I cried today.
Okay...not an all-out cry. Perhaps "I teared up today" would be better, but even that is noteworthy. I'm not a crier, at least not normally. I don't know why. On one hand, I'm deeply emotional, but those emotions just usually don't leak out my eyeballs. I didn't even cry watching Les Mis...which apparently makes me more machine than man.
There have only been a handful of times I've wept openly--if you can even call crying in your bed at night weeping "openly." Maybe it was fear of the future...or frustration over a broken relationship. Even those times, it felt forced...like, "I should be crying right now. I need to cry."
So what turned on the water works today? It wasn't anything devastating. It wasn't anything frustrating. It was actually something quite beautiful.
I was catching up with a friend over coffee. It had been a while since we had talked, and I wanted to hear how things were going with him and his girlfriend. He gave me the run-down of their relationship over the past couple months. It was going very well. It was a relationship centered on Christ. By "centered on Christ," I mean more than just reading the Bible together, going to church together, and not sleeping together. I mean they were daily demonstrating the love and mercy of Christ in each other's lives. Both had made mistakes, and both were experiencing the love and forgiveness of Christ more fully because of their love and forgiveness for each other. They saw Jesus more clearly because of one another.
I finally had to ask the question, "So...what are you thinking about the future?"
He didn't miss a beat as he looked me straight in the eye. "I love her. I'm going to marry her."
That's when I lost it. I don't know what happened. My eyes welled up, and I instantly tried to disguise it by coughing. But no, I thought, this is okay. This is beautiful.
I got another save-the-date in the mail last week. I've stopped putting them on my fridge, partly because I'm running out of room, but also because, well...engagement pictures have started making me ill. I don't want to be that guy. I don't want to be the guy that gripes about how he's always the groomsman and never the groom...the guy who gets all cynical about love and matrimony. But it's hard.
It's hard enough when you're still actively looking, hoping that around the next corner you just might meet your future bride. Sure it can get lonely, but there's always hope. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week...next year. But what about when your prospects are a little bleaker--when you're dealing with the fact that marriage might not be in the cards for you? What about when you so desperately want to start a family, but due to circumstances out of your control, that's highly unlikely (if not impossible)?
Call me bitter. Call me cynical, but smiling couples gazing into each other's eyes aren't what I need to see when pulling out another frozen entree that I'm about to scarf down over the kitchen sink.
Whenever I hear about another friend who's started dating, or another college acquaintance pops up engaged on Facebook, I'm normally fighting cynicism or mild depression. So why today-- when faced with another friend thinking about a ring--why did I have the opposite reaction? Why was I so overcome with such uncharacteristic happiness that I shed such uncharacteristic tears?
To be honest...I really don't know.
For a very long time, like the Avett Brothers' song, it's been "winter in my heart." There's nothing warm in there at all. The air in there is frigid cold. I think that's mostly been a defense mechanism. I've kept my heart frozen, afraid to let it feel anything. If I have to go through life alone, better to keep my heart frozen solid than to risk the pain of disappointment.
When I take inventory of my heart, it's definitely still winter. It's still coated with a thick layer of frost. But these tears today...they are a sign of something happening. I don't know what it is yet, but it's different. Is it a thaw? Dare I hope?
Today, when those tears leapt to my eyes, I felt. I felt deeply, and it felt good. I was warmed by the idea of love, not my own love, but someone else's love--not my relationship, but someone else's relationship. I normally have to fake that kind of feeling.
Now, I don't want to confuse metaphors. I'm not saying I feel my attractions or my orientations changing. No, not at this point...not on a broad scale. But when I felt today, when my heart felt something like that, it made me rethink retiring my heart to the back of the freezer just yet. For the first time in a while, marriage (and it's picture of Christ's love for the Church) was more beautiful to me than repressive or exclusive. I wanted it. I wanted it the way God intended it to be...the way He designed it.
I'm fully aware this may not be God's plan for me...and that's okay. The only fundamental ingredient to my happiness is Christ, and anything I try to add to that equation is idolatry. But I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet, and I don't think God wants me to. I'm not actively seeking a wife right now, but I don't want to close myself off to the possibility. If I go ahead and put my heart into deep freeze (at least the part of my heart that longs for this kind of intimacy), it won't go bad, but it'll never experience what I got the smallest taste of today. Am I risking pain, hurt, sorrow, frustration? Sure...but that's life. And right now, I think life is well worth the risk.
I'm not declaring victory. Shoot, I don't know if I'm even declaring war. There's still an awful lot of snow on the ground. But when I cried today, I saw a flower poking its head up through the frost. It told me, hold on...spring is coming. It may not look exactly how you've always imagined. It may not be what you're expecting. It may not even be just what you want. But it's coming. Spring is coming. Don't lose hope.
Spring is coming.
Your Brother Behind the Mask
"I was hoping winter was over." -- Lars
"No, it's just a thaw -- winter isn't over until Easter." -- Margo
--Lars and the Real Girl