I had read all the books. I knew hundreds of love stories. I knew what good Christian guys expected from a good Christian girl. In fact, I had read many of their checklists. I didn't do things in order to fit this checklist, but I was pleased that my efforts seemed to measure up.
I was involved in church (like nursery to Sunday School to church to lunch and then later to the small group I helped lead then to church to youth group all-in-one-day-involved). I tried to both disciple others and be discipled. I tried so hard to be modest and beautiful. I was careful not to flirt too much. I tried to be gentle with my words. I loved Scripture and studied it diligently. I was shaping up to be a good catch (or so I thought).
It looks ugly to write all this on paper, but I realize looking back that this is exactly what I thought. I wasn't perfect; I knew I had weaknesses and struggles. But I probably thought I had tidied these up enough that I could share them.
So in the midst of this subconscious list-making, I did meet someone. Jon and I met freshman year of college and got married after graduation. But throughout the relationship, there was angst that I didn't realize until later. It stemmed from the fact that he didn't care that much about all of my great-Christian-girl qualities.
Yes, he wanted a woman who loved God. And he liked many of the things I did. But he didn't like me for those things. For some reason, that really bothered me. I wanted him to see what a catch I was.
I didn't realize this until I read this article. And I began to think about all the "suitcases" I had that tied into my identity. And then my crisis hit. As I wrestled with church and Christians and religion, Jon was there beside me, helping me think through things, giving me space, and speaking truth.
And I finally got it. It was important that he hadn't loved me for all the "good things" I did. He loved me for me, and when I became a not so good catch, he still loved me.
I am still learning that it is not about what we bring to relationships. I have always approached all my relationships intentionally. I have tried to be perfect in each one. In fact, even buying gifts for others frustrated me until recently because I could never find the perfect gift. I analyzed every conversation and every interaction trying to make sure I was helping the other person and contributing positively to his or her life.
But through my husband, my son, and many others in my life, I am learning that in the best relationships, we are not loved for what we bring to a relationship. Nor do I love others for what they bring to a relationship.
Babies teach us love just because. They show us that we can be accepted not based on what we bring or do or how we look. I love my son because he is. I love his little faces, his smiles, his noises, and the personality I am watching emerge. And he brings joy to others for these reasons, as well.
And guess what? You do too.