"I Never Really Liked You"

By John Houser

"I never really liked you."

Her words, quiet and to the point, stabbed at a wound that had been growing since I arrived. It was midway through a visit we had been planning for months. We started our long-distance relationship around New Year's and it was, without sounding too dramatic, love at first sight. She was my first real girlfriend—a beautiful, Christian girl who was drawn to me as quickly as I was to her.

It was now March and I had gladly given up my spring break to come see her. But as I stepped off the bus and she greeted me with a sheepish side-hug, it was clear the week was heading down a different path than I had hoped. Avoidance and awkward interactions made up most of my time there. At first, I thought it was just a rough patch. But after a few days it was clear she wanted to end it. I collected the pieces of my shattered heart and was on the next bus home.

On the trip back something interesting happened. While I was waiting for my next connection at a bus station, a girl smiled at me. It wasn't the fact that a girl was smiling at me (although unusual) that I found interesting; it was the way I responded. For that second, the only thought that filled my mind was that she was giving me attention.

I was no longer filled with thoughts of how my one-in-million girlfriend had just broken up with me. How was that possible? My girlfriend was my whole world. How could her memory be wiped away so quickly by a stranger's smile? The answer, as shallow as it sounds, was that both my girlfriend and this new girl were beautiful. It turned out that I didn't actually love my girlfriend for anything other than her beauty. That is why she could be replaced so quickly. I took pride in how guys, who outranked me physically, would show signs of envy when I showed them her picture. I had loved how people would give me their

attention just because she was with me. I wanted their respect and honor without ever having to earn it for myself. I wanted to feel powerful. And now, that dream was gone. The pain I was going through stemmed not only from losing my shot at that power, but also from the world subtly reminding me I was never worthy of that power to begin with.

It all came down to image and how I felt other people felt about me. In the weeks and months that followed, God showed me how dependent on image I truly was. I wasn't just seeking a beautiful girl. I desired wealth, intelligence, humor, talent, and anything else that would make people adore me.

The cry of my heart was to be valued and the only source I really knew that would provide that was other people. God not only revealed to me my deep hunger for value, He revealed that I wouldn't find it in others.

Years of healing and growing followed. The relationship with that girl ended, but my relationship with Jesus began. It was a turning point in my life. Never before had I prayed so much. Never before had I so desperately sought God for satisfaction. Don't get me wrong; I still struggle with image. But I know that God loves me and desires that I live the life of freedom He intended me to live. It is the life He wants all of us to live.

The Bible says that chasing after things in this world is like chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14). It will leave you tired and empty handed. A beautiful aspect of Jesus' gift of life to us is freedom. That freedom includes letting go of what other people think and a freedom from the pursuit of earthly wealth. Our worth comes from the fact that we are in His family and members of His Kingdom of infinite value. The world and all its opinions won't ever change the wealth of His children. God adores me and He adores you and nothing can take that away.