So here’s the story…Part X

April 11, 2009 — Leave a comment

By way of a rather awkward introduction (even grammatically), this part of the story gets rather ugly. Even grammar check squirms under the grotesqueness of my sentence constructions. But it is rather fitting for a part of the story being written on Good Friday that one can see the grace of God most evident sometimes in the sheer ugliness and brutality of suffering and evil. What unfolds below is not pretty part of the story, but it is rather vital to explaining how things got where they were. I rail rather harshly against Jack, which hopefully by the end will seem not too unreasonable given my current position, and it is not softened too much because there are few things worse than relationally abusing one of God’s daughters in the way that he has. That being said, prepare for an even more awkward segue (which if you were wondering is pronounced seg-way), right about…now.

August is a rather enchanting time. It tends to naturally mark the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year, which if you’re like me and did your undergrad in 3 different locations (and none of them mind you at the institution that conferred the eventual degree) then August is a re-birth of sorts. August of 2007 continued the trend (as will ’08 and ’09, but that’s jumping ahead a bit) and for me marked the end of my time in Knoxville and the journey to the unknown of Dallas. With Camry (read: my Car) loaded full of all the essentials (minus the drum set) I set off for a land I had never been to, in order to live in a place I’d never even seen pictures of, to live with people I’d never met, and go to a school I’d never even visited. In other words, it was quite a transition, Starbucks remained a constant in my life, but that job went south by October, and I ceased working full-time there by Thanksgiving (although I am still casually employed).

Meanwhile, off in Orlando, Ali started working at Panera again and was in the throes of romance with the aforementioned Jack fellow. Marriage was much on the horizon in both their minds, but during a brief 40 day fast, they took toward the end of summer camp and over the break Jack would have before going back for classes, the proverbial {insert vulgar word for feces here} hit the fan. I had known somewhat that they had started dating since I believe we talked sometime in early August while I was at the beach. They took the 40 days to really evaluate things, but at the same time, Ali had more or less committed in her heart to marriage on the other end of that 40 days. Things started going south, literally as Jack drove down from Alabama to Florida for RA training and decided it had been a while since he had paid the taxes some people tend to pay that are arranged for those who are extremely bad at math. Once his wallet was several G’s lighter he was ready to move on, but needed to call Ali and let her know her he had kept up on his payments to the stupid bank. This was not well received. A week later, he called abruptly to end things.

At the time rather baffling to both of us, but Ali called me first. I remember rather distinctly were I was for the conversation, for it would be were I was for most of our conversations, wandering around aimlessly on the top level of our apartment parking garage, shrouded in the shadow of the evening skyline. Apparently I said some rather eye-opening and insightful things to say, which in this particular instance I cannot really take credit for and instead really have to say it was the Holy Spirit speaking through me and using me to bring comfort and truth to Ali while she was hurting. This would not be the end of the road for this saga, but instead would be the beginning.

I suppose I had been unaware of the seriousness of their relationship up until that point, I had of course met Jack when I was down in Florida the previous June, but she downplayed her interest and even after I found out they were dating, I’m not sure I remember it seeming that serious. At this point, it’s best to maybe let you in on a little secret. Beyond being a psychology major, I’ve studied very much on my own how to read people and I think I’ve been given a good bit of discernment by the Holy Spirit. As such, even from across the camp dining hall, Jack had struck me as bearing a strong resemblance to a certain feminine hygiene product. I’m usually not so vocal with these sorts of intuitions, but they are rarely wrong so I maybe I should start being a little more vocal when I encounter a guy who reeks of “I think I’m freaking radical” deodorant body spray and takes the time to carefully pomade his hair even during summer camp, and speak up a little more forcefully when a good friend falls into his trap. Maybe I could assure this good friend that she has “restored my faith in girls” or something like that to help her realize she has other options.

If nothing else this episode in the story proves that with enough persistence and enough sprayed on charm, any rotten sack of excrement can win the girl of his dreams to use and abuse until he’s sufficiently satisfied and can then move on, but not too far mind you, just far enough to come back later for more if (read: when) the mood strikes (or the money runs out). Upon talking to Ali though in September, it probably wasn’t a good time to mention my assessment of Jack’s feminine hygienic potential was now being realized through her draining tear ducts, so I kept my mouth shut on that account. This wouldn’t be the first time we talked through things about Jack, or the last time he would abuse one of God’s daughters to that extent that the break-up really isn’t the abuse but is merely the heart-breaking blessing of relief from being manipulated and used. We had lost touch for a bit, now throughout the bulk of the fall of 2007, we would talk fairly frequently and it was really at this point that something rather remarkable began happening.

Before that though, I should clarify that I speak harshly of Jack’s behavior for several reasons, but just so the point isn’t missed, I do not wish to harm him in any way. I use filth to make comparisons to the filth of what he did, and rotting filth in the heart spills out into filthy behavior. His patterns of deception and deviancy are deplorable (and devastating to those in his path), but if he is regenerate, then Someone was brutally murdered to take the punishment deserved for all the sins Jack committed against Ali and every other girl he has abused relationally. Or he will be punished eternally in hell for what’s he done to my Alexandra. Anything I could conjure up would be somewhat less devastating than either the brutality of essentially nailing a bloody naked guy to the entrance of shopping mall (read: Roman crucifixion) resulting in his eventual death or the pain of conscious eternal torment (read: Hell), so beyond vilifying him in writing, there’s not much I can really justify doing (or should do) and instead rest in the cross as accomplishing the punishment for his sins (and of course mine on this account as well, as I am just as guilty as not being Christ-like in relationships). The point just shouldn’t be missed though; the actions and attitudes are described grotesquely, because we use dirty words to describe dirty things. This is why Israel is portrayed as a slutty whore in the OT, because that’s what idolatry against a holy God essentially amounts to. In terms of the church today it could be likened to a bride getting under anyone who wants a ride instead of being faithful physically and loving her husband (read: Christ). If a husband (or boyfriend) loving his wife (or girlfriend) is supposed to mirror Christ loving the church like his own bride, any distortion of this to a watching world is indeed a filthy, filthy thing in the eyes of a holy and zealous God, and should not be passed over or treated lightly.

That being said, on to the remarkable thing that began happening, and back to the earlier mention of grace being most evident in the midst of suffering, evil, and heartache. On the many rooftop conversations Ali and I would have throughout the fall, I began showing Christ’s love to her in a way that was probably lost on both of us at the time. With no hope of gaining anything, I was there for Ali as much as she needed me to talk through things, to put my counseling training to use, and to just be a dependable, honest, and trustworthy friend. She may have fallen to pieces when Jack broke her heart, but I’m glad he did (otherwise, where we would be?), and I’m glad I was there to gently pick up the pieces and put them back together, to wash them in the water of the word and to help to somewhat be the instrument used to sanctify them.

This would continue on for several months, but then rather unfortunately, Ali and Jack happened to begin dating again. This happened very much under my radar, which wasn’t all that hard as I had romantic interests of my own (which were routinely frustrated and never came to much after January), and just didn’t quite notice the lapse in communication, mainly because it started around Thanksgiving and continued throughout the holiday season (which was the height of my romantic interests elsewhere). Ali for her part, knew she was making dumb choices, and part of why she didn’t bother calling me to tell about it all was that she suspected (read: knew in her heart) I would ridicule her for her foolishness.

The main problem was that Ali had not quite yet realized why Jack was the relational trainwreck he would prove to be. One thing I had told her (or rather the Holy Spirit used me to communicate to her) was that even though she for her part had done everything right in the relationship, God had one more thing to teach her and that was that she had never glorified God in her suffering (this is one of those things I don’t really remember saying, but know it came out of my mouth) and that this was the opportunity to do that. She grew in this and did a good job of it, but unfortunately misconstrued the final outcome as being a reward of getting the relationship back once the lesson was learned. Up to this point, she had mainly known Jack in a Word of Life context and throughout the fall he was still a BI student, which provided certain barriers for his behavior that they had not formerly had, nor would they have come mid-December.

Most of the things I have vilified Jack for came out in this segment of the relationship. I’m not going go to great pains to list his grievances; you more or less have to take my word for the gravity of his betrayal and relational abuse of Ali at this point. I stress the relational lest anyone construe the abuse as physical or sexual in nature. Relational abuse though, is just as bad and just as disgraceful and shameful to the name of Christ as either of the other two. Treating another person not as a person to love and cherish, but as a thing to help accomplish one’s own desires is about as un-Christlike as you can get, and Jack wasted no time in failing to show the love of Christ to Ali in any tangible way.

Come February, I happen to get a rather random phone call from Ali at the beginning of Super Bowl weekend. Rather furious, she had just found out Jack skipped town (read: moved without notice from Tampa to Alabama), and if I remember they had broken up again at this point, less than gracefully, but not as devastating as the first go round. It seemed this time produced more anger than hurt, but then several things came out of the closet (not like that though). She called me on her way over to Tampa to pick up Cliff and head up to Alabama and find out why exactly Jack had moved without noticed and borrowed (read: asked before stealing) several thousand dollars from a friend (as he had also previously manipulated out of Ali). This as all news to me, but the curious thing is how the conversation started:

“Hello?”

“Will you marry me?”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me, will you marry me?”

“Umm…no?”

Ali then proceeded to explain to me why in fact this was a good idea, and honestly, at this point I didn’t have too many objections (hair of a different shade than I prefer and contrary taste in music was about it) beyond the obvious that is seemed like a business transaction. We then had a lively conversation about getting together in May at Liberty’s graduation (which even after a year at seminary, I had yet to walk in my own commencement). Our parents would both be there so they could meet, we could work out all the details and shoot for an August date so it wouldn’t interfere with school. I thought we were both just being facetious, Ali for her part was felt very seriously about the whole thing. In retrospect though, all I can say is, “Isn’t it ironic?” But then again, we still haven’t gotten that far yet.

Nate

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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