It’s 9:30 Sunday morning. It’s freezing cold outside. I have no internet. I’m typing this on a Word document, which I already know will screw up the formatting of this post once I paste it in Xanga. But, the bottom line is that I need to write, to type, to process.
It’s been a month. The girl I mentioned in the last post… Her name is Shelby, and it’s been a rough month. Even as I type this, there is a pain I feel that seems deeper than it should be for one month. Part of that is pain is spiritual; probably more of it is emotional. She’s my sister, and honestly, I feel like she’s in a dark place. The last week or two have been painful, not only because it became evident that dating was probably not the right move for us right now, but also because of the reason behind that. She’s been hurt by her family and by her community in deep ways, and the scars of those hurts were almost immediately apparent after getting past our first date.
I could type, oh I could type of the things that were said and done over the last month or so. Maybe for future reference I should. Maybe I should just process the things that happened and articulate the take away. Yeah, I’ll do that.
Lesson #1: I am a sucker for a pretty face. Looking back at my relationship history, I will do just about anything when a pretty girl gives me attention, whether they are good for me or not, whether they treat me well or not. Nicole would have been a good choice in the long run but not at the time, and I wasn’t wise enough to see that. She treated me well on and off. Anna was pretty, but it was the combination of her beauty, heart, and talent that initially captured me. Definitely treated me well. Ex-wife was beautiful. Treated me well when we dated long distance, not so well when I moved to GA, and not well at all after we got married. Rae is/was/would have been a good choice, and I am still kicking myself for how I handled that situation. Coach, athletic, beautiful, Christian… I took my eyes off of Christ. That’s all I can say about that. She treated me well.
Then there’s Shelby. She’s beautiful for sure, but even after our first date, there was just this…strangeness…about her personality. Of course after getting to know her, I could trace that back to how she grew up, but the bottom line is that even after continuing to learn things about her that made me think twice about our future long term, I was still conflicted about whether or not to move forward. Even in my prayers I was conflicted! This girl wasn’t self-aware, wasn’t a good communicator, was very conflicted emotionally, and seemed extremely disinterested at times. She was not the “pastor’s wife” type, she wasn’t really a people person, and while there is a reason for all of that, I still couldn’t help but want to spend time with her.
Confession time: On New Year’s Eve, which was about a week after I decided and we talked about how it was not a good time for us to pursue a relationship, I texted her, asking her if she wanted to hang out. To repeat, this was a week after I’d prayed about it, where I’d asked God to give me a clean out, where I had resolved in my mind that we weren’t good for each other at least for now for all the reasons I’ve already listed… I text her New Year’s Eve afternoon, and ask her if she wants to do something. And it gets worse. Not only that, she’d spent a lot of time with her ex-boyfriend over the holidays, tagged him a few times on Facebook, etc. I’d bought Shelby a Christmas gift before I knew I wasn’t going to pursue a relationship with her. I’d planned on giving it to her before Christmas, but she put me off (because she was with her ex-boyfriend). She said wait until after New Year’s (when he was gone). I text her to see if she’s available, and she stops by yesterday before meeting up with her friends in town. I’ll reemphasize the fact that we talked about not pursuing a relationship at least a week ago. Plus, I know she’s been spending time with her ex-boyfriend, and that she’s more or less hiding the significance of that from me. She’s all dressed up, we do the small talk, I give her her present… I had so much I wanted to ask, so much I want to say, but when it’s time for her to go, I walk her to her car. Before she leaves, I say something like, “So, I really have fun with you, and I miss hanging out. What do you think of that?” And it’s at this time that she tells me that she’s gotten back together with her ex-boyfriend (who’s military and is stationed in Italy) and that she’s going to move to Italy to be with him for 4 months.
It pains me to type that. Pains me in multiple ways. It pains me that she was so ready to jump back in his arms. It pains me that in all reality, she’s probably not that ready, but she’s just emotionally vulnerable right now. It pains me that she cried out to me for help with dealing with her past, but now the road to her recovery and healing is going to be blocked. The fact that I not only gave the idea of spending more intentional time with her a serious thought, but that I actually came out and let that idea be verbalized to her, the emotionally unstable person I’m supposed to be helping. I’m 30 years old. I’m wiser than that. I’m a pretty self-aware person. I’m smarter than that. As a minister, someone supposed to be an example to others, I have to be better than that. I could come try to rationalize it by saying that I only asked that to get her to come out about getting back together with her boyfriend, but if I’m really honest with myself, if she had reciprocated that feeling, I’d bet money that I would have jumped back in.
Character flaws and the few times we did hang out withstanding, she did not treat me well at all. And yet… I am a sucker for a pretty face.
Lesson #2: I struggle with trusting God’s goodness. There’s nothing wrong with me being sucker for a pretty face. God made me with desires and hormones. He made the laws of attraction. There is something wrong with letting that pretty face take my eyes off God. Once I get close, I think “I’ll never do better than this,” so I hold on with everything I have. First, that statement assumes that everything about me spending time with this girl has everything to do with me. Sure, I play a role and maybe a big role in taking that first step, but to think that God has nothing to do with it is naïve. Secondly, “better than this” has often (at least every other time it seems) turned out to be not that good for me… That just speaks to a low self-esteem, as does thinking, even for a moment that my goals, ideas, feelings, values aren’t important enough to be respected 100% of the time by the person I’m dating.
I love that today is Sunday, and that His mercies are new everyday.
Lesson #3: I’ve been living for myself a lot. That’s what got me into trouble with Rae. I had a good time of rebuilding and letting God lead, but then when I got back into searching for a relationship, I slipped back into old habits.
Lesson #4: This was an opportunity to learn about myself. It was easy to see what Shelby needed to work on, but after processing this a bit, I can definitely see the areas I need to work on.