If there's one thing I've learned about myself over the last several years, it's what my love languages are: words of affirmation and physical affection (usually equal, but sometimes one is stronger than the other, or more appropriate). Today is about the former. As we get older, most of have the experience of friends going away for new chapters in their lives. I've gone through this before, sometimes as the one leaving, and sometimes as the one left behind. This summer, starting this upcoming weekend, I will yet again have the experience of the one being left behind.
Over the past three years, I've had two amazing people enter my life—one younger than me and one older. One I met through my church, and another attended my undergraduate alma mater after I left and we connected through mutual friends. What these two people share in common is how much they mean to me and the lessons they have taught me: how to love myself, and how to love God.
When someone plays a part in changing you for the better, they deserve credit. I also know both of these people very well, so anonymity seems more preferable under the current circumstances. That being said, apart from my partner, I don't think anyone else has played such a pivotal role in shaping the man I am as of writing this post.
My girlfriend from church (person A) has been one of the most amazing women I've ever known. She's loved me deeply, and through several periods of change. She's been the kind to come over (or have me over), cook a meal, and sit down to watch some Dr. Who. We've gone out for numerous ice cream dates, or cocktail hours. She gives some of the most amazing hugs. We're able to talk shop about theology and practical ministry. We're able to talk about grief, depression, anger, and other mental health issues. We share a mutual love for our feline counterparts (me for hers and she for mine). But I think best of all, we're able to sit down, turn on a movie, and sit in silence while respectively playing games or reading eBooks. When I lost Nanny, she became one of the most visible people around, and has not been the kind to show annoyance at my sporadic bouts of grief. She's helped shape my perception of God as well as my perception of self. She shares some of my frustrations with church, and she shares some of my doubts and questions about God. Rarely were our times together planned; instead, they surfaced out of a random phone call with one of us asking if the other was available and wanted to hang out. She's made me a better man, and hopefully, I've made her a better woman.
My other friend (person B) is someone whom I've dubbed my straight husband. There have definitely been periods where I've spent more time and been more vulnerable with him than with my actual husband. We share different denominational backgrounds. We share the reality of a broken family system. We share a love for God that has at times been stunted and harmed by those around us. We both love scotch and cigarettes out on the back deck, sometimes under the setting sun, and other times in the dark of a 3 a.m. winter's night approaching morning. We love Queer As Folk (and also apparently Linkin Park). He's a baritone who plays bass, and I'm a tenor who plays acoustic. He thinks I'd be a great professor, and I think he'd be a great pastor. We've experienced moments of unequaled vulnerability (sometimes sober, and others most definitely not). He's helped me think more critically about relationships with others, and I'd like to believe I've helped him think more deeply about his relationship with himself. He's gotten better at listening, but then again, so have I thanks to him. He's made me a better man, and I hope I've done the same for him.
I'm still in denial about both of these amazing people leaving, but I know that while the nature of our communication will change, our love for and impact upon one another will not. I don't remember to thank God often enough for a lot of people in my life, but for these two, I definitely give thanks.