A lesson from Month #2
I remember seeing him for the first time and then realizing that this wasn’t the first time he was seeing me.
I stood tense and uncertain as he recalled things he’d stored away from sometime before this one. Hair? Still long. Makeup? Still caked. Eyes? Just like the first time. It was like we were frozen in that moment of recognition as the festival danced on around us. Like that golden star up in our sky hung long and low just so I could see it. Just so I could watch him remember me.
I’ve never seen anybody look at me like that. I’ve never had somebody walk up to me with nothing to say just so that I wouldn’t leave. It was kind of disarming–amusing, even– to find this handsome, towering, beast of a man fumbling for words with shaky hands all because of a little girl in cowboy boots. He was kind, and honest, and protective even though we’d just met. I was absolutely smitten.
I begged him for some time. I figured if this was a one-night deal, if these next couple of hours were all we got, I wanted him to remember me. I wanted him to think of me as a splash of color in an ocean of gray. A girl who took him by surprise, shook him awake and made him pause long enough to see that I wasn’t like other girls. I wanted to be immortalized as the woman who changed his mind about women. So I let him lead me to the beer garden, and then I bought him a drink.
In a matter of minutes our conversation had shot past pleasantries and straight to the heart of an honest exchange. Truth ricocheted off our chests and landed softly in the space between us. We laid every card we had on the table: Faith, politics, worldviews, hopes, fears; and when everything had been settled, and common ground was leveled, we finally had this: are you feeling what I’m feeling? Are you spinning? Are you dizzy? Are you buzzing with everything you never thought you’d find? His answer came when he looked me in the eye–across the comfortable silence that happens between familiar souls–leaned down, and pulled me in. It was a resounding, barrier-shattering yes.
I’ve been kissed before, but never like this. This was different. This was tenderness I was afraid might break me in half. This was heaven and hell breaking loose all at once. This was nerve endings firing off in every direction and thoughts exploding into confetti fragments. This was finger numbing, mind erasing, black magic. This was bones melting, respiratory failing, soul consuming heat. Every cell in my body was wide awake with electric currents that raced the length of my tolerance and back again. He was a spectacle. An overdose. Kissing him was like trying to channel the energy from every star in the galaxy through the eye of a needle. I was a metal tower in his lightning storm. And you don’t survive that. Nobody does.
I spent the following weeks with a heart on fire, but I suppose real life caught up to us. I told him every reason I’d make a good forever but in the end, the paths you’ve carved and the habits you’ve made will always bear more weight than the words you say. In the end, this was a man prepared and looking for a partner, and I was a girl with a credit card full of debt looking to crown prince charming with the weight of my world. The chemistry was undeniable, but he was smarter than that. He knew that chemistry wasn’t enough to sustain a relationship and that I was still operating under the assumption that chemistry and love were one and the same.
See, when people say that “love conquers all” what they really mean is “chemistry conquers all”, and that, regrettably, is what gets us in trouble. Love does conquer all, but love is nothing like chemistry. Chemistry says the room is spinning. Chemistry comes out of nowhere and sweeps us off our feet. Chemistry tells us that its flame is eternal and that just meeting the right person will turn us into everything we’ve always wanted to be. But love? Love is built on hours and hours of sacrificial service. Love says you first. Love knows that relationships are not about me. Love says I’ll do my job even when you’re not doing yours. Love is the hard, miraculous, sometimes angry, always honest, deeply hurtful, grace abounding labor where we do whatever necessary to make our other look more like the person God always intended them to be. It’s not easy, or without conflict, but if in the end, we look more like Jesus, then it must be worth it.
We can’t rely on our values to make us a qualified, prepared partner unless those values have changed our behavior. Chemistry cannot be how we choose our future partners because it is deceiving. We are lighter, more vibrant beings when right smack in the mundane of our days we collide with the divine transcendence of a connection. It makes us want to serve, it makes us want to be better, more patient, less boastful, more intentional. We let ourselves think that these behaviors are here to stay so long as this person that brought this out of us is too.
But eventually, when the fairy dust settles, and the honeymoon is over, you always get back to being you. And unless you’ve practiced becoming the right type of person, you will be ill-prepared to be the other half of someone else’s forever.