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What is important in a relationship? Chapter 1 of 10 – Why it is okay to be single…wait…what?

Before I write anything on this topic, I must offer a disclaimer: I am only human. My views are not universally constant, and to be totally honest, I am still figuring this relationship thing out. I just have a few ideas, small and big, that might be workable for others, so I want to present them. Feel free to hear me out, but if you think you have it all together, go ahead and move along. If you’d like. 

Well, here is something I haven’t done before; a self-help series! I want to offer you, as the blogger, some tips that might help in the topic of dating and singleness. These, as previously stated, are not umbrella concepts. They are just concepts I’ve mulled over in my own relationship, and hopefully they, in some way, might have some sort of application to your life, single or not! I have ten tips, and I will present each of them over the next few weeks, hopefully ending on December 31st, so you can start a new year with your significant other, trying some new things. 

Today, I will present my introduction, and my first tip!

Introduction: Dating is a weird aspect of human life. We dance around people of the opposite sex, hoping to impress them with some odd cocktail of pheremones, eventually to commit only to them, get married, and procreate. Why in the world do we do this? It makes no sense at all sometimes, until we go back to the beginning of time, and look at the world’s first couple. In the Bible, Adam was the first man, and he was alone – one man to name every animal on Earth. That job seems massive, right? God decided that no animal would do any good for Adam as a partner, so he created Eve (from one of Adam’s ribs – SCIENCE!), and Adam finally had a partner suitable for living with. God said that this partnering of Adam and Eve was good, so all was well with the world upon this pairing. I think if you were to look at the triune Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Ghost) and the very first relationship on Earth, you would probably begin to see that it was okay to be in community with others, whether in a romantic sense or otherwise. I think God desires for us to have companionship. It doesn’t have to be romantic, but I think we need to establish that perpetual isolation is not the best option. We must pursue interpersonal relationships with other people, and I think personally that the way we think and feel will improve because of more interaction. In this series I will probably focus on the romantic side of a relationship, but hopefully, you will find that some aspects I’ll discuss will transfer over into the world of friendship as well! All relationships are important, whether good bad or otherwise, and hopefully these conversations will help us understand that a little better. I want to discuss some misconceptions about relationships over the next few days, and hopefully provide insight that might bring you all some peace, new understanding, or reaffirmation of an idea that you already had! Are you ready, because I’m not! This will be fun. 

1. IT IS OKAY TO BE SINGLE. Really. I promise. 

This post goes out to all of the friends and strangers that – like me, have felt struggles to feel right in their singleness. For the longest time, I couldn’t deal with being single. All of my friends were pairing off, and it seemed like I would move to a place of “Old Maidhood,” in which I would just be a crazy old single friend that no one wanted to be around anymore. I felt lost, and I felt lonely. It felt like, without a girlfriend, I wouldn’t be able to make it. I moved from affection to affection, seeking some sort of satisfaction, but never experiencing any. It was really hard to look at my friends who were in relationships, and honestly, I just felt like sitting alone was the only thing I could do in peace anymore (totally counter-intuitive. If you feel lonely, don’t go be alone. That does no good. Just for what it’s worth), so I would try to do that. What I didn’t realize at that time was that it is okay, sometimes advantageous, to be single. (Let me throw in another disclaimer: I am no longer single. I’ve been in a committed relationship for over 3 years, and I couldn’t be happier! I just know that this relationship only started after I came to understand the benefits of singleness, so I feel as if I must bring forward the idea that it is indeed okay to not have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Just for what it’s worth.) Being single has several benefits, but for time’s sake, I will choose three:

1. Singleness can, on occasion, be beneficial for ministry efforts.

This is very much a contextual idea, but if you think about it, Jesus and Paul were both single. I think Paul especially was confident in his singleness, as it allowed him issue-free travelling, with no responsibility to provide for a family while on mission. This fit his ministry well, as he traveled all over the known world, sharing the Gospel with anyone who offered an ear. It is reasonable to think that this kind of travel and punishment (several jail trips, numerous other persecutions), would have been very exhaustive/damaging to a family, so it was better that he was single.

It is not always better to be single while doing ministry, as there are benefits to doing mission work alone, or in partnership (Going to save that idea for another post). As I mentioned earlier, I think singleness fits in many ministerial contexts, if you feel called to a ministry that requires singleness for effectiveness, I would encourage you to pursue that lifestyle. It may lead to a freedom and effectiveness in ministry that you might never have imagined. 

2. Sometimes it is okay to spend time just getting to know yourself. 

Let’s be honest – do you really feel like you know yourself? Do you? When you are in a relationship, your significant other will learn things about you – small things, sometimes things you didn’t even know – that may spark some very interesting conversations/arguments, and if you don’t know things in your life that are stumbling blocks or quirks that would cause relational problems, then you should probably take some time by yourself to learn about those things. No human on this Earth is perfect, so we all could probably use a time of reflection to figure out things that we don’t like that might be in our control. Our significant other should love us for our imperfections as much as our good qualities, but we can’t expect them to be perfect either. Our responsibility is to become the best us that we can be, in order for our relationship with our future significant other to be even more special, and even more successful. 

3. Dating for the sake of dating is not the best method for success. 

Dating is fun. I get it. Seriously though, don’t date unless you have prayed about it and prepped for it. Dating is a prep for a life together, so if you date and break up many times, then I would venture to say that you would struggle eventually with a lifetime commitment like marriage. Playing games with a person’s heart is unfair to that person’s future spouse. You can only imagine what that young person is going to go through after you break up, so it would almost be better if you never dated in the first place. I am not saying that not dating is the best option, but I am saying that you need to be very careful with the heart that you do decide to pursue. If a person is willing to put their feelings in your hands, then it is your responsibility to hold tight to them, and respect them, whether or not they end up in your possession or not. If you are not ready to handle a commitment like that, then you must make sure that your priorities are in the right place. Singleness is not a bad thing in this context. Until you are ready, wait. Pray. Think. Let the Lord work in your singleness, and pursue Him in all other aspects of your life as well. When you do that, you will find that He will bless and honor your relationships in a new and vibrant way. 

Singleness is just fine. Isolation and loneliness are not. Seek out community with other people, and let the Lord work in your relationships, and if all goes according to His plan (it will), then you will experience exactly what He wants for you, which is best. Sit tight, and hold onto Him. That’s all that matters. All of this relationship stuff will happen on His timing. I hope you all will learn to become the best you, and things will improve in all aspects of life! I hope this blog held at least a little insight. If not, tell me now, and I’ll discontinue the series. If it did hold some worthwhile ideas, let me know, and I’ll keep it going! Thanks for reading this far, and I wish you the best as you look through some of the muddled thoughts that I like to present on a page. God bless!

Tomorrow’s post: Five Ideas for Application in Relationships. 

See you then! 

Jesse

My First Published Paper…Exciting, Eh?

Well, for the first time, I am a published author! Kind of. I got the opportunity to submit a cultural reflection essay for publication on the ECU Literary Blog, and they liked it, so it is now on the page! I am so happy, and God receives all of the glory for this experience. I thought I might post it on here, in order for you to see what you think. This is a paper all about me, and what makes me who I am. I hope you can relate to some of the ideas in this work. This started as an assignment in Ethnic Literature, so some of these references are from our textbook. I found this paper pretty therapeutic, so I hope you all appreciate it. Have a wonderful day, folks. 

Here it is: 

                                                                     Why Being Lost is Okay: My Story

     To be totally honest, I am really not sure who I am, or why I am here. As I thought through ideas for this reflection paper, I was thrust into a great existential crisis of sorts. I don’t really know who I am or where I am from, so naturally, reflecting on my ethnic origins would be difficult. As far as I know, I am of both Eastern European and Choctaw descent, with a little bit of Nova Scotian thrown in for good measure. My family has been in America for a couple hundred years, since before the Civil War, so a lot of my Non-American ancestors lie so deep in my lineage that they are really untraceable. My seeming ignorance of my heritage was brought forward as this assignment was put before me, and I am sad that I didn’t contemplate what makes me who I am a little earlier on in life. As a part of this reflection, I decided to think over some family traditions that have shaped my upbringing, some major ideas that have helped me grow into the man I am today, and some beliefs I held that being in a diverse area have challenged greatly. I have learned a great amount about myself and my “culture” in the last few weeks, and I hope to make my life more transparent in the next few pages.

     In order to better understand who I am today as a nineteen year old college student, you must first understand some of the traditions and beliefs that my family adheres to. We are a family that believes strongly in the Christian faith, each and every one of us pursuing Jesus and a life full of love for Him and others. Normally, I imagine that my personal beliefs wouldn’t be very well accepted in a paper, but as this is telling you about who I am, I feel it most important to tell you who I care about the most. I have been a Christ follower for over ten years, so naturally my love for Jesus and other people really has a great influence on my life. I have really been battling recently with what I believe and how I believe it, but I really do feel like Christian faith, if expressed in love, really is a beautiful belief. If I didn’t pursue my theological beliefs like I do, I would be unsure of what to do with myself. I also have struggled recently with the idea of acceptance and love, in terms of religious v. non-religious. I am learning that people sometimes are all-too-critical of others, when they themselves are not living in an honorable way. People who are religious are okay, and people who are not religious are okay. There really are not many differences between these groups of individuals.

     As we begin to understand the faith that holds my family together, we can take a look at a few family traditions that are linked to this core set of beliefs. The first and most important tradition that our family tries to hold to is the idea that a family who goes to church together stays together. My dad is a minister, so I have been in church since I was in my mother’s womb…literally. We try to go as often to the local church as possible, in order to recharge and refocus for the week to come. Church is much more than a social event for my family; it is an opportunity to grow together as a unit and to study the God we pursue so intently. I firmly believe that without church, our family wouldn’t be as close as it is. Church is the common thread that ties our family together, and it is vitally important to who I am as a human being.

     Another major set of traditions come in the form of holiday celebrations. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or any other major holiday, my immediate family and I always try to celebrate together. We believe that family unity is incredibly vital to success in life, and little things like dinner together and family moments really contribute to growth and successful maturation in each and every one of us. Our family is very strongly focused on unity and oneness, and I think my childhood and youth have been better for that fact. We have faced numerous hardships, but through it all, we have each other. That is all that matters.

     After understanding a little more about my upbringing, I think it is fair to set the focus squarely on myself and who I am. It sounds a little self-centered, but this paper is about me, so we will move on. I think understanding who I am comes down to seeing three key lessons learned in my life: first, everyone has a different story, so learn to listen before you speak, second, if an older person has something to tell you, listen; it may profound, and lastly, love is not something to be trifled with.

     Throughout my life, I have come into contact with many people of many different ethnicities, genders, and beliefs. These people all have lived different lives, yet, sometimes I would struggle with projecting their problems onto my culture, which did not help them solve those problems. As I have grown up, I’ve learned that listening and being appreciative of someone and their plight can be the best way to help them solve a problem. My intricacies are not the same as my neighbor’s, or my brother across the globe. If I were to take a more open perspective in looking at them and their lives, I feel like I would learn better how to act around them and interact with them, thereby making things easier for both parties. This lesson was hard for me to learn, having not really been exposed to the idea until my teens.

     In Robert Hayden’s poem Those Winter Sundays, our speaker is reflecting back on his time in the house with his father, and how he seemed to regret treating him rather poorly. In the last stanza he says:

 

…Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

             and polished my good shoes as well.

           What did I know, what did I know

                                  of love’s austere and lonely offices? (lines 10-14)

 

 

     Hayden seems to express in this poem the lesson that I have been learning since I arrived on my first college campus: parents know more than we think they know. My parents have been trying to instill some ideals and lessons in me ever since I could understand, but as most teens do, I resisted or rejected some of the ideas they tried to teach me. As I have grown into young adulthood, I’ve come to the sad realization that my parents were right in just about every situation where we butted heads. As times change, so do our understandings of different concepts and lessons that we learn. Hindsight really is 20/20 (forgive me for use of cliché, but it is true), and as I look back on my parents’ and grandparents’ teaching points, I see a lot of lessons and character ideas that have proved to be true in many ways.

     As for love, I don’t feel like anyone truly understands the depth of meaning held in those four letters. Love can fit in many different contexts, whether it’s family love, the love of a friend, or the love of a significant other. The relevance of love became more important to me recently, due to the fact that my parents’ relationship became very strained a few months ago. Some bad news came, and all in one week, I nearly lost both parents because of it. The depths of love were really tested as they worked through recovering from this issue, and so now I take the word love very seriously. I feel as if people throw it around flippantly, talking about how they “love that burger” or how they “love this movie.” I feel as if people have lost track of the meaning of love, and I hope that someday soon, they will learn why love is both wonderful and vital to life as we know it. This lesson, along with the two previously discussed, has had a great impact on my life, and how I have become the man I am today.

     The final area of life that has really influenced me comes down to some of my understandings of culture that have been greatly challenged. I grew up in a home of white Americans, in suburbs full of white Americans. My first exposure to diversity really didn’t occur until elementary school, when I was going to a school in the middle of the longest running desegregation in history. I was in a place where people were forcing themselves to love others of different colors and beliefs, and I do firmly believe that that experience distorted my understanding of race relations and interaction. As I grew up, I saw people who feigned love for others, only to hate them behind their backs, all because of the color of their skin. I had to learn from my family and others that true love for another individual comes from within, and that it has no skin color. I did not have any preconceived notions of how to handle people of other cultures, I was just taught to love and love unconditionally. This lesson came after leaving Louisiana, and I am so glad I was able to learn it. Another part of that lesson was coming to the understanding that racism is still alive and well in a lot of areas in America. As it turns out, we really never were truly free from the plague of hate and race frustration. I hope that lessons I’ve learned will hit others as they have hit me, hopefully helping them to understand how good it feels to love truly and compassionately.

     The idea of loving people and embracing diversity was only confirmed and empowered by my trips abroad to London and the Dominican Republic. In those places I saw a lot of elements of life that were similar to American culture, whether it be class differences, or just the way people interacted. People in other countries were very similar to the people I met here, which really caused me to think even harder about how I imagined other cultures and how the media portrays those cultures. I have really learned to embrace diversity and to appreciate people of other beliefs and upbringings, because without them, the Earth would not be what it is today. We are a diverse planet, and the perspective of the whole can really change the living dynamic of the few.

     Well, this is me. This is the reality I face: I am an American who doesn’t really know where I come from, or why I am here. I am a conglomeration; a mixing of hundreds of people and thousands of beliefs. Sure, I’m a little bit out of sorts, maybe even lost, but I know who I am. I am a man, almost twenty years old, seeking to understand my roots, and why I am who I am. I am living the only way I know how: passionately. I will pursue things that may seem out of the ordinary, only just to see if they are worth trying. I am myself, and confident in that fact. As I am writing, I am progressively feeling more confident in the identity that I am assuming, and why I am where I am at this time. My identity isn’t something that I will allow my culture to throw on to me, it is a set of beliefs and characteristics that I will choose for myself. Part of this identity will come from an acknowledgement of my past; the time of reflection that I took to write this paper has helped me tremendously in understanding some of the basic building blocks in my life, along with the reminder of why they were the chosen building blocks in the first place. This paper proved to be a sort of throwback for me, like in Mixed Blood by Phillip Carroll Morgan, when the speaker states that the back roads cause him to feel like he is “slowly changing/ from white man to indian/ like eroding wood” (lines 43-45). I did not change ethnicities as I wrote this paper, but I felt an odd sort of empathy with the speaker of this poem, as if he and I were feeling some of the same ideals. I felt a sudden connection to my roots, a sudden transformation, perhaps to what my family was, to who I am, and to what I belong to. I feel closer to understanding who I am than I ever thought I would be, and remembering where I came from has been great for helping me to understand where I need to go. In contrast to Natasha Tretheway’s poem Flounder, where the speaker feels an inner conflict stemming from her mixed-race, saying “I stood there watching that fish flip-flop,/ switch sides with every jump” (lines 27-28), I feel fully confident in who I am and what made me who I came to be. I have learned to respect others, love unconditionally, and listen before speaking. I have learned that the best way to help someone through an issue is to love them through it, and I have learned that the best hope in my life comes from Jesus Christ and Him alone. My hope is that people would see my life and find in it examples of how to love people and show great compassion, and maybe that example will spur them on to action. Maybe, as in my life, people will start loving each other and the world will see exactly what it claims to desire, change in the hearts of each and every individual. Maybe people will understand what true brotherhood really means. Maybe people will realize that being lost is okay, as long as we do it together.

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Hayden, Robert. “Those Winter Sundays.” reprinted in Poetry: An Introduction 6th edition.

     Edited by Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Marin’s, 2010, p. 21

 

Morgan, Phillip Carroll. “Mixed Blood.” The Fork-in-the-road Indian Poetry Store. Cambridge,

     England: Salt, 2006. N. pag. Print.

 

Tretheway, Natasha D., and Rita Dove. “Flounder.” Domestic Work: Poems. St. Paul, MN:

     Graywolf, 2000. N. pag. Print.

 

Wumbo. Because I couldn’t think of a cool blog title.

Blog time! So this week is homecoming week at ECU. What does that mean? I don’t know! I just got here. But I do plan to figure it out. I know there’s lots of pep rallies and food, and at some point, someone is playing football. I think. Isn’t that how this goes? Well. Anyways. I am writing this blog just because I can, I am struggling to come up with any rhyme or reason. So what is there to say? I had an idea to write a post about life, but nothing exciting is happening right now. I am just reading, writing papers, reading, hanging out with Tori, reading, and oh…did I mention I read alot? I have already read over 500 pages and written close to 40. Not even half way through the semester yet. Its been busy. And let me also say that this is not a humble brag, because let’s be honest. Who the heck brags about homework? I’m not that weird. Yet. I am just tired. I am loving life, and I feel like I am understanding my classes for the first time in a long time. If any of you would be interested in hearing about what I am learning or writing about, let me know! I have gobs of time to share it all via blog, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace (I just got it-how hipster of me! Well. No. Not really. That’s for a different post.), or any number of any methods. I am even willing to write letters. Just let me know friends! I love you all. Keep learning.

 

My Reading List So Far (Again, not a humble brag, just showing the amount I am assigned. I enjoy it.)

Beowulf : 256 pages

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: 237 pages

Pelican Shakespeare: The Sonnets: 208 pages

Mother Night: 288 pages

Randomly Assigned Readings: Over 60 pages

Three more books and a play to read!

15 Things you need to know if you are a future SBU student

Hey friends! I know that I am posting twice in a day, but I still haven’t put together a routine for this yet. I had an idea: since I am a graduate of SBU now, I thought I would impart some of my “infinite” knowledge about college and my experiences on you. I hope that even if this doesn’t seem relevant, hopefully you might catch a laugh or two from these tidbits.

Here we go!

  1. Go to Welcome Week! SBU has an orientation week that is spectacular. The committee in charge does a fantastic job in planning (I should know, I was on it for a while), and friendships you make at your Welcome Week or Orientation Week will be some of the best connections in your college career.
  2. Please, PLEASE do not wear your lanyard around your neck after your first month at any college. We understand the usefulness of having a lanyard and all of your keys and ID handy, but after a while, when your turn your head and hit me with a lanyard, it becomes a tad annoying. It may or may not be a little goofy looking as well. No offense.
  3. Don’t be afraid of your academic advisor. These people are great. Their job is to help you succeed as a college student, and they really are helpful if you ask them to be. 
  4. Get involved! The best way to make friends and learn alot is by getting involved in any of the infinite amount of activities offered at a university. I know personally at SBU that UAC and SA are doing great things for campus life, and there seems to be a crop of new clubs popping up every year. Involvement is great, but be careful to remember that you are a student first, and if you get over-involved, you could hurt your grades alot. So just get involved within reason. 
  5. Find a church family! Religion may not be your thing. I understand. But let me say this: there is no group of people more loving and more accepting than a church family. Its their job to love you and welcome you. Being at a church will also keep you on the straight and narrow. I know for me, I was held accountable alot, and it really helped me to stay on the straight road and to really become a respectable person.
  6. Don’t freak out if the people behind the desk in the cafeteria know your name not a week into school. For me as an SBU student specifically, it was a little odd that a little old lady knew my name by the end of Welcome Week. It is okay though. Its great, in fact. I became very close to Miss Kay this year especially, and it became a really nice connection to have, especially when I lost my ID and she let me eat without it for the last week of school. That connection means alot.
  7. To SBU students: look at the sidewalk when you walk. And don’t be mad if someone else doesn’t notice you because they are doing the same. They aren’t looking down to ignore you, for the most part, they are trying to keep their footing. Here and there, the sidewalks on campus get a little weird, and you need to be ready. 
  8. Enjoy the student-led events on campus! Usually every University has some very talented people who are in charge of event planning, and the events that come out of those meetings are really fun. Some examples that occur on the reg at SBU are the Zombie Run, the Amazing Race, and Mini Golf in the Library. These events draw alot of people, but they are always worth the wait. I’ve never gone to an event I didn’t enjoy. 
  9. Do your best to hear your teachers out. It is hard sometimes, I’ve had some professors that I really didn’t agree with. The concept that you as a student will have to realize is that if you don’t do the assignment to your professor’s liking, then you may not get a good grade. I will say that even in my worst classes, listening to my professors has proven to be worthwhile when I least expected it. 
  10. Safety and Security will be your best friend, or your worst nightmare. Be respectable, and follow University policies. That’s how you avoid the ire of the security crew. Its really not that hard guys. If you decide that doing something questionable is something you want to try, just be careful. I understand the need for fun too. Just remember, if you get caught, they have tasers. 
  11. Get to know the people on your hall! These are usually a collection of people from all sorts of walks of life, and it will benefit you to have a diverse friend group. For SBU especially, getting to know your dorm and your hallmates will help you when it comes to homecoming week. Spend time with the guys or girls that live with you, it will prove to be valuable to you during your college career. 
  12. Don’t quit when it gets hard. College has moments where it is extremely difficult. Don’t worry, its going to happen. I can think of a Physics test I took this past Spring that nearly killed me, and I studied pretty well. Don’t be afraid, you will get through it. College takes alot of effort and perseverance, and it is a really sweet moment to shake C. Pat’s hand and take your diploma on stage in front of several thousand people. Just keep pushing. 
  13. You will find anything you want to find if you spend time looking for it. People do alot of things on and off campus, and there is a different group of people and events for every taste. Be careful, however, that you don’t look for things you don’t want to find. I don’t mean to be foreboding, but here and there, some not so great things occur. Just don’t get into that. 
  14. KNOW YOUR MISSION STATEMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you go to SBU, know it. Say it in front of a mirror. Lord forbid, you will be caught on your heels by the president and asked to recite it (it will happen). Just know it guys. “Southwest Baptist University is a Christ-centered caring academic community preparing students to be servant leaders in a global society.” Its not that hard, and you’ll need it to pass your first Seminar test anyways. Just know it. You will live and die by that mission statement for as long as you attend there. 
  15. If there is anything you do at SBU, you need to do this: have fun! It is vitally important to spend time with friends and enjoy your college experience. These are the last few years of total freedom, so get out of your dorm every day and do something! Enjoy people, and make moments and memories. When you walk across the graduation stage, you want to be able to say that you milked SBU for all it was worth. Graduating with regrets is not a good feeling. 

As I typed this, I came up with a few more, but I will roll with this for now. Feel free to add your thoughts as well! I would love to know of other current students’ opinions and experiences. I hope that you will read these and see both the humor and importance of some of these ideas. Get excited! I hope you will come to SBU and love your experience. Do your best to have an amazing time in college, and I hope you learn alot while attending. 

Go Bearcats!