Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Teenage Romance: A Tragedy in Two Acts

In preparation for our theme of the month, I surfed the internet a bit and came across an article by J.T. Webb entitled Existential Depression in Gifted Individuals. I can pretty much stop here and just have you read the article. It describes my adolescence with frightening accuracy, particularly with regard to interpersonal relationships. Webb states: "Isolation recognizes that no matter how close we become to another person, a gap always remains, and we are nonetheless alone." No example from my adolescence could illustrate this concept better than my high school romance.

ACT I: 1988-1990

Jason and I became fast friends early in the 1988-1989 school year. Toward the end of that same year, Jason passed me a note. "Jen, I really like you and I want to ask you to be my girlfriend," it read. That was the start of a whirlwind romance that would continue for the next two years.

Jason was the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful, sensitive, and compassionate human being I had ever met in my fifteen years on earth. (Hands down, his best quality was his generosity.) The more time I spent with Jay, the more I came to realize what a beautiful person he was. There was also a lot of chemistry between us that was difficult to ignore. We were so deeply enmeshed. We did everything together. Life was perfect - until my existentialism started interfering with the relationship.

Despite the fact that I was incredibly happy and I would even venture to say I was in love with Jason, I was simultaneously miserable. I knew my happiness was based on conditional circumstances. It was painful to think that Jay would eventually be taken from me in one of two ways: either he and I would one day cease to be friends anymore, or we'd be together for the rest of our lives and then simply die. The heightened awareness that I would surely lose the one person who meant everything to me was unbearable. Coupled with everything else that was happening in tenth grade, I felt I was going to crack under the pressure. I didn't want to end it, but I needed out.

He never saw it coming. Tears welled up in his eyes. He asked why, but I couldn't give him a straight answer. How could I? What was I supposed to say? "I can't see you anymore because I'm having a midlife crisis 30 years earlier than expected?" I assumed if I was going to eventually lose the only person who meant anything to me, it might as well be now. I couldn't see any point in postponing the inevitable.

ACT II: 1990-1991

After about six months, I recanted my original decision. Jason was my best friend. He was also, in a sense, my only friend. In spite of my belief that everything was pointless, I wanted to restore this relationship. I didn't have all the answers, but I thought I'd figure them out along the way. I reached out to Jay in the summer of 1990. By November, we were an item again. I promised myself that this time, I was going to really let him in and be honest about my existential struggle. I just wasn't sure how to do this.There is a profound sense of emptiness that accompanies the idea that any intimacy you shared with a person was all a smokescreen to begin with.

I started by dropping hints here and there. I tried to start philosophical conversations, hoping he'd bite, but nothing. Then one day, I purchased a gift for him that symbolized everything that was festering inside me: it was a religious pendant. This was more than a gift. This was a gesture on my behalf that said, "Please see me for who I am, and all that I am wrestling with in my heart! I am desperately searching for meaning and I want you to know me! I want you to know the real me!"

When I gave it to him, he took one look at it and laughed. "This is the ugliest thing I've ever seen!" he exclaimed. He asked me to take it back. I know Jason didn't mean to hurt me, but I still felt humiliated and rejected. Looking back, I can say in Jason's defense the pendant was pretty ugly. He was just a boy of 15. He didn't understand the things that kept me awake at night. He wasn't even aware that I wrestled with such issues. At that moment, I realized he would never understand me. I feared perhaps nobody would. Webb states:
When gifted children try to share these concerns with others, they are usually met with reactions ranging from puzzlement to hostility. They discover that others, particularly of their age, clearly do not share these concerns, but instead are focused on more concrete issues and on fitting in with others' expectations. Often . . .these youngsters . . . feel isolated from their peers . . . as they find that others are not prepared to discuss such weighty concerns.

There is a profound sense of emptiness that accompanies the idea that any intimacy you shared with a person was all a smokescreen to begin with. Jay was in love with the person who was responsible for all my high school achievements. But the person I truly was underneath was a complete stranger to him. It was becoming more and more obvious with time that we had two separate worldviews that were diametrically opposed. Then one day we had a terrible argument that ended it all, and we completely stopped speaking to one another.

EPILOGUE

Two and a half years after that awful day, I broke the silence when I approached Jason and told him I had become a Christian. He looked at me with a hint of disdain in his eyes and said, "Oh, so you're into all that religion @&#*!" My heart broke for him. I tried to explain to him that my faith was not a religion, but he didn't understand, nor did he care.

I saw him once more, six years after that conversation. His father had passed away, and God had placed me in the right place at the right time. I went to the memorial service, got up in front of about 300 people, and shared the gospel. It was terrifying, but I'm glad I did it. That was nine years ago, and I haven't seen Jason since. It may have been my last chance to share the gospel with him.

Sometimes, I believe God brings us through seasons so we can preach His Word with authority later. If I had not been so close to the family for those three years or so, I would not have been able to establish the credibility I needed to get up in front of all those people that day. I even had several complete strangers approach me afterward to thank me for what I had shared. As for Jason, he appeared both surprised and deeply touched by my compassion. After the memorial service, he could not say anything to me other than "Thank you so much for coming! I can't believe you came! I just can't believe you came!" I don't know how much of an impact the gesture had on him, but I pray God was glorified.

In my time as a Christian, I have come to learn that I do not need to work hard to be known or understood. The Bible says that God searches the hearts. My identity, meaning, and purpose is constant in Him. Friends may come, friends may go, but The Lord has never abandoned me. I have also come to learn that even though nothing on earth lasts, God has given us our blessings to enjoy while we're here, and we are not to mourn the end of those things. Still, a part of me mourns for Jason. While it saddens me to think he never knew or understood the real me, worse is the thought that he doesn't know or understand the real God. There is a desire to reach out and do more, but God has asked me to entrust Him with Jason's life and to simply pray for him instead. I still think of him every year on his birthday and pray that one day he will be born again.

I have been praying for Jason nearly sixteen years . . .

4 comments:

Natasa said...

Thank you for your past, emotions and thinking with us...

Betsy Markman said...

Wow. You may never know what an impact you had when you dared to share the Gospel at that funeral...perhaps an impact on someone you have never even met. That takes boldness, for sure.

Kurt Michaelson said...

I was nervous in front of 50 people when I preached the gospel and I can't imagine how much more nervous I'd feel in front of 300 people.

Your desire to honor God with His Word was more important to you and I would have done the same. It would have been pointless to talk of anything else, when the reality is, we will all die one day and when that day comes, we will stand before a just and holy God to give an account of our lives.

God will ask each one of those 300 people what they did with Whom you spoke of on that day. They are left with no excuse to say they did not know.

Your faithfulness to the gospel is such an encouragement to me.

Edwin said...

That is quite a story, I PTL for what he has done.....wow