It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly
until He has hurt him deeply.
“It’s pretty complicated—you’re pretty, I’m complicated.”
That statement, unrehearsed and uttered to the maddening beat of my speeding heart, opened my confession of love to Daphne almost five years ago. We were meeting over coffee because she wanted some advice about a common friend who was beginning to show interest in her. I could tell she welcomed the possibilities with this guy. After awkwardly telling her I was not the best guy to consult because of my lack of objectivity on the matter, it was inevitable for the proverbial cat to spring out of the bag. And so I ended up disclosing my romantic feelings for her. Daphne put both hands over her mouth—ala beauty pageant contestant—more in disbelief than elation. (It could have been horror, I’m not sure.)
The love triangle I had unwittingly formed was short-lived, promptly disbanded by the power of a woman’s choice. “I think I’m falling in love with him,” she gently declared one December evening. I fought back tears, hoping that the growing lump in my throat would not develop into public embarrassment of epic proportions. After a prayer, a hug, and a final “Goodbye,” we parted ways—she to nurturing a new love, I to nursing a broken heart. Weeks later I got the official text announcement of their relationship.
I couldn’t blame Daphne for her choice. How could I, I was the Johnny-come-lately; the buddy who suddenly dropped the romance bomb on her in the middle of a budding relationship with another friend; the guy without a plan who owned up to nothing but quasi-love. When I ‘fessed up, I was still trying to understand how this amazing girl with the dancing eyes had stolen my well-guarded heart. Somewhere between the endless talks about books, the after-office discussions on life, love, and God, the bantering and goofing around with friends, she with the mysterious mind, crackling laughter, and Godly heart had captivated me. But my nascent affections had been dashed before they could grow into something beautiful, never to see maturity or fulfillment. Or so I thought.
I had resolved to neither escape nor deny the pain of unrequited love, but instead go through it with as much grace and integrity as I could muster—until God in His time would grant healing. In my grief, I wrote in my journal feverishly, churned out poems in record time, laid claim to all the heartbreak songs ever written, prayed until I ran out of words and relied only on the Spirit’s ministry of interpreting my moans and groans. “The pain is the healing,” I wrote about my heartbreak.
The three of us worked in the same office, and seeing them as a couple was heart-rending for me. Thankfully, the emotions soon became manageable; God had granted us the grace to be able to work together with little discomfort. I made sure I kept a healthy distance, intentionally avoiding any information about how their relationship was doing. It was good enough for me that Daphne was happy. But Daphne was a fierce friend; she made it clear that she did not reject my friendship, only my preludes to romance. Almost one year after they became a couple, I wrote the following in my journal:
After a year, I can say it to myself: I lost you. In foolishness I let you slip away. Fumbling hands didn’t hold you or grasp you enough to feel if you would shake me off or linger in my presence. I was afraid to uncover the truth behind the disarming smiles, the unabashed laughter, and the profound conversations. Was there any hope of romance behind them?
Have I moved on? I don’t know. If I palpate my heart now I’m sure my fingers will brush through the scars you left. But scars are good. Having them means the wounds have closed. No more real pain, only remembered pain. But who is to say that remembered pain is less searing, less affecting?
Thankfully, the pain was not the ending. It was merely the dark backdrop that would provide the contrast for the blinding light of God’s grace to shine.