As a young person I was a right and wrong, black and white, no excuses kind of teenager. I had no tolerance for girls who spent all their time in the bathroom trying to paint their faces to look pretty for boys more than they spent studying. I saw it as a futile endeavor, putting on a mask in order to get some boy to turn his head. I wanted nothing to do with that.
I dated some but eventually gave up on the scene. I hated dates. I hated the way they made me feel, like I was on trial and being judged as to whether or not this person wanted to continue to spend time with me.
The ones that did want to spend time with me didn't want to be with me for the reasons I wanted or needed. My first serious boyfriend was the perfect type Christian guy, but I was more like a trophy to him. Not because of my undeniable beauty, which fell more into the category of Sarah Plain and [Short] than that of the homecoming beauty queen.
He wanted a good Christian girlfriend. Period. He didn't meet me and fall in love with me. He was looking for a girl to fit into his list of dateable qualities. I was more like a status symbol or a comfort item, to give him self worth and self-esteem. If he had a girlfriend he wasn't the guy sitting at home while all his friends were out on dates. If he dated me, he could take me out and show off his conquest; that is the acquiring of a nice, not ugly, girl. It is rather caveman like when you think about it, but that is exactly how it all felt to me, minus being clubbed over the head and drug back to the cave. I went willingly.
The first moment I realized I was just a trophy was on one of our dates with his friends. They all made plans to go out with their girlfriends. I thought it was just time to meet his closest friends and get to know them, but after an evening of trying to make chit chat and fit in with complete strangers, I got it. He might as well have said, "I'm the winner!" Though he didn't in so many words. I can't remember exactly what he said initially, but I do remember the conversation that followed.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, I have the cutest girlfriend." He answered. Oh. I get it. It was a competition and I was the game piece. He didn't want his friends to know me. He just wanted to win the "Who has the cutest girlfriend? game".
The problem with this kind of "love" was that I was disposable. Easily disposable. As soon as another girl that was taller, thinner, prettier, or funnier came along, and this guy realized he could have an even better trophy, I was out and she was in. Despite the dozens of letters declaring his undying devotion and love to me; despite the hours he spent telling me how much he loved me and planning out our entire life together, I was easily disposed of. In fact, he planned every detail of our life, without ever consulting me once. I doubt he even knew that my dream was to be an archaeologist. He probably just imagined my dream was to be his girlfriend. I was as important as a kleenex during cold season, serving a purpose for a short time and easily tossed aside after being used before grabbing a brand new, unused tissue.
The next semi-serious boyfriend I had was somewhat the same, but in a different way. He didn't want a status symbol or a trophy, he wanted a bed partner. After months of holding him at bay, I was tired of the fight and willing to admit he didn't really care about me at all. I wasn't thrown away this time, but he easily moved on to another girl that wasn't so stubborn toward his advances. He never looked back and was probably grateful he could move on to someone else.
After a while I went out on a blind date with a great Christian guy. Again, it just felt wrong. He had just gotten out of a long relationship. I felt like a guy who would go out on a blind date was just like the first one I dated, looking for a status instead of truly interested in me. If Facebook had existed back then, these would have been the guys who changed their relationship status as soon as possible, because that is what really mattered, their relationship status, not me. I didn't want to be a girlfriend. I wanted to be someone's passion, friend, and life-long love. I wanted to be the person he can't live without, not the one that makes him feel better about himself just by being present.
Other good Christian guys came along wanting the same thing. They wanted a girlfriend, but she had to be a good Christian. She couldn't be just anyone he liked. More often, I was just the good Christian girl. I wasn't the girl that turned heads, but I fit their criteria; not ugly, nice, good Christian. And pickins were slim when you tag "good Christian" on the end, so it wasn't like I was anything special. It was more like going to the pet store to acquire one of those fish that clean the tank. They aren't pretty or fun to look at, but they serve a very real purpose, which is the only reason anyone buys them in the first place. And usually, there are only a couple, but it's not like you really need to pick one out, any which one will do. I was the plain old cleaner fish.
I didn't want someone who had to try to fall in love with me. And I didn't want someone who needed to try me on like a shoe, wear me for a while while putting lots of wear and tear on my soul, only to decide I didn't fit right or look right and finally take me back to the store.
Likewise, I didn't want to try on one person after another as if they were just a shoe. I didn't want to try to fall in love. I just wanted to fall; unexpectedly and unknowingly. Even more, I didn't want to be put on trial anymore. I wanted to be discovered, like a precious jewel hidden away inside a vast mountain. I knew that if Jesus loved me so much He would die for me, then there had to be a man he put on this earth, that could love me for more than just a trophy or my body. I knew God made me into a precious jewel waiting to be discovered by someone willing to put in the work.
Have you ever seen that show Prospectors? Those people work hard to find those gems. It takes months and years of hard, laborious work. But the second they pull out that gem, that perfect one, it's a moment of pure joy and every moment of work becomes more than worth it.. I wanted to be that to some man.
So I stopped allowing myself to be put on trial or tried on over and over like a shoe. I took myself out of the game and stopped dating. I didn't know how I would fall in love. I just knew I couldn't keep trying to fall.
One day, when I least expected it, completely unaware of my own feelings or his, my very best friend in the whole wide world, reached out and touched my cheek with the back of his hand and asked, "Should we date?"
My whole body spazzed out. To say I had butterflies in my stomach was an understatement. I thought I was going to pee my pants and throw up all at the same time while my thoughts and emotions spun out of control. It sounds terrible, but it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. I think it was like a detox reaction. My love for him had been growing for a very long time and at that moment it was released into my whole body, to be felt at every level by my entire being. It was that moment of unexpectedness. I wasn't waiting for him to declare his love. He just did. If I was that gem hidden away for so long in a mountain, it was like he wiped away the dirt hiding me away, and I saw the sunlight for the first time. Painful, powerful, and glorious... unexpectedly falling in love for the first time.
He had spent more than a year loving me as a friend. He protected me when I needed protecting. He made me laugh when I was sad. He held my hand and told me I was beautiful for no other reason than he truly thinks I am beautiful. He held me as I watched on the news, a tornado go through my hometown and kept me calm until I knew my family was safe. He walked with me and listened to my dreams, never once making fun of me or telling me it was impossible. He made me feel important to him. He bought gifts and took me places and let me bring him lunch almost every day,. We fought and often felt angry at each other, but quickly forgave one another too. He encouraged me in scripture and told me his darkest secrets.
So that's how it happens when you stop trying. I finally understood, friendships are the best way to fall in love. Not dating.
I hadn't been on trial for even one second throughout our friendship, but he had worked and labored to know me, my heart, and all that made me who I was. And in that moment that he touched my cheek, I was that precious jewel, discovered for the first time. I fell fast, hard, and wonderfully into his arms, and never once regretted the decision to wait for him to discover me. Only that I hadn't chosen to do so sooner.