Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth...”
Let’s be honest, my love life (if I’m allowed to have a “love life” as a Pastor’s Kid turned Pastor) has, for the most part, been like one of those junior dance recitals you had to go to for your friend’s little sister — children twirling in tutus over and over again, trying not to get too dizzy while wearing way too much hairspray and lipstick.
Sure, they’re doing the same steps as a ballerina, but possessing zero of her grace. There’s absolutely no flow to it, and, though it’s cute to watch, you find yourself stifling a giggle every now and then.
Dance Recital > My Love Life.
Don’t get me wrong. There have been some big swells in the music, moments of elation, just like in the movies, where, if you were watching from the outside, you would think everything was about to fall into place. But for the most part, my love stories have taken a turn for the worse. I’ve been left standing confused and alone (in the rain… with sad music playing softly in the background… or something like that).
The bible says in Proverbs 13 that “hope deferred makes the heart sick…” Or, in the Elyse Murphy translation (ahem, not an actual translation), when we have dreams that keep getting delayed, we have hearts that keep getting heavier. So what do we do when our hope has been overtaken by heartache? When this “opportune time” we hear about feels more like a train that forgot to stop at our station? Or when the dance choreography keeps changing and we can’t keep up with the steps?
My dance started slow, very slow, watching the other dancers leap freely. You see, until the age of eighteen, I wasn’t allowed to date. Pastors Kid, remember? Whether I thought that rule was fair or child abuse, it was the rule.
If I wanted to date, I had to do it secretly and within the confines of an eight-minute bus ride to and from school each day, which wasn’t too effective. Added to that, I didn’t know how to talk to any boy that didn’t share the same last name as me.
But soon after that blessed day of July 24th 2007, the dance changed. Once I left school and had my first kind-of-but-still-not-quite real relationship (turned heartbreak) with the boy I thought would be my leading man, it’s like the floodgates opened.
To be fair, the floodgates consisted less of actual boyfriends (and official changes in relationship status) and more of text messages and awkward encounters, unrequited flirting, skype “dates”, late night phone calls with declarations of my undying butterflies, awkward breakups that weren’t really breakups, and… Well, you get the idea.
Dancing was exhausting. Dancing is still exhausting. So many steps, so little movement.
I have so many stories of ‘oopsie’s’, ‘almosts’ and ‘never again’s’ that I could probably create a book of them. And actually? Maybe one day I will. As I was saying…
When I think about my journey so far, it can be a little depressing if I start to compare. After all, I’m not exactly “Mary Jane” who has always known how to do a pirouette, meeting her soul mate at four-years-old and getting married at eighteen, waiting until her wedding day to hold his hand, of course.
So often we keep trying to find some method to this whole thing, but what if that’s not the way our dance is supposed to go? What if figuring out your own routine is less about learning the choreography and more about trusting your instinct and going with the music?
After all, relationships might just be the messiest part of our existence.
There is no cookie-cutter way to find the one you want to spend ‘forever’ with, there’s no one size fits all. There’s no template, no manual or foolproof system, because, at some point, we’re all kind of foolish at it… in the nicest possible way. Yes, even if we’re in ministry.
And there’s a reason I have so many stories, which are increasingly entertaining for my friends during a girls Taco Tuesday night. It’s not because I keep getting it wrong (granted there are a moments of stupid I wouldn’t mind rewinding), but because I put so much pressure on myself to get it right.
And yet, when it comes to dating, we rush to choreograph the entire recital, instead of just focusing on the next step.
Maybe when it says in Psalm 119, “I am a lamp to your feet and a light to your path,” God wasn’t talking vaguely, but very specifically, to us. Because we do that, don’t we? We insist on lighting the entire pathway before we’ve ever taken a step, and freaking ourselves out in the process. Scripture reminds us that we were never meant to carry the weight of an entire journey, just the obedience of a single step.
We feel so much pressure to commit to ‘forever’ after just one cup of coffee, that we burn our tongue trying to drink it quickly. We forget to breathe, listen, or respond, then we run for the hills at the first opportunity, deciding the answer must be never! Maybe we just need to remind ourselves that, for right now, the only promise we need to make is that we won’t make any promises, just yet.
Saying yes to a movie, a hike or a last-minute adventure to find the best pizza place in town, doesn’t mean saying yes “till death do us part.”
And I’m discovering that maybe; just maybe, the beauty isn’t in walking down the aisle, although that will be a perfectly beautiful day.
The beauty is in finally learning to dance.
Matthew 6:34 (The Message) “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
Elyse Murphy is a writer, pastor, and international speaker. Her experiences of life as a pastor’s kid have led Elyse to write her first book“Confessions of a Church Kid.” Elyse now resides in Los Angeles, working with young adults and ministering as one of the pastors at Oasis Church in Downtown Hollywood. Connect with Elyse on her blog.