Waiting for the lights to change: My unrequited love

Anthea Lee // May 25, 2018, 3:46 pm


I stretched my hands out.

Droplets of fresh rain rolled off the edge of the building and danced on my fingertips at a slow, rhythmic beat. The road ahead glistened with puddles of water.

“Looks like it just stopped raining,” my friend beside me commented. “Shall we go?” I looked at the pedestrian crossing just in front of us. “Let’s wait for the green light,” I replied. But as soon as the words left my mouth, the stoic red man on the traffic light turned green with an animated trot. My friend suppressed her laughter. She gestured for us to move and walked off.

I shook my head and smiled – half amused, half resigned – at the impeccable timing. Sometimes I wonder if the universe conspires against me. I crossed the road hastily and caught up with my friend. We walked to the next traffic junction straight ahead and waited for the traffic light to turn green once again.

While waiting, my friend suddenly pointed at my feet. “Your shoes!” she exclaimed. I knew, before looking down at my damp footwear, that my once-white shoes were now muddied. True enough, they were now of a murky-grey colour. My friend continued lamenting how I should have avoided the puddles more carefully.

I wriggled my toes and stared at my dirt-stained shoes, thinking of someone who once taught me that dirt is nothing to be afraid of.

“Hi Auntie, my name is Don. This is my friend, Thea,” Don was speaking to a dishevelled old woman in a wheelchair. Her hair was matted with grease and her clothes were unkempt. He motioned for me to come over.

I plastered on a smile as I reluctantly willed my feet to move. “Hi Auntie …” I greeted as I approached her.

She nodded in response to me and I caught a whiff of something unpleasant as she moved her head. A few flies buzzed around her. I swallowed hard. I tried not to wonder when was the last time she showered.

Don, however, seemed unfazed by the pungent smell. He was busy striking up a conversation with her. We found out that she lives near the hawker centre we ate at, in a one-room flat.

Auntie slowly warmed up to us. Then, as a friendly gesture, she offered us some bread someone had given her earlier that morning.

Waiting isn’t about stopping. It’s about running till someone runs at your pace.

I watched as she broke the bread, my eyes transfixed on the dirt and grime under her nails. When she handed the pieces to us, I tried not to scream in horror. I was still scrambling to think of ways to reject her when Don did the unthinkable. He reached out, took the bread, and ate it without missing a beat.

“Thanks, Auntie!” He smiled. And for the first time, I saw the purest form of love that I had only known through the Bible: Acceptance.

I could have been ashamed of my own wretchedness. But Don’s tenderness filled the atmosphere and enveloped me all at once. See, when love finds you, it doesn’t come in thunderstorms or crashing tides. It inches towards you slowly, like the soft waves on your feet along a sandy shore – gentle, comforting and warm all at the same time.

I fell in love with Don that day. And then over and over again, every single day.

It wasn’t too difficult for me to see him on a daily basis. We studied in the same school and once, I caught a glimpse of his timetable and memorised it by heart. Knowing the exact time he would be in the study lounge, I would wait for him there every day.

Sometimes we would talk about random stuff over lunch. Other times we would wordlessly revise our homework together. But every moment I was with Don was time well-spent. I felt like I could wait for him forever – It didn’t matter to me how long it would take for him to notice me.

But by waiting for him, I was simultaneously letting other things slip by.

“Sometimes we think God placed us in a season of waiting when all along, we’ve been waiting at the wrong place.”

I wasn’t able to concentrate on my studies. I would pretend I was doing my work when I was with him, but all I could think about was just how close he was to me. I got distracted in my ministry too. Instead of going all out for God and pursuing Him wholeheartedly, I slowed down and I waited – hoping by human means things would move.

I knew my obsession with Don was crippling me, but it’s not easy to pick yourself when lovestruck – blind to the degree of preoccupation he was taking up in my life.

Until a mutual friend confided me in that she liked Don too.

She talked about how she felt around him: How her heart would flutter, how she couldn’t concentrate whenever he was near – feelings all too familiar to me. She had also begun to lose her focus in life.

Like looking into a mirror at my own reflection, I saw everything with a sudden clarity: I had stopped running after God in my pursuit of Don – everything now revolved around him.

“Thea, we’ve been waiting at the wrong junction! The crossing is up ahead!”

I snapped back to reality. I looked at my friend and then at the junction where we stood. She was right. There was no pedestrian crossing. We had been waiting at the wrong place this entire time.

Laughing, she continued, “Isn’t it just like life? Sometimes we think God placed us in a season of waiting when all along, we’ve been waiting at the wrong place.”

Her words went deep into my soul – there was truth in it.

Someone once told me this: “God just wants you to run after Him. Don’t look to the left or to the right. Run the race that’s set before you. We’re on a marathon of our lives. And when we run a marathon, don’t stop for the guy that’s calling for you in the sidelines. Run until there’s someone running at your pace with you.”

We often think waiting for someone requires a compromise on our other commitments. We stop attending church, stop serving in cell group, stop investing in our relationship with God just to develop a relationship with someone else. All that had once driven us now takes a backseat.

But waiting isn’t about stopping. It’s about running till someone runs at your pace. And I realised I’ve been waiting at the wrong place this whole time.

I should be running instead.

Names have been changed in this article for confidentiality.