Ok, so, I literally got too busy to keep up with my journal entries. I'll try to get caught up.
Probably one of the biggest changes may come as a surprise - I broke up with Erica about three weeks ago. For today, I will tell that story.
Ok, so I'll try to start at the beginning... I was raised as an independent (i.e., non-denominational) Christian, and that is what I consider myself today. Where I'm coming from may be hard to explain, but I'll try... I chose to be baptized when I was six years old - that is to say - and this is by the grace of God, and the working of the Spirit in my life - I understood what it meant to dedicate my life to Christ, before I was seven years old. Since then (and this is hard for me to say, without sounding arrogant), I had always been on a different level than my peers - mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It's as if I was set apart by God - and, in fact, I still feel that way to this day (for what reason, exactly, I have yet to discover). Since about junior high, I knew that I was called to the mission field. That is my passion - I will never be truly happy until I can get back to the mission field (I have been on three short-term mission trips - all in my early- to mid-teens).
That's the beginning; let me fast-forward to a couple years ago. That's when I met Erica . We started dating ten months ago this past Monday. I knew that she was raised in the church (I would not have started dating her otherwise).
Ok, quick tangent - I don't want to come off as some religious-nut, Bible-thumper-type. You know me; you know that I'm (well, basically) normal. But, at the same time, I've never been interested in the dating "game" - part of the reason I never dated in high school was that no one who really met what I was looking for, and I didn't see any reason to date just for the sake of dating. I have a LOT of friends - and really, really good; really close friends - who do not share my beliefs. I just believe the Bible when it says "do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers" (2 Cor. 6:14). I knew that I did not want to be in a relationship that would make me choose between growing closer to my girlfriend, and growing closer to God.
So, back to the story... my relationship with Erica was great - we were great, close friends, and were great together. Then, some months ago, Erica revealed to me that she did not know what she believed. She said that she had been raised in three different churches - Catholic, Lutheran, and Baptist. However, right now, she has too many unanswered questions to be able to believe in God, or Christianity yet. Now, I know she's open to God, because she willingly chose to go to church so that she could seek out answers. But, right now school is her one and only priority, and she does not feel convicted yet to seek out "the meaning of life".
At first, I did not consider our differences to be that important. After all, our relationship still was not really that serious (ground rules for our relationship stipulated that it also was a lower priority for her than school). Then, earlier this summer, I had cause to re-evaluate myself, and my own priorities. I realized that I had stopped growing closer to God - I was fully consumed with growing closer to and pleasing Erica. The bad part of that was, I was ignoring my own convictions and beliefs. I had stopped going to church regularly, hoping every weekend to try to find some way to see Erica. Other things had slowly changed. I had stopped praying regularly (to be honest, that started a lot sooner). But, the biggest difference, for me, was that I had suddenly become willing to give up my one true passion (mission work), to be with Erica (who I knew, Christian or not, had NO desire for the mission field).
After I realized how much I had really changed, God began to convict me about all these things again. I talked to a lot of people about the decision, and spent a LOT of time in prayer about it. I consider this to be the most difficult decision I have had to make since my senior year of high school, when I gave up a full-ride to a Christian college to go to a $25,000+/year engineering school, having no money, and knowing that I eventually would become a missionary. But, I knew that it was where God wanted me to be.
One of the pastors at my church here, who knew what a difficult decision it was that I had to make, told me, "God meets us at our point of obedience." Of course, by that time, I knew what I had to do. Because of my firm belief that I should not be in a romantic relationship with someone who does not share my beliefs, I knew that, if we were to keep dating, I would feel too much pressure to try to get her to address her questions, to try to get her to firm up her beliefs. I also knew that, if I did that, it would put a great deal of strain on our relationship - since school is her one and only priority - and it would also strain our friendship. If I were to be any help to her, in terms of answering the questions she has, I knew that I would have to do so, not as her boyfriend, but as her friend. I only hoped that Erica would understand, and that our friendship would not suffer.
We talked about it, and when I finally mustered up the courage to start the conversation, it actually went really well. She understood completely (she brought it up in the first place because she knew it would be an issue with me). She also told me that (as I had begun to guess) she also did not see us together forever. As she put it, "our passions are too different". So, we decided to stop dating. We both knew that, if we kept dating, and kept growing closer in a dating relationship, that our eventual - and inevitable - breakup would be messy, difficult, and painful, and that our friendship would likely suffer a great deal.
I should also add that, when I say, "share my beliefs" I'm not asking for much. My basic beliefs are as follows:
God created man.
Man sinned, thereby separating himself forever from God.
God sent his Son, Jesus, to atone for man's sin, by accepting that sin in an innocent death.
Man cannot come to God by any means other than believing that Jesus died for man's sin, and by accepting Jesus as his savior.
That, in a very tiny nutshell, is the summary of my foundational beliefs - the common denominator of basically all Christian denominations. Obviously, there's a lot more than that, but ultimately (in an eternal-life-or-death sense), that's what's important.
If Erica chose to believe, no one would be happier than I would be; but, unless she is so changed by accepting Christ into her life that she suddenly discovers the same passion I share for missions, I don't think we will ever be in a dating relationship again. I believe that our friendship will continue to grow - in fact, I went with her to her family reunion this Labor Day - a few days after we broke up. As friends, we still get along famously - which made things somewhat awkward, since most of her family did not yet know that we were no longer dating.
I consider my experience dating Erica to be entirely positive (except my lack of growth that I talked about already). She was my first true girlfriend; I learned a lot about having a girlfriend, being a boyfriend, and what to expect - and, more importantly, what I am looking for - in a relationship. I know that I will never date anyone again if I know that she does not share my passions. That decision may seem extreme, but I see dating as a means to finding a wife. I have a lot of friends, who provide an abundant social life; the intimacy of a dating relationship, for me, is reserved for seeking out the woman with whom I will spend the rest of my life.
I hope all of this has made sense; I'm sure that I didn't do the best job explaining everything the way I wanted to. I read what I have wrote, and realize that I might come off as some kind of radical. Maybe I am, but I will never apologize for my faith. If I didn't have such a strong desire to find a wife, and raise a family, I could easily believe that God had chosen me to be completely separate, unmarried, and fully devoted to Him.
The bottom line is, Erica knew the way I believed, and she understood why I made the decision that I did, and, most importantly, she fully supported that decision. As she says, she trusts me a great deal, and I know that, when she is finally compelled to find answers to her questions, she will have even more trust in me, because she knew that I stood by my convictions enough to make an extremely difficult decision - a decision that will save our friendship, and hopefully, ultimately - will save her eternal life as well (that is something I continue to pray for).
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