Have you ever met a man you swore up and down was God's plan for you?
When I was a junior in college, I developed a hard and fast crush on this guy I will call Diego. He was the brother of a friend of mine and had come up for the weekend from one of the other state colleges to attend the Catholic campus ministry group's spring retreat. He was just beautiful: tall with dark, longish hair, brown eyes, glasses, great smile, with a little bit of a Hispanic accent (his family was from Miami), funny, smart (he was working on his computer engineering degree), athletic (he played soccer) and a Godly man to boot (he was helping run his campus' Catholic student organization). We hit it off pretty quickly after being introduced, getting into a conversation in the church parking lot about shared musical preferences while eating a pizza dinner before piling into cars for the trip to the retreat center.
Since I was on the retreat team, helping run a small group and involved in several skits, it was a busy weekend for me. But I we managed to hang out a little bit over the course of those few days. On Sunday, with the retreat at an end, we exchanged email addresses and took a photo together, his arm around my shoulders (oh, how giddy I was about that! Plus, this was 1999, ladies, so I had finish off that roll of film and send it away to be developed. Oh, the anticipation waiting for it to come back--would it be blurry? would my eyes be closed? -- was hard!).
Back from that weekend, I waited a few days to send him an email, just a "hey, it was great to meet you on the retreat! Hope you're having a blessed week" sort of thing. I'm sure I squealed when I saw his name pop into my inbox a day or so later.We began email back and forth -- at least once a week, but sometimes more -- discussing various classes, our family backgrounds and having spiritual conversations. Goofy girl that I was, I printed out all his emails (they are probably languishing in a box of old college papers somewhere...unless I tossed them. I actually can't remember!). I was completely enamored with him, teasing him about something silly he'd done and then told me about. We prayed for each others intentions.
Then, his emails became slightly more infrequent. I figured he was busy studying. When they stopped altogether, I was stumped. Had I said something? Done something? I poured over every detail of conversations I could remember, filled journal pages with speculations and discussed it ad nauseam with several girlfriends, parsing every word of his emails to see if there was some sort of hidden meaning.
That summer, I lived in community with six other women. Over the course of the summer, I came to find out, through one of them who was dating a roommate of Diego's brother, that Diego had decided he was called to the priesthood. Well no wonder I hadn't heard from him! I spent much time wondering why he hadn't at least told me himself.
The summer passed, and it was fall semester of my senior year. I still thought about Diego a lot. It was hard not to, with his brother in my same circle of friends, and they strongly resembled each other. One day, a friend called me and said "Hey, your man is back in town." "Who?" "Diego." "He's not my man," I protested, but inwardly I was suddenly high as a kite. He was at our spirit night that Wednesday and he gave me this huge hug, in fact he practically lifted me off the ground. He seemed nervous around me, though, and when I asked a friend why, she said maybe he didn't trust himself with me. It was a thought I'd never had before, that I was somehow that enticing to a man. I remember writing in my journal how even though I knew he would make a good husband and father, I suppose I couldn't win if he was following God's calling.
Still, in my heart, I didn't think he would become a priest. I clung to a courtship story told by an older (who at the time where, gasp! in their 30s!) married couple with several children who spoke to our student group on vocations night: they had been friends for years, she was in love with him, but he was in seminary and she didn't give anything away because she didn't want to be known as a VC: a "vocation crisis" (as such women were quasi-jokingly called in our circle by the monsignor in charge of diocesan vocations). Finally, he was thisclose to making his priestly vows when he realized he was called to marriage with her. I even (embarrassingly. I cringe even now to think about how idiotic I was to do this) wrote an essay for my article and essay class that semester called "On Reading a Romance" about interpreting literature (I made a number of Jane Austen references) and also about how I was convinced that despite his current longing for God, Diego was really called to be my husband.
To shorten what has become an already overly long story, time passed. I graduated from college and moved onto grad school. Then one day, out of the blue, I got an instant message from Diego. The sight of his name on my screen could still give me flutters, even though time had gone by. Those flutters only increased when I asked him about his priestly studies and he told me he was no longer in seminary! Could it be? Was he finally going to tell me he couldn't stop thinking about me?!
Wow, I must have thought a lot of myself. But God put me in my place pretty quickly. Sure, he was out of seminary, but after exchanging a few other pleasantries and discussing mutual friends, he asked me for some advice. See, there was this girl he wanted to ask out and... I just burst out laughing. I remember looking heavenward and saying out loud, "Ok, Lord, I get it."
We kept in touch for a bit longer, as friends. Last I heard, he was happily married. I am still single, and that's ok. At one point, I found those emails he'd written me, and when I counted, there were only 24 of them! I'd had an extended crush (and we're talking something like two years, here) on a man who I'd seen in person only twice and who had sent me exactly 24 emails. Looking back on it now, it almost seems idolatry, the amount of attention I gave this man, the daydreaming I did and time I spent imagining conversations we'd have...it was mostly a fiction, when it comes down to it. My, the flying leaps a woman's heart and head can make!
I still, because I'm a girl and this is how our minds work, occasionally find myself drifting down those imaginary primrose paths sometimes when I have a crush, but I try and keep this situation with Diego in the back of my mind when I find my brain jumping too far ahead. It reminds me that God's will is not anything like mine (Hallelujah for that!), and that the Lord has an exceptional sense of humor. I was right, after all. Diego didn't become a priest and is now a husband. He just wasn't mean to be mine. :-)