I got married in my 30s. Which means that I spent most of my 20s single. I had one serious relationship in my late 20s. Other than most of the time I was single.
I was in romantic relationships throughout high school and I wanted my college years to be marked by focus and seriousness – my folks always emphasized completion of education prior to romantic pursuits.
Then I remember there was this half-white, half-Japanese girl that I conjured up the courage to ask on a date once. She was one of my sister’s friends so that was my in. I drove out 2 hours to see her and even ask her out. She turned me down.
It stung. I had been out of the dating scene for a while and it was as if I forgot what it was like to be rejected.
Then there was medical school. And medical school was going to be located in Southern California. And California was just teeming with single women.
Someone I knew who graduated about 4 years earlier than I said that the dating scene was like hunting in a zoo.
The first year came and went and nothing worked out. Second and third year were uneventful. I was finally coming to the last year of medical school.
No one likes to admit this, but the last year of medical school carries a certain type of desperation. You’ve been burying yourself in books for the last 7 years and then you finally look up and realize you’re in your mid-twenties. It’s uncertain the next time you’ll have this many options. It’s part of the reason why you see so many weddings that year at my alma mater.
That last year of medical school I put myself out there. I prayed and fasted. I went to every social gathering. I went to multiple church young adult groups. I got involved. I went on dates.
But the final day of medical school would come and go without anyone special in my life. It occurs to me that desperation might be like its cousin fear. Women can smell it. And once you wear that scent, no woman wants to get near you.
After several years of searching and coming up empty-handed, terrible thoughts can begin to make its way into the deep crevices of your mind. You begin to wonder if you’re defective in some way. And that your defects will somehow doom you to lifelong loneliness.
There’s a Happy Ending
I finally did get married and it was to an amazing woman. As I reflect on my first year of marriage, it has been a source of healing for me.
Here are the following ways a marriage has been therapeutic to me.
1. I can be loved despite my imperfections
The worst critic comes from an inner voice. I would be the first to tell you my shortcomings. I’m scattered brained and lack efficiency. I can be absent-minded and boring. After a while you can begin to wonder. Is something wrong with me? Perhaps there’s something about my character or personality that no good woman would tolerate?
If you talk to people that know me they would find these thoughts to be preposterous. But that’s what happens when you’ve searched over and over again for a partner and come up empty-handed.
Marrying Melanie has brought healing in that area. I realize those dark thoughts of something being fundamentally wrong with me are actually ridiculous. That I have someone in my life who loves me no matter what.
In the book Scary Close by Don Miller he writes:
We don’t think of our flaws as the glue that binds us to the people we love, but they are. Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can’t accept their imperfections can’t accept grace either.
My humanity is imperfect and defects are real. It’s easy for me to become fixated on them. When you are loved in spite of a full knowledge of your imperfections, healing begins to take root in your heart.
2. I am good enough to be loved.
Each person has good qualities. But we are largely unaware of them or those qualities have not been validated. When a loved one points out those specific traits, it’s affirming.God made me
3. God made me to bring joy into someone’s life.
Don Miller writes in the same book:
It’s a beautiful moment when somebody wakes up to this reality, when they realize God created them so other people could enjoy them, not just endure them.
Something happens when your life isn’t just a means to someone’s end. Instead a relationship with someone who enjoys your very presence brings healing we often underestimate.
I’ve spoken in this blog about how my wife has been a healing presence in my life. I have no doubt that this is God intention. That he uses people to bring about that healing.
To Those Single
A note to those who are single reading this blog: a healing relationship can come in all sorts of forms. In 2013, I began a relationship with a mentor who clarified God’s calling in my life for medical ministry. In 2016, I began a relationship with another mentor who walked me through the ups and downs of engagement and marriage. Those therapeutic relationships brought healing in my life that I am only now beginning to understand.
The Christian Provider as a Healing Relationship
It seems to me, that as Christian providers we are to be a healing presence to our patients.
It’s not uncommon for me to spend half the time of my office visit just listening and going back and forth about the non-medical issues in their lives.
One experience comes to mind. She was married to a man for many years but it was a marriage of convenience and they were many times antagonistic. We were laughing and having a good time in my office. After I told her we had to wrap up the visit, her countenance changed. It now looked as if she was carrying a weight on her back. When I asked her what’s wrong she responded, I’ve had such a good time here. And now I have to go back home.
My patient unfortunately, had a difficult life. But maybe for moment – just a moment – she could experience a healing experience by the gift of presence I could offer her.