By now, I trust you’ve read my story of the last year. Leaving all the things I’d relied on to identify myself, humbling myself to the point of utterly starting over at 32. The ups and downs of chasing what I thought I’d wanted for years, only to find that it was just me trying to manipulate a life that would keep me further distracted from balance and growth. Then, after making all the right choices that honored the person I was trying to be rather than the one that would keep me safest, I sat back and watched in delight as God poured blessing after blessing into my life, bringing me a good man, the trip of a lifetime, an appreciation for the simple life that was growing by leaps and bounds, and great friends who were just as excited to see all these good things happen for me as I was.
And then I came home.
At first, everything was beautiful. My parents greeted me with a sweet handmade banner plastered to the garage door. I rushed to unpack and shower so I could surprise Cowboy at the football game I knew he was going to that night. When I saw him, my heart did what it always did now when it came to him – a perfect cocktail of pitter-patter and complete peace. I lept into his truck and covered him with kisses, just like I’d promised to do for weeks. The next 36 hours were the happiest I think I’ve ever been in my life, finally at home in the arms this good man I’d spent weeks connecting with on the phone, and we were walking on air. Everything clicked, not only as good as we’d left it two months before, but better. I felt completely safe and adored with him, and he was peaceful and happy with me. How did I know, you ask? Because he said so. I know, a man who just says what he’s thinking? What a revolutionary concept.
However, on my third night home, we hit our first speedbump. He invited me to join some friends and his parents to watch a horse show. I suppose I should have been nervous, but after an entire summer of Cowboy telling me how much he wanted everyone in his life to meet me, I just didn’t think about it. Unfortunately, he did. To say the least, it didn’t go well. Not the parents – they were lovely. But Cowboy was so uncomfortable he could barely speak to me. As we talked later, I learned that it’d been years since he’d brought anyone around his family, and he was clearly shaken by it. We worked through the conversation, and I swept it all away, sure that it was just a hiccup, and if anything, an encouraging one. This just showed how seriously he took me, right?
Perhaps, but as of now, I can’t fully tell you. The next two weeks held a few great days, several bad ones, and a couple difficult talks, which ultimately resulted in Cowboy walking away. It’s been over a month since our amazing time together came to an end on the same porch swing on which it had started. I can’t even tell you what happened. One day he was crazy about me, the next day he was gone. Confused, needed space, unsure of what he wanted.
I’ve heard every opinion out there by now. “Too much too fast, just happens sometimes.” – “Probably dating someone else the whole time, you weren’t around! Not even as good a guy as you thought he was.” – “Once you came home, the thrill was gone. He’s over you.” – “He’s just scared, you’re the kind of girl he wants to marry but it’s too soon for him to think that way.” Maybe I’ll never know. Maybe we’ll come back together someday. Maybe this was a warm-up to open my heart up to be ready for the next guy.
Here’s what I DO know. In the light of this whiplash-level change in Cowboy, I watched myself undo EVERYTHING I’ve learned this last year. I grabbed the emotional reigns right out of God’s hand and played out every possible scenario I could act on. If I say this, will he feel that? Or if I do that, will he think this? How do I get him back? What do I do?
Sad, isn’t it? After watching God transform my life from top to bottom in the most beautiful ways this last year, I threw it all out the window in a minute. So, as much as this breakup has shattered my heart, and I mean just bashed it into a billion pieces, I am so, so grateful. I can’t imagine there is any other way I could have learned just how fragile my progress is and how I have to fight for it every minute of every day. I still struggle, though I can see it now. When the panic and the pain rise up in my chest and all I want to do is tell him I miss him, or go out and do something to make him jealous, or even just call him and cry until he feels terrible enough to come back, I pray instead. I pray for him, endlessly, day and night. I pray that God protects him and challenges him and walks with him through each and every moment. I pray that God protects my tender, vulnerable heart and doesn’t let it be naive OR hardened. I pray that God carries out the beautiful stories I know He’s writing for both of our lives, whether or not that story gets to be one that we live together. I pray that God provides a way for me not to drown in the pain of rejection and the longing for Cowboy, which He does just in the nick of time by sending me little life-jackets of ice cream or a friend’s phone call or a good book.
One of my favorite moments came just today. I was thinking about all I know about Cowboy – how tirelessly he works, both for his job and for his family. He repeatedly gives up his rest and free time in order to make sure the needs of his farm and those of his loved ones are met. How deeply he cares about the children in his community that he teaches in Sunday school. How sensitive his good heart is to the pain and failure he sees happening in the relationships and marriages of those he loves. And I think to myself, do any of the people in his life appreciate all he does for them? Do they love him as much as they should, and tell him that? Who will love him the way he deserves if it’s not me? And God gently, but FIRMLY, reminded me “I love him more than you could ever hope to. More than you can even imagine.” And just like that, I knew he would be okay. Maybe with me, maybe without me, but never without the love of his Father.
And the amazing thing is, He loves me that much too. I feel like I understand just a sliver of what parents learn about God’s love when they have children. To care so much for someone else, and to know that it pales in comparison with God’s love for us, each of us individually and specifically – that knocks the wind right out of you. So maybe all of this happened for me to have a way to grasp just how much I am loved. I told Cowboy that I was a better person because I know him, and I meant it deeply. Whether or not he loved me, he helped me understand how much God does, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Not even him.