He’s Not a Stalker . . . He’s a Pastor
*Editor’s Note: I was given some feedback that my choice of words might give the impression that Jason and I have said “good-bye” to each other. ‘Tis not the case! We, as in as a couple, have said “good-bye” to a beloved church family. That is all.
My husband is what you might call “relational.” A good friend once referred to him as “so relational it’s kind of creepy.” If he is thinking about you, he texts to let you know; and if you don’t respond he keeps texting until you do. It is not uncommon for him to call just to see how you are doing, and he actually wants to know how you are doing. When he loves you, you are “like a brother, sister, mother, father, to him;” he even cried watching Stuart Little when Stuart thought his family didn’t want him any longer.
I wish I could say I knew this about him from the beginning, but really I caught on slowly. Our first few months of dating I had to sort through all the people who were bringing him cookies and baking him pies. We were married for almost a year before I realized he didn’t really have a sister, and that the next door neighbor wasn’t really his grandpa. After five years of marriage (and when my daughter was finally old enough to tell on him) I discovered that his quick trips to the grocery story took at least an hour because he inevitably ran into so-and-so who needed advice, encouragement, just to bend his ear. Or as my daughter put it, “daddy talked to four women in the produce aisle!”
As a young man his relational habits, charm, and good looks got him into trouble. Like the time he was dating the pastor’s daughter and got caught holding another girl’s hand . . . on a bus . . . to church camp. His list of girlfriends was so extensive that I was not quickly received by those who knew him best. When we announced our engagement his brother called him a “bull in a China shop,” and a long time friend referred to him as Saul “who started off well but ended poorly.” I took offence at first (really, I was the poor ending to his life?) . . . Until I helped him move his stuff into our first apartment.
While packing up his shelves, I found at least twelve copies of the (then popular) Christian book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Baffled by the collection, I questioned his owning the book in bulk. “I dunno,’ he mumbled, “people just kept giving it to me.” I had to laugh. People who cared about Jason had watched him struggle in and out of relationships. Their intentions were good. But his dating ways didn’t end because he read a book, they ended because he met me.
Jason and I have had to say some difficult good-byes this years. Leaving behind places and people who were once our place of comfort and shelter. The good-byes did not come quickly. They began with an itch of dissatisfaction, followed by overwhelming feelings of being unwanted and unloved, and culminating in the deterioration of relationships vital to our survival.
The good-byes for me came with hurt, disappointment, and a series of events that caused me to proclaim that “never have I felt so disposable.” Those were just feelings, however. As Jason and I navigated the good-byes, I found myself engrossed in the book of Genesis. A series of stories ironically often marked with good-byes, departures of loved ones, and the sudden end of relationships.
Abraham was asked to leave his country and his family; a call fulfilled only when his father-in-law passed away. Isaac dug the wells of Abraham only to find a contention and strife from the natives that pushed him deeper and deeper into the land until he dug a well called “God has made room for me.” Jacob fled first from his brother after stealing his birthright, and then again from his father-in-law after being cheated twice. Joseph found himself in a pit because of a jealousy inducing cloak, in jail because of an unfortunate disrobing incident, and then at the King’s table when his character overshadowed his misfortunes.
As I read the comings and goings of these men of God; I realized that, though their departures often came with strife and the dismantling of relationships, they were also marked by a moment when they came out of their circumstances and God reestablished his covenant with them. That they took with them riches they could not have attained anywhere but where they had been. And in time, God always restored the relationships lost in the process.
God has a way of making us uncomfortable in order to get us to move. In the moment it is easy to blame the people involved, to become embittered by the fates that fall upon us, but we must like Joseph stand to say “what you intended for evil, God intended for good.” Because when we move, when we step out, God is reestablishing his plan and purpose in our lives. And He is a God who restores those relationships damaged along the way. He is a God who makes room for us.
Jason and I have said good-bye, not because of anyone or anything, but because God has answered our prayers and brought us what we have been looking for. We take with us riches that bring us great joy and gratitude. What I thought was the end of all that we’ve ever wanted, was just the beginning of all that God has planned.