My prayer for you, my daughters.

My husband and I have begun to look at houses. In that process, the subject of children has played a central part. Can we raise kids here? Would we be able to stay here and grow as a family for a long time if necessary? Is this a safe neighborhood for kids? Is it on a cul de sac so that our kids can play in the driveway and not have as much risk of being hit by a car? These are all things that didn’t even cross our mind when we picked an apartment. I mean, they may have, but they were much less prominent factors in our choice. But there’s something different about a house. There’s something familial and comforting and special about a house, because a house, unlike an apartment (most of the time), is going to be your home. It’s much less temporary.

In discussing all of these considerations for what we want in a home, the subject took a turn to what we want for our kids, not just for the house they will live and grow in. We talked about some kids that we love, and some kids that we can’t stand, and how we grew up, and how our parents raised us, and this eventually led to things that we do or do not want our kids to be. I know that parents can’t control all of this, but they most certainly play a role. This train of thought eventually got me thinking about daughters, probably because I’m a woman and I know what its like to grow up as a girl. And so these are the things that I want my daughters to know as they grow older.

  1. You can like baseball, and lipstick. I want you, my daughters, to know that there’s no such thing as “too girly” or “too boyish” and that whatever your likes or dislikes or interests or passions, I will support those passions. You can love math and art. You can love creative writing and engineering. You can love rugby (which will probably scare me half to death at some point watching you play, but I will watch your games), and you can also love fashion design simultaneously. And that’s okay, even if other people call it weird. It’s fine. Because I want nothing less for you than for you to freely express your interests.
  2. You are strong. I want you, my daughters, to grow up knowing strong women so that you know you can be a strong woman. And I want to be a strong woman for you. The world most certainly needs strong men, but it also needs strong women. Whether those women are being strong while standing by their man or strong while being single, the world needs more of that because women are awesome and you have so much to contribute to the world around you. And don’t ever let the world tell you that you cannot be simultaneously strong and have a man that you support. For some reason, it is a common belief that if a woman marries then she “needs” her man. But you can be strong and single, or you can be strong and married. I know women from both categories and they are all amazing. Neither one of those options diminishes you in any way.
  3. You are also fragile. It is okay to show vulnerability. I also want you, my daughters, to understand that being strong means recognizing your own human fragility. You are absolutely not fragile because you are girls. You are fragile because you are human, and there are things in this world that hurt all of us, and cut deeply, and leave scars. Those hurts, even though they were painful, are something that it’s okay to feel. It’s okay to cry, and it’s okay to express emotion and it’s perfectly okay to have been hurt by things and to be open about it. It is a temptation to let the scars harden us, to let our hearts grow cold and uninviting because for our hearts to be open is to expose them to potential threats. But the truth is that to love at all, you must be vulnerable. And a life without love is not worth living.
  4. Apologize. There will be many times throughout your life when you are not the subject of hurt, but the inflicter. It’s part of being a person. You will hurt people. It is important to know this, and to be humble enough to apologize. Recognize when you’ve hurt someone, and recognize when you are in the wrong. It will happen. And sometimes an apology is all it takes. Other times, the damage is just not able to be repaired. And that hurts. But an apology may allow you to forgive yourself, and allow the other person to forgive you. Do not buy into the idea that anything and everything you do is “just who you are.” We are our choices, and it is never too late to choose to recognize your own fault and say you’re sorry.
  5. Forgive. In addition to forgiving yourself, it is necessary to forgive others. The inability to forgive will only ever result in more pain. The inability to forgive only brings bondage, but forgiveness brings freedom. Holding a grudge is like carrying a heavy load that someone else gave to you, perhaps unknowingly. It’s not necessary to keep carrying it. Forgiveness is dropping that burden and continuing to walk forward, and not looking back at that burden lying on the road behind you.

And lastly, I want you to know why any of these things that I pray for you are possible. Your strength is not your own. Your likes and dislikes and passions and desires reflect someone else’s. You are able to forgive and to love and to be anything at all for one reason. And it is because of Jesus. Because he created you, you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14). All of who you are is wonderful. Because he is strong, you are strong, if he lives in you. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength because in our weakness, he is strong (Phil. 4:13, 2 Cor. 12:9). You can forgive because he forgave us first (Col. 3:13). All of this is only through him. And so that is my prayer for you, that he would live in you, and that you would first and foremost be his daughters and not mine.

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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We are a signature.

Reading is quite a mysterious thing. Science can’t quite explain how the little black squiggles that you see result in pictures in your head. If I write, “Little lambs frolicking in a field,” you can see it. And that’s amazing. However, in order to see that, you have to learn how letters work together to form words, which work together to form sentences, which then work together to create a story. This is quite an amazing phenomenon when you think about it.

Those little black squiggles would seem nonsensical unless you learned to comprehend the language they’re written in. But even once you learn individual letters, it will do you no good unless you learn how they work together to create words, and the words do you no good unless you understand how they create a sentence. Even the sentences would seem oddly disjointed unless you have some understanding of the story that they’re in. You have to know their context.

Life is much like this sometimes. If we are each a letter within a word within a sentence within a narrative, then life can seem incredibly nonsensical unless you understand all of the interactions going on around you. It can feel awfully disjointed and confusing. Usually, this confusion comes down to a simple lack of understanding. The problem is that, as humans, there are some things that we will never understand until (or unless) we see the narrative as a whole and are able to see what led to what, who’s lives intertwined and for what reason, and how one chapter ended so that the next could begin.

Also much like a story, the story that we’re living in has an Author. He created each one of his characters with care and precision to serve exactly the purpose that they are intended for, just like any good author would. He laid down each letter of each word of each sentence on every page so that they too would each serve a purpose. Nothing is extraneous, all was necessary, and all was carefully laid out and planned.

This narrative is the longest and the grandest in all of history, because it consists of all of history. It’s a story of love, hate, joy, anger, despair, hope, and faith. It’s a story that doesn’t stop once you’re gone. It keeps going. It goes on into forever, and the ending, contrary to all writing advice I’ve ever been given, is a happy one. It continues on into paradise.

When you think of it that way, God as the ultimate Creator, not just of physical things (trees, water, flowers, birds, humans, insects), but also the one who created the synapses that allow you to process thoughts, feel feelings, and have the urge to create, dream, imagine, and learn. When we talk about being created in his image, I think we too often stop at the physical appearance. Having arms, legs, eyes, a nose, and a mouth is indeed an image. But what about a mental image? What about the feelings that we feel, the creativity that abounds within human beings, the urge to let that creativity loose?

I believe that this is also one way that we reflect God. If he is the Creator, wouldn’t it make sense that we would want to create? If he is the Author of Life, wouldn’t it make sense for his creations to desire to also be the authors of lives? Of course, ours are often fictional. His story created the world that we live in, ours creates words on pages that can allow others to experience the worlds we keep in our heads. But doesn’t it make sense?

Creativity and imagination and the desire and the drive to make art and books and plays is a unique reflection of our creator, and it’s something that should be expressed. It is equally as valuable as logic and factual information, because without creativity you will never make the leap from what you see to what you think about it. You will never be able to make connections between seemingly disconnected ideas. You would never make the leap from the formation of a little black squiggle to the idea that it could represent sounds and an image. The facts are important, but creativity is what builds the connections between facts that allows an individual to see those facts in a way that no one else ever has. We all have this ability ingrained deep within us. It’s what allows an author to make a character who is representative of the author himself. It’s what allows an artist to represent his feelings about a war through an abstract painting. It’s what allowed the Wright brothers to look at the birds and say, “I can do what they do.” It’s what inspired Galileo to look at the stars and realize that the Ptolemaic model was wrong.

And all of this can be traced back to the image that we bear. He put his mark on his creation the way that an artist signs a painting. That’s what we are. We’re his signature on a beautiful and wondrous universe.

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).

A thank you note, and some information.

Hello, followers!

First of all, I’m flattered that my blog, which started out simply as an outlet for my writing because I was going through journals faster than I could buy them, has garnered so much support and a following. I did not expect that when I started. I have been blown away the past two days as I watched people respond to my post, “To the girl I saw in the Target bathroom.” I never, never thought that my writing would be important enough for people to share with their friends, so thank you. It’s incredibly encouraging to me and it tells me that I actually can have my dream job as a writer. Actually, it may not be too far off. I wouldn’t be able to have a career as a writer without having readers.

I wanted to let everyone know about a way to follow my blog that may be a little easier for some of you and may make it easier to share posts that you enjoy. I made a Facebook page for my blog a while back. The link is here. You can feel free to simply keep following on WordPress, or you can go like the Facebook page! It would help me out tremendously, since Facebook now requires page owners to “promote” their posts in order for people to see them. That’s just a nice way of saying that we have to pay Facebook in order for our posts to be seen by more people. However, if a Facebook page has enough people sharing and liking the content, then the followers of that page promote the content through those posts and likes instead of the owner paying for it (paying for your posts to be seen sounds like cheating to me anyway). The new policy has made it hard for people without an established base of followers to actually get started and be seen and heard, which is silly because the ones who are just starting out are the ones who probably don’t have money yet to promote their product.

Anyway, go ahead over to the Facebook page if you feel so inclined and let me know that you like it by, you know, liking it.

Thank you so very much for following my blog. It truly is flattering and incredible to me, and amazes me every time I look at the number of followers, shares, and likes!

-Alena

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).

To the girl that I saw in the Target bathroom.

Dear stranger,

I don’t know your name, or your age. I don’t know anything about your family, or where you come from or where you go to school, or even if you go to school. I don’t know if you have a boyfriend, or whether or not you drink, or if you’re in a sorority. I don’t know your thoughts, your passions, your fears, or your life.

I do not know you.

But there are some things that I do know.

I know it was a Friday, because I didn’t have to be at work until 10am.

I know that I needed to go to Target.

I don’t know what I needed there. I can’t remember. But I do remember you.

I know that you’re pregnant (I hope that you still are). I know this because you were in front of me at the checkout. You only had one item. It was the test. Probably the scariest test you will ever have to take. You walked straight to the bathroom, which was where I needed to go too. I sat in the stall next to you. You were on the phone. I heard you talking, maybe to a best friend, or your boyfriend, or your mom. Then I heard silence.

I knew that silence.

I heard you say, “This one is saying the same thing, it’s positive too.” And I knew you’d probably taken six tests already, praying that one of them was negative.

You didn’t look much older than I am now. Maybe you’re younger. I don’t know.

I knew the dead-pan tone in your voice. It was the same tone that I had when I told my best friend in high school, “I think I’m pregnant.”

I will be honest. I stood there in the bathroom for a good two minutes, hoping that maybe you would come out and I could say something to you. Maybe tell you that your life is not over, and give you contacts for people who would help you. I wanted to tell you it would all be okay, and to tell you that I know where you are right now. It really doesn’t seem like a great place to be, and I know that. It’s scary, and it seems so awful, and I know that too. And maybe I could just hug you if that’s what you needed.

But you didn’t come out, and I realized that maybe all of that would be a little creepy and a little overwhelming coming from a total stranger. I know…

But there are some things that I would also like you to know.

I want you to know that I got to my car and I cried. I bawled. I couldn’t stop the tears. I kept wiping them away so I wouldn’t go into work with red, puffy eyes. I cried because I know the feeling of sitting in a bathroom stall, holding that stick and watching the plus-sign appear. I know the paralyzing fear and the doubt and the anxiety. I know the feeling of suddenly not knowing where your life is going now, not knowing your options, and not knowing where to turn or who can help you.

I want you to know that I cried because I knew that you had (have?) two options. I cried because those two options are life and death. And I know that 4,000 mothers per day do not choose life.

I want you to know that while I cried in my car before going to work, I also prayed. I prayed that you would keep your baby. I prayed that fear would not drive you to something you didn’t really want. I prayed that you had supportive and encouraging friends in your life who would build you up and stand by you when you needed those kinds of friends the most (I had a couple of those, and they were life savers). I prayed that you would find comfort and peace, and even joy.

I prayed that you would hear your baby’s heartbeat. Did you know that a baby’s heart is beating at 180 beats per minute when the baby is just 10 weeks old? Did you know that your baby may have already had fingers?

But mostly, I prayed that no matter what you chose, that God would use this event the way he used mine for me. I prayed that he would use any decision that you made to bring you closer to him. Because he can do that. He can literally use anything. He promises that he will work all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). I prayed that he would use anything and everything going on in your life at that moment to push you into him in a way that you’d never experienced before, and that you would feel his love, and feel that he wants you and loves you and cherishes you, and cherishes the baby that he placed in your care. I prayed that you would be pushed into him so hard, that there would be no way for you not to know these things.

And I still pray for you. I want you to know that I care, and that I love you, even if I don’t know you. I want you to know that, in a way, I do know you because I have been where you are. And I love and care about you. Every time I think about you, I also pray for you. Because that’s what I wished people were doing for me when I was in your shoes, but too often I was met with ridicule and derision where there should have been love. And I want you to be met with love. But I know that too many people will look at the ring finger on your left hand, and they will judge you for the lack of a ring. And so I want to be one of the people who meets you with love, even if I never actually meet you. Because Jesus would meet you with love, and that’s the lead I’m following.

Sincerely,

A Stranger

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).

Why the body image movement isn’t actually a solution.

While I do believe that it’s a wonderful thing for women to realize that they are beautiful, and I think that the driving idea behind current changes in the way we think about beauty is a great one, I also think that it’s not the best one. It’s great that women of all shapes and sizes are beginning to see that they don’t have to fit within the “skinny” mold to be beautiful. I’m glad that this movement and new way of thinking is pushing women to love who they are, and that it’s pushing them to be confident in their own skin and not let someone else’s opinion of them bring them down. I’m happy that women are being pushed to recognize their own worth and their own beauty.

But here’s why I think that this beauty movement is not the solution to body image issues.

The current beauty movement maintains that a woman’s beauty is reliant on her outer appearance. She still must be esthetically pleasing in order to be beautiful, even though we have changed the type of body she is “allowed” to have in order to fit within this frame. For example, I never see women with acne portrayed as “beautiful.” I have only ever seen women with acne in commercials for getting rid of acne. I have never seen a woman who is morbidly obese portrayed as someone beautiful, nor have I ever seen someone who is completely emaciated portrayed as such.

Even in photos that are supposedly “celebrating diversity” the women that are in these photographs always seem to have very Caucasian facial features, but with differing skin tones (but never a woman who’s very black or very white), and range from maybe a size 6 to a size 12. Our perspective is still controlled by models who fit within certain parameters by way of the hip-waist-breast ratio. That ratio has just been made able to accommodate other women than the typical 5’9-5’11, 120 pound model with a 13 inch waist or whatever.

All we have done is moved from having one mold into having a few extras lying around that we whip out whenever people demand it. And it seems that most people are ok with that.

The focus is still almost completely outward. It’s still less based on inner qualities and almost completely focused on how much body fat a woman is “allowed” to have, while putting only the occasional spotlight on “inner beauty” or the fact that many women are beautiful without having extravagant outer appearances. We’ve just increased the number of acceptable body types. However, morbidly obese women are still largely unacceptable, as are very skinny women. Very black women are not represented, and neither are very white women. But this still isn’t really the problem.

So we’ve widened our range of acceptable body types, and still not addressed what beauty actually is, because this beauty movement maintains the same train of thought that got us into the “skinny is beautiful” mindset in the first place. This train of thought being that beauty is “in the eye of the beholder,” in that it (beauty) consists of what is seen with the naked eye.

As long as the focus is outward instead of inward, there will always be only a few body types represented in the media, because the media is entirely visual; there will always be some body type or other touted above the others and said to be the preferred other; there will always be ridiculously high sales of makeup and plastic surgery and high heels and fancy clothes and false eyelashes.

Until we can change the focus of our attractions, the rest will never follow.

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).

It’s always been this way: a brief history of love.

Love is one of those tricky things that everybody has an opinion about, it seems. It’s something that seems to change every other day. The definition varies from person to person. It’s never something concrete. It’s something that has become completely subjective. It used to be objective, didn’t it? Back when everybody believed in God, and the world was rosy and peaceful, and the Church held power and everybody flocked into buildings with crosses on top of them every Sunday. Why has “love” changed so much since then? Why isn’t it this clear-cut concept anymore involving one man, one woman, and God? When did all of these redefinitions occur? Why is it so complicated now? Why do people have to keep trying to sabotage it?

The truth is, we blame modern societal trends for so much of how the concept of love has evolved. We blame modern society on how pretty much everything has evolved. We seem to think that societal and historical shifts in people’s philosophies have only occurred within recent decades, with the philosophy of moral relativity being central to it all. But when you look at the history of anything that people say has changed in recent years, it may shock you to see how similar things were then to the way they are now.

While it may appear that things have only drastically changed within the past couple of decades, the truth is that any perceived societal shift is either 1) the result of something that occurred long ago and is only now being addressed or noticed, or 2) it is something that has always been, throughout history, and people just happen to comment on it now, which of course draws attention to something that was previously unrealized and so it appears new and controversial. This is especially true in the age of digitalization, where everyone with an opinion can put it on the internet and so it makes old issues appear new because this is the first time that widespread access has been had to someone’s opinion on it (whatever “it” is).

When we look at the way that people see love now, and we see that people seem to care more about “love” than about their marriages, and that people are in love with love instead of with other people, and when we see high divorce rates, and so many different definitions and ideas about what love is and how it should be thought of, it seems like all of these ideas just came out of the blue. Of course, as soon as anybody begins talking about the subjectivity of Truth with a capital T, and how everybody has to define things like love for themselves, we immediately want to blame the fact that there’s been a shift in modern thinking to embrace this “moral subjectivity” thought process, and that this is now what is being taught in schools and it’s just what people believe now, and it’s so frustrating that nobody agrees with me! Ugh. (You have no idea how often I hear that from people who think they’re “old fashioned” or “conservative” in their way of thinking). But this theory of subjectivity can be traced back literally hundreds of years to philosophers like Kant. Though Kant never actually stated that our minds create the phenomena that we cognize and did not believe this to be true, some of the other philosophers who studied him did say this and they gave him credit for these ideas.

So, it is safe to say that this ideology has been around for a very long time, and is not truly a modern invention. It’s not that we’ve shifted from conservative to liberal, or that the hippies started running things, or that we’re suddenly some godless culture that has no idea what Love or Truth really is. We have always been that way. Exhibit A: take a quick look at Genesis.

Secondly, ideas such as “love” being more important than marriage is something that’s been perpetuated since the 13th century, and even possibly before that. Love poems like Chevrefoil by Marie de France, which is a short narration based on the stories of Tristan and Isolde, clearly portray these values through adulterous love affairs which completely disregard the marriage of one or both of said lovers. And this is stuff that was written several centuries ago. This is not new. Even Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales include stories such as “The Miller’s Tale” which includes a love triangle in which the woman’s husband isn’t a part. The triangle is composed of this married woman, Alison, and the two men who are interested in her, Absolon and Nicholas. The husband, John, is merely incidental, and is portrayed as a fool for having loved and married such a young woman (Alison is only 18, and we do not know the Miller’s age but he is certainly older than 18).

These sorts of themes are evident throughout literature as far back as literature can go. Themes of sex outside of marriage, lude behavior toward men or even lecherous women (such as in the French “Fabliaux,” which is a type of dirty love story from early French literature), and love as an emotion rather than a choice is something that has been part of the human experience forever (Exhibit B: go back to Tristan and Isolde). It’s not new. It’s not something that our generation, or even the generation before us simply came up with and perpetuated as truth. This is something that human beings have been feeling and writing and creating art about since forever. There are even adulterous people in the Bible, the most famous of which is probably King David, who even went so far as to have the woman’s husband, one of his close friends, killed in battle so that he would never find out about the adulterous affair had between David and the man’s wife.

Basically, Generation Y and we Millennials are not original, people. We didn’t come up with this stuff on our own. It’s something that has been a part of humankind for our entire history on this planet, and it’s not going away.

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).

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).