Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
There is a spanish proverb that goes, "Where there is love, there is pain." To love and to be loved is to experience the deepest joys of humanity, but it is also to open yourself up to the deepest pains. It is to be vulnerable--both to the other person, and to things that effect the relationship. Things like separation.
It had been a long day, and Richard and I hadn't said our usual good morning. I knew it was because he had a dental appointment, and the appointment was supposed to take awhile. I was disappointed, of course, but understood. As the day wore on, however, I began to get concerned. It wasn't like Richard to not call, and as he was having two root canals done, I began to be afraid something had gone wrong in the process. I wasn't sure WHAT, but I did know under normal circumstances he would have called me at some point when he got home to let me know things had gone okay.
When he did call, I knew things were definitely NOT okay, but it had nothing to do with the dentist. Despite our precautions, his parents were concerned that I was giving my heart away. Because of this we were to now act as though Richard were 5 years older. Instead of 20 and 16, we were to consider ourselves 20 and 21.
The main reason we had been so successful in being as close as we were without romantic attachment was our age difference. We were nearly 4 years apart--and that's a pretty big difference when it is 16 and 20. Totally different life stages. As dear as we were to each other, at 20 years old I was not expecting to find a lifemate that was only halfway through high-school, and Richard was certainly not expecting his life mate to be older than his big sister. Sometimes I'd even teasingly say, "boy, if you were five years older, or I were 5 years younger, I'd totally fall in love with you." We would both laugh. Such things are Divine Providence, and that was fine. We enjoyed our friendship, and didn't wish for it to change. But now we could no longer observe that age difference. Richard was now to be treated as though he was an eligible bachelor. To his family that meant no personal correspondence, no conversations over skype, and no contact with each other except at previously scheduled events. Effective immediately.
The change devastated me. Up until that moment our friendship had been rock solid. I could count on Richard to always be there for me, and now he wasn't. I could count on his honesty, his dependability, his trustworthiness, and steadiness. I could share things with him and trust that he wasn't harboring any secret romantic expectations. I'd never, before or since, experienced the kind of cutting pain I felt when that friendship was taken away. I couldn't talk to anyone about it--or even tell anyone. I didn't want comfort. I just wanted time to grieve--alone. The pain was intensified because just as I hung up the phone with Richard, Amanda (who had moved back a few months ago) walked in to say goodby to me. The one person who might have been able to support and help me, the one person who I could have talked to who would understand my hurt, was going away to a ministry thing for two months. Our only communication would be through snail mail letters. Within an hour I lost both of my close friends.
Obviously God knew what he was doing--and I never doubted that he had a purpose. Looking back, I think his purpose for the seperation was three fold.
First, it provided a valuable check to our friendship. During the time of separation we both did some soul searching to make sure that our friendship was completely pure and without reproach. We found that it was. We had done nothing we would be afraid or ashamed to tell our future spouses about.
The second purpose was to remind me that God had to be first in my life. Jesus would always be there for me--my friends would try and fail. The period of separation didn't come till an end until God was able to show me that I could find joy in him, even when it felt as though I were abandoned by everyone else.
The third purpose was, I believe, to put Richard on my map for prospective spouses. It had, of course, occurred to me that someday Richard MIGHT be the one God had for me, but I'd never up to that point allowed myself to seriously consider the possibility. I did during that time. I remember just after Richard told me what his parents had said exclaiming, "Richard--do they even know what not observing the age difference means to us??" It meant, in effect, that as of that phone call we were free to fall in love because the one safety net, our age difference, had been removed.
The separation didn't last long. It didn't take long for God to accomplish His purposes. But after that our friendship changed, and not just with the minor modifications his parents requested. From that point on my love from Richard deepened and grew from the affectionate love a sister has for her younger brother to the love and admiration a woman has for the man she will someday marry.