In the weeks that followed, I struggled to figure out how to be Cory’s friend – just his friend. It was easy being more than friends or not interacting with him at all, but to have a healthy friendship seemed nearly impossible to me.
Cory, seemingly unfazed by any change in our status, continued to send me text messages. Late at night, he’d send simple ones, like, “Ask me a question.” So I’d ask about his family’s Christmas traditions and his favorite color and his middle name.
One night, Cory – obviously feeling lonely – sent me a text, “Has anyone ever made you feel like you are the only thing in the world that matters?”
Thinking of my ex-fiance, I wrote back, “Yes… and that’s a simultaneously wonderful and dangerous place to be.”
Cory texted back immediately. “What’s it like? I’ve never experienced that before.”
My mind went to Cory’s ex-fiance, Mary. Cory dated her for four years, lived with her for one of those years, proposed to her and was engaged to her for several months, and she never made him feel like the center of her world? I couldn’t explain over text what it was like – both my celebration of and reservations about such feelings – so I called him.
“Wanna talk?” I asked when he answered.
“Yeah.” His voice sounded muffled, like he was lying in bed. A likely scenario, given that it was rather late.
So I told Cory a bedtime story – a partial story of my courtship and engagement to R, and how he’d put me on a pedestal and frequently looked at me in absolute wonder, whispering softly, “I love you, Aurora. You’re more than I ever dreamed was out there.”
It was thrilling to be so loved. R broke down in tears, overcome with his love for me when he asked my parents for their blessing over our marriage. He cherished me; adored me; worshipped me. At least, until the day he woke up; the day he realized I was human and therefore fallible and wouldn’t always have perfect hair, a winning smile and the patience of Job.
In the case of R’s love for me, our relationship really was too good to be true. His love was an immature, lusty kind of love that quickly fades when the bloom is off the rose. And that’s why I told Cory it’s a dangerous place when someone makes you feel like you are the only thing in the world that matters. It breeds pride in the object of affection and idolatry in the adorer.
One Saturday night as I climbed into bed, Cory sent another text. “What time are you going to church tomorrow?”
I’d never invited Cory to church before. I didn’t want to push it on him, but he knew that I attended services every Sunday, so I figured if he wanted to come, he’d say something. I guess this is him saying something, I thought to myself.
“I’m volunteering during the 9:15 service and then attending the 11:00. Interested in joining?”
“Maybe,” he texted back. “Where is your church?”
I sent him the address, and he responded with, “Do you want me to come to your church tomorrow?”
What kind of a question was that? Of course I did, and he knew it. Red flags went up in my mind. He was fishing somehow. I tentatively typed back, “I would love for you to be there. I want you to come if you want to come. I’ll be in jeans because I’m volunteering with the kids, so if you do come, feel free to do the same.”
“Hmmm. Can I make a deal with you?”
I read his text and sighed. I’d known he was up to something. “Depends on the deal,” I wrote back.
“Can I trade cuddles for church? Lol. I.e. cuddle now, church tomorrow. And I respect your desire to not kiss anymore. I’m just feeling snuggly.”
When I didn’t reply immediately, he added, “I also respect a no answer. It’s probably a dumb idea. Lol”
I knew Cory was showing me a rare moment of vulnerability, so I wanted to tread lightly, but I also knew my answer had to be no, so I made a teasing joke about how I thought his puppy Stout would probably need to suffice for a snuggle buddy that night.
“I guess he’ll have to,” Cory conceded. “His kisses are much more messy, haha.”
After a pause, I sent a follow-up text.
Do you still want to come to church, or was that just part of an exchange?
Haha. I actually want to check out your church; it’s just really far from where I live.
The cuddles were more of a motivator to overcome the drive than to get me to want to go to church with you.
If you would like me to come to church tomorrow, I can make that happen
Are you willing to make the drive? I know it’s far
Probably not regularly, but I could make at least one trip
So is that a yes you want me to come out tomorrow?
Alright. Get some sleep. See you mañana 🙂
And so, in the morning, Cory met me at my church. The sermon was absolutely perfect for his visit. Our pastor spoke on James 1:27 – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Since Cory is so anti-organized religion and is so passionate about loving and helping the less fortunate (i.e. “being a good person”), I loved that he got to hear my pastor’s perspective on what it looks like for a Christian to live out James 1:27.
After the service, we went out to a casual lunch with a group of my church friends, and as I looked around the table where we ate our burritos, I tried to see our group through Cory’s eyes. We are collectively a very authentic, loving group of people. Everyone is very open about their current struggles, and we all try to speak light and life into one another.
When I privately asked Cory what he thought about the church service, he told me, “I could really feel the warmth. I see why you go to church there. But I like a more traditional service, singing out of hymnals and such. It’s what I grew up with.” I was disappointed that he didn’t have more to say; that the sermon didn’t resonate with him and that his only real comment was that my church wasn’t his “style”.
After lunch, Cory wanted to spend some more quality time together, so we went to a Starbucks for coffee. Actually, we went into the Starbucks, ordered our coffees, and went back outside to my BMW where Cory plugged in his iPhone so that we could sing duets together. He chose a song first, which we belted out together; then it was my turn. I picked a duet from one of my favorite musicals, and our voices blended beautifully during the harmonies of the chorus.
We sat out there for a full hour, taking sips of our lattes between songs. What other man would sit in the parking lot of a coffee shop and belt out duets with me in the car? This is why I have such a hard time letting him go. He is so fun… and spontaneous… and free-spirited… and passionate.
Cory had brought study materials with him, so we went back to my apartment, where I got out a book to read while he studied. But he didn’t get much studying done. He kept looking up from his textbooks to ask me questions about myself or share a story he’d been meaning to tell me.
We were sitting together on the couch, and I got caught up in the moment and let Cory kiss me again. I knew it was a bad idea, but it was just as wonderful as I’d remembered. Feeling conflicted, I asked him between kisses, “Is there any part of you that is confused? Is any part of you feeling torn? I know you said none of this means anything, but I have trouble believing that.”
Cory rested his hands on either side of my face and looked deeply into my eyes. “In my head, everything is clear. But if I’m honest with myself, my heart and emotions are confused.” He kissed my forehead; then nudged my nose with his own.
“If you could describe how you feel about me in one word, what would it be?” I asked him.
He thought a moment before answering, “Wistful.”
He smiled sadly at me. “Because I see the potential we have. We could be so great. But we could never be together without one of us trying to change the other. You know that. Our world views are just too different. Besides,” he continued with compassion in his eyes, “You’re too wonderful a woman to ever be someone’s second choice.”