It was a dark and stormy night—
Sorry. Wrong story.
It was a rather pleasant night, despite the forceful winds that decided to toss my lyrics across the patio. The music carried on without it, though, and I tried to do the same. Squinting up at the tethered burlap sack-for-a-screen, I made out every other word, singing to the tune of a Christmas carol. Even though, as I’m sure most of you can imagine, it had no resemblance to the melody of the song being played. Do you know what I know?
I say it was a pleasant evening because all of the elements that should have been there were. The people were abundant—many new faces showed up in the crowed, including some cute ones!—and the spirit was alive and kicking. Ridiculous as that may sound, there is a certain sort of vibrancy and excitement that pulses around the evening Fusion service at Trinity. I can’t really explain it. The best I can do is ask you to come with me. You’ll understand what I mean.
But in all the play of wind, setting sun, deftly arranged music that was poorly sung, and laughing camaraderie, it was a distinctly depressing service. Brad took to his usual harangue, piping up with words like “God” and “service” in the midst of an anecdotal mid-service message. The energy was evident; he dotted back and forth and gesticulated like a little kid who was showing off his very first picture. It didn’t matter what the picture—or message—was. It was just that he had genuinely created it.
All of the service went well, until the prayer requests began flying in. To be honest, I don’t think the wind could compete with the needs thrown out last night. So it didn’t; it remained still. And after countless stories of people in need—physically, mentally, emotionally—it came to a climax in Brad’s own petition.
“I’m leaving Trinity,” he matter-of-factly said. But it wasn’t so matter-of-factly as it was resigned and complacent. Or perhaps just exhausted. Nonetheless, it met with prayer requests for the dying and worn as aptly as gunfire is the sound expected after a bugle call in a battle. Dramatic, isn’t it? Easy to swat away as if the embellishment is too much. And yet, it serves the moment well. Brad, the very person who created the community called Fusion, who asked the people of Trinity to come together for this special service, is the very one leaving it behind. It’s not by choice; by his own admission, the reality of leaving is very bittersweet. But I cannot imagine Fusion without him.
* * *
I put that behind me with the music. It had always dulled the anxieties of the week and weekend, and I tried to let it do the same this time. It would have been selfish to let my disappointment overtake the natural pulse of the Fusion crowd. So I let it go, if only in the distraction of conversation. A conversation with Christian.
When the tables had been collected and chairs were being rolled away, we scooted off, as we usually do after Sunday service. We were aiming to find a quaint little coffee nook to climb into, bury ourselves in a mug or two of coffee, and share the goings-on of the week. I always look forward to this. I genuinely, honestly do. And, as I have made my two operational key words “intentionality” and “honesty,” I found it particularly fitting that my earnest disappointment over Brad’s departure and my eager anticipation of an evening with Christian should coincide. One gently calmed the other, and I was able to carry on without too much brooding or pretending (“I’m happy! Honestly, I am!”).
We plodded our way down Broadway for a block or so before going through the usual back-and-forthing. “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know.” “What’s open?” “I’ll bet there’s something on the 16th Street Mall!” “Do you want to check it out?” Shrug. “Sure.” And inevitably, we end up at Maggiano’s. I think next week, if I’m lucky enough to hang out with him, we should skip the preceding dialogue and just make reservations at Maggiano’s for about 8:30. I even know what table we would get and what we would order. It’s nice to have something to rely on. And it’s nice not to wait 45 minutes for a table.
So we meandered by potholes in mid-construction, surrounded by plastic, orange fencing. He made a few off-colored noises, aiming to fit in among the typical evening crowds of the 16th Street Mall. All the while, we bobbed back and forth with one-liners and laughs, jokingly recalling bits of the service (Bless the week, Brad? Really? You couldn’t come up with a better closing?) and stories from the past few days. For the second week in a row, my level of energy jumped thirteen notches as we joked, laughed, and reminisced, tripping over the potholes and curbs of the street. Well, the tripping was mostly me.
Our evening at Maggiano’s was enjoyable and comfortable, if also a bittersweet experience. As you may have already read, I’m questioning how I feel about this boy. I continue to think that my prissy, un-ready, insecure self decided prematurely that a life on my own, sans Christian, would be far better than one with him. Why? I had reasons. What were they? I forget. Hence, my problem. I can come up with a hundred reasons why I would like to be with him again. And yet, almost none that justify my decision to end our relationship. If your eyes are glazing over, I don’t blame you. It’s a story sung a thousand times. No, wait. It’s a song written a hundred ways— no, that’s not right. Anyway, it’s been done before. And it’s predictable. Good times. Bad decision. Regret. And so it goes, in all the annals of human history, in every area and emotional playground. The swing set breaks. And I’m left on the slide that’s too small for me, covered in dirt, and in desperate need of some key screws. Ok, maybe I took that metaphor too far.
In any case, we went about our conversation and I’m happy to say he confided in me. He told me what was going on with him and earnestly listened to my ideas, thoughts, and suggestions. Likewise, he listened to mine. Much of what we discussed had to do with his boy—a catch and a half, it sounds like—and I tired to swallow my discomfort and forward my interest so as to support someone I would like, at the very least, to be my friend. And I AM curious. I am interested. And I do support him. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t have some trouble talking about when it might be appropriate for him to use the “L” word. That one doesn’t seem to get easier.
At the end of the evening, we went our separate ways. It was typical. It was usual. It was expected. And, at the end of each of these evenings, I always tell myself to move along. Let it go. So much easier said than done! I think everybody knows that, even if it’s not in the context of a relationship. Do I love him? And walk away. Let him be with someone else. Because, as every poet worth his or her ink has written, love must be selfless to be worth something. Otherwise, it’s probably just lust or infatuation.
I woke up this morning, dreading my Monday. The fiery pulse of Fusion is lacking at work. And when an evening ends with the taste of two disappointments in your mouth, it’s hard to brush out. Even now, after working for two hours, I can taste it. The best I can do is what I always do—something productive. As my father likes to say, and I work at very hard, “Do good by doing well.”
Such was my Sunday night, and such is my Monday morning. Off to crank out more restaurant pages and swallow the corporate infection of a poorly run magazine. Still, who knows what could happen today? Brad said it well: “You never know when you’ll get the God-sent ‘WOW’ factor.” Can you spare a couple today, God? I might need them—before lunch, if possible.