My first engagement was over, by my choice. I had to leave behind the beautiful townhouse, the car, the lovely furniture, and most importantly the hopes and dreams of having a partner and a home filled with the laughter of children. At least for now.
Since I didn’t have a home anymore, I moved in with a lovely woman who rented bedrooms in her huge home to Christian women. My two other roommates were wonderful and helped to ease the pain of loss. Maybe I had broken off my engagement, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want to be married. I knew Dan was not the right one and know now that he did marry Molly and they have a family together. I felt when we were together, in the deepest part of my soul, that he should wait for her and even though I didn’t say that to him the night I broke things off, I believed it. A year later, as we talked about taking my name off the mortgage, he told me he and Molly were together and planning to marry. It was then that I told him I felt he should wait for her to be ready. They had been best friends and still had a deep connection. I believe it’s so important to marry your best friend. He told me that night that I had done the courageous thing and that he admired me for making that choice. God once again confirmed my decision, even though, once again I was alone.
I graduated from the personal ads in the newspaper, and with my first computer embarked on the “online dating” train. Back then, we weren’t sophisticated enough to upload pictures. It was pretty plain and boring but easier to communicate with potentials dates. And that’s how I met Alex. We emailed back and forth quite a bit and talked on the phone before we met. We finally did meet, and even though he didn’t look like someone I pictured myself to be with, we started to date and our relationship grew.
About eighteen months before we met, I had returned from L’Abri in England and I longed for the spiritually challenging conversations that were part of my life there. Alex provided that. He challenged me to read, think, and process Biblical truth at a deeper level than I had known before. I loved the challenge. But, as time went on, I grew to see that, if one is not careful, some of that thinking can lead to a judgmental attitude. I didn’t want to see it in him or in myself and chose to push it aside as we spent more time together. He had very little family and had spent most of his life alone. He preferred to spend our time together without family members or other friends. I told myself that what was important was our relationship and after about a year, he proposed. I remember a good friend asking me if I was sure I wanted this. Was I sure he was the one? I told her yes. But, in time I came to see that his spiritual pride was pushing others away. I realized that if we married we would be a very lonely couple. At least, I would feel lonely! I didn’t want that! I also realized that spiritual pride was growing in me – it was ugly and off-putting to others. I didn’t like who I was becoming!
So, once again, knowing my family and friends might not understand, I broke off our engagement. I can’t say that I was very clear in the reasons I gave him. I just knew it wasn’t right. After the breakup, friends and family started to share how they truly saw him. I asked why they didn’t mention this while I was dating him. They claimed they did, but I didn’t seem to get it. Dear friends, if you see a friend walking down a wrong path, be a friend and say something, even if it means straining the relationship. I wish my friends had been clearer in what they said. I wish they had openly and honestly shared, without apology, what they saw. I may have listened – and I may not have. But, at least they would have given me some things to look at. It is more loving to speak the truth in love than to allow a dear friend to walk into a slimy pit.
I was working at a children’s museum at that time and when I announced our engagement, I also announced that I would be resigning in the days before our wedding weekend. When I broke off the engagement, I asked my boss if I could stay in the position and she said that would work. The position might change some and the hours, but yes, I could stay. A week before what was to be my wedding day, the museum decided to accept my resignation and told me that day was my last day. So, here I was again, without a job or a wedding. I was in shock. I did have a place to live but was not sure how I would pay the rent.
But God, in his amazing plan, had it all worked out ahead of time. I was looking through the want ads at the library, back in the days before Indeed or Monster.com. I saw an ad for an activity director at a nursing home. Now, I had never worked with the elderly. I was all about children! I had been a teacher, worked in a kids’ museum, led summer camps, and worked in the children’s ministry at church. The only seniors I knew were my grandparents! I knew nothing about seniors! But, I knew about programming. And that’s what activity directors do. The only home I knew of in the area was a place called Friendship Village of Schaumburg. I had been there for only 10 minutes 20 years before.
God’s timing amazes me again and again. I called a friend who was going through a divorce to see how she was doing. Now, the last time we had talked she was working at a hospice. As we caught up, she asked where I was working. I told her my need for a job and shared that I thought I might like to work as an activity director. She said, “We need an activity director where I work!” I was having a hard time envisioning that role in a hospice so I asked, “Where are you working?” “Friendship Village of Schaumburg!” she replied. She offered to talk to the department head and see about setting up an interview. Two weeks later I had an offer to work as Activity Director for a home of 850 residents! God is amazing as I had no idea what I was doing, but as a good friend of mine says, every time she is in a new job, God just downloads the software she needs! Well, He did that for me! The next 6 years were full of rich relationships and experiences that have forever marked my life. I had 850 grandparents who loved me and built into my life. I can’t wait until eternity to see them all again!
Years after our relationship ended, I came across Alex’s name on a singles’ website. One of the questions he answered on the site was about his last relationship and why it ended. I read his anger filled, unkind, judgmental words. They were hurtful. Very painful to read. There was truth in them, no doubt. I had broken my commitment to him and I hurt him in the process. But, the husband of a friend told me that if he really loved me, he would never have said those things about me, in that context, and to the world. I believe it is important to process the pain we feel in relationships with those we trust and have a loving relationship with. I encourage you to find someone you can trust to help you through the pain of a broken relationship.
It’s interesting to see how my list started changing after some of my relationships. I began to see what is truly most important and those qualities that will add to the long life of my marriage relationship. I thought being intellectually challenged was very important and there is nothing wrong with that quality. But, if it is not balanced with humility before God and others, it can soon become undesirable. So, on my list, right up there with stature is humility! (For more about my unending list, you can read “Stature!”)
I was now in my 30’s and and my biological time clock was ticking, loudly! Let’s go God! I don’t have much time! Will I ever know the joy of a lasting relationship??