Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Best Birthday Gift

Twenty years ago, right at the very minute I’m publishing this post, I was given the most wonderful birthday gift I’ve ever received. It was more than a gift; it was an offering.

I was at a fraternity party with this new guy I’d been dating. About a week earlier in a moment of spontaneous infatuation, I had told this boy I loved him. It was entirely premature and unplanned, and as the words escaped my mouth I realized putting my heart on the line like that was a stupid thing to do. My heart plummeted to my stomach when he didn’t respond to my declaration of love. “Oh well,” I thought to myself. “It’s out there now. Nothing I can do about it. Either he takes my love and holds on to it, or I may never see him again.”

The next day, I saw him again. And the next and the next. He didn’t run! We quickly became inseparable. Love didn’t come up again, but he knew how I felt. My birthday weekend approached, and my parents ambushed me with a surprise visit to college in celebration of my birthday. This boy was put through a trial by fire: impressing the parents of his new girlfriend, meeting the girlfriend’s best friend from high school, and the awkwardness of a birthday without any present to give (because we had just started dating, and what would you give a new girlfriend anyway?).

The last night of my 18th year, my visiting high school friend and I went to a fraternity party with this new boyfriend of mine. As midnight approached, we were hanging out and dancing in a dim room. There was a clock on the wall, and I remember counting down the minutes with this boy. When midnight hit, he told me he had a present for me. Since I love presents, I eagerly asked, “What is it?!” He looked me square in the eyes and said, “I love you.” I’m pretty sure my face registered surprise as I replied, “You DO?!” He smiled and said, “Yes, I do,” and then he kissed me. This time, my heart turned cartwheels in my chest instead of plummeting to my stomach as I responded, “I love you, too!” Then I danced a little jig and ran down the hall of the fraternity house saying, “He loves me!” before I returned back to him.

This boy taught me volumes about love in that one moment, because he showed me what honest love is. It isn’t a knee-jerk response to someone’s awkward declaration, and it isn’t an obligation. Love is an offering you give only when you are darn good and ready. By waiting to tell me he loved me and NOT professing it simply because I professed mine, he showed me that the depth of his character was stocked with commitment, patience, honor, and honesty. Even though I had to wait a little while for those three words, the weight they carried showed me this boy was a man after my very heart.

12:01am on January 30, 1993 was just the start of a life-changing love. That boy is now my man. He’s my husband, my lover, my confidante, and my best friend. For twenty years, he has continually offered his heart to me and blessed me with intimate love I never knew existed before he came into my life. I am utterly and hopelessly in love with him, and forever grateful to my Father for bringing Dan into my life.

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