Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Boxing Her In

When youngest son started dating his girlfriend last year I told him I realized (code word for hoped) the relationship was not permanent and if there was one thing I wanted his girlfriend to go away with from spending time with him and us it was to know in her heart that God loves her as she is.

I felt all loving and sincere and full of warm fuzzies as I said this. Meant it in my heart. I even repeated it to a good friend when she was being very negative about youngest son's girlfriend one day. But as soon as I saw the hold youngest son's girlfriend had on him, my good intentions went the way of the dinosaur. Sure, I wanted her to know God loves her as is, but I sure as hell had no idea how to communicate that when all I really wanted was for her to get out of my son's life. There was a point early on when youngest son said to me that I seemed to believe that we were to love and respect everyone equally as long as the person who didn't share our values wasn't dating someone in the family. Ouch.

After a few months the tension between youngest son and I about his choice of girlfriend was so bad that he decided to go see an old counselor of mine who he trusted to give him the goods on the situation. I wrote about my struggles with his dating life here and especially here.

Between the morning he told me it would be fun to be a dad to the evening when he and I had a frank talk about his active sex life, well, this momma has seen red more than any other colour. No, his girlfriend is not pregnant, although I worry that could become a reality. But I know from experience there is a bond that happens once a relationship becomes sexual. Because of that I know the chances of them going their separate ways now would be much harder and more painful.

They've been dating 13 months. She is only 15 and he 18. And yes, in Canada the whole picture is legal in every which way. Seriously, it is.

If I had to count which has taken precendence in my thoughts and words in the past 13 months when it comes to this relationship I would have to say that anger, control, and nagging beat out any others. A few months ago youngest son got fed up with my nagging and moved in with his girlfriend and her family. I wrote about that here and here.

When I told a group of close friends one night that I had no idea what letting go of this situation looked like one of them responded that thanking youngest son for being where he was in his journey because it was showing me where I was on mine might be the way. The truth can be so painful. There has been no better reality check for me about how I can be when I don't get my way than to be faced with this situation. Of course, I should be concerned. Of course anything less than voicing those concerns to youngest son would be unloving. At one point I told him I didn't want him to come back to me in 10 years and ask why I hadn't warned him he was about to fall off the edge of a cliff.

God hasn't given up on the whole situation. Neither has God given up on me learning to live out what it is to love people as they are. Including youngest son's girlfriend. I'm not sure she has ever experienced unconditional love in her life. I do know she is like a sponge soaking up all the good feelings and positive feedback she gets from us. It has been a long struggle to go from outright hostility towards her to being able to open my heart to the possibility of loving her as she is. Though I have grown to like her I still haven't been able to tell her that I love her. My vision is sometimes clouded by wanting to tell her that I think she has my son by the balls and I resent it.

I have prayed that God would give me a spirit of love towards her. I've learned to hug her and give her encouragement. I've also learned to be direct and honest with her when need be. I have seen her eyes grow from constant wariness in my presence to lighting up when she sees me now. I do feel like I am loving her as best I can. I don't feel very grown up about it. I feel less than spiritual about the whole thing. I know if she was dating someone else I would be less judgemental.

The girl has radar that is so keen I know there is no fooling her. Spirit speaks to spirit and when you have been wounded in certain ways your radar abilities rise to new levels. I may be able to fake it with some people but I know there is no faking it with her. Either I say it when I mean it that I love her or I keep those words inside until they can come from a place of authenticity. I don't know if I long for the day when I can speak them from my heart for her sake or mine.

This past weekend at the retreat a priest talked about the dangers of boxing people in by seeing only one aspect of the truth about them. He said when we did, it became destructive truth. Jesus saw the truth about people but he didn't pigeon hole them by it. The priest said that to see one facet of truth about someone and have that truth enclose and define them with no hope for the greater Truth of who they were, was wrong.

His words challenged me. To see younger son's girlfriend by more than the truths I have defined her by. To see myself by more than my inability to fully love her as she is as well.

I have always thought that I would be some great example of Christian love for the world. Or at least for my world. One of the aspects of this past retreat weekend was that you could receive letters from your family and friends. Notes of encouragement about how they see you in relation to the topics of faith, hope and love. Youngest son's girlfriend wrote to me from her heart. Here are a few excerpts from her letters:

I haven't loved many people and I haven't let many people love me. But I'm glad we have opened up to each other and have an open honest relationship. I love spending time with you and dearest one because I always feel a lot of love from you both. I can't believe I have another family who loves me so much. And I love you with all my heart but I didn't really know how to tell you.

and this

All I want to say is that I hope and pray that we have many more wonderful memories to share. I say it a lot but I also mean it with all I've got but I LOVE YOU. And I can't get over how I can love someone who I'm not related to and who I don't think I'm going to marry - LOL - but I'm glad you are a part of my life.

Here she was saying the words to me that I have been unwilling and unable to say to her. I cried as I read these letters. I never thought the person I was being challenged to love unconditionally would be the instrument God would use to show me that I am loved as I am.

After the end of the closing Mass for the retreat youngest son's girlfriend elbowed her way through the crowd at breakneck speed to get to me and hug me. I was able to tell her that her letters to me were the most meaningful of all I received during the weekend and that they had made me cry. She was instantly concerned that the crying was a bad thing until I told her it was a good kind of crying.

I have no idea if youngest son and his girlfriend will be together for life. I know the odds of it are slim. Not many stay with the partners they had as young teens. There are obstacles galore if they marry as there are for any of us. But if nothing else youngest son's girlfriend has shown me what it looks like not to box someone in by destructive truth. I have much to learn from her.

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