The monkey that kept me from loving fully
A month and a half ago I was laying in bed in a hostel in Guatemala City, Guatemala and couldn’t sleep. It was the day before we were set to fly home to Knoxville and we had to wake up really early to catch our first flight. I was doing the annoyed open your eyes, exhale, roll over, find a new position to lay in, close your eyes, and think, “Go to sleep. Go to sleep. Go to sleep.” move that we all do when we can’t sleep.
After doing this a couple of times, a name popped in my head. I didn’t think much of it and just flipped over and told myself to go to sleep. The name popped in my head again. Annoyed, I exhaled even louder, rolled over, and tried to go to sleep.
Then it popped in my head again.
By this point I was starting to realize this was a God thing. I’ve learned lately that when God puts a name on your mind in a way that you can’t shake it that there’s probably a good chance he’s wanting you to pray for that person. There was only one thing that made this name awkward:
It was my ex-girlfriend.
Wanting to be obedient, and selfishly knowing the only way I’d get to sleep was if I prayed for her, I went ahead and said a prayer for her that I was led to pray, rolled over, and went right to sleep.
Okay, that was easy. No big deal.
If you know me, or if you’ve been reading this blog for more than a day, you know that this story didn’t end right there.
The next day, while waiting out a 7-hour layover in DC, I kept hearing a flight boarding for Allentown, PA. Once again, I didn’t think much of it other than I remembered Allentown being semi-close to where my ex lives. Trying to entertain myself and kill time, I started Facebook stalking people. I ended up checking out my sister’s Facebook page and saw that she had written on my ex’s wall the day before.
It was at this point that I started feeling a little weird. There were way too many references or points towards my ex in a 24 hour span. Trying to figure out what was going on, I went to her Facebook page.
And that’s when all of the dots connected.
The top post on her wall was a note about how she had been hit by a deer the night before and how she was stranded on the side of the road for a few hours. After I read the note, I looked at the time the note was posted and did some math to figure out exactly when all of this had happened:
It was the exact time that I was tossing and turning in my bed in a hostel in Guatemala City.
As I flew home to Knoxville that night, I sat listening to a podcast from my old pastor while staring out the window at the city lights below. The entire time I was listening to that podcast I felt God telling me, “You need to tell her you prayed for her. Yes, it will be awkward, but you need to do it. I want you to do it.”
I didn’t want to do it.
I got home and told Nicole about the whole thing. She was a little weirded out by it because it was my ex (and rightfully so, I would’ve been weirded out about it if the situations were reversed) but she told that if I felt like that’s what God was telling me to do then I should do it.
Still not convinced I should do it, I asked a couple of friends if they thought I should and they all agreed that it sounded like it’s what God wanted me to do. So, the next morning, I sat and spent 30 minutes writing a two paragraph Facebook message. It was the first time that I had attempted to contact the girl that changed my world in almost three years. After writing, rewriting, and rerewriting the message, I finally sent it:
Honestly, I fought even writing this all day but felt like I was supposed to tell you about it. I don’t know why God chose me to pray for you that night from 5000 miles, three countries, and two time zones away but he did. He’s protecting you and has your back and I think for some reason he wants me to tell you that. He wants me to let you though that no matter what, through ways that you wouldn’t even think of, he’s got your back. He’s not going to let you down or leave you hanging.
I hope things are going well for you. Don’t feel like you have to respond to this or anything if you don’t want to. I’m just passing along something that I felt like I was supposed to. Have a great day/night/whatever it is when you read this.
She responded a little while later telling me thanks and how much she appreciated it. I thought the whole thing was over. I was obedient and did what God wanted me to do and so I patted myself on the back and started moving forward.
And that’s when God told me he wasn’t done yet.
He wanted me to go a step further.
The podcast I had been listening to the night before on the plane was about forgiveness. It was talking about forgiving others and asking them to forgive you and how those two things are absolute keys to being happy with your life. I went back and forth telling God that I had already forgiven my ex and I’d moved on from it and all of that. He reminded me that I’d never told her that I’d forgiven her and then took it another step and reminded me that I’d never asked her to forgive me.
I knew I had to do it. As if the first message wasn’t awkward enough, I had to send the super awkward forgiveness message three years after the break up. Knowing there was no way around it, I sent it:
My biggest regret is that I never had the guts to apologize to you and ask for your forgiveness so, since I’m on an awkward streak, let me do that now: I’m sorry for anything I said or did that was hurtful or immature after we broke up. I know it was three years ago but I’ve never said that to you. I was dumb and didn’t know how to deal with pain so I handled it wrong. I said things I shouldn’t have that were hurtful and I apologize.
That message got no response. None. Crickets would’ve been more of a response than what came from that message. I didn’t let that bother me though because I knew I had done what God had told me to do. I was proud of myself for stepping out and doing the awkward. I put it behind me and thought that it was over and done with.
And it was.
Until last Sunday.
I was on top of a mountain in Jackson Hole, Wyoming when I got a text from one of our leaders who was in the town shopping: we just ran into your ex haha.
I literally had to show that text to three other people before I was convinced that they were talking about my ex-girlfriend.
After asking a couple questions through text, the leader called me and told me what had happened. Apparently my ex-girlfriend was in Jackson Hole on vacation and some of our students saw her. They introduced themselves and told her I was one of their leaders. Thinking this was the most awkward thing that’s ever happened to me, I texted a couple of my friends to tell them and they couldn’t believe it either. By the time I had gotten to the bottom of the mountain I had a message on Facebook:
So weird I saw your youth group today!
That message led to a few messages back and forth about how strange it was that we were in the same place and blah blah blah. The weird thing for me was that for the first time in three years, there was no animosity in those messages. In the past, I had always felt some type of animosity anytime that I had thought about her, talked about her, or anything of that nature. All of that was gone. It was just two people who knew each other sending small talk messages through Facebook.
Two days later, once we finally got home from Wyoming, I turned my phone on and there was a message sitting there from my ex:
I saw my last message never went through so I’m sending it again- I never saw your last message from our convo earlier this month. Anyways I never had hard feelings toward you and was never offended by anything I heard that you said. Stuff like that is expected in messy breakout and I really only wished you the best. Sometimes I’ve wondered if you ever would have become a pastor if our breakup hadn’t happened. Anyways I hope I never offended you either
As I read that, I honest and truly felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders. I didn’t even know that this weight was on my shoulders. I sat and analyzed the whole situation because I’m weird and that’s what I do. I started to remember all of the different times over the past 2.5 years that I felt God telling me, “Hey. Apologize. Get forgiveness.” I thought about how, until that point, that relationship was the only one that I had ever not had closure to. At some point or another, in every relationship that had deteriorated whether with a girl, a friend, or a boss, I had asked for forgiveness, cleared the air, and had closure.
And now I had done that with this relationship.
It sounds like a petty and simplistic thing, but in the three days since getting that message, I’ve noticed how things have been different. In that time period, with those things not holding me back, I’ve felt how God has allowed me to fall in love with Nicole more. I’ve felt how he’s allowed me to love Nicole better. I’ve felt how he’s made me more excited about our future and getting engaged and getting married than I’ve ever been. All of the walls that I had built up from the pain of that breakup were torn down when I read that last message. I had been chipping away at them for the past 14 months with Nicole and, in that moment, God came through with a wrecking ball and got rid of all of them.
I never once had feelings for my ex-girlfriend, but the weight of knowing that I hadn’t been forgiven or asked for forgiveness was one that I didn’t know was holding me back from loving Nicole the way that she deserves. I knew that God had told me to get that forgiveness on multiple occasions, but I never understood why. Now that I’ve gotten it, I only wish that I had been obedient two years ago when he originally told me to do it.
We all have pain and hurt that we’re somehow clinging to. Someone hurt us years ago and those thoughts always pop into our heads at the worst times. Those thoughts keep us from living our lives to the fullest. Even when those thoughts don’t pop up, we’re so used to them coming around that we anticipate them which hampers us even more. We become scared of the pain popping up that we do whatever we can to mask it and hide from it.
Forgiveness isn’t pretty. It is often awkward, can bring up bad memories, and can upset other people that are currently in your life that weren’t in your life when the original thing happened. Knowing all of that, it’s still something that is needed. I don’t think that God wants us to go around holding grudges and pain from past relationships. Just as he forgives us, he wants us to ask others for forgiveness and wants us to forgive others.
Who do you need to forgive?
Who do you need forgiveness from?
Take a scary step and send them the awkward forgiveness message. I guarantee you that it’ll be worth it.
Say your prayers and take your vitamins.
Have a nice day.