I’m seventeen and I’m sitting on my bedroom floor, the body resting on the white carpet growing uncomfortable. There’s a notebook in my lap, and I am writing a letter. Guilt and shame is coursing through me, but I think I’m doing the right thing. I’m getting right with my parents.
My hand is sore but the words keep coming as I confess my shortcomings…secrets they didn’t know. I tell them how wrong I have been to give my heart away. I tell them how I have made a decision to give my heart to them and “go to sleep,” like Adam did, until God decides to bring me my mate.
Then I list their names. All of the boys from the first grade on who had caught my eye or who I’d ever entertained a romantic thought about. No secrets left untold.
This list brings me sorrow and makes me blush… I pray that you will forgive me for this. My prayer to God is that He will “create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit in me.”
My desire is that both of you will have my whole heart.
I remember writing his name on the list. I remember feeling embarrassed that he was even there.
Ironically, he was probably the only one on the list who even knew I existed.
My parents were out of town for the weekend. My siblings and I had been playing a homemade version of the game Clue in which the suspects were professors and the locations were the buildings on the campus of the Bible college my brother was attending. The phone had rung and the game had come to an abrupt stop when we heard his voice.
Now, hours later, the kitchen light above the table is off and I’m sitting alone in the chair, phone tucked between my ear and my shoulder. My brother is on the phone upstairs in our parents room. And the familiar voice is coming across the line.
He’s awkward and immature. His analytical mind is trying to understand what it is about him that seems to repel women – why he is still single late into his twenties. He asks me if I find him attractive. I blush but answer him honestly. “Of course I find you attractive.”
I don’t remember what came next, but the conversation shifted – and then he’s telling me that I can be a catalyst for change at the school, where I will be joining him and my brother.
I believe him. I truly do.
Instead, the change comes when we leave the school behind – because I was no catalyst and the school couldn’t be changed by one girl with an independent spirit.
The phone had rung again. This time, he had the news that he was in a relationship.
No. This isn’t right.
I think to use the word jealously would over-simplify my feelings. My eyes had been focused elsewhere, so it wasn’t that I wanted him to be with me. But this relationship, I knew it wasn’t right. I could sense it within my gut.
Now we sit at a table across from new friends and they ask how long we have been together. The answers come out jumbled as we say 6 1/2 years but 7 1/2 years but really 12 years.
We tell them about our son who is at Grandma’s. We release the tension we have been holding these past few weeks in a sort of expulsion of words. Between the two of us we tell them of the struggles and how hard it’s been to parent him.
Earlier that day we had arrived for Sunday school thirty minutes late. We both felt like we had been through a war. We had dropped him off with the Sunday School teacher and walked hand in hand around the church. Dejected. Exhausted. Unsure of everything about our parenting.
So often we forget we are on the same team. Because of the frustration of trying to find anything that will work; the tagging out and saying “Your turn – because I don’t know what else to do!”; the exhaustion that leaves me telling him that I don’t have anything left to give him.
And yet there was still the moment, after we both struggled to stay awake during the sermon, the same moment we have at every service. When they tell us to stand and close our eyes and he pulls me close. I turn my body inward to partially face him and rest my head on his chest, my arms clasping around his waist. We’ve done this since we were first married and we’ve never stopped – never cared what anyone thought. We don’t pray much as a couple; but this us – this everyday us – is a prayer all of its own kind.
And so now here we are, answering the questions of our new friends about our marriage and our kid. He takes my fork to eat his macaroni, and he doesn’t understand why I need a new one. Then I remind him about the food allergies, again. We share a soda, and later on, he pours the coffee in his cup into mine so we can share that too. Sometimes we are standing together, telling our us story. Other times, he’s talking and I’m talking and we are across the room. We move apart and then back together throughout the night, over and over. He plays with my hair. I hold his hand. I remind him of the child at Grandma’s – touch his arm to keep him grounded and sensitive to the time, because if I didn’t he would stay and talk all night.
There is so much fluidity here…in the everyday us.
I awake suddenly at 5:10 am. This time, there is no child next to my bed. It’s just me and the fact that I didn’t think that having two cups of Pepsi and a cup of coffee between 5 and 7 PM last night would be a problem. I had laid awake until 1:30 AM brainstorming holiday ideas for my blog. Now here I am, less than four hours later, wide awake. I have just had a dream about him. The details are gone, but I know I was a teenager again. And it is in these dark moments as I lay next to him that the memories come back in a rush:
His name in pen in beautiful cursive in the letter in which I gave up a piece of what it means to be a beautifully human teenage girl because I thought it was shameful. In which I equated my ability to notice a man, my capacity to care – or even love – to sin.
That name is now my own.
I look back to the moments we met. I think God smiled in that moment. Because He knew what was ahead of us. He saw the everyday us and knew what we could be together.