An honest and true life builds honest relationships

Our Development Coordinator and Administrative Assistant, Holly, shares her take on the benefits of vulnerable living:

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Growing up, I had a lot of anxiety and when I was overwhelmed the last thing I wanted to do was share how I was feeling.

When my sister would ask me to talk about it with her, I would close up and could feel myself bursting at the seams. But in the end, if I didn’t talk about it, I wouldn’t have to deal with it. And that for me was the easy way out at the time.

I think the reason why it is difficult to tell our stories and connect with others is because we haven’t been honest with ourselves and we hold things back that need to come out.

Maya Angelou explains it like this: “There is no greater agony than an untold story inside of you.”

 We have to remember that our story is significant and that we are created by a God who is writing the grand narrative. Our story is a part of the reconciliation of human relationship.

 As I got older, this tactic of holding things back, pretending, and bursting at the seams did not work on other people. In college, I had a friend who learned early on that I was hiding how I really felt and wouldn’t let me pretend. She forced me to be honest with myself and with her.

And opening up was completely freeing.

This was the beginning of building true relationships in my life. Yes, I had to be honest about not only the good parts of life, but also the parts that were messy and ugly. And even though this was difficult, I began to understand more of who I really am.

And as I began to be more confident in myself, it became easier to share my story with other people and ultimately started building healthy relationships with friends and my boyfriend (now husband).

Knowing our stories and being able to share them confidently will benefit both you and the people who are hearing it. But it takes time and trust to be able to do this well.

If you think about it, this is one of the reasons why relationships are messy. Two people who have parts of themselves they are ashamed of, parts of themselves they don’t even know and parts they have never shared with anyone else. In order to be in healthy relationships, we have to know our story, own it and share it with all of the good and the bad and the messy.

Relationships are lived out through our shared stories.

As you learn to share your story with people you trust, you begin to understand more of who you really are. You start to see what is important to you, if there have been any unhealthy patterns in your life, and what have been some of your darkest times.

Having confidence in who you are and accepting the messy parts of yourself makes it possible for you to accept other people for who they are. It also makes it possible for you to give other people grace because you know first hand no one is perfect.

Until we are able to know our stories, and allow other people to be a part of them, we cannot love other people well. Knowing our true identity, accepting our story and sharing it with others is the beginning of building true relationships with other people and living a true and honest life.

 Don’t be afraid to tell your story. It’s the beginning of something beautiful that plays a crucial chapter of this grand narrative.

Relationships…

This summer our offices will be researching, studying, and looking at the beauty, complexity, and chaos that relationships bring. Most of our study will be around dating and how this fairly new concept is changing for today’s teens. As we started compiling resources our social media coordinator pointed me towards a blog that her friend, Holly Clark, writes on pleasepassthetea.com. One specific entry caught her eye. Enjoy!

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“Finding a balance between spending time with the person you are dating and trying to build community with others is not an easy task. Jeremy and I started dating our freshman year of college. As you know, if you have gone to college, this year especially is complicated in itself.

Jeremy and I were trying to navigate a very new relationship while trying to find genuine friendship. Unfortunately, I didn’t want people thinking Jeremy and I were just your typical “high school sweet-hearts” so I tended to focus more on friends than I did on our relationship.

But soon, my relationship with Jeremy suffered and we struggled to find a good balance. So, I started inviting Jeremy to join in on my time with my friends, and my friends loved him. I began to trust others with our relationship and it was such a joy to have people support us together. This was the beginning of why community became such a crucial part of our lives together.

Relationships have always been important to me. I desire genuine, intentional relationships and love bringing people together. And I knew that my relationship with Jeremy was a gift from God; ultimately I knew we could be a couple who loves people well and brings others into our relationship.

So, throughout college and our dating life, we went through a very consistent cycle of wanting to build community and struggling to find a balance of time alone and time with people. We seemed to always choose to be with others.

Our view of community has changed significantly since college. While at Whitworth University, awesome people were just always around. It wasn’t a struggle to find intentional people and we didn’t have to trust God. Now that I am graduated, I know community is way more than just people you think like you do; it is dependent on Jesus Christ being the head of the body.

Before, I was completely dependent on my own ability to be a good girlfriend and friend. And now, I know that in order to have a healthy community, Christ has to be the focus. Since Jeremy and I have been married, we have come to realize that without Christ being our focus, we cannot have a healthy relationship, and if we aren’t healthy together, we cannot be healthy in community.

I have learned not to try to please others because I cannot. I have learned not to try to put others before my husband because he is my main priority. And I have learned to trust that God is going to provide community in my life because true relationship is a gift from God. I have been blessed by people who support my marriage and remind me why having people in our life is so important. I have spent countless nights at the dinner table with a group of people that I love, sharing their hearts over a great meal. And I have shed countless tears over relationships that have hurt me.

In the end, all of these things are gifts from God. We are called to love our neighbor and I believe this means being intentional with the people that God puts in our path. For me that means loving my husband first, loving the people around me and continuing to live into community because I believe I am called to bring people together. I have learned a lot about the complexity of relationships and I know I will continue to pursue, fail, cry and find meaning in loving others.”

I Took Off My Purity Ring.

I am always grateful for the many voices that walk through the doors of Project Six19. Talented, respected, deep-thinking, and articulate are the words that capture these individuals. One of those people is Julia Feeser, our new social media coordinator. She is all of these things and I think you will understand why when you read a recent blog she posted at HelloSoul. Take a moment to read her story…

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When I was a sophomore in college, I took off my purity ring.

I had worn it on my right hand (it didn’t fit my left) for almost four years, a small trinket I had acquired at an abstinence conference because everyone else was getting one and I felt like I should too.

It wasn’t a particularly fashionable ring. It had a Bible verse inscribed on it (I can’t even remember which one) in juvenile font and no discernible qualities other than that once in a while someone would ask me about it. It had no significance to me other than I knew that by wearing it I was somehow on this holy level that people who were having sex weren’t.

Wearing a purity ring made me feel proud. I felt level-headed, innocent, able to practice self-control. I didn’t particularly care if others saw me as prude, because I knew that I was making smart life choices. Their experimentation with sex would end in sadness and broken relationships; mine would end in a blissful and committed marriage. I could feel worth and have self-love because I was Waiting.

Unlike high school, I found myself surrounded by girls wearing purity rings at my small, private Christian university. There were even girls who didn’t want to kiss until marriage (something I was slightly horrified by because I wasn’t about to wait for that). I realized I felt slightly less set apart in this environment, suddenly not in the noble minority as someone who had made the courageous decision to Wait.

A few months into my freshman year I began dating someone. I had dated a little in high school, but this time was different. No longer were there curfews or watchful parents, and I distinctly remember feeling that my transition from girl to woman was completed now that I was in college. I could handle an “adult” relationship and whatever that entailed.

My new boyfriend was not a Christian (something I would eventually realize was a deal-breaker), and while we tried to be on the same page about physical boundaries it proved to be very difficult for both of us. Waiting, it turned out, was virtually impossible when you really liked someone and could stay in his room well past midnight.

And eventually there came a night (which turned into many nights) where we went too far. And while we never actually had sex, we did just about everything but.

I was crushed.

As I sat in class next to girls proudly displaying their purity, I felt like I could no longer count myself amongst them. I was both angry and disgusted with myself, heartbroken that I was letting go of my convictions night after night. And while I still wore my purity ring, I felt like a fake. I couldn’t believe that I, a girl who was clearly so capable of Waiting, could compromise herself and her aspirations for sex within marriage. I mercilessly beat myself up.

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It wasn’t until several months later that I actually took my ring off, after my boyfriend and I finally broke up. At that point, I had come to terms with the fact that I had gone too far and had stopped feeling so angry with myself. So when I did finally take it off, it wasn’t because I did not feel worthy to wear it.

It was because my purity had become my identity.

Who I was as a person and a Christian had become wrapped up in whether I was having sex or not, and there was something distinctly wrong with that.

The reason it affected my self-worth so deeply was because Waiting had become such a part of how I saw myself: I had used abstinence as a means to feel good about who I was rather than because I really understood what it meant to me. I thought that “being pure” affected everything else about me: how others saw me, how God saw me, and my own worth as a person.

It also gave me a false sense of entitlement.

I had begun to perceive abstinence as a means to an end, as though a husband was a reward for my dutiful Waiting. When I wasn’t going too far physically, that meant I deserved a happy marriage I wouldn’t have to wait too long for. When I was going too far, I felt like I didn’t deserve that anymore, which only added to my sense of loss.

I took off my purity ring because I was done with what Waiting had become to me: a badge of honor, a method to get what I wanted, a way to feel good about myself.

I am still waiting to have sex. And while there are many reasons for this, my hope is I do not rest my identity on that one aspect about myself.

Sexuality, specifically for Christians, should be about so much more than just the act of waiting, and sometimes I feel like we tend to focus solely on that. Waiting to have sex should not be a scheme to make ourselves beautiful or worthy or a “good Christian,” but should instead be used to demonstrate the beauty of God and thus the perfection of his design for intimacy.

My hand doesn’t look like it’s missing anything at all.

© Julia Feeser and HelloSoul, 2014.

The Love Partner

Gosh, what do you know it’s Valentine’s Day, or rather, singles awareness day, or rather, spend a whole lot of money on the person you love because you never spend money on them the rest of the year. Whatever you call it this day has become a beast for profits for several industries. It is estimated that over $13 Billion is spent on flowers, cards, dinners and whatever else. Wow!

Something strikes me about this day. It has to do with our culture’s fascination with love and the love partner, or our constant search for one. It almost seems like love has become a religion of sorts. And I am not the only one to think this.

Ernest Becker, in his book The Denial of Death, actually spoke the same thing. He essentially wrote that there has never been such a society that has an insignificant view of its future. As a result there has never been a society that puts as much emphasis on finding true love and romance as our society here and now. The self-glorification that human beings need in our inner-most being is now found not in God, but in the love partner. So what is it that we want when we elevate the love partner to this level?  We want to rid ourselves of our faults, rid ourselves of feelings of nothingness, we want to be justified, we want to know our existence matters, we want redemption! Nothing less.

Specifically he writes, “Modern man’s dependency on the love partner is a result of the loss of spiritual ideologies.” Later on he writes, “If you don’t have a God in heaven, an invisible dimension that justifies the visible one, then you take what is nearest at hand and work out your problems on that.”

No greater example of this is shown then in the shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. It is a show that is all about love and romance and its long life on TV is proof of just how much of a religion it has become. However, it is no surprise that it never really produces any lasting relationships. Again I refer to what Becker says, “But sex is a ‘disappointing answer to life’s riddle,’ and if we pretend that it is an adequate one, we are lying both to ourselves and to our children.” In other words, if we really try to put all our eggs into this relationship basket it will ultimately fail us. That is why I appreciated a recent interview from Sean Lowe, the previous bachelor. You can view it below. His words and description of the show are right on. His success on the show in being the first bachelor to marry the first person he chose was due to who he put his hope in. It was never in the person he would ultimately marry. It was in something higher, the true love partner, Jesus Christ.

As we celebrate this holiday with our loved ones let us not forget the ultimate love partner.