The Distorted Expectation of Prince Charming

Keepin’ it real: I have always had a thing for Prince Phillip.

Snow White’s prince? Psshh. I don’t even remember his name. Even after all these years, Prince Phillip is still the one who makes my heart flutter. Maybe it’s the way he jumps on his horse that defies the laws of physics. Maybe it’s depth in his gorgeous cartoon eyes. Maybe it’s his courage and his strength to fight for the girl he loves.

The thing is, though, the fairy tale did in some ways set me up for unrealistic expectations. You see, Sleeping Beauty met Prince Phillip when she was 16 years old. She knew immediately that he was perfect, and guess what? She was right. But I don’t have Sleeping Beauty’s awesome intuitive powers. So, at 16 years old, when I met a guy who seemed perfect… guess what? I was wrong.

At 18 years old, I was confident that I had figured out how this worked. I met another guy, so the first thing to do was acknowledge that  he wasn’t perfect. But, I reasoned with myself, if he did __ and ___ and ___, he would be. So I fell head over heels… not for him. For his potential. Of course I came to find that he wasn’t interested in doing ___ and ___ and ___. But by that point, I was so in love with who he could be that I was blind to who he was. Waking up to reality was a long and extremely painful process.

Fast forward a bit more, and I met another guy. My (poor, misguided) romantic ENFP heart was all too eager to lead the way with an ecstatic cry of OMG! It’s Prince Charming!  

So my heart began to dictate my expectations. Since he was obviously Prince Charming, that’s all my mind would let him be. But I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated when he did, or didn’t do, certain things that weren’t consistent with the Prince Charming image. There came a point where I had to ask myself why I was so frustrated, and the only answer I could come up with was, Because he’s my dream guy, and dream guys don’t act like this! As soon as I voiced that thought and realized its inconsistency, I was forced to realize that it was happening again… I was convincing myself that he met the impossible standard of perfection. I was falling for someone who didn’t exist.

So I had to face my options. Was I going to keep seeing him as a perfect Prince Charming and blind myself to reality? Or… did he deserve a chance to be appreciated for who he really was, unbound by my unfair expectations?

You see, our tendency as idealistic young women is to latch onto a dream and try to make it come true. We look at the world through a distorted lens, because we want so badly for that “perfect” guy to be perfect, that we pretend his flaws or annoying character traits aren’t there.

But if we’re honest with ourselves, don’t we want someone to love everything about us? How would it feel knowing that someone only loved you for who they wanted you to be, and not for who you are? By refusing to acknowledge others’ imperfections and even learn to embrace them, we are denying them the opportunity to be uniquely loved.

However — just because nobody is perfect, doesn’t mean someone can’t be perfect for you. The great paradox is this: someone may very well be your dream guy after all, but not until you stop seeing him that way and start appreciating/loving him for who he really is. The point is not to make yourself marry some psychopath murderer “because they deserve to be loved” but merely to take off the rose-colored glasses and don’t expect people to be someone they’re not. You may find that you can love them anyway, or you may find that they’re really just not for you. But either way, it’s much healthier to live without biased expectations: make choices based on what you see, not what you want.

This Love

What then shall I bring you, Father, when you only ever wanted me? I can’t understand this love that asks nothing. Surely there’s something you expect of me. Isn’t love conditional? To protect myself I must earn it, for the facade I’ve built depends on this wall of pride.

Always feigning strength, now openly weak; always showing indifference, now visibly moved; always guarded, now completely disarmed; transparent and vulnerable, I am brought to my knees in brokenness before this all-encompassing love. As a loving parent’s thumb gently wipes tear stains from the face of a child, so this love washes over me, healing the scars of my past and making me new.

I have always tried so hard. I have made myself someone I’m not and have let my worth be determined by the opinions of others. I have lived my life chasing the unattainable, trying to reach everyone’s expectations. I have pushed myself to the point of breakdown to find their approval. I have given everything… everything but myself.

But this love does not ask of me perfection. It does not ask beauty or intelligence or talent. It does not ask me to do anything, but simply to be; it asks me to be nothing more than who I am.  It accepts me completely with all of my flaws and my faults and my mistakes. It wants me despite my insecurity and my hesitation and my confusion. It is beautiful in its simplicity…yet also challenging in its passion.

For while asking less, it demands more than I have ever given in any relationship. It demands all of me. It demands my heart.

This love asks nothing, and this love asks everything. Let go, He says, and I will hold you. Abandon your image; I will never leave you. Cease striving, for the work is done. Only give me your heart.

Published in: on October 26, 2011 at 12:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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Me…in Progress

This will be a shocker to most of you, so I hope you’re sitting down, but…I’m not perfect. I’m not the smartest girl, the prettiest girl, or the nicest girl. I’m not always self-confident when I need to be, and I’m not always humble when I ought to be. Sometimes I pick the wrong time to say things, and sometimes I say entirely the wrong thing. I don’t always know the best way to fix things, so sometimes when I mess things up they stay that way. I can be kind of immature, and I can be kind of hypocritical. I often take one step forward and two steps back.

And sometimes I get really, really angry at myself for not being perfect. I hate that people see the process instead of the end result — me in progress, rather than me in perfection. I get really embarrassed when I screw up, sometimes to the point that I don’t even want to try anymore, and sometimes I’d rather just burn my bridges because I hate people seeing me at my worst, and because sometimes when I see them it reminds me of how stupid I’ve been in the past. But obviously that would be a dumb thing to do, because most of them still love me anyway.

Maybe because they know how it feels. Maybe they’re in progress too. Because really, isn’t the entire point of life to work our way to the next one? I’m not perfect yet. But I’m working towards a goal. So if I do something really dumb…or say something out of place…or somehow make you angry…please don’t hold it against me. Because that’s not me. That’s me in progress.

Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 11:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lord, Is That Good Enough?

Written February 26, 2011.

Dear Lord, I know You said to sell all my possessions and give to the poor. So I bought a copy of The Contributor from a homeless person standing on the street corner today; Lord, is that good enough?

I know You said to love my enemies, so I don’t spread any false rumors about them (only true ones, and it’s not to be spiteful, it’s only so people see my side of the story), and I don’t take opportunities for revenge. I don’t want to forget what they did to me, so I stay angry, but I try not to hate them; Lord, is that good enough?

I know You said to forgive seventy times seven. Even though I know that was hyperbole, and even though it’s obviously a bad idea to set yourself up for more hurt and disappointment, I still gave someone a third chance today (of course, they blew that one too, so it’s over). Lord, is that good enough?

I know You said not to pass judgment on others, so whenever I notice someone fitting into a stereotype, I keep my opinions to myself instead of gossiping about them. Lord, is that good enough?

I know You said to take up my cross and follow You. But those beams look really heavy and I haven’t worked out lately, and it looks like I could get a pretty nasty splinter if I tried to pick it up. So I wore a pretty white gold cross with diamonds around my neck today. That way, when people asked about it, I could tell them why I was wearing it and that’s how they would know I was with You. Too bad no one noticed it — oh, that’s why, it fell down the inside of my blouse where no one could see it. How did that happen? Oh well, at least I knew I was wearing it — Lord, is that good enough?

I know You said to go and make disciples of all nations. But I’m terrified of flying, and Christians are persecuted in other countries. I know I’m worth more to You alive than suffering and dying for Your glory, but I wanted to do something, so I told my cashier at Wal-Mart that You love her. She looked confused, but I was in a hurry, and I knew she could find out about You some other way if she really wanted to. So I left without explaining, but I did pray for her briefly as I drove away. Lord, is that good enough?

I know You said to “be perfect”. I’m above average; I’m a law-abiding citizen and I even go to church most Sundays. Lord, is that good enough?

Lord, what’s wrong? Why are You crying? Wait…what? Of course You know me, Lord! Lord, I — wait! Don’t shut the door! Lord, I worked hard to get into heaven! Why are You shutting me out? Lord, wasn’t I good enough?

Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Confessions #5: Puzzle Pieces

Written January 11, 2011.

I have always found extreme satisfaction in examining a puzzle piece, matching it to the picture on the box, determining where it goes, and fitting it into place. It thrills the perfectionist in me. I suppose it’s for that very reason that I expect my life to be a metaphorical puzzle. I can’t seem to stop searching for signs or indications that I’m in the right place, with the right person, or doing the right thing. I want all the edges to match up so that I can have my picture perfect puzzle.

One of my friends (*cough cough* Will Hazelwood *cough cough*) recently pointed out that I expect everything in my life to be perfect. I indignantly denied it, but I am beginning to see the truth behind that statement. It’s not so much that I expect everything to be flawless, but I do like all the elements of my life to fit together perfectly, as if to give me some sort of magical indication that I am on the right path. Basically, I feel reassurance from coincidences. Phrasing it that way makes me sound even lamer, but that’s just the truth about how I am. I like to fit together puzzle pieces.

Up until last year, I was happily occupied humming contentedly to myself and fitting in piece after piece, delighted to see my life puzzle coming together so easily. Everything just seemed like it was right, like it was meant to be, like it just fit. It looked as though I would have a nice masterpiece to frame and hang on the wall.

But that’s not what happened at all; instead my fragile puzzle fell to the ground and shattered. Shattered, too, was the security I found in order and perfection. I didn’t understand how the pieces could all fit together and still not be right; I couldn’t reconcile the seeming inconsistencies. One day, however, a very simple realization hit me: I had been working the wrong puzzle. What should have been the puzzle of my relationship with Christ was instead a puzzle of Me, a puzzle of compromise. Of course the pieces had fit together; rationalization can make anything work.

If I was going to surrender my life to Christ, though, I had to let go of the expectations and the search for signs and look at the big picture instead of fitting in the pieces on a self-absorbed, microscopic level. I had to start a new puzzle – the right puzzle – from scratch.

I’ve made progress, but from time to time, a piece of the puzzle of selfishness or the puzzle of immaturity sneaks in and looks like it belongs. I can’t tell you why I still get so excited over the wrong puzzle, but sometimes it takes me a while to get my head screwed on straight and realize that just because something feels right doesn’t mean it is God’s plan for my life. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: When all the pieces seem to fit, check to make sure you’re working the right puzzle. I don’t believe that God has set up my life to be a scavenger hunt where I rely on mysterious clues to tell me where I’m going, but somehow I still catch myself saying “It all just seems so perfect!” instead of “I know this is right.” I would like to say that I’ve figured it out by now, but then I guess this note wouldn’t be an accurate reflection of its title, would it?

Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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