"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life."I am told I met my Pete in February, 2004.
- Proverbs 13:12
A coworker wanted me to go on a blind date with an online schoolmate of hers who was coming to town. There was no way I was going to subject myself to that. Not with everything that had already happened relating to boys and dates and the rest of my life spent waiting, because at the rate he was going, my friend was never getting married, and he sure wasn't coming back.
He told me so. I got the "never" to my face. And I was told not to expect God to change his mind.
I vaguely remember one day in the midst of the dark when I walked into the dining hall at the campus where I still worked after dropping out of school. I had a question for my coworker; really, I was looking for an excuse to be there. I knew I wasn't wanted by anyone in the room.
I asked my question; my coworker answered my question. I can remember a shadow behind her, someone moving quiet out of the light. I heard a familiar laugh across the room, too loud, too painful. I left as quickly as I could.
Pete told me much later that he went home to Connecticut and couldn't get me out of his mind. He said he'd never seen someone in so much pain. He said he'd prayed for me. I still say if I'd met him then, I'd never have fallen in love with him.
The spring came and went that year with me watching a calendar with silly hope. Each month had a focus on something beautiful, and for the life of me I can't tell you now what the themes of the months were, except June. I know what June was.
It was love.
Every month before, something had happened to fulfill the monthly theme. I was on a high with God, giddy that He cared to involve Himself in my life, giddy that anything could happen, that He could bring my friend back in spite of everything. He had told me to love him, after all.
There was only one thing that could happen in June that could meet the requirements of my love theme.
During the last week in June, I completely collapsed at the office with convulsions that sent me into the hospital. In the ER, I was given an IV containing what I was told was the same fluids that were in my body. I didn't realize it carried 5% dextrose into my bloodstream. I didn't realize it was going to make me weaker because of my sensitivity to sugar.
The first few days saw me accepting my suffering with hope. I read my Bible. I thanked God for the window in my room. I had landed in the old maternity ward. It was a safe place. I felt surrounded by love. I knew I was where God wanted me.
I had visitors, and the nurses were kind. They woke me every morning to draw blood, testing for God-knows-what. The person who got my room after I was moved was rather annoyed by all the callers for me.
Oh yes. I was moved.
And that is where the nightmare began.
I had known Pete for about a month at that point, but the month had opened such a friendship between us that I risked a call to him from the ER. I didn't know who else to call. I was still a kid in so many ways. I think it takes growing up to recognize how much you need your parents still, and too often, they're gone before you realize it.
He came. Every day except the three that he was gone on conference.
It was on one of those days that the hospital staff moved me. The nursing staff came in wearing masks at about 11:00 p.m. of the third day of what would be my nine-day stay. They were testing for something highly contagious, they said. I was being moved to isolation.
I was terrified. My sister had gone home that night, something she wouldn't do again for the rest of my stay.
Knowing he would still be up studying, I called Pete from my new room and talked until we were both too tired to stay awake. The room with a window that looked into a wall. The room on the hall where everyone was throwing up. I could hear them through the walls. It was in this room that I met Fear. It was in this room that he seared my soul with a perspective change that would forever challenge my childish view of God.
During my time at the hospital, I had been praying, begging God, really, to send my friend to see me. I asked Pete to ask him to come. I thought he might take it better from him than from me.
I wanted to ask his forgiveness. For what, I don't know. Loving him against his will? I still don't really know. I just wanted my friend back. At that point, I didn't care whether I "ended up" with him or not.
Every day I battled within myself over whether I should ask God for him to come. I expected him around every corner, waited for him to appear in my room - always looking, always waiting.
As I grew weaker and weaker with the dextrose in the IV compromising my blood, I began to wonder if I'd ever see him again. Finally one night, I fell to my knees, surrounded by fear, surrounded by the awful sounds of retching, by the weeping and the eerie hospital-quiet, and I begged. I begged God to send him. I turned my hands upward and surrendered my desire to God, for a final yes or no.
Pete found me beside the bed that night, too weak to climb back in. He helped me up and tucked me in as I faded into oblivion.
The last thing I remember from that night is his tender kiss on my forehead.
To my knowledge, my friend never came to the hospital. It was the closing of a door I didn't understand then, the opening of heart-questions for me that that simultaneously pulled me to God and drove me from Him.
How could He love me? What proof did I have that God really cared about me? What proof would I ever have?
In the weeks after the hospital, I cried through Job. I begged my friends for answers about God's love, about what it looked like, about what He meant. Pete stood firm that God loved me, that He didn't have to prove His love.
But how could I believe that?
I left the hospital with Fear, who would become my constant companion. Before I left, God had asked me to speak the name of Jesus to one of my doctors. I did. Before I left, one of my nurses came to me and told me that she was a Christian, that my witness had challenged her to live more loudly for Christ there in the hospital.
Before I left, the doctor told me I still had no diagnosis.
I left the hospital angry with God. How could He? How could He use me like that and leave me weaker, broken, without answers, without love?
The anger frightened me. As the days passed, I slowly shoved it away, behind the safer "Praise God, I'm out of the hospital. I'm in a wheelchair again, but it's okay. I'm not there anymore. My friend didn't come, but God is still bigger." The habits were there already. The patterns were set. I could act God, if I had to. And I had to, because nothing else made sense to me. "God" was all I had ever known.
I didn't know what else to do.
It would be years before the anger would surface again. It would be years before I faced those doubts and asked those questions, years before I opened my heart again.
It would be years before I faced God again.
I canned the calendar.
Love Stories: God and Me, Part I
Love Stories: God and Me, Part II
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)