In general one might think that it is a bad idea to write a blog post about an ex-boyfriend, and I would usually agree with that. However, in this case I will make an exception, because of the person that he is and the things I have learned along the way.
I preface this by saying that my husband has read this and has given me permission to post it. And the man in question has also agreed that I could share this with you. So you are safe to read on. Even though the majority of people who will first read this post will know exactly who I am talking about (my list of boyfriends is pretty short), for the purpose of this story, I shall call him “Steve.”
P.S. The picture above is not him. It just seemed like a good boyfriend picture. Ha!
It Was the 90’s
I grew up in the 90’s. The age of Beverly Hills 90210. And what was more important to a teenage girl than to have a boyfriend? At age 15 I set my sights on an unsuspecting chap from my youth group. He was funny and kind to everyone. He noticed me, which is important for a shy wallflower. We built a friendship, and then our dating relationship started – get this – with a note passed in youth group. That’s right. We were so mature!
He was a great boyfriend. He was kind, and honest, and respected me. He loved God and wanted to be a pastor when he grew up. I wanted to marry a pastor, so it seemed to make sense that we would be together forever. But in perfect 90210 fashion, I was a little too emotional and clingy and manipulative, so we broke up and for the first time my heart was broken.
Our youth group was not large, so we had to stay civil to one another. But Steve’s kindness and open heart made it possible for me to truly call him friend. And then for the next few years, about once a year, we would try the dating thing again. My brother would just roll his eyes and say, “Again??”
One of the coolest things about Steve was that he wanted a tattoo. Oh yeah, he was a “bad boy.” His mom was totally against it, but when he was 18 he went out and got that tattoo. And then he showed his mom. The tattoo was of a robin with ruby slippers and Proverbs 31:28 (“Her children arise and call her blessed”)… in honor of his mom. Yeah, bad to the core, that one. Rebel. A rebel who loved and cherished his mom.
A Good Friend
It became apparent that Steve was not, in fact, the person I was going to marry. But we still remained good friends. We worked together in several contexts. And when I fell for the tall dark and handsome Romanian who I am now honored to call husband, Steve was one of my groomsmen in our wedding. He and a couple other guys had made t-shirts that read “KELLY P BROKE MY HEART” and revealed said t-shirts while singing “You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’.” Always making me laugh. A good friend.
Not long after I was married, life happened. You know – “life”? Things happened, decisions were made, words were said, offenses were taken . . . that kind of “life.” The details are not important, but Steve and I lost contact for a while. The offense wasn’t even really mine to take. But I took it. And I held it. And it grew and encircled me like an impenetrable wall.
Unforgiveness, Obedience, and Freedom
This next part is not really about Steve. It is about unforgiveness, obedience, and freedom. Unforgiveness is a vile thing. It prevents you from seeing anything good in the person. I have heard it said that holding unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Part of me had died inside. This is getting kind of personal, so it is a little scary to even write it. But maybe someone reading this could relate. Maybe someone reading this needs to break free from the oppression of unforgiveness in their own life. That is why I share.
A couple years after Steve and I had lost contact, I attended a retreat. One of the sessions was about unforgiveness. As I listened I felt God tugging at my heart. I knew that it was time to deal with it. They invited anyone who needed extra prayer to stand up. I stood. I knew I wanted to let go of this unforgiveness that held me so tightly, but I didn’t know how.
A woman came and prayed for me – nothing.
I prayed – nothing.
We stood there together in silence for a moment, and then the woman said, “I think you need to take a step forward. I mean physically step forward right now.”
Ok, whatever. So, simply in obedience to what she said, I lifted my foot and took one step forward.
And then, it happened. As I stepped forward, I physically felt like I was stepping out of a shell that had encased me. I physically felt it! And it was as if that shell still hovered in the air just behind me. Then suddenly SPLAT! It was as if it all crashed to the ground and disappeared. And I was free. The unforgiveness was gone. I felt no resentment, no bitterness, nothing.
I believe something spiritual happened at that moment. Jesus said he came to set the prisoners free. I had been a prisoner to my own unforgiveness. Jesus opened the door to my cell that day, and invited me to take a step out into the fresh air.
Jesus is in the business of resurrection and restoration. However, if we stay in our prison of unforgiveness, we choose death over life. But just as Jesus called, “Lazarus, come out!”, he calls us out of our tomb of bitterness. It might not be instantaneous. I’m not sure Lazarus was ready to run a marathon when he hobbled out of the tomb with his death clothes still hanging from him. But Jesus had brought life out of a dead situation. He can do that in your life and my life if we are willing to take a step towards forgiveness.
A funny thing happens when you forgive. It opens up the possibility of reconciliation. It allows for a spark of hope. And reconciliation did happen. Now Steve and I have reconnected. I love to see him and his wife and his children. He is still kind, and he is still funny. He has been known to text my husband on my birthday and say “Your wife is old!” He just can’t let it go that I am 4 months older than him. We do not spend a lot of time together, but I am so thankful to call him friend.
The Boy With the Robin Tattoo
This past year my friend went through the hardest thing he has ever faced. His mom, his sweet robin who inspired his tattoo almost 20 years ago, passed away after a courageous fight with cancer. She was caring and she was beautiful and she had a smile that went on for days. She had a fierce love for her husband, kids, and grandkids and was adored by them in return.
She always made me feel like I was special. I guess she made a lot of people feel that they were special because I have never seen a funeral like hers. Five hundred people came to the visitation, all lined up waiting to give their love to her husband and family. In the midst of those hundreds of people stood the kind and funny boy with the robin tattoo. I felt my heart break again because of him. I did not want him to go through that pain. Pain of losing his mom. Pain that I know he still feels. How could he not? So I turn my heartache into prayers. Lord, give him strength. Give him peace. Help him through the hard moments. Give him joy with his family. And most of all, assure him of the hope of Your resurrection and promise of heaven.
I leave you not with my words, but with a scripture. May you find hope in this promise.
1 Peter 1:3-9 MSG
What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.
I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.