This story has everything to do with God and Niall Horan.
I’ve liked boys for as long as I can remember. Boys never had cooties; not in my world. And I always had to have a crush on someone; having no crush was boring. If it wasn’t a classmate, it was 5 different celebrities.
Really I think idolization started in elementary school with Joe Jonas. I know it’s humorous to talk about now, but it’s honestly really sad, too. At 11 I had already been tainted and pressured by the romantic expectations of a shallow world. I would get genuinely angry when I’d check the internet and find out he had a girlfriend.
When it came to “real-life” crushes, I could and still have a hard time letting crushes go. I NEVER took the idea of dating lightly either. I had 3 kind-of, not-really boyfriends (if you count lots of emailing and a couple hugs). The first was during eighth grade, and I was convinced we would get married! The other two were right after throughout ninth grade, but I think they were mainly a result of not processing through the loss of the first one, who had dumped me, combined with me always needing a crush. A relationship’s the end to problems and sadness, right? Wrong, Annah.
In ninth grade, I discovered One Direction and became obsessed with Niall Horan, who represented idolization for me. I watched all possible YouTube videos in the universe with him in them, I swooned over every line he sang in their five albums, and I fantasized about a day I would meet him and we would fall in love. Sadly, none of that is new to him, and in fact, might be tame compared to other fans.
Then it happened: I went to a One Direction concert after my junior year of high school. I wrote Niall a heartfelt letter and brought it with me, naively believing I could give it to someone who would deliver it to him. Into the venue we went, I watched the Irishman intently for a couple hours with binoculars, we left in a stuffy crowd, and drove back home, a weary, exhausted van of people. In my window seat, I shut my eyes, soft One Direction music floating out of the nearby speaker, letter still clutched tightly in my grip, and a grapefruit-sized lump lodged in my throat.
The following day I drove home, climbed in the shower, and sobbed my heart out. I realized how unattainable my hopes had been and felt like the biggest idiot in the entire world. Mostly, I felt ashamed for caring about a famous person so much, and that’s when my idolization and lust (which can manifest in more than purely sexual ways!) really started having a negative affect on my life and (who knew!) also that of the guys in question. I had dehumanized Niall in my obsession.
Every sin has consequences and eventually sicknesses break out.
Flash forward two years and I was having a really sticky conversation with a guy friend regarding this issue of lust, but ultimately idolization–I had made him into someone he wasn’t, which is incredibly devastating. But I kept writing little Niall letters along the way (yes, even in my first semester of college).
I thought that was that after I talked to that guy, honestly. I had done a terrifying, humiliating thing in talking to him about my sins against him, and I thought the immense pain would have surely squashed all of the idolization and lust out of me. Wrong, Annah.
For the next two years I didn’t even realize the issue… until this past summer. Through prayer and conversation with friends–it’s honestly really hazy now–I realized all of these years the truth was that I’d idolized relationships and despised singleness. And I was devastated. This had been a majority-of-my-life issue! I had wronged guy after guy. I had drank society’s poison of “completeness,” trading in something filling and wholesome for pursuit of something empty and broken.
So what happened? That’s a pretty fresh wound still, right?
And it is, you’re right. But I have a whole lot of hope now, and that’s a result of a month and a half of steady prayer, cries of frustration, Bible readings, God as my Romancer, and family time. I’m not wholly fixed, and honestly, I’m always going to be broken. But there’s still more to the story.
August 28th, the first day of classes for my senior year of college, I went to Niall’s concert. Uh oh, we’re back to Niall?! This can’t be good…
BUT IT’S SO GOOD, FRIENDS!!!
Halfway through the concert, Niall played his song “Flicker.” It seems to be the most dear to him from what I’ve heard, and it pulled at my heartstrings every time I heard it on my phone or in the car. It’s about a flicker of hope in a bad situation.
Niall told us all to put our phones away and be in the moment, and that already won me over. He had the lights dimmed, because he wanted us to respond in whatever way we found comfortable. And right before he strummed those first chords on his guitar, he leaned in close to the mic, and added, “Feel free to pray if you want.”
I sang along, I swayed, I closed my eyes, I prayed.
“Still a flicker of hope that you first gave to me that I want to keep, please don’t leave.”
And suddenly, the song turned into a plea to God from me. I wasn’t trying to paint over the wrongs done. When I decided to open my eyes, tears brimming, I looked at Niall, and all I saw was a man. Just someone doing something they loved and trying to sing through life’s pain.
I used to write Niall letters out of lust and idolization, and I write now from a joyful place of respect for a man who is just as real as my dad.
I used to say with angst, “I want to marry Niall!” But praise God I can now say, “I want to marry someone like Niall,” like I told Fran on the way to the car. And maybe that doesn’t mean a whole lot to you, but it’s truly a world of difference to me. And if my biggest idol is now a human to me, there’s a lot of yellow hope peeking through the clouds.
Please listen to the following joyful song to celebrate with me because “it feels like I’m finally free.”