Category: a love story

on love

dougsarahski21 years old, in college, before-and-after-class small talk.

Inevitably it would come up.

I’m getting married.

Looks of shock, surprise, disbelief. I tried to explain…

We’ve been together since high school…We know each other really well…

I don’t think people had a very flattering view of me. I always felt awkward and embarrassed. I don’t know when it happened, but now whenever this little tidbit comes up…

Oh, I married my high school sweet heart. We’ve been together for over fifteen years.

People think it’s sweet.

Wow! That’s amazing—you guys got to grow up together. That’s really cool.

I’m not sure when the transition happened. When did our’s become a sweet story? When did we move past that  awkward teenager phase to this thing that (sometimes-maybe) feels like an actual love story?

I’m not sure what to do with the then-now thoughts. In many ways I’m not sure what happened—we just stayed together, almost despite my best efforts. I love our history. I love our story. But it mostly feels like a whole lot of grace and a little bit of luck.

She told me once, sometimes it’s really obvious you guys have been together since you were kids.

You mean like when I steal his shoes and yank really hard on the bottom most lace so he has to unlace his whole shoe to fix it? That type of thing? Yeah—lots of things there. That was our first fight—and we both agree he was an idiot on that one. We were young and a little foolish, calling this thing we felt love.

But if we had listened to the skeptics, or given up, we wouldn’t have this story. There were so many mistakes and hurts along the way—so much baggage. Our history is littered with fights and tears and late night discussions and almost break ups. Darkness I never thought we would escape. Sharp, bitter disappointments on both sides.

Somehow we carved out this life together.

We had to grow up in love. How I understand love now would be different if I didn’t grow up in these trenches. I wouldn’t know how love stays and fights. I wouldn’t know that I can make the same mistakes over and over and over and experience forgiveness over and over and over. We had to learn not to hold grudges. Without our story, I wouldn’t know how to lose myself in a relationship, only to rediscover myself all over again. I wouldn’t know that love meant holding loosely—giving the beloved the room to fly and sometimes to fall. I wouldn’t know that love means support even when I don’t agree or don’t understand. And that while we are journeying together, we’re also on our own individual journeys, and that’s OK. I get to celebrate the times we meet up and travel together. I learned love means the space to breathe. We are two independent people learning to move in harmony, learning to hold space for the pieces we know and the pieces we are less familiar with, learning to love a person we don’t always like, fighting for affection and romance in the midst of real life.

I married the boy I started dating a month before I turned fifteen.

I don’t know anything else.

another little love story

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Once upon a time I had a crush on this boy. It was the first time in my life I ever experienced attraction to the opposite sex. He was fun, flirtatious, and the way he hugged me put butterflies in my stomach. Whenever I was around him I felt exhilarated. Especially in those early months I remember our interactions with a crispness–the memories and experiences around are fuzzy and shadowed, dimmed with age. But his face shines out of the darkness. One memory in particular stands out sharply, and has become more tender with the years passing.

I was at church on a Sunday night. There was an event and normally scheduled activities had been cancelled. This boy was there. My heart fluttered and I stood near him, laughing and talking. I ran my fingers through my shoulder length hair and hoped I was everything to him that he was to me. He introduced me to his really tall best friend and I laughed and flirted. Over the next few months I fell more and more in love with this boy.

But fate intervened with a little help from my mom. She called his mom and asked this boy to stop calling me because she didn’t like the three year age gap for my 14 years. I was horrified and embarrassed. I think my mom was hoping I wouldn’t find out.

It was hard–this forbidden, unrequited love. But in it’s absence something else began to grow. The boy was still my friend but eventually he moved on and dated others. I hung out with him and his girlfriends and his really tall best friend–we were thrown together so much that on cold days this tall friend would give me his letter jacket to wear. We sat next to each other at movies. We would hold hands and chase each other around the roller skating rink. We skied together on youth group ski trips. He would drink a soda and then press the torn off tab into my hand and I would sneak them back to him later–promises to exchange kisses. And at some point the flirtation turned to something else.

He first gave me a coke bottle tab.

Five years later he gave me a ring.

17 months later he made a promise to love me forever.

Ten years later, he’s still keeping that promise.

He’s helping me become the best version of me. We have grown and sharpened each other. We’ve given each other the freedom to change from the kids we once were into the humans that we are still becoming. We have our flaws and our fights and sometimes he drives me bat-shit crazy, but in my best moments I remember his love and that he fights for me and with me. Today I remember and honor all that has come before–even the day we met when I was hopelessly in love with someone else.

 

a little love story

There was a moment when I had to face my past. I came face to face with all the mistakes I had made, all the hurts I had caused…All the things I had done wrong. It was a few days after my 21st birthday. I encountered God authentically and quietly for the first time in my life. It was just him and me on my couch without all the fanfare of retreats, or camps, or passionate sermons. There was no epic high–or the resulting crash. Just an honest look. There’s a verse in Scripture that talks about the kindness of God leading us to repentance. I experienced, lived and breathed that here. He looked at me and said, “this is me, Sarah. This is my work in you. Not your works or your hands or your effort. Just me. Let me do this in you.”

So I wrote it all out. Every time I had betrayed the one I love, every stolen moment, every time I craved something else and said, “your love isn’t good enough.” It was all there–stacked against me.

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And when it was over, when the tears had quieted, I turned to my fiance–I held up the broken words to him. I asked him if he wanted to read these things because in the moments written on these pages I had betrayed him too. I had cut him deeply–taken a knife to his heart and spat in the face of his love for me. Some of these moments he knew about. Some he didn’t. And here they all were, written down.

It was a moment of confession and deep intimacy–and I was scared that he would see me for what I really was. He looked at me, and he looked at the offering in my hands and he said, “I don’t need to see that.” At the time I remember this immense feeling of relief that my darkest moments could stay a little less visible.

Now I see it as freedom. He loved me and he saw me for who I am–not what I had done. He stood by me in these moments and he didn’t call me anything less than beloved. He had brought me into his heart four…five…six years before, and no one could remove me–not even me. He held me when I didn’t want to be held. Protected me when I resented him. And through all of this strove to show me my value to him. He spoke love over me. He said I mattered to him.

And in the moments of darkness when I’m fighting for breath, he stays.

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In many ways I am still fighting him. I don’t believe that I am enough. I don’t believe that no matter what he will stay with me. Because why would he? And so I wrestle through the darkness to find this light. To believe both my husband and my God when they say I am worthy and loved. Because in some ways I “get” I was worth dying for–but I don’t believe that I’m worth staying for. Does that make sense?

And in almost every way imaginable Doug shows me over and over again that I am worth staying for. He stands by my side when I’m facing past hurts and he’s bearing the brunt of it. And he fails me, sweet baby Jesus, he fails. We can talk about my birthday last year, or Christmas this year. We can talk about the broken promises and the times he was “a human being having a human moment,” as my dear friend likes to describe our humanity. But he stays standing beside me, fighting with me and for me and learning and trying to find the best way to love me. And this to me, more than any other thing in my life has been the gospel. Sermons are great, retreats can be useful. But it takes the hands and feet of Jesus to show a broken girl how beautiful and loved she is just because he says so.

We get to be the hands and feet of Christ to a sad and hurting world, and this is a glimpse of what can happen when we are walking that well. We get to call broken things healed. Dead things alive. Hopeless things full of hope. We get to light up the darkness. We are the beacon in this fallen broken world–a beacon of hope and light and love.

We got married six months after this. It will be ten years on June 19th–a day famous in Texas for a different reason. But special to us because it was the day I stood before my husband for the first time, feeling loved and chosen. This was the beginning of walking in that  new identity.

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sixteen years later…

I think it was cold. It was January 14th, so it must have been. But it’s Texas so maybe it was one of those random 70 degree days in the middle of winter. But I’m certain I was wearing his red letter jacket with the off white sleeves. He lettered in band. Pretty damn nerdy–but he liked me and that’s all that mattered. I stole his jacket every chance I got–even when I had another boyfriend.

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I think it’s gone. Tossed out in a moment of deep cleaning and organization. I didn’t want to be nostalgic or cling to the past. I tried to forget and bury the pieces that carried so much shame. A letter jacket transported me to some of the darkest places in my life–I was ruthless and purged it.

But that day the jacket was warmth and hope and possibility. He towered over me even then, already six feet and three inches. His arm was slung across my shoulders pulling me close to him, hip to hip as we walked. We were at the playground at the school six houses down from my house. He led me around the back, to a clump of trees. I performed a play on the stage over there in fifth grade modeled after “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.” He held my hand and butterflies pounded in my stomach. I was worried my palms were slick with sweat. I had warts too back then that plagued me and I was embarrassed for him to notice the one on the fleshy part of my hand below my thumb.

He stopped and pulled me close, hugging me for a moment and then asked the question that I think had been on his mind for a month.

“Will you be my girlfriend?”

“Yes.”

And he reached into his jeans pocket (except if it was warm at all he would have been in denim black shorts with calf high socks and sneakers) and pulled out a coke tab which he slid into my hand. I owed him a kiss for that, which I allowed him to take.We lingered there for a few moments–shy and all sorts of awkward. And then we began the journey back to my house where I would have to tell my mom and sisters about my new boyfriend.

This isn’t an easy story to share. I have spent years discarding and burying it because I hate that fourteen year old girl. I want nothing to do with her, and I don’t want to remember her or be like her. She was self-righteous, filled with anger, and desperate for both attention and acceptance. She did whatever it took to get those things for herself.

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But even in that time, someone called her loved and has stood with her and fought for her for sixteen years.

I decided this story is one worth telling. I wouldn’t say he’s my soul-mate, but there is a steadfastness here that made me fall in love with him and I need to remember that.  Like the jacket I so ruthlessly discarded, I need to remember what it meant first instead of what I called it later. I need to remember the warmth, the hope, and the possibility–the bits of goodness that flicker in and out through that time.I need to go back to my dark and find the light.

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