Intimate Strangers

26 Jun

Navigating through these survey responses sometimes makes me feel like a stranger in my own home.  Out of place at times.  I’m trying my best to navigate through them without feeling the need to grab a pint of Häagen-Dazs and eat straight out of the container.

The affects of the hundred crunches I did this morning tells me to refrain from it and I begin to pour through the responses.

Something clearly sticks out to me.

Ladies in their twenties find intimacy to be a scary thing.

They use words like “nervous” .. “scary” .. “frightening” .. “cautious” 

In a world where sexuality is on full blast, intimacy is often pushed under the rug.  How can we be so comfortable yet so uncomfortable?

- – -

Observations on Intimacy: 

(3o0 ppl. surveyed)

(1) Twenty-something men generally think of the act of physical sex as intimacy.  Simple response.  Black and white, really.  Sex was the most common word that came up in their responses for their thoughts on “words that come to mind when you think ‘intimacy'”.

(2) Twenty-something women described their feelings when they thought of words describing intimacy.  They shared their fears, doubts, reservations, and insecurities.

(3) Men describe intimacy in clear-cut lines, tangible black and white categories, while women are not able to disconnect tangible affection from the emotional. There is a lot of room for gray and color with them.

(4) Brokenness in intimacy among twenty-somethings is the common elephant-in-the-room.

- – -

In many ways, the difference between men and women in terms of intimacy is vast and loud.  I can’t help but wonder what are some of the experiences that women have felt or have seen that cause genuine fear.  Where’s the disconnect?  Relationships and marriages often involve intimacy, but for many, one or both individuals approach it as strangers.

Can you imagine.. intimate strangers?  

Everything in me wants to close the gap.

I’m going to put this on pause for now.. giving us some time to chew on the above.. and I’ll share more of my thoughts on intimacy among twenty-somethings in a little bit.

Think & Chat: How do we bridge the gap between strangers?  How can we perceive intimacy through a lens that is restored, healthy, and pure?  What are some external factors that change the perception of intimacy today?  What are some things that come to YOUR mind when you think about this idea of ‘intimate strangers’?  Let’s begin to talk these things out..

Can you Have Your Cake and Eat it Too?

18 Jun

Eat Cake

They want to have their cake and eat it too.

This is the trend I’m beginning to notice with men that I’ve had conversations with recently.

Everything in me wants to scream in frustration, but I put aside my temper (to match my ‘what should be red hair’) and I listen.  I stop conjuring up a response in my head and simply listen.  There’s something to be said about choosing to be slow to speak and being quick to hear.  Conversations tend to go a LOT better.

Four very different men who wouldn’t label themselves as ‘practicing Christians’ chatted with me on this concept.

They want the ‘good girl’.  

What’s the good girl?  The girl who is kind, loving, responsible, family oriented, no drama, intelligent, beautiful, funny, and has morals.  The irony in this is they find themselves attracted to girls who follow Jesus.  They interact with them at work or in school or even through friends every day.  Funny how that works right?  They spend so many years avoiding the one thing that is now beautiful to them: the work of Jesus in the life of a messed up person.

They want ‘the bad girl’.

What’s the bad girl?  The girl who is feisty, takes risks, isn’t waiting to always be led but takes the lead sometimes, doesn’t think about consequences, lives out the here and now, mysterious, and open-minded in all things sexual.

This is the struggle.  They cannot imagine relationships not revolving around their physical desires.  This leads them to temporary solutions. They’re always wanting more.  Always. They have one foot in the door and one foot out the door.  So begins the downward spiral of rebound relationships, broken hearts, hooking up, and one-night-stands.

Hip hop artist, Drake, has a song that is titled “Hold On We’re Going Home”.  The entire song is about this idea of a man spotting out a woman he is drawn to that is genuinely a ‘good girl’.  On the surface, she is exactly like the other girls, but he finds her to be different.

That’s the pattern I find with these conversations I’m having – they want the good girl, but they also want the bad one.  A Jekyll and Hyde thing really. They want to have their cake and eat it too.  Can it be done though?  Does it truly satisfy?  I’d have to say no.  Sure, from the eyes of a young Christian lady, all that I see is through the lens of the Gospel, so I could be accused of having a major bias — which is why I ask those who don’t currently have the same lens if it’s possible to be done and be permanently satisfied.  I’m yet to receive a ‘yes’ response.

In a world where we tell ourselves we can have our cake and eat it too, let’s think for a moment..

Religion and belief aside.

Race and ethnicity aside.

Gender aside.

Socio-economic status aside.

Does this way of thinking and living bring you long-lasting contentment?  Does it truly work?  What compels you to want both?  Is there something deeper than what your eyes can see?

Go deep. 

There is one who has all of the answers to your questions.  He is the answer.  I can promise you one thing: if you seek Christ – you will find Him.  If you find Him, you will realize that nothing on earth compares to knowing and loving Him.

-

Let’s chat: What do you think about this emerging trend?  Do you agree or disagree with the ‘have your cake and eat it too’ policy with relationships?  Grab a cup o’ Joe and share your thoughts.. I’d love to hear from y’all!

Thank you!

18 Jun

In the process of writing and uncovering patterns about love within my generation, I realized the best approach (apart from face-to-face conversations) is to create a quick, but detailed survey that can be sent to the masses.  It gives people room to remain anonymous but the freedom to speak what’s on their mind.  It creates a story to every response.  Y’all know how much I’m a goober for stories!

And so I created the survey.  I asked questions on love, marriage, and intimacy.. and y’all responded!

“Perspectives: Love and Life”

Thank you so much!

For real though, thank you!  A writer cannot write without the inspiration and stories of others in her life.  It helps shape the writer into who she chooses to be.  You all are that inspiration for me.  I’m wrestling through tons of emotions as I go through these responses.

Sadness.

Joy.

Heaviness.

Amusement.

I will eventually get through them, even if I have to go through them in waves.  I think you will be fascinated by what twenty-somethings all over the U.S. are looking for in terms of love.

Again, I’m grateful for y’all.. and let’s chat soon!

Being Found

12 Jun

‘You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.’  -C.S. Lewis

I picture a middle-aged man sitting alone in a semi-dark room, slightly lit by candle-light, head held up by his hands and deep in his thoughts.  He has a blank sheet in front of him ready to be written on and his mind is everywhere but there.  He’s told himself for years that God is not real.  Then he finds himself angry with his thoughts.. why can’t he simply get his work done?  If God doesn’t exist, why is He always on his mind?

I absolutely love that C.S. Lewis penned this because it is so relate-able to me.  Many of us have been here.. fearing, almost dreading the pursuit of God in our lives.. and so we run as fast as we can, hoping He’ll move on to the next sorry bloke.  We cannot understand the chase.  It’s intense.  We’ve experienced nothing like it before.  It doesn’t even make sense when we try to put it into logical terms.

Then, something happens..

We find God.

God finds us.

(for lack of a better term)

After years of His unrelenting, stubborn love for us.. our eyes are opened to the beauty of the Gospel.

  • This Gospel which shares that God’s love for us is so deep that He sent His own Son to be murdered on behalf of all of our sins.
  • This Gospel which shares that God is holy and just, and there is no way for us to be brought near to Him without completely righteous, innocent blood being shed as a sacrificial substitute.
  • This Gospel which shares that through the brutality of the Cross, you and I are now adopted into His family.

There is no greater love than this.. a sinless man would lay down His life for his enemies 

What are you looking for today?

Has running away from God brought you closer to what you’re looking for?

Let’s stop running for a moment.  Just a moment.  Be still.  Let’s think about what we are truly looking for .. and in the process, do not be taken back if you find yourself surprised by JOY .. because in the pursuit of life and love .. Christ finds you.

Blue-in-the-Face Love

10 Jun

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about one of my dear friends.  She’s been struggling with love.. and Jesus.

One is the essence of the other .. when God gets taken out of the equation, the other doesn’t exist.

She finds herself hitting a wall of frustration with loving family, friends, and people in general.  She simply does not know how.

My heart aches for her.

She’s a twenty-something that is figuring out the basics of Christianity all over again.

What is love?

We’ve all been here.

..months since we’ve last talked to God.

..months since we’ve last read the Word.

..months since we’ve last been in Godly, encouraging community.

But, we insist on living life to the best of our abilities.  We smile. We laugh. We occupy our days and nights with things and more things.  Everything around us seems to be going right – going up the ladder at work, health is great, family life is looking positive.  We have everything this world can offer, literally, but we struggle to love and be loved.  We ignore that still-small voice inside of us that now sounds like a blow-horn, ‘nagging’ us to examine the way we love people.

We’re running on fumes.

We don’t know how to love people.

At once, we walked with a swagger because we thought we loved well.. now we’re walking on egg shells.  It doesn’t feel natural.  Where’s the manual for loving specific individuals and personalities?

It hurts.

It’s uncomfortable.

It makes us frustrated.

It is exhausting.

We begin to wonder is love really worth it.  Is it worth the effort and the energy we exert?

That voice inside of us which speaks Truth in the midst of our many emotions speaks clarity into the situation:‘Yes, love is worth the fight.  Love is worth the battle. Abide in Me and I in you.  I am love.’

In Christian circles, people have spent so much time battling theology and Biblical principles, that we’ve forgotten the beauty and simplicity and depth to love.  Theology without love is a disaster.  Biblical principles without a heart that exudes love for its Maker is simply morality at its best.  It’s not of Christ and it’s worthless in my opinion.  When the rubber meets the road, their love for Christ doesn’t reflect in the way that they love people.  My heart is torn as I continue to do life here on Earth and I see hurting, bruised loved ones leaving the Church.  When my head hits the pillow at night, I don’t rest well thinking about these things without doing something.

I pray.

I connect.

I ask questions.

I pray some more.

I don’t stop connecting.

So, as I’m trying to figure out love in the web of all the Church has taught me over the past 27 years.. I’m realizing that the depth of it is simple: God is love and apart from Him, there is no love in me I can find of my own.  I can wear a million hats and juggle tons of plates, but without love I am nothing.  Without Christ, there is no good thing in me.  No good.  Nothing.  With Christ, there is something that this world cannot take away – finding joy as we love the people around us.

- – -

What do you do as a Christian?  Look around you.  Open your eyes to those hurting.  The twenty-somethings and the thirty-somethings who are leaving the Church all around us. The ones frustrated by religion and cannot seem to find Christianity to be attractive anymore.  Love them till you’re blue in the face.  Yes, Willy Wonka blue. You’re not too busy.  You’re not too important.  You’re not too scattered.  Beg God for grace to sustain and patience to endure.  Love is not easy.  It is a fight.  Love is the only fight that enables both sides to win.  When the punches are all thrown and the bruises are all tender, get back up again and try again.  Love that family member.  Love that co-worker.  Love that friend.  Love that neighbor.
Before you look to change the world around you, have love be a part of your own DNA and let it change you.  May your love for Christ be so attractive that it draws men unto Him.  Not you.  Step aside.

- – -

As I think about my friend and what is the best way to serve her weary heart, I think about genuine blue-in-the-face love.  Christians may be the last thing she wants anything to do with right now, but I know (that I know.. that I know) that love will draw her back to Jesus.

What are they looking for?

6 Jun

I did something I never thought I would do in a million years.. let alone find myself writing about it.

I joined a ‘social/dating site’.  WHAT!  Yes.  Why?  Honestly, I wanted to see what was out there.  A part of me was curious about what this generation of single folks even looks like these days.  There really is a minority of them and oftentimes they are overlooked in communal settings.

So, what began with just chatting with a few different guys.. Christian and non-Christian, really got the wheels in my head turning.  I’m such a researcher in my core, I can’t even shake it off if I try.  The conversations that I had with 2 specific guys who are not Christian really had me thinking about the state of my peers, the twenty-somethings, and their pursuit of love.  It’s really a fascinating thing when you sit down and talk to people about life and love.  Some are uber tight-lipped, but for the most part, many are simply looking for people to draw them out and to ask the right questions.

Let me share with y’all some of the things I’ve been learning through these simple weighty conversations.  This began in me a pursuit for learning more about our generation through the lens of a Jesus-lover to a world who desperately needs Him and isn’t aware of their need.

So, this is the start to what I hope will one day be a book .. “What are they looking for?  Love and Intimacy among the Next-Generation” 

For the sake of privacy, I will use different names instead of their born names, I’ll call them Lucas and Caleb.

  • Lucas is an engineer.  He is twenty-seven.  He grew up in a Catholic home.  A pretty broken home.. his parents split when he was 6.  He calls himself an atheist.  He really is a brilliant man with social skills for days (which is a rarity among people in this field, ha, sorry engineers!).  He cannot differentiate religious people from those who call themselves Christians.  His encounters with “religious people” have been negative.  He refers to many of them as ‘mean’.  He does not have a Christian friend, not one.  He never has.  Talking to him about his views on marriage and love is a heartbreaking thing — it’s fractured and cloudy.  In his eyes, there is no purpose in marriage when people will mess things up and split.  He puts marriage and a ‘serious relationship’ on the same level.  His words, not mine.. “why cheat and keep the person hanging on when you’re obviously not into it. Just be forward. End it and do your thing.”  He says that the way I live is a standard, one that is the minority in America but still part of ‘American mentality’.  He then asked me “if everyone is happy with the committed relationship without marriage, why go further?”  I went into telling him how I couldn’t really explain my response without sharing my faith, because apart from my belief of Christ, none of this is anything but possibly morality.  We could agree on one thing — what society has made of intimacy is broken and messy.  When I re-winded back to my original point, I asked him “what’s the highest point of a non-marital dating relationship?  Even companionship hits a glass ceiling.  What’s next?”  His response was “Yeah I guess the peak is when you get bored”.  He never got the opportunity to unpack this before.  At twenty-seven, this was the first time He talked honestly about his thoughts on love.  By the end of the conversation, he admitted that he didn’t know what he was looking for.  Reading between the lines, I knew the heavy topic got him thinking about what love really is.  Who can it be found in?  Surprisingly, He still owns a Bible.. I pray he searches out the Truth for himself one day.  Love is broken apart from Jesus.  Everyone is bound to hurt you at one point or another in their lives.  Some people may even leave..

..but Christ

  • Caleb is a market research analyst.  He is twenty-six.  He also grew up in a Catholic family.  He doesn’t practice anything currently.  His parents are still together.. the ‘ideal’ American story, really.  Unlike Lucas, Caleb doesn’t see love as something that will always end in disaster.  He’s Irish and Italian and has the temperament of the combination.  Literally.  He’s got a personality for miles.  He doesn’t interact with Christians.  He sees Christianity as religion, nothing more, nothing less.  He perceives God as an aspect of religion, a rule setter.  He cannot understand why people wait to consummate their marriage.  “Is it because religion tells them to?”  Sex in his opinion can be done in 2 ways: with someone you truly love or casually.  He thinks casually is wrong.  Morality is a funny thing, isn’t it?  People set their own standards for themselves.  As Christians, this is where we are called to go against the grain: our standard is Christ.  He sets the bar.  Everything in our lives is seen through the lens of the Gospel.  My standard cannot be my own.  When asked if he has ever found contentment in any of his past relationships, he said “one, maybe”.  I questioned the maybe part, ha, of course.  He said he wasn’t willing to commit and she wanted more.  So I asked him, “do you ever wonder when you’ll stop going from person to person?  Is the grass really greener on the other side?  There will always be more out there. When do you stop searching?”  He was left pretty floored.  He never had the opportunity to think about it till now.

..living life for the glory of Another

Here’s what I found interesting about both men.  They are overall ‘wholesome’ men.  Good guys, really.  One is searching for companionship, and nothing more.  The other is searching for more, but has never allowed companionship to keep a relationship going.  Two very different guys with very different perspectives on life and love, but yet so similar.  They search for beauty and don’t understand the Giver of beauty.  Their perspectives on love change with the wind.  Neither have had decent interactions with Christians and both have perceived assumptions on them.  I was their longest ‘great conversation’ with a Christian. Ever.  Their words, not mine.  Sad really.

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This generation is seeking truth and they are on this manhunt to find love, but constantly come up empty.  What’s your role as a Christian?  Pray for their souls.  Pray that God would open your peers’ hearts to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Nothing else matters.  All of this stuff is fluff when we stand at the feet of Christ.  Don’t be so intimidated to have conversations with non-Christians, yes, even those of the opposite sex.  I’m sure many are raising their brows at me.  Tell them about the Giver of love, intimacy, and beauty.  Keeping that knowledge to yourself is selfish and un-Biblical honestly.  Have compassion on those around you.  Stop being so quick to speak.  Listen. Listen. Listen.  Then, beg God for wisdom and grace to speak words if need be.

-

I’m really looking forward to sharing with you other stories of people who have just been getting me thinking about life, love, and truth.  With both of these guys, I left them with sharing.. “What are you truly looking for?  Why do you believe what you do?”

Walking in light

4 Jun

Ever deal with suppressed emotions for months and find yourself struggling with the rawness of it all?

You spend so much time being tight-lipped about life and you tell yourself it will somehow get better.

In reality, it doesn’t.

These days, I’ve been re-learning the beauty and importance of walking in the light.  As Christians, we are called, commanded to walk in light.  It’s not an option.  God does not expect us to have our stuff together.  He certainly does not expect us to be perfect.  Everything may not be dotted or crossed, but He calls us to draw near to Him with everything in our hearts.  We pursue the Lord with a heart full of repentance and expectation, waiting for Him to meet us at that very moment.  When you don’t walk in the light, you find your joy being sucked right out of you.  Literally.  

I’m officially tired .. of being tired.

Nothing here on earth is worth robbing me of my joy in Christ and I’m learning to stand firm in that.

The key word is ‘learning’ ..

I feel awfully wobbly right now.

I’m simply clinging to the grace of God.

I’m trusting the Lord with the dimensions of my weary heart.  I’m believing that He will pick up the broken pieces.. again.. and bring joy and life back.  I’m learning to let go of frustrations and pain and trusting that in the midst of His Sovereignty in my life, He somehow loves me.  All of me.  Like no one ever has and like no one ever will be able to.

..you can find me hiding in the shadow of His wings, it’s where I feel most at home.

walk-in-the-light-floriana-barbu

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