2 Years

8:00 AM

Photographer: Look like you're in a relationship.
This is our response.
Two years ago today, the boy and I Skyped each other. Barely out of freshman year of college, we talked about dating. We forgot to discuss all the implications of what that meant. Shoot, we forgot to make it remotely romantic. We chatted about our biggest differences, and I said, "I love you anyway. I thought about it, and I still want to date you." He grinned.

"So are we dating or not?" I asked.

"Sure," he said. He was happy.

I spent the rest of the night on our mosquito-ridden trampoline freaking out about what I just did. What if we can't do this? What if he's not the right one? What if I love him for all the wrong reasons?

PSA: This guy is so stinkin' cute. 
It bothered me for some time how unromantic our decision to date was. My friend's jaw dropped open over how boring that was. I made him ask me again, in a more romantic way.

A few weeks later, we walked on a bluff near clear waters and and an endless blue sky as the sun was thinking about setting. He got a ridiculous grin on his face and pulled me to his side. "Will you date me?" he asked.

Of course I said yes.

Then he tried to throw me off the bluff. See below for example.

No girlfriends were harmed in the making of this photo.
I love that memory. And I'm embarrassed by it -- embarrassed that I let other people's opinions and a selfish definition of love cast doubt over our relationship. And I'm reminded that I'm dating a gracious boyfriend who puts up with my expectations.

Dating's been hard for me. It's hard to learn how to trust. It's hard to learn how to wait. It's hard to love a man you're not married to. It's hard to love this man -- an ISTP to my ENFJ, a strong and silent to my loud and emotional, a science major to my humanities. Everybody anywhere always asks, "How on earth do you make this work?"

Patience and love. And occasional Google searches. 

Dating has been a crash course in forbearance. It flipped me inside out, hiding the pretty exterior and revealing all this gunk. The Spirit and I have been having a hey-day in sanctification. It's not that I don't know who he is or how to love him. I know when I should keep quiet, how to phrase things, what to say to draw him out and encourage him. He knows all my trigger buttons too. The knowledge of how to love means nothing without the ability to love. We're now in that fun stage where we know how to hurt each other and how to make each other ridiculously happy...and now every day, every moment, becomes a battle between selfishly lashing out or selflessly loving. 

People don't get that we're more similar to couples married for a few years than a cutesy dating couple -- i.e. less of the romance, all of the sanctification.

He's worth it. He's a deep, deep soul. Without his perspective, I'm a different girl -- less happy, less wise. He brightens my world in a way few people have. He's iron-clad faithful. He taught me to be independent, to be selfless, to love the sunshine, and to believe like a child -- just to name a few. 

It's taken me two years to realize an important thing about us. 

God made us different for a reason. People tease us about our alleged incompatibility, our opposites. Those who don't know us well worry about our decision to stay together. We seem to attract criticism. On occasion, people have told him to break up with me. On occasion, people have told me to break up with him. And they don't realize what they're trying to break up --- not only two people who fight to love each other, but primarily God's way of shaping us into more passionate lovers of Him -- at least for right now. 

I don't know if we're getting married. I can't say if we'll be dating forever. Who can say those things with certainty? We want to marry each other. We want to keep doing life together. But it's becoming clearer to me that that decision is not ours to make at this moment, and certainly not mine. I only know I'm supposed to love him right here, right now, and that belief, that intuition, has not changed since the day I asked God if I could love him. 

I assumed our relationship ought to progress like every other Harry meets Sally story. Get the guy, get engaged, get married. Just last night, sitting alone on my back porch crying over our circumstances this summer, I realized that our love story is not about us together right now. It's about us separately -- individually loving God, individually growing, individually working out our salvation. Right now, I need to love him not to the end of getting married or wrapped up in a little world of us. I need to love him to the end that he loves God whether or not that involves loving me.

This summer, including our two year dating anniversary, he's eight hours away doing his senior chemistry research near a little river with no cell phone or internet service. This summer, I dedicated my time away from home and boyfriend to draw near to God.

And my goal and perspective for our relationship has changed. It's no longer Please please please can we get engaged? or Please please please make this summer without him fly by. It's Please please please inspire him, inspire me, to love You, and to love You in such a way that we love each other only so that we will love You.

Incredibly unromantic? I actually don't think so. Unconventional? Yes. The right thing to do? Absolutely. 

And while he's off being an individual and I'm here being an individual, we still love each other, pray for each other, and wait for each other to come home.

P.S. My favorite MUST READ story of how she found the one and how I coped with summer separation last year.

All photos by Elena Marie's Photography

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14 impressions

  1. I love this. :) I hope I'm able to have this perspective myself, if my day ever comes along.

    1. Since it's all by God's sheer grace and patience, I'm sure you can!

  2. I love this!! I'll be praying for you this summer. I completely understand how hard it is to trust God and do what you know is right, when all you want to do is move forward on your own time table.

    -Jennifer P.

    1. Thank you sosososo much for the prayers, Jennifer! You have no idea how much that means to me.

  3. what an adorable Bailey and Erich.
    and that was me blubbering over the keyboard.
    this is beautiful. I love you guys!
    P.s. Erich has to marry you, because we all secretly adore him. Joshua really does need someone to make impossible ideas come true. and I could use another hand drafting corsets. ;)

    1. In that case, it sounds like we should just adopt him as Official Idea Realizer and Corset Drafter. I wouldn't mind keeping him close by. ;)

  4. p.p.s. coooooome to sister. i will let you cry on my shoulder rather than a nasty empty porch. :)

  5. Oh the first part of this makes me smile. I am getting married on Saturday. My fiancé and I are kinda unromantic. Actually I am kinda unromantic, between "trying to do the right thing" (ie not do anything inappropriate, not go to far) and being scared stiff of the unknown, especially in emotions and relationships. The second part of this... I pray God gives both of you strength, love, and faithfulness. Have you read Passion & Purity by Elisabeth Elliot? It is one of my all time favourites. I read it several times in the season of life when I really liked this one guy (now my fiancé) and it didn't seem like it would go anywhere. It was very encouraging. She speaks a lot about sanctification and trusting in God's leading, even when you don't know where it will end up.

    1. Congratulations on your marriage, Justine!!! Soooo exciting! I'd love to see wedding photos if at all possible. :)

      I'm so glad we're not the only unromantic couple. Well, I'm awfully romantic, but he's not in the least. We have a best friend kind of romance, if that makes sense. It's so good to hear from other couples who struggle with the same things but still made it out alive and married. :D

      Oh, my heart. I read Passion and Purity a long time ago. Her story has been coming back in floods right now. We're definitely in a similar situation, and her thoughts have been an encouragement --- just like you have!

  6. These pictures are beautiful and they all look like you're "in a relationship" ;-)

    Thanks for sharing. I'm sorry you have to spend this summer apart.


    1. :D That was the look we were going for! Score!

  7. Gah, this. I thought I was the only one who believed in loving someone because I'm meant to, and loving them for the purpose of them drawing nearer to God. Yes, it may seem unromantic to outsiders, but to me it's SO powerful. So Jesus-centered. So much more amazing than any kind of cutesy dating scene.

    As for compatibility... Pfft. Compatibility my foot. We don't need people the same as us, we need people stronger in the areas we are weaker! How else are you supposed to be better together if you're both good at the same things? It seems to me that you and Erich have the perfect strengths and weaknesses to balance each other out just the way God planned.

    I ramble too much, honestly. All this to say, congratulations on two years, and your decision to stay true to each other, and to the Lord. :)

    1. Oh, Jasmine! This is so good to hear. I agree with everything you said -- I try to live it out -- but it's so hard to keep believing sometimes when I want the cutesy romance and the easy way to do love. Stupid Hollywood. ;)


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