To all the girls wondering about that one guy.

Dear Girl,

Maybe you’re not so little anymore. Maybe you’re grown up enough to understand that love has a lot of impact on the life of human beings. Maybe you’ve been old enough to understand that for a long time now. Maybe you’re 16. You could be 26 or 56 or 106. Whatever age at which this understanding came your way, it’s a very true realization. Love is something that we are made for, both to give and to receive. Love is something we’re geared toward. Love is a necessity of being human. We all either want to be loved, are loved, or do love someone or something. This need for intimacy and relationships is so deeply ingrained in us that solitary confinement is considered the cruelest of punishments.

This need for intimacy and the need to not be lonely is one of the things that is meant to be fulfilled through a marriage. That’s what it means to be “one flesh.” Not that you suddenly morph into another human being, and both of you no longer have identities apart from each other, but that you become unique parts in one another’s lives, in a deep way. This bond between bride and groom, husband and wife, is meant to mirror Christ’s love for His bride, the capital-C Church. It is when this relationship stops mirroring that image that things go wrong. This is when things get screwed up, and this is when we get hurt.

However, we as humans are always and forever incapable of mirroring this image perfectly all the time. In fact, I don’t know of one couple who does it perfectly even a majority of the time. And this is why Jesus is such a necessary part of the equation as well. He is not optional. And the necessity of Jesus within marriage is the reason for God’s command to be equally yoked.

I have been told about or asked about mixed-faith relationships many times. I have been in them. They have all failed. Even the ones where two people of completely different faiths stay married, it is a failure, and here’s why: one or both of those parties involved compromised on what they say they believe. They either never valued that belief in the first place, or else they gave it up in the name of something that they would tell you is love. The very definition of marriage as a vehicle for showing Christ’s love to the world is denied.

It is not.

The Biblical definition of love at its simplest is just God. 

God is Love.

There are all kinds of definitions that you could give to love, and I know that people do it. Maybe you’ve been told that you can define it yourself, and whatever definition you give it is what it means, and it can mean anything to anyone. In a sense, this is true. But what many people call “love” is just an emotion. This isn’t love, it’s the butterflies in your stomach. Those two may coincide, but they are not one in the same. When the butterflies go away, as they surely will, it does not mean that Love flew away with them to briefly flit to the next flower, staying only until the nectar is gone. That’s what the butterflies do. It is not what love does.

This is not to say that those who do not know God cannot know something of love. After all, we are all created in the image of God, and if God is love, then that is what drives this desire for intimacy even within those who don’t know him. It is a reflection of his nature within his creation. But the mirror is dirty, and this reflection becomes distorted. People take love and turn love into a form of self-worship, rather than using it to worship the One who is Love.

So here is my question for you if you are wondering about a relationship with someone who does not know Jesus: How will he love you the way that Jesus loves the Church if he doesn’t know Jesus? Will your relationship be what it was intended to be? Just because you can drag him to church, or coerce him to go with you once a month, or just because he attends in order to see you and hang out, none of these things constitutes knowing Jesus. None of these things makes a biblical man out of him. This is because, biblically, someone who just sort of tolerates God is considered an enemy of God. There’s not a sliding scale. It’s one side or the other. There’s not an in-between state where someone is neither an enemy nor a lover of God. He is one, or he is the other. He cannot be both, or neither.

Something else to ask is this: How will your goals and your aspirations and your values differ if what’s at the very center of each of your lives is not the same? The truth is, even if he’s not worshipping God, he’s worshipping something. We all are. That’s what an idol is. It could be a job, a relationship, approval, education, perfection, knowledge, physical strength or prowess, technology. What you worship is what your life revolves around, and what his life centers around is what yours will begin to gravitate toward as well. And if that doesn’t happen, then the pull between the two things you both are trying to follow will eventually become so great that either you pull away from each other, or one of you pulls away from the center of your own life to move toward the center of the other’s life. Most often, this is the other person pulling you away from God, not the other way around. Is that worth it to you? And that’s an honest question, not a judgment.

Alena Rivas is a college student from Tucson, Arizona. She has been married since August, 2013. She and her husband don’t have kids yet, but they hope to once she graduates! Alena writes about life, love, loss, and God. She works to incorporate her own experiences in such a way as to inspire others and encourage people to think about things in new ways. If you like her writing and want to keep up with it better or just want to have access to her awesome witticisms that may not always end up in blog posts, you can find her on Facebook (facebook.com/authoralenarivas), Twitter (@MrsAlenaeous), and Google+ (Alena Rivas).

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No one sends you flowers when your child didn’t die.

References to grief usually center around a death. It had to be someone close to you, and it had to be a death. Only that kind of loss warrants flowers, cards, and consolation. But what if nobody died? What about the pain from a broken relationship, or a lost opportunity or job? What if you recently had to make the decision to just not have a person in your life anymore who was previously very close to you? Is that not loss that warrants a time of a grieving? We call it sadness without calling it grief, almost like we believe that it doesn’t deserve such a name, right along side of tragedies like sickness and death.

But it is. It is grief that we’re feeling. And while it might not be the same, it still leaves an impact that you can’t ignore; that you don’t move on from more quickly simply because it wasn’t the same as another type of sadness, or another kind of loss.

My son turned 5 years old on December 24th, just a few days ago. Five years ago, I was in the hospital for Christmas. Five years ago, I was up all night with a new baby boy who needed to be fed. Five years ago, I had to call a nurse in for help because I was struggling to feed him. Five years ago, I had friends and family gathered around to see this new little boy. Five years ago, I had a family picked for him to go home with. It wasn’t my own. He was mine. But he wasn’t. I went home without a new car seat, without blankets, without bottles or binkies, without a crib waiting at home in a blue-painted nursery. And without a child.

But he didn’t die. There was no tragic loss. At least not in the way that most people would describe the tragic loss of a child.

He just went home with someone else.

He’s still alive. I still see him. I’m friends with his parents. I know his siblings. I see pictures of him all the time. For some reason, that’s always the first thing people ask me. “Do you get to see him?” And then I say yes, and they say, “Oh, okay,” as if to say, “Well, that settles that.”

Shouldn’t that be enough? Isn’t that good?

Well, yes. It’s an incredible blessing for him to have adoptive parents who are so amazing, and who are willing to let me be a part of their lives.

And no.

While I still get to see his face, see him grow, learn his likes and dislikes, and see his beautiful little face light up when he opens his birthday gifts, there is still a painful hole where I feel like he should be. Where I feel that should be. Would that be “enough” for you, or anybody? No. It never is, it never will be, but it’s what some of us have. And it’s incredible, but also sad at the same time.

It’s like looking into his life, and seeing that it is full and complete. But without me. Like there’s a hole in his life that he doesn’t feel, but I do. Hopefully, he never will. He has a wonderful family who loves him very dearly, and they’d do anything for him. He’s theirs. But he’s also mine. And that’s difficult to reconcile.

I don’t want to compete with his mother, or father, or sister, or brothers. They’re his, and he’s theirs. They’re a family. It’s what I chose for him. And it’s exactly what I wanted. I just didn’t know about the hole. The hole manifests itself in ways that I don’t expect. Like the feeling that I should have been the one planning his birthday party instead of attending as a guest. Or the feeling I got when I heard that he has stage fright, and didn’t want to go up on stage for his Christmas recital. I just wanted to hug him and tell him that it’s okay to not want to perform in front of people. I wanted to tell him he didn’t have to do it if he didn’t want to. That was exactly what his parents told him, which made me happy and relieved, and reassured. But there was still that nagging feeling that I should have been the one to tell him those things.

I’m not there when he needs someone to hug. I’m not there when he needs help tying his shoes. I’m not there when he argues about what to wear, or doesn’t like the movie he’s watching, or has nightmares, or when he learned his first words, or learned to crawl, or took his first steps.

And that’s the hole.

It’s me not being in his life, rather than him not being a big enough part of mine. Because he is a huge part of my life. I love him, and I always will. The sadness doesn’t come from the fact that I gave him to another family. They’re wonderful. I love them all dearly. This amazing little boy brought two families of strangers together, and made them one even bigger family. I do not regret him, and I do not regret them, and I never will. Nobody can make me feel guilty about any of it. That’s not where the sadness comes from. It’s from that hole. It’s the brokenness of the entire situation that led to him having to go home with someone else. The imperfection of the relationship that brought him here. The imperfect timing of the whole thing, that led to hard decisions.

But most people will dismiss it because he didn’t pass away. He has no defects, or physical ailments. He’s a perfect little baby boy who simply went home with someone else. Nobody sends you flowers for that. It’s not recognized as grief. Just sadness. And being sad is, for some reason, different than grief. It’s a fleeting emotion, something that you should be able to move on from.

And yet every year, on his birthday, I go back to that feeling. And I wonder if, because I never recognized it as grief, I never actually grieved. I assumed it was “just” sadness, that it would go away. It’s been five years. I should be okay. And I am okay. I’m married, and happy, and he’s happy and with his family. We’re all okay, contrary to what some people tried to tell me would happen if I placed him for adoption. But there’s still that lingering sadness, and I’m not sure if it will ever really be gone. Maybe some grief stays with you for a lifetime. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that time doesn’t heal all wounds. It can’t. Time is just that. It passes. It moves on. That doesn’t mean that we do. Maybe we can’t.

But this is my story. It’s what makes me who I am, and it’s what has led me to where I am. It’s part of me, and so I refuse to regret it, no matter how much sadness there is to go through.

Alena Rivas is a college student from Tucson, Arizona. She has been married since August, 2013. She and her husband don’t have kids yet, but they hope to once she graduates! Alena writes about life, love, loss, and God. She works to incorporate her own experiences in such a way as to inspire others and encourage people to think about things in new ways. If you like her writing and want to keep up with it better or just want to have access to her awesome witticisms that may not always end up in blog posts, you can find her on Facebook (facebook.com/authoralenarivas), Twitter (@MrsAlenaeous), and Google+ (Alena Rivas).