It had started with brightly colored stained glass windows in the Tennessee mountains, but in a matter of months, nothing in my life – including my relationship with Christian – would have reminded anyone of that beautiful April day.
When I remember the late summer and fall of 2006, my memories are not specific. I vaguely remember what classes I had, special events, occasional trips up to see Christian. But most of that time is covered in my memory with dark clouds. Appropriately so, for those were dark days.
Looking back, it all started right around the time I met Christian. I was taking 19 hours in college and working about 15 hours a week. Although my grades were fine and there was nothing inherently stressful, I started having panic attacks. I would try to go to sleep, when all of a sudden my heart would start racing.
I remember telling Christian about these early in our relationship. He didn’t seem fazed. He was really encouraging, in fact, always reminding me that God was in control.
Once we were dating, though, everything got worse. I had only been in one serious relationship before meeting him, and it had ended badly. I didn’t trust myself not to be dependent on Christian, and I didn’t really think he meant anything he said.
As you can imagine, this was a burdensome time for him, because I became increasingly dependent on him. By the time the summer was over, if I hadn’t heard from him in a certain amount of time, I would go into a panic. At one point he was planning to go on a weekend retreat with the guys from church, but it was out where he wouldn’t get cell phone reception. He almost decided not to go because he was afraid of leaving me all weekend.
It’s hard for me to think about all that, let alone to write it. But this is healthy, I think, because it reminds me of how faithful God has been in all of it.
The fall didn’t get much better. I would want to talk to him several times a day, and he normally obliged, but by this time he was trying to juggle a life at school with me, and a girlfriend that got scared any time he left his room was not exactly conducive to having a social life. I wasn’t jealous; I wasn’t really afraid something would happen to him. I just had a hard time believing he actually cared about me like he said he did, and it didn’t matter what he said otherwise.
I eventually went to a Christian counselor for most of the fall semester, and God used that greatly to teach me about the deeper issues and sins in my heart. I also started taking medication for anxiety and depression, which wasn’t what I wanted, but God used to clear my mind so I could think better about what He was trying to teach me.
It was the hardest five months of my life. At times I told Christian he would be better off without me, and I often wondered if I would be better off without him – not because I didn’t love him, but because it seemed like with him in my life, things were just harder. And sometimes they were so hard I wasn’t sure if it was worth it.
But Christian was faithful, and God was even more faithful. Because God gave Christian the patience and strength to stick by me, even though there was little he could do from 400 miles away, I was forced to deal with my sins and anxieties and sorrows. And even though I didn’t think I would ever be any different, every once in a while God would provide me with a glimmer of hope.
And yet, in the midst of all of that, a dark cloud loomed in the future. In February, Christian would be going to Germany for six months. We’d known that since we started dating, but as it got closer and closer to Christmas, it began to hit both of us that it was really going to happen.
Tune in next week for the German edition of Love Stories for October.