Going back to last episode of Kevin’s life, I was studying abroad in France and had just experienced easily the lowest, most difficult week of my life after an inappropriate experience with another man. I needed a way to process.
But what to do? I knew that if I’d never studied abroad — if I’d just spent that semester back at my college — that nothing like this would have ever happened. I wouldn’t have gone out drinking. I wouldn’t have shared a bed, especially naked, with another guy.
The guilt was overwhelming. And I still had two more months before I could return to America, back to people with whom I could talk.
But even when I got back home, how would I tell anybody what I had done? What would they think of me? Beyond other people, how would these events impact my faith? Where was Jesus during all of this?
My core fear at that moment — that my relationship with Jesus had been severed. Or at least drastically diminished.
After several days worrying, I realized that I needed to process with somebody who knew me (and Jesus). The people who came to mind were my friends, Jacob and Jon. I knew they cared about me, but I was anxious about their reaction. What would they think of me?
What did Jesus think of me?
Eventually, I took the risk and emailed Jon and Jacob. While waiting for their responses, I held my anxiety at bay, because I still had classes to attend.
When I did hear back from my friends, I received grace, challenge, and love. They felt my pain, understood the brokenness I felt.
They encouraged me to confess and receive forgiveness from a loving Savior.
They challenged me to set boundaries with this other guy and to create rhythms in order to live a healthier life.
They longed to be with me, yet encouraged me to live and enjoy my time in France.
So, I had to have a chat with this guy. I knew it would be difficult, but he’d become part of my established group of friends in France, so it was necessary.
Though I felt hurt by him, I owned up to my role in those events — because, yes, part of me did want to drink, want to be with another guy.
We didn’t agree on the how and why of everything that had happened, but we were able to spend time within our group without awkward tension.
On a personal, spiritual side beyond that conversation, I had plenty to learn. Owning up to my sin and broken desires required big lessons in repentance and receiving grace and forgiveness. I turned from late-night parties but still saw the goodness of those people.
And while these friends helped me enjoy many trips and small moments in France, I found myself drawn back to contemplative practices. Free evenings were spent on solitary walks, and I found myself taking mornings to read and journal.
As the season turned to spring, I found myself in gardens, enjoying a meal with friends on a patio or sharing stories with the small Christian group I’d found.
Wait. Notice the change?
Despite the negativity I felt about myself and the extra walls I had built around relationships and people in general, my alone times showed me that getting up and going out would be the best ways to heal and move forward.
I took a weekend trip to Paris with one of the Americans but only spent one day with her; the other, alone, spending time enjoying the small moments around campus and a parade downtown.
My biggest leap before I left France was a weekend conference with the Christian group. Extreme amounts of unknown French words and new people, but overall a filling experience. I also met other American Christians studying abroad.
My heart broke, reminded of the hardness of hearts in this other country.
And my heart broke more as I questioned my semester and future. Studying abroad is meant to be THE semester of one’s college career.
How would I reconcile the fun trips and the subsequent depths of depression? The great conversations with my own brokenness? The beautiful art and scenery with a newly tainted view of relationships?
There wasn’t an adequate answer then. I’m not sure there is now either.
Young Kevin was learning that life isn’t black and white. There are plenty of muddled, beautiful grays.
And when life gets confusing, I can only stop and think in circles so much. Eventually, I have to get up, talk, go out, and keep living.
I have to see the brokenness and trust in the process, trust in the God who knows more than me.
Have you struggled to believe what Jesus thinks of you in the aftermath of personal sin? Did you confess your sin to somebody or find this difficult as well?