I can’t wait. I sit impatiently. Please Bro B, please hurry up with your announcements. Can’t service get over already? Do we really need to ask this question right now? I know…I know I should be listening but all I can think about is the letter. Secretly hidden in my notebook. Slipped quietly to a little sister who slipped it quietly to me in the bathroom. A letter that contains the words of a man who speaks to me about life and God and dreams and hope. What answer will he give? Will he laugh at my incessant whys? Does he find my ramblings about overcoming and finding peace ridiculous? Will he tell me how deep his soul is and how God talks to him when he’s in his car? Will he share what it’s like to find God after the bottom? What will he say? And although I know I should have my mind on God and probably my test tomorrow…my mind is on him and his words.
I know that if my parents…his parents…the pastor finds out I will be in trouble…and so will he. After all, I’m a girl, still in high school, and he, is a college graduate man. A man who should probably be telling these things to someone he can marry. Because…he probably won’t marry ME. But I’m the one he’s talking to and I don’t know if I should tell him to stop. But I don’t want him to stop. I want to know what he thinks…and he talks about God and…I trust him.
Finally! Service is over. I say goodnight to my friends, using school as an excuse, and hurry home. Once I am safely in bed only then do I take the letter out. “Taunie…” I feel comforted in the warmth of my bed, reading his words. I ignore the thoughts that want more…that wonder if he’s lying in his bed wondering about me…what it would be like to snuggle next to him and just listen to what he has to say. He answers my questions and gives me questions and tells me stories that make me laugh. I fall asleep thinking about his words and formulating my response.
Letters turn into feelings and feelings turn into my stomach flipping upside down every service until one day I send a note. “Is it weird if I think my best friend is cute?” and he responds with “We need to talk.” And my stomach aching and my heart racing and my brain saying “You are messing this up!” and he shows up after service at my adopted parents’ house. Plaid pants and yellow jersey and grey sweater and his big basketball shoes untied (the man has an odd sense of fashion) and his big smile and eyes that I just want to keep looking at…and his soul that knows mine. Our busy house is suddenly quiet and I realize my life is changing.
The words he’s said on paper. The words I believe are because he is my brother in Christ and because he cares for my soul. He’s saying those words. To me. Only they are not because he’s my brother. But because he loves me. He wants me. And he wants me to be his wife. Fresh out of high school, this man has chosen me. And I can only say, yes. So we make a plan, because in our church you only date to marry. And if we marry someone else we cannot talk about the Bible…God…our day. Someone else will get his words and his attention and his eyes peering right into her soul. And I know…I can’t live with that.
Dating ends our letter writing, which makes me lose the one thing that says “I love you”. You see, my love language is words of affirmation. And although hearing them makes me smile, when they are written it is like heroin to me. I read them over and over and over. It is a permanent pronouncement that I am loved. As the words fade so does my confidence. As my confidence fades so does my behavior. As my behavior fades so does our relationship. A bitter cycle begins that will set the rhythm of our marriage.
Over the course of 24 years I can count on my hand the number of times he shared his thoughts, feelings, ideas on a piece of paper with me. He went from sharing everything with me to sharing nothing. Yes, we’ve had years of late night conversations but he quit speaking my language and I pretended it didn’t matter. But yesterday, he broke his silence.
Valentine’s Day has been iffy between us. During the dark years we barely acknowledged it outside of the obligatory card. Once he bought me flowers and wrote me a card. A card that hangs on my mirror and I read every morning. Yesterday he woke me up. At 4:30 am. I gave him a grunted response and decided against hitting him with my pillow. Later I check my phone. There it is. A page of words. Written to me. For Valentine’s Day.
As I read my heart bursts. Tears slowly creep down my face. And I remember. Remember the feeling from so long ago alone in my bed. Now there is no need to hide or be ashamed or worry. There is no wondering about what it’s like to lie next to him to hear what he has to say. There is no need to bring me flowers or jewelry or a fancy car. The husband is speaking my language and that is only gift I need.