december rolled around and there was a new guy at my church. he had moved from out of state and just started a new job. we were briefly introduced after a service and he seemed like a nice guy… we had some mutual friends from his old church… i didn’t think a whole lot of it… until he started interacting with me more. some texting, chatting with me after church, etc. usually i am ridiculously naive when it comes to “guy attention” but it didn’t take long for me to pick up on the fact that he was clearly interested in getting to know me better. and while he was pretty much the opposite of everything i had considered “my type” (or at least compared with all the guys i had historically been drawn to), i thought “he’s a nice guy. i shouldn’t just write him off. good guys should be given a chance! if he wants to get to know me, i’m ok with that.” we talked on the phone a few times, sat next to each other during the singles christmas banquet and texted off and on during the weeks that followed. he was definitely interested, that much was clear. but i had no idea how i felt. our conversations were… nice? fine? normal? there was no objective reason to not allow him to pursue me, so why should i discourage his interest?
other guys had been interested in pursuing a relationship with me, but they had only gotten as far as my Dad, since i didn’t reciprocate the interest and my Dad and kindly headed them off before it became awkward directly between myself and them. this was the first guy i had actually been open to. and yet… i wasn’t sure why. did i just like the attention he was giving me? was i giving in to some sense of desperation and just wanted to be in a relationship? or was this actually the man God had for me and it was just going to take some time before the “spark” appeared? i didn’t feel anything toward him. at least not the way i thought i should. did i just have overly romantic ideas and unrealistic expectations? maybe. i had several friends walk through relationships that started out very “objective” and ended it delightful, passionate, head-over-heels marriages. the first step into a courtship is not a direct indication of what God has for the relationship! but how much of a role should feelings and “warm fuzzies” and “chemistry” play?? i decided that since there wasn’t anything blatantly objectionable about this guy – at least as far as the essentials go (character, priorities, etc) – then there was no reason not to step forward into a full blown courtship. right?
let me just pause here and say that my parents weren’t necessarily in favor of this idea. not because they had concerns about his character or something (again – nothing glaringly wrong with the guy), but because 1) they just didn’t see him as a good fit for me and 2) we had only known each other for… 4 weeks? this had all come about between thanksgiving and christmas. my dad recommended that i just continue to get to know him for a couple more months first. my response? “we can get to know each other within the context of a courtship. he’s clearly interested, why not just make it official?”
because things change once something is “official.” (maybe that’s not the case with all people, but it was definitely the case with me.)
my parents, being the humble people that they are, gave their counsel and allowed me to make the decision on my own. the guy officially asked me into a relationship on new year’s eve. i said “yes” and… yeah, everything changed. at least it did for me.
i didn’t really understand what i was feeling. i assumed it was all just excitement over the idea that i was in a relationship! i texted a handful of my closest friends the news (nearly all of whom already knew what was going on, but still). i even got a little giddy. what i didn’t realize at the time was that i was more excited about the idea of having a boyfriend than i was about my actual boyfriend. when i thought about who i was in a relationship with, i started to feel a little panicky. mostly because i didn’t have any kind of girlfriend-ish feelings toward him. i was still in a state of objective “he’s a nice guy, i should give him a chance” mentality. which is true! good guys deserve a chance!
in the 2 weeks that followed we hung out a couple of times, talked on the phone a couple times and texted daily. and the whole time i was freaking out. what had i done?? do i even LIKE this guy? everything in my head said “there’s no objective reason to not allow this guy to court you” while everything in my heart said “what the heck are you doing?” at one point i told him over coffee that i really only had faith to take the first baby step into the relationship and that was it. if this was going to move forward, i needed it to be VERY slow. i was clear that his interest, attraction and affections were MUCH farther along than mine and i needed the poor guy to know where i was at. he was super gracious and kind and expressed his willingness to be patient and that there was no need to rush. he was so sweet, it almost made it worse.
our church’s annual singles retreat fell about 2 weeks after our relationship became official. we decided to drive up to the retreat together, just to the two of us. it would be a good opportunity to talk and get to know each other better. the drive there and back and the weekend retreat in between was where things started to become more clear to me. we arrived at the retreat and the singles pastor’s wife asked, “soooo, how was the drive?” i answered, “um… Godly but… boring?” i didn’t know how else to put it! it was a fine conversation. it just wasn’t exactly fun. or exciting. or stimulating.
(interesting side note: zach had texted me something random during the drive up and i remember thinking, “crap. what am i going to do about zach?! i mean, i don’t want to lose his friendship – he’s one of my closest friends! but when one of us gets married, eventually our friendship is going to have to change. and how do i explain my current friendship with zach to this guy? will it freak him out that one of my best friends is a guy? and a guy that i once liked, no less!? ugh. i can’t think about this right now. i’ll figure it out later…”)
so i pretty much spent the whole retreat avoiding my boyfriend. isn’t that terrible?! i was starting to realize that all of the subjective elements of a courtship were totally lacking and it was freaking me out. i wasn’t remotely attracted to him physically. our conversations felt stiff, almost forced. there was no “chemistry” (from my perspective). we didn’t even seem to have very many similar interests or tastes in things. and our personalities? i felt like we were polar opposites. but opposites attract sometimes, right?? i’ve never been interested in a guy who was the total opposite from me, but maybe that’s what God has for me! i mean, it could happen… i don’t remember a single thing from the actual retreat except being in a constant state of panic and confusion over my current relationship status. looking back, it was almost hilarious how much of a mess i was. almost.
chris & tara (my singles pastor and his wife) sat down with me over dinner on evening at the retreat and very patiently listened and helped me sort a few things out. my conversation with them helped a few things start to become more clear. primarily that the subjective things DID matter. i wasn’t crazy for wanting them to be present. i began to realize that i had been treating the whole thing as far too one-sided. i was approaching it as if the objective items were the only ones that truly mattered and therefore the subjective ones should be ignored completely and they’ll magically all fall into place overnight if i just gave it enough time. i remember feeling much more calm and encouraged by my conversation with them and refreshed by a newfound realization that – while relationship decisions should NOT be made solely on how i feel, if there’s chemistry or warm fuzzies, or if i was wildly attracted to the guy from day 1 – putting too much emphasis on the objective qualities to the exclusion of the subjective was dangerous as well. relationships are hardly objective – especially romantic ones! isn’t that sort of the point? if God has the perfect man out there for me (and me for him), than he is going to perfectly complement who i am as a whole person, objective and subjective elements considered. if it’s all objective, well then, i could marry any number of guys that fit a basic checklist of qualities! but i believe that God wants us to consider all aspects in a balanced and faith-filled way as we pursue His will in finding a spouse.
with these concepts swirling in my head, we started the drive home at the end of the retreat. the above ideas were nowhere near sorted through or developed in my head. but my heart was calmer and by the time he dropped me off at my house, one thing had become very clear: i knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was not the guy for me. not because i wasn’t attracted to him physically, not because i didn’t sense that “spark” of chemistry within the first 2 weeks, not because the conversation wasn’t exciting enough. there was no clear, objective reason why i knew. i just did. deep down inside i just knew that i wasn’t going to marry this man.
i told my parents about everything that had happened over the weekend. they were in full support. although they had known from the start that this wasn’t the guy for me, they also knew that it would be better for the Holy Spirit to show that to me in His timing than for them to try and talk me out of it. praise God for confirmation. the next day i had another conversation with chris & tara about the next step. chris basically told me that if i was sure of my decision then i needed to break it off right away and not allow it to continue on. that wouldn’t be fair to the guy.
i went home and made the call. i told him i didn’t have faith to continue in the relationship. i assured him that it wasn’t because of anything he had or hadn’t done and that he was a great guy. i just… couldn’t do it. oh gosh. the poor guy. the whole “it’s not you, it’s me” thing has never been helpful, especially because i didn’t have any concrete reasons to give him. but i didn’t know what else to say. he was very gracious and as understanding as he could be. he didn’t press me with questions. he said he was disappointed but he was willing to end it since i wasn’t willing to continue. i wouldn’t have blamed him if he thought, “she didn’t even give me a chance. it’s only been a couple weeks!” i’m sure he was hurt and confused. sigh. but i knew it was what i needed to do and i agreed with chris that it wasn’t fair to continue in the relationship when i knew he wasn’t the one for me.
(brief aside: i’m not advocating that who-you-marry decisions should be made within the first 2 weeks of starting a relationship with someone, especially just because you don’t “feel” all the butterflies you were expecting or hoping to feel right off the bat. in my observation, MOST relationships take at least several months’ time to unfold and for 2 people to come to a place of confidence in regards to God’s will for them together (or not). and i think that that is normal and healthy. in all honesty, i believe that if i had listened to my dad and just given the friendship more time than i never would have started courting the guy in the first place. but i also believe that God, in His sovereignty and love, had reasons for allowing both me and the guy to have this experience.)
after hanging up the phone, i felt sad for the guy but a huge sense of relief for me. as sad as i was for what i had just put this guy through, i also felt a strong sense of peace from the Lord that i had made the right move. and i had to trust that God would meet him in the hurt and disappointment.
i texted that same handful of friends that i had ended the relationship. zach was in that group. and he called me within minutes. “what happened? are you ok?” (please note: zach is really not much of a phone guy. he and i RARELY talked on the phone. i was actually a little shocked to see that he was calling.) after giving him the abbreviated version he assured me that i had just walked out a successful courtship. “the point is to find out if this is the person God has for you – and you did.” that was a little comforting. ironically, zach was the only friend who called me that night! the other friends i had texted were either already in bed, out of town, across the country, etc. and for one reason or another, weren’t in a position to call me. it makes us both smile now to realize that we “ended up” being the one that was there for each other immediately after a break-up.
what i didn’t know then was that 1) when i had originally texted zach that i was IN a relationship, he had made a beeline for one of his friends who knew the guy and began peppering him with questions. upon hearing what his friend had to say about the guy, he knew right away that the guy wasn’t a good fit for me. and he began praying that i would see that quickly. 2) while zach wasn’t consciously interested in pursuing me yet, the fact that i had started courting someone else had been something of a wake-up call for him. i wasn’t always going to just be there for zach as a friend forever. he began to realize, “if she marries someone [else]… i could lose her….”