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Life together #2: Hope deferred

Delayed hope makes the heart sick,
but fulfilled desire is a tree of life.
--Proverbs 13:12

I remember some nights when I was living on my own, I couldn't fall asleep. On some of those nights, I cried, alone in my room where I was safe from the pitying eyes of my friends.

I don't like crying in front of people. In college, my longtime roommate -- my best friend there, in whose wedding last year I was maid of honor -- didn't see me cry until two or three years after we met. It's a trust thing, a privacy thing, maybe a pride thing too.

And whether it was lack of sleep or hormones or loneliness, on those nights I cried I knew I'd feel better in the morning, that the inexplicable sadness I felt would not feel so ... unbearable?

Most of the time, if I cried -- if, once in a while when -- it was late at night, some hours after I'd seen a touching interaction between a friend of mine and their child, or after I'd watched a chick flick. The kind where the guy ends the movie with an unabashed declaration of his love for the protagonist.

You pray in those moments, mostly for the thing you know you don't have, and don't know if you ever will have. For some of us, it's the hope of hearing someone say "I love you," someone you just might be able to love in return. For others it's something different -- hope for a newborn in a crib, maybe. You pray that either the blessing would be granted, or the lack of it felt less keenly. You pray that you won't break down in public, too.

You pray for years, never knowing whether the "no" you've gotten so far is really only a "not yet" or... the answer you don't want.

Sometimes the story ends happily. The hope is fulfilled, no longer deferred. The vague possibility becomes a concrete reality. You wear the white dress and kiss the man in the suit, and it all feels surreal.

It rarely goes as planned, though. When I prayed for someone to fall in love with, I thought it was possible, but I certainly didn't bargain on falling for a foreigner. Spending my newlywed months still living alone in my house, still wetting my solitary pillow with tears on occasion.

It's different now. I don't know if it can be called better or worse -- it's just different. My hope is fulfilled, and for that, I am grateful beyond measure.

But in place of the loneliness of not knowing, is the loneliness of knowing. It's a different feeling, this loneliness of being apart from the flesh-and-blood man I almost didn't believe existed. The hope is far nearer and far more certain. And yet, it's almost more acute, this loneliness, precisely because of that hope.


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