Oh Yes, we had become aware of God calling us together but not actually knowing that the other knew. You'd think it would be easy to move on from there to courtship. But nothing can be so straight forward when humans are involved. The following year was a tough one and designed I believe to strengthen our friendship.
We were chugging along in our friendship. Stephen became a close friend and I tried not to get too emotionally involved in him. It didn't make it easy when he would talk to me about marriage and children. I had confided in my friends that I thought he was the one and they told me that he treats every girl like that. One of my friends had a crush on him too and so I hung back not sure if I had really heard God because she seemed pretty convinced too.
It all came to a head in April of '97. Wow, that was a long time ago...
I cringe in pain to this day recalling the events.
Stephen was going away for 3 months overseas to work with delinquent youth. He needed to buy some clothes for himself so, he hatched a plot to get me alone and go on a quasi date without actually being on a date. He asked me to come with him to help him pick out clothes. Being by now a close friend and feeling comfortable in his company and secretly wanting to spend some time alone with him too. I said yes. Our first date... or was it??
Well, my friend found out about our little outing and insisted that she come along too as it wouldn't be appropriate for a young single girl to go out clothes shopping with a single guy. I was so disappointed, she always managed to take over our conversations, she was closer to Stephen's age and so I often felt quite young around her. So I really wasn't looking forward to this little outing anymore, but thought it was still a good way to spend some time with Stephen before he left for 3 months. This is not what causes me to cringe in pain, it's what happened next that I am still praying through 11 years later.
A week before the outing my friend contacted me and told me that Stephen had been wrong to invite us out and that he was causing us to have feelings for him that we shouldn't have and leading us on, defiling us so to speak. She said that we should call him and ask forgiveness for having such feelings for him and explain to him what he had done to us. She told me she would go first and then I was to call him after and that we were to cancel the outing. I'm not one for confrontation and I could sort of see her point plus she had a very strong personality and I was a bit of a pushover so I reluctantly agreed. So several days later after much prayer, with a heavy heart I reluctantly rang Stephen to tell him that I couldn't go and why. He was very gracious and sensitive. I cried and cried and cried. I was half tempted to secretly go now my friend was out of the picture but I felt that would betray her and I couldn't do that.
When I saw Stephen on Sunday, I found out that my friend had gone that day with him on the shopping trip, when we went back to his parents house, he showed me what he got and my friend gave a commentary of how these things were picked. I was floored, completely and utterly devastated. When I confronted my friend later, she said that all had been forgiven and somehow that made it okay for her a single woman to go out clothes shopping by herself with a single guy.
At this time I lived about an hour away where I was attending college and boarding. I cried and prayed and cried and prayed all the way home. It was at that time I made the decision that I would take the next 3 months to forget Stephen and move on with my life. My friend could have him, I didn't want to have to compete and if God really intended for us to be together He would be able to do it. I had been such an idiot thinking I was in any way good enough for him or so I thought.
Three months passed and I had gotten used to not having Stephen around to talk to. But it still hurt. While my other friends were getting excited about Stephen's return I plotted how I was going to avoid him. His first Sunday back I said a quick hello and moved on to talk to others. Instead of spending the afternoon at his parents house I went straight home. I threw myself into my course. I didn't speak to him much over the next couple of months. I watched my friend weave her way with him and it broke my heart completely.
Well now this wasn't supposed to happen was it?? We were now further apart then we had been the day I was painting the ceiling.
Well, God had a big mess to clean up. Arghh humans, he must have been thinking. But he is a gracious God and what he did next was beautiful.