The Night Before the End
(with the song The End by the Doors playing in my mind)
I’m about to start my suicide mission, which, if successful, means Yasmin has accepted my request to pay for her large volume meals for the rest of our lives.
Seriously, what this means, if she says yes, and I’m confident she will (Why won’t she? Haha!), is that I’ve asked her for the privilege of her exclusivity, despite knowing that this includes putting up with an intense, impatient, grouchy, workaholic, and bad tempered man who has a lot of maturing to do.
To give you an idea of just how vain I can be (though I don’t remember ever saying this), Yasmin reminded me of one time, while going for a walk, I turned to her, put my hands on her shoulders and said in all seriousness, “Yasmin, you’re so lucky to have me.” That story is more believable when it is told with another incident, when I first asked her out and she said she couldn’t make it, I told her, “Forget it. I’ve never been turned down.” These stories are both funny and embarrassing, but really are proof of how conceited I’ve become. If I could live my single life over I would remind myself of this truth: Never mistake being impressive with living wisely. Being impressive in the single man’s sense today means being successful at work, going out with someone pretty and decent, having a nice batch of friends, being fit, and doing your part for the community. That’s not a bad life, but none of that really shows that you have the humility and selflessness that are necessary for building lasting relationships. Humility and selflessness are two key attitudes that are better developed while we’re young. I can’t say I’ve been strong in the areas of humility and selflessness. I’ve actually been weak, which is probably why, despite being with the most amazing woman in the world, I’ve struggled with taking this next step.
But I’m taking it now. So here we go.
(Why are images of Alfred P. Doolittle having a last drink coming into mind??)
On That Steep Climb
I stopped to take a look down at the amazing view bellow, a vast sunlit valley, stretching to meet the foot of a majestic Mt. Batulao and its many peaks, as they all sat under a bright blue sky.
Then a dialogue started in my head, “Isn’t the view bellow beautiful? That’s where you came from. That’s what you’re leaving behind.”
“What are you talking about?” I said to the voice.
“Nothing. I’m just saying that with going through with this means leaving that beautiful view behind. It means more dirt and rocks.” the voice replied.
Then I looked up at the steep climb ahead of me made up of dirt and rocks. My legs, already painful from idiotically doing “leg day” at the gym before a hike, stiffened at the thought. Then I looked back at the view. The words “You’re leaving that behind” echoing in my head. Then I thought about what I was about to do at the top of this mountain, and again that voice said, no longer a whisper, “You’re leaving so much behind.”
“Let’s do this.” I willed myself to say.
“Alright. Your call, boss.” said the voice. “Now how are we going to pay for all of this? Asking someone to marry you is one thing. Paying for a wedding, fixing up your place, health insurance, kids’ education, these all cost money.” I thought about what his point.
“Shut up I told him. We’ll think about that later. One step at a time.”
He didn’t shut up. With each heavy step after heavy step, I climbed that mountain, stopping to look back at the view every now and then, and, like Lot’s wife, would freeze like a pillar of salt for a few seconds. “No more looking back” I told myself. “You’re going to do this.”
“Alright.” The voice answered, still there. “How are you going to pay for this again? We still haven’t figured that one out.” it reminded. “Dying to yourself, promising your life to someone is all nice and cute but what about the practical aspects of this decision?”
“God will provide.” I heard another voice from within me say. Then I pictured an old story my parents told me about Abraham on his way to sacrifice his beloved Isaac, telling him, “God will provide the sacrifice.” And I pictured what they told me, that as Abraham and Isaac climbed the mountain, the ram, the provision for their sacrifice was making its way up as well to meet them at the very moment they needed it. “God will provide” I reinforced in myself.
I looked back up the mountain and spotted Yasmin, who always comes alive when she’s surrounded with nature. She smiled at me as she continued to climb, with no clue of my plans to propose or of the tug-of-war happening in my head. “That’s what you’re getting.” that other voice told me. “Isn’t she beautiful?”
“Yes.” I replied.
“What are you waiting for?” it asked.
“I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I really want to do this. I make a great single guy.” I confessed. “I’m not good at these long term things. I’m too restless, too independent, too much I want to do, too busy, too… selfish…”
I looked up the mountain again. I couldn’t see Yasmin anymore as she had climbed past my view. I followed the trail of dirt and rocks leading up to the top of the mountain, and past its tip, to the bright blue sky. The kinder voice spoke, “Sure there’s going to be rocks and dirt. Sure there’s going to be struggle. But what you’re getting isn’t simply a great view or comfortable place. You’re getting infinity. Loving someone means embracing infinity.”
Then I remembered a line from a story I’ve been writing, which coincidentally, also happens up a mountain, “Destiny, where I’m supposed to be, is not a moment in time or a place on a map. It is anytime, anywhere, with the one you love.”
“Do you want her?” the voice asked me.
“Yes.” I replied.
“Now go make a great husband.”
The Morning After
I was planning to sleep in, which means waking up at 7am for me, but I still woke up early. It’s a weird feeling the day after asking someone to clamp a ball and chain, ahem, marry you. In many ways it was a normal morning. I got up, did my morning routing of oil-pulling, went to my CBTL Machine to prepare a cup of coffee and remembered I was out of butter (which I normally mix-in with coconut oil) and my favorite Intenso flavored capsules (which Yasmin likes to say is the last coffee flavor a guy like me should be drinking). I was happy to find a few capsules of French Brew, prepared my drink, and, with a hot mug beside me, sat down to do my devotions and write this.
I can’t begin to stress how vital this daily discipline of going to God in the morning has been for me. The older I get, the more I discover dark parts of me, and nothing brings out the most selfish parts of you like being in a relationship. When all you have to think about is yourself, it’s easy to make your life so busy that you don’t really need to wrestle with the darker side of our humanity. Starting the day with reflection allows us to recalibrate and take an honest assessment. Coming to God reminds us that despite the ugliness of the honest assessment, we’re embraced by His love.
As I prayed I remembered the podcast Yasmin and I were listening to on the drive up to the mountain. I could hear Timothy Keller’s voice reading the passage from Philippians,
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature[a] God,did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
“You know how I feel.” I prayed. “You had to give up stuff too. You had to give up much more, much much more.Yet You, who knows everything about me, thought I was worth it.”
I imagined Jesus, walking away from His glorious Father, seeing the grand view of Heaven getting more and more distant as He traveled to the rocks and dirt of Earth…for me. Then I imagined Jesus sweating blood, crying to God, asking His disciples, “Can’t you stay awake for me?”, while knowing that He was about to die for them, and praying, “Father, isn’t there another way to save them?” then saying “But if this is what I have to do so that I can be with them, I’ll do it.” Finally, I pictured Him carrying His cross up the steep climb of Calvary, tired, bleeding, shamed… for me.
Here’s what I realized: When you’re in love, you can’t enjoy anything without the one you love. It doesn’t matter how great something is, how wonderful the view, how large your wealth, how high your position, or how glorious your fame. If you’re not with the one you love, you won’t find joy. Jesus wasn’t simply on a cosmic mission to pay a debt. He was lover paying the price that we may enjoy together. Here I was, for most of my life, trying to grasp wealth, security, achievement, trying to grasp more and more control over my circumstances, and without knowing it, trying to grasp equality with God. When the example of Jesus is this, He didn’t consider any of those things worth going for. The power, position, and privilege of being God weren’t as valuable to Him compared to the joy of being in a relationship with me.
In a world where the good life is closely associated with success, having security, wealth, and the freedom to do what you want, and in a world where faith in God is treated more as means to achieving those things ethically, we will miss the true message of love. This is why we why think it’s wise to make a list of qualities for our dream partner – because it increases the chances of us getting someone “right for us”. I felt like I was giving up a lot because I valued what I had. I didn’t think that everything I would be leaving behind wasn’t worth as much as being with Yasmin. But when we follow the example of Jesus, we see how different His values system is.
I felt Him impress, “Power? I had that it all. Prestige? I had that it most. Position? I am above all. Good family? Mine was perfect. Good home? I was in Heaven. Yet don’t you see? They’re nothing compared to being in love with you. And to love someone means you’re everything you have means nothing without the one you love. So I did everything I could to have you.”
Then I was reminded of something I wrote more than 2 years ago:
Maybe in our quest for the life we thought we wanted we traded away the love we really needed.
I know now that I’m guilty of this. This is why it was so hard to let go. There’s nothing like the beauty of love to set us free.
This is also why the personal characteristics I really feel are most essential now, even more than hard work and discipline, is to be loving, truly loving, and forgiving, and humble. When you partner discipline and hard work with a soul that loves as Christ loved, then we get a powerfully transformative force that cuts through any divide and any impossibility.
In past years, I learned how to work hard, be diligent, be faithful, be disciplined, deal with loss, deal with failure, but this year I learned to love in a greater way as I understood a little bit more about how much God loves me.
I encourage you, as you end this year, to say a simple prayer, “Father, open my eyes to see Your love.”
One Step at a Time
On the drive down, Yasmin asked me, “So what happens next?”
“We get married.” I said.
“As soon as possible. A man’s got needs.”
“Hey!” she said angrily.
“Just kidding.” I told her (even thought I wasn’t).
“We need to plan it then. I want a small one (I’m adding a record of her saying this as insurance in case things go out of control). How many people should we invite? In my family, there’s…” as she started listing and counting family and friends.
“Yasmin, Yasmin. Could we please not talk about this now?? I just proposed. That’s HUGE for me! One step at a time, please. One step at a time. Thinking about a wedding is stressing me out!”
She laughed, knowing me well enough to continue. “So where are we eating?”
“You choose”, I told her, my brain still sore from the 3 minute conversation on a wedding.
I must admit, I have a long way to go. I have a lot to learn about love.
“Do you want her?”, I’ve learned, is the question.
“Yes.” is my undeniable answer.
“Go make a great husband.” I remind myself.
Alright. Here we go. One step at a time.
Epilogue: Train Up a Child
(to be continued…)