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
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.
"My wife had been growing increasingly distant.
One day she looked at me and said,
'I still love you, but I m not in love with you.'"
"...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."
"To make a long story short,
three-and-a-half years later, we were married.
Well, it didn't take long for our marriage to become a mess."
In the end, this led to even more broken relationships and emotional scars.
By my high school graduation, I was a battered mess.
"'We haven't been able to revive her; you need to pray,'
was the first medical report I heard after about ten minutes of anxious waiting."
"My sexual orientation
has been constantly questioned through high school and college.
Even now in my work place people have asked about my sexuality."
"God needed me at Newsbox, Etc. at 1717 Dryden Street
to pray and talk to those two ladies...God's timing is perfect."
"It all happened so quickly.
In a matter of seconds the men had dashed up from behind,
put me in a choke hold, and shoved me to the ground."