Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chapter 12

12.  The Curve Ball
So this boy and I went to a movie and held hands.  We took a walk in the park and I gave him a kiss.  We spent the next year from fall 1995 to fall 1996 dating, fighting, breaking up, getting back together.  It was such an unhealthy relationship from the start.  I discovered that although he knew the Lord, he was not interested in living for the Lord.  I discovered that I didn’t care as long as I could do what I wanted.  If I thought my parents were against my first relationship with the pastor’s son, I was not stunned to find that they were, oh so much more, against this relationship.  And so was everyone else.  I lost every good friend I had due to my stubborn determination to live my life the way I wanted and ignore their sincere dislike of my boyfriend.

I was still only 19 so I couldn’t go out drinking and partying and I felt it would be too risky for my future plans to do something illegal.  I truly felt and acted like that.  So, we drove over to Canada where the legal drinking age is nineteen and you could get into clubs.  Actually, thank the Lord His hand was still on me even then because I tried drinking and partying and I hated it.  I don’t like feeling out of control even for a minute and it turns out that alcohol sets off panic attacks (praise God for that).  I loved to dance though and was the designated driver for my new set of friends.  I moved out of my parents’ house, got an apartment, had two part-time jobs, racked up credit card charges and took twenty credit hours at college in one semester in an effort to graduate in December 1996.

I was not so hypocritical that I did not realize the choices I was making seriously compromised my ability to minister.  So I quietly took myself off of the praise and worship team citing that I was much too busy with school and work.  I’m not sure anyone was fooled.  It was a small little church in a tiny village thirty minutes north of where I lived and everyone there knew everyone else.  Their disapproval of our relationship was quite obvious.  Truthfully though, I was very busy.  I planned an independent study course with my Japanese professor and went to live with a family in Shinshiro, Aichi-ken, Japan for the month of April.  My boyfriend stayed in my apartment while I was gone.  I found out later that he was having friends over (perhaps even other girls) and drinking, which was against my house-rules.  But then again, he wasn’t much for adhering to rules.  Anyway, my stay in Japan was amazing in every way and I even have a toilet story for that trip.

I arrived at the airport after traveling for nearly 24 hours and found my hostess waving a sign at me with my name written in Japanese and English.  We drove for about 45 minutes and finally pulled up at a really, truly wood-and-paper two story house.  Although my hostess and her immediate family could speak English very well, I wouldn’t be staying with them at their small city house.  I stayed instead with her parents-in-law at their home.  They spoke no English.  None at all.  After meeting them, establishing our sign-language communication routine and going through the polite preliminaries I asked her where I would find the restroom.  

Now, in Japan there is a toilet room and there is also a completely separate bath room where you could take a shower then get into a deep, steaming hot bathtub.  I definitely needed the toilet room by that point.  She sent me on my way and I found myself standing before, I kid you not, a veritable throne.  It had arm rests!  And buttons with pictures of different things it would do.  The seat was heated!  Well, I was fascinated but didn’t want my hosts to think weird things about me because I was taking forever in there.  So I finished my business and looked for the flushing handle.  I couldn’t find it anywhere!  I leaned in toward the buttons for a closer look.  Of course, everything was completely written in Japanese so there was no help for me.  But I noticed there were tiny little pictures too.  I pushed one that looked like it had something to do with water.

To my utter dismay I watched as a wand came down into the toilet bowl and began to spray water over my head, hitting the wall behind me.  Screeching just a little I grabbed the tiniest hand towel in the world and using it as a shield, walked toward the offending water wand.  I know it now as a bidet.  Pushing the same button turned it off and dripping wet, I sloshed through the hallway to humbly ask my hostess for help.  By now I was crying but I’m pretty sure she couldn’t tell tears from the water droplets.  She was so gracious and never said a word to me about it.  Just calmly went in and flushed my toilet with the handle which was perched ever so artfully hidden on the right side of the tank.  Nice.  I’m sure they had a laugh about that after I went to bed but I'm so grateful that they never mentioned it to me.

When I returned from my trip to Japan, I turned in my reports at school and received A’s on both of them.  By this time, I was already tired of late nights and of being a constant designated driver for people who made consistently bad decisions and was weary of my 7 months of rebellion.  I was ready for peace and quiet.  But my boyfriend disagreed, insisting he “could change” and “wanted to be together for the rest” of our lives.  Being that it was only the 8th time I’d tried to break up with him, I fell for his reasoning again.  It seemed to be much easier that way.  Besides, although he was emotionally abusive to me in many ways, I certainly was not a push-over.  I could dish it out just as much as he could and I never wanted to let him “win”.

It’s too bad that we wasted a year of our lives on each other like that.  We would have been so much happier and healthier had we not tried to control each other so much.  The crazier thing was that during our relationship I became anorexic.  Not because I thought I was fat.  I could see in the mirror that I wasn’t.  But I got so much attention from everyone by being so thin that I wanted to keep that coming.  I didn’t want to get fat.  And if I got angry or felt out of control about the relationship or school or my family, I would show them all and punish them by refusing to eat.  Yes indeed, those were my thoughts at the time.

In the meantime, my director from the ministry with which I had spent the two previous summers and several of my friends who were traveling on the full time teams were in constant contact with me.  They never let up on me.  Especially my friend, Leigh*.  She loved me no matter what I said or did and truly showed me what Christ’s love is toward me.  Their team came through our town twice, once in July and once in October.  After seeing me in July, the director later told me that he prayed about my situation diligently.  And so did Leigh.  When they arrived again in October, he told me “you need to leave this place and come back on the road with us.”  I was stunned and told him there was no way.  They were in the middle of their two-year commitment and would be going to Asia for 4 months in January.  Each team member had to raise about $20,000 per year to go full-time with the ministry and he was basically asking me to do that in two and half months!

But since I was scheduled to graduate from college in December with my degree in East Asian Studies, it did seem like incredible timing.  After the team left, I really spent some time thinking about it and praying about it.  Even though I had been on my little rebellious track for about a year, I still prayed every single day and went to church every week.  Eventually, I talked it over with my boyfriend who had gone away to school by then.  But that night as we talked I could tell he was distracted.  I’d heard that he had been seen around town with another girl and confronted him about it then.  He denied it, of course, but then I heard a whisper very near to his end of the phone.  

I asked him who that was and then it dawned on me.  What I had heard was true and I just heard her whisper to him!  I admit I reacted very badly and lost my head just then.  It would be an understatement to say that we merely broke up that night. I screamed, I cried, I swore, I collapsed in a heap on my bedroom floor. That's a lot of reaction to losing an unhappy and possibly dangerous relationship with someone I pretty much hated.  It ended up being one of the very best decisions I had ever made.  My lease had ended on my apartment and I was already scheduled to move home to my parents’ house the next day.  I was finishing my college career, he was starting his.  We had an ungodly, unhealthy relationship that was never going to be good.  And so, we went our separate albeit bitter ways.  Again, it was certainly the best thing for both of us.

On the next day, November 1st, I went home to Mom and Dad’s.  I don’t remember apologizing to them but I do remember being repentant.  I got on my knees before the Lord and asked Him to help me.  If I could raise half of the money by January 1, 1997, I would go back for a full year tour with the ministry group.  And I did.

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