Friday, August 05, 2005

Get An Education!

Following on from a post by Michelle I thought I'd share a little something that occurred to me about a year and a half ago.

At the time, I'd be pondering the subject of relationships, particularly because I was considering one myself at the time. I was giving special consideration as to the pursuit of relationships brought me to such confusion, and frustration, and how they seemed to bring out some of the not so best sides of me. Then one day while out for a walk, having a bit of a pray, it occurred to me - "I don't know beans about relationships."

I thought I did. I thought I knew myself pretty well, and I thought I knew women better than most my age, but I realised that in reality I knew squat! Most of all, I had great difficulty in defining what a relationship was, or should be, and particularly, what I was supposed to be or do in the relationship. What was my role? I pondered it more.

Let me ask you a question. If it's true that in every other avenue of life, in order to succeed at something, one has to spend a lot of time learning and being taught, why is it that no-one seems to believe that this applies to relationships?

Every kid knows that if they want to play football for England then they had better start learning soon. The parents know they'll need input, and good coaching. At the age of 5 we go to school. Why? Because we, or our parents for us, want that we should be good at something, get a good job, succeed and be happy. Perhaps the idea that schooling will do all that is a little misguided but the notion is that we need to go to school, and work hard at it, from five years old to sixteen (eighteen in the USA) at the very least, often into our mid or late twenties, if we want to succeed.

Succeed at what though? The field of English language? Chemistry? Perhaps something more involved like medicine or law? It occurred to me that day that far more complex than any one career or pursuit imaginable are human relationships and especially that most involved of all relationships - a lifelong marriage to someone of the opposite sex. Language, chemistry, biology, history, law? Check. It has all of those. Plus countless nuances and that evil requirement of character - discipline, determination, patience, respect, and love

If this is true, why is it that we do not think this applies also to relationships? So many of us instead act in a way that suggests they're born with the innate ability to handle a relationship. We need no training! What's more, I think most of us also believe that we not only know how to do it, and are able, but that we know best what is going to work - for ourselves and for whomever we choose to inflict ourselves upon. :) So many of us, I think, truly believe that we are God's gift to the opposite sex!

So it was that I stood there that day and thought, "I need an education!" The question is, where does one go to get one? University? Erm, maybe not. No, the only source I could think of was... parents and older role-models. People who haven't just had to study the subject but have gone before and had to live it - preferably in a successful manner. This, however, brings up more problems.

Not everyone has access to what they might need in the way of positive, same-sex role-models. I know I didn't. My father having left when I was 13 (which I imagine was the age when I could really have used such input) I not only lacked an older male role-model, but I also lacked a picture of a successful relationship. I had only one half of the puzzle - a wonderful, faithful mother.

Perhaps the elders in the church should have stepped up. Maybe. More and more I believe that it is the duty of such godly men to do their best to influence young lives in a positive fashion. In all fairness though, filling the shoes of a missing father is a very, very, hard thing to do, impossible perhaps - it's certainly difficult to even know where to begin.

Still, I realised that I had to have had an education somewhere. Education is one of those things that if it isn't done properly, it wont stay undone but will just go ahead and do itself improperly with whatever resources are available. I started then by considering my teachers, and the only names that came to mind? Bond....James Bond. I'd been a fan since youth. Indiana, Gambit, Wolverine... and I don't know who else. Now what, it might be asked, do those famed and illustrious teachers have to offer? Well, take a look at their relationships and then have guess what I learned to do.

It wasn't intentional mind you, but I ended becoming someone who could charm a smile out of any girl, act impressive, inspire romance and get to the point where I could enter any relationship however I pleased and then... the film ends. Great education that. You get everything set up just they way you're supposed to and the course comes to an end. One problem though, life doesn't. It's no wonder I got confused and frustrated. Once you get the girl to swoon and fall into your arms...what happens next?

I cam to realise that I didn't just need an education, I needed something tougher, I needed a re-education. What to do then? Well, I just prayed. "God, Jesus, you got to be a man down here, so you know how it's done. In fact, you're a role model for even the most complete and successful men around, so I need you to teach me. I need you to teach me what it is to be a man, and a godly one. One who knows how to pursue a relationship and to succeed in all these things."

And so it was that I decided to begin my re-education. It's not been particularly easy. I still get confused at times - wanting for things to be natural, yet having to strive to carve a path in an atmosphere that often isn't too friendly (especially that atmosphere of my own soul). I have to say that my hesitations and long contemplation haven't always been easy for those close to me who just want to get a handle on everything - something I can't offer if I don't always have it myself. Nor has it been easy for the lady who holds my affections. I find that all I can do is keeping offering it all up to Him; laying it all out before Him in the open.

Actually, that's one of the biggest lessons I've learned this far. That what is done in secret or without clear definition is bound to become warped. That which has no boundaries and is being done out of place will go where it pleases - which most often is 'where it should not'. Yet when something is honestly and openly presented before God, and pursued in that fashion, then no matter what lies in the future, I believe He will guide it there, and will keep you omving soundly in the process. First lesson - whatever you do, present it before the Lord, and do it openly before Him.

Following on from that, I've been challenged to look at faith in a whole new way. Previously, having faith was a matter of finding out the will of God and then believing that He can help you do your part, and beyond you to do His. Now however, as I've had the experience of moving forward determinedly in areas where I do not having complete certainty of His will, my faith has had to expand, to not only God working through and without me, but also in spite of me. Lesson number two - God can be in control of my life, even when I make choices that point me in a direction that might be in contradiction with where He wants me to end up.

I suppose that's the key. That we can make decisions that might point us in the wrong direction, so long as the wrong direction is not our goal. To determinedly aim at God's will yet be mistaken in our choice is vitally different from determinedly going against His will.

We get so centered on ourselves, seeing ourselves as masters of our own destiny. We see God as only willing to act and help as long as we make decisions in accordance with His exact will. Yet we forget that He is able to retain control beyond ourselves. That He is not bound by our wills.

So it is that I walk whilst trying to balance many things. Listening to the wisdom of others, moving with the desires that come naturally, and pressing through what seem to be false barriers in my own mind. Oh that is the most difficult thing! Doing something that feels as though it is going against God's voice, yet something else tells you that perhaps it is not His voice but one's own! That is when that new faith comes into practise. That I can make decisions and there is room for mistakes. There is joy in knowing that He can keep safe and secure that which I have entrusted to Him for the future - my faith and my life. That is all I can do, entrust everything I have and do to Him, and often it is all I can put before others as I continue on with my 'further education'. :)