Thursday, February 11, 2010
They witnessed it all. They caught the tears, the dark-etched pencil (I never use pen for my handwriting), the play-by-play of my first love, my first deep heartbreak. I don't know now how many I filled.
As a teenager, I asked God to guard my heart for the man He had for me. I had as many (or more) crushes as the next girl, growing up. Maybe it was because we moved so often. There were plenty of new rooms with new faces for me to walk into and select which face to dream about. Dreaming about a Prince Charming is an occupational hazard for a teenage girl. At least it was for me.
During my first year at my second college, I got serious about God. More serious than I had been when I gave my life to Him for missionary work in the third grade. More serious than I had been when I rededicated my life for full-time Christian service at camp when I was eighteen. More serious about Him than I had been a full year at Bible college.
Wanna know why?
Because there were other people around me who were more serious about Him than I was. My competitive streak was up.
He'll use anything to draw us in.
But I was serious. So serious that September 12, 2001 saw me on my knees, finally giving my whole life to God for real, to do whatever, go wherever He would ask. At the time, I fancied New York City. A switch to a nursing career. Saving lives. Helping orphans. Even going to Africa. You know. The obvious ministry stuff. I was determined to want God more than I had wanted anything else, ever.
Two weeks later, I got my "whatever, wherever" from God when I started collapsing without explanation or diagnosis. There would be no glamorous occupation for me. Things were going to get messy.
Questions began to surface. The questions that come from suffering. The whys. The constant search for explanation. Little victories that I had performed well rejoicing in suffering crashed down as the suffering intensified. My circle of friends dwindled. They were tired of trying to answer my questions, I think. They were trying to survive their own Freshman year.
But there was one friendship in particular that would forever change my life. He was probably the fourth real guy friend I had ever had. And he was a good friend. A true friend. He was the first person I ever loved with God's love.
And my girl's heart fell in love with him. Hard.
He loved me too.
The logical end of the love that grew out of our friendship should have been a happily-ever-after.
I looked in the mirror one day after he left on a school trip, and I saw it there, the thing I'd read about but never quite believed. I was glowing. I looked in the mirror and I saw what he saw. I was sparkling. I was beautiful.
I never wanted to lose that feeling. I was amazed at the love God had given to me. Of course it had been Him. I had asked Him to guard my heart for the man He wanted for me. I simply assumed He had kept me for this one.
Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.
My second year at my second college was the loneliest year I have ever lived.
My friend who I loved, who loved me, rejected me out-of-hand. He ignored me. He "was over it now." He pursued my best girl friend.
His reasons were many and complicated, but I watched that year as he systematically destroyed every part of himself that reminded him of me. I felt as if he were deeply ashamed of me, of my feelings, of my love, of our friendship.
My heart shattered.
God asked me to love him anyway. He wanted me to speak to Him the truth that was in my heart about my feelings. He wanted me to love my friend as He loved him. He wanted me to see him as God saw me, to give him the same grace I was learning to receive myself.
My sister listened to numerous friends who questioned my choice to love, who questioned my motives and my confusion, but instead of counseling the end of it all, she encouraged me. It was the first time in the whole of our lives that she had seen me reach outside of my own self-centeredness to care for the heart of someone else.
And the love God placed in my heart for my friend was a lifeline that drew me through my pain and confusion into God's heart.
I learned that love doesn't always look like hearts and flowers and sparkling eyes and the honeymoon stage.
I learned how incredibly we can hurt God when we rebuff His offer of relationship.
I learned how deeply He could love someone. I learned how deeply He could love me.
I learned that love - real love - cannot be killed.
All these lessons I held to my heart, waiting until God would be finished teaching me what He wanted to teach me, waiting for Him to answer my prayer and bring my friend back to me, give me the love and the wedding I longed for.
I journaled and I journaled and I journaled, hoping that one day my friend would read the words that told the story of my walk with God through the pain, hoping that he would be able to see how much I'd loved him in spite of it all, praying that one day I would pick up a pencil and write on the page how amazing God had been to bring us together, finally.
I wanted to believe God would give me what I wanted. But I never could quite bring myself to it. Something inside could not be released.
God had told me to ask Him for my friend, so that He could say "no" to me if He wanted.
I really, really hoped He would say "yes" if I surrendered. I even made a vow to Him. My part of the bargain, if you will. Just so He'd know I was serious. I intended to keep it too.
I vowed that I would wait for my friend until he was married to someone else. I knew then what I'll admit now - I just didn't want to hurt him more than he'd already been hurt through his own choices. I hoped one day to offer him my love, full and free - no bitterness, no hard feelings.
Still, a vow was a vow, and keeping a vow made to the Lord was terribly important to me.
So I vowed. And I ached. Oh, I ached. And I waited.
I would still be waiting now, but for God.
I had learned much about His love, but I didn't know it. Not deep. Not yet. I needed to know Him.
NOTE: For some of you who read, this post will be quite a throwback to conversations and old places in my friendships with you. For some who didn't know, it may explain a bit why I was the way I was during this period of time in my life. Please bear with me. It is a part of my story I cannot erase. I have written as much from my own perspective as I can; I have shared here what I may not have shared with some of you. Thank you, real people who have walked with me, for being in my life on many sides of this.
Love Stories: God and Me, Part I
On Thursdays this month (because I never know quite what to post on Thursdays), I am writing out my love story. Not the one about my crushes or my first love or even my love for Pete - though those stories all play a part. Bonnie Gray at Faith Barista and Holley Gerth at (in)Courage challenged us to write out our God love stories, and I had one to share. BOY, do I have one to share.
So I know it's a little canned, being the "love month" and all, but I thought I'd take some time to write it out anyway. It's good for me to dwell on His love for me.
(Image © Informal Moments Photography)