I was a junior in high school when I first met him. He was tall and handsome, a star athlete and stellar student. He was funny and smart and had his own truck. He liked Harry Potter just as much as I did (or so he said) and he paid attention to me. It was that last one that made him the only person whose opinion I seemed to care about. He seemed to notice me. Every day he would come and sit with me by my locker and ask me all sorts of questions. He’d call me every night, and would come over to my house and hang out with my family. We’d go to the movies and dinner and stop by the occasional party to see our friends. He bought me a pretty bracelet for Christmas and told me he loved me. I bought him a nice wallet and told him I loved him back. He was my everything, my only thing really. I poured all my efforts into our relationship, concentrating on making sure he was happy and focusing on the things we could do together. Time stopped when he was around and nothing else mattered to me. But as time went on, I chose to ignore when he ignored my calls or made a lame excuse to cancel our plans. I believed him when he told me he had been so busy with summer workouts for football that he forgot my birthday and didn’t have time to get me a gift. I ignored the obvious signs that he was losing interest in me, and despite my efforts to remain attractive to him, he found someone new…someone else to take to dinner and call on the phone; someone else to kiss goodnight after hanging out; someone else to give a bracelet to at Christmas and make a promise of long-lasting love. He had been my everything, but now I was just one of his old things…
It stung, almost like a physical burn on my skin, leaving a pink, puffy, tender scar. I became bitter towards my family and isolated among my friends. I didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere. I felt like my life no longer had purpose or meaning. I was empty inside and alone everywhere I went. For months, I had poured myself into every moment of this guy’s life, only to be cast aside for something newer and better. And that had been the entire problem all along: I had poured myself into this guy. I had made him the center of my world, concentrating all my efforts on him and him alone. Nothing had mattered except him, which meant that everything else in my life, from my grades to my spirituality, had taken a backseat to our dysfunctional, selfish relationship. It took me a long time to recover from the realization that I had invested myself in a guy who thought of me as nothing more than something to keep himself occupied with when he was bored.
Isn’t this something we’ve all been guilty of, at some point? We find ourselves enamored with a person who can do no wrong. They’re perfectly imperfect and we “love” them because of it. We find their character flaws cute and their selfishness attractive, and rather than seeking to grow in virtue together, we allow ourselves to stagnate in our sinfulness. We fix our eyes upon them, lusting after their affectionate gaze. We seek to please them and ourselves. We pay attention to only them and let everything else fall by the wayside. We become wrapped up in the desires of the flesh and forget that what we truly seek is an eternal desire placed deeply within our heart. We allow ourselves to get lost within the worldly relationship and ignore what we have been made for, above all else: Heaven.
I was able to heal from the hurt of my dysfunctional, selfish high school relationship only when I began to invest myself in a life giving, eternally satisfying relationship with my Creator. After the tragic breakup that broke my heart into a thousand pieces, I slowly began to find comfort in going to youth group every week. It was there that I met Christ, who took that shattered heart and put it back together. I slowly began to see that the affection I’d always wanted and the attention I’d always enjoyed was all a shadow of the deep love and tender mercy of Jesus. At the encouragement of my youth minister, I started to read Scripture every day, beginning first with the Gospel of Luke. Day by day, the story of Jesus Christ came to life for me. The moments when He compassionately healed the sick and comforted the oppressed felt like moments of healing and comfort for me. Jesus was no longer some ancient “character” I had heard about in religion class or homily. He was becoming personal to me, less of a “something” and more of a “someone.”
And that’s when it hit me: that’s exactly what had been missing in my former relationship. I had considered my boyfriend, and he had thought of me, as merely a “thing” to be had and not a person to be seen and cherished. We had used each other as objects. I used him for attention and he used me for physical gratification. In so doing, we had not regarded each other as precious souls meant to be valued. We sought to fill the deepest eternal desires of our hearts with the fleeting attention and affection of each other, and in so doing, distanced ourselves from the One who stretched out His arms and loved us to the very end.
At any point in time, but especially while we are in a season of anticipation of our Lord’s arrival, it’s important to ask ourselves two questions concerning our relationships, especially those of a romantic nature. In asking and answering these two questions, we are able to evaluate whether or not we are truly putting Christ, and our desire for Him, at the center of our hearts. Virtue and self-worth and the opportunity to sacrifice make you a saintly, holy person. Our relationships should be leading us to holiness and heaven, not dragging us into the pits of selfishness and self-seeking gratification.
Does this person make me a better person?
Does this person draw me closer to God?
The answer to these two questions must be yes, without any reservation whatsoever.
We must recognize that relationships should be drawing us closer not just to each other, but also to the one who created us in the first place. Being close to Him ensures the ability to ever truly be close to anyone else.
This Advent, do some evaluation of all your relationships, asking yourself those two questions. Advent is a time to joyfully anticipate what’s to come, but we can’t joyfully anticipate until we know who it is we’re welcoming! Advent is a time to really delve into whether or not you have allowed yourself to remain focused on the Creator or be distracted by what He has created. Have you prepared your heart for His arrival? Have you focused your attention on Him above all else? Are you ready to make Him the priority in your life and the King of your heart? Spend time looking at Him, and concentrating on what He wants, so that you are ready to welcome Him into your life.