August 30
9:15 a.m.

Gwen’s very concerned about me. She’s never seen me like this.

I’ve never felt like this.

“Want to go to church?”

“Not really.” She didn’t push it. That’s one of the things I love that my parents instilled in us too. They never guilt you about God. “You have to go to church or God won’t make things better for you.” Or, you know, like Job’s friends. You’re having a tough time…must be something you did. God’s judging you because you did something awful. Confess your sin. The type of stuff that some of the people in church love doing…like Hannah’s mom. She’d love to know that I’m hurting. It’s all my “sinful” ways catching up with me.

Maybe it is.

I thought Frankie was my best friend…and best friends are supposed to be around you for life, aren’t they? I mean we were friends before anything else…before he told me he loved me and all that. At least, that’s what I thought. What do I know?

And I’m still trying to sort out my feelings. I’m used to women being spiteful and mean, but Jimmy’s pettiness brought a whole new meaning to it. I was completely blindsided by it. It was like he enjoyed hurting me…and Frankie…and he thought I was just blowing everything out of proportion.

What surprised me too is that I thought I had gotten over my feelings for Frankie… Guess I was living in denial again.

“Mitch says he’ll punch Jimmy for you.” Gwen’s trying to cheer me up.

The idea of sweet, gentle Mitch punching Jimmy was funny. I couldn’t help laughing.

“Thank God you’re laughing. You’re really dreary when you get all sad and silent.”

“Gwen, that bad? Too dark? I’m sorry. It’s just that I’ve never dealt with anything like this before.”

“I know, Sweetie. I’m teasing you. Remember, into everyone’s life a little emotional tsunami must fall.”

“Emotional tsunami…that’s what it feels like!”

“I’ve been there before. I know what you’re going through.”

“You?” Gwen had never mentioned any heartbreak before Mitch. I just thought things were perfect for her. She’d gone to college, got good grades, met Mitch and all was happy and good.

“Yes, me. Just thought it best not to upset you while you were in the middle of your exams.”

“Gwen…I wish you had told me.”

“It was a long time ago. William…he was my history professor. Very smart, a hit with the students…and then, he hit on me. Except that I thought he was interested in me because I was a good student. So one thing led to another and before long he was writing me long love notes…he said he and his wife were separated…getting a divorce…and then…”

“What?”

“He got his wife pregnant!”

“Are you joking?”

“No. Serious.” Gwen’s laughing—how can you laugh over something so awful? “And then, I met Mitch.”

“Gwen, that’s horrible.”

“Nat, I have nightmares thinking I might have missed out on Mitch. I thank God daily for not letting me get married to William.”

“How did you get through everything?”

“Mom and Dad helped so much. They told me to cry as much as I wanted to, and then to start planning for joyful things in my life.”

I must be a horrible, self-centered person not to have noticed when Gwen was going through a terrible time.

“I felt humiliated. Disgraced. Cheated. Tricked. Cheap. Pretty much everything you can think of. Some of the jealous girls in my class enjoyed the whole thing…” The pain of what she had been through cast shadows over her beautiful face.”But I eventually realized that everyone in life will go through at least one heartbreak. It’s guaranteed. Sort of like a ritual towards growing up.”

“I don’t want to…didn’t want to, Gwen.”

“As Dad and Mom say, things are going to happen that we don’t want. It’s God’s way… it’s only when we’re really hurting that we discover how much he cares about us. We don’t grow spiritually without it.”

“Yeah…the valley of grief and despair! How much I hate it. Dad always said it was our privilege as believers to share in Christ’s suffering. I just never wanted that privilege.”

“Nat, God’s blessed our family very much. If we don’t go through pain and sorrow, we won’t be of much help to others around us. God permits everything in our lives for a reason, you know that… And he gets us through it.”

“I know. Well, at least my mind gets that… but in my heart, I’m thinking it’s never going to happen…I’m never going to get through this. It’s so weird…I thought I didn’t care about Frankie, but when I heard what he thought about me, I realized how much I did care. Does that make sense?”

“Yes, it does. But you know something, by the end of the year, you’ll look back and see the amazing things God has done in your life. Just trust him and don’t give up.”

“Should I try and reach Frankie? Maybe try and explain myself to him…”

Even I know that my response is filled with sheer desperation. I want things to be back to the way they were with Frankie. I should’ve called more often…texted…anything.

“Maybe it’s best to wait a while.”

“How long?”

“Until he contacts you…or you sense God’s nudging you to call him…or till you let go.”

“What if he doesn’t call me?” In my despair and panic I’m holding on to option one. I’ve already forgotten the “Trust God” talk.

“Nat, I know the pain is physical…your head hurts…your whole body does. But you’re going to be okay. It may take a week or several months, but you’re going to be okay. That’s your much-older-than-you sister’s promise!”

So Gwen’s holding me and hugging me and together we’re crying over my pain. And in the midst of this I remember a Bible verse: “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”

I will trust God.

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