What is it about being 15 that makes emotion such a tangible thing?
Sitting next to him in church that Sunday evening, our feelings were practically entities that we could almost reach out and touch. The nervousness that rolled off of him in waves was palpable. His breathing was uneven and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. And I prayed that he couldn't feel the pure electricity that was arcing from me simply from sitting so close to him.
My family was pretty new to the church and my parents had mixed feelings about this crush I had developed on the pastor's son. I think they were worried about me embarrassing myself if my love was unrequited.
Every time I was in the room with him, I was certain that anyone within 2 feet of me could hear my heart slamming against the inside of my chest. I really tried to play it cool, but I'm sure I failed miserably. Unfortunately, my face doesn't hide my feelings very well so I'm fairly certain that it formed a pathetic, pining, Shakespeareanly tragic expression whenever he was near. I was smitten, to say the least.
And in a kind of a creepy, stalkerish way, that I even hesitate to admit, I had known who he was long before he knew I existed. My family started attending the church in late 1991. And back then, in the church circle where we were raised, youth groups from different churches went to big mass "rallies" and camps and "Winter Holidays." It was during those combined events, prior to late 1991, that, let's just say he had caught my eye.
No. That would be putting it too mildly. He had forcibly abducted my eye, tied it up and held it captive in a basement somewhere. It was that intense.
The first time I knew he existed was after a combined event between my former church and his. I had been unable to attend for whatever reason and yet my friend was kind enough to tell me all about him the next time I saw her and event pointed him out to me at Winter Holiday the next month. It was then that the violent kidnapping of my eye took place. He was the best looking boy I had ever seen - in OR out of church. However, it was glaringly obvious that he was popular in our church world - and therefore out of my realm of reality.
Or so I believed.
But by this particular Sunday - April 12, 1992 - my family had begun attending his father's church and my crush had grown into it's very own life form constantly making it's presence known.
We actually knew each other now! He talked to me with regularity! And then some dramatic love triangle-type stuff happened and it suddenly occurred to me that he could possibly like me! Lots of exclamation points!!!!!
He started going to great lengths to sit near me at church or youth events. He even offered to pick me (and my little brother) up and drive me to said events. Plus he was very nice to me (but I couldn't be sure what that meant, because he had a certain gift - and still does - for making whomever it was that he was talking to feel like the most important person on earth.)
It sure seemed like he was interested in me.
And again, that "being 15 thing" clouds your judgment with insecurity and lack of confidence. He was two years older than me. He was captain of the basketball team at a different school. I'd seen him with his friends at school - clearly a different crowd than I ran with. Had we attended the same high school, I doubted that he would even talk to me.
But then, it all became crystal clear when, on that Sunday (April 12, 1992) - in the middle of his father's sermon - he leaned close to my ear and whispered, "So, should we make this thing official?"
I couldn't quite make sense of what he was saying because the room started spinning and breathing became very difficult. My mind struggled to wrap itself around the reality that his lips were that close to my ear. And, wow, did he smell good.
"Wh...what?" I managed.
"Will you go with me?" His breath was warm on my neck. Peppermint Certs. He was always sucking on a Peppermint Cert.
SIDENOTE: "Will you go with me?" Do people still say that? I've been married for nearly 13 years now so I'm not familiar with the "starting a relationship" vernacular of the day. LOL!
The reality of the moment finally hit me as I smiled and nodded yes. He grinned and casually draped his arm on the back of my chair so he could wrap it around my shoulder.
I think I was close to complete organ shutdown in that moment.
I guess I could say, "the rest is history" but that would be too contrived and trite. The rest was actually an up and down roller coaster of drama, insecurity, poor choices (on my part) and over-the top-starts and devastating stops until we finally - by the grace of God - grew up and realized that love is more than the spinning of the room when the object of your affection's lips are close to your ear. And more importantly, that our respective identities needed to found in Christ alone and not one another.
But that's a story for another day.
In the meantime enjoy these 20 year old pictures taken on film. (That's a link to wikipedia in case you don't know what "film" is.) I know. Weird, right?:
Pretty much what I looked like during the course of the teenage part of our relationship...
Pretty much what he looked like during the course of the teenage part of our relationship...
In the hallway at Fa-Ho-Lo during SLAM Retreat (observe the way he'd perch his hat at the back of his head in an effort to avoid messing up the hair he'd spent an insane amount of time perfecting and finishing with Rave hairspray-which we all did back then):