Stay struck a chord. Your response was unexpected and has pushed me to move forward on a project I’ve been thinking about for a while. Marriage is hard. It’s one of the most challenging climbs any of us will make in this life. It’s chocked full of surprises, disappointments, challenges, and victories. Mostly it’s just chocked full of life, and life has a way of making us forget why we said, “Yes,” in the first place.
Last night, just after dusk, I found myself driving down the streets of our neighborhood for an errand. The houses shadowed beneath vague darkness and the smell of a summer storm rolling in, I could’ve made the drive blind folded. And I was stirred because those streets and that neighborhood, this neighborhood where we now live with our three kids and a dog, where we find ourselves frustrated and unsure about how to best navigate life together – it’s where Josh’s and my story unfolded, it’s where we fell in love.
In the Bible, God reveals Himself the most extravagantly through life stories – not necessarily through events and moments that seem enormous at the time, but through a steady stream of faithfulness sprawled out over a lifetime. So, I thought maybe I’d give you a peak into our story – how it’s probably a lot like yours in some ways. From our dating days to that torturous first year to adventures and career changes and babies – what we’ve done well, and what we’ve done terribly – God has faithfully been writing our story, and He isn’t done yet. I think maybe remembering it all will be good for me. Maybe it will be good for you, too. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll help you remember and enjoy the, “Yes,” that launched your own crazy, beautiful, hard, holy journey called marriage.
So, here we go:
Josh Blackwell was a boy. He was skinny with blue green eyes and a quiet smile. He was kind, humble, and a little awkward around girls. He was unassuming, not yet striking in looks, and a good, loyal friend.
We met in the hall at the church I grew up in.
I knew who his family was. Everyone knew who his family was. They were the five gorgeous, exotic missionary kids that had just returned from Brazil, where they’d grown up on the mission field. Not only were they beautiful people from a foreign land, but also they had just lost their dad in a tragic car accident. The whole youth group honestly wanted to be their friends – out of curiosity, compassion, and good old-fashioned crushes. When they walked in the doors of the sanctuary, we all stopped and stared.
He was standing, funnily enough, with my ex-boyfriend – Joe. We were fourteen – freshmen in high school – entirely awkward and very ambitious. I walked over feeling pretty good about my bright red Gap sundress decorated with giant white poppies, sweet-action rolled bangs, and shimmery pink lip-gloss. I tried not to think about my braces. I said, “Hi!” with as little awkwardness as possible since Joe and I were still navigating the waters of being “exes”. Joe quickly said in his less-than-enthusiastic-but-nice-all-the-same tone, “Hey. This is Josh. Josh, this is Emily. Josh is new here.” I confidently stuck out my hand, “Nice to meet you! I’m glad you’re here!”
And that was it. Josh quickly settled into our group of friends at church. We were together every weekend of the school year and nearly every night of the summer. We were “boyfriend and girlfriend” for a very brief five or so days during our freshman year. I can’t be sure whether it was because we were both present and available and attainable to one another or because we were genuinely into each other. Sometimes, when you’re fourteen, it really doesn’t matter. That love affair abruptly ended when he told me he loved me and put his arm around me in church after a week of dating. I ran for the hills.
Still, weekend after weekend, night after night, we were together in a group setting. I learned his personality without even realizing it was happening. I thought he was a little nerdy, said, “Yes,” out of pity when he asked me to the Mid-Winter dance our sophomore year – as though I had other options banging down my door, and firmly settled him in the “friend zone.”
The truth is, there was another boy, still navigating what it meant to be a man, who flirted skillfully but treated me terribly. He and I had a relationship not unlike many other high school relationships, in which he dictated all the terms. So, most of the time we were off-again, but while I was navigating what it meant to be a grown-up girl with standards and a will of her own, I hoped desperately that he’d want to be with me forever.
I’m so glad that never worked out.
Tune back in next Monday for the next chapter. Love y’all like crazy!