Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Love Story in Three Acts: Act 3, Scene 2

Act 1, Scene 1: Cindy
Act 2, Scene 1: A Chance Meeting
Act 2, Scene 2: Summer of Love
Act 2, Scene 3: "Tuesday's" Night
Act 2, Scene 4: Reunion
Act 3, Scene 1: The Campbell Connection

"God Bless the Broken Road..."
And now comes the most painful part of all of this. 2002.By January, I realized I wasn't going to date Lori... or rather, she wasn't going to date me. This year was the absolute pinnacle of The Deuce, by the way. People coming over all the time, games, Smash Brothers, Tetris and guitars were being played constantly, and things were happening pretty much 24/7.

And suddenly joining our group of people who were coming over constantly was Alex Milner and Erin Whidden. They went to a Bible study over at Fish Page's house (her name was actually Felicia, but everyone called her Fish), and they were Deuce connected through Tommy McLeod, whom they knew from the previous summer's mission trip to Seattle, Washington.

Alex and I became buddies, so I accompanied her to Fish's Bible study where I met one redhead named Melanie Dill. And Melanie and I became very, very good friends. It was about this time that Stephanie and I had a lengthy conversation one night... well, we actually had many lengthy, late night conversations. It was during one of these she told me that yes, she was in love with me. It took her moving to Atlanta for her to realize it, but she figured out how she missed me, how she missed talking to me, how I was unlike any other guy she'd ever known, and how she knew now how she felt about it. She would later tell me that what did it for her was how we would email every day when she lived here... and when I suddenly stopped emailing her, it all clicked for her.

Naturally, I should have said "What? I love you too! Finally!" and we'd have probably gotten married a year earlier... but for me, at least at first, it wasn't what I wanted to hear. I mean, I heard someone once before say how they felt about me--I mean, it wasn't "I love you", but it was meaningful--only to be shot down when I gave in and fell too. So, I wasn't about to risk that again... not less than a year after I had finally gotten over the last girl I gave my heart too.

Melanie and I continued to hang out. There was something about her, I wasn't sure what it was... well, yeah, I was sure. I was in awe of her spiritual walk. She was on fire, and you couldn't help but feel the same when you were around her. We were constantly hanging out at the Deuce, meeting up for dinner, having deep theological discussions, praying together and everything, all the while, Steph is watching from the outside, just dying. She told me later that she knew Lori and I would never be together, so that wasn't a worry... but she said she couldn't live up to Melanie. And at the time, I believed that to be true.

Melanie, while a pretty girl, wasn't someone I would have gone out with before. Not by a long shot. And truly, we never actually dated (though Fish would later dispute this), even though we did discuss dating once. We both figured whatever happened would happen, and we would just continue to be friends and let God take care of it.

Stephanie and I would see each other on the weekends, usually in a group setting. She signed up for Star Wars Celebration with Michael, Ashley, Tommy and Ty, and it killed me because I wanted to go so badly but couldn't afford it. I elected to go on the 2002 Beach Retreat with Sybil's group. This is how life went for most of the spring... I would hang out with the Deuce group, I would hang out with Melanie, I would hang out with Stephanie and so on.

But somehow, Stephanie had become and remained my best friend. It just happened. When stuff happened, she was the first person I wanted to tell. When I felt down, maybe I'd call Melanie... but mostly, I called Stephanie. It had been this way since the previous fall, even the previous summer. I had learned to selfishly lean on her, but not be there when she wanted to lean back.

Everyone went from wondering why we weren't together to telling her that while I might be a good friend, I was a loser to date. Michael told her this. Ashley didn't like me because of it. Wookiee told Steph this. Tom and Shawn and Ty and others all told her "Move on, Steph. I don't know what his problem is." But she couldn't do it.

Summer rolled around, and Melanie and I began to hang out less and less. Why, I wasn't sure... she suddenly stopped returning my phone calls, and we were supposed to get together to play tennis like, five times--and it never happened. I was given an invitation by Alex and Fish to come with the Shades Mountain group to spend a week doing missions on Coney Island and Brooklyn in New York City, and I felt God calling me to go. So, I did.

A lot happened during the trip, but one thing that seemed small then, but turned out to be a major turning point was a deep two hour conversation I had with Melanie about the two of us. I told her that I had considered pursuing her, though this was really just a last ditch attempt to save our friendship. While I'm very outspoken and outgoing, I'm also a very personal person... there's a wall there that I don't let a lot of people come through, a wall that holds within it the personal part of me--my childhood, my fears, the things that make me angry, the things that make me cry... everyone has this wall.

Some people's walls are much more transparent than mine, which was--and is--still pretty solid. While Stephanie had long since been let into this wall, Melanie had also been let into this "inner circle".

And it seemed like she didn't care about it anymore.... I know now that like with Amy, God had our friendship for a season. But unlike Amy, who walked with me to the end of that season where we parted ways, Melanie just stopped being my friend. And it was really, really hard. As in, it pretty much crushed me in New York City. No, I wasn't in love with Melanie, but I had devoted and invested so much of myself into our friendship, given up so much to let her know me (and she doing the same for me) it was nothing short of heart-breaking when I was suddenly told "Okay, we're done now".

And there, standing back and watching with a broken heart of her own was Stephanie Campbell. Why she waited so long, I'll never know.

When I came home from New York City, I was tired, emotionally and spiritually spent and beaten, so when she came over, I was pretty much cold and uncaring to her... I didn't mean to be, but I just was. I even mentioned that I was praying over pursuing Melanie, which just crushed Steph.

Not only had my best friend Melanie simply told me that our friendship that probably meant more to me than it should was over, my real best friend Stephanie was gone... I knew the way she felt about me, we couldn't be friends, which crushed me again... but it would just be too hard for her. And as she left, she cried on her way home. And when she left, I cried in my room (don't think Steph ever knew that) because I was a wreck.

Contact was minimal for the next few weeks... and I missed her. And I began to realize why I missed her, and what Stephanie truly was to me... my best friend, true, but something more than that... God had a plan. Unbeknownst to all, but beknownst to God, the heartbreaking part was now over.

In the next few weeks, He began to stir in my heart. And one Tuesday night at our weekly Deuce Bible Study, I sat in front of Michael, Shawn, Tom, Ty, Tommy, Tom and Jason Demastus and, much to the smiles and joy of all of them, said the following words:

"Guys... I think that God is leading me to pursue Stephanie Campbell"

A Love Story in Three Acts, Act 3, Scene 3: "...That Led Me Straight To You"

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