Two days before Valentine’s Day, I find myself sitting at a kitchen table while my student reinvents herself through a group science project. A project that is designed for a group, yet doled out for an individual student while she’s on medical leave….
THIS is what I’m facilitating as a blog from one of my favorite bloggers catches the corner of my eye.
Beauty Beyond Bones is one of the few blogs I read–mostly because I get an email every time the author publishes. But it’s easy to proclaim a favorite when there aren’t many others for which I will sacrifice my time. For as long as I’ve been on this reflective journey as a blogger, her blog has caught my attention. I suppose it’s because her persona reminds me of someone who I once loved. I say this with no guilt, however. And that’s because I gave up guilt for lent nearly four years ago.
That’s right! I gave up guilt for Lent. Here’s why:
This person I once loved, she has a name. But for simplicity, let’s just call her Love. She had convinced me that she was the one the Lord held aside just for me. She’d been praying her whole life for what she called “my sweet king-to-be” (MSKTB) for which became the moniker for this blog thread. She waited her whole life–and I mean she WAITED.
Her unrelenting chastity was something I honored. I’d figured that she was worth the sacrifice especially since she’d already sacrificed so much. But as the years passed I began to question the validly of a “sacrifice” of something that was never experienced. I longed for the integrity of a pure relationship. After all, no relationship prior had yielding a godly outcome.
This particular relationship did not come without its conflict and confusion. This was uncharted territory for me. I’d been divorced for nearly five years. My beautiful children and much-needed experience where the fruits of that union. Alas I’d experienced a sex-free marriage. How hard could an abstinent courtship be?
And believe it or not, it wasn’t difficult at all. The challenge was understanding the “rules” of an abstinent relationship. Love, well she didn’t make it easy. This courtship, as she called it, forced me to recall medieval times when marriages were arranged and fathers held the key to the mystical chastity belt. Weird!
It made me wonder if there were occasions where restricted access was circumvented somehow. Or if the whole concept was more-or-less a myth. I suppose I had a front row seat to my own private show. It was an interactive one-act play where I was both the star AND the antagonist. It hinged on torture, but Love led me to believe that it was necessary to truly appreciate the sanctity of marriage.
She had a hold of me. To my circle of friends, it looked like a circus. I thought I was the lion-tamer. Nah, I was merely one of the clowns (the one without the makeup).
As our relationship entered its first Lenten season, I asked her if she’d given any thought to what sacrifice she’d make for 40 Days. I figured it would be akin to my own fast of soda or chocolate. No! Hers was much deeper!!
I was confused. How much more un-intimate could we be??? I pressed her for an explanation. She obliged.
She said she’d spoken to God about it, and he told her to take her sacrifice deeper.
I thought this was a joke. But Love doesn’t joke about God. I began to plead with her. And then I realized that there was no integrity to in that at all. So I encouraged her to explain further. She said “no touching!”
“No lustful gazing…”
To which I replied, “where will you be staying?”
This is where she became confused. I continued.
“When you spoke to God, did he tell you where you’d be staying when you come to visit me?”
I realized at that moment that I was venturing into a very ugly territory from which there’d be no return. But there was no turning back.
I gestured gingerly, “Hun, I know that you come a long way to see me. I know the sacrifice that you make to be with me. You are tired when you arrive, and most weekends you want to lay down; which results in you spending the night.”
“But you’ve also got to realize the challenge that comes from you spending the nights here when my children are home–the challenge created from trying to model this righteous behavior in the face of being “chased”.
My daughter had begun to emulate pristine behavior. She asked for a purity ring of her own. She spoke of the importance of waiting…
What father wouldn’t want that? Now I was offered an opportunity to step up. I’m not taking one for the team. I’m embracing a responsibility far greater than a “man-in-waiting” (is there such a thing?); or was my search for masculinity manifesting into a fatherly responsibility?
It didn’t matter. For a moment–perhaps minutes at best, Love melted. Her eyes gazed upon me and I felt appreciated.
But that too was confusing for me. And so I did what I do best. I stuck out my chest and…
She asked me lovingly, “what will you give up for Lent?”
“Guilt! I’m giving up guilt!”
Love was lost.
I defended that if God was going to have a private conversation with my love, I was going to assert my role in my relationship with God. I looked up to the ceiling and continued, “you can’t stay here, wear sexy pajamas in my kitchen, tell me I can’t look at, touch, or kiss you and stay here. It’s teasing and it’s mean.”
Well maybe I didn’t say it was mean. It was a bad memory. What do you want from me?
“I Am giving up guilt for lent!” The Lord died for my sins. The fornication, the lust, the adultery, and all the other illicit stuff that I reluctantly confess to. I don’t need to harbor any guilt.
I sorta thought that I should have consulted a priest on this one, but…
I’m not catholic.
Love left that night. She went home to her father’s house where he and her mother later praised me for raising my own daughter to be a queen. I’m not sure how I felt about that, but…
Now THAT Ash Wednesday did not fall on Valentine’s Day (like it does this year), but the sheets have been cold ever since. Well, cold on Valentine’s Day at least.
As a middle-aged man who is on the cusp of denial, I will love myself this Valentine’s Day. And once you get your mind out of the gutter, you’ll probably do the same.
In case you didn’t know, the boxes of chocolate go on sale after 6pm at most pharmacies. And the Ex-lax is a few isles over.
Happy Ash Wednesday!