Monday, March 24, 2014

Letting Go When You're Not Elsa

This week I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life, and I’m not singing about it and building ice castles.

Coming to college has taught me that the hardest decisions a person can make are rooted in relationships. As a lonely freshman, I grasped at every possibility of camaraderie that I could, especially when the person involved was of the opposite sex and reasonably nice-looking. And while there’s nothing wrong with girls being attracted to men (since God designed us to have those attractions), the danger lies in the woman building up a fantasy world of romance with a particular Scooter, while Scooter is completely oblivious to her intentions (ladies, it really is true that men cannot read our minds). So when Scooter goes off hand-in-hand with another chick, the poor girl who has all along harbored secret hopes of romance realizes how quickly love towards Scooter can morph into hating his guts. As the saying goes, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Of course, it would have been even smarter for this poor girl (let’s call her Sofia) to have stepped back and honestly examined her relationship with Scooter before these little inklings of romance began to dangerously tint her worldview glasses (we all have a pair, and most of us need to clean them daily). But that, of course, is the hardest part, because we trust ourselves a little too much and think “I’m mature enough to not let this situation get out of hand. We’re just friends,” or “I’ll keep being his friend now and then one morning he’ll surely wake up and realize that he’s loved me all along.”

But the problem is that Scooter never initiates anything. He never asks if she wants to get lunch, or how her job interview went, or if she’s still recovering from her cold; things that a normal friend would ask. “Maybe it’s my fault,” Sofia thinks. “Maybe I’m not showing him that I’m interested enough.” So she texts him several times a day, leaves notes in his mailbox, and bakes him cookies, but Scooter still doesn’t reciprocate. And Sofia gets mighty tired of waiting. The icing on the cake, though, is when she sees Scooter holding hands with another girl she’s never even seen before, who hasn’t worked her fingers to the bone for him or loved and waited patiently for him like Sofia has. “Why does she deserve him?” Sofia seethes, “and why the hell-o wouldn’t he want me after all I’ve done for him? How could he not see how much I love him?”

This is why letting go is so hard, because the hard, ugly truth is that Scooter will probably never know about Sofia’s anguished days and lonely nights, her resentment, her endless waiting (unless, of course, she tells him, a choice that can have dire consequences, for if she is not well on the road to forgiving him, he could end up with a broken nose at the end of the conversation). Scooter will go on happily eating the cookies that she gave him without a second thought, leaving her singing the words of Éponine from Les Misérables: “without me his world will keep on turning…a world that’s full of happiness that I have never known…” 

So this scorned woman has two options. She can wail with great anguish of heart and read Psalm 38 over and over while drafting the scathing letter she plans to leave in Scooter’s mailbox. Or, she can play her favorite fight song on repeat for an hour (mine is You Can’t Take Me by Bryan Adams), cry for another hour in front of the Tabernacle, wash her face, reapply her makeup, slip into a pretty dress, and go on with her life while forgiving Scooter (and herself) every second, every minute, every hour if need be, with the help of Divine Grace (which, praise heaven, is never lacking). The forgiveness process can recur for an indefinite amount of time, but Sofia can take some (actually, much) comfort in the fact that time heals all wounds, and there are no wounds that cannot be healed through the wounds of Jesus.

Just “letting it go” is never enough. There must also be forgiveness for Scooter and for Sofia to forgive herself, and forgiveness is not a one-time decision but a choice that is renewed each day. There must be patience, because there will be many awful days of loneliness and pain and subtle anger for Sofia when Scooter walks by with his arm around The Other Woman. There must also be an intense commitment to prayer, because with this relationship gone, Sofia now has much more time to work on her relationship with Jesus (how convenient!)

Lastly, there must be humility to accept the fact that Scooter will probably never know or understand how severely he broke this poor gal’s heart. Our ego roars at revenge being squelched, and some of this anger is just anger indeed, but often the most mature path is complete forgiveness. Later, when Sofia no longer has daily thoughts of kicking Scooter’s shins (or someplace higher) with steel-toed boots, perhaps she will want to write him a polite but frank letter.

To anyone struggling with this, my heart and prayers go out to you.



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