For the first time in my life, there’s no one. Since the first day of kindergarten, when I developed a crush on BZ (name withheld because I’ve never met anyone else with his last name) that lasted well into the 8th grade, there has always been someone that I have admired from afar. Well, afar only in the sense that he usually had no idea I was interested in him. He was always actually tantalizingly close—a classmate, a teammate, a fellow member of the drama club, my best friend’s brother, someone I would see and talk to on a daily basis—but the feelings just never seemed to be mutual.
That is, until I met LW (name also withheld because I’ve never met anyone else with his first name).
We really had no mutual friends. We did not hang out at the same places. I actually had no idea if we had any similar interests.
So what exactly did we have in common? We worked at the same church.
He joined the staff when I was about six months into my two year position. He was the new business administrator. I was the (relatively) new resident associate minister. I asked him out one afternoon because I was trying to get some people together for drinks. Turns out, he was the only one I asked who could make it.
We hung out several times that summer and by the time autumn rolled around, it seemed that there might indeed be some romantic potential. One evening after a homemade dinner of chicken and wild rice sans chicken (apparently, in my giddy-nervousness, I’d forgotten that key ingredient) and sufficient amounts of beer, it became clear that this was going to be something, even if we didn’t know exactly what.
Boundary-trained new minister that I was (and still am), I immediately kicked it into professional gear. We would have to tell our supervisor, the senior minister. Could I really date someone I worked with—especially if this person dealt with the church’s money? My default is always to find out more information, so I started making calls and having coffee with colleagues. The verdict? It was okay. My position at the church was finite. As a resident associate, I really did not deal with our finances. Our senior minister would have to know, but all other paths seemed clear.
It was still a risk. If it did not work out, we would still have to see each other every day until my position expired. We did not want members of the congregation to find out and I only told my closest colleague. Still, it seemed to be a risk worth taking.
It was an exciting autumn, which led into a cozy winter and just as I was gearing up for a pretty swell spring, things came to a screeching halt. I do not know how to else to describe it. I was in the midst of search and call and finally got a phone call from a church in the metro area, which was the first viable opportunity I had to stay close by. I was ecstatic. He seemed…indifferent. It was a Thursday night. That weekend, the last before the official start of spring was swallowed up by one final snowstorm. He stayed at home in his apartment with a cold. I stayed at home in my apartment and worried. Something was different.
Never very patient about things nagging at my heart, I pressed him on it. I had decisions to make about my next position. Did he want to be a factor in them? I had never felt my heart break like it did when he said no.
And that was that.
Or, to be more accurate, that would have been that, except we still had to see each other. Every. Single. Day.
This all imploded the Friday before Holy Week, which to me ended up feeling like a week of Good Fridays. To make things bearable, we had to at least continue to talk. So we did. We talked right up until the week he decided he wanted a second chance, nearly three months after we had broken up.
And so I gave him one, even though it was two weeks before I was scheduled to move to my next call three hours away. (Nope, pastors are certainly not exempt from longings of the hormones or the heart.) When we parted company (promising it was not “goodbye” but rather “see you soon”), the only promise made was that if someone else came into the picture for either of us, we would have to be honest about it. It took all of a month for that covenant to be put to the test.
Playing by the rules doesn’t mean people still don’t get hurt.
I know it is better this way. In the deepest fibers of my being, I want him to be happy, and as much as I wanted to be the person who could bring him that happiness, I am not. And I too want to be happy. There is no way that being in love with someone who does not love me as much as I love him can bring that happiness. My life is here now, with new people in a new town serving a new church. Wherever I am, it has to be home, and that can never fully be so if he is somewhere else.
And so the process of grief begins again. This time, the layers could make a nice trifle. Not only am I grieving the end of a significant relationship, but I am grieving the loss of a sense of potential for companionship in place where I literally knew no one outside the church the day I moved here. I’m grieving being twice scorned—knowing the second time could have been avoided. I am grieving the loss of having that one special person whom I allow to occupy my thoughts way more than I would ever care to admit to myself or anyone else.
I am hoping this allows more space on the hard drive of my brain for other important things: wrapping my head around my new position and new ministry among new people, continuing to develop a better sense of who I am and who God is calling me to be, learning how to meet people outside the parameters of school or work.
As time goes by, happiness will begin to multiply once more, forcing my heart and mind to delete some of the pain to make room. It always does. A few kilobytes will always remain for memories of him, though.
It won’t be wasted space.
Are you an ordained woman under the age of 40? Email youngclergywomen (at) gmail (dot) com to become a member of the Young Clergy Women Project! Members receive access to a password protected online community, monthly e-newsletters, and advance notice of upcoming conferences and events.