Hurt people hurt people. Those with damaged hearts end up wounding others, sometimes intentionally; sometimes unintentionally. I am trying to remember there is a difference.
My mom has always told me that I am drawn to “the bird with the broken wing.” As I age, I would argue that birds with broken wings are actually drawn to me, hopping over to me in the forest where I dance happily alone, singing softly to myself like a scene from my namesake, Sleeping Beauty. These broken-winged birds are drawn to my voice; a voice calling out in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord – the one true Healer of hearts.
Grant is one of the birds I’ve seen around my proverbial aviary for a while now. We met at church when we both moved to town after college, and I’ve known Grant for nearly seven years. He’s a 31-year-old, six foot tall banker with a quick wit and penchant for playfulness. We share an alma mater and a love of country music, so about once a year, we end up going to a country concert together in the stadium downtown.
Grant is my go-to “plus one” for weddings and such events. And I am his. We unknowingly grew up down the street from one another, went to sister high schools, and he frequently teases me about being on the math club in junior high. We have seen each other through all manner of seasons – better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health; job layoffs, broken relationships, flat tires and the flu. He can be a jerk sometimes (evidencing his XY chromosome set), but I trust him, and I know that, deep down, he’s a good man who has just been wounded. His girl friend – who at the time he’d just looked at rings for – dumped him for his lifelong best friend. It happened three years ago, but he still bears the scars.
This year, Grant and I went to see Chris Young, and the concert was amazing. We went to dinner together beforehand, laughed a lot, got dessert; then walked and talked before entering the concert venue, where we danced and sang along to every song we knew. When Chris Young started singing his platinum “I’m Comin’ Over“, I leaned over to Grant and yelled into his ear over the noise, “This is our song!”
He looked surprised; then embarrassed, and yelled back into my ear, “I don’t know whether to laugh or feel convicted!” It was a fair response. Grant and I have kissed a few times and kind of gone on pseudo-dates over the years, but he has never intentionally pursued a serious relationship with me. We get along well, and there is mutual physical attraction as well as a shared faith, but – although he is turning 32 this month – Grant still lacks the maturity and commitment to lead a meaningful relationship.
I tend to assume that Grant and I are just going to events as friends, but occasionally he surprises me and wants a kiss at the end of the night. This time when tickled my sides and leaned in, I put my hand on his chest and reminded him, “I’m not dating this year, remember?”
“I know,” he said glumly, giving me a hug instead. But as he pulled away, he allowed his hands to linger and wander.
“Grant…” I warned. “We’re not doing this.”
“I have a roommate now,” he told me in a playful tone. “But you don’t. I won’t even kiss you. But if I were to choose between sleeping alone in my bed or just getting to hold you all night, there’s no contest.” He winked at me.
He was inviting himself over. To hold me all night. Just as friends, of course. Because it wasn’t enough for Cory to make me feel like a piece of meat. My friend, companion and brother in Christ had to do it, too. I am not valued for anything other than my body.
“Grant, you are not coming over. We are not going to be friends with benefits.” I paused. “Do you even want to date me? I mean, I know that I’m not dating right now, but if I were, would you be interested? Would tonight have been a date?”
Grant looked uncomfortable with the turn of conversation. He enjoyed flirting with me and getting the occasional kiss, but he didn’t want to talk about his feelings or intentions. “You’re a beautiful girl, Aurora. You’re smart and godly… You’re the kind of girl I should want to date.”
Wow. And with that line, he told me all I needed to know. “So you wouldn’t ever actually date me? You’d rather have all your busty girls in low-cut shirts who are willing to do things I’m not?”
“That’s not it at all. It’s…” he hesitated. “It’s your engineer personality. Sometimes you make math jokes that just aren’t funny.” This from the man who, earlier in the evening, asked me why cows don’t have feet (because they “lactose”).
“Wow, Grant. Wow. You make sports references all the time that I don’t get, and you make lame groaners of jokes that I don’t think are funny, but that’s a part of your charm. I care about you, and man, you’ve got to learn to accept people’s quirks as a part of what makes them who they are.”
“You don’t like my jokes?” he asked. He completely missed the fact that I was trying to point out to him that, to be in relationship with someone, you have to learn to cherish their “faults” as well as their strengths. Or that if he didn’t think he could ever live with my “engineer personality”, he needed to stop flirting with the line between friends and more-than-friends.
I got out of his truck without another word. I had nothing more to say, and I didn’t want him to see me cry. The ones closest to you are the ones with the most power to wound you. If I hadn’t gotten out of his truck as fast as I had, with him calling “Aurora” behind me, this is what I would have said:
Someday there will be a man who will love me just the way that God made me, engineer personality and all. You are not that man, so please never again call me to be your plus one play date. You have repeatedly demonstrated to me that you love my body but not my brain, and if you respected me, you would want better than that for me. As of now, you are too broken and selfish to be bothered by how much you damage those who you falsely convince yourself you care for. So I’m opening the aviary gate and setting you free. Your wing is still broken, but I am not your keeper. I am not your Healer. You are no longer my concern. There are other birds in the sky – ones without broken wings.