Oh, we want someone, alright. We feel the ache in our hearts and have those occasional evenings where we get pretty down about it (break out the chocolate, ice cream or Netflix...or all three). But we have been burned before and are afraid to touch the flame again. So we flirt with the fire, attending all the activities and maybe even dip our toes into the world of online dating. We want the social warmth, but instead of bringing the fire into our hearts and letting it light up our lives and souls, we keep it distant behind all the walls that we have carefully built to keep ourselves safe. We dance around that fire with all of our wonderful activities and firesides and socials and trips and so on, but really, how willing are we to jump in if God were to put someone in our path today?
Trust me, I've been asking myself the same question, and it is a very personal one. It is so much easier to throw myself into projects and charity work and speaking and writing more books while passing the time with wonderful friends and family and neighbors and attending all the great activities available to midsingles in Utah. But could it be, just possibly, that I am not being completely honest with myself? That I say that I am looking, but even if I found a great girl my fears and walls might be keep me "safe", but also keep me single? That's a bitter pill to swallow. Definitely need a spoon full of sugar for that one.
I recently had an interesting conversation with a midsingle who works as a therapist. We talked about the walls we put up as a results of having had our hearts broken or being rejected or cheated on or lied to or abused, etc. It is self-preservation in its most basic form and completely understandable! There are parts of our selves that desire to keep us safe, so we create thought-patterns based on the fears of the past. "If you put yourself out there again, you're going to get hurt." "If you talk to him/her you're going to get rejected again and you're going to get hurt." "If you let someone into your heart again, they are going to break it and you are going to get hurt." We even make blanket statements like, "All guys are jerks" or "All women are crazy." We justify our self-preservation.
It is the ultimate dichotomy. I hope this comes across right, but in an effort to keep ourselves safe, we may actually be keeping ourselves single. We want someone to come into our lives that will bless us with companionship, love, trust, respect, honor, and support, and yet, perhaps we stand atop the walls surrounding our heart and look down at potential dates and say, "Well? If you really like me, figure out how to climb these walls and come and get me!" And then when they actually do so by pursuing us or expressing interest we panic and our self-preservation kicks in and we light the moat on fire, put spikes around those walls, call out the town militia and that part of us that wants to stay safe screams, "Beware! They are approaching the throne (our heart); repel the invader!" Self-sabotage, anyone?
Now, I consider myself a pretty happy guy for the most part. Life isn't perfect, but it is amazing. I am blessed to be able to do some incredible things and help a lot of organizations and schools and work with some of the most inspiring people on the planet. But when I think about what this blog post is all about, I have to eat some crow and admit that I have absolutely created thought-patterns and behaviors to keep myself safe. For example, if I do enough good in this world, then maybe I don't have to face those fears and figure out how to take down those walls that I have built around my own heart. The younger, naive me thought, "Hey, maybe she'll think the bobsled thing is sexy and come ask ME out." Ask me to speak to a stadium full of 10,000 people? No problem. Ask me to put myself out there with a girl I'm interested in and who could potentially break my heart again? Thanks, I'll just write another book instead. I'm kidding, but you see what I mean? It is easy to find something else to do and fill the time with other than risk (and I don't mean that awesome classic board-game).
We do learn a lot when we are single. Compassion, forgiveness, patience, faith, introspection and so on. But there are very few noble reasons to stay single in God's eyes. I can't help but think of a quote by John A. Shedd that was on the wall of a class I took in high school. It said, "A ship in the harbor is safe--but that is not what ships are for." We may be safe behind all these walls that we have built up out of self-preservation; we might even be honestly happy avoiding dating and all that it entails. But as President Kimball said, "Long-delayed marriages are certainly not approved of the Lord. . . .What the Lord will say to these excuses we can only imagine. We are sure he will at least say, 'You have not placed first things first.'" (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.292). That one smarts a little....but its still true. Of course the Savior understands our hurts and fears and loneliness, but He also promises to be with us as we actively seek to overcome and heal them.
My dear friends, I write all this with love. It is not accusatory and it is not to belittle the hurts we have been through or the legitimate worries that we have about dating and relationships and marriage and family. Like I said, I have my own self-preserving yet self-sabotaging ways, my own little "protect the heart" programs running in the back of my mind. Writing this I kind of felt like Jacob who knew that what he said/wrote was going to sting others, "many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God." (Jacob 2:7). I know that so many of you are trying so hard to find an eternal companion. My worry that in the weakness of my mortal ability to write, I may unintentionally "enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded, instead of consoling and healing their wounds;" (vs. 9). If that has been the case with you, I deeply apologize. I hope the truths of what I have said here will instead be strengthening agents that will help all of us as midsingles to take a deeper look inside to see the ways we may be getting in our own way, individually and culturally.
So, what is to be done?
Well, in a word we might need to repent. Follow me on this, because I'm not pointing a finger saying we are doing anything "wicked" or "sinful." But any thing (or any attitude) that impedes our eternal progress is something causing us to halt in our journey, right? Scripturally that is called "damnation", or the cessation of a flow towards exaltation. If I have a habit or fear or wall up that is keeping me from moving forward, it is my responsibility to work towards removing it with the Savior's help as Moroni learned about his weaknesses (Ether 12:27-28). Just think of what would happen if every Latter-day midsingle were to humbly strive towards removing all the excuses in their life about dating and healing all the wounds of the past with the Lord's grace and mercy and courageously seeking professional guidance if needs be. What would that do to our dating experiences? How much more prepared would we all be for marriage?
That is what I really want to say, that as Latter-day Saint Midsingles we of all singles in this world should have hope and joy. We have a Savior who knows our fears and our pains and can help us heal and overcome both. We have a Heavenly Father who loves us beyond measure and desires happiness for us if we will but trust and turn to Him. Those truths can give us faith to change, the strength to try again, and hope to believe that a wonderful love story can be ours. And with those truths written in our hearts, we can begin to take down those walls around our hearts (yet keep healthy boundaries, yes) and allow love to come in. That answer may sound simplistic, yet it is based on faith and truth.
Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20). He will not force his way into our heart; we have to let him in. Now think about that: if we continue to hide behind the walls we have built, if we continue to hide behind our busy-ness, or whatever it is that keeps us "safe", we will continue to feel the ache of disconnection. If the Lord himself respects our agency and won't force his way in, how can a potential eternal companion (who is very mortal, by the way), do anything different?
We have to do the work. I think it is an erroneous view to believe that we can sit back and relax and that God will send the right person into our lives without any effort on our part. That makes me think of the time in Church History when Olivery Cowdery tried to translate the Gold Plates. His attempt did not go so well and the Lord said, "Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me." (Doctrine and Covenants 9:7). I wonder if sometimes he might not give us the same correction. "Behold, (Jeremy), you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give (an eternal companion) unto you, when you took no thought (or action) save it was to ask me." God is a father, but also our teacher and coach and a good instructor knows how to help their athlete/pupil recognize the attitudes, behaviors or techniques that are holding them back.
Our fears, doubts, walls and even complacency may keep us safe and content, but they also keep us from taking the actionable steps that will lead to productive relationships and eventual marriage and no matter how you slice it, that IS a problem. As Elder David A. Bednar taught, "We are promised that if we pray sincerely for that which is right and good and in accordance with God’s will, we can be blessed, protected, and directed..." Sometimes we pray sincerely for that which is right and good and in accordance with God's will (i.e. finding a companion), but could we possibly be expecting blessings without doing the work, protection without using our heads (and healing our past wounds) and we may just skip the whole directed part which indicates revelation on what we need to do or change.
So may I issue a challenge, one that I am going to take as well because I know that I need to. With General Conference coming up, let us prayerfully approach our Father in Heaven for guidance and help in knowing what we need to do to be ready for an eternal companion. Instead of just asking Him to bless us with one, let's ask Him what we need to change about our thoughts, behaviors, habits, beliefs or fears (or any combo of these) so that we can use our agency to grow into the role of husband or wife? As we do this, if we are truly willing, the Spirit will help us see what "thorns in the flesh" we might be carrying or acting on that are preventing us from achieving the goal of marriage (or any goal, when you think about it). And as we listen to our leaders speak this coming conference, if we listen with humble hearts we just may hear indications of some of our weaknesses that we can work on in order to be prepare ourselves for the blessing of a complete family.
I know this is a touchy topic, but I hope something in this post has helped you maybe take that long hard look in the mirror with a determination to love who you are as a child of God, but also to accept the responsibility to overcome the "natural man" within yourself that may be keeping you from having what you really want.
And the best part about this whole process? As President James E. Faust declared, "Let us remember that the power to change is very real, and it is a great spiritual gift from God." And as Elder Richard G. Scott so powerfully said, "I promise you, in the name of the Lord, that He will help you. He will be there in every time of need. He gave His life so that you can change your life. I promise you, that you’ll feel His love, strength, and support. Trust Him completely. He is not going to make any mistakes. He knows what He is doing. Please, decide now to change your life. Be obedient to His teachings, and He will bless you."
We can all stand a little taller, do a little better, love a little more deeply, heal completely with the Savior's help and find a love story like the one in the .gif below.