This past weekend a couple friends and I drove out to Charleston, SC for a day on the beach and an evening of shopping to cure us of the work-week doldrums. One of the girls brought an awesome umbrella/half tent thing to shade our belongings (as well as the two of us afflicted with fair, burnable skin). There was plenty of open space on the beach, so we picked a spot close to the water and started to set up the tent. It was a windy day, so we struggled to keep the tent from blowing away whilst pulling out paper instructions (which also kept blowing away) and trying to sort out which stakes went where. There was a mad scurrying around trying to get everything in its right spot, but eventually the tent was up!
Unfortunately, however, the windy day was against us, and not ten minutes after settling our blankets and bags beneath the tent we lost a guideline and a stake and the grounding rod became unearthed. We had to move it, of course. Actually, we just turned it to the side, and we made a few other changes as well, anchoring the back flaps with the stronger stakes and learning that Serena’s shoes would drive them even further into the ground. It worked beautifully. Finally, we were free to launch ourselves into the ocean to catch the salty waves and chat about life.
A half hour and a lost earring later, we sloshed our way back to the tent to discover that the tide had risen quite a bit. Rather than risk our valuables washing away, we decided it would be wise to transport everything farther up on the beach. So we picked it all up and for the third time we planted stakes and stretched guidelines and unrolled fabric windows. This time, too, we changed a few things, and the tent was far more secure in less time than it took to set it up incompletely the first time.
Friends, you wouldn’t believe it. We didn’t. Because an hour or so later we were lounging around the tent reading and napping when Serena came back from her 3-mile trek to the bathrooms and pointed out that, “hey, that water is getting really close!” We stared in disbelief. “The water never comes up this high,” Melissa tried to tell us. Nevertheless, the waves lapping at the bag guarding the guideline (we didn’t want to be responsible for people tripping over ropes and stakes) were not to be disputed. We picked everything up again. Are you keeping track? Because this is the fourth time we set up the
silly very lovely tent. But this time we were pros. In no time flat we had that tent up and grounded and perfect. Better still, it was dry.
I wonder if you’ve noticed that when you take time off from life’s daily grind you inevitably discuss in great detail the very things you’re trying to escape. On vacations you talk about work. On a girls’ night out you talk about guy troubles. When you have a carefree day you discuss all the cares you give. We often need to be properly distanced from situations in order to view them objectively allow our minds the space to process them fully.
So of course on our girls’ day out we discussed relationships. The common theme of our conversation was that with each successive relationship, we learned more about ourselves: we learned what kind of mistakes we generally make. We learned more about our own personalities and with which personalities we’re typically compatible. We learned how to communicate and how to show love. We’ve learned to fail fast – in my case especially, each relationship has gotten progressively shorter; recognizing incompatibility quickly and painlessly is to the benefit of everyone involved. They say the older you get the less time you need to “know.” I know I’m not old, but I wholeheartedly concur.
While batting around a volleyball on the sand it struck me that our experiences with the tent were oddly similar to our conversation about relationships. With each move of the tent we got better and faster at setting it up. Of course we would have preferred to set it up in the right place the very first time instead of the fourth (and even then by the time we were packing it up the water was inching ever closer), but we benefited from the practice and became far more familiar with the system than if we’d only set it up once. So it is with relationships. Obviously we would all prefer to get it right the first time, but God is good in allowing us to learn from our mistakes. If you’re anything like me, you struggle with holding on to some guilt that everything is all your fault and you should avoid new relationships – look at all the failed ones! But God never gives up on us, so we cannot give up on ourselves. We learn, we grow, we ground ourselves in the love of God, and next time we’ll be able to love even better.
(Photo credit: Serena Minnick)