December 2012: My very first youth camp. I can’t remember much about it, to be honest, except the fact that I arrived just over 2 hours before the actual meeting time. Which for a 15 year old meant that I was beyond lame, because who arrives so early for a camp? And to make matters worse, I knew absolutely no one from the Church. Luckily when I arrived, there was already two other people whose parents, like mine, were not about being inconvenienced on a work day. One of them was Emmanuel. If you asked him, he would probably tell you that he knew that day that he wanted to be with me. And he’ll definitely tell you that I barely even noticed him.
After the camp, I began to attend, what was then known as, Urban Oak more consistently and got to know Emmanuel a little more. I want to say that as I got to know him I was completely drawn to him, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t really know why, but the more I got to know him, the more I disliked him and if I’m being honest, I used to get really irritated by him. Every time he did something, said something, or sometimes even just looked my way, I was not impressed. At all.
During worship, you would always find him on his knees, with his arms lifted high, or sometimes even both. So in a room, full of pubescent teenagers who were too cool for Jesus, he stuck out like a sore thumb. Watching him worship used to frustrate me because I thought it was such an unnecessary, attention-seeking ploy to make everyone around him believe that he was God’s favourite and most righteous kid. The funny thing about it though, was that the more I watched him every Sunday, the more my irritation towards him became an envy to worship the way he did. – I always tell him now that I desire to worship God the way he does. With a boldness to enter the Holy Place like Hebrews 10 speaks of. – And the more I grew in my faith, the more I secretly started to appreciate his love for Jesus.
After a while, we became friends. Pretty close friends. And in 2016, we made an attempt to date, but I backed out like two weeks in because I wasn’t sure. If I’m being honest, it was probably because I was still convinced that the stop-and-stare-I-can’t-breathe-when-you-hug-me-I’ll-walk-past-like-I-didn’t-see-you-but-please-notice-me crush was my husband. I remember even calling Emmanuel and telling him he should really kill all hopes to be with me, because the reality of it was that he wasn’t my husband. (I know. Gasp.)
After the passing of my father though, Emmanuel was a very present and consistent friend. He was always there for the late night cry-fest calls, the midday rolling-on-the-floor-from-laughter conversations and everything in between. He honestly became one of my best friends. And not once did he use that as an opening for his own personal agenda, even though he knew he really liked me. He just showed up. And that’s how it’s been ever since.
In July of 2018, we decided to go out for some dessert. We had not hung out in years, which made everything pretty awkward yet incredibly familiar. During that time he got a little more honest about how he felt, what his intentions were and what he hoped. What I’ll never forget about that conversation was when he told me that if at any point I no longer desired to be pursued, I could say so and he would stop. I cried like a baby that night. I could not believe how he had still stuck around 6 years later. How he had allowed me to push and kick and scream at him, even though he wasn’t the reason behind it all. How he still wanted to be with me despite it all, and still said that if I changed my mind again, he would respect it. It spoke volumes.
A few weeks later I told him, I was all in. I was willing to give ‘us’ a try. 2 years later and I still count it as one of my most favourite decisions.
I’m not very good at giving and receiving love. And one day I’ll write more about that. But I look back now and realise that one of the reasons I’ve been so willing to trust him, love him, and let my walls down around him, was because he’s done all of that since the day I met him, without expecting anything in return. Even when I spent years reinforcing my walls. And in no way am I condoning staying with someone when you know the interactions are unhealthy and affecting you negatively. But sometimes we need to be discerning enough to notice when people are living life from their brokenness and not in spite of it. And I’ve learnt so much about that through watching him do it.
He’s always waited for my yes.
He’s never forced it out of me.
He’s always been there.
In whatever capacity he can be.
He has been so kind, so patient, so wise, so fun and so uncomplicated to do life with.
He embodies ‘Christ-like’, so effortlessly.
Our ‘thing’ is to say ‘always’ whenever we say ‘I love you.’ – To some the word is used as a measure of time. The idea that I will love you forever. For us, it’s a disposition. It’s a promise and a choice to love each other even when things aren’t looking cute. It’s means everything we do is done from a place of Love and that every decision is centered around how best to honour that.
My love, I am so grateful for you. You are the best person to both believe for miracles with and to laugh and be incredibly foolish with.
You have challenged me, and the way I see Jesus in the way you do life.
And it has been quite restoring to get to know God’s heart for me through the way you love me.
‘Always’ is easy with you.