Look at any good story--before the hero conquers, before the villain is vanquished, before fair maiden is won, the story must pass through a time where things are so dark, so desperate, that hope is almost lost. Pilgrim doesn't reach Celestial City until he has given up everything he has, Alice doesn't return home until she fears for her life, Hawkeye doesn't win his girl until they both have lost their families.
I think the reason the best stories follow this formula is because instinctively we know this formula reflects our own stories--reflects what the Bible tells us is truly real. Before the joy of resurrection was the dark horror of crucifixion. Before the shining light of the millennial Kingdom is the unspeakable trouble of the Tribulation. Before the wonder of Heaven is the dark waters of death. Before the thrill of bright victory comes the dark night of the soul. With that in mind, perhaps what the Scarecrow SHOULD have said is, "It gets darkest before it gets brightest."
My story was no different.
In the first couple days of February my dad came to talk to me. He told me that it was about time for us to determine as a family, and for me in particular, how we wanted to handle a eventual courtship. Over the course of the conversation he said something that made me realize no one had talked to him yet--including Richard. I knew my dad wouldn't lie to me. (Later I found out that dad had stumbled over his words, and was unable to correct his mistake without giving the secret away). I also knew that if Richard hadn't talked to him yet there was no way he'd have time to pull together a Valentines Day Proposal. I knew Richard well enough to know that he wouldn't settle for anything less than wonderful and unique. There just wasn't time for that anymore. Sadly I gave up my two month daydream of a proposal at the Valentines Banquet.
As sorry as I was to find out things weren't as far along as I thought, the disappointment over having to wait longer was fairly mild. I still knew Richard loved me, wanted me, and was working toward marrying me. I still had hope. Just a few days after that conversation with dad I was to have another conversation that would change that.
"You know I'm nowhere near being able to support a family, right? I couldn't even consider something like that at this point. It's going to be a couple years before I can even start thinking about it, much less start actually courting somebody."
I don't know if that's exactly what Richard said or not. The way I remember the conversation and the way he remembers it are two totally different things. By the time it took place I was so confident of Richard's love for me that the only person who could have convinced me otherwise was Richard himself. While this may have been a total misunderstanding of the words he said, in my journal I wrote:
"he told me clearly that he had no intentions toward me of that nature, and that even if he wanted to he wasn't in a position to. Everything has changed now."
In one conversation, a few words spoken, I went from being the loved and cherished soon-to-be-bride to the friend who stepped "over the line" and made false assumptions about the relationship. I went from being greatly desired to being loved--as a sister.
The pain of rejection was one of the most painful experiences I've had. Not that I felt rejected, exactly. I still knew that Richard loved me. But instead of loving me as his future wife, which was my desire, he loved me as another sister. I was one of seven when I wanted to be one of one.
I don't know whether I was completely and totally wrong about it--maybe God has somebody else for me. Or maybe I was right, but this is the "death of a vision". I always expected the death of this vision if something ever happened between us. I never expected it to come this way, though. I expected it to be something like that January. I mean, a literal cutting off of communication. Something that would wake him up. I never expected to be "given a vision" and then asked to bury it while still being in close contact with Richard. It isn't nearly as agonizing this way, but in a lot of ways it is harder. Harder to let it die when I still am so constantly with him--not that I don't want to be, but it is more difficult to give up hope. I'm really not sure how to go about the burying process.
I didn't blame anybody but myself. I assumed I'd simply read into conversations things that I shouldn't have. I knew it wasn't Richard's fault, or his family's fault. They had loved me and made me a part of their family, the fact that those actions had given me unreasonable expectations wasn't their fault--in fact, it was terribly ungrateful of me to repay their kindness with such unreasonable expectations.
The love I'd experienced had deeply changed me, but it had changed me for the better, with or without an end result of courtship. I could glean from this experience the lessons that God wanted to teach me, I could allow myself to be painfully pruned, I could choose to throw myself on Jesus instead of human support. I could embrace the pain, knowing that night comes before day. I absolutely believed that God would work all things together for good, even the devastation I was walking through. As the initial shock began to wear off, I searched for God in the midst of pain.
And I found Him.
Even when I'd lost everything my heart desired, even then, my Lord walked with me. He taught me to see joy in the midst of my pain. He taught me to count my apparent misunderstanding as a Gift. He gave me a deeper understanding of the true blessing that singleness is. He showed me the ways that I would be more useful having walked this rough road than I would have been had the painful path been left untrod. He didn't just walk that path with me, he carried me.
And I, desperate, clung to Him.
Part One: October 20, 1999
Part Two: The Highschool Years
Part Three: The First Moments
Part Four: Everything Grows
Part Five: A Threestrand Cord
Part Six: And how it Broke
Part Seven: Love is Pain
Part Eight: Realization
Part Nine: Rhema