On LDRs, Part Two
Last year, I wrote
what I had learned so far about being in a long-distance relationship. In honor of those people
embarking on this adventure we in the industry call Hell
, I admit that I am not the person to ask.
I wish I could feign even for a moment that a long-distance relationship is easy and for everyone. It isn't easy and it certainly isn't for everyone. I'm not convinced it's for anyone, truth be told.
It certainly isn't for me. No, nothing's wrong, we're not breaking up, I just really hate it. I need a hand to hold and shoulders around which to put my arms. A small cellphone is not a worthy replacement.
It simply isn't natural. It doesn't feel like we've been dating a year. It feels more like a couple of months, due in large part to the distance and the limited amounts of time we've spent with each other. We learn something new about each other every visit. Sometimes those things are fun and good. Sometimes they suck. Worse yet, you learn new things about yourself, and they always
suck. The new things I learn about Alisa are usually her likes and dislikes. The things I learn about myself are usually what an enormous bastard I am. Now, on any given day, I'd much rather find out that she really likes artichokes or dislikes handling raw chicken than to find out that I'm a sinner exploring dizzying new depths of my own depravity.
The advantage to this is that it confirms what I have always believed: that in order to fully understand grace, you have to fully understand the depths to which your brokenness descends. It's the law of contrasts. I only understand the grace my girlfriend gives me because I understand what a jerk I can be. To clarify, she has never made
me feel like I am a jerk; I just do something and realize it later. God's grace works the same way. To call ourselves sinners saved by grace doesn't mean we live out the fallen nature from which we've been saved. It means that in order to most fully live by the grace of God, we have to acknowledge the depths from which He plucked us. In order to fully understand life, we have to understand death. Light is brighter when you know what dark looks like.
Receiving grace this way makes giving it a little easier to swallow. Grace can't come from you. You're fallible and incapable of something as selfless as unconditional grace. But when you receive it from God, and I mean really receive it, you hold it in your heart until such a time arises that you pour it back out on someone else. If you find yourself without the grace to give away, it's because you don't know how to receive it in the first place. Do you think God's grace is in limited supply and you're out simply because He's out? Certainly not. You're out because you dammed up the conduit.
While important in everyday life, this is essential in a relationship. You're going to screw up. You're going to be moody and frustrated and a pain in the ass. So is the person you're with. Sometimes grace means talking things out. Sometimes it means shutting up for now. Sometimes it means showing someone how to most effectively provide for you emotionally, and sometimes it means being selfless and ignoring your own needs. The trick is to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.
So, spend whatever time you need storing up that grace inside yourself, because sooner than you expect, it will come time to pour it out. Be continuously filled, while continuously emptying yourself of it, and your relationship will thrive according to God's will.
Oh, and get a good cellphone plan.