Andy and I met the summer that I graduated high school while volunteering at a missions camp in Florida. He was from California and I was from West Virginia. And while no romance began during that particular time of service, the more we got to know each other over the long distance, the more we began to quickly fall for each other. In fact, everything about this relationship was quick; so don’t worry, we’ll get to the how-I-met-Brian part in no time!
Without dragging out the details (for once!), dating Andy was weirdly like dating the male version of me. (I shudder to acknowledge that now!) Up to that point, I don’t believe I had ever met someone so like-minded. Additionally, up to that point, I don’t believe I had ever been so swept off of my feet. When I began college, my corner of the dorm room might have looked like a creepy shrine to Andy, complete with letters, pictures, etc. (My poor roommate!)
In spite of the similarities that he and I possessed as individuals, one major difference between us was our parents. My mom, yes, was proud of me for clenching that full scholarship to college; but she also understood that for years I had wanted to be a missionary (the exotic, dangerous kind). Andy’s parents? Well, they were paying for his college and expected him to pursue a more sensible career. What might have surprised his parents was the reality that he, too, dreamed of abandoning the typical, American dream for the likes of a meager life lived with reckless surrender to the Lord. Here they had raised Andy in hopes that he’d turn out a certain way, and then – BAM! – I came along and started bringing out the dreamer in him.
Needless to say, they were less than thrilled. Apparently I was a “bad influence” on Andy. I’m told that I was “deceitful and manipulative” and such a threat that – Get this! – if he didn’t break things off with me, his parents were going to stop paying for his college tuition.
(Boy, I sure know how to get people riled up, don’t I?)
So, long story short, Andy broke under the pressure and let me go in order to carry on the life that his parents were living through him. And I? Well, I was dealing with more than just the breakup. I was also dealing with the fact that we had been attacked on September 11th. The 9/11 attacks ate away at me under the surface. You never know when your time is up. You want to be a missionary. What are you doing at a liberal arts college in Virginia? What if you died tomorrow? Why aren’t you pursuing your real dreams?
There was an ever present urgency that felt like the weight of a thousand bricks on my chest. Finally deciding to seize the day, I left college thinking, I don’t know where I’m supposed to be right now. But I know it’s not here.
At the tender age of nineteen, I was a mess. My life’s direction felt in limbo. While it might have seemed like the greater issue at hand was upsetting my mother by abandoning my scholarship (I was the first in our family to go to college), I had actually spiraled into a greater depression over Andy’s breakup with me. You see, his decision brought back the pain of my own father’s rejection of our family. Once again, I found myself being in the position where it was obvious that I “wasn’t worth fighting for.” (Or so I thought.)
And so, as only the dramatic and depressed version of myself could do, I spent many hours and many nights curled up in a fetal position, shrouded in the darkness of a closet, praying that the Lord would spare me from ever experiencing that again. My heart was so sensitive.
But you know me. Specific, Square Piece, ME. I couldn’t just be vague with the Lord. He and I needed a specific arrangement to avoid similar misery in the future. And so commenced one of the greatest lessons in prayer, listening and obedience I had yet to ever experience.
To be continued…