I’ve written before about living with a soft heart and open hands. I’m still discovering exactly what that means, and every day I learn a little more about the challenges and triumphs of having my heart softened and my grasp loosened. Some days I clutch more tightly than I ever have. Some days I find myself able to open my hands a little further.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about living with a wild, open abandon when it comes to romance. To clarify, I don’t mean wild in the way your mind probably automatically jumped to—I mean wild in the sense of loosening my grip on the control I desire, and the way my self-worth is tied to how many men I perceive to be attracted to me.
I love control. I love control in relationships. I like it when I’m just on the edge of being in command—when I’m not being smothered by attention, but when I know that I’ve caught someone’s eye, and they’re going to reciprocate my affection. And I hate losing that control. I hate knowing that someone is attracted to me, and I’m not attracted to them, and knowing that I can’t make them stop liking me. I hate knowing that as much as I am attracted to someone, I can do nothing to make them return my affection.
This past year showed me a lot about my heart. I experienced mixed messages, and ultimately the realization that sometimes the more time you spend with someone, the less they'll pursue you. That is a hard thing to face. It’s something we all go through (or at least, most of us) but that doesn’t make it any easier. To know that someone is becoming less attracted to you the more they get to know you—how can that not sting? And yet that is exactly what dating is. Dating is essentially opening your heart to another person, all the while knowing that they might realize they aren’t interested in your red, ready heart and decide to step away.
So this is where living with abandon comes in. Because the more I experience relationships and heartbreak, the more times a boy looks at me or I look at a boy with longing, only to see it rejected—the more times I say no—the more I feel my heart softening. And I wonder why anyone would want to close themselves off from this kind of change. We are so afraid to feel pain that we forget that greeting the world with open hands means that someday we will have open eyes to see the struggles or triumphs of another, because we will have felt it too. I’ve written before about the fingerprints left on our hearts by those in our past. I want as many fingerprints as possible, because that is how I will know that I loved and I gave.
When it comes down to it, it’s not such a bad thing to be rejected. We talked this week in my community group about self-worth, and about how we are created in God’s image. With this knowledge, I think it’s possible to feel rejection and know that it’s okay. I’ve rejected boys who I respected immensely, simply because it wasn’t the right fit, or the right timing. We shouldn’t be so afraid to be judged that we can’t open our hearts to the possibility of love.
I’d rather lie awake at night and feel the soft sadness of rejection, rather than the stillness of a buffered heart. In this world of tight circles and white-knuckled control, I am resolved to loosen my fingers and let my heart slip through the cracks, painstaking though it may be.
~ He Held Radical Light, Christian Wiman
~ An American Childhood, Annie Dillard