She felt like she was always living in the not yet.
When she was a little girl, she used to sit for hours next to the basket cradle and rock her doll, reading a book…then she was tall enough to climb a tree, reading a book. One day she left home for university and found herself in a bikini at the beach, reading a book. Many of those books were somehow about love. The stories reached down and touched something deep within her heart. Deep, tender, precious. So she stopped reading them (which might have been a good thing, after all.)
She didn’t date that much. Be picky, wise older friends told her. So she was. Not yet, she answered when people asked if she had a boyfriend.
So she threw herself into school, into friendships, into the sport of lacrosse. (Which she still loves and misses playing.)
When she was at the university, and in the autumn of teenagerhood, she used to sing along to a song with the lyrics, “And the God of second chance picked them up and let them dance/ in a world that was unkind./ And all this time,/ they’re sharing in the one who holds them up when they come undone, beneath the moon, beneath the sun.”
She sang lyrics like these for years, until they stirred something deep within her heart that began to sharpen, and poke her. Ouch! These desires of the heart—hurt. So she stopped singing.
There were friendships, there was travel, there was the uploading of cool and unusual photos from cool and unusual places on various social networks. She tried to stay busy and have fun. She tried to be an enviable single who dressed well and worked hard, who went out on Friday and Saturday nights, and who volunteered/served, and who was a really good Teacher/Aunt/Daughter/Sister/Friend. She was exhausted.
But—as mentioned in Part One—there was growth.
Some growth came after she left home and struck out on her own, free to think and question and raid the closets and minds of friends.
Years went by. One, two, three, four. Not yet, she answered when people asked if she had a boyfriend. Yes, she would say when people asked if she even wanted to be married. Maybe you’re too picky, well-meaning friends suggested. She wondered.
After she had taught high school for four years, she set out for Switzerland to a place called l’Abri. It was at l’Abri that she got reoriented…like a giant Compass who needed the magnets set right. Good friends there helped her do that. (Thanks to Eileen, Amelia, Emily, Renea, Val, Jenny, and Joy!)
She moved back to Florida set Northward, and then promptly fell in love with a man she’d known before Switzerland, who now pursued a relationship with her. She felt the long-awaited “I just know” feeling she’d been waiting to feel her whole life. But when it came down to it, she found that he didn’t love her that much at all. But they had done the right things: 1. Spent time together with their families 2. Showed physical self-control 3. Discussed important future things 4. Studied a marital book. The formula had failed! She felt like she’d been lied to. She was deeply and utterly heartbroken.
In the same year, the girl lost three beloved aunts to two different forms of cancer and Multiple Sclerosis. She watched her mom lose her sisters. Her cousins lose their moms. Her uncles lose their wives. She felt empty. It was a really sad time.
For an entire year, she couldn’t drive in the car by herself without crying.
Her father asked her if she had hope. She said no. He said hope takes courage. She knew he was right. She wanted to be courageous, she wanted to Be Open.
For an entire year, Be Open was her mantra. She spoke with a counselor. She even registered on a dating website, something she had said she Would NEVER Do. The dating website experience crashed and burned, and meanwhile her friends were getting married. All of them. Well, nearly.
She tried dating a guy long distance, but it didn’t take. She tried dating a guy who lived in her town, but it didn’t take. Maybe you’re being too picky. She wanted to punch those people in the face.
Sometimes, she so badly ached for intimacy that she was afraid she would spontaneously combust. At those times she went for a run. She also started a women’s study where they read and discussed a book about relationships and chastity. Being around other women helped. Took her mind off herself a bit.
One day, after a series of disappointing communications from the opposite sex, the girl was driving in her car. She was listening to music, as she sometimes did for fun, or as she sometimes did as a white flag of surrender to a bad day. The music was blaring as she drove along the coastal commute when she felt like she needed silence more than noise.
And it was then she began to pray, with a tinge of bitterness, and with more than a tinge of Self-Pity: God, why? I’ve Been Open. I’ve Tried. I long. I wait. Not yet, not yet, not yet. Why?
And that’s when the girl experienced one of the most precious memories of her life, too precious to describe here. But let’s just say she felt free to move on.
The next day I met Frans Nicolaas van Santen. (To be concluded in Part 3…)