Picture this: it's sophomore year of high school, and your priorities are those of a typical high school girl.
You want to get good grades, look cute, have great friends, and scope out boys. It's a little shallow but essentially true. At the tender age of 16, you're probably not looking for true love, and you're probably not super specific about the beliefs of the people you date because you're searching for a forever with someone.
But what if you met someone who wanted just that?
High school relationships are odd to begin with. You're at an age where your independence is limited to the size corral your parents deem appropriate, and your standards for dating don't go very far past "is he cute?" That's how I interpreted it, at least. So when I met a guy with a great personality and good looks, young Sam thought she had hit the jackpot.
That is, until six months later, when I was left crying on my front porch on what should've been beautiful June day spent with my boyfriend after his return from church camp. At the time, I couldn't believe that he had the nerve to look me in the eye and tell me that our relationship at the ages of 15 and 16 was getting in the way of his relationship with God.
Now, years removed from the situation, I can honestly say I feel much different toward his decision.
I was raised in a family that had no religion. I was given opportunities to change that, but it wasn't something that felt right to me, and to this day I still believe that this path in life is right for me. I have profound respect for people who have religious beliefs. All I ask is that people like me get the same respect for choosing no particular belief system.
Even in my sophomore year of high school, I thought that respect would be enough for a very young relationship. His family was deeply religious, and I had no problem with that. They were kind, loving, and generous people. We got along quite well, but I shouldn't have been so naive.
I should have realized when he was inviting me to church and telling me he was praying for me to be saved that he had higher priorities. Looking back, I admire the courage it took him to choose God over me and to realize that that relationship was more important than one he could ever have with someone who didn't share the same beliefs.
It still hurt. All of my friends rushed over to my house to hold while I cried. The tears came from a lack of understanding as to how he could let something like this go on for so long, and I hurt because it was the first time I really had my heart broken. It's a feeling you don't easily forget, which is why it has taken so long for me to write this.
In the weeks following, I had to take a hard look at myself and my personal beliefs, and I needed to realize that I was secure in my stance. I couldn't risk changing for anyone else just to lose myself, and neither could he. I'm okay with that.
I haven't talked to him since our breakup. I don't think I could bring myself to back then; it was so raw and something so unprecedented for me, a young, atheist, public high school attendee, to deal with. I will say that it has encouraged conversation and growth in my relationships since then. I am thankful for that.