For 29 years I couldn’t imagine being in a relationship. It was always this far off, foreign concept. I liked boys, dated boys, kissed boys (…not always in that order) but never jumped in enough to develop a long-term relationship. I was fiercely protective of my heart and had incredibly high standards.
At the end of March, two months before my 30th birthday, Justin asked me out. I was surprised because we had unsuccessfully dated before (see previous post.)
I said yes, unaware of the journey in front of me.
It didn’t take long for me to discover I was riddled with fear. Worse case scenario meant finding myself heartbroken, unable to get out of bed, eating only Wendy’s. (Aka Lorelai in season 5 of Gilmore Girls.)
I knew I needed to risk my heart on the line, but how much of my heart, and at what pace? Where was the formula?
Somewhere along the way, between April and September, my heart fell into Justin’s hands.
It was the Saturday we went blueberry picking. The summer heat soaked my clothes despite it being 9am. When we kissed it was sweaty and gross. He picked most of the blueberries; eventually I stood in the shade because I was so hot. He was supposed to take me home so I could clean the house for my birthday party that night, but instead we spent the day running errands and making out in the car, the AC blasting.
It was a month later when we were on the red couch, navigating a difficult situation. Turns out I was in the wrong. I falsely accused him because of a misunderstanding, yet he didn’t throw a punch back. He listened, he cried, he kissed me. I’ll never forget that feeling of my heart dropping in my ribcage and my chest warming my body. Falling in love is an actual feeling.
It was the countless hours he listened to me verbally process. The book he gave me for my birthday. Trips to the airport. Flowers left in my room. That time he picked me for his cornhole partner, even though I’m no good. It was him sitting on my bed, reading scripture or The New York Times to help distract me from the panic I faced.
It was him saying “I love you” for six months with no return.
I didn’t realize my heart had slipped out of my control until October when I was in Ecuador on a bus from Mindo to Quito. I was typing out a note to him on my phone (to email later) when I found myself writing, “Do you know what you’re holding? My heart is dangling between your fingers…”
I was afraid for most of our relationship, and that slowed me down, but I never let fear stop me completely. I just inched into the water instead of cannonballing. I’m sure I could have handled things more smoothly, more maturely, but as my married friend Holli says, “When it comes to this stuff we all act like 6th graders.” (Can I get an amen??)
Falling in love with Justin is a love story between me and him, but even more than that I consider it a love story between me and God. More than trusting Justin with my heart, I had to trust God with it. I wanted God to tell me what to do (or what would happen), but He didn’t. He gently guided me with wisdom, but the moves were always mine to make.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about love, it’s that it plays out differently for everyone. As much as I wanted a rulebook, or a formula, it doesn’t exist.
In December, on the same red couch where my heart first dropped, I said those three words for the first time.
I love you.