“Hi. Alright. I’m on my way. Take care. Ok. Bye.”
Right after I pressed the ‘end call’ icon on my phone, one of my good friends who overheard me asked, “No ‘I love yous’?!”
Confused, I looked at her and said, “Why not?”
With furrowed brows, she said, “Your relationship with Martin is really weird”.
This is actually not the first time that a good friend would comment something like this towards Martin and me. Many of our close friends would often ask why we do not hold hands, why we do not post couple pictures on Facebook, why we do not kiss, and why we do not tell the world how much we love each other.
Of course, the question that stands above all is why we do not say “I love you” to each other.
THREE YEARS AGO
Martin and I had previous relationships that were just downright insulting to the Lord. We had relationships before that led us to sins upon sins upon sins. I had a relationship before in which both sides were just so focused, clingy and obsessed with one another up to the point that nothing else and no one else mattered around us.
Of course during that time I thought, “He is really the one”/ “This is really a great relationship”. We would announce our “sweetness” all over social media. We would have our couple Facebook albums updated every now and then. We would spend most of our time thinking about, texting and dating one another. We would say “I love you forever and ever” almost all the time. It made me happy, no doubt. Words of endearment brought butterflies in my stomach, sure. But happiness does not mean fulfilment.
I was so blinded by my feelings that I justified and tried to deny every obsession and sin. I was ignorant and in denial of the relationship’s selfishness. I would often justify our relationship to my family and to the world by saying, “…but we love each other so much. And for as long as we are happy, everything’s gonna be okay”. I was, deep inside, searching for acceptance and belongingness that I tried to grasp the security of my identity and my happiness from someone else.
Just like Martin, I had relationships before that did not honor God at all.
On October 7, 2013, in the midst of desperation and heartaches caused by intense family conflicts, broken friendships, mistrusts, financial problems, career disappointments and personal failures, someone shared to me who Jesus Christ is. By God’s grace, on that day, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and personal Savior.
That same week, I had to let go and surrender all unhealthy relationships to the Lord – relationships that would drag me away from God. It was so hard that I would cry and beg God every night to remove my anxious longing for them. By God’s grace, I found comfort and security from God and His promises, from constant prayers and from the love of a Church.
On January 13, 2014, during my fresh and painful pruning stage from God, I asked God if He could give me a bestfriend who would encourage me to have a deeper relationship with Him.
On January 20, 2014, little did I know, God answered my prayer.
TWO YEARS AGO
It was the final day of an employee orientation for my new job in Makati. I was walking to work early morning when I saw a guy from afar holding two tennis racquets. He was walking towards me from the opposite direction. The moment I realized that it was Martin, I was in shock.
Back story: Martin and I have known each other since we were like 12 or 13. We trained under one tennis coach for a year. Actually, he is the first ever boy whom I said ‘I love you’ to. I was 12 and I was in my puppy-love stage *shrugs*. Martin and I were kind of friends even until college. His school was just across my school, and in our own academic “territories”, we were known to be one of the many student-athletes who go crazy over alcohol, drugs and everything in between. We had an immature 1-week relationship during my sophomore year (2009) and obviously, it was not caused by puppy-love anymore, it was plainly caused by foolishness and arrogance.
Anyway… When I realized that it was Martin, I secretly told God, “Dear God, I do not want to discuss the past anymore. Why is this person in front of me? This is so much of the past”. Honestly, there was a battle in my head if I should greet him or not. But because he saw me already as well, I had no choice but to say hi.
Casually, we asked how each other were and our conversation revolved around “Where do you work now?”, “Since when have you been working?” and “How’s your family?”. It was so awkward for me because shameful memories of college hypocrisy kept running through my head. With a subtle intention to end the awkwardness, I insincerely said “Let’s catch-up soon”, asked him if we could exchange cellphone numbers, and said goodbye.
A week after, Martin asked me if we could meet over coffee. (Side note: His reason for doing so, I will tell you in a while but definitely, it was not because he wanted to date me or anything like that). So one night after work, in a coffee shop along Paseo de Roxas, we talked about our what-has-happened-to-you stories between 2009 and 2014.
Then Martin, out of the blue, told me in a gentle voice, “I have something to tell you…”.
When he said that, deep inside, I was like, “Oh no, This is gonna be so 2009. Here we go again”.
Then Martin continued, “…I am now a Christian”.
When he said that, I was so thrilled that I immediately replied with “Wow! That’s great! Jesus saved me too!”.
The rest of the night, we shared each other’s testimony on how Jesus Christ saved us from our bondages and from ourselves. We talked about what it is like to have a relationship with God now. We also talked about the struggles and joys of being a Christian, and even about the Church that God has blessed us with. We ended up talking until 4 in the morning the next day. But despite this, we felt like time passed by so fast because of all the encouragement we’ve gained from God’s presence and promises.
Later on, Martin told me that his intention for inviting me for coffee was to share to me who Jesus is.
THE DAY WE SURRENDERED
On April 1, 2014, after a little over 2 months of praying for each other, Martin asked me if I could be his girlfriend. The moment I said yes to him, Martin held both my hands and led a prayer. We surrendered our relationship to the Lord, praised the Lord for allowing us to cherish such moment and asked Him to deepen our relationship with Him. We surrendered our relationship to the Lord…
…or so we thought.
In the beginning of our relationship, Martin and I would unconsciously spend a lot of time together. Even though we pursued our relationship with the Lord above all, we were unconsciously eager to pursue each other as well. And the more we attached ourselves to one another, the more we lost sight of Jesus.
We were distracted, tempted and both of us struggled. Martin and I eventually experienced struggles and hardships in many aspects of our lives – relationships, career, family and finances. Most of all, we struggled in our faith in God. Unlike most couples who float on clouds in the beginning of their relationship, Martin and I, after a month, thought we were in the wrong relationship. God evidently checked our hearts and He made us kneel before Him hungry for His mercy, forgiveness and restoration.
Basically, Martin and I stumbled as Christians but God, being our Great Redeemer and Deliverer, did not let us fall.
THE DAY MARTIN AND I BROKE UP
Now this is the part of the story where the question “Why we stopped saying ‘I love you’ to each other” is answered. This is the part of the story where we can really testify that God is faithful even though we are not, and the ones He love, He prune for His glory.
Do you remember the story of Abraham and Isaac? Abraham deeply loved Isaac, his one and only son whom he longed for for so long. But when God tested his heart, He completely surrendered Isaac to God 100% – completely letting go; leaving none for himself without a hint of doubt. Abraham chose God over the one he loves so dearly.
I was definitely rebuked by this passage that it intensely bothered me for an entire week.
One Sunday afternoon, November 1, 2015, after hearing a sermon on “Complete Obedience and Total Surrender”, God asked me, “Trudy, who is more important to you: Martin or I?” Then, I said, “Of course God, it’s You”.
But God responded to me with, “If I am more important to you, surrender Martin to me 100%”.
Unlike Abraham, I was like, “Then why did you allow me to meet him in the first place? I thought he is the one already, why are You doing this to me? We both have a relationship with You, isn’t that enough?”
And God said to me, “Drop it 100% and trust Me”.
That same day, after Church service, Martin and I decided to meet-up. Little did I know, Martin was also personally going through a battle like mine for the past week (I know right? Talk about the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s perfect timing).
Martin and I talked about what’s really going on. In spite our many attempts to justify our relationship, in the end, by God’s grace, we decided to break up. Of course, the surrender part was hard, but actually, the acceptance part was even harder. But today, as we look back, the hardships and adjustments were comforted and relieved by God’s grace through faith. Our heartaches turned into blessings upon blessings upon blessings.
Side note: Only our closest friends, particularly our church family, knew about our break-up at first. Most of them, of course, were surprised. But our Pastor and my Bible Study leader encouraged us to stand by it with Christ and to live by faith.
GOD’S FAITHFULNESS TO US TODAY AND EVERYDAY
Today, Martin and I do not spend our mornings with breakfast dates anymore, we now spend our mornings extending our time with God’s word. Martin and I still manage tennis camps and personal coaching responsibilities together but this time, we do not rely on one another anymore, we rely on God more and we do it for the Lord.
Martin and I still see each other but not for the purpose of being together anymore, but for the purpose of tennis trainings, tennis camps, church fellowship, ministry and discipleship. Martin and I do not hold hands anymore nor do we deliberately announce our “unconventional” relationship status. We do not hug or kiss anymore nor do we publicly display our affection.
By God’s grace, Martin remains as a worship leader and Bible Study leader in Church and remains to be in Christ as Christ fulfills His promises and faithfulness in his life. God’s faithfulness remains true to me as well… today and everyday.
Do we still respect each other’s family? Of course. Do we still talk to each other? Sure. Do we have a problem-free life now? Definitely not. Has God already fulfilled His plans for us? Not yet. We believe that this is just a beginning. God is still molding us gracefully, patiently, lovingly and mercifully for his Glory. Do we still say “I love you” to each other? Not anymore. Our priority right now is to pursue Jesus Christ as our #1 priority.
Do we fear that we won’t end up together? Not anymore. We trust that God’s plans are better than our plans and God’s ways are higher than our ways. Do we miss each other? Sure but more than this, we pray for each other. Do we still question God with His leading? Not anymore. If it was not for the break-up, we won’t look up to Him wholeheartedly. Are you a better person today? No, not at all. I still have to undergo more training, and I am in great need of God’s daily guidance, protection and miracles.
How about our God? the God above all these? Well… He remains perfectly faithful.