The Myth of the Perfect Match (or the importance of being disappointed)
In the summer of 2011, I did something I said I would never do — I joined Match.com.
A lot of guys knew exactly what they wanted: A woman just as comfortable climbing Mt. Everest as she is at an Inaugural Ball. Someone who is not religious, but has the Buddha’s equanimity and Jesus’ capacity for love. Someone who can travel to Europe with no checked bag and no emotional baggage. I was tempted to post that I have all of my own teeth.
Match.com reminds me a little of the ministerial settlement process or the search for a home congregation. There is talk of chemistry and the right match as if the right match means it will all be smooth sailing.
Fortunately, in that summer of Match.com, I had completed nine years of ministry with our congregation in Ventura, California and they had taught me a bit about love and what it takes to make a relationship work.
What sustains a ministry or a marriage or a friendship or a membership in a congregation are things like respect, patience, forbearance, generosity, flexibility, forgiveness, a sense of humor, and, when all else fails, sheer will power.
Decades ago, a loving friend listened to my harangue about the incredible stupidity of the general public and then turned to me and said, “Don’t you just hate it when the world doesn’t live up to your expectations?” Well yes, I do. And I also hate how I put my unrealistic expectations on the world and some of the people I love the most, including myself.
It puts me in mind of the guy rescued after decades of living alone on an island. The rescuer asked him about the three buildings on the island. “That one on the left is my church and the one on the right is my house.” “But what about the one in the middle?” the rescuer asked. “Oh,” the man said, “that’s the church I used to go to.”
When the going gets tough, when we are disappointed, when we are not feeling the love is exactly when the true test of any kind of relationship emerges and when we have the opportunity to deepen our connections if we will take it. When we are disappointed, we have a chance to look at our own expectations and our deepest longings. When others are disappointed in us, we have the chance to lean into their pain and learn new ways of going forward.
I think of this as so many ministers and congregations are beginning new relationships this fall or simply beginning a new year together. As we prepare for a great church year, may we resolve to love ourselves and one another through the disappointments. Let us resolve to begin again in love and repeat as necessary. This is the way of transformation. It will not be smooth sailing, but we have places we need to go that we cannot go alone.
Rev. Jan Christian serves as Congregational Life Staff in the Pacific Western Region, and lives on the central coast of California with a guy she met on Match.com in the summer of 2011.