I didn’t see it coming.

Her sweet and strong voice through the FaceTiming phone had become a regularity in my irregularly sporadic existence. But this time, she was extra persistent in the texts.

“Debbie, when are you free? When will you be off work? How much time will you have?”

I answered later that day and showed her the clothes pile on my bed. Lightheartedly, I talked about how we, the previous roommates, hadn’t seemed to completely lose our “wow, we’ve exploded” tornado-ly clean and not clean ways. I was packing. Packing for another trip and expecting another one of our normal, generally light and deeply encouraging conversations.

But I stopped folding the denim and reaching for hangers.

“I called your parents and sister to make sure I should tell you.”
“What? What’s going on.”
“I just wanted to be sure, you know…”
“Yes, but you’re starting to scare me. What happened?”

She then told of a not-ex ex of mine who was the tip of the iceberg of pain that had led to many painful conversations and tears over the past year and a half, that sent me pacing back and forth till 3AM after crying and crying out because I wondered if the pain of ending, of leaving, of not having his existence exist with mine for hours every day would crush me. It was a piece in the post-grad seven months of healing, processing, grappling, praying, his present absence one of many large broken shards the Lord was using to make something new in the albeit breaking process of who I was, who I had been, where life was heading.

“Debbie, he asked to date me.”

And I felt a rush. Logical: Yes, yes, if the Lord is leading you two to date, then I will stand with you and pray for blessing. If you want my opinion, I don’t think it’s a good match. But do not let me stand in the way. Yes, yes, I just told you that I have worked through this, in a way God could only have done. And that’s still true. Yes, yes, I have compassion for him. Yes, yes, I understand why you don’t want to talk to him again. But reactionary: What is going through your mind when you pick up the phone, call Deborah’s best friend, and so casually try to start a relationship? Why did you think you could have this conversation without it hurting her and me? Deeper still: Why didn’t you call me? You could’ve, but you didn’t. Why am I never enough? What is it about me that makes people come in close and then pull away? Then, anger flaring, my hurt’s residual healing-tenderness jabbed. Then, sadness seeping in, stigmatic memories and the exhaustion of it all.

Not surprisingly, she didn't want to date him.

I texted, this time. Some of my closest Tennessee friends who knew the situation. Their responses were balm, but I was still a little caught off-guard-raw. I finished folding denim and grabbing hangers, packed into a personal item and put inside a Lyft with my roommate to lift us to gate B11. We sat beyond the gate in empty, sticky-blue, July-heated chairs, and I told her, she who knew it didn’t take a label to start to fall in love, that our egging house jokes now really might become a reality.

But she knew deeper, too.

The self-criticalness that had stayed with me even after I separated from him. The doubt that I should have could have needed to have done something better so that the result was true difference. The lingeringly suffocating insecurity that I’m too much and just not enough. And the fear, the deep ice-cold wind-gone fear that, since I struggle to let people into the deepest parts of me, that I’ll do my habitual, almost unintentional avoidance of connection, sitting in the backseat, letting others do the driving, running from relational risk subconsciously, and then having to live with the conscious effects of hating that I run but watching myself run repeatedly.

I knew deeper, too.

That this fear is long-seated. That I don’t feel good enough to be chosen. That when someone sees my intensity they’ll leave. That I present myself as misunderstandable. That I make people turn away. That I don’t know how to let them in. That I’ll be second-choice and back-up-plan till the cows come home.

I’m afraid. Afraid that not only will I maybe never be loved but that I keep myself from love and do not know how to love in return.

Back from the post-flight trip, I was sitting in the warm almost-globe-lit-warm room, me and two other student leaders and one student. Though our ration was 3:1, I was being hit maybe the hardest. What does it mean to be fully satisfied in Jesus? What does it look like to acknowledge the hardness of some seasons while also recognizing idols manifesting during that season that are making it harder? What does freedom mean?

I got in my blue infiniti and pray-cried again, something I hadn’t done in a long, long time. What if my heart fixated on and was fixedly satisfied in the love of God to wash over these insecurities? What idols—of even good connection—have I made? Abba, I’m in pain. Abba, I’m so heart-cry-deep tired of being alone. Abba, I’m scared, so so scared.

I’d written, the night before. “For love is the flipside of pain, dependence is the exit slide of doubt, and courage couples with trust.”

And maybe I’m learning just that.

We must be willing to feel the pain if we want to be rushed with the love. And love doesn’t just leave a deficit of pain but ushers in forgiveness and shields from fear.
We can’t truly depend if we don’t acknowledge the doubt of our tiny capacities to make our life be independently right: our haunting doubt that maybe we’ve messed everything up, that we could have done and been so much better. Dependency is a rushing release.
We can’t hope to move in the direction of relational connection unless we learn to trust enough to be courageous. To trust that people are pain-inflictors but worth the risk, so we courageously step toward them anyway. To trust that if all goes wrong, our core will not be shaken because it’s hidden in the cleft of the rock of Christ.

Simple, really, but I really simply didn’t see it coming.

Didn’t realize that a FaceTime conversation would bring me again closer to the feet and face of the Savior, crying out that I want to learn to love and be loved but am such a fumbling, broken being, crying out that I want to love the Lord with not just my mind but also with my heart, seeking for the idols I’m chasing be chased down and crushed, wishing for the transformation and breaking of these wall-barriers I’ve erected to keep me from not only being loved but pouring that love riskily out onto others.

Able to bring the change? I am not. But seeking? Here I am.

Father, ground me in your love so I’m not afraid of love. Refresh me with your truth so that your truth is all I focus on. Give me a heart of worship so that I can be fueled by love of You. Only You can bring the true transformation.

Maybe this love is what I’ve been searching for all along.


I definitely don't want this to be a monologue. What are your thoughts? Questions? Ideas?