Grating Expectations

Distance in Relationships

My daddy has gently told me, over and over again for years, that it’s a whole lot easier not to be disappointed in people when you stop having expectations for how they should behave.

But for the life of me, I just can’t seem to stop hoping for better for people. It’s a blessing and a curse. I always want to see the possibilities for redemption and the potential for greatness, which is a beautiful part of the way God made my heart, but it also leads to a seemingly perpetual string of woundings and disappointments. It’s part of the paradox of the INTJ personality – we can be both the most hopeful of idealists and the bitterest of cynics. It’s a delicate balance to walk and an often frustrating way to live.

Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows that I love personality types. I’m an Enneagram Type One, and I subscribe to weekly emails that give me encouragement for personal growth specific to the way I’m wired. Earlier this week, I got this email: “Today, notice if you are playing the role of the ‘Educator’ or the ‘Teacher,’ the superior person whose place it is to instill wisdom in the ignorant, uplift the fallen, and show others how to do something useful and productive with their lives.”

It’s true. I do try to be the mentor type, speaking wisdom into the lives of people I sense need direction, often because they overtly ask for it, but sometimes simply because my intuition (in truth, the Holy Spirit) prompts me to speak. It’s usually well received (largely because I know all too well how annoying it can be to receive unsolicited advice, so I am careful with how I phrase my encouragements). Just this morning, I got a text from a younger colleague who sought out my advice the day prior:

“hey, just want you to know that your comment about focusing on what my current role gives me the ability to do really helped a lot… greatly appreciate you aurora!”

He’d been frustrated with his job and needed some perspective, which I was all too happy to provide. But it doesn’t always work out so well. In fact, one of the last times I ever saw Cory, he, Noelle and I went out to coffee together. He was preparing to drive to go see his ex-fiance Mary over Christmas break, and we were sending him off as he embarked on his quest to win her back.

Near the end of our time together, I offered him some insight based on my own experiences with a broken engagement. “Cory, she is the one who broke off the engagement, so I can tell you from experience what she is going to do. She doesn’t want to let you go, but she also doesn’t want to commit to you, so she is going to try to convince you to start dating again but not get re-engaged or set a wedding date. This is the best possible scenario for her and the worst possible scenario for you because it keeps you from moving on but also doesn’t lock her in to commitment.”

I continued, my voice adamant. “If I were a betting woman, I’d put a thousand bucks on the fact that she’s going to want to start dating again long distance but not put that ring back on her finger.”

Noelle agreed with me, and Cory made us both pinky promise we wouldn’t let him do such a thing to himself. “I deserve better than that,” he acknowledged. “I need to stand strong and either win her back as my fiance or start moving on with my life. She’s already put me on hold for six months.”

That conversation was in early December. I knew I needed to take a step back from our interactions for all the reasons I’d written about before, so I didn’t make an effort to reach out to Cory at all over Christmas. Conversely, he had no reason not to reach out to me, so I suppose he was too busy winning back Mary to bother even sending a Merry Christmas text. Either that, or he sensed my desire for space. But if the latter were the case, he probably wouldn’t have sent me this Facebook message one Thursday in mid-January, about a month since our last interaction.

“Staying dry in this crazy weather?” he wrote.

Seriously? A month with no communication whatsoever – while he’s off trying to win back his fiance – and his first comment back to me is about the weather?

I simply replied, “Yep, sure am!”

He tried again the next day. “How was your winter holiday?” A much more acceptable opener.

“It was great! I spent a lot of quality time with family,which was nice. How was yours?”

As expected, he rattled off all the things he’d done: time with family, reading, studying, and… oh yeah… “Mary and I started dating again.”

Of course that was the whole reason he reached out to me. Could we do away with the facade and the games? He just wanted me to know he was back with Mary.

Cory continued, “We’re just dating for now – no engagement yet; we’re taking it slow.”

I was incensed. Wasn’t that exactly what I’d warned him against? I’d had feelings for him but shared my wisdom with him anyway, because I cared about him and wanted what was best for him. “Congrats on winning her back,” I wrote, typing furiously into the Facebook message box. “I know that must make you feel great, even though she’s not ready to commit to being engaged again.”

I paused; then continued, “You may recall this outcome is exactly what I predicted at Starbucks.”

He was ready for my comment. “And you recall I promised you that I wouldn’t settle for less than what I deserve,” he shot back, already defensive.

“Yep. So this is what you believe you deserve.”

He replied with a novel. “We are taking things slowly. We have both grown and changed for the better these last 6 months, but we still have some work to do individually and as a couple before we are entirely ready for marriage. While I am ready to commit and then do the work as young married people, Mary is more cautious and wants to get everything squared away first and make sure our foundation is strong. She says she is still in love with me and can see herself spending the rest of her life with me, but that she’s not ready for that concept YET, especially with 4-5 years of long distance staring us down. I am ready for commitment, but given my medical schooling, I am also not in a rush to run down the aisle.”

I was furious. Furious that he used me the way that he did – no one ever made me feel like a piece of meat the way Cory did; I was just the in-between girl; meaningless makeout partner while he got himself in shape and played hard-to-get games with his ex-fiance to try to get her back.

I was furious that he ignored my advice. Even if he didn’t respect my body or emotions, couldn’t he at least respect my mind? My wisdom and insight, shared lovingly for his good? He and Mary are both first-year med students. They are at separate universities on opposite sides of the country, and neither one will transfer schools. They have – as Cory himself admitted – 4 to 5 years of long distance ahead of them, not to mention a broken engagement behind them. There is no scenario under which this is going to end well.

And  to top it all off, Cory had the audacity to reach out to me with no purpose other than to let me know he was back with his ex! After a month of no communication whatsoever, while he bedded (but not wedded) his ex-fiance-turned-girlfriend, he wrote to let me know he’d gone against my advice –  advice based on painful personal experience with dating an ex-fiance in the wake of a broken engagement. What was I supposed to say? What response was appropriate? Couldn’t you just let me be? Haven’t you done enough damage in my life?

I gave some trite “I’m excited for you” answer, logged off and closed my laptop. Two weeks later, when I couldn’t handle the combination of mushy I-love-Mary Facebook posts and nauseating videos praising Bernie Sanders, I removed Cory as a friend on Facebook. This week, I got the following text:

IMG_4670

I really wanted to type back, “Perpendicular lines 4ever!” …but I refrained. Some jokes are better left unsaid. Especially when the joke is you.

Authentically Aurora

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Missionary Dating?

Coffee Date

I am always the one before the One.

Men, if you’re tired of singleness, come date me seriously and exclusively – six months is all I require – and boom! The next person who catches your eye will be your soulmate.

My college boyfriend – after convincing me to accept a job offer in his city and then taking me to look at apartments in his complex – subsequently broke up with me and was married to someone else within 18 months.

The first guy I seriously dated after college broke up with me and was married to someone else a year later. Another guy, Stephen, was married within nine months of breaking things off and, ironically, my ex-fiance and I ran into Stephen and his wife on the morning of the day that my ex proposed to me. I’m not currently on speaking terms with my ex-fiance, but if he’s dating anyone right now, I have no doubt she will soon become his bride.

I’m really great at fix-em-up projects. Is your California Dreamboat still playing 40 hours of video games per week? Is your McDreamy insensitive and unromantic? Does your Mr. Right have emotional baggage from his parents’ divorce? Or have commitment issues? Or is he unemployed or slovenly? Just give him six months with me, and I guarantee he will be primed and ready for marriage!

I am a magnet for broken men. I mean, we’re all broken in some way, but I have somehow always attracted wounded men. In college, male acquaintances would call me at 3:00 a.m. because they just found out their parents were going through a divorce, and they needed someone to talk to. As a working professional, I can’t count the number of times some man in the seat next to me on an airplane has struck up a conversation about his “impostor complex”… or his ailing mother… or his deepest regrets… or his current relationship issues.

In the past year, one young male friend has confided in me about a drug addiction that almost no one else knows about. Another guy told me about a vision he believes God gave him about his future, and he’s unsure what to make of it. Others have sought me out to talk with me about the death of a parent to cancer, walking in on their dad having an affair, uncertainty about job direction and all manner of other topics.

It’s always men. Women don’t approach me this way. Why is it always men? I have asked God many, many times over the years why He seems to have given me a ministry to men. Hello, God! In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a woman!!! The contemporary Western church tends to frown upon women ministering to men, particularly one-on-one, particularly about such deeply personal matters. I’ve even made a conscious effort to seek out female friendships, and still, it’s the men who come to me for soul-deep conversations.

I’ve frequently asked myself, when such situations arose, “Is this the work of God or Satan? Is this an opportunity from God for me to provide comfort and wisdom and hopefully share the Gospel with this person (as is often the case)? Or is this a trap laid by Satan to get me into a bad situation?”

I struggle because often there is a gray area; a blurred line between how much time I can spend with someone and how deep we can go before it starts to become unhealthy. I can’t imagine that Satan would be pleased with my sharing the Gospel message with someone, but I also can’t imagine that God would want me to bond and invest emotionally in someone of the opposite gender who is so broken and, frequently, doesn’t share my faith.

Usually I go out for casual coffee with a guy, and at the end of that one “date”, tell him that I am not looking for a romantic relationship. Every circumstance seems to require incredible discernment and, although I’ve gotten wiser over the years about which situations to allow and which to avoid, I still slip up sometimes (i.e. Cory).

Sometimes I wonder if this is a seasonal ministry. God made me beautiful, intelligent, mysterious and captivating. I get asked out on dates more than anyone else I know (I’ve been asked out twice in the past week). Perhaps I have been granted these gifts for the purpose of planting seeds of faith in men who would not listen to anyone but a beautiful woman. Perhaps I have been granted ongoing singleness for “such a time as this.” But my prayer is that 2016 is the year my ministry shifts from being male-dominated to being a ministry to women. Please, God? My heart is tired.

Authentically Aurora

Hold My Heart – Part IV

5ffg9-snuggles

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.

Question

Answer

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.

Makes sense.

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

Okay 🙂

So is that a yes you want me to come out tomorrow?

Yes

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.”

“Why?”

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.”

Authentically Aurora

Hold My Heart – Part III

texting iphoneAfter 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:

Everything okay?

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?

Yeah

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. 

Authentically Aurora

Hold My Heart – Part II

FullSizeRender (10)When I went out of town for a weekend with my sisters, the constant chimes of incoming text messages from Cory was a great source of entertainment for them. “Ooh, what did he say this time?!”

Sometimes it was a light-hearted, flirtatious text or an innocent comment about his day of lectures. Cory would tell me what he was learning about in med school or send me selfies of himself wearing his stethoscope on his way to clinic.

One rainy afternoon while he studied, Cory sent a text saying he wished he had a snuggle buddy. I wrote back, “It’s a good thing I’m out of town or you just might end up with one! 😉 ”

His reply:”I fail to see how this is a ‘good thing’ 😉 ”

Cory told me later that his puppy Stout had stood in for me as a snuggle buddy, and “Stout says you owe him belly rubs.” Aww.

Partway through the weekend, my younger sister got a deep gash on her back that required us to take her to the emergency room (long story, but she’s okay). I kept Cory abreast of the situation and, once everything was settled, he sent this text: “If only this happened a couple years later and I was there. I’d suture her right up. 🙂 ”

I know. Wish you were here 🙂

Just for suturing? 😉

Hahaha… I plead the fifth 😉

Come on. Tell me the truth. 😉

The truth is… I don’t know.

I mean, I know what I want, but I also know what I WANT 

Do you wish you were here?

For something other than suturing?

I might. 😉

……. 🙂

You’re a fantastic kisser by the way.

Haha thanks. So are you. One of the best ever, in fact.

You’re just saying that.

“False,” I texted back, face flushed from his admission. “When some people kiss, they are takers. You are a giver in the way you kiss, and it changes everything.” And it did.

Occasionally, Cory would lead us into a more serious conversation. At one point, he asked me, “What are you good at? Besides dancing, singing, kissing and the ‘come hither’ look?”

I smiled to myself before I typed back, “Guess you’ll have to stick around and find out!”

But he legitimately wanted an answer. “Come on. what is something you are passionate about and that you consider yourself good at?”

After I answered (citing primarily music and other artistic skills), he said simply, “Tell me a secret.”

I admitted to eating straight out of the peanut butter jar, and Cory said that he drinks milk straight from the jug. I don’t know how to parallel park, and Cory secretly loves HGTV. The last secret I shared was: “Kissing in the rain is on my list of life goals.”

“I’ve done that… It’s amazing.. You know it’s been raining all day? 😉 ” He never missed an opportunity to flirt. And my heart never missed the opportunity to flip-flop.

Religion also started to come up a lot more during that weekend away. I’d known from that first night we went swing dancing that Cory and I needed to talk about his Universalist leanings and tendency to bring Buddhist and other principles into his so-called Christian doctrine, but I wanted to approach the topic with care. Fortunately, Cory initiated bringing up our faith differences during one of our evening phone conversations.

Cory shared with me that he considers himself a Christian – that he believes Jesus died and rose from the dead as an atoning sacrifice for his sins – but he also thinks that all gods are the same god; that God reaches different people groups in different forms. I’ve heard this argument countless times, so I went right into Jesus’s declaration that He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” and statement of, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Cory was ready for that argument and told me that he is of the opinion that Jesus himself wasn’t the only way to a right relationship with God, but that Jesus’s way of living – loving others and exercising servant leadership – is the way to salvation. “When Jesus talks about being the Way and saying that no one comes to the Father except through him,” Cory explained, “He’s talking about, not himself in particular, but his way of living. If we live like Jesus did and love other people, that is how we get into heaven.”

I was dumbfounded. Cory is a brilliant man. He’s intelligent, educated, articulate, perceptive, insightful and someone who also has a longing to live well, love deeply and make a positive impact in the world. So how such a man could be so blinded to the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel was beyond my comprehension. I mentioned John 1:29, Romans 10:9 and other verses that clearly state faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus himself as the method of salvation, but Cory wasn’t having it.

I tried to explain Ephesians 2 – that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works so that no one can boast about “earning” their salvation – and Cory countered with James 2, that faith without works is dead. I explained that the Apostle Paul and James had the same viewpoint but came at it from different angles as a result of their audiences. James, writing to a Jewish audience, reminded Jewish followers of Jesus that although they were no longer under the Mosaic Law, if their faith was genuine, that faith would be evidenced by living rightly. Paul, on the other hand, wrote to a Gentile audience who needed to hear that they were not subjected to the traditional Jewish laws in order to enter into the family of God; they were saved purely by the grace of God when they placed their faith and trust in Jesus’s sacrifice on their behalf.

Cory and I are both competitive, intelligent, passionate people, so although we each tried to respect the other person, the conversation soon began to get rather charged, and we agreed to table the discussion for another time.

We briefly sent light-hearted, humorous texts to ease the mood; then Cory took us right back to a heavy topic: “I hate to change the subject to something less smiley… But I don’t think I ever heard your insight into my situation with Mary, and I would actually really value your input.”

Ugh. Did he really want to talk about his ex-fiance? I’d told him about my own broken engagement and had, at the time, been enthusiastic about sharing my journey and the lessons I learned from that season. But as much as Cory and I had bonded emotionally of late, it hurt to have her brought up. I could tell he still had feelings for her.

Nevertheless, I wrote back, “Okay. I would be happy to share my insight, but only if you really want to hear it and only if we discuss it in person.”

“I really want to hear it. But I’m impatient and you’re far away. Haha.”

I told him I could try to call him later. Then we had a long break between texts while I spent time with my sisters and tried to emotionally distance myself from the conversation for purposes of my own preservation. When I eventually checked my phone again, I had another text from Cory: “I’d still love to text if you want. 🙂 I get a general, nonspecific good feeling from talking to you.”

That made me smile. He enjoyed my company, even if his heart was spoken for. And I soon discovered just how spoken for his heart really was.

Over the next few days, I discovered that Cory and his ex-fiance were still talking on a weekly basis. I’d known Cory wasn’t healed from his broken engagement to Mary, but I hadn’t realized they were still in communication. “What’s the purpose of that?” I asked him. “Is that healthy for you?”

Only then did I find out that he is driving to see her over Christmas, with the intent of winning her back. He’s taking Stout with him (it turns out Stout is a dog they got together as a couple). And this Christmas visit is the reason he’s been studying so hard and working out so much. He is a man on a mission to win back the love of his life. And that love of his life is not me.

Their relationship is doomed to fail. Even if they do get back together over Christmas, their relationship will not last. They each have three years of med school left and are both stubbornly staying at their respective med schools in states 1,600 miles apart. They are both career driven, already have trust issues and now a broken engagement behind them.

Could they make it work? It’s possible. But I have serious doubts that three more years of long distance – with all this baggage as the foundation – is going to result in a lasting, happy marriage, especially considering how much of their relationship was physical in nature. I think it would be better for Cory to escape the situation now and begin the healing process.

I don’t think Cory’s Christmas courtship is going to end with them getting back together. And frankly, it would be better for Cory if it didn’t. But for my sake – for the sake of my poor, foolish, battered heart – I hope it does. Because then, maybe, I will stop torturing myself pining for a man I know will never be mine. 

Authentically Aurora

Hold My Heart – Part I

Queen's throne

In the weeks following our kiss in the parking lot, Cory and I saw a lot more of each other. One evening, he came over for dinner, and I made a savory pumpkin sausage soup. His grandmother called near the end of dinner – Mimi, he calls her – and since I knew from our conversations that she basically raised him, I waved him off to answer the phone while I washed the dishes.

Once I had finished scrubbing the pots and pans, I ventured into my living room where Cory was laying sprawled out on the couch. Seeing my approach, he scooted over and patted the spot next to him with the hand that wasn’t holding his phone. When I sat down, he pulled me down to a lying position and maneuvered me on top of him so that I was laying flat on my back on top of his stomach.

We laid there for a long time, Cory talking on the phone to his Mimi as he gently stroked my arm, my body rising and falling with his breathing. There was nothing sexual about the interaction, and yet there was a profound emotional intimacy in sharing those moments together.

When Cory got off the phone, he’d had enough down time and – like his puppy, Stout – was eager to do something active. So he taught me AcroYoga, a combination of yoga and acrobatics. I’d never heard of it before, but I have a yoga mat, so we put it down and started with some basics – throne, queen’s throne, front plank, plank on plank and front bird. It was terrifying and thrilling and silly and sexy and exhilarating all at the same time.

Cory mentioned that AcroYoga is something he did a lot with his ex-fiance and that it’s a great trust-builder in a relationship. I wondered what he meant by that and why he shared it with me. Was he looking to build trust with me? Was he testing how much I trust him? Was he hoping to build new AcroYoga memories? Was he thinking of her when he was with me?

When Cory and I did the plank on plank position, Cory did some push ups with my weight on top of him. “Show-off!” I teased.

In response, he flipped into a handstand against the wall and started to do handstand pushups. His untucked shirt fell and flopped into his face, so he righted himself, took off the shirt, and resumed his handstand pushups. He knew I was watching, and he wanted to be watched. He liked showing off for me. 

After a few reps, he turned around so that his face was to the wall. “This way you can see the muscles in my back,” he told me. Oh geez. This man made me feel so many conflicting things all at once. Was he attractive to me? Yes. VERY. But his desire to show off and the bluntness with which he directed my gaze to the muscles in his back quickly reminded me that he is very much a still-maturing 24-year-old.  I smiled to myself, enjoying the moment but also chuckling internally at the absurdity of the situation. Guard your heart, I told myself. Too late, I replied, looking into his happy face as he righted himself again.

Later in the week, Cory had me over for dinner. He’s rather health conscious, so he made us fish and broccoli with a side of mac-n-cheese, a personal favorite of his. After dinner, he showed me his bedroom, gesturing for me to sit on his bed while he perched in his computer chair. He pulled out several old folders of weathered sheet music – mementos of his days as a music major. Then he rummaged around in his closet for a moment, emerged with a small box and opened it to reveal a conductor’s baton.

He held it gingerly, and I could tell it was very special to him. “This was my first wand,” he told me. “My college choir director bought it for me when I graduated,” he added, handing it carefully to me.

I took a few swishes with it, smiling at the electric blue handle – an expression Cory didn’t miss. “Yeah, he teased me about the color I chose, but it suited me.” He looked at me and grinned – an adorable, innocent, sideways smile that reminded me of all that could have been… and perhaps all that still could be.

Returning to the pile of sheet music spread out on his bed, Cory instructed me to pick out a few favorites; then proceeded to serenade me for about an hour, giving me a private performance as he sang some of his old pieces from his undergrad showcases. I occasionally harmonized, but I quickly learned that Cory derives great pleasure from showing off and being delighted in, so I let him shine and showered him with praise.

After a while, Stout was ready to go out, so we took him for a walk around the block. Figuring I should head home so Cory could study without distraction, I gathered my things on our way out to walk Stout.

As Cory walked me to my car, I reached over and interlaced my fingers with his. I was a bit shy, but it felt natural after all we had shared together, from kisses to stories of our pasts; our joys, our hurts, our hopes and dreams.

Cory allowed the interaction, but I sensed a slight hesitation from him. Ah, so it’s one thing to kiss me in the privacy of an apartment but another to hold hands walking through the parking lot. Funny how holding hands can be so much more intimate than kissing. And his reaction was telling. It hurt a bit, but I chided myself that I shouldn’t be surprised.

When we reached my car, Cory opened the driver door for me, as I had come to expect. He briefly kissed me goodbye and closed the door for me after I climbed in. I started to drive toward the exit gate of his apartment complex, but just as I reached the gate, I saw Cory and Stout in my rearview mirror running toward me. I slowed to a stop and rolled down my window, wondering what I’d forgotten.

When Cory reached my car, breathing hard, I started to form a question with my lips, but before I could speak, Cory bent down and kissed me. “Stout wanted to say bye,” he said breathlessly by way of an explanation.

I couldn’t help but smile. It’s obvious that his heart is spoken for, but as much as he hurts me sometimes, this man is adorable. 

Authentically Aurora

It’s Been a Long Year

R engagementThe second time I experienced that supposed “once-in-a-lifetime” love was with my ex-fiance.

On the evening we met, R welcomed me with a hug and guided me into the Italian restaurant where we would share our first meal together. Once seated, we dove into conversation, quickly moving from lighthearted get-to-know-you topics to weightier stories and back again to laughter-filled teasing.

At one point, deep in conversation about his wartime experiences in Afghanistan, R’s eyes started twinkling, and he pushed back from the table and exclaimed – pleased, surprised, musing aloud – “This is great; we’re really getting into it!” We both acknowledged the immediate chemistry and personality compatibility that allowed us to navigate all levels of conversation with ease.

Even during that first date, we began picking up on one another’s idiosyncrasies. Normally very articulate, R’s occasional lapses into over-used colloquialisms were his tell of uncharacteristic nervousness. Similarly, there were a few times I’d be talking during our dinner conversation, telling a story, and I’d see the corner of R’s mouth lift just slightly like he was amused. I’d eventually ask him what was so funny, and he’d laugh lightly and say, “Oh, I’m just picking up on mannerisms,” telling me with a grin that my quirks were endearing.

R led us in prayer before the meal, and when he reached for my hand to pray, it felt natural. He had nice rough, calloused hands – a man’s hands. Overall, my first impression was of a strong, dominant leader; a smart, driven businessman; a confident, fun-loving rogue with acerbic humor; a thoughtful, reflective, godly man.

On our next date, R arrived after me, striding confidently toward me in comfortable jeans and a soft blue graphic tee. I stood as he approached, and he enthusiastically picked me up and spun me around as I laughed. Once we were seated next to each other at a square table, he reached under my chair and scooted me a few inches closer to him with a grin. I loved his playfulness.

The playfulness continued at the arcade where we played games after dinner, followed by a ropes course challenge and, finally, our first kiss in the parking lot, where – laughing – we got busted by a cop. After being told to “move along”, R and I started to say goodnight, and the atmosphere turned serious. As we gazed into one another’s eyes, I pulled our photo booth picture from my purse to give to him, but he pressed it back into my hands, saying softly, “You keep that safe for us.”

He was a a sentimental, hopeless romantic and a roguish military man with handfuls of confidence until his sudden and repeated emotional breakdowns in the months preceding what would have been our wedding day. He oscillated between telling me, with love in his eyes, that I was more than he ever dreamed was out there… and then, the next day, telling me that I was so Type A that I’d drive him to have an affair if we got married.

After months of heartache, I finally had to let him go completely. And the song I taught myself on the piano was one of many outlets that allowed me to begin processing the hurt and emotional turmoil of that season.

It’s been a long day, and all I’ve got to say is make it strong
It’s been a long day, and all I’ve got to say is I’ve been wrong

So take a leave of absence; tell me you’ll be gone
I don’t want to see your face
It’s been a long day, and I just want to hide away

It’s been a long week, and all the lines come down heavy on me
It’s been a long week; I’m finally feeling like it’s okay to break
Into a thousand pieces no one can replace
Only I can find my way
It’s been long day, and I just want to hide away

It’s been a long year, and everyone around me has disappeared
It’s been a long year, and all this mess around me has finally cleared
So can I have a moment just to say hello?
Can you let your anger go?
It’s been a long year, and I’m finally ready to be here

Authentically Aurora