At lunch today my husband, who often works from home, came into the dining room where the boys and I were already sitting down to eat. Bryan walked up beside me where I sat and put his hand gently on my shoulder. “Hello, I see you” it seemed to say. I leaned into it.
Our five year old saw this quiet exchange and called loudly (though he was sitting right beside me), “KISS!”
One of his older brothers quickly responded, “No, don’t kiss!”
The boys know that we respond to either of these commands the same way, so we grinned knowingly at them and gave each other a simple kiss. Then I asked our five year old hopeful-romantic, “Why did you want us to kiss?”
Mid-bite, without missing a beat, he replied, “I like to see your love.”
Bryan and I proceeded to share some of the details of how our relationship had developed. It had been years of friendship, marked with awkwardly vulnerable conversations, waiting for a sense that it was the right time, and then trying to learn the elusive art of merging hearts and lives.
I described to them a memory of driving with Bryan out to watch his older brother’s rugby game in a nearby city. There was nothing particularly romantic about the moment. And we were still claiming to be “just friends”.
Blue Dodge truck.
The same one or two cd’s on repeat.
Just good-natured conversation.
And laughter. Always laughter.
But something bubbled out of my heart at one moment as I glanced over at him.
“I could spend the rest of my life with this man.”
The thought came to me faster than I could logically pass legislation on it. Fortunately I didn’t blurt anything out at that time, but I was left shocked by the clarity and force in which it had come.
My heart was driving 70kmh in a school zone.
Bryan explained to the boys that he had found increasing clarity about his feelings for me during the season shortly after that summer. In the fall of 2004 we both felt to dedicate ourselves to a season of seeking God and focusing on our growth as individuals.
During those months (that turned into years) we saw each other far less frequently and learned to bring our joys, pains and longings of our hearts to God in prayer and worship rather than rushing to each other as we had grown accustomed.
Those months of distance caused his heart to grow fonder.
“I realized how much you meant to me.”
Our high-energy boys were sitting still, a slight grin forming on their faces. Their eyes danced between the faces of their parents at either end of the table.
When I used to go to weddings as a single woman, I inevitably faced the questions and thoughts in the drive-thru lane of my mind. Some light-hearted.
“Should I wear a veil or not?”
“I wonder if we will write our own vows?”
“I wonder if people will think I’m beautiful in my dress when I come into view for the first time?”
“I wonder if I’ll cry.”
Others like a heavy burden on my back.
“I wonder if my fiancé will look at me the way that groom is looking at his bride.”
“I wonder if I’ll ever find someone. I wonder if anyone will ever want me like that.”
“I wonder if I’ll be brave enough to promise forever to someone.”
During that two-year season of singleness, where we opted to choose personal growth over romantic comfort, the bonfire of my emotions for Bryan were eventually calmed to a few smoldering coals. My infatuation and romantic ideals were being tempered by wisdom and finding a purpose for my future.
I was uncertain about what would happen between Bryan and I, but I had finally come to a depth of satisfaction in the presence of God and in serving a cause greater than getting everything I thought I wanted.
I had finally found peace with the idea of remaining single for the rest of my life, if that was to be my portion. Peace.
At that time I attended a friend’s wedding, and I remember standing up with all the single ladies to try to catch the bouquet. I had no desperation in me, yet I caught it.
I felt the Holy Spirit nudge my heart and I knew what to do. After a few moments when the buzz of it all had died down, I brought the bouquet to a single girl friend of mine and without saying much, passed it to her.
It may or may not not have been significant to her story, but it felt like a hidden milestone in my life. I was finally learning to look to the future entrusting my heart to a good Heavenly Father, not giving room to insecurity or panic.
Now, fast forward about twelve years and I'm letting out a big sigh. The profound lesson that single people must learn is "there are some needs in my life that only that Lord can fulfill."
Don't get me wrong - for those of us that are already married, the more thoroughly we surrender to this truth, the more we will be able to enjoy living life with an imperfect partner.
Bryan and I have reflected back on those years often and express how grateful we are that we didn't cut corners to dodge the discomfort of waiting to be together. The discomfort that we had wrestled with had strengthened us to face the trials around us and the conflicts between us over all these years. The processes of life both crush us and free us. Like the scent released from rose petals.
The coals of love were easily reignited when the time was right. The infatuation had turned to mutual respect. Romantic ideals had turned to deep love.
I looked around the table at our five boys and considered how each of their love stories will look different too. We don't know how old they will be, or what their unique challenges will be, or the journey of surrender they will have to go through. The older ones are likely already beginning to ask those questions. The ones we all did when we were still in elementary school.
"Is there someone out there who will love ME?"
"How will I know?"
You'll know, son.
The Lord will lead you, and we're here to help you.