After weeks of investing in him, discovering that Cory was still pursuing his ex-fiance was painful, to say the least. I found myself developing approach-avoidance conflict where Cory was concerned, battling internally about whether to withdraw or rush further in to our relationship.
Being a passionate, competitive, wounded woman, a part of me wanted to try to change Cory’s mind; to convince him that Mary wasn’t right for him; to convince him to pursue me instead. I felt shamed, foolish, rejected and disrespected. All of those emotions compelled me to try to win Cory’s heart, but fortunately, there was another part of me that gave heed to the voice of reason.
You knew he was broken. You knew he’d recently gotten out of an engagement. You knew he was the “bad boy” type, and all along, you knew he wasn’t God’s best for you. As much chemistry as you have, his continued desire for his ex-fiance is a blessing in disguise. When you are tempted, God will provide a way out so you can stand up under it. This is your way out! Take it!
We continued texting a bit, initially about practical things like the logistics of Cory auditioning for my a cappella group (which is how we met in the first place). But even those practical texts he managed to turn flirtatious.
Although he wasn’t officially in the group yet, Cory asked me for our Christmas sheet music so he could be ready for our caroling season. I told him about a performance on December 12th and asked if he’d be in town. He texted back:
No, I’ll be with my family out of state. But I’ll be back in town on the 19th before I drive to see Mary. That is flexible if there is any reason you’d like me to be in town? 🙂
Ha, I’m going to see The Nutcracker with my mom on the 19th.
Darn. Here I was hoping you had church caroling or a play or some other artful thing for us to do together. Haha… Let me know if I need to change my travel plans 😉
It was hurtful to live out his ongoing flirtation knowing there was no intention of commitment behind it. When I eventually confronted him about it, Cory seemed befuddled. “I thought I was clear up front that I still had feelings for Mary. You knew none of this meant anything.” He unintentionally pointed the finger at me, insinuating that it was my own fault that I got hurt.
I tried to act strong over the phone, attempting to veil the depths of my wounds as I asked him, “How could you spend so much time with me, not only flirting with me but also kissing me and telling me all of the longings of your heart – how can you do all of that and not be invested?”
“With everything I’ve been through,” he told me, “I’ve learned how to completely separate myself emotionally. It’s a coping mechanism. I’ve kissed a lot of my female friends. Alexa and I have made out multiple times, and she knows it doesn’t mean anything. We’re still able to be just friends. It’s just for fun.”
I’ve met Alexa. She’s one of Cory’s two best friends here in the city, and its obvious to everyone that she’s infatuated with him. Surely he’s too perceptive to be blind to her interest. Is he really that unfeeling? Is he really that cruel?
Knowing that none of our interactions meant anything to Cory – hearing the cold, callous nature of his heart – both deepened my wounds and snapped me out of my lovesick stupor (at least temporarily). I told him that we couldn’t kiss anymore. “I won’t be one of your playthings. I have too much self-respect for that and, unlike you, I can’t separate myself emotionally from soul-deep interactions like I thought we’d had.”
When we saw each other in person, Cory was as good as his word not to kiss me, although he did burn through me with his eyes and occasionally kissed me on the cheek as a concession to his desires. One evening, we texted back and forth, with Cory initiating:
What are you up to?
I’m eating an apple.
With peanut butter?
That’s the way to eat an apple.
I want to so badly, but I shouldn’t eat that much food right before bed. Lol. I even have peanut butter too…
You have such self-control…
In so many areas…
I can exert my will when I have the right motivation. Haha. That’s all self-control is really… Mind over matter. You just have to identify something you want more.
And what do you want more?
That would depend on what aspect of self-control you were referencing.
I left it intentionally vague.
And I’m intentionally making you commit to what you want to know about me. I am an open book to those willing to read, but that doesn’t mean I have to volunteer the lines of my story 😉
I’m smiling at you, FYI. I already know the answer to either option.
For the peanut butter, you have been committing to get in good shape, and that means exercising discipline over what you eat, and when. So you are choosing your physique over momentary taste bud dancing.
Regarding your self-control with me, it was a combination of choosing to respect me and my wishes over carnal instincts and also choosing dedicating yourself to the possibility of Mary rather than caving to a short-term fling. Accurate?
Almost spot on. You just missed one key component. I also chose self-control with you because:
With any woman I am interested in, no matter how amazing the chemistry is, I am a gentleman first and foremost, and I respect the wishes of my lady, especially if we’re not even dating (if we were dating, I would have pulled out all the stops and blown your mind 😉 ).
Bottom line, I’m not a playboy, just an intensely passionate person; I think all men and women deserve respect.
…So you’re saying we had amazing chemistry? 🙂
I feel like that was pretty obvious.
I smiled to myself. Even if he wasn’t interested in pursuing me, at least I could comfort myself that he acknowledged our chemistry. And so our interactions continued. But they changed. We spent a lot more time talking about religion. And I struggled not to make Cory my project.
In addition to not thinking Jesus is the only way to salvation, Cory also does not believe that hell exists. He asserts that the “luck” of one’s birth shouldn’t dictate whether or not they go to heaven, and he personalized his claim by stating that, had he been born in India, he probably never would have heard the Gospel message about Jesus and – “according to your beliefs,” he told me – “I’d go to hell. I just can’t imagine that a loving God would send anyone to hell, especially since he’s the one who determined which family and country someone was born into.”
I can appreciate Cory’s discomfort with the idea of hell, and I acknowledge and even respect his passion for God’s love and redeeming grace. But I pointed out to Cory that God is both perfectly loving AND perfectly just. In His divine holiness, God cannot tolerate sin; there must be a punishment for sin. But because God loves us so much, Jesus willingly died in the place of all mankind, so that anyone who accepts his atoning sacrifice is forgiven of their transgressions and brought into a right relationship with God. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Unfortunately for Cory’s argument, the bible is clear that accepting Jesus’ sacrifice to atone for our sins is necessary for salvation. None of us deserve grace; we don’t live up to our own standards, much less God’s! If anything, we all deserve hell. If it is God’s pleasure to save some and not others, that is His prerogative.
Romans 9 says, “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For He says… I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion…. Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”
Paul goes on to write in Romans 10 that it is his heart’s desire that those who don’t believe in Jesus would be saved. But “they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Cory’s response to my standpoint was: “I guess I choose to believe in a God who loves his children equally and gives grace freely without conditions, the way a parent unconditionally loves and forgives a child, because I see us all as deserving of grace.” Clearly he either didn’t really read or understand what I shared with him. I am frustrated to be seeing John 12:40 played out in Cory. Why, God?
We also talked more about Jesus being the only Way to salvation, as opposed to Cory’s perspective that Jesus’ way of living (loving people) is the way to salvation. I cited lots of verses (Romans 3, Romans 5, 1 Cor. 15, Acts 4), but Cory’s single rebuttal was to question the authority of the Bible.
“But this is one book,” Cory wrote to me over Facebook messenger. “What about the Torah? And the Quran? What about Hinduism and Buddhism that predate Christianity by thousands of years? How can we so easily write off all other sacred writings on either side of the cross and history? God exists across all of space and time, why would his message solely be encapsulated in the minds of a few men from the early centuries AD?”
I thought we had established up front that the bible is the inerrant Word of God; I told Cory that my faith and perspective is rooted in the Bible and that, if he didn’t view that as a viable source document, there was really no point in continuing the conversation. “Did you even read and digest ANY of that? You asked for my opinion. I stated at the beginning that I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. The Bible is where I get all of my data and justification. That’s why I said, at the beginning, that there was no point to having this conversation if you would not take Scripture as evidentiary.”
“But if you say scripture is evidentiary because scripture says so, you have a logical fallacy of tautology,” Cory argued.
I’ve heard this argument hundreds of times (seriously, hundreds of times over the past decade), and this is where the debate always breaks down, so I wrote back, “I will not continue to have this conversation with you, because it will lead nowhere if we do not agree on the same ground rules.”
But Cory wouldn’t give it up. “You do recognize the circular logic right?”
When I didn’t respond immediately, Cory added, “I agree we have different premises and therefore cannot reach the same conclusion… But what I’m angling at is your premise is ‘The Bible is inerrant and accurate because the bible says so’ and your conclusions derive from its words.”
And with more silence from me (as I cooled my temper), he barreled forward, “As mere humans we are only able to extrapolate conclusions from faith, as we have no empirical means of deducing spiritual truth. All of our faith is conjecture and personal interpretation based on assumptions. I choose to believe more in my faith experience, my prayers, and my childlike faith in God than the flawed words of men transcribed and translated across millennia into a highly edited and even more highly misinterpreted work of literature. God is just, and I have come to him(her) in earnest. I trust the revelations God gives me directly more than I trust the infallibility of human languages and the written word.”
And then – ironically – Cory quoted the very Scriptures he claims are “flawed words” and “highly misinterpreted”! These bible verses were his justification for trusting the revelations God gives him (and his own ability to interpret them) more than the Word of God.
“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:7-12
“I can say no more beyond this without redundancy,” Cory concluded, seeming satisfied with his argument. Having checked out of the conversation for fear of saying something I’d regret later, I continued my silence, which Cory assumed meant I hadn’t read his latest rant. He sent me a text message an hour later:
“I FB messaged my final thoughts to you. I will now cease to press this issue, as you have been kind enough to allow me to voice all my points. I am willing to continue to hear your views and points and I will continue to answer any questions, but I feel like I have pushed too hard already and out of respect for you am going to back off and let it lie and leave the ball in your court. Thank you for being open and honest and for sharing your faith with me. I am honored and blessed to know you 🙂 ”
When I didn’t reply to the text, he sent me a FB message later that night: “I pray that if you are upset with me that you will forgive me.”
He seemed so concerned about the wellbeing of our relationship that I replied briefly, “I forgive you”. Cory sent a text almost immediately:
Yeah, how are you?
So hungry! But I can’t eat because I volunteered to model for the abdominal ultrasound session today
Poor Cory… Thoughtful of you to abstain to ensure they get good images
Are you sure everything is okay?
Cory sent a long text message in reply, bringing our discussion back up again: “I don’t know that this is necessary, but I want you to know that I LOVE discussing religion and philosophy and that no matter how frustrated I ever sound, I completely respect the intimately personal and individual nature of faith. I just want to clear the air a bit on that topic and state that while I think we have different views on the afterlife and some macroscopic ideas that we could continue to discuss in a respectful and academic way, I nonetheless think we can agree about the message and mission of love, kindness and service Christ call us to.”
I kept my response kind but brief: “Thanks for bringing it up. Yes, I think we align on the external application of serving in loving-kindness but disagree on the power source and reason for/objective of such action.”
Cory wrote back: “I think we actually agree that the source of love is God, and I might venture to say we agree that the objective is to be ambassadors of God’s love to others. I think our disagreements lie in semantics/word choice only regarding this life and the force of God’s boundless love. But anyway, I’m sure (or at least I hope!) we will have many more opportunities to discuss this not via text, haha.”
I let the conversation drop, but I seriously doubted Cory’s wish for future faith conversations would come true. As much as I didn’t want to abandon Cory, our interactions had long gone past the point of being healthy for me or my heart. I may have gotten to be the planter, but it was time for someone else to be the waterer and the harvester.