What if I were to never get married?
What if I were to live my life with no romantic relationships, without that sort of relational intimacy?
Would I look upon my past with regret and resentment, bitter over what I never had?
Or would I choose to be grateful for the wonderful life that I was able to experience?
What about looking forward now? What if I were told that I would never have a romantic partner?
Would I look to the future with dread and sorrow, grieving over lost possibilities?
Or would I choose to believe that life is filled with richness, wonder, and glory, regardless of whether I am in a romantic relationship with another person?
I still would like to get married, to find that romantic partner. Yet I have been musing over how to live in contentment. So much of the present narrative is that my life would be incomplete without a spouse. The modern American church (which has an illustrious history of people devoted to celibacy) has done a poor job of capturing a theology of singleness, treating it as a temporary condition that needs to be cured by the panacea of matrimony.
In present times, discussion of marriage can become politically and theologically intense. This is good, for marriage is important, and it is good to discuss important things. But marriage is not everything. It is possible to have a wonderful, amazing, worthwhile life without marriage or romance.
This past summer, I worked at the Christian Legal Aid of Los Angeles. After a year of theory-driven law school work, I was eager to get practical experience with real clients. Also, I grew up in LA, but the last time I spent a whole summer there was in 2005. I wanted to spend time with my family and explore the city as an adult.
My experience at CLA-LA showed me the stark need for legal services in LA. We saw clients with all sorts of legal issues, from housing to employment to family to immigration. As a small organization, we were limited in what we could do to provide assistance. Yet even the small things that we could offer, like explaining legal processes or searching for information online, were of great help to our clients.
I especially appreciated the spiritual nature of our work. We would always offer to pray for our clients. Acceptance of prayer was never a precondition to receiving services, of course, but many people were drawn to the organization specifically for this reason. Several of our clients talked about how God had brought them through their difficulties and how they had found strength in dark times. It was refreshing to have this spiritual and personal element in my relationship with my clients, instead of seeing them as abstract legal problems.
In the Book of Micah, it is written “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Justice. Mercy. Humility. I am still far from fully grasping these traits, but my experience this summer showed me a small glimpse of these. My thanks to Jessie Johnston Fahy and Sarah McKendricks for a great summer.
I have been feeling sick this past week, with coughing and general fatigue. I have been getting better, which is good. One effect of sickness is a lowered desire to be around other people. I am generally a social person, but not when I feel ill.
The thing is, most people probably would not be able to tell that I am sick from first glance. I had a friend say “Sorry to hear you’re sick! You don’t look sick. I hope you feel better.” I was thinking about some of my friends that have chronic illness, such as autoimmune disease or joint pain. From the outside, people may not know that they are sick or how that sickness impairs them. I will eventually get better and return to full health, but some of my friends may face years of illness. Not every disability is visible, and even this short bout of sickness was a reminder that some people live with that reality.
The classroom hall of my school is lined with portraits of distinguished faculty, deans, and trustees. All of the portraits are covered in glass. All, that is, except two: the portraits of Richard Posner and Richard Epstein. Their portraits are not under protective seal, but are exposed. Why is that? Is it because they are the only people portrayed that are still alive? My hunch is that the subjects of all the other portraits have passed. Does this mean that at their (hopefully distant) death, their portraits would be encased in glass? Why not just cover the portraits now? Are the portraits exposed so that they can be altered if their subjects change in appearance? If Richard Epstein were to change his sex and go by Rochelle, would that be captured in this painting?
This morning, as I was waiting for the bus, I saw one of the administrators (Dean Badger) walk up. He gave me that slight nod you give to someone you recognize, but don’t really know that well. We had never talked before, but I thought to myself “I can either just stand here and we can wait silently, or I can say hello.”
So I said “Hello, Dean Badger!” He responded “Oh hi! I didn’t recognize you!” Which he probably really didn’t, considering this was our first interaction. I quickly introduced myself. We ended up having a great conversation on the bus. He told me about what it was like serving as Assistant Dean decades ago, when he served as Dean of Students, Admissions, and everything else. We talked about the international students at the school and their experience. We talked about his children in DC and Japan and how he is looking forward to seeing them soon.
All in all, I was glad that I said hello.
First week of second year is done. When I started first year, my mom told me: “My biggest concern for you is not that you will do poorly in school, or not get a job, or have difficulties with your classmates. My biggest concern is that you will get stressed, stop exercising, and get fat. Then you would never get married, get diabetes, and die.”
Well, first year is over, and I haven’t gained weight. I’m working out most every day and watching what I eat. The biggest challenge has been to maintain focus and clarity during a very stressful time. It is easy to lose sight of why I came here, the purpose of all this studying, the world outside the law school walls.
Still need to get more sleep, though.
A lesson on roots. Adapted from a sermon given by a Korean preacher in a church in Mongolia:
“I have been growing flowers in my yard to prepare for our church’s anniversary celebration. I planted them in the soil and watered them for a few weeks before transplanting them into pots to bring to the church. I noticed that some of the plants had healthy roots and some had weak roots. Both kinds of plants were flourishing in my yard, because I had good soil there. When the plants with strong roots were transplanted, they continued to thrive even in new soil, because they had sturdy roots. Yet the plants with weak roots became frail in the new soil. These plants had been flourishing because of the soil they were in, not because they were strong themselves. Transplanting showed their weakness.”
“In the same vein, if you feel strong and healthy, you need to ask yourself: Am I strong because I have strong roots, or is it because I am in good soil, but my roots are weak?”
In a season of transience, as I am in a different city, it is useful to think on this question. I may be surrounded by good people, but am I myself rooted? Community is necessary, but the strengths of others can mask my weakness.