a year of crushing, crutches and confusion that ended with… crying.
(note: this post is REALLY long, with no pictures, but a LOT of little stories )
the year following jonathan & nicole’s wedding (fall ‘05 – fall ‘06) felt like a constant stream of conversation, a string of events, and a roller coaster of emotions for me. zach and i continued to grow in our friendship, predominantly via chatting online. see, he sat in front of a computer all day in an office and i sat in front of a computer all day in an office. and we had a blast chatting with each other off and on. sometimes we had constructive conversations and sometimes it was just teasing and bantering. we also saw each other several times…
there were the trips i would take out to visit jon & nicole… where i usually got to hang out with zach and some of the other singles. as most girls know, the hardest part of crushing on someone is wondering whether or not they like you back. the constant battle of observing his actions and words without reading into them or infusing 50 times more meaning into them than is actually there. all the while trying to keep your own emotions in check, your own actions reserved and your heart humble before God. i prayed SO often, (as i did with most guys i was ever seriously interested in… all… 3 of them ), “Lord, if this isn’t the guy for me then please just take these emotions away! i don’t want to be distracted by this!” ugh. it was tough sometimes. really tough.
on zach’s end… well, see… in zach’s mind, there were several reasons why a girl like me would never go for a guy like him. 1. i was out of his league (his words, not mine!). 2. he had always assumed he would marry a girl younger than him. i mean, most guys do, right? there is a 2 year age difference between us. and to him, having a fairly accurate view of his own place in life and immaturities at that time, the idea of a godly and mature 23yr old (again, his words) being genuinely interested in an immature, still-sorting-his-life-out 21yr old seemed a little ludicrous. he honestly felt that it was even a little presumptuous to think that i would like him in that way. 3. he was also a little innocent regarding his own personal charms. he (rather cutely) underestimated the draw his looks and personality had and therefore had no idea how easily girls could (and had) developed interest in him. and so, despite the inquiries and suggested cautions from his mom and sister, he assured them there was no need for concern regarding his behavior and he firmly believed that i was “safe.” and unfortunately, this led him to not guard his words and actions as carefully as maybe he ought. for instance:
~ my family was at a basketball tournament that spring about an hour away from pasadena. after the tournament ended, we decided to drive over to pasadena for church and ended up having lunch with zach’s family + jon & nicole. as we were all sitting down around a long table, zach suggested that i move one seat over so that i was directly across from him. i don’t remember what reason he had for suggesting that, but um, ok?
~ or the time i arrived for a visit and a group of us were going to dinner, zach included. except zach was running late and no one could get a hold of him because he had gotten a new cell phone the week prior and no one in the room had his new number. i remember looking around the room filled with 5 of zach’s closest friends and thinking “how does no one have his number?? i mean, he called me the day he got the new phone and… gave me… the number… oh boy.” yeah. i just sat there with my mouth shut. but i remember my heart racing and trying so hard not to think that it meant anything special!
~ or the time i was in town and we had a brief conversation about the hilarity of the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes. i made an offhanded comment about how i had yet to read the book “Revenge of the Babysat.” aaaand the next day when a group of us went to the beach, he showed up with the entire Calvin & Hobbes collection in his car for “anyone who wanted to” read them on the drive.
~ that same weekend on the day i was set to fly home, zach called me mock offended that i hadn’t called him to say goodbye. he was clearly teasing, but then he told me that he had dropped a surprise package off at nicole’s house for me and that i couldn’t open it until i got on the plane. as soon as i saw the package i knew what it was. his copy of Revenge of the Babysat. whaaaat??
~ the Together 2006 conference where it felt like i kept running into him everywhere! he would appear out of nowhere and just hang out wherever raigan and i went. there was an afternoon where i had some “errands” to do around the campus on the go cart and he just hopped on for the fun of it and we sped around laughing and having a ball. it practically felt like he was following me around. even raigan admitted that he seemed to be around all the time.
however, amidst all of the confusion and emotion, our friendship legitimately deepened. like at the 2006 new attitude conference. now there’s a story!
~ so zach arrives at LAX airport, ready to head off to the conference when he’s stopped on his way through security. “where’s the knife, son?” “knife? what knife?” zach has no idea what the security officer is talking about. they pull his backpack off the conveyor belt and search it. and what do they find? oh just an 8” throwing knife in the bottom. soooo zach had lent his backpack to a friend and the friend was into some sort of martial arts and had accidentally left his knife in the bottom! the conference had been the first time zach used the backpack since getting it back so he just grabbed it out of the bottom of his closet, tossed in his bible and notebook and headed out the door with his suitcase. oops. yeah LAX security didn’t exactly see it as an innocent mistake. they full on “booked him” and carted him off to spend 2 hours in “airport jail” while they sorted it things out. they ended up releasing him – and he still made his flight! in God’s providence, his ride to the airport was with a friend’s dad who had to be at work 3 hours prior to the departure time. so even despite the delay, he didn’t miss his flight.
oh and did i mention that he was on crutches for all of this? yeah he had badly sprained/twisted his ankle the week prior. by the time he arrived at the conference, he was pretty dejected. mostly because he had just started out on his career path toward air traffic control and suddenly that entire dream was in jeopardy. as innocent a mistake as the knife incident was, it could still be considered a felony if charges were pressed all the way. and just about ANYTHING on his record would eliminate his ability to pursue ATC (think govmn’t job, background checks and security clearances, etc). i remember talking with him about it the first night of the conference and him confessing how scared and uncertain he felt.
the next morning i woke up really burdened for zach. so did my friend bethany, who was rooming with me and who had heard the story. we decided that zach really needed prayer and encouragement. so later that day we gathered together (me, bethany, raigan, my dad & zach) and we prayed for zach. i read Psalm 121. i found out later that that time of prayer was a HUGE means of encouragement for his soul during a time when he felt very alone and helpless, and that he was so blessed by friends who took the time to just be there and care for him.
~ there were also a couple of times when zach and i brought up observations of areas we had seen in each other that could change, or that we needed to grow in. as our friendship deepened we grew more honest and open as true friends.
and not all of the stories and memories from that year are only with zach!
~ in the fall of 2005 (shortly after jon & nicole’s wedding), i was administrating a pastors & wives retreat in gilbert for all the pastors & their wives of the SGM churches in the western region. part of my job involved shuttling these wonderful couples between the hotel and the airport before and after the retreat. one of the pastor’s wives had sidled up to me during the retreat and sweetly inquired after my marital status, age, interest in marriage, etc. and shamelessly told me about her single son who was my age. i thought it was very cute and i was very flattered! i didn’t say anything to discourage her but i also didn’t think much more about it. the retreat ended and on one of the van runs to the airport, i had this particular wife & her husband in the van…. along with zach’s parents. aaaand lo and behold, this lady began asking me again about her son and if i would be open to the idea? i laughed and made some crack about not usually going for blondes, but that yes, i was open! and i honestly was. i mean, i had no idea where or how God might bring my future husband and i together – i wasn’t about to limit my options! although i remember being VERY aware of who else was sitting in that van listening to the conversation and thinking to myself, “of course, i kinda wish it was that couple asking me about their son!” the irony was certainly not lost on me in that moment!
~ during the summer of 2006, zach’s family was on a sabbatical and had spent the greater part of the summer on the east coast. being the grown up that he was, zach had to stay home and go to school & work. it was late july and his family was roadtripping back home and had made plans to stop over at my family’s house to spend the night and also to pick up a tent trailer they were buying from my uncle. that day zach and i were chatting online and he was bemoaning the fact that he had to wait ANOTHER WHOLE DAY before finally seeing his family (it was so cute how much he had missed them!). i jokingly told him that he should be more spontaneous, heck, he should get out of work early, hop on a plane and fly out and surprise his family by meeting them here. he joked about being tempted. we kept chatting and i kept half-joking but half-seriously telling him to come. it was a rather fun and ironic change of personalities for us – me pushing him to be spontaneous and him thinking he couldn’t just do that because flights took planning! but then suddenly, he did it! he booked a flight at 4:30pm and sent me the itinerary! we kept it a total secret. his family arrived, had dinner and we started a movie. zach texted me when he landed and i made up some excuse about having to go get a book from a friend and bolted to the airport to pick him up. we arrived back at the house to the total surprise and delight of his family and mine. it was SO fun! well, it was all fun and exciting that is, until we were sitting around in the front room and telling the story of me convincing zach to fly out… he had his littlest sister in his lap and was being all cute and affectionate… and for a brief moment, i made eye contact with his mom. i swear, with that one look, that women saw into my soul. i thought, “ohmygosh, she knows. she can tell. she knows everything.” it was truly terrifying. i mean, it’s one thing to like a guy and try to keep it under wraps from him (because if he’s going to like me back, i wanted it to be of his own accord, not simply in response to my interest) – but it’s an entirely different thing to realize that his mother knows! aaahhhh!
~ a couple of months after the family visit, his mom & oldest younger sister came back out to gilbert for a regional women’s conference. they stayed an extra night after the conference and invited my mom and i to join them for dinner that evening. if i could have gotten out of going, i probably would have. a part of me totally wanted to go – i mean, it was his mom and sister! yet the other part of me wanted to avoid them like the plague. “how much did they actually know? did they know something i didn’t? why did they want to hang out with us? no no, andrea, they’re just being friendly. we are friends with them after all! right?” ugh, sometimes it is just downright exhausting to guard your heart and not to read into everything! the meal went fine – we even talked about boys! which means i probably lied about boys. i don’t even remember what exactly was said, but i remember measuring my words as if my life depended on it. i really liked his mom and sister, and it seemed that we all had similar interests, convictions, upbringings, etc. gosh, it felt like we’d make such a perfect match! ::sigh::
looking back, i feel a little bit bad for zach. he was genuinely just being a fun friend, but it caused no end of confusion and emotional struggle for me. he had no clue how his actions were coming off. and since we lived in 2 different states, i was well aware that i didn’t have much of a gauge for most of his actions. was he like this to all girls, or just me? i knew better than to let my emotions lead me into assumptions. the trump card in my heart to all of this was: until he came out and clearly stated his intentions, my assumption needed to remain that he only saw me as a friend and nothing more. and since he hadn’t stated anything after a whole year, i was left with only 2 possible conclusions: 1) he was not interested and just totally clueless or 2) he was not interested and was being a total jerk. either he had no idea how his words and actions were/could be affecting me, or he DID know and he didn’t care. and from what i knew of zach, i just couldn’t bring myself to believe the latter option. so i was left with “clueless.” for the sake of my own heart and emotions, that was the only safe assumption i could make. it was disappointing in many ways, but i also knew it was just, well, part of single life. often times guys are clueless, and girls are always prone to read into everything. guy-girl interactions and relationships aren’t always simple and straightforward. we each have our strengths and weaknesses and they don’t always play nice with each other.
at this point, let me just interject and say how helpful it was to have a couple of my closest girlfriends around and involved in my life to help bring me balance and perspective! i talked a lot with my parents for sure, but i also had a few close friends who were right there when some of these interactions/stories happened. how grateful i am for such Godly friends who were quick to encourage me to guard my emotions, bring more objective perspective when i wanted to read into things, and who prayed for me and helped me in the midst of my struggles. i didn’t do everything right. i gave in to my emotions plenty of times. there were times i should have pulled back from the friendship – if only for the sake of my own heart – and i didn’t. my better judgment / discretion gave way to my desire to interact with him more and just dash the emotional expense. i’m sure that some of my struggle was self-imposed as a result of my own lack of self control. but having good, true friends alongside of me was a huge encouragement and help. (you know who you are!)
as the summer began to wind down and school (for zach) started again, we continued to chat on the days that he worked but i began to notice a change in the tone and subject matter of our online conversations. it was very vague and rather subtle at first, but there was definitely a shift. and then came a few references to a “friend,” with no name or specified gender. and something about zach being open to listening to a few broadway show tunes. what the what?! after a few references like that, i knew there was a[nother] girl on his radar screen. he wasn’t quite the same guy as before. and the changes were things that would never have happened were it not for a girl catching his attention.
a couple of weeks after these suspicious arose, i woke up one morning and God had answered my prayers. amazingly, the affection i had been wrestling with for nearly a year was gone. just… gone. i was “over” him in that way. just like *that.* i guess you could say that it had gradually been subsiding with the knowledge that there was someone else who had caught his eye. but i truly believe it was the Lord preparing me. because less than a week later, zach told me he had a girlfriend. and shockingly, i found myself excited for him! i mean, i thought highly of him and wanted good things for him. and i consider a relationship a good thing!
the day after he told me about his new girlfriend i had made plans to drive down to tucson to spend some time with a friend. i got in the car that morning and started to think about the past week. the song “All That I Need” came on via my ipod and the tears began to flow. but you know what? they weren’t tears of sadness, hurt or disappointment. in that moment, by God’s amazing grace, i found myself overwhelmed by a keen awareness of God’s love and care for me. i was blown away that God had prepared my heart and halted my affection for zach just days prior to him essentially declaring for good that he was NOT interested in me at all as anything more than a friend. i remembering thinking and praying, “You didn’t have to do that, Lord. You could have called me to walk through that emotional trial. You could have called me to trust You through that. there would have been grace and You would still have been good no matter how much it hurt. but You didn’t. You spared me that heartache. thank You!” they were honestly tears of gratefulness. and maybe there were some tears of relief. at least now i had my answer. zach wasn’t the guy for me.