(The names have been changed to protect my sorry butt from any legal action, but you know who you are)
You know, itís odd what a middle aged man finds to be the true definition of love. Itís so different than what it was twenty-five years ago, thirty years ago, or even forty years ago. I suppose that twenty years from now, I will have added more meanings to the word, as well as many more different facets of love than what I know of itís depth at this time in my life.
Looking back on what little knowledge I had at that time, twenty-five years ago that is, it was all tied up with how many damsels you could lance with your personal epee. And although I never did get caught up in too much of this physical expression of lust, er, love, I did have my moments. Thirty years ago, while in high school, love meant to me that if you saw a girl and asked her out and she said yes, than that was a sure sign of true love. And forty years ago, you knew it was love in elementary school, when a certain girl would clobber you on the playground and then run away giggling, while you looked dazed and confused at that little whirlwind that tattooed your arm. Ah, to be that innocent again.
I thought it was love, I really did. I suppose that may be one of the reasons why some people do the things they do. But what I thought was love, was only infatuation; Eileen was pretty and although there was some depth to her being, I soon found out that there wasnít much else there; we had nothing in common.
I met Eileen at the church I was working as a youth pastor. I donít know why I didnít heed the advice of a good friend that told me several years prior to this, ďNever date someone from your own congregation.Ē The reason is, if a break up occurs and it becomes hostile, it will affect the life of a church and that is a very bad thing.
I was seeing someone else at the time of all of this, and the kids I was charged with never met Kate; I suppose that was a good thing, meaning that I never exposed that side of my life to those kids. I had built a good relationship with Kate although there were some great unknowns that never got resolved, and we got caught up into some sexual situations, which, as two devoted unmarried Christians, is never a good thing. But a fool only sees whatís in front of him. I pursued Kate; Eileen, on the other hand, pursued me. I was flattered. Even though Kate and I had a good thing going, there were some things misplaced in our relationship, so when Eileen pursued me, I thought it was an escape route and I fell hard and fast. Oh how wrong that thinking was.
Two things happened at first. The first was that Eileen told me that she had had some problems dealing with stress. OK, I could handle that, I thought. I didnít follow up with ďwhat kind of problems;Ē I was in love, she was cute...we could work it out. Problem was that she really couldnít connect with people. I know that now, but back thenÖ
The other problem was that she was very kissable, which happens a lot during the first days of any dating relationship, but getting caught up in the early stages of romance started affecting the lives of the kids I was charged with. My priorities got jostled. I was there for several reasons - to guide young minds to a saving knowledge of Christ, to build lasting friendships, and to help lead Sunday services. What I did was wreck the trust that I had established with the group and some friendships were lost early on. I never really was able to reestablish their trust, and that hurt. I not only lost trust in the kids but I let down parents, the senior pastor, myself, but most importantly, I feel, I let down God.
I didnít lose my job over this relationship; my agreement with the church came to an end. I started working with the church in December of 1985 and left in June of 1986 after graduating from college. Throughout that summer, Eileen and I continued to see each other. But as summer came to a close, things were changing between her and I. The relationship died in September.
I did everything I could to keep the relationship going, but try as I might; the signs were all there. It was dying a slow and lingering death. The main problem was that Eileen was enamored with an image of who she thought I was. She liked the idea that I was a moral and honorable man. However, that idea died shortly after we started going together. What did I want? I just wanted to be liked.
So whatís the point to all of this? What could be the purpose of retracing a middle aged manís love life of twenty years ago, other than to say that I had a pretty good relationship with Kate, traded it for something that I thought was there and by the end of the summer, I had nothing; I had no job, I had no Kate and I had no Eileen. I chased after the wrong thing and I had nothing left to show for it. Ah, but there is a lesson. A lesson on what it is to give and to love.
During our relationship, I had given Eileen a gift. It was a sweatshirt that had her name spelled on it in an unconventional way (remember names have been changed.) She liked it; at least she told me that she liked it. When the relationship finally broke up on the rocks of reality, she asked me how much I paid for the shirt. I told her it was a gift, Iím not requiring her to reimburse me; it was from my heart to hers. She insisted that she needed to repay me for the gift. I felt so insulted by her words that day. I kept saying Ė ďYou donít owe me anythingĒ. She wasnít buying it. For some strange reason that to this day only she knows, she needed to be free and clear of all ties with me, I suppose for that matter, with all people that had come into her life. She kept hounding me until I couldnít stand it any longer, and I quoted her a price. I prostituted myself that day. For a measly twenty bucks, I sold my love.
Out of all the events and dates that happened that summer, this is the thing that left its mark. And yet it is also a valuable lesson on the gift that the Lord has offered us through His love Ė salvation.
For by grace you have been saved through faith:
and not that of yourselves,
it is a gift from God
not as a result of works,
so that no one may boast
The lesson learned was how could we put a price on salvation? We canít. And even if we could, it would be insulting to God and it would cheapen Christís sacrifice on the cross. Thereís nothing we can, I repeat can, do that will repay God for what he did on the cross in human form. It was He, through the purest of motives, love, which gave us freedom from our sins and reconciliation with Him.
All the more, why do we throw a Bronx cheer to God with our measly tokens of good works, thinking it will please Him? Why do we ridicule Him by insisting on doing it our way? I think it may come down to a simple case of jealousy. Because His love is purer than gold. His love is more beautiful than the most exquisite diamond. His love is never ending; itís unconditional. He is the very nature of love because He is love. (1 John 4:8) Our love fall so short of the love that is His. I believe that is where the jealousy comes from Ė our wanting to be God-like and realizing that weíre not.
When we accept Godís gift, in a way, we have something in common with Him, namely fellowship. When we fight Him, we become diametrically opposed to Him and we end up spinning our wheels in the muck and mire that is known as our lives.
In no way am I trying to equate my gift to that of the priceless gift of salvation. The point here is a gift is a gift. I tried to give something that was from my heart, with no strings attached, that I thought she would enjoy for the next few years or until the shirt frayed or she outgrew it. I never intended to be reimbursed for the effort that went into it. Nevertheless, my love took a major blow and any affection I had left for her died that day. God on the other hand, even though we may reject His offer, still stands by offering us His love. And even if we go to our graves rejecting His offer, He will still love us.
Thatís the lesson of love that I have learned. Give everything with love attached to it and never, never accept payment for the gift, because you end up cheapening your love. In other words, love is priceless.
So what happened to Kate and Eileen? Kate and I eventually got back together a few months after Eileen and I had broken up. We stayed together for another year and half and when I did ask Kate to marry me, she turned me down. I met Judy three years later and she showed me a whole different side of love and with her my love has deepened so much more. We have been married for fifteen years and still adore each other. I do not know what has happened to Eileen since the break up. All I know is that while we were together, we had nothing in common.