This is Part III of "Our Story", if you haven't already, you may want to read Part I and Part II first.
Soon after Christmas I received a package in the mail from a certain someone. In it was a Coast Guard hoodie. I loved it! Unfortunately, it was a size large. He included a note that said he picked a large because “the medium looked so tiny.” I tried not to be offended but seriously? I was like swimming in the thing. I ended up giving it to a missionary kid on campus who didn’t have many clothes. But I didn’t want Jon to feel bad so I went online and ordered a new one, in the smallest size available. I still have it to this day. I usually wear it when I’m pregnant because even the smaller size is still a little too big! But navigating the “sweatshirt dilemma” was nothing compared to the letter I received a few weeks later. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s clarify a few things first.
I grew up in the Joshua Harris generation. Yes, I “kissed dating goodbye.” Well, until I met Jon. He was the only real boyfriend I’ve ever had, although I’ve definitely had my share of interests. At the time, I really wasn’t interested in being in a relationship with a guy unless I was willing to consider marrying him. My biggest dreams in life were to be a wife, and someday a mother, and to run a home and family with my best friend by my side.
I knew I was interested in Jon, but also knew I wasn’t ready to go any further than that. In fact, I had what my friends have deemed “The Four Year Plan.” You know it’s real when your friends all have a name for it. It started the fall of my freshman year when I wrote in my journal:
I told her that Jon and I IM now. So maybe next year we can start calling each other, and my Junior year we can visit and officially date and then he’ll graduate and we’ll get engaged my Senior year … So I can’t push things too much because I have a lot of time to kill. But he is quickly becoming my good friend.
So I took relationships seriously and wasn’t about to go rushing into one. Jon and I are complete opposites in this area. I can’t make a decision to save my life and will put one off until that point comes. In the words of John Steinbeck in The Winter of Our Discontent, “It has been my experience to put aside a decision for future pondering. Then one day, fencing a piece of time to face the problem, I have found it already completed, solved, and the verdict taken.”
Jon, on the other hand, is decisive and quick to act, a perfect trait for someone in the military. So it should come as no surprise that after six months of friendship I found an email in my inbox from a young Coast Guard cadet proclaiming his affection and asking me if I felt the same.
I still have that letter. Jon and I were just laughing over it this week, but this was anything but a laughing matter 8 years ago. Two and a half pages of his description of the past few months, how he felt when he first noticed me over the summer, how his feelings had changed after we became friends in the fall, how beautiful I was, how much he loved my personality, how I was everything he’s always wanted in a girl and he might never find another one like me … He also mentioned he had made a list of my pros and cons and that my pros far outweighed the cons. He closed by saying he hoped the letter wouldn’t change our friendship (or keep me up that night), but that he just wanted to let me know how he felt and to see if I felt the same.
Well, yes. Maybe. But I certainly wasn’t ready to tell him that. Instead I read the email over and over again, paced the floor, went for a walk and cried a little. Things were just moving a little too fast for my slow-to-commit mind.
I assumed he was asking me to be his girlfriend, he claims I misunderstood and he was just trying to gauge where we stood. Either way I ended up writing him back a short paragraph explaining that I was happily single at the time, trying to focus on the plan God had for my life and my relationship with Him and not ready to enter into a relationship with anyone else. Period. Needless to say, that kinda threw a damper on things.
In fact, it was a very dull spring. I hardly mentioned Jon in my journal, and while we maintained a friendship that semester, things just weren’t the same. I got busy with work and school and before I knew it finals week had ended and I was back home again. We managed to get together with the T family over Memorial Day, but Jon and I hardly spoke to each other the whole day. He was gone most of the summer and I was busy working and reading books. The friendship that we had worked at so diligently last fall was dwindling away to nothing. When he was home I could hardly think of anything to say and the more awkward it became the more annoyed I got that he had “ruined everything” by jumping the gun too soon. So when I found out our families would be spending a whole week camping together, I got a little nervous. I didn’t want to spoil everyone’s vacation, and I still desperately wanted to hold on to our friendship. In my journal I actually prayed to God that He would give me words to speak to Jon and help me to be social that week. Looking back, I think He had a little something more up His sleeve than casual conversation.