Today is our 15th wedding anniversary. Hard to believe that the college sweetheart I fell head over heels for is still choosing to stick with me after all these years. I am so blessed. I still remember the night that completely swept me away…
It was an unmemorable night. Truly. When I say that I mean that nothing truly spectacular happened. Derek showed up at my apartment on time, but since I had been watching out the 3rd floor window for nearly a half hour, he felt late. Not wanting to seem over anxious I casually walked to the door and looked out the peephole (just for safety) and saw this handsome guy staring back at me.
I opened the door and grinned like an idiot, and invited him in. Neither of us had anything intelligent to say. It was awkward, uncomfortable, and juvenile. I took all of him in; the washed out denim jeans, loose polo shirt, and the red baseball cap which sat backwards. His deep sky blue eyes crinkled around the edges as he nervously smiled at me.
I’d never really had guys over to my apartment before and was all thumbs. I asked if he wanted something to drink. Nope, he was good. Okay, so now what? We had not been dating long. Just before fall break we had gone out on our first dates. Nothing grand – just hanging out. Maybe knowing that this was only the fourth time we’d ever been “out” or together alone at all would help… and maybe you’d like to know that our first “date” was spent squished in the back of my brother’s car with his friends as a group thing – we’d gone out to see Frankenstein at the movies that night. (how romantic I know) We’d met in Sunday school at church, in the college class, a few months back, but we’d never really done anything. I asked HIM out that first time because I wasnt patient enough to wait for him to get around to asking ME out.
So here we sat, on my little sofa, having nothing to say and not knowing what to do with ourselves.
A truly unmemorable evening in and of itself, until I asked if he wanted to put up my Christmas tree with me. I made it sound as if I needed his help so it didnt seem too forward. I wondered if a guy would see putting up a tree with a girl as a bit “committed” in a relationship. What he didn’t know was that my heart already was.
As he hung decorations on my little tree with me, my heart jumped three paces ahead of what was safe,then leaped a few more farther. I could feel just how right this guy felt. That sounds nuts I know, but it sounded even nuttier to me because I had never trusted a guy before Derek. Not further than a Hi, how are ya.
I had reasons, and I firmly kept my guard up at all times. But Derek was different and for the first time I wasnt scared.
As we both reclined on the sofa looking at our handy work, I noticed how the nook of his arm seemed just made for me. Silly, again, but it really did. I fit there safely and comfortably.
When he left that evening, I don’t even think we kissed beyond a small embarrassed kiss. We just awkwardly hugged and waved the silly finger wave, and promised to see each other at church the next day.
We hadn’t said a whole heck of a lot to each other that night. Most of what was said was me nervously filling in the silent gaps. I had yet to become comfortable with the quietness and peace that Derek brings with his laid back and introspective personality. I found it difficult to hold a traditional conversation without seeming to provide both sides of the banter and my nerves made me ramble like a bumbling goof. If it annoyed him, he didnt let it stop him from continuing to see me.
But after he left, it was like a switch had been flipped. The apartment was now suddenly large and empty. I felt lonely. I’d never felt that way before… not in this way. And something inside me just knew I had to find out more about this guy. Quiet or not, this guy filled in gaps in my heart already that I didnt know I had.
And so we began studying together, sitting in church together, going to movies, having dinner at my place when we couldn’t afford to go out, and we began to be knit together in ways only God can do. Often it was wordless. Just being near each other was enough. Side by side at the library, working. I am chatty by nature, so what often happened was I supplied all the talk needed for the both of us. But slowly Derek taught me that silence was not negative. I began to learn that sitting in silence is a good thing, and some of the best conversations can be had without a single word spoken. This would one day impact my prayer life in dramatic ways – as I learned to sit and listen to the silence and let God fill my heart where before I always incessantly talked.
When I remember the first time I fell in love, I picture that boy in the peephole with his red hat sitting backwards, waiting at my front door. Yep – you heard that right. The man I married was the first guy I ever fell in love with. My college sweetie, and the love of my life. I spose that is even a bit fairytale-ish huh?
I always make sure we have a red hat on Derek’s hat rack. I cant help it. I’m nostalgic…and so very much still in love… Because what knit us together wasnt worldly things, not gifts, presents, and over the top date nights. It was simple chats and study sessions. It was real, honest, and very casual. We both were flat broke. So what made us so good for each other was simply what God did as he took the two of us and began to make something unique and wonderful.
Now 17.5 years post 1st date night – 15 years of marriage, 3 kids, 1 dog, a house, couple cars, and bills galore later – we still know that what first made us work is still there. Love. And that’s all that you really need. Each other and a whole lot of patience, understanding, and love.
Love ya Babe!