Monday, October 2, 2023

The Soapbox: The man with nerves of steel

“A ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it is built for.”—Albert Einstein

Over a year ago, my son gave me a gift that we thought was kind of silly for a grown up, but I have come to enjoy it partly as a joke and partly as something meaningful. It is nothing other than a small, changeable, felt letter board with a collection of plastic letters.

We had a good laugh about it, and have both enjoyed posting the one saying that we adopt as the theme of our lives for a season. I always get tickled to see if he notices when I have changed the theme as he breezes in and out, busy with his college social life.

The latter part of last year, I knew that the saying of the season would simply be “The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength.” It was all I had. I had overextended myself more than ever before and was struggling to get through one of the most demanding seasons of my life. Just about the same time I was leaning on the joy of the Lord, a friend of mine posted something about taking the risk for love. It hit me in the heart like Albert Einstein’s famous saying, “What good is a ship at shore…” It was built to take on the high seas! Meanwhile, I had also been in an online study with Pastor Mark Ballenger who pointed out that if everyone is “waiting on the Lord,” then nobody is actually doing anything to create community and new relationships.

At that point, I began to give myself freedom to intentionally seek relationships neither in an effort for mission work nor for charity, but in search of companionship. Having been steadfast on not kissing any frogs just for a nice dinner or exchanging my birthright for a bowl of wild game, I decided to change my approach in order to invite new relationships into my world. That approach was called risk.

I had been risk tolerant in every area of my life, except for love in my new normal. Just shy of actually going to the proverbial threshing floor, I entertained the idea of dinner with new friends, Zoom Meet Ups within my study group, and sending hilarious memes that inspired good conversation about relevant topics for the loneliest of hearts. It met a need in my new community and, once I broke the ice, they also felt safe in sharing their own painful experiences.

At the same time, I revealed my experience of someone I knew and loved. I was the one who made the tough call to stand up for my own heart, value, and worth. It was one of life’s toughest decisions I had ever made. Although I had hope, ultimately, the relationship could never be successful without addressing some of the personal thorns this someone brought into my life. I knew I could no longer enable the crippling behavior until this someone was willing to deal.

Don’t think for one second that I did not go through withdrawal of loving someone who was unable to love me back as I deserved. To keep things light in my study group, I would often joke about how ridiculous it was that I still longed for this relationship and that I might even be willing to accept his poor behavior if I could only have a lifetime of rubbing my fingers through his hair; for it reminded me of walking on the mossy green carpet beneath the oaks of my youth, the kind that would creep up through my toes when I was barefoot in summer. Or if things got too sad for someone I might post a faux photo of my new tattoo of his name on my upper back, while reminding everyone that a bird on the back becomes a buzzard in the crack. Then suddenly even the silent tears of my friends seem to find a reprieve for just a moment and we had a good laugh with #NoRegerts.

The truth is, the joy of the Lord, HAD to be my strength. It was all I had to allow myself to move forward. I didn’t even want to move forward. I suffered terrible grief, like a lover left behind on Valentine’s Day. I wanted those issues resolved and was powerless to make it happen. The issues were never resolved. It never happened.

This Valentine’s Day, I know that while there will be sweethearts everywhere that are celebrating, even rekindling their love stories, mine will be one left behind like countless others who suffer from Valentine’s grief. I took another look and realized that I had forgotten one tiny, albeit highly relevant, part of that one little verse on my letter board. The full saying is, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Perhaps, that was what God above wants the grief-stricken to know in the hidden places: sorrows can be traded for His joy.

One dear friend who was an encourager to me said that he would be praying for this someone, since he had unknowingly forfeited the opportunity of a lifetime of me being by his side. I will admit, that was enough to dry a few tears. Being a romantic who still believes the reward is worth the risk, I knew I wanted to write my feelings about unrequited love this Valentine’s Day. I guess when your parents were frolicking around in 1968, they subsequently named you Brandi (“Brandy”), and you meet a man on mission, you just go with that for the theme of the season! Here’s to all the lovers left behind on Valentine’s Day! I don’t know if it will help you or cause you to wallow in sorrow just a little bit more, but this poem was the second best thing that ever came out of loving the man with nerves of steel.

The Man With Nerves of Steel

The man with nerves of steel

Can dock a ship from sea,

Can do most anything

Save love a girl like me.

His feats of valor great,

Virtuous this and thats,

Can sport his best dress blues,

Dine with aristocrats.

With warring threat, so grave,

A nation in distress,

Within my closet deep

Hangs mamas wedding dress.

The diamond ring, his gift

Tis rusting in a box,

Aye, throw away the key.

And tighten up the locks.

With kisses oh so sweet,

A touch I felt was true,

But times parler has shown

What I already knew.

Never knew he love

Of his dear Mothers touch,

Uncharted, fortressed heart,

Unransomed, life-long grudge.

His bondage be set free,

My fervent prayer implore

Still, once again he sails

Off to a distant shore.

Adrift against the wind

To some forsaken place,

Its been a thousand years

Since I have seen his face.

Entreat to christen me

With only his champagne.

My hopeful heart believes

In time, hell come again.

His no reserves to give

The all I ever need,

Now heed the voice of God:

Red flagshigh tides in me.

Excelling far above

The others of his rank,

Bar unrequited love

This sailor left at bank.

Oh, man with nerves of steel

Who launched the ships to sea,

My lonely light yet shines

For your return to me!”

To have this hope deferred

More lovesick have I grown,

Cruel pleasure of the kiss

I wish Id never known.

Brandi Chambless
Brandi Chambless
Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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