It was a warm autumn; southern breezes still flowed freely over the prairies, the sun shone hot and the leaves were making their annual descent from their lofty reign, decorating the ground with their golden array.
Or, at least, I assume that’s what it was like outside; I was a bit more enamoured with new books, fresh paper, and sharp pencils while hiding away at a table in the library. I met Andy during my first year studying for my Bachelor in Theology in Edmonton. There was no magic in the acquaintance – he was, after all, a seminarian. In truth, he looked much like a geek. Which he was. And still is. And he had an interesting sense of humour *coughcough*Strong Bad*coughcough*. I preferred to not be interested, for many reasons.
Fast forward a year to when a friend and I were house sitting for the summer. We knew Andy was at the seminary over the holidays working in the IT department, and we knew that the seminary empties out over the summer. We felt some pity toward the situation and invited him over for supper and companionship. We had a good meal and a good visit; we chatted. And chatted. And my roommate announced she needed to go to bed, so we said goodnight to her. And continued chatting. And chatting. And suddenly it was midnight. And we awkwardly said goodnight and he left. From this, a friendship was born.
We formed a type of study club at the coffee house close to where my roommate and I lived; often other friends would join us, but occasionally no one else could make it. We spent the year studying there. And we started walking to Mass together (a good 45 minutes to 1 hour walk from the area we lived in). We certainly enjoyed each others’ company and also understood our boundaries, which we happily obliged. We became very good friends. I even learned to like Strong Bad (et. al).
My third and last year of studies approached and Andy prepped to go on his internship year, which is a year in a parish in his diocese to be immersed in ministry to further give education and formation of a different kind than the classroom. We knew the parting would be sad. It was here we realised, to some extent, how close we were in friendship. We decided to chat once a month to catch up, and Andy went to his internship year.
In December my feelings began to change. I was realising that the friendship we had was not something one comes by often, and I was growing to desire a relationship with Andy that was outside of what we were committed to. I took weeks of prayer and petition to God about what I should do – should I ignore this feeling? Should I just accept with gratitude for what I have and move on? The answer in my prayer became quite clearly, “No” and I knew, with dread, that I would need to have a conversation with Andy about my change in disposition. I knew he was committed to his journey and I knew the answer to my desire would likely be, “No.” With this answer at the forefront of my expectation, I set a date for our chat.
The week preceding our chat was filled with apprehension. And I found all my prayers felt suddenly abandoned and I held no consolation of presence of God when I appealed for help. It was a week of desolation and confusion. Was this silence a sign that I should retreat from this? Was my decision still valid? Why was there silence? Where was God? I felt abandoned, hesitant, and shaky about the upcoming chat. Was I making the right decision to submit to this vulnerable feeling and share it? I was anticipating losing a great friendship over it. Was it selfish to do?
I felt woefully unprepared as Andy and I talked, but I laid it out on the table how I had changed. I asked if there was a chance he had changed too? No, he was resolute in his path. It was exactly as I anticipated. And so I shared that I needed time away to refocus myself and that I wouldn’t be able to be friends at this time. Perhaps sometime in the far future, but at this point I needed space. And so we broke our friendship. I broke our friendship.
Sadness defined me for a number of weeks, and yet I knew that if God was not calling me to Andy, that there was someone else or a different vocation I would find even more joy in. It seemed impossible, but I was certain God would not let me down, even if it felt that way right now. I continued my studies and finished my Bachelor. I moved back to my hometown and applied for job after job after job. In late September I finally was offered a job. In southern California. Change. Bright, shiny change. Sunshine. Ocean. Completely different life. I said yes, and started the arduous task of obtaining a working visa.
October 3rd came around and I received an email in my inbox. From Andy. He was announcing to his family (and had included me) that he had decided to leave the seminary. At the end of his email to me he offered the opportunity to chat. I obliged.
October 4th we called and talked for the first time since that fateful January conversation. He shared that over the summer he had experiences that revealed discontentment with his vocational choice. He reflected on his experiences and was feeling more dissatisfied with where he was going. He took two weeks of retreat to focus on this to see if he was misinterpreting. He went back to the seminary to start studies and to see if it had just been the lack of community that was driving this sense of isolation from the vocational choice. It wasn’t. And so he decided that, in his best interest, he would leave the seminary and go into uncharted waters, not studying with the intention of ordination for the first time in 8 years. And he remembered our friendship and how much joy it had brought to him. He wondered if I had moved on from where I stood last January, or if I might be willing to start a journey with him. Profoundly, my heart had not moved on, and my hope had never truly faded. Yes, I would go on this journey with him, with overabundant joy.
I attended my convocation, and a short month later proceeded to move to California. Eight months later, we became engaged, and one year after that, we became married. Our courtship was completely over distance, but we had several years of good friendship as a foundation for the distance, and it made our marriage all that more celebratory to finally be in the same place.