"Jordan, I know you're really busy this semester. So, would it be helpful if we just scheduled a time to hang out? Like once or twice a week? But on days that I don't see you I think I would need like a 5 minute phone call if that's ok."
I felt like I spoke in little more than a whisper and inside I was dreading his response. I prepared my heart to hear, "Ya I think just once a week and we will have to see about the phone calls." "Babe, I don't know, we will just have to feel it out." "I really can't add anything else to my schedule right now."
In true Jordan Rice fashion, he blew my expectations and cradled my heart better than I could've asked for.
He said, "No, Taylor. That's stupid and protective. It's not condusive to intimacy. Let me love you."
The last few weeks of our winter break were a prison for me. I don't know the ingredients that went into it, but I do know that I was anxious out of my mind that Jordan would discard me once our semester got going. As someone who unwillingly houses an insecurity that she's a burden and too needy, I had been plotting the best way to hide my heart from busy Jordan and stay out of his way so that I wouldn't get hurt or disappointed.
This perfect little schedule I concocted was going to keep me safe and keep just enough distance between Jordan and I so that there was no possibility for my heart to get trampled. Jordan saw the root of my proposal immediately and knew the state of my heart was already building a wall between us. And he was not willing to play that game.
I had a choice. I could choose to keep frantically building my castle with a high, high tower, or, I could let my heart feel all the love, all the longing, all the hope and all the joy I have because of Jordan and risk those being violated.
Love is risk, people, there's no getting around it.
Turns out, this semester Jordan has stunned me and taken our relationship above and beyond where I thought our relationship would be able to go amidst the college busy.
While I was trying to serve and love him by getting out of his way, he was determined to serve and love me by going deeper into my heart and showing me that my insecurities pale in comparison to fighting for real intimacy. The moment I decided to step into the risk and open my heart to Jordan no matter what, and to trust that fighting for intimacy was better than protecting myself from harm, my insecurity fell and I walked in freedom.
The moment I decided to trust Jordan with my heart and our relationship, I found new strength to stand by him without fear of rejection.
If there's one thing that I wish couples would cling to, it's that trust is the only ground that intimacy can grow in.
Will people be perfect? No. Can you put aside God and only rely on them? No. Will you get hurt? Over and over and over again.
But if we don't trust, we stay feeling hurt, offended, rejected, and alone. Mistrust is ground that only grows bitterness.
I've been thinking a lot about the concept of "choosing your hard." What battles are worth fighting? What does it mean to fight for intimacy by waging war against insecurities? When is a relationship truly not working?
Your relationship won't hold up if you don't unconditionally trust each other in every area. And, let me tell you, there are always places of mistrust to be conquered.
No matter how many insecurities someone is dealing with, Jesus can overcome them if you're willing to stick it out and love them through it. But there's no shame if you're not interested in fighting those battles.
I've lived my own war-stories and heard my fair share about hard things in relationships and what they mean.
They mean what you want them to mean. And if you're not finding peace in the meaning you've attached to them, let go and let your gut lead. It's a really good leader.
I would love to share some tools about how to feel confident in your choices by telling some real life relationship stories complete with their questions, their baggage, and their glories.
"People keep telling me that marriage is going to be harder than dating. If that's true, then I don't want to go down that route. Do you feel like your relationship will get harder as you get closer to marriage?"
Those were some loaded words. I trusted my friend and knew that she wasn't trying to take the easy way out and avoid "hard stuff" just because stuff is hard. She was trying to discern what was in front of her with her current relationship. I didn't answer right away. I sat and thought and this is what came out:
"I think the hardness will be in the fact that deeper insecurities will surface and there's greater risk in what I choose to do with them. What I mean is that as my heart grows to selflessly love Jordan, I won't be able to love and serve him as deeply as I want to while continuing to carry around the same baggage and insecurities. All that our insecurities want is to stay hidden. But, if we give into that, our willingness for giving and receiving intimacy is damaged. If my desire is to truly love and serve Jordan as wholly as I can, then I will have to be more vulnerable with him about my insecurities so that we can both work to heal them. With that healing will come a greater strength to love. We have to choose our "hard." We can choose to stay "unhealed' which is hard, or, we can choose to fight for healing, which is also hard.
The night before this conversation, Jordan and I had fought about something stupid (it's almost always something stupid, isn't it?). We ended up both getting angry and hurting each other and needing to take a few hours away to settle down. When we talked through it later on the phone that night, Jordan said to me, "Taylor, what was that? What you were saying and how you were acting wasn't you." (Jordan and I have a strong resolve to never attach anything from the kingdom of darkness to one another's identity. Christ made us new so that's the identity we encourage in one another. To this day I don't think he has ever "called" me or "named" me anything having to do with my old self).
He was right and I tearfully explained the deeper insecurity that manifested through my anger and suspicions towards him earlier. He comforted me and said, "Taylor, if you had suppressed that and not brought it to me, even though there was anger involved, you would be missing out on this healing right now." He reaffirmed my true identity in Christ and reminded me of his love for me. We hung up and I told God about my insecurity and fear and have felt more free than ever surrounding that particular insecurity.
Along with resolving to keep darkness in its place (out of our identity), Jordan and I try to always see our anger as an invitation to deeper healing for our relationship and us as individuals. I think this is especially important to keep offense from taking root. If we aren't careful, we can let those times of hurt be the bricks that build walls between us. If one of us gets mad at the other, instead of getting defensive and lashing out to protect ourselves, we've decided to be brave and go through the anger towards healing.
Another friend of mine came to me and confessed that she always got angry when her boyfriend tried to pray or read the Bible with her. She said she knew that was good for them but she couldn't shake being annoyed and it was grieving her. I went with my gut and said, "Don't try to read the Bible or pray together right now." She looked at me, puzzled, and I was puzzled at my words too. The Spirit then brought Matthew 5:23-24 to my mind,
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift."
Surrounding that passage, Jesus was teaching about the difference between the Law the new Relationship with God that He was bringing into the world. The Law said murder was murder but Relationship says anger is murder because both are an offense to intimacy. In light of this passage, I said to my friend, "Do you guys have built up offenses towards each other that you need to confess and work through?" Tearfully she said yes. "You guys need to be united in peace between each other before you can offer that gift of prayer or Bible reading to God. Of course, you don't have to be perfect to go into God's presence, but, if your hearts are in a stubborn hurt, they won't be open for God to heal." That gave her hope and we continued to talk about how to work through and tear down old and built up offenses.
A few weeks earlier to that conversation, Jordan and I had our own "confession session." It goes down in my memory as one of the most powerful and tender exchanges between Jordan and I. But it started off terribly ugly.
It was late and Jordan and I had just gotten back to my house after spending several hours in prayer for a friend. We sat in the car and processed through the ministry time when I brought up something that had bothered me, "I feel like you were giving me weird looks when I would pray or speak up. It made me feel like you didn't trust me in that ministry setting. What is that or something else?" Jordan didn't say anything at first. I let it sit then pressed him again. He said, "I don't want to say because it's not true." I told him he should because obviously something deeper is surfacing that needs attention. He said, "I don't trust you in ministry." This prayer meeting wasn't the first time I had wondered about that. It hurt me to hear that confession and I started to cry.
He continued, "But I don't want that to stay in my heart. You've done nothing to earn my mistrust and it's a lie that needs to be uprooted." I agreed and said that it hurt but that I wasn't taking offense at him. I knew all too well the ridiculous, unfounded beliefs that we can latch onto. But, to my surprise, the conversation took a different route. Jordan said, "I also feel like you're more guarded around me than I am with you. I feel like you know me more than I know you." I was stunned silent until the truth of it sunk in.
Without warning I began to weep and recount random hurts, insecurities, and shame that I hadn't emotionally processed before. He just held me and listened. When I finished he prayed for us and reaffirmed his love for me. Since that night, there has been no question in either of our minds that we trust each other fully to walk out the gifts that God has given us in ministry and every other area. And I have lived more freely because I took one more step towards allowing myself to be fully known so that I might have the chance to be fully loved by another human.
The point in all these stories is that we can choose what's hard in our relationships. We can choose to see something as a roadblock or a gateway to intimacy. Some battles are not worth fighting, but let's fight the ones that are with a perspective that actually permits success; the perspective, or dare I say the Truth, that anger and conflict reveal wounds that will heal when love is poured out on them. Let's be kind to ourselves and give our souls and our relationships that chance.