SGLY: Closer than you think
“I fell in love with him when my skin was peeling from a bad sunburn,” she began. “He was sharing a beach towel with his girlfriend. They sat next to me as we looked at our mutual friends play frisbee in the sand. I was in love with him for two more summers until he moved away. After he left, I started wearing sunscreen. Probably some sort of mental protection from love manifesting itself in a physical form,” she continues with a laugh. “I’m sure my counselor would have a heyday dissecting that messed up relationship — sorry to bore you.”
“You are not boring me,” I reply. I lean forward with a smirky grin. “Nothing wrong with wearing a little sunscreen. Burns hurt.”
“Boy, do I ever know that.”
The café begins to fill with students filing in after class from the nearby college campus. I watch my friend’s eyes cresting above her coffee mug as she surveys the room.
“What are you thinking?” I ask.
“Just that I was their age when I fell in love with him. And here I am pathetically pining for a man who was never mine.”
I think about her words as I look at the regulars pulling out laptops, ordering drinks, and settling into couches, chairs, and booths to speak of their day with friends and study groups. It does not seem that long ago when I was doing the very same thing.
“Missing something or someone is not unreasonable even if it does not seem logical — the mind and heart do not always agree. It is entirely possible to miss someone who was never yours — to feel the loss almost as if you felt the genuine nature of what you wanted so deeply that it was real. In truth, your feelings for him were real regardless of if they were ever known by him or reciprocated.”
“Wow,” she says with a quiet laugh. “You just might be better than my counselor.” Gathering her mug, my friend leans back in her chair and studies me like she is looking at a painting. I shift under the spotlight of her stare as her smile widens. “You know what I’m talking about because you can relate. Spill it,” she prods.
I give her a nod to acquiesce to her astute observation. “Yes, I do know what it is like to miss something that was never yours. Mine has more to do with experiences than a person. Without getting into detail, I miss the plans I worked hard for that never came to fruition for reasons out of my control. I have grieved them at times. In my own way, I understand the pain of your burn and the desire to protect yourself.”
“So, what is the answer?” she asks.
I look at her but know that I am talking more to myself. “I think the real question is ‘What is the question’?”
“What is the question that makes us search for an answer? In my case, the questions I lament are ‘Why does it have to be so difficult? Why is desire matched with effort not enough? Why does life leave landmines that blow up the best-laid plans?’”
“I get it… the question.” She returns my nod and puts her elbows on the table. Pointing to her heart, she says, “My question is why does it never work out for me? Where is my happily-ever-after?”
My friend drops her hand from her chest, and I grab it, giving it a light squeeze. “Maybe, my friend, we ask the same underlying question and we receive the same answer.”
“What is it?” Her eyes search mine.
“Life is difficult. Sometimes life is intrinsically unfair and inevitably unpredictable. But life does work out. It works itself out while we are in the process of living it – in the mess of it – even if we don’t see it at the time. Life gives us the sun as well as the sunburns so we understand even the things we desire and love can hurt. What we want may not be what God has planned for us. Perhaps we are not meant to be living testaments to our aspirations, but more living testaments to our faith, perseverance, and our joy despite the landmines. Maybe that is a greater story of love — adapting, adjusting, and journeying onward, trusting God’s blessings to be greater than our disappointments.”
She returns the squeeze of my hand as her face softens. “I do trust God, and I am a firm believer in His protection. I trust that He has protected us both in ways we will never fully know on this side of Heaven.”
“Agreed. In our surrender to His protection and guidance, God eventually reestablishes our desire to dream, love, and create. He gifts us a new path of opportunity we never knew existed. A path that we one day will look back on and realize it was better and brighter for us than our best-laid plan.”
We draw our conversation to a close as I stand up to excuse myself to go to the ladies’ room. Returning, I spot my friend waiting for me near the door, speaking to a man.
“Hey, small world,” she beams. “This is Dave. He is teaching now at the college. We used to work together.”
Dave looks at my friend like she is dipped in sunshine. “Nice to meet you,” I say to him. I cast a wink at my friend and leave the two of them inside the café. Perhaps her happily-ever-after is closer than she thinks.
Even more important, perhaps all of us are closer to God’s next blessing than we think. I tend to believe so, and I hope to live in this expectation based on how blessed I have been despite difficulties and disappointments along the way. God is greater. Much, much greater.
“Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (Ephesians 3:20).
SGLY, dear reader.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.