I was at church yesterday with my girlfriend, holding hands, singing to god, and reveling in the joy of the service, when I realized I was in love with the girl singer on stage. Something about her thinness, her youth, her exuberance, her smile, and her big, wide-armed, love of Jesus Christ. I don’t love Jesus Christ like she does. As I noticed my affection for this young woman, while holding the hand of the dearest person in my life, I noted several things of curiosity.

    • I loved my girlfriend more than I loved God, or Jesus Christ.
    • I loved the girl on stage singing, her joy, celebration, devotion.
    • I loved being in love with my girlfriend more than I enjoyed being in church celebrating Jesus Christ.
    • I can’t stand contemporary worship music, no matter how bad-ass the band is.

The question came to me, like a message from a higher power, “Do you love God as you love your girlfriend, sitting beside you, holding your hand?”

I was struck by the notion that I could love loving a human being more than I loved Jesus Christ, but again, I’m not a super-good Christian. So I could give myself a break about the subtleties and move right into the specifics. Did I love this woman more than I loved God? Did my seeking a relationship take priority over my seeking direction from God?

I’m pretty sure the answer is yes, and I’m not sure what that says about me, at the moment.

I have been in this relationship for three months and it has been electric, transformative, and I would claim, even at this early-stage, to be the 4th long-term relationship of my life. (LTR) That’s a pretty big assumption, for a three-month relationship. How, for example, does this woman out-pace the other “dates” I’ve had in the past? How was my mental and spiritual state different when I met this woman? Was I head-over-heels in love in a way that was blinding me to obvious faults and potential snares?

Let me take those one at a time.

Q: Was I, am I, head-over-heels in love with this woman?

A: Yes.

Q: Is there something different about where I am in my life, that makes this relationship more powerful, or more clear?

A: I don’t know the answer to this one, more data needed.

Q: Are there some blind spots that I am missing due to my infatuation with this woman?

A: Yes.

Okay, so that brings a few more questions.

Q: What blind spots have I missed in the past long-term relationships?

A: Here are things I’ve missed in the past LTRs:

    • Honesty
    • Sobriety
    • Solid emotional stability
    • Cultural or financial differences that created conflicts
    • Imbalance of power
    • Happiness and contentment issues
    • Ambition and drive misalignments

Q: Okay, have any of these presented themselves in this early-stage love affair?

A: Not that I can see.

But again, that’s part of the problem. I can’t see. I cannot see this beautiful woman as a complete person because I love her with some inner-drive that blinds me to some of her reality. I don’t want to see any of her faults because I don’t want to let any hot air out of my dream about who she is and who she represents to me.

She is my next lover. She is my final great love. She is the one. She is all I need.

That’s a lot, don’t you think? For any relationship?

Still, that’s my standard. That’s how I’ve been setting myself up over the last 40+ years or so of dating and relating to women. I want THE ONE. I don’t want a girlfriend. I want THE GIRLFRIEND.

[I knew this point was coming, and I didn’t want to look.]

Q: Do I want a wife? Am I looking to marry? Am I looking for some certainty that those institutions, vows, would provide me, if only in my mind?

A: More data needed.

The first three LTRs had a lot of commitment, but each of them came apart in some distinct way. Was it rational to think of any relationship NOT coming apart at some point? Was it rational to think of loving and cherishing one woman, beyond all others (even the young celebratory woman on stage at church) for the rest of my life? Was this part of my blindness? Was this part of my construct of love, that was built from the ashes of the failed and destructive marriage of my parents?

Q: Was I looking to right some wrong by being the perfect lover/husband/father, like the parent(s) I never had?

A: I’m not sure. [I hope that’s not what’s going on here.]

The sermon yesterday was about Jonah. And at the end of the book of Jonah, we are left with an uncomfortable question. God (this is the old-testament God) asks, Jonah, “Is your anger serving you, Jonah?”

And the question is left unanswered. The book of Jonah ends with us confused and forced to write our own conclusion about Jonah’s fate. In the end, Jonah is not sure about his anger at God, nor his will to live, nor his next right action.

The good news, for me, is I am certain of my next right action. I am to continue to love this woman with all my heart and soul. I am to continue to believe in the power of love and relationships until I am shown a different truth.

I do believe I love God with all my heart and soul. But I also believe, like Jonah, I am angry with God for wrecking the first three LTRs, despite my best efforts, prayers, and intentions. I believe that my love of a woman is my love of God, and is part and parcel of my love of Jesus Christ. [Again, I apologize for not being a great Christian.]

I know that I see God in this woman’s eyes. I know that the drug of love is continuously renewing the purple haze of infatuation that continues to draw me onward, deeper into my commitment and devotion to this woman. And I’m okay with that. I’m okay with being in love with loving this woman. I’m okay with being a bit confused about my relationship with God or Jesus Christ. I’m okay with being an “okay Christian.”

Always Love,

John McElhenney
The Whole Parent @wholeparent

To read more or discuss life coaching in Austin, Texas with John, contact him online at johnmcelhenney.com

And pick up John’s latest book: Single Dad Seeks: A Guide to Dating Again After Divorce on Amazon.

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Originally published at wholeparentbook.com