Once upon a time I fell in love with Phil.
I fell in love for all the obvious reasons—all that tall-dark-handsome stuff. Throw in a really cool car, the fact that he was a drummer, the brown suede jacket (with fringe!) he wore, his way of smiling that insisted on response… and I fell head over-heels.
Falling in love was easy.
Riding the ups and downs and tensions and worries of wondering if this was The One? That was hard.
Our relationship didn’t develop slowly with friendship first. Instead we rushed headlong into romance. It was a fun, exhilarating, all-absorbing, drastically life changing time.
Everything about Phil was intense: every conversation, every decision, every date.
He was 26 years old, had finished college, then found his niche in music ministry. Just two years earlier, he’d quit the rock band that had defined his life for 9 years and was now a pastor at one of California’s first mega-churches.
The man spent every minute living, breathing, and thinking ministry.
He had strong ideas about everything. And I do mean everything.
I loved that! I’d only been a Christian for about 3 years when we started dating and I was still figuring it out, wishing for a rule book to get it right. Or at least clear instructions about what I should do and what I should avoid and what I ought to say,when.
The attrition rate of new Believers during those Jesus Movement days scared me— how could I avoid being one of those who “fell away”?
Phil read his Bible voraciously and made sure I was reading mine. For him, this was no rote discipline of duty. He read to discover, to absorb truth, to know God.
He thought about what he read, scribbled notes in a journal, underlined, questioned and studied. And then he talked to me, inviting me into conversation— the depth of which I’d never before experienced.
Our conversations centered around the Scriptures we were reading. We memorized verses together, mulling over this way of living in alliance with God. It was a heady and exhilarating time with a whole unknown world opening up to me.
But I was scared.
This man was just so much better than me. Smarter, quicker, stronger, more focused and absolutely sure of his calling. I was a freshman in Bible College surrounded by students who had been raised with at least some background of faith. While I was untangling the Patriarchs’ stories, getting lost among the Prophets, and barely understanding the Sermon on the Mount (Blessed are the poor? Are you kidding?), everyone else seemed to know everything.
And that, I think, is when I first started to pretend.
I’d nod my head knowingly, keep my mouth shut, and fake it. I copied the way others prayed, God-blessing everyone I could think of.
When Phil prayed I’d add all the expected amen and yes, Jesus affirmations in order to sound more sincere.
Instead of understanding that growing a backlog of faith takes time, I hurried to catch up in order to feel adequate, accepted, good.
With no concept whatsoever of grace, I performed the way I thought I ought to, the way I thought Phil wanted me to. Phil was an idealist and I longed to be his ideal.
And that, no doubt, set me up for some deep disappointment down the road.
Phil was as intense about our relationship as he was about everything else. After 3 dates in 4 days, he initiated “the talk”.
He wasn’t interested in dating just to date. He was on track to marry and wanted to pursue this relationship with that in mind. What did I think?
Well I would have eloped then and there, that’s what I thought. But I managed to say something somewhat sophisticated like me too, and so we were off.
We had rules.
No kissing on the lips, quick forehead and cheek kisses were okay. Limited hugging, but lots of hand-holding. We avoided being alone at my house and I was absolutely not allowed in his.
Phil was shockingly upfront about why. He’d not lived a pure life before giving his life to Jesus and no way was he going to mess up now. Keeping a safe distance just made sense.
And those rules worked to make me feel like the most cherished woman in the world. Phil was protecting my purity while guarding his.He wanted more of this relationship than groping in the back seat of a car. He chose to keep his hands to himself while he handed me his heart with the purest trust.
Phil opened his life to me and let me in. He probed the corners of my introverted self— he discovered me.
I’d never had anyone want to know me the way Phil did. Slowly, timidly, I let him see the real me. I shared my worries. Let him see my inadequacies. The more we talked the more I could see my place in his life. He needed help, was barely managing to keep up with the frantic pressures of a mega church music pastor’s life.
Our differences seemed destined to compliment rather than conflict.
But there were two problems. Two glitches to the Ideal.
First of all, I was almost 9 years younger than Phil. Was that okay? The second question worried him more. While Phil’s ministry revolved around music, I could barely carry a tune. I couldn’t sing, play the piano, or read music. How in the world would I be a music pastor’s wife?
His fellow pastors ridiculed the questions when he worried out loud to them. They teased him out of his intensity and told him to relax, forget the “role”. He needed a wife, not a pastor’s wife.
Still, that sense of sureness eluded him.
We’d been told that we would just know.
Everyone said it: You’ll just know when you find the One.
But Phil didn’t know.
He knew he loved me and made no bones about his attraction to me. He knew I loved him enough to lay aside my plans to join his, we knew our parents approved, that our goals coincided… but he didn’t just know.
And so we broke up.
Because he didn’t know. And he needed to know...
Our story could have ended there. I thought it would.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you why it didn’t.
Feel free to e-mail in your questions for this new series about love and marriage from a Biblical perspective at firstname.lastname@example.org