I just got to talk to someone here who is struggling through her 6-month relationship in a cross-cultural way as well as human brokenness, physical attraction, disparate communication…
And oh my gosh I don’t care if nothing else happens this week I came to chapter camp for a reason.
– text I sent Bry yesterday
It was so good. Like everything she was wrestling with I had an experience with Bry that I could speak with, to say that this is my story and how I have learned to approach it and love through it.
I think previously I had wondered why I was at chapter camp. I came, but for what? That conversation was it. At the end of talking and laughing and sharing and crying and praying together, she looked visibly—physically—different from the fearful, confused hesitation she had begun our time almost shrouded in. It was as if a weight has sloughed off her shoulders and a gentle hand soothed the furrows on her brow…
In speaking of things that I, a physically-insecure woman who has loved and known love in Latino cultures, have learned about dating—and specifically dating an Asian-American man—I spoke aloud deep truths that God has blessed richly. As I declared these, they gave her stepping stones on which she could rise from what felt like floundering in rough waters. And I saw for myself the convictions this relationship has grown and shown me:
- Vision is so important. Asking and hearing from each other how we both see our relationship, our roles in each other’s lives, our roles in the relationship, and our future together is at once frightening, healing, surprising, challenging, redeeming, and uplifting. But so important. Because after that, knowing that, we created in those conversations a language of our own: when we have conflicts or connections, jokes and journeys, troubles or triumphs, couched in English words we have a language to speak of them to each other. So I can rejoice when we partner in ministry and lament when there is a barrier to walking hand-in-hand. So I can say how I feel in lexicon we have already adopted together.
- Growing apart is beautiful and possible if we grow toward our common vision. Having a language for my relationship makes the difficult communication over distance more comprehensible and personal to each: though I have many experiences in Berkeley apart from him, and he in SoCal, we can yet interpret them in our context and love and hope for our future. So in having a common lens to also view our separate lives, we can, while apart, still journey together.
- It is entirely okay to initiate awkwardness, ask for affirmation, and admit anxieties—especially in the physical, carnal, and attraction realms. This is the nature of the relationship we both committed to; we signed up for this: to be life partners, to love ourselves and each other wholly as creations and reflections of the God of beauty and wonder. I acknowledge that within myself I seek to know that Bryan finds me attractive, what Bryan thinks of my self-perceived shortcomings, if he is also jealous over my body. (I use the word in the sense of a jealous, proprietary God. Not implying that my boyfriend wants to look like me.) In this society then I also see that as the woman, I have the place of vulnerability to open the conversation and affirm that I seek to know how he loves me, not how he owns or objectifies me. And because he is no Herculean hulk that I also seek to love and affirm his own physicality piecewise, one part, one pain at a time.
It’s been five months, and see these my growing pains.