When picking up my nine year old son from school last week, I noticed something bizarre when he settled into the car. He had a varying-shade of purple yarn tightly wrapped around his wrist. An inch and a half of his arm was wound up like a spool of thread. He’s a quirky kid, but my curiosity got the best of me. Especially since his south-bound fingers and thumb were slightly bluish in color. So I asked him in a non-commital, non-alarmist mom kind of way, “Say, what’s up with the string around your wrist?”
“Well, mom, you know that girl Natasha* (*name ABSOLUTELY is changed here) that sort of likes me? Well, I found out today she really does like me. And she gave me this gift today!”
“What is it?” I asked?
“Oh! It’s a retractible lasso!”
“Hmmm! Sounds like things are getting pretty serious, then,” I said, wondering what in the world is a “Retractable Lasso”.
“Oh, yeah it is. But you know Mom, I’m really kind of glad. See I’ve always wanted a girlfriend.” Another news flash for me. A minor jolt of electricity to the heart to remind me that nothing stays the same forever.
“Oh yeah? Well, that’s fairly cool” I exclaimed and raised my right hand high-five style, “Here’s to your first girlfriend! Totally awesome!”
FIRST LOVE. Ah, remember? So sweet.
And though I’m reasonably confident they most likely haven’t even made it to the “I want to hold your hand” stage, one can never be too sure. I started to open my mouth to speak. I felt a lecture brewing. And then a small thought whispered in my head….wait. Save it for later.
Oh son. There’s so much I want to tell you about what love is and what it’s not. But I realize you are only at the Retractible Lasso stage of your first relationship. So it will wait.
See I know a thing about lassos too. I may not be the sharpest cowgirl on the block, but I’ve learned a thing or two from the last half-century on earth about all the ways one can cast a lasso and then retract it!
ROPE ‘EM IN: (The infatuation stage). This is when you dazzle someone you sort of crush on with a shiny exterior. If may be your Air Jordans and Hollister shirts in middle school when the girls are about ten inches taller than you, curvier too. Or your Hugo Boss glasses and silk suits when you become a man. Ditto, perfect hair, makeup, and wardrobe for the woman. Your generation will probably just Google conversation starters to impress a potential love–which Napa grapes make for superior Merlot, or the Conscience of Collectivism or some other form topic du jour that old farts like your Dad and me just call Bull! This is the part of the game where the goal is to down the calf, score the win, conquest and conquer.
DRAW THEM CLOSE (even when they hurt you). But don’t TIGHTEN THE NOOSE (when you’re disappointed or angry). That was a two-plus decade lesson I got to practice for a while. It won’t be long, before the blinders come off, and all sorts of flaws in the other person** begin to manifest. Chances are, you will look in the mirror one day, and wonder:
What was I thinking?
If you’re lucky, you’ll be given enough time with someone to practice patience, kindness, self-control, peace-making skills, gentleness, and self-control. You’ll learn how to forgive, and let go of hurts and needing to be right all the time, but don’t panic if you don’t get this right the first four or five thousand times. Long-term commitment requires wisdom, and a strength that you actually don’t even possess, only God does. But you’ll figure that out too. Or at least I hope you will. (**Someday, may you be humble and wise enough to realize who I’m really talking about here!”
You’ll learn that no one likes to be in an emotional choke-hold. Mutual trust and genuine understanding is a two-way street. Don’t pull the lasso too tight. It makes people want to flee in a desperate attempt at self-preservation. But don’t leave the rope, laying on the ground, while you’re confidently napping, as the one you love questions whether your care at all and begins to quietly drift away. Ropes on the ground never saved a soul from drowning. May you be given wisdom to know when it’s time to step in and help save a life or a relationship.
A LONG LEAD IS FREEDOM; BUT A SHORT LEASH IS ENSLAVEMENT. So much to say, so little time.
It’s so important that you have the freedom to be who you truly are! Have an interest, a circle of friends, a passion that belongs just to you. I beg you not to be needy (okay, I guess that’s a bit of a hypocritical request here), but here’s the point: It is possible to smother the light and life out of the one you most desire. Wanting to control, compelled to criticize the “faults” (differences) and the impatience of not waiting for discernment, can shorten a lasso. It’s hard to love a “master” who controls the behaviors, thoughts, and comings and goings of another person. Our souls fly freest when we’re given a long lead, but always know how to find home. Be secure in who you are in Christ, so you will not seek your identity in the reflection of another. God gave YOU your own light. Let it shine brightly.
A GOOD LASSO IS DURABLE FOR THE LONG HAUL. (Don’t let your rope get frayed). In any long term relationship, you WILL have troubles. Expect them. Embrace them. And during the storms, check the condition of your rope that is the lifeline for both of you. A rope of three cords is not easily broken. You and the love of your life and God. Yeah, God. That’s a big one. But seriously, you have to have something bigger than yourself. Now some folks choose the love of scuba diving, or the love of astronomy as that thing that belongs to them as a couple. And that’s great and dandy. But in times of trouble, I find it’s best if you can look way high (to God) and find your way down low (on your knees boy!)
Love is an imperfect art. I could tell you marry your best friend, but your taste in friends will change. I could tell you always treat the other one how you want to be treated, but you’ll forget how or just forget to sometimes. I could tell you, if you follow all these steps to the letter, or better yet God’s plan, love will never leave you. Yet, there are no guarantees. That’s because as free people, we change. And with change, sometimes loss comes. And then something better.
Love is not just a feeling, it’s a decision. It’s an action-plan for the mutual admiration and self-respect club.
Soon enough you’ll be ready to rope in some fillies no doubt. And sometimes there won’t be a calf in sight. Just remember the lessons mom taught you about rope-tying and rope-flying!
Yip yip yippee i a! With love from your mother!
Love is a long road…..Tom Petty
Love is a battlefield….Pat Benetar
Love is blindness…..U2
Love is forever….Muse (Neurtron Star Collision)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:5-8