Sometimes life emanates art.Love and Other Disasters, one of my favorite movies, follows a young single Londonite and her friends as they navigate through the minefields of romance. In the end they discover that true love is not like it is in the movies. There is no big flourish, no moment of epiphany. Happily Ever After isn’t a gift that can be unwrapped and set on a mantle to be admired. It is a process.
Of course, because this is a movie the girl gets the guy in the end, but we never see the big moment. The heroine simply rushes off to Argentina having absolutely no idea whether Paolo is the one for her, but she’s going to “give him the chance to be.” A year later she’s pregnant with his baby, so we assume all went well, but the movie does an excellent job of never giving us that feeling of Happily Ever After. Yet, the ending is quite satisfying.
I’ve imagined my Happily Ever After to take the form of a pretty box with a shiny silver bow, presented as a fulfillment of hope and full of sparkly happy things. And maybe rainbows. This box would have the power to squash every fear, inspire me and make me dream. It would ignite my passions and give me a reason to wake in the morning.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered myself actually holding this pretty box. I’ve had the big Happily Ever After flourish, that big moment. In fact, I’ve had a few big moments
The latest surprised me the most, because I’d packed away my trampled and dusty heart. I’d stopped searching for the pretty box. But it found me again anyway, drawing me in with a weighted look across a crowded room. A magnet pulling me where I did not want to go. And then a quiet unraveling. A first kiss after two hours of ignoring everyone else in the room and then realizing we weren’t alone when the people next to us started cheering. They’d been watching the sparks all night and taking bets on how long it would take for him to go for it.
Then the scene fades into daylight. This is the part the movies don’t show us…after the bad decisions and mistakes and misspoken words and the realization that the pretty box is just an illusion and there’s nothing at all inside and it all comes down to what you do with it.
In the daylight I chose to keep seeing rainbows and sparkly things, but from a distance.
With his arms around me, his body fitted to mine like we were molded together, I’d close my eyes and listen to his heartbeat, feeling his warmth. And I’d promise myself I would not fall for this man who met all of my overly-rigid-designed-to-keep-me-safe-because-no-man-could-ever-meet-it criteria. It was too soon, too much, too good.
When you allow yourself to be at the mercy of something, you give it the power to destroy you.
I had danced around these mines before. And I had the scars and burns to prove it.
Because of this, and because this time I knew it wasn’t all about a pretty box, I at first refused to be at love’s mercy. Yet here I was. Here it was. Again.
I wouldn’t call it love. I had too many trysts with those mines to let myself go there. I didn’t know if he was the one. But somewhere along the way I decided to give him the chance to be.
I’d walked on the outskirts of this minefield for two and a half years licking old wounds and now here I was, suddenly taking that leap of faith and flinging myself into the fray once again. I told myself I was smarter than I used to be. And when I started walking down those same tired trails, I remembered the mine that exploded there before. So I turned and walked another way, tried something new, something different.
It only led me to a different mine. Another explosion. Those sparks turned to flames and I realized it was never me he wanted. He had his own pretty box and what he saw in it was completely different from what I saw in mine. He wanted what he expected me to be. Maybe I did the same to him.
In the end I am grateful to have allowed myself to endure this trial. I needed to see myself in the minefield again, with old burns and past baggage and all, to know that love – or at least the chance of it – is always unpredictable. Even when someone meets all my criteria. Love doesn’t care about what you perceive it to be, but it is more than willing to help you along in the illusion. Those who “win” at this aren’t necessarily the ones who learn to navigate the mines. Because there will always be another mine around the next corner. The true test is learning what to do when a mine explodes.
I think I may have learned a little something about that. At least this time I was smart enough to duck when the shrapnel came flying.
If I were writing this story I know how I would end it, but this isn’t my ending. And no matter how many times I look at my phone for the text that I know will not come, or find myself wishing I had done things differently, or thinking of what could turn it all around, I know I’m not the one writing this story.
But I know the One who is.
He handed me a pretty box and for a few brief moments I actually looked inside and allowed myself to hope. I could hate Him for that. I could hate myself for going there in the first place, and then for running from the mines when they started to explode. But as I stand here on the outskirts of the minefield I know that this is the way it was always intended to be.
God never gives us more than we can endure. I was meant to learn something about myself and now I have a few more scars to prove it. I don’t always understand why God allows pain, but I know enough to be grateful for it.
“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.” – Charles Dickens in “Great Expectations.”