ERIC MINGLE:One night, I just staggered into Walmart in the middle of the night. I walk in and I see this shirt. It said, "Single... Want to mingle?" If you missed it, that's my name, Mingle, and I knew this was a sign from God. I need to get back on the scene. I need to rebound, starting with buying this shirt for $9.99, so I did. I did, and I wore it three days a week, at least.
AMANDA DAYTON:When I was 16, my high school theater director announced that he was planning, with another school, a week-long theater immersion trip in New York City, and for the theater-loving nerd that I was, that was my dream come true. When my mom announced they had signed up for a payment plan and registered me to go, I was beyond excited. It was jazz hands and superstars for months, so we spent the next few weeks scouring all the thrift stores in Austin, Texas, until we had amassed a collection of pieces so beautiful, y'all, I still think about it today. All that to say, I went to New York City looking and feeling fly as hell.
AMANDA DAYTON:On day two, when a handsome boy from the other school took notice of me, and asked if I could trade seats with his friend at the show that night, so we could sit together, I wasn't even surprised. I was in the midst of my own personal fairytale, so of course, I'm going to meet a prince and fall in love in New York City, like duh. On the last day, we got a three-hour pass in New York City, and he took the opportunity to ask me on a date. Of course, I kissed him, and the next day I left New York City feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. I couldn't wait to plan our next date when we got home.
ERIC MINGLE:This is where I turn into a real tool bag, and that's just putting it real nicely, but on the first night, the first party, I meet this girl. Her name was Sabra. Maybe that was my indicator. We hit it off. Long story short, the night ended with me walking her out to her car. I took her keys. She's like, "I'm going to be late getting home."
ERIC MINGLE:I was trying to be cool and maybe get her to stay a little longer, so we could kiss, and so I took her keys, and I threw them in the field.
ERIC MINGLE:That's not the bad part. She actually liked that part. We walked down the field, and that's where we first made out. The next night, I'm bored. I want to go to another party, so I drove nine miles away to a different party this time. Sure enough, same exact thing happened. Man, I meet this cute girl, and we start talking, and I walked her to her car, and I threw her keys. No, I didn't throw her keys the second time. We just started making out. It was great, and I was like, I am back in the game. I can retire this shirt after just two weeks of wearing it.
ERIC MINGLE:I walk into class on Monday morning, and you know when you walk into a room, and it's like everybody knows something that you don't? It was the girls who were giving me that real dirty look, and they said, “You know, you're a tool bag.”
ERIC MINGLE:I'm like, “What are you talking about? You don't know me!”
ERIC MINGLE:They're like, “Dude, you made out with Sabra and Heather?”
ERIC MINGLE:I was like, “How do you know both of them?”
ERIC MINGLE:They said, “Because they're in the same class, and not only that, they're best friends.”
AMANDA DAYTON:When he came to pick me up, he seemed genuinely confused to be arriving to a duplex in a not-so-lovely part of Austin. The rest of that date was spent in a series of awkward silences, because the girl he had met in New York City was not the girl he was sitting next to now. Before he took me home, he decided to drive me to his house, tucked in a gated community. He hadn't brought me there to take me inside to meet his family. No, he just needed me to see it. I guess it was the best way he could communicate why he would never be calling me again. It's hard to explain how this experience affected me.
ERIC MINGLE:They said, "You need to apologize."
ERIC MINGLE:I'm like, "You know what? I'm not above that. I am a good guy." I called the first one that night, and I apologized, and she understood. She really... She was cool about it. I was like, "So you still want to hang out?"
ERIC MINGLE:She was like, "Yeah." I was like, hey, things are looking up.
ERIC MINGLE:I called the next one, and she didn't answer, but her sister did. Two hours later we got off the phone, and two weeks later, we were in a relationship.
AMANDA DAYTON:I wouldn't see him again for a few years, not until my first week of college at the University of North Texas, when I spotted him across the Student Union. There was my prince, who I had imagined had gone off to some Ivy League school or was off in New York City becoming a famous actor, but no. He had gone no further than I had, and I did have a realization. Somewhere along the way, I had decided that this guy was better than me. I also realized I was never going to make that mistake with anybody else ever again.
AMANDA DAYTON:We locked eyes. He smiled, and I scowled, and I walked away. I thought, that's a pretty perfect ending for us, but I was wrong, because a semester later, I would walk outside my dorm just in time to see him being arrested and his car being drug-searched. Man, it felt good to know that karma had not forsaken me, y'all. She had come for his ass and, in her infinite beauty, had allowed me to bear witness to it. That is why I still believe in fairytales.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Those were a couple of the most cringe-worthy stories from Real Romance, which was an open mic event about dating and relationships that my church put together last month. It was the first of four evenings, where singles from all over Houston gathered to meet some new people, and to share their stories, and to learn new ways of approaching their singleness. By the end of the four weeks, just about everybody agreed on one universal truth. Dating... It's the worst, and it's time that we find a better way.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Today with part two of this episode, we're questioning all our assumptions about dating, romance, and marriage by hearing the powerful story of a young woman who overcame incredible obstacles on her path toward healing and wholeness. Her story points to what I believe is the most important message singles need to hear today. We'll bring God into this discussion as well, because according to many of the singles I've been talking to, He doesn't seem to be hearing their prayers, and they want to know why. That's all today on Maybe God.
RADIO: (Maybe God Theme)
ERIC HUFFMAN:You're listening to Maybe God. I'm Eric Huffman.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Why do some people get married, while others don't? Why do the prayers of so many single people seem to go unanswered? Doesn't God care about our dreams of marriage and children? I'm faced with questions like these all the time, and it's heartbreaking.
ERIC HUFFMAN:From birth, most of us are raised to think about marriage and family as the holy grails of our lives. Most little girls grow up playing with dolls and playing house. Many little boys grow up being taught that we have to be strong and protective providers for the families we'll certainly have one day. Where do these domestic dreams of the nuclear family come from? Many Christians assume they come from God. Our churches taught us that the ideal Christian life is one man, one woman, two or three kids, and a mortgage, right? Or was that just the American dream?
ERIC HUFFMAN:In part one of this episode, I insisted that our adoration of the nuclear family is far from biblical. God doesn't idolize marriage the same way our culture does. In fact, the New Testament says if you can live a life of integrity without getting married, then you should. Now, that doesn't mean we have to stop searching for love and marriage. I'm only suggesting that unmarried does not equal incomplete, and being single is not the same as being alone. Trust me. You can be married and all alone, and you can be single and surrounded by love. Maybe the point of dating isn't to find your missing piece. Maybe a better strategy is to put off dating altogether until you're whole and healthy and holy.
ERIC HUFFMAN:In planning these episodes, I was constantly reminded of one woman's story, because I think it embodies the most important message that I'd like all our listeners to hear. When she was in her early 20s, Meredith was working on herself, and she was healing from her traumatic past. That's when she found the love of her life, and believe me, it's not what it sounds like.
MEREDITH KIRK:It was actually a little funny to me that I was asked to speak on dating, because I've been single for about five years, and I can probably count on one hand the number of dates I've been on in that time, so I thought, I have nothing relevant to talk about.
ERIC HUFFMAN:I'm actually really surprised to hear that, because you're gainfully employed, you're bright, you're... How old are you?
ERIC HUFFMAN:Mid 20s. You're a beautiful girl. What's the story there?
MEREDITH KIRK:For the longest time, I thought, there's just something wrong with me. There were things about my life that other people will never accept, and I'm just broken. I just thought, I'm just going to be single forever. Every day was a reminder of, oh you're lonely because you're broken. You're lonely because you're not good enough.
MEREDITH KIRK:That plagued me for a really long time.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Yeah, it never ceases to amaze me how different someone can see themselves versus how others see them, like the difference between your self-image and, I think, others' perception of you couldn't be greater sometimes. It happens all the time with people. When I look at you, I see all these wonderful attributes, not least of which the fact that you used to be a professional ballet dancer, but now you help run a Krav Maga studio-
MEREDITH KIRK:I do, yeah.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Here in Houston, so you can basically take down anyone, guys two or three times your size. You're a force, right?
MEREDITH KIRK:Sometimes I thought that the Krav was a problem, too, though.
ERIC HUFFMAN:I could see that.
MEREDITH KIRK:It's a little scary. It could be intimidating, so I used to just say, “I'm a teacher.” I wouldn't tell people what I taught. They were like, “What do you teach?” I'm like, “Just some physics stuff.”
ERIC HUFFMAN:Stuff. That's hilarious.
ERIC HUFFMAN:At first glance, Meredith is not a formidable presence. She's maybe 115 pounds soaking wet. Just looking at her, you'd never expect to see her take down multiple male attackers, handle dangerous weapons, and engage in hand-to-hand combat, the likes of which I've only experienced in video games.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Krav Maga, if you haven't heard of it, is a self-defense and fighting system, first developed by the Israeli Army in the mid-1900s. To understand why this former professional ballerina got into this type of self-defense, it's important to understand her relationship with her biological father.
MEREDITH KIRK:He was never physically violent, but he always knew what to say and how to challenge emotions in an unhealthy way, and so I was already very broken and didn't really have a lot of... a sense for what love really was, at that point. A father is supposed to be his daughter's first love, and I didn't have any concept of that. I think, out of everyone, he placed the most anger on my mother. We were all just kind of collateral, but it was all directed towards my mom, lots of anger, again never physical violence, but a lot of emotional manipulation definitely centered with her. When he was around, the image of their relationship certainly wasn't anything that I really wanted for myself.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Yeah, siblings?
MEREDITH KIRK:I'm the youngest of six.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Meredith was 12 years old when her father's anger did turn physical.
MEREDITH KIRK:I really started to get a different sense of the kind of anger he had and was just really fearful that something terrible was going to happen, and I didn't know what it was. Eventually, he came home from work one night. My mom wasn't home yet. It was just me, my sister, and my brother. He came home from work just in this fit of rage and screaming, and saying all of these awful things about my mother, and all of the violent things that he was going to do to her.
MEREDITH KIRK:My sister and I were really afraid. We called the police, and they came to the house. They waited with us until my mom got home. They said, “You shouldn't stay here tonight. You should let him cool off. Go find somewhere to stay,” so we went around the corner, and we stayed at my grandmother's.
MEREDITH KIRK:The next morning, we got up to go back to the house, so my mom could get ready for work. I just remember walking into the house, and there was just this cloud, this suffocating cloud of darkness. I knew. I knew something was going to happen. I positioned myself right by the phone, because I thought, I'm going to have to call 9-1-1.
MEREDITH KIRK:My dad was still home, which was really weird. He normally left very early, and it was maybe 9:00 or so in the morning at this point. He was in the bedroom. My mom got ready for work, and as she went to leave the room, he grabbed her, and pulled her back in, and started stabbing her. I tried calling the police. He had done something to the phone, so we couldn't call out, and cell phones weren't really a huge thing, so my sister was running to try to find hers. I ran to the kitchen, and I got a knife out of the block and ran back into the room to try to stop him.
MEREDITH KIRK:I just remember my grandmother interceding, and she took the knife from me. When she did that, he was stabbing her. It was just this awful, horrendous thing, and not knowing really, just seeing blood everywhere, and not knowing the extent of what was happening, but knowing that it was awful. It was terrible.
ERIC HUFFMAN:My gosh. You're describing this like it's just happening right in front of you, like within arm's reach all this is happening, and you're 12.
MEREDITH KIRK:Mm-hmm (affirmative), 12 years old, and just the, oh the helplessness that just consumes you in that moment, I mean, I carried that burden of helplessness for most of my life.
ERIC HUFFMAN:The police eventually showed up. Her mom and grandma were taken by ambulance to the hospital, where her mom stayed for several weeks. Meredith's older sister moved back into the house to take care of Meredith and her siblings.
MEREDITH KIRK:We just went back to the house, and it was like, I just like... I don't want to be here, you know?
MEREDITH KIRK:Just all the lights were still on. It was just this spooky thing-
MEREDITH KIRK:Where everything was the way it was, and blood was still everywhere.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Oh, my gosh, you never think about that, I think.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Nobody cleans that up for you.
MEREDITH KIRK:Nobody, and so to stay in that house that night and until I moved out, I mean, I hated it.
ERIC HUFFMAN:What did the rest of your childhood and adolescence look like?
MEREDITH KIRK:Just dealing with that intense betrayal from somebody that you love so much, I became such an angry person. I was a terrible person. I was jaded.
ERIC HUFFMAN:In the aftermath of that.
MEREDITH KIRK:Yeah, and I wanted love, but I also didn't trust anyone to give it to me, and I thought that everyone had some kind of ulterior motive in being in my life, and that pain was just going to be all I ever experienced. We were actually really heavily involved in church. I mean, we were the... every Sunday morning, every Sunday night, every Wednesday. My parents taught Sunday School.
MEREDITH KIRK:I think my dad was a deacon, and so there was this whole other level of betrayal, because all of these people that were “Christians” just abandoned my family.
MEREDITH KIRK:I had friends that I literally never heard from again. They just stopped speaking to me.
ERIC HUFFMAN:My gosh.
MEREDITH KIRK:People that knew about the struggles my parents had, they knew about the fear that my mom had, they left her. They ended up testifying as character witnesses for him later, when we went to trial.
ERIC HUFFMAN:For him?
MEREDITH KIRK:For him! It was like, man, I can't trust anyone. There was this fracturing of relationships with people, not just with my family, with my dad, but with people that I thought would support us. Then that just dominoed into relationships with my siblings and questioning, can I really trust them? What else is going to happen?
ERIC HUFFMAN:Meredith was homeschooled, and she graduated at 16. Soon after, she started dancing.
MEREDITH KIRK:For me, that was a really good outlet and a way to get out of the house and escape all of the stifling and the fear that I felt whenever I was at home. I just started pursuing that with everything that I possibly could. Eventually, I moved out. It was in my late teens when I moved out. I was 17, I think. From that point on, I was just very much on my own. My whole worldview became, I'm going to do everything that I can alone, self-sovereignty all the way.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Wow, yeah.
MEREDITH KIRK:I don't want anybody else in my life. I pursued that very hard.
ERIC HUFFMAN:You clearly had that fear of abandonment. The best way to not be abandoned is to not be known.
MEREDITH KIRK:Right, absolutely.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Stay on your own, right?
ERIC HUFFMAN:Which, we laugh about it, but that's... We'd call that hell.
MEREDITH KIRK:Right, it was.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Yeah, I mean isolation and utter loneliness is the closest thing to hell we might know in this life, but sometimes we would rather risk that than risk loving and losing or getting hurt again. Man, in your situation, it's totally understandable.
ERIC HUFFMAN:How long did that go on, that self-isolation?
MEREDITH KIRK:A really, really long time. Eventually, I left the ballet world, and I decided to finish my college degree. I was working full-time for a third-party logistics company and going to school full-time. Emotionally, physically, mentally, I just started to run myself into the ground. I was working 60-70 hours a week. I took eight classes a semester, four semesters in a row: summer, fall, spring, summer. I barely slept. I couldn't afford anything at all. I lived in Sharpstown at the time, which, if anyone is familiar with Houston, it's-
ERIC HUFFMAN:It's really nice there.
MEREDITH KIRK:It's maybe one of the worst parts of town.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Yeah, it's tough living.
MEREDITH KIRK:Yeah, it is tough living. I mean, I was just... had pennies to live on. I ended up getting really, really sick.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Sick how?
MEREDITH KIRK:I got meningitis.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Oh, my gosh.
MEREDITH KIRK:The semester before I finished school, I ended up having to take a medical leave from work, and I was in the hospital for a while, and then I was on bedrest for about a month, which terrified me even more, because I thought, well now I have to pay for school and medical bills.
MEREDITH KIRK:I mean, I had health insurance, but still it was just this weight of everything that I was going to have to carry by myself and-
ERIC HUFFMAN:And when you're all alone, there's nothing worse than laying there and having nothing to do.
MEREDITH KIRK:Yeah, it was terrible. I kept taking classes. I was doing them online, and I just kept plugging along, and eventually I finished school. I started to get better, and when I finished college, I decided that I wanted to learn self-defense. I'd heard about it as a teenager. I saw it on a television program. I saw Krav Maga on Discovery Channel or something. I remember seeing this super-intense Israeli woman throwing dirt in people's eyes and just was so inspiring. That sounds weird. She was throwing dirt in their eyes, and it was inspiring.
ERIC HUFFMAN:She was empowered, man.
MEREDITH KIRK:She was empowered, and seeing the things that they were addressing, that it was real. They were addressing things that really happen in the world, and that resonated with me, because I thought, I've seen those things happen, and I want to know what to do with it. I don't want that helpless feeling anymore.
BACKGROUND:Stop! Stop! Never go down! Never go down!
MEREDITH KIRK:I drove by the Krav Maga school on 59 and Kirby every single day, and so I thought, okay, I'm just going to go do it. This is time. I'm done with school. I have a little bit more financial freedom. I certainly have time. It's not like I have anybody in my life to worry about, so I'm just going to go.
MEREDITH KIRK:That changed everything.
ERIC HUFFMAN:You spent a good portion of this part of your life pushing people away, insisting on isolation and self-preservation, but at some point a man came into your life, who refused to let you push him away.
ERIC HUFFMAN:What made him different?
MEREDITH KIRK:I think the fact that he didn't take no for an answer. He was consistent. It didn't matter what I did to push him away. He showed up anyway.
ERIC HUFFMAN:For our listeners, who are concerned that we're talking about Jesus right now... Some people are like, he's pulling a preacher trick on us. It's Jesus. No, this was a real-
MEREDITH KIRK:It's a real person.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Real live man that you met, who was different.
ERIC HUFFMAN:What's his name?
MEREDITH KIRK:His name is C.J. Kirk.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Hmm, C.J.
MEREDITH KIRK:I met him through Krav. I trained for about a year, and I was invited into an advanced training program. He was teaching this. It was a huge deal for me to be asked into this program, because he's the owner of the school. He's a third degree black belt in Krav Maga, and he wouldn't admit this, but he is probably one of the most highly respected people in the entire Krav Maga worldwide organization. I mean-
ERIC HUFFMAN:Which is a huge deal.
MEREDITH KIRK:It's huge. I was really excited, and so being in advanced training program, the nature of what we were doing was advanced techniques, so we were taking these motor skills that you learn as a level one student and extrapolating it out across higher level techniques. In all that time of training before, I had never had issues where I would have any kind of traumatic issue in class. I had never experienced anything.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Flashbacks or anything like that?
MEREDITH KIRK:Yeah, nothing like that, until that class.
MEREDITH KIRK:We started working knife defense, and I just would shut down, just shut down in class, emotionally, mentally. I would start crying. I would have to leave. I would just get filled with rage. It was becoming a huge problem, and I just didn't know how to manage my emotions, you know? Looking back, I realize for a lot of that, I was operating, not just in this class, but in my entire life, I was operating with the emotional intelligence of a 12-year-old. I didn't know how to respond to all the anger and fear and everything that was welling up inside of me in this class, but I knew that I needed to learn it, and I knew that I needed to be there, and so I asked if I could talk to him after class.
MEREDITH KIRK:I shared a little bit about my family situation with him, and why, specifically, this was challenging for me. That conversation, he just decided that he was going to be my dad. I didn't realize it at that specific moment, but he knew, and that was just, by far, the greatest pursuit that anyone has ever made to be a part of my life.
ERIC HUFFMAN:How did he pursue you?
MEREDITH KIRK:First, he actually invited me to the Candlelight Service here at The Story.
ERIC HUFFMAN:The Christmas one?
MEREDITH KIRK:The Christmas one. He knew that I was going to be spending the holidays alone, like I normally did, and asked me to come. I didn't want to. I thought it was weird that he asked me. He ended up inviting the whole class. He tricked me into coming. I very much felt obligated, because he started announcing it to the class, and he was like, “Oh guys, everyone's invited, and don't worry. Meredith is also coming.”
MEREDITH KIRK:I was like, “What? I didn't ever agree to that. What are you talking about?” Then I was like, well, now I have to show up, because people-
ERIC HUFFMAN:Yeah, the whole class.
MEREDITH KIRK:Are expecting me to be there, and if I don't, it's going to be weird. Then I ended up going to dinner with their family, the Christmas dinner. I mean, it was... I didn't know what to do with any of that. Then after that, every Saturday he'd text me and go, “Hey, we'll see you tomorrow at church at 11:00.”
ERIC HUFFMAN:I think I remember those days, because... I knew C.J. before I knew you, and he is an extraordinary specimen.
ERIC HUFFMAN:I don't know how else to say that, because you see him, and you think, that is just a large human. Then you hug him, and he's like a rock, like solid rock. If the guy from Game of Thrones, The Mountain guy, if he died or lost his contract, C.J. could play Mountain on Game of Thrones. He is a beast. He was coming to The Story, and I remember him kind of dragging you here.
MEREDITH KIRK:Yeah, that's probably the best way to describe it.
ERIC HUFFMAN:You did not have a look on your face that told me, “I'm glad to be here today.” It was like you were being forced to be here almost.
MEREDITH KIRK:Yeah, it was like these arms crossed, teen-aged angst.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Yeah, I didn't really know what to do with you at that time. I was afraid of you, not for the reasons that I'm afraid of you now. You can totally manhandle me, and I know that, but then I was afraid of you, just because of that look on your face. I was like, I have no idea what to say to this person, but now it makes sense. Your prior experience in church did not end well, and so that I can't help but think you projected.
MEREDITH KIRK:Oh, absolutely.
ERIC HUFFMAN:You were thinking, these people are just like those people, and-
MEREDITH KIRK:Right. They're all the same, and he's not going to be any different. Why does it matter that he's a Christian, right?
ERIC HUFFMAN:When were the breakthrough moments for you at The Story, where you were like, I'm not just coming because I have to or because C.J. is coercing me; I'm coming because I want to be here?
MEREDITH KIRK:Part of it was through coercion, if I'm honest.
MEREDITH KIRK:He would sign me up for groups or teams on the Connect cards and just put it in the offering plate, and then I would get emails about these things that I was committed to.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Oh, he would do it without your knowledge?
MEREDITH KIRK:Well, sometimes he would tell me, but then I'd be like, “Hey, I got something about joining the small group”-
MEREDITH KIRK:The relationship we have now really started to form, in the sense that I wasn't so resistant, and I was accepting, and I wanted to be a part of his life, too, was during the fathers' sermon series that you were doing. I was asked to talk about my dad and what had happened in my life previously.
MEREDITH KIRK:I spent several nights crying myself to sleep, asking why God had forgotten about me, and why I couldn't have just had a good father.
MEREDITH KIRK:I don't think I had ever really shared with C.J. what he meant to me, and how much his presence and pursuit of me in my life had really changed. I'd never said it out loud to him, and I was afraid to, because of what that meant to me, and that vulnerability of opening myself up to all that pain again.
MEREDITH KIRK:It didn't take long for C.J. to see how broken I was or recognize that I had a huge, father-shaped void in my life.
MEREDITH KIRK:I ended up writing him a letter, telling him that I finally accepted and loved him as my dad, the way that he wanted to be in my life.
MEREDITH KIRK:C.J. never gave up on me. He's given me a place to belong in his family and taken on the role of a father in my life.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Had he made it known to you, at that point, that he wanted to be your father?
MEREDITH KIRK:Oh, yeah, actually for years before, he would say to me all the time, “You know I'm like your dad.”
MEREDITH KIRK:I'd go, “No, no, you're not. This is weird. I'm a 20-year-old woman. It's too late for that. This is weird. I don't want anything to do with this.”
ERIC HUFFMAN:Right, I don't need that, yeah.
MEREDITH KIRK:Right, and so I was really resistant. After sharing my testimony with everyone here, and then finally writing a letter to him, and I remember being in tears and saying, “Can I call you Dad?”
MEREDITH KIRK:He said, “I've been waiting for that, for a long time.”
MEREDITH KIRK:God never forgot about me. He's given me someone to truly call Dad, and for that I am grateful.
MEREDITH KIRK:It was just this really beautiful moment, and things just continued to blossom. About a month later, he called me on the phone, and he says, “I have kind of a weird question to ask.”
MEREDITH KIRK:I said, “Well, okay.” That was normal. “We don't really have a normal relationship, so go for it.”
MEREDITH KIRK:He goes, “Well, I've been thinking, and I would really like it if you changed your name and officially became my daughter.” He was like, “If you don't want to do it, it's fine. You're still as much of my daughter as you would be if you didn't, but I love you, and I want you to be Meredith Kirk.” I just lost it on the phone. He makes me cry all the time, by the way.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Yeah, I'm about to lose it right now.
MEREDITH KIRK:He does all the time.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Oh, my gosh.
MEREDITH KIRK:I said, “I've been wanting to ask you the same question!” And so we started that process and went through the courts to change my name-
MEREDITH KIRK:To officially be his daughter. It was the most vivid comparison that I could ever make to the love of Christ, I mean, in every possible way. I was just this lonely, broken person, and he saw me, and he loved me anyway. He kept showing up. He met me at my level every time. When I wasn't ready to trust him, he was patient. I was not always nice to him.
ERIC HUFFMAN:I bet.
MEREDITH KIRK:I still had a lot of misdirected anger, and because he was trying to be a father in my life, he got a lot of it, because I had a lot of anger towards my real father. He loved me anyway, and he would keep showing up, and he would just say, “I love you, and you're still my daughter. I love you. You're still my daughter. I love you. I'm proud of you. You're my daughter,” and he'd... I mean, that's what God does. That's what Jesus does.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Yeah, it does sound like Jesus.
MEREDITH KIRK:I mean, it's the same. It's the same thing, and it's so beautiful, and then he took me, and he adopted me into his family, and called me his own, when I didn't deserve it. I think God knew that I needed that picture of human love in my life to really understand His love.
ERIC HUFFMAN:It absolutely sounds like Jesus. There's one story that comes to mind. It's the only time Jesus ever called someone daughter in His whole life. This woman had been sick for 12 years, and she had to be quarantined, or a better word for it is just ostracized. She couldn't be around anyone else. For 12 years, no one had touched her, and she was broke and utterly alone.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Jesus came through town, and she found a way to sneak up to Him, in spite of the crowds that were pressing in around Him. She reached out and touched Him, and He felt it. A woman was not allowed to touch a man, especially that woman, because according to the way things worked then, she had put Him at risk of being sick like her or being ritually, religiously impure, and you didn't do that to a famous teacher like Jesus. He could have had her punished heavily, like stoned to death.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Knowing that she had touched Him, the story says that He turned and knelt down to her level, and listened. The story says that she told Him her whole truth, which I love that line. He sat and listened while she told Him her whole truth. Then, when she was done, He said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” He called her daughter, and He proclaimed her healing 12 years after getting sick. I'm trying to put the numbers together here, but this talk you gave at The Story was about two years ago.
MEREDITH KIRK:It would've been 12 years.
ERIC HUFFMAN:12 years from the time you saw your father try to kill your mom and grandma, 12 years of isolation, 12 years of loneliness, anger, spending everything you have to try and make your own way, nothing working. Then, at your most broken, broken place, a man comes in and says, “Daughter, you're healed.”
ERIC HUFFMAN:How has his love, practically speaking, healed you, Meredith?
MEREDITH KIRK:Hmm, how much time do you have? I think, first and foremost, he showed me what it means to love. I didn't really know what a relationship was. There was a part of me that wanted it, but even if I had it, I wouldn't have known how to operate. He helped me see worth in myself, in my life. I began to have this changing relationship with Christ, which was one of the most powerful things that changed in my life. I'm trying not to cry.
ERIC HUFFMAN:That's okay. A lot of times, people who are single and around your age have this ever-present feeling of a void in their life, like they're just not quite fully human as long as they're single, like they're missing something. How has the love of C.J. and the love of Christ shown you that with relationship or without one, with romance or without it, with marriage or without it, you're okay?
MEREDITH KIRK:The biggest thing that's been challenging me this last year is just that, is that I am a complete person, is that I have enough love. I want a relationship. I want a family. Now, at this point in my life, I see the power of that love, and I want to give that to someone else. The perspective that's really been on my heart is that if C.J., if he's the only human to human relationship that I get to experience on this earth, that is that powerful transformational love, if that's the only one I get, it's enough, because I don't deserve anything else anyway.
MEREDITH KIRK:You know, it's not promised in the Bible that everyone gets married and has a family. I wish it did, but it doesn't.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Yeah, that's a tough one, because everything in our culture screams you don't stop searching. You don't stop feeling that void until you have the one.
MEREDITH KIRK:I'm at that stage in my life, where almost all of my friends are married, and if they're not married, they're engaged. I'm the only single one in the group, and so it can be hard, even in the context of being with people I'm close with, because it's just like there's this thing shoved in your face all the time, like look at what you don't have, and look at what you're missing out on. There's this whole piece of life you're not going to experience, and so every single day, I have to remind myself. I have enough. I have enough.
MEREDITH KIRK:Sometimes I do a really, really good job of it, and other times, I'm a wreck. I'm wallowing in self-pity, and I'm crying at my friend's kitchen table, that I feel alone, and that nobody loves me. It's a challenge, but I know in my heart of hearts that it's true. I think it's in Psalm 37, if you trust in God, He'll give you the desires of your heart, right?
MEREDITH KIRK:I've wanted love my whole life. That's all I've wanted. Then He gave me this incredible man in my life to be love for me. When I think of how completely absurd that is, my expectation had nothing to do, in my life and relationships, with a father. The trajectory of my life was so opposite of thinking that a parental relationship was going to change my life. I had no scope of that reality. That's how He fulfilled that in my life. He fulfilled love through a father.
MEREDITH KIRK:I think when we look for the specific desires of our heart only to be fulfilled in the specific way we want them done, we're always going to be disappointed. We're always going to be lost in ourselves and lose our worth, but if you open up your eyes and your heart to the things of God, you start to see Him working in other ways. I mean, His ways are truly so much better.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Wow. What would your advice be to the one listening now, who is unattached, on all the apps looking for the one, and feeling incomplete? Maybe they don't have a C.J. in their life.
MEREDITH KIRK:I think the biggest thing that can change our dating lives is perspective, right? That perspective of having enough love in my life is where that started for me, but I think the only way that you can expect that perspective to change is through actually taking action in your own life. First and foremost, I would say that you have to cultivate time with God. You have to do it. It has to be a priority. Open your Bible and read it. Just get it out.
MEREDITH KIRK:I love books. I love topical studies. I love devotionals, but that shouldn't be the primary source of your time in the Word, right?
MEREDITH KIRK:Reading what other people think about the Bible.
MEREDITH KIRK:It seems like such a simple concept, but how many just incredibly important theological decisions have I made, based on what someone else thinks, not on what I think? The only way I'm going to form my own opinion and truly have a personal relationship with God is if I open my Bible, and I read it for myself. When I took time to read my Bible, a Book about God, and I began to learn about His character, and who He really was, and what He's done for me and every other person, that's changed everything.
ERIC HUFFMAN:How do you think that changes someone on the dating scene's perspective? What does that actually do to someone's dating life, to get their mind around who God says they are?
MEREDITH KIRK:I think it starts to change the desire, right? It doesn't become this longing that if I can't have it, I can't live, right?
ERIC HUFFMAN:Ooh, yeah, I see that.
MEREDITH KIRK:Which is where I think a lot of people get. Not to say that it takes away the desire completely, but I think there's a peace that comes with it, a peace of knowing that it's okay if I don't.
ERIC HUFFMAN:If it happens, it's great, icing on the cake.
MEREDITH KIRK:Yeah, God has so many other promises in that Book.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Ooh, preach.
MEREDITH KIRK:Being in a relationship with another man or another woman... That's not what everything in His Word is predicated on, and that's not what I should predicate my life on either.
ERIC HUFFMAN:There's a problem in our culture of idolizing sexual relationships and romantic relationships and marriage. The Church is the worst about that. How often do we idolize marriage? It's a problem.
MEREDITH KIRK:Yeah, and the second thing I would say is to make yourself available. I don't mean to make yourself available to date.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Yeah, what do you mean?
MEREDITH KIRK:I mean, make yourself available to serve. That's the Christian life-
ERIC HUFFMAN:It is.
MEREDITH KIRK:Is you love and serve God, and you love and serve others, and that's it. If you don't make time to do those things, everything else is going to fall under the perspective, and you're going to be subject to everything that culture says you should do. If that's where your mind's at, that's where your heart's at. If my mind's not in the Word of God, if my mind's not in prayer, if my mind's not in taking care of other people and serving them, I'm missing it.
ERIC HUFFMAN:That's where the Gospel is. That's where Jesus is, is getting outside of our own heads and hearts and thinking about other people, serving other people, without self-interest.
ERIC HUFFMAN:After a few months attending The Story with C.J. and his family, Meredith made a deal with herself. Instead of being coerced by C.J. into serving, she would accept any ask made of her for six months. She would serve willingly, and she would do it with the best attitude she could possibly fake.
ERIC HUFFMAN:During that trial period, her eyes started to open to how much she needed real community, and she began to let other people into her life. She began serving more and more, and greeting people on Sundays, eventually even leading a Bible study. Today, I beam with pride when I tell people that Meredith has decided to pursue seminary and to spend her life serving as a pastor.
ERIC HUFFMAN:Meredith didn't think she needed a father, and she didn't think she needed the love and the support of a community, especially not a Christian community, but God's plans can be so much better than our own. The love that God put in her life has helped Meredith to heal and to realize that she already is a whole person, with or without a boyfriend or a husband. That's the message I hope that all singles will hear. You are not missing any pieces because you're single. The rest of us, like married people, we need to hear this, too, for two reasons. First, so we'll stop making single people feel like they're incomplete for being single, and second, so we'll stop pretending like we're complete and whole, just because we're married.
ERIC HUFFMAN:To our single listeners and married listeners alike, I'll say this. Regardless of your relationship status, when God created you, He created a whole person, in His whole image, to live a whole life and experience whole love. If you become a whole person when you're single and one day you happen to get married, your marriage is going to be better for it, because whole people tend to attract whole people. I've read a lot of books written by relationship experts, many of whom hold PhDs in some field or another, but my favorite book about relationships is a kids' book by Shel Silverstein. Even though you'll find it in the children's section, I'm convinced Shel Silverstein wrote it for adults, who are looking for love. To end this episode, I asked my kids, Joelle and Coen, to read it for us, so here it is, my favorite book on relationships: The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, by Shel Silverstein.
COEN HUFFMAN:The missing piece sat alone.
JOELLE HUFFMAN:Waiting for someone to come along and take it somewhere. Some fit, but could not roll.
COEN HUFFMAN:Others could roll, but did not fit.
JOELLE HUFFMAN:One didn't know a thing about fitting-
COEN HUFFMAN:And another didn't know a thing about anything.
JOELLE HUFFMAN:One was too delicate.
COEN HUFFMAN:One put it on a pedestal-
JOELLE HUFFMAN:And left it there. Some had too many pieces missing.
COEN HUFFMAN:Some had too many pieces, period.
JOELLE HUFFMAN:It learned to hide from the hungry ones. More came. Some looked too closely.
JOELLE HUFFMAN:Others rolled right by without noticing.
COEN HUFFMAN:It tried to make itself more attractive.
JOELLE HUFFMAN:It didn't help.
COEN HUFFMAN:It tried being flashy-
JOELLE HUFFMAN:But that just frightened away the shy ones. At last one came along that fit just right, but all of a sudden-
COEN HUFFMAN:The missing piece began to grow-
JOELLE HUFFMAN:And grow. “I didn't know you were going to grow.”
COEN HUFFMAN:“I didn't know either,” said the missing piece.
JOELLE HUFFMAN:"I'm looking for my missing piece, one that won't increase."
JOELLE HUFFMAN:And then one day, one came along who looked different. “What do you want of me?” asked the missing piece.
JOELLE HUFFMAN:"What do you need from me?"
JOELLE HUFFMAN:“Who are you?” asked the missing piece.
COEN HUFFMAN:“I am the Big O,” said the Big O.
JOELLE HUFFMAN:“I think you are the one I have been waiting for,” said the missing piece. “Maybe I am your missing piece.”
COEN HUFFMAN:“But I am not missing a piece,” said the Big O. “There is no place you would fit.”
JOELLE HUFFMAN:“That is too bad,” said the missing piece. “I was hoping perhaps I could roll with you.”
COEN HUFFMAN:“You cannot roll with me,” said the Big O, “but perhaps you could roll by yourself.”
JOELLE HUFFMAN:“By myself... A missing piece cannot roll by itself.”
COEN HUFFMAN:“Have you ever tried?” asked the Big O.
JOELLE HUFFMAN:“But I have sharp corners,” said the missing piece. “I'm not shaped for rolling.”
COEN HUFFMAN:“Corners wear off,” said the Big O, “and shapes change. Anyhow, I must say goodbye. Perhaps we will meet again.”
JOELLE HUFFMAN:And away it rolled.
COEN HUFFMAN:The missing piece was alone again.
JOELLE HUFFMAN:For a long time, it just sat there. Then slowly it lifted itself up on one end and flopped over, then lift-
JOELLE HUFFMAN:It began to move forward, and soon it's edges began to wear off. Lift, pull, flop. Flop, lift pull. Flop, lift, pull.
COEN HUFFMAN:Lift, pull, flop. Lift, pull, flop.
JOELLE HUFFMAN:And it's shape began to change, and then it was bumping instead of flopping.
COEN HUFFMAN:And then it was bouncing instead of bumping.
JOELLE HUFFMAN:And then it was rolling instead of bouncing, and it didn't know where, and it didn't care. It was rolling.
ANNOUNCER:This episode of Maybe God was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois and Eric Huffman. Nathan Bonnes and Aubrey Snider are the sound engineers. Our editors are Shannon Stefan, Brittany Holland, and Justin Mayer. For more information, or to tell us what you think, head to our website, maybegodpod.com.