Hello my friends...I am assuming you are here because you are following along and would like to know what happens next in the Letters to Ben story. If you need a recap, or if you haven't had a chance to read the first 3 chapters, head back and read those ones first! Are you enjoying the story? Are you annoyed with me for leaving you hanging while you wonder what happens next? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know! I'd love to hear from you with your questions, comments or annoyed responses... ; )
It was a couple weeks later when we seemed to pick up over Facebook messenger where we had left off in person. He had liked a couple of my photos and even commented on them, with what I hoped was a flirtatious tone. Silly, lighthearted chatter turned to real sharing (much like what happened those weeks earlier at the festival) and before I knew it we were chatting every day. Even sending messages first thing in the morning to wish each other a good day, and before bed to say Goodnight. All the while, I wondered what on earth was happening and how I could possibly be letting myself connect to someone so far away and in less than ideal circumstances.
After tiptoeing around it for a while, we eventually shared with each other how we had felt upon meeting each other, and how those feelings had only deepened as we continued to get to know each other. It was wonderful and devastating all at once. I remember asking God, “Why?!?! Why would you send this incredible person who is everything I want, and wants everything I want, only to have it be an impossible situation???” It seemed unfair...cruel even. I had longed for the kind of connection I wasn’t even sure existed, and this was it.
I was out for dinner with my girlfriends to celebrate my birthday which had been about a week prior. We talked and laughed and took a thousand silly selfies and of course, I told them all about Ben. When most of your friends are married, your dating stories often become the entertainment as I had experienced many times. And truth be told, I didn’t mind that part of it….what can I say...I live to entertain! While I was being driven home by my best friend Tiffany, he messaged me and asked if I wanted to talk. I assumed he meant a good, old-fashioned phone call. He meant he wanted to Facetime, and after agreeing I felt as nervous as I would for an in-person first date.
I wouldn't say it was awkward for the first minute or two. I’d say we were both a little shocked that we were looking at each other in real time. We just kept looking at each other with these big dumb grins on our faces and didn’t say much of anything at first. Once we got talking the not-quite-awkwardness disappeared and before we knew it our phones told us we had been talking for an hour! These Facetime conversations continued whenever we were able, along with messaging and following each other on social media We grew close, despite being far apart.
I wondered if God had some plan for us to be together eventually. Maybe this was so that we could spend time figuring ourselves out and getting to know each other and continue to build trust. Maybe when Ben was ready to leave B.C. he would move to Calgary and things could work out. These seemed like dangerous things to hope for. But I was trying to keep my heart and mind open, accepting that I would need to be willing to take risks if I was ever going to find what I was looking for. I had had my heart broken many times before and I was sure I would survive.
My friendship with Ben was in some ways, like any other. We had weeks where we would talk and message a lot and I felt very connected to him. Then with the natural ebb and flow of life we wouldn’t talk as much other weeks. While my brain understands that this is normal and to be expected, my tendency was to go straight to worst-case-scenario. I told myself I was mistaken. We weren’t actually that close and he definitely didn’t feel like I did. I had opened up and now that he knew more about the real me, he decided he didn’t want to talk to me anymore. This was just how he was, and he had found some other person to occupy his time and attention. I was a total idiot for being so vulnerable and sharing so much of myself with him.
Inevitably, after convincing myself that I was better off not talking to him and distancing myself to protect against heartbreak, he would message or call and I was instantly right back where I had been. It was a bit of a roller coaster, but one of my own making. While our friendship continued, the downs that came between the ups started to get longer and we did in fact start to drift apart. It wasn’t just the decreased frequency of our chats. There was a shift.
I remember being asked by a friend if I might be interested in being set up with someone that she knew. I hadn’t considered the possibility of life going on and of meeting other people. But I wasn’t one to pass up the opportunity to meet a Christian man in my age category who wasn’t a total weirdo, so I accepted. I felt the typical first-date nerves as I got ready that evening, but I also couldn’t shake this strange sense that I was somehow betraying Ben by going.
A couple hours before I was getting picked up for this date, I was messaging back and forth with an old, dear friend from Saskatoon. I had already told him the story of meeting Ben and tried to process my feelings through talking to James, like I had with my close girlfriends. As I went on and on about how crazy it was and how I should just stop thinking that way, I remember what he said to me. “Let yourself like him, Sara-Mae.” I continued to give him all the reasons I shouldn’t let myself feel what I was already feeling. James just kept encouraging me to let my heart be open.
The thing that James knew and that I have been learning is that an open heart allows you to experience the beauty of love, while also leaving you open to the risk of being hurt. You can’t have one without the other. To love is to risk.
I went on the date, with Ben in the back of my mind. It was fine but not great. He was a nice enough guy and we had good conversation and a few laughs, but certainly no real sparks. And that was ok. Without really meaning to, I compared him to Ben all through the evening. I thought about the immediate connection I had with Ben and knew that deep down I would never be satisfied with anything less. I could acknowledge and accept that relationships need to grow and that your connection to a person should grow too, but after what I experienced with Ben, I wasn't interested in anything else. I was convinced I would never find that with anyone else, and remained certain that things would never work out with Ben. It was a difficult and disappointing place to be.