I realized something this week. There’s a lie that exists that says the older we get the more we are supposed to have life figured out. This developmental lie makes it harder for people to be vulnerable the older they get. There’s a disconnect where we feel that vulnerability and the courage to be honest with our journey means we aren’t achieving as an adult. I love middle schoolers because they haven’t built up these veneers yet and they can pretty much only be their authentic self. I don’t want to get to the point where I’m afraid to be honest with my journey.
So here. we. go.
Earlier this year I was dating someone that I really liked. There’s a funny thing about really liking someone where gradually that really liking starts to turn into love. Feelings of mutual attraction graduate into a conscious decision to choose another person every day.
When I was dating her I envisioned a future where we would get married. We talked about it a lot. I started to hatch plans of how I would propose to her. I thought through details and even picked our after-party location - Pizza Port with every friend and family member that we could pack into the restaurant - with more outside if they couldn’t all fit. I remembered a conversation that happened when we were just friends and her sister got engaged. She felt hurt that her sister’s fiancé didn’t incorporate the family into the proposal so I made a mental note a year and a half ago to tell her future lover to be sure and fly the family out from the Midwest. I mapped out how her parents and sister could walk around the corner on Skype after a marriage proposal at the little park in Coronado on First street where we had our first date. That night a year ago we sat on a bench and talked about all of who we were until 3 in the morning. It was the stuff that they make movies about.
There’s a little wine bar a few blocks away where we had one of our initial dates. We could go there with her family to rejoice together post-proposal. We’re both community-driven people so obviously the next celebration would be with everyone we know. We could jump into a car and drive to Pizza Port in OB - a place that had become a center of community multiple times a week. We could fill those beautiful long tables with friends and family. Tables that for both of us represented part of what the kingdom of God looks like. I felt like the perfect day for all this would be December 4 2015 - the one-year anniversary of our first date.
Today is December 5.
Last night I dressed up in tacky thrift store clothes with 12 of my favorite college students and 38 hyper middle schoolers and drove to the mall to eat dinner and see Mockingjay Pt. II. Last night was absolutely nothing like I had envisioned 6 months ago. The past week this really depressed me. I slept weird hours and experienced something that I talk to people about all the time but had almost never experienced in my own life. And yet in the midst of reflection and feeling like I missed out on something; last night I sat in the front row next to some crazy 7th graders and was wonderfully, redemptively content.
After the movie we all got back to the youth group parking lot and I saw a few friends walking to their cars “we’re going to pizza port!” they said. I invited myself along for what was a weirdly full-circle moment. I didn’t once think about how I envisioned that night happening. I ate garlic buddies and meat-laden pizza. I sat at those same beautiful long tables that still represent the kingdom of God in which I see reconciliation and acceptance. We laughed together at the drunk couple making out at the bar. I said goodnight and got in my truck by myself to drive home.
Last night I remembered that love is being fully known and fully accepted. It’s a two-way street. In order to love someone you have to also let them fully know you. When I started dating girls at 15 I resolved to only ever tell one person three precious words, “I love you.” Through a few relationships I held onto my “I love you virginity,” safely keeping all people at an emotional arms-length distance - waiting for a person that I would give the greatest of gifts to.
I loved Elise. I told the world that. I was proud of it. I saw it as a great achievement that I had finally let someone in and could give that love to her.
I woke up this morning not an engaged man. I don’t have a wedding to plan. But I’m proud that earlier this year I loved deeply. I loved fully. I dealt with and I guess am probably still dealing with the pain that comes from relationships being severed. But I dared greatly. I risked vulnerability and shame to embrace the courage to love someone else and let them fully know me. And for that, I have nothing to be ashamed of.