This is the story of us. It is in response to Melody's challenge here at Blossoming Joy to tell your engagement story. I felt the need to flesh it out a little. The prologue to our vocation is very rich, very deep, and as with all things of God very complex thanks to our humanness...
I must begin with the formative years of my Faith. I survived middle school as best I could. Before that time people disliked me. In fact, I was that fat, gross, quiet kid that everyone loved to hate. I'd find my confidence blown at every school past-time, only to be rebuilt tentatively that evening by self pep talks only to be destroyed again at recess the following day. I hated myself, and when I finally cried "suicide", my mom yanked me from school and placed me for my eighth grade year at the Cathedral school of our Diocese. I wasn't Catholic. I didn't know what I was. I wasn't anything in my opinion.
There was nothing really special about the school. The biggest gain for me was the uniforms. Finally I wasn't in that small town crowd where you had to dress exactly so or be disliked. Or be disliked anyway. The uniforms gave me camoflauge. I made friends quickly and easily. It did wonders for me as a young woman. But nothing gave me that faith like my first trip there. Walking through the heavy oak doors of the Cathedral. I couldn't breathe for the way He penetrated my heart. Everyone else seemed so nonchalant about it. Didn't they feel Him? No, He was there for me that day. I've never been the same since.
I got baptised and received my first communion in this final year of my elementary education. I became a big fan of the order of Sisters who worked at this school. My Mom, having come back to her Faith, did as well. She decided to continue this journey for me, and placed me in the all-girls' Catholic high school run by the same order. I knew my life was over.
I quickly made friends again, and began to bloom where God had planted me. I was involved in many things, but none I loved so much as youth ministry. This was my passion. To reach out and be upheld by my peers in the Faith. It was at one of these events I met him, I met Mike. I so desperately wanted to impress him. I knew I didn't stand a chance as all my girlfriends were in line to meet him, dangling on his arm. He was the only one to take pity on me and be on my team for beach volleyball that day. Doing my best up-serve, I slammed him squarely between the shoulder blades with the ball. Mortified, I couldn't bring myself to even talk to him on the bus ride home. I knew he was out of my league.
I began to date in his circle. Carefree dating, usually in a big crowd of friends at the bowling alley or the roller skating rink. I was a good girl, and I wasn't ashamed of it. In the meantime I got to know Mike better. He was considering a vocation to the Priesthood. I would soon discern God's calling me to join the order where I was at school. We bonded over these long late-night talks about our love for God. I even remember writing in my journal "It's too bad that Mike's going into Seminary and I'm going into the Convent, for if I were to marry, Mike would be exactly the man I'd want to be married to." We started going to Daily Mass in the summertime. Meanwhile we'd continue to date other people, casually. He dated my older sister. I dated his best friend. It was like we were in two opposing revolving doors, always seeing one another through the glass, and yet being whisked off in opposite directions. But late at night, when the rest of the world had given up caring, we were there for each other, on the phone, pouring our hearts out in our dreams for the future. I was able to talk to him, really talk to him. To share my thoughts and feelings, and he with me, in a way I could never with anyone else. Praying together, going to Mass together, sharing our Faith together, bonded us in a way that made our friendship 'stronger than death'. We both realized this, and were grateful to God for this unexpected gift.
Mike went onto college as I began my senior year of high school. This was a moment in time for me. A chance to give my education all I had. It was a great year of growth and educational success. Mike and I maintined our friendship. I typed him a letter and mailed it out every single day. And I'm talking typewriter old school typing:) As inevitable as Harry and Sally, as Westley and Buttercup, as Scarlet and Rhett even, we began to feel the stirrings of something more. We dated in my senior year. He was my date for my senior prom even! We both knew it was inevitable, that we'd have to break it off to pursue the plans God had made for us. But we both secretly hoped that our relationship wasn't pointless. I grew to love Mike in that year. To really love and respect him as a person. It was after my high school graduation that we both took that fateful step. We broke up. That summer began my great sadness. I had wanted to break up. I couldn't understand why I was so shaken up by it. I still had my friend. And now my friend was free to follow his dream as a Priest. I wanted that for him. My feelings betrayed me and terrified me. I wrestled with them and screamed reason at them. But they refused to be quieted or to be understood. I was alone that summer. Oh, so alone.
I went onto college. Mike went onto his second year of college. We kept in contact now through emails back and forth. Not quite as frequently, but still with as much camaraderie as before. I was glad for my friend during this tumultuous first year of a gigantic university. I did my best to stay afloat and he helped me to stay grounded. We continued on our friendship as best we could. We got together that following summer for Mass and coffee quite a few times. It was growth. Painful agonizing growth. For both of us.
He began seminary that fall. I went into the Honors Program at my university in that, my second year of school. I moved on campus, and we began slipping further and further away from each other. I couldn't help it. Well, of course I could help it. I still had feelings for him. I loved him more than I had loved any man. I hated that seminary (I used to call it the cemetery). I hated that he was there. And yet, I loved God. I loved His Church and knew the harvest was great and that Mike would be the best laborer in His fields. I begged God to let him go. To let him come back to me. I cried and agonized over it. I agonized over my own vocation realizing with that instinctual primordial cry every time He asked for my hand again and again. "Lord, I love you with all my heart...But...I want children..." It seemed so pathetic a response to Him at the time, but I could not shake it. I could not disown it or distance myself from it. Even with Mike gone, I saw children in my future and I could not let them go.
It got worse between us. I would tease him, lure him in ways only a woman who knew him too well could. We never got physical, but I knew what I was doing in his heart. I wanted to know that he suffered in his decision, because I would know that he still loved me. I wanted him to love me, to be tortured by me. And then one day, I was struck off that horse. I was kneeling at Mass, noon Mass, with my mother by my side. I heard the Lord speak, "You have to let him go." "Lord, you know I cannot do that." "If you love me, you will keep this commandment, you have to let Mike go. He has to come to me freely. And you have to let him be free to do that." I felt the very wind knocked out of me by this request of my most gracious Lord. I went home that evening and wrote the letter. The "dear John" letter I should have written years before. I delivered it that evening after a dinner at the Bishop's house. I cut off all ties of communication with him from that point on. It killed me.
I knew to turn to the Lord. He would console me in this time of my great sorrow. I went to Noon Mass the following day. I listened to every word He would share with me, and almost fainted during the first reading. It was there, the cry of Hannah for her son, the weeping, mad woman at the Temple. I cried out, much to the horror of my mother sitting next to me, and went completely pale. "O Lord, who am I that you must play with me this way? To play with my emotions in such a manner? O Lord, please spare me from these words that confuse me so!!" But they rang in my heart, and I was hurt by the Lord for the first time.
God's silence continued to confuse and hurt me. We had never been distant. I began to boomerang in my Faith. Zealously following it, only to throw it all away in hurt and rage. I didn't understand what the Lord was doing in His silence. I ran away. I embraced the world. I lost Him. I lost myself. I lost more than I care to remember in those the darkest days of my fall. And as a man took me, used me, and I used him back, I would see Mike's face. I hadn't talked to him for a year and a half. Why would he continue to cross my mind, here, at this the farthest reach of space from him? From God? That 'why' would continue to haunt me down this path to the bottom.
I eventually turned to God to get me out of the mess I had created for myself. I knew I could not go back to the Catholic Church, and continue to live the way I had been for the past year. I went instead to the Episcopal Church. I wanted to puke. It was the worst feeling of fake I've ever endured, and I had done a lot of fake in my life up to that point. I came home from that "service" and that evening my atheist boyfriend kicked me out. His dispenser was full. He wanted his dime, and his space back. I lost all my friends. I lost my apartment. I lost my freedom. And now I had to go home and face my mom. I had gone to the black.
**To be continued**