Last year I was dubbed the Knight of the Broken Heart. This happened when I was sharing stories about my romantic mishaps with a group of YFC kids on a trip to Florida. In light of the upcoming holiday, I believe it would be apropos to give the story of my only Valentines Day date.
Freshman year of high school was an exciting year. It was more than exciting, it was also a year of discovery. I discovered the battle for identity. I discovered the battle for athletic prominence. I discovered the battle for intellectual recognition. I discovered the battle of the sexes.
I discovered the typical life of a fourteen year old male.
See, I had spent my previous academic endeavors in the ivory towers of the private schools. In Texas I went to a small Baptist school for kindergarten, then a year of homeschooling, and then after my family moved to Michigan I went to a small Nazarene school. My final three years were spent in a 3×3 space called a deskicle (a desk cubicle… yea.. it really isn’t a word, but it expresses what I felt) and surrounded by just a handful of others who also attended the school. Then, on the basketball court I was the biggest and the baddest Ben Wallace imitation you could find.
But in high school I was one of 225+ pieces of fresh meat. Sure a few people had seen me and knew me from basketball camps, or being on the 7th grade tennis team, or running track my 8th grade year, but in all reality I was mostly known for two other reasons.
1) I was the final Murray boy.
2) I was the Christian kid from the Christian school.
Well, what do you do when you only have two identity pieces to go off of? You be who you are!
Well, I was who I thought I was. I was a good kid who loved his older brother, loved basketball, and was decently smart. Oh yea, I was also 6′ 1” and 135lbs going into the start of the cross country season. So I was also the tall kid with very little meat on him (don’t worry, I gained 15lbs of muscle just by running cross country! Ya gotta love being and adolescent male!).
Well, this tall, smart, and goony kid made it into Honors Geology, which was the advanced earth science class for the freshmen. To this day I am still not sure how they decided to place me in that class. I did not take any placement test, and I did not request any sort of honors. But, I guess I did well enough in my science PACEs (this is what a PACE is http://www.christianbook.com/grade-8-science-paces-1085-1096/pd/652438?event=SP102656|468080|102656|468080|102656) to make it into an advanced class.
This advanced class was fairly easy. In fact, word on the street is that it really wasn’t much harder than the Earth Science class. But one of the perks of this class was that we had about 15 minutes of free time during the start of the day. I cannot remember if it was for announcements, channel 1, or just because the teacher was cool. But those minutes were a lot of fun.
They were fun for two reasons.
2) MK (I am using her “initials” so that she can be somewhat anonymous)
Sure, I know there were others in the class, but MK was … wow..! She didn’t think it was weird that I was a Christian. In fact, she really respected me for it. She not only respected me for it, but would want to talk about the Bible with me, or talk about prayer. She had only been a Christian for around a year, so she sort of looked up to me since I had been a Christian for practically all my life, read my Bible daily, and had memorized large portions of Scripture.
And she was pretty. She had dark hair that was slightly curly, and she had eyes that defy description. She was also 5’7” (Why is this a big deal? Well, that meant she was within 6” of me, and at that point I said I would never date a girl who was more than 6” shorter than me). She was also a fantastic volleyball player (she was moved up to JV as a freshman, a feat that means something at a D2 school).
She was a dream come true for this fourteen year old boy.
We did what most kids that age did: we passed notes. Now, I had passed notes back in middle school with a couple of girls, but they were not notes that meant anything. Back in middle school it was just to pass time and not be bored because I was done with my work. But with MK, it was because I genuinely wanted to know about her. She was fascinating.
And she also was the mediator between me and LJ (yup, “Initials”). See, LJ would occasionally say things during class, or to some of my other friends that I just did not understand. She wouldn’t say anything dumb or ludacris… just odd. LJ was (is!) too bright of a girl to say dumb things, but for some reason the statements that would come out of her mouth would cause me to give her looks.
She thought these were death glares.
Now, in my defense, I have always been known for being emotive. My brothers would always rib me just to get one of my expressions out of me (e.g. I remember when I was either 5 or 6 my brothers making me role my eyes because they thought it was hilarious). I was not entirely aware of exactly how my face would contort at times. Oh, and with my massive eyebrows (yup, they have been a staple feature since I was young), I pretty much could scare any small child with the dancing caterpillars.
And these expressions made her think I thought she was dumb and needed to be sent to the corner and wear a dunce cap. So MK would write in some of her notes such things like “LJ really is a smart and nice girl. I think you two would be friends if you gave her a chance.” So naturally this made me have to find out the error of my facial ways and settle the whole matter.
Don’t worry, LJ and I later became friends. Actually, she could be a topic of a series of blogs. She was a pretty major part of my high school. She is great… but I digress…
So, as the year hit the halfway point, we were allowed to choose who we could sit next to in class. Who do you think this infatuated 14 year old wanted to sit next to?
The gorgeous girl who had his heart.
Pretty much everyone that I was friends with knew that I was mad crushing on her. But I never told her. See, I realized that I was pretty young. I was too young to be mature and be able to be a good boyfriend. I would have to wait til I was at least… 16!
I had “us” all figured out. See, we were going to wait until Junior year to date. So for the first two years we would just be good friends who would do activities together and try to have classes together. Then, when we could drive (she was 18 days younger than me), we would be able to date. And then, somewhere between Winterfest and Prom our senior year, I would place a circular object with a smaller clear item on her left hand. That ring would be paid for by walking thousands upon thousands of acres of cross pollinating corn fields.
Then we would go into college ready to face the world with our true love beside us.
But I never told her.
Well, February of 2004 came around and it turned out that neither of us had any plans for the 14th. Her mother had met me a handful of times, so one night over msn messenger we came up with the idea that we should just go over to her house and play euchre.
But who would be our 4th person?
Well, my wingman on that night was my best friend from my youth. This was the friend who people thought was my twin when we went to summer camps together. Well, if we were twins, I feel really bad for our mom. He was a grade above me and was also a year and a half older than me. He could drive. So he picked me up from my house and took me over to MK’s house.
It was great. I was partners with MK, and my best friend was partners with MK’s mom!
Shockingly, I cannot remember how the card games went. It was a pretty fun night though, and that is basically all I can remember.
But that was pretty much one of the last memories I have of her mom. She passed away tragically during a storm in the Spring.
That was one of the worst nights of my life that I can remember. I still can remember what track meet I was at when I found out the horrible news.
I can still remember calling her on the phone and talking to her that night.
I can still remember the feeling of confusion I had.
Why did this wonderful woman pass away so quickly? What was supposed to happen to her girls?
And how could I be there for MK?!
She didn’t know that I had our future planned out. She just thought I was a super nice guy. She just thought I was a good friend. So she did what any girl in her position did: she dated the guys who asked her out.
And she was dating one of those guys during that time. And honestly, he is a great guy. He was great to her during the time of tragedy. He probably was better for her than I could dream.
But I had never dreamed of anything so tragic. I would never have thought that in the moment of her greatest emotional need, I would just be a friend over the phone. I still remember sobbing that night, just wanting to be there to hold her and let her cry on my shoulder.
I remember being so angry at God, at the situation, and at myself. Things like this aren’t supposed to happen.
Well, over the next few years MK moved around with her dad and her aunts and uncles. She still dated others guys and I still was the friend.
Then during the summer going into our senior year we were both counselors for YFC trip. During that trip we went old school and passed notes during one of the bus rides (that same trip is where one of my top 5 most embarrassing moments happened). We just would hand a notebook back and forth with questions and answers back and forth.
And during that time she said how much her mother had loved me. In fact, ever since that Valentines Day her mom frequently had asked her “when is Ben coming over?” But MK said she just told her mom “Ben doesn’t like me like that. We are just friends.”
We were just what!!!??
Half the school new I thought she was Athena incarnate! How could she think that?
So two years after my heart was completely ripped out, she found out that I was nuts about her. Well, she found out that I was nuts about her as a Freshman.
She had changed, and I had changed.
I told her that I just didn’t think we should date so I hadn’t said anything. She “evidently” had moved on in my eyes and didn’t like me, so she dated other guys. But then I found out that she had been head over heels about me too. She just didn’t know if she should wait. So she stopped waiting for me.
But sometimes I think about what it would have been like if I had told her sooner. What if I had told her that Valentines Day that I wanted her to be my girlfriend? What if I explained that I couldn’t really be in a serious relationship because my parents didn’t want me to, and because I didn’t think I was mature enough?
I think about this when people ask me why I am not married. I think about this when I see severe spring storms. I think about this when I see volleyball.
But I don’t let my mind settle on it very long. She is married now. She has a few kids and she loves them to death.
So, on the eve of Singles Awareness Day, I decided to give the complete story of why I am deemed the Knight of the Broken Heart. I didn’t give all these details to the high school kids. I didn’t have the time, and I also had used a couple of names.
But I told them this story not for sympathy. And I don’t tell it tonight for sympathy. I tell it because I want people to know that I do understand that there can be honest heart break during those adolescent years. There are pains so severe as shattered dreams. Especially when those dreams involve love.
Paul told the Roman church that they were to “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” We can do this best when we are honest about the feelings in our own life. Empathy cannot come from a vacuum. It is not produced from voids. It is produced from our life experiences. And I hope that the story which earned me my title can help others realize that I do honestly weep with them when they tell me of heartbreak.
Sure it may not be on the same level, but this is the pain I access when I try to meet others inside of their pain. I do this because Christ was able to point me to the glory of the Gospel message through all this pain. It was his life and Gospel that got MK through that hard time, and it was the same that got me to move on with my life.