I’ve been thinking a lot about him recently. I wonder where he is. I wonder how he’s doing.
I’ll never forget him. I’ll never forget the few short weeks I knew him and how, within such a short span of time, he immeasurably touched and enriched my life. I’ll never forget the warm, sun-splashed afternoon we sat on a bench underneath a blue Brazilian sky, conversing in Portuguese, sharing Jesus with each other. Being in his presence was like being in the presence of Christ Himself. He talked Jesus, he breathed Jesus, he emanated Jesus. His whole life revolved around Jesus. He had a glow about him, and though he wasn’t the most handsome man in the physical sense, I never met a more beautiful man in my entire life.
I still haven’t. And now in my mid-thirties, as I find myself still single, and navigating uncertain waters with the opposite sex, I can’t help but think of this beautiful man I once knew, over six years ago. I know God lets certain things happen for a reason, and He brings certain people into our lives for only a season, so I trust Him that He knew best in only allowing a temporary friendship to occur between me and this young man, but I can’t help but wonder “what if,” had circumstances been different. By the time I parted ways with this young man, I was beginning to fall for him, and I’m quite sure, had our time together been prolonged, a relationship other than friendship would have developed. The lengthy embrace we shared upon his departure, witnessed by many others, set tongues a-wagging, as others teased me afterwards, “So, what’s up with you and so-and-so?”
At the time I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that as soon as he was gone, I missed him terribly. I ached for him. I missed his sweet smile, his notes of encouragement to me, and most of all, the way I saw Jesus in him. Although I later wrote to him, I never got a reply. He didn’t have e-mail or any other way of keeping in touch with him, so as the years have passed since then, I’ve simply been left to wonder what happened to him, and whether, living thousands of miles away from me, he ever got my letter at all.
Only God knows. And I trust that God knew what He was doing in cutting short my relationship with this man. But I’ve been forever altered since meeting him. I was “spoiled,” as it were, with a taste of something so heavenly and beautiful, that I know now I could never truly love a man unless he captures my heart the same way this young man did. For better or worse, this man has become my standard. Like most single Christian women, I long to get married one day, I long to find “the one,” but I also refuse to compromise, or “settle,” simply in order to be with someone. Some may say I’m being too picky, and I run the risk of never finding anyone, but marriage is not something I take lightly, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all my mistakes with men is that it’s better to be single than with the wrong person.
The reason all of this is at the forefront of my mind right now, and hence spilling forth onto my humble little blog, is because I find myself, quite unexpectedly, confronted by not one, but two men, who seem to have some interest in me. Both these men attend the little Spanish church I’ve gotten involved with, and both are also involved with the ESL classes I’ve begun to help out with, so I see them on a regular basis now, but I’m not quite sure how I’ve managed to attract both of them, unless it’s simply because there are a dearth of single, available Christian women in their immediate circles. So maybe it’s simply because I am “fresh meat.” In any case, I’m finding myself suddenly wrestling with my own desires when it comes to the opposite sex and crying out to God to enable me to act honorably and appropriately with both of them. I have purposely not dated anyone in over five years now, as I’ve been going through too many personal struggles to be in a good place emotionally to be with someone, and I question whether, even now, I am ready to be with someone. Only a couple months ago, a friend’s wedding sent me into a brief spiral of self-pity, as I wondered if such happiness could ever, one day, come my way.
Thankfully, I’ve snapped out of self-pity, and my sudden predicament with these two men has been a good wake-up call for me. It’s the old flesh vs. spirit battle going on within me, as I recognize how vulnerable I am, and how, as much as I’d love to be in a relationship, I also know I don’t want to be in a relationship merely to be in a relationship. And this is why I keep thinking back to my friend in Brazil several years ago. And then it’s like I see everything clearly again, and I remember what matters most to me. It’s not merely the external. It’s not merely being a Christian. It’s something far deeper. When I look at a man, I want to be drawn to him because I see Jesus in him. Not some religious, superficial version of Christianity, but a real, vibrant, passionate faith, that governs every aspect of his life, and overflows in his behavior and conversation. I saw this in my Brazilian friend, and it drew me to him like a moth to a flame. Nearly every conversation I had with him centered around Jesus, and being around him always left me feeling convicted in my own walk with Christ and wanting to know Jesus like he did.
But as I ponder all this, remembering that very special man, and praying for wisdom and discernment in my current guy friendships, I’ve begun to realize that not only should I be maintaining my standard when it comes to guys, but I should be focusing on becoming the same sort of woman such a godly man would seek out. And while this causes me despair sometimes, when I look at myself, and see all my weaknesses, past sins, and current state of brokenness, I know there is Someone Who can fix me, and He’s the One I’ve run from so often, hid from, and even been angry at. But still He stands at my door and knocks. And I feel like, right now, He is knocking louder than He ever has, and although it’s downright frustrating for me to have to continually walk by faith and not by sight, and I have come so close to losing that faith many times, I have to say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
I have nowhere else to go but to Jesus. Even when my life doesn’t make sense. Even when faith doesn’t make sense. Even when the pain cuts so deep I wonder if He actually sees or cares or feels what I feel. But as I begin to realize no human relationship will ever truly bring me fulfillment, and I realize everyone will hurt or let me down at some point, it becomes more and more evident I’ve been placing my faith and trust in all the wrong things. The church is not my source of happiness. People are not my source of happiness. A husband should never be my primary source of happiness. I’ve discussed this before, but I’m learning the blessing of disillusionment in my life. Oswald Chambers, in his classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest, talks about this disillusionment with great insight and eloquence:
“Refusing to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering of human life. And this is how that suffering happens–if we love someone, but do not love God, we demand total perfection and righteousness from that person, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; yet we are demanding of a human being something which he or she cannot possibly give. There is only one Being who can completely satisfy to the depth of the hurting human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord is so obviously uncompromising with regard to every human relationship because He knows that every relationship that is not based on faithfulness to Himself will end in disaster. Our Lord trusted no one, and never placed His faith in people, yet He was never suspicious or bitter. Our Lord’s confidence in God, and in what God’s grace could do for anyone, was so perfect that He never despaired, never giving up hope for any person. If our trust is placed in human beings, we will end up despairing of everyone.”
This insight not only gives me hope for myself, but for those in my life who have wounded me deeply, as I call on God’s grace to forgive them completely, knowing that “they know not what they do (or have done).” So while disillusionment is unpleasant, and sometimes downright excruciating, perhaps God is using it for good in my life. And when it comes to my desire for a husband somewhere down the road, He’s showing me that even that desire should never take precedence over my desire for Him. Because no matter how godly a man may be, he is still a man, and prone to sin, failure and weakness, just as I am, and to place my happiness upon his shoulders is unreasonable and burdensome. I would never want a man to do the same to me (because I have had a man do that to me, and it was suffocating).
So I’m doing my best to lean upon Jesus right now, even as I feel the tug of temptation, and the whisperings and longings of a woman’s heart. I’m thankful for the friend I once knew, who showed me what a truly godly, totally-in-love-with-Jesus man looks like, and I know I could never “settle” for anything else in a relationship, but I also realize I would never have been drawn to him in the first place if it wasn’t the beauty of Christ I saw shining through him.
And that’s when it hits me. It’s not a mere man I’m longing for. It’s Christ Himself. And so, even as I think on that beautiful friend, and remember the precious time I spent with him, I’m ultimately pointed back to Jesus Himself, the truest Lover of my soul, Who is far more beautiful, and will never let me down nor let go of me.