You didn’t want to go. It was a house full of strangers and you stood outside the front door, praying senseless words, asking for two good conversations, saying the evening would be worth it for two good conversations. Just two.
You do not remember any conversations that night.
But you go again and again, every week, every time praying for two good conversations. This is how friendship is built, on words and time.
The first time you talk he plays Susan Tedeschi on his phone and you play him Florence and the Machine. You do not remember this, but he does. The first conversation you remember is months later, about Flannery O’Connor and the next day he asks you if you will go to an art museum with him sometime maybe if you can or want maybe. You are too busy. He keeps asking for six months. Your friends know he likes you but you have your eyes on lesser things.
On Christmas Eve you are in your hammock and you feel the tears smart because in August you asked God for One Thing this Christmas. You asked to be loved by someone and tomorrow morning you will wake in your house alone and read by the fire alone and you will feel so unloved by God and man. And God reminds you of music/writing/art boy who has made subtle hints since August that he would love you if you let him. He sends you a Merry Christmas message and you keep messaging each other back for seven hours on Christmas 2011. You never felt alone, not once.
Before he went in for surgery six months and another August later, you texted him: Be safe. And he replied: 1% mortality rate. I’ll be fine.
But then he wasn’t.
You found out and drove to the hospital with a friend after church one night. You told her about him and last August and Christmas prayers and how you feel somehow to blame for the coma he is in now. Your soul has entangled itself in with his and you feel the coldness of the coma too.
When you walk into the hospital room you see his parents, his sister, and you are somehow home with them. The prognosis for him is not good, but you have never felt more safe than in that hospital room with your friend who is praying healing words over this unconscious man, with his sister who weeps, with his mom who believes, with you, gripping his lifeless hand in the ICU. You cannot believe how loved he is and wonder if you love him too.
For two months he is in the hospital and some days the prognosis is good and some days it is not and when he finally wakes, he cannot talk, but his eyes when you walk into the room, when he sees you. You are fully seen. You will never forget those eyes. He has no strength. Weeks of a coma has taken his strength from him but he grips your hand so tightly it hurts.
This is when you know.
But nearly dying takes the life out of a man and he has a long way to go to really live again.
You watch, you wait. A whole year.
And sometimes you second guess what your head knows and your heart doesn’t feel. Not yet.
They say that love comes softly and you learn, an August later, that it comes easily too. The easiest thing that ever was, you tell him.
But it was so fast, everyone says, and it’s true, you nod, but it was also so slow. Because God is a God of right times and all the summers in the world were not the right times. But this one was.
Last night Corey Hale wore my favorite shirt, a blue gingham button-up, and took me to the place of our first date, a park by a lake. He prayed for us and then got on one knee and loved me with words, gave me his ring, and prayed for us again. I said yes. But what I meant was Selah and I told him that. Selah means to “stop and listen,” or “pause, and think of that,” and that is what last night and whole of our long-short relationship has been. It has been a stop and listen to one another, stop and listen to the Lord, pause, let this happen, and then move on. Live. Go on. Proceed. Pause and then proceed. It does not smack of fireworks or butterflies. There are no wild rushing emotions or overwhelming moments, there is only a quiet yes in our souls.
I told him today that I love my ring, but I love more that it is his ring. He has known since he met me that he wanted me, but to be wanted and to belong are two different things.
There are so many aspects of this reminiscent of the gospel, I cannot count them all, and I do not mean in any way to indicate that we cannot know aspects of the gospel in our singleness. I only mean that it makes the already/not-yetness of the gospel so deeply evident to me today.
Thank you for rejoicing with us.
One short note: I know how very difficult it is to see those who have longed for good things receive them and feel still forgotten by God yourself. I have known that pain so acutely at times and it has been part of the reason I haven’t talked much about this on Sayable. When one of the cornerstones of your ministry is based in your singleness and then you find yourself suddenly not single, it can be difficult to navigate that path. I’m not complaining, and I look forward to a new phase of life and ministry, but the gospel is still central to Sayable, my life, my relationships, and that won’t ever change.
I hope you will still find Sayable a safe place full of encouragement for your soul. And I pray I can point you to other resources that will encourage you in your unmarried days. Being single for nearly 33 years has been one of the most beautifully difficult and rewarding experiences of my life. I truly do love my singleness and it is my prayer that you would love yours, that you would find Christ near and dear to you in dark and lonely days, that the Christmases you spend alone would make sense someday, that you would set your eyes on better things, maybe the man who graciously pursues you would win you, even if he is not what you first imagined, that you would see God’s faithfulness every step of the way. I mean that with my whole heart. I love you.