Last Christmas, I was at his house. Sitting in his childhood home with all the family, we opened gifts, shared stories, even pulled out the ancient slide machine. It was magical; it was forever. At least I thought so at the time.
This year, I simply couldn’t head back to my parents like the relational failure I was. While no one was pointing fingers, I couldn’t take the looks of pity or the gentle pats that were accompanied by “I really liked this one …” So did I.
So in a conscious step toward sanity, I skipped the family gathering and went to visit an aunt and uncle in California. Come on, that’s fun, right? It actually was. But it was also hard, especially on Christmas Day when I could picture exactly what he was doing and when he was doing it.
Toward the end of the evening, I had my phone open in my hand. I was going to call him. Just a quick call, just to say “Merry Christmas.” It would be rude for me not to call him; I was fully convinced of it.
In a brief moment of uncertainty, I dialed my sister just to check and make sure I wasn’t fooling myself into making a huge mistake. I didn’t like her answer: “Don’t call him. It would open a can of worms, don’t go there.” I decided maybe my mom would have better advice. She cried with me on the phone, missing me, hurting for me, but was just as resolute: “Don’t call him.”
While I appreciated their advice, I wasn’t going to take it. I had been fighting the urge, the desire to call him, to talk to him, to hear his voice—even for a moment—for months on end. I had faithfully put down the phone, walked away from temptation and put my mind to something else.
I had earned the right to call him today. I deserved this. Yes, it may hurt, but it couldn’t hurt more than I already did, and I was done fighting. I walked outside into the breezy California air, found a quiet place on the porch and watched as the battery on my cell phone promptly died.
The second battle, against the will, has been the hardest fight for me. I will freely admit that I like to indulge myself, a long nap, a good book, a hot bath. I live within reason, but if I can’t find a reasonable argument against something, I go with my gut. Unfortunately, my gut is still deeply in love with “the one.”
I don’t want to be in something that isn’t of God; of course not. But it has been an excruciating struggle to curve my will to the Will of God, especially when I don’t understand. I’m a reasonable person; I can be convinced of a well-laid argument. But the heavens are silent.
In the midst of that silence there was a voice of reason, one conversation that brought perspective. It happened while painting a friend’s basement over the holiday. Catching up on lost years we talked of everything, the conversation trail impossible for anyone else to follow, but we walked it with the ease of old friends.
Somewhere along the way, as I described my desire to contact him again, she said to me, “No, don’t waste your suffering.” Holding buckets and rollers we looked across the room at each other as those words made their way through my hardened heart, my weary hands desperately clinging to “the one.”
You see, the battle wasn’t hard for me in spite of my belief that he was “the one;” it was because of this belief. I was fighting not only the lost relationship, but also the disillusionment of believing something in my gut, and finding that it is no longer true.
The questions are much harder, the rejection much deeper when you lose “the one,” because you are in turn questioning your own understanding and ability to know something as true. To let go of him was to let go of my belief that he was “the one,” and that felt like losing faith.
Don’t waste your suffering. That single phrase, at first an affront to my desires, brought with it a renewed determination to hold onto the separation I had from “the one.” Yes, I was suffering in my flesh, I miss him beyond words, but after she said that, I could finally begin to see that each day in this process was a step toward healing and that I could, with one phone call, interrupt the process. Every sufferable day had made me stronger and had brought me to the feet of my Savior in a new way.
In this culture of immediacy, we don’t teach patience or self-control. We don’t teach the virtue of laying down our own desires; we teach indulgence. I want that relationship. I want to be in his life. That’s why I call it the battle of the will. It is a fight every day to not call or email, to not visit our favorite coffee shop or restaurant. That fight got a little easier when I was told, “don’t waste your suffering.”
Finally, instead of feeling like I could do nothing, could control nothing, I realized by doing nothing, I could actively promoting healing. And through this process, I have learned that letting go of “the one” was just that, nothing more dramatic, nothing more earth shattering or devastating to my faith, just adjusting to life as it comes and trusting the One who knows what is coming.