a stepping aside, making that position available, trusting that the next person will far surpass the standard I’ve set, exceed expectations, who will deliver an authentic love that resonates from deeply within him that her soul will respond to naturally.

Love is a submission of authorship — the origin story of our relationship made me prideful. I gloated and bragged about how I pursued her, how I asked her out, that while God was clearly in the beginning of the story, in control over its authorship, over time I kept wanting the pen; I wanted to keep writing the words. I wanted to be the director of the story… the re-director. The truth is that God saw the relationship coming to the end, and similar to the tragic outcome of so many great TV shows that suffer from far too many seasons, running too long and becoming more and more irrelevant, I wound up diluting the poignancy and depth of the relationship by adding in too many chapters. Rather than the passionate short story it was supposed to be, it instead became a strung out relationship story of faded, fraying worth.

Love is a transition done well — viewing the relationship ending as a transition, not as one person quitting. The truth is that the relationship was over months before the actual breakup, and recently, as I have taken in and  re-read books and plays that are dear to her, and as more time goes on, the more I’m hearing confirmation of the death of the relationship, rather than a temporary season that will eventually end with us getting back together. Paulo Coelho said, “anyone who’s lost something they thought was theirs forever finally comes to realize that nothing really belongs to them.” I am equally afraid of facing the feelings of rejection and abandonment as I am the feeling of guilt from moving on… but love is letting someone win without you rather than letting them lose with you. Love as a transition means that we are released to become more as individuals than we would ever be as a couple. She is free to transition from a relationship with me into her thriving future as a storyteller; I am released to transition into a man of character and into a person who can experience the greatest season of growth that will become the bedrock of my future. And if, along the way, we encounter our respective lifelong partners, then we have ultimately loved each other well by transitioning well.

Love is not the reward of doing the right thing — I am proud of how I have loved. While it may not have won me the heart of the actual person I was loving, I do believe that it was all worth it, and I got to practice loving someone humanely with patience and quiet strength. I have discovered the way I want to love someone in the eyes of my peers and in the eyes of God. I am not ashamed of the light that surrounded my decisions. I am not less of a man because I honored her “no.” Doing the right thing regardless of the outcome is the essence of love. Acting in love is a scarce resource that is produced so little by the people in this world, and it is a rare force that many fear, especially when it is misunderstood. Love is not a tool that draws attention to a cause… Love must be the cause.

Listen.

“To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us… to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”
— Mark Nepo, The Exquisite Risk

I am by far having one of the hardest years of my life. And it’s only February.

The battle is mental, spiritual. I’m desperate to hear God’s voice, and I find myself teetering on the edge of wanting to end it all… I’ve never cried so many tears nor have I ever spent so much time on my knees at the edge of my bed praying, face flat into the pillow, asking God to show up, taking a break to look up at my phone to switch between social media and Google searches for for affordable therapists, then back to prayer.

It’s been chaotic in my soul, to say the least.

One thing I can appreciate, though, is the battle. I’ve never fought so hard for anything before. There’s something to be revealed in me through the way I have been clawing and clamoring, demanding answers from God, petitioning for peace within my soul, asking God to fulfill my need to feel loved, to matter…

Slowly I can feel myself discovering my worth. Discovering what God is up to with my story, and the character I’m supposed to be in other people’s stories. I never seem to run out of encouragement for others, especially toward my girlfriend. The real battle is for me to encourage myself, though. And sometimes that looks like me just needing to shut up and listen.

It’s not always clear to me when God speaks. I feel like I do most of the talking. And I find that I don’t have much patience for dead space. But maybe that’s exactly what I need to get used to — often in my boredom I desire to just fill up my space with tons of nonsense and distractions. I haven’t really learned the discipline to be still and listen. Even when God doesn’t speak.

The truth is I’ve been spending more time with God than I ever have, and I’m always convicted that it’s only during times of extreme duress like this. It’s pretty crazy to think that God feels so much unrequited, jilted love from so many of His creation. And how often I ditch him when things start to get better. I never truly include Him in my life – He’s only my center when  I cry out and let Him drive,  when everything spirals out of control as a result of me trying to steer my own life.

So I am just trying to listen more… to pay attention, to train myself to be alert at all times, to be ready for when the moment God does speak, I’ll be aware. Until then, I am starting to understand that there is no immediate rescue plan, that maybe God wants me in this turmoil a little longer, to make me a little stronger, and if I continue in that perspective I can’t help but be grateful.

Maybe an answer won’t come, maybe a great revelation or audible voice won’t dawn on me. Maybe God is just enjoying that I’m near and responsive to Him again. And truthfully, even when there is no answer, I do feel loved. And that’s the proof of God’s presence, after all.

Why Trust Matters.

“We expend so much energy, watching, calculating, trying to predict, reading signals in people, ready for anything to change suddenly, preparing to be disappointed. So much energy spent.

“We talk about trust as something you build, as if it is a structure or thing. but in that building there seems to be something about letting go. and what it affords us is a luxury. it allows us to stop thinking, to stop worrying that someone won’t catch us if we fall, to stop scanning for inconsistencies, to stop wondering how people act when not in our presence. it allows us to relax a part of our minds, so it can focus on what is in front of us.”

Hope and Space.

“Something changes in the universe when you confess, admit, and declare truth. It seems that when you speak it out, truth is invited in.”
– Jamie George, Love Well

I’m a broken man… I want to acknowledge this. To you.

I know that I can vein vulnerability pretty well, I know that I can essentially hide the things that really bother me and divert the cause to something more menial.

But I know you’re more wise and keen than that.

So I want to own up. I want to share. I can’t heal what I can’t acknowledge. And I want to do this because I want to restore my hope in us again. I want to return to the place of beautiful, mutual vulnerability, and make those moments the cornerstones of what we are building together.

I want a relationship that is thriving, healthy, authentic, unstuck. One where we have access to each other without feeling like we have over-extended, where we are each getting what we are putting in. One that is brimming with hope, wonder, excitement, butterflies; one where guilt is put into perspective and is dealt with swiftly; one where even the simplest and faintest of communication is teeming with life-giving, game-changing love.

I want to believe that we can create that. I want to have hope again. I want to cling onto that hope and grip tightly until my knuckles are white.

This month I’ve found myself growing more numb. It started when I started sensing distance from you during the trip and couldn’t put my finger on it. And there was no space to acknowledge or talk about it. We have talked since, and while we have moved past it, truthfully I have to admit that even after much reflection, I still cannot pinpoint where I miscommunicated my gratitude for you on the trip. I would very much like to know this, I want to grow, I want to learn. I need help discovering where that was so I have the wisdom and awareness to deal with it.

Through that experience and later on in the month, I have started to feel in my soul that I had started to withdraw and change up my values to feel less pain. My speech and texts were cold. I realize that the danger in numbing myself was making me miss and appreciate the moments that you did give me, ones that were plainly you making the effort and giving your all. But I had numbed myself to the point where I couldn’t even acknowledge the sacrifices you were making. I was only concerned and focused on the sacrifices that I was making. I was glorifying my own efforts in my own thoughts, I was stoking my own ego, and I was taking back affirmation that I felt I was being denied. I know that these are huge unattractive qualities and I know how allergic you are to ego. And I see it developing in my life. I am acknowledging it’s presence, confirming it’s ugliness, and understanding the distance it can cause. I want it gone, and the way to get it out is to bring it to light and hit it with Truth.

I want to be clear and honest — my encouragement to you is real, it is authentic. It is the version of me that I am choosing in faith and doing the work so that I can believe it with my feelings too. And believe me, whenever I have told you that I have prayed for you, I did it. Every time.

I am also sorry that I have plagued our conversations with frameworks around “love languages” that clearly are not helping the conversation, nor do I feel that they apply to our communication. I want to apologize for this and say sorry for trying to put our uniqueness in a box and for continuing to try to explain us in that context. I want to tell you that I’m rejecting that attempt and I will simply just “be” and pay more attention to your sacrifices, your efforts. I no longer want to be blind to them and so affixed on my needs and the way I need to feel loved. We are unique individuals with our own method and brand of love and communication, and I need to pay more attention to you and discover the value in the way you communicate with me on my own.

I want to acknowledge that I have been sensing distance… avoidance, even.. I want to acknowledge this and create a space to talk about that. I’ve noticed that it’s tricky to schedule face-to-face time with you. I am wondering if it’s because of a fear of what is on my mind or what I want to discuss. The truth is that I’m just at a point where I just want to have a relationship, and I don’t care if we talk about us at all — I just want to “be” with you. I know you are hustling, making it work, and I have been respecting your time as best as I could. I will say though that not spending time with you is creating more numbness about our whole situation, and I find myself losing hope.

I do not want to lose hope. I do not want to go numb.

I want life. I want relationship. I want communication. I want fun. I want to be myself and fight for hope in us again. I want to fight. I want to be battle ready for the other hardships that will come. I want to talk. I want us to fight because that vulnerability is the soil where connection blooms. I want my girlfriend. I want to be real. I want Truth to be invited back into our space….

Space.

Space… huh. (please wait while brain switches gears…. *krrrrzzztt*)

In experiencing the love of God more intensely this week alone, I am now understanding that I do not love you well. We don’t love each other well. I am constantly trying to throw my words and support at you as if to goad you into loving me the way I want to, and getting frustrated when it doesn’t work. You withdraw from the pressure and feeling  inadequacy. Until this moment I have lived in denial — denying that perhaps you too are in just as much pain, but in a different way. We’re both sensing that something isn’t right, that there is a disconnection. And maybe space gives us time to recollect ourselves. It worked for you toward me, it allowed you to forgive me, the only issue was that I did not know that that was going on at the time when we were having space and I didn’t get a chance to utilize it simultaneously.

But I do see the value in it.

“Harassed by life, exhausted, we look about us for somewhere to be quiet, to be genuine, a place of refreshment. We yearn to restore our spirits in God.”
– Hars Urs von Balthasar

I’ve been a coward this whole time..  deep within me there is a deep fear of disappointing you, of not being enough too, of disapproval. of not speaking up about how I really feel whenever things change or plans fall through. the facade that keeps me from being real. the fear of losing you.

But if in the end if I lose you, there is a faithful God – He is good. He has a beautiful, full future for both of us.

Regardless, in the same way that spaces in this sentence allows room for understanding, maybe I need to give my soul some space to grow up and appreciate you for who you really are, what you really do for me. The way you cause me to grow. The way you make me see how Beautiful God can be. I want to know your thoughts on this.

On Tuesday I want to celebrate what we have done right. And I wanted to give us space after the celebration. I want to practice how to actively wait. How to reset and be okay. How to miss you properly without injecting guilt. How it feels to limit access to you and get my life together. I see you are already getting yours together, and I have much to learn.

I would love this to be our launching off point when we talk. OR we can just be and celebrate. Either way, I have something for you.

Choosing you always,

Joseph

Boldness. Forgiveness. Gratitude.

Those are the areas of focus that I have been working on in my life since the beginning of 2014. It’s been a crazy half of a year so far, and in these past two months I have been growing and stretching in some of the most excruciating ways that have demanded so much of my character to get chiseled in this painful, slow process.

If the same situation happens to you a dozen and one times, it gets pretty safe to assume that the situation happens because of you – that you’re the problem.

Or rather, I’m the problem.

I have to embrace and confront the possibility that perhaps I am the reason that I am unloved. I am the reason why I don’t get chosen. I’m the reason why things don’t work out. My undeveloped character informs the poor decisions I make that drive others away, that drive the relationships I’ve had away from me and into the arms of others.

I have to accept the fact that the brand of love I have to give just doesn’t interest most people, and I can’t be bitter at them for not choosing me. Sometimes people prefer other flavors. And at the very least I should be thankful that they gave me a try.

I have to realize that the “hope” I hold out for in my head and my heart, the hope that one day they would realize how wonderful I am or whatever… that it isn’t hope at all – it’s bitterness. It’s unforgiveness. It’s actually a desire to get back at them. It’s a desire to get the last laugh by fantasizing that they would come back and apologize. And it’s disgusting that I let myself even think of people who hurt me that way.

It doesn’t surprise me that my current love interest has set her eyes on someone else. In my life, it’s happened to me ever since the 9th grade. And I grew so heavy from the numerous times it has happened, and all the bitterness and unforgiveness I held onto. I grew very heavy. My heart is currently heavy. I’ve realized what happens is each time I have gone through something like this, I find myself letting go eventually. But I’ve never actually walked away from the place where I left it – it’s just something I’ve never done yet. And I need to. Because every time it happens again, I find myself picking back up every burden that I’ve let go of from my past, and I get heavier and heavier because I’ve never actually moved on. I need to not only let go, but I need to let go and move on.

And now I have to actually let the process of moving on do its complete work of changing my character. I no longer want to be bitter. I no longer want to imagine a situation where I desire power over someone because the person they left me for broke their heart. I want to be the kind of man who prays blessings onto the relationships of those I care about, and that includes who they are with now. I no longer want bitterness to remain in my heart, nor do I want to allow it to masquerade as “being hopeful.”

I want to be a person who has forgiven, who has forgiven myself, and who hopes truly for a future where the both of us are truly happy. I remember telling her that all I wanted for her was for her to be happy, even if it meant finding that with someone who isn’t me. I said that thinking that would never happen, but now that it is a reality, I want to truly believe it and mean it with all my heart.

Love has to do what it must. It has to do what is right. It has to do what is healthy. Love must rejoice in what is good, what is beautiful, what is true, and I no longer want to accept anything less than those ideals in my life and in my relationships.

I truly have to commend her for having the courage to do what I couldn’t do – stop talking to each other, because our conversations were the source of my pain. I have to realize that what she did must have been difficult and hard, and I as the man should’ve been the one to commit to it, but I didn’t. She did. Maybe it was easier because she had someone else she was interested in to talk to. Perhaps. But that’s irrelevant when it comes to my healing, my journey, and my quest to restore my heart back to a place where it can love again.

The miracle is finding someone who you can give all your love to, and not have to worry about not getting all of someone else’s love in return. We settle for less all the time in arenas where we should endeavor to deserve someone’s best. I have to accept that the energy that I am willing to give and pour and invest into someone… that sometimes, you could be pouring into someone who is just simply less willing to do the same. And it’s okay. We just have to keep going until we find someone who does.

Overall I am proud of myself for how I handled this relationship. I got really close to being the kind of man I wanted to be for someone. Even in our rocky beginnings, I was proud of the person I was. It was in the pursuit of her love that I learned that it was within my grasp to be kind, to be generous, to be giving, to be attentive, to be understanding, to be patient, to be a good human being. That whenever a relationship fell apart, this time I chose not to self-destruct. This was the only time that I ran straight to God when my soul started to break, and I can be proud that I made that choice.

It’s time for me to move on, to learn, to be happy for her, to be kind to others, to pray blessing on their budding relationship, and to mean those prayers each day I mutter them. It’s time for me to never tire of doing what is good, what is right, and to start trusting that there, too, is a hope, a love, and someone out there for me too. I have to keep pursuing. I have to keep growing. I have to keep forgiving. I have to keep being grateful. And I have to keep being bold.

The love whisperer.

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Ugh. I needed this. So uplifting, encouraging, and inspiring. I am so grateful I have a friend like this.

To be honest, this has not been a good Christmas. This is the first time since I found Mosaic that I experienced such a… loneliness… here in Hollywood. It was so empty, a bummer, and a letdown. See, even though I knew of many places I could go, I found myself not having the desire to belong. When I spent some serious time looking into myself, I found an overwhelming sense of insignificance that has been informing my life. It’s one of the deepest-issues I deal with daily; it is a voice that simply whispers when I am at my weakest, “You are not good enough.”

I hear it when a friend fall through on plans I’ve been looking forward to:
See? You weren’t that important.

I hear it when I don’t get picked:
Good thing, you would’ve just let them down anyway.

I hear it when no one responds:
Why would they reply? You contribute nothing. You just take.

I hear it even when I’m with others:
You were just invited because they felt bad. They could do without you.

Sometimes it slips in without me even realizing it. I just.. accept it. It takes so much effort to realize it’s happening, acknowledge it, and it takes even more effort to do what you’re supposed to do: declare it a lie, and then cast it out of your life.

That’s the beautiful thing about God. When things aren’t going your away, when you don’t understand what’s going on, when you have no answers or feel so alone, God shows up. His grace covers the hole in your heart and brings the closure you never got to have. His mercy fills your ears with His voice when the person you love goes silent. His power heals and redeems your broken spirit, restoring you, giving you a new heart… all so that you can just try again.

And hey — all the work that you put in for something that didn’t turn out? Yes, God makes a way for that too. It wasn’t in vain. It impacted your heart, didn’t it? You proved to yourself you could do it, right? You just have to be patient. The right time will come. See, if you’re anything like me, when you love somebody, you sacrifice; you be whatever it is you need to be for them, whether it’s to lay down your emotions for the friendship, your desires to make room to heal, and even to have the maturity to back away when you sense that space is desired in want of another interest. That’s true friendship: simply making sure that person is happy, no matter what. It’s not about you. And it never should be.

The truth is that God is madly, madly in love with you. He speaks softly and intimately with His creations. He has wonderful things to say to you, if you only choose to pay attention and ignore the loudest voices, only zoning in on the quiet whisper that yearns and says, “Come. I love you. You ARE enough. I made you, after all.” After all, God didn’t make me just to say, “Man, you’re a mess. I hope you get your life together. My bad for making you this way.” See, you and I were created in His image. How can we possibly say we’re not worthy of His love? In fact, if we only stop and listen, we can hear Him saying it to us… all the time. Never let other voices take the place of God’s voice.

I have never felt more encouraged, blessed, and grateful, despite not gaining any of the things the world tells us to value. In fact, the world would tell me I missed out. Well, so what? To know that they’re happy, to know they have started to believe their own worth – that’s enough. That’s huge. To me it doesn’t matter if it wasn’t me who led them there, I’m just happy that they are there.

As for me, life goes on, I’m young, I have love in my heart, I have the resolve to grow, and most importantly, I have God. That’s what makes me complete.